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October 9, 2008

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  Always seems to sneak up on9 me but I hope that you're able to celebrate with those loved ones that you're thankful for.

The election is upon us ... choose your candidate carefully.  I've been trying to help you make your decision by displaying the political parties' views on the arts and funding of the arts.  And check out some pics from the Robin Thicke concert at Kool Haus on Monday in my PHOTO GALLERY.

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



Political Theatre Moves To The Stages

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

(October 05, 2008) Heads of government who show their disdain for artists, do so at their own peril. On stage this week, election fever engages writers and performers who will have no trouble outdancing the political rhetoric spewing forth as Oct. 14 draws near.

Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave.) tomorrow evening at 8, The Wrecking Ball presents an evening of political theatre tailored for the federal election. Across the country from Corner Brook to Victoria, playwrights and performers will do staged readings in 11 cities, all in the same political vein.

"It's fast-and-furious cabaret," says producer Andrew Soren. The writers were commissioned a week ago. In Toronto, plays by Judith Thompson, Teresa Pavlinek, Pierre Brault and Rick Roberts will be performed by the likes of Fiona Highet, Ieva Lucs and Gray Powell.

This is the seventh event for Wrecking Ball, which got rolling in 2004, intending to put politics and current affairs into the theatre.

Audiences can get in the act in what the producers hope will be a cross-country hook-up, starting in Newfoundland and heading west. "We'll be interacting by the cheapest means possible," says Soren: "a cellphone and a microphone."

Admission is pay-what-you-can, and first-come first-seated. Proceeds go to the Department of Culture, an artists' network.

At TheNewsShowOnline, they're young, they're new and they're live as well as digital. Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St. W. at Ossington), the eight NSO comics will stage The News Show: Canadian Election Spectacular. The main event will be a debate with the comics taking the roles of the federal party leaders. Guests will join the regular crew of Brian Crosby, Phil Dubrovsky, Peter Gal, Mike Kiss, Pete Hill, Ian MacIntyre, Alice Moran and Erin Rodgers.

"Everyone wants to wear that (Jack) Layton moustache," says Ian MacIntyre, who goes by the title of editor-in-chief. "He will say or do anything to get elected. I swear he'll be promising us all jetpacks before this election is through ..."

Admission to The News Show is $7. Excerpts will later appear on thenewsshowonline.com.

Meanwhile, the election will provide material for the live improv session at Second City after each night's performance of Barack to the Future. Cast members including Marty Adams, Leslie Seiler, Kerry Griffin and Reid Janisse will impersonate party leaders and perform monologues on election topics.

The show runs Tuesday through Sunday at 51 Mercer St. Tickets are $23 and $28.

K-OS Signs To Universal Music Canada Via His Imprint, Crown Loyalist Recordings

Source: Universal Music Canada

(October 7, 2008) (Toronto , ON) - Canadian rapper, multi-instrumentalist, and consciousness of Canadian urban music, K-OS, today announced that he has signed with Universal Music Canada (UMC) via his imprint label, "Crown Loyalist Recordings". His forthcoming album (working title: Yes!), is expected in early 2009. Along with K-OS's deal with Universal Music Publishing Canada, this now represents a deepening of the artist's overall relationship with Universal, the country's leading music company.
"We're thrilled that the next stage of K-OS's terrific career is with Universal," stated President and CEO Randy Lennox. "We've always admired his work and now can combine his talents with his great new management, as well as our team for what is sure to be a remarkable partnership."
With several multiple Platinum album and video awards, six Canadian Urban Music Awards, four MuchMusic Video Awards, three Junos, and a Source award already in his trophy cabinet, K-OS nonetheless continues to push against the boundaries and challenge the conceptions of musical art.   "As I get closer to realizing my new album, I'm doubly excited to have also found the right partner to assist me in sharing it with the world. The label has been a vision of mine for years and will eventually be a platform for other artists in addition to being a home for my recordings. I look forward to working with the Universal team across Canada ," said K-OS from the studio where he is presently completing recording between tour dates.
K-OS's influence on the Canadian musical landscape has been felt since the release of his first single, "Musical Essence," in 1993. His first full-length, Exit, announced his pigeonhole-defying capabilities and subsequent albums, Joyful Rebellion and Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, have gone on to cement his position as among the most intriguing and creative talents at work in Canada today.
Terry McBride, K-OS’s manager, concluded by adding "Nettwerk looks forward to working with the Universal team in creatively expanding K-OS's musical brand and expanding his reach worldwide."

How Do The Tories Measure Up On The Arts?

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

(October 08, 2008)  This week the Toronto Star is taking a look how seriously the various contenders in the election take arts and culture in this country, and we're getting their promises and assessments on the record.  Today the
Conservatives and Liberals have their say. Tomorrow, it's the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc.

In the past two years the federal Tories have cut almost $45 million from arts and culture programs administered by Heritage Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Half of these cuts, totalling about $23 million, were made a couple of months before the federal election was called.

The cuts include:

The $4.7 million ProMart program, a demonstrably effective artists' travel support fund operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs;

The $9-million Trade Routes program that has for decades successfully kick-started export sales of Canadian films and music, run by Heritage Canada;

$300,000 formerly set aside for the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, which archives, restores, and makes available for digital distribution, Canadian film, television and musical recordings;

$1.5 million from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, which helps top up the budgets of independent Canadian films and triggers private investment in Canadian films of up to $120 million;

$2.5 million from the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector.

The Harper government's arts funding cuts followed its introduction of Bill C-10, which artists and producers branded as censorship, because it would have allowed government-appointed bureaucrats to withdraw or withhold tax credits from Canadian films deemed too violent or pornographic.

Bill C-10 will now be killed, according to the Conservatives' platform announced yesterday.

"Although these proposals were approved unanimously by the House of Commons, we will take into account the serious concerns that have been expressed by film creators and investors," it says.

The Conservatives would also create a new, refundable tax credit of up to $500 of fees for children under 16 who participate in eligible arts or cultural activities, such as music lessons, drama or art classes.

Other arts and culture funding issues were not addressed in the platform. Heritage Minister Josée Verner was too busy campaigning to comment, a spokesperson said.

The Canadian arts community is also concerned about the Conservatives' belated introduction earlier this year of long overdue and seriously flawed copyright legislation that, industry experts say, provides no real protection in the digital world for the Canadian creators of music, films and other forms of intellectual property, and threatens non-paying consumers of that property with litigation and fines.

The fallout over these issues has been intense, particularly in Quebec, where culture is identity.

In recent weeks, formal and informal protests across the country against Harper's arts funding cuts and his avoidance of a concrete cultural policy in the election campaign have been mounted on performance stages, at press conferences and on the Internet almost on a daily basis by musicians, actors, film industry workers, and other stakeholders in Canada's arts and culture industries on whose survival government investment depends.

The Prime Minister's recent characterization of artists as "people ... at a rich gala, all subsidized by the taxpayers, claiming their subsidies aren't high enough" and somehow removed from "ordinary working people" has only inflamed passions. The reaction has suddenly made federal investment in the arts a hot-button issue.

Mourning's Biography A Worthy Read

Source: www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey

Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph
By Alonzo Mourning with Dan Wetzel (Ballantine, 233 pages, $30)

(October 05, 2008) A kidney transplant recipient, dedicated charitable worker, man of faith and NBA all-star, Alonzo Mourning has a story worth telling, and worth reading about.

How he came back from the transplant to help win a championship with the Miami Heat is inspirational, to say the least. Mourning intends it as such – he has messages to spread and does so eloquently and relentlessly.

One side story that may be of interest to local readers concerns Mourning's time with the Raptors. In fact, he was a Raptor on paper only, refusing to play for them after he was included in the trade that sent Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets on Dec. 17, 2004.

Mourning writes he was interested in playing only for a team with a chance to win. He demanded to be traded by the Nets and was dismayed when they packaged him off to the Raptors.

Toronto GM Rob Babcock eventually bought out his contract for $9 million (U.S.), allowing Mourning to return to the Heat, where he wanted to be all along.

"The Nets' GM, Rob Thorn, told them it was unlikely I would accept such a role (a leader on the rebuilding Raptors), but they were so eager to get rid of Vince Carter, who fans had turned against, that they made the deal anyway," Mourning writes.

"There was no way I was going to go to Toronto. To join a team that wouldn't even make the playoffs would have meant I was playing solely for the money. There would be no other reason. And I wasn't about the money. I already had the money. I was always up front with Toronto."


Robin Thicke Is Something Else

Source: Universal Music Canada

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

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

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

Multi-Faceted Entertainer Wayne Brady Releases Debut Album

Source:  Universal Music Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Half Moon Resort Rising To New Heights Of Luxury

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

(October 4, 2008) Montego Bay, Jamaica–One of the Caribbean's iconic resorts, Half Moon certainly has a storied past.

Wander around the breezy lobby area and you will see photos of some of the illustrious guests who have lounged on the beaches here or dipped themselves in one of the resort's 54 swimming pools – the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Rainier of Monaco, even a Canadian Prime Minister named Paul Martin.

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline and Caroline stayed here in 1960, just days after JFK announced that he would run for president. One of the items on display is a copy of Jackie's will, handwritten on Half Moon notepaper and dated Jan. 11, 1960.

But the past is the past. Half Moon, like much of the area on Jamaica's northwest coast, is gearing up for the future. And it seems to be a bright one.

A new four-lane highway now links Negril, Montego Bay and points east and there's talk of a new Montego Bay bypass. The University of the West Indies recently opened its northern campus here and several new schools are being built.

A large casino hotel – the country's first – is inching skyward. Less than 15 minutes away from the international airport, The Palmyra will be a 1,000-room casino hotel and part of a major, 2,000 hotel-room development.

The government has also promised to build a convention centre that can take up to 2,500 people.

"There is much hope for Montego Bay in the near future and Half Moon is pleased to be part of the continuing journey," says Richard Whitfield, the resort's managing director.

At Half Moon itself, the resort is redeveloping six hectares of its 160-hectare site. The Colony at Half Moon will consist of 30 luxury villas, ranging in price from about $2.3 million (all prices U.S.) for a three-bedroom ocean view villa, to $6.5 million for a five-bedroom, oceanfront Royal Villa.

When the owner has not reserved the villa, it will be part of a rental pool, with the owner receiving 70 per cent of rental revenue. The villas will each have a butler, housekeeper, cook, laundress and gardener.

A highlight of any Half Moon visit is the chance to get up close and friendly with a couple of delightful dolphins. The various programs offered range from a simple 30-minute meet and greet – bottlenose dolphins Bruno and Miguel rub up against you as the swim past, perform a trick or two and even give you a kiss – to spending a whole day with the dolphins in the Trainer for a Day program.

The newest addition to the resort is the Fern Tree spa, offering a range of massages, facials and body treatments in what used to be a former managing director's home.

The area has much to offer including white water rafting in the nearby Great River, sport fishing, diving and snorkelling, and day trips to the interior.

And, of course, golf. The Half Moon course is one of three excellent courses in the Rose Hall area – the other two are Cinnamon Hill and Wild Witches. Luckily for duffers like me, Half Moon is for golfers of all levels; my patient caddy, Colin, started coaching me after my second shot on the first hole.

"Keep your head down, man," he says. "You are lifting it too soon to follow the ball and that's my job."

The other two courses are more hilly and have a number of holes along the coastline. "Half Moon is straightforward, Witches is a real challenge and Cinnamon Hill is somewhere in between," a real golfer told me.

The new director of golf at Cinnamon Hill is Canadian Robert Ames, brother of PGA golfer Stephen.

And finally for a real treat, try a jerk shack named Scotchies at Coral Gardens. It's certainly not fancy – jerk chicken, pork or fish is served in aluminum foil and comes with yam or sweet potato – but the flavour is supreme and the atmosphere smoky and authentic.

Robert Crew is an Oakville-based freelance writer. His trip was subsidized by Half Moon Resort.

Just the facts 

Follow the links for more on the Half Moon, The Colony at Half Moon and the three Rose Hall golf courses.

See also Jamaica.


Thicke Celebrates The Human Touch

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

(October 05, 2008) Robin Thicke's desire to replicate '70s soul and pop on his new disc Something Else wasn't just figurative: He actually used the same horn section from Michael Jackson's 1979 classic Off the Wall.

"Michael is the epitome of celebration, and the core of this album has that: it's celebratory, healing, loving music ... (executive producer) André Harrell told me, `When God is singing loud, that's the sound of horns,'" explains the 31-year-old singer/songwriter in his press kit.

"It's time for hope and change. It's in the air ... at the core of every great existence is an abundance of love and joy, and the only way to create that is to give it."

Thicke, who performs at Kool Haus tomorrow night, also surrounded his dreamy falsetto with silky strings and punchy percussion, resulting in a sensuous pastiche that recalls Marvin Gaye, vintage Philly soul, Curtis Mayfield and disco. "What I really wanted to do was just utilize a bunch of great musicians," Thicke told the Star in a recent phone interview from a Manhattan hotel room.

"Nowadays, most records are just made with two people, and I miss the imperfection. I love it when you can hear the human hands and the human soul in the music, as opposed to just the perfect notes in the perfect pitch all the time. I like the human element in art."

Among the dozen tracks on Something Else are those that are typically Thicke – lush, sensitive love songs; but there are also a couple of issue-oriented tunes examining heavy subjects, such as racism, politics and the environment.

In "Dreamworld" he references his marriage to African-American actress Paula Patton: There would be no black and white/The world would just treat my wife right/We would walk down in Mississippi/And no one would look at us twice.

And disc-closing "Tie My Hands," a collaboration with Lil Wayne that first appeared on the rapper's top-selling disc earlier this year, sounds off about government gaffes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. On the intro Thicke intones: We are at war with the universe/The sky is falling/And the only thing that can save us now is some sensitivity and compassion.

"That was a song that I wrote three years ago that I was going to put on my last album, but (Lil Wayne) said he wanted to do it," said Thicke. "So I gave it to him and when he finished it I was like, `That's too important; as many people as possible need to hear that song. It's a classic and it needs to be on the end of my album,' which is a very important slot for any artist – at the end of his exhibition."

The L.A.-born son of actors Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring is a self-taught musician who started off in his teens writing songs for Brandy and Brian McKnight.

His career stalled after a dead-in-the-water 2002 debut, but was resurrected by his 2006 sophomore release, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, which spawned the R&B chart-topping "Lost Without U" and landed him opening-act gigs with Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige. Now the new album's first single "Magic" is in Billboard's R&B Top 10.

"None of this will ever surpass my expectations," said Thicke of his rising fortunes. "I have pretty lofty expectations, which is why I'll never stop."

Madonna Kicks Off North American Tour

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 06, 2008) EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.–In a show defined by throbbing dance music, tight choreography, spectacular stage sets and stunning visuals, perhaps the most stirring moment during the kickoff concert to Madonna's "Sticky & Sweet" tour came when the Material Girl stood onstage with just her guitar and a few musicians for an acoustic set.

As she sang the emotional song from her movie Evita, Madonna couldn't help but wink and smile at the roaring sold-out crowd as she sang the song's main refrain and title: "You must love me.''

Maybe that's because she knew she was right. Even the superstar's most cynical critics couldn't walk away from her two-hour extravaganza at the Izod Center on Saturday night without being thoroughly wowed. It was not only the spectacle of the concert, but the performer herself, as she reasserted her musical relevance and dominance in her 25th year in the spotlight.

Madonna is not the world's most gifted singer or dancer or even musician, but she may be its greatest performer. From the moment she first appeared on stage, looking taut and chiselled in a black bra and shorts with a mesh layer overlay, she turned the arena into a massive dance club and a nonstop party. The zooming "Candy Shop," off her most recent CD "Hard Candy," set it off as Madonna strutted onstage flanked by an army of dancers. While they may have executed the show's most intricate dance moves, the ever-fit Madonna dazzled on her own with sinewy steps that belied her AARP-status.

Though the show's first moments were devoted to her new album, it didn't take long for her to seamlessly groove back in time, performing one of her '90s gems, "Human Nature." The already funky, synthesized tune got an even funkier update, as Madonna utilized the vocoder trend with her background vocals. The unapologetic anthem was highlighted by a video that showed Madonna being watched by a security camera in an elevator; as the song went on, Britney Spears' image intertwined with her blonde musical mentor, looking frightened and frail under the camera's lens before striking a decidedly confident pose at the song's end.

It's a testament to Madonna's musical chops that her new music blended so expertly with some of her greatest hits: Elements of "4 Minutes" were mashed up with "Vogue" for a flashback that managed to be both classic and cutting edge. While she sang many of her classics, such as "Like a Prayer,'' "La Isla Bonita," and ``Ray of Life," those moments weren't relegated to short renditions during the retrospective medley part of the show, like many veterans do. They were given full attention with colourful, dazzling displays and new arrangements that made them seem as exciting and fresh as when they first made their debut. "Get Into the Groove" was re-imagined with the help of a DJ, a double-Dutch playing Madonna and cartoons by the late Keith Haring. During one of her many guitar-playing moments, she gave a rocked out performance of "Borderline" to the feverishly energetic crowd.

While the "Sweet & Sticky" tour would have been a triumph in any year, it was particularly impressive coming off her somewhat lacklustre "Confessions" two years ago, which seemed more like a laboured, carefully designed exercise than a joyful performance.

Not so this time around. Instead of performing at the crowd, she was performing for and with them, bringing them into her world with warmth and appreciation. Even when she scolded the few in the audience who weren't on their feet with unprintable language, she was jovial and endearing.

Jabs at Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – ``Sarah Palin is not in my show!" were not daggers, and she even added, "Nothing personal." And the one preachy moment – in which she implored the audience to "save the world" through a series of video images that interspersed the world's atrocities with her ideas hopeful images, including Democratic candidate Barack Obama – wasn't as over the top as might be expected (with the exception of the interloping of video of Republican candidate John McCain in with world dictators and Adolph Hitler).

With her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year and her 50th birthday, it would have been easy for Madonna to turn her latest tour into some kind of nostalgia show. It probably would have been an enjoyable experience nonetheless.

But then again, it wouldn't have been Madonna – the consummate artist who always stretches the limits, exploring new ideas to stay relevant. On Saturday, she proved to be more than relevant – she's still music premier performer.

Madonna performs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Oct. 18 and 19. Both shows are sold out.

Quebec Pair Is Final Entry In Hockey Night Song Contest

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

(October 04, 2008) Voting starts tonight on Hockey Night in Canada's new theme song, following CBC-TV's Anthem Challenge special at 9 p.m.

Judges have narrowed down the 14,685 entries to five semi-finalists. Excerpts were aired on The Hour each night this week.

The next day, three Toronto Star music critics commented on the entry heard the night before.

Last night, the final semi-finalist revealed was "Let the Game Begin," by Christian St. Roch and Jimmy Tanaka of Châteauguay and Verdun, Que.

Here are our critics' instant verdicts:

• Take all of the elements of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song we all know and love, and rearrange them so it sounds kind of the same, and kind of not. But 30 seconds later, you've forgotten what it sounded like, so you have to start all over again. It's kind of like a glazed sour cream Timbit vs. a plain one. Ho hum.

- John Terauds

• Perhaps the weakest contender in the bunch. A strong opening chord gives way to a brief and indifferent theme, which is lost and forgotten after one statement. This one sounds like a generic withdrawal from the Incidental Music Bank.

- Greg Quill

• I started to tune out when I heard canned cheers, which is near the beginning of this offering. So, when the skate-stick-puck sounds chipped in, I dismissed it for lack of imagination.

- Ashante Infantry

Seal Covers Soul Classics On New CD


(October 02, 2008)  *Grammy-winning vocalist and songwriter Seal reinterprets 11 classic R&B songs for his sixth studio album, "Soul,"  due Nov. 11 on Warner Bros. Records. The David Foster-produced collection features remakes of such hits as Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World," Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and Al Green's "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)."  "Someone once said ‘...the album will sound like the time you had making it'.... Never before has it been as true as in the process of recording this record," Seal said. "Although David and I had been acquaintances before, we'd never quite managed to work together. Upon doing so, I was quick to realize that I was in the presence of true greatness.  "I've worked with a lot of producers before, but never have I come across anyone as naturally gifted and knowledgeable as David. If you are fortunate enough to have that combination, then you find that the album-making process tends to go very swiftly, making this the smoothest and most enjoyable album I have ever made. And if you are exceptionally fortunate, you find yourself also having made a great friend. I cannot thank him enough."

The track listing for "Soul" is as follows.

1. A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke
2. I Can't Stand The Rain - Ann Pebbles
3. It's A Man's Man's Man's World - James Brown
4. Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd
5. I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding
6. Here I Am (Come And Take Me) - Al Green
7. If You Don't Know Me By Now - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
8. It's Alright - The Impressions
9. I'm Still In Love With You - Al Green
10. Free - Deniece Williams
11. People Get Ready - The Impressions    

Tami Chynn 'Freezes' Billboard chart

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(October 2, 2008) *Singer Tami Chynn has logged her first entry on any Billboard singles chart. Frozen, her duet with hip hop star Akon has jumped from number 16 to number 11 on Billboard's Dance Music Club Play listing. The track is also burning up dance radio, as it hops to number 20 on Billboard's Dance Music Airplay tally.

"I am really excited about all that has been happening. The album is coming and the video with Akon is also coming. I know the fans have been waiting for both but you know how it goes sometimes when it comes to the record label," Chynn said in an interview at a cocktail reception hosted by Pepsi Jamaica at Carlos Café recently.

Chynn is featured along with international dancehall artiste Shaggy and hip hop star Akon in the new Pepsi commercial. Chynn is heard singing the Carl Douglas 1974 hit Kung Fu Fighting. Asked how she felt about the turn of events, Chynn said "I am very excited about this. Pepsi is a huge brand and I always thought that this would come later in my career. The fact that they have taken a chance on an unknown artiste and two Jamaicans at that; this is very big."

Signed to hip hop star Akon's Kon Live label which is distributed by Universal Music's Geffen imprint, Chynn said the Pepsi deal came about after her manager Jules Dougall met with Ellen Healy the Director of Sports and Entertainment at Pepsi-Co in the UK. "My manager met with Miss Healy through Akon and we kept in touch. The discussions went back and forth until they finally made a decision," Chynn explained.

Chynn, whose sophomore album Prima Dona is set for an early 2009 release, is going on tour with New Kids on the Block and UK pop star Natasha Bedingfield next month. "I am really excited about the tour and it's already sold out. I grew up on New Kids on the Block and their music. It's just amazing," Chynn said excitingly.

Prima Dona, according to Chynn, will feature the Frozen single as well as a collaboration with Voicemail titled Watch Me Wine. "The song with Voicemail is very vibesy and exciting. Voicemail really represented," she said.

Chynn, who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia - says her favourite Pepsi television commercial was We Will Rock You which featured Beyonce, Pink and Britney Spears. "That commercial was really epic. Lots of girl power," said Chynn.

New Budapest Hall Lives Up To Legacy

Source: www.thestar.com - William Littler

(October 04, 2008) BUDAPEST - Tonight the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will play its first concert in New York's Carnegie Hall in a decade. A return to Budapest, now that this great city offers a truly welcoming hall, wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Until recently, Budapest's showcase engagements were held in the concert hall of the Academy of Music, founded in 1875 by no less a figure than Franz Liszt.

Still the seminal institution in Hungarian musical life – even Béla Bartók taught there – the Academy takes understandable pride in its venerable hall.

But Hungarian orchestras desirous of a larger acoustical space, not to mention bigger box-office receipts, have lobbied for years for the construction of a proper symphonic hall in what is, after all, one of the major music centres of Europe.

It took a government partnership with private developers to bring the project to fruition, and it took a collaboration with the New York acoustical consulting firm Artec – the same firm responsible for the successful acoustical renovation of Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall – to assure the kind of sound that would give Budapest a world-class concert facility.

It wasn't until last week that I finally managed to visit the new hall, located near the banks of the Danube across from one of the city's most curious adventures in postmodernism, the National Theatre, a short 10-minute tram ride from the old Pest city centre.

Located as it is in a part of the city in transition, the building did not have to be made to conform with its historical context, as it probably would have done, for example, across from Miklos Ybl's neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House (1884), one of the most decoratively elegant venues of its kind on the continent.

On a previous visit I was told that when Budapest wanted to build its opera house, Emperor Franz Joseph (who was also King of Hungary) gave his permission on condition that it be smaller than the court opera in Vienna. The ever resourceful Hungarians apparently got even by making it more beautiful.

Although I wouldn't call the new, grandiosely titled Palace of Arts beautiful, it is a generally impressive building, considerably larger than Roy Thomson Hall thanks to the inclusion of a modern art museum and an intimate venue for chamber music and dance, in addition to the flagship Béla Bartók Concert Hall.

Larger concert halls (Béla Bartók seats 1,800) tend to be of two types these days: those in the classic shoebox shape embodied by the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna; or in what is called the vineyard shape, with the audience distributed around the sound source, as in the Philharmonie in Berlin.

Béla Bartók, in common with most other Artec halls, conforms to the shoebox model.

Architects, always prone to going their own way, resist repeating what their predecessors have done, which helps explain why Arthur Erickson gave Roy Thomson Hall an acoustically problematic near-circular form, which eventually had to be modified by Artec after years of complaining by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Budapest's orchestras seem to have had greater input into the design of their hall, whose innovative architectural features (Gabor Zoboki was lead architect) centre primarily around decorative elements, such as a kitschy gold-painted plaster faux-curtain hanging below the organ on the rear stage wall.

The resident National Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly known as the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra) gave the opening concert on Jan. 8, 2005, under the direction of its music director since 1997, a musician better known in Canada as pianist Zoltán Kocsis. It was he who conducted the season-opening program I heard, with Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E minor framing Vadim Repin's technically brilliant, less-than-idiomatic performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

Kocsis already regards the Béla Bartók as "one of Europe's superior concert halls," and nothing I heard in it contradicted him. What a contrast to the dry, multi-purpose Patria Hall, in which the Toronto Symphony Orchestra played in Budapest under Jukka-Pekka Saraste eight years ago.

Morissette Homecoming Sweet End To Tough Year

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(October 7, 2008) Alanis Morissette kicks off the Canadian leg of her North American tour in Toronto tomorrow with music from a new album inspired by the break-up with actor Ryan Reynolds.

And after a tough year that also included the death of her grandmother, the confessional singer-songwriter says she's excited to perform in Canada, especially in her hometown of Ottawa, where she plays Sunday.

"I'll definitely be having Thanksgiving dinner with my family, some version of it, anyway," Morissette said recently. "We're playing a lot of Canadian dates this time around, so I'm really excited to get back home."

The acclaimed performer has already run through a string of shows along the U.S. eastern seaboard, where she drew mixed reviews for a set list that blends her past hits with new material from her current disc, Flavours of Entanglement.

Morissette says she worked hard to balance new with old, while incorporating the rich textures that pervade her new sound.

"It is, I think, hands down my favourite set list, a combination of wonderful self-indulgence that keeps me and everyone onstage really happy," she says.

For many, Morissette's music has become synonymous with raw self-expression and searing emotion. Her breakout 1995 hit, "You Oughta Know," drew intense speculation over its inspiration thanks to angry, explicit lyrics.

U.S. comic Dave Coulier, of Full House, claimed earlier this year that he was the ex-lover who inspired the song but Morissette refused to confirm if he was.

As for her current disc, she freely admits that much of the material sprang from her high-profile romance with fellow Canuck Reynolds, who recently wed U.S. actress Scarlett Johansson.

"It reflected some serious disassemblings in my personal life and it's sort of far-reaching. It reaches into my professional life. It's like a breaking or a broken moment captured and then I like to think a phoenix rising."

Morissette plays Massey Hall tomorrow and Hamilton Place Theatre on Saturday. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.ca.


Meth And Red Reunite For Fall Tour


(October 03, 2008) *Method Man and Redman will reteam for a headlining tour scheduled to hit more than 35 cities through late November and will feature opening support from New York rapper Termanology, reports Live Daily. The pair kicks things off Oct. 10 in Providence, RI, with stops along the way in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle, West Hollywood and Dallas. [See full itinerary below.] Redman and Method Man, who have released a pair of albums together, co-starred in the 2001 comedy film "How High." According to reports, Redman recently announced to a festival crowd in Boston that the duo were working on a sequel to the movie, with filming set to begin early next year, as well as a true follow-up to their 1999 debut together, "Blackout!" Method Man's most recent release is "Back to Back: Raw & Uncut." He's said in several interviews that he is working on a new solo album set for release later this year or early in 2009, to be titled "Crystal Method." Redman released his sixth solo effort, "Red Gone Wild," in March of last year after numerous delays. 

T.I. Stays Atop Billboard For 5th Week


(October 03, 2008) *T.I.'s single "Whatever You Like" remains at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart for a fifth week and commands the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a second week. The single comes from his just-released new album "Paper Trail," which also contains Billboard's No. 57 single "Ready for Whatever" and No. 80 song "Live Your Life." The Nos. 2-4 spots on the Hot 100 are unchanged, with Pink's "So What," Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" and Rihanna's "Disturbia" holding firm. M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" inches up 6-5, while Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" jumps 9-6 and T-Pain's "Can't Believe It" featuring Lil Wayne rises 8-7. Ne-Yo's "Closer" is down 7-8, while Taylor Swift's "Love Story" slides 5-9. Estelle's "American Boy" featuring Kanye West stays put at No. 10. New Cash Money artist Kevin Rudolf has the greatest digital gainer with "Let It Rock" featuring Lil Wayne. The song jumps 21-15 after shifting 85,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The Hot 100's top debut comes from Akon's "Right Now (Na Na Na)," the first single from his new album, "Freedom," due Nov. 25. "Right Now" lands at No. 17 after selling 94,000 digital downloads.  Former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker starts a second week atop Hot Country Songs with "Don't Think I Don't Think About."

Queen Ifrica Joins VP Records Roster

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(October 2, 2008) Queen Ifrica who has been making strong moves on the local and international circuit with her brand of reggae offerings, has reportedly signed with New York based independent label, VP Records.  Ifrica who was on her way to Washington DC earlier this week when this column caught up with her, was in high spirits about the recent turn of events, as far as her career is concerned.  ‘We just seal off the deal with VP and the album will be released soon. It ago nice and you ago love the title’, said an excited Queen Ifrica.  Tiffany Mea, publicist at VP Records’ New York office confirmed the signing of Queen Ifrica to the label.  With a string of hits permeating the airwaves and the charts since mid last year, Queen Ifrica (real name Ventrice Morgan) says she handles her success by being remaining focused. ‘I just appreciate the fact that after being in the industry for so long, people are finally accepting you. I kinda feel humble about all of this’, said Queen Ifrica.  Bubblers including Below the Waist, Daddy Don’t Touch Me There, Mi Nah Rub, and Randy have had their field day on the charts within the past year. Her latest sizzler Keep it to Yourself for producer Don Corleon is already waging an attack on the charts.  ‘Mi just give thanks for all that has been happening, because you that the kind of music that I do, doesn’t really get the overwhelming support right away. As a female it give a lot of people including other female artistes, some form of encouragement’, she added.  Queen Ifrica’s debut VP Records album is earmarked for release in the first quarter of next year.

Canadian Artists Band Together Against Harper

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Johanna Schneller

(October 04, 2008) A star-studded roster of Canadian musicians including
K-OS, Sarah Harmer and Hawksley Workman have banded together to produce a song to mobilize Canadians to vote against Stephen Harper. The song, entitled “You Have a Choice,” is sponsored by Avaaz Canada, a democracy advocacy group. In a news release, the group's executive director said the song aims to push for action on climate change, and that means voting against the Conservatives. “Under the Conservative government our country is actively wrecking international progress on climate change,” Ricken Patel said in the release.   “This song is an eloquent reminder that Canada doesn't have to be this way – it's our choice.” The song, produced by K-OS, also features Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent and Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene. The single will be released to radio stations across the country, and is available for download at avaaz.ca.

Kimmel Back As American Music Awards Host

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 06, 2008) NEW YORK — Jimmy Kimmel is coming back to provide more laughs for the American Music Awards. The comedian and talk show host is slated to host the annual event on Nov. 23 live from Los Angeles on ABC. Pink and the Jonas Brothers are among those scheduled to perform. Kimmel has been host for the American Music Awards four previous times. In a statement, Orly Adelson, president of Dick Clark Productions, the show's producer, called Kimmel “a masterful host with incredible spontaneity and wit; audiences can expect a great night.” Kimmel's response? “I agree with Orly completely.” The American Music Awards are voted on by fans through online voting.

Russell Simmons Launches Menswear Line

www.eurweb.com - The Associated Press

(October 06, 2008) *Russell Simmons rolled out his new menswear collection Friday at the Argyle Culture Fashion Show, which was held at the Setai Hotel in South Beach, Fla.  The line of sporty suits, pinstriped shorts and argyle V-neck sweaters caters to the 25-and-over urban crowd, according to the Associated Press. The goal is to mix urban aesthetics with traditionally professional and preppy attire. "I want to create a line to reach out to those guys who are not young men anymore but who want to still be part of that urban lifestyle," said Simmons, who turned 51 on Saturday.  Among other pieces in the show were plaid shorts, free-flowing jackets and classic five-pocket pants created in materials like wool and cotton blends, reports the AP. Celebs attending the show included "American Idol" stars Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, as well as actress Gabrielle Union.  "Russell is so amazing and such an inspiration," said Union, who sat near the runway. "I am just honoured to be here in his support and to celebrate his birthday."

John Legend Joins Springsteen/Joel Gig

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 7, 2008) *John Legend will join his Columbia label mates Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel at the October 16th benefit concert for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.    The show will take place at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom the day after Obama's final debate with Republican nominee John McCain.    John Legend officially endorsed Obama earlier this year and premiered his own Obama-inspired song "If You're Out There" during a set at the Democratic National Convention in August.    A call-to-action and evocation of human potential, "If You're Out There" reflects the themes of hope and change, responsibility and leadership, and commitment to a better tomorrow expressed in the principles of Barack Obama. The track may be downloaded directly at www.barackobama.com/johnlegend.

Jennifer Hudson: Jennifer Hudson

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(October 7, 2008) There's no disputing this American Idol finalist's talent. Though she didn't take that prize, Hudson went on to win an Oscar. The only question was how to harness the 27-year-old's gospel-steeped vocals; and record mogul Clive Davis has done her an unfortunate turn here. With input from more than a dozen producers and writers, the disc is a mishmash of pop, gospel, R&B, show tunes and hip hop. The worst of it is the duets: "Pocketbook" is a foolish beatbox-laden track with Ludacris that finds her threatening to belt a potential suitor with her handbag; "I'm His Only Woman," a rehash of Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" with screechy Idol winner Fantasia, only proves Hudson's the better singer. The Chicago native's voice has formidable range and natural maturity that works best on classic R&B, or muscular pop rhythms underscoring done-wrong heartache, self-empowerment and devotion. Only "Spotlight" and the Robin Thicke-penned "Giving Myself" fit the bill here. The disc closes with her Dreamgirls tour de force "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and the traditional "Jesus Promised Me A Home Over There," both inconsistent with the preceding commercial fare. Hudson's rich sound is in need of better guidance.



Rachel Gets Married, Anne Gets Real

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Johanna Schneller

(October 03, 2008) Long before the drums began beating at the Toronto International Film Festival for
Anne Hathaway's new film, Rachel Getting Married, and long before her name started surfacing in Oscar-prediction pools with the big girls, including Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet, Hathaway had a breakthrough, one of those rare, genuine epiphanies that changes lives as well as careers.

That she would reach this point of creative achievement wasn't a sure thing. Nothing in the movies ever is. The good ones are a constellation of rights (right story, right director, right cast, right time) gathered more by alchemy than good planning. Once the picture is locked, anyone can look back and say, yes, Demme is a director who's guided seven actors to Oscar nominations (four of whom won, including Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs, and Tom Hanks for Philadelphia). One could say Rachel's trenchant script (by first-timer Jenny Lumet, daughter of director Sidney) cried out to be made in a cinéma vérité, Altmanesque style, and that Demme was the logical director to do it, since his recent focus on making documentaries such as 2006's Neil Young: Heart of Gold, and 2007's Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains has funked up his filmmaking.

One also could say, as Demme told me, “I saw things in a couple of the roles Anne had done,” including Jake Gyllenhaal's duped wife in Brokeback Mountain and an ambitious fashionista in The Devil Wears Prada. One could even argue that the role of Kym – the black sheep of a brainy Connecticut clan, who takes a break from rehab to attend, and nearly derail, her sister's wedding – was so beautifully written that it would be hard not to shine in it.

But none of that would have mattered had it not been the right moment for Hathaway, 27. She signed on a year before the cameras rolled. “So really, for a solid year I thought about Kym every single day, and made notes, and did research,” she said over breakfast during TIFF. She was wearing jeans, a red plaid shirt and a grey grandpa cardigan, and had the biggest eyes I've ever seen, like a “Love Is …” cartoon come to life.

 “I'm a total geek, so that's exactly the way I like to do things,” she continued. “Then about a month before we started shooting I had a breakthrough. About myself, but also about Kym. I realized that I have a tendency to edit myself, and present only the bits I like the best. That implies an arrogance, but it was really done more from fear. I realized that I do that with my characters, too. I saw that if I really wanted to play Kym as I knew I did, I had to let her be confused in front of other people. I didn't need to control whether or not anybody likes her, I just needed to make sure they understand her, and then they can make up their own minds. It was so liberating.”

Hathaway is a bright girl, bright enough to realize that this movie will catapult her into a more rarefied career where she will face choices about what kind of an artist she wants to be. “It's funny, when certain people have said that they envision a certain career for me, it's always been different than the one I envision for myself,” she said. “The career I'd most like to have is somewhere between Laura Linney's and Sigourney Weaver's – people who flirt with Hollywood, but whose true heart lies in experimental filmmaking and telling smaller stories. I honestly love doing both. I think there's enough pressure being labelled by other people; I don't want to do that to myself. And I'm not sure this [ Rachel] will prove anything. You never know what's going to do what. You just have to make yourself happy.”

The second part of Hathaway's epiphany, the personal part, is perhaps more lasting. “I know it sounds silly, but I'm finally realizing that I need to figure out who I am and then just be that person,” she said. “Knowing who I am hasn't come easily to me. One of my best friends, Emily Blunt [her co-star in Prada], has always known exactly who she is, and she's never anything but that person, no matter what. I'm not that way. I wish I were. I've always been painfully self-aware, but I'm finally learning that no one is looking at me as closely as I'm looking at myself. Now my life's a lot less fearful than it used to be.”

She's clear-headed about her sudden prominence in the tabloids, caused by the arrest in June of her ex-boyfriend, the Italian businessman Raffaelo Follieri, on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. “As long as that's only a part of my life and not all of it, I can handle it,” she said. “I have safe spots in the world that I disappear to, and people who love me and protect me. So when I call and say, ‘I need to stay on your couch right now,' they're amazing about it.

“Also, you have to remember that this stuff doesn't last forever. Last year it was someone else, and next year it will be someone else again. It's really easy to get caught up in thinking that you're the biggest deal in the world, but I know there are lots of people in, say, Cambodia who didn't have dinner last night, and they're not thinking about who I'm dating. You need to keep reminding yourself of exactly how small you are in the world.”

That's the thing about epiphanies: No one can take them away from you. Whether Rachel Getting Married changes Hathaway's career or not, acting in it – having a truly artistic, life-enhancing experience – has changed her.

“Usually I'm more neurotic at the end of a movie than the beginning, because all I can see are missed opportunities, and misinterpretations of moments, and the fear that what I've done has been ordinary,” Hathaway said. “But at the end of Rachel, Bill Irwin [who plays Kym's father] asked me, ‘How do you feel?' And without thinking I said, ‘Satisfied.' I've never said that before. So that felt –” here she sucked in a huge inhale, as if she were taking her very first breath all over again, only this time it made her smile – “ really good.”

Clark Duke's Kick-Ass Life: From A Bit Player To A Player

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

(October 05, 2008) Clark Duke is definitely having a moment. Just last year, the 23-year-old actor was cast as Party Teenager No. 1 in Superbad but now he's moved up in billing as he co-stars in another teen comedy, Sex Drive, opening Oct. 17.

Even more unlikely is that this bespectacled, nerdy-looking actor is playing the role of Lance, the suave, ladies-man mentor and best friend to Ian, the main character in the film, who goes on a road trip in a quest to lose his virginity.

The casting was something that even surprised Duke.

"When I went in to audition for this, I thought it was for the other role, the virgin nerdy guy. Then the director said, `No we want you to read for Lance.' Because he had seen the Clark and Michael episode where I karate-kicked a little girl and they were like `That's Lance! We like his swagger.' I was like, really?" says Duke.

That karate-kicking moment came from the 10-part web mockumentary series, Clark and Michael, which featured Duke and Bramptonian Michael Cera. Duke befriended Cera on the set of Superbad, and he directed the first episode for his thesis at Loyola Marymount University.

The heavily "meta" show – a series about two wayward dudes attempting to make and sell a series – won the pair plenty of fans in Hollywood.

Real life is definitely working out better. In Sex Drive, Duke's character is one who's obviously read the famed modern dating guide The Game, and often talks about treating women badly – it's called `negging' in the book – in order to keep them interested. He tries to impart his lessons on his Ian, played by Josh Zuckerman, to often silly and comic results.

"My character's just very honest, which I liked. I don't think he's disrespectful to women, I just think he's very self-aware of who he is, what he wants to do, and how to get what he wants," says Duke.

In some ways Duke is very similar. He says that because of his success in roles, he's currently pursuing acting, but it's all in the hopes of eventually writing and directing his own projects.

"I've got a couple of comic book ideas. I'm actually writing a couple of scripts, but this stuff all takes so long to finalize and announce everything that I'm just perpetually not able to talk about it," he says.

"Hopefully, by the end of the year, there will be one thing that I'm writing and directing. Fingers crossed."

In the meantime, life as an actor isn't going too bad. He just wrapped A Thousand Words, a film starring Eddie Murphy as a cursed man with who only has a thousand words to say until he dies. Duke plays his nervous assistant.

As well, one of the reasons that Duke is in Toronto is that he's shooting a supporting role in
Kick-Ass, a comic book adaptation of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. story about an unlikely superhero, which also stars Nicolas Cage.

"I was a fan of the comics. I actually remember emailing my agent and manager, saying you guys better keep an eye on this, because they are going to make a movie out of this no question, because the premise is just so strong," he says.

As a sign of the comic-movie boom, Kick-Ass the movie was green-lighted even before the series' initial storyline had even finished, so Duke and the cast know more than fans do about where the comic's going.

"Yeah, it sort of ruined the comic when I read the script," he says.

Not that he's complaining at all. For this Arkansas-born actor and wannabe director, his life now consists to jetting off to New York for press, over to London to shoot more Kick-Ass, and then eventually back to L.A. where he says that he and friends are starting to deejay out in clubs for fun.

"This is like a rock `n' roll lifestyle at this point," he says.

"And I'm having a blast."

Toronto The Good Yields Jarsky The Bad

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

(October 04, 2008) Joris Jarsky is très cool in a distressed leather jacket purchased in Montreal eight years ago, sitting in a gifting lounge at the Toronto International Film Festival where he's doing press for three films: Toronto Stories, The Green Door and Blindness, which opened yesterday.

How does he juggle the three?

"With grace and style – the only way," he deadpans. "I’m into oregano oil; you feel like a pizza but it brings the toxins right out. I’m happy to do this. I'm from Toronto and to walk into the Elgin Theatre and be introduced with (Blindness co-star) Julianne Moore ..."

Toronto Stories is an anthology of four tales connected by a missing boy and guided by four different directors. Jarsky's instalment was helmed by David Sudz Sutherland.

"I play a guy who breaks out of jail to find his girlfriend, who turns out to be engaged," he says. "Hilarity ensues. Some might call it violence. I'm the kid who can’t get his s--- together. He doesn’t think before he acts. He's a bit off his rocker and he's lovable but doesn’t know it."

In The Green Door, he's another badass. "Don McKellar and I get mistaken for the same person," Jarsky, 33, says. "We look alike from behind though I'm a little bit taller than him. After five days, we're all shrinking."

In Blindness, his character is just called Hooligan. "Yes, there is a theme to last year's roles," he allows. "This character is more violent and twisted than in Toronto Stories. He gets contaminated (and goes blind) and put in jail and goes mad. Fernando (Meirelles, the director) didn't want us to come in as bad guys but turn into bad guys with some mitigating circumstances. In Julianne and Mark's (Ruffalo) ward, they live righteously and don't sink into the muck, but retain their decency and dignity. We have a gun. We shoot randomly and it's extremely scary – in a room with 40 people and someone has a gun."

The whole cast, extras and all, had a coach to help them simulate blindness. The coach "made us walk with blindfolds. They took us out in traffic: `Okay, find your way.' You felt the physicality and there was camaraderie among the cast. I bumped into Mark Ruffalo and it was weird bumping into each other, feeling each other up."

Jarsky is such a nice boy to be playing bad. He was the youngest of three boys with a Ukrainian-Italian father and Belgian mother. His father, who was born in New York, had his masters in theology from U of T. "Dad is a contractor so I grew up around the sound of a skill saw. They asked him to shave his beard, so that was the end of his theological career. My grandfather was a cement layer and a garbage man at night. He was a civil rights activist and both my parents were human (rights) activists."

Jarsky attended the Etobicoke School of the Arts and the National Theatre School. After graduating in 1999, he was cast in the play The Awakening and walked away with a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male.

He started working on TV, logging 26 episodes of the series Vampire High and appearances in such episodics as Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye, The Eleventh Hour and Mutant X.

His film credits include Foolproof, a heist caper co-starring Ryan Reynolds, the recently minted Mr. Scarlett Johansson, and The Hulk, where his role was upgraded.

"I was in it quite a lot," Jarsky recalls. "I was the soldier in the Jeep and Tim Roth throws a taxi on me. I play a character I never play: I am capable of doing good. I play a lot of troubled individuals. My mom thinks it’s because I grew up in Parkdale. I never feel comfortable playing a straight-up romantic lead. Character actors are more fun and interesting."

He is even the bad guy in animated features. He does voice work on the cartoon Turbo Dogs. "I play Strut, a dachshund, and even in the cartoon world I'm a dog who causes trouble. But I say `sorry' whenever I've cheated, lied or stolen something."

At least he's a polite scoundrel. Mom must be proud.

Michael Cera, The Little Dweeb Who Could

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 03, 2008) Michael Cera walks into a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, shrugs off his red knapsack, and shyly asks if anyone minds if he makes himself a cup of java.

“Do you mind if I make a coffee real quick?” asks the actor. “I like it with sugar and milk,” he explains. “It's really, really delicious.” And while he stirs with a plastic stick, the 20-year-old chats – in his halting, adorkable way – about his new film, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a light-hearted, indie version of a John Hughes coming-of-age film.

Cera's aw-shucks dweebiness – so evident in roles like George-Michael Bluth in Arrested Development, Paulie Bleeker in Juno and Evan in Superbad – is no act. This dude from suburban Brampton, Ont., is truly a nerd – albeit a sweet, funny and extremely talented one.

“My manager sent me a copy of Raising Victor Vargas, which is a movie that [director] Pete [Sollett] did, and I really loved it and wanted to meet with him,” says this master of the awkward pause. “Then I went to New York, met him and really liked him. And wanted to work with him. Yeah,” Cera says with a self-conscious giggle. “Yeah, then we made it.”

Cera says he immediately related to his Nick and Norah character, a down-on-his-luck bassist in the queercore (a punk offshoot) band called the Jerk Offs, who, as the story begins, has just been dumped by his shallow girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena).

“I can relate to being broken up with, heartache and meeting someone and striking up a friendship,” says the unlikely teen heartthrob.

Has he any tips for getting over a breakup? “Yeah,” Cera quips. “Watch this movie.”

Shot in New York in 29 days, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist – which came to theatres yesterday – is based on the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Cera plays the heartsick Nick, who gets thrown into a sleepless night of adventure with Norah (Kat Dennings), as the two careen through the streets of the Lower East Side in Nick's beat-up yellow Yugo, looking for their favourite band, Where's Fluffy, and also trying to find Norah's best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), a gum-snapping blonde who is blotto drunk and lost (and the film's primary scene-stealer).

Sollett, who cast Cera in the lead before the breakout success of Juno and Superbad, says the actor's low-key manner, ordinary looks and savvy improvisational skills made him perfect to play the film's non-threatening romantic lead – an ordinary guy who does the right thing and gets the girl.

“When I met Mike, I'd never seen him in anything, and I hadn't caught up with Arrested Development,” explains the New York-based director, whose Raising Victor Vargas was a 2003 Sundance darling. “But Kerry Kohansky, my producer, suggested him to me. I met him, and he was an incredibly sweet, bright, dry wit, who was very soulful and seemed good for the part. And he's cute as hell. I want to eat him.

“And he's funny as hell,” adds Sollett. “I think he's somehow just really representative of the sort of vulnerable, sensitive, honest inner self that we all carry around in there.”

Cera's background is as low-key as his manner. His mother, Linda, and father, Luigi, lived in a modest suburb in Brampton, northwest of Toronto. They worked at Xerox and sent their kids (Cera has two sisters) to nearby public schools. Their only son was smitten with acting after taking some improv classes at Toronto's Second City. His mom, who hails from Montreal, took him to Los Angeles when he was in his teens to audition for some parts, and he landed the role of the deadpan Michael-George in the Fox Network's absurdist sitcom Arrested Development. Then director Judd Apatow took a shine to the Canadian, casting him in Superbad, and his career took off. (His fictional firing from Apatow's Knocked Up – in which he plays himself as an actor with way too much attitude – is a hugely popular Web download.)

But Cera doesn't seem phased by his stardom and calls the past year's success “nice.

“You never think about, or expect anything,” he says. “I still don't. I've been enjoying it. I enjoy working. I really like it, being on the sets,” he adds. “It's nice to be able to do that, being able to continue doing it.”

Co-star Graynor attests to Cera's work ethic. “He's one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet, and he's incredibly hard-working.

“On-set, he has the most incredible attitude. Always so excited – so in the moment – having the best time. Someone like him, who has had such good fortune this year, sometimes people get jaded and jaded fast. And you would not know, in any way, that anything has ever happened to him that's been this good,” says Graynor, who has a vomiting scene in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist that may only rival the one in Trainspotting. “He really feels like the kid getting off the bus with the backpack.”

Sollett says Cera's knack for improvising made the script better. And he offers an example. “Okay, written in the script: “So, your friends are all gay, right?”

“Yeah, they're all gay.”

But, in the movie: “So your friends are all gay, right?”

[Cera says:] “Yeah. They're gay. Gay, every day, all the time. If somebody's going to get raped in that band tonight, it will be a guy.”

Cera just smiles when he hears the director's praise, but insists improv is no big deal. “Just listen, that's all you have to do. I think anyone can do it. If you can have a conversation, you can improvise. As long as you're not trying to be funny. I mean that's when you can start to … you know … trick yourself and like … you know it's just much easier to talk and not have to worry about being funny.”

Cera's next film is Youth in Revolt, due in theatres this February, based on the cult novel of the same name by C.D. Payne. It's about a young guy who meets a girl on a family vacation and then becomes obsessed with her. “It's a great book. And anyone should read it if they have the time,” says Cera. “I've read it five times. I loved the book, and loved the character, and was so excited to do it.”

Recently, some film critics have been making noise that Cera is always the same nerdy guy. They believe he should stretch a little, show more range, or he'll become stale. Cera pays no mind to the sceptics.

He just wants to work. And he plans to keep on working.

“I like anything that feels authentic. That comes from a real place … from someone's heart. I've never liked those gross-out comedies. I just try to pick things that I think are good.”

His sonar has worked so far. And audiences obviously like Cera – the funny geek who proves it can be cool to be a nice, sensitive guy.

Directors Denied Visas To Attend Vancouver Festival

www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(October 03, 2008) VANCOUVER — Officials with the Vancouver International Film Festival are still awaiting word on whether an Iranian filmmaker will be able to get a visitor's visa in order to attend the festival next week.

Manijeh Hekmat, whose film 3 Women is about three generations of Iranian women, was invited by the festival to attend the movie's North American premiere.

If her application is denied, she will be the fourth invited director unable to attend the festival this year for that reason.

Among them is Gao Wendong – whose film Sweet Food City received a special mention Thursday night from the jury for the Dragons and Tigers Award for emerging Asian filmmakers.

Dragons and Tigers programmer Tony Rayns told a packed theatre that Mr. Gao had been “turned away by the Canadian government” in what's “become an annual tradition.”

This is the third straight year at least one director has been unable to attend the Vancouver festival due to a visa application being denied.

According to festival officials, Mr. Gao was denied the visa because of a lack of assets.

Established Chinese director Yu Guangyi ( Survival Song) was also denied a visa. The festival says it was because he wanted his family to accompany him to Vancouver.

Director Charliebebs Gohetia ( The “Thank You” Girls) from the Philippines was also denied a visitor's visa, according to the festival.

Customs and Immigration Canada says it would be inappropriate to comment on specific cases, but said all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada.

“CIC understands the importance of significant events planned for Canada, and continues to work pro-actively with event organizers,” department spokesperson Karen Shadd wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

“We also work closely with our overseas visa offices to ensure that the support offered by Canadian organizers of the event is given due consideration in evaluating applications.”

Alan Franey, the festival's director, points out that some filmmakers who have been denied visitors' visas to Canada have been able to travel to other international festivals.

“Last year, it was such a chronic issue and there was so much frustration,” Mr. Franey said, adding that festival officials worked closely with the Canadian embassy in Beijing to ensure that it wouldn't happen again.

“But in the end, of course, it's the Immigration Department that makes those determinations and they are not obliged to provide reasons for each case to us. So we're left with questions on how we could better facilitate it next year.”

Jennifer Hudson Tells 'Secret'

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

(October 7, 2008) *Oscar Award winner Jennifer Hudson is back on the big screen after her “Dreamgirls” catapult to fame and her role in this summer’s ultimate chick flick “Sex in the City.”

The singer-actress is starring in the new film “
The Secret Life of Bees” which tells the tale of a young girl growing up in the South in the early ‘60s who flees with her caregiver, played by Hudson, to a honey farm run by three sisters.

The film has a powerful cast of actresses including acclaimed child star Dakota Fanning, Oscar winner Queen Latifah, Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo, and Alicia Keys.

“I can’t believe I got to be one of those women in the film, which was very moving for me,” Hudson said. “Queen is so powerful, and then there’s Alicia. These are people who I’ve been admiring – on the outside looking in – for so long, and then to be part of such a powerful project made it even more impactful.”

Buzz on the film is already acclaiming Hudson’s performance, but the young starlet, who scored an Academy Award her first time out, told reporters that with a very capable director in Gina Prince-Blythewood, and an impressive story, it was easy for her to lose herself in her character.

“I didn’t have an acting coach for this film; I just had Gina and the dialect coach. She allowed me to develop my own character. She explained what she needed and what she wanted and on (the) set I just followed her lead.”

In addition to Hudson’s respect for Blythewood’s guidance, she experienced the deep sense of reality that the director requires on her film sets – well as close as it can be.

“It was Tootsie Rolls,” Hudson said of the scene where her character does snuff. “I can’t have that on my vocal chords. I don’t smoke, drink, none of that. And I was dieting at the time, so I didn’t want to eat the Tootsie Rolls or the brownies on the porch, but I had to do that (dip snuff). Everything had to be so real.”

Hudson had to actually fight with three men for scene and even touch a Junebug!

“I was terrified to do those things,” she said. “[For the movie,] we didn’t cook the food; it was props, but she had us in cooking classes. That’s how authentic and real she is of a director. It couldn’t help but come out as a real project.”

Blythewood directed and wrote the screenplay for the film, based on the best-selling novel, which, in addition to being a coming-of-age story, takes on racism in the South at a very volatile time in American history, and the strength and faith of African American women. Hudson compared her work on the film set in an important time in the ‘60s to her appearance at the historic nomination of Barack Obama. The singer-actress expressed the sense of history she felt singing at the final night of Democratic Convention when Senator Obama became the party’s presidential nominee.

“It amazes me to go back into that civil rights era and seeing where we’ve been and what we’ve been through and then fast forwarding to today and seeing where we are,” she said. “It makes me appreciate this time that much more; to witness it and also to be a part of it. It’s very moving. Being on that stage and performing and singing the National Anthem, I had to remove myself emotionally. I didn’t want to get too emotional. That’s how overwhelming it would have been with the knowledge that I had in looking into the character and seeing what she went through and what we went through as a people.”

“We think, from where I stand, that nobody exists from that time anymore,” she continued. “There are plenty of people from that time still around. Was 50 years enough to make that change?”

One change Hudson said she’s looking for is an increase in opportunities for African American actors; women in particular.

“It’s a time of change right now,” she said. “We have so many powerful women right now, so why not?”

While Hudson is doing her part to progress Hollywood, she hasn’t neglected her singing career. Hudson’s self-titled debut CD hit shelves last week, with sales fuelled by the lead single “Spotlight.”

“I don’t believe in doing both at the same time,” she said of dividing her singing and acting time. “While I’m filming, the recording has to stop and if I’m recording, the filming has to stop. I don’t like to split my focus. I like to give whatever performance my undivided attention. I want to put my best foot forward to whatever I’m performing.”

Still, Hudson admitted that she did a lot of singing on the set of “Secret Life.” After all, the cast also featured powerful songbirds Latifah and Keys.

“We would sit and sing together. It was fun. Whatever we happened to be humming that day; we’d hop on each other’s song and keep singing. Whatever we felt, we sang. We were just passing time,” Hudson said. “We always had so much fun. This feels like a celebration of what we’ve done and that’s the kind of energy that was on the set at all times.”

“The Secret Life of Bees” opens next Friday, October 17, in theatres throughout North America. For more on the film, go to www.foxsearchlight.com and click on “The Secret Life of Bees.”

Charles S. Dutton Takes The 'Express' Route

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 08, 2008) *This weekend “The Express” will start its voyage in theatres nationwide.

The new film, based on the life of college football legend Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the highly coveted, highly celebrated Heisman Trophy, stars Rob Brown in the leading role, and acclaimed actors Dennis Quaid and
Charles S. Dutton.

Dutton plays Willie “Pops” Davis in the film, and though he admitted that going into the film he only knew the highlights of Ernie Davis’ story, but he remembered them well.

“I don’t remember the 1959 title game, when Syracuse won, but I do remember him winning the Heisman Trophy in ’61,” veteran actor Dutton said. “I do remember him getting drafted by the Browns because I was from Baltimore, and we were Baltimore Colts fans and when we knew that Cleveland got him, we knew they were going to kill the Colts – with Jim Brown and him in the back field. I remember the news reports of his illness and the picture he took with Kennedy and the remarks Kennedy made when [Davis] passed away and ‘Wide World of Sports’ announcement that he died.”

While Dutton is a much acclaimed actor and director in his own right, he couldn’t help but talk about lead actor Rob Brown and his exceptional job in the film.

“That young guy is great,” he said. “Him and Omar [Benson Miller] both, all the young folks that came in – what I appreciated was that they are really actors. They’re not rappers, they’re not singers, they’re not personalities. They don’t come in with a bullsh*t persona of ‘I’m a tough guy.’ They were eager to learn.”

Dutton continued that he felt the cast did quite well with the film being a very “tough” shoot. He said that because the film is based on a true story and real people, it is often difficult for actors to do their art.

“[When] you’re dealing with a real life, sometimes you get bombarded by the people who actually were there and knew the story," Dutton warned. “Sometimes actors can get wrapped up in that and say, ‘No, Jim did it like this.’ And ‘I heard Ernie didn’t do that.’ But sometimes you’ve got to let that go and don’t play real life and do a movie.”

 However, even with that obstacle, and that fact that director Gary Fleder likes doing lots of takes, Dutton thought the cast did and exceptional job.

“But Rob was so perfect for the role because he’s very introspective as an actor. He’s not so extroverted. Sometimes, even while you’re working with him, it looks like he’s not doing anything. And then you see the film and you’re like, ‘Oh man, it’s in the kid’s eyes.’”

Dutton was not alone in singing the praises of Brown as Davis. He told reporters that even to those that were there, some of Davis’ former teammates, Brown embodied the persona of the legendary athlete.

“Everything that I’ve learned about Ernie Davis and heard from his family, and particularly the class of ’59 – his teammates, they all say the same thing. They say, ‘Watching him in this movie is like watching Ernie Davis.’ Being soft spoken, being pensive,” Dutton described. “It was amazing. To be around eight or nine guys in their 70s and hear them talk about Ernie Davis and all of them start to weep at some time in the conversation, it was just amazing. Even Jim Brown, who ain’t no vulnerable type guy, wells up. Rob is a special kind of young man and a special kind of actor and I think he was the perfect casting.”

“He is less visceral,” he continued, “but more intellectual, but not overly intellectual. He just comes on the set, he’s prepared every day, and when the camera rolls, he just becomes.”

“The Express: The Ernie Davis Story” opens nationwide this Friday. In the meantime, as this film opens, Dutton just wrapped on the film “Legion,” which teams him with Quaid again. He’s now working on projects with HBO, including a Louis Armstrong miniseries.


Kandahar Troops To Get Passchendaele Screening

www.globeandmail.com - Canadian Press

(October 01, 2008) Ottawa — Canadian troops in Afghanistan are receiving a special advance screening of Paul Gross's epic First World War film Passchendaele. Gross - who wrote, starred in and directed the tale of love and valour - said soldiers stationed in Kandahar will be among the first Canadians to see his film on Friday. "It has taken an uncommonly long time to bring this movie to the big screen but we are finally able to present it to the Canadian public and in some small way pay homage to the sacrifice of our forefathers in the Great War of 1914-1918," Gross said in a release. "It seems fitting that the troops who today so valiantly serve our country are among the first to see it." Gross made the comments while he and co-stars Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol and Meredith Bailey hosted a special screening in Ottawa on Monday for dignitaries including Governor-General Michaëlle Jean and various military brass. Passchendaele is out in theatres on Oct. 17.

James Earl Jones To Receive SAG Honour


(October 03, 2008) *Powerhouse stage and screen actor James Earl Jones will be presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild at a ceremony to be held in January, reports Variety. "James Earl Jones' distinguished career on stage, in film, on television, in commercials and as a vocal presence without peer commands our admiration and respect," says SAG president Alan Rosenberg. "His long and quiet devotion to advancing literacy, the arts and humanities on a national and local scale deserves our appreciation. It is our honour to bestow the Guild’s highest tribute on this extraordinary actor."  Jones' Broadway debut came as an understudy in 1957's "The Egghead." In 1969, the actor won his first Tony for his role as Jack Johnson in "The Boxer." In 1970, he nabbed Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for the screen adaptation of the Rialto production.  His screen resume includes "The Hunt for Red October," "Clear and Present Danger," "Coming to America" and the voice of Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" franchise.  The 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held Jan. 25, and simulcast on TNT and TBS.

Samuel L. Gets Company In 'Unthinkable'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 7, 2008) *Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Sheen are confirmed to star in the upcoming film "Unthinkable," which has just added Brandon Routh, Gil Bellows, Martin Donovan and Carrie-Anne Moss to the cast.    The suspense thriller - produced, financed and distributed by Senator U.S. – will feature Routh and Bellows as members of an FBI anti-terrorism team run by Agent Brody (Moss).    With the help of a black-ops agent (Jackson), they're assigned by an FBI director (Donovan) to interrogate an American Muslim man (Sheen) claiming to have nuclear bombs planted in three U.S. cities.    Gregor Jordan's "Unthinkable" will be one of the first high-profile projects from the new distributor run by Marco. Principal photography is set to begin Oct. 20 in Los Angeles.

Halle Berry Bringing Sexy Back At 42

Source:  www.thestar.com  - Associated Press

(October 08, 2008)  Alongside a photo spread that shows her in little more than a T-shirt,
Halle Berry talks about being the sexiest woman alive, a title Esquire magazine gives her in its November issue. "I don't know exactly what it means, but being 42 and having just had a baby, I think I'll take it," says Berry, who gave birth to her daughter, Nahla, in March. "Sexiness is a state of mind – a comfortable state of being. It's about loving yourself in your most unlovable moments." Berry, who won an Oscar for her role in Monster's Ball, says she can't claim the sexiest- woman honour all to herself. "I share this title with every woman, because every woman is a nominee for it at any moment."

Kudos For Film Funding Flip

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 08, 2008) A decision by the Conservative government to
reverse its plan to scrap tax credits for productions it deems offensive to Canadian viewers has come as a pleasant surprise to the film and television industries. Steve Hoban of Copperheart Entertainment said yesterday it's "good news all around" and a sound economic decision given the current worldwide market meltdown. The producer, whose film Young People F---ing about the sex lives of young singles became a lightning rod in the debate over the bill last spring, says it would have ultimately killed the domestic film industry at a time when it's growing and generating billions in economic spinoffs. Actor Gordon Pinsent says he never would have expected such a change of heart from the Conservatives and wonders whether it means Stephen Harper may be open to other new ideas. The controversial changes to film and television tax credit eligibility were folded into an omnibus bill that passed in the Commons despite widespread protest.


DeGrassi Enrols A New Class

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

(October 05, 2008) As DeGrassi: The Next Generation rolls into its eighth season, it's introducing, well, a next generation.

A fresh new class of brainy Grade 9 overachievers is among the changes coming this season (premiering tonight at 7:30 on CTV) on a series that continues to chronicle teen angst and channel it out to millions of acne-obsessed fans around the globe.

With seven seasons in the can, long-time executive producer Linda Schuyler said the show's creative team "decided to stir up the school right from its very heart."

"It's almost like seven years is a generation. One of the things we were thinking about as we went out to plan our Season 8 was to bring new life into the school," she said.

"I don't think there's been a year since the first season that we were so committed to such a big influx of younger students. We've introduced one or two here or there, but this is a big influx of students and we were very committed to having a strong presence of the ninth graders," Schuyler said of the decision to bring in nine new faces.

The eighth season will also follow the tribulations of dorm life for three veteran cast members who've graduated to Smithdale College.

Another big change is the replacement of level-headed principal Mrs. Hatzilakos with a new guy, The Shep, a brash, football-loving jock whose disdain for scholarly pursuits will put him at odds with the existing administration and the new cadre of brainiacs.

Producers are also working on a four-episode story arc that takes some of the cast members to Hollywood, where they'll hook up with two long-time DeGrassi fanatics, director/actor Kevin Smith and sidekick Jason Mewes (who've previously appeared on the series).

Stefan Brogren, who played Snake in the series' previous incarnation, DeGrassi High, and has since returned to the series as a regular, teacher Mr. Simpson, has been charged with the task of writing and directing the quartet of episodes.

Much of the advance work on the Hollywood segments has already been shot at various locations around Toronto, Brogren said.

"We doubled Toronto for Hollywood for a lot of it. It's amazing what a couple of palm trees can do," Brogren said, with a laugh.

But it still means a four-day "guerrilla" shoot in Los Angeles to capture images of those places that are "so iconically Hollywood," he said.

"God knows, the kids are fairly popular there (in the U.S., where the show airs on The N cable channel), so we're probably going to have a little security if they're standing in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre. It's funny: that wouldn't happen in Canada."

Brogren, well-steeped in DeGrassi lore, has spent the past few years also producing and directing the DeGrassi "webisodes" for the show's voracious online audience, including a Halloween zombie short last year that has been expanded into a full-length episode to run this month.

Brogren said the ongoing appeal of the series – it airs in more than 100 countries around the world – is a result of its determination to present teen problems realistically. This season, for example, teen mom Mia (Nina Dobrev) has a chance to do some modelling work, but will face hard moral choices to get it; meanwhile, DeGrassi graduates Emma (Miriam McDonald) and Manny (Cassie Steele) face problems typical of college frosh.

"You go to Australia, you go to France, you go to Israel. Teens are teens, they're all getting into the same kind of trouble. It's that time in your life where you're exploring, you're making small mistakes, you're making huge mistakes. It really doesn't matter where you're from; these stories are in all of us," Brogren said.

Casting age-appropriate actors in teen roles is another factor, says Paula Brancati, who returns for her second season as Jane.

"That's why kids watch and respond to (the show), because it does feel like something that's more relatable than seeing an actor who's visibly 25 playing 15. Here, they can recognize themselves in one of the characters. It really speaks to them because of that," Brancati said.

Brogren said shows like Gossip Girls and 90210 do a disservice to teen audiences. "A kid can watch our show and say, `oh my God, I know that guy at my school.' (Our kids) don't always wear the best clothes, they don't always have their hair perfect," Brogren added.

But Schuyler emphasized the series has always shied away from coming across as "too preachy ... Obviously, our primary objective is to entertain. But we also want to enlighten and empower (in a way) that our characters aren't portrayed as perfect, they make mistakes.

"It's often peers working with peers. It's not like we have adults walking into a scene and providing the answers. And I think that's really important," she added.

Fasten Your Seat Belts: Air Farce Is Prepared For Landing

www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(October 03, 2008) Economic crisis? What crisis? These are boom times in the field of topical TV comedy.

In the countdown to a momentous presidential election, and in the middle of a staggering Wall Street collapse, U.S. viewers are seeking smart comedic solace. The early season audience for Saturday Night Live is up nearly 40 per cent over last year - courtesy of Tina Fey's bang-on impression of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin - and so are the ratings for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Clearly, Americans need a laugh.

Bully for them, but there's also a pending Canadian election, which lends some sense of urgency to the return of the Air Farce crew in
Royal Canadian Air Farce - Final Flight! (today, CBC at 8 p.m.). Factor in cold-cut scandals, hockey-anthem imbroglios and the general entertaining behaviour of our own political leaders and the Air Farce players are chomping at the bit.

"There's almost too much going on out there these days," says original Farce member Don Ferguson, who plays both U.S. presidential candidate John McCain and NDP Leader Jack Layton in the opener. "At our first script meeting, we realized we had enough for two shows. Along with all the Canadian stories, we were caught off-guard by the recent stock-market meltdown. The way this week is going, we could be writing sketches right up to the first taping."

Sadly, the 16th season of Air Farce marks a last hurrah. The show will air only 10 more episodes on CBC, with the traditional hour-long New Year's Eve special standing as the series finale. And then the Chicken Cannon is retired - permanently.

The final season of Air Farce closes a long and distinguished run. Original members Ferguson, Roger Abbott and Luba Goy have performed since the TV debut and before that for more than 20 years on CBC radio, where they premiered in 1973; former Farce mainstay John Morgan retired in 2001 and passed away in 2004.

The Farce cast has been bolstered in recent years with the younger additions of Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin, who have learned from the masters. "Coming to work and hanging out with people half your age is pretty neat," Ferguson says. "There's a real energy to that, especially in comedy. It keeps you current and they challenge you on things."

The call to shut down the Farce franchise was what they call a "mutual decision" between the public broadcaster and cast regulars/producers Ferguson and Abbott, though it's common knowledge that the people running the CBC forgot about Air Farce years ago.

Today's happening CBC is more focused on hot new shows such as Sophie, The Border and Heartland - all of which earned significantly lower ratings than Air Farce last season. "The CBC is doing other things with their budgets these days," a diplomatic Ferguson says.

Last season's strong showing by the Air Farce was particularly impressive, considering the switch to a live improv broadcast not unlike the show's early days on CBC radio. Even then, and even with only a Stephen Harper government to lampoon, the show held a weekly audience exceeding 600,000, and the New Year's special - wherein the Chicken Cannon is directed at the past year's most offensive offender - pulled nearly a million viewers.

Air Farce reverts to its more recognizable taped format for its final season. "It's less pressure, more work," Ferguson says. "We tape two shows on Thursday night and spend Friday editing for broadcast on Friday night. You put in a lot more hours doing it this way."

True to form, the first new show will feature Farce-style takes on last summer's tainted-meat scare and the public semi-uproar over Hockey Night in Canada losing the right to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song. Watch for Ferguson to adopt a white-hair comb-over and thumbs-up attitude to play the great white hope of the Republican Party.

"I drew the McCain straw," he says. "He's pretty difficult, mostly because he's so overshadowed by his running mate. Part of it is getting the physical stuff, like keeping the arms down. I'm still working on getting his voice, but it's getting there."

Less tricky is Layton, whom Ferguson will play in the "great Canadian debate" opposite Lauzon's Stephen Harper, Park's Stéphane Dion and Goy's Elizabeth May.

"I look more like Layton, for starters," Ferguson says. "He's actually fun to do, because he can't resist sounding off on something, whether he should or not. To me, the most dangerous place to be in Canada is between Jack Layton and a camera or a microphone."

With only one show taped, it's still early for the Air Farce crew to fully register that the end is near. "I'm sure it will become more emotional as we get closer to the end," Ferguson says. "We really are like one big family. I'll miss the camaraderie."

The more pressing task of cleaning out the office has already begun. "We've got tons of stuff," Ferguson groans. "We have 35 years of radio scripts, TV scripts, files and props. We've got two Chicken Cannons - a four-barrel and a single-barrel. We'll hang onto that, because you never know when you might need a Chicken Cannon."




The Ex-List

Based on an Israeli TV hit, the hour-long dramedy stars Elizabeth Reaser - best known as Jane Doe from Grey's Anatomy - as Bella, a sassy thirtysomething single who takes it to heart when a psychic tells her that she has already dated the man she will marry. The slim set-up dictates that Bella spend each episode tracking down ex-beaus, with a little help from her daffy gal pals. The chick show is back, baby!

CBS, Global at 9 p.m.


Monster Moves

For fans of rugged blue-collar fare like Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men, this reality series follows real men who, um, move things. The new episode covers the transport of a rickety lighthouse off a cliff near Nantucket and the relocation of homes atop a crumbling coal mine in Sweden. There goes the neighbourhood.

Discovery at 8 p.m.



Mon dieu. The biographical TV movie covers the early life and hardscrabble times of French-Canadian diva Celine Dion, played by Montreal actress Christine Ghawi. Flashpoint star Enrico Colantoni turns up as Celine's much older soulmate, René Angélil.

CBC, 8 p.m.

The Coming Of The Digital Revolution

www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(October 03, 2008) In the United States these days, cheery TV ads tell viewers that a change is coming to television as significant as the switch from black and white to colour. In February, U.S. broadcasters will shut off their analog signals, replacing them with digital ones, and anyone still relying on rabbit ears to receive American stations will find the TV screen has gone mysteriously blank – whatever side of the border they sit on.

U.S. public-service spots featuring everyone from the renovators on This Old House to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, plus a host of local news anchors, warn citizens they will need set-top converter boxes to continue receiving over-the-air signals. Brady Bunch matriarch Florence Henderson pops up on an industry website urging people to talk to their parents about digital TV: The experts are particularly concerned that seniors with rooftop antennas or set-top antennas won't understand they need a new bit of technology.

Meanwhile in Canada, where broadcasting won't go digital for another 21/2 years, it's radio silence. As yet there are no ads with Mike Holmes or Peter Mansbridge explaining it all to the layman. For those who know where to look, industry and government websites will explain the more arcane details of digital conversion, but the Canadian public is confused by the U.S. ads it sees and only dimly aware – if at all – that the Canadian broadcasting system will change over, but not till Aug. 31, 2011.

One television executive summarizes the benefits of conversion with these simple words: free HD TV. Because digital transmission is much more efficient than analog, conversion will allow broadcasters to offer high-definition television to over-the-air viewers as well as cable and satellite subscribers. However, because Ottawa has set the deadline for its switchover 21/2 years later than the U.S., the Canadian broadcasting industry is only gearing up now to start to figure out how to pay for the new transmitters that will be required and how to tell viewers about the change.

 “No one is saying anything at all to consumers in Canada. There is silence,” said industry consultant Kevin Shea.

“We have a fair bit of work ahead to educate the consumer,” agrees Hamilton cable operator John Piercy, who also heads a cable-industry marketing association that is contemplating its own public-service announcements. “It just can't go dark on them. That would be a catastrophe.”

So far, Canadian broadcasters show a certain lack of urgency about conversion, and that has government alarmed.

“I do not want to get any nasty surprises in 2011,” Konrad von Finckenstein, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), told the industry in a tough speech he made in June, warning broadcasters the clock was ticking. “... My great concern is that the industry will not be ready. There will be requests for delays, and we will have a crisis on our hands. This must not be allowed to happen.”

How many will feel effects?

Proportionately more Canadians subscribe to satellite or cable than Americans do and the immediate effects of the change will only be felt by the estimated 10 per cent of Canadians who rely on over-the-air signals: They will need converter boxes for any television set that is more than a few years old.

Still, that's potentially more than three million people, and many cable and satellite subscribers also have an over-the-air set in the house. Meanwhile, over-the-air viewing is not evenly spread across Canada, but tends to be concentrated in geographic pockets. Cable and satellite penetration is lower than national averages in Quebec (because there are fewer French-language offerings) and higher in British Columbia (because the mountains get in the way of over-the-air signals). One recent study estimated that almost a third of all television viewing in Windsor, Ont., is done over the air. Of course, those viewers' rabbit ears are picking up lots of American signals from nearby Detroit: They will need their converter boxes in February, not in 2011.

Canadian broadcasters will certainly put up the digital transmitters that transmit high-definition images in major markets – indeed, some HD is already available over-the-air in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver – but they say it will be prohibitively expensive to reach all Canadians with over-the-air digital signals. Their estimates of the costs vary widely, but they complain bitterly they are being asked to undertake capital expenditures to provide a service that a mere 10 per cent of Canadians require.

“Does every over-the-air transmitter need to be converted?” asks Glenn O'Farrell, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which represents the private industry. “There are some places it's questionable.... It's all about additional costs without new revenues. It's not as though there is some silver lining in the investment cloud here.”

The broadcasters are now formulating plans they hope to negotiate with the CRTC, the regulator that set the 2011 deadline.

“We are working with the CRTC to find that balance between what is realistic and what we have to do to meet our obligation as an over-the-air broadcaster,” said Christine McGinley, senior vice-president of operations for CanWest Broadcasting, adding it would cost that company between $65-million and $100-million to replace its 102 transmitters. CTV estimates its costs at $1-million a piece to replace 130 transmitters.

Of all broadcasters, the conversion will hit the CBC hardest: It has proportionately more over-the-air viewers, partly because it is one of the few signals you can get simply by turning on a TV set, and it currently operates 480 transmitters for English-language markets (plus another 182 for French), some reaching communities as small as 500 souls. It also estimates the costs at $1-million per transmitter or more, but has proposed a $40-million plan to the Ministry of Canadian Heritage that would buy only 34 digital transmitters for the whole country and reach only 80 per cent of the English market with an over-the-air signal.

“From our viewpoint, we are trying to meet a mandate as a public broadcaster to provide the best we can to as many citizens as we can,” said Fred Mattocks, executive director of production and resources for English services at the CBC. “There's a great discussion [to be had] in there about what's the right spot, a discussion that in the case of hospitals and roads goes on every day.”

The CBC's proposal sets the “right spot” – or the cut-off mark for over-the-air service – at a population of 100,000. Communities smaller than that would have to rely exclusively on cable and satellite for their signal.

(Whatever the costs of digital conversion, they are a drop in the bucket compared to the money the federal government stands to make: The change will free up space on the airwaves either for emergency services or for public auction. Industry Canada raised $4.25-billion with a recent auction of cellphone spectrum.)

So, if the conversion is expensive and most people already have cable or satellite, why not simply cut off all over-the-air signals? Mattocks feels that's a debate Canadians should be having.

“This may sound a little highfalutin but it all comes down to an informed citizenry, and one way you inform the citizenry is through unconditional access to media,” he said, pointing out that all other Western democracies that have gone digital have chosen to maintain over-the-air signals.

While the broadcasters debate the thinking behind expensive investments for small numbers of viewers, the CRTC wonders whether the broadcasters are exaggerating the costs and dragging their feet.

In his speech, Von Finckenstein called their estimates of the costs of conversion pessimistic, and privately one government official joked about the broadcasters getting their transmitters from the people who sell hammers to the Pentagon.

“It seems a little steep and it's troubling,” agreed Karen Wirsig, communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Media Guild, which represents CBC workers, including the technicians who operate the transmitters. “It makes the transition look completely out of reach in terms of maintaining free TV.”

However, the Guild's own estimates from two different suppliers say many transmitters can be purchased and installed for $132,000 each and it suggests that, if costs really are as high as the broadcasters say, they should consider sharing transmitters in small communities to cut costs. Technically, this can be done because digital transmission is so efficient that a broadcaster actually has space for several signals on its frequency, especially if it drops down from high definition to standard definition (which is still higher quality than current television.) Local U.S. stations are expected to use that option to offer side- or sub-channels to their over-the-air viewers after February – adding a B and even C channel to a single frequency on the dial that might carry local weather and news while regular programming continues unimpeded. The U.S. public broadcaster PBS is already well established in this area known as multicasting. In New York State, for example, it offers open classroom educational programming during the day on a sub-channel that is labelled as .3 of its main digital channel and that can be found with a digital tuner.

This capacity will create new programming, which Canadians near the border watching American television over the air will start seeing next year. In Canada, where television services are currently allowed various kinds of protection from competition, the CRTC has said it will consider multicasting applications on a case-by-case basis, but that the priority is to use the digital capacity for HD.

The Guild's idea, however, is that, in small communities, the capacity could be used to at least maintain or even increase the current number of over-the-air signals, if only in standard definition. Broadcasters contacted for this article were not familiar with the details of the Guild plan but said they were open to any option that would lower the costs of conversion.

Good news for cable guys?

If the broadcasters are wringing their hands, cable operators are rubbing theirs together in glee: They see this as an opportunity to sign up new subscribers who can't be bothered figuring out the switchover.

“It's probably a good-news story for the cable companies,” said David Purdy, vice-president of television services at Rogers. “Most of the U.S. cable companies are predicting they will get new subscribers in 2009. My job is to get them before [conversion].”

As early as February, however, free over-the-air HD and multicasting will change the television landscape, leaving a number of questions about how cable and satellite, and their menu of specialty channels, will fare. As extra American channels become available to Canadians along the border over the airwaves, how will cable operators find space for them in their current line-ups? How well will cable and satellite, which compress the digital signal, compete with the higher-quality HD that will be available over-the-air? Will the CRTC, which is also reviewing the rules that allow specialty channels protection from competition in their specific genres, eventually allow Canadian broadcasters to create their own side channels, full of movies, children's programming, news, sports and weather reports? And could the broadcasters use the capacity for other purposes, such as broadcasting to cellphones, thereby reinventing a business model currently under attack from Internet TV and personal video recorders?

“The story isn't completely written yet. What we know is that HD is incredibly attractive for viewers,” said Mattocks of the CBC.

And digital conversion will deliver it – to most but not to all.

China To Air 50-Part Bruce Lee Biography

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Min Lee, The Associated Press

(October 7, 2008) BEIJING–Bruce Lee is getting a belated hero's welcome in China, with the country's state broadcaster set to air a 50-part prime-time series on the late kung fu star.

Lee became a chest-thumping source of nationalistic pride to Chinese around the world with his characters who defended the Chinese against oppressors in a series of movies in the early 1970s. But his influence wasn't felt immediately in China, which was then a closed communist country.

Lee's films started surfacing in China on video in the 1980s – years after his death in 1973 from swelling of the brain.

China's official China Central Television hopes to fill the void with the exhaustive 50 million Chinese yuan ($8.1 million Canadian) biography, The Legend of Bruce Lee – the country's first movie or TV series on the actor, according to producer Yu Shengli.

Shot in China, Hong Kong, Macau, the U.S., Italy and Thailand over nine months, the series, starting Sunday in prime time, will air daily on the CCTV's flagship channel, with two episodes airing consecutively every night in a two-hour slot.

Unlike past films about Lee, The Legend of Bruce Lee is unusually detailed in tracing Lee's life, from his teenage years in Hong Kong to his move to the U.S., where he studied and taught martial arts, to his movie career and early death at 32, the Hong Kong actor who plays Lee told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

"We've only seen the glorious side of Bruce Lee – he comes out all guns blazing, his films are entertaining. But very few people know what injuries he suffered and what grievances he suffered,'' Danny Chan said, noting the series even reveals that Lee was afraid of cockroaches.

The 33-year-old actor, whose best known work is Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, makes up for his lack of star power with his uncanny resemblance to Lee with his thick eyebrows and slender body.

Lee's message of Chinese strength in movies like The Chinese Connection and Return of the Dragon also matches that of the Chinese government.

"Lee had strength, agility, pride, intelligence, not to mention charisma to burn, which coupled with the pro-Chinese rhetoric in his films have made him a potent symbol for the powerful new China that is now rising," said Michael Berry, a professor in contemporary Chinese cultural studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"He wrote the word 'kung fu' into English dictionaries. He made people aware of China," CCTV official Zhang Xiaohai said at a news conference Tuesday.

Lee is shown bursting with Chinese pride in a trailer shown at the news conference, bellowing "I am Chinese" to spectators after defeating a foreign opponent.

In an apparent effort to boost racial pride, the series was originally scheduled to be aired before the Beijing Olympics in August, but was pushed back in keeping with the period of mourning for the deadly earthquake in China's central Sichuan province on May 12, which killed 70,000 people.

The series was authorized by the Lee family. Producer Yu said Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee Keasler, approved the script and is credited as an executive producer. It's unclear, however, how Lee himself, who spent his time in the U.S. and then-British colony Hong Kong, felt about the communist Chinese regime. The Lee family didn't respond to requests for comment from the AP sent through intermediaries.

Berry said China is also catching up on pop culture that it missed when it was a closed country, such as kung fu films, noting the emergence of martial arts epics in recent years. When Lee died in 1973, China was still in the middle of the ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution, when millions of people suspected of opposing the communist government were persecuted.

Top young director Jia Zhangke told the AP he was one of the Chinese youngsters that belatedly found out about Lee by watching his movies on tape in the early 1980s at "video-watching parlours," which he describes as "a room with 15 or 20 chairs.''

"I really liked them. He fights with great style. Boys like violence. There is nationalism in his movies – he's always fighting foreigners. I was very happy watching the movies," he said.

Little Mosque, Sophie Fine Tune Their Humour

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

(October 7, 2008) It's not easy to make a Canadian comedy people will watch once, let alone come back to week after week.

Sophie (8:30 p.m. tomorrow on CBC) – which won my vote for last year's worst Canadian sitcom – did it by emulating American hits like Will & Grace and Ally McBeal in its depiction of a ditzy single mom (Natalie Brown) who winds up sobbing naked on the toilet when her fiancé cheats on her.

Little Mosque on the Prairie (8 p.m. tomorrow on CBC) – a low-key culture clash comedy that would likely have flown under the radar if not for its politically touchy subject matter – garnered massive press coverage not for its humorous depiction of a Saskatchewan Muslim community butting heads over hijabs and American Idol but for what was incorrectly perceived as a volatile, race-baiting premise. Oy, talk about pressure.

Neither show, frankly, seemed poised for a long run – Sophie because it was silly and had no rooting in reality, Mosque because it was more Corner Gas than Borat, its mild-mannered cultural barbs never intended as the scathing political A-bombs hyperventilating correspondents from CNN made them out to be.

But hype can sometimes be a good thing. And in this case, both series rode their initial buzz long enough to learn from their mistakes, fine-tune their humour and, as they kick off seasons two and three respectively, discover the secret ingredient that has always separated mediocre comedies from those with long-term potential: heart.

It's probably coincidence that both Mosque and Sophie have, at the exact same moment, dialled back their goofier asides and hair-pulling hijinks for sobering love triangles that lend a bittersweet tone to their breezy irreverence, but it's a move that works for both.

On Sophie, it's the return of the title character's New York baby daddy, conflicted about fatherhood and unable to commit while Sophie's philandering ex comes to terms with his own unrequited feelings ("Don't you hurt her, I'm telling you!").

On Mosque, it's the impending nuptials of resident hottie Rayyan (Sitara Hewitt), which causes the smart-aleck imam who flirted with her for two seasons to kick himself over an opportunity missed. ("If only I'd told her how I felt!")

It's nothing original, mind you – this stuff has played out on everything from Cheers to The Office with great success – and some of the dialogue on Sophie borders on outright cringeworthy. ("All these feelings and emotions I have just throw me for a loop!" whines her distraught lover).

But there's a new-found confidence here – a grounding, if you will – that signals a coming-of-age for both shows that few Canadian comedies ever stick around long enough to achieve.

Little Mosque and Sophie may have burst onto the scene in a swirl of misleading expectations but their new-found emphasis on character over cornball kookiness ensures they'll be around for some time to come.

MONTY BURNS, MEET SARAH PALIN: I'm surprised the late-night talk show hosts taking pokes at U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin haven't noticed her folksy pandering to "Joe Six-Pack" and America's hockey moms aren't just the sycophantic ravings of a former beauty queen out of her depth on the world stage, but a blatant rip-off of one of TV's most esteemed hypocrites: Mr. Montgomery Burns on The Simpsons.

"Oh, I get your angle,'' the geriatric nuclear czar muttered during a gubernatorial run when advisers suggested eating dinner with common folk like the Simpsons would endear him to the great unwashed.

"Every Joe Meatball and Sally Housecoat in this godforsaken state will see me hunkering down for a chow with Eddie Punchclock. The media will have a field day!"

Nuclear-booster Burns, of course, ruined his campaign when Marge served a three-eyed fish named Blinky and he hurled his dinner.

Gaffe-prone Palin – who winks at audiences and lops the Gs off words such as sayin' – has bounced back from bogus claims she could see Russia from Alaska.

But given the prescient way life imitates art, I suspect it won't be long before Joe Six-Pack and the hockey moms decide their interests are better represented by someone who knows how to pronounce "nuclear" (hint: it's not "nuculur") and can find Afghanistan on a map.

Like, say, a third-grader.

Joel Rubinoff is the television critic for The Waterloo Region Record. Reach him by email at jrubinoff@therecord.com


First It Was Gas, Now Hiccups, For Brent Butt

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 03, 2008) Toronto — Saskatchewan-born funny guy Brent Butt has announced his new half-hour comedy pilot for CTV, a program called Hiccups that stars his Corner Gas co-star and wife, Nancy Robertson.  The show will be shot in Vancouver, kicking off just as Butt finishes production for the sixth and final season of Corner Gas (which premieres Oct. 13). Butt is the star, creator and executive producer of Hiccups, which will feature Robertson as a children's author with anger issues.  "The past six years have been like some kind of dream, so I am thrilled to get the opportunity to create something new," Butt said in a press release.


Life Is A Cabaret - In The Distillery District

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(October 02, 2008) The inaugural CanWest Cabaret Festival - a four-day medley of eclectic performances celebrating the cabaret genre - kicks off today at the Distillery District's Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

Young Centre general director Albert Schultz beamed as he described the line-up of about 125 artists he has secured to stage about 50 performances. It includes Jackie Richardson, Steven Page, Sarah Slean, Melanie Doan, Dennis Lee, Mary Margaret O'Hara and Patricia O'Callaghan.

Schultz said the festival grew out of the Young Centre's mandate to be a home not only to Soulpepper Theatre and George Brown College, but also to "the Toronto arts community across all the performance disciplines.

The festival aims to be a hybrid of the classical cabaret styles, from the elegant hotel settings of New York to the Weimar tradition. "The one thing that separates cabaret from anything else is ... intimacy and the notion of social interaction," he added. Each of the four theatres will have a bar, candle-lit tables, tapas and drinks on offer during shows.

Also of note is the festival's Songbook series, which highlights the work of four artists. Leonard Cohen represents the Canadian canon, Kurt Weill provides a European focus, Duke Ellington offers a taste of the United States and the Breithaupt Brothers, Toronto natives with a cabaret-style gig at Joe's Pub in New York, provide a Toronto-based repertoire.

The festival has secured a seven-year agreement with primary backer CanWest, assuring its longevity. Though tickets to single shows are available, the event is built around three- and five-performance packages that allow viewers to hand-pick their shows for $51 or $70 respectively.

The CanWest Cabaret Festival runs through Sunday (http://www.youngcentre.ca).

Arts Complex Axed From Sony Centre Skyscraper

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,
Entertainment Columnist

(October 03, 2008) Say goodbye to the idea of a $75 million Arts & Heritage Awareness complex linking the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts to Daniel Libeskind's sleek 49-storey condo skyscraper, soon to rise on the southeast corner of Sony's land at Yonge and Front Sts.

Instead, an enticing public plaza is to be built at the key intersection, on the street level next to the entrance of the historic Toronto show palace, also designed by Libeskind.

That is the revised proposal going Monday to Toronto city council's executive committee, after support needed from the federal and provincial governments ($22 million each) failed to come through.

"This new plaza will be like a large park in the heart of the city," Sony Centre CEO Dan Brambilla said yesterday. "We're still working on ideas, but we'll probably have a fountain. We want it to be animated all day long, throughout the year.

"There will be food services in the theatre lobby, open all day. This will be a great open space, like New York City's Lincoln Center plaza, with beautiful landscaping where people can stroll and meet and relax."

Other possible features include a sophisticated image projection system and a skating rink.

As a result, Libeskind's so-called L Tower, which resembled the map of Italy, will lose its toe. The tower, to be built by Castlepoint Realty Partners, will have additional condo units on the lower eight storeys that previously had been devoted to the arts and heritage centre.

The plaza will occupy a rectangle of open space more than 15 metres wide and 45 metres deep on land now used for a terrace at below-grade level, now accessible only from the theatre's lower lobby, as well as a parking area.

Libeskind's plan, originally unveiled in 2005, featured an eight-storey podium at the base of the tower (at Yonge St. and The Esplanade). That podium extended at a height of eight storeys and joined the tower to existing Sony Centre.

Brambilla's dreamed-of cultural centre would have included an interactive arts lab about the arts history of Toronto's multicultural communities, as well as a concierge service, video cabaret space and banquet facility.

Partly because of three elections in as many years, Brambilla encountered glitches several times just as a deal seemed imminent. Two weeks ago, he ran out of time.

Under the agreement between Sony and Castlepoint, there was a Plan B. If Brambilla could not raise the money by Sept. 15, the podium would still be built and the developer would be allowed to use it as retail space; then after 15 years the city would have a chance to buy the space back.

"As the deadline approached, we realized it would make more sense to have a plaza," Brambilla says.

The Sony Centre is owned by the city but run as an arm's-length agency with an independent board.

If the revised proposal wins approval from the executive committee, it will go to the full city council. It has already been endorsed by City Hall staff, and in July council indicated it would give it a favourable reception when it asked Sony to explore the possibility and return with a detailed proposal.

As part of revised deal, Castlepoint would pay an extra $3.5 million as well as the originally agreed $15 million. Construction on the tower will begin in a few months.

Frost/Nixon Star Reveals Hot-Blooded Past

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

(October 04, 2008) VANCOUVER–The Oct. 16 opening of Frost/Nixon at the Canadian Stage Company isn't just a chance to welcome one of this country's finest actors back to Toronto after an absence of 28 years. It's also an opportunity to pay tribute to a man who has had one of the most varied and amazing careers in modern theatre.

Len Cariou created the role of Sweeney Todd when Johnny Depp was still a teenager, starred in many of the great roles of world literature at the three pivotal classical theatres on this continent, made love to Lauren Bacall onstage and off – earning a Tony nomination in the process – and stood by gracefully when Stephen Sondheim wrote "Send in the Clowns" and gave it to his leading lady instead of him.

Not bad for a kid from St. Boniface, Man., who wanted to play baseball instead of singing show tunes.

The Elbow Room is an amiably louche kind of place in Vancouver's Yaletown neighbourhood where Cariou likes to break bread most mornings. (Lots of coffee, two eggs over-medium, and brown toast.)

You really wouldn't guess he's 69 from the longshoreman's heft of his shoulders, the sparkle in his eye and the authority in that baritone voice, which was made permanently huskier after a year conveying the homicidal cadenzas of Steven Sondheim's Sweeney.

I've known him for nearly 30 years and he's a straight-ahead guy, but today we're going places we've never gone before as we dig deep into his past.

Ask him what he remembers most about his childhood in Manitoba during the Second World War, as the son of an Irish mother and French-Canadian father, and the answer comes quickly: "I grew up around music a lot," he says with a smile. "We had a piano in the house. My mother and her two sisters would sing whenever they got together. They were really good.

"I believe my mother, in her heart of hearts, would have liked to have had a career in the theatre, and I think she was sorry she didn't ever give it a shot."

But her son made up for it. All through his high-school years he was part of one pop group or another (sometimes partnering with Stratford vet James Blendick), "going from school dance to school dance every weekend."

Cariou had a fine time, but he never thought of entertaining for a living "until Hirsch arrived." That would be John Hirsch, the Hungarian messiah who brought theatre to Manitoba and galvanized several generations of artists with his fierce passion for the art.

Once he came to town, Cariou kept harassing him to cast him in one of his musicals at Rainbow Stage. Hirsch finally relented, and put him in the chorus of Damn Yankees. A musical about baseball – Cariou's idea of heaven.

Then Hirsch set up what would become the Manitoba Theatre Centre and asked Cariou to play Ensign Pulver in his production of Mr. Roberts.

"I was so stupid I nearly turned it down," laughs Cariou. "I thought it couldn't be a good role, it was only an ensign. Somebody finally said to me, `You schmuck, Jack Lemmon won an Oscar playing that part.'"

Cariou made his mark with that role, and within a year he was offered a contract at Stratford. This presented a decision that was complicated by the fact that he was married and had a child. "We got married at 20. I was too young and the marriage was out the door anyway, so I walked away."

Things started moving faster than the Manitoba boy could handle. Stratford led to the Guthrie Theatre, which paved the way for the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn. Then he wound up being considered for the romantic lead opposite Lauren Bacall in a new musical called Applause.

"I auditioned four times," he recalls, "and the last time Bacall was going to be there to sign off on me. I thought what a pretentious piece of shit that was.

"Then I met her. She was a stunner. Wow. Talk about sexy. She asked me what I was doing now and the Stratford production of Henry V that I was starring in was literally playing across the street from the theatre where we were auditioning. I opened the doors and there were three six-foot posters of me as Henry V. `That's what I'm doing now,' I said."

Before too long they wound up together, and when asked how he felt about following in Humphrey Bogart's footsteps, Cariou guffaws and says, "It wasn't his footsteps I was worried about."

His Tony-nominated turn in Applause landed him the leading role of Frederik in Sondheim's A Little Night Music, but that glorious experience had one bittersweet moment. "I was supposed to have a big song in Act II after my former mistress walked out on me," Cariou recalls. "But the scene wasn't working. Then we played it the other way, with me walking out on her. Sondheim watched us do the new version, then he came back a few days later and said, `Sorry, Len, you don't sing the song anymore.' And to add insult to f---ing injury, the song he wrote was `Send in the Clowns.'"

You could argue that Sondheim paid Cariou back a hundredfold a few years later when he created the title role in Sweeney Todd for him. Thirty years later, Cariou still recalls hearing the score for the first time.

"Steve was really nervous about playing it for me, which surprised me, but he finally excused himself, came back with a giant joint, toked up and started to sing the title song.

"'Do you know the Dies Irae?' Sondheim asked me. `Of course,' I said, `I was an altar boy for years.' Then he showed me that `Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd' was the Dies Irae backwards.

"`Oh boy,' I said, `You're a sick f---, aren't you?' And he just laughed."

Sweeney Todd took Cariou to even greater heights and his first Tony Award. Its world of Broadway stardom also brought him into the orbit of Glenn Close, with whom he shared a romantic relationship for several years in the early 1980s until she left him.

By then, he had met Stratford actor Heather Summerhays, whom he instinctively felt "wasn't just someone I could have a fling with and walk away from." He bided his time with her, and this Oct. 25 will mark their 22nd wedding anniversary.

So now he's playing Richard Nixon and – as you'd expect – Cariou has a complex focus on the man he's portraying.

"I don't believe he's tragic. I think he had some great accomplishments, that's one of the sad ironies of his life. The economy was good, he got us out of Vietnam, he opened the doors to China, but then he got involved in a third-rate burglary and that's all anyone ever remembers him for."

Cariou looks off into the distance. "I used to think he was just a crook, but now I have more respect for him. He went through a real dark night of the soul and had to learn to live with everything he did."

Strange, but Richard Nixon sounds a lot like Sweeney Todd.

Brampton Theatre Sets Sights On T.O. Audience

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

(October 03, 2008) Everything's coming up roses in Brampton these days.

This week marks the first anniversary of
Costin Manu's tenure as manager of programming, marketing and audience development at the Rose Theatre and it's been a time of incredible growth for the organization.

"By the end of July this year, we had already sold as many tickets as we had last year by October," says the energetic Manu "and we've kept up that pace."

The real turning point came this summer when Menopause Out Loud ran for eight performances, more than any show in the Rose's history, and played to 97 per cent attendance.

"It took me a while to find out what our audiences want," admits Manu, "but I found out: it's theatre."

Now many shows are selling out as a matter of course. The gorgeous $55 million jewel box of a theatre garnered a lot of favourable attention when it opened in September 2006 with a gala concert from Diana Krall, but since then, it's largely been patronized by people from the region.

"That's wonderful in one way," agrees Manu, "because we were built to be a local facility, but I'd like to see a lot more people from Toronto coming out here as well. That would really help our growth."

Manu has several highly persuasive factors to help make his argument.

"Most of our shows are on the weekends," he reminds drivers from 416, "and the traffic thins out considerably. You could make it out here in 30 minutes. There's also a lot of wonderful dining opportunities in the area so it's possible to make a whole evening out of it. Our ticket prices are lower than in Toronto, with $60 for our very best seats and our underground parking is free. Remember that in the winter!"

But Manu realizes that the major thing that makes people come to the theatre is the show itself and that's where he brings out his heavy guns.

"Only in Brampton" is his slogan for the year, guaranteeing a whole assortment of shows available in his venue, but – surprisingly enough – not in Toronto!

No. 1 on my list would be the tuneful Anne and Gilbert, the musical sequel to Anne Of Green Gables, which I've seen twice and consider totally delightful. It plays Oct. 7 to 9.

Ashleigh Ireland and Adrian Marchuk, the charming leads of the 2007 Thousand Islands Playhouse production are back again and I can warrant you this is certainly worth the drive to Brampton.

On Oct. 17 and 18, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, complete with their 25-piece orchestra, will be presenting the only Canadian appearance of their highly acclaimed The Pirates of Penzance.

If you want to catch the touring version of the hysterically funny Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims' Unit, that unfolds at the Rose on Saturday, Nov. 8.

And one of the most enjoyable musicals I've seen in years, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, shows up via its national touring company on Feb. 13 and 14 for its only appearance in the entire GTA.

Manu promises "the same quality of experience you'll get in downtown Toronto, but for almost half the price."

For information on the Rose Theatre and its season, go to myrosetheatre.ca or call 905-874-2800.

A Very Personal Family Drama

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

(October 04, 2008) "My mother is dying ... and I have lice."

Followed immediately by a loud, four-letter expletive starting with "F," that's not a conventional opening line for a play. But nothing about
Scratch or its author, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, is all that conventional.

The 23-year-old Torontonian has not only written the opening show of the new Factory Theatre season, she's starring in it. The whole piece is frankly, unashamedly, autobiographical.

Corbeil-Coleman was only 15 when her mother, culture journalist and novelist Carole Corbeil, died of cancer, leaving her and her father, actor-director Layne Coleman, to attempt to reassemble the pieces of their lives in some sort of coherent pattern.

"I first wrote it when I was 16," she recalls. "I'm a child of the theatre, and because I had just gone through something important, I felt I had to put it into a play."

Numerous rewrites and workshops have changed it over the years: "It's completely different, but still the same," she says cryptically.

While Corbeil-Coleman allows "I'm through my grief totally," she still confesses that while working on the play, she's "trying to negotiate between the past and the present."

Her childhood past was "pretty heady and chaotic. When you grow up with artists, dishes never really get done.

"It was strange having a writer as a mother," she muses. "I used to have a sibling rivalry with her computer. I always thought she was leaving me to go travel in her mind."

But even as a kid, Corbeil-Coleman wasn't about to take a back seat to anyone else's artistic ambitions.

"I was a very dramatic, over-the-top kind of child," she shudders. "I would dance for my parents, but with my eyes closed because, in my mind, that looked better. I would scream out `Talk about it! Talk about it!' asking them to review me as I was doing it."

An only child, she had "a huge imaginary group of friends. I think I wanted a sibling more than anything else."

That wasn't going to happen. Her mother was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer when Corbeil-Coleman was 8, but her parents kept the knowledge from her until near the very end.

"I didn't find out until the chemotherapy started," she says quietly, "and that was year six of seven. I knew she had two surgeries. I kept asking if it was cancer and they said `no, no, no.' I was very angry for that reason. In that last year, I just slowly watched her die."

There's a long pause. "It's a hard call to make. And my mom didn't know what to do."

Up to that point, Corbeil-Coleman had been studying theatre at the Etobicoke School of the Arts. "But after mom passed away, I felt I needed to change." She finished high school at Toronto's SEED Alternative School.

Then the family she had been working for as a nanny moved to New York – and she went with them.

"I'd work from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., and then I was free. I'd spend the rest of the time wandering around New York. It was the one place where I felt that all the hype I had heard was true."

She had "a torrid affair with an older guy who was getting his PhD and I was all set to stay there and study acting."

But something changed in her mind. She found herself not only going to the National Theatre School in Montreal, but switching over to playwriting as well.

"I was writing plays from way back when I was young," she realized. "It was what was around me all the time, so naturally I'd go in that direction. I tried to break away from it, but I finally realized that was what I really wanted to do."

She spent "the best three years of my life" in Montreal, and graduated in 2007. Less than a year later, Factory Theatre announced it was beginning its 2008-2009 season with a play Corbeil-Coleman not only wrote, but would be starring in.

Doesn't she think that's a bit dangerous?

"I've been with this play for so long," she says rather carefully. "I didn't act in any of the early workshops of it, so I was able to really hear it and make any changes that were needed. I know I'm putting myself in a really vulnerable position, but I felt that it was my life, my play, and I wanted to take responsibility for it."

Besides, nobody but Corbeil-Coleman could possibly understand the obsessive struggle with lice that the play's leading character endures.

"I had lice for seven years, on and off. Really. Almost exactly mirroring the time of my mother's cancer. I know all about hair being itchy. It really represents something to me.

"Hey, I'm the queen of parasites," she laughs. "I had lice for seven years, I've had fleas in my house, I got malaria on a trip to Africa. I guess it's my destiny."

Not really. It looks more as though Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman's destiny is to be in the theatre. After all, she was born to the breed.


Dragon Quest IV for DS Worth The Time To Grind

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

(October 04, 2008) Every game genre has its conventions, from the pistol-shotgun-rifle arms deal of first-person shooters to the colour-matching mechanic at the heart of every second "casual" game. But no genre is as bound and defined by its clichés as the traditional Japanese role-playing game. JRPGs are the 12-bar blues of the gaming world, each one a variation on well-established riffs.

Those ideas didn't just come out of nowhere, though. There are always pioneers, and no JRPG series has been around longer than the
Dragon Quest games. Outshone and outsold outside its native land by the only slightly less venerable Final Fantasy series, DQ remains the most popular RPG series in Japan, honoured for its resolute adherence to old-school structures it established. And like classic records, JRPG hits have a way of living forever, remastered and re-released. This month we're treated to 1990's Dragon Quest IV, updated for the Nintendo DS.

Praised on its original release on the Nintendo Entertainment System for an innovative chapter-based story structure, which allowed players to get deeper into the histories and motivations of its characters, DQIV (subtitle: Chapters of the Chosen) is still a straight-ahead J-style role-playing game, with plucky backwater Chosen Ones, wilful princesses and poorly confined Ancient Evils playing out their epic iconic dramedy in a framework of turn-based battles, linear level and equipment upgrades.

Then there's the Grind, that aspect of classic JRPGing that gamers of modern sensibility can do without. Where role-playing games of today, say Oblivions and Mass Effects, either adjust difficulty levels to where the player's characters are at or are structured so the player never encounters walls of impossibility, old-schoolers like DQIV are invariably tuned such that taking the direct route to adventure will leave the characters woefully under-prepared for what's waiting for them. They require the Grind – the hours and hours of real time spent gaining experience, equipment, strength and ability, before the next chunks of storyline can be revealed.

That sounds like a drag, and for most gamers it will be. But for a JRPG enthusiast, the Grind is like meditation, a mantra of battle that's tolerated, as long as the story payoff is worth it. And DQIV pays off well. I've played it before, in its previous PlayStation re-release, and was still charmed by its mix of characters and motivations, its twists and turns. Combined with the hypnotic zone-out properties of the Grind and the pleasures of its gussied-up 3D visuals, diverting mini-games and excellent music, it was more than enough to hold this old-schooler for much longer than might be considered healthy.

Rock Band 2 For Wii Will Come Fully Loaded

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

(October 04, 2008) While not publicly announced, the publisher of Harmonix's mega-popular Rock Band music games confirmed to the Star last week that the upcoming Nintendo Wii version of Rock Band 2 will offer the same online connectivity as the Xbox 360 (available now) and PlayStation 3 versions (out Oct. 19).

Specifically, MTV Games verified that the eagerly anticipated Rock Band 2 on the Nintendo Wii – slated for a Nov. 18 launch – will support cooperative and head-to-head battles over the Internet, as well as the ability to download additional songs and albums. This wasn't the case with the scaled-down Rock Band for the Wii.

The PlayStation 2 version, also due out Nov. 18, will not offer any online features, but a value-priced "track pack" disc could add new songs to the game a few months after its release.

For the uninitiated, Rock Band lets players jam to dozens of rock's most beloved songs using plastic peripherals, including a guitar, drum kit and microphone. The game costs roughly $59 on its own or $189 with all the instruments.

On a related note, Guitar Hero: World Tour, which offers drumming and singing options, along with guitar and bass, is still on track for an Oct. 26 release.

Iron Man Blu-ray issues on PS3?

PlayStation 3 owners who bought a copy of Iron Man on Blu-ray last week might have a superhero-sized temper right about now. Internet forums are buzzing with reports that many PS3 owners aren't able to get the disc to play.

The issue: The first disc (the movie) takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes to load some content to the hard drive, relating to the BD-Live online component (including an Iron Man IQ game that allows viewers to create and share multiple-choice quizzes based on clips from the film). A logo will remain on the screen while loading, and then disappears before a "play" icon materializes in the lower left corner.

"Due to the overwhelming popularity of the release an unprecedented demand was placed on the BD-Live connection," explained Brenda Ciccone, Paramount's vice-president of publicity, in an email. "The bandwidth capacity was increased in preparation for the release, but the demand exceeded all expectations so capacity was expanded dramatically (on Sept. 30) and local servers were established worldwide to accommodate all the fans."

To avoid this wait, you can disable the PS3's online connectivity in the "Settings" menu. The second "Special Features" disc doesn't require any sort of installation. On a related note, the BD-Live online feature will only work after the latest Profile 2.0 firmware updates are downloaded and installed.


Under The Bells Of St. James

Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Bailey Nurse

by Austin Clarke, Thomas Allen, 300 pages, $29.95

(October 05, 2008) If I could identify author Austin Clarke with a particular painter it would Georges Seurat, the 19th century pointillist whose tiny dots of colour created such lush scenes. Like Seurat, Clarke's most recent novels are formed from myriad details of people and their surroundings – animated by an exuberant, improvisational voice. Reading Clarke has become, primarily, a sensual experience.

In More, his first novel since the 2002 Giller Prize-winning The Polished Hoe, Clarke tackles the topic of single black mothers left devastated by gang crime. He etches into our imagination his own Toronto neighbourhood. It is bounded on the southwest by St. James Cathedral, whose steeple bells provide a heavenly score for the Victorian gardens, George Brown College and my own apartment just south. The neighbourhood's northeast edge incorporates the armouries and Moss Park – the corner of Queen and Sherbourne, where immigrant experience meets seedy urban life.

It is here that Clarke's central character, a Bajan immigrant named Idora Morrison, is experiencing a spiritual crisis. Lying in bed, Idora sorrowfully contemplates a lifetime of disappointments. During the next three days she strives to understand her years in Canada and seeks to understand God's will.

Clarke's early works, including The Meeting Point (1967), established a black Canadian aesthetic and asserted the immigrant story as central to Canadian literature. In More, he explores such seminal themes as social estrangement and the dream deferred.

Idora arrives in Canada from Barbados more than 20 years earlier. Educated in a respected girls' school, she anticipates a good job, a house in the suburbs, a fruitful marriage, a future for her child. What she gets is a husband who abandons her in a basement apartment, two menial jobs and a son, B.J., who has descended into gang life and is currently missing. Fear for her child has sent her into a tailspin, but she is too frightened to call the police.

Idora feels utterly estranged from B.J., who has changed his name to Rashan Rashanan and adopted the Muslim faith. Estrangement is a common theme of black Canadian literature: Black men are estranged from black women, black children are estranged from their parents, and black people tend to eschew one another, while white people eschew blacks.

Idora sees herself as different from her immigrant African neighbours, just as she has nothing in common with the prostitutes and dealers in the park. She is also estranged from herself and even wears a white mask – face powder that lightens her complexion. Clarke subtly suggests how difficult it would be for Idora to mother a young black man.

Idora works in the dining room at Trinity College, where the students' academic robes recall clergy attire. Clarke demonstrates education's near-religious significance to black and West Indian people. Indeed, More is one of the few novels in black Canadian literature where religion plays a prominent role. This comes as something of a relief – not merely because the church remains a reality in many black lives, but because it is a significant aspect of black history and culture.

It is at Trinity College that Idora meets her new friend, a white woman named Josephine. The relationship, which has lesbian overtones, enhances Idora's life. With Josephine, a student of Victorian literature, Idora watches hockey, drinks and swears, and generally feels free to carry on like a man. Idora introduces Josephine to the exoticism of Kensington Market.

Inevitably, race insinuates itself. Josephine has a racist police boyfriend and Idora is furious about police brutality toward black men – the shooting of Albert Johnson is a recurring theme – and wonders whether she should maintain the friendship.

One of Clarke's main accomplishments is his gentle depiction of Idora's complicated ideas about race. Over the course of the novel we see her come to accept – to admit, without shame – the shared hardships and joys of black experience. She meditates on Coltrane's music and delves into her recurring dream, a horrifying image of slavery or prison. In it, her husband and son are members of a chain gang in which the men's right hands are cut off.

By the time she discovers her son, she is a stronger, deeper, more compassionate woman.

In this novel, policemen are the embodiment of racism – as vicious as your average Klansmen. But there is a weakness here. In restricting the problem of racism to the police, Clarke takes the pressure off everyone else. It's easy to talk about racism if you don't make it personal. As loud as this story roars, it does not encourage white people to take racism personally.

Clarke packs an astonishing amount of material into this medium-sized novel. Still, I wish he had treated it more rigorously.

B.J. is practically missing from the story and even from Idora's memories. The time line is shaky. Clarke's racing prose strikes some false notes and feels makeshift in places. This didn't prevent me from thrilling at the scene where Idora visits Azan's Beauty Salon (Azan was calling black women beautiful well before it became all the rage) or delighting when Idora and the bus driver carry on a little flirtation.

The climax, when we get there, is biblical in its resonance. From now on, when the church bells ring at St. James Cathedral, I'll be forced to think of More.

Radio Shock Jock Howard Stern Ties The Knot

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 04, 2008) NEW YORK–Shock jock Howard Stern has embraced tradition.

The radio talk show host known for hosting porn stars was married Friday to his longtime girlfriend, Beth Ostrosky.

"I can't wait to marry Howard," she told Newsday before the ceremony at Manhattan's toney Le Cirque restaurant, adding, "I know, everyone laughs!"

The bride wore a white chiffon gown with cutaway back and sides. Officiating at the ceremony was actor Mark Consuelos, Kelly Ripa's husband and an ordained minister.

The 180 guests included Joan Rivers, Barbara Walters, Billy Joel and wife Katie Lee, Sopranos star Steve Schirripa, comedian Chevy Chase, music executive Tommy Mottola, and Donald and Melania Trump.

They dined on tuna tataki, scrambled eggs with white truffles and striped bass with caviar – washed down with wine and champagne. Songwriter Phoebe Snow serenaded the newlyweds with "You Send Me," and Joel crooned "The Stranger."

It's an about-face for the media maverick, who had once worried that marriage to the model could spoil a good thing.

"It's a nice feeling that we get along great," he said. "We're very happy, and I don't want to (blank) it up."

But he took the plunge anyway.

Stern told listeners he surprised Ostrosky with an engagement ring in February 2007 – while they were naked in bed.

During his first marriage, he boasted of his fidelity while hosting strippers and porn stars on his show.

Stern and his wife of 21 years, Alison Berns, had three daughters before divorcing in 2001. Their romance inspired his film Private Parts.

Constance Rooke, 65; Constant Champion Of Canuck Writing

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

(October 7, 2008) Constance Rooke, a champion of Canadian writing, an editor, a writer, a scholar and a beloved teacher has died after a long bout with ovarian cancer.

She died Saturday in Princess Margaret Hospital. She was 65.

Born in New York City, Constance Raymond attended Smith College, Tulane University and the University of North Carolina, where she earned a PhD and met her husband, fiction writer Leon Rooke. Following their marriage in 1969, they moved to Victoria where Constance taught English and edited the Malahat Review at the University of Victoria.

In 1979, she initiated the women's studies program at U Vic and later became academic vice-president. In 1988, she accepted a position as professor and chair of the English department at the University of Guelph. She was the founding director of that university's master of fine arts program in creative writing and became associate vice-president (academic) in 1994.

Constance and Leon Rooke founded the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 1989 when they were living in a former stagecoach hotel in the centre of the village. The festival, held on the first weekend after Labour Day each year, continues to celebrate the finest writing in Canada.

She left the University of Guelph in 1999 to become president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. She left that job in 2002, in a dispute with the board of regents over U of W's financial problems, and moved to Toronto.

Known to her many friends in the literary community as Connie, she served as president of PEN Canada from 2005 to 2007, even while battling cancer. She edited three anthologies, Writing Away (1994), Writing Home (1996) and Writing Life (2006) for PEN Canada, published by McClelland & Stewart and created as fundraisers for the writers' organization dedicated to freedom of expression.

Rooke's other published works include Fear of the Open Heart: Essays on Contemporary Canadian Writing, published in 1989.

She was honoured for her writing, especially her short stories, with the 2005-2006 Gjenima Prize.

In her acceptance speech, she said, "I have had a profoundly satisfying career in part because I believe (with both the prose and the passion in me) in the power of literature to connect us, to teach us empathy, to help us walk in another person's shoes, to see with another person's eyes. I believe – despite our ongoing, manifold, terrible failures to connect, to understand, to change our ways – that literature does great good in the world, and that without it we would be truly lost."

Connie Rooke touched many lives and aided many careers.

"She was a lovely woman who was a help to me when I was down and out," said author Austin Clarke, one of many Canadian writers who benefited from her attention.

She leaves her husband, Leon, her son Jonathan, a brother, Charles, and a sister, Hilary. Her funeral will be private, and a public celebration of her life is planned for a later date.

Vancouver's Tim Lee takes Sobey Art Award

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Sarah Milroy

(October 07, 2008) The
Sobey Art Award is Canada's leading visual-art prize and its aim is to throw a spotlight every year on the work of one of this country's most promising emerging artists. So when the announcement was made in the Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal in Toronto last Wednesday night that this year's prize money ($50,000) has gone to the Vancouver artist Tim Lee, the moment held a subtle irony. As emerging artists go, you'd have to say Tim Lee is about as emerged as they come.

Making work in the large-format Cibachrome photo medium of the international A-list (he also makes video and sculpture), Lee has already leapfrogged over the Canadian gallery system to find representation in the leading commercial galleries of the United States and Europe (Cohan & Leslie in New York, Johnen + Schottle in Cologne and Lisson Gallery in London). The 32-year-old is one of Canada's most internationally acclaimed rising stars, his talents developed in a local art scene that some outsiders see as insufferably self-valorizing and others see as admirably supportive and nurturing. (The truth lies halfway between the two.) Following in the traditions of his hometown elders Jeff Wall, Ken Lum (who taught Lee at the University of British Columbia), Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas and Ian Wallace, his art is deeply rooted in the conceptual-art tradition of the seventies, but freshly minted with his own inquisitive and eccentric wit.

Competition for the award was stiff, with other contenders including the brilliant Winnipeg artist Daniel Barrow, who enthralled his Toronto audience last Tuesday afternoon with a performance titled Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry, involving his live narration and a sequence of multi-part cartoon drawings illuminated by an overhead projector. (The story involved the artist's fictitious account of his childhood days, a complex meditation on vision, loneliness and personal identity.) As well, Lee was up against the New York-based Canadian Terence Koh (a.k.a. asianpunkboy), whose stylish white-on-white installations and bad-boy posturing have made him a darling of the international art press.

Sitting down to talk just moments after the announcement, Lee was still carrying the champagne bottle that someone had given him and looking a little startled. Notwithstanding his many successes, he has the quiet, slightly introverted air of a scholar pulled involuntarily from the stacks of a library to blink in the spotlight.

I had a few practical questions about the work in the gallery upstairs, where the ROM is showcasing works by Lee and the other shortlisted candidates. One of his large two-part photographic works from 2006, titled Untitled (Neil Young, 1969) is a self-portrait of Lee playing an electric guitar, his slope-shouldered pose echoing Young's trademark stance. Lee's body, though, is pictorially segmented into its upper and lower parts, which are framed separately. Close inspection reveals that the grey band running vertically up the left side in the two shots is actually a concrete floor, snaked over with electrical cords. Correct for this and look at the pictures sideways, though, and Lee's body is now hovering parallel to this floor.

Did he use digital manipulation to produce this gravity-defying effect? No, he explains, he shot the work in two parts, so that the upper and lower parts of his body, respectively, could be supported off-camera. It's a photograph that lies, suggesting the simultaneity of one take when, in fact, it's the product of two.

This approach to photography – taking an instrument assumed to be truth telling and making it bend reality – is of a piece with Lee's Vancouver roots, whether one thinks of Jeff Wall's digital manipulations for his giant backlit Cibachromes or Rodney Graham's flamboyant looping narratives and sly simulations of historic materials. In fact, it is Graham's precedent that prevails here, particularly clear in Lee's incisive suite of artistic responses to Glenn Gould's performance of the Goldberg Variations, which are also included in the ROM show.

Taking on a piece of classic Canadiana (Gould's performance of Bach's Aria is the canonical performance by the great Canadian classical musician), Lee wrings fresh meaning. “Gould performed the work in the studio and submitted the recording to many edits. He felt that the musical artist of the 20th century had to be a master of the keyboard and of the editing suite as well. His career is a model of how to constantly rejuvenate your practice.”

At the ROM, viewers can see his 2007 two-screen work titled The Goldberg Variations, Aria BWV 988, Johann Sebastian Bach, 1741, (Glenn Gould, 1981). It records, or seems to record, a two-handed performance of the famous passage of music. (The screens simply show, respectively, Lee's right and left hand playing.) Immediately, though, one can see that Lee's performance is fictive, the result of myriad edits made to excise the errors.

Lee doesn't play the piano, or any instrument (“I'm completely talentless,” he exults), though classical music was a big part of his family life. “We definitely grew up with it,” he told me. “We appreciated music. My sister actually became an elementary-school music teacher. When I told her that I wanted to make this piece, she said it couldn't be done.”

A framed musical score hanging next to the videos reveals the hundreds of edits required to produce a convincing aural facsimile of Gould's original. To make this work, Lee has needed to have nearly as much precision and fanaticism as an editor as Gould had as a pianist and studio musician.

In an adjacent case, Lee is also showing a black-and-white record jacket that he has designed in period-perfect faux-1950s style and with it the two 45 rpm records of Lee's edited right- and left-hand performances. It's the kind of mimicry beloved by Rodney Graham, who similarly likes to infect historic texts or other literary and art-historical relics from the past with his own creative virus.

“Afterness,” for want of a real word, is one of the distinguishing hallmarks of Vancouver art, I say to Lee – that heightened, self-conscious sense of the artist slipping into the footsteps of earlier artists, whether they be French 19th-century painters like Édouard Manet or the canonical makers of American conceptual art like Dan Graham, whose impact on Vancouver art has been paramount. Lee (however subjectively) reprises Gould, and Gould (however subjectively) has reprised Bach – a set of performances nesting one inside the other stretching back into the 18th century, with room for interpretation, intervention and distortion in each reiteration.

I ask Lee how he accounts for this learned preoccupation with precedent in Vancouver art, and we talk about the strength of the art and art history departments at UBC where he did his MFA work, and the vitality of the discussion about art that goes on in the city at large. “The only place I ever get nervous about giving a talk is in Vancouver,” Lee says with a laugh. “You really have to bring your A-game.”

He cites art history professor John O'Brian, artist Ken Lum and also Scott Watson as important mentors. (Watson is director/curator of the Belkin Art Gallery at UBC and also the West Coast juror in this year's Sobey selection panel.)

“I trained originally as a graphic designer at University of Alberta,” Lee says, “but then I went one night to hear a talk at the Edmonton Art Gallery and heard Stan Douglas speak. That's really the reason I became an artist. He was the smartest individual I had ever heard and he made me think that I was contributing to the same glib cultural climate that he was critiquing. So I decided to do something about it.”

The Sobey Art Award 2008 exhibition remains on view until Monday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (www.rom.on.ca) .


SNL Star Tina Fey Signs Book Deal

Source:  www.thestar.com -

(October 06, 2008) NEW YORK– Comedian, Emmy-winning TV star and Sarah Palin-lookalike Tina Fey has signed a book deal with Little, Brown Book Group, the company said Monday, confirming a deal media reports said was worth millions. The New York Post has reported that the deal was worth more than $5 million and that "her book is not being pitched as a memoir, but instead as nonfiction humour, more in the style of author, screenwriter and film director Nora Ephron." The publisher did not confirm the advance paid nor give any further details of the book by Fey, the "Saturday Night Live" veteran who stars as a harried head writer of a TV variety show in NBC network television spoof "30 Rock." The show picked up four Emmys last month. Fey has recently attracted attention for impersonating Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in parodies on "Saturday Night Live." Little, Brown is part of France's Hachette, which is owned by conglomerate Lagardere.


Argos Quiet As The CFL Trade Deadline Draws Nigh

Source:  www.thestar.com - Allan Ryan, Sports Reporter

(October 08, 2008) The CFL's annual trade deadline comes and goes this afternoon. Usually, it goes quietly.

For the
Toronto Argonauts, their season on the line in Winnipeg Friday night, make that very quietly.

"I'm sure there could be one or two trades because people have been talking and, when there's smoke, sometimes there's a little bit of fire," Argos GM Adam Rita said yesterday.

"But I don't think it's going to be with us. None of the East teams are going to trade with us anyway, so we'd have to go out West, where they should be pretty happy with their teams." As in, three of the four 9-5 on the year; the Eskimos, 8-6.

"It's also not unusual for the CFL not to have any trades at the deadline," Rita added, pointing out that, given yesterday's deadline for returning expanded practice rosters to the standard seven, now's the time teams are trying to pare down.

"I think it comes a bit late," he said. "We made our trades earlier. We've made all our changes; most teams have. You've brought in all the guys you need to take care of your injuries and you move on."

So, no, the CFL trade deadline – nor the NFL's, for that matter – doesn't quite grab the headlines as deadlines do for the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

"It's just the nature of our league, or any football," Rita said. "It's pretty tough to do a trade and expect a guy to be ready to play for you the next day. Offensively, that would be even more impossible.

"In baseball, you trade for a hitter or a pitcher. What do they need to know? The signs?

"It's not like there's a set system: go down, get the puck, shoot at the net. It's a little bit tougher when you've got to get everybody in sequence, 11 other guys on the same page."

All that said, the Argos will probably pull off a trade today, right?

"I doubt it," Rita replied, laughing.

ARGONOTES: A loss by the 4-10 Argos to the 5-9 Blue Bombers won't totally wipe out their post-season chances, but it will reduce them to needing to win the final three, coupled with Winnipeg losing its final three. ... On the basis of their showings on the expanded practice rosters, the Argos have offered deferred (2009) contracts to receiver David Lofton, linebacker Matt Hewitt and offensive lineman Brandon Joyce.


Lance Armstrong Eligible For Race In Australia

Source:  www.thestar.com - Reuters

(October 08, 2008) MILAN–
Lance Armstrong can make his comeback in January's Tour Down Under despite a breach of the rules, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Wednesday. The seven-times Tour de France winner said last month he would return to the sport in Australia with the Astana team. However, the UCI's Article 77 states a retired rider may only return to competition by informing the UCI six months in advance, in order to be available for out-of-competition dope testing. Despite the race coming four months after the American's decision to return, the UCI has dropped the requirement. "The aim of Article 77 ... can be better achieved through careful application of the current methods of the anti-doping programme than by the strict application of a time period," UCI said in a statement. "The UCI can confirm Lance Armstrong has and will be the subject of very strict monitoring throughout the period running up to his return to the peloton."