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September 18, 2008

I have a special Canadian product to give away this week in the amazing CD of Kardinal Offishall!  If you can tell me the name of his current CD with the single "Dangerous" featuring Akon, then you could be a winner.  The answer is HERE and you can enter the contest HERE.  Seriously, no full name and mailing address and you cannot be a winner!  If you're not a winner, support Canadian talent by purchasing the CD at any retailer! 

 See pics from Kardinal's CD release party in my

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



Stars Want Arts Plan In Return For Votes

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(September 11, 2008) What makes this federal election different from other elections?

According to Paul Gross, one of Canada's few showbiz celebrities, it should be the first election in which
the arts – and how to fund them – are a central issue.

"When I travel abroad and someone says, tell me about Canada," Gross says, "I'm not going to talk about a trade deal. I'm going to talk about Margaret Atwood, Karen Kain and Atom Egoyan. The arts tell the world who we are."

Yesterday Gross added his star power to a gathering of Toronto arts leaders speaking about funding cuts made shortly before the election was called. Ottawa has cut more than $45 million. Another $15 million from Telefilm's New Media fund is said to be at risk, but the heritage ministry said no final decision has been made.

The event – organized by the Toronto Arts Council and Business for the Arts – joined the funding cuts and the election to the glittery showcase known as the Toronto International Film Festival.

It was no coincidence that it took place mid-festival, and that the venue was the Sutton Place Hotel, headquarters for press and industry working the festival.

Just one week ago, Gross strutted down the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall as the star, director, writer and co-producer of TIFF's opening night gala, Passchendaele.

The movie, about Canadians in World War I, was produced with close to $4 million of federal money through Telefilm Canada, an arm's-length government agency.

Gross and Egoyan, a major figure in international film, positioned this as a non-partisan issue, calling on all parties to articulate a long-term, comprehensive policy on the arts. "What is alarming about the recent cuts is that there wasn't any consultation," says Egoyan.

He sees TIFF – where his new movie, Adoration, had its North American premiere this week – as the shining example of how culture works on an international level.

"The reality is that all these movies from different countries reach Toronto and tell us about those countries because of the support they got in their own country, which was proud of them and wanted to let the rest of the world see them," he says. "But it has to be a two-way street. It is equally important for Canada to help films reach this level and represent us in the rest of the world."

Kain, artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, said there are countless ways to talk about how the arts contribute to social cohesion and mental health, as demonstrated by statistics.

"That is understood by developed countries all over the world," says Kain. "The voices of artists give us our place in the world. We must urge the politicians not to let these voices fall silent."

Jim Fleck, representing Business for the Arts, offered tips on how to pressure candidates in this election.

"The key is to stop thinking of arts funding as a handout and start seeing it as an investment," says Fleck.

Illustrating his point with an episode from the Peanuts comic strip, Fleck delivered the punch line: "We've got to get organized."

He got that right. But how many people casting ballots on Oct. 14 will consider this a crucial issue?

Hold Politicians Accountable, Arts Leaders Urge

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(September 11, 2008)  Luminaries from a galvanized arts community, backed by business leaders, urged a crowded room in Toronto yesterday to demand a comprehensive, long-term vision for arts and culture funding during the federal election campaign.

Seizing the moment of the Toronto International Film Festival, the gathering at Sutton Place, hosted by the Toronto Arts Council (TAC), featured National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain, filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Paul Gross, Ontario College of Art & Design president Sara Diamond, Caribana chair Joe Halstead and Business for the Arts chairman Jim Fleck. The panel of speakers held court before about 200 guests, a who's who of the Canadian cultural scene.

Gone were the emotional cries heard in the immediate aftermath of the $45-million in recent cuts to federal arts and culture programs, which some cultural leaders called "vindictive" and "ideological." Instead, panellists took two minutes each to raise a myriad of points, forming a moderate but forceful and non-partisan entreaty, and demonstrating a more co-ordinated approach.

Their goal is to foster co-operation with the government - the lack of communication and consultation in advance of the cuts has become the most frequent complaint in recent weeks.

"I don't think any government can afford to unilaterally decide what program should be cut or altered or tailored. It needs input. The latest decision, for instance, to cut a program to help send artists abroad is just so wrong-headed," Egoyan said.

He also said the arts community may need to share the blame for failing to press the government into regular discussions.

Kain kicked off the speeches by pointing out the economic, social and health benefits of cultural life. But the challenge lies in spreading that message to politicians and voters.

Claire Hopkinson, general director of TAC, introduced the panel with a call to arms. "We are calling on 600,000 arts and cultural workers, as well as millions of Canadians who enjoy, view, consume, feel a passion for culture ... to hold these political leaders to account for their cultural platform on Oct. 14," she said.

And with the election looming, many of the speakers said clear cultural platforms should be put front and centre by all parties.

"I don't think, in my lifetime, there has ever been a comprehensive review of cultural policy and it has always struck me as being really sad that the arts rarely occupied any central position in our political discourse," Gross said.

"And the reason that I think we need this is that the arts are what we are. Canada is the arts. If I'm sitting with a guy I just met in La Paz [Bolivia], and he says, 'Tell me about Canada,' I'm probably not going to say, 'Well, we're cooking up a fabulous trade arrangement with Colombia.' I'm probably going to say, 'My country is Margaret Atwood and Atom Egoyan and François Girard and Jeff Wall and Karen Kain.' That's our country. If we stop making this, if we let the system come to pieces, I'm not sure how we'll define ourselves," he added.

Egoyan went a step further to say such policies must outline not only dollars and cents, but also an understanding of what they are supporting.

"This is really a call to any party that is presenting itself at a national level to define its commitment to the growth of these institutions and to the understanding that artists need to feel that they are developing in a space which welcomes them, which does not take them for granted," he said.

Kain, who recently co-wrote a letter to the Prime Minister but has received no response, said she hopes that "people will start writing, e-mailing, forcing their elected officials to say something about culture, to make it on the agenda."

At a rally two weeks ago in Montreal, Culture Montréal chairman Simon Brault underscored the need to have leaders from the business community backing cultural voices to avoid the appearance of special pleading, a role Fleck shouldered yesterday.

Fleck acknowledged that programs will occasionally need to be cut, but he pointed out that the money saved should be put back into the arts. He argued first and foremost for a change in the way governments view arts funding.

"The main message is that one has to think of arts as an investment rather than a giveaway. It's a simple message ... and it's a very important mindset. If the mindset is that it's a giveaway, then it's easy to cut it. If the mindset is it's an investment, then one realizes that there's negative repercussions," he said.

Harper Plays Populist Tune On Arts Cuts

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

September 11, 2008) TORONTO — In his first detailed defence of $45-million in controversial cuts to arts and culture funding, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper called his party's decisions good governance and said the government must walk “a fine line” between providing financial stability and “funding things that people actually don't want.”

In an exclusive telephone interview with The Globe and Mail during a campaign stop at a winery in St-Eustache, Que., Mr. Harper, who many have called a Philistine, also spoke at length about his life-long passion for music and the piano as he denied the cuts were ideologically motivated.

He said the government should play “a fundamental role” in encouraging growth and excellence in arts and culture, but added that the marketplace, consumers and benefactors must also help shape the cultural landscape.

 “You don't get to the point where you're just abandoning it, because I think cultural life is too fragile for that. And on the other hand, you don't get to the point where, to be blunt, you have creators or producers who are entirely cut off from public need or public demand.”

Such remarks are sure to stoke the ire of arts supporters who have cautioned that the Tories wish to dictate taste and censor artists who don't conform, a fear that has its roots in the debate over Bill C-10.

But Mr. Harper flatly denied any ideological underpinnings, saying the cuts were made through a series of analyses, the bulk of which “the Department [of Canadian Heritage] itself” carried out.

He also disputed the characterization that his government has broadly “cut the arts,” saying that net spending on arts and culture has increased. But he said he is willing to accept criticism for deciding that $45-million in programs deemed not to be priorities be reduced or eliminated, launching a veiled barb at his political opponents.

“There are some people who say, ‘Well, it isn't good enough to increase funding for the arts, you have to increase funding for every single program.' My simple response is that no responsible government can manage the government that way. You have to select priorities and you have to make choices,” he said.

Several members of the arts community contacted by The Globe in recent weeks attested to Mr. Harper's past forays into the arts, which included periods of intense musical endeavour. It is part of a picture the Tories are working to bring to the fore during the campaign – a more sophisticated and artistic Stephen Harper – that is not easily reconciled with the cold calculations behind the funding reductions.

Mr. Harper spoke at length about his lifelong affair with music. Although his parents “had no particular musical skill or aptitude,” his father, Joseph, was an avid jazz fan who idolized Duke Ellington, collecting every piece of music he ever recorded or wrote.

He took the piano “very seriously” and eventually passed the Royal Conservatory of Music's Grade 9 examinations, demonstrating considerable proficiency at the keyboard, and said that although he “had a bit of talent,” he was held back because his hands shook when he was nervous, a trait he later outgrew.

For most of his adult life, he didn't own a piano and rarely played, leaving him “a shadow of my former self.” But since moving to 24 Sussex Dr., which boasts an impressive instrument, he has taken it up once more. He said the greatest satisfaction is playing with his son, Ben, who is teaching himself piano and guitar – although he acknowledged his thoroughly formal training and Ben's freewheeling approach don't always mesh well.

And he occasionally performs at parties with his informal band of friends and staff, Stephen and the Firewalls, a delightfully ironic name given his government's reputation for secrecy.

“They aren't too bad (they aren't too good either),” a source close to the Mr. Harper wrote in an e-mail.

The source confirmed that the Tory Leader plays regularly, something Mr. Harper himself called a dangerous attraction.

“I've always been torn on music and piano in a way because I actually get a great deal of satisfaction out of when I do it, but I get so wrapped up in it. I've always had that problem with the artistic things I've enjoyed doing – I've played piano, I've sung a bit, I used to write poetry – I've always found with these kinds of things that they draw me in and I can't let them go. I find it difficult to do it just on the side, a little bit here and now,” he said.

This fascination manifested itself early in Mr. Harper's childhood, although he can't remember how he came to choose the piano.

“For the first half year I was in lessons, we didn't have a piano and I would actually practice for my lessons on a cardboard keyboard, so I would only hear it for the first time when I actually sat down and had the lessons,” he said.

The conservatory's president, Peter Simon, has seen the focus that compels a young boy to play a silent keyboard firsthand. When he met Mr. Harper at a fundraiser, he said the Conservative Leader quickly launched into a discussion of his studies and his frustration with the results of a Grade 3 musical theory exam on which he scored poorly, despite studying hard.

“It obviously meant a lot to him. It was the intensity of his feelings [that struck me], that to someone who is in effect a stranger he would be that intense about it,” Mr. Simon said.

The conservatory's board chair, Florence Minz, has also met Mr. Harper and said flatly, “This is no Philistine.”

For those wondering why a man of such long-standing artistic interest and curiosity seems so comfortable axing substantial funding from Canada's cultural milieu, Mr. Harper's answers continue to be rooted not in an ideology about the arts, but a philosophy that stresses the need to trim government spending.

“If you don't do that, what you have over time, and frankly what we inherited, was growth of government spending without any resulting improvement in government programming overall. It's just a discipline you have to maintain and it doesn't mean you're slashing some artist or you're slashing farmers or whatever. It simply means that you are constantly reviewing your spending,” he said.

Alberta Student Takes Canadian Idol Title

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
Special To The Star

(September 11, 2008) The piano man beat the guitar dude last night as Theo Tams was crowned your latest Canadian Idol.

After more than four million votes were cast across Canada, the 23-year-old Lethbridge, Alta., student outpolled runner-up Mitch MacDonald, the carpenter from Port Hood, N.S., to take the sixth Idol title. His victory had them jumping for joy at the University of Lethbridge, where it seemed the entire campus had gathered to cheer on their native son.

Tams was quite emotional upon being named the winner, wiping tears from his eyes as he thanked his rival, who he called "a great guy (and) a great friend, and I'm going to be first in line to buy his record." He collected himself enough to belt out a song as the other Top 10 finalists gathered around his piano.

Tams wins a record deal with Sony BMG and his first single, "Sing," will be released to radio.

Tams came a long way from his sweaty audition, where giant perspiration stains soaked his shirt. Fortunately, the judges were able to see past that. "Buddy, it's okay to let them see you sweat," judge Zack Werner told Tams moments before his victory was announced. Judge Jake Gold called Tams a "consummate professional" with "grace, poise and humility."

The victory came almost two hours and at least 55 So You Think You Can Dance Canada promos into the finale. (That series bows tonight at 8 p.m. on CTV. See Susan Walker's story.) The host kept declaring it the "biggest Canadian Idol finale ever," although, TV audience-wise, it was likely the smallest.

Where it did deliver was in the guest stars, with a nicely understated Mariah Carey putting on a vocal clinic for the Idol hopefuls. Hedley, Jully Black, John Legend and last year's Idol winner, Brian Melo, also performed.

Melo, in particular, owned the stage in a rockin' set, showing off a strong voice and a confident, genuine stage strut. He blew the lid off the John F. Bassett Theatre.

The Idol finalists, by contrast, seemed more tentative and less memorable than in other Idol editions. Maybe it was the lack of women in the Top 10 that added a sameness to the ensemble. With so many young men onstage, it seemed at times more like an NHL Awards broadcast.

What Canadian Idol does have is that small-town Canada connection. Tams' Grade 5 music teacher stood up last night and gave him props. "You just never know with your students," she said.

Runner-up MacDonald, 22, also has that aw shucks Canadian charm. He looks a little like he could be Canadian actor Tom Cavanagh's kid brother.

His uncle was there last night to cheer him on with his many fans in Port Hood. He told how he couldn't vote in Michigan, so every week he'd load the entire family–"the wife and kids and the grandkids, and sometimes even the dog"–into the car, cross the border and start dialing in their votes. "That's how it works," said Tams' uncle.

Speculation now turns to whether Canadian Idol will be back for a seventh season next summer.

Monday's numbers were strong – an estimated 1.5 million total viewers, enough to win the night – but still down roughly 25 per cent from last season's second-last episode.

Up against the premiere of Global's 90210 last week – which likely appeals to a similar audience – Idol was trounced in Toronto by more than a 4-to-1 margin among 18- to 49-year-olds, 414,000 viewers to 93,000 (according to BBM/Nielsen Media Research overnight estimates). More surprising was the fact it also got pasted in Calgary – where Tams was the provincial favourite – by a 3-to-1 score.

The big city slide has taken a toll on Idol's national numbers. Some episodes slid under the million mark this season.

Still, as executive producer John Brunton was quick to point out last spring, everybody else's numbers are down, too. Even a weakened Idol was still the No. 1 show in Canada last week.

Although, like the other judges, he doesn't have a guaranteed commitment past this season (none of them usually know until mid-December), Gold expects Canadian Idol to return for a seventh season. "I have a feeling that as long as the American show is going, we'll be going," he says.

Even mighty American Idol slid a little last year, provoking Fox to tinker with its No. 1 hit, adding a fourth judge (songwriter Kara DioGuardi). "There go the Americans, copying what we do," kids Gold.

Meanwhile, Canadian Idol announced yesterday that the Top 3 competitors, including third-place Drew Wright of Collingwood, will head out on a 26-date cross-country tour beginning Nov. 9.

With files from Star staff

Pink Floyd Keyboardist Rick Wright Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - Meera Selva.
The Associated Press

(September 15, 2008) LONDON – Richard Wright, a founding member of the rock group Pink Floyd, died Monday. He was 65.

Pink Floyd's spokesperson Doug Wright, who is not related to the artist, said Wright died after a battle with cancer at his home in Britain. He says the band member's family did not want to give more details about his death.

Wright met Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason in college and joined their early band, Sigma 6. Along with the late Syd Barrett, the four formed Pink Floyd in 1965.

The group's jazz-infused rock and drug-laced multimedia ``happenings" made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene and their 1967 album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was a hit.

In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright, along with Barrett, was seen as the group's dominant musical force. The London-born musician and son of a biochemist wrote songs and played the keyboard.

"Rick's keyboards were an integral park of the Pink Floyd sound" said Joe Boyd, a prominent record producer who worked with Pink Floyd early in its career.

The band released a series of commercially and critically successful albums including 1973's Dark Side of the Moon, which has sold more than 40 million copies. Wright wrote The Great Gig In The Sky and Us And Them for that album, and also worked on the group's epic compositions such as Atom Heart Mother, Echoes and Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a tribute to Barrett.

But tensions grew between Waters, Wright and fellow band member David Gilmour. The tensions came to a head during the making of The Wall when Waters insisted Wright be fired. As a result, Wright was relegated to the status of session musician on the tour of The Wall and did not perform on Pink Floyd's 1983 album The Final Cut.

Wright formed a new band Zee with Dave Harris, from the band Fashion, and released one album, Identity, with Atlantic Records.

Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 and Wright began recording with Mason and Gilmour again, releasing the albums The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse of Reason as Pink Floyd. Wright also released the solo albums Wet Dream (1978) and Broken China (1996).

In July 2005, Wright, Waters, Mason and Gilmour reunited to perform at the "Live 8" charity concert in London – the first time in 25 years they had been onstage together.

Wright also worked on Gilmour's solo projects, most recently playing on the 2006 album On An Island and the accompanying world tour.

Gilmour paid tribute to Wright Monday, saying his input was often forgotten.

"He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognized Pink Floyd sound," he said. "I have never played with anyone quite like him."

Tastemaker Suzanne Boyd Is Bringing Her Own Flair To The Relaunch Of A Magazine

www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(September 16, 2008) Suzanne Boyd's walk: It's not an amble; it's not a glide; it's not a stride.

It's more an elegant totter - the sort of thing that happens when you're already a slender, leggy 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and you choose to plinth that height on sparkly, steeply angled Carvalho platform shoes with six-inch heels.

It all looked a touch precarious one recent afternoon as Boyd, wearing a form-fitting dark dress from Ports 1961's fall/winter season, exited her surprisingly unadorned third-floor office on the eastern edge of Toronto's downtown to greet a visitor. But, no, she insisted with a throaty giggle, it's actually flats, not heels or platforms, that she finds "tortuous, although I do appreciate their fashionability. But unlike the first lady of France or Michelle Obama, I shall tower!"

Precarious was also the word that came to mind when thinking about Boyd's new job, which as of February has been editor-in-chief of
Zoomer magazine. The 164-page debut issue of the glossy - it's being published nine times a year - was mailed to subscribers late last week (more on this later) while its newsstand bow is expected this week or early next.

Zoomer, you see, marks both the relaunch of a magazine that, in another incarnation, has been around for close to a quarter-century and the restoration, at 45, of Boyd to the Canadian media firmament after a four-year absence.

We all remember Suzanne Boyd, don't we? For almost 10 years, she was the quintessence of glamour and It-ness - editor-in-chief of fashion-forward Flare, a fixture at only the chicest of soirées, her love life a subject of much gossip, her style at once impeccable and audacious. Then, having taken Toronto into the swell of her bosom, she left to take Manhattan in 2004 as Time Inc.'s anointed helmswoman of Suede, a new, with-it periodical pitched at young, urban African Americans. That venture, as every Boyd-watcher knows, failed in 2005 after only four issues. Suddenly, Boyd's "sizzling polyglot fabulousness," as one scribe described it, was out of the limelight and here we were wondering, Quo Vadis, Baby? - the sort of question Boyd no doubt heard in the late 1970s when she was a teenager in a Catholic boarding school in Jamaica.

Superficially at least, Zoomer seems an unlikely answer to that question. Until earlier this year, Zoomer was known as CARP: For the 50 Plus/The Authoritative Magazine for Savvy Canadians. It was, is still the house organ of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, a non-profit advocacy organization, founded in Toronto, which now claims 350,000 members nationwide, each of whom receives the magazine.

B.B. - before Boyd - CARP was the sort of glorified brochure you might have found in a hospital waiting room or beside the Robaxacet display at the pharmacy. There was nothing wrong with it and much that was right, particularly if irritable bowel syndrome, say, was crimping your lifestyle.

But crimping's not really Moses Znaimer's thing. Co-founder and former president and executive producer of CITY-TV, Bravo!, MuchMusic and umpteen other TV specialty channels and services, Znaimer set tongues a-wagging last year when he became executive director of CARP at the same time as he gained control of Kemur Publishing, publishers of CARP magazine, and Fifty-Plus.Net International, an Internet portal.

Znaimer is now 66 and since his departure from CITY-TV circa 2003, he has been consumed with defining, shaping and, yes, exploiting what he calls "a new vision of aging." Part of that vision has entailed rebranding the country's older population as "zoomers" - Znaimer-speak for "baby boomers with zip," boomers, in this instance, being defined as those born from 1946 to 1965.

Forget the 18-to-25 demographic or the 25-to-34 bump that advertisers are supposed to covet and seduce, Znaimer says. It's the zoomers who are really where it's at - and they're not all at the MRI clinic or looking for bargains on Polident. Indeed, in Znaimer's schema, if you're 45, you're a zoomer. That's what it says on the cover of the new Zoomer magazine. Which is why Wayne Gretzky, 47, is its inaugural cover-man and why long-time Boyd buddy Bryan Adams, 48, was hired to shoot the Great One as well as the covers for November and December. Zoomers, in fact, control 77 per cent of all Canadian wealth. They head 73 per cent of all households with annual income over $100,000. And they travel like crazy.

"All CARP members are zoomers," Znaimer likes to say. "But not all zoomers are members of CARP." Which is why he has embarked on a campaign to get CARP's membership to one million by 2013, with Zoomer magazine as a key component.

Znaimer says it was always his intention "to spruce up the magazine and extend its reach" as part of his "new vision of aging." Boyd, too, was his "first choice" as editor-in-chief. "There was no second. I was determined to get her and felt sure she would respond to the nobility of the mission."

Following the failure of Suede, Time Inc. offered Boyd a job as editor-at-large with InStyle, perhaps the most successful consumer magazine to have been launched in North America in 15 years. Boyd thought about it for a couple of months, but opted instead to take an extended break from work because "I hadn't had a vacation for, like, 15 years."

Boyd wasn't entirely inactive during the "vacation," although she admits that she did get pretty "chilled out." Basing herself in New York, she wrote the occasional piece for Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine. She even started a novel - not, she insists, one in the style of The Devil Wears Prada, but set instead in "the surf world - my world as a girl." (Born in Canada in 1963, Boyd was raised and educated in Barbados, Dominica and Jamaica before returning to Canada in the eighties.) The novel, she said with a laugh, "is on hiatus."

When Znaimer first approached Boyd - last September via "a cryptic but intriguing e-mail ... because we hadn't spoken to each other for years" - to edit Zoomer, Boyd was doing two things, vague things - "working on an Internet project" (unspecified) and "working with a huge retailer" (again unspecified) on "creating communications for them" while "trying to relaunch a very well-known brand that had been big in North America in the nineties." Meeting and talking with Znaimer, however, "I realized magazines are my true love; there's nothing like it."

Of course, when Znaimer announced he was bankrolling Boyd, lots of people wondered, understandably, "Is it going to be a fashion magazine?" On the basis of Zoomer's first issue, the answer is a little yes and a little no. While the magazine is very much the reflection of a woman who is still fond, as she says, of "a great dress and a glamorous event," it also shows that the fashionista persona had to have been just one aspect of Boyd's sensibility. In fact, Zoomer is more about Boyd than Flare ever was or Suede might have been because "I can now express all sides of myself," she says. "I have a lot of interests and with Zoomer, these can come to the fore more than in a fashion magazine."

Boyd likens assembling Zoomer - which she's doing with a staff of about 20, including a handful of former Flare associates - to "pulling together a Rubik's Cube." While the new magazine retains some elements from its CARP incarnation (contributions from Arthur Black, Gordon Pape and Sally Armstrong among them), it's a radically different publication in almost all respects - broader in content, more stylish in appearance, sassier in attitude. "It's about opening up the idea of what being older is," Boyd says.

"When you're young, all you have is your youth," Boyd says. "When you're older, you have not just a now but a then. It's a spectrum and the magazine, I believe, can reflect that."

Of course, the trick here - the precariousness - is whether the current CARP membership, which tends to skew older, will, as Znaimer says, "embrace the magazine." Similarly, can a 53-year-old boomer in Edmonton embrace the notion of zoomerhood to the point of taking out a CARP membership to find common cause with a 73-year-old retiree in Collingwood, Ont.? Or will he snort that, "You're only as old as you feel and I feel 33"?

"We need to keep our existing membership and its 'older' demo while attracting large numbers of new, 'younger' zoomers," Znaimer says. This is going to "take a more aggressive, noisier advocacy" and it's going to take CARP winning "significantly enhanced benefits" for its members on everything from long-distance phone calls to car rentals.

It's also going to take Suzanne Boyd. Zoom-zoom.

Denise Donlon to run CBC Radio

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 17, 2008)  The CBC is expected to announce this morning that Denise Donlon, former president of Sony Music Canada, will become executive director of CBC Radio.

Donlon is widely considered among the most influential woman in Canadian music, and her appointment may signal the direction in which CBC executive vice-president Richard Stursberg wants CBC radio programming to go.

Only a few weeks ago, the public broadcaster unveiled its new sound for Radio 2, a controversial makeover that diminished the classical-music component of the network in favour of more contemporary rock, pop, blues, jazz, R&B and world music.

The top job in English-language radio has been empty since the departure of Jennifer McGuire in May. Susan Mitton has been serving as interim executive director.

In her varied career, Toronto-born Donlon, 52, has been a TV producer, host and program director. She has appeared frequently on radio as a guest, but never worked in the field as a manager.

After attending the University of Waterloo, Donlon moved to Vancouver and opened a music publicity agency. She joined CHUM's MuchMusic in 1985 as a host and producer, became its director of music programming in 1992 and vice-president and general manager in 1997. Her tenure with Sony ran from 2000 to 2004, and in 2005 she was appointed to CHUM's board of directors.

For the past two years, she has been involved in event programming. She produced the mainstage component of the inaugural Green Living Show in Toronto last year.

The event featured appearances by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and David Suzuki; the President Clinton Foundation event, which raised more than $21-million for the Clinton Global Initiative; and the Canadian segment of the Live 8 international concert.

Donlon, a Member of the Order of Canada, and inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame, is married to folk singer Murray McLauchlan and is the mother of one son.


Love Blooms in the Caribbean

Source: Melanie Reffes

Sunny days and sun swept shores are the star attractions of the Caribbean where love blooms year round. With an eye to the romance market, Canada’s own Resort To the Best means ‘accommodations to the best’ with elegant properties that set the gold standard for luxury. “Our attentive staff know when to step back to allow you to enjoy private moments, “says Lililan Day, President, “They happily pour champagne and set dinner on your patio, and then quietly leave for an experience solely for two.” www.resorttothebest.com/  Atop an ocean bluff on the tip of St Lucia, Cap Maison is sublime with comfy suites, private pools and butler service. www.capmaison.com.    

For couples who prefer to cuddle in the Turks & Caicos, Resort to the Best recommends Somerset on Grace Bay with panoramic views of the Sea and no luxury stone left unturned. Spacious terraces host the golden sunsets as the beach below morphs into a private oasis.  www.thesomerset.com/.  On the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, Sanctuary Cap Cana stands tall with the grandiose Mandara Spa, eight restaurants and access to the Punta Espada Golf Course. Weddings on the beach are as exquisite as the sunset, dinner at Le Divellec Paris is divine and a nightcap beckons at the aptly named Love Piano Bar. www.altabellahotels.com

Romance is always in high gear at SuperClubs (Jamaica, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Curacao) with gratis weddings the trademark and sultry sunsets au rigueur.  Coordinated by on-site wedding planners, packages include the marriage license, minister, tropical flowers, music and breakfast in bed with sparkling mimosas that will keep the morning glow way into the night.  The collection of luxury super all-inclusives is also a haven for honeymooners. Whether a week-long celebration or a four-day Mini-Moon, dreamy extras like candlelit dinners and romps in the rooftop Jacuzzi ooze romance from dusk to dawn.

First comes love, then comes marriage, well, we know the rest.  Aimed at couples who want the inside track to the stork, Conception Moon packages are exactly what the doctor ordered. The ‘Sun, Sand and Stork ‘  at the Grand Lido Resorts and Breezes Runaway Bay tempts with a couples-only basket filled with  champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, whipped cream and shall we add – an spicy array of aphrodisiacs like fertility-enhancing red clover and raspberry teas. And for couples who already have a family, there‘s plenty of fun under the sun with the ‘Kids Stay, Play & Eat Free’ at Breezes Curacao and Breezes Puerto Plata.   www.superclubs.com.

“Say “I Do” amongst thousands of orchids, on a yacht in the blue Sea or under a bougainvillea archway at a Plantation Great House is all part of the charm of romantic Barbados.   Whether on the calm Platinum coast or the wild Windward shore, a panorama of steep cliffs, rollicking waves and lush forests are just a camera click away. Paradise Beach lives up to its name with only an occasional boat gliding by to change the mood and around the corner, Freshwater bay frames a sleepy fishing village ripe for meandering.  www.barbados.org/

Fairy tales come true aboard a Tiami Turtles Sunset Cocktail Cruise as it skims the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.  A fleet of luxurious catamarans welcome lovebirds who like to kick back in the shade or swim with the friendly sea turtles.  “From the moment you step onboard,“ says Denis Roach CEO, “This is an experience to treasure with our ever- attentive crew pampering  as you as you soak up the day’s last golden rays of sunshine. It’s pure magic.”  www.tallshipscruises.com

Back on land, a nirvana for foodies awaits. With majestic cabbage palms and the sea below and perched on one of the only hills on the Island, dining is as delicious as the view. “Our moonlight dinners fill the air with romance and our live jazz performances are yours to savour,” smiles Tom Hinds, owner. www.lushlife.bb. Nestled by the Sea, Fish Pot offers a sumptuous seafood platter for two and a Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay that is the stuff of memories.  For couples who want to keep the mood alive, the cozy cottages at the on-site Little Good Harbour hotel are a romantic refuge. www.littlegoodharbourbarbados.com/

Wedding and Renewal of Vows packages at the all-inclusive Mango Bay in the heart of historic Holetown wow with romantic touches like a glass-bottom boat tour and breakfast in bed for the newlyweds. “With our hassle-free planning, couples can remember why they fell in love in the first place,” says Peter Odle, owner.   www.mangobaybarbados.com.

And for couples who enjoy mixing local culture with a honeymoon stay, a tour of the Mount Gay Rum factory is an enticing excursion.  Take a bottle of the potent mango rum back to your hotel room and the rest, as they say, is romantic history. www.mountgay.com/   

Dubbed by the Caribs as the Land of the Blessed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a string of islands treasured for barefoot tranquility and rainforests so lush they are a veritable Garden of Eden. For lazy days, the beach at Black Point beckons seclusion-seekers while the untamed waves at Argyle Beach are unrivalled for amorous adventures. Romance bristles in the breeze on Young Island, a two-minute boat ride from the mainland. Blanketed in almond, coffee and nutmeg trees, it has one resort with seaside dining under thatched kiosks.  www.youngisland.com

The Sweetie Pie Bakery in Mustique entices everyone’s sweetie with freshly-baked pain au chocolat and across the road; Basil’s Bar is the ultimate setting for a cocktail par excellence.  The only resort on the island, Cotton House tempts with an eight-day Romance package with lavish massages and gourmet picnics on the beach.

On Canouan, Raffles is all about sandy beaches, green hills and gin-clear water. Designed by Italian architect Luigi Vietti whose resorts in Sardinia are legendary amongst romance aficionados, Raffles impresses with ocean view villas and the world-famous Amrita Spa. And for couples who want to feel like they are the only people on the planet, yachts are available to sail away to deserted slivers of Shangri-la.

There’s plenty of passion on the beach-blessed islands of Antigua and Barbuda with three hundred sixty five beaches – one for each day of the year. Gentle trade winds and pink-tinged sand has earned the sister sandy islands Best Wedding Islands at the International Caribbean Travel Awards and a coveted spot on Modern Bride’s list of Best Honeymoon destinations. Ringed with coral and studded with green canopies, Antigua is a cornucopia of couple-friendly activities. A former garrison, Shirley Heights commands spectacular views of Montserrat and Guadeloupe and on Sunday afternoons the view is served with a barbecue, the pulsating sounds of steel pan and plenty of rum punch. After shopping at the market, Hemingway’s Café, the favourite haunt of the celebrated author, is sublime for sharing a slice of refreshing key lime pie. www.antigua-barbuda.org

Less than a year old, Hodges Bay Club sits on its own coral sand beach and has transformed the bay with striking seaside houses, a luxury hotel, restaurants and a swishy spa.  The Honeymoon package includes rose petals scattered on the uber-big bed, a bathtub overflowing with tropical fragrances, champagne breakfast en-suite and a candlelit dinner at the Taboo restaurant where temptations are tantalizingly served on a plate. www.hodgesbayclub.com/

Ocean views from every room are the stand-out features at the Jolly Beach Resort sitting pretty on its own stretch of uninterrupted white sand beach.  With romance down to a fine art, the King Superior room perched in a secluded enclave is the hands-down honeymoon choice. From mornings that start with a choir of sweet bird songs to  an afternoon siesta in a hammock  ,  the biggest decision couples will have to make is whether to order a Wadadli Cuddle at the Quiet Pool bar or a Kiss cocktail at the swim-up bar.  The Palms Wellness Spa shines with the Scents of the Caribbean Cinnamon Sugar Scrub for two. A candle-lit beachside dinner at Lydia's at Crab Hole Village is heavenly with seafood grilled in an open-air kitchen and dancing under the stars. The Gold Ribbon Dream Wedding Package includes the reception and a DJ spinning tunes till the last person leaves. After a thousand weddings, coordinator Beverly King stopped counting but continues to delight with her creativity. “The day before a wedding, one bride requested a choir to sing at the ceremony. I told her there wasn't enough notice but then I put my magic cap on and found a choir which ended her day beautifully.” www.jollybeachresort.com/

Exchanging vows at an ancient Mayan temple, beneath a rushing waterfall or underwater along the barrier reef, Belize is chocked full of fanciful options. The Caribbean Sea washes the coastline and with an unhurried ambience, Belize is the new Caribbean ‘cool’.   The largest of the offshore cayes, Ambergris Caye is a must-see with romantic resorts like Tranquility Bay that lives up to its name with beachfront cabanas inside the Bacalar Chico National Park. www.tranquilitybayresort.com. On the bay side, exotic birds flitting about illicit ardent emotions and tender moments while the gracious hospitality of the Mestizo indigenous people of Caye Caulker makes it difficult to leave this sleepy little atoll. www.travelbelize.org .  Southwest of Ambergris Caye, Cayo Espanto is an island resort resting in the calm waters of the Sea.  A dream-come-true for owner Jeff Gam, it’s unrivalled with a staff-to- guest ratio of two-to-one in five villas including a pair of over-the-water bungalows. “The image for Cayo Espanto was always in my dreams, “he says, “When I couldn’t find one, I built my own with everything exquisitely romantic and sun-kissed.” Massages, Frette robes, alfresco showers and moonlit dining add up to a delightful recipe for romance. . www.aprivateisland.com  


Chubby Checker Finally Gets Some Respect

www.globeandmail.com - Nekesa Mumby Moody, Associated Press

(September 11, 2008)  NEW YORK — How's this for a twist:

Of all the No. 1 songs in the 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart,
Chubby Checker's The Twist ranks as the most popular single.

Elvis and the Beatles didn't even make the top five.

Santana's Smooth, featuring Rob Thomas, is the No. 2 most popular, followed by Bobby Darin's Mack the Knife, Leann Rimes' How Do I Live and The Macarena by Los Del Rio.

The Beatles did make the top 10, coming it at No. 8 with Hey Jude. But Olivia Newton-John's Physical and Debby Boone's You Light Up My Life are ahead of that hit.

Rounding out the top 10 are Mariah Carey's We Belong Together at No. 9 and Toni Braxton's Un-break My Heart at No. 10.

Checker's ranking may come as a surprise to some, but not to the classic rocker.

“I'm glad they've finally recognized it,” said Checker of his early 1960s hit.

He compared The Twist — named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock 'n' roll — to the creation of the telephone as a groundbreaking moment because he said it was the first time people were dancing “apart to the beat.”

“Anyplace on the planet, when someone has a song that has a beat, they're on the floor dancing apart to the beat, and before Chubby Checker, it wasn't here, and I think that has a lot to do with me being on the charts,” he said.

Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard magazine, acknowledged that the list might not jibe with some fans' personal thoughts of the most popular songs of the past 50 years.

“This is simply a chronicle of how each of these songs performed in their era on the Hot 100. We're not saying these are the most memorable songs of your life. That would be something that's almost impossible to determine,” said Mayfield. “Everyone has a subjective frame of reference.”

The Beatles do top Billboard's all-time Hot 100 artists, followed by Madonna, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and the Rolling Stones. Billboard.com is breaking out some of the other chart achievements (the list of most No. 1 singles by an act is topped by the Beatles) on its website.

The Billboard Hot 100 chart measures airplay and sales information (and more recently digital downloads) in determining the nation's most popular songs. To determine the most popular song of the Hot 100 era, Billboard used a formula to determine the top song — not always relying on weeks at No. 1 since the data was reported differently in its early days.

Initially, Billboard relied on stations to report the most popular songs, and got sales surveys from record stores. But Mayfield said stations often stopped reporting on a song's popularity if it was no longer a priority for record labels. And in 1991, Billboard began relying on sales data from Nielsen SoundScan and airplay data from Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. So Billboard weighted certain songs from different eras to make sure all songs were on an even playing field.

“We went through each era, and we looked through the rate of turnover. The rate of turnover was very high in the late '50s and early '60s, and we had to put a weight on that to make the chart runs of that era equal to the chart runs that can be accomplished since 1991,” he said.

Checker's The Twist spent a total of only three weeks at the top of the charts, but did so twice in two separate runs more than a year apart.

“It's the only song that was ever No. 1 in two different chart runs,” he said.

Checker said he was gratified that Billboard noted the popularity of The Twist, and lamented that both the song and his career have been at times overlooked.

“My music is less played that any performer that has been a No. 1 chart man on the planet,” said Checker, who also had hits with Pony Time, The Fly and Let's Twist Again, which earned him a Grammy. “I don't get the respect that Rod Stewart gets, or the Rolling Stones, or Frankie Valli. ... But I have to deal with it.”

Janet Jackson 'Has Still Got It'

www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(September 11, 2008)  The highlight of the first show of Janet Jackson's North American tour Wednesday night was not the tightly-produced dance numbers, the many costume changes, not even the interminable (and hot) S&M scene, involving a lucky audience member.

The most memorable moment of the Vancouver show came almost halfway through, when Jackson, dressed in a gold and black glam hip hop-inspired track suit (and one gold glove), stopped on the catwalk after her hit Together Again, listened to the crowd roar its approval, and became emotional – really emotional. We're talking tears.

“Thank you,” she said – seeming to really mean it, as she waved her hands, begging the audience to stop.

It was one of the rare genuine moments in the highly-produced, two-hour-and-20-minute-long show, and it marked the point where Jackson seemed to loosen up, get comfortable, and enjoy herself.

And she had every reason to enjoy herself. At 42, she of the infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction proved Wednesday night that she has still got it – big time – at least as a performer. She can move like she did back in her Rhythm Nation 1814 days – almost 20 years ago now – and she never seemed to wane, even as the clock ticked past 10:30 pm, and the crowd (mostly younger – much – than Jackson) seemed to tire of standing on its feet.

The singing is another matter. Too much of the vocal performance was pre-recorded and played back as Jackson either sang along or added the odd “come on!” or “woo!” as she danced around. The numbers she actually sang right through – such as Let's Wait Awhile – were a bit bumpy at times and she seemed to be struggling a tad as she held her hand up to her ear in an effort to catch the right notes.

But the crowd was forgiving – and who wouldn't be when presented with a show like this?

It started off powerfully. After hitting the stage with a splashy entrance through rolling fog and two giant glittery J's, Jackson cycled through three of her biggest hits – Control, What Have You Done For Me Lately and Feedback, the dance club-friendly single from her current release, Discipline. Wow.

Then there was the spectacle of it all: nine costumes (ranging from a red ball gown to a sexy sailor get-up), nine spectacular dancers, and a stage show that included video projections, dramatic lighting, and pyrotechnics.

But the sparks really flew toward the end of the show when Jackson, dressed in her S&M best, walked the catwalk with her two female dancers, looking for a fan to have a little fun with. They brought him on stage, installed him in a harness and Jackson simulated having her way with him.

The crowd loved it, but all I could think of was Jackson's contention during a phone-in press conference last week that she hoped parents and kids would come to her show together, and make it a multi-generational outing. This was not an act you want your child to see – and not something you want to experience with a parent in tow either.

The simulated, er, lovemaking aside, an intimate show this wasn't. But it was satisfying: a fun, glitzy choreographed experience worthy of a woman who's been in show business longer than most of the people in the audience have been alive. Bravo.

Wayne Brady Gives Of His 'Time'

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

(September 15, 2008) "When you look at someone on TV, you look at whatever image that person is projecting. Just because the earlier things I did were Disney-based and ABC-based and therefore they followed certain clean factor, a certain class factor, and maybe even a certain 'cheese' factor, you don't know me," he said. "You don't know that I grew up singing in church or that I spent years at a stretch singing in R&B bands and touring and doing cruise ships and singing in bars and dives. All you see is that's that brother from 'Whose Line'. So that's the ace up my sleeve. No one knows me in that regard so I can show them that side of me that I haven't been able to because I was busy doing the other stuff."

*Who is
Wayne Brady? Is he a comic, an improv master, a TV host, a singer? Yes. Emmy-winning comedian and television personality Wayne Brady is a man of many talents. Just when you think you know him, he offers another very entertaining persona. Whether it's comedy or drama, Brady has dabbled and done well. Tomorrow, Brady's musical offering makes its debut in the form of the R&B CD "A Long Time Coming."

Brady shot to fame thanks to his clever and quick improvisations on the hit ABC TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," which won him an Emmy - and his talk show, "The Wayne Brady Show" - which won him an Emmy. This year, Brady began hosting duties on the TV game show "Don't Forget the Lyrics." And now, Brady is currently on tour in support of his debut disc.

"I started doing musical theatre when I was 16, and started acting at the same time, and started doing improv when I was 19," Brady said of the basis of his talent. "I'm sure there were a lot of early things that I was horrible in, but I kept coming back. I think I had a natural affinity and a natural talent that would sometimes trump the fact that I didn't know what I was doing and I was not good at it. So I just kept going back and going and going and auditioning for everything. Every time something wouldn't work right, I would come back and try something else. Experience really is a good teacher, particularly in the realm of improv comedy. We did shows six nights a week and sometimes two shows a night, just because you're hungry to do it and as long as you have an audience, you'll go. So the first six nights, I sucked - maybe all six, then five, and then three. I started becoming better and learning what I was doing. So, by doing that, I got better and developed it by on-the-job training."

The very persistent Brady continued that while he worked hard to hone his comedy skills, there is a bit of natural talent required in improv.  
"There is a certain combination," Brady said of the improvisation formula. When I teach improv class, I always say, 'I'm not going to teach you to be funny.' When I started learning improv, I think I brought something to the table. Not everyone can do improve, because it takes a certain level of intelligence. Coming from a background where I read everything I can get my hands on, I watch everything I can, I'm basically a receptacle of a lot of information, some of which is useless until I'm on stage. You have to be a learner to be able to do improve. It's not about, 'Hey, I just did a funny fart joke.' It's about the reference you can make while doing the fart joke. That's what I think improve boils down to. 'Whose Line' is really about a bunch of nerds being funny and trying to one-up each other with cultural references, a character, or some bit of trivia that we can stick into the scene."

Such commentary might be one of the reasons some consider Brady a celebrity elitist. It's no secret that some consider him too mainstream or commercial - to be a black man.

"I think what happens is the same thing that has happened to me my entire life. My folks are from the Virgin Islands. I had a very strict island upbringing and my mother always told me to always hold my head up and to always try to be the best person in the room" Brady said in attempting to explain why some people react to him in that way. "That doesn't mean that I'm going to be the best person in the room. There are so many people that tower over me in intellect and talent, but I just happened to get lucky. So I'm going to try to be the best person in the room whether you're black or white or pink. That caused me to develop skills in terms of communication where I could sit down in white classrooms where I was bussed to and I could communicate with every student. And I could go home, and talk to everyone around me. I didn't develop them so I could be the white dude's friend or be the black dude's friend; it was so I could be me and be relatable to the broadest group as possible so I could get ahead in life. So when you transfer that to entertainment, I didn't' get into this to say I want to be the best black actor on Broadway and win an Emmy. I really want to be a good actor.

It's no surprise that Brady's "good actor" influences also wore/wear many hats. The actor told EUR's Lee Bailey that he grew up inspired by music and film legends Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr, and Harry Belafonte.

"These were men of multiple talents that carried themselves in a certain way. They still wore their color - you have no choice, you are what you are, but they made the choice not to stuff that in everyone's face every single second. It was about them and their work and that was the ethos that I've tried to follow," he said. "When I came to some prominence and people saw that I wasn't wearing a Malcolm X T-shirt and saying 'Screw whitey,' [some black folks] were angry with that. I can't help that. That's not my position in life - to make them happy."

Brady, however, did admit that he attempted to make them happy in his younger days. The actor/singer said that he tried to appease his black audiences and questioned whether he and his act were "black enough."

"And then I thought, 'What the hell does 'be blacker' mean?'," he said. "So now that leaves me at 36 years of age, very confident in who I am and in what I represent and that means putting something out so that everyone can enjoy it. I'm not going to make it for blacks, I'm not going to make it for whites. I'm going to make it for me and I hope you guys dig it."

Brady presumes that, in addition to his upbringing, audiences find it difficult to see him in a raw light.

"When you look at someone on TV, you look at whatever image that person is projecting. Just because the earlier things I did were Disney-based and ABC-based and therefore they followed certain clean factor, a certain class factor, and maybe even a certain 'cheese' factor, you don't know me," he said. "You don't know that I grew up singing in church or that I spent years at a stretch singing in R&B bands and touring and doing cruise ships and singing in bars and dives. All you see is that's that brother from 'Whose Line'. So that's the ace up my sleeve. No one knows me in that regard so I can show them that side of me that I haven't been able to because I was busy doing the other stuff."

"A Long Time Coming" has been a long time coming for Brady. He's been itching for quite some time to release a music disc. The album is a collection of contemporary R&B described as having an "old school" feel.

"It's like having that secret that you really want to tell everybody, but you just don't know how. When I was finishing up 'Whose Line', I thought, 'Great, now I can make this album,' but I started doing the talk show.  At the time I had a record deal with Hollywood, but the timing didn't really work out because of the talk show. After that I was involved in a bunch of pilots. But now is the time to really do this record. Now in hindsight, I don't think I was ready. I don't think I'd lived enough. I don't think I had a lot of real life experiences of ups and downs. So finally when you're forced to take stock of your career, and as your personal life, and you take stock in yourself as a man, and as a father, and as a person. That's when you can turn around and say, 'Oh, now I can write a record.'"

"A Long Time Coming" hits record stores tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept 16. Speaking of which, tomorrow, he'll be signing copies of the CD in Hollywood at the Virgin Megastore in at Hollywood and Highland.

You can also catch Brady performing cuts from the new CD tonight at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

For tour dates and more info and to HEAR cuts from "A Long Time Coming," check out www.waynebrady.com.

CBC's Brave New Radio 2

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

(September 14, 2008) Two weeks ago, radio like this didn't exist anywhere in the world.

With the exception of a five-hour slab of classical music in the middle of the work day, the revamped
CBC Radio 2 sounds like a road trip across the country, with random layovers in towns large and small for a taste of local musical flavours. The pacing gets hotter and colder in syncopation with the changing landscape, and with the rhythms and shifting pressures of contemporary life.

No public radio service I know of – outside Alberta's CKUA-FM, from which Radio 2 seems have taken more than a few cues – is so conspicuously designed to showcase the epic range of moods, tastes and peccadilloes conveyed in the contemporary musical output of its own creative community. That's a big deal, something to celebrate.

Most of the music aired on the reconstituted station in the first 10 days after its Sept. 2 launch is independently released roots, blues, R&B, folk, rock and pop of a uniquely and recognizably Canadian style and character, and blithely impervious to the interests of global entertainment corporations and micro-formatted commercial broadcasters. Eighty per cent, or twice the regulated Canadian content on advertiser-supported radio, is homegrown. Canadian songwriters and musicians have never had such a break on radio. It's the kind of energetic, quirky, intelligent music you'll hear live anywhere there's a discerning audience of 25-to-50-year-olds who can't find comfort in the tightly wound formats of conventional radio.

Radio 2 is a daring and progressive new public broadcasting model, a genuine alternative in every sense. Its key programs are hosted by high-profile musicians Rich Terfry (showcasing Canadian songwriters in all genres weekday afternoons), Julie Nesrallah (in the midday classical music slot), and Molly Johnson (Saturday and Sunday mornings, playing mostly blues, jazz, world music and rootsy R&B), as well as experienced broadcasters and inveterate music buffs Tom Allen (weekday mornings, with an eclectic mix of acoustic roots music, jazz, alternative rock and mainstream pop), and Katie Malloch and Tim Tamashiro (co-hosting the sedate and sexy dinner-hour jazz and R&B program, Tonic). It's an inclusive music service, for the most part informed and authoritative.

It's not perfect, of course. In fact, in the first few days it was a dog's breakfast, with lumpy, uncoordinated musical segues, too much novelty stuff and glaringly inappropriate program changeovers.

Terfry, whose live performances are characterized by off-kilter yarns and apparently stream-of-consciousness poetry, sounded tongue-tied and lost early on. The rap artist/songwriter-turned-radio host found his feet on Day 3, and started riffing on song titles, lyrical themes and his own obsessions, such as the cult 1980s TV series Twin Peaks, and the rarely chronicled minutiae of the working musician's life and psyche.

The music he plays – most of it found and programmed by his young production team, and clearly targeting a sub-40 demographic – is nonetheless substantial, entertaining and often unusual, with artists as diverse as Joel Plaskett, Danny Michel, Ron Sexmith, Dolly Parton, Luke Doucet, Wailin' Jennys, Kathleen Edwards, Ben Harper, Cowboy Junkies, Glen Campbell, The Duhks and Death Cab For Cutie rolling out over the air like headliners on some fantasy festival bill. It's already the favourite afternoon radio spot of most of my own musical friends.

If Terfry's Radio 2 Drive lacks anything, it's context, some way of making a link between these contemporary songwriters and the deep Canadian song traditions from which they sprang. If the show stretched its demographic boundaries a little, over-50-year-olds informed by the folk-based music that CBC Radio One so vigorously exposed, recorded and commissioned in the 1970s and early 80s would find a reason to stick around.

Johnson's soulful, huskily murmured weekend version of Radio 2 Morning is more relaxed in tone, more whimsical than Allen's weekday waker-upper, whose wide net embraces a previously unimaginable adult mix – the Tragically Hip and Maynard Ferguson, Solomon Burke and Joni Mitchell, Youssou N'Dour and Oscar Peterson. Yet her enthusiasm for the music she talks about and plays is impressively candid and infectious.

Classical music fans who have relentlessly attacked Radio 2 during the past two years over fears that they would be abandoned or short-changed won't find much solace in Tempo, the daily compendium of genre staples and overdone hits that lacks the depth and intellectual weight of the old Radio 2 repertoire.

And while Nesrallah has the perky style of a born radio performer, her layman's commentary belies her stature and training as a formidable opera star. If Radio 2 is serious about winning back the disenfranchised classical music audience, it would be more convincing if Nesrallah sounded as if she were talking to informed listeners.

It's too soon to predict how listeners will respond to Radio 2, or how the station will fare in the fall ratings, published mid-December. What's clear is that comparisons to other public broadcasting operations – past and present – are a waste of time and energy. This is brave new radio. And all bets are off.

Pledge Takes Sex Out Of Rock 'N' Roll

Source: www.thestar.com -
Reuters News Agency

(September 15, 2008) Teen star Miley Cyrus wears one, so does American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and the members of the hit boy band the Jonas Brothers.

But it took the ridicule of a British comedian at a music awards show last week to highlight the entry of
purity rings into the world of rock'n'roll.

Purity rings, also known as chastity or promise rings, are worn by tens of thousands of young American teens who have pledged to remain virgins until marriage.

Originating in the United States in the 1990s among Christian groups, the rings are embossed with words like "True Love Waits" or "One Life One Love" and are worn by both sexes.

The concept has increasingly entered the world of pop rock music that once was the dominion of teen rebellion, and that fact perplexed Russell Brand, the anarchic host of the MTV Music Video Awards show in Los Angeles.

"It is a little bit ungrateful, because (the Jonas Brothers) could literally have sex with any woman they want, but they're just not going to do it!" Brand told the audience. "That's like Superman just deciding not to fly, but to go home on a bus."

Sparks, 18, stood up for teen heartthrobs Kevin Jonas, 20, and his brothers Joe, 19 and Nick, 16, telling a cheering audience of rock stars. "It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and a girl wants to be a slut, okay?"

Denny Pattyn, an evangelical pastor who founded the Silver Ring Thing 12 years ago, says celebrities wearing a ring can help his group's quest to make premarital abstinence the rule rather than the exception in America. But they can also hurt the cause if "they go out and do something crazy."

Critics applaud the principle of abstinence but say the problems arise when young Americans grow up, and are often ignorant of how to manage contraception and sexual health when they do decide to have sex.

"These abstinence pledges leave people completely unprepared, once they make the decision to become sexually active, and what happens is that we have a society that is sexually illiterate," said Michael Reece of Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

The Spirit of a European Reggae Festival

Source: By ItaL rOOts RaDio™ host, Sweet T

(September 16, 2008) Europe’s biggest reggae festival runs for ten consecutive days and nights in north, eastern Italy highlighting talent from Africa, Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean, Italy and across Europe. Aptly named,
Rototom SunSplash – this fifteen year old festival runs rain or shine.

 Over a hundred thousand reggae lovers, and tens of thousands of others from the reggae novice to the aficionado, migrated to the base of the Italian Alps on 59 glorious acres of park in the ‘Parco Del Rivellino’, in a town called Osoppo, for music, culture, and fraternity.

From sunrise to sunrise, people live in love and unity, coming together in leisure, discourse, dancing, drumming, and eating. Debates and discussions in the Reggae University and in the House of Rastafari; film screenings; alternative medicine such as pranic healing and meditation were all part of the daily activities in which one could partake.  The nucleus of the event was by far the nightly concerts that seeped into the morning dancehalls and continued into the dawning of a new day.

Fans flocked to see and hear international singers, musicians, and performers including Youssou N’Dour, Alpha Blondy, Ky-Mani Marley, and Inner Circle; each giving sensational performances. Reggae fans jammed with some of the best of the best including a celebrated performance by the humble and insightful Bugle. During his Rototom debut, Bugle delighted fans with brilliant performances of his thought provoking singles including “Journey”, “What You Gonna Do”, “What Have I Done to You” and the hypnotic, “Please”.

Celebrating their 15th year, Rototom also welcomed passionate debut performances by Etana and Queen Ifrica who offered and displayed their visions of today’s woman. Giving young women and men an alternative to other depictions of women, these women were positive, real, and strong in character. Likewise, were Ce’Cile, Alaine and Lady Saw, who all demonstrated a diverse and personal style.

The highly anticipated Rototom debuts were: Alborosie, Jah Cure, Pressure, and Tarrus Riley; each of whom left fans elated. Their sheer presence on the premises had people in a frenzy.

Surprise guest, Duane Stephenson whose debut, solo album August Town topped reggae charts recently, also proved on stage that roots and culture is here to stay!  Meanwhile, Wayne Marshall and Mr. Vegas gave seasoned and charismatic performances to adoring fans embracing the rain of a passing storm; affirming dancehall’s continuity.

A strong element of the foundation, of the Italian reggae music scene was represented on the festival’s main stage with bands like, Sud Sound System, Africa Unite, and Jakka; each giving noteworthy performances. Similarly, One Love High Pawa and Villa Ada Posse performed brilliantly in the dancehall sessions along with an elite group of selectors: the UK’s David Rodigan; “The Far East Rulers”, from Japan - Mighty Crown; and Germany’s Pow Pow Movement.

In the final days of the festival, excited fans flocked to the main stage to watch the band finalists competing in the Rototom European Reggae Contest. Elijah and the Dubby Conquerors claimed the 2008 victory earning themselves placements on each of the participating festivals’ stages including their native land – Switzerland; Spain, France, Denmark, Holland, Austria, and Germany; in addition to the opportunity to record a song for the Sony compilation, “People’s Choice: The Reggae Selection” featuring some of Jamaica’s finest artistes.

Citizens of Osoppo and its neighbouring cities where reggae was once unheard of now join in the festivities, respect and appreciate the exchange, and welcome the masses annually. According to Jamaica’s Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sport - the Honourable, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, “Jamaica, considers Rototom SunSplash an excellent opportunity for the promotion of Jamaican music and culture”.  Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Mayor of the City of Osoppo, and Canada’s former Ambassador to Jamaica were all in attendance.

The production of Rototom SunSplash is impressive! The organization, design and effective execution is impeccable; hence, the returning Rototom massive. This extraordinary gathering affirms that despite differences in looks, size, age, colour, gender, nationalities, IQ, and/or creed, people can come together as one; love and live respectfully and in harmony. Rototom SunSplash is a new world created annually within the confines of the Rivellino Park in Osoppo, Italy – in the province of Udine and is highly recommended by this writer. This was by far the best festival production and an inauguration into an annual festa! Kudos to everyone who was involved in making it happen. For more of ItaL rOOts RaDio™’s coverage of Rototom 2008, log onto www.myspace.com/italrootsradio ...looking forward to Rototom SunSplash 2009, hope to see you there!

Aging New Kids On The Block Set For Toronto Relaunch

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

(September 16, 2008) During New Kids on the Block's 14-year hiatus, Donnie Wahlberg was the primary holdout.

The iconic Boston-bred boy band had sold more than 70 million albums and realized No. 1 hits "Hangin' Tough," "Step By Step" and "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," but Wahlberg had since eked out a respectable acting career and refused to revisit it.

"I never took part in anything to do with the New Kids: (documentary series) True Hollywood Story, interviews, you name it," said Wahlberg in a phone interview from London where the group – which included brothers Jordon and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre and Danny Wood – was promoting its new album, The Block, and the world tour that kicks off in Toronto on Thursday.

"I knew as long as I didn't participate that the group being intact was still protected.

"If we just started showing up at every little request for the group, then there's no magic in the group being together."

Fortunately, when Wahlberg, inspired by a demo track by an unknown Canadian songwriter, lobbed the reunion card, there was little resistance from his erstwhile bandmates.

"Maybe the fact that it was me was like `Sh--! if he's doing it, it's a good time to do it, because he's probably the one who would least do it,'" he surmised.

Wahlberg, 39, put his money and his talents where his mouth was, funding The Block and much to his own surprise, co-writing most of its songs.

"I was one of the three main vocalists the first time around and I didn't anticipate taking that role on again," he explained. "I was just financing the album. I really wasn't going to sing that much at all.

"But once I sang my first part, that was kind of it: I just wanted to do it a lot. It became a lot of fun. Same with writing: I hadn't really expected to write much and then I wrote a song, wrote another song and next thing you know, I just was writing with everyone."

On the strength of lead singles "Single" and "Summertime," The Block entered Billboard's decisive album chart at No. 2 last week.

Wahlberg says his film career sharpened his musical skills.

"My approach in the (vocal) booth was different. I approached it more with the things I learned as an actor: to be more prepared, but also to not be so rigid."

Outside of the shower, Wahlberg said he hadn't sung much since the quintet's 1994 split but didn't find slipping back into form difficult.

"On tour we'll see what happens. I don't know how my voice is going to hold up, but I'm singing now, I'm singing live and I'm having a great time doing it.

"We were one of many groups that were accused in the early '90s and the late '80s of not singing live in our shows, which is not true. We sang live in most of our shows. I think in our first two tours we probably used backing tapes and stuff, but after that we went completely live and we will this tour."

Despite appearances, Wahlberg said it would be a mistake to regard him as the ensemble's commander.

"I would never say I'm the leader, or I have most responsibility, or the most say-so. The group knows that if I take the forefront in something my best interest will always be in the group's best interest. ...

"A lot of stuff with the album may have come from me, but I am smart enough to know that without all five guys there's no New Kids. I may be special in my own right and individuals may be special in their own right, but collectively is what makes us really special."

The band members are all pushing 40, most are fathers, but the L.A. rehearsals have been rigorous and Wahlberg said tour attendees can expect the same energy and exactness that has characterized NKOTB since it was founded by producer Maurice Starr in 1984.

"We will do a lot of choreography, we will have great lighting, great special effects and some great moments, but we're showmen first of all ... so we will rely on ourselves more than any gimmicks."

David Marq: On Target With 'The Hit It Project'

www.eurweb.com - By Tanisha Williams

(September 17, 2008) *Saxophonist David Marq emerges on the scene to unleash his debut album, the first release from Alexscar Records, "The Hit It Project."  

In honour of late Grammy winning producer/writer Skip Scarborough, Marq was commissioned to christen a library of Scarborough's acclaimed greatest hits of all time with his musical DNA; a blessing that was bestowed upon him by the Scarborough family, he reasons.

"He (Skip) was the most spiritually grounded man I ever met in my life.  It was more about his feelings coming through his music," expresses Marq. "That is when you can find the true measure of expression; through an individual's art." 

Armed with knowledge from studies of the classical clarinet, flute and saxophone at the prestigious camps of Peabody Preparatory School of Music and University of Virginia, Marq gave honour to a collection of Scarborough's' classic  pieces. 

Several hits were selected  from the massive body of work, which includes over 200 certified Gold and Platinum singles such as "It's Alright With Me" (Patti Labelle), "Lovely Day" (Bill Withers), "Can't Hide Love" (Earth, Wind & Fire) and "Don't Ask My Neighbor" (Emotions).  

"I didn't do a lot of the selection of the songs," Marq admits. "However, they weren't initially going to do "Loving You Loving Me" (Nancy Wilson).  I lobbied for that song. "

A seasoned musician that's worked in contemporary jazz circles throughout the world, Marq, describes his style of music as a passionate and soulful.  Performing alongside music greats, Brian Culbertson, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Maysa Leak, he is thankful for the platform to show what he has to offer.

"It's all about an opportunity being presented to you.  It is much easier to get called when you are working," Marq states with a seriousness.  "It has always been a goal to have a project of my own."

In his earlier years, Marq attended "Baltimore Poly-Technical Institute," where the majority of the studies were in Science. 

"I always had an interest in science related stuff.  I thought I would be a doctor." 

Marqs' lineage of saxophonist grandfather Billy Taylor, who worked with jazz giants Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, gave no need to shake up a crystal ball. 

"My family's accomplishments in music were hard to ignore. I do feel my grandfather's influence.  He would tell me 'don't rush, don't rush yourself.'" ( there's silence of calm is at the other end of the phone and then Marq continues) "But, I never considered myself a music candidate.  I didn't think it would sustain me."

When times at home became stifled and he found himself going through an unfortunate divorce, "Music was there," Marq express with comfort. One of his most memorable moments during the recording of "The Hit It Project," was when he was in the studio doing the song "Lovely Day".

"I was going through a dark period and things weren't going so well with me professionally.  My producer, Jonathan Lesane, told me to close my eyes and pretend I am on the beach playing," Marq shares.  "I think it really came through in the music.  I like "Lovely Day" a lot."

With that in mind, Marq implores fellow artists to take time to find out what makes their music passionate. He ensures, that without passion, it's just another occupation. 

"The Hit Project," is in stores now and proceeds will go to the "Skip Scarborough Foundation," whose goals are to stimulate music and arts education.   Look out for David Marq in Detroit, Michigan on October 3-5 and at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, MD October 26. 

For MORE on David Marq, visit his website: www.Davidarq.net.

We Remember: Norman Whitfield


(September 17, 2008) *The man who wrote some of Motown's biggest hits, Norman Whitfield, has died in Los Angeles. Published reports say the prolific producer died yesterday September, 16 from complications of diabetes. He was 65. According to Wikipedia, Whitfield began writing for Motown when he was 19 years old. He is credited as being one of the creators of the Motown Sound, as well as one of the major instrumental figures in the late-60s sub-genre of psychedelic soul. Whitfield began hanging around at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. offices, trying to get a chance at working for the growing label. Berry Gordy recognized Whitfield's persistence and hired him in the quality control department that determined which songs would or would not be released by the label.  Whitfield eventually joined Motown's in-house songwriting staff. Initially he had a few minor successes, but he found his place at Motown when he began producing the recordings of his songs. His big break came when he took over Smokey Robinson's role as the main producer for The Temptations in 1966, after his "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" performed better than Robinson's "Get Ready" on the pop charts. Between 1966 and 1974, Whitfield produced nearly every song by The Temptations.


Yes To Tour With Montreal-Based Replacement Singer

www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(September 11, 2008)  WASHINGTON — The classic rock band will be hitting the road with a replacement lead singer — a Montreal-based musician who heads up a tribute band. Bassist Chris Squire says Benoit David will replace Jon Anderson on the In the Present tour.  The tour is set to kick off on Nov. 4 in Ontario. Yes, which consists of Squire, Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, scrapped their anniversary tour in June after Anderson suffered acute respiratory failure and was ordered by doctors to rest six months. Squire found David on the Internet after a friend sent him a YouTube clip of David's tribute band, Close To The Edge.  Squire liked what he saw and called David to offer an audition. “I think it's all going to work out fine,” Squire told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Of course, realistically, there's an element of risk, but there always is.” Yes has taken a page from another classic rock group, Journey, who selected Arnel Pineda, a sound-a-like of former lead singer Steve Perry, to be their singer after the group discovered him singing Journey songs on YouTube. Pineda sang on the group's successful comeback album this year and has also been touring with them. It's not the first time Yes has had a singer besides Anderson. Trevor Horn sang on the 1980 Yes album Drama when Anderson briefly left the band. Squire hopes to work songs from that album into the set for the upcoming tour, plus a few songs he said were not Anderson's favourites to perform live but the rest of the band likes. “You can't ever really replace Jon Anderson, because he's been such a force in the music business,” Squire said. “We look upon his replacement as more of an understudy.” Squire said he is hopeful Anderson will be well enough to do shows next year. Yes' hits include I've Seen All Good People and Owner of a Lonely Heart.

Wyclef Helps Hurricane Victims In Haiti


(September 11, 2008)  *Wyclef Jean has launched the "Haiti Storm Relief Fund" to provide food, water, purification tablets, tents, blankets, medical supplies, hygiene kits as well as funds to a number of non-profit organizations working on the ground to respond to the emergency. "My country is facing a serious catastrophe at the moment," said Wyclef in a statement, "and we urgently require assistance. But the long-term catastrophe is that we have less than two percent tree cover, and without restoring our forests we will always be susceptible to mudslides and flash floods from storms and hurricanes."  Yele's Storm Relief Fund has already sponsored food, supplies and water to assist victims in the South-East, including Jakmel, Cayes-Jakmel, Marigot and La Vallee. A second wave of support is currently underway in and around Jakmel in cooperation with the Mayor of the resort community.  Containers with emergency supplies are being shipped into the country over the next few weeks as individuals and corporations begin responding to Wyclef Jean's call for donations. Within days Yele Haiti's teams will begin an intensive operation of emergency food distributions with food staples supplied by the World Food Programme. Donations can be made online at www.yele.org.  The storms that have battered Haiti in the past few weeks have left more than 500 dead and wreaked havoc in the lives of more than 600,000 people who have been displaced by flooding or cut off from food supplies. Haitian President Rene Preval has appealed for help from the international community, saying the country faces a "catastrophe".

Estelle Scores Five MOBO Nominations


(September 11, 2008)  *British soul singer Estelle received five nominations for UK's annual MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards, leading a pack that includes Leona Lewis, the first British woman in more than 20 years to score a No. 1 single in the U.S.  Estelle, 28, is up for Best UK Female, Album, Song, R&B/Soul and Video at the ceremony, which will take place Oct. 15 at London's Wembley Arena with co-hosts Mel B and Rev. Run.  Kanye West teamed up with Estelle for her current single "American Boy," which was a smash hit in the U.K. and helped to fuel sales of her album "Shine."  Lewis, the 23-year-old singer of "Bleeding Love," is up for Best Female, Album and Video. In the Best Female category, Estelle and former X Factor winner Lewis will be competing with Adele, Duffy, and MIA. International MOBO nominees include West, Mariah Carey, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Mary J Blige, Ne-Yo, Usher, Akon and Alicia Keys.

Prince's Coffee Table Book Due In Oct.

Source: www.eurweb.com

September 12, 2008) *Prince has gathered a collection of glossy photos from his 21-night stand at London's O2 Arena last year for his first-ever coffee table book, "21 Nights," due in stores next month. The pictures were all shot by fashion photographer and music video director Randee St. Nicholas and show Prince doing things such as lounging on a bed in his pajamas, picking out his stage wardrobe and doing sound checks, reports Billboard. Featured along with the photos are various short phrases, poems and song lyrics. The back of the book includes a list of the clothiers, apparel makers and candle suppliers whose goods are shown in the photos.  "21 Nights" also comes with his new CD "Indigo Nights," a 15-track collection designed to take listeners into one of Prince's vintage post-concert jams.

T.I. Rules Billboard For 3rd Straight Week

Source: www.eurweb.com

September 12, 2008)  *T.I.'s new single "Whatever You Like" spends a third week atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and also has the distinction of being the fastest-growing track at radio.   The song continues to dominate digital sales as well, having sold 145,000 copies in the United States this week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.    Pink's "So What," jumps 3-2, Rihanna's "Disturbia" slips 2-3, while Chris Brown's "Forever" and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" hold at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.   Elsewhere on the Hot 100, Artists Stand Up To Cancer's "Just Stand Up!" explodes 78-11 in the wake of its performance on a multi-network cancer telethon last Friday. The song, which features Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Ciara, Keyshia Cole, Rihanna and more than a dozen more female artists, sold 110,000 downloads.   On Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Jazmine Sullivan begins a third week at No. 1 on with "Need U Bad," while Jennifer Hudson's "Spotlight" jumps 8-3 as the fastest growing track at radio.

Herbie Hancock Albums Go Digital

Source: www.thestar.com

(September 15, 2008) *On Tuesday (Sept. 16), all 30 albums that Herbie Hancock recorded as a leader for Columbia Records and its Japanese affiliate CBS/SONY between 1972 and 1988 will be available through digital providers.   Sony BMG Legacy will offer the following albums beginning tomorrow: Death Wish / Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1974), Sunlight (1978), Feets Don't Fail Me Now (1978), Monster (1980), Mr. Hands (1980), Magic Windows (1981), Lite Me Up (1981) and Village Life (1984).    There were also two electric albums made for CBS/SONY that have never been released outside of Japan -- Flood (1975) and Direct Step (1978).   The albums he made for Columbia in the U.S. were mostly electric and mixed elements of jazz with R&B, Dance and Pop. He played an arsenal of keyboards, and also was one of the first musicians to utilize a new piece of equipment called a Vocoder.    The Vocoder was a kind of synthesized voice processor through which he sang -- on Sunlight (1978) and a few other albums. Other recordings during this period used outside vocalists. Many of these records enjoyed airplay on non-jazz formats and also charted. Several of the U.S. titles have had only limited availability on CD, often just as imports.

Year of the Gentleman: Ne-Yo

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Island Def Jam/Universal)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(September 16, 2008)  A first-call songwriter for the likes of Beyoncé, Celine Dion and Rihanna, this 28-year-old Las Vegas native is also a Grammy-winning performer. Whether ballad, throwback R&B or techno dance, the music is nothing extraordinary, but he's imbued with an amenable falsetto, suited to grovelling – shades of Usher and Michael Jackson – and covers all the chivalrous bases. 
Ne-Yo sings the praises of women, boosts their self-esteem, counsels against going to bed angry, apologizes for his mistakes and weeps when his beloved marries another.  His writing is best when it throws a curve, like the sly, rather ungentlemanly, "Single" where he promises to be a better boyfriend than the one you have – just until the end of song; or "Lie To Me," in which a cuckolded man would rather live in ignorance. A disc for women in love with love and the men who love them.

The Streets: Everything is Borrowed

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

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

(September 16, 2008)  British rapper/pop philosopher
Mike Skinner wasn't having a particularly good time of it by The Streets' last record, 2006's The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, and made a bitter, troubled record fraught with drug paranoia and problem gambling that wasn't a particularly good time to listen to.  Now a more beatific Skinner announces himself on the opening title track, pondering the meaning of life with typically bloke-ish candour over wheezy horns and strings and offering the uncharacteristically "Zen" assessment: "I came to this world with nothing / And I leave with nothing but love."  On first pass, the "happy" Skinner is as much a source of confusion as his revamping of the once laptop-borne Streets as a gaily eclectic live-band thing, unafraid to welcome clarinet, mandolin, banjo and concertina into the mix.  But Streets records have always been growers, and Everything is Borrowed does indeed grow – especially once you hit the two-track disco party of "Never Give In" and "The Sherry End," the religious questing of "Alleged Legends" and the freakin' sweet lullaby "The Strongest Person I Know," and realize that Skinner remains as three-dimensional a lyricist dealing with cosmic matters as he was when he obsessed over crappy cellphone reception

Michael Jerome Browne: This Beautiful Mess

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(Borealis Records)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(September 16, 2008)  Perhaps the most ambitious recording yet by Montreal-based singer-songwriter Browne, This Beautiful Mess expands the folk-based country blues and electric blues of his earlier excellent outings and ranges, with help from top-notch sidemen (including keyboardist Ken Pearson and Burke Carroll on pedal and lap steel) into country, gospel and R&B territory.  Browne's husky, assured tenor and tasty finger work on electric and acoustic guitars, fiddle and resonator dominate the generally upbeat tone, but this superior studio band add gravity and elegance to songs that sometimes seem too light to sustain themselves without embellishment.  Browne and his band are showcasing this new material Thursday at the Gladstone Hotel. .

Jennifer Hudson Engaged To VH1's 'Punk'


(September 16, 2008) *After a courtship of less than a year, Jennifer Hudson is engaged to marry her boyfriend David Otunga, better known to VH1 viewers as "Punk" from the second season of "I Love New York." The 27-year-old Harvard Law School grad was in Los Angeles with J-Hud Friday night to celebrate her 28th birthday when he popped the question with a Neil Lane diamond ring, according to reports.  The VH1 reality star Tiffany "New York" Pollard christened Otunga with the nickname Punk during her show's second season in late 2007. He was a finalist on the show, but lost his chance at love with Pollard to winner Ezra "Buddha" Masters.  Otunga has worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. He and Hudson are both from Chicago.

Wyclef Joined By Matt Damon In Haiti


(September 16, 2008) *Wyclef Jean and actor Matt Damon toured the ruins of Haitian city Gonaives on Sunday to draw attention to the plight of its citizens marooned by Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike. "I'm speechless, I can't believe it," Damon told the Associated Press as he looked down from a U.N. helicopter at people living on the rooftops of flooded homes.  The actor also saw muddy streets littered with encrusted pots, pans and laundry where waters have receded. "It's inhumane. I wish there was a word in the dictionary. No human should be living like this," said Jean, a local hero and founder of the charity group Yele Haiti. The celebrity pair's four-hour visit Sunday "passed in a blur of stenches, colors and noise," wrote the AP. "As they turned onto the flooded Rue Christophe, another pickup packed with women sloshed within arm's reach. Face-to-face with the celebrities, the women cried, 'We're hungry!' A young man calf-deep in water raised both arms and shouted, 'Fix our roads. Fix our city!'"  Damon and Jean are urging help for the United Nations to raise more than $100 million for 800,000 Haitians in need after four tropical storms and hurricanes have struck the country since mid-August.

Nate Dogg In 'Stable' Condition After Stroke


(September 17, 2008) *TMZ.com is reporting that singer Nate Dogg is in stable condition following his second stroke in less than a year. "We're told Nate is in stable condition in a hospital ward, but is using an assisted breathing tube -- which is not required but makes breathing easier for him," the Web site reported yesterday. "Despite other reports, Dogg, who is currently sedated, did NOT suffer any brain damage."  TMZ also said the stroke, which reportedly took place 12 days ago, has left him with little movement below his neck at this time. The gangsta-rap crooner is due in court on Sept. 24 to face felony charges after he allegedly made death threats to his estranged wife.

Humanitarian Work Of Quincy Jones Honoured


(September 17, 2008) *The concert and benefit "THANK Q -- A World Music Tribute To the Humanitarian Works Of Quincy Jones" will take place in Southern California at the Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m.    The legendary "Q" will be presented with the "Unity Through Music Award," and the evening will close with a multicultural performance -- featuring Pilgrim with special surprise guest artists -- of "We Are The World," the Grammy-winning, Jones-produced 1985 anthem.   In keeping with the spirit of "We Are The World" and its assemblage of superstar performers who banded together as USA For Africa, net proceeds from "THANK Q" will benefit two non-profit organizations making a difference of the lives of people in Africa: Malaria No More, dedicated to ending deaths caused by the disease, and Millennium Promise, whose flagship program, Millennium Villages comprehensively addresses extreme poverty throughout sub-Saharan Africa.   The event will also feature the U.S. premiere of the multimedia work "The Return Of Nuwa" and other pieces by world music group Pilgrim.  General admission tickets are $25 through Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.com).  A limited number of $1,000 VIP tickets are also available, and include a post-event reception hosted by Pilgrim and Gema Productions at the new Hollywood club 24K Lounge. Contact 310.392.7327 or events@dreamscapestudiosla.com for reservations and information.


Viva Che! Soderbergh Signs A Deal But Death Of Bernie Mac Kills Ocean's 14 Prospect

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

(September 11, 2008) Steven Soderbergh's mood has brightened considerably following news yesterday he's reached a distribution deal for Che, his controversial epic about Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

But the wiry director is not at all cheery about the future of his Ocean's 11 comedy franchise, following the sudden death last month of Bernie Mac, a popular member of George Clooney's caper crew.

IFC Films stateside announced it has secured North American rights for Che, starring Benicio Del Toro in the title role, which Soderbergh filmed in two parts for a total running time in excess of four hours.

The film sparked an intense debate amongst critics – some loved, others hated – following its Cannes premiere last May, and distributors had generally been cool towards it. But it was the film's Spanish dialogue, not the running time, that was the real sticking point, Soderbergh told film journalists yesterday.

He's visibly relieved by the sale – he was combative in Cannes – but he's not sure how the film will be presented or what cities it will play in. He'd like to have a limited run of the full four-hour-plus film, followed immediately by separate runs of Che Part 1, which deals with the Cuban Revolution, and Che Part 2, which follows Guevara's excursion to Bolivia, which led to his death.

Tentative plans are to have the film play in New York and Los Angeles before year's end, to qualify for awards; Del Toro has already won an acting prize at Cannes. That would be followed by a larger rollout in early 2009.

Soderbergh admits he's not sure how Toronto figures into all of this, but he wants Che to be released here.

"We've got to come here," he said. "It's a big cinema town."

As for his Ocean's 11 hit franchise, which has already spawned sequels 12 and 13, don't go looking for an Ocean's 14. Any chance of that died with Bernie Mac.

"No! Bernie Mac!" Soderbergh said, shaking his head. "I was done, anyway, but that was ... tragic."

Soderbergh was stunned to learn that Mac succumbed not to the pneumonia that brought him to hospital, but to the opportunistic infection he picked up while there. It opened Soderbergh's eyes to chronic health-care problems.

"Ninety thousand people a year die from infection that they get in the hospital in the U.S. That is double the amount of people who die in car accidents. You don't see anybody talking about this. That's a huge number.

"And that's what happened to Bernie. He had pneumonia, he went into the hospital. I talked to his manager, who said (Mac) was two days away from getting out. He was on the upswing; everything was fine. He got this thing and he was gone."

Mehta Says Her Film Is Not An Attack On Indian Culture

Source: www.thestar.com - Gregory Bonnell,
The Canadian Press

(September 10, 2008) Deepa Mehta has never been one to shy away from controversial topics, a practice that has garnered the Toronto-based filmmaker international acclaim but also the violent contempt of conservative elements in her native India.

Although her new film "
Heaven on Earth" unflinchingly portrays the domestic abuse of a Punjabi women who comes to Canada for a pre-arranged marriage, Mehta said it really speaks to all cultures.

"Is it attacking an Indian culture? I hardly think so. Abuse is universal," Mehta said during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie had its world premiere.

"If I did a film on a white family living in (a rich Toronto neighbourhood), I don't know the details, the nuance, how organically they would behave. But as a Punjabi, an Indian, I definitely know that. So it's a desire to be authentic."

Bollywood star Preity Zinta portrays Chand, a woman who harbours illusions of a better life with her husband Rocky, played by Vansh Bhardwaj, after the two are wed only hours after meeting each other at an airport.

Those illusions are promptly crushed by the reality of Chand's married life.

Crammed into a bungalow in Brampton, Ont., just west of Toronto, with her extended family, the vibrant and quick-witted Chand is abused both physically and psychologically by her husband and subjected to the unrelenting scorn of her mother-in-law.

The $8.45 an hour she makes at a monotonous factory job goes straight to Rocky, and repeated requests to call her mother back home are denied.

"The crux of the film is isolation in a so-called globalized world," Mehta said.

"It's about being in a place where you have nobody you can relate to. Also, it's about abuse and who do you turn to when there's nobody to relate to."

The film is Mehta's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated "Water," which recounted how widows were ostracized and alienated in 1930s India. The filming of "Water" was delayed for several years after Hindu nationalists, who blasted Mehta's work as being anti-Hindu, set fire to the sets in India and threw them into the Ganges.

The desire to have one's culture seen only in a positive light is, on some level, understandable but ultimately it's one's moral duty to expose the dark side as well, said Mehta.

"If you're confident about who we are, it's a moral responsibility to look at an aspect in our community, in our cultures, that is not so savoury," she said.

"If you don't do that, then what is progress?"

Understandably dark given the subject matter, "Heaven on Earth" has elements of myth and magic as it weaves in an Indian fable about a cobra.

A co-worker gives Chand the recipe for a potion to make Rocky fall instantly in love with her.

"It's fantastical that it's a snake that takes on human form and becomes the person, or the partner, that the protagonist Chand, in this case, envisions for herself," said Mehta.

Respect is what Chand is really seeking, she adds.

"If you can't get that from your partners sometimes, if there's no alternative, we resort to the imagination. For me it's not the cobra that takes on a form, it's what she wants."

Mehta said her hope for "Heaven on Earth" is that it moves women to act.

"More than anything else, I really hope it starts a dialogue. Women never talk about being abused because they feel they're responsible, that somehow it's their fault," she said.

"I hope that if they see 'Heaven on Earth' they realize that it's not their fault and they can talk about it. The moment you talk about it to somebody or anybody, you're at the first step of being liberated."

"Heaven on Earth" opens in theatres on Oct. 24.

A Kinder, Gentler Malkovich

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

(September 11, 2008)  For a guy who normally shuns manic celebrity events, John Malkovich is doing an excellent impersonation of a TIFF trooper.

The actor is all over the film fest this year.

He's in one of the hottest tickets at TIFF '08, the Coen Bros. comedy Burn After Reading (which opens wide tomorrow), and two much more modest bills: the existential drama Afterwards and the redemption saga Disgrace.

After Toronto, he's headed to the New York Film Festival in support of
Changeling, the child-swap thriller that was a hit at Cannes.

"Oh, it's all the same work anyway!" Malkovich cheerily tells the Star.

"The scale of them is not very relevant. You can like something smaller or hate something bigger."

He can claim to have had the most fun amongst his fellow A-listers – including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton – making Burn After Reading, a screwball spy caper set in Washington, D.C.

He got to punch Pitt in the face – he really didn't want to, he swears – and he gets to make one of his patented rants, in a climactic scene where he rails against "the idiocy of today."

That line resonated with him, as it will with viewers, but he's of two minds about it.

Everybody fondly remembers the past as "the good ol' days," he said, because nostalgia tends to smooth out bumps: "When we look back we think the winters were warmer, the grass was greener and the smiles were bright. I suppose I feel that in a way.

"But then I also feel things were always a mess and they're generally a mess.... We have a tendency to think everyone's idiotic and everyone's only doing something idiotic, and the world is controlled by a not-so-secret group of morons. There's great truth in that, I suppose, but then it's also not true.

"People get up, they go to work, they have their lives, but you'll never see the headlines say, `Six billion people got along rather well today.' You'll have the headline about the 30 people who shot each other."

His existential feelings really come to the fore with Afterwards, a film by French director Gilles Bourdos (whom Malkovich admires) in which Malkovich plays a New York doctor named Kay who claims to have the ability to sense when someone is about to die. He's a "messenger" whose job is to prepare the doomed individual for what fate has in store.

It's a very spiritual film, which raises the question: is it necessary to have spiritual beliefs to bring a character like Kay to life?

"No, I'd say not," Malkovich says, after a moment of reflection.

"I'm an atheist. I wouldn't say I'm without spiritual belief particularly, or rather, specifically. Maybe I'm agnostic, but I'm not quite sure there's some great creator somehow controlling everything and giving us free will. I don't know; it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me."

He does recognize that there's a deep desire in people for faith and spirituality.

"I think everyone would like to believe there's something immutable or infallible about the human spirit. Everyone would like to believe that, but I'm not sure there's any reason to."

But did making Afterwards (which still has to find a Canadian distributor) affect his thinking about life? It seems it might have, since he's much mellower in person than he seems in most of his screen roles.

Malkovich thinks getting older has had more of an effect on him than any character he's played or movie he's been in.

"I think the older you get, that's more what changes your attitude. Obviously, you're only getting a step closer to the end; you're never getting a step further away, no matter what step you'll take.

"So certainly, thoughts of mortality have more presence in your life when you're no longer 20, 30, 40. I'm 54. I don't think (Afterwards) changed me because I would say it's very rare where work I do influences me that profoundly. It would be more that life influences me."

You'd think that Being John Malkovich, the cult 1998 comic fantasy in which people literally climbed inside his head, would have changed the actor's life. By making it easier to get restaurant reservations, if nothing else.

The man himself begs to disagree, but in the most polite of ways. He leaves his rants on the screen.

"Being John Malkovich is not myself; it's really nothing to do with me."

But how many guys can claim to have a movie made and titled for what's going on inside their head?

"Yeah, and before I did it I was kind of worried, because I liked my life the way it was and people really left me alone and I did my work and I went home. But it actually didn't (affect my life) at all."

He professes not to have an ego about these things. If he's worried at all about typecasting – his explosive Osborne Cox in Burn After Reading is classic raging Malkovich – he doesn't let on.

"I don't mind what I play, really. I don't have a preference for a certain type of theme or a certain way of presenting myself because it's not myself anyway, so I don't much mind."

Kristin Scott Thomas Already Hearing Oscar Buzz

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Toronto Star

September 12, 2008) Kristin Scott Thomas bristles ever so slightly, then smiles patiently.

"I find that very upsetting when people say that," she replies when asked how she feels about critics calling her role in
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (I've Loved You So Long) as an ex-con still incarcerated by her emotions, the best work of her career.

"I think about what was the rest, rubbish?" she asks, her tone gentle but to the point. "Perhaps next year I'll do the best work of my career and do that every few years. As long as it doesn't deny everything else I've done.

"Maybe it is just that I think it's off to judge things in a way. How can you compare that and The English Patient (for which she received an Oscar nomination), or that and The Horse Whisperer? They are completely different roles and completely different emotions."

Scott Thomas is not being ungracious, far from it. But her name is coming up frequently among Oscar handicappers and TIFF attendees, who say she's a shoo-in for the gold statuette.

Her work in this movie, in French (she is fluent), is masterful. As Juliette in novelist-turned-director Phillipe Claudel's film, she is a woman released after 15 years in jail, serving time for an almost inconceivable crime. Her existence all but denied by her family, Juliette is reunited with her younger sister, Léa (Elsa Zylberstein), who barely remembers her but who invites Juliette to live with her husband and two adopted daughters.

Shunned by society, looking exhausted and drawn and seemingly resigned to being a pariah, only Juliette knows the truth about her crime.

"She's like a woman who is hanging onto this huge great boulder of a secret and she won't let anyone else touch it, and little by little she's starting to let go, bit by bit, and reach out to other people and allow them to move her and make her feel stuff," Scott Thomas says. "Only she knows this thing that has happened to her. She knows the truth and the truth is somehow a comfort to her. And no one can take that away from her."

Scott Thomas is off to New York soon, where she opens on Broadway next week in previews for Chekhov's The Seagull.

(Il y a longtemps que je t'aime is due in theatres Nov. 7, but festival-goers can catch it today at 11:45 a.m. at the Scotiabank Theatre.)

At 48, Scott Thomas is lovely, the angles of her face sharp against soft eyes and lips. Dressed in wide-legged pants and a gauzy pale-pink shirt, she jokes with the photographer about looking a bit like "a cruise director."

To prepare to play Juliette, Scott Thomas read books on prison life and watched some documentaries, but avoided talking to female inmates or those who had served time.

"I was afraid of my own emotions," she explains. "I didn't want my own emotions to get in the way. I wanted to remain in-your-face honest and not have pity or anger about people I had met in prison. I was frightened by my own emotion."

She also drew on director Claudel's experiences; he had done some volunteer teaching in French prisons.

Scott Thomas understands the movie's power. "When I first saw the film I was blown away," she says.

"I got completely taken in by it. You sort of forget it's you, it's like looking at someone else."

Patti Smith Ends Fest Fetes On A High Note

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

September 12, 2008) You didn't have to be an aging hippie, but it helped on Wednesday night when Joe Mimran, creative director of Joe Fresh, hosted a screening of Patti Smith: Dream of Life at the Gardiner Museum, directed by Steven Sebring, a photographer who has worked on Joe Fresh ad campaigns.

It was a love-in; people were sitting on the floor, actually singing along to two of Smith's biggest hits, "Because the Night" and "Gloria."

It was a "Kumbaya" moment.

Smith played and recited poetry for over an hour, singing a cappella and playing acoustic guitar.

She kept apologizing, saying she was sorry she was wearing a guitar strap from the Berlin Film Festival because she didn't get one here.

Two tables of scented candles near her made her allergies kick in and she kept apologizing for coughing. Audience members moved the offending tables and someone gave her a lozenge for her throat.

Smith lost her passport somewhere between Moscow, where she'd been for the past 10 days, and Greenwich Village in New York, where she lives, so she and Sebring had to drive in from Buffalo. You can still cross a U.S./Canada border with a driver's licence and a birth certificate, but because Smith doesn't drive, she let Sebring do all the talking. "I think it was Steven's hat that got us through," she said. "It was sort of tasteful cowboy."

Smith was worried that she wouldn't be able to make it back home and asked, "Does anybody have any pull at the embassy?"

Heck, she's so self-deprecating and polite, she could be mistaken for a Canadian at the border. If she can't get back across, we'll keep her.

Smith is a rock icon, although she dismisses that accolade by saying when she hears "rock icon," she thinks Mount Rushmore.

To fashion writer David Livingstone, she is a fashion icon: "A wondrous blend of heroic boy and grey-haired mother, she performed miracles of accessorizing, tucking into the breast pocket of her jacket an airline toothbrush wrapped in cellophane that never looked so cool."

Smith made a point of thanking Kimberley Newport-Mimran of Pink Tartan for the pink pants left in her room. And when Joe Mimran thanked her, she remarked on how soft his sweater was.

"Oh, it's Joe Fresh, $29," he said.

Once a schmata salesman, always a schmata salesman.

The audience included Emily Haines, lead singer of Metric; Tamara Podemski; Nazneen Contractor (The Border) and Matt Austin, host of Taste Buds on TVO. Some were heard pronouncing it the best fete in the fest.

Slumdog Takes The People's Prize At TIFF

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

(September 14, 2008) Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's rousing drama/comedy about a kid from the Mumbai slums who wins India's version of Who Wants to be A Millionaire has taken the Cadillac People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

And one of the young Indian-born stars of the film,
Freida Pinto, was on hand to accept the award, having stayed in Toronto a few extra days after the rest of the cast and crew departed to visit family in Mississauga.

"I almost can't believe it; I am loving the city of Toronto," said a beaming Pinto, adding the fest had marked many firsts in her life: first movie premiere, first time dealing with the press and now "my first award."

A TIFF first, the winner of the people's choice award was due to screen for free last night as a thank you to the city.

First runner-up for the People's Choice prize was Kristopher Belman's documentary
More Than A Game, about the high-school team of basketball superstar LeBron James. The second runner-up is Cyrus Nowrasteh's The Stoning of Soraya M.

Also on hand to accept a prize at the annual awards reception was American director Steven Martini for his movie Lymelife, starring Alec Baldwin, Kieran and Rory Culkin and Cynthia Nixon. He picked up the International Critics FIPRESCI Prize for Discovery and Special Presentation films.

Festival co-director Piers Handling said more than 300,000 filmgoers attended the festival, plus 150,000 people who were at free events outside theatres.

Among the other awards handed out yesterday:

Best Canadian Short Film: Chris Chong Chan Fui's Block B. A special citation went to Denis Villeneuve's Next Floor.

Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film: Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu's Before Tomorrow. Lyne Charlebois' Borderline received a special citation.

City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Rodrigue Jean's Lost Song. A special citation was also given to Atom Egoyan's Adoration.

Diesel Discovery Award: Steve McQueen's Hunger.

The International FIPRESCI Critics Prize for Special Presentations: Steve Jacobs' Disgrace.


Working Girl Eva Mendes

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Bob Strauss

(September 13, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Looking great and acting like she feels the same, Eva Mendes seems to have come through a trying period none the worse for wear.

The 34-year-old actress checked herself into the chic Utah rehab facility Cirque Lodge for a few weeks in February to get help for some still undisclosed personal issues. Since then, she's been working steadily; beside appearing in the remake of The Women, which came out this week, she's filmed the holiday comic-book adaptation The Spirit and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans with her Ghost Rider co-star Nicolas Cage. Whatever was troubling her, she's keeping it to herself, and certainly not behaving like she's wrestling any demons.

“I feel indifferent. … No, I don't feel indifferent,” she says laughing, decked out in a snug, coral pink dress and oversized sunglasses. “I just feel like, why even get into it? It so has nothing to do with me being an actress. I just really want people to go see my films and think, you know what, I keep seeing this girl around, she's not going anywhere and she takes this really seriously. 'Cause I do. I really do live for my craft.”

Okay, we'll fool around with this line of reasoning. Was Mendes perhaps stressed out by playing Crystal Allen, The Women's other woman, who's been despised by audiences since Clare Boothe Luce wrote her 1936 play and George Cukor made a movie out of it in 1939? Too negative a gender portrayal, or something like that? Not likely.

“I thought that Eva is such a likable person that just casting her in that role immediately made her more acceptable,” says Diane English, the Murphy Brown creator who spent more than a dozen years modernizing and moderating Luce's catty scenario before directing the new version. “Even though she was doing bad things, there is something about her that's Tony Soprano-like; even though he's a bad guy, there's something there you can connect to and just makes you like him.”

Mendes actually enjoyed playing the brazen character.

“The reality is that we're not that hateful toward one another because it's not so much like kill-or-be-killed out there any more in this female world,” Mendes observes. “I think Crystal Allen, in this movie, is just desperate, I don't think she's evil. I don't agree with husband-stealing. You can steal a car but not a husband. But the way I approached it was, she thinks he'll probably go back to his wife, but let me get something out of him. She just wants a piece of the pie.”

Maybe playing one of the legendary Joan Crawford's iconic roles was distressing, then.

“I didn't think about it that way,” Mendes chirps. “If I was actually portraying Joan Crawford, I would be suicidal, it would be so nerve-wracking. But you know, this was a play and this character has been interpreted by many actresses. And the other thing is, some people aren't going to be happy when you're playing a role that was made famous by an icon whatever you do. So the minute I realized that I wasn't out to impress anybody, I had more fun that way.”

Hmm. Then what about the scene when Crystal is confronted by the aggrieved wife (Meg Ryan) in a lingerie store changing booth? That's taken from the original, but let's just say they didn't let Crawford wear the revealing contraption Mendes had to pose in for the long, mirrored sequence.

“That get-up, it's like a corset, lingerie – there's a few different things going on,” the actress notes, chuckling. “But I didn't feel trepidation because I was in character and I was very confident with my body as Crystal. But the other thing was, we had a few different lingerie options, and at the end of the day I didn't want women to hate me in that scene. So I wanted to give Crystal a bit of class in the sense that her lingerie was a little elegant, a little old school. Maybe if I was wearing something trampier, I would've felt more insecure.

Mendes's confidence was buoyed by ensuring that her body was ready for the lingerie scene.

“I come from a big Cuban family, so we eat a lot,” the Los Angeles-raised Mendes says. “The only way I can keep in shape is by working out, though I hate every minute of it. I'm not the girl that's going to leave here and go on a hike and be like, ‘Ah, I love this!' I see a trainer four to five times a week and I do a lot of cardio and I try to take care of myself.”

Despite the attention Mendes has paid to her wellbeing, she was touched by scandal earlier this year when a Calvin Klein perfume commercial she shot proved too revealing for U.S. broadcasters to air, and a topless fashion shoot was limited to the Italian edition of Vogue. She says, however, she enjoyed them as much as she did playing Crystal.

But even if Mendes does appreciate a little drama now and then, she really does, as English perceived, seem too nice to get in deep trouble. The big, very Catholic family she mentioned may not entirely agree with that. But they're coming around.

“You know what?” Mendes reports. “They're getting used to it. They're getting used to the fact that I'm gonna do what I want to do. And that I might make them cringe, but I'll never make them really embarrassed. I'm like, ‘Trust me. … But you might cringe a few more times. I'm not done yet.'”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Shake-Up At Maple Pictures

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(September 16, 2008) Veteran distributor Jim Sherry has officially joined Toronto-based Maple Pictures as co-president, a role he will share with Laurie May, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The deal had long been speculated but was cemented yesterday. As a result of Sherry's move, Brad Pelman, who co-founded Maple in 2005, along with May, will relinquish his position as co-president.

Pelman will become chief operating officer of Maple Pictures and also head up a new branded division, Maple Films, which the company said "will grow as a distribution label."

In an interview yesterday, May said the executive shuffle reflects the company's "continued evolution into a Canadian distribution powerhouse," which will compete head to head with the likes of industry leader Alliance Films (where Sherry was executive managing director for almost a decade before he split in 2007 after a fallout with chairman and one-time mentor, Victor Loewy). His other main rival will be Toronto's Entertainment One (E1), whose filmed entertainment unit is headed by Patrice Theroux, another former colleague of Sherry's, from Alliance.

Yesterday, May explained that she and Sherry, a former New Jersey resident with permanent residency in Canada, will focus on expanding Maple, which ranks behind Alliance and E1, in terms of market share. "Our goal will be to secure other franchises, acquire libraries, explore different merger opportunities. We see a lot of growth opportunities in the Canadian distribution business, and Jim is step one to capitalize on that."

She added that Pelman will oversee all operations at the corporate level and head its new distribution label. "Jim has, obviously, excellent distribution chops, so he'll have a hand in that as well.

When he was at Alliance, he was handling 90 films a year, marketing them very well and with excellent results. He has deep distribution relationships, and we're a growing distribution company. So it's a perfect match."

Sherry is a former manager for both New Line and Miramax Films, a former critical movie supplier to Alliance. He is also said to be close to Harvey Weinstein, who founded Miramax in the late 1970s with his brother, Bob.

Sherry, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, has had an office at Maple Pictures' headquarters for the past year, where he has been working as a consultant. May said they took so long to announce his new position because "we wanted to get the deal right and make sure everyone was absolutely thrilled with the end result. And we are."

Maple Pictures called the deal with Sherry "a long-term arrangement," but declined to specify the duration.

Sherry, in his mid-40s, has had a tumultuous past few years, after Loewy stormed out of Alliance (then called Motion Picture Distribution) in July, 2006, when the board fired two senior executives, chief executive officer Theroux and general counsel Paul Laberge.

The company named Sherry head of its English Canadian distribution arm, until Loewy was reinstated as chairman in 2007. At that point, Sherry and Motion Picture's CEO, John Bailey, were shown the door.

This year, Maple Pictures had five films at the Toronto International Film Festival, including the recent acquisition Hunger, the wrenching story of the last months in the life of Irish Republican Bobby Sands directed by Steve McQueen.

Upcoming Maple releases include the comedy My Best Friend's Girl with Kate Hudson; Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky; the Oliver Stone directed biopic W. starring Josh Brolin, and Saw V, the latest in the horror franchise.

Alliance is gearing up to expand in the coming year, bolstering its operations in Europe and adding more

output deals with studios. E1, which has been on an acquisition tear, spending almost $200-million to buy smaller distributors, also plans to expand its overseas operations.

For now, May says Maple is going to let E1 and Alliance duke it out in foreign territories. "Our focus right now is on Canadian distribution. We are exploring an international sales division ... but in terms of acquiring companies in other territories? That is not in our business plan at the moment."

Cook Finally Finds A Role That Suits Him

www.globeandmail.com - Derrik J. Lang, Associated Press

(September 17, 2008)  LOS ANGELES — When Dane Cook was 3, he was attacked - and almost killed, he says - by a German shepherd. Beneath his hair is a zigzagging scar that became etched into his cranium after receiving nearly 80 stitches. After the disclosure of this "fun fact," as he coyly calls it, the actor-comedian uses the opportunity to tell a joke.

"Hopefully, some day, I'll play a James Bond villain," he says. "I'll shave my head, so you can see all the ravines."

Such a role would probably have more bite than Cook's previous efforts on the big screen. Like as Dennis Rodman's wisecracking sidekick in the forgettable 1999 action flick Simon Sez. Or as a slacker stock boy who falls for a big-eared cashier played by Jessica Simpson in the zany 2006 romantic comedy Employee of the Month. And even as Jessica Alba's cursed love interest in the 2007 sex romp Good Luck Chuck.

These days, instead of a German shepherd, it's film critics who chomp at Cook. The 36-year-old super comedian most famous - or infamous - for gurgling cultural insights and sexually charged material in front of sold-out crowds has consistently been dubbed unfunny by movie critics, despite his continued success as stand-up comedian.

Other than a serious turn as a wannabe serial killer in the 2007 thriller Mr. Brooks starring Kevin Costner, Cook's attempts to sidestep from the stage to screen have been poorly received. Cook is aware of such shortcomings, referring to his filmography as a "highlight reel."

"I don't believe I watch any of my previous comedies and say, as a complete story, I'm interested in watching this from beginning, middle to end."

That may change with his latest effort, the romantic comedy
My Best Friend's Girl, which opens Friday.

"This is the one where I look at it and think there's a character and a real evolution with this guy," he says.

Cook hopes this movie will be the one to conclusively bring the cream of his comedy routine to the big screen.

"With Good Luck Chuck or Employee of the Month, I was playing the level-headed middle, carrying the film at the centre with a lot of craziness going on around me," he says, looking casual in jeans and a white T-shirt. "I finally wanted an opportunity to take some of the elements of my standup and mix it together with a fun story."

In the film, Cook plays Tank Turner, an air purifier call-centre supervisor by day, anti-Cupid by night. He's a suave emotional terrorist for hire by freshly dumped guys. For a fee, Tank will subject their ex-girlfriends to the worst date of their lives in hopes they go running back to their respective boyfriends. They usually do.

While this bad-boy role most closely resembles Cook's onstage antics, he's quick to point out that the goofball who gleefully recounts one-night-stands in comedy clubs isn't really him. And neither is Tank. Cook says he based much of the character on his best friend, comedian Robert Kelly, as well as Johnny Cash and Brain from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain.

"I'm much more introverted and shy, contrary to popular belief," he says. "Tank is fearless and always on the cusp, taking lewd and lascivious behaviour to a whole other level, but he has a heart of gold because he's ultimately doing this to give people a second chance."

Tank's game changes when he meets - all together now - his best friend's girl, who gnaws through Tank's bravado after a drunken tryst. The best friend is played by Jason Biggs from the American Pie films. Kate Hudson from Fool's Gold serves as the girl. Alec Baldwin also portrays Tank's lecherous father in a handful of scenes.

"I definitely like an ensemble like this more," Cook says. "I love that I got to work with Alec, Kate and Jason on this movie. These people bring a high calibre of talent to the table. I frequently get to live that writer-director-actor role as a comedian, so I crave different kinds of opportunities when I'm not doing standup."

To prepare for steamy kissing scenes with bombshell leading ladies such as Hudson, Alba and Simpson, Cook says he has developed a tradition. Before production begins, he nonchalantly asks his co-stars what's their favourite flavour of gum or mint. Hudson's pick? Lifesavers Pep-o-Mint. Stormy breath aside, such scenes still make Cook giddy.

"You tend to go back to how you felt when you were in high school," he says. "Even though you're professional actors, you come to those scenes wondering things like: Are you going to be mad if I kiss you? Do I put my hands on the small of your back or can I go lower? Is that too low?"

India's First Female Officer Had Tough Job

Source: www.thestar.com - Barbara Turnbull,
Staff Reporter

(September 17, 2008) In the world of Indian policing, Kiran Bedi was the ultimate outcast.

As the country's first female police officer, she aggravated her critics by being successful at every turn, drawing publicity for her mounting accomplishments.

Just four-foot-11, she once faced a 3,000-strong, sword-wielding group of rioting Sikhs, alone with a wooden baton, after all her male colleagues ran away. She turned the mob back, but was she scared? "I was very focused," she said later, matter-of-factly.

Towing the prime minister's car or turning around Asia's largest prison, she wouldn't tolerate the elitist principles entrenched in that society. That's why her life and career were made into a documentary,
Yes Madam, Sir, which premiered recently at the Toronto Film Festival. Shot over seven years by Australian filmmaker Megan Doneman, it shows the peaks and valleys of an extraordinary career.

"I was never, ever overawed by anybody in power," Bedi, 59, told the Star during her visit to the festival. "What mattered to me was (reaching) out to the disempowered."

Her unconventional outlook started at home. She was born in 1949, the second of four girls, to a couple who fervently believed in education. Dinner conversations were about how far their dreams could take them.

"We were an exceptional family in the whole city," she said. "We were almost an exceptional family in the whole country. My parents ... were 30, 40 years ahead of their time."

Bedi was the national and Asian tennis champion, then later earned undergraduate and master's degrees, a law degree and a Ph.D.

Hungry to contribute socially, she made waves in 1972 by qualifying for the police academy. Her early years of service were in the traffic division, where she made headlines clearing Delhi's legendary traffic chaos for the 1982 Asian Games. The message was clear when she had prime minister Indira Gandhi's illegally parked car towed.

From early in her career, she reached out to all sectors, rewarding honesty and co-operation, encouraging ideas and making swift decisions. Bedi excelled at identifying and addressing priorities.

The media loved her, incensing her critics who painted her as self-absorbed publicity-seeker.

Her most formidable challenge came as head of the notoriously corrupt Tihar Prison, Asia's largest, with 10,000 inmates, including 400 women, many with children.

Within months, the prison offered literacy, yoga and meditation classes. There was vocational training and school for children. Bedi began medical clinics, art and culture groups, sports initiatives and recognized national festivals.

Bedi's astonishing success – which led to prison reform around the world and her receiving Asia's equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize – led to her downfall two years later, with accusations she had compromised security by allowing the media a peek inside.

Bedi made remarkable transformations with each posting, eventually landing at the United Nations as the civilian police adviser for peacekeeping operations. She found the bureaucracy frustratingly slow and left after two years.

Since retiring from policing last year, she's devoted herself full-time to two nongovernmental organizations she founded. This month, she launched two new websites, one for police officers to report corruption and ineffective leadership, the other for citizens to raise complaints and concerns about actions of police officers. She has a team in place to help examine and resolve issues.

She also spends as much time as possible with her daughter, granddaughter and father, now 89.

"I'm working much harder since I left the service," she said. "I feel there is so much more to do and I enjoy doing."

Ed Harris Goes Old School For Western Flick Appaloosa

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

(September 17, 2008) Actor/director Ed Harris sports a black hat in Appaloosa, his new western, and many would say it suits him to a T.

Even when he's playing the good guy, as he is in this movie, his stony countenance suggests malevolence within. His Appaloosa gunslinger Virgil Cole rides into the title town promising to rid the streets of evil but demanding total control in return.

The black headgear is a symbol not of duality but of authenticity, Harris said in an interview during the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

Cole's attire, as described in the source novel by Robert B. Parker, is all black. A fiend for detail, Harris, 57, wanted to look like he really does wear the hat, and he had similar sartorial intent for co-stars Viggo Mortensen (who plays Cole's sidekick Everett Hitch) and Jeremy Irons (who plays evil rancher Randall Bragg).

"For Jeremy and Viggo and myself, and all the other guys, the hat thing is very crucial. It's critical.

"Because there's nothing worse than seeing a western and you don't buy that the guy belongs there.

"He just doesn't feel comfortable in the gear or the clothes or whatever."

Appaloosa is an old-school oater. Harris wanted it to have the same sense of vastness and timelessness as the westerns of John Ford, Howard Hawks, Sam Peckinpah and other masters of the genre. The dust had to look caked in, not painted on.

Why did he choose a western for his sophomore stint as director? His helming debut Pollock, which he also starred in, was about a mercurial artist of the 1950s.

And most of his movies are set in current times.

Appaloosa has its roots in Riders of the Purple Sage, a 1996 made-for-TV movie that Harris starred in with his wife, the actor Amy Madigan. He enjoyed that experience so much, it convinced him he could do westerns.

He was in no rush, though.

While respecting the traditional look of westerns, Harris wasn't interested in maintaining the status quo for his cast picks.

The laconic Mortensen, who was paired with Harris in very different circumstances for David Cronenberg's 2005 thriller A History of Violence, isn't the type you'd expect as a sort of Sundance Kid to Harris's Butch Cassidy.

Feisty Renée Zellweger, who plays Cole's love interest, Allison, is not the two-dimensional dame found in most westerns. And dapper Irons would be dead last on anybody's list of potential cow town thugs.

"I definitely wanted to work with Viggo, although I don't know him all that well.

 "He's a fairly private guy, but also a generous one, and I just had a feeling the two of us could create this history together of two men bonded as friends," Harris said.

"And then Renée, she's a trip, man. She's really unusual, you know? She has a kind of unique energy. She's not a classic beauty, but I think she can be very beautiful. She's also very funny and kind of quirky.

"And with Jeremy, I wanted a Bragg who wasn't just some kind of thug or brute. I wanted a certain sophistication and a good counterpoint to my character, coming from a different place."

Harris also made a unique choice for the actor to play a judge in one amusing scene. He hired his dad Bob Harris, a stage actor by trade.

"He grew a beard for the role and he got a big kick out of it. He was a little nervous about it, because he's getting up there; he's going to be 86 in about a week. But he did a good job, man. I was so proud of him."

Appaloosa is full of small but important particulars like these. None of them are accidental, Harris said: "I wanted to show that these people are living a life and any little thing that you could do to help make it feel real, as opposed to just being in a movie, was important to me."

Harris has been very successful as an actor – he's had four Oscar nominations to prove it – but he loves being a director. He thinks he might start sitting behind the camera more often, as long as he can keep making his own choices.

Acting doesn't always allow for such luxuries.

"With acting, sometimes it's just something you really want to tackle or somebody you want to work with, and other times it's like, `Uh, I guess I'd better get a job,' you know?"


Cedric Goes Medieval In Next Film

Source: www.thestar.com

(September 15, 2008) *Cedric the Entertainer has signed on for the romantic comedy "All's Faire in Love," about a drama school grad whose crush on a fellow actress in his Renaissance Faire theatre troupe is thwarted by his swashbuckling colleagues.  Owen Benjamin and Christina Ricci will play the budding couple in the film, which was originally titled "Ye Olde Times." Cedric replaces the once-attached Jack Black as Professor Shockworthy, whose appearances bookend the film he narrates in fairy-tale style. Ann-Margret, Matthew Lillard and Louise Griffiths also star in the That's Hollywood/Patriot Pictures production. Velazquez (NBC's "My Name Is Earl") and Engvall ("Blue Collar Comedy Tour") will be cast by the time cameras roll this month in Michigan, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Lifetime Achievement Award For Pinsent

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(September 16, 2008) Toronto — Star Newfoundland actor, director and writer Gordon Pinsent will receive the Company Theatre's inaugural Award of Excellence for lifetime achievement at a gala evening on Sept. 25. The award adds to a laundry list of honours bestowed upon the 40-year veteran of stage, screen and radio, including his position as a Companion of the Order of Canada, his star on Canada's Walk of Fame and his numerous ACTRA, Genie and Gemini Awards. Company Theatre co-artistic director Allan Hawco said Pinsent was chosen for his "pursuit of greatness in the art of performance" as well as his "risk-taking and courage."

Mario Van Peebles To Direct Action Thriller


(September 16, 2008) *Mario Van Peebles will step behind the camera for the upcoming film "Kerosene Cowboys," an action thriller due to begin shooting in October.   Based on a novel by Randy Arrington, the story follows the rough-riding and hard-living pilots of an elite Navy attack squadron, according to the Hollywood Reporter.   Cam Gigandet will star as a hot-shot pilot, Shane West plays his one-time best friend-turned-nemesis, while Rachael Leigh Cook will play an investigative journalist and Gigandet's love interest.    The movie is eyeing shoots in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.


Arbiters On So You Think You Can Dance Canada Soon To Become Household Names

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

(September 11, 2008) It's possible there are a few Canadians who don't know about So You Think You Can Dance – people who live in the wilderness without TV, Internet or any other contemporary forms of communication – but only a few.

When the season premiere of So You Think You Can Dance Canada comes up at 8 p.m. on CTV tonight, it's a good bet that hundreds of thousands of viewers will tune in. Many will be surprised to see the calibre of dancing to come out of auditions held in Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto that drew 2,500 hopefuls.

Out of that number, judges Tré Armstrong, Jean-Marc Genereux, Luther Brown and Blake McGrath plucked 200 dancers to come to Toronto for a five-day intensive "boot camp." Viewers will watch 20 of them get whittled down to 10, who will go through the final elimination rounds. Guest judges, including the National Ballet's artist-in-residence Rex Harrington, and Mary Murphy, choreographer and judge on the American show, contribute to the agonizing process.

Ultimately, when the public chooses Canada's favourite dancer, sometime in December, one of those young people who lined up in the early hours of a spring morning will go home with $100,000 – and newfound national fame.

The top-rated summer show in the U.S., So You Think You Can Dance is the creation of Simon Fuller, the former music manager behind the British Pop Idol shows and its progeny American Idol and Canadian Idol, and his partnering producer and SYTYCD judge Nigel Lythgoe. Over four seasons, the American series has turned Lythgoe and host Cat Deeley into household names.

The same thing is likely to happen to host Leah Miller, to Armstrong, a lead in this year's dance movie How She Move, and ballroom champion Genereux, who has been a guest judge and choreographer for the American show since its second season.

Genereux has already had a taste of Dance fame: "A lot of people think I live in L.A.," says the winner of more than 100 dance competitions (with his wife France Mousseau). "I live in Boucherville, Que."

The Canadian audition process has been an eye-opener for him. "America has amazing dancers," he says, "but we have nothing to be ashamed of. I realize now how much depth we have."

Ballroom and Latin dancing is not so prevalent in the 18-to-30 age group of SYTYCD qualifiers, but it's the category where the most partnering goes on and Genereux is there to ensure the big contenders are good at dancing in pairs. He's found that those with ballroom skills have an edge.

Her hip-hop skills have taken Armstrong into the big leagues in the U.S., where she has danced for Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Sean (Diddy) Combs, Hilary Duff and 50 Cent, among others. She knows what it's like to succeed in that very large pond.

There are others like her, with some professional training and professional experience, who have turned up at the auditions. But dancers with nothing but street training have also impressed the judges. The show, she says, is helping encourage up-and-coming talent. As the Canadian SYTYCD moves into future seasons, Genereux feels it will be even more effective in reaching potential dance stars around the country.

Armstrong is impressed with spunk. "There's no time for nervousness or fear," she says.

She can tell when a dancer comes on thinking, "Let me get her attention to let her know I'm not afraid."

The show's big appeal is in building drama and creating characters that an audience can root for. "We build a fan base for them," says Genereux. "You'll see. They'll come on to dance and hear their name being screamed out."

Gas Running Out At Dog River Corner

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Graham,
The Canadian Press

(September 15, 2008) REGINA–Forty kilometres from nowhere, in the fictional town of Dog River, Sask., folks are filling up one last time at Canada's favourite gas station.

That's because the pumps are closing at
Corner Gas.

The quirky television show about small-town prairie life wraps up production this week on its sixth and final season. Corner Gas creator Brent Butt says he feels "good about it in a lot of ways."

"I'm sad, I'm nostalgic, but I feel definitely that it's the right thing," Butt said in an interview on the set in Regina.

"If I had any doubt in my mind I probably wouldn't have pulled the plug. It's just very much the right time."

Butt was working as a standup comic when he drew upon his upbringing in the small farming town of Tisdale, Sask., to create Corner Gas. The show focuses on the life of Brent LeRoy, played by Butt, who runs a gas station.

It quickly became a hit, winning six Gemini awards and amusing audiences worldwide.

Brent, his cantankerous father Oscar, his long-suffering mother Emma and the other folks in Dog River are seen in more than 26 countries. Eric Peterson, who plays Oscar, said it has been a great ride.

"It's been one of those magical occurrences for everyone involved – you know, the little show that unexpectedly became this huge hit," said Peterson.

Corner Gas was like coming full circle for Peterson, who was also born and raised in Saskatchewan, but left the province to find work as an actor and now lives in Toronto. Filming the show's exterior scenes in the town of Rouleau, Sask., southwest of Regina, "has been this incredible link" to my past, he said.

Peterson said there's been a "deeply ambivalent" mood on the set as production winds down.

"It's sad, there's been a kind of grief about it," he said. "This isn't to say it's a bad decision or shouldn't be made or anything like that. It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience that's coming to an end."

On the interior set of The Ruby, the show's café, crew members moved around lights and props, preparing to shoot the final season. Butt sat on a stool at the counter, acknowledging there are things he'll miss, too.

"The paycheque," he deadpans.

"Every couple of weeks a cheque in the mail, I'm not used to that. As a greasy nightclub comic before this you never know when the next bag of cash was going to come out of the till at the end of the night. This was a nice steady job."

"You know that's not the only thing I'll miss; I'll miss a lot of things about it," he continued. "I have parking out back. That's kind of nice."

Clearly, Butt has not lost his sense of humour as the show ends.

"I'll miss the crew a lot," he finally concludes. "This is such a great crew. I have so much fun working with these guys every day."

But cast and crew weren't the only ones preparing to say goodbye.

In Rouleau, population about 400, Mayor Allen Kuhlmann said the show's ending is "like a neighbour leaving the community."

"I would just overwhelmingly ... say sadness would be how I feel about it. Happy that it happened, but sad that it has to end," said Kuhlmann.

The production has injected nearly $1 million into Rouleau's economy and tourism has skyrocketed. Thousands of people, some from as far away as New Zealand, have flocked to the town and signed their names on the walls of the local coffee house. The facade of "The Stoop" – as it's known in Rouleau – doubles as the Dog River police department.

Several well-known Canadians have also stopped in Dog River, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who made a cameo appearance on the show.

Butt says he thinks people just embraced the show's authenticity.

"We weren't trying to be hip, we weren't trying to be edgy, we weren't trying to be anything other than to be funny. We wanted to be a funny, comfortable show and I think people could tell," said Butt.

"We just thought we're going to try to be a half-hour of entertaining, humorous television, filmed in colour, please enjoy. And they responded."

The final season kicks off Oct.6 on CTV; the series finale airs in April.

Ashley Newbrough's Privileged Star Has Meanness Perfected

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

(September 16, 2008) The first time we see Ashley Newbrough's spoiled teen heiress in Privileged (9 p.m. on City) – an amusingly offbeat dramedy in the mould of Ugly Betty and Gilmore Girls – she's firing a Taser at the woman hired by her grandmother to tutor her and her equally glammed-up twin.

The next time we see her she's insulting the tutor's wardrobe ("I puke cuter than that outfit!") and, in the premiere's most memorable scene, she's telling the tutor to "back off, or I'll make your life more miserable than you can possibly imagine!'"

The most surprising thing, aside from how convincing the former Kitchener waitress is as a ruthless Machiavellian schemer, is that despite the fact Privileged is a big money U.S. show with A-list writers, the inspiration for Newbrough's socialite monster – at least the way she plays her – comes from Waterloo Region.

"I hung out with some girls who were pretty judgmental at times and I remember hating them,'' notes the personable 20-year-old, who moved to Cambridge, Ont., from Rhode Island at age 3.

"It sucked, and I remember constantly thinking I would one day use that towards a role I would play ... (satisfied pause) ... and it worked!"

She laughs. "Just the way I would have Sage look at someone she was being bitchy to – I definitely have the girls in high school to thank for that!"

Sage is the bossier of the twins and her more vulnerable sister's biggest defender, which – given that they've been living with their cosmetics queen grandmother (Anne Archer) since their parents' death – adds a twinge of sympathy to a character who might otherwise come off as cartoonish and shrill.

But make no mistake: without that shrillness and sense of entitlement, the thrill would be nil, and for this, Newbrough's high school experiences were invaluable.

"I went through a huge phase where I was definitely the victim of a lot of mean girls,'' notes the eldest of four kids, who relocated to Los Angeles two months ago.

"And in the end, I ended up hanging out with a different crowd of mean girls and at the very end I found `myself' and my best friends, who I'm still friends with now, so I've experienced both sides, for sure.''

What turned her off the sanctified inner circle?

"Oh man, there were times you'd feel excluded or they would purposely just try to make your life a living hell!'' she recalls bluntly. "Even with just a disapproving look that can just strip your self-esteem, even if just for an instant.

"They could make you feel like total crap, 'cause girls can be brutal, 'cause they get in your head. And then I hung out with girls that were even worse and saw the way they treated some girls they thought were below them and it was horrible. I hated it!''

Consider it suffering for her art, because after one week on the air, Privileged has captured glowing praise from critics who consider it funnier and more engaging than its bratty rich teen competitors, Gossip Girl and the retooled 90210.

And why not? With a lovably quirky lead (the Felicity-like JoAnna Garcia), witty pop culture satire (references to "Pinkberry moments" and Spider-Man's Uncle Ben) and enough heartfelt sentiment to counter the teens' squawky defiance, the show has the potential to be a hit in the same vein as Ugly Betty, a gentle tonic to the edgy vindictiveness of most wealth-obsessed TV dramas.

"I think it has great potential,'' says Newbrough, whose biggest gigs before this were in Canadian dramas like Radio Free Roscoe and Rent-A-Goalie.

"The writing is brilliant, there's a lot of very cool characters everyone can relate to and every character has a heart. You never know, but I think the vibe is awesome!"

Landing in a buzzed-about American series riding the current obsession with extreme wealth may seem like the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, but Newbrough – who began auditioning for TV and film work at 12 – is refreshingly down-to-earth about the show's prospects.

"It's always hard to watch yourself as an actress because you're always critiquing yourself hardcore," she says of last Tuesday's kick-off, screened for cast members during a break in filming. "But as a whole I thought it was great. It felt very surreal."

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

Mark McKinney Brings His Darkly Comic Wit To A New Canadian TV Series

www.globeandmail.com - David Grossman, Sports Reporter

(September 17, 2008)  In his own quiet way, Mark McKinney was always the Kid who stood out in the crowd.

Certainly each charter member of the Kids in the Hall brought his own unique charms to the long-running CBC-TV series of the same name, but McKinney always seemed a little different from the others.

Beyond being the tallest Kid, McKinney was the one whose characters most often ran to the dark side. Witness his creations of the confused and terrifying Chicken Lady, or, more famously, The Headcrusher, a squinty misanthrope dispensing angry criticism and head-crushing upon the public at large. The fact McKinney was the most normal-looking member in the group made his extreme portrayals scarily real.

"There's been a thread of dysfunctional comedy in almost everything I've done," says McKinney, who still looks very normal, boyish even, at 49. "I suppose it started on Kids and just carried on. I've always found it more interesting to play someone slightly on the edge."

Playing the unassuming sort, with a possible dark underside, became a career for the Ottawa-born McKinney, who was, for the record, the only ex-Kid who went on to become a cast regular on Saturday Night Live and later work with both the Spice Girls and Aaron Sorkin.

In recent pursuits, McKinney was conscripted to oversee production on the Canadian comedy series Less Than Kind. As conceived by novice screenwriters Marvin Kaye and Chris Sheasgreen, the premise concerns a depressed, overweight male teen named Sheldon Blecher, played by newcomer Jesse Camacho, and his constant-source-of-embarrassment parents, Sam and Anne (Maury Chaykin, Wendel Meldrum) - a rageful driving instructor and a pyromaniac, respectively - with midwinter Winnipeg as the bleak backdrop. This is not The Wonder Years.

"Everyone in this family just seemed very real to me," says McKinney, who is credited as show-runner, producer and senior story editor on the 13-part series. "They're dysfunctional, but in a way people can relate to. Losers are cool again, so here's a loser family that's cool."

Life after The Kids in the Hall has been eventful for McKinney, who only this month was inducted with his former cast-mates into Canada's Walk of Fame ("It felt surprisingly good," he says, beaming). Each Kid has worked steadily in film and TV since the original series wrapped in 1995, but McKinney's résumé shows the broadest range.

With almost no break, McKinney went from Kids in the Hall to Saturday Night Live as a repertory player and writer. He remained two seasons and drew particular notice for his impersonation of deluded presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

As with his cast contemporaries, including Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon, SNL was a form of comedy finishing school. "You learn quick when you're doing a live show once a week, and sometimes changing things right up to airtime," he says.

By the time McKinney departed SNL, casting directors knew his face. He landed a plum role in the 1997 movie Spice World; he was teamed with former Cheers star George Wendt as a pair of pushy Hollywood writers. In years to follow he appeared in some forgettable SNL-spinoff movies - A Night at the Roxbury, The Ladies Man - and in some well-received indie features, including Winnipeg director Guy Maddin's tragicomedy The Saddest Music in the World and Dog Park, which earned him a Genie Award for acting.

McKinney has never veered far from Canadian television. He co-created, co-wrote and starred in the acclaimed series Slings & Arrows. He played a stern ambulance driver in CBC's short-lived Hatching, Matching and Dispatching and a widower-lawyer on CTV's Robson Arms. He's also guested on the homegrown series Twitch City, Made in Canada, Puppets Who Kill and Corner Gas, playing an affable American who accidentally wanders into Dog River.

"The entire genre of half-hour Canadian comedy changed a few years ago, for the better," McKinney says. "People want more realism, which you now see in shows like Trailer Park Boys and Little Mosque on the Prairie. I've been fortunate to have been involved in some very original concepts."

On U.S. television, McKinney worked as a writer on TV auteur Sorkin's much-lauded breakout series Sports Night in 1998. Several years later, he came on board Sorkin's ill-fated NBC drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, working both as a story editor and recurring cast member in the role of Andy Mackinaw, a troubled comedy writer known as "The Script Whisperer." Both Sports Night and Studio 60 enjoyed fleeting TV existences, but McKinney learned from the Sorkin experience.

"There's a rhythm to his dialogue you can't teach in any course," McKinney says. "He told me that as a child he used to love the sound of people arguing. The rhythm of argument and counterargument just got into his skin. When you listen to his dialogue of a Sorkin show, it makes sense."

Along the way, McKinney and his wife Marina have kept residence in Canada and the United States and are raising their 12-year-old son, Christopher, and six-year-old daughter, Emma Jane. "My family balances and organizes my life in a way that I'm extremely grateful for," he says simply.

McKinney brought the Headcrusher out of retirement last spring when he reunited with the other four Kids for an extended Canadian tour. "It was more fun that it has ever been. We were relaxed and we're all at the point in our careers where we perform just for the love of it," he says.

According to McKinney, the enthusiastic response to the Kids tour "reignited" the quintet, who will regroup early next year to shoot the CBC movie Death Comes to Town, directed by fellow Kid Bruce McCulloch. Story details are sketchy, but the movie will happen.

"The story is coming into sharper focus now," McKinney says. "We're going to have a script very soon."

And on occasion, McKinney will happen upon an old episode of The Kids in the Hall, still shown widely in syndication, and see himself appearing as a bizarre character in a sketch. Sometimes it feels like the first time.

"I'm one of those actors who can't watch themselves," he says. "Some of those shows I only saw once, and haven't seen again in years. I'm finally realizing we made a pretty funny show. It makes me howl."

Less Than Kind will air Mondays on CITY-TV, starting Oct. 13.


Elvis Costello Lines Up More Guests For TV Show

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(September 11, 2008)  Toronto — Elvis Costello's new performance and interview program has filled out its first-season guest list with a dozen more acts, including Canadians Diana Krall (Costello's wife) and Rufus Wainwright. Also added to the first season of Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ... were John Mellencamp, Norah Jones, James Taylor, Jakob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Roseanne Cash, Herbie Hancock, Jenny Lewis, Renée Fleming and indie rock band She & Him. A previously announced line-up includes headline stars such as Bill Clinton, Elton John and Tony Bennett. The show, consisting of 13 one-hour episodes, will air on CTV in Canada as well as in the United States and Britain.

Shannen Doherty Might Continue On 90210

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(September 13, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Shannen Doherty has finished filming on CW's 90210, but don't bet that sequel to Beverly Hills 90210 has seen the last of Brenda Walsh. "Shannen signed on for four episodes, which she has shot. It was Shannen's way of thanking her fans," said Gary Mantoosh, a spokesman for Doherty. "If the CW comes back with an offer for additional episodes, she's happy to consider it." In a statement Friday, the series said it would "love for her to do more" and there's "definitely" a possibility that could happen. In "90210," Brenda returns to alma mater West Beverly High as a theatre success who's agreed to direct a school musical. Meanwhile, the show said that Jennie Garth, who played student Kelly Taylor on the original Fox series and is a guidance counsellor on 90210, will add five more episodes to the six she's already filmed. The next episode, airing Tuesday, has prompted online buzz among fans: In a conversation between Kelly and Brenda, the father of Kelly's four-year-old son is revealed, and it's someone from her Beverly Hills 90210 past. The actresses, who feuded on and off the set of the original show and hadn't spoken in years, have said their reunion on the new series went smoothly despite some pre-filming jitters.

ACTRA Seeking Strike Mandate In Ad Talks

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 17, 2008)  Toronto — The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists is seeking a strike mandate from members to protest against the slow pace of negotiations with two associations representing ad agencies and advertisers. "After almost a year and a half of negotiations, our members' patience is running out," said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA. The current pact expired at the end of June. Talks between ACTRA and representatives from the Institute of Communications Agencies and the Association of Canadian Advertisers have been deadlocked since July. The two sides asked government conciliators to step in, but no agreement has been reached. The parties are scheduled to meet again on Sept. 25 ACTRA represents 21,000 English-language performers working in the recorded media in Canada.


Philip Akin Wants To Make Strong Storytelling A Priority At Black-Focused Company

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

(September 11, 2008) Obsidian Theatre is opening its season next Wednesday with a production called Black Medea, and for the company's artistic director, both of the words in that title carry equal weight.

"I think there's a real problem sometimes with our mandate,"
Philip Akin admits early in the morning before starting rehearsals.

"Yes, we're a black-focused company, but that can mean too often that everything turns out to be black, black, black all the time. I'm trying to lift us out of that perception with the stories we tell."

Akin is a considerable figure on the Canadian theatre scene, a respected actor and director, one of whose most impressive credits is actually a little embarrassing: in 2007, he was the first black Canadian to play the title role in Othello at the Stratford Festival, something that took 55 seasons to happen.

But what's past is past, and one has the feeling that Des McAnuff's new regime at Stratford will continue its commitment to multiracial casting.

That will suit Akin just fine.

"I'm not interested in telling sagas about the Underground Railroad or sad stories about slavery," snaps Akin. "I'm interested in taking bigger stories and making them part of the black tapestry.

"There's so many other tales, there's so many other things that black writers can be motivated to move onto."

That's why Akin was so eager to embrace Black Medea as his opening show of the season, running on a double bill with Late, a new play by black Toronto author Marcia Johnson.

"This project is a little tricky to do," admits Akin, "because its author, Wesley Enoch, is an aboriginal from Australia and they call aboriginals `black' there. But I'm not sure what the word means any more when you spread it across the world like that."

So Akin decided to "take Wesley's original thoughts, but not to keep the accents and some of the cultural specifics."

He admits that "it's still set in Australia, because to pull out all of the specific references would have ripped apart the fabric of the play too much."

The original play Medea by Euripides deals with a woman who kills her children as the ultimate revenge on a man who has left her for the ancient Greek equivalent of a trophy wife.

But Wesley's version goes deeper than that and offers us some more modern psychology.

"Blood runs true to blood," explains Akin. "That's what Medea believes and she sees her son turning into his father, so she decides that murder is the only way to stop this intergenerational curse."

Akin feels strongly that going into narratives like this will not only liberate but elevate Obsidian. "I get bored with all those `the man done me wrong' stories," he snaps. "There are so many other things our writers should be motivated toward."

But Akin is also realistic enough to know what he's dealing with.

"Producing any new play is risky enough, but make that a new play by a black author and you've got a real high-wire act.

"I could do seasons after seasons of black plays that people had already written and had produced elsewhere, but what would be the point? In the end, we have to encourage our own new black playwrights and if it helps to have them tell old stories to find their voice, then why not do it?"

But Akin also realizes the Catch-22 that racially driven companies like Obsidian can find themselves in.

"You start a theatre company because your people's stories aren't being heard. But then you get into that niche and suddenly you realize that's all you're doing. Art is supposed to be bigger than that."

So he moves into the future, with shows like Black Medea leading the way.

Just the facts
WHAT: Black Medea and Late

WHEN: Today to Oct. 5.

Opens Sept. 17

WHERE: Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley St.

TICKETS: $20 at 416-368-3110 or canstage.com

'His Life Was The Theatre'

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 11, 2008)  It was only last Saturday that Stratford actor Diane D'Aquila had enjoyed a pleasant dinner and evening with her friend Richard Monette.

“I cooked lamb meatballs with penne in spicy tomato sauce and brought it over,” D'Aquila said on Wednesday. “And he was fantastic. Clear of spirit, clear of mind. Walking without any support, up and about. We talked about theatre. He looked 15 years younger.”

But early Wednesday, a friend phoned with terrible news. The man who had reigned for 14 seasons over the country's most important theatre had died Tuesday night of a reported pulmonary embolism. He was 64.

“This is a huge shock,” said D'Aquila, who played 11 seasons at the Stratford Festival under Monette's tenure as artistic director. “I've lost a huge friend, a gigantic influence in my life, in my heart, in my career.”

Monette, as everyone who knew him would attest, was an oversized personality: flamboyant, outrageous, wickedly funny, usually gregarious, sometimes painfully shy, but an irrepressible life force. On one occasion, when someone complained about what constructing a new bosom support for an actress would cost, Monette went out and bought a bag of birdseed and stuffed it into her corset, thus providing the needed lift, and said, “Here, take that.”

Since his departure from the festival two years ago, he had been in physical decline – stricken, first, with prostate cancer, and then other ailments, including severe peripheral vascular disease. He had been seriously ill for months, and was admitted to hospital for tests as recently as last month.

But then, it happily seemed, he had begun to make a modest recovery. “I thought he was getting better,” said Martha Henry, an old friend and director of the Birmingham Conservatory for young actors, which Monette had started. “I talked to him last Friday, and he sounded better than I'd heard him in a long time, cogent and clear.”

For Henry, Monette's death constitutes a double loss, since he had agreed to direct a Conservatory production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona early next year. “Richard had a real pulse on the public and an ear to the ground, a trait often used against him in the press,” she said. “I never quite understood that. What did they want him to be – an elitist thinker? He had a popular touch and taste, along with an enormous love of Shakespeare and the classics. But it's too soon to say what his legacy will be. I don't think we'll know that for another five or 10 years.”

Monette's personal work ethic was legendary. “He lasted longer than anyone, in a job that just destroys you,” Henry said. “He was here all the time, or until he was no longer allowed to smoke in the buildings.”

“Richard didn't really have a partner,” Stratford veteran James Blendick said. “The theatre was his partner. He was married to it. And when he left it, he lost his partner. That can be very difficult on people, the stress of all that, the coming down. I think he felt rather alone and in despair, wondering what his future might be.”

Despite the emphasis on commercial fare during his tenure, Monette was also willing to take artistic risks, director Peter Hinton observed. “My trilogy, The Swanne, mounted over three seasons, would never have happened without Richard. He was dedicated to new work as much as he was to the classics.”

Hinton, now running the English-theatre division of the National Arts Centre, said he would “remember Richard's faith, his excitement, his belief that verse and poetry still had a legitimate dramatic voice. He faced a lot of criticism for that, but he saw it through.”

Actor Tom McCamus, who had visited Monette in the hospital in Stratford, Ont., a few weeks ago, also said he thought he was improving. “It's a very sad day,” McCamus said. “He's the reason I went to Stratford and stayed all that time.”

D'Aquila said she would remember Monette “for his love of Canadian theatre, his passion for it. His life was the theatre – to the detriment of his own personal life – and he gave 150 per cent. He was not nearly appreciated enough for what he did. He took it over when it was not doing well, and he turned it around and brought it to a place where they can now take it to another level. I don't think what they're doing now would have succeeded 15 years ago.”

Indeed, as theatre impresario David Mirvish noted Wednesday, Monette had taken the reins at the festival “when it was not in good financial shape, and [he] saw government support slip to something like 4 per cent of his budget, and had rebuilt it, left a substantial endowment [of $50-million] and handed it off to the next generation with the opportunity to take some risks. He gave Shakespeare a home, kept his eye on the audience and on the art. To my mind, he ran a brilliant balancing act.”

Mirvish said he would often bump into Monette in New York and have wonderful chats with him, the two often commiserating about the obtuseness of theatre critics.

Blendick, who had known Monette for 40 years, recalled meeting him for the first time in a production of Antony and Cleopatra, starring Christopher Plummer and Zoe Caldwell. “He played Eros and I played the eunuch,” he said. “He was a wonderful boy, full of enthusiasm, very kind, very talented, the life of the party.”

D'Aquila said it was important to remember that Monette had not only served his audiences with respect, but also “had treated his actors with honour, and given us an opportunity to have a life in the theatre. Now, he's up in heaven and there are a lot of greats with him.

“I'm sure Bill Hutt [who died last year] will be meeting him at the gates and telling him what parts he wants to play next season. Something about Richard was bigger than life. He spoke his mind and did not care if it ruffled a few feathers. His death is the end of an era. There weren't many like Richard, not many cut from the same cloth, and there aren't many like him left.”

Cirque Takes Hat Out Of The Ring For 2010 Ceremonies

www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

(September 17, 2008)  VANCOUVER — Cirque du Soleil will not be part of the Vancouver 2010 opening or closing ceremonies despite high expectations that Canada's premier entertainment group would appear. A source close to the company blames tight control exerted over the creative process by VANOC and the IOC.

At one point, the Quebec company was in discussions with VANOC not simply to appear, but to be executive director of both ceremonies. Officially, both VANOC and Cirque cite the latter's commitments to private projects as the reason no deal was signed.

According to the Request for Expressions of Interest and Statements of Qualifications posted on VANOC's website, the successful applicant for the post of executive director of the ceremonies would work "in conjunction with and under the direction of VANOC."

Asked if Cirque du Soleil had wanted to direct the entire opening and closing ceremonies, public relations director Renée-Claude Ménard said: "Of course. That is the thing that Cirque does - we have creative control.

We work with partners and have them accompany us and endorse us, but you either [employ Cirque] to do it, or you don't."

David Atkins was appointed executive director of the ceremonies in September of 2007.

"We work with partners and have them accompany us and endorse us, but you either [employ Cirque] to do it, or you don't."

David Atkins was appointed executive director of the ceremonies in September of 2007. However, speculation continued that Cirque du Soleil would have some kind of role in the events.

In January of 2008, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Atkins described the creative process and its relationship with both VANOC and the IOC.

"We get to the stage where we're happy with it. We then present it to VANOC," he said.

"VANOC then react to it as the board, usually in every one of those instances. They'll have concerns, we'll address those, represent again. When they feel as confident as we did, then they present it - and we present it with them - to the IOC and we get final sign-off on it.

"Since Torino, we now do two presentations to them and we have regular updates with them on a monthly basis, which was never the case before, so they've become much more engaged in the creative process."

VANOC's contribution to the closing ceremony of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics was widely considered a flop. Cirque du Soleil, along with many other Canadian artists, was involved in that production.

Executive vice-president of celebrations and partnerships at VANOC, David Guscott, cautioned against drawing any conclusions regarding the IOC's increased participation since 2006.

He said he was disappointed that Cirque had withdrawn from consideration, but understood its reasons. "This is being the executive producer of an Olympic event," he said.

"It's a different kettle of fish from putting on a Las Vegas show."

With a report from Marsha Lederman


Castle Crashers Smashingly Fun

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

Castle Crashers
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Price: 1200 MS points
Rated: T

(September 13, 2008)  I dreamed of
Castle Crashers all night, six fitful hours of surreal cartoon chaos merged with the usual subconscious suspects.

Gamers know this is what happens when you cross the 10-hour mark on a single game in a single day, when you lay down your screen-weary head to sleep it off. The worst part for me came in the morning when, surfing the snooze button over and over again, I started dreaming about writing about Castle Crashers. If only I could hook Word up to an electroencephalography machine ...

That Castle Crashers got so thoroughly under my skin is Exhibit A for its awesomeness. Historically, beat-'em-up games haven't really been my thing – they need to be extra fantastic to keep me mashing the buttons for more than a couple of hours.

In paying homage to all the classic beat-'em-ups of yesteryear – Golden Axe very much in particular – Castle Crashers creators Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin (of Alien Hominid renown) have pulled off the rare accomplishment of having their homage supersede its inspirations: No lie, Castle Crashers is the greatest beat-'em-up of all time.

Casual coffee readers now ask: "What is a `beat-'em-up? Aren't all or most video games heavily beating-based?'" Yes, but as gaming jargon, "beat-'em-up" is quite specific, referring to close hand-to-hand combat against successive waves of multiple enemies, simulated serial brawling in a long hallway. Clear out a knot of thugs, walk to the right, repeat.

If that sounds unspeakably boring to you, you're quite right: No other genre (possible exceptions: budget-bin sports games, cynical "games for girls" and movie tie-in games from the 1980s) is so prone to worthlessness.

Castle Crashers, however, transcends its brethren in several ways. First, it's fast. Old-school beat-'em-ups tended to be exercises in frustration, leaning helplessly on the joystick to get your sauntering battle man to go-go-go; and when you could go faster, dashing with a double-tap of the stick, you'd often end up sprinting out of control, clear across the field.

In Castle Crashers, your dudes are quick little combat acrobats, flitting around the battlefield with pleasant alacrity. And once you get the hang of a few moves, you're not even touching the ground very often, instead moving from juggle to ferocious juggle: knocking an enemy, or a whole group of enemies, into the air and keeping them there with thwack after thwack then riding them around the stage like a bleeding magic carpet. It's fun and furious.

Second, the heart of Castle Crashers dwells in the realm of role-playing games. I've elsewhere called "B.S.!" on games that graft so-called "RPG elements" onto non-role-playing mechanics in a half-baked attempt at depth, but here the level-experience-equipment system is perfectly tuned to draw you in and keep you in, with your character-development choices having real, satisfying effects on gameplay.

The levelling and exploration elements mitigate the long-hallway-of-thugs nature of the beat-'em-up genre and greatly enhance replayability.

Five of the 13 hours I poured into Castle Crashers were replays, taking new characters (there are many unlockable player models) through a few levels just to check out how the game played when I opted to focus on spell-casting or ranged combat rather than flat-out brawling. Those weren't wasted hours; each time, it was like playing a whole new game.

Most importantly, Castle Crashers wins on aesthetics.

The cartoon fantasy wonderland of the game is wonderfully designed, every corner packed with charm and wit. This extends beyond the visual style and the animation. Castle Crashers is laugh-out-loud funny, its humour ranges from sly little gags riffing on genre classics to some truly inspired potty humour.

There's a grin around every corner, and more than anything that's what keeps you playing – to see what will happen next.

Star Wars Game A Real Tour De Force

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

(September 16, 2008) Finally, the Force is with us – at least as much as it can be for us non-Jedi. Today, LucasArts releases the much hyped and highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a new third-person action game set in the Star Wars universe, that thanks to the power of today's consoles gives an approximation of all the glorious fictional powers that fans of the movies have been waiting almost 30 years to use.

That this franchise can still build enthusiasm – there have been more than 71 Star Wars-based video games in 25 years – is a feat in itself and this game is certainly generating interest. The free demo featuring the game's second level is breaking records, having been downloaded more than 2.3 million times through Xbox Live and the PlayStation network. With some semblance of a decent story and some great execution, this game succeeds where other tie-ins have failed.

The game focuses on Darth Vader's secret apprentice, Starkiller, a good move considering how boring Jedi are. It also opens cool powers, like shooting lightning from fingertips (like the Emperor did in Return of the Jedi) and Vader's famous mental choke. And while there are some fun light sabre moves, the game's killer app is really the Force grip that allows you to move around objects – even TIE Fighters.

"The big thing about the interface is that it plays a pretty important role in how you play the game because it helps to determine how you dispense with your foes," says Brian Lui, a Canadian user-interface designer on the game. "Do (players) want to make their Force lightning their main weapon in defending themselves against foes? Or do they want to put more emphasis on Force grip and how you can toss your enemies into the air ... ? So there's a lot of payoff in terms of eye candy but also in terms of actual game play."

Players start the game as Darth Vader. The game is set between the two sets of movies, and the goal is to kill Jedi hiding out across the galaxy. The game also helps usher in one of this year's hot gaming trends: destructible environments, basically, the ability to damage most things in the background.


David Adams Richards, Austin Clarke Make Giller Long List

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 15, 2008) Three former winners of the Scotiabank Giller Prize have another shot at the $50,000 literary award this year. David Adams Richards, David Bergen and Austin Clarke – all past Giller winners – are among 15 writers who made the cut on a "long list" released Monday. Bergen, who won the Giller in 2005, is in the running for The Retreat (McClelland & Stewart), while Clarke, who nabbed the prize in 2002, is up for More (Thomas Allen Publishers). Richards, who was a Giller co-winner in 2000 with Michael Ondaatje, made the cut this time around for The Lost Highway (Doubleday Canada). The long list was chosen from 95 books submitted by 38 publishers from every region of Canada. This year's jury is made up of author Margaret Atwood, Liberal MP Bob Rae and author Colm Toibin. A shortlist will be announced on Oct. 7, with the winner to be revealed Nov. 11 at a gala dinner. This is the 15th year for the Giller, which was established in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch.

The others on the long list:
- Nino Ricci, The Origin of the Species (Doubleday Canada).
- Joseph Boyden, Through Black Spruce (Viking Canada).
- Anthony De Sa, Barnacle Love (Doubleday Canada).
- Emma Donoghue, The Sealed Letter (HarperCollins Canada).
- Marina Endicott, Good to a Fault (Freehand Books/Broadview Press).
- Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo (Knopf Canada).
- Rawi Hage, Cockroach (House of Anansi Press).
- Kenneth J. Harvey, Blackstrap Hawco (Random House Canada).
- Patrick Lane, Red Dog, Red Dog (McClelland & Stewart).
- Pasha Malla, The Withdrawal Method (House of Anansi Press)
- Paul Quarrington, The Ravine (Random House Canada).
- Mary Swan, The Boys in the Trees (Henry Holt/HB Fenn).

New Grants To Help Artists Get Started

Source: www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman

(September 17, 2008) Incubate, a new award program to be announced today, is an innovative collaboration between the Toronto Arts Council and Luminato, the city's annual arts festival.

Objective: to help developing artists through the earliest phase toward the creation of new work.

Upshot: $100,000 will be awarded to successful applicants, with a $10,000 ceiling.

This year's pilot project – with an application deadline of Nov. 24 – will focus on musicians and musical organizations.

In future years, the focus will be on other performing arts forms.

The arts council and Luminato will each contribute $50,000.

It's a way for the council to help local artists try to take advantage of the chance Luminato offers of collaborations with international partners and exposure abroad.

It's also a way for Luminato to show its support for Toronto's own creative talent.

As well, it offers a ray of hope in a season of bad news for arts funding.



Montreal Dancer Wins Walter Carsen Prize

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 15, 2008) TORONTO – Montreal-born dancer-choreographer Margie Gillis has won the $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for excellence in the performing arts. The annual honour, administered and presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, recognizes Canadian artists who have spent the major part of their career in this country doing theatre, dance or music. Gillis received the prize on Monday for touching audiences at home and around the world with her modern dance pieces, said a peer assessment committee that chose her. "Ms. Gillis has been revered by generations of dancers for her mastery of her form; her choreography is characteristically brave, thoughtful, emotional, intimate and elegant," said a statement. Gillis has been dancing since she was three, and in 1979, became the first Westerner to present modern dance in China after the cultural revolution. In 1988, she became the first modern dance artist to be honoured with the Order of Canada. The Walter Carsen Prize was created in 2001 after a donation to the council by Toronto businessman and philanthropist Walter Carsen. Previous prize winners include playwright Judith Thomson, choreographer David Earle, composer R. Murray Schafer, principal dancer/producer-director Veronica Tennant, playwright John Murrell, and choreographer/director Brian Macdonald.


Liam McMorrow Is A Hoops Neophyte With 7 Feet Of Upside

Source: www.thestar.com - David Grossman,
Sports Reporter

(September 17, 2008)  Two years ago, Liam McMorrow had never even played a basketball game.

Today, he has a full scholarship with Marquette University, one of the top basketball programs in the United States.

That's what can happen when you grow six inches and crack the 7-foot mark.

Suddenly, a whole new future has opened up for the West Hill Collegiate graduate, who spent all his sports time in high school playing hockey and lacrosse.

"I am convinced that (McMorrow) will be one of the most unbelievable stories in college basketball and people will talk about it for years," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "Look where he is now, and then just wait and see where he'll be in five years."

McMorrow didn't play his first basketball game until joining the Durham College team in Oshawa last season.

"My interests were in other sports, not knowing where either would take me," McMorrow, 21, said from his dorm room in Milwaukee. "Back then, thinking about being in Wisconsin for basketball would have been something the furthest thing from my mind."

Based on his gene pool, perhaps it shouldn't have been. His father, an engineer, is 6-foot-7, while his mother, a nurse, is 6 feet. His sister Kathryn, at 5-foot-11, is the shortest of three siblings.

"Hard to believe something like this can happen," said McMorrow. "Kids dream of this; I blinked and got it. It's funny, I was one of those guys who just kept growing. People told me that I had to be crazy to be 7 feet and not play basketball. So, here I am – and with lots to learn."

He knows that his numbers weren't anything impressive last season: He averaged 8.3 points a game, and finished third in the league in blocked shots and eighth in rebounds. Durham had an overall 17-14 record, good for sixth place in the OCAA's East Division.

After being asked by recruiting coaches to provide basketball game tapes from his high school years, he received some strange responses after explaining that he never played as a teenager.

But he did get lucky, thanks in part to a former Torontonian.

Jamie McNeilly was playing basketball at the University of New Orleans during the 2006-07 season and tipped off his coach, Buzz Williams, about this big kid from his old Scarborough neighbourhood who was a pretty good athlete – and growing fast. Williams listened, and when he joined Marquette's coaching staff last season, he kept McMorrow in mind. McNeilly also wound up at Marquette as one of the team managers.

"This guy has the passion to do well, he has the size and he has showed us a dramatic improvement in a mere few months," said Williams. "God doesn't make a lot of 7-foot guys and I can already see that he'll figure it all out over the next year."

Because of NCAA transfer rules, the 255-pound McMorrow is still 15 months away from his first game. He does, however, have three years of NCAA eligibility.

McMorrow is the only Canadian on the Big East Conference team's roster and is also believed to be the only basketball player to jump from the OCAA to the NCAA. The Golden Eagles finished with a 25-10 overall record last year, losing to Stanford, 82-81 in overtime, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

McMorrow is spending this season practising with the team at the McGuire Center, a state-of-the-art facility on campus.

"I want to play now but also understand the circumstances and will have plenty of time to develop, get stronger and learn more," he said. "For me, it's basketball 101 but I will be a big contributor to this team in a year."

His $43,000 (U.S.) scholarship is secure and will help him get a university education. Then he plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting, but is also mindful of the NBA.

For now, though, he's probably one of this country's best-kept basketball secrets. Neither Basketball Canada nor the Toronto Raptors had ever heard of McMorrow.

"It's not shocking that he's (at Marquette)," said Durham head coach Desmond Rowley. "They see his potential, he'll fit right in and they'll get him ready for next year. He's a bright kid, learns quickly and for a big guy can run up and down the court quite well."


Derek Jeter Breaks Hits Mark At Yankee Stadium

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(September 16, 2008) NEW YORK – Derek Jeter broke Lou Gehrig's record for hits at Yankee Stadium, singling in the first inning Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox. The hit off Gavin Floyd was Jeter's 1,270th in the 85-year-old ballpark, scheduled to close Sunday. It came in Jeter's 8,002nd major league at-bat, passing Gehrig for second on the Yankees' career list behind Mickey Mantle (8,102). White Sox third baseman Juan Uribe, playing on the edge of the infield grass, tried to backhand the sharp grounder, which went under his glove. There were camera flashes with every pitch thrown to Jeter in recent days. Jeter acknowledged the long ovation by taking off his helmet and raising it to the sell-out crowd. New York moves next year to a new Yankee Stadium, being built across the street.