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October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween - yes, this holiday can be spirited and fun and brings almost a childlike quality to life when we see the little ones dressed up.  Enjoy safely. 

Also, below I have several references to the new SWAY magazine (www.swaymag.ca) - pick up your FREE copy at various locations around town ... what a great issue!  SWAY celebrated the launch of this issue this week with celebrities and dignitaries alike in Mississauga.  Mark my words - BIG things are in store for this magazine and the telling of Canadian/Caribbean stories. 

And PLEASE let me know if your email changes ... I get a few return emails every week and would love for you to still be able to get the newsletter.  So, if there's a change, please let me know at langfieldent@rogers.com.  Many thanks!

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



Tragedy Mars Jennifer Hudson's Rising Career

Source:   www.thestar.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody,
The Associated Press

(October 27, 2008) NEW YORK – Just a month ago, a bubbly Jennifer Hudson – who had been striking gold with just about everything she touched – was running down the list of all the projects that she expected would soon dominate her life.

Already an Oscar-winning actress, the 27-year-old was about to release her first album, which would become an instant bestseller, and a new movie, The Secret Life of Bees. But the entertainer saw so much more in her future.

"I am planning on touring," she said, rattling off a list of her upcoming priorities. "There's more films and more music and stuff like that ... I want to start a fashion line as well, start writing music."

There were also plans of a big wedding to new fiancée David Otunga.

"It's gonna be a production," she gushed. "I have so many visions for it right now – I get to put that together."

But last week, at a moment when her wildest dreams were either realized or seemed well within reach, she suffered a personal tragedy so devastating, so unthinkable, that it would be understandable if she never moved to reclaim them.

Instead of filming a video for her new single Monday in Los Angeles, Hudson was in Chicago, identifying the body of a child believed to be her seven-year-old nephew Julian – apparently the third victim in a killing spree that had already claimed her mother and brother, whose bodies she had identified a couple of days before.

"This is really something no one can really deal with, and you never fully recover from something like this," said Harvey Mason, who has written and produced songs for Hudson and considers her a friend. "But she's a very strong person, and she's got a great heart, and I'm just sad something like this has had to enter into her life."

Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, were killed in the family's home in a homicide police have described as domestic in nature. Her sister Julia's seven-year-old son, Julian, was declared missing, along with a white truck taken from the scene.

On Monday, after a weekend of pleas from both Julia and Jennifer Hudson – who had offered $100,000 Sunday for information leading to the boy's safe return – police found the truck and the body of a 7-year-old child inside who they later said was Julian.

Police have been questioning William Balfour, the estranged husband of Julia Hudson who is in custody. Balfour is not the boy's father and has not been charged in the slayings.

Although Hudson has spoken out from her MySpace.com page, thanking fans for their support, she has been in seclusion in Chicago. All public events that she had scheduled over the next week or so have been cancelled, and a planned video shoot for her new single "If It Isn't Love," which was to take place starting Monday in Los Angeles, was also abandoned.

The triple homicide came as Hudson's career continued on the white-hot streak that began with her Oscar-winning role in the movie Dreamgirls. The singer had first come to prominence as a big-voiced finalist on American Idol in 2005, but floundered in her career.

Without a record deal and only no-name producers to work with, she even began to wonder if a music career was ever going to happen for her.

"After Idol, I didn't have a manager, I didn't have an agent, none of that," she said. "I just had random producers."

That all changed when she was cast in the movie adaptation of the classic Broadway musical. The movie's stars included Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, Beyonce and Eddie Murphy – but it was Hudson who stole scene after scene, and landed an Academy Award in 2007 for best supporting actress for the portrayal of the troubled singer Effie.

After that, Hudson also appeared in summer hit Sex and the City, and has a supporting role in the movie The Secret Life of Bees, in theatres now. Meanwhile, she was at work on her self-titled album, which debuted at No. 2 on the charts earlier this month and has spawned the hit single, "Spotlight."

In addition to those achievements, she also was selected to sing the national anthem before Barack Obama's historic acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August. She called the experience "the most overwhelming and meaningful thing to date that I've done." When asked if she was registered to vote, she laughed and said: "I'm registered definitely – my mom would have it no other way!"

Hudson was particularly close to her family, and members were usually on hand during the major milestones in her career, including her Oscar win.

"They came out for a lot of awards, things like that. The family was a very close knit family, as far as I can tell, all very sweet and supportive," said Mason, who recalled meeting her family and how proud Jennifer was to introduce them to people. "Jennifer's family seemed to be a big part of her support structure."

Mason has yet to speak with Hudson, but said he had extended his support and prayers, along with a host of other celebrity friends and supporters.

The songwriter and producer, who worked with Hudson on the Dreamgirls soundtrack and also her new album, said he'd never encountered a situation where a celebrity had endured such a tragedy, so he couldn't imagine how it might affect her career.

Hudson said last month that she didn't have a specific movie project in the works, and talks of a tour were preliminary – no dates have been set. A representative for her label, Arista Records, said it was too early to talk about how the tragedy might affect the promotion of her CD. The label released this statement of support: ``On behalf of the RCA Music Group and Arista Records, we send our deepest sympathies and condolences to Jennifer and her family during this difficult time."

"I think it could affect her career; It's going to take some time for her to get back on the road, back in promotion," said Mason. "She's definitely not going to feel like doing too much phone interviews, radio interviews. I just think it's going to take her a minute to recover, but as I said, she's a very strong person, and she's very talented. It's hard for me to guess how it would impact her in the long haul."

Jennifer Hudson's Nephew Missing After Slayings

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 25, 2008) CHICAGO–Authorities investigating the shooting deaths of Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother were searching for the missing seven-year-old nephew of the Oscar-winning actress.

A suspect in the deaths was in custody Friday night, but young Julian King had not been seen since the bodies of Darnell Donerson, 57, and Jason Hudson, 29, were found Friday afternoon.

A family member entering Donerson's south side home Friday afternoon found the woman shot on the living room floor. Officers later found Hudson shot in the bedroom, police said.

At least one of the victims suffered defensive wounds, said authorities who described the shooting as domestic violence.

William Balfour, a man suspected in the deaths, was arrested Friday but had not been charged, law enforcement sources told the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said investigators were talking to "a number of people in custody" but she declined to elaborate. An Amber Alert issued Friday said Balfour was a suspect in the double homicide.

Records from the Illinois Department of Corrections show Balfour, 27, is on parole and spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possessing a stolen vehicle. Public records show one of Balfour's addresses as the home where Donerson and Jason Hudson were shot.

The Cook County medical examiner's office said autopsies were being conducted Saturday morning, but results would not be available until later in the day.

Balfour's mother, Michele, said her son had been married to Hudson's sister, Julia, for several years, but they were separated. She also said Donerson had ordered him to move out of the family's home last winter.

Jennifer Hudson's personal publicist, Lisa Kasteler, said the family wanted privacy.

The tragedy comes as Hudson, who grew up in Chicago, continues to reach new heights in her career. Her song "Spotlight" is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts and her recently released, self-tiled debut album has been a top seller. She was featured in this year's blockbuster Sex and the City movie and is also starring in the hit film The Secret Life of Bees.

She won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2007 for her role in Dreamgirls. In an interview last year with Vogue, Hudson credited her mother with encouraging her to audition for American Idol, which launched her career.

The singer, whose father died when she was a teenager, described herself as very close to her family. In a recent AP interview she said her family, which includes older siblings Julia and Jason, helped keep her grounded.

"My faith in God and my family, they're very realistic and very normal, they're not into the whole limelight kind of thing, so when I go home to Chicago that's just another place that's home," she said. "I stand in line with everybody else, or, when I go home to my mom I'm just Jennifer, (so she says), 'You get up and you take care of your own stuff.' And I love that; I don't like when people tell you everything you want to hear, I want to hear the truth, you know what I mean."

Hudson recently announced her engagement to David Otunga, best known for his stint on VH1's reality show I Love New York.

With A New TV Show, Keshia Chanté Is Taking The Industry By Storm

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Lenny Stoute

(October, 2008) Keeping up with multi-talented Keshia Chanté would give the Energizer Bunny a heart attack. On a rare Sunday off in Toronto, after working the skies with trips to Halifax and Atlanta, Keshia is all Usain Bolt when it comes to talking about her upcoming TV project and album.

She's also become the face of Ontario Tourism and is launching her own diamond jewellery line — name TBA — with conflict-free diamond company Polar Bear Diamonds.

All that's falling in line behind
SOUL, a six part TV series in which she plays the lead role of 19-year-old gospel singer and rising star Mahalia Brown. The part was written specifically with Keshia in mind, and the creators lost no time in approaching her.

Not one to take anything for granted, she approached the gig with work ethic firmly in hand. "The creators approached me and I was drawn to the role right off," says Chanté. "I've done little acting things and I guess making a music video involves acting, but being the lead in a TV series is big. So just to make sure, I went through the whole audition process. I had to know I was ready to basically carry a TV series."

SOUL is no soft shoe of a series, either. Mahalia must learn to navigate her way safely through the worlds of the church, friends, R&B, gospel, gangs and music business hustlers. In the show's inner-city community, music and faith constantly clash, when they're not supporting each other. Then there's Mahalia, trying to reach out into the material world of pop-music success while keeping her faith-based identity intact.

"Once I got the part, I worked really hard at getting Mahalia. The hardest thing about getting into the part was knowing the character like the back of my hand and then maintaining consistency. The writers did an excellent job of creating her — the rest was up to me."

SOUL is loaded with colourful characters who are connected with Mahalia. There's dad, the preacher with a heart of heavenly gold, a wannabe record producer brother, a shady Koran-quoting gang leader, and a scheming R&B has-been. It's not surprising that Chanté was drawn to this young woman with a lot on her plate.

"When it comes to the parts where Mahalia is dealing with the music business, I can totally identify with all the tensions and decisions she faces. It helps that the cast are all very supportive. We're about a third of the way through the shoot. Every day I step on the set, I feel that I'm learning more."

And she definitely learns quickly. After parlaying her raw talent into success as one of Canada's most popular singers, Chanté navigated her way through the music industry and is now entrenched in several self-developed businesses.

"I'm still involved with Ford [Models], but right now my focus is on SOUL. Once the series wraps shooting, I'll be going back to Atlanta to work on my album, which is progressing really well. It'll show my singing at a new level."

Somewhere within her hectic schedule, Chanté has also managed to set the internet ablaze with talk of her stepping into the lead role of a biopic based on the life of music icon Aaliyah. Chanté is very secretive when word of the project comes up.

"I would love to play that role," she says. "I think she's great but I can't talk about it."

Watch SOUL on VisionTV coming in January 2009.

DJ Starting From Scratch tours With Mega Platinum-Selling Singer Usher!

Source: Sonya Bhatia, Publicist, Bhats PR

(October 29, 2008) TORONTO – Toronto 's own DJ Starting From Scratch tours with chart topping, R&B superstar Usher on his upcoming North American “One Night Stand” tour. The tour kicks off this Sunday, November 2, 2008 in  Atlantic City ,  NJ . DJ Starting from Scratch will accompany Usher to 15 cities across the  US and Toronto , as his official tour DJ. The tour will make one stop in  Toronto ,  Canada on Saturday, November 8th.
“I have been blessed to tour with one of the world’s greatest comedians, Russell Peters, and now to work with one of the world’s greatest music artists. This is a true blessing,” mentions DJ Starting From Scratch.
DJ Starting from Scratch's reputation brings exclusive partnerships with some of the hottest celebrities around. Working with a variety of A list celebrities, including, Lil X, Russell Simmons, the legendary Buju Banton and Russell Peters, the mix magician is branching out and exposing his talent to new listeners performing across the world.
While in  Toronto , DJ Starting from Scratch will hold his annual birthday soiree on Saturday, November 8th at Solarium, Polson Pier. Hosted by RG and Kid-Kut and music by Jester, D’Bandit, Payce, SPEX & Little Thunder, the always sold-out event brings another exclusive event to the city that will be one to remember.
Taking his stage name from a children’s TV special, DJ Starting from Scratch has lent his child-like delight of the music to audiences from  Acapulco to  Germany and  Canada since he began 19 years ago in high school. Listing influences like Kid Capri and Jazzy Jeff, DJ Starting From Scratch was part of the launch team of  Canada ’s only urban radio station, and now CHR-Rhythmic station, the New Flow 93.5.
For more information visit www.myspace.com/startingfromscratchent.
Check out DJ Starting from Scratch Monday night’s from 10 PM – 2 AM live on www.global-radio.com  and on the new FLOW 93.5 weekdays at 5PM and 7PM every weekday, www.flow935.com.

USHER – One Night Stand Tour dates:
Nov 2, 2008 8:00 PM - The  Borgata  Event  Center ,  Atlantic City ,  New Jersey
Nov 3, 2008 8:00 PM -  Hammerstein ,  New York ,  New York
Nov 4, 2008 8:00 PM -  Warner  Theatre ,  Washington ,  D.C. ,  Washington  DC
Nov 5, 2008 8:00 PM - Electric Factory,  Philadelphia ,  Pennsylvania
Nov 7, 2008 8:00 PM - MGM Grand,  Mashantucket ,  Connecticut
Nov 8, 2008 8:00 PM - Kool Haus,  Toronto
Nov 10, 2008 8:00 PM - Tabernacle,  Atlanta ,  Georgia
Nov 12, 2008 8:00 PM - The Fillmore Detroit ,  Detroit ,  Michigan
Nov 13, 2008 8:00 PM - House of Blues,  Chicago ,  Illinois
Nov 18, 2008 8:00 PM - Warfield Theater,  San Francisco ,  California
Nov 19, 2008 8:00 PM - Club Nokia L.A.,  Los Angeles ,  California
Nov 20, 2008 8:00 PM - Club Nokia L.A.,  Los Angeles ,  California
Nov 21, 2008 8:00 PM - The  Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort ,  Las Vegas ,  Nevada
Nov 24, 2008 8:00 PM - House of Blues,  Houston ,  Texas
Nov 25, 2008 8:00 PM - House of Blues,  Dallas ,  Texas

Hard Times Made Raptor O’Neal A Family Man

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

(October 29, 2008) It was the watershed moment of Jermaine O'Neal's life, the minute he changed from boy to man.

He had grown up with a mom and a grandmother and a brother but no father and when his own daughter was born, he vowed then that things would be different.

They had to be. Others depended on him now.

"Me having my daughter at 20 years old really put me at another level," the 30-year-old Raptors centre says. "All of a sudden, it wasn't about me any more. It was all about her and raising her and making sure that Daddy does the right things and Daddy makes her proud so that when she looks back 10, 15 years from now, she can be proud of what her Daddy did and accomplished and made for her and her kids and her brother.

"To me, I really stopped thinking about myself and had to really grow up in a quick way."

O'Neal has nothing but love and respect for the women who raised him ("My mother, who was able to be the mother and the father") but he knows something was missing. It won't be missing in his family.

"As a father now, I understand some of the things I missed growing up because I didn't have my father and I try to do those things," he says. "I try to raise my kids exactly how I wanted to be raised. That's being caring, being there for them no matter what.

"If I'm on the road, I call my daughter every single day, ask what she learned at school, how did school go? I even talk to my little boy and he doesn't even know how to talk, he just knows that dada's on the phone."

Those are conversations O'Neal never got to have with his father, who abandoned two sons and their mother before Jermaine was born. They were in contact once, when it became apparent a teenaged O'Neal was destined for basketball greatness – and riches – but they've never spoken again.

"I think having a man in a kid's life is a different part that I think kids need," he says. "You see so many situations where kids are raised by only their mother or only by their father and they're kind of missing a little bit."

O'Neal arrives in Toronto having lived through more defining moments in his 30 years than some do in 60, each contributing to the man, the father, the person he's become.

It is a litany of events that could have destroyed a lesser man.

As a 17-year-old, he was charged with second-degree assault (a charged expunged after he completed a community service program) when the father of his 15-year-old girlfriend (then underage) found them together.

He was with his mom, doing some Christmas shopping one day, when they returned to his Indianapolis home to find the body of his stepfather, who had tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. "That was probably the hardest time of my life," he says of a life full of hard times.

But if there is one thing O'Neal will be remembered for, it is his part in a brawl between his Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in 2004.

He was suspended 25 games for his role, a sentence reduced to 15 games when he appealed – one in a series of hearings and court cases he won without a loss in the aftermath of that incident. But no matter what he won or how much the league reduced his suspension, the stigma of that night follows him.

"That was the toughest issue I had with the whole Detroit issue. Not only did I have to explain it to the people I mentor to at the Boys and Girls Clubs and so many different community centres but I had to go home and tell my daughter why Daddy was home," he says. "Those are situations, right or wrong, that you regret."

The injuries that have limited O'Neal to just 162 games over the last three seasons have delivered a blow to what had been an excellent career through his first eight years in the league.

He is seen in some circles as damaged goods now that he's in Toronto, no longer regarded as one of the best big men in the league. Forgotten are the seven times he was in the top 10 in the NBA in blocked shots and few recall that he was third in voting for MVP in 2003-04. Now he's seen as a complementary player to Chris Bosh, someone with something to prove instead of someone to be feared.

The brawl? The brawl has diminished a career of exemplary off-court behaviour. Twice he's won NBA Community Assist awards, an in-house honour that goes to players heavily involved in off-court good works. In 2004, he was named the winner of the Magic Johnson Award, handed out by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player voted most co-operative with the media.

"My mother and grandmother always taught me to be cordial to people and she always told me, no matter what you learn, no matter what you do in life, always remember the No. 1 rule is always treat people exactly how you want to be treated," he says. "I try to treat people with a lot of respect. A lot of people wonder why I always stop to speak to people, sign autographs, stuff like that. ... It's been part of me."

O'Neal has many more years to go in life, and they will bring with them good times and bad. He will be tested again; he will be prepared.

"If you don't have a lot of trials and tribulations, then it doesn't build any character," he says. "Your character is built not in the good times, it's built through all the tough times and I'm extremely, extremely familiar with trials and tribulations."


U.S. Presidential Election - Hype or Real Change?

I am far from an intellectual.  I am not a political strategist.  I am far from being someone that could begin to understand all the political implications of not only our Canadian national elections but any national election.  But I am a human looking for our world to be a better place.  The choices that Americans make undoubtedly affect the world globally.  Sometimes in an election campaign, it's difficult to tell the truth from falsehoods, from knowing what choices are right , decent and timely for a country.  What would those choices bring to our everyday life?

I even debated writing anything about the U.S. Presidential election as I strive to emphasis Canadian stories, Canadian talent ... those Canadians that inspire us to be better people.  I didn't want to get caught up in the U.S. hype and their political machine.

But, on the cusp of the U.S. election next week, I feel compelled to write a little of the journey I've experienced while encountering the never-ending barrage of media coverage of this upcoming U.S. election - and front and centre is Barack Obama.  Was this simply naive support for a Black Presidential candidate?

I took a little survey among some Caribbean Canadians I know personally and whose opinions I hold in high regard.  To see their excitement and outright gushing support of Sen. Obama was almost overwhelming.  These were educated, professional and everyday people.  I was moved by their unwavering support so I had to investigate further.

The fact that Obama has even made it this far in a national race for presidency is undeniably historical.  But that wasn't enough for me.  I was hungry for a message, of an 'about-face and think outside the box' type of approach to considering life outside the world of politics. 

What turned a corner for me was seeing Barack Obama speak.  About himself, about his imperfections, about real life issues.  And the statement that "I will not be a perfect President."  Raised by a single Mom who only had contact once for a period of a month with his father, his life personifies one that is relatable to so many.  He profiles everyday Americans with real and immediate problems. 

I felt the stirrings that people in the 60s must have felt when they heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak.  A weighty comparison, I'm aware - but I felt it.  Something real with integrity.  A message that would send me running to the voting booth.  It's been a long time.

I've heard it in the U.S. Presidential political candidate of Barack Obama.  Who's to say what next week's election results will bring?  But I know one thing - my vote would be for change and for the change that Obama speaks of with accountability, direction and heartfelt conviction. 

And that's just my opinion ...


The Ultimate Petting Zoo

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Stephanie Nolen

(October 25, 2008) OKAVANGO DELTA, BOTSWANA — My son saw his first elephant from the
window of a tiny Cessna as we flew over the gleaming swamps of a delta: They were bulky shapes standing hip-deep (elephant-hip) in the water, patches of their skin blotched dark with cooling mud.

He saw his second elephant as we took a small power boat from the dirt airstrip where the Cessna had left us to the luxury tented camp where we would stay: There was a whole herd of them, in fact, massive bulls, tiny babes and irritated, protective mamas, drinking at the edge of the swamp grass in the shade of leadwood trees.

He saw his third elephant the next morning when he woke: The efelant, as he calls them, was a metre outside the mesh wall of our tent, loudly demolishing a tree, picking up jackalberry fruit berry by berry with its prehensile trunk tip. We sat and watched in petrified glee, close enough to see the efelant's eyelashes flutter.

By the next afternoon, when I realized a long-time dream to see elephants swimming in the waters of the Okavango Delta, my two-year-old son was over elephants. He wanted hippos. Maybe a lion.

The delta has all of these (soon a family of curious hippos would drown out our breakfast conversation with their harrumphing), but for me it was all about the elephants. They are abundant in the 16,800 square kilometres of the Okavango, and, unlike most other animals, they wade merrily through the reeds, making a slush, slush, slush sound like an overfilled washing machine as they go.

I have had the opportunity to learn a fair bit about elephants in five years as The Globe and Mail's Africa correspondent and have grown only more fascinated. I am also fortunate enough to live within a couple of hours' drive of some easily accessible elephant viewing.

The Okavango Delta, on the other hand, is about as inaccessible as it gets. But nothing compares to seeing the elephants here.

The Okavango is the world's largest inland delta. It begins high in the hills of central Angola as a river that flows south, cuts across the corner of Namibia and, not long after it rushes into Botswana, widens into thousands of channels and streams — like the wrist, then palm, then fingers of an outstretched hand, as one delta native described it to me — before draining into the sands of the Kalahari Desert.

The delta is an ever-changing terrain. It inundates in the rainy season — islands disappearing and re-emerging, the growth of vegetation blocking some channels and opening others. The landscape is a mix of woodland, savannah grasses and acacia trees, and watery areas, much of which are lined with high stands of bright green papyrus or lower swamp grass. It looks like nowhere else on Earth.

The delta is navigable only by canoe. The indigenous people of the area travel thousands of kilometres in mekoro, traditional dugouts. Mekoro are propelled by poles and they glide through the swamp grasses with a hushing sound.

It would be smoother and faster to travel on the open water than in the weeds, but those areas are kept clear by hippo traffic, and the last thing you want to do is encounter a hippo when you're shoulder-high in papyrus. A beauty queen on honeymoon in the delta did just that not long after I moved to Africa, and she did not live to tell the tale.

In addition to heaps of hippos, the Okavango is home to all classic African beasts — lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras, buffalo — plus some that are found only in swamps like these, such as the red lechwe, an antelope that has natural waterproofing on its legs and spends most of its life knee-deep in marsh, the better to avoid the water-loathing lions, which are its main predator. Most of the animals, other than lechwe, giraffes and elephants, are difficult to spot from the water; however, many delta lodges are positioned so that guests can do both mekoro trips and game drives on nearby patches of dry land.

But it is the water — the thousands of twisting, turning channels heading off in all directions, the carpet of lilies and the spectrum of greens in the grasses and weeds — that make this place magic. So we headed for a water camp called Xaranna, which sits on a permanent channel, its luxurious tents set so close to the edge that the hippos, whose mothers apparently never told them to chew with their mouths closed, can keep you awake for hours when they emerge after nightfall for their feed of grass.

When we arrived, the boat delivering us to Xaranna's low wood jetty pulled up as beaming staff sang a Setswana welcome song. We were then ushered into the main tent, its sides open to the delta all around, and onto vast green couches.

Xaranna is fantastically, whimsically decorated on the theme of the delta's water lilies, in pinks and greens and creams. Curving horns from greater kudu antelopes are painted cerise and sage and twined together like bouquets in huge glass vases. Carved wooden hippos, plump and painted white, are placed strategically to serve as tables.

We were soon escorted down a winding path to our tent, which had wood floors, a huge tub, the de rigueur outdoor shower looking over the delta and an outdoor sala, or deck, with another vast green couch and a sublime bed with a green felt throw dyed in watery patterns.

And, of course, there was our almost-resident elephant, which sometimes kept us trapped inside when it parked outside the door to munch — we would call a ranger to come from the main area to escort us carefully past it.

Most often, we were ambling toward the main tent, where fantastic meals, all the more improbable for being created in the middle of nowhere, were served by lantern light, with pink linen napkins, green embroidered table runners and chubby, wee hippo carvings in the centre of each setting.

Xaranna has an embarrassment of excellent staff. Our butler, Oscar Xhao, was forever stepping forward with champagne in one hand and some new distraction (such as a wind-up crocodile) for my son in the other. And the lodge is operated by Conservation Corporation Africa, a company known for the quality of its rangers: Absurdly knowledgeable, easy-going, with a passionate determination to ensure every wish is met, they make the trip.

I told Christopher Hange and Phetogo Bagosi, the pair assigned to us, that I had always dreamed of seeing elephants swim, and on our second day they delivered, and then went on delivering for the rest of our stay.

They were as excited about my excitement as I was about the elephants. Most of the staff are delta people, and they have a huge pride in the region; Phetogo told me childhood stories, as we poled along in the mokoro, of travelling for weeks with his parents as they traded along the delta waterways, raising money so he could go to school.

I went to the Okavango for the elephants, but in the end it was humbler creatures that intrigued me most.

Phetogo taught me how to pull up a water lily, remove the flower and drink through the stem — an effective natural water purifier. He showed me the silvery, empty husk of a dragonfly pupa, stuck on a reed, and the holes in lily pads made by jacanas, wading birds that stab them with their beaks to look for the midge larvae clinging underneath.

Sitting in the mokoro, grass on either side above my head, I couldn't see the animals, but the rangers showed me how to listen for them for the shh-shh-splash of the red lechwe moving nearby, and the whush, whush, whush of an elephant wading from island to island.

I was daydreaming in the front of the canoe one afternoon when three drops of cold delta water hit my shoulder — dripping off a pole proffered from the back of the mokoro. Hung on the end was a necklace.

A ranger named Gently Molaeimang, who had taken me out for a quick canoe, had pulled a water lily from the swamp, somehow separated its stem into two skeins, snapping but not quite breaking the skin at perfect intervals so the single strand of stem became a chain of "beads," leading to the cream lily, its petals tinged with pink.

"It's a delta necklace," Gently said, gently. "My mama taught me how to make it."

The trip was full of magic moments like these. That afternoon, we saw a herd of lechwe take fright and leap through the water, sending perfect scallops of spray up behind them in the sunlight. Gently showed me how to catch the tiny reed frogs, and hold them for a moment to admire their kinetic colours — chartreuse with gold feet, or black-and-white polka-dot with fuchsia feet, each frog no bigger than my thumbnail.

The next day, we poled out to an island (made of termite mounds and elephant droppings, hardened through the years into tree-covered land) for cocktails at sunset. Christopher assured me it was a favourite fishing spot, and as dusk fell fish began to jump around the boat. Then the birds flocked in. Malachite kingfisher dove like kamikazes all around us, so fast and close it was unnerving. Metre-high saddle-billed storks, with their crimson legs and beaks, stalked past, ignoring us, intent on dinner. Two giant African fish eagles perched in the tree above, giving their eerie, disjointed call.

And, of course, there were my swimming elephants. They cross the channels continuously in their perpetual hunt for food (they spend 18 hours of each day eating), and take a cooling dip each evening. Late one afternoon, we came across two young bulls in a dominance battle, neck- deep in the delta.

We sat in the boat and watched from 20 metres away as they reared and crashed and leaned against each other, until one managed to push the other one under for a moment and make its point. Then it turned its back and dog-paddled (elephant-paddled?) across the deep water, wading out on shore with water streaming off its vast hide.

Somewhere in the middle of the elephant wrestle, my son, bored with elephants, glutted on boats and canoes and hippos and big hairy spiders, fell quietly asleep in my lap.



The starting point for virtually all delta trips is the northern Botswana town of Maun. It is best reached through Johannesburg, the hub for southern Africa. There are direct flights on Air Botswana (www.airbotswana.co.bw), but many itineraries inexplicably route through the Botswanan capital, Gabarone, which can turn the two-hour flight into a whole-day trip, so avoid those.

From Maun, most trips continue with a charter flight ($550 to $700 a person), which your lodge will usually book for you. There is not much to see in Maun itself, although if you are not visiting anywhere else in Africa, it might be worth a quick stopover just to see how people (and not just lions) live.


From the moment you land in Maun until you are delivered, blissed out, back to the airstrip days later, everything will be arranged by your lodge. Almost all stays are all-inclusive, and you plan your itinerary — game drives, fishing, sundowners on an island — with your personal ranger when you arrive.


The only way to do this trip on a budget is to drive and stay in one of a handful of camping sites. But that can mean a trip from Gabarone or even Johannesburg, depending on where you find a vehicle and gear to rent. And of course there's the small matter of the Kalahari to be traversed, so unless you have months to spend planning and then driving, be prepared to splash out.

One good way to control costs is to book with Dumela Botswana (www.dumelabotswana.com). The Internet-based local company — Dumela is Setswana for "Hello" — offers good-value trips at prices that beat most of the competition.

The South African company Bundu Safaris (www.bundusafaris.com) also has a Botswana trip that includes a couple of days in the delta. Oddballs Camp, which has regular domed tents rather than claw-foot bathtubs and zillion-thread-count sheets, runs about $750 a person a night — a reasonable rate compared with upscale lodges. Their rates also include the return charter flight from Maun.


Wilderness Safaris (www.wilderness-safaris.com) operates several high-end properties in the delta, including Jao Camp, which earns raves from its visitors. At Jao, staff will take you out to the delta to sleep under the stars, with just your mosquito net (and a discreetly posted ranger with a gun) between you and the beasties for about $1,500 a night.

Xaranna Camp is operated by Conservation Corporation Africa (www.ccafrica.com; 888-882-3742), one of the few operators that accept children on their properties. They are known for putting a premium on skills transfer to staff. Rates are $1,400 a person a night and include all meals, drinks and gratuities. The lodge is a 20-minute flight from Maun and will soon have 14 tents available. The camp's sister property, Xudum, has less of a whimsical quality and offers more land-based activities.


Canadians can obtain free visas for Botswana when they land.


The delta is a malaria area and while lodges provide mosquito nets and spray, it is advisable to take prophylaxis as well.


Charter planes are tiny, so luggage is restricted to 10 kilograms and must be in a soft-sided bag that can be squished into corners of the plane. As for what to pack, bring light-coloured, lightweight, layerable clothing and sturdy shoes for day. For evenings, when the temperature can drop dramatically, bring a warm fleece or sweater.


For more information on Botswana or on Chobe National Park, visit www.botswanatourism.co.bw.


Master T - Toronto Music Icon Still In Da Mix

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Andrew Chin

(October, 2008) If you're expecting former MuchMusic VJ Tony "Master T" Young to come back to television to host an urban show and interview Lil Wayne, think again. Young isn't interested in the à la carte programming that has taken over the airwaves since his own show, Da Mix, signed off for good in 2001. While in its heyday, Da Mix encouraged community involvement and representation. Today, Young sees a void in those areas for the black community.

"The community doesn't have a connection anymore. It saddens me because we don't have that experience. And I'm not praising myself for being the only connection. It's sad that when I left, that was one of the things that we lost," Young reveals.

During his 11-year run as the host of Da Mix, Young was adamant about providing quality programming for his audience. Back then, it was routine for Young and his wife Paula to spend hours in MuchMusic's video library searching for quality videos to entertain viewers. Young was onto something big when he recognized the void in the Canadian television landscape: no one had intelligent programming covering the then-budding urban music scene. When Da Mix hit the airwaves in 1990, music fans hungry for black music ate the show up.

"People in their thirties or forties were watching MuchMusic religiously. Da Mix became a connection for family," says Young. "It became a real connection for us in the community and that's how people relate to me, even to this day."

Although Da Mix has been off the air for almost seven years, Young still enjoys a massive grassroots following and fans constantly stop him in the street to give him props for bringing urban talent and black music to the forefront. Young continues to address the lack of positive black TV through his own company, Esor Productions Inc. The husband-and-wife-run entity is currently producing a series of pilots and documentaries to address the needs of the black community, by searching for a suitable network to launch a variety of shows including: Kiddie Jam, Every Ting Reggae, Connexx and FebonOpus.

And though many people point to Black Entertainment Television (BET) as an option for black Canadians, Young has yet to see BET programming that he's willing to embrace. "I would love to see the content change. I think BET is all about hits. For me to sit here and bash BET, I don't think it's worth it. I think they could provide much more for the black community."

Young looks forward to once again filling the void that exists in Canada's TV landscape. Unafraid to take on reality TV, generic music shows and unintelligent programming, Young once again sees his point of impact.

"Not everybody wants to see programs like that. People still want content Ñ some meat and potatoes. For a lot of people that's what's missing. "

Toronto Promoters Play What They Want — Even If It Isn't Top 40

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Jeff Roulston

(October, 2008) An idea can come from anywhere, a truth to which Toronto party promoter Ian Espinet can attest. Sitting around with Toronto DJ Starting From Scratch in the late '90s over apple juice and a doughnut, Espinet asked why club DJs always seem to play the same songs.

"Scratch said: ‘Whatever the new song is in the club right now, that's the only song that plays,'" Espinet recalls. "So I said, ‘I think we should do a party where we play all old music.'"

Espinet named his party Amnesia because it featured classic songs that had been "forgotten." With DJs Starting From Scratch and Jason Chambers on the bill, the inaugural party attracted 200 of their friends, packing the tiny Granite Lounge until 6am. Nine years later, Amnesia is bigger than ever, featuring performances by '80s and '90s superstars, and attracting up to 3,000 partygoers at T.O.'s biggest club venues.

The Amnesia founder didn't mean to start a trend, but eventually other promoters strayed from the weekly urban-jam format to try new things as well.

Meanwhile, Espinet has since expanded his work to include more brands — such as the R&B-infused Soul Kitchen and the B-Boy Document hip-hop party.

"All of the parties I've done, I've done because I felt like something was missing," says Espinet. "And people feel the same way."

People like Neijah Sampson and Harold Uyguangco felt that way, too, so they came up with the More parties. In the last year they've hosted the events More Atlanta, More Soulquarians, More Brooklyn, More Remixes and More Divas to combat the staleness of club music.

"DJs are too scared to play songs that they know in their heart are heat," Sampson says. "They're too used to people reacting to top 40."

That's why at More Brooklyn you're liable to hear favourites from Biggie's "Hypnotize" to the Cocoa Brovaz' "Black Trump." "It's like, why not, right?" Sampson laughs.

Besides being different, Uyguangco attributes the More parties' success to the chemistry between the two DJs: Agile of the Juno-nominated hip-hop group Brassmunk and Boogeyme'n of Flow 93.5FM fame.

"They actually inspire each other with their sets," says Uyguangco. "If Agile rips it, Boogeyme'n gets excited and wants to rip it more. It's a friendly competition that the crowd definitely enjoys."

The crowd at the monthly Sole Fresh Soul Clean party enjoys the music, too, but all the funky fashions and colourful kicks in the room hint that promoter K. Spexx Jordan and DJ Future The Prince have a different focus: style. Along with the group at Knocturnal Entertainment and Won-by-One Entertainment, the entrepreneurs behind the Nostalgia, Elevated and Tribute parties, Jordan and Future are part of a wave of young promoters who are known even more for the vibe they create and the clientele they attract than the music they play.

Espinet has become a mentor to Future, and says he and Jordan are true to the game. He believes that while the same lack of innovation that has plagued hip-hop has spread into event promotions, the Sole Fresh Soul Clean founders are originals.

"They're pushing it in their own way," says Espinet. "They're not saying this is the way it has always been done, so we have to do it this way, too. They're coming up with their own way of doing things and that's what Toronto's clubs really need."

Ron Sexsmith Feeling Lucky, Well, Sort Of

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

(October 23, 2008) When Ron Sexsmith was an unknown songwriter, supporting his art with a day job as a courier, he'd often walk, laden with packages, past Massey Hall and dream of playing there.

"I used to size it up and think, `I can get this if I'm patient,'" the St. Catharines-born artist said a couple of days ago, on the phone from a sound check in Peterborough. It was one of a handful of stops on the southern Ontario leg of the North American tour that's bringing his latest recorded work, Exit Strategy of the Soul, to the faithful.

Tonight's show will be his third time headlining at Massey, and you'd think he'd be happy with what would be a landmark in any artist's life.

But despite the joyful and astonishingly uplifting songs on Exit Strategy – which features stunning contributions from an ensemble of Cuban horn players, recorded in Havana – Sexsmith is a humble and worried guy.

He's always making up ground he thinks he lost by having started on his music career late, in his early 30s (he's now 44), he has admitted in the past. He never takes anything for granted, and his successes are always tinged with glass-is-half-empty panic.

"It's a big room, a bit big for me," he said of Massey's tiered rows of nearly 3,000 seats. "I always worry I'm not going to fill it."

But then he worries about that wherever he plays.

"I have a cult following, not a huge number, but big enough to keep me alive and doing what I love.

"I never feel secure about my ability to draw a crowd. I'm always grateful when anyone shows up. Because I got in the door later than most musicians, I've never been in a position to expect a sell-out. Sometimes it's frustrating."

Sexsmith is fortunate to have a potent measure of peer respect and radio resonance. His first few albums got enough airplay – while commercial radio still had some self-respect and independence in its programming processes – to have secured him a small and reasonably comfortable place in the collective memory.

But unlike radio stars of the 1970s and '80s, who are now racking up millions in ticket sales on the strength of their audiences' powerful nostalgic impulses, Sexsmith has no guarantees that his base is strong enough to support him indefinitely. Like other artists in the post-digital world, he lives from album to album, on the road, bereft of mainstream airplay, and counting CD sales receipts after every show.

"No one's selling records like they used to," he said. "I'm not complaining ... I can take care of my two households (one with two kids from a former relationship). I think about how many great songwriters there are who'd love to be where I am. In general I feel ... lucky."

Sexsmith might find some solace in the knowledge that he is close to being the poster child of the revamped CBC Radio 2, having recently undergone a controversial shift from mostly classical music to a primary focus on contemporary Canadian songwriters.

He's also one of Radio 2 Drive host Rich Terfry's favourite songwriters, and his work is played and referenced regularly in the primetime weekday afternoon show.

But even this small quantum of fame and succour came with a sour aftertaste.

"I don't listen to radio very much, so I didn't think about the classical music fans when I gave CBC my endorsement," Sexsmith said.

"Then I started getting all these angry emails from people who seemed to think I was taking away their classical music station. I was getting the blame. I felt really uncomfortable about it.

"The CBC has always been really good to me, and I'm a real fan of Rich's work as (rapper) Buck 65, but I don't like it when people get mad at me."

Sexsmith is only really comfortable when he's on stage.

"I always have a good time when I'm playing," he said. "And on this tour I have a great band with a full horn section and a full string section. And at Massey two of my favourite songwriters – Lori Cullen and Meaghan Smith – are opening."

Of the soulful addition of Havana brass to Exit Strategy, the songwriter said he was startled at recording sessions in London by producer Martin Terefe's sudden desire to take their unfinished work to Cuba.

"I was sceptical, to say the least," Sexsmith said. "It caught me by surprise. I was thinking of a stripped-down voice-and-piano album, and Martin heard a much bigger thing. There's nothing vaguely Cuban about what I do, but he has worked there before with (Vancouver guitarist and songwriter) Alex Cuba, and he knew the right musicians.

"He was right, of course. The Cuban horns gave the songs a completely new character. The experience made me more relaxed and confident.

"Sometimes I think too much."

Just the facts
WHO: Ron Sexsmith with Lori Cullen and Meaghan Smith opening

WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Massey Hall, Victoria St.

and Shuter St.

TICKETS: $29.50 to $49.50 at

masseyhall.com or 416-872-4255

Motown Legends Mourn Four Tops' Stubbs

Source:   www.thestar.com - Corey Williams,
The Associated Press

(October 27, 2008) DETROIT – A man called by some in the Motown family the "greatest lead singer" ever has been laid to rest in the city where he and three friends harmonized their way to stardom.

Funeral services were held Monday in Detroit for legendary Four Tops frontman
Levi Stubbs whose stirring baritone voice made the group one of the most recognizable in American music during the 1960s and parts of the 1970s.

"He made us walk in his shoes, felt what he felt and loved what he loved," Berry Gordy Jr. patriarch of Motown Records told hundreds of Stubb's family, friends and fans at Greater Grace Temple. "He not only sang the song, he was the song.

"A Levi Stubbs comes along only once – period."

Stubbs died in his sleep Oct. 17 at his Detroit home. He was 72.

For more than 40 years, Stubbs performed with Abdul "Duke'' Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Renaldo Benson. Songs like ``Bernadette,'' "It's the Same Old Song," and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" were among the assembly line of hits they churned out.

Stubbs' death leaves Fakir as the lone surviving member of the original group. Payton died of liver cancer in 1997. Benson died of lung cancer in 2005.

Stubbs will continue to live on through the group's songs, said friend and Motown legend Smokey Robinson.

"He will always be here," Robinson said. "You're going to turn on the radio and hear him tomorrow. He made his mark on the world. All over the world, you'll be able to hear Levi Stubbs forever.''

The Four Tops were an established group before joining Gordy's Motown in 1963. They blossomed with the writing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, going on to sell millions of records.

In 1964, they hit the charts with "Baby I Need Your Loving,'' and followed that up with "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).''

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.

A number of former Motown singers and writers attended Monday's services. Two resolutions honouring Stubbs and the Four Tops also were read. One named Stubbs' June 6 birthday as "Levi Stubbs Day'' in Detroit.

"He stayed in Detroit," Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said. "He could have gone anywhere, but he stayed with his wife, stayed with his group, stayed with the Four Tops.''

That longevity and dedication to one another makes the Four Tops ``a great family story of our times," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said during remarks at the funeral service.

"He resisted the temptation to become Levi and the Three Tops," Jackson said of Stubbs.

"You just do not find an Aretha Franklin. You don't find a Marvin Gaye. You don't find a Smokey Robinson. You don't find a Levi Stubbs. They don't come in bunches like grapes. They are rare pearls.''

Anthony Hamilton Comes Out To 'Play'


(October 23, 2008) *Anthony Hamilton will hit the road next month for a national tour to promote his new album, "The Point Of It All," which is due for release on Dec. 2.

The "Playin' It Cool" tour, which kicks off in Chicago, IL on Nov. 5, gets its name from the album's first single "Cool" featuring David Banner.

"The Point Of It All" contains a wide range of soul-infused music with Hamilton co-writing the entire album and co-producing on the album as well with his longtime collaborators, producer/songwriter Mark Batson and Kelvin Wooten. Other producers on the album include The Avila Brothers and Jack Splash.

Most recently, Hamilton made his big-screen debut performing his hit single "Do You Feel Me," in the Oscar-nominated "American Gangster" movie. He will also have a track in the upcoming film and soundtrack "Soul Men" starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac.

The "Playin' It Cool" tour dates are as follows:

Insite Concert Cancelled

www.globeandmail.com - Greg Joyce, The Canadian Press

(October 24, 2008) VANCOUVER — A free concert by Canadian group Bedouin Soundclash in front of Vancouver's supervised injection site was cancelled Thursday night before a single chord was played.

The concert had been scheduled to take place in front of Insite — the supervised injection site — on East Hastings in Vancouver's grimy Downtown Eastside.

The site operates under a federal drug law exemption and allows addicts to inject heroin under supervision. But it has also come under intense criticism from the federal government, which has indicated it wants to shut it down.

The concert by the Kingston, Ont., based band was to show support for the facility.

A police spokeswoman said Insite officials did not get a permit for the concert and city crews began dismantling the stage in the early evening, backed up city police.

Hundreds of people milled around the area and more than two dozen police officers blocked traffic and kept the crowd in control until most people dispersed about 7 p.m.

Vancouver city police Constable Jana McGuinness said organizers had requested a permit earlier in the day but it was denied by the city under a traffic bylaw.

She said the city had concerns about traffic safety since Insite fronts onto East Hastings, a busy thoroughfare in the Downtown Eastside.

When the city showed up to remove the stage, Const. McGuinness said police came to assist.

She said police had offered organizers a chance to set up the stage around the corner on a less busy street.

“They did not wish to take us up on the offer of that street closure.”

She also said the band decided not to play when it realized there was no permit.

“There were a lot of people milling about, some tension in the crowd, so our officers were there assisted by some of our crowd control members.”

But Jay Malinowksi, Bedouin vocalist and guitarist, said the band wanted to play but couldn't.

He described the mostly peaceful scene as “one of the most violent responses to a free outdoor acoustic show to build awareness for a program that is under fire right now.”

“I want to build awareness for a program that is forward thinking and progressive.”

He said there were “kids outside and they just want to hear some music and maybe they've come from another side of town and they haven't seen this problem.”

Despite the unhappiness of some of the crowd, there was a bit of a festive atmosphere as other people served up hamburgers to some of the area's needy people.

Between Salsa And Pop, Bio Ritmo Stake A Claim

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Entertainment Reporter

(October 23, 2008) There's a deep valley between the rival fortresses of traditional salsa and contemporary Latin pop – territory that Richmond, Va.-based Bio Ritmo claims as its very own.

The nine-member band hails from the early '90s, when its founders were barely out of their teens. With seven albums now under their collective belts, the sound is as sophisticated as it is fun.

What we think of as traditional salsa is a stew of dance rhythms from Cuba and Puerto Rico born in New York City in the late '60s and early '70s. The traditional sounds blend steady percussion with solo voices answered by short choruses and spiky blasts of trumpet and trombone.

Bio Ritmo goes well beyond this basic mix, while remaining true to it. They'll show us how at Lula Lounge tomorrow night, as they tour their new album Bionico.

The group travels the old-fashioned way, with a van and a U-Haul, hitting towns large and small across North America.

"Everyone's like family," says Bio Ritmo pianist Marlysse Simmons over her cell phone, surrounded by her bandmates on the road to Chicago last week.

"Right now, it feels pretty good, but ask me again in about two weeks, and I may want to scream," she laughs.

Simmons barely knew what she was getting into when she auditioned to replace the band's original piano player six years ago. She had 20 years of classical piano lessons in her fingers, as well as a love of Brazilian bossa nova (which she performs as Magrela Rose).

But she hasn't looked back, becoming one of Bio Ritmo's creative influences. Lead force, vocalist Rei Alvarez, credits her for being the inspiration for the Six Million Dollar Man theme found on the new album's "Bionic Boogaloo."

"I was playing this little riff during a sound check," recalls Simmons. "Rei – and he has done this many times – said, oh, let's use this somewhere, let's make a song out of that."

The piano player says a lot of the band's songs come out of small ideas that the group then develops during rehearsals.

"The lyrics are always Rei's," says Simmons, "but it's the whole band that will complete it ... It can be a tedious process."

The results are anything but.

There's a 10th, untitled track on the new album that probably says more about the joys of unbridled creativity than any Latin-music disc on the market right now. The 5 1/2-minute paean to stream-of-consciousness jamming starts off as an off-the-rocker tribute to the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun," taking us through scat, art pop and even reggae along its mad trajectory.

Yet the salsa roots never really vanish. That's what you want when there is a dance floor nearby.

Just the facts
WHO: Bio Ritmo

WHERE: Lula Lounge,

1585 Dundas St. W.

WHEN: Tomorrow. Doors at 7 p.m. Show at 10 p.m.

TICKETS: $15 at 416-588-0307 or lula.ca ($54 for dinner, dance lesson & show combo.)

Meet Jazz Singer Barbara King

Source: Sandra Trim DaCosta / stdcgtd@hotmail.com

(October 23, 2008) Barbara King's dusky, Sarah Vaughan-like qualities mark her as a talent to watch. -- Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times

*Reigniting tradition is what Barbara King is all about. This Brooklyn, New York native is lighting the path for a new generation of fans by advancing the confluence of jazz and inspirational music. 

Barbara's noteworthy performances of popular standards and a vast selection of original compositions have earned her critical acclaim. This acclaim has led her to an aptly named, debut CD, Perfect Timing.

Meet Barbara King first, and then listen to her musical narrative. 

"My grandfather was a musician. He died before I got to know him, but my grandmother was determined my brother and I would learn how to play the piano.  It's ironic though, I never quite 'mastered' the instrument. Still, the foundation was laid.  Music became a part of me and I decided I wanted to sing. Whenever there was a talent show, school musical-I was ready to audition," says Barbara.

From elementary school to Vassar, her passion intensified.

"I was in the band in junior high school and part of high school. I also joined the choir in high school," says King.

She sang in Vassar's choir and toured the U.S., which gave King an opportunity to tinker with melodies and lyrics of classic and popular tunes.

"My father was a huge fan of jazz.  I was introduced to the 'legends' at an early age-Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Billie (my mother's favourite), and Gloria.   When I got to college I guess the seed that was planted finally took root, because my focus changed and jazz became my main form of musical expression," says Barbara.

After graduation from Vassar, King enrolled in the Brooklyn Music School, got herself a vocal coach and kicked her career into high gear. Barbara segued smoothly into appearances and engagements with legends Rufus Reid, Kirk Whalum, Akira Tana, Onaje Alan Gumbs, with pop legend, Patti Labelle and gospel icon, Kirk Franklin. Barbara also was a featured vocalist on Tana Reid's CD, Back to Front, and on Hiro Takada's piano paean, Portrait in NYC. King is a devout Christian who remains in touch with her spiritual roots. She did a guest solo on the Christian Cultural Center's 2005 holiday CD, A Jazzy Christmas. King also sang in Vienna, Austria, at the Advent Sing, performed in Worlds Sing Gospel concert in Tuscany, Italy, and sang with pianist Dino Kartsonakis at Carnegie Hall.

"I grew up in a home filled with music and dancing. It was a mix of the cultures from my family's background, Cuba, Jamaica, and Costa Rica.  Jazz gives me a kind of freedom and the ability to create that is different from other forms of music.  I feel I've found my niche.  I enjoy using my voice in a way that allows me to interpret a song and put my personal 'spin' on it," says Barbara.

This debut release Perfect Timing on CCCMG Records marks the first outing of Barbara King.  Barbara presents splendid interpretations of some standards and four life-affirming, original tracks: Miracles, Overtaken, Perfect Timing and Your Smile. The CD includes such well-known tunes as Ribbon in the Sky, Forever Young, I Say A Little Prayer, and Let It Be. King is joined by several jazz luminaries--Cecil Bridgewater, Arturo O'Farrill, Carl Allen, Rodney Jones and Dave Valentin. Perfect Timing is pure musical elegance and well worth a listen.

King continues to captivate audiences in Greece, Japan, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Jamaica and New York City. She has played such notable venues as Birdland, Water Club, Sweet Rhythm, Tavern on the Green, Jazz Standard and Lenox Lounge.

For MORE, visit Barbara King's website: www.barbarakingjazz.com

David Byrne: A Talking Head Still Beguiles

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Goddard

(October 23, 2008) David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, appears next Wednesday at Massey Hall performing songs written with Roxy Music's Brian Eno.

The two collaborated on the groundbreaking 1981 album My Life In the Bush of Ghosts and followed up recently with Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

A man of many talents and interests, Byrne cuts a wide swath.

Canadian connection: From the age of 2 until he was 8 or 9, Byrne lived in Hamilton, Ont. Before then he lived in Scotland, then in Maryland. At 56, he calls New York City home.

Talking Heads: From 1974 to 1991, Byrne fronted the New York-based new wave band. In 1984, the group also scored a hit with the concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme.

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts: Byrne and Eno received strong reviews for their experimental first album, which integrated a cardboard box and frying pan into a drum kit for unusual percussive sounds, rhythmically inspired by African music. For vocals, the two sampled from other sources – a new idea at the time – such as Arabic pop songs. In 2006, they released an expanded version.

Academy Award: With two other composers, Byrne won for Best Original Score for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film The Last Emperor.

Luaka Bop: Out of a desire to bring Brazilian and Cuban music to the American public, Byrne in 1988 founded world-music label Luaka Bop Records, which also introduced to the world Afro-Belgian group Zap Mama and Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca.

Selena: On one of his world-music adventures, Byrne helped produce Dreaming of You, the final album of Tejano superstar Selena before her murder at 23 by a fan in 1995. The album includes the bilingual Selena/Byrne duet, "God's Child (Baila Conmigo)."

"The New Sins": In 2005, Byrne joined Toronto's Contact photography festival with deadpan bus-shelter installations portraying as sins such virtues as beauty, sweetness and charity.

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today: "Electronic gospel," Byrne calls the latest collaboration, currently being rolled out in various package combinations. "This new one is different," Eno told the Times of London. "They go from electronic folk gospel to quite indefinable areas of music."

Just the facts
WHO: David Byrne

WHERE: Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St. (at Shuter St.)

WHEN: Wed., Oct. 29, 8p.m.

TICKETS: $39.50  to $69.50 at masseyhall.com or 416-872-4255

Still Stompin' After All These Years

www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(October 24, 2008) We had just come out of the trophy room in Stompin' Tom Connors's basement, a rather stark chamber lined with framed photos, gold records and other memorabilia from a career that spans five decades. Connors was telling me about the games he plays with his band on the road: checkers, chess, Scrabble, croquet .…

Croquet? As in, “the good old croquet game, it's the best game you can name”?

“It's not the old ladies' game, the way we play it,” he growled. “You need shin pads. If we hit your ball, it'll go right out of the park.”

He's just as fierce about those other games, apparently. Stompin' Tom and the Connors Tone, the second volume of his autobiography, devotes a few paragraphs to the pleasure he gets from demolishing opponents on the checkerboard.

At 72, Connors is a little greyer and paunchier than the lean guy with the hard-maple voice who forced his way into our collective consciousness with songs such as Bud the Spud, Sudbury Saturday Night and Gumboot Cloggeroo. But at every stage of his life, he has been the kind of man who does everything as hard as he can, all the time.

With one notable 12-year intermission, he has been singing and writing songs professionally for 44 years. But his real calling is that of a legend-builder, engaged in what he sees as a hard, nearly single-handed struggle to celebrate Canadian lives and places in song.

His new album, The Ballad of Stompin' Tom (on EMI), could not have been made in any other country. There are songs about working in the bush in New Brunswick, and opening a mine in Timmins, Ont. There's a tune about the provincial flower of Prince Edward Island, a song about a Roma encampment near Thunder Bay, and odes to British Columbia, Ottawa and Alberta. There's also a new recording of The Olympic Song, with an additional verse about the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, and a new version of My Hockey Mom that has nothing whatever to do with Sarah Palin.

“Out of the 250 songs I've recorded, about 150 of them are about Canada,” he told me. We were sitting at the bar in the big back room of his unassuming house in the Halton Hills, northwest of Toronto. The room had the look and feel of a typical Canadian tavern, with a pool table, jukebox and several tables with maple-leaf-shaped beer coasters in place.

“That's what songwriting is about for me: You write songs about what's going on in your country,” he said. “I want to hear truck-drivin' songs, songs about fishermen, about factory workers, about mine disasters, about cowboys, about places in Canada that people can identify with, and about the Canadian way of life.” With little or nothing of that sort on the radio, he always figured the most direct way to get those songs was to write them himself.

There's one song on the new disc that digs deeper into his own personal narrative than any of the hundreds he has written. In The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, written for a play by David Scott that has been on Canadian stages for the past few years, he gives a concise account of his life leading up to the 14-month stand at a Timmins hotel bar that launched his professional career in 1964. He tells the same story at greater length in the first volume of his autobiography, Before the Fame. Reading it, you soon realize that, apart from the Canadian locations, Connors's early story is like something from the darkest pages of Charles Dickens.

His mother was a feisty unmarried teenager when he was born in Saint John in 1936. She was shunned by much of her family, and, when Tom was three years old, hitchhiked with him to Nova Scotia, apparently to look for help from other relatives. They spent four or five years in a nomadic, hand-to-mouth existence, often ducking out of cheap cafés and lodgings with bills unpaid, and travelling by thumb up and down the road between Halifax and Montreal. Those years of hardship were a musical initiation as well.

“My mother used to sing Wilf Carter songs, and stuff like that, when I was just a tot,” he said. “I used to watch her put on an old man's hat that she found somewhere, and take a broom, and stand in front of a mirror thinking she was a cowboy or something, and sing all these songs and yodel and everything. I learned a lot of songs from her. I could almost sing before I could talk, and when people picked us up, I'd be singing these ditties and trying to yodel, and they would get a great kick out of that.”

When they returned to Saint John, the police arrested his mother and seized him as a ward of the Children's Aid Society. It was a violent and traumatic event. He was sent to an orphanage outside the city, where he traded songs and stories with the other kids in exchange for pieces of bread. The nuns beat him with sticks and leather straps for wetting the bed or failing to complete some small job to their satisfaction.

“And they made me an orphan and taught me not to roam/just to cry myself to sleep at night and not be a rolling stone,” he sings in The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, ending each verse with a yodelling refrain that must be the loneliest sound on any of his many recordings.

He was shipped off to a rural foster home at Skinners Pond, in the northwestern corner of Prince Edward Island. The place had no electricity, no running water and hardly even any radio, since a battery was regarded as a luxury item. Young Connors quickly realized that his primary role there was to provide cheap farm labour and keep his mouth shut, while trying to suppress his sorrow over being separated from everyone and every place he knew. But there was one important consolation: the traditional rural culture that flourished in that isolated hamlet.

In fact, he was a confirmed nostalgist before he reached his teens. He wished he could have been alive when the old-timers were young, in the time “of home-grown, home-made entertainment … of making things out of nothing, creating farms out of woods and swamps, and even making the very tools that made the lumber that went into the houses,” he writes in Before the Fame. It seemed to him a time when everybody had a distinctive way of doing things, and no notion that real life and creativity could go on only somewhere else, within view of a television camera.

He wrote his first song at 11, by which time he was fully immersed in traditional song forms and balladry. His hero was Wilf Carter, his mother's favourite singing cowboy, a man from the same part of the country, who also had a history of wandering and rough living, and a strong sense that wherever he might be was a place worth singing about.

“I would say he was the last of the Canadian cowboy western artists who actually wrote quite a few songs about Canada,” Connors said, drawing on another cigarette to add to the large tray of butts on the bar. “I kind of took my idea from that.” In a frame on the wall nearby, photos of Carter surround a yellowed, wrinkled piece of paper covered with Carter's handwritten lyrics to the last song he wrote. Connors has written a tribute to Carter (as he did also for Rita MacNeil, Don Messer and k.d. lang), and his new album features a live cover of Carter's Take Me Back to Old Alberta.

No one at Skinners Pond expected anything good to come of the orphan from the mainland, and he responded by going at everything as hard as he could, trying to do it better than anyone. He wasn't allowed to sing anywhere near his foster home, or at the Skinners Pond schoolhouse (a painting of which adorns another wall in his bar), so he sang while working in the fields. After running away a few times (the police brought him back each time), he got away from PEI, and into a life similar to the one he had led with his mother.

He travelled the country on the cheap, worked whatever job he could (at one point digging graves in Alberta), and played music as they did at Skinners Pond, for entertainment and as a way of showing that this life, too, was worthy of a song. “Away out on the Grand Banks, the truth came like a knife,” he sings in The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, “a drifter I would always be, upon the roads of life.” He reunited a few times with his mother, but there was no restoring what had been torn up by the agents of social welfare.

“It was years after when I met her again, and it was awful hard,” he said. “She couldn't treat me as a son, and I couldn't treat her as a mother, because you've lost all that touch and contact and warmth that the average person would have with their mother. She was like just another person. There was something lost and you never knew what it was.”

Maybe his years of reaching after that unknown something had a sharpening effect on his memory, because it is prodigious. His two autobiographies are together as long as War and Peace, and begin with a detailed account of his first steps, at nine months.

Memory can also hold a grievance, and he hasn't really let go of his hard feelings on the issue that prompted him to return his Juno Awards and stop recording and performing in 1978. He believes now, as he did then, that the music industry in general and the radio system in particular discourages Canadians from writing songs about Canadian stories and situations.

“They seem to take the attitude that American is best,” he said. “If you write a song with Memphis in it, chances are a lot greater that it will get on the radio than if you're writing about Edmonton.” He no longer listens to country radio. It's too homogeneous, he says, with too many people trying to do the same kind of song again and again.

Connors never really got his big radio break; he got his songs out there by personally taking them to small communities all over the country. The only hit parade he's been on is the one that runs on word-of-mouth and grassroots exposure. The Hockey Song was being played in small arenas for two decades before the Ottawa Senators started playing it in their arena. From there it moved through the temples of the NHL and became one of our two major hockey anthems – a small irony, given that Connors himself never played anything but pond hockey.

He's still bugged that some people thought his Juno protest was a case of sour grapes. His 12-year absence from the scene made his point, but left him vulnerable to suggestions that he had gone off to sulk in his tent.

In fact, he did what he always felt comfortable doing: He hit the road, not with a band but with his wife, Lena, and their young son, Tom, travelling to parts of the country he hadn't seen before, or that he wanted to see in a different way. Necessity had forced him to become his own publisher and record producer, and even with no shows on the horizon, there were accounts to keep in order and royalties to collect.

When he returned to the public eye in 1989, he hooked up with Brian Edwards, a manager he first met at parties at Edwards's father's house in Peterborough, Ont., when Edwards was 5 or 6. As an adult, Edwards was representing Carter, and saw in Connors a streak of the same way of dealing with people that the old cowboy singer had.

“Wilf used to say, ‘If I meant yes, I wouldn't say no. When I say no, I mean no. When I say I'll be there, I'll be there.' And Tom is the same way. You always know exactly where you stand,” he said.

“I've learned a lot from him, especially about how to treat people, and how to read people. When I first met him, as a kid, he was this bigger-than-life legend. But nobody ever walks away feeling that he's bigger than they are. He has this way of making you feel like you're part of his life.”

Connors's bar ashtray had several more butts in it by the time I got up to leave, taking a peek at the titles in his jukebox as I passed (all vintage stuff: Washboard Hank, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams and so on). He gave me a wallet-sized copy of his patented 3,000-year calendar, remarked briefly on his abiding interest in comparative religions (“I still know there's a God, but the deeper I get into it, the less religious I become“) and invited me to come back any time to play chess.

“He's got some pretty good strategies,” his son, Tom Jr., said quietly as he showed me out, in what I took to be a friendly warning. I may wear shin pads.

EUR Album Review: 'Yes We Can: Voices of a Grass Roots Movement'

www.eurweb.com - By Cory King Jr.

(October 24, 2008) *No grassroots movement is complete without music, and this one is no exception.

Hidden Beach Recordings has compiled an album with some of the music world’s most influential and relevant voices of our time titled “
Yes We Can: Voices of a Grass Roots Movement.”

Since Barack Obama announced his bid for the Presidency, people all over the world have been uniting in support.

People from all walks of life from celebrities to working class alike have all unified to support the message of change that Barack Obama preaches.

This album serves as reflection of the diversity of those Obama supporters. These artists have created music which captures the essence of the hope for the future that has been so closely associated with this campaign and Barack Obama.

“Yes We Can” has a very talented collection of artists that span many genres and generations from Hip Hop, Alternative Rock, Neo-Soul, as well as Gospel to name a few.

The songs have been inspired by, or in some way embody the theme of the campaign.

Classics like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder bring a nostalgic feel of the Civil Rights movement to the album. Some of the more notable artist are John Legend, John Mayer, Kanye West, and Sheryl Crow. Some of the songs contain clips of Barack’s speeches which help to connect the movement to the music.

Gospel legend Bebe Winans performs his song “I Have A Dream” to the backdrop of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech of Martin Luther King. The song serves as a reflection of times past, and does an excellent job of capturing the prophetic vision of MLK, and connects it to the current reality of today.

One of the standout performances on this album is from gospel titan Yolanda Adams. Adams' song “Hold On” showcases her usually brilliant soulful voice over an acoustic guitar rift which blends to create a very nice mix. This album goes to show what is possible when artists create music without constraints from record labels and looming pressure to stay current with market trends.

On the song by John Mayer “Waiting On The World To Change,” a clip from one of Barack's speeches plays in the background. In the clip he says: “what gives me the most hope is the next generation, the young people whose attitudes and beliefs, and openness to change have already made history in this election”. That statement reflects the underlying theme of this album, as well as this campaign.

“Yes We Can: Voices of a Grass Roots Movement” is a very solid album with excellent performances from a wide array of extremely talented musicians.

It has been years since we have seen a collective movement of progressive artists rallying for a common theme.

If the results of this election turn out as good as this album did, then we are all in for a real treat in the near future.

For more info and to hear music snippets from "yes We Can," go to Hidden Beach Recordings: www.hiddenbeach.com/yeswecan.

Kierra Sheard Back With New CD

Source: Karen Scott-Jackson, EMI Gospel, kjackson@emicmg.com; Tosha Whitten Griggs, twhittengriggs@sbcglobal.net; Kimberly Stephens, kimstephensk@aol.com

(October 27, 2008) *Los Angeles, CA -- Contemporary gospel artist Kierra Sheard will release her new CD, BOLD RIGHT LIFE, nationally on EMI Gospel on Tuesday, October 28, 2008. 

A third-generation musical powerhouse, on BOLD RIGHT LIFE Sheard delivers the good-to-the-bone-gospel soul music epitomized by her kin, the famed Clark Sisters.
The 22-year old Detroit native - a Grammy-nominated artist and winner of both Stellar and Dove Awards, as well as a #1 Billboard ranking artist in the gospel music category - is thrilled about the new project. 

Sheard's evolution as an artist and a young Christian woman is apparent on the new 11-track disc, which is infused with a grown-up style, a fresh, unique sound, and spiritual perspective that listeners of any age can relate to.  

"This is THE album for me," she said.  "I have never been so excited about a project.  This album is finally everything I wanted it to be.  I think I've come into my womanhood on this album and I have truly grown spiritually and naturally."
The feel-good CD boasts a collaboration with super hot producer Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell who has produced hits for a variety of popular contemporary artists including Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Brandy, Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary and others.   In addition, Sheard partnered with gospel producers Gerald Haddon, PAJAM and Asaph Ward, as well as her brother J Drew Sheard, Jr., who co-wrote and produced one of the album's hottest tracks, "Won't Hold Back."

One of the strongest offerings is the sweeping and classical lead single "Praise Him Now." The simple yet pure praise and worship ballad is a reflection of Kierra's growth.   Produced by PAJAM, Kierra says "it was just right … J. knew I was growing spiritually, so he gave me this song."

"My Boyfriend," is a funky pop-flavoured song that talks about a relationship with Christ in a real and relatable way.  Straight from her personal experiences, Kierra drew inspiration from situations that almost all young women have to deal with - boyfriend drama.  Though boyfriend-girlfriend relationship problems are a right-of-passage into young adulthood, Sheard flips the script to offer a song that tells us above all else, it's our relationship with Jesus that really matters. 

"I was talking with my cousin and one of my friends, both of whom were going through some things with their boyfriends," explained Kierra.  "I was sharing with them that they didn't have to keep putting themselves in the same situation, and by doing so, allowing them to get hurt.  We have to give ourselves to God … we can't love another person if we don't love ourselves.  Just because you are single, doesn't mean you're alone - it's the time to get to know God better.  Jesus is my boyfriend because He knows me inside and out."
A wholesome beauty, Sheard's evolution into womanhood also includes achieving a major weight loss the natural, old fashioned way -- through regular exercise and healthy eating.  Her year-long journey to shed 86 pounds inspired the new project.  BOLD RIGHT LIFE is filled with uplifting, dance-worthy beats that provide an equally appealing soundtrack for exercise, leisure or praise, encouraging listeners to get moving!   She hopes to set a positive example for others and demonstrate that 'saved' living is fun, rewarding and powerful.

"My new CD 'Bold Right Life' is full of love and power and energy and fun," said Sheard.  "All the things an ordinary person needs to go out and do something extraordinary!  I hope my music sets a fire in people to live and breathe life to the fullest and enjoy every moment.  Life may be hard sometimes but at the end of the day, life is good."

Kierra Sheard will tour nationally to promote the project.  Go to her MySpace page for tour updates at www.MySpace.com/KierraKiKiSheard. BOLD RIGHT LIFE is available in stores everywhere and online. 

Labelle Bring Music 'Back To Now' (Part 1)

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

(October 27, 2008) *The musical group LaBelle, the avant-garde female trio that melded disco with funk and glam rock, smashed on the urban and pop scene early ‘60s and ‘70s, but the era of the group never actually ended.

So calling their first album since 1976 a comeback is a little out of sorts. The group, made up of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash, never said goodbye.

“We’re back together after all these years. It’s been 30-something years since we parted,” LaBelle said. “The album is called ‘Back to Now’. We’re doing some of the back and some of the now and some of the in between.”

“In a way, there was a sense of unfinished business with our fans,” Hendryx added of their parting.

“We left without saying goodbye,” LaBelle said.

“Back to Now” dropped on October 21 and “picks up right where their 1976 “Chameleon” left off,” according to Amazon.com, with the trio’s brand of unprecedented rock-soul-funk. The group’s style is one that could never be categorized, and now the three women have made their mark yet again.

“What sets us aside is that we have made a mark in the industry, coming back with original members of a group after 30 years,” Dash asserted. “I don’t think there has been any other female group in the industry that has done what we’re doing. We are being innovative in the sense that you can come back and do music together in spite of the time that has passed. That really sets us aside and we’re giving another message to the industry: There should be no age or time put on or limits put on what you can do. If you can do it, you can do it.”

Dash considered the new disc an opportunity to do what no other black groups have done. Comparing their return with the likes of The Police, the Rolling Stones, and Genesis, she explained that no other R&B group had come back together with all the original members.

“That again makes us a unique group of women,” she said. “It’s great that we have been able to continue doing what we are doing,” Dash said, “doing music as what we do as a living, but as what we enjoy doing and being able to be creative and have longevity which is not so evident today with a lot of artists.”

Although known for their mega-hits “Lady Marmalade” and "Groovy Kind of Love" the group’s repertoire has always spoken to the social issues of the times. Their acclaimed albums have held tracks that challenged racism and sexism. And the political tones on the new disc are actually nothing new. The group explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey that some of the songs are extremely appropriate in regard to the current political climate, though unintended.

“The music that we did then was political and now – it wasn’t intentional – but we have four songs that are very political,” LaBelle said. “We’re almost at the place we were years ago. When you hear some of the song, you’ll thing that we wrote them purposely to go along with what happenings now. So it’s back and it’s now. It’s very timely.”

 For more on the return of LaBelle and the new album “Back to Now,” stay tuned to EUR for Part 2. In the meantime, take a listen at www.labelleisback.com.  Also, if you're looking forward to seeing the ladies performing live, the trio will celebrate the release of "Back To Now" on December 19 at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Tickets for the show go on sale October 21 at the venue box office and through Ticketron.

Whatever Happened To 112?


(October 29, 2008) *Getting straight to the point, accusations of theft have led to the breakup of one-time platinum-selling R&B quartet 112.

 Once Sean "Diddy" Combs' pride and joy under his Bad Boy label, the Atlanta-based group soared to success in 1996 with the release of their self-titled debut album and first single "Only You."

As the teens grew into young men, their material entered into adult-themed territory as well; exemplified by the 2001 hit "Peaches and Cream" and their last big single in 2005, "U Already Know," after signing to Def Soul in 2002.  

Then suddenly, they were gone.

 During an interview with former group member
Michael Keith to promote his new self-titled solo album, the singer told EUR's Lee Bailey that the group broke up last year after he and Marvin "Slim" Scandrick fell out with another member of the band.

 "I had to leave because I found out that a certain member of the group took my publishing check," Keith told Bailey. "It was made clear that it was intended for myself and another member, Slim." 

 Keith said he won't name names, but he fully expects the guilty party - either Quinnes Parker or Daron Jones - to come forward and defend himself once this story breaks.

"I'm all about trust," says Keith. "And once you lose that trust with me man, it's just time for me to make a move and focus on my solo career. Everybody else was focused on their solo careers, the outside endeavours, and I just decided it was time for me to make that change and go into solo mode, Michael Keith mode."

Keith said the group was not without its infighting throughout the years. Equating it to a marriage, he says, "We did have our arguments, we did have our disagreements, but all in all we saw that the bigger picture was to maintain the brand, maintain the group."

But the singer says he drew the line when his trust was broken.

"Because I am such a trustworthy person, and I teach my son the value of being a trustworthy person, once you negate all that, it's something there that's irreconcilable in my opinion. I've put so much of myself into 112 and into the brand and into these guys. For it to be a situation that boils down to simply money, that's something I can't forgive."

Keith said it was his business manager who discovered the missing money, and the two are "weighing out" a decision to file charges.

"I'm gonna be honest with you, it's hard. It's hard being with these dudes for the amount of years I was with these dudes and to take legal action," he said. "It's something that I just couldn't fathom. But it's a business. This is a music business. And when something is done wrongly, you've got to be a better businessman. You've gotta handle it."

Check out Michael Keith's new music here: www.michaelkeithonline.com.

Stanley Jordan: His Music Is His Therapy

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Deardra Shuler

(October 28, 2008) *Stanley Jordan wowed the Iridium Jazz Club audience with his dexterity.  One hand strummed the guitar and the other played the piano with an effortlessness that made it appear as if Jordan was playing only one instrument.  His hands interchanged as his left played the piano and his right strummed the guitar and then switched.  

Jordan earned the reputation of employing a technique known as “tapping.”  He masters this special "tapping" technique on the guitar's fret board rather than using the conventional method of strumming and picking. Stanley's fluid and melodic use of tapping demonstrates his deftness  and sensitivity in the use of his instruments whether playing swing, jazz or rock. 

“I use a technique called ‘hammering.’  Some may call it ‘tapping’ but the technical term is “hammering on” however it’s been around a long time.  When you take hammering on and develop it into a complete approach by itself instead of an adjunct to other techniques, that is called the tapping technique,” explained Stanley.  “I use this method because it frees me up to play the guitar and piano at the same time.   But really in my mind, even though I am obviously playing two instruments at the same time, I convince myself that I am only playing one.”

Jazz lovers first became aware of Jordan in 1985 with the release of his debut album Magic Touch.  His music captured the imagination of his audience and launched his career as a new voice in music and a master of the electric guitar.  Although this California prodigy cannot be labelled eccentric, one can say he is a progressive artist who marches to his own drumbeat.  This was never more apparent than when he launched into his own instant creation at the start of the show.

“I started off the show with an improvisational solo piece that I made up on the spot,” said Stanley enthusiastically.  “Then I did a piece by Horace Silver, “Song for my Father” a piece that inspired Silver after his trip to Brazil.  Another selection I played during this set was   “Impressions” by John Coltrane.  After that I launched into a beautiful ballad entitled “A Child Is Born.”

Jordan also did a stirring rendition of Mozart’s piano concerto #21 but it was during the spectacular mastering of the solo bass by Charnett Moffett, a virtuoso indeed, that the house exploded and rocked its way through the band’s exquisite performance of “Return Expedition.” Moffett demonstrated that he has to be one of the most innovative bass players in the world of music by his sheer artistry of making an acoustic bass sound as if it were electric.  Jordan proved he was a heavy weight himself when his lilting guitar married the bass and sent the audience off on a honeymoon of jazz fusion, funky rock and blues overtones that made the music rich, mellow and unbelievably exciting. “Before I did the ‘Raga’ CD, I was really into Indian music and very inspired by it,” claimed Jordan.  “There were a couple of times when we did Return Expedition; I specifically said ‘let’s play it like it’s a raga.’  Certain things we do as ragas, like for example, we start calm, slow and quiet and then gradually build up to a crescendo.”

If one were to view the body musically, one might compare it to an orchestra which in its healthiest state performs a symphony.  However, were all the instruments to stop playing it would lose its harmony, the rhythm would be lost and the orchestra would begin to play out of tune; similar to what happens when disease sets in and throws the body out of synch.  Musical therapy suggests that there is a possibility that by restoring the correct resonance and frequency, the body could then once again vibrate good heath.  This is the basic principle of using sound and music to heal.  Stanley Jordan is a man that seeks a greater depth to his music, not only in the mastery of its melodies and rhythms but he seeks to get to the basis of its mathematical and healing proponents.

“I took a break for a while from music because I was searching for something that I couldn’t get when I was running around in the rat race.  So, I took some time off for my spirit.  It was during that period that I started to become interested in music therapy” stated Jordan. “I began attending national conferences to learn more about music therapy and then I went to an international conference where I became totally hooked and I decided that I was really into this modality.  I decided to get involved somehow and so I enrolled in a Masters Program at Arizona State.  I am still doing independent study working toward a degree.”

Since music and math have a decided affinity between the two fields, it is not so strange that Jordan would be captivated by its connection and prompted to do experimentation.  “I became interested in sonification.  The term Sonification used to be coined scientific sonification.  But I think people began to realize you could do the process with pretty much anything representative of sound and time.  The ear is very sophisticated, especially when it has to do with time.  And so you can do things like tracking weather data, political polling data over time or financial data relating to the markets.  I was working on a project wherein I would take some of the changes in stock prices over time and turn that into melodies that go up and down in order to get a musical feel to how the market is doing.  I was comparing the US dollar versus the Canadian dollar when I noted it started dropping and not going back up so I decided to wait. I had planned to invest in order to test my theory when the housing market crashed.  In that particular case, I guess my melody hit a flat note,” chuckled Stanley.

For additional info see: http://www.stanleyjordan.com


Phife Dawg Gets A New Kidney

Source:   www.eurweb.com

(October 27, 2008) *Allhiphop.com is reporting that Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest has at last received a kidney transplant in his ongoing battle with diabetes.  The rapper had been on a waiting list for the past two years following his initial diagnosis in May of 1990, the Web site reported.     The Queens native said his lax attitude toward proper diet, and continued consumption of fats, sweets and alcohol, caused his condition to worsen rapidly.  By 1992, he started to be debilitated by the illness, with his blood sugar level reaching fatal levels of near 1000 mg/dl, well over the normal 80-120 mg/dl.   Phife was put on dialysis in 2000, and hospitalized two years later after the condition continued to worsen.   With the new kidney, Phife’s Tribe bandmate Q-Tip says he's already showing improvement.     “He’s doing great!” Q-Tip told Allhiphop.com. “He just had a successful kidney transplant so shouts out to Phife diggity dog! That’s my n***a right there.”

New Mos Def Album Due In Feb.

Source:   www.eurweb.com

(October 27, 2008) *Mos Def has set aside Feb. 9 for the release of his new album "The Ecstatic," via the record label Downtown.  The first single, "Life in Marvelous Times," will arrive exclusively on iTunes Nov. 4, reports Billboard.   The rapper's last album, "Tru3 Magic," barely made a ripple upon its late 2006 release via Geffen and has sold just 93,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its predecessor, 2004's "The New Danger," has sold 484,000.   Mos Def will perform Oct. 31 in Prague for the European leg of the Rock the Bells tour, alongside Nas, De La Soul, EPMD and the Pharcyde, among others. On the big screen, the artist plays Chuck Berry in the film "Cadillac Records," due Dec. 5 in U.S. theatres.

Apollo Theater Teams With Columbia U.

Source:   www.eurweb.com

(October 27, 2008) *Harlem's Apollo Theater has teamed with Columbia University to create an oral history of the world-famous landmark, a move done amidst controversy that the school's expansion is threatening the solidarity of the surrounding Harlem neighbourhood.   The project, described as "an effort to spotlight and safeguard one of New York's most important cultural institutions," is planned for the theatre’s 75th anniversary in 2009 and will include online and on-site exhibitions, an educational program for public school students and an archive of audio and video interviews with Apollo performers such as Smokey Robinson, Leslie Uggams and Fred Wesley, reports Variety.    Columbia has announced plans to expand uptown from its 120th Street borders, building $6.3 billion worth of new facilities between W. 125th Street (just west of the Apollo) and W. 134th over the next 25 years.    Local residents are dreading the inevitable uptick in prices, and individual businesses have been hurried out of the 17-acre area, which the Empire State Development Corp. declared blighted in July, making way for the expansion.   Columbia president Lee Bollinger has stated his intent to keep the community involved in the process, and the university estimates that the new campus will create some 6,000 new jobs in the area.

Common To Drop New Album In December


(October 29, 2008) *Five months after Common's new album "Universal Mind Control" was scheduled to arrive in stores, Geffen will finally release the disc on Dec. 9, Billboard reported Tuesday.   Two songs, "Announcement" and "Universal Mind Control" both of which feature Pharrell Williams, have already been released. The album also includes two fresh songs, "Gladiator" and "Inhale."   Among other changes to the album since its original release date, "Punch Drunk Love" now features Kanye West rapping the catchy chorus "Am I crazy, or was you giving me the eye?" Also, "Sex 4 Sugar," which Common previously described as a conversation with a dancer, now has faster drums. "Everywhere," which was formerly called "Runaway" and set to feature Santogold, now sports a dreamy layered chorus, sans Santogold, over a guitar riff similar to Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield."    The album's production is still split between the Neptunes and OutKast cohort Mr. DJ. West has not contributed any production to "Universal Mind Control." 

Bow Wow Visits 'New Jack City' On Upcoming CD

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(October 29, 2008) *Bow Wow has named his upcoming album "New Jack City Part II," a title borrowed from the 1991 film starring Wesley Snipes as New York drug lord Nino Brown. The follow up to 2006's "The Price of Fame" will be released Dec. 16 via Columbia and is led by the single "Marco Polo" featuring Soulja Boy, reports Billboard.  Other tracks on "New Jack City Part II" include the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Sunshine," a video for which is coming in early November, and "Big Girls," which is circulating virally.   Bow Wow is planning to support the release with a mini version of his Scream tour, with dates to be announced. In addition, the hip hop star appears in the current season of HBO's "Entourage" and will be seen in the film "Hurricane Season," which opens Dec. 25 in U.S. theatres.


Deepa Mehta Schedules Toronto Q&As

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 23, 2008) Acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta wants to get people talking about the issue of domestic violence.

The Oscar-nominated director has scheduled a series of Q&As at various Toronto locations including a movie theatre, hospital, book store and university.

The first of seven talks takes place Friday and they continue through next week.

Mehta's latest film, Heaven on Earth, is about an Indian woman, played by Preity Zinta, who is brought to Canada for an arranged marriage but finds herself trapped by an abusive husband.

The movie opens in Toronto on Friday, and next week in Vancouver and Montreal. It moves to other cities Nov. 14.

Film distributor Mongrel Media, says Mehta wanted to open discussion about her movie's tough subject matter to the larger community.

"We've done Q&A sessions with a lot of our directors on opening weekends but this is unique that Deepa is going out and making herself so available to the public at the different venues," marketing manager Danish Vahidy said Thursday.

"This is bringing the film to more of a personal level with people."

Although the film is set within the south Asian community, Heaven on Earth deals with an issue that extends far beyond its borders, he added.

Mixing colour and black-and-white, Heaven on Earth is set in Brampton, Ont., and unfolds mostly in Punjabi with subtitles.

Isolated by her extended family and tormented by her violent husband, the despondent Chand retreats into a mythical world inspired by an Indian fable about a cobra.

The Toronto Q&A sessions begin at noon. Here is the schedule:

- Oct. 26, Indigo Store in the Manulife Center;

- Oct. 27, FCP Gallery in First Canadian Place;

- Oct. 28, Mount Sinai Hospital, Sydney and Florence Cooper Family Education Centre;

- Oct. 29, Hart House, U of T;

- Oct. 30 Science Research Bldg, U Of T Scarborough Campus.

Deepa Mehta Film Relates To All Cultures

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

(October 25, 2008) From the time when she read Roddy Doyle's The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Deepa Mehta had been thinking about the universality of domestic abuse and the way that in every culture, families will find a way to hush it up.

In Mehta's new film,
Heaven on Earth, Maji is the mother-in-law in the Brampton home where Punjabi-born Chand takes up her arranged marriage. She is shocked when her husband Rocky suddenly hits her hard enough to send her flying – right in front of his parents.

"Don't waste your tears," Maji tells Chand. "This is all part of married life."

Since she started directing films nearly 35 years ago, Mehta has kept one foot in Canada and one in the country where she was born. Nowhere is that more evident than in Heaven on Earth, which she wrote after meeting a woman in Edmonton who, like Mehta, came from the Punjab. (The woman endured nine years of beatings in an arranged marriage that she ultimately escaped, then joined the police force to help women like her who were being assaulted by their husbands.)

Heaven on Earth, now playing, is a stomach-churning depiction of how an Indian woman suffers in total isolation in a country far from her own. She withdraws into fantasy, into the story of King Cobra, who could take human form. In the film, a cobra takes up residence in the frozen Brampton front yard where Chand finally finds deliverance.

Preity Zinta, a 33-year-old Bollywood mega-star, has made more than 30 films, but has never acted in anything like the movie Mehta wanted her for. "I was lucky. I met Preity at an awards ceremony in England," said the director, relaxing with her star at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. "I took one look at her and I knew she was Chand.

"She really has a social conscience and does a lot of work for women, for children, for others less fortunate than any of us."

The movie offer, financially less attractive than anything Bollywood might offer, appealed to Zinta's social concerns.

"This was a huge departure from what I'd done in the past," says Zinta, whose rise to fame as a cool, stylish beauty began with advertising appearances in India. She was intrigued enough with Deepa and the script to sign on.

When it came to filming, though, she had some real fears. "I was more petrified about how was I going to perform. I was nervous, which was great, because it made me even more frightened."

Once immersed in Chand's story, she realized something she'd never known before as an outsider looking in on the lives of women. "It's very different to step inside that box. It's really tormenting. That was the tough part.''

Zinta found shooting the scenes when Rocky suddenly strikes Chand immensely difficult. "I've done one love-making scene and this was definitely more intimate," she says. "This completely shattered me. There were times when I would go and sit alone and think. Oh my god, I don't want anyone to see it."

Mehta, observing the cast at lunchtime, noticed how Zinta, very friendly and approachable, easily bonded with her fictional family members at first. Then as the film progressed, "I saw that she'd gone to another table and then she wasn't even eating with everybody."

It was not easy to get into the state of mind Chand is reduced to and even harder to snap out of it, the actor explains. "It isn't like most of the films we do, where things are so far-fetched, so far from reality."

The young man who plays Rocky, Vansh Bhardwaj, is a theatre actor from India who had never performed in a film. Mehta first saw him on stage. She was looking for someone to bring out the nuances in the character she had written.

"For me, he's a victim as well," she says. "He has the whole burden of the family to bear, not only financial, but the expectations placed on a son, to sponsor everyone to come to Canada and to do back-breaking work. To drive cabs is back-breaking."

Transformed from King Cobra, Rocky comes to Chand as a kind and loving husband. It's a scene that viewers in the West will interpret as Chand retreating into her imagination as a means of survival.

But, says Zinta, "Indians won't even question it. They will actually believe that King Cobra was the man."

Meet Giovanni Spina - Toronto Native Turns Disney Star

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Natalia Peart

(October, 2008) Although he has just turned 20, Giovanni Spina has already been in Disney's wildly popular movie Camp Rock, and he says this is only the beginning.

"I've always wanted to be an entertainer," Spina says. He explains that he used to perform in church and community theatre as a child. He later went to a performing-arts high school and then enrolled in the theatre program at Ryerson University. So how did this ambitious young actor end up working for Disney?

Originally, Spina auditioned for a small role that wouldn't take him away from school too often. After a second callback, he was offered a bigger role than he expected, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.

The chance was a surprise for the biracial actor, although he says that until becoming an adult, race never seemed to be an issue in the roles he played. Today, however, while aware that race can be a barrier in the industry, the young actor stays positive, and credits his biracial Canadian upbringing for his diverse acting skills.

"You have that many more stories to tell as a bi-racial actor," he says.

Spina believes that an increase in the number of black producers, directors and other leaders in the movie industry increases the amount of black-focused movies that hit the big screen.

"Sometimes, the only way people see culture is what they see on TV," he says. "When you have people presenting a messed-up version of the culture, you need to take it back into your own hands."

The young thespian also has insight for other black actors who want to break into the film industry and find success. "The more you're prepared, the more you can do," he says.

He's taking his own advice. He plans to return to the theatre program at Ryerson to stay sharp and prepare for future roles.

"When the opportunities come around," he promises, "I'll seize them."

Secret Life of Alicia Keys

Source: Kam Williams

Alicia Keys burst on the scene in April of 2001 with the release of the single Fallin’ from Songs in A Minor, the critically-acclaimed debut album which launched her meteoric rise. A piano prodigy who studied both jazz and classical composition at the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School of Manhattan, the class valedictorian was admitted to Columbia University at just 16 years of age, but soon took a leave to pursue her musical career. Among the many accolades she’s already collected are 11 Grammys, along with multiple American Music, Billboard, Soul Train, Teen Choice, People’s Choice, NAACP Image, Rolling Stone Magazine, VH1 and BET Awards.   

Hailing from Harlem, Alicia was born on January 25, 1980 to Teresa Auguello, a paralegal, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant. The stunning diva is a delicious mix of Irish, Italian, Jamaican and Puerto Rican lineage, and she’s been named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, FHM Magazine’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World, Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 and VH1’s 100 Sexiest Artists.  

A true Renaissance woman, Alicia is not only a gifted singer/songwriter/arranger/musician/actress, but also the author of a best-selling book comprised of poetry, lyrics and intimate reflections called “Tears for Water.” 

She made her big screen debut in 2006 playing a seductive yet ruthless assassin in Smokin’ Aces, following that well-received outing with a measured performance as Scarlett Johansson’s best friend in The Nanny Diaries.

Alicia’s about to make cinematic history as half of the first duet (with Jack White) ever to perform a James Bond theme on a 007 movie soundtrack, namely, “Another Way to Die,” in the upcoming Quantum of Solace. Despite her incredibly busy schedule, she makes time for philanthropic work with numerous charities, most notably, Keep a Child Alive (
http://www.keepachildalive.org/main.html), an organization she co-founded which is dedicated to delivering life-saving medicines directly to AIDS victims in Africa. On November 13th, Alicia and some very famous friends will be performing in NYC at a benefit dinner/concert. (For more details, call (718) 965-1111. 

Here, she talks about her latest film The Secret Life of Bees, a touching tale of female empowerment set in the Sixties at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She turns in what proved to be the movie’s most memorable performance as June Boatwright, despite being surrounded by a stellar cast which included Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson, and a couple of Oscar-nominees in Queen Latifah and Sophie Okonedo.  

KW: Thanks for the time, Alicia. I’m really honoured.

AK: Thank you, sir, I appreciate that so much.

KW: I feel terrible, because it’s so late and I understand you’re in Germany and you just came offstage after performing a big concert. You must be exhausted.

AK: Yes, and you should feel awful! [Laughs out loud] No, I’m good. I’m definitely good. I had a good show, and it takes me a little while to settle down anyway.

KW: Well, I wanted to talk to you about The Secret Life of Bees.

AK: I loved this movie, so I want to do this.

KW: I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but there’s a scene early in the picture where a character silently opens up a tiny, folded piece of paper which says something about the Civil Rights Movement. When I read it, I started crying right then and there, and my eyes remained watery until the very end.

AK: Wow! Well, I’m so glad that it moved you, because it moved me, too.

KW: The film had so many subtle touches like that which delivered an emotional wallop. Its effective use of space and emptiness reminded me of your music.

AK: That is a beautiful image, and thank you for comparing it to my music. I appreciate that so much. I agree that Gina [Director Gina Prince-Bythewood] did an amazing job. And everybody involved loved it from the minute they signed on. She created a very nourishing environment on the set, where we just supported each other and wanted to do an incredible job. So, I’m really, really happy about how Gina was able to be so subtle, yet so strong.      

KW: To me, it was the most important film of its type since Eve’s Bayou. Have you seen that film?

AK: Funny you should mention it, because I watched Eve’s Bayou prior to beginning work on this one because I felt it would have a similar vibe. Also, I wanted to watch it for the accents, figuring it would give you a nice feel for the regional dialects, given that it was set in the Bayou. But did you know they didn’t do any dialects in that film?   

KW: I never noticed that.

AK: That was really funny, but it was still a great movie.

KW: What did you base your interpretation of June Boatwright on?

AK: On many things. On my own personal emotions and feelings… on my understanding of my character’s complexities and really wanting to bring them forth even without explaining them. I also based her somewhat on these beautiful pictures we had from this book called Freedom Fighters. There was one girl in it in a black and white photograph who just had her arms crossed. The way she was looking at the camera made me feel, “Wow! That’s my June!” There was something about how hopeful and strong she was, yet closed-off emotionally, that I really wanted to take and make a part of June. I also took some inspiration from a really good friend of mine who has a kind of attitude like June has. When you first meet her, you’re terrified of her. You think she’s just the meanest thing, when she’s really a sweetheart, and so vulnerable underneath it all. That’s why she has to be a little tough, because she can’t afford to give all her love away. So, I really took a lot of those firsthand experiences and put them into June, too. She was based on little pieces of a lot of different people and things. 

KW: Another thing I was impressed with was that there was an arc, not only to June, but to so many characters in the film. That degree of development added to the richness of the cinematic experience. 

AK: Seriously, that’s true what you say. You see each person start one place and end up somewhere else. How many times do you have a film where so many characters can make such significant transitions within it? So, I agree.   

KW: I also liked the way the movie made statements about the Civil Rights Movement without hitting you over the head with it.

AK: True, because you wouldn’t quite say it’s a story about the Civil Rights Movement, but it’s definitely about that era. I’m really proud of that aspect.

KW: Any truth to the rumour that you might play Philippa Schuyler in the screen adaptation of her biography, Composition in Black and White?

AK: It’s something that Halle Berry really wanted to bring to life, and that we’ve been working on for a little while. Hopefully, it’ll pan out.

KW: Born in the Thirties, Philippa was also a child prodigy from Harlem who had one black parent and one white parent. Do you think there are many parallels between your life and hers?

AK: Honestly, there are fewer parallels than differences. The most obvious parallel is that my mother is white and my father’s black, and that we both play classical piano. What I love about the idea of playing her is that she’s not me, and I’m not her. And that she was this amazing person that too few people know about. I’m fascinated by the strangeness of that era, and her trying to perform classical music as a black woman back then when she had to, in essence, hide her identity just to play the music she loved. That confusion of “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” is just crazy and is the theme of her story that I really relate to because I think we all kind of want to find where we belong. 

KW: That reminds me to congratulate you on your five recent American Music Award nominations.

AK: Oh, thank you.

KW: Also, congrats on “Another Way to Die,” the new James Bond theme for Quantum of Solace. I just heard that your co-collaborator on the song, Jack White, hurt his neck. Are you still going to perform it on MTV in conjunction with the movie’s release as planned, or will you have to cancel that appearance. I really love the video, although the song is a change of pace for you.   

AK: I really love the song, too. Well, we really wanted to do that song together, so we’re going to pass at this point. Fortunately, he’s definitely going to heal up and will soon be all right.  

KW: As a child with one black parent, and one white parent, how do you feel about Barack Obama’s candidacy?

AK: You know I love it, and that I support him. I’m confident that he’s going to be the next president and I refuse to accept the idea of anything else. There you have it.  

KW: You not only play piano and sing, but you compose, arrange, act, and write poetry and prose. Do you have a favourite means of artistic expression?

AK: They rotate [Laughs heartily] They really do. Sometimes, after I’ve been on tour for so long, I start looking forward to composing and creating again. And after I’ve been songwriting for a long stretch, I’m kinda looking forward to going outside of myself and exploring someone else. And then sometimes it’s nice to be able to sit quietly and reflect and write without any specific outcome in mind, to just do it. So, it rotates.    

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

AK: Yes, I’m very happy.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

AK: Sure, but I try to push fear out of my mind, because I think you attract what you fear.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asked me to ask you, what was the last book you read?

AK: The last book I read was The House on Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper. And now I’ve actually just started a novel, Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi. 

KW: Music maven Heather Covington was wondering, what music are you listening to nowadays?

AK: I’m listening to a mixture of Kanye West, Sergio Mendes, Fela Kuti and Common.

KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

AK: No. I always thought that I could figure out a really good answer to that question, but I haven’t found it yet.

KW: Well, thanks again, Alicia, and best of luck with everything. 

AK: Thank you so much. Great to talk with you and I’m looking forward to speaking with you again soon. Oh, and Kam, make sure you tell everybody about my Black Ball on November 13th for my organization, Keep a Child Alive,

KW: Will do.

AK: Thank you Kam. Take care.

KW: Bye, Alicia.

FYI: The Fifth Annual Black Ball, a benefit for children and families in Africa with HIV/AIDS, will be held at The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City at 6 PM on Thursday, November 13th 2008. The evening's festivities will begin with a cocktail party followed by a seated dinner with extraordinary live performances by Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Joni Mitchell, Jack White, Jennifer Hudson, Emmanuel Jal and some other very special guests to be announced.

For more info, call (718) 965-1111 or visit:

 To see a trailer for The Secret Life of Bees, go HERE

To see the music video of Alicia Keys and Jack White duet of the new James Bond theme song, “Another Way to Die,” go HERE

To see a video of Alicia performing her first hit, Fallin’, go HERE

Preity As A Princess

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(October 22, 2008) On a nondescript tract of suburban sprawl in Brampton, Ont., a cast of South Asian actors were star-struck when Preity Zinta arrived on the set. Most of the actors had never worked with a major Indian actress, let alone a Bollywood superstar.

Zinta's part in Mehta's new film Heaven on Earth was nothing like the headstrong, singing-and-dancing roles the actress is known for in Bollywood. In fact, she had come halfway around the world for one of the most difficult roles of her career.

Zinta plays Chand, a beautiful young bride brought to the outskirts of Toronto in an arranged marriage. Initially, Chand is treated with care by the other characters in the film. But once married, she becomes trapped in suburban squalor with a violently abusive husband, with little to no say in her circumstances.

On the set, Mehta wasn't going to give Zinta special treatment. Being a tiny independent Canadian film, there wasn't much special treatment to go around anyway. When Mehta had offered her the role, she insisted that she wanted Zinta the actress, not Zinta the superstar.

 “It's like when you're the teacher's child, the teacher is the toughest on you,” Zinta, 33, says at a hotel bar in Toronto recently, back in the role of self-assured Bollywood star.

An energetic talker, her accented diction more regal than any nobility could muster, Zinta, in person, has the kind of elegance, politeness and ease that is common among the Bollywood elite. It's something that has been lost among Hollywood stars.

“[Mehta] wanted all of us to integrate on the film together, which meant sharing cars at 5 a.m. with the entire cast, which to me is so alien. First of all, I'm not a morning person. And second, I've never in my life shared a car with someone from a film,” Zinta adds. “You see, stars in India, their whole world is different. The entire star cast is separate. … The only time you actually interact with other actors is when you're on set doing the scene.”

Zinta is not haughty when she says this. Holding your gaze, she is simply explaining the working conditions of the Mumbai star system. To read her comments in the same light as Hollywood stars undermines the very different world from which she normally works. Given the crowds she attracts, the trailers and seclusion is necessary. But it's also a studio system that has typecast her in commercial fare and roles as a certain type of strong-willed woman, something she would like to break out of a little.

“It was at the stage in my life where I was thinking I need to do something different. I needed to do something that will reinspire me as an actor. Because it's going to be 10 years since I've been acting in India. I've never done anything besides commercial Indian films. A lot of them are escapist cinema, because that's the audience we cater to. People don't want to see anything that's going to make them think too much. A lot of people want to go in, have three hours of entertainment and come out,” she says.

So the timing of Mehta's offer to star in a small film on domestic abuse in the Canadian immigrant community was perfect. Zinta's acceptance also shows Mehta's respected reputation throughout international and particularly Indian cinema.

For Zinta, the role also led to many firsts: working in Punjabi, a new language for the English and Hindi-speaking actress, participating in acting workshops and working on smaller, intimate sets with 16-mm cameras. It was also her first time working in minus-20-degree conditions, wearing only light clothes in order to maintain continuity within the scenes. And it meant working with a live snake, a plot device that takes Heaven On Earth from merely a story of a distressing immigrant experience to a whole other level of magic realism and myth.

“It wasn't easy to do this film anywhere. The feeling of being trapped definitely was more intense here,” Zinta says. “I was definitely petrified, I have to say that. I reached [the set] and I was, like, ‘Oh my God!'”

Yet giving up the usual star trappings was minor compared with the first time she had to be slapped for a scene. It was filmed near the beginning of the shoot, when Chand's abusive husband strikes her in front of the other family members. We're not talking phony stage slap. The actor made contact.

“I remember looking at [Vansh Bhardwaj] and I'm like, ‘Agh!' I couldn't say anything to him. And he was so traumatized. He's a new actor and he was, ‘I'm so sorry!'“It was the most humiliating experience of my life. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God.' All these people watching me, that really broke me, it really put me in a shell. And I remember I had to go to another room and sit there for another 10 minutes. I couldn't look at half the crew in the eye, because I felt they had witnessed something so personal to me,” Zinta said.

Bear in mind that Zinta is famous for her strong character, whose father (an officer in the Indian military) instilled in her a drive to be independent before he died while she was still a child. This is also a woman who studied criminal psychology before getting into modelling and acting, and has worked with women who experienced domestic violence.

Also keep in mind that Zinta has narrowly survived death twice. A bomb was thrown at her onstage in Sri Lanka in 2004. Then just few days later, she was on Thailand's Phuket Island when the tsunami hit. She says she was left feeling, “Why me, why was I allowed to survive?” Yet, while obviously not as physically threatening, Zinta describes the scene of abuse in Heaven On Earth in much the same tone during our conversation.

“I'm used to, on films, keeping your distance, knowing your body balance. But it took me to another zone. I learned to appreciate people in my life. I learned to appreciate the small things in life which we take for granted. I'm so much more of a content person now. I don't complain about stupid things, you know?” she says.

In Bollywood, Zinta inhabits a fantasy world of energy and beauty unattainable for a countless number of fans. That's the draw for millions, and she hopes it will mean more people notice Mehta's film.

“I knew that if someone who is a commercial actor like me went into a film like this, a lot more people are going to go and see it. I think it's high time now that with issues like this [domestic abuse], we don't brush them under the carpet,” she says. “It didn't matter if all the frills of being a star were not there. It didn't matter if I didn't know the language. It didn't matter if I froze.”

Then Zinta shifts energetically again in her seat. She brushes her bangs. And then she says something else matter-of-factly, in a way which has led Mehta to say about Zinta that “the bigger the stars are, the more real they are.”

“I always get cast in these rich [roles], as a non-resident Indian [i.e. less limited to traditional Indian custom], or a strong woman of substance – the girl who is going to stand up for herself, which is a lot of me as a person. They always tell me, Preity, you don't look poor. You could never look like you come from a village. So this has completely changed the entire perception about me as an actor, and I think that's fantastic.”

Heaven on Earth opens in Toronto tomorrow, Montreal and Vancouver next Friday and other Canadian cities on Nov. 14.

Taraji P. Henson Brings Reality To The Silver Screen

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Alison Isaac

(October, 2008) Even if you don't recognize the name, you'll probably recognize the face. Perhaps best known for her role as Shug in Hustle & Flow, Taraji P. Henson has been putting in work for years.

An eternal optimist who doesn't believe there are "small" roles, Henson has done music videos with Common and Estelle, and worked on major Hollywood titles like Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys, as well as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button alongside Brad Pitt.

A self-proclaimed crate-digger, Henson remains grounded despite her rising star status. She is the girl next door — even when she's shooting a film half way around the world.

How do you differentiate between a role that is seemingly stereotypical and those that show an authentic experience?
I really don't judge, because pretty much all of the characters I've played to date could be considered stereotypical. But it's in how you play that character's truth. Like Yvette from Baby Boy, I could have played her so stereotypically, but she was a real person. There was a reason why she sucked her thumb, there was a reason why she spoke the way she spoke I think that's what I do, I take those characters, who can be so one-note, and bring dimension to those roles that people tend to want to hate and judge. I make them into something you care about. It's just living the person's truth.

In Hollywood, is it possible to be an actor of colour without colour being significant?
Anything is possible, but it's an uphill battle. How do you just become an actor without being a black actor first? Even [for] Halle [Berry], who just wants to be known as an actor, the business is going to see her as a black woman first. It's unfortunate, but that's just the world we live in.

Are things getting better?
It's always getting better. We can always do better, but when I can call my female peers and they've just finished a project, or we're away on location on two different projects, that's incredible. Once upon a time it wasn't like that. It's great for me and Sanaa [Lathan] and Alfre [Woodard] to be in the same movie, with Kathy Bates — that's a beautiful thing.

"It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Some wondered why the first black rap group to win such an award had to be for a song about pimps.

That's people judging, and that's what humans do. Don't sweep pimps and hoes under the carpet like they don't exist. The only way you're going to have change is if you put these images out there so people can see them. Don't judge me for doing my job, get up off your lazy butt and go do something about it. Change it so that we don't have these images anymore. Don't sit back and judge me, the artist, for doing my job, for showing you the nooks and crannies of society that still exist.

How do you measure success?
It's about how happy I am. A person can be filthy rich and so "successful," but unhappy. Is that really success? To be able to be an employed actor in this recession and not feel it is incredible. I never thought I'd be writing cheques for my son to go to school — that's a feat, coming from where I come from. So I'm very successful.

Amateur Video Basis Of Hurricane Katrina Doc

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Entertainment Reporter

(October 29, 2008) The Hot Docs Wednesday series kicks off the season tonight with the Canadian premiere of Hurricane Katrina film Trouble the Water. The 96-minute documentary follows streetwise New Orleans resident Kimberly River Roberts and her husband Scott Roberts through the harrowing 2005 storm and its aftermath.

The African-American couple, who wound up trapped in the attic of their Lower Ninth Ward home by rising floodwaters, were among the city's 100,000 residents without means to evacuate before the surge.

The film is distinguished by atypical Katrina images, courtesy of video footage shot by River Roberts before and during storm, and the burgeoning rap artist's raw, in-your-face persona.

New York-based filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, who produced Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, encountered the Roberts a few weeks after the storm and wound up using their raw home movies as the foundation for a compelling narrative, which won the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize (Documentary) in January.

I spoke to Deal by phone about the collaboration.

Q: Why did you want to make a film about Hurricane Katrina?

A: We were home in New York watching television like a lot of other people when the levees broke and we were just so outraged and saddened by what we were seeing. That motivated us to head down there to try to make some sense of it, to do what we do.

Q: What were your initial plans?

A: We discovered that about 8,000 of the Louisiana National Guard troops were deployed to Iraq at the time that the storm came and the levees broke. We saw that as a good way to get into the story; to explore where the help was and also to show the consequences of a foreign policy that's draining hundreds of millions of dollars a day on a war in Iraq, when the infrastructure at home is crumbling and when people are in dire need in the midst of the crisis. We went to Alexandria, in central Louisiana, which was the staging area for the return of the soldiers.

Q: How did Kimberly and Scott end up as the focus of your film?

A: When the National Guard closed us down, we headed next door to a Red Cross shelter. (Director of photography) P.J. Raval and I were talking to the head of the shelter when Kimberly and Scott appeared right before the camera and began to tell us their story. We presented exactly the way we connected in that opening scene.

Q: What was your response to their video footage?

A: Tia and I were gobsmacked. This wasn't the Katrina that everybody was seeing on television, this was ground zero. This was a point of view from the middle of the storm, even if it was shaky home video filmed by somebody who had never operated a video camera before the first shot that you see in the film.

Q: What was the impetus for Kimberly to pick up a video camera as the hurricane approached?

A: She had bought it on the street for $20 about a week or two before the storm came, just because she thought it was a good value. She said "Maybe I'll use this to tape some family events, maybe it will come in handy." Boy, did it ever come in handy.

Q: She's pretty confident for a first-timer.

A: Kimberly is confident about everything she does. That's one of the beautiful things about her and Scott: they're very much at ease with who they are. Kimberly picked up the camera because she's a creative person and she's engaged.

Q: I understand you had a hard time financing the doc and finding a distributor to release it.

A: When we returned to New York we presented some of the material to a number of industry executives and a lot of doors closed. A number of people said there was Katrina fatigue. We tried to explain that this film isn't just about the hurricane, it's an uplifting story about poverty in America and very compelling characters inviting you inside their lives in a very dramatic way. Frankly, we also had two people say, "If you can come back with some white characters we'd consider this." You can surmise what you want from that.

Just the facts
WHAT: Trouble the Water

WHEN: Tonight, 6:30 and 9:15 p.m.

WHERE: Bloor Cinema

TICKETS: $12 at the door


Halle Berry Buys Home In Canada


(October 24, 2008) *Hello Magazine is reporting that Halle Berry just closed on a $1.6 million lake-side property in Quebec, Canada near the hometown of her model boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry. The couple and their 7-month-old daughter, Nahla Ariela, will reportedly reside in the town of Saint-Hippolyte in the Laurentians region, 40 miles north of Montreal. The house sits on 62 acres of land and overlooks a private lake, the magazine reported.  The area that surrounds the property has been described as one of the most beautiful in the Laurentians, with more than 62 lakes, as well as mountains and cross-country ski trails.  There's also the added bonus of Aubry's parents being nearby, as they still live in the Montreal suburb of Laval, where the 32-year-old model grew up.

Jada Pinkett Smith On Motherhood


(October 24, 2008) *Actress Jada Pinkett Smith shares her six golden rules for parenting in the upcoming issue of lifestyle magazine Cookie.  First and foremost, "dinner together is sacred," says the wife of Hollywood superstar Will Smith.  Next is to give children their personal space to grow. It "can teach them to be responsible for their own decisions and mistakes," says the mother of two and step-mother of one. "Is it their room, or are they borrowing the space while they're living in your house? If it's theirs, then they should be able to do whatever they want with it. If it's their clothes, they have the right to do whatever they want with those clothes. We have to give them some freedom to be who they are."  Smith also stresses the importance of her kids getting enough H2O in their daily diet. "I tell them, 'You have three bottles of water a day, then drink what you want,'" she says. "I'm always like, 'Listen, we've got to keep our bodies strong - we got too much stuff to do!'"   The actress also urges other parents to teach their children about all religions: "We go to church as a family on Sunday, but we study world religion during the week as well. We read excerpts from the Bible, from Hindu texts, Kabbalah, Judaism."  Will and Jada have two children together; Jaden, 10, and seven-year-old Willow, as well as Will's son Willard, 15, from a previous marriage.

Perrineau, Ross On The 'Case'

Source:   www.eurweb.com

(October 27, 2008) *Actor Harold Perrineau, most recently seen in the ABC drama "Lost," will executive produce and star in the forthcoming indie drama "Case 219."   The film is based on the novel "Shooter" by award-winning children's book author Walter Dean Myers and centers on the aftermath of a high school shooting from the perspective of three misfit teens, according to the Hollywood Reporter.   Evan Ross is among the supporting cast, joining Leven Rambin and Taylor Nichols. Leslie Hope is in negotiations.   Perrineau recently wrapped up starring in and executive producing the indie film "The Killing Jar" with Michael Madsen and next appears in the upcoming ABC drama "The Unusuals."

T.I. Film On Gun Violence Premieres In ATL

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 28, 2008) *Peace activist Andrew Young is speaking out against gun violence through a new television documentary that follows rapper T.I. as he works to make amends for a federal firearms conviction. The hour-long film "Walking With Guns," part of a series called "Andrew Young Presents," was presented by the former United Nations ambassador on Sunday in Atlanta.  It includes extensive footage of T.I. visiting a rehabilitation hospital in New York to meet patients paralyzed by gang violence, reports the Associated Press. The film also shows T.I. and Young telling teens how to avoid violence, and follows a former gang member who is now a social activist.  "Violence would still be around without guns," T.I. said to over 400 attendees during a question-and-answer session after Sunday's screening. "But there would be an increased value of life."   Young, 76, started production on the film earlier this year, shortly after he began to mentor the 28-year-old Grammy winner. The rapper, whose real name is Clifford Harris, pleaded guilty to several charges last March and was sentenced to prison time, community service and supervised home detention. His community service includes warning young people about the pitfalls of guns, gangs and drugs.   "Some of my colleagues are disappointed with me taking this young man in," Young said of T.I. "But sometimes us old folks have to shut up and listen to the young folks to understand where they are coming from."

Downey Jr. To Suit Up For Iron Man 2, Avengers

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 29, 2008) LOS ANGELES – Robert Downey Jr. will strap on his metal suit to join the superhero team effort The Avengers in addition to Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios announced Tuesday. Downey is reprising his role as billionaire genius Tony Stark from last summer's blockbuster Iron Man, with the sequel due out May 7, 2010, and The Avengers, scheduled for July 15, 2011. The movies are part of a four-picture deal between Downey and Marvel. Iron Man director Jon Favreau is returning to direct Iron Man 2 and serve as executive producer on The Avengers, which will team the guy in the metal suit with Marvel Comics heroes the Hulk, Captain America, Thor and others. Don Cheadle is joining the Iron Man 2 cast as Stark's ally Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard, who played Rhodes in Iron Man. The Rhodes role is being expanded for the sequel, said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. In the comic books, Rhodes dons Stark's silver backup suit, which is retrofitted with heavy artillery, to become Iron Man sidekick War Machine. "It has already become apparent as we prep the movie for production that the dynamic between Robert and Don will take Iron Man 2 to new heights," said Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios. Iron Man kicked off a huge summer for Hollywood with a $98.6 million (dollar figures U.S.) opening weekend last May. The film grossed $318.3 million domestically, the year's second-biggest hit behind The Dark Knight, which has taken in $527.4 million.

Take A Bow

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman

(October 29, 2008) Tonight will not be just another Wednesday evening on 57 screens at Cineplex theatres in six provinces from British Columbia to Quebec. They will feature a one-time screening of Bowfire, a concert film about fiddlers that claims to have the finest line-up of virtuosos assembled on one stage, offering styles that include jazz, classical, rock and Celtic.  Of course, Metropolitan Opera HD telecasts and live wrestling matches have become part of the mix at the multiplex.  What makes Bowfire unusual is that it is not part of a series; it's a one-off event and an indication that Cineplex Entertainment is working hard to lure audiences in a new way, with alternative forms of filmed entertainment.  The project began with the dream of creator and artistic director Lenny Solomon (below), who is one of the fiddlers onscreen. Executive producer Barry Avrich focused on lighting, choreography and costumes. The film was shot before a live audience last year at Kitchener's Centre in the Square. Next week, the DVD goes on sale.


Canadians Impress Dance Show Diva

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

(October 29, 2008) When Mary Murphy raves about our Canadian dancers, she's not just blowing smoke up our tutus.

The vocally volatile
So You Think You Can Dance diva – her banshee screech has been clocked at a decibel level roughly equivalent to a small jet engine – is back in Toronto this week to rejoin the judging panel of the choreographic competition's hit Canadian incarnation.

And "hit" is in this case almost an understatement. CTV has just announced that So You Think You Can Dance Canada is now the No. 1 rated show in the country, an unprecedented accomplishment in this season of highly hyped, back-to-back network premieres, averaging 1.36 million for the Wednesday-night performance shows.

"The talent you have in this country ... I just can't believe it!" Murphy gushed between autograph and photo requests following the Monday-night taping of tonight's show.

"Even at the auditions, the level was so incredibly high. I'm amazed at what they've been able to do here, and it's only the first year."

It was, she reveals, a different story four seasons ago, when the American show announced its own inaugural auditions.

Of course, they did not have the benefit then of their own eventual international success.

"We did have trouble finding dancers," acknowledges Murphy. "There was this perception that we were just another one of those `reality' shows and not a legitimate talent competition."

"It was pretty rough going that first year. It took us a while to figure out what worked and what didn't."

The Canadian show, she enthuses, already had all this and more going for it "right out of the box."

The challenge, then, for CTV's freshman franchise was to somehow approach or match it, and yet make the show their own.

Much as it may be a cultural cliché, there does seem to be a uniquely, politely passionate vibe that infuses and defines the Canadian contest. The communal connection between judges and dancers, and the dancers with the audience, equals and often exceeds that of its American equivalent.

And Murphy is genuinely thrilled to participate. "People are so incredibly friendly here in Canada," she marvels.

"I really am honoured and delighted to be here."

Murphy had a chance to directly compare the two, having spent the previous evening at the Air Canada Centre for the Toronto stop of the live American Dance tour.

To be fair, the ACC was not the best venue for what was, given our emotional investment in the individual performers, an incongruously intimate event.

Much as the instantly sold-out road show was tailored to recreate the living-room experience, with our favourite routines and best-loved dancers, and even with two large projection screens flanking the stage, unless you were seated in the first dozen rows, it came across more like Disney on Ice.

"It was maybe the wrong place to do it," Murphy concedes. "It really was just too large a venue, the biggest I have seen on this tour. They might have been smarter to split it up over two nights and hold it some place smaller."

Considerably smaller, with a seating/standing capacity of only 500, the Toronto studio home of the Canadian show is abuzz with anticipation as much as three hours early.

Those lucky few with high-placed connections, or who scored tickets in the ongoing online lottery, are assembled in an empty studio space, where they are encouraged to show off their own dancing skills on the "Cloverleaf Energy Zone" stage, occasionally accompanied by Snuggle fabric softener's life-sized teddy-bear mascot.

Later on, they will cheer the "LG Recap" – if nothing else, the Canadian show has learned the lesson of sponsored product placement from its American predecessor.

(It was, however, somewhat disturbing to note that literally every single one of these impromptu amateur performances – including one adorable young girl – devolved into a kind of awkward pelvis-pumping hoochie dance. What does that say about the youth of today?)

The audience was primarily composed of giggly, gaga teens – I'm telling you, there were enough braces in that room to lay track all the way to Moose Jaw.

But their unbridled enthusiasm was indeed well-founded, split between favoured dancers and teams, and the latest addition to the rotating roster of judges, ballet star Rex Harrington, who came up with his own equivalent to Murphy's infamous "Hot Tamale Train": "Sexy Rexy's Rocket to the Stars."

With another 30 countries airing their own SYTYCD, and 70 watching the original, it seems inevitable that they will one day all compete in an all-star international edition.

"Wouldn't that be something?," enthuses Murphy. "So You Think You Can Dance World. I think it'll happen. It is being talked about."

When and if it does happen, I'm betting we ace it.

MAD AS HELL Kudos again to CTV for their unflagging support for and relentless promotion of Dance. But a big slap on the wrist to their associated A channels for bouncing Sunday's Mad Men finale.

My email overflows with outraged inquiries from readers who do not get originating AMC. They will now have to move into caves or bury their heads under pillows for the week to avoid having it spoiled.

It was A channel that made the unpopular call – and to be fair, it was quite clearly listed in advance – when they secured the simulcast rights to the TV premiere of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Bad call, folks. A channel gets a D-minus.

Answer: The Convivial And Enthusiastic Host Of Jeopardy!

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
R.M. Vaughn

(October 23, 2008) One would think that after 25 years of hosting the eternally popular game show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek would exhibit, shall we say, a proportionate diminishment in zeal for his chosen profession (and name-brand fame). One supposes that, after 25 years, Trebek is content to phone in his performances. One might even suspect that, after a quarter-century of reading answers aloud and making friendly conversation with contestants about budgie breeding, golf scores and pie-eating contests in Yokelville, Utah, that Trebek has grown just a bit bored with it all. But one would be very, very wrong.

In Toronto recently to promote Jeopardy!'s move to CBC Television, Trebek was as enthusiastic and convivial as his television persona. He genuinely loves hosting the show, and perhaps that's why it is impossible to imagine watching Jeopardy! without him. Some things simply cannot be faked, and if the ringmaster doesn't find the show exciting, the circus flops.

So don't expect Trebek to be walking away from the category board any time soon. And God help the producer who tries to replace him with some Ryan Seacrest clone. That hack will have a legion of irate ladies to dodge – starting with my mother.

Let's have a lightning round of questions …

A lightning round? What do you think, you gotta do it all in two minutes, like you're George Stroumboulopoulos?

Maybe. Do you get swarmed by ladies of a certain age?

No, not at all. When I'm in Canada, people are very friendly. Thankfully, a lot of them recognize me. I'm doing something later today, and I don't know what the people are lined up to see, but there are about 90 women and only one man. Which is nice. People are extremely kind. People do come up to me and say, ‘My mom is one of your biggest fans,' and I really appreciate that, but most of the time I'm being told that by someone in their 30s or 40s, which means the mom is in her 80s. I would love to be told that by a 10-year-old: My mom has a crush on you, and she's 30.

They do, too, but mothers don't tell 10-year-olds such things.


Did you ever imagine you'd be on TV this long?

Not at all. When I started at the CBC, it was an attempt to pay for my last two years of university. I had no sense that Jeopardy! would last – I had come off doing a lot of other game and quiz shows in the previous 10 years, in the United States. But I knew it was a nice show, a quality program. I recognized that, but I had no idea. When I look back on my career, I've never looked at a show and said, Oh, this is gonna last forever. I don't view my work that way. When I started in the United States, shows were on 13-week renewals, so you were not encouraged to make a lot of future plans. I remember being cancelled on a Thursday and being rehired on a Monday, in the same time slot.

Are you ever tempted, when someone makes an obvious blunder on the show, to ask how they could be so stupid?

Not really … a lot of it has to do with nerves. It's easy sometimes to get a little flustered, for a moment, because your brain is working down one road and somebody hits you from the other side. I can understand the pressure, particularly on a Daily Double, when they've gotta come up with a response rather quickly, and the lights are on and the camera is on, and they know 16 million people are watching … and maybe they just miss one important word in the clue.

What do you think of the current crop of game shows, such as Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Critics have complained that the questions are too simple and the focus of the shows is the host/comedian.

There have always been shows where the host is the focus. In the past, there was more of a variety. We are primarily a quiz show, and on a quiz show the host is seldom the main focus. The focus on our show is the game and the contestants. Deal or No Deal – could that show succeed as well with a different host? I don't know. Some of the new shows, there's more luck involved, and that allows you to reach a greater audience, because most people will not feel intimidated by the program.

Were you offered The Price Is Right?


Would you have wanted to do it?

No. First of all, I couldn't have, contractually, because it's a daily game show also. And, as Bob Barker said in his book, “Alex Trebek is very well suited to Jeopardy!”

Was that a compliment?

Ha! Yes, he was paying me a compliment.

You're always so still on camera.

Heavy drugs, heavy drugs.

What if you have to scratch your nose?

I scratch my nose.

When the camera is on you?

So? I just go for it. I don't worry about stuff like that. Now, if I had to pick my nose … As a host, you have to be as natural and friendly as you can be, so the audience perceives you as a friend to the contestant. My job is to make them do well, and to take us for as much money as they possibly can.


Winnipeg Gets Walk-On Part In The Office

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 24, 2008) WINNIPEG–The city of Winnipeg is getting ready for its close-up. The Manitoba capital is being featured on an upcoming episode of the television show The Office when Steve Carell's cringe-inducing character visits on a business trip. Writers for the show – which is set in Scranton, Penn. – said they chose Winnipeg because it struck the right balance "between exotic and obscure." The show was filmed in Los Angeles but got four shipments of local props from Winnipeg's tourism bureau, including local beer and Old Dutch potato chips. Mayor Sam Katz says it's an honour to be part of the show – even if it pokes fun at his city. Lori Walder with Destination Winnipeg says she expects the joke will be on Carell's character, office boss Michael Scott, rather than on the city.

TV Fees Ruling Expected Tomorrow

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 29, 2008) OTTAWA–The CRTC is expected to make significant changes to how much it costs Canadians to watch television when it hands down its much-awaited review of the industry tomorrow. The federal regulator held three weeks of hearings in April on a wide range of issues – including whether cable and satellite operators should start to pay for the signals from broadcasters such as CBC, CTVglobemedia and CanWest Global Communications (TSX: CGS). The fee-for-carriage proposal was injected into the hearings one year after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had rejected the idea. Cable operators complained that if it were allowed, they would charge customers between $2 and $8 more a month in fees. But much has changed in the industry since the original rejection of the idea, in particular since April. The economic downturn has made the finances of broadcasters even more precarious than before. Meanwhile, the CRTC recently published a report documenting the growing profitability of cable operators, particularly as a result of entering the wireless market. The regulator may also relax the rules to allow more competition among small specialty channels, particularly on the domestic side of the industry. Other issues being reviewed by the commission include whether to remove the restrictions that has kept U.S. channels such as HBO and ESPN from Canada, and the size of the basic package of channels offered to Canadians by distributors.


MacIvor Wins Canada's Richest Theatre Prize

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

(October 28, 2008) Daniel MacIvor, one of the most distinctive playwrights in Canada, was honoured for his unique voice yesterday when he was named winner of the 2008 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.

"I am totally thrilled," MacIvor told the Toronto Star. "I was quite convinced I wasn't going to win. I thought it wasn't going to be politically my time at all. I figured it was easier to decide I hadn't won and be done with it and then, wham! I was doubly surprised."

The $100,000 award, the richest in Canadian theatre, has been given out annually since 2001, with a director, designer and playwright winning in successive years.

Administered by the BMO Financial Group, the prize is dedicated to distinguished scientist Lou Siminovich, in honour of his playwright wife, Elinore.

MacIvor, 46, is a native of Nova Scotia who now lives in Toronto. He is best known for the series of solo shows he produced with Sherrie Johnson for their theatre group da da kamera.

Plays like House, Here Lies Henry, Monster and Cul-de-Sac have all made impressions on audiences around the world, not just for the wit of MacIvor's writing, but the superb acting he delivered in them and the way his long-time creative partner, Daniel Brooks, helped shape the productions.

But it's suitable that the play MacIvor was particularly cited for by the Siminovitch jury was A Beautiful View, one of his more recent scripts and one written for other actors.

It premiered briefly at Buddies in Bad Times in 2006 and will be revived at Tarragon next April.

After a retrospective season of his one-man shows last year at Buddies, MacIvor announced he was dissolving da da kamera after 20 tremendously successful years and turning his back on performing.

He told the Star at the time that, "The same energy I've been putting into my performances I need to put into my life. ...

"I'm done with this. For how long? One side of my brain says, `Until I can't stand it any more.' But the other side says, `No, this is for keeps.'"

That's why this prize, in MacIvor's words "couldn't come at a better time, because in a way, I'm starting out all over again."

Last year, the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver presented the premiere of his most recent full-length script, His Greatness, inspired by the final days of Tennessee Williams.

The Siminovitch Prize is divided in two; $75,000 goes to the lead artist and $25,000 to people the artist chooses to share in the award.

MacIvor has selected as his protégé co-winners Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn, two writer-performers he met last year in Vancouver and whose play Any Night was presented at Summerworks this past year. "They work collaboratively," MacIvor said, "which is very dear to my heart."

Playwright Shows Us The World From Bare Stage

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

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 Anusree Roy. Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones. Until Nov. 15 at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. 416-504-7529

(October 27, 2008) There are two qualities which can't be valued highly enough when it comes to doing a one-person show: simplicity and honesty.

Pyaasa, which opened Friday at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, has both of those in abundance.

Anusree Roy, who wrote and performs this powerful work, is already, at a very young age, a master of how to communicate maximum emotion with minimum resources and do it all in 40 minutes.

On a bare stage, with no complex props or costumes and only the wonderfully understated lighting of David DeGrow to help tell us where we are, Roy shows us an entire world and some of the tortured people who live within it.

Her central character is an 11-year-old girl in Calcutta who is part of the untouchable caste. Her mother earns her meagre living cleaning toilets and feels she has made a major step forward when she convinces the woman she works for to have her son hire the young girl to work in his tea shop.

The joy of someone seeing her first sunrise creases Roy's face as she sets out on her job, carefully washing the vessels the tea is served in and cherishing the biscuit she is given at the end of the day.

But happiness is not the state that those in her caste are meant to live in and all the fragile threads that have held her family's tentative existence together crumble one by one in a short and brutal time.

The strength of Roy's performing is the same as her writing: the specificity of emotion. She isn't writing a political document or a social diatribe. She's telling the story of one sweet, innocent soul and how it is brutally destroyed.

Roy slips from role to role with ease but somehow never seems glib, and it's only very rarely that her accent makes it difficult to understand exactly what she's saying.

Even then, her wondrously mobile face comes to the rescue, making it clear what is going on inside her characters' minds.

Pyaasa means "thirst" and the physical, emotional and spiritual thirst that drives these people makes them unforgettable.

Roy is a writer and a performer you should get to know. Her work may speak from a particularly South Asian place, but it delivers a universal message.


Glorious Soulful Messiah returns to T.O. stage

www.swaymag.ca  - BY: Theodora Biney

(October, 2008) If you're looking for something special to spice up your holiday season, take some time out to enjoy Glorious Soulful Messiah, an annual production by Toronto's Ballet Creole. The production is based on Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, a compilation CD which features reworked R&B arrangements based on original Handel compositions, sung by Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin.

"I always wanted to do something that runs parallel with The Nutcracker," says artistic director Patrick Parsons. "Moreover, I also wanted it to be something in which all cultures can find aspirations of joy and hope. When I listened to the music, I realized it runs through the gamut of black music: Caribbean, highlife, jazz and soul — I became convinced this is most fitting."

Ballet Creole represents the forging of a new language in dance, blending dance traditions from the old world and the new world. The 2008 production of Glorious Soulful Messiah is sure to forge connecting paths throughout the diverse cultural communities of Toronto, as well as satisfy both the artistic and seasonal sentiment of visitors.

"This is an absolutely wonderful production," says Kevin Ormsby, marketing and outreach coordinator of Ballet Creole. "Glorious Soulful Messiah is always very well received by our audience. We are so pleased that there is such a demand for this and really look forward to the upcoming performances."

Ballet Creole performs Glorious Soulful Messiah from December 5-9, at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queen's Quay W. Visit balletcreole.org for more information.

Josh Beamish - The Only Time He Sits Down Is To Dance

www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(October 24, 2008) To say that Josh Beamish is a whiz kid is an understatement. He has his own highly regarded Vancouver dance company, is artist-in-residence at Burnaby, B.C.'s Shadbolt Centre, and this season has three shows touring various parts of the country.

Did I mention he's 21?

Beamish's Move: The Company kicks off its Trap Door Party six-city Canadian tour at Toronto's Winchester Street Theatre tomorrow (with a later side trip to New York's prestigious Joyce SoHo Theatre). Coming in the new year are Zero (Montreal and Quebec City) and The Electronic Series (six cities in B.C.). And then there's the premiere of Beamish's new work, The Cell, in March, as part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival. He also just set his first commission on Ballet Kelowna, an en-pointe work called The Red Nocturnal.

What makes Josh run? His answer is simple: “I'm a complete overachiever.”

Beamish grew up in Kelowna, where his life was consumed with dance. His mother was a ballet teacher; Beamish started training when he was 2. It quickly became clear that the youngster had prodigious talent. Whether for ballet, jazz, tap, modern or hip hop, each year at the B.C. Annual Dance Competition in Prince Rupert, Beamish won awards and prize money in every dance style and every category.

Ever the entrepreneur, Beamish founded Move: The Young Company when he was 15. He created all the choreography, and mounted three successful productions at the local Creekside Theatre. In his senior high-school year, he choreographed a fashion show to raise money for his class's prom.

Because his focus was entirely on dance, Beamish had few of the usual teenage distractions, and was able to graduate at 16, a year and a half early. He aced his courses, and was awarded a scholarship to York University's film program in Toronto – but turned it down, even though he had produced a few of his own short films in high school. “I will get back to film one day,” he says. “I want to be a director.”

What put film firmly on hold, Beamish explains, was that extra 18 months he bought himself by graduating early. “I wanted to get out of Kelowna,” he says. “I never felt right there. I didn't party, and I hated skating. My peers didn't know what they were going to do with their lives, while I had big aspirations.”

Beamish moved to Vancouver to take advance training in ballet at Pacific DanceArts, and in jazz and hip hop with the semi-professional Source Dance Company based at the Harbour Dance Centre. He never looked back.

“My grandmother had invested in a university fund for me,” he says, “and she paid my tuition and rent [in Vancouver]. I was responsible for my food and expenses. The understanding was that if I ever did go to university, I'd have to work my way through.”

To make extra money, Beamish auditioned for jobs. In the first month, he landed a spot in the short-lived American sitcom Life As We Know It with Kelly Osborne, Ozzy's daughter. He later worked on four big-ticket films as a dancer, dance captain or assistant choreographer: The Wicker Man, Totally Awesome, The Cleaner and Spectacular.

Beamish had begun teaching for his mother at 12, and had developed a top-notch pedagogical reputation. Through contacts he had met in Prince Rupert, he gave workshops – not just in Vancouver, but all over B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

It was on a return trip from out of province in 2005 that he totalled his car on a telephone pole, when he hit black ice near Vernon. The accident changed the course of his life. At first, he didn't think he was injured, but soon discovered he had serious alignment issues.

During his recovery, although he could still perform contemporary dance, Beamish had to give up ballet classes. Never one to spend time on his hands, he began to seriously explore choreography. Five months later, he put on his first show, Close Enough, based on Patrick Marber's play Closer, which dealt with the cruelty of lovers. “I had always thought I'd be a professional dancer,” he says, “but now I knew I wanted to create dances.”

At 18, the year after his accident, Beamish founded Move: The Company. His first choreographic efforts were based on ballet technique overlaid with jazz, hip hop and contemporary accents – Beamish calls it “urban fusion.” In short order, he was presented by Vancouver's Dances for a Small Stage and the Earth Link Festival.

In Move's second season, Beamish created two full-length works. Zero, based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel, Less Than Zero, was about overprivileged youth. The Electronic Series was set to four different pieces of electronic music, performed in four different styles. These led to his company's appearance at Vancouver's Dancing on the Edge Festival.

With each successive piece, Beamish has found himself edging away from Broadway and music-video-influenced dance commercialism to becoming a more postmodern, genuinely contemporary choreographer. Trap Door Party is a new venture for him because it is not based on specific source material. Set to a score of classical music and orchestral covers of songs by electronic artist Aphex Twin, performed by the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound, the piece for six dancers presents a bleak take on themes of utopia and dystopia. Says Beamish, displaying no lack of self-confidence: “It's the work I'm most proud of, because it shows maturity and depth in structure, movement, character and storytelling.”

Heather Dotto, 22, has known Beamish since both were barely teenagers. Dance veteran Alison Denham, 29, was a member of Toronto's Dancemakers before moving back to Vancouver. Both appear in Trap Door Party – and both are Beamish groupies. They love the speed and intricate precision of his movement, and his eclecticism. “Josh is just a flood of ideas,” says Denham, “and he wants to try them all by pulling what he can out of the dancers.”

Dotto believes Beamish was unhappy with the Vancouver dance scene and wanted to make something new: a style that embraced many kinds of dance, but was expressed through a strong personal voice. “He could be the busiest professional dancer in town,” she says, “but he's a director at heart. He needed a company. Being part of Move, I've had more challenges than I've had my entire life in dance. Everyone wants to work with him.”

When he is not choreographing, Beamish is teaching like a madman to pay his dancers. He says he also loves writing grant applications: It focuses his projects more clearly in his mind. “My favourite subject in high school was persuasive writing,” he notes. He is also a one-man band for his company, doing all the administration, and organizing the tours.

Beamish would like to live part-time in Montreal, where he is inspired by the dance scene, and where his lover, a French-Canadian dentist, lives. He also travels to see dance whenever and wherever he can.

His ultimate goal? “I want Move to become Vancouver's full-time contemporary dance company,” he declares, “with a national and international reputation, and dancers on contract year-round. Currently, the city doesn't have one. I can make this happen, because I'm not afraid of any challenge that comes my way.”

MOVE: The Company performs Trap Door Party in Toronto (Oct. 26-28), Edmonton (Dec. 14), Calgary (Dec. 15), New York (Dec. 18-20) and in March in the British Columbia towns of Courtenay, Nelson and Vernon.


Games Mould Future Musicians

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

(October 25, 2008) There is a poster outside The Rex on Queen St. W. that advertises the jazz club as a place to "Come see Guitar Heroes that can actually play guitar." Long a bastion of great live jazz bands, the bar's ad raises the lingering sentiment that the incredible popularity of music/rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are having a detrimental effect on the creation and production of real music.

But according to anecdotal evidence from people in the local music industry, that idea can't hold a note. Steve's Music on Queen St. W. has long been a gear haven for musicians, but it also stocks Rock Band and Guitar Hero – the first video games the store has ever sold.

"We sell tab books for the songs that are in the games. They are an accompaniment for the games, because people want to learn how to really play the songs," says Stacey McCool, a clerk at Steve's. "Five years ago, 7-year-olds wouldn't have come into this store and playing Kansas. Kids know more classic rock than they ever have because of these games. My little brother wanted to learn how to play guitar because of Guitar Hero."

The game is also bringing a new demographic to the store. "There are a lot of younger girls coming in. ...They're becoming more curious and they might pick up an instrument as a result of a game that they've played," says Katelyn Hughes, another Steve's sales person. "Instruments cost a lot of money, but this opens up the door for people who might not be able to afford an electric guitar and amp and basically, lets them rock out. I think it's making kids more confident when it comes to playing music."

The rise in popularity of music games has been staggering, with a recent U.S. study by Odyssey, a market research company, finding that 58 per cent of gamers are playing music titles, trailing only the action game genre, which leads with 65 per cent. The big difference is that music games are almost split evenly by gender – this study found that 53 per cent of music game players were female – helping to grow the audience beyond the stereotypical male gamer.

Taking things a step further is this week's launch of Nintendo's Wii Music. Unlike other video games, it doesn't feature instruments but rather uses the Wii's motion controllers to create sounds from over 60 instruments. It allows users more creative freedom than the other games, and in some ways seems like less a game and more of a music teaching tool.

Dr. Christopher Foley has assigned video games as homework as part of his job as head of the voice department and piano teacher at the Conservatory School at the Royal Conservatory of Music. "The thing about those games is that while they don't directly teach musical skills, they teach a lot of indirect skills," he says. "The main one that I think is useful is that you have to internalize the rhythm, and something like DDR (Konami's Dance Dance Revolution) teaches the physicality of rhythm. By having to learn the dance moves, it's not something you learn intellectually, it's something you learn physically, and that's something you can bring to any instrument.

As for Guitar Hero, "what it does teach you is the eye-hand co-ordination and being able to integrate seeing and hearing, which is really important to music. ...There is a little bit of (music) theory in these games, too, in that you have to figure out their specific musical notation, whether it's the arrows in DDR or the coloured blips on Guitar Hero."

Another indirect effect of these games – and other video games including role-playing games – is that they help kids develop dedication and work ethic as they learn how to play and improve, said Foley.

"That way of thinking works very nicely with the whole idea of work ethic; that musicians need to develop, that it's not something you do once a week, it's something that you become totally obsessed by, that you have to work on it every single day."


Cellphone Ban Hits iPods

Source:  www.thestar.com - Tanya Talaga/Rob Ferguson,
Queen's Park Bureau

(October 29, 2008) Motorists who change tunes on their hand-held iPods or MP3 players at the wheel face fines of up to $500 under Ontario's proposed new "distracted driving" law.

The legislation introduced yesterday also takes aim at cellphone calls that aren't hands-free, portable DVD and video game players visible to the driver, BlackBerrys and hand-held global positioning systems.

Drivers need two hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road at all times to avoid potentially deadly traffic mishaps, said Transportation Minister Jim Bradley, calling the fines "significant."

Don't even think, for example, about making a hand-held cellphone call in a traffic jam or at a red light because hand-held devices can only be used when the driver has "safely" pulled off the road, Bradley added.

"If I want to change stations on the radio ... I can do so; that is not prohibited. But if I were holding a hand-held device and did that, I would be in trouble."

Asked if a motorist could skirt the law by taping his iPod to the dashboard, Bradley wasn't sure.

"I would have to look at that one," Bradley told reporters, noting that the proposed law is fairly general with details to come in regulations that are being developed.

Calls to 911 are exempt as are calls from first responders on duty.

The new law will help "put the brakes" on the growing tendency for drivers to text, email, chat, check directions or otherwise fiddle with their gadgets, Bradley said.

"Deep down, we all know it is dangerous to use them while driving," Bradley told a news conference at Queen's Park, quoting Transport Canada statistics that distractions are contributing factors in 20 per cent of all collisions.

To illustrate his point, he hopped into a driving simulator while making a cellphone call with one hand on the wheel, ended up going the wrong way and crashed into a wall.

"With the use of cellphones and other hand-held electronic devices on the rise, we must deal with this issue now," Bradley later said in the Legislature, which will debate the bill in the coming weeks before it goes to a final vote.

The problem is that the government waited too long before bringing the bill forward, said NDP Leader Howard Hampton.

"You've had report after report after report over the last five years of the McGuinty government that show people using their cellphones or BlackBerrys while driving are not only a significant risk to themselves but a significant risk to other drivers."

Similar bans are already in place in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and more than 50 countries around the world, including the states of New York and California.

Ontario's law was applauded by the Canadian Automobile Association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Ontario Medical Association, although the OMA is worried that even hands-free cellphone calls are too distracting for motorists.

"We're happy this bill has opened a dialogue ... They'll think about talking in the car, whether or not it's hands-free," said Dr. Suzanne Strasberg, the group's president-elect.

She wants motorists to think twice about how they handle any distractions behind the wheel, whether it's drinking coffee, eating, applying makeup or using a hand-held device.

Bradley agreed the government needs to do more to educate drivers on that front. Both he and a deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police backed the OMA's view.

"When drivers get behind the wheel of a car, that's not a part-time job ... it requires every one of your faculties," Bradley said, urging drivers to "just pull over" for any task that takes their eyes off the road.

The government decided to allow hands-free cell calls through headsets or earpieces because the law would be difficult to enforce otherwise – it would be impossible for police to tell if the motorist was talking to a passenger, rehearsing a speech or singing along with the car radio, Bradley said.

Formed In Cornwall, Flowered In Jamaica

Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Bailey Nurse

Horses In Her Hair: A Granddaughter's Story
by Rachel Manley
Key Porter, 344 pages, $29.95

(October 26, 2008) If Rachel Manley's forebears have profoundly influenced Jamaica's political and cultural identity, then Manley herself has taken up the task of inscribing their legacy for posterity.

With the Governor General's Award-winning Drumblair (1996), she recalls the domestic and public life of her paternal grandparents, Jamaican Premier Norman Manley and his wife Edna. Slipstream (2000) chronicles her complicated relationship with her father, Michael Manley, Jamaica's contentious socialist prime minister.

Now, with the whimsically titled Horses in Her Hair, Rachel Manley treats us to an intimate living portrait of Edna, her English-born grandmother. Political wife and renowned sculptor, Edna was mentor to a generation of Jamaican artists with whom she cultivated a vernacular aesthetic. From the surreal lushness of her new island home – the place the Tainos called Xaymaca, "land of wood and water" – she evolved a visionary mythological cosmos.

The Celtic myths, craggy seaside and slate waters of Cornwall where Edna grew up would inform her artistic sensibility. She was born in 1900, the middle of nine children belonging to Harvey Swithenbank, a Methodist minister, and his mulatto wife, Ellie. They met in Jamaica during his missionary years.

A moody and free-spirited child, Edna adored horses and the outdoors. She would join her father on long walks on the moors as he contemplated his sermons. Harvey's death, when she was only 9, was a blow she never fully recovered from. He passed away in bed the night of Halley's comet, the light from that celestial body beatifying his kindly face. The image recurs intermittently in Edna's work as the shadow of an angel's wing.

Horses in Her Hair is not strictly memoir but a pastiche of personal recollections, biography, history and even fiction. It reaches back decades, well before Manley came to live with her grandparents in Jamaica at the age of 2, after her parents' marriage dissolved. Her genre-bending technique highlights how memories of loved ones are shaped by family anecdotes and the way our ancestors' characters contribute to our own.

Author Manley, bearing fragments of family lore, returned to Cornwall, where she was born in 1947, to trace her grandmother's early life. She dug up newspaper evidence of great-grandfather Harvey's legendary assistance to shipwreck victims and met a woman who recalls his eloquent sermons.

After the war Edna falls in love with Norman Manley, her brown-skinned Jamaican first cousin, legendary in the family as a dazzling athlete and a Rhodes Scholar. Haunted by horrific memories of the battlefield and grieving the death of his younger brother at Ypres, Norman convalesces at her mother's (his aunt's) home.

Edna, now an art student, becomes first his solace and confidante, then his wife. Norman dreams of a Jamaica liberated from colonial rule. His nationalist ardour is inflamed by a war in which black soldiers suffered acts of stunning malice. The couple sails to Jamaica in late summer of 1922, 3-month-old son Douglas in tow. In 1938, Norman, the island's most successful lawyer, establishes the People's National Party, which will lead the march to independence.

Edna's adjustment to Jamaica is slow. She abhors the colonial mentality of the privileged class to which she and Norman belong. She attempts to work out an artistic style that reflects her new country and the hopes of its boisterous, voiceless majority.

Horses in Her Hair constitutes a portrait of the artist. At her Kingston studio and her Blue Mountain retreat, Edna produces sculptures and carvings that anticipate or appear in mystical tangent with the country's political developments – including such charged, seminal pieces as Negro Aroused and Strike. She elaborates a primal form capable of narrating Jamaica's archetypal stories.

At her home, Drumblair, she gathers artists and writers – mostly infatuated males – encouraging them to abandon irrelevant colonial models. She irrevocably alters the trajectory of Jamaican arts and letters. After Edna, there is no turning back.

Horses in her Hair cannot be overlooked as a work of criticism. Manley examines sculpture as a process of understanding. She reminds us of the divinity of the artist, of the awesome power to inspire and create.

As the mother of two, Edna's early career replays the familiar struggle of children versus art. Art wins, and little Douglas becomes perpetually anxious for the attentions of his mother.

By the time young Rachel arrives in Jamaica, however, Edna is middle-aged and eager to embrace the maternal role. The tributaries of their individual lives merge, diverge and flow together.

Access to Edna's diaries, and the application of her own magical, metaphorical voice, enables Manley to resurrect her grandmother's rich interior life. This beauty of subject, impeccably wedded to style, is just part of what makes Horses in Her Hair a glorious achievement.

Toronto reviewer Donna Bailey Nurse is writing a literary memoir of the South.

Hockey From First Nations' Perspective

Source: www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey

They Call Me Chief: Warriors on Ice
By Don Marks (Shillingford Publishing, 280 pages, $27.95)

(October 26, 2008) There are few more Canadian topics than hockey. Combine our sport with our First Nations and what you have is a Canadian story with real roots.

Bryan Trottier, Reggie Leach, George Armstrong, Fred Sasakamoose, Ted Nolan, Stan Jonathan – those are names that are familiar to most followers of top-level hockey. All have Indian heritage and all have unique experiences worth repeating and examining.

Author Don Marks is not Indian but was raised in the culture, understands it through and through and has made it his life-long mission to shed light upon it as an award-winning filmmaker, journalist and activist.

Marks a few years ago produced a television documentary of the same name that was shown on several TV outlets and comes packaged with the book on DVD (in a plastic sleeve attached to the inside front cover). His research involved hundreds of hours of interviews that had to be edited and condensed into the one-hour program. The book is loaded with extra anecdotes and analysis.

While a sports-based work with broad appeal to hockey fans this is also a worthwhile read with broad sociological and political impact.

"They Call Me Chief provides readers," say the publishers, "with an insight to the culture, history, lifestyle and issues of Canada's First Nations people without the `political correctness' that activists, academics, bureaucrats and politicians rely on to preach, lecture and generally `turns off' or creates disinterest amongst readers."

There's no turning off here.

Frank Magazine Folds

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

(October 28, 2008) Frank magazine, the satirical scandal sheet that for nearly two decades savaged the reputations of some of Canada's most powerful politicians, business leaders, celebrities and media figures, has exited with more of a whimper than a bang.

The money-losing, Ottawa-based national publication – not to be confused with the older, still-thriving Halifax-based magazine of the same name – announced today that it is ceasing publication of both its newsstand and online editions.

"Frank is not part of the zeitgeist the way it was in the 1990s," conceded publisher Michael Bate during a phone interview. "There was a time in the early '90s when we really had the field to ourselves, in the sense that we were doing stories that were the antidote to the mainstream media. In a way, we were the Internet. And then along came the Internet. More and more publications started doing what we were doing. And we couldn't compete."

At the end, Frank had combined subscription base of 5,000 subscribers for its daily updated online edition and its bimonthly newsstand publication, compared to a peak circulation of roughly 20,000.

Bate co-founded the Ottawa edition in 1989. The publication ceased operations in 2004 under a different publisher and was repurchased and relaunched by Bate the following year.

During its colourful, establishment-tweaking history, Frank was often besieged by lawsuits, but even its notoriety was flagging in recent years.

"We weren't getting enough attention," Bate said. "There's so much out there that is similar to what we're doing, we just weren't having enough impact."

Bate made the decision to pull the plug on the weekend, after briefly considering the possibility of continuing exclusively online.

"The idea of working 12- to 15-hour days on a glorified blog didn't appeal to me," Bate said.

Not that TV newscaster Mike Duffy, former prime minister Brian Mulroney or any of Frank's other favourite targets can rest easy just yet.

"I would like to do a book on the inside story of my history at Frank," Bate said. "I think there would be some interest in that."

Harnessing The Power Of The Mind

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

(October 25, 2008) You might think that if people had been calling you "Amazing" all of your life, you'd have developed a swelled head. But the Amazing Kreskin, appearing for one night only at Stage West on Monday, is one of the most self-effacing men you'd ever want to meet.

"Let's get one thing straight from the start," he says on the phone from his New Jersey home, "I am not a mystic, a clairvoyant or a psychic. I am a thought-reader, pure and simple.

"If someone asks me, `Where am I going to be on Dec. 13?' and they don't know themselves, I couldn't possible tell them. But if they do know where they're going and concentrate on it, then I'll be able to come up with the answer."

He was born in Montclair, N.J., on Jan. 12, 1935, and his real name is George Joseph Kresge Jr., the child of a Polish father and an Italian mother.

The Polish relatives lived in Bethlehem, Penn., and it was while visiting them at the age of 5 that young George had his first life-defining moment. "A friend handed me a comic book," he recalls "and it had a character called Mandrake the Magician, drawn by the same man who had created The Phantom, a genius named Lee Falk.

"Mandrake really was not a magician. He had hypnotic abilities and telepathic powers and he solved crimes. I knew the first time I saw this comic that I wanted to be like Mandrake."

But unlike many childish dreams, this one came true. "You know," continues Kreskin, "many years later, I was at a seminar where a bunch of university professors were discussing the evolution of modern comic books and their guest speaker was Lee Falk.

"I happened to be there and I heard him say that in all the years since 1935 when he had created Mandrake, the only real person who had ever come close to his creation was the Amazing Kreskin.

"That was probably the proudest moment in my life."

Kreskin discovered his gifts early, when he was 9. He challenged his brother to hide a penny somewhere where Kreskin couldn't find it. After giving his sibling enough time inside the house, he calmly walked inside, climbed the stairs, went into a small side room, stood up on a chair, reached behind a curtain rod and found the penny. "I still don't know how I did it. I just saw my brother's thoughts, clearly showing me where he had put it and I simply followed the trail."

By his teenage years he was touring as "The World's Youngest Hypnotist" and celebrities as varied as Arthur Godfrey and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen were among his biggest fans. His popularity eventually grew to such an extent that from 1971-75 his television series, The Amazing World of Kreskin, was produced in Ottawa and syndicated around the world.

He became a great favourite on the talk-show circuit, and claims he has been on "118 Mike Douglases, 98 Merv Griffins and 88 Tonight shows."

The Tonight shows are of special interest, because Johnny Carson himself often slyly hinted that Kreskin was the inspiration for his "Carnac the Magnificent" and that his trademark tripping entrance was a response to a time when Kreskin himself nearly fell on his face while walking onto a talk-show set.

But although Kreskin will be the first one to insist that his powers are not meant to be fearful or awe-inspiring, there are several incidents that give even him pause.

Back in 2004, one month before the Canadian federal election, he appeared with Mike Duffy on CTV and predicted that Paul Martin would be returned to office by 135 seats.

That proved to be true. "Good guess," laughs Kreskin. But then he added a strange postscript.

"I don't know why I even said it," he recalls, "but I predicted that if Martin's government was to trigger another election in less than 14 months over an issue of scandal, he would surely go down to defeat."

The 38th Parliament started on Oct. 4, 2004. It was defeated in a non-confidence motion on Nov. 28, 2005, after the patronage scandal, "five days before the 14-month timeline I had predicted.

"To this day, I don't have the remotest idea of why I said what I did," Kreskin chuckles. "It just tells me that we don't fully understand the use of the human mind."

But that was fairly trivial compared with an incident a few years before. On Jan. 1, 2001, Kreskin appeared on a CNN program to discuss his latest book and make some predictions for the year, all in a lighthearted mode.

"Suddenly, I saw something," he says, his voice shaking. "I interrupted the host and I said, `While the public is not aware of this, we are at war with terrorists and this September, there will be a major disaster involving four airlines."

And when 9/11 came around that year, very few of us were happy that Kreskin had seen the future.

Actor-Turned-Author Shines Light On World's Dark Places

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

(October 23, 2008) Mia Kirshner isn't your typical self-absorbed Hollywood celebrity.

While her competition was busy blitzing the L.A. circuit for coveted roles over the past several years, the Toronto-born actor was travelling to some of the darkest corners of the world to shine light on the plight of child soldiers and prisoners, war refugees and women struggling against long odds for survival.

The result is
I Live Here, a harrowing, moving and memorable book, chronicling in four volumes the lives of refugee families living in troubled Ingushetia and war-torn Chechnya as a result of Russian military intervention; the struggles of Karen refugees and child soldiers pressed into military service by the Burmese military junta; the ongoing devastation in Malawi as a result of AIDS; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where more than 400 young women have been tortured and murdered over the past decade while the government and a corrupt police force turn a blind eye.

Kirshner will present this "paper documentary" on Saturday, along with fellow contributors Karen Connelly and Lauren Kirshner, Mia's younger sister, as part of the 10-day International Festival of Authors, which kicked off yesterday.

The actor-turned-author called her decision to create the project "a light-bulb moment."

"I felt like, creatively, I was just not inspired. I was also becoming frustrated ... that I knew very little about how most of the world lived," said Kirshner, 33, a regular on the cable series The L Word who began her career in 1993 playing a dominatrix in Love and Human Remains and has had a steady stream of film and television roles since.

The idea for the project came in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2001, she said, as she struggled to make sense of the world.

"Sept. 11 happened and I was, as most people were and are, just very frightened about the direction of the world and the ways things appeared to be going. I became quite frightened at the level of my own ignorance," she added.

After a year of research, Kirshner brought together a range of collaborators, including writers J.B. McKinnon and Ann-Marie McDonald, comic-book author Joe Sacco and numerous other artists to create a book that, using first-person accounts, original art and prose, is uniquely evocative in its presentation of the life-and-death struggles of marginalized people.

She bankrolled the entire book, paying for the travel and the salaries of co-writers Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, even having to take out a bank loan.

"The real reason I didn't ask for money is I just felt like it's my first book, I didn't really know if it was going to work and I didn't want to take someone's money and not be proud of the result," Kirshner said.

Fortunately, she's pleased with the final package.

"I feel I've never done anything very well in my life and I'm really proud of this and I'm proud of the fact so many artists came together for this. It's the best thing I've done with my life, for sure," she said.

Among the greatest dangers she faced: crossing the jungle border from Thailand back and forth into Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar), where she documented stories of women forced into brothels and boys stolen from families to become soldiers.

"Please print this: a massive f--- you to the Burmese government," she said defiantly.

Kirshner and her fellow travellers encountered deprivation, fear, horror and, too often, great sorrow.

"There were moments of like, `What am I doing? This is nuts.' There were times ... when I was deeply devastated. There were levels of grief," she said.

"Juarez was the worst, it was awful. The Mexican government has done nothing and it's been over 10 years," she said.

But along with grief came, surprisingly, inspiration and hope.

"I thought at the end of it, there would be this hole inside of me. But actually what I found with most people that I met was they ... weren't complaining and were making the very best of what they have. That to me was really incredible," Kirshner said.

"You can look at it two ways; you can either be crushed by it or you can look at ... these people, who are actually incredibly positive and inspiring to me and giving me a kick in the butt to get my own life together. That's the way I look at it."

While royalties for the book will go to Amnesty International, the experience also prompted Kirshner to create the I Live Here Foundation. Its first project will be to fund a literacy/writing program for orphaned children living in a Malawi prison whose sole request was for a soccer ball.

Kirshner also plans future books to look at other dark places in the world – Pakistan, Iran, Colombia are on the short list – and to bring the stories of oppressed people to a worldwide audience.

"I'm passionate and much more directed and much more sure of why I did (the book) and what I want to do now," she added.

Just the facts
WHAT: Mia Kirshner, Karen

Connelly and Lauren Kirshner

present `I Live Here'

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre

TICKETS: $15 at 416-973-4000or readings.org

BBC Suspends Comedians Over Prank Calls

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 29, 2008) LONDON–The BBC on Wednesday indefinitely suspended two of its most popular broadcasters, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, for leaving a series of lewd phone messages on an actor's answering machine.

The prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs, played on state-funded BBC radio, have sparked condemnation in Parliament and an investigation by Britain's media regulator.

The calls were broadcast Oct. 18 on Brand's national radio show and have drawn more than 18,000 complaints. In the messages Ross jokingly claimed Brand had slept with the granddaughter of Sachs, best known for playing Spanish waiter Manuel in 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers.

Brand and Ross have apologized, but even Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among those who said the calls were unacceptable.

On Wednesday the BBC's director general said the pair would be suspended until an investigation was complete.

BBC chief Mark Thompson said he was making a "personal and unreserved apology" for the "completely unacceptable broadcast.''

"BBC audiences accept that, in comedy, performers attempt to push the line of taste. However, this is not a marginal case," he said.

"I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.''

Ross, 47, and Brand, 33, also have apologized for the calls. But several politicians have called on the BBC to fire the pair, who are among the network's most popular broadcasters.

Brand has a burgeoning U.S. profile thanks to film appearances and a job hosting last month's MTV Video Music Awards. He offended some viewers of the awards show by mocking clean-cut pop act the Jonas Brothers and referring to President George W. Bush as "that retarded cowboy fellow.''

Ross hosts a TV talk show, a movie-review program and a weekend radio program. He is one of the BBC's highest-paid personalities. Last year he signed multi-year-multimillion-dollar deal with the broadcaster.

Brown said the BBC and regulators had to decide what action to take. "This is clearly inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour,'' the prime minister said Tuesday.

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom said it would investigate whether the calls breached the broadcasting code, which sets standards for fairness and privacy.


Phinally! Phillies win World Series

Source: www.sportingnews.com

(October 29, 2008) PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- From losingest team to longest game, the Philadelphia Phillies are World Series champions.

Strange as that sounds.

Strange as it was.

Brad Lidge and the Phillies finished off the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in a three-inning sprint Wednesday night to win a suspended Game 5 nearly 50 hours after it started.

Left in limbo by a two-day rainstorm, the Phillies seesawed to their first championship since 1980. Pedro Feliz singled home the go-ahead run in the seventh and Lidge closed out his perfect season to deliver the title Philly craved for so long.

Bundled in parkas and blankets, fans returned in force to Citizens Bank Park and saw the city claim its first major sports championship in 25 years. No more references needed to the Phillies and their 10,000-plus losses.

It was among the most bizarre endings in baseball history, a best-of-seven series turned into a best-of-3 1/2 showdown when play resumed in the bottom of the sixth inning tied at 2.

Two Rays relievers warmed up to start, and there was a pinch hitter before a single pitch. "God Bless America" was sung rather than the national anthem and the seventh-inning stretch came quickly.

Despite low TV ratings and minus the majors' most glamorous teams, fans will always remember how this one wrapped up. And for the first time in a long while, kids saw a World Series champion crowned before bedtime.

Women's Star Tends Goal For Canadiens

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 23, 2008) MONTREAL – Goaltending coach Roland Melanson had a surprise for the Montreal Canadiens at practice on Thursday – a two-time Olympic gold medallist filling in for sick goalie Carey Price.

That much-decorated athlete was
Kim St-Pierre, surely the first woman ever to take the ice with the Canadiens.

St-Pierre did not look out of place as she and back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak faced NHL shots in a succession of drills at Denis Savard Arena

And she found the perfect double-entendre to describe the experience – priceless.

"Mike Komisarek asked me if it's like women's hockey and I said not at all – it's so different," said 29-year-old St-Pierre. ``They're so powerful. Their quick release is amazing. It was quite something.

"I wasn't scared either, because I was so into it. I don't get to practice with the Montreal Canadiens every day. I dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. I know it's not possible any more, but just to get to practise with them was something that I will cherish."

Price missed practice for a second day with the flu, but is expected back on Friday. Coach Guy Carbonneau said it was "very doubtful" that Price will play Saturday but he should be fit to back up Halak against the visiting Anaheim Ducks.

When Price reported sick, St-Pierre got a call from Canadiens trainer Scott Livingstone at the suggestion of Melanson, who has worked with her in summer hockey camps. She was about to go on the ice with her club team, the Montreal Stars of the National Women's Hockey League, when the call came.

"I said, `Sorry girls, but I think I'd like to try something different this morning,' and I'm so glad I came because it was such an experience," said St. Pierre, who wore her Stars jersey with the number 33 for her idol Patrick Roy in the Canadiens practice.

It wasn't the first time the Chateauguay, Que., native has faced men on the ice.

St-Pierre played the 2003-04 season for the McGill University men's varsity team, the Redmen, and became the first woman goalie to win a regular season CIS game in a 5-2 victory over Ryerson on Nov. 15, 2003.

Her record that season was 1-1-0. She allowed six goals on 54 shots for a 3.02 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage.

Other women goalies have played high level men's hockey, including Manon Rheaume, who once played in a pre-season game for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Lesley Redden, who played two periods for the University of New Brunswick in the mid-1990s.

"She was great," said Carbonneau. "I thought she hung in there pretty well. I don't think anybody put less velocity on their shots. They tested her and she stood in there. It was good to see."

Carbonneau said he wouldn't hesitate to call her in again if the need arises.

St-Pierre won gold with the Canadian women's team at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. She also has five gold and two silver medals at women's world championships.

Ontario Chief Justice Charles Dubin Dead

Source:   www.thestar.com - Tracey Tyler,
Legal Affairs Reporter

(October 27, 2008) Charles Dubin, a former Ontario chief justice who dominated courtrooms for more than half a century, died this morning.

A gifted lawyer whose courtroom skills took him to the top of his profession, Dubin, 87, was also well-known for chairing the 1989-90 royal commission into drug use in amateur sport.

Known as the Dubin inquiry, the commission was formed after sprinter Ben Johnson lost his gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics because a banned drug was detected in his urine samples.

In a groundbreaking report, Dubin exposed doping secrets that had been unknown outside the secretive world of track and field, and he recommended a broad range of anti-doping measures.

In 1981, Dubin held a federal inquiry into aviation safety that strongly recommended a more significant role for enforcement of safety measures.

Born in Hamilton, Dubin served as chief justice from 1990 to 1996, but it was as a lawyer that his reputation was cemented. He shared top billing with legendary Canadian lawyers Arthur Maloney and John Robinette.

Dubin was well-known for being equally skilled in civil and criminal cases. He acted for newspapers, labour unions and represented former prime minister John Diefenbaker at an inquiry into the Gerda Munsinger affair, named for the woman at the centre of a 1960s sex scandal involving a federal cabinet minister.

He strongly opposed capital punishment and successfully defended 14 men on capital murder charges.

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

With files from Canadian Press

Marion Jones: 'I Didn't Love Myself Enough'

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 29, 2008) CHICAGO – Disgraced track star Marion Jones says she often thinks she would have won gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, even if she hadn't taken a designer steroid known as "the clear."

"I'll ask myself, `Well, if you hadn't been given "the clear" do you think you would've won?"' Jones said on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" broadcast Wednesday, her first post-prison interview.

"I usually answer, 'Yes."'

Jones, 33, apologized to her teammates and tearfully read a letter she wrote in prison, in which she told her children she lied to federal prosecutors because she didn't love herself enough to tell the truth.

Jones described how prosecutors showed her a vial of a designer steroid and asked if she'd taken it. She said she immediately recognized it as a substance her former coach, Trevor Graham, had given her, but then she lied.

"I made the decision I was going to lie and try to cover it up," Jones said on Winfrey's show, which was taped. "I knew that all of my performances would be questioned."

She maintained she thought the substance was flaxseed oil when her coach gave it to her, but she later learned from prosecutors that it was the designer steroid. Last week, a federal judge sentenced Graham to a year of home confinement for lying to federal investigators.

Jones was released last month from a Texas federal prison after completing most of her six-month sentence for lying about doping and her role in a cheque-fraud scam.

After long denying she had ever used performance-enhancing drugs, Jones admitted in federal court last year that she used the designer steroid from September 2000 to July 2001. Jones was stripped of three gold medals and two bronzes she won in Sydney after the admission.

Jones said on Winfrey's show that her sentence was fair and that losing her medals was fair, too, because of the "question mark" surrounding her performance. She said she will never run again and wants to find a way to inspire young people to make better decisions than she did.

"I don't have athletics anymore to hide behind," Jones said. ``In the past, it was Marion Jones, the athlete. ... I don't have that cover anymore. I have really had to find out who I am and why I make certain choices."

Jones' U.S. relay teammates have filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to retain their 2000 Olympic medals. The International Olympic Committee disqualified her teammates, but conceded none of them broke any rules.

Prodded by Winfrey, Jones apologized to her teammates for lying to prosecutors.

"When I stepped on that track, I thought everybody was drug-free, including myself," Jones said. "I apologize for having to put everybody through all of this.

"I'm trying to move on. I hope that everybody else can move on, too."


Maximum Fitness, Minimum Time: 16 Tips

By Tom Storms, CPT, eDiets Contributor

These 16 strategies will help you get the body you've always wanted:

1. In the beginning, your fitness plan should not be overly aggressive. One of the biggest problems most people encounter when starting a fitness program is rapidly depleted motivation after only a few weeks; this is due to an overly ambitious fitness plan.

Two days per week of 20-minute low-intensity cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, biking, swimming) and two days per week of 30-minute light resistance training (using weights or resistance machines) is adequate in the beginning. As you adapt to the lifestyle shift, you can add more days and get improved results. But beware: If you try to do too much too fast, you may end up quitting altogether.

If you've tried and failed doing it alone, then I suggest you get a training partner or personal trainer who will help you sustain your motivation.

2. If your goal is fat loss, then your cardiovascular exercise should be low intensity. Your heart rate during cardio exercise should not exceed 50 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. The simple formula for calculating your 100 percent maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.

If the intensity of your exercise increases your heart rate beyond 70 percent (which can occur very easily if you are in poor shape), you start shifting from using body fat as your energy source to relying on glucose metabolism. Your personal trainer can supply you with a simple heart-rate monitor you can wear during exercise. That way, you always stay in your peak fat-burning range.

3. Don't waste your time working small muscles with isolated movements. If you don't enjoy doing resistance training or are pressed for time, concentrate on working the largest muscle groups with compound resistance movements.

When I see overweight people doing wrist curls or lateral raises, I wonder why. It's generally just a lack of understanding of how their bodies work. Most people want to lose fat and tone and firm their bodies. The way to do that is to use resistance (weights or machines) to train the large muscle groups.

 Men should be concentrating on legs, chest and back. Women should concentrate more on their legs and back. The best exercises for legs are lunges or squats (your personal trainer will show you the proper form and then monitor you during the exercise) and the leg press. The best chest exercise is the bench press, and the best back exercise is the seated row. All of these are compound movements, which means they incorporate multiple muscle groups.

4. Always stretch. Stretching improves flexibility, blood flow, muscle recovery and a host of other things. Additionally, stretching can prevent injury, make you sleep better and improve your performance in all sports. Always stretch, but be certain not to stretch cold muscles. You should always warm up before stretching. However, it is very important that you know how to stretch. Never bounce! Your personal trainer will show you the proper execution and timing of your stretches.

5. Never do a traditional sit-up. Unless you are super athlete with an incredibly well-developed midsection, sit-ups can lead to a strained lower back and possibly lumbar injuries. But it gets worse. Rather than hitting your abdominal section, sit-ups can shift exercise tension to your hip flexors, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

There is so much misinformation about how to strengthen, tone and firm the midsection, it's almost frightening. It is very difficult to learn proper abdominal exercise technique by reading about it or watching it demonstrated on a video. You need to do it with supervision and get feedback about your form from a knowledgeable source.

And keep in mind that you use your abdominal muscles in almost every single movement you make. Strengthening your abdominal region is the most effective way to prevent, or recover from, lower back pain.

6. Set realistically attainable goals. You must have tangible, quantifiable, short-term and long-term goals for your fitness program so that you can gauge your progress. It's crucial to have a baseline before you begin. Your health club or personal trainer can give you a complete fitness analysis that will aid you or your trainer in developing a personalized fitness program to address your particular needs.

Having goals, particularly short-term goals, allows you to track your progress and keeps you motivated when times are tough and you don't feel like exercising. Keeping a journal of your cardio and resistance-training workouts, as well as tracking what you eat, will ensure fitness success.

Just remember that your goals should be realistic and attainable. The best way for you to understand what is realistic and attainable for you is to talk to a fitness professional -- don't buy into the hype of infomercials or diet products that blatantly mislead.

7. Set exercise appointments with yourself. You wouldn't miss a business meeting or client appointment, would you? So don't miss your exercise appointment with yourself. Nothing is more important than your health. Nothing. Everything else will crumble around you if your health goes south. So make your exercise appointments a priority.

 If you find it difficult to keep these appointments, then consider hiring a personal trainer who will hold you to your commitment. When you have money invested and someone waiting for you to show up, you are much more likely to actually show up!

8. Remember the benefits of exercise. Remember that feeling of euphoria you experienced after a particularly good workout? You experienced that feeling because the most powerful feel-good drug in the world, endorphins, were coursing through your veins. If there is a panacea, it's exercise.

Nothing feels better than the post-workout high you experience after exercising. Revel in that feeling. Let it wash over you and truly experience it. Etch that feeling in your brain. It will fuel your motivation on those inevitable days when you just don't feel like exercising. Being physically fit affects every single aspect of your life: You sleep better, eat better, love better, overcome stress better, work better, communicate better and live better!

9. Exercise correctly. So much time is wasted doing, at best, unproductive exercise, or at worst, dangerous exercise. Get educated on how to exercise correctly. And the absolute best way to do that is to hire a personal trainer to develop a program for you and then teach you what to do and how to do it right.

Personal training does not have to be an ongoing process. You can hire a personal trainer for whatever length of time you need to learn the ropes. It could be five sessions or 15. It's completely up to you. But statistics prove that those who understand how to exercise correctly, get better and faster results. And that's what you want, right? Results!

10. Enjoy yourself. The most difficult thing is actually getting into your running shoes or going to the gym. But once you begin your workout, relax and enjoy the process. Don't fight it. Make exercise your personal time.

When you are exercising, you can focus completely on yourself. Yes, exercising can and should be somewhat rigorous (depending on your level of fitness), but it is just that investment that makes it supremely rewarding. As with anything, if you are in the moment, you can fully appreciate the experience and truly enjoy the process.

11. Americans eat too many carbohydrates for our lifestyles. Minimize your intake of bread, pasta, rice, potato and, of course, all sugary drinks. We are no longer an agrarian society participating in manual labour. Most of us are fairly sedentary throughout the day and therefore do not need the high levels of carbohydrates to sustain our energy.

Additionally, carbohydrates are addictive. The more doughnuts you eat, the more you want. The bulk of your carbohydrates should come from vegetables and fruit. Focus on those with high water content, such as cucumbers, grapefruit, tomatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries and even vegetable soups (watch out for high sodium), which will all fill you up nicely.

 By the way, numerous studies have conclusively proven that the quarter of the population eating the most vegetables get half the cancer of the quarter eating the least!

12. Deep-fried food has no nutritional value none! Almost every food, whether it s steak, chocolate or red wine, has some nutrients to contribute. But one thing is absolute: Fried foods are garbage.

Potato chips, french fries, onion rings, breaded chicken strips and all the rest of the deep-fried junk are pregnant with saturated fat and calories -- and they contain almost zero nutritional value. If you're trying to lose weight and/or reduce fat, simply eliminate fried foods completely from your diet. Yikes! That stuff is scary.

13. Never skip breakfast. If you want to maximize your fitness results or fat-loss efforts, you've got to eat breakfast. Even if you don't exercise at all, breakfast remains the most important meal of the day.

Your breakfast should contain complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. A great breakfast is oatmeal (not the pre-packaged, pre-sweetened kind) with a little honey and banana and a protein drink. Or try scrambled egg whites with Healthy Choice turkey sausage.

14. Eat fat to lose fat. Healthy fats are necessary to your body for a bunch of reasons: regulating hormonal production, improving immune function, lowering total cholesterol, lubricating joints and providing the basics for healthy hair, nails and skin.

You must be aware of the difference between healthy good fats and dangerous bad fats. Good fats are monounsaturated fats such as olive; peanut and canola oil; avocados; all-natural peanut butter and nuts; and omega-3 fats found in salmon, mackerel and soy-based foods. Bad fats are saturated fats, partially hydrogenated fats and trans fats.

Your personal trainer can provide you with a simple diet program that will complement your exercise to help you live longer, feel better and boost your immune system. The bottom line is your body needs good fats and will revolt if you attempt to abstain from them; it absolutely does not need bad fats.

15. Drink plenty of fresh, clean water. Yes, I know that you've heard this over and over again. The recommended amount is approximately eight glasses, or 64 ounces, of water every day. When you are exercising, you need to drink even more. More than 75 percent of your body is water (even bone is more than 20 percent water). When you don't drink enough water and substitute diuretics like coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas, you dehydrate your body, your blood doesn't flow properly and your digestive system doesn't operate smoothly (among other problems).

Even a small deficit of water can radically affect how your body performs. Here's a good rule of thumb: If your urine is a dark yellow or has a strong odour, you're not drinking enough water. Drink up!

16. Eat regularly throughout the day. Fasting or overly restrictive diets will enable you to lose weight in the short run because the weight you lose is primarily water weight and lean muscle mass. But in the long run, it has exactly the opposite effect you want.

When you restrict your diet, your body instinctively thinks it's being starved and shifts into a protective mode by storing fat. Energy expenditures are fuelled by your lean muscles. Therefore, your body fat remains essentially the same and you lose vital fluids and muscle instead.

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism becomes and the less fat you burn. You should be eating three nutritionally balanced meals each day, and you should have at least one or two healthy snacks. This keeps your metabolic furnace stoked -- you burn more at a faster rate. I know it's counter-intuitive, but it's the gospel truth!

There you have it: Sixteen essential strategies for an effective weight-loss-and-fitness program that will have you looking and feeling better than you have in years -- maybe ever!

I realize that starting (or re-starting) a productive and effective fitness program is not easy. That's why I encourage you to get help.

If you're sick, you go to the doctor. If you've got a tax problem, you see an accountant (or an attorney). Have a toothache? You're off to the dentist. Leaky pipes result in a call to the plumber. So why is it that so many people attempt to solve their health and fitness problems without consulting an expert? I don't know why, but I encourage you to make the investment in yourself -- in your quality of life -- by hiring a qualified professional to help you get started.

The hardest part is getting started and sustaining your motivation until fitness becomes habitual. Once you develop the habit, which can take as little as 30 days, your whole life will change for the better.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com
— The Buddha

"Holding anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."