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LE NEWSLETTER

September 25, 2008

It's definitely fall here in Toronto but I'm still pushing fate by wearing open-toed shoes.  Denial?  Perhaps! 

A friend of mine is entering the political race - Nigel Barriffe is running for the Green Party for Etobicoke North - have a read below and come out to Harlem to support his efforts!  See details under HOT EVENTS!

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

 

::TOP STORIES::

Mad Men Makes Emmy History

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

(September 22, 2008) LOS ANGELES–The sleek '60s drama Mad Men made Emmy history last night as the first basic-cable show to win a top series award, while the sitcom 30 Rock and its stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin also emerged as winners.

"We're all so very grateful to have jobs in this turkey-burger economy," Fey said after accepting the Best Comedy Series trophy for her satire about a late-night TV show.

Glenn Close of Damages and Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad captured drama acting trophies.

"This is the greatest job I've ever had in my life," Baldwin said of his role as a network executive.

He paid tribute to Fey, the show's star and creator, as "the Elaine May of her generation.''

"I thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do," said Fey, who also for best actress and writing in a comedy series.

Close, honoured for her portrayal of a ruthless attorney, complimented her fellow nominees, including Holly Hunter and Sally Field.

"We're proving that complicated, powerful, mature women are sexy and are high entertainment and can carry a show," she said.

``I call us the sisterhood of the TV drama divas.''

Cranston won the trophy for his role of a desperate man who turns to making drugs.

Dianne Wiest of In Treatment and Zeljko Ivanek of Damages won supporting acting honours for the drama series. Jean Smart of ABC's Samantha Who? was honoured as best supporting actress in a comedy series, with Jeremy Piven her actor counterpart for Entourage.

Piven took aim at the five reality hosts who helped open the ceremony in what could charitably be called a rambling way, saying, ``What if I just kept talking for 12 minutes – what would happen? That was the opening.''

The crowd at the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards laughed heartily, not a good sign for the hosts, who included Ryan Seacreast of American Idol.

Don Rickles was honoured for best individual performance in a variety or music program for Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

"It's a mistake," Rickles said. "I've been in the business 55 years and the biggest award I got was an ashtray from the Friar's in New York.''

Best reality-competition program went to Amazing Race, the show's sixth award.

Jeff Probst of Survivor, one of the ceremony's masters of ceremonies, claimed the first award for best reality series host.

As the evening progressed, politics went from having a cameo to a co-starring role.

"I really look forward to the next administration, whoever it is," Jon Stewart said as he accepted the best variety, music or comedy series award for The Daily Show. "I have nothing to follow that. I just really look forward to the next administration.''

Later, Stewart and Stephen Colbert, whose The Colbert Report won a writing trophy, teamed to present an award – and exchange banter in which they used a package of prunes as a metaphor for the upcoming presidential election.

"America needs prunes. It may not be a young, sexy plum. Granted, it's shrivelled and at times hard to swallow. But this dried-up old prune has the experience we need," Colbert said.

Tommy Smothers received a commemorative writing achievement for his work on the cutting-edge and controversial The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from the late '60s – and turned serious.

"It's hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war. And there's nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action," he said, dedicating his award to ``all people who feel compelled to speak out, and are not afraid to speak to power, and won't shut up and refuse to be silenced.''

The award for best TV movie went to Recount, about the contested 2000 Bush-Gore contest.

John Adams, about the founding father, was named best miniseries and won other awards including acting trophies for Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson.

Throughout the evening, the ceremony kept its landmark 60th birthday in the spotlight with salutes to television's past.

Pop star Josh Groban offered a marathon medley of TV theme songs, and a tribute to memorable TV dialogue of the past was delivered by the stars of today in an opening clip package.

FASHION: On the red carpet, the stars played it safe, with few fashion risks.

There were many strapless gowns and asymmetric looks, but the looks were anything but trendy, sticking instead to safe silhouettes.

Take, for example, Canada's Sandra Oh, one of the night's fashion winners, who previously had done time on worst-dressed lists.

The Grey's Anatomy star came in a retro-style black lace dress by Oscar de la Renta with a ribbon sash and a few sparkles on the skirt.

The sweeping trend on A-list actresses were updos, with Oh among those sporting the hairstyle.

Glynn Turman Earns First Emmy Win

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(September 22, 2008) *After five decades of bringing characters to life on stage, TV and films, Glynn Turman has been rewarded with his first Emmy® Award.  The veteran actor won the honour for his recent effort as 'Alex Sr.' on the HBO series In Treatment. In a category that included Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Charles Durning, Robert Morse and Oliver Pratt, Turman's performance impressed television Academy voters and earned him the Emmy® for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. While this is Turman's first Emmy® nod, the veteran actor, producer, director is no stranger to accolades. He turned in critically-acclaimed performances as Mayor Royce on the HBO series The Wire, which earned him a 2007 'Best Supporting Actor' NAACP Image Award nomination, while his role in the indie feature "Kings of the Evening" won 'Best Supporting Actor' honours earlier this year at the San Diego Black Film Festival.  Currently, Turman is filming the upcoming Screen Gems feature, "Bone Deep," with Matt Dillon (Crash), Idris Elba (Daddy's Little Girls), Tip "T.I." Harris (American Gangster) and Chris Brown (Stomp the Yard).   Next, he will return to the stage appearing in August Wilson's Two Trains Running, opposite Earl Billings (Thank You For Smoking), Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights) and Felton Perry (The West Wing).  The play opens October 10 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Theatre in Los Angeles and runs through November 9. For a complete list of 2008 Emmy® Award winners, click here.

Vancouver Gets A Truly Open Casting Call

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(September 22, 2008) VANCOUVER — Casting directors from NBC Universal will be in Metro Vancouver today and tomorrow, on the hunt for ethnically diverse talent - specifically Asian, South Asian, black, First Nations and Latino actors.

"It's part of our ongoing commitment to diversity," says Kendra Carter, the director of NBC's Talent Diversity Initiative.

"If you take a look at most of the successful shows on air right now, they all tend to relate to the world around us. So it's just a no brainer."

Carter, who is based in Los Angeles, says they are also looking for diversity in gender and age.

The casting call is specifically for shows produced in the Vancouver area, which include Eureka and Psych.

Through its DiverseCity program, NBC Universal has held similar open casting calls in the U.S., but this is the first time it's doing so in Canada. The plan is to hold a similar open casting call in Toronto next year.

DiverseCity runs several initiatives, including Stand Up for Diversity, an America-wide search for diverse stand-up comics; and Comedy Short Cuts, a film festival where all submissions have to be produced with a diverse theme or cast.

NBC Universal says it's targeting Vancouver now because it's a city where they do a lot of business, and they want to build their pool of talent.

Kenji Maeda, an actor who runs the online Vancouver Actors' Guide forum, says it makes sense to seek out diverse actors in Vancouver, given the demographics of the area. And it also makes sense, he says, to put more multicultural people on television.

"Just to make sure it's representative of who is watching, I think, is a great thing."

Maeda, who is of Japanese descent, says there are more opportunities and roles available locally for non-white actors now than there were even a couple of years ago.

"Obviously it's not equal when it comes to racial diversity, but there is definitely an increase of diversity - whether it's Asian or First Nations or African kind of roles."

NBC Universal officials will also be in Vancouver next week to meet with potential behind-the-camera production staff with diverse backgrounds, including writers and directors.

As for on-air talent, Carter expects about 200 people will show up for the casting call, and says she'll see as many people as she can.

"We're always looking for stars."

NBC Universal's open casting call will be held today and tomorrow from 10 am - noon at North Shore Studios in Vancouver.

Hidden Beach To Release Historic Compilation Inspired By Barack Obama's Groundbreaking Presidential Campaign

Source: 
OneDiaspora Group

(September 22, 2008) Santa Monica, CA - Inspired by the grassroots movement created by Barack Obama's historic presidential run, and his call for "Change: We Can Believe In" Hidden Beach Recordings (HBR) has assembled a first-of-its-kind music compilation featuring an array of artists and material that reflects America's diversity and taps into the creative community's overwhelming response to the campaign's universal themes of hope, unity and change.
 
The 18-song disc, titled
Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement, borrows its name from one of the campaign's central messages and boasts a stellar collection of artists from across genres, including such renowned, multi-platinum performers as Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Kanye West, Jill Scott, Los Lonely Boys, Jackson Browne, BeBe Winans, Lionel Richie, Adam Levine, Keb’ Mo' and John Legend.  The project features current and classic material as well as new music heard here for the first time and speech excerpts from the Democratic nominee, which are embedded throughout the project, all elements highlight, Yes We Can.
 
Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement will be available starting September 19th via both digital download and hardcopy CD exclusively on the Obama campaign's official website (www.BarackObama.com), with all proceeds benefiting the campaign's fundraising efforts ($24.99 for digital download; $30.00 for physical CD). Following the November 4th election, the disc will be made available to the general marketplace by way of Hidden Beach's website as well as retail outlets worldwide.  Plans call for Hidden Beach to donate a portion of the proceeds to a number of charitable organizations.
 
Spearheaded by Hidden Beach CEO and Founder Steve McKeever, Yes We Can came about as a result of a broad-based and increasingly urgent desire by artists and other conscious individuals to join in the grassroots efforts to bring about positive change.  Hidden Beach, widely respected for innovation, quality and a commitment to social empowerment, was considered the logical place to harness this energy and bring this project to light. 
 
The call for material and participation inspired more than 150 submissions from some of the industry's most respected, talented and accomplished artists hailing from all music forms and backgrounds.   Whether current hits, new tunes or classic tracks, central to the material chosen for Yes We Can are the songs paralleling the Obama campaign's core ideas of patriotism, perseverance and a sense of shared responsibility, among other concepts defining this historic movement.
 
"This year's election has inspired unprecedented enthusiasm and activism. Obama supporters from Nevada to New Hampshire are finding their own way to get involved-- volunteering to knock on doors, registering new voters, and artists have created new works, including posters, sculptures, and music," said Obama campaign spokeswoman Moira Mack. "With the stakes so high and November right around the corner, we are thankful to all the Obama supporters who are communicating the importance of voting in this election."
 
"Thanks to the hard working staff at the entire Obama campaign along with the help of some of the world's top artists and industry professionals, we've created what we believe to be the first-ever presidential campaign compilation," said McKeever.  "The incredible response by the creative community to this project underscores how deeply inspiring this campaign has been across boundaries.  The artists involved here truly reflect America's diversity, and speak to a real grassroots approach to affecting change."
 
Included on Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement are such songs as John Mayer's "Waiting On The World To Change," BeBe Winans' "I Have A Dream," Jill Scott's "One Is The Magic #," Jackson Browne's "Looking East," Sheryl Crow's "Out Of Our Heads," Los Lonely Boys’ "Make It Better," Keb' Mo's "America The Beautiful," Yolanda Adams' "Hold On," Ozomatli's "Love & Hope" and Stevie Wonder's legendary tune and official Obama-Biden Campaign anthem "Sign, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours."  Several of these songs are now worked into unique "Obama" versions featuring some inspiring speech excerpts from the campaign trail.
 
New music featured on the music compilation include Lionel Richie's "Eternity," Dave Stewart's "American Prayer," John Legend's "Pride In The Name Of Love," Suai's "Am I All Alone?" Ken Stacey's "America," Malik Yusef’s "Promised Land," featuring Kanye West and Maroon 5's Adam Levine, and Shontelle's "Battle Cry."
 
Again, starting September 19th through November 4th, the music compilation will be available exclusively at www.BarackObama.com, with all proceeds benefiting the campaign.  It will be available via normal retail channels following the November 4th election. 
 
Samples of the material and additional background on Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement can be found at www.hiddenbeach.com
 
About Hidden Beach
Founded by music veteran Steve McKeever, Hidden Beach Recordings is an independent record label based in Santa Monica, CA. that is focused on "Real Music" and "Real Artists" with "something to say."  Along with introducing multi-platinum and Grammy Award-winning music sensation Jill Scott and saxophonist Mike Phillips, Hidden Beach is also home to Grammy Award-winning producer/artist/songwriter Tony Rich, trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, husband and wife-led group Kindred the Family Soul, the acclaimed Unwrapped series and author/intellectual/spoken word artist Dr. Cornel West, among many others.
 
Hidden Beach Recordings is distributed worldwide by Universal Music Group Distribution (UMGD), a division of Universal Music Group. Visit www.hiddenbeach.com for more information on Hidden Beach Recordings.

***This music compilation gives the Obama supporter an important keepsake from the campaign while providing the movement capital it needs to continue to spread its message.


'Culture is oxygen. We have to protect it'

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 23, 2008) Jean-Daniel Lafond, husband of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, is much too politically savvy to wade into the turbid waters of a federal election campaign.

But the former philosopher, noted documentary filmmaker, critic and now playwright - his Marie de l'Incarnation ou la déraison d'amour opened last week at Le Théâtre du Trident in Quebec City - isn't without strong opinions about the Harper government's fractious relationship with Canada's arts community.

For Lafond, 63, who emigrated to Canada in 1979 from his native France, the debate about federal support for the arts can only be understood in context.

Fundamentally, he said in a recent interview, "it's a problem of education," and the fact that the Conservative government could slash funding for a variety of arts programs and organizations and do it without a large-scale reaction indicates just how much education is needed.

"We need to sensitize people to the importance of the arts. Don't forget, culture is oxygen. We have to protect it and [spending on it] is not wasting money. But it's a dead end to make a confrontation between artists and politicians. The only possible end is demagoguery."

Until the population understands the vital importance of the arts, not just its economic power but its cultural force, "it's very safe for a politician to destroy culture. We have to go further with education. Culture is not elitist. For me, it's an essential part of life. Otherwise, it's dead. But as it is, for more than half the population, culture is not a necessity. We have to go further ... The debate is not just for election campaigns. It's bigger than that. So maybe this is a good crisis. I think it's dangerous to tie the culture only to nationalism. ... Culture is coast to coast. Diversity is easy to talk about, but our country is made with that and if we want solidarity, we have to recognize real diversity, not just to save Quebec or Alberta."

And as Lafond defines it, culture also includes observance of the sacred - which is the heart of Marie de l'Incarnation ou la déraison d'amour, his first play. It is a spinoff of his recent documentary, Folle de Dieu (Madwoman of God), which opened at Montreal's World Film Festival last month and is now playing commercially in Montreal.

The film tells the remarkable story of Marie de l'Incarnation, the nun who founded the first Ursuline convent in Quebec in 1639. Produced by the National Film Board, it draws extensively on the nun's letters and diaries - said to be the first serious writing by a woman in Canada. Born Marie Guyart in France, she married and had a son, before answering a spiritual call to abandon her child and go to what was then New France to found a convent.

In the film, Lafond follows actress Marie Tifo as she prepares for a stage role as Marie, including several interviews with social and religious historians, as well as director Lorraine Pintal and choreographer Marie Chouinard. It's like a prologue to his play, which, directed by Pintal, runs until Oct. 11 in Quebec City and will open in Montreal next June.

Attending last week's premiere in Quebec City, Lafond said that "it was the realization of a dream." He had invited Pintal to see a rough cut of the film. "She fell in love with the character and said, 'We have to do this onstage and you will direct.' But I was too busy directing the film. But the play is exactly what I wrote. It's as a dream." He became interested in the nun's story 30 years ago and had first suggested it as a film to Tifo in 1981.

Her letters, Lafond says, allow us not only to enter her spiritual life, but paint a portrait of the country as it existed then. More clearly than most French officials then in New France, Marie saw that while native Canadians could and should be "evangelized," it was not possible to make them French. She learned their language, respected their cultural separateness and argued the difference between evangelizing and Frenchifying. Her separation from her son clearly tormented her and yet, Lafond says, it also made her a writer.

He felt his own particular kinship with Marie de L'Incarnation. She had fled the 17th century's religious wars. "I left France in part because of the memory of the Second World War, the legacy of violence and fear. I was 35 when I finally came to Canada" [after teaching here on and off several years], almost the same as she was when she came. That rupture and exile made her a writer," as it seems to also have made Lafond an artist.

At one point in her letters, Marie extols the joy of Christian martyrdom, a concept long since out of fashion in the West. But in the past decade, Lafond has made two documentaries involving Iran - Salam Iran, A Persian Letter (2002) and American Fugitive (2005) - and says he has gained a better understanding of its appeal. "We were shooting in Tehran at the Cemetery of Martyrs, and every day I saw the same mother praying at the grave of her son. For me, it was painful, but when I spoke to her, she felt no pain. For her, it was a gift of God. She said, 'I come every day because he is my hero and I am so happy.' And you can read the same ideas in writings from the 17th century." Still, he adds, "there's a big difference between fanaticism and mysticism. Today, people are using martyrdom as a weapon, as an instrument of and justification for violence."

::UNIVERSAL SCOOP::

Multi-Faceted Entertainer Wayne Brady Releases Debut Album

Source:  Universal Music Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracklisting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::HOT EVENTS::

Fundraiser for Green Party Candidate Nigel Barriffe – Friday, September 26, 2008

On Friday, September 26th, please join Carl Cassell, Anthony Mair and friends in a fundraiser supporting official Green Party Candidate Nigel Barriffe
at Harlem Restaurant. Running in the Etobicoke North riding, Rexdale boy Nigel is committed to the values of fiscal, social and ecological responsibility that underpin the platform of the Green Party of Canada. His key areas of focus are gang and gun violence, quality education and youth advocacy, poverty, housing, employment and immigration. Friends and family know Nigel as someone who envisions achieving these values for the community of Etobicoke North on the basis of compassion, courage and reciprocity.

The night of fundraising will feature DJ Carl Allen, the city's award-winning turntablist who will provide a vibrant musical undertone on the one and two.

Come join us in raising our glasses to Nigel Barriffe and supporting him in affirming a credible voice in government with the Green Party of Canada.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
FUNDRAISER SUPPORTING GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE NIGEL BARRIFFE
67 Richmond Street East (at Church St.)
After 8:00 p.m.


Background


Nominated candidate – Nigel Barriffe

Nigel’s Commitment to Etobicoke-North

As a Rexdale boy, Nigel grew up in an environment in which issues that were vitally important to people’s lives were consistently ignored by government. He and his family lived the Rexdale experience: working hard to overcome hardships and forge a life with tremendous resilience, perseverance and heart. After spending over 20 years in business, Nigel decided to use his skills and talents to give back to the community that has given him so much.

Currently a teacher with the Toronto District School Board Nigel was born in Kingston, Jamaica. His family immigrated to Canada when he was a young child. He attended West Humber Collegiate Institute where he excelled academically, participated in many extracurricular activities, and was Student Body President. For Nigel, the Rexdale community and cultural diversity of its residents face issues and challenges that underpin his overall teaching philosophy and struggle for social equity - to foster the cognitive, emotional and social well being of children by creating authentic connections, providing mentorship and advocating for social justice.

Community Service

A lifelong learner, Nigel has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from York University and a Bachelor of Primary Education Studies degree from Charles Sturt University. Apart from educator and committed member of the TDSB, he is the interim Public Relations Officer for the African Heritage Educators Network and Program Development Committee member of the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators. He also dedicates his time as a staff resident in one of Toronto’s custody facilities for at-risk youth - a role that provides him with first-hand experience mentoring marginalized youth confronted with many social, emotional and legal challenges in their lives.

Commitment

Nigel shows keen interest in environmental and political issues. Locally, he strives to improve his school and community environment in an effort to create sustainable changes and reduce his carbon footprint and that of his students. On a broader scale, he hopes to educate constituents about Green Party policies and innovative programs, raise awareness of social and ecological responsibility, and increase political engagement and public consultation within his riding. Nigel has contributed to the Green Party platform both as a volunteer and organizer since 2006.  He is also a talented musician who supports local festivals and artistic events promoting the merits of quality education, peace and diversity.

Nigel Chose the Green Party

Educator, community activist, environmentalist and musician, Nigel is committed to a global community based on trust, honesty, co-operation, generosity, accountability, optimism and courage.
That is why he joined the Green Party of Canada, the true home of people like Nigel, millions like him and growing in number everyday.

Etobicoke North GPC EDA

Registered Electoral District Association

Office – Bureau
CEO
Nigel Barriffe
Tel: (416) 427-1192
E-mail : nigelbarriffe@yahoo.ca

Electoral district description
ED Code: 35024 Etobicoke North

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Ochos Rios Inn Puts The Ahhh In Spa

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Special To The Star

(September 22, 2008) Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Sitting comfortably on the outdoor veranda at KiYara Ocean Spa it's hard to know which is more refreshing: The Ambrosia cocktail spa director Carolyn Jobson is handing me, or Jobson herself.

Too often in spas you'll find staff trying a little too hard to set "the mood." From the sterile white walls and minimalist furniture to the battery of products with names you (and often they) can hardly pronounce, spas often overdo it.

Not here.

As I sip on the lemongrass, fresh lime (from trees on the property) and iced tea concoction that has been only slightly sweetened with brown sugar, Jobson settles comfortably onto a chair across from me, running her hand through her hair and training her gaze in the same direction as mine: past the trees, over the rocks and out over Cutlass Bay.

The soft lilt of reggae music filters through the trees and across the water from a neighbouring resort.

No stress, no pretence, no fuss. No need. This is Jamaica: The ambience creates itself. It is in this oasis of calm that the Jamaica Inn's tiny spa exists.

The award-winning hotel – Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Readers Choice, World Travel Awards and more – was built in 1950 and has been nabbing accolades ever since. Part of the attraction is the stunning collection of 47 suites and six two-bedroom cottages spread over 2 1/2 hectares of land. There is also the draw of one of the area's few private beaches; in this case, 210 metres of white sand. But most exciting is the fact that on this island that has become synonymous with massive all-inclusive facilities, the inn is a reminder of the way Jamaica could have been.

The moment you step out of your car at the arched entry to the property, you succumb to its soothing charms. With its French doors and louvered windows, the Jamaica Inn has been catering to those who understand that the high life has nothing to do with the marijuana T-shirts popular in Montego Bay.

Here, it's all about pristine beaches, secluded enclaves and elegant service. There are no TVs, radios or clocks in any of the rooms and each suite features a large balcony or a verandah with uninterrupted views of the beach and sea.

Evenings are romantic affairs, with candlelit tables, waiters in their whites, a live band and a five-course gourmet meal of such traditional pleasures as rice and peas and red snapper.

Just five years old, the KiYara Ocean Spa – whose name means "sacred place of the Earth's spirits" in the language of the island's original Taino people – is a rejuvenating breath of fresh air.

Jobson's commitment to developing a spa experience that is true to its roots is a reminder that Jamaica, with its own unique brand of sensuality, can do better than to offer guests a Swedish massage or Turkish bath.

For starters, all treatment rooms are outdoors, under thatched roofs on a cliff overlooking the sea. Choose from the treehouse room high, the seaspray hut that feels like you're on a boat at sea level or the tucked-away ocean pavilion, where only when you are flat on your stomach will you see through the peek-a-boo hole in the trees out to the waters. Just being here feels like a treatment in itself.

"I had a woman come in for waxing," Jobson says, smiling, "and she said it was a spiritual experience."

All treatments rely on ingredients that are native to the country – fruits, herbs, vegetables and oils – and can be traced back to Jobson's own herbalist background.

"I go in the back, pick things from the garden," Jobson says. "We try to keep things as natural as possible here. We like to bring you back to nature."

The tropical Isle Temptation (which uses coconuts to exfoliate, mask and massage your skin) and the Moonlight Serenade (a candlelight couples' massage on a private deck overlooking the bay, followed by as much private time as you'd like in the space) are among the spa's most popular offerings. The highlight of any treatment is a magnificent outdoor shower with bamboo faucets in a tropical garden where the sights, sounds and smells combine to romance your senses.

Best of all, there's the relaxation. There is no pressure to quickly move on so the next guest can come in. There is no rushing of the bill

In fact, I'm guided back to the same serene spot where I began, handed a young coconut with a straw and invited to simply enjoy the view.

I lean back in my chair, tuck my knees up under my robe and do as I'm told.

Heather Greenwood Davis is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her trip was subsidized by the Jamaican Tourist Board. www.visitjamaica.com

::MUSIC NEWS::

Moses Znaimer Celebrates A Generation With 24-Hour Bash

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

(September 18, 2008) Back when he roamed the backrooms at MuchMusic, visiting pop acts were a blur for owner Moses Znaimer. That has changed since he took over Classical 96 FM.

"With pop artists, I rarely bothered to memorize the names, because I knew that in a short while they'd be gone," says Znaimer, amidst the flurry of preparing for the station's first-anniversary party, underway today since 5 a.m.

"You spend some time with Bono, you spend some time with Peter Gabriel, those are special moments, but most of the rest of that stuff is process and forgettable."

The media visionary pauses. His eyes brighten. "You meet Lang Lang, that isn't forgettable. You meet Sondra Radvanovsky, that is not forgettable. Hanging out with Measha (Brueggergosman) is fun, not forgettable."

He's hoping that bringing 48 artists and groups to the freshly redecorated lobby of
Classical 96 (and sister station AM740, devoted to golden oldies), in a 24-hour bonanza of music and general partying, is going to help convey his enthusiasm to listeners in the GTA.

Znaimer has a lot of names to remember today.

In line with the two stations' different audiences, the music line-up spans the classical and pop spectrums. Jazz musician Sophie Milman and pop crooners RyanDan rub shoulders with the likes of the Gryphon Trio, violinist Lara St. John and Kerry Stratton's Grand Salon Orchestra.

The combination of relaunching AM740 and the first anniversary of the refashioned CJRT-FM comes as classical-music fans continue to grumble about CBC Radio 2.

The national broadcaster launched new programming at the beginning of September, which reduced classical music to a midday rump. Weekday mornings and evenings now feature (nicely and intelligently chosen) indie contemporary music.

"We are now one of only two stations in Canada broadcasting classical 24 hours a day," Znaimer boasts.

There have been a few tweaks since Znaimer bought the station two years ago. It now has a boy-girl-banter morning show with mezzo Jean Stilwell as the female host, as well as a very successful opera night on the weekend, hosted by Alexa Petrenko. It also hosts a live lunchtime concert from the building's lobby once every couple of weeks during the season. The rest sounds pretty much exactly like before.

The audience numbers haven't changed much either, but the real test will be this fall, now that the CBC's changes have taken effect.

Znaimer is banking big-time on aging baby boomers. He is tying the radio stations, a growing Internet presence, an upcoming television venture, ownership of CARP (the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) and a new magazine on his concept of "zoomers" – older people who aren't surrendering to Father Time.

"The (wrong) thought process is that I started with a youth market and that now I'm dealing with an antiques market," Znaimer says of the arc of his professional life. "The fact is, I started with a generation, and I'm still with that generation. They are a different generation of grandpas and grandmas than their grandpas and grandmas."

"My little insight here is my understanding that the word `old' makes people nervous," Znaimer elaborates. "In my personal case, I always understood that old had more to do with health than it had to do with chronology."

Like every successful entrepreneur, Znaimer has little patience for market research. "I have never done a study in my life. I don't believe in focus groups," he says flatly. "In that sense I'm less a business man and more (run) by strong opinion and intuition.

"I take these media personally. I'm not manufacturing something I don't use, so I make television that I want to watch and then find out how many people agree with me. I make radio that I want to listen to, and I do."

Today's 24-hour party was Znaimer's idea. He will be there from beginning to end, and hopes listeners will enjoy themselves as much as he expects to.

Just the facts
WHAT: Bach & Rock Around the Clock
WHERE: 96.3 FM (classical) & 740 AM (pop/rock)
WHEN: Today 5 a.m. to tomorrow 5 a.m.
ADMISSION: Free

New Project Coming From Ashanti

Source: AJM Records via PRNewswire

(September 22, 2008) ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- Ring the alarm. The Vault is being opened. It holds 12 never-before-released recordings from Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling R&B songstress Ashanti. The Vault will be released October 14 by AJM Records.

The Vault contains vocal recordings penned by Ashanti in 2001 while signed exclusively to AJM Records. This composite of work was completed before AJM's joint venture with Murder Inc/Def Jam in 2002.

Top notch producers added the finishing touches to The Vault, including 15-year-old producing wunderkind Miguel "Migs" Baeza. Migs produced the first single set to drop from The Vault, "Let's Do Something Crazy." (Listen to it
here.)

For the cut, Migs brought in hip-hop superstar Flo-Rida to drop a few rhymes, making "Let's Do Something Crazy" a sure hit. "Although the track is not like any other Ashanti song heard before, I tried to please her already established fan base by maintaining the classic Ashanti style while at the same time indulging a new audience with an upbeat, exciting feel on this upcoming single," says Migs. Migs also worked his magic on the irresistible "Satisfy," another track from The Vault.

Other producers on the album include Kidd Kold, AJM's in-house producer who is responsible for the 2nd single "Imagine." (Listen to it
here.) Kidd has produced 8 tracks on The Vault and has worked with DMX and Foxy Brown. Additional producers include Nocko, Steven White and Kenny Flav. Nocko is no stranger to hit makers. He has worked with countless top artists like Mary J. Blige, T.I., Trina, Lil Mo, Monica, Teddy Riley, Ludacris, Nelly and Rick Ross. This dream team of producers has turned The Vault into a must have treasure.

Get ready to discover the treasure of Ashanti: The Vault. Its musical gems are priceless recordings.

Please visit
http://www.ajmrecords.com and http://www.myspace.com/migsbaeza.

Doomed Crew In Crash Thought Tire Blew

Source:  www.thestar.com - Meg Kinnard,
Associated Press

(September 21, 2008) WEST COLUMBIA, S.C.–The doomed crew piloting a Learjet that crashed on takeoff, killing four people and injuring two popular musicians, thought a tire blew as they hurtled down the runway and struggled unsuccessfully to stop the plane, a federal safety official said Sunday.

National Transportation Safety Board member Debbie Hersman said a cockpit voice recording of the Friday night crash indicates the crew tried to abort the takeoff, but then signalled the efforts were failing.

"The crew reacted to a sound that was consistent with a tire blowout," Hersman said.

Former Blink-182 drummer
Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM remained in critical but stable condition Sunday; one of their doctors said he expected them to fully recover.

Two of the musicians' close friends and the plane's pilot and co-pilot were killed when it shot off the end of the runway, ripped through a fence and crossed a highway. It came to rest on an embankment a quarter-mile from the end of the runway, engulfed in flames.

Hersman said no cause of the crash has been determined and the investigation is ongoing. She did say that pieces of tire were recovered about 2,800 feet from where the plane started its takeoff. The runway is 8,600 feet long.

The plane was traveling at least 92 mph, its minimum takeoff speed, when the crew thought the tire burst, Hersman said.

One aviation expert said the crew would have had just moments to abort or lift off because such a Learjet needs more than 5,000 feet of runway to get in the air. If the plane hit about 138 mph, which can happen quickly during takeoff, the crew would have run out of runway, said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the federal Transportation Department.

"If you have to abort a takeoff because of a problem with the plane, you don't have a lot of runway left because it uses up so much just on its takeoff roll," Schiavo said.

The jet, which was headed for Van Nuys, Calif., is owned by Global Exec Aviation, a California-based charter company, and was certified to operate last year, Hersman said.

Pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, Calif., and co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, Calif., died in the crash. Also killed were Chris Baker, 29, of Studio City, Calif., and Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles. Baker was an assistant to Barker and Still was a security guard for the musician.

Investigators said they want to speak with Barker and Goldstein for their accounts of the crash, including how they survived. One witness said he discovered the musicians in the street near the fiery wreck as they frantically tried to douse their burning clothes.

Hersman said officials will give the men more time to recuperate. "They're the ones that are going to be able to give us the best firsthand knowledge," she said.

Dr. Fred Mullins, medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, said the two suffered second- and third-degree burns but had no other injuries from the crash and are in overall good health.

"Anybody who can survive a plane crash is pretty lucky,'' Mullins told reporters during a news conference Sunday morning.

Barker was burned on his torso and lower body and DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, was burned on an arm and a portion of his scalp, according to a statement from the musicians' families released by the hospital. Such injuries can take a year to fully heal, however Mullins said he didn't think it would take that long.

Several fans visited the hospital over the weekend. One carried a sign that read: "Get Well Travis.''

"I was just shocked when I first heard it and I knew that I had to do something," said Ryan Meadows, a 19-year-old college student from Augusta.

Barker and Goldstein had performed a together under the name TRVSDJ-AM at a free concert in Columbia on Friday night. The show, which included performances by former Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell and singer Gavin DeGraw, drew about 10,000 people to a neighbourhood near the University of South Carolina.

Barker, 32, was one of the more colourful members of the multiplatinum-selling punk rock band Blink-182, whose biggest album was 1999's CD "Enema of the State" and sold more than 5 million copies in the United States alone.

After Blink-182 disbanded in 2005, Barker went on to form the rock band (+44) – pronounced "plus forty-four." He also starred in the MTV reality series "Meet the Barkers" with his then-wife, former Miss USA Shanna Moakler. The show documented the former couple's lavish wedding and home life. Their later split, reconciliation and subsequent breakup made them tabloid favourites.

Goldstein, 35, is a popular DJ for hire who at one time was engaged to Nicole Richie and dated singer/actress Mandy Moore. While he became a gossip favourite for his romances, he draws respect from music aficionados for his DJ skills.

Barker and Goldstein performed as part of the house band at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month.

Seven-Time Grammy Award Nominee Joe Is Back With 'New Man'

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(September 18, 2008) *“I won my lawsuit against Jive Records and now I am ‘indie’,” seven-time Grammy Award nominee Joe proudly informed me when asked about what he had been doing since he started the lawsuit. “I been working…working until last March.”

In fact, last year Joe released “Ain’t Nothing Like Me,” on BMG/Jive Records, in 2003 “And Then…;” in 2001 “Better Days,” and in 2000 “My Name is Joe”  - which went multi-platinum - all on Jive Records.  “My Name is Joe” released the hit single, “Stutter,” which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

For me, my all-time favourite Joe album was the 1997 “All That I Am,” his debut on Jive, which went platinum as well and released a single that is still played regularly to this day, “Don’t Want To Be a Player No More” featuring Fat Joe and produced by Rodney Jerkins. That album also released another hit single, “All The Things (Your Man Won’t Do).”

His new ‘indie' album, “Joe Thomas, New Man” is on his own label (which he partners with his manager of 12 years) 563 Music and it is distributed by Kedar Entertainment.  The first single from the “New Man” CD is “E.R.” and it is steadily climbing the charts.

For this project Joe reached back to some of his friends in the business to join him on his label’s debut CD. Friends like Puffy (P. Diddy), video director Billie Woodruff and Bryan Michael Cox came to his aide.  He also enlisted the help of Nas, Game, Busta Rhymes, Mario and Trey Songz who are featured on the CD.

The son of two preachers Joe said he wanted to make sure the album was consistent, an album that is “Joe.” What Joe is, aside from being an R&B singer with a love for Hip-Hop, is a master bass player, drummer and piano player.

 “We all sang in my family,” Joe tells me of his childhood experiences as an artist. “We had a Gospel group. I was even in a (R&B) group. But something was tugging at me….pushing me…something was driving me to learn more (about the music business).”

Learn the business he did and as a result he has made a positive influence on the music industry with his accomplishments. Aside from the Grammy Award nominations; Joe also received a BET, Soul Train and NAACP Image Award nomination.

You can learn more on Joe Thomas by visiting his myspace page at “officialjoemusic.”


ABC Family’s ‘Lincoln Heights’ starts season three

The drama series “Lincoln Heights” airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET and depicts what most inner-cities are going though, as a result of the flood of drugs that have made its way into the United States. ABC Family brings yet another story to the screen which shows the struggles between right and wrong, good and evil, strength and weakness, violence and love in a realistic but inspiring way.

The series begins its third season and has already received several NAACP Image Award nominations probably for some reason -  shocking reality, but yet with inspiring story-lines (like Tay aspiring to be an artist/songwriter, Lizzy getting  recruited to a prestigious private school and Cassie finding love). The cast is a melting pot of veteran actors and up-and-coming actors, like Mishon (Pronounced My-Shawn) Ratliff who plays Tay Sutton the only son to a black police officer, Eddie Sutton (played by veteran Russell Hornsby), who moves his family back to the inner city in his attempts to help clean his old neighbourhood of its drugs and violence. His family also consist of his wife Jean Sutton (veteran actress Nicki Micheaux) and his two daughters, eldest Cassie Sutton (played by up-and-coming Erica Hubbard) and Lizzie Sutton (young actress Rhyon Brown).

 “I feel blessed and don’t take advantage of anything,” young actor Mishon Ratliff said about getting the role on his first ever audition after signing with an agent. “I got great experience with the well conditioned actors. They groomed me and gave me advice.”

Aside from his acting Mishon Ratliff is a singer who was just signed to Interscope Records. You get to hear a little of what he offers vocally on the series, as in the premier season where he is trying to create his own music.

 “My album should be out the first quarter of 2009… its titled “Yearbook,” Mishon said. “(One day) I’d like to invest in charities….feeding children.”

 “Lincoln Heights” is produced by ABC Family/Disney. The premiere episode had with Eddie and Jean on vacation and his eldest daughter Cassie and her boyfriend Charles (played by Robert Adamson) finds themselves upstairs in her bedroom as a group of drug addicted neighbourhood hoodlums ransack the house for hidden drugs and money because the Sutton home use to be a “crack-house.”

Lang Lang Chinese Sensation Settles Into 'New' Home

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

(September 22, 2008) There is a reason why China picked Lang Lang to play the piano at the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

The 28-year-old pianist is not just a symbol of his motherland's newfound international prominence. He is also proof that a new generation of listeners can fall in love with Western classics – a.k.a. the music of dead white guys.

All it takes is talent, heart and a lot of personality.

Fresh from his Olympic triumph, wearing his special-edition black-and-gold Lang Lang Adidas sneakers, the pianist has chosen Toronto as the first North American city – and only the second city in the world – to benefit from a week-long residency.

"We're going to claim Lang Lang as a citizen of Toronto for this week," said ROM director William Thorsell as he welcomed the pianist, Toronto Symphony music director Peter Oundjian and about 500 eager onlookers for a public forum inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal yesterday afternoon.

Lang's residency concludes with master classes next Sunday. In between are two sold-out concerts with the TSO, a solo recital at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday, a live-to-air appearance at Classical 96FM and a visit to Indigo Books in the Manulife Centre to sign copies of his new autobiographies.

Showing off his charitable side, Lang Lang announced the start of a foundation to help young music students in financial need. He will also make a private visit to the Hospital for Sick Children to help lift patients' spirits.

No other classical musician in the world could command such sustained attention in a big city today.

The pianist gave several reasons for his love of Toronto, including the presence of Oundjian, "a great maestro and friend." He said the city has a great auditorium in Roy Thomson Hall and a supportive Chinese community.

"This city has lots to offer and is open to many different world cultures. You need an international city to do this kind of residency," said Lang.

"This could have happened in New York, or Chicago, but it didn't," said Oundjian in a follow-up interview, stressing how far Toronto has come on the world stage.

In his ghostwritten autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story , Lang credits the Houston Symphony for being one of the first big orchestras to give him a solo gig while he was still a 16-year-old student. The conductor was Oundjian.

"I've known Lang Lang since his days at Curtis (the Philadelphia music school), and I've seen him come such a long way," said Oundjian, who has coached the young pianist behind the scenes over the years.

This multi-concert week will allow thousands of local fans to see the latest state of Lang Lang's art.

Maybe some of the musical magic will rub off on the next generation.

Among yesterday's onlookers at the ROM was Ocean and Jessie Kwan's 7-year-old son, Ronson, who started piano lessons two months ago.

"I wanted him to see how the famous piano player does (it) so that he can play like that too, one day," said Ocean of the afternoon outing.

Thanks to his energy and willingness to mix traditional, formal concerts with classes and even conversations with the public, Lang Lang hopes to make those kinds of dreams possible.

The Day The Music Dies

Source:  www.thestar.com - Judy Stoffman,
Special To The Star

(September 20, 2008) Ben Miller met his soulmate four years ago, when he was in the music program at Humber College.

The soulmate took the form of a custom-made six-string Dingwall bass guitar with a gorgeous maple body, fanned (angled) frets, and a warm, deep sound just the way he liked it.

The instrument, which took 18 months to make in Dingwall's Saskatoon workshop, cost a hefty $6,500.

"The only reason I was able to buy it for Ben was because I came into an unexpected inheritance," recalls his mother, Virginia Markson, who was a flautist with the TSO for 19 years.

Miller and his Dingwall were together constantly; he swore they would never part.

Miller graduated from Humber last year with honours and started on a career as a musician with his funk band Funktion – an uncertain career that involves the hurly-burly of late nights in bars and shady characters in the alley. In July, about 1 a.m., after a gig playing with local outfit MetheusBound at the Smiling Buddha bar on College St, west of Dovercourt Rd., his Dingwall disappeared, stolen.

"After a gig, the custom is for everybody to help the others to pack up the equipment," Miller recalls. "I was doing that, going back and forth, and then I got into my car and stopped after about 10 feet to look in the back to make sure my bass was there but it wasn't."

"I went back the Smiling Buddha right away. Then my girlfriend and I went for hours into every bar in the area, down the alleys. There were a few tears, but nothing turned up. I went home to bed and called the police in the morning. Four hours later, someone finally called me back to take the details. He did not sound hopeful."

The young musician's heartbreaking loss calls attention to the growing problem of instrument theft in this country that has touched scores of musicians, both the famous and the obscure. "It's devastating when that happens because your instrument becomes a part of you," says Rayburn Blake, who works in the acoustic department of Long & McQuade's on Bloor St. W. and was formerly a professional musician. "I just turned my back for a second ...you hear that a lot."

Last month Iggy Pop and The Stooges played Toronto on guitars and drums rented from Long & McQuade after the band's instruments, $20,000 worth, were stolen in Montreal.

Miller, bereft, went to every pawnshop in the city, but none had his Dingwall. His mother, meanwhile, called the insurance company only to learn that although she had put the Dingwall on her household policy, its loss would not be covered if it had been used for commercial purposes.

In desperation, Miller started a Facebook page "Find Ben's Bass!" Within three days 625 people signed on, undertaking to report to him any sightings of the Digwall.

His Facebook friends have their own sad stories. Lauren Yeomans had two flutes, worth more than $8,000, stolen two years ago from the instrument holding room during a concert at the University of Toronto faculty of music, where she was playing with the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra. "I didn't leave my bed for a week after it happened," she recalls.

Lee Saba Hutchinson writes that a couple of years ago, after he played at Fressen on Queen St. W., "some punk" stole his 6-string Ibanez bass while he was loading his gear into the car.

Todd Pentley parked his car on Huron St. one night while he went for Vietnamese food with his girlfriend. They came back to find the car's rear window broken and his girlfriend's alto sax gone. "I felt her pain," he writes.

Drummer Kevin Howley reports having had his vintage Zildjian cymbals, which he "was deeply in love with," stolen after a gig at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Markson decided to organize a benefit to help Miller buy a new guitar, but he was embarrassed to present himself as an object of pity. Thus proceeds from the benefit that will take place – Oct. 29, Ben's 23rd birthday, at the Lula Lounge on Dundas St. – will go towards a replacement Dingwall but only in part; the majority will go to the Regent Park School of Music, which buys instruments and provides lessons to underprivileged kids.

"I don't want to concentrate on the negative aspect of the theft of my bass but turn it into something positive," Miller says.

Musicians who have already agreed to perform free include trumpeter Nick "Brownman" Ali, chosen by NOW magazine as jazz artist of the year in 2005, MetheusBound , pop vocalist Leah Spears, Dr. Payne and the Disease, and Miller's dance band Funktion.

The musically distinguished Markson/Miller family (Ben's father, David Miller, is a cellist and conductor; his maternal grandmother was noted harpsichord player Evelyn Scheyer and his paternal grandfather was Frank Miller, principal cello with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) has also corralled some classical players including concert pianist Anton Kuerti and flute player Susan Hoeppner, who has performed with orchestras around the world, to offer private lessons as part of a silent auction.

"I am going to print out the stories of other people who've had their instruments stolen and put them up on the walls," says Miller. "I want to call attention to the problem, to raise awareness."

What happens to stolen instruments? Jeff Long, owner of the Canadian chain Long & McQuade, says they are not easy to sell.

"Real musicians don't want to play stolen instruments," Long says. "At our store we keep a registry of all the instruments we've sold and if someone brings us an instrument to sell, we check if it was bought here and we might call the original buyer. He might say, `Ya, I sold it to that guy,' or `My God, I just had my car broken into.' Then we call the cops."

Meanwhile, the insurance company has relented and is offering to cover a portion of the value of Miller's bass, the amount still to be decided.

New Kids Prove They Have All The Right Stuff

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

(September 19, 2008) Nobody does cool better than Donnie Wahlberg, with his working-class Boston sensibility and ever-present baseball cap; but there he was on the opening night of New Kids on the Block's reunion tour acting like an insecure lover.

"I can't hear you, Toronto. I don't know who feels better: you or me? I look good, too? Toronto, how you feeling?" queried the quintet's spokesperson, again and again during the first half of the concert.

Asked every which way but straight on, what he really wanted to know from the audience was: Do you still love us? Did we do good? Are you getting your $39.50-$75 worth?

Yes. Yes. A resounding yes!

After a 14-year hiatus, the boys are back in fine form, straddling the line between the puppy love pushers they used be, and the damn near 40-year-old-men they've become.

The two-hour show was more sedate than their raunchy new album, The Block, augured. There was no grinding on the four female dancers; only one choreographed crotch grab; and Joey McIntyre didn't seem to know what to do with the black bra that was tossed at him (he threw it back into the crowd).

Just as well since the audience, brimming with 20- to 40-year-old women, also included numerous preteen daughters and sons they brought along.

"All you little girls that grew up to be fine young women. Woo! You look good, too," was Wahlberg's tasteful acknowledgment of his heartthrob past and present.

The ensemble took the stage after a fair half-hour set by U.K. singer Natasha Bedingfield and forgoing clichéd memory lane video footage in favour of clichéd walking through backstage hallways video footage.

They rose from beneath the stage clad in all black with hints of pink singing "Single," one of the better tracks from The Block, and showing off slick choreography, with lots of slow-mo and hip-hop accents. Throughout the night they alternated new tunes with older hits such as "My Favourite Girl" and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)."

McIntyre and Jordan Knight's falsettos are ever compelling; as is Wahlberg's tenor and rhymes. Jonathan Knight gave awesome backup and Wood did a really neat breakdance routine.

They performed on a spare two-level stage, with the musicians partially hidden.

One downside of the show had to do with staging: why weren't the dancers or musicians utilized between segments in lieu of leaving the stage dark and quiet for more than a minute during transitions?

On the upside was a thrilling moment when the group made their way to the floor seats and performed a handful of songs on a circular rotating stage with McIntyre and Jordan Knight taking turns on piano.

Another faux pas was the solo showcases by Knight, McIntyre and Wahlberg toward the end. There were some cheers, but that was just Canadian charity and beer.

Wahlberg has said it himself: the magic of NKOTB is in the group. That's what sold more than 71 million records and that's why there are enough fans in Toronto for another Air Canada Centre show tonight and one on Sunday.

They should stick to what they do best.

Amanda Diva

Source: www.billboard.com - Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.

(September 16, 2008) She may be an independent artist, but chances are you've heard of
Amanda Diva.

Born Amanda Seales, the 27-year-old hip-hop/soul MC/poet has been a music journalist since 2003 and has hosted her own Sirius Satellite Radio and MTV2 shows since 2004 and 2005, respectively.

As if that weren't enough of a juggling act, Diva decided to pursue a career in hip-hop recording in 2006. "At that point, I started to feel like this is what I wanted to really do," she says. "That's when I made the decision to go from rapping as a hobby to making it a serious activity."

Although her well-established position in the industry helped further her aspirations, the Orlando, Fla.-raised artist says her connections also presented some challenges. "Because I come from a multifaceted background, my peers questioned my legitimacy," she says. "People weren't taking me seriously."

So Diva decided to play harder. She released her Q-Tip-assisted debut mixtape, "Bigger Than Hip-Hop," last year. She also performed during the Roots' annual Black Willy show in Philadelphia, backed by the troupe's drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson. A month after, Diva was asked to replace Natalie Stewart in the R&B group Floetry and began touring with core member Marsha Ambrosius in June. "That tour was the No. 1 thing that solidified me as an artist in people's eyes," Diva says.

Plans to record an album with Floetry fell by the wayside, but Diva—who is also the First Lady of the DJ Drama-helmed Aphilliates crew—didn't let it hinder her plans. Late last year she released "Life Experience," the first EP of a trilogy. She recently released "ForePlay," a mixtape serving as a prequel to "Love Experience," the next EP in the collection, due Feb. 10, 2009. Green Lantern, DJ Spinna and James Poyser have contributed production, while Estelle,
Kardinal Offishall and Jack Davey make guest appearances. Diva is also working with 9th Wonder from Little Brother on an album set to be released next spring and is featured on Q-Tip's upcoming album, "The Renaissance."

Currently, Diva hosts a monthly variety show at New York's Drom called Spectrum Funk, where she invites other artists to perform with her, has an Internet comedy show, "Diva Speak TV" (which she describes as a cross between Dave Chappelle and "The Colbert Report"), and is a commentator on VH1's "Best Week Ever," which airs weekly on the network.

"My goal moving forward is to get a distribution deal for my music but continue to be indie," Diva says about what she hopes will come next. "2009 is the year. That's the plan."

Janet Jackson Parts Ways With Island Def Jam

Source: www.billboard.com - Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.

(September 22, 2008) After just 14 months on Island Def Jam,
Janet Jackson announced today (Sept. 22) her departure from the label. According to Jackson's publicist, the label agreed to dissolve their relationship with the artist at her request.

After a long stint with Virgin, Jackson inked a deal with Island in July 2007 and released her label debut, "Discipline," in February. When album sales failed to meet expectations, the singer expressed dissatisfaction with IDJ, first telling SOHH.com that the label "stopped all promotion whatsoever on the album" after releasing the first single, "Feedback."

Earlier this month, she hinted about potentially severing ties with IDJ to Billboard, stating, "I can't say if we'll be working with them in the future. I don't know what the future holds between the two of us."

Executive produced by Jackson and her boyfriend, Island Urban president Jermaine Dupri, "Discipline" debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 in March with 181,000 copies sold. But it has shifted only 415,000 copies in the United States so far, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and spent just 14 weeks on the chart.

Now, Jackson "will have autonomy over her career, without the restrictions of a label system," reads a statement from her team. "Always known to break new ground and set trends, Janet's departure from Island makes her one of the first superstar artists to have the individual freedom to promote their work through a variety of avenues such as iTunes, mobile carriers and other diverse and innovative channels."

Jackson is currently on the road with her first tour in seven years, "Rock Witchu," with support form LL Cool J and Donnie Klang. The Live Nation-promoted outing began Sept. 10 in Vancouver and runs through Oct. 22 in Dallas.

Moving forward, Jackson would seem to be a natural fit at Live Nation Artists, which is already home to Jay-Z, Nickelback and Shakira. A Live Nation spokesperson was unavailable for comment on the subject.

Santi White Is Good As Gold

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

Santogold
Downtown Records/Warner
***

(September 23, 2008) Some people take a long time to become an overnight success.
Santi White toiled in the music business for a decade before the blogosphere began to hail her as the next newest thing.

I first heard about her seven years ago, when she co-wrote a grossly underappreciated album for the Philadelphia soul-pop singer Res. Later, while still writing for others (her client list eventually included Lily Allen and Ashlee Simpson), White sang with Stiffed, a punk band, and fooled around with Pase Rock on a cheeky satirical song about the overexposure of Lindsay Lohan ("put your panties on...."). The online rumble about Santogold, as White now calls herself, began with another satirical single called L.E.S. Artistes, a swipe against the pretensions of the alt.art set White encountered in New York. Her ascent to something like mainstream visibility has been marked by several touring dates with Coldplay, and by the appearance of some of her songs in ads and video games.

The long-nursed desire to separate herself from fakes and also-rans breaks into hearing several times on Santogold's debut solo album. Shove It is an ode to discouragement dressed up with a reggae beat, and Unstoppable raps out Santogold's determination to get her hands on that ring of brass (oddly enough, it's the disc's weakest song).

It's easy to hear where she has been and what she has listened to. There's a bit of Stiffed (whose bassist John Hill co-write much of the album) in songs such as You'll Find a Way and Lights Out, a lot of the buzzy, lo-grade electronics that have juiced the indie scene lately, and a liberal sprinkling of old-school new wave attitude. Creator sounds so close to the work of her pal M.I.A. that you could probably insert the horn riff from Bucky Done Gun with no trouble.

Santogold's voice is a wildly changeable thing. Sometimes (in L.E.S. Artistes, for example), it's a nasal yelp that sounds both plaintive and petulant. In other tunes, it takes on a smooth, poppy character. Similarly, the songwriting veers from well-turned, Brill Building numbers (I'm a Lady) to shiny cold dance numbers (Anne).

My Superman, a sauntering disillusioned love song ("you're a liar" is the opening line) is her Surabaya Johnny, and Say Aha could be the theme song for some alternative James Bond film. Now that she has arrived, Santogold is leaving all doors open.

Santogold plays the Guvernment in Toronto tomorrow.

Marcus Johnson's New Project Movin' Up: 'Flo ...' Lands On Billboard Jazz Chart

Source: Felicia F. McLemore, APR, felicia.mclemore@eclipse-marketing.com

(September 24, 2008)     SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Three is Marcus Johnson's lucky number this week. His "FLO ... " CD trilogy all broke Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Charts this week.

Released September 9th and after one week of sales the "FLO" (For the Love Of) CDs - "Romance", "Chill" and "Standards" hit the Billboard charts at # seven, # nine and #13 respectively.

The release of three CDs simultaneously is an amazing accomplishment. And, to have them each hit Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Top 15 at the same time should be one for the jazz music history books.

"We are grateful for the support of jazz music lovers and Marcus Johnson fans," says Johnson. "We knew we'd created a masterful collection of music, and the sales prove that we were right."

"FLO ... Romance" features the sexy vocal stylings of Keith Atler, Alyson Williams, Stoney Ellis, YahZarah and Frank McComb who join Johnson on this smooth sultry mix of R&B and jazz.

"FLO ... Chill" is just the right touch of jazz from the opening grooves of Plush (featured on the "Urban Groove" CD) to the dance grooves. " ... Chill" delivers a musical journey of incomparable 'chillin'.

"FLO ... Standards" is a smooth jazz journey of classic jazz standards featuring Marcus Johnson's melodic and intricate interpretation of Cannonball Adderley's "Moanin" and "My Funny Valentine." Johnson is joined on " ... Standards" by keyboardists Bobby Lyle and Michael Price and drummer Lenny Robinson. This combination of dynamic musical performances lifts " ... Standards" to glory for any jazz lover.

All three "FLO ... " CDs are available exclusively at Circuit City Stores and circuitcity.com for $9.98 each.

About Marcus Johnson
Johnson is an accomplished keyboardist, the chairman and CEO of Three Keys Music and Studio 8121, and founder of FLO(TM) Brands. Three Keys, Studio 8121 and two music publishing companies were created from Johnson's partnership with Bob Johnson (no relation), founder and former president and CEO of BET.

Johnson has released more than 10 CDs, all charting in the Top 20 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Charts. Over his 15 year career, his music has been widely lauded by jazz critics and aficionados.

He has a B.A. in music from Howard University and simultaneously earned a J.D. degree and MBA degree from Georgetown University.

Three Keys Music http://www.threekeys.com

MUSIC TIDBITS

Platinum Selling Avant Joins Capitol

Source: Jessica Sagert, Director of New Media, Giant Step - jessica@giantstep.net

(September 19, 2008) *NEW YORK - Seven years into a gold-and-platinum-honoured career, top R&B singer/songwriter/producer AVANT is joining the Capitol Records roster of urban chart-topping artists. His first Capitol Records album will be released on October 28. Fresh off a live appearance at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the artist says he chose to title his first Capitol Records album with his own name, AVANT, to acknowledge his established track record, as well as the sense of creative accomplishment and ownership that marks the project overall:  "I've proved my point. (The album) reflects who I am. I think one of the reasons I've been able to enjoy the kind of longevity I've had, is that I write songs that are about real-life situations." Accordingly, the album's kick-off single, is the probing, emotive and sophisticated "When It Hurts," an impassioned and irresistible plea about the true meaning of unconditional love, produced by the Anonymous Entertainment team of Eric Dawkins and Tony Dixon (Fantasia). Album track collaborators on the album AVANT include such hit-making peers as Trackmasters (LL Cool J), The Architects (Missy Elliott), and DJ Smurf a.k.a Mr. Collipark (Soulja Boy). Snoop Dogg makes a commanding step-out appearance on the track "Attention." Other album highlights include the seductive "Break Ya Back," a re-interpretation of the Christopher Cross pop standard "Sailing," and "Perfect Gentleman" co-starring his Capitol label-mate Alfamega (from T.I.'s Grand Hustle camp).  Avant has three RIAA gold album certifications, including the No. 6 album Ecstasy (MCA 2002), and one- platinum, for My Thoughts (MCA, 2000). His Top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop hits include the No. 1 "Separated," the No. 3 smash revival of Rene and Angela's Quiet Storm classic "My First Love" with Keke Wyatt, and 2003's No. 4 "Read Your Mind," feat. Snoop Dogg.

We Remember Session Drummer Earl Palmer

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(September 22, 2008) *Earl Palmer, a veteran session drummer whose licks were heard behind the likes of Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner and Fats Domino, has died at his Los Angeles home following "a lengthy illness," his spokesman said. He was 84. Palmer played on hundreds of hits during a career that ran from the 1940s through the 1970s and earned him an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His drums powered such hits as Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'," The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" and "I Hear You Knockin'" by Smiley Lewis. He also appeared on the records of artists as diverse as The Monkees, Elvis Costello, Frank Sinatra and Neil Young.  His drum work was featured as well on a number of popular television themes, including "The Odd Couple," "77 Sunset Strip" and "The Brady Bunch." Ed Vodika, pianist in the Earl Palmer Trio - formed 10 years ago - said the drummer had "shaped American music for the '50s, '60s and '70s."  Palmer married four times and he is survived by seven children.

Eminem Back In The Studio

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(September 22, 2008) *Eminem says he's currently recording material for a new album that could be released by year's end. "I'm concentrating on my own stuff right now -- just banging out tracks," Eminem told listeners of his Sirius XM satellite radio station, Shade 45. "The more I keep producing, the better it seems I get. I start knowing stuff, learning the boards like the back of my hands."  The Detroit rapper said he was producing tracks for both himself as well as artists signed to his Shady Records label.  A rep for Interscope said there is no official release date for the project, nor a first single, but confirmed that an album may arrive before year's end, reports Billboard. Rapper 50 Cent, with whom Eminem has collaborated in the past, spoke to BBC Radio 1 this week and said fans will be "seeing (Eminem) shortly. "He's working. I spent the weekend at his house," said 50. "Even though he tries to relax and stay home, it's impossible for him to stay in."

Nominations Out For Aboriginal Music Awards

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 23, 2008) TORONTO–Canadian country singer Crystal Shawanda and Winnipeg rockers Eagle & Hawk have snagged five nominations each for this year's upcoming Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq collected three nominations and faces off against Shawanda, of Wikwemikong, Ont., and Eagle & Hawk in the contest for best album. Prizes in 26 categories will be handed out Nov. 28 in Toronto at the Rogers Centre, where the awards bash will help kick off the 15th annual Canadian Aboriginal Festival. This year's ceremony adds several new awards, including categories for best original score and best hip-hop music video. The event will also highlight the traditions and symbolism of the western coastal aboriginal people.

A Long Time Coming: Wayne Brady

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Concord)
http://f881.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f3278157%5fANElvs4AAKIpSNlbXw2463aExHM&pid=2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://f881.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f3278157%5fANElvs4AAKIpSNlbXw2463aExHM&pid=3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://f881.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f3278157%5fANElvs4AAKIpSNlbXw2463aExHM&pid=4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(September 23, 2008) Apparently Emmy Award-winning TV personality and comedian
Wayne Brady has long wanted to pursue a singing career. He must've spent much of that time listening to Brian McKnight albums, because he showcases a similar singing style and sexy lyrics on this smooth R&B debut, which includes "Ordinary," a celebration of long-term monogamy and the cheekily opposite "F.W.B." – about the no-strings appeal of being Friends With Benefits. Brady is a vocal chameleon, conjuring the breeziness of Raul Midon on the acoustic "Sweetest Berry," and Sam Cooke's soul and Stevie Wonder's nasality on covers of their respective tunes, "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "All I Do." Consequently, his sound is appealing, but not consistently identifiable. As far as actor-turned-singers go, Brady – who co-wrote several songs – displays more depth than Jamie Foxx, but less originality than Terence Howard. Top Track: The catchy hip-hop influenced "All Naturally," which touts makeup-free beauty and recalls the Dave Chappelle skit that upended Brady's saccharine image.

::FILM NEWS::

How Keira Came To Play The Lady Di Of Her Day

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(September 19, 2008) Keira Knightley is fresh off a plane from London – and thanks to the seven-hour flight and a five-hour time difference, she's having something akin to a senior's moment.

“My head's already gone, and it's the first interview of the day,” says the brunette beauty as she tries, haltingly, to explain how it came to be that she signed up for the role of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire in the just-released film
The Duchess. “This is horrifying,” says the 23-year-old, asking for a moment to recompose, and stretching her swan-like neck and shoulders.

“Okay, let's try this again,” she finally says, with a husky laugh. Knightley had flown in to attend the Toronto International Film Festival and to chat about her latest period drama (last year's were Atonement and Silk) about a complicated creature who ruled society – and helped change politics – in late-18th-century Britain.

A great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, Georgiana was the It Girl of her time – a title often used to describe Knightley these days, even as the actress winces at the designation, and almost everything to do with celebrity. Georgiana was a fashion trendsetter, a staunch supporter of the Whig party, and a deeply unhappy woman, whose marriage to the Duke (Ralph Fiennes) was a living hell.

On first reading the script, Knightley says, she became captivated by Georgiana – a vivacious, deeply troubled soul who, despite her storied celebrity and vast connections, was virtually powerless. “That someone could get so involved in politics and yet not have any rights whatsoever – not even the right to vote – was vastly interesting to me,” says the winsome actress, who donned air-sucking corsets and wore near metre-high wigs (some so heavy, people shouted “Timber!” as she walked by) for the role.

“I was fascinated by the fact that she was so lonely and so completely trapped. There was absolutely no point where she could get out [of her loveless marriage]. She couldn't move. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't do anything about the situation.

“There really was one set of rules for men, and a completely different set for women. For me, it's the story of a woman who goes from an idealist and a romantic to a realist. It's a terrifying, really sad journey.”

Knightley's own journey to the heights of filmdom began at home.

Her father is stage actor Will Knightley; her mother is playwright Sharman Macdonald (who just penned the script for the upcoming film, The Edge of Love, in which her daughter stars). Keira began acting at 7, landing various TV and film parts over the years.

Hollywood came knocking after she played tomboy footballer Juliette (Jules) Paxton in Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham in 2002. Since then, Knightley's career has skyrocketed, with roles in the three instalments of Pirates of the Caribbean, opposite Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp, and an Academy Award nomination two years ago for her part as Lizzie Bennet in Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice. On that set, she met her current beau, the actor Rupert Friend.

Adapted from Amanda Foreman's award-winning biography, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, director Saul Dibb's The Duchess starts his film in 1774, when, at 17, Georgiana marries one of England's richest and most influential aristocrats, William Cavendish. Launched into a world of wealth and power, she becomes the queen of fashionable society, is adored by the Prince of Wales, forges a close friendship with France's Marie Antoinette, and leads the most important salon of her time.

But at home, she is invisible. Unable to provide a male heir, Georgiana Spencer was trapped in a love triangle, with her husband's mistress, Bess – played by Hayley Atwell in the film – installed in their home. To mask the pain, Georgiana cavorted, campaigned, dazzled, drank, gambled, and cavorted some more.

“I liked the idea of this juxtaposition between this huge public persona – this kind of superstar, in a way – who was constantly surrounded by people, and yet was entirely alone and vulnerable,” says Knightley.

The marketing team at Paramount Vantage has been quick to play up the parallels between Georgiana Spencer and her far-removed niece, Lady Di. Blond, beautiful, bulimic and adored by an entire country, they led lives that led down eerily similar paths. But Knightley, looking regal in a pale Philip Lim dress and Olivia Morris heels, insists on downplaying Georgiana's link to the People's Princess. “The Royal Family? I don't know enough about them to really draw any parallels.”

Perhaps. But the parallels are undeniable nonetheless.

“Georgiana is simply a fascinating character in her own right. I think she was a romantic. I think she was a child. I think she went into [her marriage] believing in a myth that was never going to happen. She was needy, and required approval from everybody,” says Knightley.

“I think she fell in love with her husband and decided it would be the happiest thing in the world,” says the actress, who studied classics and English literature at Esher College on the outskirts of London.

“The Duke didn't see it like that. For him, it was a business. He needed an heir and a society figure befitting his wife. He didn't want companionship from her. He got it from his friends and his dogs. Sex and love came from the mistress. It was simply a different world.”

Director Dibb says Fiennes was the first, most obvious choice to play the Duke, a man who takes emotional constipation to a new level. “He could have become a cartoon villain of repressed aristocratic male Englishness, and when I sent the script to Ralph, that was his big worry,” says the director. “But we talked about how we weren't going to go for all the obvious things, how there would be a freedom to try and understand this man.”

Fiennes agrees that he struggled to make the man human. “He could be played as a cardboard-cut-out villain, but everyone, I believe, has many sides to them,” said Fiennes, while in Toronto for TIFF. “The guy was thought to be very sociably awkward and uncomfortable, but I think in the end he did sustain quite a good friendship with Georgiana and with Bess. … I think he's insensitive, but I don't think he was intentionally cruel. I don't think he was a sadist of any kind. He was misguided, limited and emotionally stunted.”

“I actually felt sorry for him,” Knightley tells me, chuckling. “It's miraculous what he manages to do. Ralph takes the infamous British stiff upper lip to a whole new level.”

Georgiana married the Duke of Devonshire in a remarkable, fast-changing time. It was the era of Enlightenment, of the madness of King George III, the American and French revolutions, and the defeat of Napoleon. To capture this world – the last hurrah of the great aristocrats – Dibb created lavish sets and costumes (the wigs were steel birdcages with hair glued onto them), set the action in authentic, 18th-century country houses, including Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire (its owner played a footman in the film), the Bath Assembly Rooms, and Chatsworth House, the authentic seat of the dukes of Devonshire, an estate that covers 14,000 hectares, and is home to 175 rooms.

Knightley says she found shooting at Chatsworth an eye-opener, helping her better understand a character who had all the riches in the world, but no real home. “It's impossible not to empathize with her,” sighs the actress, whose skin glows with good health, despite the persistent tabloid speculation about her dangerously thin weight. “That's what I love about period films. You can take people from a completely different time – 200 years ago – and make them into these hugely powerful, very rich figures.

“And yet I think everybody would be able to look at Georgiana and empathize, sympathize, even pity her. Period pieces show human emotions really haven't changed that much,” adds Knightley, who next will be seen in The Edge of Love alongside Cillian Murphy, Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys, in a story based on the early life of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

“I think Georgiana is a survivor. She doesn't survive unharmed, but she comes out the other side. These are not innocent characters,” Knightley says with a smile. “They're damaged, fascinating ones.”

The Duchess opened in Toronto yesterday, opens in Montreal and Vancouver on Sept. 26 and goes into wide release Oct. 3.

Jewison's Archives Find A Home At U Of T

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(September 19, 2008) Remember Moonstruck? That 1987 romantic comedy was one of Norman Jewison's best movies. Cher was unforgettable – especially when she goes to La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera and is devastated to learn that Mimi dies at the end.

It was the role of a lifetime, but Cher almost turned it down. Jewison talked her into it. Yet when she won the coveted statuette, Cher committed one of the most astonishing gaffes in Oscar history. She thanked a lot of people, notably her hairdresser, but neglected to mention her director.

The next day she took out a huge ad in Variety to apologize. But as Jewison explained yesterday, it was years later that he received a letter from Cher fretting that the incident was something she'd never live down.

Good news: Jewison – who was born in Toronto 82 years ago and returned home in 1978 after living abroad for two decades – is a Canadian patriot and T.O. booster who wants his archives, including Cher's letter, to stay here.

The place he chose: the E.J. Pratt Library at Victoria University at the University of Toronto. Reasons: Jewison graduated from Vic 59 years ago and has been its chancellor since 2004.

Last night, Vic held an event to honour Jewison and put highlights of the collection on display in an exhibit that will run to Nov 7.

It offers tidbits from a massive collection, with boxes that measure 10 metres in length, containing shooting scripts, letters and notes on film projects considered but then not undertaken. There are 1,600 photos, including shots of Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra circa 1962 when Jewison was directing Garland's short-lived but legendary TV series on CBS.

But certain things from the early years of Jewison's career are being held hostage in the U.S.

"The papers from the first part of my career are in Wisconsin," he admits, adding with a chuckle: "When I was writing my memoirs I had to go to Madison to look at my own stuff."

Jewison was living in London in the 1970s when a librarian from the University of Wisconsin came to see him.

His university already had a huge collection of material from film and theatre including archives of Alfred Hitchcock and John Frankenheimer. "I gave Wisconsin stuff from my early films, including correspondence with Doris Day," Jewison says.

Today, as a founder of the Canadian Film Centre, Jewison wants his archives to be in Canada, even if his movies were stamped Made in U.S.A.

Call it a gift to his alma mater from a kid who was part of Vic's class of 1949.

Peter Kastner, 64: Actor Recalled For Role As Rebel

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

(September 20, 2008) Peter Kastner – who will always be remembered as the juvenile delinquent rebelling against his upper-middle-class Canadian parents in the 1965 surprise hit Nobody Waved Goodbye – died suddenly Thursday night while driving his car in downtown Toronto.

The cause was apparently a heart attack. He was less than two weeks shy of his 65th birthday.

Kastner achieved stardom early, beginning as a child actor in the early days of Canadian TV and winding up in Hollywood as the star of Francis Ford Coppola's 1966 comedy You're a Big Boy Now.

But after starring in a disastrous ABC sitcom, The Ugliest Girl in Town, in which he played a young man disguised as a young woman, his career tanked, and his life story turned into a bizarre twist on Sunset Boulevard, with Kastner turning into an updated Canadian male incarnation of Norma Desmond, the deluded former star of silent movies.

After moving back to Toronto from the U.S. a few years ago, Kastner played coffee houses (including Free Times Café) and comedy clubs (including Yuk Yuks) with a one-man show. He not only milked the irony of his own career crash but attacked his mother, the late Rose Kastner, resulting in a bitter estrangement from his three siblings and other members of the family.

"We all adored him when we were growing up," says his brother John, Gemini and Emmy-winning documentary director. "He was hugely talented and seemed blessed by the gods. But he left home at 18, and we don't know why he became so troubled. We just did not recognize the Peter Kastner of the last decades.

"We were all estranged from him, but we wished him well. He seemed to be mired in a bitter, angry attack on the family that loved him so much. And in our view, it was full of lies, especially about our mother. We couldn't understand it."

Peter was the second of four children who grew up in the family home backing onto a Forest Hill ravine. Their parents, prominent leftists, were in the printing and publishing business.

Peter's older sister, Susan, was a Star staff writer for many years. John, who followed in Peter's footsteps as an actor early on, went on to a distinguished career as a film producer-director. Their younger sister, Kathy Kastner-Berns, worked for a time as host of a Toronto CBC current-affairs show.

With encouragement from Rose, Peter gained acclaim as an amateur in the Dominion Drama Festival and was spotted by a CBC casting director who gave him his big break in a children's drama called Emil and the Detectives. He remained a busy child actor and, at age 18, starred in the popular Canadian variety show Time of Your Life.

Nobody Waved Goodbye, directed by Don Owen, was supposed to be a National Film Board documentary but became an improvised drama with Kastner earning acclaim for his performance as an endearing, misunderstood teenage rebel. The movie had a fresh, authentic flavour, and Kastner's performance combined bite with charm.

When it played the New York Film Festival in 1965, it was called "marvellous" by The New Yorker's Brendan Gill and was chosen one of the year's best by critic Judith Crist.

The next year Kastner was starring in Coppola's coming-of-age comedy, with a supporting cast that included such icons as Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. That performance came close to landing Peter the lead in The Graduate – but Mike Nichols gave the role instead to Dustin Hoffman. Kastner also had a success on Broadway in The Playroom opposite Karen Black, who was his girlfriend for some time.

His ABC sitcom, The Ugliest Girl in Town, made him some serious money but turned out to be a career-killer he could never live down. It was high on TV Guide's list of the 50 worst series ever made.

In the 1970s and 1980s Kastner appeared in minor movie roles and acted frequently on episodic TV series including King of Kensington. But his career was on life support by the time he made his last movie, Unfinished Business – Owen's sequel to Nobody Waved Goodbye – in 1984.

"He has been a mythic figure for much of my life," says Jamie Kastner, his nephew, "but I have this sense of someone with huge talent who somehow went awry."

Last year when Jamie's film Kike Like Me was being screened at Hot Docs and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, his uncle Peter distributed flyers promoting his own one-man show, including a video attacking the Kastner family. The flyer featured the Star's glowing obit for Rose, along with a promise to tell the real truth about his mother.

Besides his siblings, Kastner leaves his second wife, Jenny.

Ricky Gervais Brings Ghost Town To Life

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

Ghost Town

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)
Starring Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear and Téa Leone. Directed by David Koepp. 102 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(September 19, 2008) Bertram Pincus, DDS, is a bitter and judgemental man who truly loathes his life. But consider the alternative – which Pincus is about to be forced to confront. He's about to find out that, as dissatisfying and disappointing as he may find living, it is infinitely more aggravating dealing with death.

Not his – at least not for more than a few minutes.

When an accident during a routine colonoscopy renders him briefly lifeless on the operating table, he awakens with the unwanted "gift" of being able to perceive and communicate with the newly dead.

At least, with those souls held back from peaceful rest by unfinished business left over from life.

Which even more unfortunately includes Frank Herlihy, a fast-talking ex-executive with guilt issues over his serial philandering and a death wish (as in a wish after death) for his former wife to dump her too-good-to-be-true fiancé and find happiness with someone else.

I think you see where this is going. But Ghost Town is a romantic comedy about extremely unlikeable people. You really wouldn't care about any of them were it not for the film's stellar casting ... well, if not quite stellar, then absolutely engaging.

Starting with Ricky Gervais as Pincus, his film lead debut. The British creator/writer/star of The Office and Extras is certainly no stranger to the art of the a-hole. His Office boss David Brent was, superficially, the most loathsome/pathetic character to ever make us laugh till it hurt. Likewise, in his nastier moments, as Extras' Andy Millman.

But through it all there always shone this subtle, gleeful naughty schoolboy charm, not quite a full-on wink at the audience, but a tacit acknowledgement that sometimes even total jerks can exhibit an endearing charm.

It is interesting that director/co-writer David Koepp – primarily a screenwriter of blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, War of the Worlds and the latest Indiana Jones – has recently expressed second thoughts about casting Gervais in the lead, on the basis that he is still a virtual unknown in America.

Well, who the hell was Seth Rogan before Knocked Up? Or for that matter, Johnny Depp before Edward Scissorhands? John Travolta before Saturday Night Fever? Al Pacino pre-Godfather?

Would Ghost Town have been any more enjoyable with, say, Ben Stiller in the lead? Quite the opposite, I suspect.

Gervais' character is at least ultimately redeemable, as is, to a lesser extent, Kinnear's motormouth Herlihy – particularly his constant sad attempts to get a post-mortem signal on his omnipresent BlackBerry (or rather, I guess, the ghost of his BlackBerry – it makes no sense, but it's a cute running joke).

Téa Leoni's misguided widow is something else entirely, in her case unintentionally unlikeable – the victim of poor writing and a needlessly needy, poorly conceived and inconsistent character.

It is only Leoni's irresistible charm that makes the girl even remotely sympathetic – just as, conversely, her mere proximity as Adam Sandler's neurotic wife made Spanglish somehow bearable.

I swear, she just gets better and more interesting and more luminously beautiful with the passing years.

You are moved to ask the same question you ask in real life – what on earth was her husband (David Duchovny, he of the sex-addiction rehab) thinking?

Miracle of St. Spike

Source: Kam Williams

Spike Lee is back with his first full-length feature since Inside Man (2006), the NYC crime caper which netted over $100 million at the box office alone. That picture’s commercial success enabled the Oscar-nominated director to interest Disney in backing Miracle at St. Anna, a big budget WWII saga shot mostly in Europe.

The movie’s script, adapted by James McBride from his own historical novel, is a fact-based adventure revolving around the heroic exploits of four black GIs (Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson Miller) who became separated from their unit while fighting behind enemy lines in Italy in 1944. Here, Spike talks not only about his new film, but about the prospect of his beloved Knicks during the upcoming NBA season, and about his feud with Clint Eastwood.

KW: What interested you in making Miracle at St. Anna?

SL: Reading the original source, James McBride’s novel. The man’s a great writer. That’s what drew me to the project. 

KW: How was it filming on location in Europe for the first time?

SL: It was a great experience. Practically this whole film was shot in Italy. I’d love to shoot over there again soon, maybe not in Italy, but somewhere else. 

KW: What was the most challenging aspect of shooting?

SL: Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and you have to hike that equipment up the mountains and hills to get those shots. But that’s just part of the job. I would love to make another movie there. The light there is wonderful. You can not get that on the back lot in a studio. The small village the soldiers stumble into is 800 years-old. Where we able to shoot at a lot of locations where actual incidents took place, like the massacre. I think it adds something for both the cast and crew when they know they’re standing on the same exact spots as the scenes they’re recreating.  

KW: How was it collaborating with James McBride, who also wrote the script?

SL: It was a great working experience, and I think that he would say the same thing. We had disagreements, but we respected each other’s opinion, since we both wanted what was best for the film.

KW: Mr. McBride says Miracle at St. Anna is fiction inspired by real events. Can you tell me some of things in the story that are real? 

SL: Well, the 92nd Division, the Buffalo soldiers, they did fight in Tuscany against the Nazis. The massacre in St. Anna di Stazzema on August 12, 1944 where the Nazis’ 16th Division of the SS slaughtered 560 innocent Italian civilians really happened. The statue head, that’s real, too.

KW: Would you say Miracle at St. Anna is more than a war movie?

SL: This film is definitely more than just a war film. Of all the movies I’ve done, this one, by far, has more discussions of religion, faith and hope. That reflects James McBride‘s novel which is all about hope, faith, prayer, belief and God.

KW: What do you expect people to take away from this movie?

SL: I’m not in the business of telling audiences what to think. I respect their intelligence, and they’ll make up their on minds about what they think.

KW: During World War II, America’s armed forces were segregated and the Department of Defense directed embedded cameramen not to film African-American GI’s in action. And no blacks were subsequently featured in any of the early war films from the Forties and Fifties, and none were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in World War II until Bill Clinton belatedly corrected the glaring oversight during his presidency. Was your purpose in making this movie an attempt to rectify the deliberately whitewashed version of history? 

SL: Well, that was part of it, because at the time these black men were fighting for the United States, the Army was still segregated. And they not only fought the Fascists and the Nazis for the Red, White and Blue, but they had to fight Jim Crow down South once they got home. But the whole movie isn’t about the Buffalo Soldiers. We spent a great deal of time with the Italians, too, and the story is framed within a murder mystery. But nonetheless, there’s been a great omission here, and the surviving Buffalo Soldiers I’ve spoken to are elated that we’re doing this film.

KW: NYU History Professor Yvonne Latty urged Clint Eastwood, even before he began production on Flags of Our Fathers, to include black soldiers in the film since somewhere between 700 and 900 African-Americans had fought on Iwo Jima. She even sent him a copy of her book about these forever unsung heroes, but to no avail. Is this the basis of your ongoing beef about the movie with Eastwood?

SL: I’m glad you’re saying that, because it needs to be known that there were people saying stuff to Clint even before he shot the film. So, this stuff is on record. I was not the first one to voice those sentiments.

KW: As far as I can tell, you’re the only film director who individually credits every musician who plays on his soundtrack. Why do you do that?

SL: Because I grew up in a jazz household, my father [Bill Lee] is a great jazz bassist, and I value the contributions of the musicians and the composer. My father did the scores for my movies in film school, and for She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. And Terence Blanchard did all the scores for my films since. Musicians are great artists. In my opinion, I think they’re the greatest artists. If somebody gets credit for pushing a dolly or holding a boom mike, why should someone who’s playing the violin, the bass, the trumpet, the French horn or the oboe not get credit too? They contributed as much as anybody else. That’s why I give musicians credit in my films.  

KW: I appreciate that, being from St. Albans, which was an enclave of black musicians when I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties. 

SL: Yeah, I know it had James Brown… Count Basie… and my man Milt Hinton.

KW: Count Basie lived up the block. We used to swim in his pool as kids. You know who else lived in St. Albans? Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Oliver Nelson, Lena Horne and Illinois Jacquet to name a few off the top of my head. But it was first integrated by Jackie Robinson, along with baseball. Speaking of sports, how do you think the Knicks will do this season?

SL: Well, I hope we have a winning record. [Laughs] Notice I said “hope.”

KW: Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?

SL: We were the first family to move into Cobble Hill, which at the time was primarily an Italian neighbourhood. Cobble Hill is right by the Brooklyn docks, and almost all the people that worked the docks were Italian back then when the waterfront was alive and thriving. Funny thing, we got called “nigger” a couple of times, when we first moved in, until they saw that there weren’t anymore black families moving in behind us. We never had any more incidents after that. 

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

SL: Yeah, very happy.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

SL: Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.

KW: Who are you supporting for president?

SL: Barack Obama!

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

SL: Everybody’s afraid.

KW: What has been your biggest disappointment?

SL: My biggest disappoint so far was when I couldn’t get that Jackie Robinson film made. And then, when I couldn’t get the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling film made, or the James Brown bio-pic.

KW: Do you have a bio-pic in the works?

SL: Yes I do. I just optioned the right to the autobiography of a black physicist and professor at the University of Connecticut named Ronald Mallett called The Time Traveler. He’s drawn up the blueprint for a time machine.   

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

SL: Not really.

KW: The Music Maven Heather Covington question: What’s music are you listening to nowadays? 

SL: Right now I’m listening to Raphael Saadiq’s new album, The Way I see It, and to Terence Blanchard’s score to Miracle at St. Anna.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

SL: For my body of work.

KW: Thanks for the time, Spike.

SL: Alright man, thanks.


To see a trailer for Miracle at St. Anna, go HERE.

Like Any Sergeant, Director Spike Lee Rode His Recruits Hard

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(September 24, 2008) The best characters in Spike Lee's films always have long histories, book-length backstories of inner-city strife or country lore implied in every word and action.

Not so with the director himself. Lee in person is all about drawing the shade, making his point but giving little else, as his eyelids and posture droop lower and lower under his baseball cap. By the end of the interview, Lee and I are basically talking at table level.

But not like teammates in the dugout: It's more like he's the scout, even though I'm the one supposedly interviewing him about his new, sweeping Italian-American war epic
Miracle at St. Anna, which opens in theatres Friday. In this way, Lee brings you into his confidence and yet expects something back. Maybe that's what it's like to be directed by him.

"Actors know - the good actors! - that you have to have preparation," he says, his volume suddenly rising above a murmur.

For Miracle at St. Anna, that preparation was, by all accounts, intense, especially for the four African-American actors playing GIs in the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldiers Division. Lee held a two-week boot camp in Tuscany with 40 African-American actors from New York and 40 German actors from Berlin led by military adviser Billy Budd, all in an effort to create the claustrophobic conditions of close battle in the hilly terrain.

But for the four leads, it was also about getting down their rich backstories. True to Lee's style, each character is a type: There's a college graduate, a hustling preacher, a Puerto Rican from Harlem and the film's most memorable character, a gigantic, God-fearing, superstitious country soldier from the South. Yet Lee reveals little about how he managed to pull each character's deep backgrounds out of the simplest onscreen gestures and dialogue.

"As a director, I cannot dictate to actors how they should prepare for their roles. I want them to be prepared. So whatever you gotta do, you go off on your own and do it. But just make sure your shit is tight when we start to roll the cameras," he says.

But what about Private Sam Train, played by Omar Benson Miller, whose Deep South mannerisms and beliefs seem a century removed from our time? Is Miller from the South?

"No, he grew up in L.A. But L.A.'s country anyway, especially amongst black folks!" Lee cackles, revelling in a little East Coast bias. "I mean, you go to L.A. and they are from Alabama or something."

Also apparent in the lead characters are all the usual ambiguities, from the continually challenged patriotism of the staff sergeant, the highest ranking of the black soldiers, to the clear-headed realism of another sergeant, a scheming preacher back home who sees little gain in believing the war is for black liberation.

How much are those ambiguities Lee's creations and how much come from the actors' performances?"They are there from the beginning. Even with Do The Right Thing, I always felt I was writing a script [about] the hottest day of the summer. And we view that summer through many different viewpoints, some of which are diametrically opposed," he says, leaning forward in his tortoiseshell glasses and Barack Obama T-shirt.

This is another relatively big-budget film for Lee, coming off 2006's Inside Man, his most commercially successful movie to date, which he says made almost $300-million (U.S.) including DVD sales. But the director has not gone Hollywood and given up his Brooklyn independent core. Finding money to make his films remains just as hard as ever, he says.

He's not outwardly bitter about that. As he had said at a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for the film earlier that day, "I'm not complaining about it. We just gotta make do with what we got and just keep plugging." Another guarded answer, you can't help thinking.

The money for Miracle at St. Anna came via two Italian producers, who previously had a film-distribution company that distributed Lee's earlier movies in Italy. Now producers based in Rome, they invited Lee to work with them whenever he had an Italian-based project. As it turned out, Lee had gone through a spate of disappointments after being unable to secure the money he felt he needed for a biopic about James Brown and a film about the L.A. riots, both of which he wanted to make with producer Brian Glazer.

"So I was very frustrated with Hollywood. And I ... flew to Italy, and we had a press conference in Rome announcing the film," Lee says. That was three weeks before the film was to begin shooting. "We didn't have one euro, not a dime. We willed this film into being."

It was tough even to get to that stage. Former reporter James McBride wrote the script, based on his novel, 10 to 15 pages at a time. He would then meet with Lee after each instalment and go through a rigorous process of rewrites.

"No. 1 ... it's the director's vision that everybody has to follow, whether it's the composer, the cinematographer, the production designer, the costumer designer, the editor. They trust that I know the vision of the film," Lee says.

"The way I read it, it read like an epic, like the wonderful epics of the David Lean. He was a master of balancing these huge show-stopping scenes and set pieces with very intimate moments amongst two or three people, those films being Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. In some sense, we had to do the same thing with that balance."

Technically, that meant shooting the bookend scenes, which take place in New York, in 35 millimetre and filming the main body of the Second World War story in 16 mm, with the smaller format creating a grainier look and allowing the camera to get that much closer to the action.

Taskmaster, auteur, call it what you will. It's clear Lee has as exacting a style in person as in what appears onscreen.

His long-time music collaborator, jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, explains it like this: "We go through this arduous process of picking things for the film. I always write themes with certain things in mind (but I never tell him). And he always picks the total opposite, which is always interesting to me, because it creates a challenge for me, which is really good."

Lee flips through a newspaper, as he keeps the next round of reporters and photographers waiting, no doubt to deliver more bullet points.

His next film? "Don't know yet," he says, with an expression halfway between a smile and complete deadpan.

Pair Of Wild Westerns Shows Renewed Interest In The Genre

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

Appaloosa

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)
Starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger and Jeremy Irons. Directed by Ed Harris. 114 minutes.
At the Varsity. 14A

Sukiyaki Western Django
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Starring Hideaki Ito, Kaori Momoi, Yoshino Kimura and Quentin Tarantino. Directed by Takashi Miike. 121 minutes.
At AMC Yonge-Dundas. 18A

(September 19, 2008) Is that a western revival on the horizon, or is the genre headed for the last roundup?

The enthusiasm of filmmakers suggests genuine renewal, and two oaters opening today span the vast breadth of interest. Whether filmgoers will respond with more than their usual indifference is harder to call than a midnight gunfight.

Appaloosa, by actor/director Ed Harris, pays tribute to tradition, saluting the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah in its unhurried appreciation of hat, horse and heroics.

Sukiyaki Western Django, by contrast, is Takashi Miike's frantic swirl of a spaghetti western, marrying eastern and western elements in what could be taken as either homage or parody – or both.

It's 1882, and the dust clouds swirl like the wrath of God in the New Mexico hamlet big-saddled enough to call itself the City of Appaloosa, but hired guns Virgil (Ed Harris) and Everett (Viggo Mortensen) don't pay them any mind.

They've come to restore order and bring justice to the murderer Bragg (Jeremy Irons), a vile rancher who considers himself above the law and who treats Appaloosa like his private preserve. When two lawmen show up to arrest him for a heinous crime, Bragg barely sets down his cup of coffee before cocking his rifle for some summary justice.

Virgil and Everett aren't afraid of Bragg. They've dealt with worse than him. They call what they do "gun work," and they've been at it for so long together, they don't even have to speak to know what the other is thinking. It's almost as if they're married.

They're like Butch and Sundance, or maybe Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott's characters from Ride the High Country. It's fascinating to see Harris and Mortensen working and bantering as allies after watching them at lethal odds in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence.

Cleaning up dirty towns is a career for Virgil and Everett and all they require is absolute control to get the job done. Appaloosa official grant it, reluctantly, and Virgil and Everett get right to it.

But the arrival of flirtatious newcomer Allison (Renée Zellweger), sets "the bees amongst the butter," to use one of the many vivid phrases in the screenplay by Harris and Robert Knott, working from the novel by Robert B. Parker.

Virgil immediately sets his eye on the piano-playing Allison, who swears she's no whore. "She very clean," Virgil tells Hitch. "Chews her food nice."

It seems that Virgil may be about to violate his own tough oath: "Feelings get you killed." And that could happen sooner than later, since Bragg isn't planning to send flowers to any wedding, only a funeral.

Harris follows his strong helming debut Pollock with a contribution to the western movie revival that looks and sounds like a classic. His cast picks are offbeat – who'd have figured Zellweger for a love interest and Irons for a thug? – but they've been made with intelligence and an eye for inner depth.

A fascination for the details and dress of daily life gives Appaloosa the feel of a real town where genuine people live and die.

Japan's Takashi Miike approaches the western from an entirely different direction, but with less no passion. Sukiyaki Western Django crosses the plains from East to West, by way of Sergio Corbucci's Django, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo.

It's the old story of the mysterious stranger who comes to a town that's in the midst of a battle between two warring factions.

The stranger in this case is played by Hideaki Ito, the town is a fantasy Asia redoubt in Nevada and the war is being fought between rival gangs called the "whites" and the "reds."

A visual stylist, Miike never fusses much with logic, even though it makes perfect sense to show how westerns often have a lot of eastern in them.

His sets look garishly fake and painted (which they are), the weapons range from arrows to machine guns and the characters speak a form of English so weird and stilted, you still need subtitles. (This is Miike's first English-language film, and fluency obviously wasn't a major requirement.)

Sukiyaki opens with a cameo appearance by Quentin Tarantino, a kindred spirit and fellow genre shaker. He shoots a rattlesnake for a snack while dispatching threatening gunslingers and dispensing his own brand of mystic philosophy.

It's a lot of nonsense, as is much of the picture, which has just a couple of decent fight scenes. It's hard to get too caught up in the struggles between the combatants, since only the women – Kaori Momoi and Yoshino Kimura – display any sense of humanity, and that's only because they're getting even for terrible things men have done to them.

"Payback's a bitch," a character says, and so is making much of this Sukiyaki, which is a few degrees shy of a hot dish. It almost seems that Miike is too reverential to the western, reluctant to stray too far from the ranch.

Moore Puts Latest Movie On The Web For Free

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

(September 24, 2008) Its subject is the run-up to the U.S. presidential election of 2004, when filmmaker Michael Moore staged anti-George W. Bush rallies in a last-ditch attempt to galvanize a massive youth turnout for Democratic Party candidate John Kerry.

But
Slacker Uprising, Moore's latest full-length feature, is clearly targeting November's presidential race.

And to make sure as many people as possible get the message, Moore released the 98-minute documentary free of charge yesterday on the Internet (slackeruprising.com) to U.S. and Canadian citizens, claiming it's a gift to his fans.

The free download of the film, an earlier version of which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, will run for three weeks. It can be downloaded in other countries for $9.95.

Slacker Uprising chronicles Moore's efforts to bolster Kerry's ailing campaign in a 45-day U.S. tour of 62 cities in 20 "battleground" states, mostly in college arenas, during which he is seen encouraging self-confessed non-voters – even by offering them packages of Ramen noodles and clean underwear – to get out to the polls.

With the help of student-friendly musicians R.E.M. (they don't perform in the film), Eddie Vedder, Steve Earle, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and veteran protest singer Joan Baez (they do perform), as well as comedian Roseanne Barr and actor Viggo Mortensen.

Moore comes across as a pugnacious crusader storming the barricades of youthful indifference and college complacency.

As Republican opposition mounts – Moore is threatened with bribery charges over the underwear and noodles, and businessmen in Utah and California offer student organizers cash gifts of $25,000 and $100,000 respectively to cancel their events – the film takes a deceptively comic narrative turn.

When Bush supporters mount protests outside his rallies or disrupt Moore's speeches by saying the rosary or chanting "four more years!" he responds alternatively with humour and venom, reminding some detractors that they won't be excluded in a Democratic America, challenging the religious contingent by asking: "Who would Jesus bomb?"

Though the filmmaker's efforts didn't turn the tide, Moore proudly points that Bush's win was the smallest margin in history, and that 54 of the 62 cities his juggernaut visited voted for Kerry.

He also takes credit for the largest turnout of 18- to 29-year-olds ever – 21 million.

His final message: "Next time (the Republicans) won't be so lucky."

In a statement released yesterday, Moore said neither he nor the stakeholders in Slacker Uprising – including the Weinstein Co. studio and digital distributors Brave New Films – will make any money from the $2 million film.

"The only return any of us are hoping for is the largest turnout of young voters ever at the polls in November," Moore said.

FILM TIDBITS

Quebec Film Chosen As Canada's Foreign Language Oscar Entry

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 18, 2008) MONTREAL–The Necessities of Life, a Quebec movie about an Inuit hunter in the early 1950s, will be Canada's bid for an Oscar in the category of best foreign-language film. Directed by Benoit Pilon, the film follows the journey of Tivii, who is flown to a sanatorium to be treated for tuberculosis, but does not understand the language. The film won the audience-choice award and the grand jury prize at last month's Montreal World Film Festival. It was selected for Oscar consideration from a field of 16 films by a Telefilm Canada committee. The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre) still has a long way to go to win a coveted Academy Award. Almost 100 countries were invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to put forward movies for the best-foreign film nod. The short list of five nominees is set to be announced Jan. 22. Last year's pick was Denys Arcand's "Days of Darkness."

Mariah Carey Makes Another Film 'Push'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(September 23, 2008) *Hot on the heels of her good reviews in director Lee Daniels' upcoming film "Tennessee," Mariah Carey has been cast in the filmmaker's next project as well, a drama entitled "Push."  Carey will play a Harlem social worker working with an overweight, HIV-positive woman impregnated twice by her father, according to the New York Daily News. The role follows her part as the battered wife of a state trooper in "Tennessee," which won raves at the Tribeca Film Festival. The Grammy winner is also developing a movie musical based on her popular 1994 holiday album "Merry Christmas."  According to the Daily News, the film is set in a town outside a city where a ruthless developer wants to turn it into one big mall.   "Mariah doesn't want to let that happen," says her producing partner Benny Medina. "Her character uses song and love to keep the Christmas spirit alive."   Mariah says the script, from "High School Musical" writer Peter Barsocchini, is still in the early stages. She tells the Daily News: "Since I recorded the Christmas album, I've always wanted to make a movie to go with it, something that people could watch and hear and enjoy every year. I'm into it. I'm all about the holiday season."

Tyler Perry Courts Outside Filmmakers

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(September 23, 2008) *Tyler Perry is seeking new talent with the launch of 34th Street Films, a production arm of his Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios that will focus on recruiting outside filmmakers to work under and expand the Perry brand.  The new operation will be headed by Matt Moore, former executive VP of production at Jinks/Cohen. Former State Street Pictures vp Poppy Hanks will join the company as vp production, and former New Line executive Amber Rasberry will serve as a creative executive. The trio will work from a Los Angeles office and report to Perry's headquarters in Atlanta.    In July, Perry signed a new three-year, first-look pact with Lionsgate Films, the studio that has released every Perry film, including his 2005 breakthrough debut feature, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." The deal requires Perry to deliver at least three films over the life of the contract.   But the explicit nature of the arrangement is to encourage Perry to broaden his audience by guiding the work of other filmmakers who bring a wider range of storytelling and casting choices. Lionsgate will retain a first-look position with 34th Street films as well.   "He's looking to work with other producers," Lionsgate president of production Mike Paseornek told the Hollywood Reporter last month. "I have producers coming out of the woodwork saying to me, 'Do you think this would be right for Tyler?' That's going to be exciting to see, with different producers, different writers, different directors and different subject matter."

::TV NEWS::

Oscar Nunez Climbing Comedy's Corporate Ladder

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

(September 19, 2008) In the 1970s, sitcoms in the United States went looking for African-American characters, to make their shows more "real." The eighties, apart from Bill Cosby, were a white-out. In the 1990s, U.S. sitcoms tried to find places for Hispanic actors, at least as guest stars, to make their show more "real," while U.S. dramas sought South Asian and Asian actors, to appear more "diverse."

Now, every U.S. sitcom has a gay character - not because Americans necessarily want to watch TV shows with gay characters, but because television producers have run out of exotic minorities. Progress works in mysterious ways.

Playing gay accountant Oscar Martinez in The Office, former stand-up comedian Oscar Nunez gives the tokenism a neat twist. "Gay Oscar" is about as gay as Stockwell Day. He's uptight and taciturn, dresses like a banker and obviously couldn't tell a tube of hair gel from a caulking gun. How refreshing to see a gay character on a major television show who does not act like Rip Taylor. As Nunez himself once put it, the fictional Oscar is "probably a Log Cabin Republican."

Think up a list of the most adventurous, offbeat comedies of the past decade, and Nunez has probably appeared in at least three of your top five - from The Office (starting it's fifth season Sept. 25 on NBC and Global) to Reno 911, Comedy Central's Last Laugh, The Bad Girl's Guide, Mad TV, Curb Your Enthusiasm and last year's controversial ex-con comedy Halfway Home, wherein he played a flamboyant male prostitute. He's even played a superpowered Japanese schoolgirl in a made-for-online short.

If there's something Nunez won't do for a laugh, I'm not sure I want to know what it is.

Now that The Office has been on TV longer than the British original, will the comparisons stop?

I think so. There's still a little bit of resemblance, but not very much. We've been at it for a while. It's funny, Stephen Merchant is directing this last one we're doing right now, and he plays Ricky Gervais's agent on Extras. But, yeah, I think it's a different show.

Did you think it would last this long?

I didn't when they first told me I'd got this thing. I thought, we'll just shoot the pilot and see what happens. I thought we had a chance when I found out Steve [Carell] was the lead. Then we shot the pilot and they ordered six, and then I thought, this is a really funny show. I felt really good about it. Then everything just happened a lot sooner.

American actors used to be very reluctant to play gay characters. Now even Sean Penn is doing it. What's changed in your culture?

In the culture in general?

In U.S. culture.

Oh, 'cause you're saying "yours" like you're an Eskimo calling me from, like, the Antarctic. Aren't you part of us too?

No, we are a free and sovereign nation.

Ha, ha! Okay, okay. I don't know what's going on down here, in this country. It's funny, it's very - I don't want to say square - puritanical, that's the word I'm looking for, the whole USA, in nature. Slowly but surely, it's coming around. It takes so long to get anything ... to move culturally in the direction where Europe has been for the last 100 years or 50 or whatever. I had no reservations about playing a gay character. I just would want him to be funny. It's what I like doing.

You co-produced Halfway Home. Were you expecting it to be controversial?

I never got that. But I can see it being a little controversial. What was controversial?

Some critics felt it was a collection of stereotypes.

The characters were stereotypes. It was a halfway home, so they had to be in jail for something. And it was improvised, and yeah ... I guess I could see it being a little stereotypical.

Has it been renewed?

No, we did 10 episodes and that's it.

How long are you committed to The Office?

I think, I may be wrong, I'm committed to three years more. We'll go on as far as we can go, but I can see it going for, like, another three seasons.

By the fifth season, sitcoms either start to get very good, or thin out.

As long as the writing is there. That's the most important thing. And, so far, this season, the writing has been there. I kinda feel that we're hitting our stride. It's more of a writing thing, not the actors. We're there, we'll do whatever they demand of us. If the stories get weird or boring, it's because the writers are running out of stuff to write. So far, they're finding funny things.

Even though you are part of a huge television hit, your film roles are not keeping up. Is there still a ceiling for Latin American actors?

I think so, only again because of the writing end. They just haven't thought of anything - and as long as they keep thinking of a person as something, then it's really hard to write for that person. You know what I'm saying? It's just a person, but they keep going, "Let's write something for a Latino." No, just write something for a dude, then hire a Latino to do the part.

I remember when I first got here, everything offered me was, like, a valet, a security guard, a janitor, a valet, a security guard - and after a while you're like, "You know what? I'm just gonna wait tables and call me when something else comes across the table."

*****
PARTICULARS
BORN
Nov. 18, 1958, Cuba
A MIXED RESUMÉ
Nunez founded New York's the Shock of the Funny Theatre Company and joined the Groundlings Theatre Company when he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s - this, after graduating as a certified dental technician from New York's Magna Institute of Dental Technology.
NEXT
He's set to star with Sandra Bullock in next year's The Proposal and as Tick in the big doggie flick Beethoven's Big Break.

Broadcast TV Showing More Gays, Lesbians

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(September 23, 2008) NEW YORK–Broadcast television will have 16 gay and bisexual regular characters in prime-time series this fall, more than double the seven of a year ago, a new study has found.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said it was a positive sign of networks making their shows more representative, although more work needed to be done. These characters accounted for 2.6 percent of all the regular characters in TV series, up from 1.1 percent last year and 1.3 percent in 2006, according to the study, released Monday.

GLAAD President Neil Giuliano singled out Fox for having five such regular characters this fall, considering there were none a year earlier. The character Thirteen on House is bisexual, while the new Do Not Disturb has a gay man.

None of the 126 regular characters on CBS shows are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, GLAAD said, and only one recurring character – Brad on Rules of Engagement – is gay.

ABC will have seven characters that are either gay men or bisexual women this fall, NBC will have three and the CW will have one, according to GLAAD.

A total of 19 recurring characters, those who appear from time to time, fit the category, GLAAD said. That's up from 13 a year ago.

The number of regular characters fitting the definition fell from 40 to 32 on mainstream cable networks, a count that doesn't include the gay-oriented networks Logo and here!

There were no lesbians among the regular characters, according to GLAAD. But there are five bisexual women, including the characters of Callie Torres and Erica Hahn on ABC's Grey's Anatomy.

"As the networks gradually add characters from all backgrounds and all walks of life to prime-time programming, more and more Americans are seeing their LGBT friends and neighbours reflected on the small screen," Giuliano said.

The lobbying group has been monitoring the presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters on TV for four years.

HBO Canada Coming, But With A Catch

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson

(September 23, 2008) After walking away with the lion's share of Primetime Emmys at the television industry's annual awards show Sunday, U.S. cable juggernaut HBO is preparing to set foot in Canada for the first time as a standalone network.

The move, through an agreement with Corus Entertainment Inc. and Astral Media Inc., ends years of negotiations to bring HBO to Canada as a full-fledged channel. A select number of HBO's most popular series, such as The Sopranos and The Wire, have been offered in Canada on pay-TV over the years, but the network has never been afforded a dedicated space on the dial.

HBO has been a cause célèbre for critics who argue Canada's broadcasting rules are too protectionist, since they shut out foreign channels that could threaten domestic broadcasters.

Rivals vowed to block the network from coming in on its own. Monday's deal gets around that problem.

Astral and Corus have long purchased the rights to popular HBO titles, which they slotted between Hollywood films on their respective pay channels, The Movie Network and Movie Central. But cable and satellite subscribers chafed at the higher cost of watching HBO shows through those services, and at not being able to see all the programs.

“We have traditionally acquired the cream of their dramatic series and movies, and we will continue to do that. What we've done here is we've added to it,” said John Riley, president of Astral's television operations, who estimates the amount of HBO content in Canada will triple to 300 hours of programming a year. “We're taking all of that and putting it together on one spot and calling that HBO Canada.”

The catch for Canadian viewers is that they will still have to subscribe to either Movie Central, which is offered in Western Canada, or The Movie Network in Eastern Canada. HBO Canada is being sold as part of those packages, which cost about $15 a month, and will launch Oct. 30. It will carry titles currently not available in Canada, such as HBO Boxing, Real Time with Bill Maher and Def Comedy Jam.

HBO has long coveted a place in the Canadian market. Three years ago, the U.S. network was said to be working on a deal to launch HBO Canada in conjunction with a new pay-TV operator that was seeking a licence. According to industry sources, that plan fell through when Spotlight Television lost its bid for a licence.

Soon after, HBO renewed its contracts with Astral and Corus. Charles Schreger, president of programming sales for HBO, said the network has considered building a channel before, but the deal with Astral and Corus was easier to do and still lucrative for the company.

“We've talked about [having a dedicated Canadian channel] for a long time,” Mr. Schreger said yesterday from Los Angeles, where HBO executives were in town for the Emmys. “That's a pretty significant market for us. If there's a place in the world where HBO resonates, Canada is probably up there, if it's not the No. 1 country. So I don't want to minimize that.”

HBO is credited with changing the TV landscape in the 1990s, when it became one of the first cable channels to take on the traditional networks by producing its own prime-time programming. Helped by fewer restrictions on cable content, the strategy allowed HBO to take chances on shows such as The Sopranos, which were then considered too risky for network TV.

The critical and financial success of HBO has led other cable channels such as Showtime and AMC to get into the game, which has further increased the ratings pressure on the big networks. That trend was evident at the Emmys this year, when AMC walked off with an armload of trophies including best drama for Mad Men. HBO won 26 awards in total, for productions such as John Adams and In Treatment, falling just short of 2004, its best year with 32 Emmy wins.

Under federal rules, The Movie Network and Movie Central are required to devote about 25 per cent of overall air time, and 35 per cent of prime time, to Canadian content, which will also apply to the HBO Canada schedule. In the case of The Movie Network, the service is also required to spend a minimum of 32 per cent of its previous year's revenue on Canadian productions.

For Better, For Worse, Gary Works

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

(September 24, 2008) Gary Unmarried (8:30 p.m. on CBS) – about a frazzled single dad (Jay Mohr) juggling his dating life with two kids and a sarcastic ex-wife – is the kind of show you want to hate.

Boasting a time-worn premise lifted almost intact from The New Adventures of Old Christine, a laugh-track given to apoplectic fits of giddiness and an up-to-date dose of vulgarity designed to make everything seem "edgy" and "cool" (as cool as a "kiss the cook" barbeque apron, anyway), the overall impression is of a bulked-up champ teetering on the verge of dissipation.

Which also, ironically, describes leading man Mohr, a boyishly beleaguered Jim Belushi clone who mixes up his kids' medicines, pays lip service to political correctness and appears to be nursing the early stages of a beer belly you suspect will one day spin off to its own sitcom (Presenting . . . The Belly).

The thing is – and this is where critics always have a hard time coming clean – despite my finely honed instincts, I laughed most of the way through the premiere. No, really, I couldn't help it:

When Mohr's shrink (Ed Begley Jr.) confides he's in love with Mohr's ex (Paula Marshall) and the outraged cuckold replies, "I'm not sure what makes me more mad – the fact you're sleeping with my ex-wife or that you made me keep a dream journal!"

When his kids arrive for the weekend and Mohr's doofus giddily announces "Hey kids, throw away your books and get rid of your toothbrushes – you're with daddy now!"

When he finds himself entangled in a relationship he's not sure he wants and his disgruntled ex caustically notes, "I haven't seen you this freaked out since that swan chased you at Disneyland!"

It's the usual sitcom punchline-response dynamic, and on paper it's hard to understand why anyone would find this even remotely amusing.

But there's something oddly likeable about once-edgy Mohr – an unpretentious earthiness that stems, no doubt, from having his butt kicked over failed sitcoms like Action – that seems to have predicated a softening of tone. His forehead-slapping theatrics make even the most contrived set-ups not only palatable but a tiny bit endearing (he's Rocky Balboa crossed with a Smurf).

Like most other North American scribes, I had a field day declaring this the worst TV season in memory – sight unseen – in a portentous fall season preview based on the fact star power is in short supply and most shows are either remakes of past successes or, like Gary Unmarried, unmitigated rip-offs of current hits.

But so what? After viewing 90210, Secret Life of The American Teenager, Worst Week, Privileged, The Mentalist and Fringe – all at worst passable and at best better than expected – I'm getting the uncomfortable feeling I've been had.

It turns out the networks didn't really need those 100 days sacrificed to last winter's writers' strike to tweak pilots and make them sing. And not supplying critics with their usual horde of advance screeners may have been less a cagey move to avoid a critical hammering than a way to manage expectations without hyped-up hysteria.

A LAST DIG AT THE EMMYS: Having had a few days to reflect on Sunday's freewheeling Emmy debacle and the five-headed reality host that spent 12 intolerable minutes yammering awkwardly about "nothing," I'm hoping the Academy of TV Arts and Cronies will come to its senses and revisit the addition of its dubious "best reality host" category.

If Jeff Probst (the winner) deserves an award for his smug, self-righteous rule recitations on Survivor – "the tribe has spoken!" ... "and Billy gets the immunity idol!" – then surely the value of an Emmy is on a par with the gussied-up doorstop it so closely resembles.

But my guess is what we really witnessed was a bunch of puffed-up egos in suits – without benefit of scripted dialogue – freefalling to oblivion like the animated ad exec in the opening credits of Mad Men.

SEASON PREMIERES:
Knight Rider (8 p.m. on NBC, E!)
CSI: NY (10 p.m. on CBS, CTV)
The New Adventures of Old Christine (8 p.m. on CBS)
Criminal Minds (9 p.m. on CBS, CTV)
Lipstick Jungle (10 p.m. on NBC, City) with guest star Mary Tyler Moore.
Joel Rubinoff is the television columnist for The Waterloo Region Record. He can be reached at jrubinoff@therecord.com

::THEATRE NEWS::

Americans Stay Away, Stratford Cuts Staff

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

(September 19, 2008) Eleven employees of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival have been let go in reaction to an operating deficit for the season that is expected to run well into seven figures, the Toronto Star has learned.

It's not expected news from an organization that has run its last 14 seasons in the black, a tribute to former artistic director Richard Monette, who died last week at the age of 64.

What general director Antoni Cimolino called "a perfect storm" of rising fuel prices, a weakening U.S. dollar and an uncertain economy have combined to find the festival facing red ink for the first time in its recent history.

Anita Gaffney, administrative director of the festival, said yesterday that five employees left voluntarily with compensation packages and another six were terminated. Gaffney described the departures as being from "across the organization, covering a good range of the administrative function."

Although Gaffney was unwilling to reveal the names of any of the departed employees, sources close to the festival said that two of the more prominent staff members departing were director of communications Leanne Perrault and director of marketing Ian Newbigin.

Gaffney assured the Star that "we only turned to these measures as the very last resort after exhausting many other ways of implementing savings."

According to Gaffney, the staff reductions will have little impact on this year's budget, but have been implemented with an eye toward making sure that next year's ledger would balance, "once we have adjusted to the new realities."

This past season, the first for artistic director Des McAnuff, got off to a rocky start when his two associates, Don Shipley and Marti Maraden, resigned in March over personal differences.

Still, the season that opened in May received generally enthusiastic reviews, even from the New York critics who had been largely absent in the last decade.

But the economic situation, price of gas and other external factors slashed the American audience by close to 14 per cent, a devastating blow to the festival.

Ironically, audiences from Ontario have proved to be stronger this year than they have in a long time and the late season burst of enthusiasm for Christopher Plummer's Caesar and Cleopatra has helped considerably, but not enough.

"We began to realize that we had to look at a whole new way of conducting our business," said Gaffney. "Next season, there will be fewer productions, fewer performances.

"But our aim is to cut back in quantity, not quality. Our real priority is to protect the integrity of what we produce on our stages and fulfill the vision that Des has for the festival."

Next season is heavy on familiar titles (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Julius Caesar) and less reliant on stars like Plummer, Brian Dennehy and Simon Callow, with returning Canuck supernova Colm Feore the only stellar name announced so far.

Bonnie And Clyde Are On The Road Again

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

(September 18, 2008) Note: Ian Samuels is co-producer of the musical Bonnie & Clyde: A Folktale along with Derrick Chua. Samuels’ name was mistakenly omitted from this article.

NEW YORK–"We rob banks."

That's normally not the kind of thing you expect a theatrical impresario to admit, but those words come naturally to
Derrick Chua these days.

The well-known Toronto lawyer and independent producer is in charge of a musical about
Bonnie and Clyde, those gun-totin' sweethearts who did to the U.S. banks of the 1930s what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have accomplished with the same institutions recently.

Bonnie & Clyde: A Folktale, as it's being billed, opened Tuesday night as one of 24 musicals being presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, which has become one of the hottest events of every autumn in Manhattan.

In recent years, the festival has brought shows like Altar Boyz to productions both off and on Broadway. Judging from the buzz so far, Bonnie & Clyde may join the club.

"Lots of people in the industry have been expressing interest," says Chua, grabbing a quick snack near the theatre on a break from rehearsal. "We're seriously looking at a transfer soon. Everybody feels that the show is in shape and nothing serious needs to be fixed."

This is Chua's fourth time at the festival, the other three as the producer of such Canadian shows as Top Gun! The Musical, This Could Be Love and Job the Hip-Hop Musical.

But this time around the people from the festival, impressed with Chua's expertise in past years, invited him to produce an American show – one with a pretty high pedigree.

The driving force is author Hunter Foster, best known for having created the role of Bobby Strong in the original production of Urinetown.

Bonnie & Clyde is performing in the Chernuchin Theatre, where Urinetown had its initial off-Broadway run. As Chua remarks, "the vibe about this place is really strong for everyone here."

Veteran Broadway musical performer Mark Waldrop (Evita, La Cage aux Folles, The Grand Tour) is directing and Rick Crom, another longtime performer, is providing the score.

The 14-member cast, although boasting no stars, is filled with the kind of young talent that has been making its mark in New York in recent years. Chua says, "We couldn't be in better hands."

By Broadway standards, the $30,000 budget behind the six festival performances may seem slight, but it enables interested parties to see what the musicals are made of. Chua feels that the current economic climate is exactly the right time for this show.

"In this version," he explains, "Bonnie and Clyde are more like Robin Hoods. They don't actually kill anyone and their actions all have a positive trickle-down effect on the less fortunate."

Chua is ready to take the show to Toronto once it makes its mark in Manhattan. There's one scene in it that practically guarantees it will be a hit.

"Bonnie and Clyde rob a gas station," grins Chua, "and then they shout out `Free gas for everyone!'"

Works for me.

Unlike Vancouver, Ottawa Let Cirque Have Its Way In Expo Bid, Memo Shows

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

(September 18, 2008) VANCOUVER — As Cirque du Soleil was breaking off discussions with Olympic organizers over participating in the Vancouver 2010 opening and closing ceremonies, citing an excessive workload, the company was also in discussions with Canadian Heritage to design, manage and perform at the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai - a project that will run for five months.

Yesterday, The Globe and Mail reported that although officially both VANOC and Cirque blame the latter's commitments to private projects as the reason no deal was signed, a source close to the company suggested it was due to VANOC's refusal to cede creative control.

Subsequently, the same source said Cirque was also unhappy that it had been asked to compete against other tenders for the job.

Apparently, there were no such issues in its deal with the federal government. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin show that Cirque was offered a "sole-source contract" - no tenders from other organizations were invited.

The memo, sent from the Treasury Board of Canada to the Federal Identity Program, detailed Canadian Heritage's justification for this contract as "based on the unique expertise of the CdS and the opportunity to leverage their respected reputation and 'brand' for the benefit of the pavilion."

Dated Nov. 8, 2007, the memo notes that the agreement "commits to a 'branding statement' for the pavilion, to be integrated into the overall pavilion branding: 'The Canada Pavilion imagined and designed by Cirque du Soleil.'... In a contractual relationship, use of the tag line would be considered a form of endorsement."

Despite concerns raised in the memo by the Treasury Board about the extent of latitude given by Canadian Heritage to Cirque du Soleil, Minister of Canadian Heritage Josée Verner announced in January of this year that the government would contribute $13.5-million to the venture. Cirque's side of the bargain, as detailed in a Canadian Heritage media release, is to "use its world-wide renown and network of contacts to obtain corporate alliances and promote Canada's participation at the Expo."

Cirque will "design the creative concept for the Canada Pavilion, create the public presentation, organize the cultural program and develop strategic corporate alliances."

David Guscott, executive vice-president of celebrations and partnerships at VANOC, said that, as far as he was concerned, Cirque du Soleil could still play a part in the Olympics ceremonies.

"Without a doubt, the door's still open," he said. "Once we get through the stages of planning the show and its different elements and are ready to move on to particular performances and acts that will be produced, they are absolutely a company that we'd love to see involved."

But responding to yesterday's Globe article, Paul Henderson, former Olympian and president of the Toronto Ontario Olympic Council during its bid for the 1996 Summer Games, was sharply critical of VANOC.

"If they had wanted to make a stand and give it to Cirque du Soleil, they could have. The Cirque were not going to be controlled and they were right to say so," he said.

Angry that the executive director position of the opening and closing ceremonies was given to David Atkins, an Australian, Mr. Henderson said: "We should be standing up for what is Canadian. We are showing the face of Canada to the world - and we've hired an Australian to do it."

With a report from Rod Mickleburgh

Max Reimer 'I'm Hoping An Awful Lot Will Change'

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(September 18, 2008) VANCOUVER — Max Reimer's rise to one of the most important positions in Western Canadian theatre did not start with a boyhood dream: not even an adolescent ambition, or a high-school play. Reimer, the newly installed artistic managing director at Vancouver's Playhouse Theatre Company, began his stage career in a most untraditional way: with a lacrosse injury.

There were several injuries, actually - to his knees, for example - that sent him to dance class for some rehabilitative cross-training. He was 18 then - over the hill in terms of beginning a dance career - but he found he had the right combination of balance and flexibility for dance. And he liked it.

So while he was in pre-law at Simon Fraser University, studying sociology and economics, Reimer also took a dance class. Then, rather than accept admission to law school at the University of British Columbia, he pursued a dance career instead.

Twenty-nine years later, Reimer is back in Vancouver, running both the administrative and artistic sides of the Playhouse: a professional, regional theatre company that local artists and audiences look to for the production of serious theatre, with mainstream appeal. He begins his first season with the company with the opening this week of Frost/Nixon, a Peter Morgan play based on a series of interviews between British talk show host David Frost and disgraced former U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1977.

"I love business. I love making things happen," Reimer, 54, said during a recent interview in Vancouver. "But I'm also really passionate about theatre. So this is a great combination."

Reimer grew up in a Mennonite household, making a career in dance an unusual choice. The Mennonite Brethren, to which his family belonged, abstain from dancing. But his parents were supportive.

"They knew that I was working - that it was a discipline to me. It was something I was doing for art and as work. I wasn't trying to be immodest or to show off or anything. Ballet class in the morning is anything but showing off - especially when you're late to dance."

Dancing and choreography led Reimer to acting - television acting, in particular, which was lucrative. There were guest roles on MacGyver and 21 Jump Street, but Reimer ultimately decided to put an end to the TV roles and concentrate on what he felt would be a more artistically satisfying stage career.

He worked onstage across the country (including at the Stratford, Shaw and Charlottetown theatre festivals) and also continued to produce events (First Night, the Gay Games).

In 1993, he took on the job of artistic director and general manager at the Huron County Playhouse in Grand Bend, Ont.

Then in 1996, he moved to Hamilton to become managing artistic director at Theatre Aquarius, which at the time was in the red and struggling. Reimer managed to turn things around, raising the subscriber base from 5,000 to 8,500 during his 12-year tenure, increasing the theatre's grants by 300 per cent and putting 99 Canadian plays on the program - 51 of them on the mainstage.

"Absolutely without fear of contradiction, that's more than any other artistic director in Canada at [the] 'A' category level," Reimer says, clearly proud.

When the Playhouse came calling last year, it was a dream opportunity for Reimer, who was born in Chilliwack, B.C., and grew up in Kitimat and North Vancouver. This was the theatre where he, as a boy, had seen his first plays: The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Billy Bishop Goes to War, Grass and Wild Strawberries (featuring the band that would become Chilliwack).

"These were experiences that I can remember to this day. They made a huge impact on my life, and I believe I am a product of the Playhouse."

Reimer takes over, in the artistic director role, from Glynis Leyshon, who went to Reimer's North Vancouver high school and was also a former student of Reimer's father, who taught history and English.

Leyshon and Reimer collaborated to some degree on this year's program, most of it coming from Leyshon (although Reimer replaced one of the original choices, The Wizard of Oz, with the recent Canadian Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone). Leyshon is also back as a guest director this season (for Top Girls), and they remain in touch. "I've kind of got her on speed-dial," he says.

If there are concerns about Reimer, they centre on a worry that quality could be sacrificed for popularity in his drive to increase box office. Reimer is aware of the criticism, but he rejects it.

"If I'm forced to choose between a play I know would be popular and a play I know would be good, that would be a terrible Sophie's Choice ... and I'm hoping never to have to make those choices."

Still, Reimer is faced with the task of choosing programming that will be both artistically satisfying and get more people through the door. The Playhouse has about 5,000 subscribers, down from 8,000 around a decade ago (and far fewer than the company's main competition, The Arts Club Theatre Company, which has 14,000 subscribers).

"Too few," says Reimer when asked about the number of subscribers. "Twelve thousand would be better. Ten thousand would be achievable."

How is he going to get there?

"I'm hoping an awful lot will change," he says.

But he is careful to stay away from specifics. Beyond saying outright that improvements to the lobby and customer service are necessary, hinting that the mandate to produce only post-Second World War plays will be scrapped and mentioning generalities about the need for audiences to connect with each other and for the Playhouse to be accessible to both artists and audiences, Reimer won't say much. He needs buy-in from within and doesn't want to share plans with the media before running them by his staff or board.

"I'm just at the beginning of this and I'm going to need a lot of friends and allies to make this happen."

Reimer may be reluctant to reveal too much at this delicate, early stage, but there's no doubting his enthusiasm. Ask a question about his philosophy, his plans, his inspirations, and the former would-be lawyer is likely to launch into an impassioned dissertation about the importance of theatre and the arts.

"It's a tremendously high calling to do this," he says. "It's not a frill."

Frost/Nixon opens tonight at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre and runs until Oct. 4 (http://www.vancouverplayhouse.com).

Peter Scolari Interview: From Tragedy, A Comedian Is Born

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

(September 20, 2008) If, as it's often been said, that farce is just tragedy where the leading character doesn't give in, then you couldn't find a more perfect star than Peter Scolari for Boeing-Boeing, which opens at Stage West this Thursday night.

The man best known for his ongoing roles in TV series like Bosom Buddies and Newhart has all the right comic stuff to keep the laughter rolling in this story of a philanderer with too many stewardesses and too few bedrooms, but he's come to that mirthful finesse at a considerable personal cost.

A childhood spent with an abusive father, two painfully broken marriages – both with children attached – and a midlife diagnosis of bipolar disorder may not seem like the breeding ground for laughter, but then, you don't know Peter Scolari.

He shows up for lunch at Toronto's hippest new eatery, Nota Bene, in chic casual attire, looking a full decade younger than his 53 years and ready to discuss anything – especially himself – with a combination of wit and honesty that's rare in show business.

"My mom and dad? Oh, they were a fiery pair," he says, jumping in the deep end of the pool right from the start. "They stayed together for the kids and also because they were hopelessly in love with each other, but they were totally incompatible.

"Mom was a recovering alcoholic, still more than 40 years sober, while dad was a lawyer and a rageful man."

Scolari's opened the door to the dark side a bit too suddenly, and you can see him pause as the demons pour out. "Now that my siblings have children of our own, we don't see how a man could treat his children the way he treated us. We look on ourselves as the survivors of psychological abuse."

All of this happened in the New Rochelle-Scarsdale axis of suburban New York during the early 1960s. Vintage Mad Men country: heaven on the surface, hell underneath.

"I created a persona to deal with all of this," admits Scolari. "A sort of `you can't find who I really am because I'm moving all over the place' kind of thing. I became a chess player. I anticipated the moves my father was going to make."

The teenage Scolari was – as usual in cases like this – an overachiever: star athlete, blue-ribbon scholar, model student. But the first thing that ever gave him real pleasure was when he starred as Finch in his high school production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying when he was 16.

"I did a scene," he recalls, "got some laughs, walked offstage, and then bam! I had a white-light experience. This is it, I thought. This is what I want to do with my life. I'm going to be an actor."

His parents surprisingly agreed, "as long as I went to college and had something to fall back on. I lied and said I would, but I knew full well even then there would be no falling back, ever."

While still a student at the City College of New York, Scolari joined a repertory group called the Colonnades Theatre Lab. When his father died during his third year of college ("He didn't save any money. All of us had to fend for ourselves."), Scolari quit school and just continued as an actor.

"A lot of wonderful people came out of that company," he recalls. "Jeff Goldblum, Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, Michael O'Keefe. One by one, they went off to Los Angeles, but I said, `Not me, never!'"

But he finally did and the fall of 1980 saw him starring in a sitcom called Bosom Buddies where he and another young unknown named Tom Hanks played two guys who dressed up in drag to find an affordable apartment. "Some Like It Lukewarm," sneered more than one critic, but the public loved the boys and the series ran 37 episodes until 1982.

He and Hanks became close friends on the show, but as Hanks' career soared in the '90s and Scolari's stood still, it got tough.

"Tom was always very sympathetic, of course. He's that kind of a guy. But the funny thing is that we always felt we were sparring partners, equals, and the vicissitudes of show business sent him up and me down. It's all just a lottery."

That particular lottery sent Scolari next to Newhart, the hit sitcom, where a guest shot as the uptight Michael Harris eventually turned into a role that would last 142 episodes and win him three Emmy nominations.

"It started out as this broad comedy thing," he relates, imitating the voice he used on the show. "A wannabe Connecticut lockjaw, a would-be blue-blood guy."

And he played it that way for two seasons until one week, he seized what was supposed to be an aggressive scene and played it as an emotional breakdown, dissolving into tears.

Bob Newhart took him aside and asked "Is that what you really want to do?" and when Scolari told him yes, Newhart backed him up 100 per cent saying, "The kid gets to do it his way."

The character broke through that week and Scolari became a unique part of the Newhart family.

Then the series ended.

"Things were okay for about five years," he says quietly. "I kept losing major features, coming in second, but I got enough work at first to keep it all rolling. But then in the '90s, it got tight. The lifestyle was way up there, but the money was only coming in down here."

The second marriage ended, life started to fall apart and Scolari was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But he came through and feels better now than he ever has before.

He loves Boeing-Boeing and is full of praise for his director, Jim Warren ("a genius") and his co-star Michael Lamport ("an inspired madman").

He talks about the teamwork necessary for the show. "We have to be like Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello. ..."

Hanks and Scolari?

"Yeah," Scolari says with a wistful smile that makes him seem 25 again for just a moment, "we could have managed it pretty handily."

THEATRE TIDBITS

Canadian Takes Role In Broadway's 39 Steps

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 19, 2008) Toronto — Canadian actor Jeffrey Kuhn is set to join the Broadway cast of The 39 Steps, the stage adaptation of the John Buchan book and Alfred Hitchcock movie. Kuhn moves into the role of Man No. 1 on Oct. 28, replacing Cliff Saunders in a production that won two Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards and an Olivier Award. Kuhn was previously on Broadway as Giuseppe Zangara in Assassins, Boq in Wicked, Sir Bedevere in Monty Python's Spamalot and the original company of Ragtime. He won a 2007 Dora Award nomination in the world premiere of The Story of My Life (at Toronto's CanStage). Other Canadian credits include several seasons at the Stratford Festival, Cousin Kevin in The Who's Tommy, Zazu in the Canadian premiere of The Lion King and Gregor in George F. Walker's Nothing Sacred, a role he later reprised for CBC Television. The 39 Steps, staged at Manhattan's Cort Theatre, also continues to be a hit in London's West End.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Pinball History On The Block

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

(September 20, 2008) If you've ever wanted your very own pinball machine or upright arcade game in your basement, here's your chance – while taking home a piece of a Toronto landmark.

Two months ago, the
Funland arcade closed its doors after 46 years on Yonge St. north of Dundas.

Next Saturday, Funland's owners will sell off nearly 200 arcade games, pinball machines, pool tables, air hockey tables, foosball tables, touchscreen countertops, jukeboxes and other items from the emporium.

The auction is at The Playdium Store, 70 Ronson Dr. Viewing begins at 9:30 a.m. and bidding at 11:30 a.m.

To get a bidder's card, you'll need a $200 cash deposit, which can be used toward a purchase (or refunded if you don't buy anything).

Examples of pinball machines available include Elvis, Monster Bash, Monopoly, No Fear, South Park, Terminator 3 and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Coin-op arcade cabinets include the original Ms. Pac-Man, Galaxian, Gauntlet, Street Fighter and the sit-down Cruis'n USA driving game.

The wizard's crown

On a related note, the 2008 Canadian Pinball Championship will be held next weekend at The Playdium Store.

It all starts on Friday. More than $10,000 in prizes will be awarded, including the grand prize of a new Stern World Poker Tour Pinball machine (valued at $5,000) and $1,000 in cash.

In fact, Gary Stern, president and owner of Stern Pinball Inc., the sole surviving pinball machine manufacturer in the world, will preside over the final round and crown the winner.

Players can preregister online at theplaydiumstore.com or by calling 1-888-977-4263, extension 298. Entry fee is $25.

Take-Two's ups and downs

Last week, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. announced that its controversial Grand Theft Auto IV video game sequel for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had sold 10 million copies worldwide as of Aug. 16.

For the three months ending July 31, Take-Two reported $433.8 million (U.S.) in revenue – more than double the $206.4 million it raked in during the same quarter in 2007. The publisher earned $51.8 million in net profit, compared with a loss of $58.5 million in the same quarter last year.

However, Take-Two's stock price tumbled this week after its bigger rival, Electronic Arts Inc., walked away from formal takeover discussions.

Take-Two also announced that its downloadable Grand Theft Auto IV episodic content, an Xbox 360 exclusive, won't be available in the company's current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 31.

::OTHER NEWS::

PM Stands Ground On Cuts To Culture

Source: www.thestar.com - Tonda Maccharles,
Ottawa Bureau

(September 19, 2008) DRUMMONDVILLE, Que.–Call it tough love.

Out to woo Quebecers' votes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper nonetheless lashed back yesterday at widespread criticism of federal cuts to arts and culture programs and lectured the provincial government to get its priorities straight.

As for outrage about Quebec City Conservative candidate Myriam Taschereau's comment that artists are "spoiled," Harper offered no apology. He said his government transferred millions of dollars to Quebec and if culture was such a priority for Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government, it had the means to pay for those programs.

"We gave so much money to the Quebec government it was able not just to finance programs, but to give this money to taxpayers as tax cuts," Harper said.

That prompted a quick retort from Charest, who told reporters: "I don't have to account to the federal government for how Quebec manages its finances."

A Charest minister slammed the Conservatives, saying they have not yet settled the "fiscal imbalance" with the province. The provincial government believes Ottawa still must restore spending for post-secondary education that was slashed in the mid-1990s.

The dispute comes as a poll showed the Conservatives ahead of the separatist Bloc Québécois in the province for the first time ever.

The poll, conducted by Léger Marketing for Le Journal de Montréal, showed the Tories with 34 per cent support in Quebec, and the Bloc with 32 per cent. The Liberals are at 20 per cent.

In a Radio-Canada radio interview yesterday, Pierre Vincent, the Conservatives' Quebec campaign co-president, went so far as to say it was possible for the Tories to capture half of the province's 75 ridings on Oct. 14, though he cautioned it was early for predictions.

At a Drummondville rally last night, Harper again boasted of his practice of "open federalism," denounced the Bloc as impotent and stroked Quebec nationalists.

"We will always make a big place for Quebec nationalists because Quebec nationalists make a big place for Conservatives."

Sparking a new fight over money and scolding artists as whiny and spoiled could backfire, however, in a province where culture and the arts are entwined with the complex politics of identity and language. Federal program cuts of about $45 million made quietly over the summer have sparked a furor here.

At the rally, Harper suggested there would be no new big transfers of money to the province, but he said he led the Commons to recognize the Québécois as a "nation" within Canada, and gave Quebec a voice at UNESCO, the world cultural body.

To show he is sensitive to the cultural concerns of Quebec, Harper made a cultural announcement in the province's central region, which is strong Bloc turf.

He pledged an extra $25 million over five years for the budget of French-language broadcaster TV5 to boost Quebec-produced content and new broadcast technologies for the international commercial-free channel. That would increase the federal contribution to TV5 to $12.4 million from $7.4 million annually.

With files from Andrew Chung

Study Reveals Erosion In Arts Funding

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(September 19, 2008) The Conservatives are out on the hustings saying they spend more on the arts than did the Liberals. The Liberals are pledging to restore recently axed arts-and-culture programs, and accusing the Tories of cultural insensitivity.

So, wherein lies the truth?

The Globe and Mail has parsed the budgets and crunched the numbers to reveal the true trajectory of Canada's support for the arts in recent years.

A close look at federal budget documents suggests that nearly $45-million in recent federal funding cuts are symptomatic of a larger trend under the Conservatives that has seen dollars gradually shifted away from arts and culture, and funnelled instead into other branches of the Department of Canadian Heritage that focus on the department's social mandate.

The analysis also calls into question the rosy picture the Conservatives have sought to paint about their support for the arts: Although there is some truth to the government's claims, they derive their force from a vague definition of “culture” – which can comprise everything from piano recitals to ESL classes.

In an exclusive interview with The Globe last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that his government “has increased funding for the arts” – and he cited a rise in the Canadian Heritage budget as an example.

His claim is valid in a broad sense: The overall cultural budget, combining funding for the Department of Canadian Heritage and its agencies and Crown corporations (such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Arts Centre), has increased since the Conservatives took power in early 2006. In 2004-05, the Liberals spent a combined $3-billion overall – compared to about $3.3-billion that the Conservatives planned to spend this fiscal year.

But the largest apparent boost to arts funding in recent years – which, thanks to Ottawa bookkeeping practices, was credited to the Conservatives in their first year in power – overstates the Tories' commitment to arts funding, as a soon-to-be-published report from the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) explains.

Federal budget documents show the Conservatives spent $3.2-billion in 2006-07, and suggest that Liberal spending had dipped to slightly more than $2.9-billion the previous year. But the Conservative figure includes money spent by the Liberals in 2005-06. The reason: Such figures are meant to include the government's main estimates, offered when the budget is unveiled, and its supplementary estimates, which add small amounts spent as the year unfolds. In late 2005, Parliament was dissolved before the supplementary dollars spent by the Liberals could be reported – and they were instead tacked onto Conservative estimates for the following fiscal year.

For an even clearer picture of the changes that have happened to arts funding under the Tories, it's necessary to recognize, as well, the distinction that Canadian Heritage makes between its two so-called strategic outcomes.

The first, SO1, which supports Canadians in expressing their cultural experiences to each other and the world, details spending on arts and culture. The second, SO2, promotes Canada as an inclusive, diverse society, focusing on such objectives as intercultural understanding, citizen participation and sports. Although this second arm undoubtedly deals with “Canadian culture,” broadly defined, it's at best misleading to include those dollars in Harper's proclamation about funding “the arts.”

In fact, when the two outcomes are examined separately, a striking trend emerges.

Funding for SO1 during the Conservatives' first year was greater than in the previous Liberal budget, but the actual size of the increase may not be quite what it seems, thanks to the budget anomaly brought about by the election call in late 2005. Meanwhile, as the Tories have continued to govern in the years since, contributions to SO1 – the bedrock of direct federal arts-and-culture funding – have fallen from $817-million to $759-million.

Over the same period, funding for SO2 has increased each year, from $567.7-million in 2006-07 to $631.6-million in 2008-09. In the Conservatives' first year, SO1 accounted for 59 per cent of spending by Canadian Heritage. It now accounts for just 54.6 per cent. What's more, should the Conservatives remain in power after next month's election, it is expected to account for even less next year – when the government transfers the $45-million saved through strategic review to Olympic and official-languages initiatives, which fall under SO2.

Spokespeople for Canadian Heritage confirmed, when approached by The Globe this week, that every program cut under strategic review has come from the department's arts-and-culture arm, leaving untouched the branches devoted to sport, youth, citizenship and identity, and diversity and multiculturalism. Such a revelation certainly hints at a targeted approach to arts cuts, which would contradict the government's assertions that programs were axed based on simple efficiency reviews – and without ideological motivation.

“The analysis seems to point to a very worrisome trend, which is the federal government moving away from investing in arts and culture toward more societal aspects of the mandate of the Heritage Department,” says Alain Pineau, national director of the CCA. “I'm not against that – but it's not new money. We're taking away from Peter to feed Paul here, and that is really worrisome.”

As for the agencies and Crown corporations that fall under Heritage, each one saw at least a small increase during the first year Harper's Conservatives were in office – most notably the Canada Council, which has become the Conservatives' favourite example of their generosity to the arts. (Still, the windfall for the Canada Council paled in comparison to a Liberal promise, made in late 2005, to double its budget to $300-million – a promise the Conservatives initially pledged to honour, and later abandoned.)

But, again, such increases need to be taken with a grain of salt, thanks to that spending credited to the Conservatives that in fact had been undertaken by the Liberals. As well, any Conservative largesse was also likely driven, at least in part, by the large surplus they inherited from the Liberals.

Subsequent years have seen a series of minor increases and decreases to the budgets of Heritage's agencies and Crown corporations, the result being an overall level that has remained, roughly, unchanged. And as the souring economy and successive cuts to the GST have eroded government wealth, overall cultural funding, as well as the Canadian Heritage budget, has declined slightly in the current fiscal year.

As for the future of arts-and-culture funding, that's murky at best, primarily because the federal election has yet to be decided, but also because of the spectre of expiring programs that must seek renewal in the coming years. Sharp drops in future funding estimates are misleading because they don't include funds currently allocated to programs scheduled to sunset. Most such programs are, in fact, expected to be renewed, but guarantees are few and far between.

The CCA's Annual Analysis of the Federal Budget for 2008, published in June, highlighted several programs facing uncertain futures. Many such initiatives that the government said it would “seek to renew” have since been cut or reduced, including the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector ($2.5-million) and the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program ($3.5-million). The Canada New Media Fund ($14.5-million) is one among several programs awaiting word on their fates.

Pineau says the declining funding for the first strategic outcome, when combined with relatively static overall funding for agencies and Crown corporations in recent years, raises concerns about the larger vision of the federal government.

“It's also worrisome, particularly, because it is by investing in arts and culture in the traditional sense that we are investing in the creative economy,” notes Pineau. “And that's a very important aspect of the role of the federal government: to support the creative economy.”

Putting The Fun Back In Symphony

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

(September 20, 2008) Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher's recent run in with a rabid Toronto audience member isn't that far removed from what used to happen to Romantic pianist-composers.

Like today's pop and rock fans, people once gathered to hear the latest classical sensation because it was going to be a fun night out. Sometimes, however, the fun got out of hand. In his memoirs, the famous Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) describes how, in 1939, impatient fans threw themselves en masse against the doors of the Salle Pleyel in Paris before a concert by Vladimir Horowitz. In the mid-19th century, women would swoon for the likes of Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt. They would even try to get their idol's attention by throwing their jewels onto the stage (there were just too many layers of clothing to make undergarments easily accessible).

Contrast that with today's classical concerts, where we sit in silence as musicians soberly interpret the same canonical pieces.

Woe betide the performer who doesn't follow the letter of the score, for they shall be judged wanton and wanting by stern critics.

Where did the fun go?

Scottish pianist and teacher Kenneth Hamilton, an authority on Liszt's piano music, gives us a reality check on this strange evolution in a recent book from Oxford University Press.

Although the details are about piano performance (complete with examples to sit down and play),
After the Golden Age is a lively reminder that classical music once passed for mass entertainment. "A little less reverence and a bit more entertainment would do us no harm today," he writes.

Tomorrow, Chinese sensation Lang Lang arrives in Toronto for a week's worth of public appearances and concerts. Although traditional critics may not like what he does, this twenty-something star, fresh from the spotlight at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, already deserves comparison with such "Golden Age" greats as Liszt, Chopin, Anton Rubinstein and Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Admittedly, the concerts of 150 years ago were different, focusing on the performer, not the composer. "To ensure a good attendance, all tastes had to be catered for," writes Hamilton. Unlike today, pianists were expected to improvise preludes and interludes. Many would chat with the audience, the way pop and jazz artists do today.

Pianist Gabriela Montero (who also returns to Toronto later this season) is the only current big-name player to improvise freely – and many piano purists look askance at this practice.

The book's author hardly advocates a return to pop-concert theatrics, but he does believe that performers, teachers, critics and the general audience have sacrificed too much spontaneity for the sake of fidelity to the score – a score that may actually not reflect what the composer really wanted anyway.

The book contains example after example that would overturn anyone's faith in the printed music. Hamilton lays some of the blame for the triumph of perfectionism over being spontaneous on the recording industry. It has turned pianist-composers into pianist-interpreters, where the thrill and risk are replaced by sober fidelity.

The abundance of conservatories and competitions also contributes, Hamilton adds in a phone conversation. Teachers and judges need a standard: "If you say the score is not the ultimate arbiter of a performance, there is no objective way left of judging a performance."

But all of the pianistic greats of the 19th century strayed from the page, making things up either to make a piece easier to play or more accessible to a mass audience.

One can't help asking Hamilton the piano performance instructor how he reconciles interpretive freedom with teaching basics. "It's all about hypocrisy," he says, bursting into laughter. "It's not what you teach students, it's what you're telling them about how to fit into the world. I tell them that you don't do this for an audition panel or in a competition."

In other words, follow the rules, then break them.

There aren't too many pop stars who would argue with that.

Northern Roots Still Fuel Giller Hopeful's Fiction

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

(September 20, 2008) With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast at the end of last month, Joseph Boyden and his wife, Amanda, both novelists and university teachers, were hunkered down in their recently purchased New Orleans home, determined to wait out the storm.

"We bought a generator, boarded up all our windows and bought tonnes of supplies," Boyden says.

The couple's resolve evaporated, however, when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin started describing Gustav as "the mother of all storms" and the "storm of the century." At the 11th hour, the Boydens fled upstate to stay with friends in Baton Rouge, La., where circumstances were only marginally better.

When the power went out in Baton Rouge, Boyden's only news of New Orleans came from his longtime Toronto buddy Gord Downie, singer for the Tragically Hip, who kept in contact via Blackberry until the transmission tower gave out.

Within days, the Boydens were back in their adopted city, surveying the wreckage.

"We had to replace the whole roof, which is expensive," Boyden says. "It was out of pocket, too, because deductibles have become so high in New Orleans after Katrina. But it could have been far worse."

The new roof was installed just in time to protect the couple's home from Hurricane Ike.

It is possible to imagine a fictionalized version of the events finding their way into some future narrative. But Boyden thinks not. At least not by him.

"I don't know if I'll ever write about New Orleans," he says.

For the time being at least, Boyden is happy to leave the Big Easy to the capable imagination of Amanda, whose current novel,
Babylon Rolling, takes place during the year leading up to Hurricane Katrina.

Boyden's creativity remains rooted 2,500 kilometres north on the windswept shores of James Bay, the setting for his newly published second novel, Through Black Spruce.

"Living in New Orleans gives me the psychic and geographical distance I need write about that area the way that I want to write about it," says Boyden, who formerly taught at the Moosonee campus of Northern College. A member of the Woodlands Metis raised in Willowdale, he describes his heritage as a mixture of Irish, Scottish and Ojibway.

"I come up to Canada a couple times a year and fill up on family and experience, go pike fishing and moose hunting. Because I get home enough, it's still firmly ingrained."

Boyden was in Toronto this week for the official launch of Through Black Spruce, an event thrown by his Canadian publisher, Penguin subsidiary Viking Canada, that featured a musical performance by pal Downie. He will return for next month's International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre, where he and Amanda both have scheduled events.

Through Black Spruce, one of 15 titles longlisted this week for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize, is the follow-up to 2005's Three Day Road, winner of both the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and a nominee for the Governor General's Award.

"A writer would be lying if they had a successful first novel and said they didn't feel some pressure to step up and prove yourself," the 41-year-old says. "But as a writer, I push any expectations that have to do with publishers or reviewers or readers away at first because you have to let the characters come to life in their own way."

While written to stand on its own, Through Black Spruce includes references to Cree characters in Three Day Road, one of whom, Xavier, is the father and grandfather of the current book's two narrators. Borrowing the dual narrator approach of Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce is told by Will Bird, a bush pilot who lies comatose in a hospital bed after running afoul of local bikers, and his niece, Annie, who leaves Moosonee to search for her sister, a fashion model who disappeared after her own encounter with the criminal element.

A third Bird family novel is already in the works. "I loved the idea of the trilogy ever since reading Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy as a teen. It's almost an old-fashioned idea, but it can be a powerful thing if done correctly.

"As soon as I finished Three Day Road – before it had even seen the light of day – I felt depressed," Boyden says. " It was the weirdest thing. I should have been happy. I had finished this thing I'd worked on for years. Then I quickly realized that it was because these characters were suddenly gone out of my life and there was so much more to say about them."

And even when Boyden is done with the Birds, it is safe to assume he'll have more to say about the land they inhabit.

"I've never been so warmly embraced as I was when I was teaching up and down the coast of James Bay. And I was amazed that fiction had never really written about these people. I thought, `This is perfect for me. This what I need to do.'"

Zoomer Targets Boomers

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

(September 22, 2008) Suzanne Boyd understands as well as anyone that magazine publishing is a risky business. After establishing her reputation here as the editor of Flare, Boyd moved to Manhattan in 2004 to launch Suede, which survived for all of four issues.

Don't expect anything like that kind of flame out for Boyd's current venture,
Zoomer, which arrives at newsstands today. For one thing, as the rebranded version of CARP, the house organ of the Canadian Association of the 50Plus (formerly Retired Persons), Zoomer hit the ground with a paid circulation of nearly 186,000 and a total readership of more than 670,000.

The main difference, apart from a complete stylistic overhaul, is that the remake will compete on the newsstands as well, while its predecessor was distributed exclusively to members of CARP, a 350,000-member advocacy group for older Canadians. A total of 50,000 copies of Zoomer are being delivered to newsstands.

"My instinct has always been newsstand, newsstand, newsstand," says Boyd, 45, during an interview in her office. "That's been my background. I've never done a non-newsstand magazine. It's distinctly different. A newsstand cover has to have a great shot. It needs to be punchy and attractive to the eye."

The premiere issue, which was sent out to subscribers last week, splashes a 47-year-old Wayne Gretzky across its cover. Inside, the magazine's 164 pages include a piece on Afghanistan by Sally Armstrong, along with a laundry list of subject areas from predictable lifestyle touchstones such as health, culture and travel, to targeted topics like longevity.

The relaunch is part of a general reorienting of CARP by Moses Znaimer, the former Citytv kingpin who took over as executive director of CARP last year. The demographic was to be 45 and up, essentially incorporating the entire Boomer generation, along with its surviving elders. The magazine's offices are housed in the same building as similarly restyled, Znaimer-owned radio stations Classical 96.3 FM and AM 740, which advertises itself as "Zoomer Radio."

Boyd understands that the glossier format, while designed to tempt non-subscribers, will not find unanimous favour with long-time readers. But she insists that in making the publication zoomier, she hasn't lost sight of its original purpose.

"CARP spoke to its audience because it was such a service-oriented magazine, which people found useful," she says. "I was happy to build on that. The word I like to use is `amplify.'

"Most magazines are very lifestyle (oriented). And they have no other content. But because of CARP, there's policy, politics, social studies and advocacy. We have to marry that with lifestyle. That's what made it an interesting challenge."

Author Shocked By Uproar Over Her Islam-Inspired Novel

Source: www.thestar.com - Nicholas K. Geranios,
The Associated Press

(September 18, 2008) SPOKANE, Wash.–Sherry Jones knew it would be hard to get her first novel published. Getting The Jewel of Medina into bookstores was even harder.

After overcoming the formidable hurdles any new author faces, Jones was overjoyed to sell the book to Random House. Then Random House cancelled its publication at the last minute, for fear the historical novel about Aisha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, would incite riots in the Muslim world.

"I had hoped to find an independent publisher with gumption and verve that would treat me as a partner in the publishing process," said Jones, a longtime newspaper reporter in Montana, who moved to Spokane about a year ago.

She got the idea for the book after the terrorist acts of Sept. 11. Determined to learn more about Islam, she read books on the religion and came across the story of Aisha, who became Muhammad's third wife as well as a leading scholar and warrior in the early days of the religion.

Aisha was nine when she became Muhammad's wife. She's often described as Muhammad's favourite wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad received the most revelations.

During a period of war after Muhammad's death, Aisha raised an army which confronted her rival Ali outside the city of Basra. Aisha's forces were defeated, and she was captured and returned to Medina. There, she became one of the top scholars of Islam's early age, with some historians crediting her with one-quarter of Islamic religious law. She died at 65.

"I became obsessed with thoughts of Aisha," Jones said.

Jones, who describes herself as spiritual but not part of an organized religion, figured her book would help build bridges between the cultures.

Random House, the largest publisher in the United States, liked the idea enough to give her a $100,000 (U.S.) advance for The Jewel of Medina and a sequel, which Jones has also written.

"It was a dream come true," said the 46-year-old Jones, who spent five years and seven drafts on the first book.

She was not naive. She knew an American woman writing a novel about Muhammad and Aisha would spark some controversy. But she expected her good intentions would be obvious.

"Anyone who reads the book will not be offended," Jones said. ``I wrote the book with the utmost respect for Islam."

A copy of the novel was sent to Denise Spellberg, an author and Islam expert at the University of Texas, seeking a cover blurb.

Spellberg called the novel a "declaration of war" and "a national security issue" that might incite violence. She also called the book "soft-core pornography," referring to a scene involving Muhammad consummating his marriage to Aisha. Spellberg ignored requests to comment for this story.

Jones was shocked and angered.

"Her characterization of my book as pornography created a self-fulfilling prophecy," Jones said. "I don't know why she used the most inflammatory rhetoric to describe my book."

Random House, worried about the response, decided in May to cancel the publication, although the news was not released to the general public until August. The publisher issued a statement saying that "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book ``could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

That story drew a response from author Salman Rushdie, who criticized his publisher for pulling the novel. Rushdie, whose The Satanic Verses led to a death decree in 1989 from Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and forced the author for years to live under police protection, said Random House had allowed itself to be intimidated.

"I was impressed," Jones said of Rushie's comment.

Random House drew other criticism. The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards lucrative literary prizes, said the company was too easily intimidated.

"Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public's access to the free marketplace of ideas," the trust said.

Jones was devastated by the cancellation. She and her agent negotiated an agreement with Random House so the book could be marketed to other U.S. publishers.

Last week, Beaufort Books bought it.

" Everyone at Beaufort is proud to be associated with this groundbreaking novel." company President Eric Kampmann said.

Earlier, Gibson Square agreed to publish the book in England. Not publishing the book "would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages," Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja said.

Jones has received some harsh e-mail and has taken down her Web site, but said she has received no direct threats.

Ironically, some critics complained she was being too positive about Muhammad and Islam.

"People see what they want to see," she said.

Jones was an Air Force brat who lived in many places growing up. She spent 20 years in Montana, which she considers home, graduating from the University of Montana's creative writing program. She moved to Spokane about a year ago.

She has become something of a celebrity. This week she left for Norway, where she will be the featured speaker on the freedom of speech panel at the Norwegian Foundation for Investigative Journalism conference in Lillehammer.

But she didn't set out to be a free speech crusader.

Rather, she wanted to write about women's empowerment, peace and hope, Jones said.

She's kicking around the idea of writing her next book about Lady Godiva, the Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest the high taxes imposed by her husband on his tenants.

Caricatures Speak More Than A Thousand Words

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(September 24, 2008) The flow of New Yorkers to Toronto may have declined alarmingly, but this week a great artist who has seeped into our consciousness for decades will arrive here for the first time.

David Levine's witty literary caricatures, usually with big heads and small bodies, have virtually created the identity of that prestigious literary journal, The New York Review of Books, for 45 years.

The event that brings Levine here is a small but brilliant show opening Friday at Edward Epstein's funky west-end Gallery 345.

Over the years Levine has done thousands of caricatures of notable figures — not only authors but also politicians and even athletes. And as this week's show will demonstrate, sometimes his subjects happened to be Canadian.

Levine worked from photographs, rarely meeting any of his subjects, but he gave most of them a humorous twist that was not always, in his early years, appreciated.

"I always tried to get an identifiable likeness and not go too far in distorting the photos," Levine, 81, explained in a phone interview yesterday. "I didn't want to create an anti-human feeling or make people seem ugly. But there were some occasions when people became angry about how I portrayed them."

That might have included certain U.S. presidents, especially Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. But a funny thing happened as Levine's fame grew.

"At a certain point after I'd been doing this for 10 years or so, the response became the opposite."

That is, instead of complaining about how Levine portrayed them, would-be celebrities fretted if they had been overlooked by Levine.

"People got the idea that if you weren't drawn by David Levine, you weren't going anywhere," he says.

His work has also been featured in mainstream magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated. Now probably for the first time, you have a chance to see the artist's originals as drawn by his own hand in his Brooklyn studio.

 

And here's the twist that makes the show irresistible: Of the 20 original works on display, more than half have Canadian subjects, including star novelists Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Yann Martel and Michael Ondaatje.

But we'll also get to see how Levine presents Glenn Gould, J.K. Galbraith, Pierre Trudeau, Michael Ignatieff and Jane Jacobs.

The idea for a Toronto exhibit was hatched by Bernard Schiff, former publisher of The Walrus, who developed a friendship with Levine on Martha's Vineyard, where they both spend part of every summer.

Levine still lives in Brooklyn, where his father once ran a garment factory. The turning point came in the early 1960s when a friend recommended him to editors who were launching the New York Review. From then on, every second Thursday Levine would be assigned to do a pen drawing tied to a book being reviewed in the next issue. He would have until Tuesday to come up with something.

In January 1968, Levine was at the centre of a media uproar when the same week that Time had his rendering of LBJ for its Man of the Year cover, its rival Newsweek had another Levine cover, about Republicans bidding to replace Johnson in the White House.

Recently Levine has stopped doing new drawings for the Review. Though some of his fans aren't aware of it, he is also a painter of note. And next month he will launch a new book featuring U.S. presidents of the past.

"David has a gift for finding things his subjects want to hide," says his archivist, David Leopold. "He reveals things about them. His work is richer than you first realize. And his status is such that to be drawn by David Levine is the ultimate proof that you've achieved something."

The original works are for sale. The show runs through Oct. 12.

OTHER TIDBITS

We Remember Nancy Hicks Maynard

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 24, 2008) *Nancy Hicks Maynard, the first black female reporter at The New York Times and, with her husband, became publisher of the Oakland Tribune, has died at age 61. Maynard died Sunday, said the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the renowned institute that trains minority journalists and founded by the Maynards. She had been ill for several months. "She was a fearless, astute champion of diversity in news media," A. Steve Montiel, a former president of the institute, said in a statement posted on the site. "We've lost a leader who made a difference." The former Nancy Hicks began her journalism career in the mid-1960s at the New York Post. Later, at age 23, she became the first black female reporter at The New York Times. After marrying Washington Post reporter Robert C. Maynard in 1975, the couple helped found the non-profit institute that bears their name to train minority journalists. As president of the institute, she made it "a leader in training, not only for reporters, but also for editors — the decision makers on who gets hired and how news events are covered," said Frank O. Sotomayor, associate director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism. "She shared with her late husband, Bob, the vision and goal of giving readers and other media consumers a more complete view of what was occurring in all communities," he said. In 1983, the couple purchased the financially struggling Oakland Tribune from Gannett Co. They sold it in 1992 as Robert Maynard was struggling with prostate cancer. He died the following year. The paper remains the only major metropolitan daily to have ever been black-owned. Survivors include her partner Jay T. Harris; sons David and Alex; and daughter Dori.

::DANCE NEWS::

A Journey Into 'The Human Side Of Dance'

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(September 24, 2008) Harbourfront Centre in Toronto is commemorating both the 25th anniversary of the Premiere Dance Theatre and its glittering new look with a performance audiences won't see anywhere else.

Rather than the usual gala potpourri of unrelated dances, the occasion is being celebrated with From the Horse's Mouth, a collaboration between PDT and two veterans of the New York avant-garde dance world that showcases the personal stories and movement patterns of 25 dancers who are part of PDT's history.

The From the Horse's Mouth project, which The New York Times described as revealing "the heart and history of dance," is the brainchild of dance artists Tina Croll, 65, and Jamie Cunningham, 70. Its first incarnation took place in 1998 at New York's Joyce SoHo Theatre. Since then, the duo has mounted more than 30 unique productions across the United States, in each case using local dancers to tell their personal stories with their own movement patterns. The PDT production is the first in Canada.

"The show opens the door into the human side of dance," Croll says. Cunningham adds, "Magic happens because a disparate group of people find an energy all their own."

As Croll and Cunningham tell it, the idea is stunningly simple. In the first stage of creating the work, the pair meet with all the local dancers for 20 minutes to find each one's own suitable 90-second story. As well as these stories, the dancers are then asked to come up with their own personal movement signatures for the piece - a 16-count standing phrase (that takes place in one spot) and a 16-count travelling pattern, and to obtain a costume from one of their past performances. Once these elements are in place, Croll and Cunningham can put the show together in just three rehearsals.

"For the audience, it is watching history. For the dancers, it is memory," Cunningham says.

During the performance, four dancers are onstage at all times, and the space is divided into four task areas: There is a chair and a microphone at which to tell the personal story, two places to dance (on the spot and travelling) and, finally, a station to interact with others. Each dancer performs all four tasks.

"To shake the routine up a bit, after a few of the stories, we have six or seven dancers do a diagonal cross to the sound of horses or the ocean like a dream sequence," Croll says. "The action onstage freezes when these crosses occur."

Adds Cunningham: "The finale is a simple zigzag chain dance, a long procession that becomes a river of time."

The duo have adapted From the Horse's Mouth for a number of celebratory events, including the 80th anniversary of the Martha Graham Dance Company, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. (In a way, the PDT show is a bit of a homecoming for Cunningham, who was born and raised in Toronto.)

Arwyn Carpenter, who first appeared at PDT as a member of Canadian Children's Dance Theatre and who will be part of the anniversary show, remembers seeing the Tisch performance in 2002.

"I had no idea what I was going to see," says Carpenter, who was a student at the time. "I just knew that it was going to be the faculty as performers, but it was thrilling seeing them onstage. We got to know our teachers in a whole new way. It was the unexpectedness of their stories, some of them funny and some of them dramatic, and the way they moved. "

The complicated task of co-ordinating the PDT From the Horse's Mouth production fell to Jeanne Holmes, Harbourfront's dance programmer, and Michael Trent, artistic director of Dancemakers. "I felt like a stalker rounding up this large a cast. It is very difficult to get 25 busy people to commit for three nights," Holmes says.

Appearing along with the Toronto artists are Margie Gillis from Montreal and Martine van Hamel from New York. Solo dance artist Gillis appeared at PDT in its first gala performance on Sept. 24, 1983, and many times thereafter. Van Hamel is a former ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada who went on to a glittering career with American Ballet Theatre. She has appeared at PDT in Nederlands Dans Theater 3, Jiri Kylian's company for dancers over 40. Van Hamel has also taken part in two From the Horse's Mouth shows in New York.

The host of the first PDT performance was Karen Kain, and she is back doing the honours for the opening night. Soulpepper Theatre's Albert Schultz hosts the second evening and Toronto Dance Theatre's Christopher House the third.

"By bringing in Tina and Jamie, we're creating a show that is both about history and looking forward," Holmes says. "It is a living documentary of PDT's commitment to contemporary dance."

From the Horse's Mouth runs tomorrow through Saturday at Premiere Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W. (http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com).

Theatre has helped develop dance in Canada

According to William Boyle, Harbourfront Centre's chief executive officer, the idea for a theatre specifically for contemporary dance came in the late 1970s from Ann Tindal, then the centre's director of programming. "Dance in Toronto was growing," Boyle says, "and Ann thought that a better theatre would encourage better performance quality."

In 1980, a committee of Canadian dance artists was formed to advise Harbourfront on the requirements of a contemporary dance theatre - such as a double sprung maple stage floor. In a dazzling feat of engineering, the four-storey theatre chamber was carved out of the middle of the 1926 art deco-style Queens Quay Terminal, the first poured-concrete building in Canada.

The $3.9-million, 450-seat Premiere Dance Theatre, which boasted state-of-the-art acoustics and a sophisticated computer-controlled lighting grid, was the jewel of the Queens Quay

project.

The first performance took place on Sept. 24, 1983, and

featured companies from Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and

Vancouver. The first year offered a subscription series of 13 companies - eight Canadian and five American.

In its 25 years, PDT has hosted 500 dance productions, 125 theatre productions, 1,000 authors (including 12 Nobel laureates) through Harbourfront's reading series and international authors festival, and 75 music productions. Today, PDT is home to the Next Steps series of Canadian dance companies and World Stage theatre and dance events.

"Because of the modern facility that PDT is, the growth in theatrical values by the Toronto dance companies has been monumental," Boyle says.

"The theatre has also played an important role in the development of dance in Canada. By celebrating the history of dance at PDT, we are documenting Canadian cultural history."

::SPORTS NEWS::

CFL Legend Ron Lancaster Dies

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

(September 19, 2008) A hard year for the CFL's tight-knit little family got harder still yesterday with word that The Little General, Ron Lancaster, was gone.

Truly a legend and one of the most successful quarterbacks in CFL history, Lancaster, who beat bladder cancer in 2004, had confirmed just a little over a month ago that he was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

He died, at age 69, early yesterday morning, survived by wife Bev, children Lana, Ron and Bob and four grandchildren – and thousands upon thousands of fans and players whose lives he touched.

"Our league has lost its 'Little General'," CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said in a statement. "And our country has lost a giant of a man.

"Ron Lancaster is deeply loved across Canada, as a CFL player, coach, broadcaster and mentor, but most of all as a true friend. His career spanned eras, bridged west and east, and delighted our fans."

His death follows those of B.C. Lions president Bobby Ackles, hall of fame running back Earl (Earthquake) Lunsford, TV commentator Leif Pettersen and, in December, former commissioner Jake Gaudaur.

"I guess at my age (also 69) ... well, lately, I've been to a lot of funerals," said Argo head coach Don Matthews. "Bobby Ackles, some of my football friends in Edmonton. It's a difficult realization when things strike home, especially with close friends like Ronnie. It's a sad, sad day for the CFL, for Canada, for everyone that's known him."

Pennsylvania-born and raised, Lancaster, out of tiny Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio, broke into the CFL with the 1960 Ottawa Rough Riders, helping win a Grey Cup his rookie season.

After the '62 season, because Ottawa also had a slightly more seasoned quarterback of note in one Russ Jackson, Lancaster was dealt to Saskatchewan.

"I always say I went for a broken helmet with no facemask," Lancaster would say. Actually, it was for the waiver price of $500.

He piloted the Roughriders for 16 seasons, which included their first-ever Grey Cup in 1966 and, for him, the CFL's outstanding player award in 1976. When he retired as a player after the '78 season, he ranked as the league's all-time leader in, among other things, completions (3,384), passing TDs (333) and passing yards (50,535).

He coached the Green Riders in both 1979 and '80, spent a dozen years as a CBC football commentator, then returned as coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, 1991-97 and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 1998-2003 and again in 2006.

In Saskatchewan, the loss was particularly deep.

"It's actually a big shock," said Roughriders fan Barry Hutton as he bought jerseys at the team's gift store. "I think people in Saskatchewan still think of Ronnie as part of the Riders and always will."

As a tribute to Lancaster, the Roughriders will wear their retro jerseys and will have his number 23 on their helmets during tomorrow's game against the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

Until his diagnosis with lung cancer, Lancaster had been working as a colour analyst on the Ticats' radio broadcast and as an advisor to the team.

Just 2 1/2 weeks back, he'd been gleefully making the rounds at the Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne.

"He's a battler," said Matthews. "I think he's never going to tell you when he's wounded."

"I just saw him on Labour Day," said Toronto GM Adam Rita, who worked as offensive co-ordinator for Lancaster's Eskimos in 1993. "His optimism was so great. He had that Telly Savalas look (bald because of chemo treatments), as he would say.

"... He meant a lot to me as a friend, as a foe, as a teammate. It's time to celebrate his life now and never forget it."

For all his records and on-field accolades, Lancaster almost seemed most remembered yesterday for his off-field persona – gentle and honest with time enough for everyone.

"I witnessed that hundreds of times," said Hugh Campbell last night, sharing a conference call with Lancaster's great Roughrider contemporary, George Reed. Campbell, Lancaster's one-time teammate with the Riders, was Eskimo president when Lancaster coached in Edmonton.

"A fan at an airport, at a hockey rink, everyone had equal importance in his mind. He had a great feel for putting himself in another person's shoes."

"We'd always have to grab him by the neck and put him on the bus," added Reed. "Otherwise, we'd be sitting there for three years."

News of Lancaster's death came as a shock even to people who knew it was coming.

"It's stunning," said an emotional Campbell on the conference call. "I knew of his illness but I thought we'd have a little more time than this."

With files from The Canadian Press

Blue Jays Officially Eliminated With Loss To Boston Red Sox

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

(September 19, 2008) Earlier this season the Toronto Blue Jays looked like they'd be able to survive A.J. Burnett's potential departure thanks to the emergence of Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum.

Now, with McGowan recovering from a shoulder operation and Marcum headed for ligament-replacement surgery on his elbow, Burnett seems much more irreplaceable, with the opt-out clause in his contract representing a big bag of trouble.

The lightning-armed righty offered up a reminder of just what the Blue Jays would be missing should he indeed walk after the season, throwing seven strong innings in a 4-3 loss Friday night to the wild-card leading Boston Red Sox.

A sixth defeat in the last 10 games left the Blue Jays (82-72) officially eliminated in the AL East. Brian Tallet (1-2) took the loss after putting two batters on in the eighth before Shawn Camp gave up a run-scoring fielder's choice to Jason Varitek.

Manny Delcarmen (1-2) pitched an inning for the win, while Jonathan Papelbon closed things out in the ninth for his 39th save to help the Red Sox (90-63) inch closer to clinching a playoff berth.

Burnett remained stuck at 18 wins with the potential to make two more starts, but padded his other stats as he took another step to a big payday this winter. He struck out six to up his league-leading total to 220, while his seven innings gave him a career-high total of 213 1-3.

That last number, in particular, is one that should give the Blue Jays pause amid news earlier in the day of Marcum's impending surgery, the previous loss of McGowan and the uncertainty surrounding Casey Janssen, out the entire year after shoulder surgery.

Without Burnett, a starting rotation that had been a strength of the team could suddenly become tougher to stomach than a concession-stand hot dog.

Perhaps that's why GM J.P. Ricciardi switched gears Thursday and suggested for the first time that the Blue Jays would be willing to extend Burnett's term, although they won't get into a bidding war for him.

And he insisted Marcum's injury changed nothing in his eyes.

"Why should it?" he said. "We're not going to do something out of panic."

All three runs versus Burnett came in the fifth, after Kevin Youkilis appeared to go around on a check swing that would have ended the inning. Burnett didn't get the call, Youkilis ripped an RBI single on the next pitch and Sean Casey followed with a two-run double that made it 3-2 for Boston.

Paul Byrd, making his fifth start of the season against Toronto, couldn't hold that edge. Joe Inglett started a rally in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out single and promptly scored on Marco Scutaro's double.

The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the second on consecutive doubles by Scott Rolen, Gregg Zaun and Travis Snider, the latter two bringing home runs, for a 2-0 edge.

Notes: Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., rejoined the Red Sox on Friday after missing games Tuesday and Wednesday to attend the birth of his second daughter, Evelyn Jane. ... The Red Sox suspended pitcher Bartolo Colon after he called them Friday from the Dominican Republic and said he wasn't coming back to the team. He left the team with permission on Wednesday and was told he'd be used as a reliever once back. ... Mark Kotsay ended an 0-for-16 drought with a single in the fourth. ... Marcum tried to look at the bright side of his upcoming surgery. "I would be more concerned if it was my shoulder or something like that," he said. "Hopefully I'll come back with a brand new arm and maybe I'll throw 95, 98 like A.J."

::FITNESS NEWS::

2 Steps to a Tighter Butt, Toned Legs!

By Kim Droze, eDiets Contributor

No butts about it... the majority of us aren't very keen on the shape of our backsides. The shameful bottom line, according to a recent eDiets newsletter survey: A pitiful one of every 20 respondents is happy with his or her caboose.

Our non-scientific tush tally revealed 42 percent of us are "very dissatisfied" and just under 30 percent are "somewhat dissatisfied" with the derriere.

Yet, while our rumps have us down in the dumps, four out of 10 of us refuse to lift a finger (or in this case, a cheek) to remedy the problem. Why? Well, fitness experts will tell you that too many people hold the misconception that it's a pain in the butt to work the glutes.

The truth: You don't have to spend a lot of money or hours sweating in the gym to shape your lower body.

Fitness expert and regular eDiets contributor Michael Stefano, author of The Firefighter's Workout (HarperCollins), says you can get a better buttby working out for just 12 minutes a day, 3 days a week.

Even better news -- his workout will tone your thighs too!

Don't go reaching for your checkbook or take a second mortgage out on your home -- you don't need a gym membership or fancy exercise equipment.

Stefano says it's a common mistake for people to spend too much time isolating different muscles on machines when all they really need is a few minutes, a step and a set of hand-held weights.

"They have all of these machines and they isolate the inner thigh, outer thigh and butt," Stefano tells eDiets. "It's insane. Women spend an eternity on all these machines and I want to say to them they'd save 15 sets if they did one set of squats.

"It's hard to reach intensity when you isolate 2 percent of the body. You have to work at such an incredible level of intensity to get any effects from that."

Stefano's thigh-butt combo provides an effective one-two punch. With just two exercises, you're working the quads, the hamstrings, the glutes and the hip flexors.

"With the right program, you'll start seeing results in a month or less especially with a resistance program like this one," Stefano says. "Doing a little bit of exercise all year long makes it easier. Then you never have to do a comeback.

"There's no excuse for not having enough time to work out. All you need is 12 minutes. Most people are so off base when it comes to the time investment necessary. They're under the impression it takes hours and hours. If you do the right exercise, you can get real results in 12 minutes."

Stefano adds that for maximum results it's important to follow a diet and do regular metabolism-boosting cardio.

For the thigh-butt combo, do 12 to 20 reps or to muscle fatigue. Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Do 12 to 20 squats or to muscle fatigue. Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat 12 to 20 reps of the step-up. Rest 30 seconds to one minute. Finish off with 12 to 20 reps of the squat. Rest at least 48 hours before repeating.

Step-up
Place your right foot flat on the step and your left foot flat on the floor. Exhale and push off as little as possible with the left foot as you bring both feet up to step level. Inhale and lower your left foot to the floor.

Repeat to muscle fatigue (in the range of 12 to 20 reps). Repeat with the legs reversed.

Intensity Variations
Lower step height to decrease, and hold dumbbells to add intensity. To further increase intensity, you can also perform all repetitions without ever placing two feet on the step. This maintains tension in the leg that remains on the step.

Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands at your sides. Your head is straight, the natural arch maintained in your back, knees unlocked. Inhale and allow the arms to move forward for balance while bending at the knees and hips to a sitting or semi-sitting position (see intensity variation). Be sure your butt doesn't drop below the level of your knees and your knees do not extend beyond the toes. Exhale, slowly rising to a standing position and allow your arms to drop to your sides. Repeat to muscle fatigue (in the range of 12 to 20 reps).

Intensity Variations
To reduce intensity, do half-squats. This limits range of motion and puts less strain on the lower back and knees. Place a chair or bench of the correct limiting height under your butt (be sure to lightly tap only) to provide a safety stop. Hold dumbbells (as shown) to increase intensity.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com — Jacob A. Riis

"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before. "