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LE NEWSLETTER

October 2, 2008

While the brisk weather of autumn falls upon us and Canadian Thanksgiving just around the corner, I can't think of a better way to put a little warmth in your soul, than the new CD from
Robin Thicke!  Admittedly I'm a huge fan and this CD is such a godsend from some of the music out there currently. 

Tons of entertainment news week so scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
 

 

::TOP STORIES::

Actor Paul Newman Dead At 83

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(September 27, 2008) WESTPORT, Conn. – Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud,'' ``Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" – followed by a second act as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario – has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men" at Connecticut's Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues. The following month, a friend disclosed that he was being treated for cancer and Martha Stewart, also a friend, posted photos on her Web site of Newman looking gaunt at a charity luncheon.

But true to his fiercely private nature, Newman remained cagey about his condition, reacting to reports that he had lung cancer with a statement saying only that he was "doing nicely.''

As an actor, Newman got his start in theatre and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Academy Awards 10 times, winning one Oscar and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus,'' "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,'' "The Verdict,'' "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice.''

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting.''

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?'' Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer." Newman also directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie.''

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favourite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. "I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood.''

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favour of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler.''

In that film, Newman delivered a magnetic performance as the smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats – played by Jackie Gleason – and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel – directed by Scorsese – "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama "Empire Falls'' and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, "Cars.''

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me.''

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed "Rachel, Rachel," a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1969 film, "Winning." After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.

Newman later became a car owner and formed a partnership with Carl Haas, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series. Hiring Mario Andretti as its first driver, the team was an instant success, and throughout the last 26 years, the team – now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series – has won 107 races and eight series championships.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator.

In 1995, he was nominated for an Oscar for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in ``Nobody's Fool." New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting "without cheap sentiment and self-pity," and observed, ``It says everything about Mr. Newman's performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way.''

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend. He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

"If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks," he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway – crushed and covered with ribbons.

"I think that my sense of humour is the only thing that keeps me sane," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbour, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

"We will miss our friend Paul Newman, but are lucky ourselves to have known such a remarkable person," Robert Forrester, vice chairman of Newman's Own Foundation, said in a statement.

Hotchner said Newman should have "everybody's admiration.''

"For me it's the loss of an adventurous friendship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen,'' Hotchner said.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.

"Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," his daughters said in a written statement. "Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity.''

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte. Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.

He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.

Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to work in theatre and television in New York, where his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio included Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden.

Newman's breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Battler," died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in "The Silver Chalice," a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in "The Long Hot Summer.''

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore,'' he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

Actors Denounce Tory Arts Rhetoric

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(September 25, 2008) A phalanx of actors and artists, led by veteran Gordon Pinsent, spoke forcefully yesterday against the Conservatives' recent cuts to arts and culture, urging citizens who value culture to vote and press for a prominent place in federal decision-making.

Pinsent gave the longest and most emotional of 19 speeches as ACTRA organizers gathered 21 mainstays of stage and screen to launch a passionate appeal for leadership that values Canada's cultural workers.

"We know about Mr. Harper's master plan, we know about Mr. Dion's big ideas, but it would be hugely comfortable to know that we have a seat at that table - and not just in the children's section, not just below the salt, but right there, smack dab in the middle of the big meal," Pinsent said.

"It's going to bloody well happen in this country. We will sit at that table and state our interest in substantiating a viable part of this country's thinking and government's understanding and education. ... So when that table is set, and our seats are there, noticeably there, don't I think that we'll have a terrific celebration, truly a gala, where all of us can enjoy ourselves for being Canadian in the first place," he said.

Pinsent's comments were a clear attack on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's Tuesday speech in Saskatoon in which he called the arts "a niche issue" that "ordinary Canadians" can't identify with.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said.

Though yesterday's outcry, hosted by ACTRA, was billed as a non-partisan event lamenting 20 years of artistic hardships under successive governments, many artists launched pointed attacks on Harper himself.

"I heard it said from somewhere that ordinary people don't care about the arts. Well I believe that ordinary people don't care about politicians, who don't care about the arts," actor Art Hindle said.

Several others attacked Harper's comments with sarcasm, including frequent quips that they had drifted down from ivory towers to speak.

"Mr. Harper made a statement yesterday. It wasn't his fault - it identified his character immediately. And he should have stopped after, 'Ordinary working people go home and watch TV,' " actor Chris Potter said.

Most speakers were careful to cast their arguments not as special pleading for their industries, but as fundamental to the identity and financial health of Canadians in every region and industry.

"To say, 'Ah, they're just a bunch of whiners who want more money,' is so fundamentally ignorant, and it just betrays his lack of understanding of how the fabric of [various industries] all work together," actor Colm Feore said.

Feore emphasized that he was speaking not only for current voters but for "our children and our children's children."

"We watch with particular interest those stories that are about us, that speak fundamentally to who we are as Canadians as differentiated from every other people in the world. And if we lose that, and lose sight of the value of that, it's going to be gone forever," he said.

Actor Wendy Crewson and several others cited recent Conference Board of Canada estimates that the cultural industry generates 1.1 million jobs and a total economic footprint of $85-billion annually.

"I think Canadians understand that it is a catalyst for prosperity, that it attracts knowledge-based workers. That means more teachers, more doctors in our communities. I am tired of being told it doesn't matter," Crewson said.

Political leaders also leapt on Harper on Tuesday. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said from Vancouver that Harper "wants to pit everyone against everyone: Canadians against their artists" - a sentiment echoed by Liberal Heritage critic Denis Coderre.

"He's trying to qualify Canadian citizens, like the culture workers aren't workers, like they shouldn't be considered ordinary people. What is this definition of ordinary people? That's truly bad, that's indecent, and I'm totally outraged to have a Prime Minister acting like that," Coderre said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton challenged Harper to repeat his comments in French, highlighting the issue's primacy in closely contested Quebec. Montreal has been the site of thousands-strong demonstrations and concerts in support of the arts in recent weeks.

But Feore emphasized that culture is a nationwide issue. "Do [Quebeckers] have a very sharply defined sense of their culture? Absolutely. Are they examples to the rest of Canada about how to support your culture? Absolutely. Is it a distinctly French issue? Not at all," he said.

At a separate event yesterday, Ontario Culture Minister Aileen Carroll said Harper's comments in Saskatoon "just completely leave me flabbergasted" and said that the Harper government is trying to use its policies to dictate what is and isn't good art. "That keeps me awake at night," she said.

With a report from Steven Chase.

***
Funding the arts poll
"Do voters support the federal government funding the arts?"
BRITISH COLUMBIA (260 respondents)
Strongly support: 34%
Somewhat support: 32%
Somewhat oppose: 13%
Strongly oppose: 12%
Don't know/refused: 10%
ONTARIO (280 respondents)
Strongly support: 29%
Somewhat support: 28%
Somewhat oppose: 21%
Strongly oppose: 16%
Don't know/refused: 7%
QUEBEC (270 respondents)
Strongly support: 37%
Somewhat support: 18%
Somewhat oppose: 15%
Strongly oppose: 22%
Don't know/refused: 8%
Note: Numbers may not equal 100% due to rounding
SOURCE: THE STRATEGIC COUNSEL

Russell Peters There's No Rest For The Wicked

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(September 28, 2008) "Can we get the Ethiopian guy some of that mush we see on the UNICEF commercials?" asks Russell Peters, as he tries to decide what to order for lunch at Epic in the Royal York. The comedian, the rest of the table, the waiter and the cook – the Ethiopian in question – all burst out laughing.

Jesting about stereotypes is Peters' stock in trade, but there definitely is an art to the inclusive way his insults get the target on his side, and in on the joke, no matter how outrageous – and let's face it, racist – they can be.

Peters does his homework. In this instance, he's been at the hotel a few days, and has already befriended the staff, so he knows that the chef is Ethiopian, tacitly getting approval for making his joke. With one person or a crowded concert hall, that's how the man works.

"I've said it before. People don't come to my show to hear what I'm going to say about somebody else. They come to hear what I'm going to say about them," Peters says.

That was never more evident than at the Air Canada Centre in June of last year, when Peters sold out that stadium for two nights as part of his Homecoming Tour. It was utterly obvious just how much of a beloved local success story he's become.

"It was a complete love fest, wasn't it? I felt the energy in the room, and I got teary-eyed. I got really emotional before I went on stage that night," he says, "because you could tell people were there to see you win. I felt like Rocky almost."

The set he performed here – and has since toured the world with – is now available on Peters' new standup DVD release, Red White and Brown, out on Tuesday. Recorded live in the WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden, it's more of the same from Peters, with interesting discussions about the difference between race and culture, his travels, his issues with body hair, and his hilarious take on American Sign Language. There's also a fantastic deconstruction of how North American media depicts Arabs, basically that those paraded onscreen are the equivalent of rednecks.

"You don't know how many letters of thanks from Arabs around the world I've gotten about that bit. I mean, it makes sense because normal Arabs, who are just like us and go to work and can get through a conversation without ululating, are boring."

His modus operandi is to perform a set until the DVD is available, so now he's pretty much done with that material. He's still touring though and played Scandinavia recently, with shows in Norway in Sweden for the first time, which he said presented a bit of challenge: Who do he make fun of when mostly everyone's blond, blue-eyed and Caucasian?

"I mean, it's sort of a new market for me, but I've been getting fan mail from there for a couple of years. The shows sold out really quick over there. What do we know about the Norwegians? They're Vikings, right? They make furniture, don't they?"

While Peters is excited about travelling to new countries, he's frank about feeling the wear and tear of touring life. He's says he's got houses in three places, but it's not as if he gets a chance to live in them.

"I'm perpetually tired now. And there's confusion going on in my head because I'll wake up and I'm not sure where I am," he says.

Of course, as this tour winds down, he's already thinking about the next one. Next year marks Peters' 20th year doing standup and, partly because he doesn't feel as if he's got enough for a full new act and also because he wants to look back, he's got a plan to re-inject some life into some of his old – and most famous – bits.

"Because the turnaround time till the 20 anniversary tour isn't a lot, I won't be able to come up with a completely new act, So what I'm going to do, because I used to deejay, like in hip hop, there's a hit song, and then there's a remix. So I'm doing that with my material. I'm going to take the material that people know, and remix it, rewrite it. In essence, it's going to be the same punchline, but how I get there is going to be different."

He's curious to see how a more mature Peters – although I call him a perpetual adolescent, and he doesn't argue with that – might change an old joke or fix a gag.

As well, it's often said that he's about as famous as you can get without a TV show or a movie, but he's still trying to crack that nut. He's currently talking to Showtime in the U.S. about a number of projects, including hosting a possible standup showcase with interviews called Russell Peters Presents. There are also hopes of a documentary on his life, and he's continuing in his role as one of the faces of Toronto Tourism, which is a bit of a surprise considering how off-colour some of his material is.

"I think, in that instance, it was a case of if you can't beat him, join him," Peters says.

"I mean, even when I wasn't involved with them, I've always talked about this city, and how great it is."

Considering he's the hometown hero made good, the feeling is definitely mutual.

Russell Peters New DVD Red, White And Brown Pushes The Boundaries Of Good Taste

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(October 01, 2008) Russell Peters, Canada's king of cultural comedy, released a new DVD Tuesday entitled Red White and Brown ahead of his forthcoming 20th anniversary tour.

In the palatial Prime Minister's Suite of Toronto's Royal York Hotel, Peters recently discussed two decades of pushing the envelope of political incorrectness.

You talk in Red, White and Brown about the interesting dynamic of performing your act in India because the punchline is so often the accent. Have you ever been anywhere where you felt the audience just wasn't getting it?

I wouldn't say that's a cultural or a racial thing, I would say that's an economic thing and generally, when it's a stuffy corporate crowd, they don't go for it. And they're the ones, ironically, paying a crap-load of money to see you, you know? So I subsequently don't do those gigs any more. I can't be bought – I'm not a hooker. Well, I am a little bit, but not so much.

There are a few jokes that are pretty edgy, pretty raunchy. Do you ever think afterward, ‘Okay, that was too far'?

Oh, definitely, especially with the political climate the way it is. There's so much good stuff out there that is so risky. Not even risqué, genuinely risky.

Do you ever have nights where you think you didn't go far enough?

I don't really, generally, play it too safe. I like to go as far as the audience will let me go. And then there's some times where the audience is way too safe, so I try to take them out there anyway. It's like, ‘Just trust me, just trust me, go with me on this.'

At one point in this act you say, ‘I can't believe I just said that while my mom is in the audience.' Does she approve?

My mom's really chill. She'll laugh and she kind of likes the raunchy stuff, but she'll never admit it. And then afterward she'll be like, ‘It was good son. You swore too much.' I guess she has to have something to say.

Has there ever been a moment where she just wouldn't talk to you after a show?

No, no, that's a mom. Mothers love you regardless.

The DVD contains a bit about deaf people based on your experiences at school. You actually went to a remedial school?

I went to a tech school, yeah. I went to North Peel Secondary School in Brampton [Ont.] and at the time it was a trade school, I guess. And for the first half of the day you learn a trade, and the second half of the day you take two, like, math and English, whatever it is. So I took chef training for two years, and my teacher was Fred Kolar, and he's still a friend. And I honestly think that school saved my ass. As much as people make fun of that school in Brampton – it is the joke of Brampton, they'd call it half-knowledge college, coconut college or whatever – but I got to see people I would never normally see, wheelchair kids, behavioural kids. You get to be around such a mix of different people with different kids of problems and your appreciation broadens for a lot of different things. I think if I'd stayed in a so-called regular school, I'd have looked at these people in a different way.

When I watch some parts of this act, I hear echoes of Delirious, of Eddie Murphy ...

I would tell you to watch my act, and then go watch Don Rickles, watch Cheech and Chong, watch Steve Martin, watch George Carlin and watch Eddie Murphy. And you'll see a piece of each one of 'em in me. Don Rickles for the racial style. Steve Martin for the silliness. Cheech and Chong for the characterizations of people. Eddie Murphy for the storytelling. George Carlin for breaking things down. They're all influences on me and I'm kind of a hybrid. I took from them things I liked and obviously put myself into it and created my persona.

You've been at this for 20 years. Do you think you've become a different comedian in any big way, or did you find your style early and stick to it?

I think I fell into my style about 10 or 11 years in. It takes a comedian a long time to find his legs, you know? You may have jokes early on in your career that are well-written and get great reactions, but you are still not you until later on in your career, and the minute you come out, that's when it starts to really move forward for you.

What was your first stand-up routine?

My first time on stage was at Yuk Yuk's [in Toronto] on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 1989, and you get five minutes – I think I did three. I was horrible, I was god awful. I was god awful for a while. I was 19 so I had no world experience, no life experience, I had no business being on stage. [laughs] But I went for it, you know? I think I was working at the Toronto Star, in the loading dock, at the time. I didn't have very good jobs, I didn't have a whole bunch of education to fall back on. I think the fact that I never had a plan B was always a saving grace for me. I got a couple of chuckles. I always said if I had bombed horribly I would probably never have done it again, but I got a couple of chuckles and I liked the way that felt.

What was it about?

It was about nothing. It was ramblings and mumblings and crap.

Is there anybody still out there who you think, ‘I want to get on stage with that guy?'

I guess the people that I'd like to perform with are kind of retired, you know? I'd like to perform with Eddie Murphy, I'd like to perform with Steve Martin.

Have you met them?

No. I met George Carlin. I got to open for George before he died. That was pretty cool for me. I see Cheech around in L.A. now and then. I mean, we say hi but I don't think he really understands or knows who I am. I always have to remind him, ‘Hey Cheech, Russell Peters, I did a show with you,' [Then he says] ‘Oh hey, nice to meet you bro, nice to see you.' I really don't think he understands the impact he's had on my life. I don't want to be that guy, ‘No, you have to understand!' I don't want to be that guy. It's kind of cool for me to find out who's a fan and who speaks my name. For me it's a trip because for me, I'm still the same kid from Brampton. I talked to Dave Chappelle one time, we've been friends for about 12 or 13 years, and he goes, ‘Hey man, I was with Gwen Stefani last night, we talked about you the whole night.' As much as he's been my friend for a long time, he's Dave Chappelle. And I'm like, him and Gwen Stefani were having a conversation about me? I've never met Gwen Stefani. That's so cool.

Does it amaze you that you'll find people halfway around the world, and you're Canada to them?

That's a wonderful thing. I was performing in England last year, in October, and a guy flew from St. Petersburg, Russia, to come to my show.

Did you get to meet him?

Definitely. My brother set up a meet-and-greet, I signed some stuff for him, gave him some T-shirts and stuff. But it's really cool just to see, like, how am I connecting with this Russian guy? What is it? Because it's not like this is an Indian guy in Russia, this is just a regular Russian guy. And I get e-mails from Yugoslavia now, and this Albanian woman was telling me, ‘You really need to go to Kosovo.' I'm like, Kosovo? What am I going to do in Kosovo? ‘You don't know, you're really big in Kosovo.' I go, ‘A rock is really big in Kosovo!

Russell Peters's DVD/CD Red, White and Brown is now in stores.

Are You Sick And Tired Of Receiving Annoying Solicitation Calls From Telemarketers?

Source: Darleen Hendrickson, Whatz Happng Event Listing

Register with the 'DO NOT CALL' LIST!!  How it will work: Canadians will be able to register online, by phone or by fax to be  added to the list, entirely free. Once added, telemarketers have 31 days to stop  calling, and must refrain from calling for three years.  There are a no. of groups which are EXEMPT from this list as they are not considered  to be telemarketers.  These are Charities, Political Parties, Opinion-polling Firms,  Newspapers, and any company or organization you have an existing relationship  with or have done business with in the last 6 months.  They are exempt from this  regulation and DO NOT have to follow the national do-not-call list. NOTE:  Each of these organizations MUST administer an internal do-not-call list and  respect requests to be added to them. People can register their phone numbers in two ways. They can sign up online at: https://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/index-eng  OR Call the toll-free numbers 1-866-580-3625 1-888-362-5889 for the hearing impaired,

** The organization's website has been overwhelmed with the no. of people registering and crashed the first day.  The page may have a message stating PAGE NOT AVAILABLE and the telephone number may be constantly busy.  You may want to try and register late at night or wait for a wk or 2 when the system is not so busy.   

::UNIVERSAL SCOOP::

Robin Thicke Is Something Else

Source: Universal Music Canada

Robin Thicke is primed and ready for Something Else. “It was like everyone was saying the same things, worried about the same things and I just felt we needed something different right now. I asked myself do I have a light? What is that light? How can I spread it, share it and turn it into a Puff Daddy white linen Miami Beach party?” After his highly acclaimed album “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” garnering the smash hit “Lost Without U”, a tireless schedule of touring and appearances Robin needed to sit back, reflect on the last 2 years and start anew. “On the last album I wanted to let people into my walk of life and connect my life to them and this album is more about involving great minds, hearts and spirits around me. When I started writing songs I was already embracing people and now I just wanted to dance and laugh with them”.

Robin Thicke will be playing Montreal (Oct 5)/Toronto (Oct 6) & his brand new album is hitting stores on Sept 30th!  Check out Robin Thicke perform 'Magic' in Central Park...acoustic! http://www.imeem.com/videos/ and preview a few of his incredible new songs: http://umusic.ca/robinthicke/mediaplayer/

ROBIN THICKE 'Something Else' is available everywhere on Sept 30th or you can preorder the album now on iTunes and get even more new songs!

Multi-Faceted Entertainer Wayne Brady Releases Debut Album

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(September 18, 2008) Los Angeles, CA - On September 16, 2008 Peak Records/Concord Music Group will release Wayne Brady’s debut album, the appropriately titled - A Long Time Coming.

The Emmy Award winner is the consummate entertainer, whose talent truly knows no boundaries. As a stage, screen and live performer Brady is unparalleled.  

But now, he turns his attention to his first love: music. The 12-track R&B collection features Brady’s own compositions standing side by side with his loving, inspired reinventions of such classics as Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,”  The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do.”

“I always thought that Wayne Brady was an amazingly talented performer with an incredible voice,” says Andi Howard, president of Peak Records. “When asked by his producers if I would be interested in signing him as an artist to Peak my response was an emphatic, yes. Not only did he deliver a fabulous album, but an album that is extremely heartfelt and exceeded all expectations. It was indeed ‘A Long Time Coming.’”

Brady linked with The Heavyweights, the superstar production team composed of Jack Kugell, Jamie Jones and Jason Pennock, to write and record the album. The Heavyweights’ productions have sold more than 28 million albums and include work with such superstars as Jim Brickman, Martina McBride and Destiny’s Child.

First single, “Ordinary,” is a mid-tempo burner that pays tribute to the glorious simplicity found in every day life and love.  Penned by the Heavyweights, Sarah Nagourney and Welford B. Walton II, the song is enhanced by Brady’s nuanced, soulful delivery.

Brady’s talent is too big to contain to any one format. He’s currently starring in his own Las Vegas show, “Making It Up,” which runs Thursday-Monday at the Venetian Hotel. The revue highlights his legendary music, dance and improv skills, for which he won an Emmy while appearing on “Whose Line is it Anyway?” 

Brady, who also garnered two Emmys as outstanding talk show host for his self-titled syndicated talk show, will return to TV as host of Fox’s hit show, “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” this fall. Additionally, Brady has also appeared as Neil Patrick Harris’s gay brother on “How I Met Your Mother,” and Tina Fey’s bad-luck boyfriend on “30 Rock.”

Tracklisting:

1. Ordinary (Jack Kugell, Jamie Jones, Jason Pennock, Sarah Nagourney & Welford B.Walton II)

2. F.W.B. (Wayne Brady, Jamie Jones, Jack Kugell, Jason Pennock & Robert Daniels)

3. Can’t Buy Me Love (Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney)

4. Back In The Day (Wayne Brady, Jamie Jones & Jack Kugell)

5. Sweetest Berry (Written by: Jamey Jaz / David Ryan Harris)

6. A Change Is Gonna Come (Written by: Sam Cooke)

7. I Ain’t Movin’ (Written by: Wayne Brady, Jamie Jones. Jack Kugell. Jason Pennock)

8. Make Heaven Wait (Written by: Jack Kugell. Jamie Jones. Jason Pennock, Martin Kember & David Garcia)

9. All Naturally (Written by: Jamie Jones, Jack Kugell & Jason Pennock)

10. All I Do (Written by: Clarence Paul, Morris Broadnax and Stevie Wonder)

11. Beautiful Ugly (Written by: M. Burton, Steve Kipner, Jack Kugell, Jamie Jones, Jason Pennock & Lamont Neuble)

12. You and Me (Written by: Wayne Brady, Jamie Jones & Jason Pennock)

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Pieces Of The Past

Source:  Melanie Reffes, Jamaica Tourist

Chocked full of defining moments and poignant characters, Jamaica’s history is a long and colourful one. For more than three decades, Trevor Clarke has made it his business to preserve the Island’s past by collecting memorabilia that tell the story of his Jamaica. The owner of the charming Alhambra Inn in Kingston has more than a thousand keepsakes proudly displayed throughout his twenty-room Inn. A self-proclaimed history aficionado, he delights in showing off his treasure trove of antiques to guests of the hotel, folks enjoying the sumptuous Sunday brunch or locals taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

With relics dating back to the 17th century, his collection is the largest in Jamaica with each piece personally selected by Clarke himself. “With our Spanish and British history from sugar mills to the Great houses, our history needs to be preserved and honoured”, the 68 year old former accountant says pointing to the nooks, crannies and cabinets filled to brimming with Jamaica’s past. “I have one-hundred Spanish jars and each one tells a different story,” he says admiring the earthenware pots that are the star attraction in the open-air lobby so lush it’s a veritable Garden of Eden. Originally used to store water, they also hid valuables during the English conquest and are a humble tribute to the Spanish chapter in Jamaica’s history.

After returning from England in 1974, Clarke took a liking to old heating irons and pots and his collection was born. Remembering growing up during the fifties, scouring for artefacts nurtures his unrelenting passion for all-things Jamaican. “I keep the items the way I get them,” he says explaining that a simple clean-up is all he does so authenticity is not lost. With his unbridled knowledge of trivia and natural storytelling abilities, he lights up describing what life was like during the 18th century. “Folks would bring their lunch to work in this carrier,” he says referring to a metal container shaped like a cylinder, “It was separated into compartments so meat and rice could stay fresh during the day.” As a tourist admires a chimmy or British chamber pot, Clarke tells him that well into the last century, every bedroom had three basic items. “Everyone had a basin, water jug and chimmy and the higher the family income, the fancier the design with the best used by guests.”

Another blast from the past and favourite of visitors is his salute to the Sixties. From telephones and radios to typewriters and ice cream buckets, they illicit tender memories for the gracious collector. “I used to listen to music from Miami all night long, “he remembers holding an old-fashioned radio he says still works. The vintage signs that hang just about everywhere also represent a vital chapter in West Indian history. “We used to have one of those, “says a guest gazing up at a Red Stripe and Canada Dry sign that is fifty years old.

Married to Sonia for thirty years and with one daughter and three grandchildren, preserving Jamaica’s history is a labour of love for Trevor Clarke. “My wife doesn’t collect but she’s fine that I do, “he says with a twinkle in his eye.” Some folks ask if they can purchase the items, but I tell them none are for sale.” The exhibit is open to the public with no admission charge. The curios are not only for the curious but also for school and church groups who stop by for a lesson in Jamaican history and old-timers who smile when they see artefacts they may have thrown away. Lazy meandering is encouraged with the hope tourists and locals will appreciate Jamaica’s history for more than rum and reggae. The Alhambra Inn is located at 1 Tucker Avenue, Kingston 6. Sunday Brunch with a dazzling array of Island specialties from hominy corn porridge and ‘Ackee & Codfish’ to dumplings, boiled bananas and roasted breadfruit is served from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ($JA875.00 per person). Tel. 978-9072, email: alhambrainn@cwjamaica.com

Members Of The Canadian Media And Travel Agent Community Honoured At The Caribbean Awards Luncheon

Source:
Lou Hammond & Associates

TORONTO, Canada, September 26, 2008 – The Caribbean Tourism Development Company (
CTDC) paid tribute to members of the Canadian media and travel agent community during a special Caribbean Awards Luncheon as part of Caribbean Week Toronto (www.caribbeanweek.ca).  Hazel Affonso, a talented travel agent with the Calgary-based Affordable Travel agency, was honoured with the first ever “Andrew R. Parris Award.”  The award was named in memory of Andy Parris and his illustrious career promoting the Caribbean tourism industry in Canada with distinction.  The award was presented by Parris’ widow, Margaret Parris, on Thursday September 25, 2008 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

 “Hazel Affonso, like our beloved Andy Parris, is truly dedicated to bringing the essence of a Caribbean vacation experience to the travel community across Canada,” said Hugh Riley, interim secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and co-chief operating officer for the Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC). “It is an honour to recognize Hazel’s efforts and shared passion for promoting the region.” 

Affonso was chosen by a panel of industry judges from a pool of applicants nominated by National Tourist Offices across Canada and assessed based on the creativity and innovation of their travel program.  In addition to her award, Affonso was presented with a Caribbean getaway to Santa Clara, Cuba, compliments of Air Canada Vacations and Occidental Hotels.  

Tourism officials, Caribbean tourism suppliers and the media were in attendance at the Caribbean Awards Luncheon, where they also recognized some of the leading journalists in the Canadian media.  Winners included: Mark Stevens for “Island of Beauty” in the Toronto Star – Best Newspaper Feature; Laura Osborne for “Temptation Island” in enRoute magazine – Best Magazine Feature; Melanie Reffes for “Small Island, Big Attractions” in Canadian Traveller – Best Trade Feature; Marianne Dimain for “Caribana” on CityNews – Best Broadcast Feature; and Michael DeFreitas for “Taking the Plunge” in Ensemble Magazine – Best Photograph.  Mark Stevens’ Toronto Star piece was also awarded “Best in Show” for which he received a getaway to Grand Cayman courtesy of Air Canada Vacations.

Caribbean Week Toronto 2008, themed Secrets of the Caribbean, brings together the most influential policy makers, financial leaders, marketing professionals and tourism industry officials to interact and discuss both tourism and investment opportunities in the region.  It also serves to provide a taste of the region to consumers to inspire travel and showcase its diversity.  In addition to the Awards Luncheon, a variety of distinctive events highlighting the Caribbean experience are taking place including a Caribbean Travel Conference, Media Marketplace, Caribbean Fair and Rum & Rhythm Festival.

For more information about Caribbean Week Toronto 2008, please visit www.caribbeanweek.ca or call 416-935-0767 to speak to a representative from the Caribbean Tourism Development Company.

SPONSORS

Sponsors of this year’s Caribbean Week Toronto include Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations, Almond Resorts, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, the Islands of the Bahamas, Barbados, Canadian Border Services Agency (NEXUS), the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Divi Resorts, Discover Dominica, Dreamscapes, Food Network, Grenada, Hibiscus International, InPulse Magazine, Jamaica Tourist Board, Moncasa, Nolitours, Occidental Hotels & Resorts, Puerto Rico, The RMR Group, Sandals Resorts, ScotiaBank, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Toronto Star, Transat Holidays, TravelWeek, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

All CTDC events are supported by American Express, Puerto Rico and Travelocity.

The Caribbean Tourism Development Company

The Caribbean Tourism Development Company (CTDC) is a marketing and business development unit, owned equally by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). Its mission is to own, promote, protect, advance and enhance the Caribbean brand.  The CTDC combines the resources of the Caribbean region’s destinations, accommodations and service providers to create a viable, cohesive, business unit that is able to identify commercial opportunities and allow the members of CHTA and CTO to benefit collectively from those opportunities in ways that individually they could not.  In all its endeavours the company engages only in activities that honour the Caribbean brand.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Montreal Teen Jazz Prodigy Nikki Yanofsky Signs To Universal Music Canada

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(September 25, 2008)  -  TORONTO – Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company and A440 Entertainment Inc. are very pleased to announce a joint-venture signing of Canadian teen Jazz sensation, Nikki Yanofsky.
 
Randy Lennox, President and CEO of Universal Music Canada , says “Nikki is an extraordinary performer. For one so young to already be imbued with such talents is remarkable and Universal Music is proud to be associated with her in what promises to be a long and prosperous career.”
 
Nikki Yanofsky first made headlines at the 2006 Montreal International Jazz Festival where she won the hearts of the 100,000+ audience and has never looked back since.
 
"The team at A440 are looking forward to a very successful relationship with Universal Music Canada .  Their reach and market penetration is second to none and we couldn't be more thrilled to work with Randy and this stellar company," adds Richard Yanofsky, President, A440 Entertainment.
 
September 23 saw the release of Yanofsky’s first live CD / DVD, Ella…of Thee I Swing and contains footage from her October 11, 2007 performance in Montreal along with a 24-minute documentary chronicling 3-days in the life of this budding Jazz superstar.
 
In anticipation of Nikki’s debut studio album, which she is currently recording with 14-time Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Ramone – due out in 2009, she has also been actively involved in numerous charity events, most recently participating in Toronto at the ONEXONE Gala hosted by Matt Damon where she performed both solo and alongside music maverick, Wyclef Jean.
 
Yanofsky plays TORONTO tonight – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 - to a packed audience at the Diesel Playhouse ( 56 Blue Jays Way ).  For more information or to be accredited for tonight’s show, email rsvp@a440entertainment.com or visit www.nikkionline.ca/evite/toronto.htm.
 
Check out http://www.nikkionline.ca for the latest news and tour info.

Off Centre Kicks Off Its Season With An Inspired Program Of The Sounds Of Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(September 25, 2008) There's no better way to get excited about your hometown than to take in its sights as if for the first time.

Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis, husband-and-wife artistic directors of
Off Centre Music Salon, are using their accessible format to showcase the sounds of Toronto.

Sunday afternoon's kick-off for their 14th season is a loving musical homage to the past and present of this, their adopted city.

The Glenn Gould Studio stage will host impressive collaborators, including former Toronto Symphony concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch, accordionist Joseph Macerollo, marimba player John Rudolph, Robert Aitken on flute, soprano Shannon Mercer and bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre.

Helping out are composer-broadcaster-pianist Peter Tiefenbach as host, and actors Don McKellar and Tracy Wright adding literary colour with Toronto-centric readings.

With Zarankin and Perkis at the piano, the program spans about 200 years of the city's musical history. It's an embarrassment of riches – much like our city itself.

Laid out on the table of the Perkis-Zarankin dining room/music salon recently was a tantalizing sampler of music scores.

"When smiles the lake 'neath a sky ever blue,/ Where blooms the maple tree,/ There stands Toronto, the Pride of the North ..." goes a "prize-winning song of the University of Toronto" from 1874, written by a long-forgotten H. H. Godfrey.

I sit down at the piano to experience the dusty, 1884 magic of A Storm on the Lake, "A barcarolle for the pianoforte, a souvenir of Toronto by William Horatio Clarke."

A gentle tremolo on the left hand announces the shimmer of the water, while a bit of text (to be read by Tiefenbach) helps set the mood: "The graceful yacht Oriole sets sail in the Bay of Toronto at the close of a delightful summer afternoon ..."

There is an Italian band onboard, the (perhaps tipsy) passengers begin to sing, a storm gathers and unleashes its force before everyone survives to a peaceful end.

The piano part dances and roils accordingly.

"Such melodrama," says Zarankin, as we laugh.

There's modern fun on the program in some French songs by Tiefenbach, inspired by items in his kitchen cupboard. "There's an ode to Japanese seaweed in the style of Debussy," he says. "The second is an ode to Canada's national spice, cornstarch."

The lyrics come from labels, including "a cautionary tango about aspirin," Tiefenbach adds.

The audience will be treated to Alexina Louie's boogie woogie-fuelled Fastforward, written for the 2008 Montreal piano competition.

Modern Canadian classics include Michael Colgrass's Hammer & Bow, commissioned by Israelievitch's wife as a present for his 50th birthday, Harry Freedman's Toccata for Soprano and Flute and Srul Irving Glick's wonderfully evocative Wilderness on Centre Island, to be sung by Laquerre.

Zarankin says composer John Beckwith was particularly helpful in helping source 19th-century music, including a four-handed Galop for piano, originally performed as an interlude piece at "Mrs. Morrison's Toronto Opera House" on Adelaide St. in the 1880s.

The contemporary works come from the artistic directors' own research. "We found so many pieces we liked that we already have three-quarters of a program for next year," says Perkis.

The couple loves the city they have been called home since 1987. This music has made them fall in love with it all over again.

Just the facts
WHAT: Off Centre Music Salon

WHERE: Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

WHEN: Sunday @ 2 p.m.

TICKETS: $40-$50 @ 416-205-5555

Lang Lang Sets The Fire Ablaze

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Colin Eatock

(September 26, 2008)
There probably aren't many classical musicians alive today who could pack Roy Thomson Hall by playing a virtually unknown contemporary concerto. Yet Chinese pianist Lang Lang did just that on Wednesday night, performing Tan Dun's piano concerto The Fir e with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Since Lang first appeared in Toronto in 2003, his performances at Roy Thomson Hall (either with the TSO or in solo recitals) have pretty much become annual events. In this way, the 26-year-old pianist has built a loyal base of devoted fans who would probably pay to hear him play anything. So it's to Lang's credit that, rather than simply basking in warhorse-repertoire glory, he's willing to use his celebrity to introduce audiences to new music.

And music doesn't get much newer: Dun's three-movement concerto isn't even a year old — it was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in April (with Lang at the piano). The TSO's presentation of The Fire was a Canadian premiere.

It is the Chinese composer's first big work for piano and orchestra, although it's preceded by a string of major works from his pen, including the symphony Heaven Earth Mankind (to mark the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule) and the score to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Most recently, his music was heard at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Dun is known for his innovative use of instrumental colour, and The Fire didn't disappoint in this regard. The expanded percussion section of the TSO included three Japanese taiko drums with the power to cut through an orchestra. And in his scoring for the violins, Dun was liberal in his use of glissandi — upward-sliding figures that are distinctively Chinese.

Even the piano — the most Western of instruments — was viewed from an Eastern perspective: Rapid tremolo figures suggested the pipa, a kind of Chinese lute. As well, Dun emphasized the piano's percussive qualities, with dark rumbles in the lower register and crescendos underscored with powerful forearm attacks to the keys. Lang rose to these challenges with his formidable technique and famously broad range of expression, from delicate pianissimos to thundering fortes.

There were even a few tunes, and it was in Dun's melodic writing that he most deftly mixed Eastern and Western influences. It was as though at one moment Lang and the TSO were exploring the scenic wonders of the Yangtze Valley, and a minute later they were in a Manhattan piano lounge, indulging in an introspective ballad. Yet the combining of these seemingly disparate elements was achieved with seamless continuity.

The piece is not without its problems. The orchestra drowned out the piano from time to time, although it's hard to say if this was an inherent flaw in the score or if TSO conductor Peter Oundjian failed to rein in his players when he should have. But over all, The Fire is a fascinating and impressive work.

Preceding Dun's concerto, which was last on the program, the TSO played a selection of Russian orchestral works. There was no apparent reason for this choice of repertoire, but it was well played, and generally pleasant. The orchestra made a joyful romp of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, and gave a charmingly light reading of Stravinsky's Scherzo Fantastique. But if there are any real depths to Tchaikovsky's alternately bombastic and sentimental Francesa da Rimini, Oundjian and the TSO did not find them.

Lang Lang's week-long residency in Toronto continues Friday night with a solo recital at Roy Thomson Hall. On Saturday evening, he again appears with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Out Of North Carolina And Into West Africa

Source: 
www.thestar.com - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(September 28, 2008) A North Carolina band is setting its own course on the musical trade route between the United States and West Africa.

Toubab Krewe (pronounced TOO-baab CREW) plays African melodies and rhythms often on African instruments, a novel development in the established back-and-forth between the two regions.

"The rhythms, the pockets, the 6/8s, the 12/8s, the percussive phrasing – it grabbed us all," percussionist Luke Quaranta says of the music that so excites the band.

"The intensity, the complexity and the power of it," he also says, "and of course just the diversity of it, from the jembe ensemble (traditional percussion section) – so aggressive and physical and brash – to the beauty of the kora, its 21 strings, almost ethereal, angelic."

Since 2005, Toubab Krewe has been attracting fans both at jam-band festivals such as Bonnaroo, in Tennessee, and world music venues such as Joe's Pub in New York City.

All five members are white. They range in age between 28 and 32.

They coalesced around music studies at Warren Wilson College, near Asheville, N.C. The city is also hometown for three of the members who grew up playing rock.

"Our interest (in West Africa) really began with the drumming music," Quaranta said by phone last week from New York, "first with Guinea, then expanding to Ivory Coast and Mali."

Between semesters, the students travelled, first to Guinea in 1999, and later to Ivory Coast. The breakthrough came when guitarists Drew Heller and Justin Perkins landed at Bamako, Mali, in 2004.

In Bamako, Heller and Perkins developed their guitar-playing while studying the 21-string kora, the seven- or eight-string kamel-ngoni and the one-string violin, or soku.

"We saw ourselves in that tradition of the back-and-forth," Quaranta says.

West African slaves, it is often said, brought music that evolved into American jazz and blues, as well as Cuban and Brazilian music.

In the 1950s and 1960s, top Senegalese and Congolese bands in turn embraced Cuban dance music, taking it in new directions. In the 1970s, Nigerian stars took cues from Motown and James Brown, and Ethiopian bands borrowed heavily from U.S. groups as well.

Continuing the exchange, North American musicians have since consciously tapped back into African music, beginning most famously with Paul Simon's 1986 Graceland album featuring South Africans.

Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Cockburn, Keb' Mo' and others have all taken musical journeys to Mali. And in a European parallel with Toubab Krewe, French folk ensemble Lo'Jo travelled to Bamako, took up Malian instruments and ended up founding the annual Festival in the Desert, north of Timbuktu, with Malian guitar band Tinariwen.

Since its debut in 2000, the event has drawn such diverse acts as Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame and Ottawa's multicultural band Galitcha.

Last year, Toubab Krewe played the festival.

"It was our full-circle moment," Quaranta says. "Sharing our take on (Malian music) ... and receiving the blessing of (Malian) artists we've admired – it gave us the confidence to continue to explore that space and follow our heart."

The 2007 gathering paid special tribute to Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, who had recently died.

His son Vieux Farka Touré, a West African guitar sensation who borrows from American blues, performs here Tuesday.

Janet Jackson: Vixen With Candour

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(September 28, 2008) The most surprising thing about last week's announcement that Janet Jackson was parting ways with her record label was that it was the realization of big hints she'd been dropping in recent months about her dissatisfaction with the company's promotion of current disc Discipline.

It was startling to discover that the secretive and strategic entertainer had not simply been involved in another ploy to sell records.

Although the disc started off at No. 1 on Billboard's decisive album chart in March, it has stalled with sales just under 500,000.

"I don't think it would be what it is if the label would have done what they really should have done in the beginning," she told a teleconference of journalists weeks ago on the subject of Discipline's sluggish sales in the hands of Island Def Jam, which she'd joined in 2007.

"We didn't see eye to eye. When that happens, they stop all promotion."

Contrast that with this 2001 answer to a Star reporter's query about the number of albums remaining in the pop star's multi-million-dollar contract with then-label Virgin:

"Why are you asking me that? I don't really think that's anyone's business. Many of the questions you've asked me I don't think are anyone's business, but I've answered them. And I'm not being mean about it, I'm just being honest."

Veracity seemed a spurious claim from the performer who was content to giggle and bat her lashes through soft lobs about her oddball siblings, exercise routine and defunct secret marriage, only to take umbrage when the questioning turned to the nuts and bolts of her vocation.

So it was refreshing to hear Jackson sounding unscripted during the recent teleconference to discuss her Rock Witchu tour, which hits the Air Canada Centre tonight.

During the 30-minute session, a few days after the tour's Sept. 10 launch in Vancouver, Jackson sounded weary and her voice was scratchy as she parried the criticisms that came her way:

On accusations that she lip-synchs most of her concerts: "I think if you ask any artist, no one does a full show where their vocals are all the way there. But there definitely are live things and then there are also things like background vocals and ... I do all that background ... I'm not going to go into the percentage of what is and what isn't (live) ..."

On Discipline's cut-and-paste collaborations: "I really didn't work with all of the producers on the album. They wrote the songs, but I didn't go into the studio with each and every one of those producers. I worked with Jermaine (Dupri, her boyfriend) on most of the stuff and then I also worked with Rodney (Jerkins, her producer) on a few things. And I also worked with my engineer."

About suggestions that the risqué segment of her show is inappropriate for younger attendees: "You can't please everybody. So, I'm not trying to set out to please everyone. ... It's something I've always done and I think it's something that the fans do expect from me. And it's nothing more than you've seen in a video, or on TV, or on Gossip Girl, or something like that."

Fine, no startling revelations, and Jackson's still a shy-acting low-talker, but at least there was some semblance of ownership befitting the twice-married, 42-year-old, showbiz vet she is, rather than the bob-and-weave naïveté that usually marks her interviews and has long been at odds with her bosomy dominatrix visual.

That tendency for subterfuge, particularly when it came to her bizarro family and their penchant for fantasy and plastic surgery, made Jackson seem so inauthentic that people were sceptical about her oops version of the infamous 2004 wardrobe malfunction that marked the beginning of her decline.

The three albums she has released in the past four years are considered failures in the context of her first seven discs, which yielded more than 100 million copies and 10 No. 1 singles.

The spin on her split with Island Def Jam is that it was at Jackson's request, giving her "autonomy over her career, without the restrictions of a label system." It's like 1986 all over again, when 18-year-old Jackson, preparing to fire her formidable manager-father Joe, released the coming-of-age Control, which catapulted her into superstardom.

Except that the futuristic sounding Discipline finds Jackson having done a 180-degeree turn and evolved into a lightweight, selling herself as a masochistic sex toy – "Blindfold me daddy/It's better when I don't know what to expect" ("Discipline") – with an icky kind of confidence – "My swag is heavy/Something like a first-day period" ("Feedback").

Though her music was always dance-oriented, the empowering bent of Control, followed by the socially conscious overtones of 1990's Rhythm Nation gave heft to Jackson's thin, distinct vocals. However, with 1993's janet she began to amp up the sexy image and though 1997's Velvet Rope contained songs dealing with AIDS and homophobia, Jackson seemed to be trading more on her bust and navel than lyrical substance.

She said as much in the intro to 2006's 20 Y.O., declaring that after two decades of records exploring issues, she was going to "keep it light."

That album was comprised of infectious dance tunes and come-hither ballads, ideal for complicated choreography and steamy music videos and facilitating her appearance in various stages of undress on the covers of any magazine that would have her – often showcasing a navel ring with Dupri's initials and cooing about their mind-blowing lovemaking.

But the aging sex vixen seems to have lost her way. Discipline marks Jackson's first disc since her 1982 debut without a single co-writing credit. Does she have nothing to say? No personal crises to plumb?

"I'm talking the most in this show that I ever have in any show," Jackson told reporters about the tour. "I've opened up a little bit more and I think they'll see that. And I just hope they get to see the real me come out."

MySpace Opens Own Digital Music Store Against Apple's Itunes

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Liedtke,
Associated Press

(September 25, 2008) Make room, iTunes. MySpace is hoping to shake up the digital music scene.

In a bid to spruce up its popular online hangout, MySpace plans to flip the switch today on a much-anticipated service that will give its roughly 120 million users free access to hundreds of thousands of songs from the world's largest recording labels.

The catch: the music can be played only on personal computers connected to the Internet and listeners have to tolerate advertising splashed across the screen. Anyone who wants to transfer a song to a portable device like Apple Inc.'s iPod will have to buy the music through Amazon.com Inc.'s year-old downloading service, which sells songs for as little as 79 cents apiece.

Unlike much of the material at Apple's iTunes store, the music sold through MySpace's new service won't contain the protections that limit how many times a track can be copied.

MySpace is hoping to set itself apart from iTunes even further by allowing its users to create an unlimited number of playlists containing up to 100 songs apiece – a sharing concept similar to music services already offered by Imeem and Last.fm.

If MySpace's plan pans out, people will regularly post different playlists on their profiles and expose their friends to new music.

The recording labels are betting these implicit recommendations will cultivate more interest in more songs and eventually generate revenue to help recoup some of the revenue that has evaporated as global CD sales have plunged – from $12 billion in 1999 in the U.S. to a projected $5 billion this year.

"We have to unlock the social value of our music," said Michael Nash, executive vice-president of digital strategy and business development for Warner Music Group Inc.

Besides Warner, the three other major recording labels – Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and EMI Music – also are opening up their libraries to the MySpace service, which will operate as a joint venture with the music industry. MySpace is starting with several hundred thousand songs, but expects to surpass the size of Apple's iTunes store, which stocks 8.5 million songs.

Q-Tip Readies 'The Renaissance'

Source: Ben-David Fenwick @ The Catalyst Group; bd@catalystgroupsite.com; Leyla Turkkan @ The Catalyst Group; leyla@catalystgroupsite.com; Phylicia Fant @ Universal Motown; phylicia.fant@umusic.com

(September 26, 2008)
*Grammy award winning hip-hop pioneer Q-Tip is set to release his highly anticipated new album The Renaissance (Universal Motown) on November 4th. His first release since 1999's acclaimed solo debut Amplified, The Renaissance is a versatile portrayal of a pivotal, multi-talented artist at the top of his game. Q-Tip, handling productions duties, taps into a unique sound combining live instrumentation and samples that is pure hip-hop.

Since launching his career with the groundbreaking group A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip has grown into a virtual icon and fixture of all that is cutting edge and relevant in pop culture - film, politics, art and music. His personality and creativity is a magnet that connects him with some of the most respected artists and thinkers across all walks of life. This creative dynamism has a profound impact on his musings which result in one of the strongest hip-hop releases this year.

Q-Tip states, "This album is part of a reawakening. For me it was a journey through a musical and cultural rebirth, hence the title. The Renaissance is an album inspired by a new era of vigor, musical expression and of a palpable new movement of time when the youth is ushering in new hopes and ideas without the restriction of boundaries. The Renaissance is the first album of a series I will be creating in this remarkable time of new awakenings."

The lead single from The Renaissance- "Gettin' Up"- is reminiscent of the cerebral wordplay, socially conscious themes and fusion of genre-bending influences that established Q-Tip as a key innovator in the world of music. Check out the video here.

Revered by peers in and outside of hip-hop's tremendous orbit, Q-Tip has tapped the vocal talents of some of the industry's best. Norah Jones can be heard on "Life is Better" - a tribute to hip-hip history makers from Kool Herc to J Dilla. Two of soul's finest, D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq, are featured on the tracks "Fight/Love" and "Believe" respectively. Q-Tip is also joined by hip-hop poet and vocalist Amanda Diva on "ManWomanBoogie."

In anticipation of The Renaissance, Q-Tip will be making several special appearances:

- On Monday, September 29th, he takes to the stage at the Knitting Factory in New York City for a free show. To RSVP, text QTIP to 66937.
- Q-Tip, alongside Rich Medina, hits the decks at Santos Party House in New York City every Friday. The duo spins a diverse mix of classic and new hip-hop, soul, funk, dancefloor bangers and more.
- Q-Tip joins an amazing line-up of artists performing at the annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors. The show airs Monday, October 6th.
- Q-Tip keeps the discussion of hip-hop and other topics flowing with Town Hall style meetings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta (details TBA) as well as being a panel participant at this year's CMJ Music Marathon.
- On Wednesday, October 29th, he performs at the New York Knicks opening game. Q-Tip recently recorded his own version of the "Go New York Go" anthem, which will be heard throughout the season.
- Q-Tip makes his first national TV appearance in support of The Renaissance on the Late Show with David Letterman on November 6th.
Q-Tip on MySpace

New CD Coming From Kevon Edmonds

Source: Image Entertainment

(October 01, 2008) *NEW YORK, NY - Kevon Edmonds is without question, one of R&B/Pop Music's most adored vocalist and songwriter for well over a decade.

Edmonds began branding his recognizable sound ("Heat of the Moment", "Ready or Not", "Can't Stop", "24/7") within the subgenre of the American Pop Music culture known as R&B music.

As the Founder and Lead Singer of the world renown Pop/R&B vocal group, AFTER 7, Kevon Edmonds has successfully delivered a Multi-Platinum selling LP, 2 Gold LPs, 3 Gold Singles, 11 Top Ten Radio Singles, which include two No 1 charting radio singles on Billboard's Hot 100 R&B Chart and 3 Gold Movie Soundtracks!

Kevon Edmonds is also credited with co-executive producing his debut solo project, aptly titled, 24/7 alongside sibling and music icon, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

The title track, "24/7" rose to No 2 on R&B radio formats nationwide, quickly crossing over to POP radio. 24/7 also certified Gold Status (500,000+ units sold) adding to Kevon Edmonds' collection of Platinum and Gold selling records!

Now this great talent has chosen his most personal songs yet for his highly anticipated second, as-yet-untitled, sophomore solo CD. Kevon Edmonds recently signed a recording and distribution agreement with MAKE ENTERTAINMENT/IMAGE DISTRIBUTION with plans to release a new collection of songs in March 2009.

The famed Indianapolis-born wordsmith and vocal impresario is lending his own voice to an eclectic blend of smooth, soulful, ground-breaking lyrical & instrumental production from today's hot producers/songwriters, Greg Curtis, Kadis & Sean, Damien Duke, Jason Edmonds of "The Order" and Dave Edmonds aka "NuDAE" and of course, Producer Icon, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

The MAKE ENTERTAINMENT/IMAGE DISTRIBUTION staff is gearing up to launch, market and promote Kevon Edmonds to a new generation of music listeners, as well as his core audience who purchased the singer's 24/ 7 CD (his first solo album) as part of their all-time favourite classic music collection.

Edmonds is a modern testament to timeless quality.

When asked about his upcoming solo project, Edmonds explained, "I simply want to create a body of work that will take listeners on a musical journey; the style of music that will allow people to get in touch with their highs and lows and their joys and pain of living through song. At the same time, I am hoping to bridge the gap between good old R&B and R&B of today."

The IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT Distribution Staff is confident that Kevon Edmonds' musical style will appeal to a digital/mobile consumer, as well as traditional retail outlets around the world. The company has a strong global distributorship throughout South America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

European retailers are creating a "buzz" via emails and telephone calls by inquiring when Kevon's product will be made available to their outlets and services. MAKE ENTERTAINMENT is currently preparing a creative marketing/promotion and internet campaign designed to begin in the first quarter of 2009. The staff is also scheduling Features and Profiles on Kevon in Urban, General Market and International media as well as pre-taping television interviews to coincide with the new product release in March 2009.

Kevon Edmonds has also taken great interest in the National Campaign for The March of Dimes and its mission to improve the health of babies. The legendary organization and Edmonds are exploring opportunities to work together in the near future.

Common Shows Uncommon Class At T.O. Gig

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop And Jazz Critic

(October 01, 2008) Common has certainly learned a few things from his Hollywood friends.

The Chicago MC has always been a captivating performer, with the ability to authentically deliver both socio-political missives and light-hearted ditties, but Monday night's concert at Kool Haus showcased a much more deliberate performer with hefty financial backing that has enabled him to kick the showmanship up several notches.

A tricked-out, two-level set – one of the most elaborate this city has witnessed for a hip-hop club show – was his domain. The layout consisted of stairs on either side, a bar, replete with stools and beverages, and a six-piece band.

The rapper entered the stage through a centre opening draped with heavy red curtains and a marquee overhead announcing the name of the tour.

Wearing a black leather jacket, jeans, green T-shirt and sunglasses, the 36-year-old entertainer tore through an exciting 75-minute set, morphing from fierce to sensual, sometimes in the same verse.

The capacity crowd matched him word-for-word on lyrics from favourites such as "Go," "Come Close" and "I Used To Love H.E.R.," but there were a few unfamiliar tunes, most likely from his much- delayed eighth album Universal Mind Control, which is due in November.

Pharrell Williams from co-headlining trio N.E.R.D, joined him for some droll, off-key singing on one of those catchy new tracks which had the refrain "I'm too fly."

Several female fans were invited onstage to dance and hang out at the "bar," where Common caught his breath between songs, sipped sangria and flirted, commanding the backup singer doubling as bartender to "get the ladies whatever they want."

The ambient lighting – lots of brothel red – and taped vocals mimicking the thoughts of nightclub goers helped replicate a party atmosphere onstage and rendered the production more unpredictable and enjoyable than the typical rap show.

The two-time Grammy winner's fans may be wondering what impact embarking on an acting career – Smokin' Aces, American Gangster – will have on his music; we'll see what the next disc brings.

Another of those new tunes had a sunny, retro vibe reminiscent of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" and shows it has certainly injected the right dose of drama into his stage performance.

Opener A Must-Hear For Baroque Music Lovers

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Stefano Montanari, violin and director. To Sunday. Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor St. W. 416-964-6337.

(September 26, 2008) If you're reading this and don't have a ticket to hear the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra by Sunday, stop immediately and get yourself one. Bring as many friends as you can.

To mark the start of its 30th season, the ensemble has invited thirtysomething Italian baroque violinist Stefano Montanari to lead it and perform as soloist in a program of concertos (and one ouverture) by Italian composers active in the first half of the 18th century.

The list includes two pieces by Antonio Vivaldi, a violin concerto master, and one of the most inventive composers of all time.

With Montanari's high-energy presence front and centre, Tafelmusik is an orchestra transformed. Where it is always polished and balanced, this time it positively glows and pulses with newfound dynamism – one you can frequently catch with the latest generation of period performers in France and, especially, Italy.

Finding a depth of tone and a dynamic breadth that seem impossible on a gut-strung violin played with a short bow, Montanari has coaxed a commensurately broader sound out of the other players.

Those who could, stood around their leader, often swaying in unison as he danced his way through the programme's seven works.

The sound had an immediacy that's too often lacking in our concert halls. It felt as if these accomplished artists were truly creating something in the moment.

Montanari has the expert storyteller's gift on how to pace the musical narrative, and when to use the element of surprise.

He also brought to the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre stage an armload of fabulous little bowing tricks that he used to tremendous sonic effect.

This program is so good that I quickly started to run out of adjectives. Quite simply, you're not likely to hear baroque music played any better anywhere else by people who give every indication of really wanting to be there for you.

Let's have 30 more years of Tafelmusik, please.

A Wordsmith With Street Cred

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Robert Everett-Green

EVERYTHING IS BORROWED
The Streets
Sixsevenine/Warner
***

(September 30, 2008) Banks are crashing, the markets are on a slide, and here comes
Mike Skinner (the British rapper who records as the Streets) to remind us that it's all borrowed anyway. Skinner's "all" is much more than money - it's the stuff of life at every moment, as we continue our merry parade toward oblivion.

"My time on this earth is my only penny," Skinner observes in the title track. "Just when I discover the meaning of life, they change it." How's that for an uncomfortable combination of ideas? - No, I'm going to be fooled into thinking I own this world of illusion, and yes, I'm deeply puzzled about what I have left when I've taken that position.

Skinner doesn't leave himself many hiding places. Even a sun vacation, described in detail in The Escapist, brings him back to the ephemerality of life. On the Flip of a Coin muses on the chanciness of our existing at all. The companion piece, On the Edge of a Cliff, sees benevolent fortune in the kindness of strangers, and that ultimately leads to his simple, heads-down solution to his ethical problem. Be as good a person as you can, he urges in Alleged Legends (an attack on religious dogma), and the rest will take care of itself.

The danger of sounding preachy through all this is huge, and Skinner slips once or twice. Way of the Dodo would have to be a much better track (and not, as it stands, one of this album's weakest) to give any punch to his thoughts about the environment. The Strongest Person I Know celebrates the gentle path with woefully clichéd lashings of mandolin, harp and flute.

But the man's verbal panache and flair for memorable hooks are still functioning, and he doesn't pretend to have become a saint. "I want to go to heaven for the weather, hell for the company," he wails in one singalong chorus, and in Never Give In, he plays the nightmare suitor who just won't take "get lost" for an answer. I Love You More (Than You Like Me) might be the swinging, disappointed sequel, and the track most reminiscent of the sad-sack, regular-guy dramas of his 2004 album, A Grand Don't Come for Free. As he almost says at the start of the album, all you need is love, and sometimes all you're left with is the need.

Caribou Wins $20,000 Polaris Prize

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(September 30, 2008) Neo-psychedelic electronica specialist and erstwhile mathematician Dan Snaith, from Dundas, Ont., walked away last night with the $20,000 first prize in the third annual Polaris Prize, honouring the best of Canada's annual crop of new independent pop artists.

Snaith, who records under the name
Caribou, was feted for his album Andorra, an elaborate mix of free-form melodic pop, post-acid house techno dance music and explosive percussion.

He was one of three artists who did not perform live last night at the gala in Toronto at the Phoenix, which featured short sets by nominees Two Hours Traffic, Holy F---, Basia Bulat, Kathleen Edwards, Plants and Animals, rapper Shad and Black Mountain.

Winnipeg's the Weakerthans, Montreal's Stars and Caribou pre-recorded video presentations.

"I'm lucky and proud to be included among these musicians," a genuinely surprised Snaith said after being receiving the oversized ceremonial cheque. "I had no expectation that this would happen."

The Polaris, similar to Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize, is decided on the night of the gala by a jury of 11 music critics, producers and performers and awarded to the best album of the year, regardless of record sales and profile.

The prize is touted as a celebration of creativity and diversity, and is rarely given to the most popular act among 10 nominees selected by a 178-member Polaris forum.

Otherwise this year's prize would have likely have gone to Toronto electro-rock outfit Holy F---, whose jaw-dropping, two-song set was the evening's high point.

Edwards, nominated for her album Asking For Flowers, directed her comments to her Polaris peers after her well-received performance.

"We probably couldn't do anything else with our lives," Edwards said. "There's something in us that makes us put out what we do. I applaud and deeply respect all of you."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Busta Rhymes Signs With Universal Motown

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 25, 2008)
*Busta Rhymes has inked a new record deal with Universal Motown and will release his first album for the label in December, reports Billboard. The project, previously named "Blessed," is now titled "B.O.M.B." and is due for release on Dec 9, a label spokesperson confirmed. In July, rapper 50 Cent's Web site, ThisIs50.com, reported that Rhymes was dropped from Aftermath/Interscope, but it was never confirmed by the label. Busta finally admitted the separation last weekend on New York radio station Hot 97, telling listeners, "Me and (Dr.) Dre are still good, even though I'm not in business with Aftermath or Interscope." Rhymes went on to explain that "B.O.M.B" stands for "Back on my Bulls**t" and that his newly leaked single is called "Arab Money."  "I just want the world to know it's official," Rhymes said.

One For Shirley: Tim Warfield

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Criss Cross Jazz)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(September 28, 2008) Former Nicholas Payton sideman
Tim Warfield serves up a winning tribute to late legendary organist Shirley Scott, a mentor with whom he performed and recorded. The Pennsylvania-born tenor saxist is accompanied here by trumpeter Terrell Stafford and drummer Byron Landham, who also had a connection to Scott, as well as Pat Bianchi on Hammond B-3 organ and Daniel G. Sadownick on congas and percussion. On Warfield originals and some standards they present a harmonic horn frontline that's underscored, but never overwhelmed by the keys. The most arresting tunes have a witty, soulful bop groove, such as Sonny Bono's "The Beat Goes On" and "Stomping at the Savoy." On the ballad "Make It Last" with just Bianchi playing with him one hears explicitly the beauty of Warfield's tone and creativity of his statements. Top Track: A gentle Latin pulsing approach to Scott's "Oasis" finds the organist strumming rhythmically like a guitar.

New Baby For 'Face

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(September 29, 2008) *Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds has become the father of a new baby girl.  People magazine reports of his girlfriend, Nicole Pantenburg, giving birth on Sept. 9 to their daughter Peyton Nicole Edmonds. She arrived at 6:55 p.m. weighing 5 lbs., 7 oz. "Nicole and I couldn't be happier to have a new baby girl in the family," Edmonds tells People. "And my two sons are thrilled to have a little sister." The producer/singer is the father of Brandon, 12, and Dylan, 7, with ex-wife Tracey Edmonds. 

Andre 3000's Menswear Bows Overseas

Source: www.eurweb.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(September 30, 2008) *For those who fancy some haberdashery from Andre 3000's new fashion line, you'll have to either wait for some pieces to trickle down to eBay, or make reservations to fly across the pond. The Guardian is reporting that the Outkast rapper, born Andre Benjamin, is selling his new Benjamin Bixby line of classic menswear exclusively at Harrods in London. As previously reported, the line features 1930s baseball-inspired clothing, including tweeds, plus fours, pleat-fronted trousers, cardigans with bold lettering, flat caps and braces. The rap star says he sketched the entire line himself and has visited Italian clothing factories and textile fairs in Paris for inspiration. He also loves shopping at Hackett on London's Sloane Street, as well as Portobello market for vintage corduroys and brogues.

::FILM NEWS::

Greg Kinnear Had To Learn To Be Unlikeable

Source:  www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor

(September 29, 2008) Greg Kinnear says the biggest critic of his portrayal of strong-willed inventor Robert Kearns in Flash of Genius – and the one he'd like to please the most – would have been the man himself.

"I hope that he would think it was a fair portrayal because I think this was a guy who was very much caught up in the concept of fairness. But he sure as hell would let me know if he didn't," Kinnear says with a chuckle.

It's been a busy day for the Oscar-nominated star of As Good As It Gets. He's raced back to a Toronto hotel to meet with the Star fresh from a TV interview during this month's film festival and he hasn't had time to take off his camera makeup, but the chalky fake tan doesn't detract from Kinnear's blue-eyed good looks.

Kinnear, 45, has made a name for himself playing leading men who turn out to be far more than meets the eye – think neurotic businessman Danny Wright in The Matador and failed self-help author Richard Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine.

In Flash of Genius, which opens Friday, he's Detroit college professor Robert Kearns, a stubborn part-time inventor who perfects a design for the intermittent windshield wiper in his basement. When Ford reneges on its deal to use his design, keeping the prototype and launching production on its own, Kearns embarks on a decade-plus battle to have his name rightfully appear as the inventor.

Kinnear spent a great deal of time researching Kearns. He was unable to talk to the inventor – Kearns died in 2005, the year before Kinnear signed on for the movie – but he did speak at length with his ex-wife, Phyllis.

"I worked as hard as I could to try to replicate the spirit of what I saw in this guy," Kinnear says. And that meant playing someone he wasn't too fond of, he says, pointing out that Kearns's lawyer, played by Alan Alda, reminds the inventor at one point: "You're not the most likeable guy."

"I was so taken with the spirit of the guy and what intrigued me the most was I felt like I didn't like this guy necessarily," Kinnear says.

"I felt he was prickly, I felt he was untrusting. He was very rigid and he was stubborn and all of these characteristics. But I felt that in spite of all these qualities, these very human flaws in this man, I wanted him to find success. I was on board with him."

Yet Kearns's version of success may not jibe with most people's. Although he was offered lucrative settlements – as much as $30 million (U.S.) – he turned them down and continued to fight for the recognition he prized far above a payout.

"Ego, money ... I think the movie leaves it ambiguous whether or nor he did find what he was looking for," Kinnear explains. "But whatever that thing was that was going to make him whole, I was rooting for that. I wanted him to find it. And so I thought that was a real achievement of the story."

He also drew on his experience as a dad (he has two girls, aged 2 and 5) to play Kearns, a father of six whose obsession with justice strains family ties.

Kinnear had plenty of family time while making Flash of Genius, shot in Toronto and Hamilton last year. His wife, striking former Brit tab Page 3 model Helen Labdon, and their girls moved into a rented house in Rosedale and used it as a base to explore the city, hanging out on the Danforth, at Centre Island and at St. Lawrence Market.

"We really embraced the city and it was wonderful," he says.

Even Pads, the family dog, came along for the Toronto adventure. The bearded collie has a part in the movie as the pet of actor Dermot Mulroney's character.

"Pads did not get scale," Kinnear says with a wry smile. "He didn't even get a credit. There was some budgetary cut on the credit-ending sequence; they managed to get his name squeezed out.

"He's pretty hardcore. Still looking for representation."

Inspired By The 'Godmother Of Punk'

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Jennie Punter

(September 26, 2008)
One of the hottest tickets during the recent Toronto International Film Festival was the Patti Smith: Dream of Life screening and after-party with director Steven Sebring and the "godmother of punk" at the Gardiner Museum. Although the film wasn't part of the fest, media types turned up to experience the life force and artistry of Smith on celluloid and, for 45 intimate minutes, in performance.

Dream of Life, which played the Inside Out festival last spring and opens in Toronto today, is the most eloquent and artistic doc about a rock star since A.J. Schnack's Kurt Cobain: About a Son (2006). Both filmmakers eschew the usual chronological arc and interviews with friends, family and colleagues and instead employ an aesthetic that feels perfectly suited to the subject. These cinematic films don't tell you what they are, they just unfold. Interestingly, Sebring, a fashion photographer, was not a fan when he first met Smith at a Spin magazine shoot in 1995, just a year after the death of her husband, MC5 guitarist Fred (Sonic) Smith. "I was familiar with the Robert Mapplethorpe pictures," says Sebring, referring to iconic images of Patti Smith taken by the late photographer. "But I didn't know much about what she wrote or did."

Aside from concert footage, there has been little documentation of Smith. Some rare 1970s footage from the BBC and New York No Wave filmmaker Amos Poe appears in Dream of Life, but most of the film features Sebring's Sundance-winning cinematography. His 16-mm camera lingers as she communes with friends, family and fellow musicians; it passes over objects and photographs in her Detroit home and hops up on stage as she wriggles and spits her stream-of-consciousness rants for adoring fans.

"She let me into her life," says Sebring, who self-financed the project, filming Smith over an 11-year stretch that begins with her return to live performance in 1995 and ends as the artist-activist turns up the heat in anti-war protests of the Bush era. Not that Sebring's footage unspools in that order. "I find traditional biographical documentaries too easy for a viewer," he says. "I don't want to spoon-feed you."

At one point Sebring had to shelve the film. "I was so broke," he says. He was eventually able to work for a year with Angelo Corrao, who edited Bruce Weber's 1988 Chet Baker doc Let's Get Lost. "He's an old-school editor who understood I didn't want to lose some of the abstract qualities of the rough cut, yet knew where I wanted to take it," Sebring says.

Sebring and Smith are now "like brother and sister" - and the godmother of punk is now the real godmother of Sebring's child. They plan future collaborations, Sebring says, and Smith has had a profound effect on his own artistic life. "The thing that is so amazing and unique about Patti is that she can sell out the Sydney Opera House one day, then play rock 'n' roll in a hole in the wall the next," he says. "She can go to the Tate Modern and do a retrospective on Robert Mapplethorpe, then go to the church where William Blake was christened and deliver a lecture.

"That's something that inspired me throughout the whole process. I think of things in different media rather than just one, so every film I do in the future will have sort of performance aspect, or book or installation," Sebring says. "Patti's influence makes me want to take an idea to different places."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Craig Ross Launches Film Into ‘Space

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(September 29, 2008)  *Award-winning independent filmmaker Craig Ross Jr. is taking movie distribution to a new level.

Motivated by the increasing need to find new ways to impress film projects on audiences, Ross is taking his latest film “
The Mannsfield 12” directly to 100 million consumers in one location -- MySpace.

Hollywood is no stranger to Ross.

His films “Blue Avenue” and “Motives” have been met with critical acclaim and film festival awards. His directorial resume includes episodes of hit television shows including “House,” “Bones,” and “Prison Break” just to name a few. However, Ross understands the Hollywood game and how to win at it.

“Basically what we’re doing is video-on-demand on MySpace,” Ross described. “MySpace is the biggest social gathering network on the web. So we figured since the DVD was one medium and one way of getting the film out, we thought we needed another way to help the DVD and to help ourselves. We figured direct marketing to the consumer was the best way and so everything fell into place.”

Consumers can simply head to the MySpace address, www.myspace.com\m12themovie, where they will be able to either stream the movie on demand for $5.99 or order the DVD for $13.99. Ross explained that the film is not yet downloadable, but could be an option of the future.

 “I don’t think anybody else has done it before,” Ross said of distributing a film via the networking site. “You’ve got all these people trafficking in one place so pretty soon you’re going to have stores go up, so why not a theatre?”

That thought launched the idea his distributor ran with. Basically, the film is available through its MySpace page. It does not stream via the MySpace server, Ross explained, but it does actually play at the site.

“You leave the MySpace environment when you pay for the movie,” Ross said, “but you come right back to it when you watch the movie.”

“The Mannsfield 12” is a movie about 12 elite criminals housed in a separate wing of a prison. The prison warden chooses to house a new inmate in this special wing, after being bribed by the inmate’s father to ensure his safety. However, the decision leads to the murder of a guard and a game of cat and mouse between the warden and the “Mannsfield 12.”

“The warden gets his kickbacks easier having all 12 inmates in a special wing. So a 13th prisoner gets introduced into this wing and the warden is making quite a bit of money by keeping this kid safe, but he’s put him in with hardened criminals. Unfortunately the kid doesn’t know that,” Ross described. “So with the violence and intimidation, he can’t handle it and when he lashes out, he stabs a guard. The warden gets the kid out of the wing and then tries to force one of the other 12 to confess.”

Ross recruited an impressive cast of recognizable actors to take on the roles of these hardened criminals. “The Mannsfield 12” stars  Tony Cox, Thom Barry (“Cold Case”), Sean Nelson (“Fresh,” “The Wood”), Michael McCary (Boyz II Men), and (comedian/actor) Joe Torry, just to name a few. The cast alone gives a blockbuster image, but Ross admitted that the film does not yet have a blockbuster budget.

“Usually the way to do this is through a fairly high profile marketing campaign. We don’t have that,” he said. “But just as MySpace has grown through grassroots marketing, so we’re hoping the film will grow through our grass roots marketing. I think it’s absolutely risky. I think it’s laying everything on the line, but I’m alright with that.”

To check out movie details, to stream, or to buy, visit www.myspace.com\m12themovie.

Southern Charm And A Phobia For High-Tech

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Bob Strauss

(September 29, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Billy Bob Thornton enters the room in a black, sleeveless Zildjian T-shirt and jeans. Tattoos adorn his muscular arms. A salt-and-pepper love patch and steely framed sunglasses complete the intimidating, bouncer/biker/ex-con picture.

But as soon as Thornton speaks in his warm Southern drawl, you feel like you're talking to your best buddy.

Yes, the actor who's developed quite a reputation in recent years as the consummate screen s.o.b. can really be a sweetheart. The majority of his five ex-wives may even agree with that.

In his latest movie
Eagle Eye, which opened Friday, Thornton applies some of that Arkansas cordiality to a role that seems to cry out for hostile relentlessness: a high-ranking FBI investigator trying to stop the ultimate high-tech crime spree. On the trail of a young man (Shia LaBeouf) who seems to be aided by anything that's linked to a computer, Thornton's Agent Morgan is resourceful and persistent. But unlike many an unyielding movie fed, he's a nice, average fellow.

"That was one of the main things I wanted to get across," Thornton, 53, says. "If the audience is supposed to be afraid of something in a movie, if the person fighting it seems invincible or like a total tough guy, it's a little harder to get into it. But if you see a regular guy facing this thing that he has no idea what it is or what's going on here, especially a guy in a position of high authority like Morgan is, we want to believe that he's human."

Making a film in which electronic devices can be turned against you at any moment added another item to the famously phobic Thornton's list of fears.

"I'm not a real technical guy myself, I'm just waking up to some of what's out there, and it's kind of frightening to me," says Thornton. "It's kind of another new phobia. Yeah, all that stuff makes me nervous. My girlfriend goes on the computer to look at pictures of our daughter and I get nervous. I just know that something's gonna pop up that shouldn't be there!"

As for the rest of his current domestic situation, Thornton seems to be more comfortable than ever before.

He's been with four-year-old Bella's mother, Connie Angland, longer than he stayed in any of his marriages. And even the most turbulent of those, to wife No. 4, Pietra Cherniak, seems to have mellowed into an agreeable custody sharing of their two teenaged boys.

As for his last and most famous marriage, well, technically, Thornton used to be dad to Angelina Jolie's adopted son Maddox. But Brad Pitt is now.

"I see Maddox when they're in town," Thornton explains. "Some months ago was the last time I saw him, when they were here for a minute. But they're all over the place. The other day I left her a message and she left me a message, just to say howdy, catching up kind of thing."

While media scrutiny of Thornton has subsided even as it has metastasized for Jolie since their divorce, he still has reasons to wonder what may pop up on that computer. For instance, movie websites keep linking him to numerous film projects he has nothing to do with.

"There was a rumour that I'm gonna be the next Freddy Krueger," he says with a weary chortle. "That's just out of thin air. At least they talked to me about doing some of the other films I'm not doing, but Freddy Krueger, I never heard that in my life and it's all of a sudden everywhere."

On a more serious note, bloggers have been pointing out that Thornton may not be the luckiest co-star to have. LaBeouf, for instance, was arrested for trespassing at a drug store in Chicago while filming Eagle Eye. Charges were later dropped. The recent deaths of Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac and Brad Renfro - who appeared with Thornton in Monster's Ball, Bad Santa and the upcoming The Informers, respectively - have naturally been more disheartening. Especially Ledger's, since it was so unexpected and Monster's Ball had been the young Australian actor's transitional film toward serious drama.

Thornton hasn't been able to bring himself to enjoy his friend's final triumph.

"I haven't seen The Dark Knight and I kind of don't want to yet," he says. "I will at some point."

On a more upbeat note, Thornton - who was a musician long before making it as a writer, director and actor with the likes of One False Move and Sling Blade - is enjoying his biggest success on the Americana charts with his new band the Boxmasters. The trio's double album features one disc of British Invasion and country covers and another of original rockabillyish tunes, although often with hilariously explicit, Thornton-penned lyrics.

"Oh, they just, y'know, came from my idiotic mind," he explains, laughing. But even if he's singing some pretty nasty songs these days, don't expect to see the mean Billy Bob on screen any time soon.

"I guess I got that reputation there for a while when I did Bad Santa, Bad News Bears and School for Scoundrels," he says with a shrug.

"I haven't really done one like that since, because I think I've done the box set of those. I would absolutely entertain the thought of doing a sequel to Bad Santa because people love that movie so much. But mostly, I want to do straight dramatic roles for a while."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Life Imitates Life For Brit Actor Damian Lewis

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(September 29, 2008) It has been said that in life, there are no second acts. For Life, however, it seems there was.

No one really expected a second season for the quirky cop drama starring British import
Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) as Charlie Crews, an LAPD officer framed for multiple murder, then finally vindicated after a dozen brutal years behind bars.

The quirkiness comes in, at least initially, with his often-incredulous attempts to adjust to an unfamiliar outside world. And then there's his eccentric, almost infallible approach to solving crimes, the increasingly affectionate antagonism between he and his partner (a tough-as-nails Latina with issues of her own) and his ongoing effort to reconcile emergent Zen aspirations and the luxurious lifestyle afforded by a substantial cash settlement.

That, and a driving, unspoken obsession with the closure/vengeance of solving and exposing the conspiracy behind his manufactured conviction.

An awful lot to ask of an audience grown wary of complex narrative and overly familiar with the character conceit of eccentric deductive genius, from Sherlock Holmes, to Monk, to House, to the newly debuted The Mentalist.

The reception was at best lukewarm to Life's initial, strike-truncated season. Yet uncharacteristically, cellar-dwelling NBC retained enough faith in the show's potential to keep it on its schedule, moving it to a new and coveted Friday-night timeslot with additional episodes Monday nights (starting tonight at 10) for the essential first few weeks.

You couldn't ask for a better second shot – giving the show at least a chance of surviving and thriving on its own merits. Primary among them is lead actor Lewis, who impeccably encompasses doe-eyed naiveté, childlike wonder, bemused ambiguity, keen intelligence and steely, tragedy-tinged resolve– a man as drawn to joy as he is driven by darkness.

As much as Lewis has embraced this dichotomy, he is also aware of its limited shelf life. TV history has shown us the dangers of mysteries solved (and, equally, not), of character arcs resolved (or not) and – most of all – the consummation of underlying sexual subtext.

"If Crews solves the case?" Lewis mused at the recent critics' fall preview. "Well, I'll have to look for another job. So I hope he doesn't."

"He's going to move over to be in Chuck," needled showrunner Rand Ravich.

"Yeah, right," countered Lewis. "He's just going to go guest-starring in all the other TV series."

But seriously, folks. "You know, if he does finally find out who did it, who set him up for the triple murder, I think that'll be some kind of closure and he'll be able to carry on with his life as normal."

Which would pretty much kill the spine of the storyline.

"I don't think he's that close," Lewis quickly qualifies. "I mean ... something he's established early on in this season, (it) becomes clear it is more than just one person who's been operating this thing.

"There are five or six of them and he's going to systematically work his way through them and find out exactly where that leads him. We don't know how deep, how high up, this corruption will go, who's behind the whole conspiracy."

"He needs that satisfaction," writer Ravich elaborates, "that vengeance that is very un-Zenlike. He wants to forgive. But he wants to find the people responsible and shove a pistol down their throat.

"Hopefully he will always be battling with transcendence and vengeance."

And hopefully the audience will want to stick around for the ride. Lewis is having the time of his life – which superficially mirrors his character's journey.

"I love it," the actor enthuses. "As you probably can tell, I'm not from here and it's very much part of my personal adventure, which is to come and live in California and be on the Pacific Ocean.

"I grew up in a North European city, (so I) didn't see much sunshine. In fact, I think I've seen more sunshine in this one year than I've seen in my entire life. So I'm a little bit shocked.

"But I love it. I love it. Getting to know a new culture, a new city . . . I feel more like Charlie Crews than I could say."

Indian Film Industry Goes Dark As 100,000 Actors And Crew Members Strike

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ramola Talwar Badam, The Associated Press

(October 01, 2008) MUMBAI, India–The shining lights of Bollywood went dark Wednesday as actors, technicians and cameramen struck to demand better pay and overtime, halting dozens of movies and television productions.

A coalition of 22 unions representing than 100,000 technicians, dancers and other film workers ordered their members not to show up for work, indefinitely shuttering one of the world's most prolific movie industries.

More than 200 Hindi-language films are produced every year in Mumbai, home of India's film industry known as Bollywood.

But while the films portray a world of glamour and feature lush production numbers, working conditions on the sets are notoriously poor. Workers who build movie sets or handle lighting get paid about $11 for long days without overtime.

The strike comes on the eve of Hindu festival season, when the industry launches its biggest films in hopes of capturing large audiences.

"Workers are paid for eight hours but they work far beyond this. They are not paid more money and are not even paid on time," said Dinesh Chaturvedi, head of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees.

"Workers will not report back for work unless we are paid in time and have better working hours," said Chaturvedi.

The strike could be a major blow to the local economy. Revenue from India's film business generated roughly $2 billion in 2006 and was expected to double by 2012, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Union officials said some of Bollywood's top stars, including Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, supported the strike and did not work Wednesday. Calls to the actors' representatives were not immediately returned.

Ratan Jain, president of the Association of Motion Picture & TV Program Producers, said producers were trying to come up with a proposal Wednesday night to bring to union representatives.

"The strike is not in anyone's interest," said Jain. "Filming has come to a halt. We will sit down and find a solution."

FILM TIDBITS

Will Smith To Return For 'Legend' Prequel

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(September 28, 2008) *Will Smith has agreed to reprise his role as scientist Robert Neville in a prequel to his 2007 blockbuster "I Am Legend."  Francis Lawrence will also return as director of the project, which is based on a detailed outline that was written over the past few months by Lawrence, Smith and the film's producers Akiva Goldsman and Lassiter, according to Variety.  The prequel will chronicle the final days of humanity in New York before a man-made virus caused a plague that left Smith’s character the lone survivor among a mutated mob in the city.  Making a prequel was the only way to stretch a franchise that grossed $584 million worldwide for Warner Bros. and keep Smith in the lead role. His character was killed in the first film, after extracting a potential cure for the virus for the scattered survivors.

Scarlett and Ryan wed in B.C.

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(September 29, 2008) Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds did a little rushing into it after all. The couple married over the weekend, according to publicist Meredith O'Sullivan. She did not provide details. Us Weekly reported on its website yesterday that the small wedding took place at a resort outside Vancouver. Guests included Johansson's mother and brother, the magazine said. The couple announced their engagement in May. "We're just enjoying our time," the actor said last month. "We're just recently – very recently – engaged. So, you know, we're just taking it easy. And no big plan yet. ...  "I mean, I'm 23. There's no reason to rush into it. Everything feels very natural and relaxed."

::TV NEWS::

Carlo Rota Returns To 24 And Little Mosque

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(October 01, 2008) There's busy, and then there's Carlo Rota. The TV gourmet/actor has not looked back since his dual success on both sides of the border, as a smug computer whiz on 24 and an exasperated dad in Little Mosque on the Prairie.

"I love it!" the actor enthused last week at the CBC season preview. "I have so much going on ... I literally have like five projects on the go. It's fantastic."

No one was quite sure what to expect of Mosque, beyond the anticipatory interest generated by its superficially provocative subject matter. That pretty much guaranteed a good start, ratings-wise, but the plucky little sitcom has maintained its audience.

It returns for its third season on CBC tonight at 8.

"We always knew that the subject matter was never going to sustain," allowed Rota. "It's evolved. It's character-driven comedy and this year we have tried to interject a bit more life into it, investigate the characters a bit more ... some more of the peripheral characters have come into the fray as well. We have tried to balance things out.

"The first season we were still discovering what the show was. The second season, I think, we tried to make the show snappier and funnier, but we lost a little bit of the heart. But I think that in this third season we've managed to balance that out.

"One of the big challenges with Canadian television is allowing a show to settle."

And one of the big challenges in American television is allowing a show to settle too much.

Such was the case with the sixth season of 24, which quickly devolved into cliché and confusion, especially when compared with the previous, and arguably best ever, season before.

So the pressure is on. And production on this upcoming seventh 24 season has been fraught with problems, from the start-up delays caused by the writers strike and star Kiefer Sutherland's brief incarceration, to several self-imposed shutdowns – they are currently off until Oct. 9 – to rewrite and retool.

One thing is certain, Rota will be one of the few familiar characters to return in his recurring role as caustic genius Morris O'Brian, ex-husband of Chloe.

"They have had some issues," he acknowledged. "They have shut down now, but they have shut down in the past as well ... so you know, they want to get it right.

"I mean, I'm not in it as much as I was in Season 6 ... essentially, I was doing Little Mosque, so I didn't know what was going on. But I should be going down in the middle of October to do some reshoots and I am really hoping that they will revitalize and regenerate and resurrect that concept because people love it. People go mental for it. They want it to be great.

"It's such a brilliant opportunity, considering I was really brought on to be a tertiary guy, and you know, support Chloe and her storyline. But they gave me a lot of face-time and I am very thankful for that."

He maintains nothing but admiration for his fellow London-born adoptive Canadian, series star Sutherland.

"At the end of the day," Rota insists, "the guy still has a lot of class. You know, he f---ed up, but he did what he needed to do. He didn't start crying and they didn't bring him out in 48 hours because he was having emotional issues."

Role On Extras Helped Actor Land Ugly Betty Gig

Source:  www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore,
Associated Press

(September 25, 2008) NEW YORK–Many viewers were first acquainted with Ashley Jensen when she played Maggie, the dowdy, dim-bulb sidekick to Ricky Gervais on his show-biz spoof Extras.

Then she landed a supporting role on ABC's Ugly Betty as Christina, the worldly-wise wardrobe mistress for a high-fashion magazine.

Those characters, past and present, are quite different. Not so different: What it took for Jensen to portray them, she says.

"It's amazing what a bit of makeup and standing up straight can do," she volunteers in her plush Scottish accent.

To demonstrate, she droops into Maggie's identity (slouching, with a vacant gaze), after which, as Christina, she snaps to high alert (recommended for surviving the predatory culture that pervades the offices of Mode magazine on Ugly Betty).

To play Christina, "You just sit up," explains Jensen, "and close your mouth when you're thinking."

With the series' third season (premiering at 8 p.m. tonight on Citytv), production of Ugly Betty has moved cross-country to New York, where the saga had always been set. Now its eye-popping studio shots are supplemented with location scenes all over real-life Gotham, making the show more visually stylish than ever. Not only has Ugly Betty uprooted itself from Hollywood. So did its large company of actors – except Jensen.

"I shuttle over here for a couple of days, then shuttle home again. But don't take that as an insult," she adds, as if to assuage any sensitive New Yorkers. "It was only because I had done the great big move with my husband (actor Terence Beesley) and my dog from London to L.A. two years before."

They found a rental ideally located in the Hollywood Hills near two parks, the better to accommodate their 45-kilogram pooch Barney. They have since bought a house and fetched their furniture from storage in England. Barney is happy. The family feels settled.

"But I still feel like I'm on holiday," Jensen confesses. "When I first arrived, I had a suitcase full of sarongs and bikinis. I didn't have one (sweater). I still look at the Hollywood sign and think: What am I doing here?"

What she's doing, of course, is a hit series, where she's pleased to be appearing alongside its star, America Ferrera, whom she describes as "a delightful young woman, a good soul who's on the right track – and she's not gonna go giddy with it."

Jensen is enjoying a juicy story line on Ugly Betty: Desperate to earn some money for a medical emergency, Christina is carrying a child for power-mad editor Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams), whose own womb has been declared "hostile" by her doctors.

In short, Jensen, 39, has come quite a distance from the Scottish town of Annan, where she grew up.

"I had a great life there," she recalls. "My ambition was never really to get the hell out of that place, and it was never, never to be in Hollywood! I just knew that I wanted to act and tell stories."

So she did, by throwing in with a troupe of actors who toured Scotland in a van, unloading and putting up their scenery, then, after each performance, striking the set and heading for the next town.

"Then I did little bits of television in Scotland, and then I thought: I'd quite like to try it down in London."

There she landed work in theatre as well as on British TV, ``playing an awful lot of sensible policewomen."

She was having fun but feeling stuck in a routine.

"The only power an actor really has is to say, `No, I'm not gonna do that, I'm gonna hold out and see if there's anything else.' But sometimes it's quite difficult to be that brave. In fact, I was offered one job, and it was my husband who went, `Why are you contemplating that part?' So I turned it down and two days later, I got interviewed for Extras."

Created by and starring Ricky Gervais as his follow-up to The Office, Extras was an inside look at celebrity as seen through the eyes of fellow "background artists" and odd-couple chums: Gervais's character, who felt unjustly overdue for stardom, and Jensen, who as Maggie wanted nothing more than to find a nice boyfriend. But she was scarcely noticed by anybody, in or out of the movie business, other than for her many social blunders. The series, aired by HBO in the U.S., scored Jensen an Emmy nomination. It also led to her role on Ugly Betty, where she plays a far more colourful, can-do kind of gal.

"But everybody makes faux pas," says Jensen. Like herself, ``when I was walking from my room in the Mondrian hotel in L.A. through the lobby and out to the valet with my skirt tucked up into my underwear. It was all bunched up and my (rear) was on show."

Another guest discreetly broke the news to her, Jensen says. Things were put right. But judging by her laughter telling the tale, it's clear she was no worse for the wear.

Border Star Graham Abbey Steady With Sword As Well As Gun

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(September 27, 2008) Relax, fellow Canadians.

You can sleep securely as long as
Graham Abbey is standing on guard for thee, which he will continue to do as agent Gray Jackson in the popular CBC TV series The Border, which starts its second season Monday at 9 p.m.

Four years ago at Stratford, I described him as "boyishly handsome." Abbey is 37 now and he has a leaner, meaner edge to his appearance. Underneath, he remains the nice guy he's always been.

It's early on a misty morning and Abbey has been working since 6:30 a.m. at the former Rochester Ferry Terminal, home base for The Border's production.

"What have I learned about myself on this show?" he asks rhetorically on a break. "That I can get up at 4:30 a.m. and still function."

The scene being shot today is a low-key, largely informational affair, but during the dozen takes, Abbey keeps tightly focused, snapping out his lines with just the right measure of casual tension, then relaxing as lights are reset and cameras adjusted.

"For me, there's one basic thing that took getting used to," says the veteran of nine seasons playing leading roles at the Stratford Festival.

"It's that when you're performing in the theatre, it's dark and everyone disappears. Here on TV, when you're ready to go, suddenly 40 people with booms appear."

Throughout his career, Abbey has had a knack for learning where to seek the best counsel. In this case he turned to Colm Feore, who can play Coriolanus at Stratford or appear on the upcoming season of 24 with equal skill.

"Colm gave me great advice," recalls Abbey. "He told me to remember that the actual size of the Festival stage is so intimate that you don't have to change your performance style that much from stage to screen."

Watching Abbey breaking hearts and taking prisoners as the complicated Gray Jackson in The Border, it's obvious he's learned his lessons well.

The series is on one level an exciting drama about the people guarding the Canada-U.S. border, but it also manages to work a fair bit of social and political commentary into its scripts. Abbey enjoys that a lot.

"This show presents a great forum for Canadians to debate and think about what that border means. Usually we hear the voices from the south, so it's nice to give voice to our point of view as well."

During the first season, Abbey mainly dealt with what he calls "the action stuff," which gave him enough to worry about.

"I joked with the guys on the show that I spent 10 years learning how to fight with a sword, and now I have to learn how to carry a gun."

Having done a convincing job of that, Abbey has been rewarded by having the scripts delve more deeply into his personal life.

"Nick Campbell has been brought on to play my dad, which is great. On stage, I learned from Bill Hutt. Here on TV, I'm learning from Nick. You don't get luckier than that."

This year he also gets a relationship with Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica).

Abbey jokes, "Hey, you even get to see my apartment. You look at the set they've designed for the first time, and you say, `Oh, that's what my character is supposed to be like!'"

Besides dealing with the pressures of filming the second season of his first TV series, Abbey has had to deal with some major joys and sorrows in the past few months.

The joys came in August, when he married his former Stratford colleague Michelle Giroux. "We were very dear friends who finally fell in love and decided to get married," says Abbey of the woman he's known for over a decade. "I don't know what suddenly shifted in my mind, I can't explain it. All I'm sure of is that it was the right thing to do."

The story of their proposal is classic Abbey, combining romantic bravado with adolescent insecurity.

"I thought Ireland would be a nice place to propose and I knew we were planning a trip there. So I bought the ring and carried it with me.

"We climbed up this high mountain and looked down on this beautiful vista – it's where they shot Braveheart, actually – and all the way up I kept thinking, `It's going to be a long walk down if she says no.'"

Fortunately, she didn't, and they tied the knot in August.

Only a few weeks later, Abbey faced the loss of one of the main influences in his life. Richard Monette, who had been artistic director at Stratford during Abbey's time there, died on Sept. 9 at the age of 64.

"So many of us have him to thank for our careers," begins Abbey, his emotions held in check. "I wouldn't be an actor if it wasn't for him. He brought me up there, he fought for me, he kept me there..."

Despite his best intentions, his voice thickens and the tears start flooding his eyes. "Damn it, I thought I'd be better at this," he says. "I always meant to thank him, really thank him, but those moments go by in a flash and before you know it, they're gone."

A small smile breaks through. "He used to watch The Border and told me he was proud of me doing it. So I'd like to think this season is for him."

Will He Or Won't He? Clooney Not Telling

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(September 25, 2008) Brother George, where art thou? Stupid question. George Clooney has, of course, been more than visible – currently in a stellar support role in the Coen Brothers' comedy Burn After Reading – as a major (if not the major) marquee film star, producer, writer and director.

But there was a time, believe it or not, when Clooney could not get himself arrested in Hollywood (and these days, all it takes is a couple of cocktails and a left turn on a red light).

But back in the '80s, his film career consisted primarily of B-movie sequels like Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes.

His luck on the small screen was marginally better, having survived maybe a dozen failed pilots to land a season's worth of episodes each on Facts of Life and Roseanne.

Prior to that, in 1984, he logged a single season – its entire run – in a limp half-hour sitcom entitled E/R, alongside Elliott Gould, Jason Alexander and Mary McDonnell.

But it was another ER, 10 years later, that propelled George Clooney to super-stardom before he finally left the show in 2000.

And now ER is almost over, launching its 15th and final season tonight on NBC at 10, two hours earlier on CTV to accommodate the two-hour season premiere of the ER heir apparent, Grey's Anatomy (which returns to its regular simulcast time next week).

This final ER season, in addition to bringing the formidable Angela Bassett into the fold, will also welcome the return of originating cast members Noah Wyle and Anthony Edwards (no mean feat in the case of the latter, what with his character being dead and all).

But so far, no Clooney. His people insist he's "too busy." And that may be, though I suspect they're just playing out the drama so they can "surprise" us down the road.

"I think he'd be a fool not to," Edwards told Access Hollywood, adding that producer John Wells had lured him back with a generous donation to his favourite charity, the construction of the largest children's hospital in Africa.

Wells is even more optimistic. "My assumption is that he'll probably do (it) for us," he told critics at the fall TV press tour. "His schedule is a little busy – it will really depend on whether he's available. But George is great. He's a friend of all of ours, and he was wonderful on the show and great to us in his success.

"You know – I think everybody knows this story – but he never asked, as the show took off, to make a dime more than he was paid at the beginning. (He) completely fulfilled his contractual obligations to us over five years, stayed committed, did publicity, worked hard, and was just a completely stand-up guy. We see lots of examples where people have had those kinds of opportunities and they don't respond that way. So I have nothing other than admiration for him as a friend and a professional and a big part of what made the show successful at the beginning."

Should Clooney eventually agree to return, there remains the problem of how to continue his storyline (although it's probably not as much of a problem as Edwards and his fatal brain tumour).

"I was very proud of the way we ended the Hathaway-Ross story," Wells said, referring to the romance between nurse Carol Hathaway, played by Julianna Margulies who also left the show in 2000, and Clooney's character, Dr. Doug Ross. "That's one of the ones that I feel was wrapped up sort of beautifully in a way that was great for the audience and everyone feels good about it. I would worry about doing something that unwound that dramatically in any way. Other than just seeing them together still happy, that, I think, would be for the audience a little bit of a letdown."

THEY'RE BA-AACK . . . Depending on which timeslot you choose, ER will either kick off or cap the second-largest night of prime-time premieres this season (the largest being Sunday, which I'll break down for you in Saturday's Star).

Additionally at 8 p.m., there's a double-stuffed debut duel between Ugly Betty on ABC, two hours of Survivor: Gabon on CBS and an hour each of My Name is Earl and The Office on NBC. And at 9, as I mentioned, the two-hour premiere for Grey's Anatomy.

On Betty (ABC and Citytv at 8), our glamour-impaired heroine faces a life-changing decision, while Wilhelmina and Alexis do Live with Regis and Kelly.

Grey's (ABC and CTV at 9) takes full advantage of its extended two-hour running time, with Meredith and McDreamy hitting yet another rough patch, with Cristina, intrigued by a mystery medic, and mounting casualties from an unexpected ice storm compounding the confusion.

It's back-to-back Earls (8 and 8:30 on NBC and E!), with our hero hoping to atone for an old wrong done to a dying boy (Seth Green), only to discover the kid never died, and Earl and Randy trying to make nice with childhood neighbours.

On The Office (9 on NBC, 10 on Global), it's an hour-long episode: With Pam away at art school, Jim pines, while the rest of the staff becomes obsessed with their weight.

And finally, the two-hour return of Survivor: Gabon (CBS and Global at 8): Same old show, new wild and untamed jungle location, and a smiling host fresh off his win as Emmy's first-ever Best Host of a Reality Competition, thus granting him open-ended immunity. The tribe has spoken.

Stay tuned: TV critic Rob Salem breaks down Sunday night's prime-time season premieres in Saturday's Star.

Laughter's The Cure For Comic With Cancer

Source: www.thestar.com - Garnet Fraser,
Toronto Star

(September 27, 2008) A comedian, his bald head concealed by a fedora, takes the stage and breaks the bad news: he's got cancer, and he's getting confusing advice. "The doctor says I got 12 months to live, and then my lawyer says he can get it down to eight."

Ba-dum-dum.

That moment is near the beginning of the documentary
That's My Time, airing at 7 tonight on CTV, but don't get the impression that Irwin Barker is always ready to laugh at his terminal condition.

Comedy may be tragedy plus time, but "I need the `plus time' part," Barker says in an interview from his CBC office, where he writes for Rick Mercer Report. The fiftysomething funnyman – a five-time Gemini nominee for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and a respected standup performer nationwide – still has terminal cancer. It's enough to make him wonder aloud onstage: "Why didn't this happen to a hack?"

"Your comedy becomes your way of getting mastery over the situation," Barker explains over the phone. Creativity as a way of whistling past the graveyard only goes so far, but he hopes the documentary (which shows him bearing up well as he undergoes treatment, tours and arranges a benefit show) will be inspirational.

"No matter what you're going through, there's something in your spirit that's stronger than that" – in his case, his imagination.

The doc, produced and directed by Adamm Liley, captures the 12 months that Barker's doctor predicted would be his last, suffering through travel, chemo and fatigue, culminating in a benefit show. Along the way, the Winnipeg native – who forsook a solid career with Angus Reid to chase his standup ambitions once his three children were grown – continues making audiences laugh and winning praise as a brilliant elder statesman from fellow comics like Mercer, Mike Wilmot, Brent Butt, Gavin Crawford, Shaun Majumder and John Wing. (Majumder's and other comics' performance in the benefit show is shown in Can't Stop Laughing, a separate standup special airing at 10 tonight on the Comedy Network.)

That's My Time, which won the Best Canadian Documentary category at the Atlantic Film Festival last weekend, ends by noting that Barker has raised $50,000 for cancer research. It's not over; he's appearing in Laugh Lines, a benefit for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, on Oct. 1 at Yuk Yuk's.

But for his own sake, Barker jokes darkly over the phone that he hopes whatever research the fundraising yields isn't too theoretical: "We need a cure by Wednesday."

Clever Consort

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Kate Taylor

(September 30, 2008) Good thing Natalie Dormer knows her history. It kept sex with Jonathan Rhys Meyers in perspective.

The 26-year-old British actress plays a sultry, wily Anne Boleyn to Rhys Meyers's hungry young Henry VIII on The Tudors – with a second season of triumph and tragedy for her character premiering tonight on CBC Television – and she says her research helped her with the steamy bits.

“On the set, it's just another day at work,” she said in a recent interview. “You become numb to the shock to the system of having to take your clothes off in front of people and obviously it helps the more submerged you are in the character and the motivations behind the actual act.”

In that regard, she puts a great deal of emphasis on Boleyn's Protestant beliefs, saying Henry's second wife used sex – one of the few sources of power a woman had in those days – to pursue her ideals and push Henry to break with Catholicism when the Pope refused to let him divorce his first queen, Catherine of Aragon.

 “She is not just some Machiavellian woman driven by avarice. There is a genuine religious faith there, there is a genuine desire to revolutionize the temporal and the spiritual of the country. … She was a real ambassador for the Reformation … almost more than Henry was.”

Indeed, Dormer, a history buff, sometimes asked The Tudors creator Michael Hirst to show more of Boleyn's ideological commitment to the Protestant Reformation that created the Church of England. “It's a balancing act because you are acutely aware you are playing a historical figure,” she said of the sometimes conflicting demands of history and drama. “I am a bit of swot when it comes to history. I read five or six biographies so I knew who she was, or who historians said she was. And then there was my responsibility to the text. As an actor, the text is your bible. When there were times I didn't feel as comfortable as I would have liked to have, or I wanted a little bit more historical input, I approached Michael Hirst.”

Still, it's the sexy approach that has won over viewers and, visiting Toronto at a CBC season launch last week, Dormer certainly acknowledged how important that was. She said she was determined to play the role, but got it only after producers had decided there would be chemistry with Rhys Meyers.

“We screen-tested and luckily for me, Johnny and I had some fire,” she said at the launch.

A lot of nudity and much heavy breathing later – her character initially keeps a horny Henry at arm's length to ensure that she doesn't become the latest mistress – she came away calling Rhys Meyers a friend and Boleyn an inspiration.

“For a woman in that era, from such modest beginnings, to have reached the level of consort, required such levels of skill, intellect and courage. … I like to say to people it would be like a very discreet communist marrying the president of the United States back in the 1960s. We don't realize what a revolutionary position she came from.”

Of course, Dormer is clear of the series now. As one chipper CBC executive put it, “She has a very exciting year ahead,” a hilariously euphemistic way of referring to Boleyn's execution for treason and adultery in 1537.

“It's Titanic-itis,” Dormer said at the launch, referring to stories where everybody knows the ending. “It's about the arc, getting there.”

“An actor's job is to live in the moment,” she added in the interview, explaining that knowing Boleyn's fate didn't get in the way. “Honestly, the shooting schedule is so tight and there is such a dense plot … you never had time to think further than the scene you were in or the other scenes that day. It keeps you unaware.”

She promises viewers that the second season is darker than the first, delves deeper into the characters' psychology and builds drama by compressing time so that, as the Reformation gains steam but Boleyn's reign unravels, the final episodes deal with mere hours.

With the second season in the can, Dormer now has to watch from the sidelines as the show looks forward to more seasons and more wives, but she still believes Henry had only one real queen. Her colleagues keep telling her: It won't be the same without you.

TV TIDBITS

`Phone Call For You, Dear. It's Ellen Degeneres'

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
Associated Press

(September 26, 2008) LOS ANGELES–
Ellen DeGeneres has recorded a series of phone messages that amount to an urgent wake-up call for women: Help yourself fight breast cancer. The messages, which can be delivered by online request, are intended to nudge women to take steps to check for the disease that is the second-most lethal kind of cancer in women after lung cancers. "I went into a studio and recorded a million different (versions): `Hi, this is Ellen DeGeneres and your sister told me to remind you that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month,' `Your teacher told me to call you,' `Your neighbour told me to call you,' `Your cousin,' `Your mother.''' DeGeneres, who was asked by vitamin maker One A Day to join the company's campaign, said she finds an anti-breast cancer program to support each year.  "My mom, 30 years ago, had a mastectomy. It's changed my life because I'm highly aware I'm vulnerable to this disease and I get a mammogram every year," DeGeneres said. A recent study indicates that the number of women over 40 getting annual mammograms is declining, DeGeneres said, which she finds worrisome. DeGeneres plans to have celebrities who have been affected by breast cancer on her talk show, Ellen. As part of the phone message campaign, Ellen is inviting women to tell their own breast-cancer stories for possible use on the show. DeGeneres herself is at a high point in her life. Ellen just kicked off its sixth season – "We're calling it `Sexy Season Six' ... What that means yet, I don't know" – and recently wed Portia de Rossi after a California Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. "I keep saying `my girlfriend,' but I have to go to `wife,''' DeGeneres said. "My show is going to stay the same," she said. "My heart just feels a little bit different, softer and somehow more in love. I don't know how. But it just feels really romantic and lovely. I just feel really blessed."

::THEATRE NEWS::

Storytelling Frames Two-Spirited Tale

Source:  www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Special To The Star

Agokwe
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of four)
By Waawaate Fobister. Directed by Edward Roy. Until Oct. 12 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. 416-975-8555

(September 29, 2008) It says a lot for the vitality of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre that it hasn't chosen to play it safe with the opening play of its 30th-anniversary season, going instead with a world premiere written and performed by a talented 23-year-old Ojibwa from Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Agokwe, by Waawaate Fobister, has the subtitle "gay love on the rez" and centres on two teenage guys from different reserves – Jake, who like Fobister is a pow-wow grass dancer, and Mike, who is a star hockey player.

After noticing each other from afar, they meet after a hockey tournament and, in the play's most poignant scene, gently and shyly acknowledge their mutual attraction. They then are forced to part, with tragic consequences.

Spicing up the action are four other characters (all played by Fobister), including Jake's match-making cousin and the girl that she has picked out for Jake's first sexual encounter.

Then there is the familiar figure of the trickster Nanabush, who frames the story with a prologue and an epilogue.

What drives the play – carefully developed by Buddies over several years – is the storytelling, and within that simple framework Fobister has lots to say.

As Nanabush tells us, the title means "two-spirited" and describes a much-valued person with both male and female characteristic, someone who used to have a special place in the community. That respect has vanished from many reserves today, of course, where life is far from easy for gay youths.

Of all the characters, the sketchiest and least convincing is the hockey-playing Mike and this hurts the play somewhat; on the other hand, Fobister is clearly comfortable with Jake and has flamboyant fun portraying the various female characters.

It's a sensitively written coming-out piece, to which director Edward Roy is able to bring some nuance and detail. The pacing is good and Fobister holds our interest to the very end.

Kimberly Purtell's lights provide drama and accent, but Andy Moro's set, striking as it is, does tend to confine the performer to the mouth of a cave from which he rarely escapes.

Ultimately, however, the tone of the play is positive and empowering and drew cheers from members of the audience the night I was there.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Face off: NHL 2K9 versus NHL 09

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(September 27, 2008) When these two hockey titles square off, it's like comparing pucks and piñatas. The Wii's nifty motion controls are the draw for NHL 2K9 – this is the first true hockey simulation for the console – while NHL 09 is quite simply one of the best hockey games ever, with plenty of critics already calling it the best sports game of the year.

NHL 2K9
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Price: $19.99-$59.99
Rating: E10+ 

COVER ATHLETE: Rick Nash, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets 2008 stats: 38 Goals, 31 assists, 69 points.
OFFENCE: The Wii's selling point is the pick-up-and-play controls, and it takes a more casual approach to the game. It does take some getting used to with point-and-click passing where you aim a cursor with the Wii-mote and fire it up. It is pretty fun playing with a friend and actually having to do wrist flicks to shoot and shaking to check, although, of course, it is nothing like real hockey. The coolest thing is the fighting, which requires you to throw punches, but also requires you to keep your balance moving the nunchuk so you don't fall down – and turtle – in the middle of combat.
DEFENCE: One of the best parts of the Wii game is the goalie mode, which moves the camera behind the net, and requires you to position the goalie and mimic the onscreen commands that flash up on the screen. The commands fly by quickly, but a save is very cool.
BOTTOM LINE: This is the first true hockey game for the Wii. The console could definitely use more sports games that have control schemes as well thought out as this.


NHL 09
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360; and on Windows and PlayStation 2 as of Oct. 20
Price: $39.99-$59.99
Rating: E10+
COVER ATHLETE: Dion Phaneuf, D, Calgary Flames 2008 stats: 17 goals, 43 assists, 60 points.
OFFENCE: Graphics-wise, the PS3 has an edge, with wicked new animations for checking and new third-person view mode for the amazing "Be a Pro" mode, which allows you to create a player, start off in the minors and work your way to superstardom. There are customizable classes of players to choose from, and your advancement requires some real hockey sense.
DEFENCE: The defensive stick skills have a few more features to help block shots, which is okay, but the most interesting thing is an assault on the complexity of all these games, in that there's an option to revert to the 1994 controls in the series, making it much simpler, although you lose some of the robustness of the game.
BOTTOM LINE: A next-gen hockey title that any PS3-owning hockey fan needs to have.

::OTHER NEWS::

Austin Clarke Had To Stay Still Long Enough To Write More

Source:  www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner,
Publishing Reporter

(September 25, 2008) It is safe to assume that book promotion has undergone something of a transformation since Austin Clarke published his first novel, Survivors of the Crossing, back in 1964.

"My first book tour was very short. It was up to Scarborough and back down to Toronto," Clarke recalls.

"In those days we didn't have the film-star-ish attitude to the promotion of a book. Nowadays, of course, it is much more exciting."

At 74, the Barbados-born, Toronto-based writer is gearing up for another round of readings and signings in connection with his new novel,
More.

In addition to upcoming local appearances Sunday at Queen's Park as part of the Word on the Street fest and Monday at the Gladstone Hotel in conjunction with This is Not a Reading Series, Clarke's busy fall itinerary includes stops in Winnipeg, Banff, Ottawa and Vancouver. The tour culminates with a return Toronto engagement at the end of October at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre.

"Being a writer means, amongst other things, that you're not exactly well paid and you can't take vacations for many reasons – because you're working and you can't afford it. So being sent across the country to promote a book is like a vacation to me," he says.

"I get to see a lot of new and old faces. And it gives you an appreciation of the landscape of the country in which you live."

As with any vacation, occasionally things can get a little out of hand. That was the case when Clarke's Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning 2002 novel, The Polished Hoe, went on to achieve further acclaim in the U.S. and abroad, while adding a Commonwealth Writers' Prize to its list of accolades. By the time all was said and done, the author had toured much of North America, visited London four times and Amsterdam thrice, while also travelling as far as India and Australia.

"It was a situation where I was more or less on an extended vacation. And I did enjoy myself," he says, during an interview this week at the Toronto office of publisher Thomas Allen.

"But I was not able to separate excitement and the hoopla enough to concentrate for even one afternoon on the next book. That is why it has taken me such a long time to bring out another one."

The calendar was finally clear enough by 2005 for Clarke to focus his attention more squarely on More. The finished novel, in which an immigrant from Barbados looks back at her life in Toronto, is a reconceived version of a narrative that had been percolating for some time on the back burner of the author's imagination. Eventually, he pared down the number of characters, while adding the woman's son, a 19-year-old gang member, as a largely off-stage presence.

"Not being close to boys of that nature, I didn't think I could describe him without reproducing certain images that are not always correct or comforting or compassionate," Clarke says.

"I thought that I could get at him more forcefully by having him as him as a shadow presence, like a ghost."

Writing from a woman's perspective was less problematic.

"Growing up in Barbados, I was very close to my mother," Clarke recalls. "I was not permitted after school to play cricket with the boys because of homework and other duties. And when my mother became ill, which at a certain time was more frequent, I had to take over the duties that she would have done, as well as my own. It contributed to my understanding or consciousness of how a woman would behave."

Just the facts
Who: Austin Clarke

Where and When: Word on the Street, Bestsellers Stage, Sunday at 2 p.m. at Queen's Park Circle; This is not a Reading Series, Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. W.

Admission: Both events are free

Jamaica "Takes 5" For Caribbean Youth

Source: Miles Ahead

NEW YORK (September 25, 2008) – The Jamaica Tourist Board has given its blessing to TAKE 5, a new campaign to support community projects and faith-based initiatives in the Caribbean that support young people. TAKE5 (www.take5now.org) is an initiative of Miles Ahead, an outreach organization founded by San Diego-based pastor, evangelist and former professional NFL football player, Miles McPherson.

The campaign encourages millions of Caribbean Diaspora residents to "take five minutes to invest US $5" and make a long-term investment in communities by investing in Caribbean youth development programs that can sustain themselves.

"We are pleased to associate our brand with the philanthropic efforts of Miles Ahead," said Jamaica's Director of Tourism Basil Smith, who pledged the support of the Jamaica Tourist Board for efforts to edify and uplift its young people, as well integrating them into the vitally important travel and tourism industry.

Jamaica's Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett recently disclosed that Jamaica is actively working to target the important and growing faith-based travel market, highlighting the work of almost 300 Miles Ahead volunteers who, together with local churches and community organizations, conducted sports clinics, deaf education workshops, school assemblies and helped renovate two local elementary schools this past April.

"We view the Jamaica Tourist Board's support of our efforts to work with Caribbean-American nationals to "DO Something" for young people in the Caribbean as visionary," said Pastor McPherson whose father and grandparents are from Jamaica. He also thanked the Ministry of Health and Environment for supporting its faith-based humanitarian mission to Jamaica, in which 80 medical professionals brought some US $5 million in free medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and health care to Montego Bay. The volunteers, who included specialist doctors, paediatricians, surgeons, dentists and nurses, held free clinics and served an estimated 6,000 residents.

"You can make a difference just by taking 5 minutes out of your life to send $5 (or $50 or $500), and help Miles Ahead and our Caribbean partners offer youth hope and leadership," pleaded McPherson who said programs will focus on mentoring, fostering leadership skills, and bringing the hope of God's love to young people. "We hope to have a powerful and positive impact in all areas of life, whether education, moral behaviour, resisting drug use, or avoiding crime," he added.

Miles Ahead, which has plans for many outreach activities throughout the Caribbean region, traveled to Jamaica this year as part of the Jamaica Broilers Group's 50th anniversary celebrations and three major family-oriented festivals, under the Best Dressed 50 Fest banner, presented in Mandeville, Montego Bay and Kingston. Evangelists Luis and Andrew Palau presented messages as well as McPherson himself.

Video highlights of the outreach and the crusades are available at the recently launched interactive rich media site www.mileshead.tv or www.take5now.org.

ABOUT MILES MCPHERSON

With his bold, down-to-earth, and humorous style, Miles McPherson has been uniquely gifted to reach youth all over the world.

A former professional NFL football player with the San Diego Chargers, McPherson grew up on Long Island. He understands the challenges young people all over the world face: identity, belonging, hopelessness, pressure to conform, substance abuse, sexual immorality. Back in the NFL, McPherson was addicted to marijuana and cocaine. Then he made a decision to follow Jesus Christ and allow Him to be Savior and Lord of his life.

For 16 years McPherson has traveled internationally to speak in high schools, sports arenas, churches and stadiums. He has captured the attention and respect of street kids, inner-city youth, gang members, gen-XYZ-ers, millennials, and non-churched youth of every age, ethnicity, and background.

McPherson is convinced that young people can be reached by sharing the love of God through mentoring, leadership programs, community development and evangelistic outreach.

McPherson has a special place in his heart for the Caribbean and its young people. His father was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States with his family. His mother's family also is Jamaican.

In addition to his role as president of Miles Ahead, McPherson is founder and senior pastor of the popular Rock Church, a quickly growing congregation in San Diego attended weekly by 10,000. He has come to be known for encouraging people of faith to "DO Something." www.therocksandiego.org/dosomething.

::DANCE NEWS::

Premiere Dance Theatre Celebrates 25 Years

Source:  www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

(September 25, 2008) Huge plastic frames adorn the cheeks of officials, while Toronto's mayor and metro chairmen are sporting perms in the congratulatory pages of the inaugural program for the opening of the Premiere Dance Theatre on Sept.24, 1983.

It was a time when interest in modern dance had hit a critical mass and the Harbourfront Corporation was proud to open the first theatre in Canada especially designed for the art form.

Never mind that the right wing was so shallow some exiting dancers had to have catchers to prevent them from hitting the wall. Contemporary dance companies, especially Robert Desrosiers, Dancemakers, Toronto Dance Theatre and Danny Grossman, now had a permanent performance space. And Toronto had a 450-seat theatre to attract the most sophisticated contemporary dance companies around the world.

In the intervening 25 years, Premiere Dance Theatre's programs have come to reflect the city's diversity, says Harbourfront dance programmer Jeanne Holmes, who came to work there in 1988.

"It is just as much a home to Sampradaya Dance Creations, Esmeralda Enrique and Menaka Thakkar as it has been for TDT."

On that opening night, Claudia Moore danced with Robert Desrosiers in a piece he created.

"It's a wonderful theatre to perform in. You have such an intimate relationship to the audience," says Moore, looking back.

But she doesn't perform there any more. The theatre does not generate profits for Harbourfront, but renting the space can still be too steep for some companies. The centre subsidizes operation costs so that dancers and dance companies can rent the theatre for $750 a day or $4,500 a week, while corporations are charged $2,000 a day.

"It's just sad," Moore says, referring to her Moonhorse Dance Theatre, "that we can't afford to perform there today."

Tonight, in the first of three gala evenings to celebrate PDT's 25th anniversary and unveil its refurbishments, Karen Kain will play host, as she and husband Ross Petty did in 1983. Albert Schultz, artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre, is tomorrow evening's host, and TDT artistic director Christopher House, who danced in the inaugural Harbourfront dance season, will do the honours on Saturday.

Margie Gillis, who opened the show 25 years ago, leads a list of dance luminaries who have graced the PDT stage, in shows created for the gala nights by Jamie Cunningham and Tina Croll of The Horse's Mouth.

On each evening, 25 to 30 performers will tell their personal stories and perform a short piece to commemorate the event. They include David Earle, Martine Van Hamel, BaKari Lindsey, Charmaine Headley, Peter Chin, Menaka Thakkar, Rebecca Hope, Susan MacPherson, Veronica Tennant, Allen and Karen Kaeja, Esmeralda Enrique and Rebecca Hope Terry.

Choreographer and dancer Carol Anderson recalls the opening of PDT as an occasion when the entire dance community in Toronto pulled together, envisioning a bright, shiny showcase for Canadian dance. It didn't quite work out that way for the smaller independents, she says, but "there are a lot of really good vibes there. A lot of really wonderful history."

Constructing a theatre for dance was an extraordinary achievement for Toronto," says David Earle, TDT co-founder and now artistic director of Dancetheatre David Earle. PDT was more welcoming than other civic spaces that had held out promises to support dance. "It had the best stage crew. All the technical people were really supportive and took a real interest in dance."

Designed by Eberhard Zeidler in conjunction with Artec Theatre Consultants, Premiere Dance Theatre was built by developers Olympia and York for $2.3 million. The designers took some cues from other dedicated dance venues such as the Joyce Theatre in New York City, and introduced elements unique to PDT. The stage boasts a double-sprung floor and the seating was so configured that the maximum distance from the stage is 15 metres. A warm-up area in the upper lobby was considered a special feature.

PDT remains a favourite venue for visiting companies, says Holmes. "When Bill T. Jones was last here he said how much he has always loved the PDT stage. He wishes it was in New York."

Over the years, the Harbourfront dance season, supported by a succession of corporate sponsors, presented hundreds of contemporary dance companies in the space. For the past two years, dance shows have come under two programs. NextSteps, a series of shows from Canadian (mostly Toronto) companies, features 19 acts in 2008-09, including an Indian dance festival. Dance from outside the country now falls into the World Stage performance series, running from September to May in several Harbourfront venues including PDT.

"There has been a perception that Harbourfront has moved away from its commitment to dance," says Holmes, "but we are as committed now as we were 25 years ago. Dance is one of our flagship programs."

As a mark of that commitment, Harbourfront has given PDT a facelift, including new seats, a new audio system, new carpets and floor tiles, redesigned lobby bars and other cosmetic upgrades to give the theatre a sleeker, lighter and more contemporary feel.

A seat-naming campaign is raising $500 per seat to help fund the refurbishments. Within the dance community, a campaign has been organized to gather $25 donations towards naming individual seats for some of the Canadian dancers and choreographers whose work has lit up the stage.

Many of them will be there in the next three nights, to check out the new digs and pay tribute to a singular space that has helped build an audience for dance.

Just the facts
WHAT: 25

WHERE: Premiere Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Tonight through Sat. at 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $25 at 416-973-4000

A Twisted Dance Of Brutality

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

RESERVOIR-PNEUMATIC
George Stamos
Dancemakers Centre for Creation In Toronto on Friday

(September 29, 2008) Montreal choreographer
George Stamos has always been idiosyncratic. His challenging, episodic, prop-filled, imaginative works follow a logic all their own. His new work reservoir-pneumatic demonstrates that Stamos is continuing to follow his own original choreographic pathway.

In fact, one often feels one has arrived in the middle of a Stamos piece, missing both the beginning and the end. In reservoir-pneumatic, the cast is in motion as the audience walks in, and the action continues as the lights go off at the end. The work is a snapshot from the continuum of life.

The meaning of reservoir-pneumatic is important as a clue to link together the seemingly unrelated parade of vignettes Stamos presents. "Reservoir" certainly means the same in both English and French, and in this work, I believe it refers to that part inside us that contains our basic instincts.

"Pneumatic" in English most commonly refers to objects filled with compressed gas, and this could certainly pertain to the work in terms of explosive human behaviour and interaction. A lesser-known English meaning, but one more common in French is pneumatic as concerning or involving the soul or spirit.

Stamos depicts the grotesqueries of life, as one audience member fittingly observed. His own background notes describe the piece as exploring our psychophysical reserves that inspire survival Just being human is an experiment where the comprehension of oneself and others is always shifting in an environment of perpetual change.

The theatre is transformed into what Stamos calls play areas. There is a white rug with a projection behind it depicting a winter landscape. Other vignettes occur on a black rug around which are festooned piles of clothing. The third place is a water trough filled with melting ice wired for sound.

On either side of the stage are composers Owen Chapman and Jackie Gallant performing the live electronic soundscape, which conjures up violent acts.

Dancers Clara Furey and Luciane Pinto are first placed in the winter scene wearing parkas. Their amazing bodies are able to arch and contort in such a way that they are facing backward, but their arms and the backs of their heads are toward the audience portraying the front of the body, their faces concealed with hair. Their bizarre physicality and hairy faces present a picture of a most awkward romantic encounter.

Stamos appears and sheds seven layers of tops while performing bone-crunching gymnastic twists. This is a nod to our shifting self-image.

Furey and Pinto are seen as naked lovers except for black panty briefs. Their encounter involves a twisting of limbs that becomes a visual puzzle. It is impossible to distinguish which arm or leg belongs to which body. The women also, at separate points, stick their faces in the melting ice. Pinto drinks by squeezing her soaking hair into her mouth. Chapman even makes eerie sounds from the wired ice. Stamos is also joined by Chapman in movement reminiscent of cross-country skiing. The end is a weird shadow play, as the three pairs of legs belonging to the dancers are seen at the bottom of the screen depicting projections of miniature torsos. It is a wildly bizarre dance of distortion.

In fact, in all the vignettes, absurdity is shown through unbelievably complicated physicality. The three dancers have the most supple and malleable of bodies. Rarely in this piece do Stamos, Furey or Pinto perform with natural movement. Their bodies become entwined in alarming fashion. Even in solos they are bent and twisted like pretzels.

As a result, reservoir-pneumatic is a work on the dark side. It is about the desperation of survival and the frantic search for human interaction. What Stamos has done in this piece is skewer our perceptions away from the norm so we can see a nasty truth. Life is brutal and just the sheer act of living can make us ugly.

reservoir-pneumatic continues at Montreal's Agora de la danse, Oct. 15 to 18.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Paul Godfrey Quits As CEO And President Of Blue Jays

Source:  www.thestar.com - Shi Davidi,
The Canadian Press

(September 29, 2008) Paul Godfrey helped bring Major League Baseball to Toronto in 1977 as city council chairman and in 2000 became president and CEO of the Blue Jays, ushering the team through a period of dire financial times back to a stable financial footing.

On Monday the 69-year-old ended his eight-year reign with the club, satisfied with all that was accomplished on the business side but with the sole lament of not reaching the post-season.

“One of the great regrets was the question of not getting into the playoffs, or making a better run at it,” Godfrey said at a news conference. “To the fans out there, winning and losing is everything, there’s no doubt about that, and I respect that and support that. I would have loved to win ... but I think when you weigh everything and you see all the changes that were made, the purchase of the building, everything else, I think we’ve moved the yardsticks in the right direction.

“So I feel really good about that.”

Godfrey decided not to seek a renewal of his contract and will officially step down at the end of the calendar year when his contract expires. The move was expected after a difficult season in which the Blue Jays finished fourth in the AL East with an 86-76 mark, despite opening the campaign with post-season aspirations.

His status, as well as that of general manager J.P. Ricciardi, came into serious question after the June 20 firing of field manager John Gibbons. Cito Gaston was brought back to help salvage the situation and he did, earning himself a two-year extension and Ricciardi, who is under contract through 2010, a reprieve.

There have been suggestions that Godfrey may have jumped before he was pushed, something he denied. He’s considering a job offer as an adviser on sports and entertainment to team owner Rogers Communications Inc., which would allow him to continue his decades-long pursuit of an NFL team for the city.

Either way, he’s in the market for a new gig.

“My dictionary at home doesn’t have the word retirement in it,” said Godfrey.

No replacement was named. In a statement, Rogers said a “further announcement on the Blue Jays management will be made shortly.”

Godfrey leaves with the Blue Jays on a much more stable financial footing than when he took over as president and CEO on Sept. 1, 2000, after Rogers bought the team from Interbrew SA.

One of Godfrey’s first acts was to give then GM Gord Ash permission to re-sign first baseman Carlos Delgado to a US$68-million, four-year contract. The Blue Jays had a payroll of about US$77 million in 2001, their first full season under his regime, and went on to lose a staggering C$84 million.

“Much more than (owner) Ted (Rogers) ever dreamt he would lose,” said Godfrey.

It was then he began the club’s transformation from a balance-sheet black hole into a strong asset that served several arms of the Rogers empire. Yet many fans now vilify him for his steadfast backing of Ricciardi, frustrated by a playoff drought that stretches back to the club’s second World Series win in 1993.

“He was always supportive of everything we tried to do,” said Ricciardi. “It’s a big loss for us.”

Ash was fired Oct. 1, Ricciardi was hired Nov. 14 to slash payroll and compete in the AL East on a shoestring and slowly that stemmed the bleeding. At the same time Godfrey worked his myriad of connections to create new financial lifelines for the club, working baseball commissioner Bud Selig for an annual US$5-million currency imbalance grant while partnering with local power brokers on inventive promotions.

One of the most memorable came in 2003 during the height of the SARS scare in Toronto, when he created a $1 ticket night to bring people out of their homes and show the world there was no reason to avoid Toronto.

A crowd of 48,097 watched a 16-11 loss to Texas that April 29. The night’s success spawned a $2 ticket promotion that exists to this day, although it may be cancelled next year after a series of brawls marred this season’s festivities.

Financial losses eased annually, helped significantly by the rise of the Canadian dollar, increased revenue sharing in baseball and the heavily discounted purchase of the Rogers Centre in 2005.

Originally known as the SkyDome and built at a cost of $600 million, Rogers bought it for the paltry sum of $25 million and gave it about $75 million worth of renovations. More importantly, the purchase gave the team control over all stadium revenues, setting up the next step in the club’s financial renaissance.

A payroll commitment of $210 million was made for the 2006-08 seasons, giving Ricciardi additional funds to work with. The Blue Jays became a player again that winter, signing free agents A.J. Burnett ($55 million, five years), B.J. Ryan ($47 million, five years) and Bengie Molina ($5 million, one year) while acquiring Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay via trade.

The club finished 2006 at 87-75 with a payroll of US$72 million and received another financial boost after the season, pushing player spending into the $90-$100 million range. A commitment that spending on players would remain at those levels for the foreseeable future was also made.

Attendance also increased steadily over that time, climbing from 1,637,900 in 2002 to 2,399,786 in 2008, an increase of over 760,000 fans.

That helped increase several revenue streams, with stadium signage sales, for instance, rising from $3 million at the start of the decade to about $19 million this season. The Rogers Centre also turned into a huge promotional vehicle for Rogers’ products and services, with ads all over the place and even an in-stadium video store.

The collateral benefits of owning the Blue Jays allowed Godfrey to sell a future with a payroll in the US$100-million range to the poo-bahs at Rogers, who bought in and essentially told him “don’t lose more than this.” That figure is a tightly guarded secret, but it represents a reasonable advertising expense given the scope of the club’s exposure to fans.

Still, the public mostly recognizes Godfrey for his faith in Ricciardi, and an inability to push the team back into the playoffs was his primary failure on the job.

Godfrey bought into Ricciardi’s plan seven years ago hoping to avoid the years and years of losing teams like Tampa Bay and Minnesota endured before becoming competitive.

The Blue Jays did that and have had three straight winning seasons on the field, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump. Now they may take a step backwards in 2009 if their pitching doesn’t get help.

Those concerns now fall to his successor, who will have to decide whether to continue on the path charted by Ricciardi through the 2010 season, or cut bait and start all over like Godfrey did when Ash was fired seven years ago.

“I would imagine the ownership of the club would dictate a certain path, as they always have, and you’re sort of limited to what you can do based on the budget you get, especially in team payroll,” said Godfrey. “I think the business side of the organization is as strong as it’s ever been. I have no problems with that, nor should my successor.

“With respect to the baseball operations, I think it all depends on payroll.”

This Is 'Best' Raptors Team On Paper, GM Colangelo Says

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith,
Sports Reporter

(September 29, 2008) Bryan Colangelo considered the question and considered the moment and considered the circumstances in which the query was posed. And then he offered a qualified answer about the talent level of this incarnation of the Toronto Raptor roster.

“On paper, in terms of just pure talent, I would say, yes, this is the best team we’ve had,” the Raptor president and general manager said Monday afternoon.

So off they go to training camp, a merry band of just 13 players but a group richer in individual talent than has been put together in Toronto in years. No games have been played, no practices have been held so every question about the season came with qualifications but the over-riding feeling out of the annual media day was of unbridled enthusiasm.

“We’re excited about the possibility of what we can be,” said coach Sam Mitchell. “Obviously, we have to get to camp, start playing, get guys gelling, get guys playing together and then you’ve got to hope we stay healthy.

“We won the Atlantic Division two years ago and until you can do that (again) and then hopefully advance in the playoffs, it remains to be seen (whether this is the best Raptor team ever). You don’t win anything on paper.”

But in their minds dance visions of greatness. With a six-time all-star Jermaine O’Neal joining three-time all-star Chris Bosh in the front court and with now-veteran point guard Jose Calderon ready to ascend to a starting position on a full-time basis, the players and coaches may have tempered their public remarks but that didn’t hide the optimism that greets the coming season.

“All in, there’s a lot of excitement and just a good feel,” said Colangelo. “Not only on the court (with) what we’ve seen informally but in the locker room. The camaraderie, the interaction, the inter-play, it’s all very positive right now.”

The two-hour media session unfolded as it usually does, with players and coaches doing the obligatory interviews and promotional spots and everyone looking healthy and ready to go.

Andrea Bargnani has bulked up to about 262 pounds and says he’s ready to battle other big men in the low post, Bosh is ready to find a way to co-exist with the best big man he’s ever had a chance to play beside and Calderon said he’s ready to assume even more responsibility as the team’s starting point guard.

But even without O’Neal around, there was the same sense of optimism a year ago and it was quickly dashed as Toronto dropped to a 42-win, middle-of-the-road team from a 47-win squad that won the Atlantic Division in 2006-07. But management hopes a decision to cut back the roster, with fewer players expecting to carry more of a load, any chemistry issues won’t surface this year as they may have a year ago.

“We felt as a whole that we got better last year, maybe on paper but it didn’t pan out in terms of the win-loss record at the end of the day,” said Colangelo. “Sometimes, on paper things look great and you play the season and things happen and injuries occur and chemistry issues develop.

“Although we were more talented last year, and deeper, I don’t think we had the same chemistry and that’s something we’re going to be striving for this year.” Mitchell, entering his fifth season as the head coach, agrees with the less-is-more philosophy, especially given the talent level of his top players.

“Trimming the roster down makes my job -- I wouldn’t say easier -- but it limits my choices,” he said. “Last year, we had so many guys that were so similar, the tough thing about it was trying to get minutes for all those guys. It’s easier now to know who your eight, nine guys are.

“And now we’ve got guys who, when you have to go 10 or 11, you’re comfortable with those guys. When you pare the roster down, it actually takes away a lot of the tough decisions from a coach.”

NBA'S Alonzo Mourning Releases Book

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 01, 2008) *NBA star Alonzo Mourning can now add author to his resume following Tuesday's release of his book "Resilience," a 231-page account of his life story, including his battle with the life-threatening kidney disease, focal segmental glomerular sclerosis.

The athlete said he was encouraged to share his life story after following the resilience of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain and lungs.

 "Lance was one of the people who inspired me to write this book," Mourning said in an interview with The Associated Press. "He played a big role in my overall approach to coming back and playing the game, reading both of his books, learning more about his life, his experiences and how he dealt with adversity. He motivated millions and millions of people in their lives, and I felt my story could have that same impact."

 "Resilience" chronicles Mourning's years playing college basketball at Georgetown and his NBA stops in Charlotte, New Jersey and Miami, where he spent the bulk of his career and the team he'd like to return to at some point this season. 

 He's still waiting to determine if he can recover from major injuries to his knee and leg suffered in a fall at Atlanta on Dec. 19, 2007 -- the fourth anniversary of the kidney transplant that saved his life. 

 The book also touches on several other facets of his life, many of which he hasn't discussed at much length publicly before. Among the highlights: 

• How Bill Cosby helped shape his life by paying for an education at Howard for the woman who would eventually become his wife, Tracy Wilson Mourning.

• The tribulations of the recruiting trail as a coveted high school player, when Maryland, Syracuse, Virginia and Georgia Tech all wanted him to sign and wooed him with clothes, shoes, fancy dinners, even a trip to a strip club. "Everyone understood I could have gotten money at any of these places. The message was sent," Mourning wrote.

• How he was nearly too muscular to get a kidney transplant, because surgeons were having trouble finding a place in his body to put the new organ without cutting copious amounts of muscle. If they'd gone about the procedure that way, Mourning's career would have ended in the operating room.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Jaguars Lineman Has Leg Amputated

Source: www.eurweb.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(September 30, 2008)  *Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier, who was shot earlier this month, is paralyzed below the waist and has had his left leg amputated, his doctors said Monday. Collier, who had 14 bullet wounds, has had his condition lifted from critical to stable, according to the Associated Press.  The athlete and his former teammate Kenneth Pettway were waiting for two women outside an apartment complex early Sept. 2 when a gunman fired into the vehicle, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Pettway was not injured.  The motive behind the attack on Collier is unknown, but investigators said earlier he appeared to be targeted.

::FITNESS NEWS::

4 Knee-Safe Exercises: Keep Those Joints Healthy

Source: By Raphael Calzadilla, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

(September 25, 2008) Perform an Internet search concerning injuries and you'll find a lot of information about how to treat them. But where are all the articles about attempting to prevent knee injuries?

In the simplest of descriptions, the knee is a joint comprised of three bones and held together by four ligaments. Its job is to support the body and allow for shock absorption. From this description, it's obvious that excess body fat will place tremendous stress on the knees. The first strategy to adopt to prevent knee injuries is to reduce body fat. The second is to perform exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles of the knees.

Here are several suggested exercises to help prevent knee injury:

Squats build strength in the lower body with an emphasis on the quadriceps (front of the thigh). If one is overweight, then chair squats without the use of weights can be performed. A lowering to a parallel position is not critical for those with excess weight. In fact, a partial lowering may be a better strategy to initially protect the knee while strengthening the quadriceps.

Chair Squat

Starting Position:
--Perform this exercise with the aid of a sturdy chair.
--Stand in front of the chair with your back toward the chair and feet shoulder-width apart.
--Keep your head up as a natural extension of your spine.

Movement:
--Begin to sit in the chair lowering your body until your legs are at a 90-degree angle (if possible).
--Contracting your quadriceps, slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the legs being fully extended. Keep a slight bend in the knees.

Key Points:
--Inhale while sitting in the chair.
--Exhale while raising yourself from the chair.
--As you get stronger, you will want to add resistance such as dumbbells in your hands.

Here's one anyone can do. If you're experienced and have access to gym equipment, you can use the prone leg curl machine. For beginners, try the one below. Again, we are attempting to strengthen surrounding muscles of the knees to reduce stress on the knees.

Lying Double Leg Curl

Starting Position:
--Lie on your stomach with both hands under your head for comfort.
--Ankle weights may be worn to increase intensity.

Movement:
--Contracting the hamstrings muscles, curl both legs toward your buttocks stopping when your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
--Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:
--Exhale while you curl your legs up.
--Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Now we move to the inside of the legs -- also referred to as the adductor muscles. Our goal is to completely strengthen the upper leg to protect those shock absorbers.

Lying Leg Adduction

Starting Position:
--Lie on your right side with your right arm supporting your upper body.
--Your right leg should be straight and your left leg should be bent.
--Support your weight on your right arm and left leg.

Movement:
• Contracting the inner thigh muscles, lift your right leg up until you feel a contraction of the inner thigh muscles.
• After completing the set on the right side, perform the exercise on the left side.

Key Points:
--Exhale while lifting your leg up.
--Inhale while returning to the starting position.
--You may use ankle weights to increase the level of difficulty.
--If you are an intermediate exerciser, you can add resistance to the inner thigh as you are lifting. You can resist your inner thigh with your hand or use a weighted object.

Now, let's make sure we strengthen the muscles below the knee. People seldom work their calf muscles and this is a critical muscle that helps support the knees.

Standing Calf Raise

Starting Position:
• Stand with your feet 12-inches apart with your weight on the front or balls of the foot and knees slightly bent.
• You may wish to use a chair or wall for stability.

Movement:
• Contracting the calf muscles, lift your heels off the floor until you feel a full contraction of the calf muscles.
• Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your heels touching the floor.

Key Points:
• Exhale while lifting yourself up.
• Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Perform the above exercises for one to three sets of 12 repetitions on two to three alternate days of the week and use impeccable form.

The exercises above combined with a nutrition program that focuses on body fat reduction will greatly assist in preventing knee injuries. Make sure to add upper body strength exercises, cardio and flexibility exercises to your program as well.

As always, eDiets members can access the animated virtual trainer on the fitness program to view a demo of the above exercises.

Need help putting together the proper nutrition program? eDiets nutrition specialists are just a phone call away and happy to help! Call 866-756-0510 to reach them! Or, get more information about healthy diet plans with our diet report cards.


Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com — — Albert Einstein

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'the universe.' Our tasks must be to widen our circle of compassion. To embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."