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October 16, 2008

Did we actually see snow this week in Toronto?  Yikes!  Yes folks, it's coming ... winter!  Only two more months until the Christmas holidays!  Gulp!

Another week chock full of entertainment news ... take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Ali Slaight Emerging From The Family Shadow

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

(October 18, 2008) Ali Slaight knows what she's in for. There's no escaping it: Music is in her blood.

She's the granddaughter of Allan Slaight, the fabled program director who virtually invented Top 40 radio in Canada at CHUM-FM in the 1960s, before building his own empire, Standard Radio.

Her father is Gary Slaight, the formidable and impetuous broadcasting mogul who programmed Standard's Q107 to FM glory back in the 1970s, and recently engineered the sale of the Slaight family empire, formerly the nation's largest private radio enterprise, to Astral Media for almost $2 billion.

That's a lot of baggage for a young singer/songwriter to be carrying as she takes her first tentative steps in the commercial music market.

Not that Slaight, 20, isn't prepared. She's been waiting for this moment.

"I get where they're coming from," Slaight says of the naysayers and sceptics who attribute her first major success – a distribution deal with Universal Music Canada and the release next week of an all-original, six-song EP, Trace the Stars – to family clout and favours owed. She's on a short break at home in Toronto before returning to Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music to begin her fifth semester, studying songwriting, performance and music business. "I know I've grown as an artist and as a songwriter. I can show people I can actually do it myself."

That's if her father can stop hovering. Ever her doting overseer and mentor, Gary Slaight has become an increasingly active promoter and backer of Canadian popular music since his official retirement from the radio business two years ago.

When Ali first expressed an interest in a music career at age 9 – "not necessarily as a performer or a recording artist," she says – he placed her in the hands of primo Canadian vocal coach Elaine Overholt, and then discreetly manoeuvred her into fortuitous situations, including Ali's first public performances, at age 12, at the annual Toronto Beachfest, sponsored by Standard Radio's FM flagship, Mix 99.9. And she's not so sure her father didn't have a hand in getting her first recorded efforts onto a handful of high-profile compilations: Women and Songs 11, The Cool Jazz Collection 2 and The Real Divas Torch Light, Vol. 2.

"I'm very fortunate he's in the industry," Ali says.

"He has helped me get into certain performing situations, benefits and holiday shows. He has always encouraged me to record, and helped me get my songs on radio."

Ali's voice was also featured a couple of years ago with an ad-hoc Berklee student trio, Take Three, on the seasonal offering Home For Christmas, which garnered a considerable amount of local airplay, and again with the same girls – Bess James and Stacey Kaniuk – on Toronto jazz pianist/composer Bill King's side project, Saturday Nite Fish Fry's Dirt Road Blues CD, performing Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe."

Her first release, 2007's "The Story of Your Life," was a Top 10 Canadian radio hit and was featured on the soundtrack of CBC-TV's recap of Beijing Olympics highlights.

It's a creditable track record, but Slaight isn't taking any chances. She co-wrote and recorded the material for Trace The Stars this past summer in Toronto with producer Justin Gray and writer Simon Wilcox (daughter of legendary Canadian guitarist and composer David Wilcox), and the first single, "Great Expectations," has just been added to CHUM-FM's playlist.

But there are no plans at the moment for a video and no plans to tour, she says.

"I see some of my friends at Berklee dropping out to form bands and tour after their first taste of success, but it's not what I'm going to do. It may be old-fashioned or overcautious, but I really want to finish what I started at Berklee. I want to be as good a songwriter as I can be. I don't want other people writing for me.

"One thing I've learned is that the music business is very tough. The better prepared you are, the more chance you have of surviving."

A Raisin In The Sun Still Resonates

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

A Raisin in the Sun
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)
By Lorraine Hansberry. Directed by Weyni Mengesha. Until Nov. 15 at the Young Centre, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(October 17, 2008) From the distance of nearly 50 years, it's not so easyto peer through the mists and conjure up the profound impact that
A Raisin in the Sun had on American theatre.

Lorraine Hansberry was Broadway's first black playwright, Lloyd Richards its first black director and the play enjoyed phenomenal success worldwide as well as spawning a well-received movie in 1961. The topic – a black family battling hardship in Chicago and struggling to better itself – was fresh and new to New York audiences.

However, the world has moved on – with any luck, there'll be a black president in the White House soon. And the inevitable question is: has Raisin got any juice left in it?

The Theatre Calgary/Soulpepper revival that opened last night at the Young Centre answers that question conclusively, with a triumphant Yes. Although parts of the play (and occasionally its language) are a little dated, the core of the play is as vital and relevant as ever.

The Younger family dreams big dreams – just as it has always done. Mother Lena (Alison Sealy-Smith) wants a new home, son Walter Lee (Charles Officer) is desperate to stop being a chauffeur and earn decent money as an entrepreneur, and daughter Beneatha (Cara Ricketts) has set her sights on becoming a doctor.

And now that mother is about to get a cheque for $10,000, one or two of these dreams seem about to come true. There are a few twists and turns along the way, of course, and several people have a lesson or two to learn. But the central message – that it is everyone's birthright to dream and to strive to improve one's lot in life – resonates loud and clear.

There's nothing particularly Pollyanna about this – the poverty and frustration are real — but director Weyni Mengesha has created a family held together by the bonds of affection almost despite itself. There's a warmth and depth here that's special.

And it helps that there is some blazingly good work onstage from a uniformly strong cast. Sealy-Smith is an outstanding Lena, with equal dashes of loving matriarch and cheek-smacking tyrant. It's a dazzling performance, overflowing with great humour and great humanity.

Ricketts is also outstanding as the would-be doctor, a rebel who is testing out new ideas and a couple of boyfriends. And you really believe every ounce of Officer's restless discontent and angry dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Abena Malika, meanwhile, brings depth and detail to the role of his patient, loving, suffering wife Ruth, and Kofi Payton is a real charmer as young Travis.

Warm and wise, this play reaches across half a century with some pertinent comments about the world today.

Fashion Icon Mr. Blackwell Dead At 86

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Reuters News Agency

(October 20, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Mr. Blackwell, the fashion maven whose annual "worst-dressed" list could be the bane of Hollywood celebrities, has died at age 86, according to media reports Monday. Richard Blackwell, born Richard Selzer, had been in failing health for some time and in August was reported to be in a coma after a fall at his Los Angeles home. The Los Angeles Times quoted his publicist Harlan Boll as saying the former actor and fashion designer died Sunday afternoon in hospital of complications from an intestinal infection. Blackwell issued his "worst-dressed" list for 48 years and it became watched around the world as much for his caustic quips about the stars' fashion as for who made the list. Last year he put British "Spice Girls" singer Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham at the top of his list, saying: "in one skinny-mini monstrosity after another, pouty 'Posh' Beckham can really wreck 'em." In the No. 2 spot was British soul singer Amy Winehouse and just behind was U.S. actress Mary-Kate Olsen who, he said, "resembles a tattered toothpick trapped in a hurricane." For 35 years, Blackwell had his own clothing line. He was also a costume designer who worked with Hollywood stars such as Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell.

Mr. Blackwell, 86

www.globeandmail.com - Bob Thomas, The Associated Press

(October 20, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Mr. Blackwell, the acerbic designer whose annual worst-dressed list skewered the fashion faux pas of celebrities from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Britney Spears, has died. He was 86.

Mr. Blackwell died Sunday of complications from an intestinal infection, publicist Harlan Boll said.

Mr. Blackwell, whose first name was Richard, was a little-known dress designer when he issued his first tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood fashion disasters for 1960 – long before Joan Rivers and others turned such ridicule into a daily affair.

Year after year, he would take Hollywood's reigning stars and other celebrities to task for failing to dress in what he thought was the way they should.

Being dowdy was bad enough, but the more outrageous clothing a woman wore, the more biting his criticism. He once said a reigning Miss America looked “like an armadillo with cornpads.”

A few other examples:

Madonna: “The Bare-Bottomed Bore of Babylon.”

Barbra Streisand: “She looks like a masculine Bride of Frankenstein.”

Christina Aguilera: “A dazzling singer who puts good taste through the wardrobe wringer.”

Meryl Streep: “She looks like a gypsy abandoned by a caravan.”

Sharon Stone: “An over-the-hill Cruella DeVille.”

Lindsay Lohan: “From adorable to deplorable.”

Patti Davis: “Packs all the glamour of an old, worn-out sneaker.”

Ann Margret: “A Hells Angel escapee who invaded the Ziegfeld Follies on a rainy night.”

Camilla Parker-Bowles: “The Duchess of Dowdy.”

Bjork: “She dances in the dark – and dresses there, too.”

Spears: “Her bra-topped collection of Madonna rejects are pure fashion overkill.”

The critic acknowledged having mixed feelings about appearing so publicly mean. Most of the women he put through the wringer, he said, were people he genuinely admired for their talent if not their fashion sense.

“The list is, and was, a satirical look at the fashion flops of the year,” he said in 1998. “I merely said out loud what others were whispering. ... It's not my intention to hurt the feelings of these people. It's to put down the clothing they're wearing.”

He told the Los Angeles Times in 1968 that designers were forgetting that their job “is to dress and enhance women. ... Maybe I should have named the 10 worst designers instead of blaming the women who wear their clothes.”

Surprisingly, the woman who topped his worst dressed list for 1982 (announced in early 1983) was the newly married Diana, Princess of Wales. He said she had gone from “a very young, independent, fresh look” to a “tacky, dowdy” style. She quickly regained her footing and wound up as a regular on his favourites list, the “fabulous fashion independents.”

Mr. Blackwell had started out as an actor, having been spotted by a talent agent while still in his teens. He landed a job as an understudy in the Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley's heralded drama Dead End.

Although he got to the play the role of the Dead End Kids' leader on stage only one time, it led him to Hollywood, where he landed bit parts in such films as Little Tough Guy (uncredited) and Juvenile Hall (as Dick Selzer).

He abandoned his acting career in 1958 after failing to make it in movies and switched to fashion design. He claimed to be the first to make designer jeans for women, and his salon had begun to attract a few Hollywood names when he issued his first list covering the fashion faux pas of 1960. (Italian star Anna Magnani and Ms. Gabor were among his early victims.)

It quickly brought him the celebrity he had long coveted, and he became a favourite on the TV talk show circuit. He also became for a time, in his words, “The worst bitch in the world.”

He hosted his own show, Mr. Blackwell Presents, in 1968 and appeared as himself in such TV shows as Matlock and Matt Houston.

In 1992, he sued Johnny Carson for claiming that he had added Mother Teresa to his list, saying the comment exposed him to hatred and ridicule. NBC's response was that the Tonight Show host was obviously joking.

“Did you see what he said about Mother Teresa? 'Miss Nerdy Nun is a fashion no-no, ”Mr. ' Carson had said. “Come on now, that's just too much.”

During his heyday, the issuing of the annual list was an eagerly anticipated media event.

On the second Tuesday in January, he would assemble reporters at his mansion for a lavish breakfast before making a dramatic entrance for the television cameras.

By the turning of the millennium, however, the list had lost its juice and Mr. Blackwell took to issuing it by e-mail.

Born Richard Sylvan Selzer in 1922, Mr. Blackwell recounted in his autobiography, From Rags to Bitches, a troubled, poverty-ridden childhood in which he was variously a truant, thief and prostitute.

He leaves Robert Spencer, his partner of nearly 60 years.

Toronto 4th In World For Culture

Source: www.thestar.com - Iain Marlow,
Staff Reporter

(October 21, 2008)  Note: This article has been edited to correct a previously published version.

Toronto ranks as the world's fourth best city to experience culture, behind only London, Paris and New York, a new study on globalization has found.

Washington, D.C.-based Foreign Policy magazine's inaugural Global Cities Index, in the November/December issue, assesses 60 urban areas around the globe in five broad categories: business, human capital, culture, global political influence and the centrality of the city to global information flows.

The "cultural experience" category tallies cities' international sporting events and international travellers, and assesses their restaurants, museums and performing arts.

Toronto received praise for the quality and cosmopolitan nature of its cuisine – 94 per cent of our top restaurants are "international" – and the city's place in the North American touring circuit.

The survey's data also cites Massey and Roy Thomson halls and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Toronto placed 10th overall out of the 60, edging out Washington, D.C., which came in 11th. But Toronto ranks lower in international business and global political influence, 26th and 24th respectively.

Toronto fared better as a place of international learning, as the 13th best place to take a university degree. In that category, it's sandwiched between Bangkok and Madrid – and distant from London, Tokyo and Singapore, all in the top five.

The top business cities were New York, Tokyo, Paris, and London, while Washington, D.C. placed first in terms of international political influence.

Kolkata, India, ranked 60th, placed close to last in every category.

Four of the top 10 "global cities" were in North America, four in Asia and two in Europe.

"The term itself conjures a command centre for the cognoscenti. It means power, sophistication, wealth, and influence. To call a global city your own suggests that the ideas and values of your metropolis shape the world," the authors wrote.

Foreign Policy has published indexes measuring countries' levels of globalization, and ranked the world's top 100 public intellectuals.

The National Wins Gemini

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 20, 2008) The National, The Fifth Estate and Hockey Night in Canada were among the leading winners at the Gemini Awards on Monday, when each of the CBC programs snagged three trophies at a gala event celebrating the best in television news, sports and documentary.

The National was named best newscast, and took trophies for best reportage – for Adrienne Arsenault, Erin Boudreau and Richard Devey – and best news magazine segment for "Moshe and Munir," about the unlikely friendship between a Palestinian and an Israeli.

The Fifth Estate was singled out for best information series and best picture editing (for Ari Lev, Brian Mulroney: The Unauthorized Chapter), while Hana Gartner won for best host or interviewer.

Hockey Night in Canada was named best live sporting event for coverage of its annual outdoor game (Sherali Najak, Brian Spear, Doug Walton). It also won best sports feature segment for Inside Hockey: The Aud, while late commentator Don Wittman took best play-by-play announcer.

Other winners included:

-TSN's coverage of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Gold Final: Canada vs. Sweden, which saw Pierre McGuire named best game analyst and Bob McKenzie best studio analyst

- TVO's Diamond Road for best documentary series

- CTV's Confessions of an Innocent Man, named best biography documentary program for its account of the confinement and torture of William Sampson, a Canadian and British duel citizen accused of orchestrating a car bombing in a Saudi Arabia

In June 2006, CTV News announced it would no longer participate in the Gemini Awards, saying the time involved in preparing entries for the prizes was not worth the trouble.

The Gemini gala for lifestyle, children's and youth winners will be held Tuesday and the gala for drama, variety and comedy will follow on Wednesday.

The main Gemini show is to be held in Toronto on Nov. 28.


Better Days Are Coming To Caribbean Tourism
By Bevan Springer
NEW YORK (October 21, 2008) - While tourism operators at home and in the marketplace bemoan the current difficult economic times and the typical challenges they associate with the summer and fall seasons, others are "improving, renovating, expanding and exposing" their product in anticipation of better days.
Sandals Resorts Chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart's approach was shared recently in the travel trade media, making it crystal clear that the global fallout in travel and tourism is not so severe that we  should bawl and complain.
Out of every crisis there is an opportunity - and today's tough times of reduced airlift and weak demand in a global financial mess, does in fact present an opportunity to go to market - to fish for new business.
Airfares and packages to the Caribbean, contrary to popular opinion, are not prohibitively expensive; rather, they have been affordable to a number of destinations in the fall and upcoming winter, attractive enough to woo our stressed-out friends up north (your scribe included) who are often exhausted with the fast pace of la vida loca in America's metropolitan areas.
My American friends and business associates yearn for a getaway, but are unaware of some of the affordable offerings for an escape to paradise which includes a sure shot of restoration and renewal.
While traveling to Barbados last weekend, even though I was working and not on vacation, the fresh air, therapeutic sea baths, and healthy fish, fruit and vegetable options each contributed to a break from the monotony of life in the fast lane, promoting spiritual renewal and the kind of restoration that we all  need.
With old man winter warning of his arrival to the northeast and other parts of the country, now is not the time for the Caribbean to hide its light under a bushel, but to return urgently to the marketing strategy that promotes "Life Needs the Caribbean."
Executive Vice President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Sue Springer, was correct when she said last week that tourism is too dynamic to be devastated by the present shake-up in the global economy, and that the industry would survive the current crisis as it did after September 11.
Seasoned Jamaican tourism writer Janet Silvera encourages both the public and private sector in her country to band together to ensure that Jamaica weathers these tough times. "There is real need now for our marketing teams to be out there on the road knocking at all the doors that are left open," she penned in Hospitality Jamaica, a popular newspaper supplement which she coordinates.   Whether they are young professionals, baby boomers, girlfriend groups, retirees, religious organizations - whatever the demographic - one thing's for sure, there are people in the marketplace whose lives need the Caribbean and who have the disposable income to make America's Third Border their next stop.
With additional airlift returning and new routes being introduced to the Caribbean soon, some critical keys to our success include constantly motivating our sales forces and bolstering our partnerships with tour operators, travel agents and the media. Positioning ourselves to capture the bounty of the new season should be our priority because surely better days are coming.  

Bevan Springer, the Director of Counterpart International's Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), is a journalist and communications advisor, and reports regularly on the travel and tourism industry.


Chantal Chamberland Why A Folk-Rocker Switched To Jazz

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

(October 18, 2008) It wasn't all that long ago that Chantal Chamberland was known for singing folk-rock as part of acoustic duo Open Mind. But the Quebec-born, Dundas-based chanteuse is on her fourth jazz album, The Other Woman, just nominated for three Hamilton Music Awards.

Bolstered by a fine complement of local jazz musicians, such as pianist Robi Botos and trumpeter Guido Basso, the disc showcases her sultry pipes on standards such as "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and "What a Difference a Day Makes" alongside contemporary tunes like Sade's "By Your Side" and "All I Ask of You" from Phantom Of The Opera.

Chamberland spoke with the Star in advance of her quintet show at Hugh's Room next week.

Q: Why did you switch from folk-based music to jazz?

A: When Open Minds split up I did a couple of rock albums and then decided that I was getting a little too old to be rocking it out. I took two years off (1998-2000) and then decided to try contemporary jazz.

Q: What was your familiarity with the genre?

A: I was raised by my grandmother, so there was always jazz playing in the house; mostly vocalists, like Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Shirley Horn and Ella Fitzgerald, of course. I discovered more of the instrumentalists later on in life. I guess maybe subconsciously it was always there for me.

Q: The jazz folks can be kind of snooty. How were you received?

A: I was always careful, I've never referred to myself as traditional jazz. I always use "contemporary," because I didn't want to offend the big traditional jazz people and assume that I was going to take my place in the jazz music. It was bringing some of my folk-rock and rock style and incorporating it with the jazz.

Q: I don't recall hearing any scatting on The Other Woman.

A: No, no scatting for me. I just leave that out. I love it, but for me there was one scat goddess and that's Ella Fitzgerald. Nobody can do it the way she does it.

Q: How does this album differ from your last three records?

A: There's more of a big-band feel with the production and musicians. Also, I've had rheumatoid arthritis almost 20 years now and for the past two years I've been feeling so good, because I'm on a new medication. So it was the first time I was recording an album where I wasn't in pain. Vocally, I'm a lot more relaxed and musically you can feel it. I feel awesome. I've lost weight. I golf. I ride my bike. I'm 42 and I feel like I'm 22.

Just the facts
WHO: Chantal Chamberland
WHERE: Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W.
WHEN: Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
TICKETS: $18 at hughsroom.com or 416-531-6604

Kravitz - You Say You Want A Revolution?

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

(October 19, 2008) From Lenny Kravitz's lips to your ears: Being a rock star is hardly an idyllic vocation.

"There are benefits, yes, there's fabulous things, but it's a lot of work," the singer/songwriter said on the phone from his Paris home.

This glass-half-empty spin on the glamorous life came about during a discussion of "Good Morning," from Kravitz's current disc It's Time For A Love Revolution.

The caustic Beatleseque tune about a worker girding himself for another day on the corporate conveyer belt (The coffee's hot, but the cream is sour) begged the question of the sunglasses-at-night, Gucci-wearing entertainer's familiarity with our day-to-day doldrums.

"There is a treadmill to it and a circus atmosphere," Kravtiz said of his 24-7 gig. "It's a lot of people in your face. And you forfeit your privacy."

He is prone to headline-making liaisons: from an early failed marriage to actor Lisa Bonet, which produced his only child; to rumoured flings with Madonna and Nicole Kidman; and a friendship with baseball player Alex Rodriguez's estranged wife, which yielded a statement from Kravitz this summer denying he was an adulterer.

But things haven't been bad enough for the son of late The Jeffersons star Roxie Roxer to dissuade budding actor daughter Zoe, 19, from making theirs a three-generation showbiz family.

"I've always had the vibe that if there's something that she wants to do, whatever it is, who am I to hinder that?" said Kravitz, who will be in town Wednesday for an Air Canada Centre concert rescheduled after his bout with bronchitis last March.

"Your job as a parent is to give them as much education as you can and as much insight to the situation and then you trust that you've given them the best tools to go and conquer whatever it is they try to do."

And while he tries to keep prying minds at bay (interviewers were asked to avoid "gossip and celebrity questions") Kravitz's music remains intensely personal.

He characterized the tearful "A Long and Sad Goodbye" as "100 per cent about my dad and our relationship" and said the optimistic "Will You Marry Me" was similarly literal.

"That's something that I would like to do again, hopefully in the not-too-distant future," he said about the latter song. "I would appreciate that. I'm at a place where I could do that now properly. I have enough experiences and I have perspective of not doing it right."

The disc's recurring political theme was not planned, said the adept guitarist who produces and writes all his albums.

"I'm definitely concerned with the status of human behaviour and politics and it's amazing where we are. Right now, if you look at the whole world, it's in chaos; everybody's fighting everybody, everyone's trying to take over this, or that. Financially, health, atmosphere ... we're a mess."

The disc's most pointed track "Back in Vietnam" (We're on a horse that is so high, we think we're so damn regal) gives the impression that the New York native, who splits his time between the Bahamas, Brazil and France, is not too proud of his country these days.

"It's like we don't learn from our mistakes. ... I just think that with the effort that we put in causing war, if we put that same effort globally into not having war, into using our minds, I believe that we could begin to achieve something ... if we're all taking part in the war then we're all evil."

Four Tops Frontman Levi Stubbs Dead At 72

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Mike Householder, Associated Press

(October 17, 2008) DETROIT — Four Tops frontman Levi Stubbs, whose dynamic and emotive voice drove such Motown classics as “Reach Out (I'll Be There)” and “Baby I Need Your Loving,” died Friday at 72.

He had been ill recently and died in his sleep at the Detroit house he shared with his wife, said Dana Meah, the wife of a grandson. The Wayne County medical examiner's office also confirmed the death.

With Stubbs in the lead, the Four Tops sold millions of records and performed for more than four decades without a change in personnel.

“Levi Stubbs was one of the great voices of all times,” former Motown labelmate Smokey Robinson said. “He was very near and dear to my heart. He was my friend and my brother, I miss him. God bless his family and comfort them.”

The Four Tops began singing together in 1953 under the name the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records. They later changed their names to the Four Tops to avoid being confused with the Ames Brothers.

They also recorded for Red Top, Riverside and Columbia Records and toured supper clubs.

The Four Tops signed with Motown Records in 1963 and produced 20 Top-40 hits over the next 10 years, making music history with the other acts in Berry Gordy's Motown stable.

“It is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for the Motown family, and people all over the world who were touched by his rare voice and remarkable spirit,” Gordy said Friday. “Levi was the greatest interpreter of songs I've ever heard.”

When he and others at Motown first heard “Baby I Need Your Loving,” Gordy remembered: “Levi's voice exploded in the room and went straight for our hearts. We all knew it was a hit, hands down.”

Their biggest hits were recorded between 1964 and 1967 with the in-house songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. Both 1965's “I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” and 1966's “Reach Out” went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

Other hits included “Shake Me, Wake Me” (1966), “Bernadette” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love” (both 1967).

The acclaimed documentary film “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” which took its name from the Four Tops song, was released in 2002 and focused on the Funk Brothers, the talented but unheralded musicians who played backup on many Motown recordings.

While Stubbs didn't play a direct role in the film's production, director Paul Justman spoke Friday of the singer's immense talent.

“He was a tremendous artist,” Justman said.

Stubbs “fits right up there with all the icons of Motown,” said Audley Smith, chief operating officer of the Motown Historical Museum. “His voice was as unique as Marvin's or as Smokey's or as Stevie's.”

The Four Tops toured for decades after their heyday and reached the charts as late as 1988 with “Indestructible” on Arista Records. In 1986, Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey II the man-eating plant in the film “Little Shop of Horrors.”

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Stubbs' death leaves one surviving member of the original group: Abdul “Duke” Fakir. Original Top Lawrence Payton died of liver cancer in 1997. Renaldo “Obie” Benson died of lung cancer in 2005.

Stubbs hadn't done much performing in recent years because of his declining health, but was known to step up on stage from time to time when a Motown touring production came through Detroit.

He was born in 1936 and attended Detroit's Pershing High School, where he sang with Fakir. They met fellow Payton and Benson while singing at a mutual friend's birthday party, then decided to form a group.

Stubbs is survived by his wife Clineice, five children and 11 grandchildren.

Britney Spears's New Single Hits Top Of Pop Charts

www.globeandmail.com - Jill Serjeant , Reuters

(October 15, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Britney Spears' new single “Womanizer” made a record-breaking leap to top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart on Wednesday, underscoring her musical comeback after making headlines with her personal woes.

Billboard said the song, the first from a new Spears album due for release in December, jumped from No. 96 to No. 1 in the past week and returned Ms. Spears to the top of the list for the first time since her 1999 debut single “Baby One More Time.”

“Womanizer” is also No. 1 on iTunes charts in Canada, France, Spain and Sweden, Ms. Spears' record company Jive said.

Billboard said the unprecedented leap of “Womanizer” was spurred by first-week download sales of 286,000, the biggest opening week tally by a female artist since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking digital downloads in 2003.

The charts were released as expectations rose that Ms. Spears would start a tour in early 2009 – her first since 2004 – to support the new album “Circus” to be released on Dec. 2.

Ms. Spears, 26, looking recently more like her old pop princess self, told a New York radio station last month that she planned to tour around the world next year but gave no details.

Jive declined to comment on a Billboard story about a tour next spring.

Last year, Ms. Spears performed a handful of club shows in southern California but did not go on the road to promote her last album “Blackout,” which had a good chart debut in November of 2007 but faded quickly.

Ms. Spears has been on the mend this year after making headlines for shaving her head, attacking paparazzi with an umbrella, losing custody of her two sons and two admissions to psychiatric hospital units.

Her father took control of her business affairs in February and, in September, Ms. Spears won three awards for her 2007 song “Piece of Me” at the MTV video music awards.

She plans to set the record straight about her highly public meltdown in a 90-minute documentary to be aired on MTV on Nov. 30.

Before her life spiralled out of control, Ms. Spears was one of the best-selling international artists of the last decade with sales of more than 62 million albums.

Madonna All Business, Some Pleasure

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

(October 19, 2008) Even for steadfast fans, taking pictures of one's concert tickets seemed a bit much. But if you'd shelled out $2,000 apiece for Madonna's Air Canada Centre concert last night like the Winnipeg honeymooners next to me, you, too, may have wanted more than a receipt to document it.

And all for what? A vapid dance pop singer who should be on her greatest hits lap? Hardly.

Her Madgesty, who opened the show sitting on a throne spread-legged remains a captivating performer riding a wave of resonating new tunes.

To an enthusiastic reception, she performed all but three of the dozen songs on her current album, Candy Shop, alternating with hits from her six other No. 1 albums.

The two-hour show's 23-song, mostly up-tempo set list was remarkable for the songs she didn't sing, for the realization that the Michigan native has accrued an impressive catalogue.

Show highlights included an acoustic rendition of "La Isla Bonita" replete with Gypsy musicians, and a rocking, guitar-heavy version of "Borderline." Madonna sang live a fair bit, but didn't hit a single shiver-generating note.

Neither the music, nor the bells and whistles – 18 dancers, treadmill catwalk, immaculate 1935 Auburn Speedster, virtual appearances by Britney Spears and Kanye West – were as compelling as the Material Girl (no, she didn't sing that one, either) herself.

Sinewy is the word often applied to the physique of the 50-year-old mother of three who is one week into the North American edition of her sell-out Sticky & Sweet Tour.

That's an apt description of her chiselled arms with their prominent veins, but her abs and thighs recall summer Olympians.

At times, she executed the crotch-centric choreography with nary a sheen of perspiration, while the decades-younger dancers surrounding her dripped sweat.

That's the kind of thing that makes Madonna seem impenetrable. Like her going on with the tour as word emerges of the collapse of her marriage to Guy Ritchie (though she probably came to terms with that emotionally months ago). And how she hits all her cues on stage – skip double dutch without a hitch; high five DJ; grind pole – but the smile never reaches her eyes.

Not to say she lacks warmth, spontaneity or vulnerability, but that she long ago donned a mask to separate her private self from the public without us being any wiser. In the end, it feels like a business transaction, all $2,000 of it.

Estelle, Leona Lewis Win Big At MOBO Awards


(October 17, 2008) *Singers Estelle and Leona Lewis were the big winners at the 13th annual MOBO [Music of Black Origin] Awards Wednesday night in London. Each artist went home with two awards, according to the Associated Press.

 Estelle won best U.K. female and best song for "American Boy" featuring Kanye West. She also performed a medley of tunes during the ceremony, including a duet of "No Other Love" with her label boss, John Legend. 

 Legend opened the show at Wembley Arena with his new single, "Green Light."

 Lewis, meanwhile, was a no-show Wednesday night and delivered her acceptance speeches for best video ("Bleeding Love") and best album ("Spirit") via pre-recorded video message. Her absence didn't go over too well with the audience, who made their frustration known through boos.

 Other missing winners Dizzee Rascal, Chris Brown and Mavado were also booed for sending friends or fellow artists to accept their awards, reports Billboard.

 Mary Wilson, on hand to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the winners Motown, went on to close the show with a medley of "Can't Hurry Love," "Come See About Me" and "Back In My Arms Again."

 The big surprise of the night came with special guest Craig David and his duet with grime favourite Tinchy Stryder. Mel B and Rev Run served as co-hosts of the ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC Three.

The complete list of winners is as follows:

Best U.K. Male: Dizzee Rascal
Best U.K. Female: Estelle
Best U.K Newcomer: Chipmunk
Best International Act: Chris Brown
Best Reggae: Mavado
Best Jazz: YolanDa Brown
Best Gospel: Jahaziel
Best African Act: 9ice
Best Song: "American Boy" - Estelle feat. Kanye West (HomeSchool/Atlantic)
Best R&B/Soul: Chris Brown
Best Hip Hop: Lil' Wayne
Best Vide Leona Lewis - "Bleeding Love" (Syco/Sony BMG)
Best Album: Leona Lewis - "Spirit" (Syco/Sony BMG)
Best Radio DJ: Trevor Nelson
Best Club DJ: Tim Westwood
Lifetime Achievement:  Motown

Alexandre Tharaud Driven By Passion For Piano

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

(October 16, 2008) PARIS–It may have sensual curves, but three legs and 900 pounds make this a literal grande séduction.

There is such a smooth sensuality to French pianist
Alexandre Tharaud's playing that it comes as no surprise when he spends much of an hour-long live interview returning to themes of courtship, desire and relationships when describing a pianist and his instrument.

On Tuesday, he makes his Toronto debut while playing the maiden concert on a brand-new Steinway concert grand at the Jane Mallett Theatre. The performance inaugurates the solo-piano recital series for Music Toronto.

Ten years ago, Tharaud did the unthinkable and sold his personal piano. Since then, the native Parisian has been letting himself into friends' apartments while they are out during the day so he can play their instruments instead.

"I think and live music in a different way now," says the uncommonly analytical 39-year-old. "I think about it, and prepare myself to go out and work with a desire to play. I'm hungry for that piano. I'm going with desire, and desire is what you lose so easily in life."

Tharaud makes a natural leap from mistress to spouse: "The piano and the pianist are like an old couple," he explains. "Sometimes you have to give each other space, to create a little bit of distance so that you can rediscover each other."

The pianist spices things up with variety in his repertoire.

In Europe, he is currently regarded as the definitive interpreter of French greats spanning the full history of the keyboard, from François Couperin through Maurice Ravel. But he also commissions new pieces from people such as Gérard Pesson and Argentine Mauricio Kagel.

Tharaud's latest disc is an all-Chopin enterprise. His luminous recorded interpretation of the 24 Préludes should translate smoothly to live performance next week.

The disc is nothing short of gorgeous. Tharaud again borrows from the sensual to describe his interpretive secret.

"It's just like in an act of seduction," he says of capturing a listener's attention. "You want to make yourself as beautiful as possible. But then you have to get down to the serious side."

Sensual playing aside, Tharaud is a particularly serious artist who has developed the focus of an athlete over a quarter-century of public performances.

"It's such a fast-paced job," he says of a typical season. "Yet our art is something that we sculpt over long periods of time. Our spirit, our hands, are all directed towards an ideal we can never really attain – and it's done over decades. It's so difficult to live this career because of that."

Selling his personal piano was part of attaining the ideal, by taking away easy distractions. "When I had a piano at home, I didn't work in a focused way. I'd sight read through piles of music, I'd waste my time," he admits.

But he finds other people's instruments, especially mediocre ones, improve his playing.

"I never practise on concert pianos, pianos that flatter," Tharaud states. "On concert pianos you let yourself play, you listen to yourself because it's so beautiful. You stop working.

"I work on pianos with faults, which demand that I go and dig deep in order to find something."

He's only too happy to share these findings in Toronto.

Just the facts
WHO: Alexandre Tharaud

WHERE: Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 front St. E.

WHEN: Tuesday, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $5-$45 at 416-366-7723 or stlc.com

Quartet Tells A Beautiful Musical Story

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

(October 17, 2008) You expect much from the season-opening concert for Music Toronto, the city's premier chamber-music series. Yet last night's offering at the Jane Mallett Theatre exceeded even such high expectations.

Onstage was the 16-year-old
American Brentano String Quartet, which is working its way up to being one of the top such ensembles in the world.

On the program were three string quartets from the core of the repertoire: Haydn's Op. 20, No. 3 in G Minor from 1772, Mozart's 1789 "Prussian" in B-flat Major and Mendelssohn's Op. 13 in A Minor, written in 1827, when he was 18.

Violinists Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Maria Lee played them in chronological order, not only giving us a lesson in the evolution of the form but, best of all, giving us a rare and beautiful lesson in musical storytelling.

It may seem pompous to invoke 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, but such seriously purposeful music-making deserves serious attention.

Kant wrote about the art of expression in his Critique of Aesthetic Judgement, a work that people listening to this music for the first time could have been familiar with. In the book, he writes how rhetoric is the art of expressing serious ideas in imaginative ways while poetry is the art of using the imagination towards serious purposes.

The best music from this period combines both poetry and rhetoric – and finding the ideal combination of the two is what leaves us with that warm, fuzzy, sense of the world being set right at the end of a concert.

The Brentanos applied their tremendous technical skills to making this intricate music sound easy and balanced. Each phrase was turned just so to make a clear point, always with abundant polish.

Best of all, this wasn't academic playing. These were performances brimming with energy. In the Mozart, the third-movement Minuet positively danced with life.

Throughout the evening, most notable in the Brentano's sound was its unflagging balance between the instruments, the sense that none of them would be able to stand alone.

This was chamber music at its best, a hopeful augur for the rest of the Music Toronto season.

The Good, The Bad And The Weirdly Compelling

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

(October 16, 2008) You can practically feel the dirt under the cowboy boots as soon as the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starts playing.

But instead of a parched, shadowy cinematic landscape, what you see are five odd-looking musicians doing some very odd-looking things on an odd-looking stage.

Behold the
Spaghetti Western Orchestra, a quirky yet strangely engaging entertainment event brought to you by the same Down Under sensibility that spawned Stomp nearly two decades ago.

In its quest to find something new and funky for Toronto audiences, this year's World Stage festival at Harbourfront brings us this homage to the music of Ennio Morricone, as used in the soundtracks of Western films by Sergio Leone.

"You'll be bearing witness to a whole collection of boot-tappin' elegies of death, innocence and revenge. It's the sound of men in extremis from another world – and I don't mean Australia," says one of the artists in his introduction.

By "in extremis," he is referring to the nearly superhuman feat of getting five people to perform music usually played by a large symphony orchestra – plus sound effects.

"There are a lot of Buster Keaton or Keystone Cops moments," says the show's ex-pat Canadian designer and director, Denis Blais, of watching someone switch instruments six times in the space of a minute.

The act of making film music – music just about everyone will recognize – becomes the show itself. No moving pictures are necessary.

"We try to push the imagination of the audience," says Blais of the show, which has been playing to sold-out crowds in Paris for the past three weeks. People who saw the show for the first time in Canada at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2007 fell in love, too.

Despite the comedic overlay to give the show some momentum, the music is first-rate.

"We'll be Ennio, you are Sergio," says Blais of the Spaghetti Western Orchestra's imagination-tweaking efforts.

Sounds like a fascinating bit of audience participation.

The Spaghetti Western Orchestra plays the Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W.) tomorrow to Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets $15-$30 at 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

Sylvie Ready For The Big Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(October 16, 2008) Sylvie was never particularly half-assed in the chops department to begin with, but the Regina quintet pushes itself to daunting new levels of musicianship and melodicism on its new album, Trees and Shade are Our Only Fences.

Recorded with former Jawbox frontman and top-notch producer J. Robbins (Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, Promise Ring), the band's third disc arrives next Tuesday via Smallman Records set entirely on "gasp." It's a racing mix of pop prettiness and tricky post-punk dexterity, one unafraid of emo-ish power ballads and high harmonies that ups the ante considerably from 2005's excellent An Electric Trace and should probably elevate Sylvie to that mythical "next level" once audiences get a couple more cracks at the band's feverish live show.

Frontman and guitarist Joel Passmore – joined in the band by his wife and bassist non pareil Riva Farrell Racette, guitarist Chris Notenboom, drummer Jeff Romanyk and new addition Erin Passmore, his little sister, on keyboards – says the band had no choice but to step up its game.

Q: I'm really impressed by the playing on this record.

A: We planned for almost a year about going up to Baltimore to record with J. Robbins, so I think the whole goal was to get there and be as prepared as possible and, obviously, be open to his suggestions. And we made sure he knew that before we went in ... We all sort of felt that we were on top of our business. And, I mean, rightly so. You don't want to go work with a guy like J. Robbins and be half-assed – although Riva forgot her bass. We got to Baltimore and were unloading and she realized we'd forgotten to bring her bass. So that was the first awkward conversation.

Q: What sorts of ideas did he bring to the record?

A: There's a couple of arrangement ideas and some strings on the record. We were going to use a Mellotron, but he said, `You know what? I think we should use real strings.' So he set all that up after we'd left and had them come in. Mostly, though, he got in there and got his hands dirty. He tuned the drums to the room. He set up a bunch of different drum setups for Jeffrey, different guitar-amp setups. He was just really involved in each song. We just took our time with sounds and he was right in there. He wasn't waiting for us to get ready. His goal was to just, if possible, get the best in one take, especially vocally. For the most part, that was his plan, knowing that we're primarily a live band.

Q: Your sister has now officially joined the Sylvie ranks. How did that come about?

A: About a year and a half ago, she started making small appearances onstage with us, just for certain songs. She ended up recording the record with us and was there for most of the writing, so we talked to her about committing to it and she was totally into it. It was actually a really easy process adding a member after so many years, without, for once, having someone walk away from the band and needing a replacement. It's a lot of fun onstage, too.

Just the facts
WHO: Sylvie, with Said the Whale, the Awkward Stage and Vancougar.

WHERE: Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. W.

WHEN: Tonight, 9 p.m.

COVER: $8 at the door

Philly's singer/songwriter Voice signs with Troy Patterson

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(October 16, 2008) *“I was signed three months ago, “ singer/songwriter
Voice (Tazin Singh) said about signing with Troy Patterson, the original manager and label to Baltimore’s national singing sensation Mario that introduced him to Clive Davis. “Allen, my manager, brought me to Troy. Troy heard me on the Anthony Jeter machine (local Baltimore talent showcases). Troy saw me and the next day I went to see him and I signed.”

Voice is the son of a black mother and a father from India, resulting in his trade mark long hair and Hip-Hop Street look. What is also unusual is his voice, thus why his fans call him Voice. He has an eight-octave or higher voice and a smooth sexy urban flavour delivery style.

A graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (with a vocal Jazz concentration) Voice is a master at not only Urban R&B, which you will find on his upcoming debut release, “Set the Mood,” on Third Street Music Group/Shy Boy Entertainment, but he is also a master at Jazz, Opera, Gospel, Soul and Pop. He has vocally performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philly Pops.

“I have mixed reactions, “Voice said about the reaction of people to his voice, which is a contrast to his Hip-Hop look and personality. “I don’t look like I sing. Most are surprised at how I carry myself. They say with all that talent I should have a big head.”

This talented singer gets a standing ovation every time he sings; it’s just a matter of time before the world gets a chance to partake of that pleasure.

Voice, also an accomplished guitarist and pianist, recently won the 2008 Baltimore “Uplifting Minds II” national talent competition and has an acting role in an upcoming film, “Watch Out I Got Your Man.”

For more on Voice visit his MySpace at "http://www.myspace.com/theofficialvoicepage.”

LaBelle Gets Back To Now With Release Of New Disc

Source: www.thestar.com - Elio Iannacci,
Special To The Star

(October 21, 2008) Although it's been more than three decades since LaBelle's last full-length album – remember "Lady Marmalade"? – Verve Records is today releasing Back To Now, a reunion disc of new recordings. Why, one wonders, did the group wait so long to pull themselves out of the where-are-they-now files?

"You don't want to half-step something this important," explained
Patti Labelle, 64, via phone from her office in New Jersey. "We still talked with one another through the years and we never officially had a farewell tour or anything like that. My solo career took off, so it was about finding the right time and place. We were never ones to do anything on anyone else's time anyway; we were always unconventional. I still have my glitter boots to prove it."

What Labelle is referring to is the drag queen-esque outfits flaunted by the trio – which includes Labelle, Nona Hendryx, 64, and Sarah Dash, 63 – during the 1970s. "When we became LaBelle, we decided we wanted to really say something with our clothes. Nobody ever told us what to wear or there would have been a fight! We called our own shots and collaborated on the designs with (costumer) Larry LeGaspi, who ended up working with KISS after us. Honey, we were hardcore before hardcore. We were drama before drama. We were wearing silver breast plates before Madonna was probably born!"

LaBelle's futuristic wardrobe wasn't the only vital part of the trio. With the support of their new manager, Vicki Wickham, Hendryx wrote songs that incorporated Dash and Labelle's love of soul, gospel and disco with glam guitar sounds coming out of London.

"We wanted to say something about being women, not girls," Hendryx said last week on the phone from New York. "Our audience instantly grew because we were truthful. People ages 8 to 80 felt it – it was like a counterculture that brought everyone dancing together ... from heads of state to rent boys. Gay, straight, black, white, silver, whatever ... even people we used to call the Bloomingdale blacks would be at our concerts. Essentially, our fans were people who felt we were speaking for them, saying things that they couldn't. We weren't afraid to be political."

The trio recorded six albums before breaking up in 1977 to pursue solo careers.

Their fame began to wane in the '90s, their only high-profile projects being a dance recording of a song called "Turn It Out" from the soundtrack to To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar in 1995, and a chart-topping cover of "Lady Marmalade" in 2001 by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Missy Elliott and Mya.

"That was, until last year, " Dash said by phone from New Jersey. "Nona was producing the soundtrack to a movie called Preaching to the Choir and she asked us to come together to sing a song called `Dear Rosa' (a tribute song for civil rights activist Rosa Parks). We heard the playbacks and couldn't believe that we still got it after all these years. All the soul and fire we had – nothing seemed to change. So we scheduled time to record a whole album."

The Tony Rich Project Gets 'Exist'-Ential

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(October 22, 2008) *When music fans got their first listen to Tony Rich, he was quite a piece of work, a project, as a matter of fact.

Under the moniker The Tony Rich Project, his debut album, called “Words,” offered up the 1995 hit single “Nobody Knows.”

“Nobody Knows” made Rich quite known and his disc won a Grammy. He rocketed to the top his first time out, with much commercial success and critical acclaim.

His sophomore disc, “Birdseye” and the subsequent two discs that followed, however, garnered the acclaim, but did not capture the commercial. Rich’s music career seemed to fade away. Seemed to.

What his career actually did was evolve. Rich released four albums since the mid-90s to now, as he drops his fifth project “
Exist.” But this CD came from an organic process from frustration to fruition.

“I’ve been making records,” Rich replied when asked about his limelight sabbatical. “The question of where have I been has been a common question. I’ve always been a person where you never saw too much of me at once. Some artists go through that burnout period where people start to say, ‘I’m tired of seeing such-n-such.’ For me, it’s happened like that, but not necessarily by choice.”

Rich explained that he’s become sensitive to that fact that when an artist isn’t at the top of the charts fore a while, people tend to write them off.

“But sometimes they may just be dealing with some legal aspect or something that’s non-musical,” he suggested. “That will sometimes keep them away from the life where you see them. It’s funny how when people don’t see you, they think you’re not there. In the entertainment world, when you’re not in people’s faces, you don’t exist.”

Rich doesn’t mind the inquiry, though. He told EUR’s Lee Bailey that he welcomes the “Where have you been?” question because he has a story to tell. Even more, Rich said not having the question asked would be distressing.

The Grammy-winning artist was not distressed by the music business. He admitted that he was frustrated, though.

“Projects that ‘blow up’, or get a lot of attention, are ones where the money that was put behind the project was put in the right areas in the proper way,” Rich explained. “When you don’t have that thing going on, it becomes a great record that people don’t know about. It happens. It happened to me.”

“It was very frustrating,” he continued. “It was probably some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced in my life. When you have been validated by your peers – I got four Grammy nominations, I won an award, I sold millions of records, I’ve been all over the world – and then the next album you put out, you know right at that moment, when you get to the second one ... that wasn’t the case. I remember after that, I wasn’t discouraged, I wasn’t depressed. I was frustrated because I knew it was a great record.”

This fall, Rich has another great record for R&B fans; the new disc, “Exist” on Hidden Beach Records. The singer/songwriter revealed that he found himself in a place where he had to explore other artistic outlets as a therapeutic way of handling his frustrations.

“It put me a position to where I really started to delve into all of my creative options,” he said. “I really started working on my oil paintings, doing my photography, and my poetry, which brought me to the point of creating ‘Exist.’ ‘Exist’ was the result of that and I have a book that parallels with the record that’s composed of all of my writings.”

New label, new disc, Rich said he’s going into the new project with “his third eye” open.

“When I finished this record, I had this feeling. I [thought] this would be a project that would be perfect for (Steve McKeever’s) Hidden Beach; Me understanding McKeever’s view on labels, artists and their relating to one another, and [how] the artists are being presented. Hidden Beach is an oasis for artists that want to be who they are.”

That attitude and mission complements Rich’s style and the new project. He explained that the title “Exist” has everything to do with how he is living, existing, passionately just by being himself.

“When you look up the word ‘exist’ in your basic dictionary, it’s going to say: to be present; to be present in the moment. Now, a glass of water can exist on a desk, but as people, what we have different from a glass of water is we have emotions. So in that, I believe in existing passionately from moment to moment. So existing, through everything that I went through with the frustration of my projects and even the beauty of seeing my things be successful – at the same time being misunderstood or being written off; even in my relationships in my life, family matters, everything that I went through, I learned to be OK, understanding that I could envision my new reality even in the midst of chaos. So I exist passionately, and the word ‘exist’ was so appropriate for this collection of songs because most people don’t exist passionately. When they go through something, that’s the last thing they’re thinking about. [But] through it all, I have to be me and I have to be ok with me.”

 Check out The Tony Rich Project’s latest, “Exist”, the first single, “Part the Waves,” and find out why it’s OK to be Tony Rich at www.hiddenbeach.com or his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/thetonyrichprojectofficial.

Babelgum Launches Online Music Video Award

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 22, 2008) MILAN–Babelgum is continuing its mission to provide a platform for new talent – and attract viewers to its ad-supported website that streams videos online for free – with the launch of a music video competition with Universal Music UK.

The Babelgum Music Video Award will run like its online film festival now in its second edition, with participants uploading entries onto its Web site. Like the film festival, winners will be chosen both by professionals and viewers.

It is yet another Internet-age outlet for independent musicians, many of whom have been able to expand their following and consolidate their fan base on such sites as YouTube.

"This is a great opportunity for young musicians and video makers to expand their audience and find a new route into the industry," Babelgum CEO Valerio Zingarelli said in a statement. ``Today's web users can't get enough of new, non-mainstream music acts, so the Internet is an excellent place to present strong musical talent and an original vision to a vast audience.''

In the music video competition, a jury of professionals including French music video director Michel Gondry, who has produced videos for such singers as Bjork, and musician David Ford will choose the grand prize winner, who will get a record development deal with Universal UK, Babelgum said Wednesday. The video selected most by Babelgum viewers will get a chance to perform live at one of the MAMA Group's venues, including the Barfly network in Britain.

And the 40 semi-finalists will appear in a new Babelgum application for smart mobile phones, which is expected to launch by December.

Babelgum users already have been able to start registering to enter the video competition, with 205 subscriptions so far, the company said. Entries close Nov. 16.

Another 300 aspiring filmmakers have registered accounts for the film festival. Entries close Dec. 31.

Babelgum, like its competitor Joost, has focused on professionally produced video in its online venture, contrasting with amateur footage that has fuelled YouTube's popularity. Babelgum is delivered over broadband, using peer-to-peer technology that allows video to stream at higher quality.

It will take another technological step forward with the launch of channels designed specifically for smart mobile phones – with music videos – aimed at young audiences and short in length – a natural fit. Babelgum said it will include other longer content, with details to be released at a later date.


Eminem Is Ending Hip-Hop Hiatus

Source: www.thestar.com -

(October 17, 2008) Eminem's return to hip-hop is now official. After months of rumours, the MC announced the title for his sixth album, Relapse, on Wednesday during an on-air launch party for his memoir, The Way I Am, described previously as raw and uncensored.  Eminem also introduced a new track, "I'm Having a Relapse." "There's a lot of album titles floating around that are fake album titles," Eminem told Shade 45 hosts DJ Kayslay and Angela Yee on Sirius Satellite Radio. While no release date has been confirmed, the set is rumoured to hit shelves before year's end. During the Shade 45 broadcast, 50 Cent hinted that Relapse may even arrive before his own new album, Before I Self Destruct, due Dec. 9.

Feist To Perform At Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 16, 2008) OSLO, NORWAY – Diana Ross and Leslie Feist are among artists set to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in honour of the 2008 laureate, Finnish peace mediator Martti Ahtisaari, organizers said Thursday. The show's hosts, generally Hollywood superstars, are to be announced next week. Last year's show was hosted by Uma Thurman and Kevin Spacey. The list for the Dec. 11 concert also includes American country singer Dierks Bentley, Mexican singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas, Nigerian star Seun Kuti and Norway's popular singer-songwriter Marit Larsen, according to a list exclusively obtained in advance by the AP. Ross will headline the concert. "The Nobel committee is thrilled to welcome such an impressive array of mindful and talented artists to help us spread the message of peace around the world," said Geir Lundestad, non-voting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel committee. "It promises to be a spectacular evening and we encourage everyone to tune-in and join us." Lundestad has said the concert, which is televised in up to 100 countries, is the most popular event on the Nobel calendar. Ross was married to a Norwegian, the late Norwegian millionaire Arne Naess Jr., from 1985 until their divorce in 2000. They had two children. Naess died in a mountain climbing accident in 2004. The concert is held a day after the Dec. 10 Nobel peace awards ceremony. Former Finnish president Ahtisaari won the prize for his peace efforts on several continents over several decades. Organizers are likely to announce additional performers and the concert hosts in the coming weeks.

Motown Celebrates Big 5-0 With Boxed Set


(October 17, 2008) *Famed record label Motown has gathered all of its U.S. and international chart-topping hits for a boxed set to be released on Dec. 9. "Motown: The Complete No. 1's" is a 10-disc set that features 191 songs from the likes of  Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas, Mary Wells, the Temptations and Gladys Knight & the Pips.  Ten bonus tracks round up cover versions of Motown songs that reached the top of the charts, including singles from acts such as Vanessa Williams, Jodeci, Coolio featuring L.V., Blood, Sweat & Tears and David Bowie and Mick Jagger, reports Billboard.

Just Say No, HMV Tells Musicians

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 20, 2008) Record-store chain HMV aims to halt at the border a growing trend in the United States that has seen high-profile music acts like Guns N' Roses, AC/DC and the Eagles sign exclusive deals with big-box retailers. HMV bought a full-page ad in the music magazine Billboard to laud superstar acts for refusing to go along with similar arrangements in Canada and asks that musicians refuse any distribution offers that would cut out traditional retailers. "To those of you who are considering retail exclusives in North America ... we ask that you `Just Say No' when it comes to Canada," HMV Canada president Humphrey Kadaner says in the ad, structured as an open letter to musicians. In the U.S., AC/DC has an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart to distribute its long-awaited disc Black Ice, due Oct. 28, while Guns N' Roses has a similar deal with Best Buy for its disc, Chinese Democracy, due Nov. 23. Up until June of this year, HMV Canada banned Rolling Stones merchandise from its shelves after the rockers struck an exclusive deal with Best Buy for a DVD release. In 2005, Alanis Morissette drew the ire of HMV for striking an exclusive deal with Starbucks.

Herbie Hancock To Tour With Chinese Pianist

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2008) *Herbie Hancock is planning on hitting the road next summer with Chinese pianist Lang Lang for a tour through the United States and Europe, reports Billboard.com.     The duo collaborated earlier this year during a live performance at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Hancock went on to win album of the year for "River: The Joni Letters," marking the first time an African-American jazz artist won the award.      Details for the tour are still being worked out, but the pair intends to visit at least 10 markets in the United States, according to the 26-year old pianist. The trek would likely visit outdoor venue settings and concert halls. Both artists would likely share the stage alongside an orchestra, Lang Lang notes, adding that improvisation will also be a part of the shows.    Although nothing is confirmed, the pair has already been approached to do a concert at the O2 Arena in London, Lang Lang says.

The Standard: Take 6

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Heads Up/Concord)
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_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(October 21, 2008) As always this a capella gospel sextet serves up a soothing mix of jazz, gospel and pop faves; this time, however, their precise harmonies and easy, breezy delivery are bolstered by jazz instrumentalists, such as guitarist George Benson ("Straighten Up And Fly Right"), trumpeter Roy Hargrove ("Someone To Watch Over Me") and a full band on original R&B ballad "Back To You," which helps break up the repetitive nature of this style of music. They're also complemented by guest singers: Aaron Neville, Brian McKnight and from the Verve vault, Ella Fitzgerald's "A Tisket A Tasket" vocals. A class act. Top Track: Vocalese deans Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks join the fellas for an inspired interpretation of Miles Davis's "Seven Steps to Heaven."

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary Edition

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

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)

(October 21, 2008) There's much here to intrigue fans of this seminal 1959 album with Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb and Cannonball Adderly. The hardcover slipcase contains photos taken during the recording session (including a poster of the legendary trumpeter); a new one-hour DVD documentary about the making of the album; a 60-page book with two critical essays about Kind of Blue; and Evans' handwritten liner notes.  Oh yeah, there's music too: a translucent blue vinyl in the original LP jacket and two CDs with the original tracks, as well as false starts, alternate takes, a 17-minute 1960 concert version of "So What" and songs such as "Love For Sale" from the sextet's only other studio sessions, in 1958.  In the doc, Carlos Santana best summarizes the import of Davis's 45-minute masterpiece, which was not rehearsed in advance: "How do you go in the studio with minimum stuff and come out with eternity?"

Lucinda Williams: Little Honey

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(Lost Highway)
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(October 21, 2008) With a voice that's as raw and blistered as Williams' sounds here, you wouldn't be wrong to think you're in for harrowing confessionals and a steaming heap of heartache. But while love-gone-bad is still the Louisiana-born country rocker's stock-in-trade, and distorted, twangy, skanky guitars remain her preferred means of musical transportation, Williams actually appears to be enjoying herself on this energetic and often playful recording.  Case in point: "Jailhouse Tears," a loping country-swing duet with Elvis Costello, which seems to mock one of country's favourite forms – the male-female call-and-answer song – with a conversation between losers that's both comically absurd and emotionally convincing.  Between the intensity of her crack young band, vocal contributions from Costello, Matthew Sweet and Charlie Louvin, new compositions, some early work and a strangely soulful country-blues take on AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top," Little Honey is a defiant declaration of recovery from the depleted spiritual circumstances that yielded 2003's World Without Tears and last year's West, and a rip-snorting exposition that expertly straddles ragged country and roadhouse rock 'n' roll.  Top Track: "Little Rock Star," an engaging melody wrapped around corrosive advice on the rigours of a life in music.

We Remember Dee Dee Warwick


(October 20, 2008) *Soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, the older sister of R&B veteran Dionne Warwick, died Saturday at a nursing home in South Orange, NJ, reports the Associated Press. She was 63. Family spokesman Kevin Sasaki said she had been in failing health in recent months, and her sister was by her side when she died. Warwick was best known for her string of hits in the 1960s and 70s, including "Foolish Fool," "She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)" and a version of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" that was later covered by Diana Ross and The Supremes. Warwick was twice nominated for a Grammy Award and sang backup for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and others before launching a solo career. She was the niece of gospel singer Cissy Houston and a cousin of Whitney Houston. The Newark-born talent was a teen when she began singing with her older sister in the late 1950s. The two performed as The Gospelaires and also collaborated and sang with the Drinkard Singers, a long-running gospel group that also featured some of the Warwicks' aunts and uncles and was managed by their mother. Most recently, Warwick provided background vocals for her sister's one-woman autobiographical show, "My Music & Me," which played to sold-out crowds in Europe this year. She also performed on the title song from Dionne Warwick's gospel album, "Why We Sing," released January 2008.

George Benson Receives Jazz Honour


(October 21, 2008) *Guitarist George Benson was honoured by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of its 2009 Jazz Masters, the nation's highest jazz honour. At the ceremony, Benson, 65, remembered his humble beginnings in Pittsburgh as he thanked his stepfather, who hand-made his first electric guitar when he was a teenager and introduced him to Benny Goodman's recordings with electric guitar pioneer Charlie Christian. The ceremony also recognized the other 2009 Jazz Masters: drummer Jimmy Cobb, 79, who played on such landmark albums as Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" but was also known for his sensitive accompaniment of vocalists Washington and Sarah Vaughan; and Snooky Young, 89, the veteran big band trumpeter whose career includes a 25-year stint with Doc Severinsen's "Tonight Show" orchestra. Rudy Van Gelder, the first recording engineer to be named a Jazz Master, was honoured for his work on such seminal recordings as Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and Sonny Rollins' "Saxophone Colossus." Toots Thielemans, whose harmonica has been heard by generations of children on the "Sesame Street" opening theme, is the first European-born musician, harmonica player and baron (he was given the title in 2001 by King Albert II of Belgium) to be named an NEA Jazz Master.  


The Double Life Of Alicia Keys

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 20, 2008)  Eleven-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys says acting in feature films is a walk in the park compared with the mental and physical rigours of making an album.

“Let's put it this way, the hours are way better on film,” chuckles the 28-year-old, who co-stars in
The Secret Life of Bees (which opened Friday) alongside Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning. “People will say, ‘Oh my goodness, you must be exhausted.' And I'm like, no! You guys should do music. There's no weekdays off. No weekends off. There's no holidays.

“My music is very personal. It's very much something that is put together by me from beginning to end. When you pour your heart and soul into creating an album and doing the tour, I have to say it's almost a relief to be on a film set where you're kind of a tool of the director's vision,” adds Keys, who has sold 30 million albums and received the most nominations (five) for the 2008 American Music Awards.

Keys's beauty is ethereal, almost delicate. But she's tough as nails. Smart and ambitious too. She makes no qualms about the fact that she always demands the best of herself – and those around her. “My main goal with music is to make it come from a truthful, authentic, honest place,” she says in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival. “That's also my goal for film. So when you hear it, you feel it. That's what it all boils down to for me. Making people feel something.”

New York-born Keys has been steadily rising up the acting ranks, with roles in the 2006 thriller Smokin' Aces and last year's The Nanny Diaries, opposite Scarlett Johansson. To stay sane while juggling her breakneck schedule, she says, she compartmentalizes her music from her acting. “I do one or the other,” the three-octave singer says. “I don't do both at the same time.”

“There are many similarities between acting and singing … and I guess the biggest is that you just get used to performing and putting yourself in vulnerable positions. With my music, I do that every day. Every night I get on stage, everything can go wrong. But I have to be willing to be vulnerable. I think that informs the acting as well.

“But the main difference with film is it's not directly my life,” she says. “When I walk onto a set, I'm not writing the script. I'm not producing the movie. I'm not directing it. I'm just acting in it. So in a way, I get a chance to become just this person. And it's also interesting to be able to express a side that's not my life. Acting gives you a sense of empathy for other things.”

The Secret Life of Bees is based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd. In the film, which also co-stars Paul Bettany and Sophie Okonedo, Keys plays June Boatwright – one of three cultured sisters coming of age during the civil-rights movement in 1960s South Carolina. June, a burgeoning black-power activist, is a formidable presence in the beekeeping household. And she distrusts the story of a lost and broken girl (Fanning) who shows up on their doorstep with her housekeeper/companion (Hudson).

While the subject matter was often violent, the story also has lots of humour. On set (they shot in North Carolina), Keys says Queen Latifah (or “La” as she calls her) kept everyone in stitches.

“I knew Latifah and Jennifer a little bit before [we started filming],” the actress explains. “But this experience kind of solidified our understanding of each other. It was just so much fun, and we would laugh all the time. Who's the funniest? Oh, Latifah. Something is really wrong with her,” laughs Keys, whose mom is Irish-Italian and father, Jamaican. “She lights up a room. She's just a really great, fun person.”

Keys adds that the Queen has been a pivotal role model, inspiring her to stretch into different creative genres. “La is obviously a pioneer in hip hop and the urban music genre,” she says. “It's just amazing to watch her. I learned from her how to blaze my own trail and find my own way.”

The actress says it was fascinating to shoot this civil-rights movie at the same time that Barack Obama was trying to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. “Seeing the completed film for the first time the other night, it really struck me that the fight for our country now … is even bigger than just race,” adds Keys, a graduate, at 16, from the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan. “It's like a fight to get past stereotypes and certain old beliefs.”

During a separate interview, Queen Latifah, who has a hip-hop album coming out in December, says she jumped at the chance to play the part of August Boatwright, a successful black businesswoman.

“I'm one of those people who has never wanted to play a slave,” Latifah says. “I never wanted to play, ‘Oh Massa, don't beat me.' You don't need me to do that. You've seen it. You've seen the heavy hand of racism. You've seen the bigotry, the burning, the killing, the murder. And I think you've seen enough of it.

“There were black people in all kinds of respected positions back in the days of segregation. They set the stage for Obama today.”

Key's next film projects are a remake of Bell Book and Candle, and a starring role as the biracial musician Philippa Schuyler in Composition in Black and White. In the near future, she says she also plans to write a musical for the theatre.

“I just want to continue to ascend,” the young woman says. “I want to be a better musician. I want to be a better actor. I just want to be better in what I do – every time I do. Like the Queen, I want to blaze my own trail.”

The Secret Life Of Bees: Performances Sweet As Honey

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Entertainment Reporter

The Secret Life of Bees

Starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd. 110 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(October 17, 2008)
The Secret Life of Bees comes to the screen trailing its literary origins. Characters deliver high-toned, aphoristic speeches and the interior of the big pink house where the Boatwright sisters live becomes a platform for scenes that often feel staged, like a play.

So it's a good thing that director Gina Prince-Bythewood got herself some women who can really act. Dakota Fanning has a job to do, amidst this pageant of broken hearts, broken heads and racial hatred during the Civil Rights era, to keep the audience focused on Lily and the burden of guilt and sense of abandonment she carries.

Because of her outstanding performance, Bees avoids becoming just another feel-good movie.

Lily's awful secret is revealed in an opening flashback: her earliest memory coincides with her mother's death. But what really hurts is the knowledge, impressed upon her by her father T. Ray (Paul Bettany), that her mother abandoned her before she died.

Now 14, Lily knows kindness only from the black housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson). The pair heads for Tiburon, where Lily knows her mother once went because it's written on the back of a picture of a black Madonna.

That picture leads them to the African-American Boatwright sisters.

August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) runs the honey business, which she initiates Lily into; June (Alicia Keys) is a cellist and schoolteacher; and May (Sophie Okonedo), a gentle soul in permanent mourning for her twin sister.

Lily blames her own presence for the bad things that start to occur after she arrives. "My whole life's been nothing but a hole where my mother should have been," she says.

Juggling history, literary intentions, profound emotions and some larger-than-life characters, Prince-Bythewood's movie nearly sinks under sadness. Quite a bit of honey is applied to make the awful truths palatable, but The Secret Life of Bees curtails the sappiness with performances – especially Fanning's – that are grounded in reality.

Read Susan Walker's interview with Jennifer Hudson in tomorrow's Star.

From Dog River To A Palace All His Own

www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughn

(October 16, 2008) The destinies of second leads who star in enormously popular sitcoms are sometimes unkind. Infomercial unkind.

Was anybody planning on hiring Michael (Kramer) Richards again (even before he self-destructed with a racist outburst in a Los Angeles nightclub)? And what's become of the handsome best friend from The King of Queens, or that salty British woman who livened up Frasier? Showbiz predestination makes fickle Fate look like a tricycle ride through honeyed clover.

No such worries haunt
Lorne Cardinal. After five seasons playing the long-suffering, sarcastic police captain Davis Quinton on the international hit comedy Corner Gas, Cardinal made an abrupt U-turn and starred in the bizarre, hyper-paranoid sci-fi short Palace (making its world premiere at Toronto's imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival this weekend). So much for type-casting.

In a way, Palace, weird and unnerving as it is, is a return to form for Cardinal, an actor who specializes in characters with tortured souls (and, often, crisp uniforms to cover them). Before Corner Gas, he spent four seasons on the tough crime melodrama North of 60, and he has appeared in enough issue-driven television movies to put Susan Lucci to shame. But no actor can live on the strong, silent routine alone. When not brooding for pay, Cardinal voices Jacob on Wapos Bay, a sweet, animated kids' show, and he once starred as Chief Smack-Your-Face-In (you can't make this stuff up) in Ron James's deliriously goofy Blackfly.

Perhaps the way to ride the vagaries of the acting game is to keep changing lanes.

Are you sad to see Corner Gas end?

Yeah, I am. I'm still going through a little bit of withdrawal right now.

Why not keep going? It's such a huge hit.

Well, it had nothing to do with any of our decisions or our input. It was all up to Brent [Butt, Corner Gas creator and star], so there's not much you can do when the boss wants to go. We weren't asked how we felt or how we thought, so … there's nothing I can do.

Maybe it's time for a spinoff, set in the police station?


Palace is an actor's dream – you're the only person in the film.

It was a real treat. It was fantastic. But it was a lot harder than I thought it would be, because the focus was on just me. And we shot it in two days.

Your character lives in a kind of dream world, and we know nothing about him. How do you prepare to play a character who exists in a void?

It starts out that he's recovering from a head injury, so he's just grasping at reality. He knows something is not right, but he can't put his finger on it. Then he starts doubting everything. And then he hears things that trigger him. It's just a single thought all the way through: What is going on? Then he loses control. Then he finds the secret … I kinda had to figure the character out on the go, as we were filming. In between takes, I tried to get my head into the space that he was in at the time.

Pop-culture studies argue that once a minority group starts making genre works – crime dramas, horror, science fiction – they've arrived, because they are no longer making expository ‘identity' works.

Right. I think that's a good theory.

That's a short answer to a long question.

Ha! I don't necessarily agree. I'm not sure. I think we always have to tell our stories. That's paramount.

I just did Tkaronto, and that's an identity film. It's all about identity, and the character I played was based on my brother. It's an issue we always have to deal with. As minority performers, aboriginals are always educating, always informing, and it never stops, no matter how big you get – because there are so many people in Canada, and the world, who don't know anything about indigenous culture in this country. They don't know our history, they don't know the nightmares and horrors we've been through.

Tkaronto is also part of a new wave of films and television shows about the urban aboriginal experience.

Yes, and that's just a process of evolution, as far as I can tell. There's always been urban natives, and now we're saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we've been sitting quiet for far too long.'

You often play stern, sombre types. Are you a grumpy guy?

I'm a quiet type, more shy than anything. I'm not stern, but I'm a rugby player as well, so I'm disciplined. I've been told ever since theatre school that I have this grounded quality. It probably comes from the men in my background. My brother and I were raised by my dad, and he was stern and quiet. And he was a political thinker – a hunter, construction worker and a politician, so he knew strategy. We were taught to sit and listen before we talked too much.

So, you're going to be playing cops for the rest of your life?

My God, I'm tired of polyester! I can tell you that!

Palace screens in Toronto on Sunday at 7 p.m., at the Royal Cinema, as part of the closing-night program of the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival (information: www.imaginenative.org).

Craig Takes Bond Seriously - Maybe Too Seriously

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(October 17, 2008) Daniel Craig was dubbed "The Bond Who Bleeds" for his willingness to take real hits in Casino Royale, but nobody figured he'd go this far.

The man who is 007 presents himself for a Toronto interview yesterday with his right arm in a sling, the result of a shoulder injury.

The British actor is obliged to awkwardly shake hands with his left paw and also to wear a cuddly brown sweater vest that seems more Stephen Harper than Ian Fleming.

Did something go drastically wrong making
Quantum of Solace, the new Bond film due Nov. 14? The answer is yes and no.

"I had a labral tear, which was probably an old injury, but I think two Bond movies have just done the business," Craig says, sipping from a water bottle that has been neither shaken nor stirred.

"It has been very serious, but it's all fixed and ready now. I had an MRI while I was shooting Quantum of Solace. The surgeon said, `Look, you'll damage it more but you won't make it worse for me to fix it. As soon as you're finished, come and see me.'

"So I was down at the Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and they stitched me back on. Now I've just got to take things easy. I can't hang from a train for a while."

He smiles throughout this, making light of the pain and also the annoyance of having to explain it to people around the globe. Craig and Quantum co-star Olga Kurylenko, director Marc Forster and producer Michael G. Wilson have been hopping from city to city and time zone to time zone by private jet, promoting the film. By the time you read this, they'll be in Los Angeles.

It's a gruelling press tour, and a lot of actors in Craig's position would have begged off. But he actually enjoys being Bond, and more than willing to take the physical abuse that comes with every aspect of it. He does a lot of his own stunts, also suffering injuries to his face and fingers while filming Quantum.

When I first met Craig in November 2006, just before the release of Casino Royale, most moviegoers didn't yet know him. He was anxiously awaiting their verdict, but delighted all the same to be playing one of the most famous of characters in all of literature and film. He's no longer anxious – Casino Royale was an unqualified success – but he's still delighted.

"There are a lot of lovely things that go along with becoming James Bond. The weird thing is, I was getting that question then, when I first met you: `How has your life changed?'

"And I was genuinely perplexed, saying, `Not at all.' I had been acting (since 1992) so I had a little level of fame. Nothing much had changed. It's grown since then – people recognize me more often – but it's just more of the same."

He realizes that a lot of people find this humility hard to accept. Becoming James Bond is a bit like becoming a prime minister or president. People want you to be special, even if it's only make-believe. They want you to get the bikini girl and to hurtle your Aston Martin off a cliff without scuffing your shoes.

"I may be delusional, but I've genuinely tried to keep my life as absolutely normal as it can be,'' Craig insists.

"I won't lie. I go on bigger holidays and enjoy myself in places. I do the normal things one would do. But my family and friends are still important to me. I'm not at the Playboy mansion every Saturday night!"

No doubt the mansion doors would open for him, though, any night he desires.

But at least we know for sure, for the time being, that he's not swinging from Hugh Hefner's chandelier.


How Seth Green Became Amish

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(October 17, 2008) Former child star Seth Green, 34, has played a lot of characters in his 24-year screen career, but he's best known as angry son Scott Evil in the Austin Powers spy parodies.

Few people would ever have guessed he'd make a great Amish car mechanic, but that's exactly what he does in
Sex Drive, a teen comedy opening today.

His character Ezekiel is not your average Amish guy, though. He's just way too good at wisecracking.

Green explained all in a call from L.A.:

Q. Do you turn down a lot of junk?

A. I do.

Q. So what attracted you to Sex Drive? At first glance, it looks just like the worst kind of American Pie rip-off.

A. I just really like these guys (Sex Drive creators Sean Anders and John Morris) and what they're trying to do. We became friends in my attraction to the project. I read the script and thought it was smarter and more clever that most films in this genre.

And I also felt that they'd invested a really genuine amount of heart into the characters.

You've got this main relationship between these people, this sort of love triangle, and it all feels really sincere. So when you root a movie in that kind of sincerity, anything else that you do – no matter how broad or ridiculous – it feels okay.

You're allowed to laugh. They also got a great cast together.

Q. Were you originally cast for the Ezekiel character?

A. No, when I first read the script I loved James Marsden's part Rex, the (crazy and vengeful) older brother. I thought that was such a funny part. Such a good score for an actor.

But when I heard they were going to look at James Marsden, I didn't even try. James Marsden, in addition to being one of the most alarmingly handsome and talented men on the planet, is really, really funny. This is something I know but he's never had to opportunity to display on film.

I've known him forever.

Knowing what he would do with this part, I was like, "I can't wait to see that on film."

Q. How did you get the role of Ezekiel? It's not a part people would peg you for.

A. I had to work for it. Sean and John both really wanted me and I had the support of the cast as well. But the financing company was a little concerned, because the way that movies get put together with guarantees of foreign-territory performance and all that, it all becomes very mathematic.

But ultimately, I came to a table reading, read the dialogue for both Rex and Ezekiel, and that apparently was convincing enough for them to hire me.

A Movie Only A Canadian Could Make

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 20, 2008)  Author David Bezmozgis is in his mother's tiny kitchen giving direction in English and Russian as he prepares the next shot for his debut feature film.

A hand-held monitor sits propped up against a pot on the stove. Plastic covers the linoleum floor. Paper protects the stairs. Steel supports hold suspended bright lights. A massive camera is squeezed into the front hall of the split-level suburban Toronto house near Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue, a tight-knit enclave of immigrant Russian Jews.

Bezmozgis has taken over the family home to shoot a sequence of the $2.5-million movie called
Victoria Day that he wrote years ago after graduating from film school at the University of Southern California.

“Not a lot of people would agree to do this sort of thing, so it helps that it's my mother,” says the 35-year-old, whose debut short-story collection, Natasha and Other Stories, drew rave reviews when it was published in 2004. “She's also gone away for two weeks to Spain, so it coincided, which was convenient.” (It's fortuitous, too, that she's not there to see the state of her house.)

Bezmozgis believes that art should be rooted in reality. And since this film – like his stories – revolves around everyday experiences of people from his world, it rings true to shoot scenes in his mom's modest home.

“My parents [his father is deceased] bought this house in 1993, so I lived here for five or six years,” says Bezmozgis, whose family came to Canada in 1980 when he was 6, leaving Latvia during the exodus of Soviet Jews. “Basically in making this film, I'm taking a tour of my old life.”

Victoria Day – its screenplay was accepted for workshopping by the 2006 Sundance Screenwriters Lab – has taken Bezmozgis almost eight years to get off the ground. He wrote the script in the late nineties while still living in Los Angeles – at the time a place he was increasingly at odds with. “All the work I was writing – what interested me – there was really no place for it in L.A. I already knew I was coming back home, and I thought, ‘I'll write a film that we can make in Canada.'

“I wrote this before most of the short stories in Natasha. And I always wrote Victoria Day as a script,” he says, adding that some stories are clearly for the screen and “some – from the beginning – seem to lend themselves more to the page.”

Victoria Day is the story of 16-year-old teenager Ben Spektor (played by Gemini-nominated actor Mark Rendall), who is grappling with new-world opportunities and old-world expectations. It is May, 1988. The school year comes to a close, and Spektor goes to a Bob Dylan concert, where he sees a hockey teammate (who asks him for money) do a drug deal. The kid goes missing. And over the course of a week, Spektor's life is changed. He moves from childhood to adulthood.

“That was one of the things that got the story going for me – to tell a story about what teenage life is really like. I'm fascinated by the period,” says Bezmozgis, who is making the film with his producing friends, Judy Holm and Michael McNamara of Toronto's Markham Street Films. “Plus, I think most teenage films don't do teenagers justice.”

Finding the lead actor was a challenge. Bezmozgis is picky. Just two weeks before he was supposed to start filming, he had no Spektor. “I wanted someone very specific,” he explains. “I wanted teenagers to play teenagers. I wanted Russians to play Russians. And when you do that, it makes it harder. I didn't want someone in their 20s playing a teenager, because it doesn't work. It had to be real, and that's how we cast the entire film.”

The 19-year-old Rendall, who grew up around Eglinton Avenue and Avenue Road, says he initially balked at doing the film, thinking, “Oh God, another Canadian hockey movie.” Working in New York on a teeny-budget film called The Exploding Girl, he nevertheless agreed to read the script. He finished it on a flight back to Toronto and met Bezmozgis at midnight that same day. They talked about the film – its themes and methodically crafted script – and Rendall (whose credits include Silk and Childstar) signed on.

“He started off by asking me two questions: Can you skate and do you play hacky sack? I do both,” laughs Rendall, who has been acting since he was 11. “What I loved about the script is that David's a writer, so he has this great ability to show and not tell. He doesn't push the plot along with words necessarily. He pushes it along with a look, a scenario or an awkward situation. He leaves a lot to read into.”

Finding the Russians wasn't a piece of cake either. “Russian actors here are not represented by agents, so they're difficult to find,” Bezmozgis says with a smile. “So I went on local Russian television and I talked about the film. We also placed ads in the Russian press for an open call. About 70 people showed up. Some of them were actors. Most of them weren't. They just wanted to try.

“The first actor who walked in was Nataliya [Alyexeyenko], who we cast as the mother. And I thought, oh, this is pretty good,” Bezmozgis says. “Then I think the next good actor I saw was No. 65. [It was Sergiy Ktelenets, who plays the dad.] But I found the process fascinating because it gave these people – the actors and non-actors – a chance to present themselves, express themselves and tell their stories. It gave them a chance to be involved in a Russian immigrant story.”

Bezmozgis was inspired to write stories of his own after taking a course on postmodernism as an undergraduate at McGill University. He left the school with an honours degree in English literature and then completed a master of fine arts at USC. While churning out screenplays he couldn't sell, he wrote short stories, many of which have appeared in Harper's and The New Yorker. One from the Natasha collection was anthologized in the Best American Short Stories yearly anthology in 2005.

Bezmozgis has also directed documentaries, including The Genuine Article: The First Trial, a feature-length film about law students being recruited to Bay Street. On that project, he again teamed up with Holm and McNamara, whom he met when he first came back to Toronto in 2001 from L.A. and was working at the start-up Documentary Channel. His hope is that Victoria Day will play Sundance this January.

He credits his heritage for shaping the writer/director he is today. “I couldn't have written Natasha if I didn't speak Russian,” he says. “I couldn't have directed this film if I didn't speak Russian. Sergiy's English? He gets by. Without my Russian, it would be impossible to direct them. ...

“I see my work as being drawn by autobiography, shaped by it. I grew up here and in Thornhill,” he says. “My life was in the same little corridor. I use my personal experiences as context. In writing Natasha, there are things I didn't change, because I didn't see the need to change them. I'm an only child – and the central character is an only child – so the stories reflect that. It's the same here.

“For me, it's a question of telling personal stories. And personal doesn't mean autobiographical. It just means having an emotional connection to the material.”


L'Oreal Taps Kerry Washington


(October 17, 2008) *Kerry Washington has signed on as the spokeswoman for a new ovarian cancer awareness campaign from cosmetics giant L'Oreal." The actress will appear in ads for the new Color of Hope campaign, which aims to encourage more women to get checked for signs of the disease. "One of the reasons why I decided to work with L'Oreal is because of all the philanthropic work that they do in the community," Washington tells OK! magazine. "I feel like they're not a company that tries to take advantage of women’s insecurities by making women feel not good enough so they have to go and buy makeup to feel good about themselves. Instead, they really believe in the work of women and that women deserve to look good and feel good every single day.  "And part of that is health and their commitment to women’s health and ovarian cancer. They are really leading the way. It’s frightening how we don't have the kind of research and development that we need for ovarian cancer. When it comes to breast cancer, we know how to do early detection. The research is there, but for ovarian cancer, that just doesn't exist and by the time people know, it’s too late."   Three items have been launched for the Color of Hope campaign - a lipstick, a bag and a necklace - with all proceeds going towards the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.    "My mom is a breast cancer survivor and part of the reason she is a survivor is because of early detection so I understand the importance of early detection. If it wasn't for the advancements in technology that allow for early detection in breast cancer, I probably wouldn't have my mother today."

Eve Cast In Drew Barrymore Film


(October 22, 2008) *Rapper Eve has taken a role in the upcoming comedy/drama "Whip It!," which doubles as the directorial debut of actress Drew Barrymore. The film is adapted from the book "Derby Girl," about the life of author Shauna "Maggie Mayhem" Cross of the L.A. Derby Dolls.   The story follows a small-town Texas girl who finds her identity through a local roller derby league. Barrymore will also play a character in the movie. Eve has been cast as a roller derby diva named “Rosa Sparks.”   Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis also star in the film, which is produced by Barrymore’s Flower Films along with Barry Mendel and Kiwi Smith for Mandate Pictures. Filming is slated to begin in March of 2009. 


Crash Hits The Small Screen. But This Haggis Is Too Hot For Prime Time

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(October 17, 2008) In the opening scene of the fast and dirty television series Crash, Dennis Hopper, playing a lewd hip-hop producer, exposes himself to his young, female limo driver.

Minutes later, the audience meets two police officers in bed. He tells her he loves her. She punches him in the face.

Those are just a few sample scenes from the new 13-part series – premiering Monday at 10 p.m. on the Canadian pay cable network Super Channel – that never flinches from exploring the basest, not to mention seediest, aspects of life in Los Angeles.

Based on Canadian Paul Haggis's Oscar-winning film, Crash holds nothing back. There's graphic violence and sex, swearing galore, racial slurs, cheating husbands, corrupt cops, unhappy housewives.

Basically, it's a morality tale run amok. Reached by phone at his L.A. office, Glen Mazzara ( The Shield), who was hired to refashion the movie for its debut on the small screen, says that his TV show – on which Haggis has also had a hand, editing several episodes – is similar to the 2006 Academy Award-winning film, but that there are differences, too.

“The film and the TV series both have a lot of heart,” offers Mazzara, who heads the production team, wrote the pilot, and shares the executive-producer title with the likes of Haggis, Bob Yari, Bobby Moresco and Don Cheadle. “But unlike the film, where a series of literal crashes flung people together, the TV show puts more emphasis on the characters, who want what they want – for right and wrong reasons.

“What the series and the movie share is the type of storytelling,” Mazzara adds. “It's about people who are all striving for something. And the most interesting points of the stories come together when people connect, or, forgive me for saying this, crash into other people from a different class or race.”

Production partner Lions Gate Entertainment offered Mazzara the opportunity to turn Haggis's film into an episodic drama during the recent writers' strike.

Lions Gate was not a struck company, and Mazzara admits he was eager to get out of picketing three hours a day. “To me, the movie was all about the characters: these people in crisis, and how they connect with each other. We also tried to inject a lot of fun, dark, absurdist humour.”

Crash, which cost roughly $2.6-million (U.S.) an episode to make, premiered last night on the American pay cable network Starz, and marks the network's first foray into hour-long scripted drama. Media pundits say Starz took a gamble that Crash will raise its profile with audiences in the same way Mad Men did for cable broadcaster AMC.

Here in Canada, Sandy Perkins, vice-president of programming, says she picked up Crash because of its “edge,” not to mention its Oscar pedigree. “It won't go to conventional television in the States because of the content matter: the language, the violence, the nudity,” says Perkins. “We are always looking to offer programming to Canadians that they're not already seeing. We don't want to reduplicate what's already out there.”

Creating that kind of original TV drama, say Mazzara, has made for a shooting schedule that's been nothing short of insane. “I started in February and suddenly I had 13 episodes due on the air in October,” he says, laughing. “When the series was green-lit, I had no staff, no characters, no story lines, no existing script. I've never had a show hit the ground running so hard. Talk about lightning in a bottle.”

In the show, Hopper plays Ben Cendars, a self-destructive wild man struggling to get back on top of the music-industry heap. His creepy, yet oddly sad, performance is a must-see. The cast also includes Jocko Sims (as Cendars's new limo driver), Brian Tee (a former Korean-American gang member trying to make it as a paramedic), Clare Carey (a frustrated Brentwood mom), D.B. Sweeney (her developer husband), and a squad car full of duplicitous cops (Ross McCall, Arlene Tur and Nick Tarabay).

Mazzara says Hopper came on board just days before filming was slated to start in New Mexico. “It was the Friday night before we started shooting on the Tuesday, and I was in my hotel room in Albuquerque, a little depressed,” he says. “That night, Dennis Hopper called me and said, ‘Hey man. I love this script. I want to do it.' And I was like, ‘Oh my God, it's Dennis Hopper! He's going to do the show.' I called my parents.

“This character is pivotal and had to be played right. Dennis is a total professional. We're giving him very challenging material. We're used to seeing him play a mad man. But this mad man has heart. He's a man afraid of death, a man afraid of losing his vitality, of becoming irrelevant. He's unpredictable and wild, but you will still feel for him. At 73, Dennis is playing something I haven't seen him play in a long time.”

Mazzara says he's also thrilled to be working with a pay-TV network, echoing Perkins when he points out that it gives his writers more freedom to push the boundaries. “Ratings, for Starz, are important, but not in the same way they are for conventional broadcasters. Stations like F/X, AMC, Starz all want to raise their profiles. And airing shows that people are talking about does that.

“We went into Crash designing an edgy show. We knew we could push the envelope. There's a freedom on pay cable to turn the writer loose, to say to them: ‘Write what you want to see. Don't censor yourself.' ”

Haggis, he adds, had limited involvement in the early days of shooting. “His schedule simply didn't allow it,” says Mazzara, adding that Moresco (who co-wrote the screenplay for the film Crash, with Haggis) was on set in New Mexico for the first six episodes. “But Paul's been instrumental in helping to edit the final cuts of the show. He's done a tremendous amount of work on episodes eight through 13. He's been a fantastic partner and incredibly supportive of me. He's a great teacher and a real mensch.”

Crash airs Monday at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel. Super U will stream the first episode online.

Walters Encourages You To Find Your `Power Within'

Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn,
The Canadian Press

(October 17, 2008) When people think of the career of legendary broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, they usually look to her successes.

The illustrious media personality became the first female co-anchor of a network news program. She has landed interviews with heads of state and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. And she's well-known for her intimate, sometimes tear-filled chats with celebrities.

But Walters is the first to admit that her career has had both highs and lows, and she'll discuss how to balance the two when she delivers a speech at a motivational conference next week in Toronto.

"When young people, especially young women, occasionally come up to me and say, `Oh, I want to be you,' I say, `Okay, but you have to have the whole package,"' Walters said in a phone interview ahead of her appearance next Tuesday at the "
Power Within" event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

"And what I'll be talking about is the whole package: the successes, the failures, the things I've learned."

Walters, who was born in Brookline, Mass., will be joined by American swimming star Michael Phelps at the convention, which will also include experts in leadership, corporate responsibility and personal finance. Walters says much of the content of her 45-minute speech is echoed in her autobiography, Audition: A Memoir, which continues to make bestsellers lists.

"I think one of the reasons (the memoir) is so successful is that it's been very honest and very frank and people realize that it has not just been a beautiful, glossy life and I hope there's a good deal that people can relate to," the veteran broadcaster said from an ABC News office in New York.

The autobiography made headlines when it was released because of its revelation that Walters had an affair with Senator Edward Brooke in the 1970s, when he was married and she was co-host of NBC's Today show, where she got her big break.

Walters admits that when the book was first published, she felt she had revealed too much in it.

"I did, but on the other hand I think if I was going to tell the package it has to be the whole package, otherwise it's just, you know, `And then I interviewed, and then I interviewed,' and that's sort of a bore," she said.

Crusoe, By Way Of Gilligan And MacGyver

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(October 17, 2008) For a guy who is traditionally depicted as stranded alone in an uncharted desert, this new Robinson Crusoe sure gets a lot of company.

A treasure-hunting pirate crew (among them one apocryphal, ass-kicking Xena-esque amazon), a shipful of pirate-hunting Spaniards ... and a large cast of friends, enemies and loved ones, waiting for him back home and in flashback (including Sean Bean, who once would have played Crusoe, instead of his dad, and an increasingly evil Sam Neill, fresh off The Tudors).

Then again, the overpopulated island was almost as crowded in the original novel, a fictitious diary penned by Daniel Defoe, generally considered to be the first English-language (and certainly the first bestselling) novel, and the literal inspiration for this all-new
Crusoe, a slickly produced period action adventure series debuting tonight at 8 with a two-hour pilot on NBC and Citytv.

Verisimilitude aside, the new Crusoe initially resembles a kind of 17th-century Lost, only with just the single survivor, and a beach littered with ship wreckage instead of smouldering jet debris.

Until the aforementioned, colourfully filthy pirates show up, and you immediately start looking around for Johnny Depp.

That is, when you are not hypnotized by the series' unnaturally attractive English star, Philip Winchester, prompting you to wonder where he's been hiding all this time (only to be saddened by the revelation that it was slaving away in movie and TV schlock like Thunderbirds and the short-lived Commando Nanny).

Particularly once he takes off his puffy shirt to reveal an abdominal six-pack better suited to a Calvin Klein underwear ad.

At which point Crusoe turns into Island MacGyver, had MacGyver studied under the Professor from Gilligan's Island (and been tutored by Rube Goldberg) in the bamboo/coconut/palm frond school of advanced tropical technologies.

None of this is intended as criticism – the unexpectedly entertaining series (the castaway thing having become an overworn cliché) adds up to considerably more than the sum of its parts.

Aside from the perhaps excessive employment of ethereal, soft-focus, Jane Austen-type flashbacks, the essential innovation here is the more enlightened relationship between Crusoe and his reformed cannibal "manservant," Friday (Tongayi Chirisa) – here a bantering brotherhood more akin to Robinson (hmm) and Scott on I Spy, Crockett and Tubbs on Miami Vice, and Riggs and Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon flicks.

Where they go from here is anyone's guess. I mean, they're bound to get an awful lot of passing oceanic traffic for a supposedly deserted and uncharted island.

How far can you go with that? If indeed they go anywhere – as the original story goes, Crusoe spent something like 28 years shipwrecked and alone.

Crusoe, I suspect, will be lucky to survive a single season.

D.L. Hughley Hired By CNN


(October 16, 2008) *As reported yesterday, D.L. Hughley has been tapped by CNN to host a new broadcast that offers his own unique take on the day's news, reports Variety.

 The show will air Saturdays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 25 and feature the comedian riffing on politics, entertainment, sports and pop culture. Hughley will also conduct one-on-one interviews with newsmakers and the reporters covering them. 

 The effort is part of CNN's effort to attract younger viewers who get more of their news from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" than they do from mainstream news outlets. 

 "D.L. is a very thoughtful, well-informed guy with unpredictable views, and I’ve always admired his comedy," said CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein. "The basic premise of the show is, what if a guy like him was let loose in the CNN building for a weekend after the lights went off?" 

 Klein said CNN could not release the name of the show yet, but he did say the tone would be a bit different Comedy Central's "Daily" and "Colbert." Those are "fake newscasts," Klein explained, "whereas this is really D.L.’s observations and comments on the week’s events and his riffs on the news." 

 "I’m a big fan of both of those shows," Hughley added, "but I’ve got a different skill set. I’m not going to parody a news show or a news anchor. My show will reflect my views on things just as their shows reflect their views." 

 For instance, Hughley continued, "There have been six movies with a black man as the president, and in all those movies, the world was coming to an end. If this election isn’t art imitating life, I don’t know what is."

 Hughley's show will tape before a live audience on one of CNN’s news sets in New York. Klein says the comic will have full access to the network's global newsgathering operations, adding: "We expect he’ll run amok a little." 

 "It’s like getting to drive my father’s Mercedes to school. I’d like to know what Jesse Jackson is going to do for a living if Obama is elected," Hughley said, adding that he would invite Jackson to appear. "I’d like to know what Sarah Palin is going to do if she doesn’t get elected. Ever notice that she does all the things a good waitress does when she wants better tips? You know, wink and smile." 

 Politics will not be the only fodder for the show, Hughley emphasized. 

 "In three weeks, 50% of the country is going to be angry. So we’ll be looking at a lot of other things, too," he said.

The Comedy Network's Flight Of The Conchords Is Oddly Compelling And Compellingly Odd

Source: www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff,
Torstar News Service

(October 21, 2008) Call it the musical comedy of discomfort. Following in the wake of shows like The Office, Seinfeld and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia – with their freewheeling irreverence, cringing political incorrectness and obsessive focus on the minutiae of daily life – it was only a matter of time before a digi-folk duo from New Zealand set their personal neuroses to music and came up with one of the funniest anti-sitcoms since, well, The Sarah Silverman Program (10 p.m. on the Comedy Network).

"You're so beautiful you could be a waitress," croons one of these lovestruck masters of seduction on the hilariously subversive
Flight of the Conchords, which segues from an introductory concert special tonight (10:30 p.m. on Comedy) to next week's series kickoff.

"You're so beautiful, you're like a dream ... or a high-class prostitute.

"You're so beautiful you could be a part-time model, but you'd probably still have to keep your normal job."

It's this attention to detail – no qualifier too minute to warrant an earnest musical shout-out – that makes this irony-drenched Emmy winner so oddly compelling (and compellingly odd).

It's not overtly profane, which immediately sets it apart from 90 per cent of what passes for humour on the Comedy Network, relying instead on witty wordplay, pithy satire and the kind of winking sarcasm that is the calling card of most viewers raised in the post-Seinfeld era.

Take the duo's hard-hitting anthem about child exploitation in Third World sweatshops.

"They're turning kids into slaves just to make cheap sneakers," trills Jemaine Clement, a sideburned pseudo-protest singer who looks like a less sinewy Mick Jagger.

"But what's the real cost, 'cause the sneakers don't seem that much cheaper. Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them? ... (musical pause) ... What are your overheads?"

It may not sound funny, but imagine impassioned troubadours like James Blunt, Jack Johnson – even James Taylor – singing the same lyrics with tenderly earnest conviction and you begin to understand the appeal.

"I'm not cryin'," croons Bret McKenzie, too proud to admit his heart has indeed been broken.

"And if I am cryin', it's not 'cause of you – it's because I'm thinking about a friend of mine you don't know who is dyin' ... that's right, dyin'!"

Deadpan, surrealistic and breezily insane, the series – which sees the duo trying to forge a music career in New York City – is a perfect companion to Silverman's own reservoir of hallucinatory dysfunction, on display in tonight's second season return with a pot-drenched campaign against manipulative corporations.

"It's a hamster wheel of necessity!" wails the bonged-out bigmouth in this offbeat cross between Curb Your Enthusiasm and Pee Wee's Playhouse.

"The same people that make toilet paper and diarrhea medicine also make fat-free chips, which everyone knows cause anal leakage!"

Actually, this one kind of makes sense, though her allegations of corporate connections between movies, tears and tissues, and baseballs, bats and new windows are more tenuous (and, therefore, more ridiculous).

It's amusing in spots, but the affected whimsy of Silverman's show seems less funny these days than her provocative YouTube satires – I'm (Bleep)in' Matt Damon – and pleas to young Jews to make "The Great Schlep" to Florida to convince aging Bubbes and Zaydes to vote for Barack Obama in the U.S. election (thegreatschlep.com).

These are Silverman at her best: topical, outrageous, a wholesomely perky guttermouth trading broadly – and fearlessly – on cultural stereotypes.

Her show, fitfully funny but increasingly lacking in edge, feels more like a calling card that's outlived its purpose.

Joel Rubinoff is the television columnist at The Record of Waterloo Region. Email: jrubinoff@therecord.com

Will Fey's Palin Draw Fans To 30 Rock?

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

(October 22, 2008) NEW YORK–This couldn't be better if Tina Fey had written it herself. And she's an Emmy-winning writer.

Here's how it unfolds: Fey is the creator-star of
30 Rock, an NBC comedy series that everybody loves (though a few more viewers wouldn't hurt). Then, shortly after the show starts shooting its third season, a presidential candidate announces as his running mate the governor of a large state you can see Russia from. And the would-be Republican veep happens to look a lot like Fey.

Can you see where this is going – uh, went?

Fey makes several guest appearances spoofing the candidate on the late-night satire show where she used to be a regular and she's a smash. Then everyone on 30 Rock awaits its season premiere Oct. 30, riding this powerful publicity wave. On the big night, the whole country is watching, bless its heart. And faster than you can say "you betcha," 30 Rock explodes as the hit it was destined to be.

"I hope this ends up helping 30 Rock," allows Fey, referring to her Sarah Palin sideline the past few weeks on Saturday Night Live. "I would like the audience to go up just enough so that people don't have to refer to it as `the ratings-challenged 30 Rock' any more."

Over coffee last week around the corner from the Manhattan apartment she shares with husband Jeff Richmond (music director of 30 Rock) and Alice, their 3-year-old daughter, Fey is enjoying a rare morning off from the studio. But it's been a jam-packed autumn, which, along with her SNL gig, entailed a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles to collect a new batch of Emmy Awards, adding to the Peabody and Golden Globe earlier this year.

And then word leaked about Fey's book deal.

"I don't know much yet," she said when asked for details, "except it would be a humour book and not a memoir, and that my mom has already pre-ordered 50 of them."

In short, Fey, 38, seems as busy as her fictitious 30 Rock alter ego.

Along with serving as a writer and producer, she plays Liz Lemon, overextended producer of an NBC show inspired by SNL (where Fey toiled for nine seasons, the last six as head writer and cast member).

Oprah Winfrey, Steve Martin and Jennifer Aniston will appear on future episodes, as well as Salma Hayek as Jack's (Alec Baldwin) new love interest.

Will & Grace Star Off To Good Start In New Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff,
Torstar News Service

(October 22, 2008) She's prissy at times, vulnerable at others and her character isn't as caustically clever as the show's creators seem to think, but Debra Messing's portrayal of a jilted Hollywood mom on U.S. cable import The Starter Wife (tonight, 10 p.m. on Showcase) is nothing short of a revelation.

Pinched and vulnerable, her natural beauty tarnished (but undiminished) by real-world experience, the 40-year-old actor best known as the frazzled singleton living with her gay best friend on Will & Grace has cast aside her annoying comic tics to play a smart, sensitive woman less self-consciously "adorable," perhaps, but eminently more likable.

"Early 40s, well-educated, probably flat-chested ... frustrated with her own life ..." whines her distraught character, reading a blogger's assessment of her personality on the series sequel to last year's Emmy-winning miniseries. "How does he know these things?"

Her post-alcoholic pal (Judy Davis) smiles supportively: "Well, if you weren't frustrated, you'd be an idiot!" she notes reassuringly. "You're divorced, you've got no prospects, your career's in the toilet!"

Ouch. She'll never eat lunch in this town again.

But that's what happens when your rich Hollywood sugar daddy trades you in for a younger model and renders you persona non grata in the elite social circle that fed your enormous sense of entitlement.

Plonk. You're on your own now, babe, so pick yourself up, put down those $1,200 Christian Louboutin suede boots and find a way to support your precocious 7-year-old daughter, who by the way, is demanding a BlackBerry.

"I'll make adjustments," muses the panicky children's author, whose last book didn't sell and whose irresponsible husband is behind in child support. "Like moving to one of the cheap states – west something or south something. And I'll go to community college and become a dental hygienist."

Yeah, fat chance.

What she does is what most single white females on hipster TV shows do when the chips are down: scrunch up her flowing locks and write a witty observational account of her elitist social circle, with lots of references to Gucci handbags, Versace dresses and catty assessments of those who wronged her.

This, alas, is where the series stumbles, since the journal entries recited with winsome Sex and the City gaity come off less as pithy punchlines than the grade school musings of an emotionally stunted lemming.

"I saw Kate and Barbara poring over the jewellery counter at Barneys like it was, well, like it was the jewellery counter at Barneys!'' she recites to the merriment of her entire creative writing class.

"It's hysterical!" crows her instructor (Hart Bochner), who must have checked his brain at the door. "You've really got a great voice – fun, smart and edgy!"

There are also goofy fantasy sequences that miss the mark, with Messing as an Elizabethan queen who swears off sex and an airborne sci-fi operative trolling for boyfriends.

It's all a bit clichéd, frankly, with its perky Desperate Housewives- meets-Carrie Bradshaw melding of satirical whimsy and pathos-spiked melodrama.

But if The Starter Wife isn't the groundbreaking maverick it would like to be, Messing at least makes it watchable, a friendly chick-lit diversion from the grisly forensic outings (CSI, Cold Case) and brain-twisting psychodramas (Lost, Heroes) that populate most of prime time.

"You don't hide your inferiority," commends her gay pal (yes, there's a gay pal), attempting to cheer her up when her tenuous social standing drops yet another notch.

What? She stares at him, aghast.

"Your `sense' of inferiority," he corrects.

"That charming, self-deprecating thing."

When it comes to The Starter Wife, it's all a matter of perception.

Joel Rubinoff is the television columnist for The Record of Waterloo Region. Email: jrubinoff@therecord.com


Korto Talks 'Project Runway' Stint

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2008) *Project Runway's Korto Momolu may have come in second this season, but she was No. 1 in the eyes of fans who watch the Bravo reality series.   Explaining her vote as "fan favourite" for the fifth season, the 33-year-old Liberia-born designer told E! Online it must be because "People relate to me. I'm real. I cry when it's time to cry, and I pout when it's time to pout. [Laughs.] I'm a mama, I'm a wife, I'm an immigrant. I got booty."     Korto admits that her ample backside has its own set of devoted fans.      "I'm like, Lord Jesus help me if one more shot of my butt is shown on TV," she told E! at Martell Cognac's finale screening party at L.A. hot spot STK. "I found a Web site dedicated to my butt! It's hilarious. He writes things like, 'Oh, my god! They're gonna show her booty again next week!'"     Asked what her husband thought of the fan obsession over her derriere, she said: "He knows I have a good booty."     The reality show star says she plans on moving from Arkansas to Philadelphia, preferring to steer clear of designer-friendly cities such as New York or Los Angeles.  "My parents live close by in Jersey," she explained. "I figured it would be a good place because it has grass. I want my daughter growing up seeing grass. There's no grass in New York. There's a tree every now and then. I live in Arkansas. There are leaves, flowers."  Her dream client?      She says: "Oprah! I've been stalking her for like five years...Just everything she stands for. She's freakin' Oprah. She's up and down like me and she traced her roots back to Liberia, where I'm originally from. We have that connection. I think I should be one of her favourite things next year."


Pair Of Female Playwrights Dare To Explore Cultural Taboos In Their Native India

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

(October 18, 2008) The next time you find yourself taking our freedom of speech for granted, consider this: Theatre Passe Muraille is about to present two plays created and performed by South Asian authors, with content so inflammatory they could never be staged in the countries in which they're set.

Pyaasa, by Anusree Roy, opens on Friday and deals with the caste system still prevalent in India. The Misfit, by Anita Majumdar, opening the next night, is a story about the unspoken topic of "honour killings," set in Canada and India.

These young female playwrights are aware they're playing with fire because of their highly charged topics, but they wouldn't have it any other way. Between rehearsals, they discussed their intentions.

"So many women are killed in the name of honour," begins Majumdar, whose eyes were opened to the topic when she appeared in the 2005 CBC TV movie Murder Unveiled, inspired by the story of Jassi Sidhu of Maple Ridge, B.C., whose Canadian mother and wealthy uncle are alleged to have hired assassins in India in 2000 after she married an impoverished rickshaw driver there against their wishes.

"I wanted to know why it happens," Majumdar continues passionately, "where it originates from and how we can put an end to this cycle."

Majumdar's talent for dance is appreciated by anyone who saw her in her first play, Fish Eyes. It's not surprising that movement becomes a metaphor in The Misfit as well, which she considers the second part of a trilogy she began with Fish Eyes. "In the first play," Majumdar explains, "dance was the obstacle. The character felt it kept getting in her way when she wanted to assimilate. But in this play, the character relies on dance to get her through difficult situations."

While the subject matter is horrific, Majumdar makes it clear that "it still has my sense of humour. I need to find the lighter moments as well as the dark ones."

Personal experience was at the root of Pyaasa, and Roy describes the show's genesis in a moving anecdote. "I was born and raised in Calcutta and was lucky enough to be raised in an upper-class house with servants," she says. "One of them was a man named Laxman, who was an untouchable" – someone from the lowest caste. "Every day he would come, clean our toilets and leave. We never looked at each other or spoke. I didn't care."

In 1999, Roy moved to Canada with her parents and learned how different the world could be. All of their worldly possessions were stolen shortly after their arrival. They found themselves in direst poverty until they could rebuild their lives.

"I faced a lot of racism and discrimination," she recalls sadly. "It made me think of how I had lived in India. I thought of Laxman, how we had treated him, and I said, `What are we doing to each other?'"

When she returned home to India, she wanted to make amends.

"I went to him and said, `Please look at me for one second.' He wouldn't but I kept begging him. `I want to apologize. I'm so sorry for the way my family and I have treated you over the years.' I took his hand and gave him some money."

But the story didn't play out the way Roy had thought it would.

"He suddenly looked at me for the first time, sternly, with direct eye contact and said, `You think you can come here, apologize, give me some money and it will be all right?'"

From that searing moment came Pyaasa, which means "thirst" in Hindi, and has already won Roy two Dora Awards in the Independent Theatre Division, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance by a Female. Roy tells the story through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, an untouchable and the daughter of a toilet cleaner like Laxman, whose life changes overnight when she goes to work for a woman of a higher caste.

"They say the caste system is over in India," says Roy. "Yes, it's illegal, but it still goes on. At the basic level nothing has really changed and it angers me so much.

"I want people to talk about it and I want them to get angry if that's what it takes to get them going."

Majumdar feels the same way.

"The mandate of my show is to start a dialogue. This show hasn't been built to make friends with anyone.

"People say to me, `Why must you tell this story? Why don't we keep it just our own business?' But we can't solve these issues within the walls of our own world.

"I am proud of our community, but I want to make it greater than it is. Nothing is perfect."

Just the facts
WHAT: Pyaasa and The Misfit

WHEN: Oct. 24 through Nov. 15

WHERE: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave.

TICKETS: passemuraille.on.ca or 416-504-7529

Ultimate Hoser Sitcom Takes Show On The Road

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
The Canadian Press

(October 18, 2008) DEER LAKE, Nfld. – If the tight little band of nutbars who appear in Rent-A-Goalie seems like they'd be a hoot to hang out with, they are and then some.

The Gemini-nominated series returns to Showcase for a third season Monday. Christopher Bolton, also creator, writer and executive producer, is back once again as "Cake," renting out his misfit gang of goalies and living by his code as the manager of Cafe Primo, a bar in a predominantly Italian neighbourhood of Toronto.

The series is more about rivalry, extended family and camaraderie than hockey, although several ex-NHLers have shown up in cameos. That continues this season as Paul Coffey, Phil Esposito, Hayley Wickenheiser, Mike Palmateer and Darryl Sittler get in on the action.

Even more front and centre is former NHL enforcer Bob Probert, who has a key role when the series resumes. Probert is all over Cake when the two fight over bar floozie Malta (played by Sarain Boylan). One of them, it turns out, is the father of her baby.

The cast and crew come by their antics naturally. Travelling with these demons takes stamina.

Two charity games – in Deer Lake, Nfld., and Fort McMurray, Alta. – are being used to help promote the return of the series.

The first day and night in Newfoundland this week was an endless parade of bars, all-you-can-eat pizza joints and karaoke saloons. The festivities concluded with a "Screech-In." Much rum and several fat slices of "Newfy Steak" (baloney) were consumed and a sorry-looking frozen fish was more than kissed. "That fish was violated!" observed Rent-a-Goalie executive producer Christopher Szarka.

Rent-A-Goalie will leave behind a monetary and equipment donation for local minor hockey leagues. They also seem to be leaving behind a lot of goodwill.

In hockey-mad Deer Lake, they are bigger stars than they are on the streets of Toronto, with 600 fans coming out to the local rink to see Bolton, Probert and Co. skate.

The cast may be party animals, but they are damn proud of their little series. Rent-A-Goalie earned more Gemini nominations than any other Canadian-produced comedy last season. Surprisingly, higher profile shows like Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie weren't even nominated for best comedy.

They're especially proud of their inclusion in the best comedy ensemble category. Besides Bolton, Rent-A-Goalie features Gabriel Hogan as Lance (``The Boil"), Inga Cadranel as Francesca, Carlos Diaz as Looch, Joe Pingue as Joey Almost, Philip Riccio as Puker and Jeremy Wright as Short Bus.

Hockey fans get its mix of ice and antics. Bolton talks about how, in the first two seasons, he had to chase guys like Tie Domi into a men's room just to get him to consider appearing on the series. Now the ex-NHLers are lining up to play.

It helps that Rent-A-Goalie gives these hockey icons something to do. Phil and Tony Esposito, for example, got to play a couple of tough poker players.

A Naked Examination Of The Selfs

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

Written, performed and directed by Wajdi Mouawad
At the National Arts Centre in Ottawa

(October 15, 2008) For most people, it's only a nightmare: arriving for a meeting with your new co-workers only to realize that you forgot to put on your clothes.

But this is how Wajdi Mouawad has voluntarily chosen to meet his audience at the National Arts Centre for the first time. At the start of
Seuls, his first production as artistic director of the National Arts Centre's French-language theatre, the Lebanese-Québécois playwright, director and actor wanders onto the stage wearing only his boxer-briefs.

Perhaps it's his way of inviting trust: Look, nothing up my sleeves, or anywhere.

While Mouawad certainly knows how to make an entrance, it's his exit from the stage two hours later that will truly imprint itself on the memory of spectators. For the final 20 minutes of the solo show, Mouawad alternates between violently and joyously rolling around in gallons of paint onstage.

Again in his underpants, he uses almost every part of his body as a paintbrush in an extraordinary sequence that starts off shocking, then veers dangerously close to the realm of masturbatory performance art, but finally wrenches back into something that slaps a glove in the face of description. It's a daring and disturbing and delirious sequence, and I wouldn't sit in the front row without bringing a poncho.

Most solo shows are only so because the creator lacks the resources to mount a bigger production. But Mouawad's Seuls – which premiered in France this summer and comes to the NAC from a sold-out, extended run at Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui in Montreal – is a proper match of medium and message. The play is about being alone and, as the plural “s” of the French-language show's title suggests, the many different ways in which we can be alone, the various cages that trap us in our bodies and our minds. It uses theatre as its central metaphor to argue that we are all performing our own one-man shows, trying to figure out the plot and what character we're playing as we go along.

Mouawad plays Harwan, a doctoral student in “sociology of the imaginary” at the University of Quebec at Montreal. An introspective, brooding and lovelorn Lebanese-Québécois, he is hard at work on a thesis about Robert Lepage – yes, that other internationally renowned Québécois writer-director-performer – and his solo works.

Fittingly for an homage to Lepage, Seuls is intellectual yet accessible, and full of crowd-pleasing technical trickery. The latter here includes various encounters between Harwan and his shadow, an old rotary telephone that only rings when it is not plugged in and a deceptively simple, one-wall set that eventually explodes to encase most of the stage. (Visual and verbal references to Lepage's Vinci, The Far Side of the Moon and The Seven Streams of the River Ota abound.) If this sounds like a piece where the style and metatheatrics overwhelm the substance, Seuls has moments that are very simple and direct as well. The tour de force is a straightforward monologue Harwan delivers to his father, who has fallen into a coma after a cerebral haemorrhage. This may be a bit of a cliché – the I-wish-I-could-have-told-you-this-before bedside confession – but Harwan's is funny and poignant and rich with metaphor.

Here we learn much of Harwan's biography, which is quite close to Mouawad's own. They both moved from Lebanon to France at a young age, then to Quebec; they both now think in their adopted language and have forgotten most of their mother tongue. The doctor tells Harwan to speak to his father in his language, but he stumbles: “What is the Arabic word for memory?”

The line between Harwan and Mouawad blurs further when you realize that the voice-overs from his father and sister are his actual relatives. (Lepage gets a vocal cameo as well.)

In a recent interview, Mouawad described the main difference between his plays and those of Lepage, whose phenomenal work first inspired him to enter the theatre.

Lepage's epic shows are quests: Their Québécois heroes head out into the world – France, England, Japan – to learn more about themselves.

On the other hand, Mouawad's plays – most famously his sweeping Greek-inspired tragedies Tideline, Scorched and Forests – are odysseys: Their heroes journey back home (usually to a thinly disguised Lebanon).

Though Seuls takes place mostly in Montreal apartments and hospital rooms (save a brief excursion to St. Petersburg), it sticks to the pattern. Shocked out of his stasis by his father's coma (there's a twist here I can't reveal), Harwan takes a mental trip from the grey-scale existence of graduate student life in Montreal – black sweater and jeans, white snowstorms, the 1,500 salt-and-pepper pages of his thesis – back to the colourful and war-torn Lebanon of the first years of his life. Through art and violence, he is reborn as a child before our eyes.

Seuls has its slow moments – scenes that are allowed to stretch almost to the point of breaking. You get the feeling that Mouawad enjoys challenging his audience, testing them, seeing who blinks first. It proved too much for half a dozen or so of the NAC's subscribers, who headed for the exits before Harwan did.

But the vast majority who stayed were wowed. I continue to be: The layered work keeps unpeeling in my mind. You could write a 1,500-page thesis about it. Or perhaps create a show about it. Perhaps the next theatrical wunderkind out of Quebec will.

Seuls, performed in French, continues at the NAC in Ottawa through Saturday (tickets: www.nac-cna.ca or 613-755-1111).

Canadian Maria Soars On Stage

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

The Sound Of Music

Music and lyrics by Richard
Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse
Starring Elicia MacKenzie
Directed by Jeremy Sams
Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and David Mirvish
at The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto

(October 16, 2008) I'm as wary as the next critic about reality television values invading the theatre. But just because casting
The Sound of Music over a television show is a brilliant publicity stunt does not mean it is an idea without any artistic merit.

In fact, picking a lead through a show like CBC's How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? is arguably a better route than that other way big commercial producers have come up with boosting their box office: casting a pre-existing celebrity.

With a reality TV show, you get a crowd-pulling star in the lead, but it's someone who has been specifically chosen and groomed for the role in question. (And, on the financial side, you don't have to pay what you would for a star you didn't create.) On the other hand, letting the viewers at home decide who will be a good Maria has its pitfalls. Performing to a camera in studio and reaching the back rows of a 2,000-seat theatre are two entirely different things. While Katie Holmes was indubitably dewy on the small screen in Dawson's Creek, word has it she apparently is having quite a struggle of it on Broadway in All My Sons.

Which brings us to
Elicia MacKenzie, who Gavin Crawford has been telling me over and over is my Maria. The British Columbian who narrowly avoided a career as a massage therapist took the stage last night at the Princess of Wales. She definitely had charisma on the tube (even if I did, full disclosure, vote for Jayme), but is she about to get dog bites and bee stings from the critics?

Not at all - Ms. MacKenzie pulls it off, making the part her own. She's not about to banish memories of Julie Andrews, but her klutzy tomboy of a Maria has a giant-grinned enthusiasm that's infectious and her voice sounds as full and joyous as it did on television. Later on, when the Nazis invade Austria and the submachine guns get pulled out, she does manage a serious demeanour, too - yes, the Anschluss fit this Canadian Cinderella.

Certainly, Ms. MacKenzie is helped out by being surrounded by a top-notch, extravagant production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's final and most beloved musical. The giant floating hills Maria is first seen singing on, designed by Robert Jones, are breathtaking; and when she sings that the hills are alive, they literally are, moving up and down around and beneath her. (Perhaps Mr. Jones was inspired by a certain episode of Sesame Street's Monsterpiece Theater?) You couldn't ask for a cuter or more harmonious set of Von Trapp children, especially the littlest one, Gretl (Mia Van Wyck-Smart, alternating with two other little girls); she made the audience erupt in sighs or tears every time she opened her mouth.

Megan Nutall's Liesl has a soaring soprano and grace in every step, and the fact she towers several inches above her young-looking governess Maria isn't as big an issue as it could have been.

But Ms. MacKenzie's youth and petiteness is a bit more of an issue when it comes to Captain Von Trapp; the hulking Burke Moses, whose sweet baritone beats a certain Christopher Plummer's by a long shot, looks like he's going to annex her little Sudetenland when they hug.

There's not a whole lot of chemistry there.

Aside from a slightly hammy Max, played by Keith Dinicol, everything else is a real dream. The top singing moments come from Noella Huet's operatic Mother Abbess, who apparently is on exchange from a convent in the Saguenay, but no matter; she leads a heavenly chorus of nuns (though, did I spot a couple of men filling out habits in the big opening number?).

The Sound of Music remains an extremely soothing show despite its Nazi trappings; it's the musical equivalent of bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens. There's a story, possibly apocryphal, that the BBC's plan in the event of a nuclear strike on the United Kingdom during the Cold War included a broadcast of The Sound of Music over the radio to boost morale. Perhaps that's the same reason so many families gather to watch it before or after another often traumatic experience: Christmas dinner.

This production and this Maria will certainly lift your what-another-minority-government!?! worries away. Democracy may be a pain in the behind at times, but at least the reality-TV-show kind has given us a result we can all cheer for at the Princess of Wales.

Stratford Pays Tribute To Richard Monette

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

(October 21, 2008) STRATFORD–It was the leading character in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens who said "O, no doubt, my good friends, but the gods themselves have provided that I shall have much help from you." But he easily could have been speaking for the spirit of Richard Monette last night.

The Canadian theatre community, as well as many hundreds of those touched by it, gathered together in Stratford's Festival Theatre to pay tribute to the man who had guided the festival organization through 14 successful years, prior to his resignation last year and his death on Sept. 9.

Occasions like this can be tricky. How does one blend the praise of tribute with the more measured calculations of the activities that fell short of praise?

Does one "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative," as Johnny Mercer put it? Or do you try to put the whole person – warts and all – up for public examination?

Last night, there wasn't an excess of flowery sentiment, or a shortage of reality checks, but one came away with the feeling that Richard Monette was a complex, wondrous human being who had touched so many people in his time on Earth.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival's general director, recalled the man with a vision. William Needles, who was part of Stratford's first acting company in 1953, brought back the seer who could understand an aging actor's problems. And actor and director Brian Bedford, in his unique classic style, gave us an insight into the leader who understood the needs of his stars as well as those far under them.

Actor Cynthia Dale, one of Monette's long-time favourites, chose largely to play the happy memory card, with her pairing of the songs "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Smile," while Martha Henry grounded us with her recollections of a colleague who comprehended the need to base art in reality.

Janice Price, now the head of Luminato, recollected the days when Monette taught her how to dream large, while actor, director and playwright Jean-Louis Roux and actor Lucy Peacock recalled a friend of rare devotion. Actor Brent Carver sang a lyric from Twelfth Night to connect us with the man whose vision extended past any one single production.

The mayor of Stratford, Dan Matheson, was there to remind us that Monette wasn't just an artist, but a man who understood and wanted to help the community in which he lived, while actor Dan Chameroy, with an impeccable impression of his friend, stirred laughter as well as tears.

Colm Feore was there as a messenger of the man's unique vision and courage, after which a choir of Stratford's best voices united in Berthold Carrière's magnificent setting of "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

That choir managed to summon up the sweetness and sensitivity that were so much a part of Monette at his best.

The finale was the man himself, speaking in a series of interviews from times past in which, as always, he revealed far more of himself than he ever intended to.

The final impression was that we were reminded not of a cultural icon, but a man, someone who had dreams, hopes, and aspirations, and for nearly 15 years of his life had attached them to the Stratford Festival.

Whether or not one loved Richard Monette, you had to come away from this evening asking the same question that Shakespeare did of Caesar: "When comes such another?"

Strange And Exhilarating Theatre Performance

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter


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_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
By Darren O'Donnell. Directed by Chris Abraham. Until Nov 2 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. 416-975-8555.

(October 22, 2008) It opens with a loud boom and long percussive riff, a ingeniously clever way to quell the chatter and draw immediate focus to the darkened stage, where the only things visible are a pair of cool blue Day-Glo gloves on the nimble hands of musician Romano Di Nillo.

After that, [boxhead] unfolds, a story about an unnamed geneticist who wakes up one day with a box – yup, a box – on his head. He proceeds to clone himself into two characters, Dr. Wishful Thinking and Dr. Thoughtless Actions, who also have boxes on their heads.

The unseen voice of an omnipotent narrator – God, perhaps, it certainly has an air of authority – also manages to split into two identical parts. Thereafter follows one of the oddest but strangely exhilarating theatre experiences one is likely to encounter, a bewilderingly wild and profane ride. The production was originally mounted in 1999 and remounted twice since, with much of the original creative team reunited for the latest production.

This is a very fortunate thing because the staging of this dizzyingly unconventional meditation on existence requires a kind of technical skill and split-second timing involving spotlights and music cues – synchrondipity, to coin O'Donnell's word – that in less capable hands may well have caused the whole thing to unravel.

Similar technical razzle-dazzle transforms the voices of the two actors through a speech box producing an almost munchkin-like timbre, while the formless voice of God has the ominous pitch of a late-night anonymous phone caller who seems to know your every move.

The stage and set design by Naomi Campbell, O'Donnell and director Chris Abraham, surrounds the stage in a large backlit picture frame while a gauzy black, almost imperceptible screen meaningfully separates the players from the audience. Like all the other technical elements, it is superbly effective.

There are a few musical numbers, a lot of frenetic dialogue requiring careful attention, periodic cussing and even a prolonged scene of frontal nudity, which is hilariously uninhibited and not for the bashful, courtesy of Adam Lazarus.

Comically absurd, maddingly baffling in form and meaning but solid in execution, [boxhead] is experimental theatre at its finest.


 Prehistoric And Non-Human, Soloist Is Spellbinding

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

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_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Choreography by Kitt Johnson
Until tomorrow at Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(October 17, 2008) It's not very often that a choreographer creates something that is unlike anything you've ever seen before – from start to finish. But that is exactly what Kitt Johnson does in her mesmerizing, 55-minute solo,

The title is the Danish word for cirripede: a classification of crustaceans that includes internal parasites and barnacles. But you don't really need to know that, because the word crustacean comes immediately to mind as you witness this dancer's slow enactment of the body's evolutionary memory.

The dance is the second in a series the Copenhagen-based, 49-year-old choreographer has devised, on the theme of body, anatomy and choreography. An athlete who didn't begin dancing until 24, Johnson's incredible control over her own musculature has been developed through study of martial arts, contact improvisation and butoh.

A soundscape created by Sture Ericson on a dark set with a glimmer of sunrise colouring a rocky landscape transports the audience to a primordial place and time. In a round spot of harsh light, Johnson's bare back, her head concealed in a hood, slowly rounds out, with hands and shoulder blades twitching. It's a birthing – from an egg.

Bubbling and breathing sounds suggest the origins of animal life. The dancer's hands rise up like antennae. She's insect or bird, maybe. It's only when the back of her head emerges that the dancer's gender becomes apparent, not that it's at all relevant.

A leg extends out with flexed foot to suggest some creature from the dinosaur era. She scuttles slowly across the stage and the lights come up on a textile representation of a prehistoric environment.

Even when she finally faces the audience, there is nothing very human in the blank, dark stare and whitened countenance. The bare breasts and the growling noises on Ericson's soundscape suggest an evolution into the mammalian stage, but the persistent imagery is of something crablike. The ever-transforming entity moves backwards curled over. On her haunches she bounces rhythmically up and down or back and forth, but the movement is mechanical, devoid of human emotion.

Everything is articulated in this dancer. Her rib cage, the long muscles in her legs and arms, her thighs trembling together the way some insects make music – all seem choreographed.

Johnson never really achieves a fully upright position. She bends her limbs and torso to make memorable images, as when she lines up bent-over arms and legs to resemble a segment of a millipede.

There's a strange, haunting beauty to Rankefod, the first must-see performance of the dance season.

Toronto’s Jeanette Heller, 97: Was Radio City Rockette

Source:  www.thestar.com - Shabnam Janet Janani,
Staff Reporter

(October 20, 2008) Jeanette Heller, who grew up in Paris, Ont., with dreams of being a dancer, high-kicked her way into becoming the oldest living Radio City Rockette.

Heller died last Thursday at age 97 at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital.

"She had a colourful life and will be missed," said Patty Gail, the administrative supporting cast of Toronto's Performing Arts Lodges, where Heller lived for the last seven years.

"Doctors said she was suddenly in kidney failure," said her only surviving sibling, Mickey Heller, 86. "She was hospitalized (two weeks ago)."

She had been in good health prior to her hospitalization.

Heller began her career as a Roxyette, the precursor to S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel's Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall soon after she moved to New York City in early 1930s.

The only girl of seven children, Heller grew to only 5-foot-4, short for a dancer. But she made her dream come true, becoming a line-dancing beauty in one of the most renowned shows in showbiz.

Radio City Music Hall has been open for more than six decades and is the largest indoor theatre in the world. America's most popular entertainers, from Frank Sinatra to B.B. King, have performed there.

"It wasn't what most young Jewish women did," said nephew Aron Heller, who works as a reporter in Israel. "For the time and where she came from, she had a very untraditional kind of life."

After 11 years of demanding stage performances, Heller returned to Toronto for three years to take care of her mother while her brothers were fighting in World War II.

"She worked in the circulation department at The Globe and Mail. Meanwhile, organizing dance events to keep herself busy," her nephew said.

On Jan. 11, 1944, she wrote a letter to The Globe and Mail about her dancing experience and how she was discriminated against by a figure-skating club after she introduced herself as a Jewish-Canadian.

She wrote: "Night after night I have danced at canteens ... without pay of course, and work all day at the office. Probably some of those boys are sons and brothers of members of this same skating club."

Toronto didn't welcome Heller as warmly as a Rockette as New York did, so she returned to New York.

She also produced Guys and Dolls, and The King and I as well as some television shows, such as All My Children and One Life to Live.

Heller eventually became a member of a travelling dance show. She toured the world. She never married and never had children, citing the conflict between Judaism and her career as one of the obstacles.

"A Jewish fella should pick a Jewish girl," she said according to her biography, written by her nephew, Aron.

"Although she wasn't very traditional, Judaism was strong part of her identity," said her nephew, who visited her last April.

"She was in show business (and that means) dancing, travelling and being with celebrities in New York, but at the same time she was a great family person."

Heller left the Radio City stage in 1975 when she was 64, and returned to Canada.

For nine years, she commuted between Toronto and Florida, working as a wardrobe manager in Florida during winter.

In all, Heller spent 45 years in showbiz.

"She continue(d) to insist that she never wanted a family of her own; showbiz was and will always be her only real love," wrote her nephew.

Heller's funeral was held last Thursday at Dawes Road Cemetery.

Dance Collaboration With Sun Ra Arkestra Takes A Page From Philosopher's Book

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

(October 21, 2008) It takes a restless mind like Bill Coleman's to make the connections that resulted in Hymn to the Universe, a show described as "a celebration of humanity's potential for a newfound attunement to the universe."

Co-presented with the Music Gallery for the 2008 X-Avant / Space is the Place festival, Hymn to the Universe sees 10 Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie performers, including a tap-dancing Coleman, collaborating with the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen. The show is tonight at the Palais Royale.

"I was reading about new technologies developing, or soon to be developed – a lot of it is about changing our bodies," says Coleman. He grew interested in the social side of scientific inquiry and "people having a necessity for a kind of ceremony about the transformations." One strand of thinking about evolution led Coleman to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his book The Phenomenon of Man. The French-born Jesuit philosopher, anthropologist and theologian theorized that the universe strives toward greater consciousness and that evolution occurs in a goal-driven way toward an omega point.

"He actually predicted the World Wide Web," says Coleman, "as a kind of fine film enveloping the globe, instantly connecting everyone."

Meanwhile, reinvestigating his tap-dancing roots and listening to the music of Duke Ellington, Coleman was naturally led to Sun Ra, the jazz great who created a big band he called his Arkestra, dedicated to making music that would introduce earthlings to cosmic truths and greater awareness.

Sun Ra, who was born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1914 and was buried there in 1993, claimed to have come from Saturn. He and his Arkestra wore colourful, sparkling robes and fantastic space-age headgear.

The Sun Ra Arkestra, based in Philadelphia, continues to tour. Many of the members are in their 80s. Coleman contacted some band members and found them receptive to the idea of doing a show with him and his company of dancers.

"They're interested in getting Sun Ra's music out there and I wanted to touch on a lot of eras. I'm using some of their more avant-garde music to accompany the idea of universal change." The show is divided into chapters, with performances from outstanding dancers such as Laurence Lemieux and Carol Prieur, and some puppetry and designs by Edward Poitras, working with the Toronto fashion team Hoax Couture.

"There are a lot of facets to the Arkestra repertoire," says Coleman. Hymn to the Universe will encompass some old standards, some music they haven't played for decades, some avant-garde and some music they've never played before.

The show is shaping up to be a unique encounter among some very unusual artists in a venue where a lot of jazz ghosts still roam.

"I've got to say," Coleman allows, "whatever happens, it's going to be pretty entertaining."


 Little Big Game

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

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 four)
PlayStation 3. $59.99. E

(October 18, 2008) Beginning Tuesday, gamers scouring retail shelves for something unique to play might notice a quirky-looking box poking out from among all the gory 3-D shooters, fantasy role-playing adventures and countless music-based games. Smack-dab in the middle of the cover is a smiling burlap-covered doll, surrounded by friends and a colourful planet, all underneath large turquoise words that read:
LittleBigPlanet. Don't hesitate, dear gamer. Extend your arm, pick up this disc and whistle happily all the way home, because you just found a new companion to keep you entertained for the winter months to come.

Developed by the U.K.'s Media Molecule and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America, LittleBigPlanet is a PlayStation 3 exclusive that could very well be the company's "killer app," a piece of software so good it's worth buying the hardware just to play it. And let's face it, Sony needs it. With just 544,000 PS3 units sold in Canada, Sony trails behind Nintendo Wii at 1.1 million units sold, and the Microsoft Xbox 360 at 893,000 units (according to NPD Canada).

If it were measured by quality alone, LittleBigPlanet is without a doubt the game to help Sony shrink the gap in the multi-billion-dollar battle for the living room.

"Okay, fine, I get it," you're probably thinking. "So tell me: What makes LittleBigPlanet a must-own game?" Trouble is, it's not the easiest concept to explain.

Littlebigplanet 101

On the surface, LittleBigPlanet is a classic side-scrolling "platformer," a modern 3-D take on the Super Mario Bros.-esque left-to-right scrolling action, where the protagonist must run, jump and climb through trap-laden levels in order to reach the end. You play as a character affectionately referred to as "Sackboy," who can change appearance from a stuffed brown burlap dude with black buttons for eyes to just about anything, by first pulling up the "Popit" menu (by pressing the PS3's square button) and selecting from a gazillion aesthetic options. Ninja cowboy? Sure. Rastafarian construction worker? Why not.

But once you start to explore these zany levels, built with objects that appear to have real textures to them and seemingly glued together in Monty Python style – such as paper-maché, stone, grass, sponge, cloth and brick – you soon realize LittleBigPlanet is a puzzle game in which you need to figure out how to safely navigate over water and fire and past spikes, pits and falling cinder blocks. In Level 3, for example, you must grab heavy yellow cylindrical containers and use a jetpack to fly up and drop them one by one into an elevated receptacle; only when the bin is heavy enough to drop down do we see that it's on a pulley that opens a drawbridge for you to cross.

So LittleBigPlanet is an arcade-like platformer and a head-scratching puzzle game. Yes, but it's also a racing diversion, too, with many timed levels and bonus stages, challenging players to reach the finish line – on foot or on the wacky vehicles you stumble upon – before the clock runs out. Or you can play against someone, as LittleBigPlanet allows a second player to pick up a controller at anytime for co-operative or competitive fun, as explained by the witty British narrator who walks you through the first few levels.

As you play through the dozens of levels (through jungles, on city streets or in the wild, wild West), players will be forever collecting items, such as bubbles for enclosed prizes and points, hundreds of stickers used to decorate levels (or create your own stickers by taking a photo of your Sackboy or of yourself with the optional PS3 Eye camera) and many other collectible goodies to use when creating your own LittleBigPlanet levels. Create your own levels, you ask? Oh yes.

Create, share, download

While not mandatory, the tools to create your own levels – including the ability to design, build and tweak objects and locations – are in the game for you to toy around with (see sidebar). In fact, the bundled level editor is what the developers at Media Molecule used to create LittleBigPlanet.

After you've unleashed your creativity you can save your masterpiece, and using an Internet connection players can invite anyone within the LittleBigPlanet community to come and explore their patch of land on your planet. While free of charge, a PlayStation Network I.D. is required.

On the flipside, while the game ships with many levels to get you going, not to mention multiple mini-games, an Internet-connected LittleBigPlanet owner can download thousands of additional user-created levels from around the world, as well as new material created by the team at Media Molecule. You can search what's available by author, most-played levels, highest rated and via keywords such as "funny" and "easy."

Hey, with the economy being what it is, this is the kind of game that stretches your dollar considerably. LittleBigPlanet is one of those games you need to play to "get." Much of the experience is in the wonderfully imaginative art direction (with worlds that operate on real physics), creating new playgrounds from scratch and the kitschy music soundtrack, all of which require some hands-on time to fully appreciate. The "everyone"-rated game is ideal for both kids and kids at heart, novice and seasoned gamers alike.

A minor niggle is that the controls could be tighter and more responsive, which might surface as an issue when the levels get more challenging and you need to balance Sackboy between hazardous objects or jump from one animal to another with a split-second to spare.

That minor shortcoming aside, this highly polished hybrid adventure is certainly the best PS3 game to date and one of – if not the – finest pieces of interactive entertainment you could experience on any console today.

Run, don't walk, to pick up this instant classic, and you too could be Sackboy for Halloween and for many months to come.

A Fun Blend Of Cuteness With A Dark Dystopia

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

World of Goo
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 four)
Wii. $15 (or 1,500 Wii points). E

(October 18, 2008) Like thousands of others lucky enough to get in on the pre-release beta of LittleBigPlanet, I went into serious game withdrawal when the preview period on Sony's wonderful little create-and-share platformer expired. I needed something to take the edge off – but what? Where was I going to find a game with pick-up-and-play accessibility and an immersive physics engine, saturated with sweet-hearted adorability?

Oh hello,
World of Goo. You'll do nicely.

World of Goo is a puzzle game ... or maybe more of an engineering game. Each level requires players to get a certain number of little Gooballs – semi-sentient viscous blobs with cute little blinking eyes – to an exit pipe, but these little dollops are both the evacuees and the means of their own evacuation. Guided by the player's Wiimote, the Gooballs assemble themselves into structures in order to overcome obstacles: cantilevered bridges to clear chasms, wobbling lattice towers to reach for the sky, and much more as the 40-plus levels reveal the complexities of Gooball taxonomy.

Complexity; that's how World of Goo works its way into your nervous system. While the game itself is drag-and-drop simple to play, the interactions it's modelling are deep, intricate and more felt than seen. The structural properties of the various species of Gooball – rigidity, elasticity, mass, etc. – are tools to use as well as weaknesses to overcome, and as your tower or bridge of blinking, twittering little blobs teeters in overbalance or sags toward a field of deadly spikes, the physical reality of the mess you've made can settle into your body like an ache. Desperately, you scramble to jury-rig supports, struts, trusses to head off a disastrous collapse ... and that's fun!

It's fun to feel a game-world so intimately, and this intimacy is only enhanced by the Wiimote control. I haven't played World of Goo in its PC incarnation, but I can't imagine a mouse interface being nearly as satisfying as pointing and clicking with that magic wand, feeling it purr in your hand as you select and shift Gooballs. Maybe I'm still a sucker, still taken by the novelty of Wiimote-waggling, but if the novelty hasn't worn off after this long, can we still call it novelty?

Also enhancing the feeling of intimacy with World of Goo is the game's aesthetics, a fun blend of happy-time cuteness and the dark dystopia that lurks just behind. The Gooballs are adorable, but they're also products, explicitly delicious, destined for bottling if they make it through their world's dangers. The world is kids-show sweet, but riven by industrial fixtures and machinery, and studded with death traps. The in-game writing, in the form of tutorial signposts, embraces these ironies and helps build the game world's bizarre but self-consistent looking-glass context.

It should be noted that World of Goo is essentially the creation of two people, Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, developing under the name 2D Boy. As mainstream games become increasingly complex, the product of massive teams, their huge budgets requiring careful attention to marketing prerogatives, it's the small developers who keep innovation alive, who remind us that a great game experience is completely independent of the facade of production gloss.


Youth Arts Group Wins $15,000 Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,

(October 18, 2008) SKETCH, which gives homeless young people in Toronto a chance to change their lives by creating art, was a big winner yesterday at the Mayor's Arts Award Lunch.

This unique organization, founded 11 years ago, won the $15,000 Arts For Youth Award.

"What we have discovered is that the creative process gives young people the capacity to change their lives," artistic director Phyllis Novak told the Star after accepting the award. "Our main approach is just to get out of their way and let them become self-organizing."

SKETCH has grown into a $1.2 million operation with a large studio space on King St. W. where at-risk people aged 15 to 30 (many of them homeless) become part of a creative community.

Some build skills working with textiles or silkscreen. At Nuit Blanche, several examples of their work were on view to the public.

All three levels of government helped fund SKETCH, but according to board chair John Andras, most of the money comes from private donors.

Rejecting the quick fix of social-service agencies, SKETCH gives marginalized young people a voice by offering learning opportunities in a multidisciplinary studio, according to executive director Rudy Ruttimann.

Theatre pioneer Tom Hendry won the $5,000 William Kilbourn Award for the celebration of Toronto's cultural life. Hendry, a former accountant and co-founder of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, has been a playwright, theatre administrator and crusader for increased support of the arts.

Jazz musician and composer Richard Underhill won the $10,000 Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition for his contribution to the city's musical life.

Weyni Mengesha, director of the Dora-winning play Da Kink In My Hair, won the $5,000 RBC Emerging Artist Award.

Torys LLP, a Toronto-based law firm, won the Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Award.

The annual lunch, organized by the Toronto Arts Council, drew more than 300 players in the cultural community. Mayor David Miller, the official host, said artists are the city's greatest ambassadors.

A stirring high point was a performance by legendary singer Jackie Richardson and the Regent Park School of Music Choir.

It's Bigger Than Hip Hop

Source:  By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Nobody in the world can accuse you of being predictable. Take your iPod, for instance. You’ve got Prince on there, and some Queen of Soul. A little Elvis, both Costello and Presley. There’s a Snoop Dogg tune, and one from the Pussycat Dolls. You’ve got Stevie Wonder on there, and some songs that make you wonder why you downloaded them.

“It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” by MK Asante, Jr c.2008, St Martin’s Press

But on your playlist, there’s a lot of hip hop. ODB, De La Soul, Choclair, Kurtis Blow, Dead Prez. Those are the artists who speak to you, right?

But are they speaking the truth? In the new book “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” by M.K. Asante, Jr., you’ll examine another side of your favourite music.

“Although West African in its derivation, hip hop emerged in the Bronx in the mid-seventies as a form of aesthetic and sociopolitical rebellion against the flames of systemic oppression,” says Asante. Although it’s older than the youth who embrace it, hip hop is the “language of youth rebellion”.

But why music as rebellion? In answer, Asante says hip hop music and its generation shape and define Blacks and Black culture, both public and private. The lyrics are a way of keeping poverty and oppression “real”.

The problem with that, he says, is that “Under the banner of ‘keeping it real’, the hip-hop generation has been conditioned to act out a way of life that is not real at all.”

Many hip hop artists have denied their middle-class background for publicity’s sake. Others have created lines of clothing that glorify the prison system, which Asante says is largely political and biased against blacks. Elders – the civil rights generation – have vilified hip hop for its misogynistic lyrics and liberal use of the “n” word.

Worse, as Asante discovered, the people who created hip hop do not own it. Large white-owned, white-run recording companies control who is recorded, what songs are on CDs, and even to whom the music is marketed; a large percentage of hip hop fans packing concert venues are white and male.

So if it’s really “bigger than hip hop”, what can the post-hip-hop generation do with the rebellion created by the music? Understand your history, Asante says. Think critically beyond the problem to search of a viable solution. Don’t wait for “mainstream musicians to say what needs to be said.” Take injustice and make it newsworthy. Embrace ubuntu, or “humanity toward others.” Teach love, for yourself and others.

Author and Morgan State University Professor M.K. Asante is too young to have heard, first-hand, the words of Dr Martin Luther King, but in some ways, “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” includes a similar gentle call-to-action. Asante melds hard facts with interviews and history, throws in suggestions, and offers some amazing personal stories to make this a thought-provoking book that shouldn’t be missed, especially at a time when racism blazes on the hot burner.

If you pick up this book – and you should – give yourself extra time to digest what’s here. “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” is filled with plenty of big meditations.

Dolemite Is Dead: We Remember Legendary Funnyman Rudy Ray Moore

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2008) *EUR has learned that after an extended illness, seminal comedian Rudy Ray Moore, better known as Dolemite, has died in Akron, Ohio. He was 81.

EUR was initially informed of the news by comedienne Luenell, a friend of the family.

Moore, whose actual name was Rudolph Frank Moore, passed away from complications of diabetes, his only child and daughter, Yvette "Rusty" Wesson, told us.

According to Wikipedia, Moore is perhaps best known as Dolemite, the uniquely articulate pimp (“… rappin’ & tappin’ is my game!”) from the 1975 film "Dolemite," and its sequel, "The Human Tornado." The persona was developed during his earlier stand-up comedy records.

Rudy Ray Moore was also known as the "king of the party records" and released many comedy records throughout the 1960s and 1970s, developing a style even more rude and explicit than contemporaries like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. This kept him off of television and major films, but cultivated an enduring fan base. He also guested on Big Daddy Kane's CD Taste of Chocolate, released in 1990.

The 2 Live Crew used Rudy Ray Moore's records as scratch samples on their early work; most notably on "Throw The Di*k."

Moore starred in "Big Money Hustlas," a movie created by and starring the Insane Clown Posse, in which he played Dolemite for the first time in over 20 years.

In 2008 Rudy Ray Moore reprised the character Petey Wheatstraw for the song "I live for the Funk" Featuring Blowfly and Daniel Jordan. This marked the first time Blowfly and Rudy have collaborated on the same record together, and the 30 year anniversary since the movie was filmed.

Moore began his entertainment career as an R&B singer and continued singing through his comedy career. He developed an interest in comedy in the Army after expanding on a singing performance for other servicemen.

Besides his daughter, Moore also leaves behind his 98 year-old mother Lucille. Although, Wesson couldn't tell us the exact dates, funeral services will be in Akron, Ohio as well as Spokane, Washington where his mother and the rest of his immediate family lives.

Simon Annand - A Glimpse Of The Stars Just Before They Shine

Source:  www.thestar.com - Charlie Breslin,

(October 20, 2008) LONDON–Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett are among hundreds of famous faces captured during the intense moments before going onstage in a new exhibition by a British photographer.

For 25 years,
Simon Annand has toured British theatres, documenting the various ways actors prepare for their performances during the 30 nerve-racking minutes before the curtain comes up, known in theatrical circles as "the Half."

The actors in Annand's collection of revealing and intimate portraits range from international superstars to lesser-known denizens of the stage whose preparations vary from the predictable to the unexpected.

Blanchett smoulders, cigarette in hand, looking like a 1950s screen siren, while British institution Maureen Lipman is captured standing on her head. Something, Annand told Reuters, that was part of Lipman's usual warm-up routine.

The historical scale of the exhibition is enormous, including actors such as Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis and Tim Roth before they became Hollywood stars.

Annand's portrait of Sir John Gielgud, moments before his last stage performance at London's Apollo Theatre, contrasts starkly with the image of 17-year-old Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, the youngest actor featured in the collection, awaiting his first night in the play Equus.

As a result, Annand has managed to preserve some surprisingly personal moments on film, ranging from Vanessa Redgrave pictured drinking tea with an expression of intensity, to British actor Niamh Cusack pictured using the bathroom – a picture her family requested a print of to give as a present for her birthday.

"Her sisters love this picture," Annand said.

He said that many of the famous stars he has photographed were surprised that he wanted to take a picture in these private moments, which were so obviously photogenic to him, and admits that often, nothing is left to the imagination.

"I've seen lots of naughty bits, but we don't show those."

Annand describes his photographs as capturing a "permitted vulnerability, a permitted melancholia that is never normally seen when an actor is preparing for work."

Annand said that his photos provide an antidote to seeing actors merely as celebrities. "Some of the work they do is quite technical and complicated. They have to keep in training, be it vocal techniques or physical techniques, and I think if you see them simply as celebrities you don't see this discipline."

He said that in some cases you can almost see the actors wrestling with the transformation from everyday life into the fictional world before they take the stage.

"Sometimes they've had a terrible day, and when they come in they negotiate their own life with the life of the fictional character. And that is an amazing thing to witness."

Candace Bushnell's Got Success And The City

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rita Zekas,
Special To The Star

(October 20, 2008) She gave us the term "modellizer" and put Manolo on a first-name basis.

Candace Bushnell not only created Sex and the CityCarrie Bradshaw is her alter ego. The initials are even the same.

"If it's about shoes or abducted babies, they want to read about it," says a character in her new bestseller,
One Fifth Avenue, about the denizens and wannabe denizens of an Art Deco building in New York where people would kill to live, and some have.

One Fifth Avenue is No. 5 on the New York Times bestseller list. Her other books include Four Blondes, Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle, which spun off into a TV series.

Bushnell is chic and stick-thin enough to get away with wearing pleated plaid trousers. Her shoes are polka-dot Valentino platforms and her leopard tote is free from initials so it costs more.

Starting in 1994, Bushnell wrote a sex and lifestyles column for the New York Observer that was more a series of short stories than a Doctor Ruth how-to. They read like episodes of SATC in chronicling the adventures of Bushnell and her girlfriends, and morphed into the HBO series in 1998.

"I think they called it a sex column for lack of a better word," she says during a book tour stopover in T.O. "It was in a newspaper and it alluded to sex, but it was really more social and cultural observations of a particular society – a very needy, aspirational group of people. Some of them are what can be called high society, the New York meritocracy."

Readers of One Fifth Avenue can play Name That Character. Socialite/philanthropist Mrs. Houghton, whose death starts all the action, has got to be Brooke Astor.

Enid Merle, octogenarian gossip columnist from Texas, is Liz Smith.

Ex news hen-turned trophy wife Annalisa Rice is the progeny of Maureen Dowd and Diane Sawyer.

Bushnell says any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

"They are all fictional," Bushnell insists. "I don't see a resemblance to real people."

The building is a real landmark but is fictionalized as well, she says.

"Many artists, composers and actors lived there and still do," she says. "It is a great address and people want the power to be head of the board (that yays or nays prospective owners). One hears stories about co-op boards. A lot of Upper East Side buildings don't want celebrities because of the paparazzi. That's why celebs have apartments downtown where people are more open. I live in a building that has fashion designers and actors. I live in The Village."

Shopping has been called vertical sex and just like Carrie, Bushnell knows good sex. The sex scenes are raunchy, especially between teen tartlet Lola Fabrikant and geeky writer James Gooch, whose libido is also unblocked. Lola, a raving beauty from Hicksville, wants to live in the West Village because Carrie Bradshaw lived there.

Bushnell allows that writing sex scenes is difficult so she usually writes them at the end.

"Most people have their own sexual experiences," she says. "Philip (Oakland, another middle-aged author) and Lola are brought together because of sex though they are generationally in two different places. Lola has a Brazilian wax and Philip is a little taken aback. "

The characters are the embodiment of blithe entitlement and unfettered narcissism, and yet you are compelled to read about them. Why?

"Characters who want something are always the premise in books and movies," Bushnell says in their defence. "Enid is the puppeteer."

We smell a movie version of this book.

"It's too soon," she demurs. But she is working on a series about Carrie's teen years. We're betting the only acne Carrie will have is the jeans label.

There was sexism and the city, backlash over the SATC movie. Male reviewers wrote that the film was only about the shoes and clothes. Exit polls were held asking the male moviegoers, presumably dragged to the film kicking and screaming, what they thought about it. Women exiting testosterone fests like The Terminator are never asked what they think.

"The shoes and fashion are the costumes, the window dressing," Bushnell says. "I thought the movie dealt with real issues women identified with as they did the TV show. Women love the friendships and the issues, like forgiveness. Carrie's questions are the same questions we all have. When the wedding didn't work out, when it got bigger than Big, Carrie couldn't get out of bed and felt like her life was falling apart. But she gets herself together and becomes wiser. "

Bushnell says she was thrilled with the direction the series took as she is with Lipstick Jungle, on which she is executive producer. Darren Star, producer of SATC, came out with the competing series Cashmere Mafia last season just as she was writing the pilot for Lipstick while staying at his house. Cashmere has unravelled, but Bushnell refuses to acknowledge any blondenfreude over it.

"Everything is fine between us," she says. "I love Darren."

She is hands on with Lipstick.

"I read the scripts; I get all the cuts and see all the episodes. I have two cuts and synopses to go through this evening."

It'll be room service and a call to her husband, New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.

How is it she managed to snare the only straight ballet dancer in New York? "Half of the men in the company are straight," she claims.

Yeah, but ballet dancers aren't exactly chick magnets. They'd probably let them in at One Fifth Avenue – if they could afford the freight.

Accent Comedy Show Preserves Its Cultural Richness

Source: www.thestar.com - Nicholas Keung,
Immigration/Diversity Reporter

(October 21, 2008) Six years ago, when Russell Peters, Canada's most recognized "brown" comedian, went onstage at the inaugural Accent On Toronto comedy show, the predominantly Caucasian audience was just too unnerved to laugh.

"They were not sure what to do, to laugh with him or at him," recalled Tracy Rideout, producer of
CBC Radio 99.1's annual live show taking place at the Danforth Music Hall tomorrow. "The audience was so nervous and uncomfortable that Russell Peters had to give them the permission to laugh."

So much has changed since the event first launched with a small crowd of 350 to today selling out the 1,500-seat auditorium.

"There is a better cultural understanding of these jokes and it is okay to laugh now," noted Rideout. "It is just one show, but there has definitely been a shift. I guess funny is funny."

Despite its growing popularity, the show still preserves its cultural richness by showcasing talent from all backgrounds.

The landscape has certainly changed over the years, with more opportunities for comedians of minority backgrounds, but with that has come higher expectations.

"There is no way people would like to look at Jerry Lewis doing a Chinese guy these days. It just doesn't work," noted Ali Rizvi, one of six stand-up performers at this year's show, hosted by Sabrina Jalees. Others are Seán Cullen, Martha Chaves, Carrie Gaetz, Perry Perlmutar and Gilson Lubin.

"You don't want to be a hack," added the 30-year-old, who was born in Toronto to Pakistani parents. "I am sure every South Asian has a joke about roti, but you are not going to play that up (because) you want to be as accessible to your audience as possible and as honest to yourself by being who you really are."

That said, Rizvi's not shying away from laughing at stereotypes. "We, as Muslims, don't just pray and then explode," he deadpanned. "Sometimes we just beat our wives."

Entertainment aside, the young father of two believes that comedy can be an educational tool that opens others' minds and helps them find common ground in a lighthearted manner.

As a second-generation Canadian with one foot in both the East and West, Rizvi is a prime example of how the two worlds can be bridged.

Accent on Toronto will be broadcast on Big City, Small World on CBC Radio 99.1 on Saturday at 5 p.m., with highlights on Laugh Out Loud, Saturdays at 6:30 p.m.

Oh Danny Bhoy, The Tour, The Tour Is Calling

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(October 21, 2008) The lubricating effects of alcohol have probably precipitated the stand-up careers of more than a few comedians. Certainly, it's what 33-year-old Scottish comic Danny Bhoy – now headlining the cross-Canada Just for Laughs tour – credits for the impulsive gesture that landed him on stage for the first time.

“After graduation [from Glasgow University], some mates and I went to an open-mike night in Edinburgh and some of the lads dared me to go up and try it,” Bhoy said in a recent interview. “I don't remember much of what I said, but I think I did about five minutes.”

Two years later, not quite sure what to do with his degree in history (a little work in journalism, a little as a barman), Bhoy won the London Daily Telegraph's annual Open Mic Award and catapulted himself into a professional career.

Half Irish, half Indian – not unlike Canada's Sean Majumder – Bhoy has spent the better part of the past decade building a substantial profile. He has had his own one-man show at Just for Laughs in Montreal, has toured Australia and is a major star in Scotland.

Bhoy was born and raised in Moffatt, a small town an hour south of Glasgow that he describes as “small and dysfunctional, like [ The Simpsons'] Springfield ... Springfield in McScotland.” His own family was “very straight and rather Presbyterian.” His father worked in a knitwear factory, his mother with farm products. “I got in trouble a lot as a kid, the classic joker, mucking around in class. I studied history because there was less emphasis on grammar and spelling.”

Bhoy, not surprisingly, is not the real family name – he's careful about disclosing that – but it was his maternal grandmother's and, as monikers go, pretty catchy.

Bhoy just concluded a British tour in which he's a 60-to-90-minute solo act, depending on the venue. In Canada, he'll cut the act to 25 minutes for the tour, which wraps up Nov. 15 in Victoria, but hopes to use the time to write some new material, including stuff that will appeal to Canadian audiences.

On stage, Bhoy comes across as a younger, more energetic version of another top Scottish comedian, Craig Ferguson – instantly likeable, but cheeky. Of the Scottish affinity for drink, he says: “I was thrown out of a pub for being drunk. I thought that was the point. I mean I've never been thrown out of a restaurant for being full.”

But he's not afraid to push the humour to the edge. A few years ago, he developed a routine built around the controversial Mohammed cartoons that had been published in a Danish newspaper. Performing in England, Bhoy was accosted by an angry young man who threatened to stab him in his neck.

“Well, I told him, ‘I use my neck for comedy. Do you think you could find another part of my body to stab?' ”

The Just for Laughs tour line-up includes John Heffron, Pete Zedlacher, David O'Doherty, Hal Cruttenden and Finesse Mitchell.

The Just for Laughs Comedy Tour '08 is in Moncton tonight and tomorrow, Charlottetown on Oct. 24, Halifax on Oct. 25 and St. John's on Oct. 26 and 27. For more dates and cities, see hahaha.com.

Mirvish Dreams In Colour With Art Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(October 22, 2008) A quarter century after closing shop as Toronto's most audacious art dealer to join his father in the theatre business, even after building one of the most successful showbiz empires in Canadian history, David Mirvish still has his heart and soul in the art world.

That became clear the other day while we were driving to a Scarborough warehouse for a sneak preview of a dazzling exhibition of coloured sculpture from the 1960s by the British artist Tim Scott.

Astonishingly, it's the first art show Mirvish has organized in 30 years, and it's obvious from the excited tone of his voice that getting back to where he once belonged is making him very happy.

"I don't have to do this," he murmurs, in case I might be wondering why he would go to all this trouble and expense. "It just seemed absurd that I would have these pieces in storage and no one would have a chance to see them. I got this strong feeling that I should share them. It all came together so fast."

The warehouse show opens on Nov. 2, the same day as another Tim Scott sculpture show, this one co-presented with Jane Corkin at her high-profile gallery in the Distillery District. The Corkin show features new Scott works of clay (with no sign of colour) that were created earlier this year when Scott spent time in Toronto at Mirvish's invitation. The two linked exhibits, along with the publication of a book, The 60s, When Colour Was Sculpture, are Mirvish's way of helping celebrate the reopening of the expanded and transformed Art Gallery of Ontario next month, and of providing an extra feature for international art scene players visiting the city for the AGO occasion.

Mirvish and his wife Audrey have a private collection of spectacular works by leading 1960s painters, including Frank Stella, Jack Bush and Jules Olitski, but sculpture was not one of his main interests.

Nonetheless, he did own two Scott pieces, one from 1972, another from 1983. And he had always been intrigued by Scott's work from the 1960s, which struck him as linked to the abstract and colour field painters he championed.

One of the exciting developments of that era was the interchange between painting and sculpture. Even earlier, circa World War I, Pablo Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz and others made coloured sculpture. Then, in the 1960s, there was a sense that sculpture would eclipse painting, and that the creative explosion of colour would become three-dimensional. But the phenomenon didn't endure and painted sculpture became a curiosity of art history.

Two years ago, Mirvish had a call asking if he would be interested in acquiring Sestina, a large coloured metal sculpture by Scott. It had been made in 1967 and had been in storage unassembled for 40 years. It needed repairs.

It struck him as a lovely, unexpected opportunity.

"Sestina came together with a buoyancy that defied its great blue bulk," Mirvish explains. "First viewing was like meeting someone of whom you know nothing ... someone you clearly wanted to know better. My gamble had been rewarded."

Meanwhile, the noted Boston art collector Lewis Cabot agreed to bring his Scott pieces from the 1960s to Toronto, so they could all be refurbished in the same warehouse at the same time. Scott agreed to an extended visit so he could be consulted on the refurbishment. And somewhere along the way, Mirvish purchased a fourth piece.

While in town, Scott – who usually divides his time between Yorkshire, England, and Sri Lanka – worked every day at a temporary studio on his "House of Clay" series that will be on view at the Corkin Gallery. Scott will attend the opening.

On opening day only, Mirvish will provide shuttle buses between the Corkin gallery and the warehouse at 1410 Warden Ave. from 1 to 5 p.m. The coloured sculpture exhibit will be open daily from Nov. 4 to Nov. 16, and then on weekends only through April.

Artist, 89, A Painter Of The People

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(October 22, 2008) At 89, with a retrospective of her work on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Daphne Odjig is not bothered by lofty descriptions of her art as having Cubist and Surrealist influences.

"It doesn't bother me. If that's what they (art critics) want to write about, that's fine. I still go ahead and do my own thing," said Odjig, whose exhibit at the Kleinburg gallery is on display until Jan. 4.

The native artist does admit to being a little surprised by all the fuss, which includes an Order of Canada, seven honorary doctorates and a 2007 Governor General's Award in Visual Arts.

"I am (surprised) because I didn't have the encouragement or the promotion years ago because they (critics) said it was ethno-graphic. But I didn't give a damn, I just kept painting the way I wanted to," Odjig added.

McMichael executive director and CEO Tom Smart called Odjig "one of Canada's finest living artists.

"She is able to also tell her stories and uses a particular, unique style. She also brings in European modes of representation, particularly Cubism. So she marries different styles and different modes and different traditions," Smart said.

As a child growing up in the village of Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island, Odjig's interest in art was sparked by her grandfather, Jonas, a tombstone carver who also liked to sketch.

"My companion was my grandfather so I followed him around. I was just like a little shadow. I mimicked everything he did. So I would sit with him on the porch and sketch. And it all starts from there," she said.

With no formal training – "I never went to art school" – Odjig said she has gotten her inspiration over the many decades from visiting art galleries, from people she's met, from omnipresent nature and from extensive travel. "All artists should travel. I love being with people and I love the environment. You draw your inspiration from anything, from everywhere, from many people," she said.

Odjig said her native background is also a major influence on her work, despite a childhood in which her Ojibway heritage was suppressed.

"I grew up not being able to dance or to know the sweetgrass ceremony and other things because that was forbidden by the church at the time. It was still underground," she said.

But Odjig is optimistic that native culture is alive and well and in no danger of disappearing in a Western-dominated society.

"The native psyche is very strong and we'll always be here. A native person, if he's given the chance, he can prove himself. I don't think our culture will be lost," she said.

Odjig, who lives in Penticton, B.C., said nature is so important to her she takes a break from her art during the summer.

"I love birds. I love my swallows. In the summertime, I don't paint, I'm too busy learning about nature, all about nature. I'm feeding my birds," Odjig said.

As an ardent environmentalist, Odjig said she is dismayed to see the effects of man-made activity that have "upset the whole balance of nature."

Smart said Odjig's concern for the environment and her representation of it through her drawings and paintings makes her exhibit "a very timely and contemporary story."


Downie Wins Toronto Book Award

Source: www.thestar.com -
Vit Wagner

(October 18, 2008) Poet Glen Downie has claimed the $15,000 Toronto Book Award for his collection Loyalty Management. Awards of $1,000 were also handed out yesterday at the Metro Toronto Reference Library to each of four runners-up: Barbara Gowdy for the novel Helpless, winner earlier this year of the Trillium Prize, David Chariandy for his Governor General's Award-nominated debut novel Soucouyant, Elspeth Cameron for the biography And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle and Elyse Friedman for the story collection Long Story Short. The jury panel praised Loyalty Management as "undeniably Torontonian," adding "Downie's poems travel nimbly through our old Victorian homes, up the trees in our yards, down our streets and into other lands." Downie is the first poet to claim the Toronto Book Award since Richard Outram won in 1999 for Benedict Abroad. Other past winners for the prize, first handed out in 1974, include Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand and last year's winner, Michael Redhill, whose novel Consolation was subsequently chosen for the Toronto Public Library's inaugural Keep Toronto Reading One Book campaign.


Argos Need New Coach, New Direction Next Season

Source:  www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(October 19, 2008) They were presented as words of praise from Don Matthews to his old friend and employer, Bob Wetenhall.

But they sure sounded like a subtle suggestion to Matthews' new employers, David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

Matthews, after remaining winless in his third stint as Argonaut head coach with a loss to the Montreal Alouettes yesterday, lauded Wetenhall, the Montreal owner, for "thinking outside of the box" and hiring long-time NFL assistant coach Marc Trestman to guide his team.

Trestman has done a wonderful job, leading the Als to first in the East and re-invigorating the organization with his new ideas and techniques.

It sure seems that's what the Argos must now do. Think outside the box in order to repair this badly broken football team.

They tried elevating a veteran assistant, Rich Stubler, to the head coaching post this season, and Stubler was canned after 10 games. Cynamon and Sokolowski then okayed the move to bring in Matthews, the winningest coach in CFL history, in hopes he could conjure up his old magic after courageously battling depression for two years.

It hasn't happened. Not even close.

Matthews took over when the Argos were 4-6 and in second place, and has presided over six consecutive defeats and the team will miss the playoffs.

Somewhere, Stubler must feel vindicated. He could not have done worse than Matthews.

Once again, Matthews claimed yesterday to see glints of progress in his team's 43-34 loss, and certainly Kerry Joseph's 400-yard day at quarterback and a breakout performance from receiver P.K. Sam were noteworthy performances.

But in the end, a once-proud defence was sadly vulnerable. The Argos scored first after intercepting Anthony Calvillo's first pass, but then saw the visitors march right down the field to tie the game and never saw the lead again.

It never appeared likely they would win the game, and when a season is on the line, settling for moral victories is a sure sign of a losing mentality.

The Argos announced a crowd in excess of 30,000, but there weren't anywhere near that many people actually in the Rogers Centre. Both teams in southern Ontario will miss post-season play, thus giving the Dec. 7 dome date of the Buffalo Bills a little more legroom.

The Argos can't afford to have another season like this.

That means they can't possibly afford to bring Matthews back. To keep the remaining grip they have on this football market, they have to be able to tell an exciting new story going into next season, not a continuation of this miserable one.

Quite probably, this club needs to be reduced to a blank canvas, then rebuilt aggressively with young talent. A new coach, and not another recycled one, surely needs to be a big part of that.

It's been nearly impossible to see Matthews as his fiery old self in any way. He has stood nearly unmoving on the sidelines during games, not wearing a headset, not clapping his hands or exhorting his players, usually not talking to anyone, seemingly not reacting to anything that goes on the field.

His post-game media conferences are friendly, but foggy. The Argos were wholly undisciplined in his first game back, and in his sixth game yesterday the team took 13 penalties for 131 yards that produced six first downs for Montreal.

Some things changed. But nothing important really changed.

If the Argo owners and front office want to believe a dose of The Don worked, they're fooling themselves.

This team was, until this season, the only pro outfit in town that could confidently claim it stood for excellence and the pursuit of championships, and it will need a new direction now to regain that distinction.

When this awful season mercifully ends, this team will need to think outside the box.

Yzerman Takes Canada's Reins

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Kevin McGran

(October 19, 2008) Steve Yzerman says it will be young, skilled players able to play a Detroit Red Wings-style "puck-possession" game who will represent Canada in the pressure cooker that will be the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Inheriting the job from Wayne Gretzky, who'll serve as an adviser, Yzerman was installed by Hockey Canada yesterday as the executive director of the men's team that will carry this country's hockey pride on its shoulders after a disappointing showing in Turin in 2006.

He began his reign by not trying to get hopes up, stressing that "by no means because we're playing on home ice is any gold medal a lock."

Talking about the team, Yzerman said he wanted skilled, fast, multi-dimensional players.

"We have excellent depth at all positions," said Yzerman. "I don't see why we can't have players who are strong at all facets of the game: offensively strong, defensively strong, have the ability to play on the power play and penalty kill.

"I know we emphasize passion and work ethic in Canada. I think we under-emphasize our skill level. I think we're as skilled as any country, and that will be stressed."

Yzerman hinted that loyalty to players who won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 hurt the team in 2006 – which finished seventh – as the game sped up and skill won over passion.

"Since '06, you've had some young players come into the league and develop into top players," said Yzerman. "Some of the older players have continued to be strong. There'll be changes from that team."

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, left off the 2006 team because he was deemed too young, welcomed the news that Yzerman had been hired.

"I'd love to be part of it," said Crosby. "Steve Yzerman was my hero growing up. I know being Canadian, to have it in your home country, it means a lot."

Yzerman wasn't about to begin naming names, saying he'd take this season and the playoffs before announcing a coaching staff and won't name a roster until December 2009.

"We know the character of players," said Yzerman. "It's an opportunity for young guys to keep improving and to earn a spot on the team."

Essentially, however, Canadians in the NHL now know who they're auditioning for, and games against Detroit become all the more important. Not just because Yzerman is in the front office, but because the Wings are loaded with sure-fire Olympians from other countries, including Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Lidstrom, Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk.

"It's a great way to assess Canadian players against our (Red Wings) top players," said Yzerman.

Yzerman's boss in Detroit, Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe will serve as associate directors, while St. Louis assistant GM Doug Armstrong will serve as director of player personnel.

Lowe and Gretzky, holdovers from both the 2002 and 2006 Games, "can offer so much," Yzerman said.

"Every decision they made, what worked for them, what didn't work for them, both in winning and losing, is vital to us. You can't have enough experience."

Lewis Hamilton Wins Chinese GP

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 19, 2008) SHANGHAI, China–Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his Formula One drivers' championship lead to seven points.

Hamilton won by 14.9 seconds from his title rival Felipe Massa of Ferrari to move to the brink of his first title with only one race remaining in Brazil.

Massa moved up to second late in the race, comfortably passing teammate Kimi Raikonnen. Their second and third places, combined with the retirement of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, extended Ferrari's lead in the constructors' championship to 11 points.

BMW's Robert Kubica finished sixth, ending his slim title chances.

Hamilton and Massa are now tied for race wins and second places this season, but Hamilton has one more third placing, meaning he would take the tiebreaker if the pair are tied on points after the final race of the season.

Hamilton will clinch the title in Brazil unless Massa wins and the Briton finishes no higher than seventh, or Massa finishes second and Hamilton out of the points.

Renault's Fernando Alonso finished fourth, ahead of the BMW pair of Nick Heidfeld and Kubica. Toyota's Timo Glock was seventh and Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr. got the final point.

In a lap of little incident, Hamilton got off the line well from pole position and led from start to finish.

"It was a great start, one of the best we have had this year, which was needed," Hamilton said. "From there it was pretty smooth sailing."

Raikkonen was second for most of the race, before conceding that position to Massa on lap 50 of 56 to keep the Brazilian's title hopes alive.

"Lewis had the better car the whole weekend," Massa said.

NBA General Managers Pick Lakers To Win It All

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(October 22, 2008) NEW YORK–The Los Angeles Lakers will avenge their NBA finals loss to the Boston Celtics, according to a survey of the league's general managers.

The executives who responded to the NBA.com GM survey also picked Cleveland's LeBron James for the third straight year as the likely MVP. The results of the seventh annual poll were released Wednesday.

The Lakers received 46 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the Celtics (19 per cent). Boston beat Los Angeles in six games in June for its 17th championship.

The New Orleans Hornets got 12 per cent of the vote and San Antonio received eight per cent. It was the first time in five years the GMs didn't tab the Spurs as their pre-season pick to win the title.

James, who has never won the MVP award, collected 56 per cent of the voting in that category. Kobe Bryant, a first-time MVP last season, drew 37 per cent and Chris Paul the other seven per cent.

Also, Miami's Michael Beasley beat out Greg Oden in the rookie of the year voting. Beasley, the No. 2 pick, got 48 per cent of the vote, while Oden, getting ready for his NBA debut after sitting out the 2007-08 season following knee surgery, was the pick of 30 per cent.

Fifty-two per cent of the GMs chose Philadelphia as the team that made the best off-season moves, and 67 per cent said Elton Brand's move to the 76ers will be the player acquisition with the biggest impact.

Only 3.7 per cent felt the Toronto Raptors would win the Atlantic Division; at 85.2 per cent, the Celtics were the most popular pick.

Andrea Bargnani was the choice of 16 per cent of GMs as international player most likely to have a breakout season, trailing Portland's Rudy Fernandez at 32 per cent.

Toronto's Jason Kapono was the second pick as the NBA's best pure shooter, with 14.8 per cent of GMs picking the Raptors guard/forward. Boston's Ray Allen was the top choice at 61.1 per cent of votes.

Full results are posted on NBA.com.


Hopkins Hands Pavlik First Loss

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2008) *Bernard Hopkins silenced critics and defied conventional wisdom by not only beating an undefeated opponent who is seven years his junior, but making the younger fighter "look slow and powerless," according to the Associated Press.  Hopkins, 43, "used lightning quick combinations and a cagey, near-perfect defense to embarrass and confuse Pavlik in a 12-round non-title bout Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall," the AP reported.   "I think this was my best performance, better than (Antonio) Tarver, better than (Felix) Trinidad, better than Oscar (De La Hoya), better than my 21 defenses," Hopkins said. "I am extremely happy."   Pavlik, the 26-year-old WBC and WBO middleweight champion, was fighting for the first time at 170 pounds, 10 pounds over his weight class. The mismatch was obvious from the opening bell, AP reported, and Hopkins revelled in the beating he gave the Youngstown, Ohio boxer. By the fifth round, Pavlik was bleeding from the nose and by the seventh Hopkins was taunting him.     Hopkins received winning scores of 119-106 from Judge Alan Rubenstein, 117-109 from Barbara Perez and 118-108 from Steve Weisfeld.

Venus Williams Wins Zurich Open

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2008) *Venus Williams got the best of unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta to win the Zurich Open women's final Sunday 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, earning her second title of the year, reports the Associated Press.  Pennetta was looking for her fourth consecutive win over Williams, after beating her in Bangkok in 2007 and at Roland Garros and Moscow this year. But Venus, playing in her 60th final, took home her 38th title and added to the Wimbledon trophy she earned in July.  The Italian appeared to be the stronger player in the opening set, but showed signs of weariness in the second. Neither player faced a break point in the entire first set, although Williams was taken to deuce five times. But having held serve more easily, only going to deuce once, Pennetta was totally overwhelmed in the tiebreak, dropping the first six points.     In the second set, a slightly tired-looking backhand into the net gave Williams a break for 2-1, and the American held her next service game with four consecutive aces.   Williams thought she had won when a ball from Pennetta was judged to have landed right in the corner of the court, a dispute that brought Venus's father and coach Richard to his feet. That brought the score to deuce, but the contest was over two points later.


10 Best Ab Exercises

Source:  By Jason Knapfel, eDiets Contributor

While you can't wake up to a washboard stomach at the end of this week, after you finish this article, you'll be happy to know that you're doing the most effective exercises to get you to that point some day very soon! eDiets Chief Fitness Pro Raphael Calzadilla is here to share his 10 best ab exercises to get the washboard stomach you've always dreamed about.

Follow Raphael's lead, and you'll see a transformation in your tummy in just a few short weeks. The first step you need to take is changing the way you view your ab work. It's a common misconception that you are going to trim the fat in your midsection. Ab exercises aren't going to reduce the area. But they do develop the muscles. You need to improve your diet to reduce the fat.

Another common mistake many people make is doing too much, too often, Raphael says. "One of the biggest misconceptions people have is the belief that they need to work five or six days a week to get their abs looking good. They also think they have to perform 15 sets. In reality, the muscles are like any other muscle group that needs to recover from any type of workout in order to make progress. Your ab workout shouldn't take you more than 12 minutes, three days a week."

If you don't know what you're doing, you can actually do more harm than good. Take sit-ups for example. This popular move can lead to back and neck injuries if you don't have proper form. Sit-ups also work more of the hip area than the abdomen, Raphael points out.

There are good reasons for building strong ab muscles other than "looking hot." The core of your body is the abs and the lower back.

"All of the strength of the rest of the body stems from the core," he says. "It also helps as far as improving balance and flexibility and reducing injury. Having weak abs and a weak lower back is an invitation for injury."

In addition to working the abs, Raphael stresses the importance of and regular cardio exercise. Before you can achieve a flat stomach, you need to reduce overall body fat.

Here the 10 most effective abdominal exercises. Raphael suggests that beginners start with the Ab Crunch and Reverse Ab Curl.

1. Bicycle Manoeuvre (studies actually prove this to be one of the most effective)

Starting Position:

·  Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position.

·  Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears.

·  Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle.

Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

Key Points:

·  This can be a more advanced exercise. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back.

·  Do not pull on your head and neck during this exercise.

·  The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

2. Ab Crunch

Starting Position:

·  Lie on a mat on your back.

·  Make sure that your lower back is relaxed against the mat during this exercise.

·  Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle.

·  Keep both feet on the floor.

·  Place both hands behind your head.

Contracting the upper abs, raise your head and upper torso off the floor until your shoulders are slightly lifted. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your head touching the floor.

Key Points:

·  Exhale as you contract the abs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Keep your eyes focused on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

·  Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

3. Reverse Ab Curl

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips.

·  Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.

Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your hips.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

4. Double Crunch

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor face up.

·  Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor.

·  Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor.

·  Place both hands behind your head.

Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while rising up.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

·  Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

5. Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch

Starting Position:
On a mat, kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment keeping your elbows in toward your ears.

Contracting the oblique muscles, curl your body downward on an angle rotating your right elbow to the left knee, stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your obliques. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the weight stack touching. You can either alternate side to side or do 8-12 repetitions on one side and then repeat on the other side.

Key Points:

·  Exhale as you lift the weight.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

6. Machine Hanging Knee Raise (should use spotter or have someone watch you)

Starting Position:
Grasp a chinning bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. Keep your upper body motionless throughout the exercise.

Contracting the abdominal muscles, raise your legs with bent knees while gently rolling your hips under, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. You may get your knees to 90 degrees or higher depending on your strength and flexibility. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

7. Fitball Advanced Reverse Crunch (not for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the ball with your upper back supported by the ball and hands above your head, holding onto a solid support, such as the support for a cable machine in the gym or the footboard of your bed at home.

·  Bring your legs up until your hips and knees are each at a 90-degree angle.

Contracting the abdominals, curl your legs up toward your body. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Lower your legs only as far as you can while maintaining control.

8. Lying Bent Knee Leg Lift (care needed for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:

·  Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees slightly bent.

·  Place your hands under your head for comfort, not support.

Contracting your lower abdominal muscles, draw your knees toward your chest until they form a 90-degree angle with the floor. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the feet touching the floor.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Your back should remain comfortably against the floor during the entire motion.

·  Avoid this exercise if you have any back conditions.

·  Eliminate this exercise if you experience any discomfort.

9. Machine Angled Leg Raise

Starting Position:
Support your body on your elbows in a Roman Chair or by hanging from a chin-up bar.

Contracting the abdominals and obliques, draw your knees up on an angle so that they move toward your right elbow. Stop when you get a full contraction of the obliques and abdominals. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping when the hips are almost fully extended. Alternate side to side to complete the set.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Keep the upper body stationary throughout the exercise.

10. Incline Bench Leg Raises (care needed for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:
Lie on an incline bench and stabilize your body by gripping the bench above your head with your legs extended out.

Contracting the lower abs, raise your legs up until your hips form a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your legs touching the bench.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Point your chin toward the ceiling to avoid using your upper body.

·  To increase the difficulty, cross your arms over your chest.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com
— Ethel Barrymore

"You grow up the day you have your first real laugh--at yourself."