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April 23, 2009

Spring in Toronto ... people forget that this means that any temperature goes!  More consistent weather is in our future I'm sure ... like in July.
Happy Earth Day too folks!

Michael J. Fox hits the small screen again - amazing.  Mia Farrow goes hungry, teen sensation Farrier runs and Ndidi Onukwulu performs at the Rivoli.  Check it out under TOP STORIES.  Want to stay at a hotel in Costa Rica?  One that is a former Boeing 727?  Check under TRAVEL NEWS.  Want to read something about the forecasted projections for the arts industry?  Articles are sprinkled throughout the newsletter so take a look.  And don't forget to check out the FITNESS and MOTIVATIONsections!

Check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news! 

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members. 


Farrier Running For More Than Just Glory

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

(April 19, 2009) Dushane Farrier remembers very well when his disciplinary issues at school had him taking regular trips to the principal's office.

Since those Grade 9 days, or what Farrier now refers to as "a period of my immaturity," he's learned a great deal at Toronto's Neil McNeil High about attitude, composure and respect.

So much so, that he's chosen to help others stay out of trouble.

Having graduated from the all-boys Catholic school last June, Farrier chose to return to boost his low 60s grades and also to improve his times on the track so as to spark interest from U.S. recruiting coaches.

So far, the 19-year-old has been good on both counts.

His grades are in the mid-70s, interest is coming from Kansas State and New Mexico among others, and he's been pegged as one of the top teenage sprinters in the province.

Yesterday, Farrier won the senior boys' 100 and 200 metres at the first major local high school outdoor track and field meet of the season – the Father Redmond Classic at York University.

He also anchored the 4x400-metre relay team to a silver medal and may have had a fourth medal if it weren't for a bad exchange that disqualified the team in the 4x100-metre relay.

Still, Farrier claims his biggest achievement this year has nothing to do with sports or his own grades. Instead, he points to time spent tutoring and mentoring schoolmates in the Neil McNeil Leadership Program.

"Kids are vulnerable and one bad mistake can turn someone in the wrong direction," said Farrier. "I want to help and I think they listen to me more than some teachers.

"I went through the same stuff as these guys, but back then I was lucky. Eventually, I saw the big picture. I remember being a bit cocky and thought I was the best until I was pulled aside and my coach (Al Baigent) told me that I better smarten up or I'd be the fastest burger flipper in Canada. That still bugs me."

Baigent says Farrier deserves a gold medal for making an impact with troubled youngsters at the school.

"As good as he was in track, we weren't afraid to sit him out of a meet," said Baigent. "We set boundaries, stuck to them and now he's doing the same – helping kids at risk."

"You run to win, not to lose," said Farrier, whose goal is to be the next Canadian sprinter to win an Olympic gold medal. "People set goals, I've achieved some but there are lots more left."

COACH KILLED: High school physical education teacher and popular basketball coach Daryl Mahler was killed in car accident near Chatham yesterday while on the way to visit his son who is on a track and field scholarship at the University of Detroit at Mercy.

Mahler, who taught at Denis Morris High in St. Catharines, was also convenor of the Ontario Catholic Classic basketball tournament in February.

Rescue Me Series Burns Bright

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

(April 19, 2009) There are a number of very special things about this fifth season of Rescue Me, Denis Leary's critically acclaimed, audience-adored firefighter dramedy, returning to Showcase tonight at 10.

First, the very fact it is returning – it's been 19 months now, thanks to the writers' strike. The season is also, by way of compensation, 22 episodes long, almost twice the usual run of 13 (the next and probably final season will likely go 18).

With Tommy Gavin (Leary) still reeling from the death of his father, the new storyline will retrospectively examine the post-traumatic impact of 9/11, as a French journalist (Karina Lombard) arrives at the firehouse to dredge up memories and reopen wounds for a book she's writing to mark the coming 10th anniversary.

In addition, the first five episodes feature Canadian actor
Michael J. Fox in only his third TV appearance – after guest shots on Scrubs and Boston Legal (for which he was Emmy-nominated) – since Parkinson's disease has made it increasingly difficult for him to work.

"We had sort of been requested by the network (Fox's cable arm, FX) to maybe do a little stunt casting," explained Leary's producing/writing partner, Peter Tolan, at the fall TV previews. "We knew what this part was ... we wanted to give Janet (Ontario-born Andrea Roth as Tommy's ex) a new guy who was, in some ways, more damaged than Tommy, who had some of the same issues, some of the same problems. And then it came to be a question of who we were going to cast.

"We went through the usual list of people who had said `I would love to do your show.' And of course, when you ask them, they have no real desire to do such a thing. And then, one day, I (said to Leary), `Oh my God, Mike Fox! You guys have known each other forever.'"

Fox and Leary being long-time hockey buddies, "We felt that maybe he would do us the favour."

"Of course, the great thing is we made the choice of having Michael play a guy who's in a wheelchair and is, in effect, paralyzed from the waist down. Which is not Michael's situation at all."

In fact, Fox's intermittent, Parkinson-induced loss of muscle control frequently makes it difficult not to move.

"It's a measure of how screwed up they are that they would hire me to play a paralyzed guy," Fox recently told USA Today. "I'm the opposite of a paralyzed guy. One of the reasons I don't act that much now is that my first job is to act like I'm not dealing with the things I'm dealing with.

"That can sometimes be distracting. It (ticks) me off when I'm doing it, because I can't do things I want to do."

And he wanted to do this, very much. "I was just finishing a book about optimism and happy thoughts (his second, the recently published Always Looking Up), and he comes to me with this character, and I said, `That's exactly what I need to do.' "

The character, Dwight, a bitterly confrontational, expletive-spewing pill popper, could not be further removed from the nice-guy roles Fox is best known for: Family Ties' Alex P. Keaton, Back to the Future's Marty McFly, Spin City's Mike Flaherty ...

"He's really great," enthuses Leary. "It's a dramatic role with comedic elements. He brought extra stuff to it. His first day on the set was two very heavy, psychotically driven dramatic scenes in a bar. (The character) has a drinking problem, and the crew, who had not worked with Michael before, were kind of thrown off. They thought he was really like that. That's how good he was.

"And it dawned on me not only how great he was in terms of being devoted to this character, and coming in and not moving and taking his meds ... I was right across from him, and I had three things going on. One was my concern for him as a friend, like, `I hope he feels all right.' Then, he was bringing so much to the plate, I was like, `S---, I've really gotta step it up here.' And then my third thing was like, `You know what's going to happen? I've f---ing never won an Emmy. He's gonna f---ing win an Emmy for (this).'"

As is always, quite notoriously the case with any Leary encounter, the conversation inevitably turns quickly, unprintably profane.

"Five f---ing episodes, he comes in ... I mean, God damn. (He's got) $700 million from Spin City. He never asked me to do the show. And he's going to walk away with the f---ing Emmy, that son of a bitch. I hate him."

"And he never complains," adds Tolan. "He never seems to complain about the fact that he has an illness."

"A real pain in the ass," Leary continues to rant. "You know what it's like? It's like having a really good friend who's really talented, and has, like, a ton of money, and is totally selfless and helps people all the time."

"Yeah," observes co-star John Scurti. "Kind of like the `anti-you.' "

Ndidi Onukwulu Ready To Make New Blues

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

(April 22, 2009) Entertainers tend to move to large urban centres when their careers start taking off but, not given to predictability, Ndidi Onukwulu recently left Toronto for the rural British Columbia community of Britannia Beach (population 300).

"I was in Vancouver when I decided to get serious about music," explained the effusive singer who grew up in northern B.C., "and I moved to New York and got into all kinds of trouble and really fell off course."

What kind of trouble?

"I was making music, but I wasn't really concentrating on it. I was bartending and staying out late after my shifts were over and making friends and going on ridiculous adventures that happen when you're in your early 20s."

A friend convinced Onukwulu to return to Canada and she wound up in Toronto where she performed with a rock band and hip-hop flavoured electronic outfit before settling on her unique blend of blues, gospel, jazz and R&B.

Even though her career took off here, the city "never felt like home," she said. "I just need the ocean and the mountains."

So Onukwulu didn't have far to travel when her home province hosted the recent Junos where her sophomore solo effort, The Contradictor, was nominated for Solo Roots & Traditional Album.

Along with a strong, novel tone and confessional lyrics, the disc features song titles rife with initials. Whom, one wonders, is the songwriter protecting?

"They're dead people," she said. "They're initials of names that I saw on tombstones at a few different graveyards across the country that I visited when I was on tour. It's a bit of a hobby. Sometimes, I just want to walk in a very quiet, solitary place, and they were names that really stood out to me on tombstones and I dedicated the songs to them."

Onukwulu, who studied theatre, music and linguistics at Simon Fraser University before dropping out to head to the Big Apple, recently made her acting debut in Charles Officer's drama Nurse. Fighter. Boy. She played a singer and disgruntled love interest of veteran actor Clark Johnson.

"One of the producers of the film saw me at a musical festival and approached me and asked me to read the script," she explained.

"I was very hesitant. It was helpful that I got to sing my own songs. The dialogue made me nervous, but I was working with really talented amazing actors who helped me. I think I would like to write a film more than I would like to be in another one."

Her next album is not scheduled to drop until next year, but the 30something singer has been debuting new songs on her Canadian tour, which hits the Rivoli on Friday. Then it's off to France, where she is signed to the same label that has housed artists such as Marianne Faithfull and Carla Bruni.

"In Europe, I'm a jazz-pop-blues artist; here, I'm jazz-blues-roots. I let people put me where they want. I do not believe in genres.

"I've always been drawn to blues music, spirituals, old original forms of North American music. And when I started singing that's where my voice fit. I like Motown, but I'm fascinated with the concepts of simplicity and movement and emotion, and then in turn trying to create music that twists and bends in ways that are unexpected.

"I'm hoping one day to create a new form of blues, a more contemporary form that's unique and original as that music was when it was beginning."

What would you call it?

"Music for grownups. Music for the masses. Dropkick music."

Mia Farrow Plans Hunger Strike For Darfur

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 22, 2009) NEW YORK–Mia Farrow is so determined to embark on a potentially dangerous hunger strike, not even her doctor can talk her out of it.

The 64-year-old actress and humanitarian plans to begin fasting on Monday, and she has set a limit of 21 days – or until her health worsens. Farrow, who will drink water only, says she approached her doctor for advice, asserting, "Please don't even try to talk me out of this.''

Farrow's hunger strike is a show of solidarity with the people of Darfur. She was inspired to do it after the Sudanese government expelled international aid agencies from the country last month.

Farrow says her doctor will be on call. In preparation, she's taking vitamins and eating fruits and vegetables, and she's gained 9 pounds.

"I'm just an actress," Farrow said Wednesday by phone from her home in rural Connecticut. "I'm not presuming anybody will care whether I starve to death or whether I go on a long hunger strike or what. But it's a personal matter. I can't be among those that watch – and I honestly couldn't think of anything else to do.''

Farrow said her doctor wants to conduct a blood test two weeks after she begins the protest.

"I don't know what will happen – I have no idea," she said. "I looked it up online just to see kind of what to expect, and the reason I'm gonna try to go for three weeks is because you do permanent, irreversible damage, possibly to your organs. ... But it is a punishment to the body for sure.''

Farrow is willing to take the risk. She's been to the Darfur region 11 times and feels compelled to return repeatedly on the peoples' behalf to "try to tell a world that seems not to care at all what's happening to them.''

Last year, Farrow became a vocal opponent of the Beijing Olympics, calling on China to use its close ties to the Sudanese Arab-dominated government to end the conflict in Darfur. As an alternative to the Olympics, Farrow aired a series of webcasts showing the poor living conditions of ethnic African refugees displaced by the fighting.

The war in Darfur began in early 2003 when rebel groups rose up against the government complaining of discrimination and neglect. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

"My goal is to one day build a museum for Darfur's people – in Darfur," Farrow said. "Where the young people who've grown up in the midst of violence and in deplorable conditions in camps will be able to go to that museum and reclaim what's theirs.''

Farrow, who has collected 40 hours of video footage of traditional ceremonies and other rites that are rarely performed in dark times, expects to return to camps on the Sudan-Chad border sometime this year.

But first, she has to get through her fast.

"I'm going to spend time with each of my children between now and Monday and try to, you know, really alleviate whatever worries they might have or concerns. ... I'm still a parent and I don't want to die.''


Costa Rican Airplane Hotel Takes Flight

Source: www.inhabitat.com - by Bridgette Steffen

If you have fantasies of living like the Swiss Family Robinson or even the characters in Lost, this rainforest resort near Quepos, Costa Rica may be just the ticket. Situated on the edge of the Manuel Antonio National Park, the Costa Verde Resort features an incredible hotel suite set inside a 1965 Boeing 727 airplane. In its former life the airplane transported globetrotters on South Africa Air and Avianca Airlines, and it now serves as a two bedroom suite perched on the edge of the rainforest overlooking the beach and ocean.

The airplane was transported piece by piece from the San Jose airport to its current resting place on a pedestal 50 feet above the beach. It looks a bit like a model airplane on a stand, and we can only imagine the spectacular views from the balcony and the airplane windows. Five big trucks were needed to get the plane out to the resort, and while the transportation certainly had a negative ecological impact, the finished project is a stunning example of adaptive reuse.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite also includes a kitchenette, flat-screen TVs, a dining room, and a terrace with an ocean view. We can’t really agree with their choice of furnishings, which are made from teak and shipped across the Pacific from Indonesia, but at least they were hand carved. The tip-to-tail paneling on the inside is also teak, but it was harvested locally in Costa Rica. Like the Jumbo Jet Hostel in Stockholm, this hotel suite is sure to offer jet-setting travelers a lovely location for an extended layover.


Leonard Cohen Mesmerizing

www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

Leonard Cohen
At GM Place in Vancouver on Sunday

(April 20, 2009) From the moment he ran onto the stage to open his show Sunday night in Vancouver,
Leonard Cohen had everyone's attention. He set the tone for the evening in his reverential attitude towards the spectacular six-piece band and trio of backing singers, often down on his knees, subjugating himself to their musicianship. The dapper 74-year-old was no less respectful to his audience, playing a generous set, speaking to them politely: "Thank you my friends," he responded more than once to the enthusiastic crowd.

The unhurriedness of the two-part show and the clarity of Cohen's lyrics, delivered with rapt conviction in that gravel-basin of a voice transcended the cavernous, impersonal surrounds of GM Place. Truly, it felt like Cohen was singing to each of us as individuals.

Like a preacher with a subversive message to deal, Cohen's poise and sheer concentration mesmerized: "Follow me," he might as well have said, because he held us in the palm of his hand.

Religion may be a serious business, but Cohen tempered it with his other passion: sex. There was nothing po-faced about this church. "If you want a lover, I'll do anything you want me to," he sang - the opening of I'm Your Man eliciting squeals of delight. "If you want a doctor, I'll examine every inch of you," he continued — and by the sounds of the audience reaction, he had more than a few willing bodies out there.

The aging troubadour was anything but precious about his advancing years, referring to his "old man's mask" and, in A Thousand Kisses, to the pointlessness of starting to work out at his time of life. He couldn't stifle a knowing giggle in the same piece when he opined: "You came to me this morning and handled me like meat/ You'd have to be a man to know how good that feels, how sweet."

The humility in his bearing spoke volumes about the man and his sense of self: he gave over Boogie Nights entirely too long-time collaborator and sultry singer, Sharon Robinson; and when he introduced and thanked his band, the sincerity was palpable. Each time there was an instrumental solo, Cohen stepped back from the spotlight and listened intently, his trademark Trilby held to his chest.

And the band was terrific, from the exquisite guitars of Barcelona's Javier Mas and Bob Metzger to the multi-talented Dino Soldo on a variety of woodwind.

"It's been a long time," Cohen said on playing Vancouver. "Maybe 15 years. I was 60 years old then: just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then, I've taken a lot of Prozac, Effexor, Ritalin … I also plunged into a rigorous study of religion and philosophy, but cheerfulness kept breaking through."

When he bounded back on stage for his final encore, some three hours after the first notes of the night, Cohen looked like he just might be able to carry it off for years yet.

"Thank you for such a memorable night," he said to a standing ovation. 'It's so good to be back in Canada."

And Canada, Mr. Cohen, is delighted to have you with us once more.

Leonard Cohen will play Victoria (Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre), April 21; Edmonton (Rexall Place), April 25; Calgary (Epcor Centre), April 26; Saskatoon (Credit Union Centre), April 28; Winnipeg (MTS Centre), April 30; Hamilton (Copps Coliseum), May 19; Quebec City (Pavillon de la Jeunesse), May 21; Kingston (K-Rock Centre), May 22; London, Ont. (John Labatt Centre), May 24; Ottawa (National Arts Centre), May 25.

K-os Embraces 'Name-Your-Price' Strategy For Tour

Source: www.billboard.com -
Robert Thompson, Toronto

(April 17, 2009) Toronto-based hip hop artist k-os will do for live concerts what Radiohead did for recorded music sales.

Backed by an idea developed by his manager, Nettwerk Music Group chief executive Terry McBride, k-os will start a 10-date Canadian tour kicking off April 30, where fans will be able to pay what they want after witnessing the show.

Telecommunications giant Rogers Wireless will also have 100 promotional tickets and are underwriting 60% of the costs, McBride says. Venues for the shows range up to 2,500 in capacity.

The artist, who has just entered a new deal with Universal Music Canada after three albums with EMI, issued his latest album, "YES!" on Tuesday, and said it took little convincing for him to make the "pay what you can," concert idea a reality.

"I love risk," he says. "If I wanted no risk, I'd work some other job. I'm excited to see what will happen."

McBride says he doesn't view the concept as risky. "I don't view it as an experiment," he says. "It seems intuitive to me. I think the more chances people have to see k-os, the stronger his fan base will be."

Live Nation is involved as a promoter for the tour, and McBride says the company was extremely accepting of the "pay as you can" idea.

K-os will be asking fans to make a "karma" donation inside the venue. Not all the proceeds will be going to him; fans can also donate to the David Suzuki Foundation and will get a "fan-mixed" version of the new album called "Yes! It's Yours," with donations.

Jamaican Singer Jovi Rockwell Signs With Epic Records

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(April 16, 2009)  Singer Jovi Rockwell is the latest Jamaican artiste to join the Epic Records roster. Epic Records is an American record label. It is owned and operated by Sony Music Entertainment. The label was founded in 1953 as a jazz label, and was eventually expanded to several genres of music. The label manages several imprints as well.
Rockwell who is also signed to Uprize Music, which has distribution through Epic, says the deal with Epic calls for five albums. 'Being signed to Epic means a bunch of different and great things for me.  I mean a major label like Epic will distribute your product and help to get things going. I am hoping it will take my career to the next level', Rockwell said via telephone from her Florida home recently.
Richard Myrie, CEO of Uprize Music who played a role in the negotiations with Epic, commented. 'Jovi is one of the better female artistes in Jamaica, and she has a different style to bring. She also has that crossover, funky, pop vibe that you just cannot miss. I saw where she needed an international push, and we're working on her debut album which we are looking at possibly releasing later this year', said Myrie.
Rockwell gained attention in Jamaica with the songs Party On (from Don Corleon's Junkanoo rhythm); 'Its All About Love', Hey (with Courtney John) and You're Gonna Need Me (with Mr Vegas).
Rockwell says her reggae and dancehall roots will be evident on her album when its released. 'I still have my reggae and dancehall element and I am merging both with a  bit of pop and R&B on the album'.
Myrie says a single for US radio hasn’t been decided yet, although his team have a few singles to choose from. 'We're really excited about Jovi and so too is the label. They definitely want her to keep her Caribbean vibe, but they also want to promote her as a pop star'.
A heavyweight cast of producers have injected their talents on Rockwell's Epic Records debut. Among them are Lil Boy Fresh, Chuck Harmony, and Mad Scientist.
Rockwell isn’t the first Jamaican artiste to have joined the Sony Music Entertainment empire.  Shabba Ranks was signed to Epic in the 1990's. Columbia Records which falls under the Sony Music radar was also home for a short time in the 1990's to Tony Rebel, Super Cat, Mad Cobra and Tiger.
Diana King was signed to Work, one of the imprints under Epic);  Patra (signed to Epic Records imprint 550 Music); and Sean Kingston is signed to Beluga Heights,  an imprint under the Sony Music umbrella. 
Non Jamaican reggae artiste, the Jewish Matisyahu, is signed to Sony, while Bermuda raised reggae artiste Collie Buddz was recently dropped from Sony's Columbia Records.
R&B singer Glenn Lewis who was born in Canada (and whose father is Jamaican singer Glen Ricketts aka Glen Ricks), was signed to Epic in the 1990's. 
Epic Records is home to stellar line-up of R&B, pop and jazz acts including Celine Dion, Natasha Beddingfield and Michael Jackson.

Jonas Brothers To Co-Host MMVAs

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson,
Special To The Star

(April 17, 2009) Get ready for pandemonium June 21 on Queen St. W. The Jonas Brothers are coming to Toronto to co-host the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards.

Last July, more than 6,000 screaming fans turned out to greet the trio's Live@Much appearance, some lining up for more than two days to meet their idols.

"It's going to be a blast," Joe Jonas told the Star in a telephone interview from Los Angeles yesterday. It's the Grammy- nominated group's first awards hosting gig.

The MMVAs, as they are known, tend toward a carnival- like atmosphere even without the presence of Disney's ultra-popular teen trio.

"I hear that it's crazy," Nick Jonas told The Canadian Press. "Which is always exciting, we always look forward to a little bit of craziness at an award show."

If the past is any indication, they won't be left wanting.

Remember the showdown between Canadian television personality Mary Jo Eustace and former Beverly Hills 90210 star Tori Spelling, who had taken up with Eustace's ex-husband, Dean McDermott? Or how about the year Avril Lavigne wrote MMVA on her backside and then mooned the cameras? Or Geri Halliwell, who had recently split from the Spice Girls, shouting "I need a good Canadian man to fertilize my eggs" before presenting a trophy.

Some of that raunch doesn't exactly mesh with the Jonas Brothers' squeaky clean image.

"I think for us, we won't compromise what we're comfortable doing," Nick Jonas said. "Everything we do is for our fans. We're going to have fun, hopefully.

"We're all really excited to see what we can do with the show and see how we can make it our own."

Star staff, wire services

Rodney Jerkins Joins Diddy's 'Starmaker'


(April 16, 2009)  *As if working on new albums for Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and Sean "Diddy" Combs isn't enough, super-producer Rodney Jerkins has added another gig to his plate – a prominent position on Diddy's upcoming MTV reality series, "Starmaker."

 Created by Combs and reality guru Mark Burnett, the show features aspiring solo artists living under one roof as they compete for a record deal with Combs' Bad Boy label and the opportunity to have Jerkins produce one or two songs.

 Contestants will perform in front of an audience each week as they also strive to sharpen their performance skills, handle photo shoots and deal with paparazzi, reports Billboard.com. 

 "When I was first asked about doing this, I thought, 'Oh no, another talent show,'" says Jerkins. "But the show has since proven to me there's always more talent out there that needs to be discovered. They just need a platform.

 The show is slated to run this summer, with a premiere date still to be determined. Ten episodes have been taped thus far. Jerkins will head a panel of three regular judges with a revolving guest judge each week.

 In the meantime, Jerkins has been "really trying to push the envelope" on his work for Diddy's Sept. 22 release, "Last Train to Paris." He told Billboard, "This album is so different and refreshing. We're definitely having fun."

 Having contributed eight original songs for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney film "Confessions of a Shopaholic," Jerkins is now writing a song for the upcoming Lee Daniels theatrical production, "Precious." Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, the film stars Mo'Nique along with Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz and will be distributed by Lionsgate. It's due in theatres later this year.

 Also, Jerkins recently signed a deal to executive produce nine albums for Extreme Music, the worldwide production music library unit of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Billboard reports. Jerkins says he plans to reach out to Teddy Riley, Dallas Austin and other producers to collaborate on the albums over the next 18 months. The first three are slated for second quarter 2009. 

 "We all have to tap into new ways of generating revenue streams," says Jerkins who joins Quincy Jones, Hans Zimmer and Snoop Dogg on the Extreme Music roster. "We need to get our music heard not just on the radio but through television and films."

Beyonce Announces U.S. Tour Dates

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

(April 17, 2009) In support of her latest, chart-topping album, "I Am... Sasha Fierce," Beyoncé has announced her 2009 "I AM..." world tour dates in North America for this summer. The trek starts at New York's Madison Square Garden in June and caps off with a four-night residence at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas July 30-August 2.

Beyoncé will be backed by her all-female band. Winners of her "Single Ladies" video dance contest (read "Beyoncé Launches #250,000 Dance Contest") will see themselves on-screen during one of the centerpiece sections slated to appear during the "I Am..." tour.
Tickets for the concerts will be available as pre-sale for members of Beyoncé's Fan Club on Monday, April 20, starting at 10:00AM local venue time. Tickets for the general public will go on sale through Ticketmaster on Saturday, April 25, starting at 10:00 AM local venue time. Additionally, Beyonce is making 2000 seats available at each venue for $20 (plus applicable service charges).

Tickets for the four-night residence at Encore will go on sale at an as-yet unannounced later date.

Beyoncé's "I Am..." world tour is the artist's first full-length concerts since 2007's "The Beyoncé Experience" tour. The Beyoncé "I AM..." North American concert tour is co-sponsored by L'Oreal Paris and General Mills and produced by Live Nation and Music World Entertainment.

Here is a full list of the tour dates:

Jun 21: New York City, NY (Madison Square Garden)
Jun 24: Washington DC (Verizon Center)
Jun 26: Philadelphia, PA (Wachovia Center)
Jun 27: Greensboro, NC (Greensboro Coliseum Complex)
Jun 29: Ft Lauderdale, FL (Bank Atlantic Center)
Jul 1: Atlanta, GA (Philips Arena)
Jul 3: New Orleans, LA (Superdome -- Essence Music Festival)
Jul 4: Houston, TX (Toyota Center)
Jul 5: Dallas, TX    (American Airlines Center)
Jul 7: Phoenix, AZ (US Airways Center)
Jul 9: Sacramento, CA (Arco Arena)
Jul 10: Oakland, CA (Oracle Arena)
Jul 11: Anaheim, CA (Honda Center)
Jul 13: Los Angeles, CA (Staples Center)
Jul 16: Minneapolis, MN (Target Center)
Jul 17: Chicago, IL (United Center)
Jul 18: Detroit, MI (Palace of Auburn Hills)
Jul 23: Uncasville, CT (Mohegan Sun)
Jul 30: Las Vegas, NV (Encore Theater, Wynn Las Vegas)
Jul 31: Las Vegas, NV (Encore Theater, Wynn Las Vegas)
Aug 1: Las Vegas, NV (Encore Theater, Wynn Las Vegas)
Aug 2: Las Vegas, NV (Encore Theatre, Wynn Las Vegas)

Future dates may be added.

Susan Boyle The Scot Heard 'Round The World

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporters

(April 17, 2009) Susan Boyle's sensational journey to instant fame continues to take the world by storm. With only one song and an unforgettable YouTube clip, this obscure woman from a small Scottish village has in less than a week become nearly a household name around the world.

Yesterday morning, the 47-year-old's meteoric rise after a single audition on
Britain's Got Talent got another boost with an appearance via satellite on CBS's The Early Show.

Sporting a new hairdo, Boyle remained as spunky and witty as ever while chatting with the hosts.

Talking about her journey so far, she told the morning show that she reacted to the titters in the audience during her audition by focusing on the performance.

"You have to take yourself seriously, so what I did was concentrate on the song."

The hosts asked her about people making fun of her as a child and she graciously answered:

"Well, the ones who made fun of me, they're now nice to me, so I may now have won them 'round."

She also sang a few lines from "I Dreamed a Dream" a capella and chatted a bit with Patti LuPone, whose original rendition of the Les Misérables song is considered to be the gold standard. LuPone told her she had "pluck" and admired her courage.

As a way of explanation for why she went on the show, Boyle said: "I wanted to make this a tribute to my mother, so it was something I wanted to do, so I had to get on with it. That's where the courage came from, my mother."

While Boyle is now considered the favourite to win Britain's Got Talent, her journey has only just begun. She's only appeared on an early, regional qualifying portion of the show. A spokesperson for the show said her next official appearance will not be until the end of May.

The 47-year-old unemployed church worker from Scotland's West Lothian district has captured hearts with her back story of "having never been kissed."

She now lives alone with her cat, Pebbles, and previously cared for her ill mother, who died a couple of years ago.

This week, she has been inundated with media requests and, talking to the Associated Press, she admitted the instant fame has been an incredible experience.

"It has been surreal for me," Boyle said.

"I'm going to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS and other American networks. I didn't realize this would be the reaction, I just went onstage and got on with it."

Boyle's celebrity continues to grow as YouTube clips from her audition have already been watched more than 18 million times.

She has a few Facebook fan pages and the most popular have already logged 93,000 fans. As well, a Wikipedia page has been dedicated to her and a fan page at Susan-Boyle.com has signed up more than 6,000 members.

Her newfound fame has also had a dramatic effect on the village of Blackburn, population about 4,800, 20 kilometres west of Edinburgh on the road to Glasgow.

Ewen McNamee, communications officer for West Lothian region, which includes Blackburn, has been besieged with phone calls.

"We've had The Washington Post looking for her ... we've had a Hollywood producer looking for her, we've had everyone really. It's been quite bizarre," McNamee said.

Agnes Boyle, who lives around the corner from Susan Boyle but is not related, said she's been getting persistent phone calls from those trying to find the other woman, who has an unlisted phone number.

"This is the 10th phone call today I've had," Agnes Boyle said, adding she wishes Susan well. "I'm happy for her ... life's not been good to her actually."

Jackie Russell, manager at the Happy Valley Hotel on the village's main street, Bathgate Rd., where Boyle has sung karaoke on a regular basis, said she's "a very quiet person, very unassuming ... just a normal down-to-earth girl."

With yet another television crew on the premises, Russell said she and other villagers are astonished by the overwhelming reaction to Boyle's story.

"People in the village – it's just a village, there's only 5,000 people in it – but everybody knew that Susan could sing," said Russell. "It just took a while for the world to hear her sing," she added.

Russell also expressed confidence that Boyle will win the Britain's Got Talent competition.

"I don't think she (Boyle) will need a job now. I think she'll just continue to do what her heart wants her to do and that's sing."

And despite her seemingly complete lack of showbiz guile, Boyle is proving to be a quick study.

When asked on The Early Show what her next song choice was going to be, she answered: "Why don't you watch the show and find out?"

With files from the Star's wire services

Teena Marie Celebrates 30th Anniversary With 'Congo Square'

Source: Jasmine Vega; Joel Amsterdam, Concord Music Group

(April 16, 2009)  *Los Angeles, CA - Internationally-renowned singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Teena Marie, will release her thirteenth album and Stax Records debut CONGO SQUARE on June 9, 2009.

The collection marks a deeply personal milestone for the iconic soul music star and Rhythm & Blues Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient. In addition, CONGO SQUARE continues "Lady Tee's" penchants for sublime musical eclecticism while still delivering the hits that have made her a consistent presence for 30 years.
CONGO SQUARE, like most of Teena Marie's classic albums, is a largely autobiographical journey that cruises smoothly from southern soul and smoky jazz to dance floor funk.

Along for the party are special guests Faith Evans (on the first single "Can't Last a Day"), Howard Hewett (on the steamy duet "Lovers Lane"), MC Lyte (on the sexy opener "The Pressure"), Pastor Shirley Murdock (featured on the track "Soldier"), the jazz trio of pianist George Duke (on the title track "Congo Square"), drummer/co-composer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Brian Bromberg (on the cinematic ballad "The Rose n' Thorn,") and Teena's daughter Rose LeBeau (on the soul salute "Milk & Honey").
Teena penned and produced all sixteen tracks on CONGO SQUARE, the title of which is a reference to the sacred area of The French Quarter in New Orleans where slaves were allowed to dance and sing in the wardrobe of their mother country on Sundays. Teena penned the songs during a period of extended personal darkness that somehow manifested positive and loving art.
"I've been through quite a few trials and tribulations over the last two years," Teena shares regarding the time between her acclaimed 2007 release, Sapphire, and now. "I spent many of those hours in prayer and felt like God was putting his arms around me. I started thinking about the music I grew up on - how inspired it was. Each song I was coming up with began to sound like the style of some favourite artist of mine from the past... Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, Billie Holliday, the old Chicago soul of The Emotions and the new Chicago vibe of Kanye' West... Ice Cube's bumpin' in the trunk vibe and of course, Rick James. It's all in there."
Teena Marie's career has been nothing short of a sensation. Making her debut on Motown Records in 1979, she swiftly earned a hallowed and singular place in the hearts of R&B purists with her soulful singing and poetic songwriting. The fact that this new record will be released by the other most revered soul label of all time, Stax; is poetic justice. CONGO SQUARE is a nod to all that came before and to the ones who will follow in her footsteps, firmly reiterating the obvious: there is only one Teena Marie.


Pressure (f/ MC Lyte)
Can't Last a Day (duet w/ Faith Evans)
Baby, I Love You
Ear Candy 101
Lover's Lane (duet w/ Howard Hewett)
Marry Me
You Baby
Milk n' Honey (f/ Rose LeBeau)
What U Got 4 Me
Rovletta's Jass (interlude)
Congo Square
Harlem Blues
Black Cool (interlude)
Ms. Coretta
The Rose n' Thorn

Jonathan Coulton Quit His Software Job To Make Music

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

(April 19, 2009) With the sounds of a child playing noisily in the background, Brooklyn native Jonathan Coulton explains his unlikely journey from computer geek with a day job to stay-at-home dad and rising music star via the Internet.

"It was a decision that was a long time coming. I got sort of sidetracked by life and comfort and adulthood and ended up accidentally getting a career somewhere else, in software," says Coulton, who's making a return to the Lula Lounge this week for a two-night engagement April 23 and 24.

"Every year, I would say to myself, `You know, I've really got to leave here and do the music thing.' And before I knew it, I was in my mid-30s and had a wife and a daughter and a mortgage."

So in September 2005, with his wife's blessing, the Yale music major started writing and recording music at a breakneck pace, with a song a week posted on his website (jonathancoulton.com).

Fans started listening to his songs – filled with "geeky" references to fantastical creatures and exploring themes of alienation and postmodern angst – and then posting them on blogs and podcasts.

But as his stock in cyberspace began to rise, Coulton found himself answering as many as 100 emails a day. "It definitely got to the point that I was spending four to five hours a day at my laptop answering emails. I might as well have still been at my software job," he says, adding that former co-workers were quick to make the same point.

So Coulton slowed down a bit, took a temporary breather from songwriting, hired an assistant and began to hone his onstage skills for taking his act on the road.

He's poised to launch his first DVD, a live show recorded in San Francisco, and continues to do weekend hops around the continent in pursuit of greater glory, playing before audiences ranging in size from 200 to 1,000.

"It's funny, the `geek' handle gets played up a lot, and it's true there are a lot of programmers and systems administrators at my concerts," Coulton says, laughing. "There really are a lot of songs about geeky things, just because that's what I think about a lot. I'm often writing about alienation and feeling out of place and my favourite way to explore that idea is to write from the point of view of some kind of a monster, literally a giant squid or a zombie."

Playing before a live audience is worth the hassle of travelling, he adds. "Every part of touring is terrible, the airplanes, carrying your luggage and the crappy hotels that you stay in. But it's true: The moment I step on stage and there's this audience there, we're communing in this way, it's a really powerful experience."

The Internet has provided an unconventional rise to semi-stardom for Coulton, a dramatic departure from the past when music stars relied on promoters, radio, television and other media to build and sustain a fan base.

All Coulton's music is copyright-protected through Creative Commerce, which allows fans to use his music for their creative ends as long as it's not for commercial purposes.

Witness the fans who used claymation and characters from the World of Warcraft video games to illustrate his songs. Coulton estimates his song Code Monkey has close to 100 different video versions on YouTube. "Some of these videos have been viewed literally millions of times on YouTube. That's just another way that fans help to support me. The fact that people are doing that and attracting all that attention ... is just an amazing phenomenon."

Coulton also hears from supporters who've charted his escape from the rat race. "I get a lot of emails from people who write to say I've inspired them to quit their jobs and do something creative," he says, wryly describing his method as the "Doctor Kevorkian" for careers.

Now, with a second child in the household, Coulton says he's more than content to divide his time among home, the road and the Internet. "There's something really great about working from home, and if the kids say, `Hey Dad, do you want to have a sword fight?' you can say, `Absolutely!'"

Jeremih Lights Up Hot Debut With 'Birthday Sex'

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

(April 15, 2009) Jeremih knows all about getting his cake and eating it too—just read the lyrics to his lead single, "Birthday Sex."

Over a dawdling, piano-based beat, the 21-year-old singer/songwriter/producer croons, "You say you want passion/I think you found it/Get ready for action/Don't be astounded."

The song "is actually based on a birthday story of mine," says Jeremih (last name: Felton). "You'd think someone would've written a song like that already—one that caters to females on their day. It's the perfect hit."

Sitting at No. 54 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart just four weeks after its debut, "Birthday Sex" is indeed proving to be a hit. But Jeremih admits he didn't anticipate the catchy tune would be such a sensation.

"I didn't even think it would be the first single," the Chicago native says. But then his manager, Louis Duran, played a few of Jeremih's tracks for Bam, music director of the city's adult R&B station WGCI.

"We were actually pushing another song called 'My Ride,' " Jeremih says. "But she heard 'Birthday Sex' and said she could play that around a Beyoncé or Kanye track. She basically picked the first single."

Jeremih—who got his start playing drums, piano, bass and saxophone—only discovered singing three years ago. And now he's recording a self-titled debut album after signing with Def Jam just a month ago.

"We took a meeting with [Island Def Jam chairman Antonio] 'L.A.' Reid and [executive VP of A&R] Karen Kwak, who had heard 'Birthday Sex,' " Jeremih says. "She wanted to know what I sounded like live because a lot of people think I use Auto-Tune." That same day, Jeremih became part of the Def Jam family.

Described as "urban pop," Jeremih's album is slated for release June 30. The set is being produced by Mick Schultz and doesn't feature any guest collaborations. Among the recorded tracks are "Runway," inspired by Tyra Banks' TV show "America's Next Top Model," and "Starting All Over," which draws inspiration from Stevie Wonder.

Although the label's promotional campaign is in the preliminary stage, a collaboration with MySpace is in the works. "Birthday Sex" also is available on iTunes and imeem for downloading. It has sold 16,000 digital copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It's all pretty heady stuff for someone who never thought of himself as a singer. "It wasn't until I performed a song I'd written before an audience in college that I realized I could even do it," Jeremih says. "The feedback made me feel like a star."

Music Packaging A Vanishing Artform

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

(April 20, 2009) Michael Wrycraft looks at the future of music packaging and suspects the business that has supported him for the past 25 years – earning him numerous awards, including a Juno and a reputation as one of the world's leading music-related graphic designers – is on its last legs.

"Everything is going digital: a whole generation, raised on MP3s, is connected to computer screens and handheld devices that convey, in ever-increasing quantities and formats, all their audiovisual needs," says the artist who works in Toronto under the name A Man Called Wrycraft.

"I believe CD manufacturing will wind down in three to five years. And when music is universally delivered on flash drive sticks and via the Internet, and stored on hard drives and iPods, you have to wonder how packaging will play a part.

"I just know that right now, with 90 per cent of my work coming from independent artists who have no connections with major labels and music-industry money, I have never been busier."

For the moment, Wrycraft adds, the CD is still a musician's most valuable calling card. "And a good-looking package is crucial. I suspect it always will be crucial to music sales ... I just don't know yet what form it will take. It may be images, screensavers, information files or videos that are embedded in the music download."

Music fans who remember the visceral thrill of holding a 12-inch vinyl LP in their hands, and revelling in the fresh-ink smells, large and compelling images, lyrics and liner notes, will find no solace in Wrycraft's prediction.

CD jewel cases are gone, too, with their cover inserts and mini-booklets. The thin plastic shatters. It's ecologically unfriendly. Jewel boxes consume the shelf space of at least three unpackaged CDs.

Full-colour gatefold paper or card-stock digi-packs, with a small plastic tray that holds the CD and a sleeve for an information booklet, have become the norm. Wrycraft says he has been asked to design only six jewel-box packages in the past two years.

But as music delivery and storage hurtle into full digital mode, will music itself lose some of its ineffable mystique, stripped of its most attractive physical accessory?

Packaging wasn't always part of music's appeal. Until the full flowering of the album graphics design business in the 1960s through the 1980s, record sleeves were just a necessary means of protecting the brittle vinyl inside.

In the 1950s and early '60s, with little more than a publicity shot on the cover and a track list on the back, record sleeves added little value to the product.

Music fans who ascribed extra value to album artwork in the 1960s and '70s may have been victims of an elaborate scam, suggests David Byrne, whose band the Talking Heads was at the forefront of New York's artistic revolution in the 1980s.

"The usual assumption is that much of this imagery, like music videos, is a reflection of, and extension of, the music creator's sensibility, as if the packaging and the videos were usually under the direct control of the author, and this is absurd," he wrote in a 2006 essay on music packaging.

"Most LPs, and music videos as well, are directed and designed under the control of the record companies."

Byrne looks forward to new concepts in digital music packaging.

"Downloads could offer so much more. They could be an opportunity to expand the experience rather than a whittling away of the music/image connection. For less than the price of printing those sleeves and CD booklets you could get slideshows, photos, videos, bios, credits, lyrics, merchandise ... stuff you could play on your MP3 player along with the music, or load on your computer to view or print out."

For fans who can't resist the sensation of a tactile object, Toronto record collector and Internet entrepreneur Doug Caldwell has discovered the perfect solution: the made-in-Japan miniaturized LP.

"Record companies blew it when they withdrew vinyl and replaced it with the CD, an impersonal, sterile product," says Caldwell, a former executive for a major Canadian record company.

Caldwell blames the devaluation of the CD on the absence of quality packaging.

"In the first decade of the CD revolution, presentation was diminished while prices remained high. People felt they were getting less for their money."

The return of 12-inch vinyl recordings and full-colour packaging, though now a limited-edition pursuit, is evidence that real music fans prefer a physical object over digital product, Caldwell believes.

For the past few years, through his eBay store, Tiger Mountain Music, Caldwell has been selling mini-LPs of classic back-catalogue recordings from the 1940s through the 1980s.

They're actually limited-run CDs, made under licence in Japan specifically for the audio collectors' market, burned on a superior-grade plastic compound to top-level audiophile specifications and featuring digitally downsized replicas of the original LPs' packages, in all their myriad forms.

Available for retail only in Japan, where individual mini-LPs sell for $20 to $30 depending on their rarity, these prized objects fetch two or three times that price on the Internet, says Caldwell.

Complete sets of a single artist's repertoire can fetch as much as $600 to $1,000.

"There's no reason all music can't be given this kind of treatment. Packaging like this indicates respect for the music it contains, and for the artists," says Caldwell.

"Mini-LPs may be the future of music packaging."

Reconsidering A Visit To The Pet Shop

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

Pet Shop Boys
Parlophone / EMI

(April 20, 2009) Confession: I've always avoided the
Pet Shop Boys. I hated West End Girls, and wasn't attracted enough by the rest to stick around and figure out why this British duo has been rhapsodized by critics I respect. From a distance, I found it easy to discount the surface-loving, pop-tweaking Pets as watered-down Warhol.

This album has forced me to reconsider, and to think again about the Pets' central question. Yes, these dance songs may feel empty at times, but is that a feature of the music only, or does it reflect part of life?

The Pets still emanate their peculiarly stagnant adoration of the rich and gorgeous, while finding subtle ways to question that attitude. In Beautiful People, there's something almost innocent about the way Neil Tennant voices a desire for the beautiful life exactly as advertised. The suppression of irony exposes the fairy-tale yearnings that drive our society. The Pets never reject the dream: Love etc., the bouncy opening track, insists that love is all you need, but the lingering account of other desirables tells a different story.

Then there's Vulnerable, in which the material boys put away their toys and sketch how they really feel, at least some of the time. Here, weakness equals reality, just as the obbligato Spanish guitar implies that acoustic sounds are more true than synths and drum machines. But King of Rome is just as exposed, as Tennant's fey nasal voice floats over a bed of synthesizers. There's surprising variety and muscle in the harmonies of some of these songs, such as the bridge for Did You See Me Coming? Legacy, the final song, spends 6 1/2 minutes anticipating a cadence that almost never comes, and when it does, it's not in the key you expect. Canadian Owen Pallett, who did the string arrangements, may have helped lead the pair into these strange waters.

The Pets take the easy way out in a couple of songs, such as the faux-visionary More Than a Dream ("change is gonna come") and Pandemonium, a routine strutter with a million-dollar disco beat.

But over all, Yes is a strong disc, and a witty one. "This is a song about boys and guhls," Tennant sings in the hip-hop-tinged All Over the World, and you think you know what he means, till you hear a snippet from the children's march in the Nutcracker ballet.


Babyface Starts New Record Label


(April 16, 2009)   *Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is launching his new Sodapop Music record label in a partnership with Island Def Jam, which is run by his former LaFace Records partner Antonio L.A. Reid.    The first artist to be released on Sodapop is Kristinia DeBarge (pronounced kris-ti-NEE-a) of the famed DeBarge singing family. The 19-year-old entertainer is the daughter of DeBarge keyboardist and founding member James DeBarge.    Edmonds wrote and produced many of the songs on her debut album, including the current first single "Goodbye." The singer is scheduled to shoot a video for the track in Los Angeles during the coming weeks.    Sodapop Music is a full-scale label start-up for Babyface, one of his first since LaFace Records (home of Toni Braxton, OutKast, TLC, and Usher).

Britain Talent Show Judges Wowed Again

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

(April 20, 2009) It looks like Britain's Got Talent might actually be a competition this year. After this week's episode of talent competition aired on Saturday evening, there's a new talent that is making the rounds on YouTube.  Shaheen Jafargholi, a 12-year-old boy from Swansea in Wales, wowed the judges with his rendition of Michael Jackson's "Who's Loving You." Initially, he attempted a version of "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse, but was cut off by judge Simon Cowell, who said, "You've got this really wrong. What else do you sing?" Without missing a beat, Jafargholi started his second song, and the audience and judges were duly impressed.  Coming on the heels of last week's instant YouTube star sensation, Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old Scottish woman whose version of "I Dreamed a Dream" has brought her worldwide fame and made her the betting favourite to win the competition, Jafargholi's performance, which already has almost a half a million views on the video sharing site, signals that the show might have a very compelling horse race this year. Video Watch Shaheen Jafargholi sing on YouTube.

We Remember Robert Brookins

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 20, 2009) *Singer-songwriter-producer
Robert Brookins, the featured singer on George Duke's 1986 self-titled album, died on April 15 after suffering a heart attack. He was 46. The Sacramento, Calif. native won the Motown Records Soul Search competition in 1974 with his group Little Robert and the Fondeles. In 1981, he joined the group Afterbach, along with his brother Michael on guitar, and sang the lead on their ARC Columbia album "Matinee," produced by Maurice and Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire.   In 1986 he was the featured singer on George Duke's self-titled album. That year, he signed to MCA as a solo artist and recorded his first album, "In The Night," which included the tracks "Come To Me" and the Stephanie Mills duet "In The Nbsp;  As a writer and / or producer he has worked with The Reddings, Bobby Brown ("Seventeen"), Jackie Jackson, Stephanie Mills, Deniece Williams, Jeffrey Osborne and The Whispers ('Innocent'). Brookins also played keyboards behind such acts as the late George Howard ("A Nice Place To Be"), Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson ("The Two of Us"), Stanley Clarke ('"Find Out") and Roy Ayers.

Rasta Got Soul: Buju Banton

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Gargamel/Fontana North)
http://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)

(April 21, 2009) This Jamaican performer is a long way from the brash dancehall star who came to the fore in the `90s with songs about girls and good times. Fuelled by his Rastafarian faith, the gruff-voiced singer/rapper is now immersed in roots reggae, striking an introspective Marleyesque tone as he decries Babylon and "all wicked man," though the monotony of his writing and delivery conjures Ziggy, not Bob. Banton, 35, veers between the optimistic, instructive tone of "Lend a Hand" and the cynicism of "I Wonder" ("How can we, how must we endure"). Boosted by chanting and Nyabinghi drumming, the repetitive praise songs work best with his authoritative vocals. Least effective are a duet with Wyclef, which sounds like a rehash of one of the American rapper's tunes, and the biteless cover of Third World's "Sense of Purpose." The integrity of the spiritual mission Banton embarked on with 1995's Til Shiloh is unquestioned, but his unmelodic wail is not commanding enough without that album's assets (varied arrangements and dancehall beats to spice things up). Top Track: "A Little Bit of Sorry" delivers etiquette lessons via horn-driven ska.

Former Fugees singer Lauryn Hill to headline Stockholm Jazz Festival

Source: The Associated Press

(April 21, 2009) STOCKHOLM - Organizers say former Fugees singer Lauryn Hill will be the headline act for the Stockholm Jazz Festival in July.  Festival spokesman Gunnar Lagerman says the hip-hop and R&B singer will perform at the five-day event as part of a 10-stop European tour.  It will be the second time Hill has headlined the festival. Other artists lined up for the July 15-19 festival include tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil.  The event celebrates its 26th anniversary this year and is expected to attract up to 30,000 people.  The Stockholm Jazz Festival is one of Sweden's biggest music events, and has previously hosted stars such as Mary J. Blige, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.


United By The Theatre Of War

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(April 17, 2009) On Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, a nighttime knock at the door can bring tidings of death. When a soldier is killed, officers often deliver the news to family members between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. And so, night after night, the wife of a Canadian fighting in Afghanistan goes to bed dressed as though it were daytime, the front room of her home meticulously tidied, ready to receive an always half-expected visitor.

On the outskirts of Kabul, another knock in the dark hours also brings death's messenger. A man answers a rap at the door and is ushered outside. Before long, he lies sprawled in the street, shot dead by his uninvited guest. His wife, an Afghan actor, knows the bullets were a message to her — that she would have been gunned down had her husband's assailant been greeted instead by her face, familiar from television, staring back at him through the door frame.

These are but two of countless stories that document the tremendous strain borne by families on both sides of the Afghan war. Woven together with dozens of others, they form the groundwork of
Petawawa, a collaborative theatre project being developed — in four cities, on two continents — by Christopher Morris, artistic director of Toronto theatre company Human Cargo.

Morris began crafting the project early last year, aiming to examine "the long-term reverberations of war," not only through the lens of Canadian soldiers and their loved ones, but also of the parents, siblings and children of Pakistani soldiers fighting in border regions, and of Afghans embroiled in both sides of the conflict.

When he set out to gather those stories, he expected to hear tragic accounts of domestic hardship and gruesome tales of war. What he did not foresee was how entwined his life would become with one of those stories in particular. He certainly never imagined he would answer his Toronto phone months later to the sounds of an Afghan woman desperately trying to tell him, in a language he doesn't understand, that her husband had been murdered.

Petawawa's roots

Morris, 34, favours theatre that latches onto the sometimes grand, often galling political and social issues of the day — and that "says something about them." He also loves to explore opportunities for cultural cross-pollination. He has spent up to a year at a time studying theatre in locales as far-flung as Dublin and Tbilisi — places where he can "be broken by [the experience] and learn something new." In 2007, those forays spurred him to launch a company under the name Human Cargo.

Soon afterward, he heard a CBC Radio interview with a soldier's wife in Petawawa, Ont., home to a Canadian Forces base that frequently deploys soldiers to Afghanistan. She spoke of the fear she felt at every report of a rise in violence, and of the loneliness that consumed her. Her story stuck with him, and Morris began turning over a theory in his mind: that creating a clearly defined enemy is crucial to protecting a soldier's — and a country's — mental health. One logical question that followed: "What happens to us if we consider [the enemy's] families?"

As that question began crystallizing in his mind, Morris recruited some of his favourite colleagues to help him figure out how to use theatre to answer it: long-time friend and playwright Jonathan Garfinkel, 36; actor Michelle Latimer, 34, whom he describes as "daring, bold and very sweet"; and the Shaw Festival's Kawa Ada, 28, whose family had fled Afghanistan when he was young. The troupe set about finding war-affected families who were willing to tell their stories, and making plans for a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan. And so, that CBC interview still on his mind, Morris set out for Petawawa.

Gathering stories

He landed in the Ottawa Valley town last July for a two-week stay, accompanied by his girlfriend, set and costume designer Gillian Gallow. At the base's Tim Hortons, Morris sat and listened to all kinds of stories: of the tensions that brew between on-edge couples as a deployment nears; of infidelity and guilt; of stoic but undeniably shaken children; of soldiers witnessing the gruesome deaths of friends and colleagues; of the horrors of posttraumatic stress disorder; and of those dreaded knocks in the night. "That's a generation growing up experiencing this, and that will influence the next generation's outlook," says Morris. "This is important stuff."

One soldier had constant nightmares after returning from an overseas stint — and one night tried to strangle his wife in his sleep. One woman talked about the desensitization training her husband had undergone. (He was administered a test, she told Morris, whose questions included this one: "What do you feel when you shoot a woman?" The correct answer, she claimed: "The recoil of the gun.") In September, Morris and Gallow set off for Pakistan, landing in Islamabad with hopes of finding collaborators in the local theatre community. Morris designed the trip to be flexible, allowing him to follow the leads and introductions his contacts would provide along the way. One such tip led him to the Ajoka Theatre in Lahore, where he befriended Samiya Mumtaz, one of the company's foremost actor/dancers. He enlisted her both to eventually act in Petawawa, and to be a fixer of sorts who could gather stories from Pakistanis, particularly women.

Then things began to get decidedly dicier. On Oct. 2, Morris travelled alone to Kabul, armed with advice and contacts he had garnered mostly from Western journalists. He grew a beard, donned a billowing shalwar kameez and — perhaps naively — walked Kabul without a guide.

It quickly became clear to him the enormity of the risk he was taking. In the span of a week, CBC journalist Melissa Fung was kidnapped, a German-South African aid worker was gunned down in the street, and a second foreigner was also murdered. Morris's hosts secured him a guesthouse, afraid of housing him themselves. Taking a brief detour to meet Siddiq Barmak, director of the 2003 film Osama, Morris opted to go by plane rather than car — after hearing tales of drivers slaughtered along Taliban-controlled roads for offences as minor as having English names programmed into their cellphones.

In Afghanistan, he remembers thinking, "Death is irrelevant. It's all irrelevant. If it might help your cause, just kill. It doesn't matter. It's strange."

Meeting Mushtahel

Then Morris encountered someone who would give him a strikingly different perspective. Meeting with some of the principal players of a 2006 CBC documentary chronicling a Kabul production of Love's Labours Lost directed by Canadian Corinne Jaber, Morris made the acquaintance of Parwin Mushtahel.

The 41-year-old had made a life out of acting in a society that makes it anything but easy for a woman to pursue such a career. Over the years, she repeatedly received death threats — some of which, she said, had come from her husband's family.

Still, there had been enough encouragement and opportunities along the way to make acting a viable profession for Mushtahel. "When I was 6, my family encouraged me for this profession, and then I started to love this profession," she recently told The Globe and Mail, through a translator, over the telephone from Kabul. By 1996, Mushtahel had joined a local theatre company, where she worked for five years before moving to Radio Television Afghanistan, later earning a role on an Afghan sitcom.

Though not wildly famous, she is a recognizable figure in Afghan cultural life. And after more than two decades of amateur and professional stagecraft, her motivation to act is still joyously simple. "When I'm in a play, on a stage, when I play my part, when I see the audience, their smiles, their laughing, when I see their draining mugs, it encourages me and I enjoy it. When they are clapping, it encourages me, and some of them even cry. … When I leave the stage at the end of the play, people come up to me and they give me a hug and they kiss my face, and they applaud," Mushtahel said. "It makes me proud."

From the first, Morris found Mushtahel a bold, funny, wry and nurturing figure. "I thought: That's the perfect mix for this, because the trap for this kind of project is for it to be very sentimental. I'm not up for that. It needs at least one actor who will keep it from that," says Morris.

The two hit it off, despite not speaking each other's languages, and Morris recruited Mushtahel as an actor and story gatherer, pleased that she would have the same sort of access to Afghan women as Mumtaz did in Pakistan.

Months later, with Morris back in Toronto and his various collaborators taking a short hiatus before their work on Petawawa began in earnest, the ongoing death threats against Mushtahel materialized into that fateful knock at the door of her home.

Her husband was lured out of their house and shot dead in the street by a mysterious attacker. Mushtahel remembers hearing the gunshots, but had no idea at whom they were directed. The shooter fled the scene, where Mushtahel found her husband's body riddled with bullets.

She was convinced the gunman had come for her, and she quickly went into hiding with their children — a daughter, 8, and son, 7 — but even that proved difficult: Family members were justifiably worried that her presence would endanger them. And although she soon found reliable safe havens, after two decades of steady acting, she was unable to work, could not send her children to school, and was forced to conceal her identity by shrouding herself in the burka she had long despised as a symbol of Afghanistan's ills.

It's taken a psychological toll on her and her children. "[My children] talk in their sleep and they are scared in their sleep," Mushtahel told The Globe. "I have a problem myself: I have lost my memory. I forget things. I can't memorize things."

Recounting the dramatic telephone call Mushtahel made to him on the night of her husband's murder, and accounts relayed by her friends in the days that followed, Morris paints a stark picture of the violence that haunts her. "They shot him in the head," says Morris. "Right there. Boom. Boom. Boom."

Early this month, escorted by a friend, Mushtahel and her children fled to Pakistan, where a friend has rented them an apartment and furnished it with such necessities as cutlery, dishes and a refrigerator. She had a meeting scheduled last week with officers at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to try to find asylum outside the country, and although Canada is her preferred destination, she will go "anywhere safe." Should she escape, she says, she doesn't ever expect to return to Afghanistan, which she sees as rapidly descending into lawlessness, even in such big cities as Kabul.

Asked why she wants to continue to act in the face of such danger, her voice swells with intensity. "This is my profession and I love my profession. So whatever it costs, even if it costs my life, I will continue and go ahead with it."

Forging ahead

Mushtahel's tragedy has thrown something of a wrench into the gears of Morris's project, but he is pressing on, throwing "the rules of creating material out the window."

He is still planning a series of four workshops to gather more stories and create a script — with his Canadian actors in Petawawa this July; with Mumtaz in Lahore in December; at the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society in Kabul in January; and, finally, in Toronto in September, 2010, with all the collaborators together. And he is determined to stage Petawawa before Canada's scheduled troop withdrawal in 2011, and to perform it — in a mixture of English, Dari and Urdu — in all four cities, as well as in Islamabad.

Still, the road ahead appears increasingly daunting. "I'm fucking scared at the idea of going back to Afghanistan," he says, for starters. "It's not an appealing thought."

Mushtahel, too, remains committed to Petawawa, through which she says she hopes to remind the world of the bravery of those Afghan women who would shed archaic traditions and take on their own careers. She will now be forced to gather stories for the script by phone, Morris says, and if necessary will appear by video in some of the internationally staged performances.

Another challenge facing Petawawa involves money. So far, Morris has wracked up bills of more than $15,000. But he remains undaunted. "I feel like I've been made to do this project," he says. "Right now."

And so he carries on, inspired in large part by Mushtahel's unshakeable faith in the role that theatre can play in telling the stories of those whose lives have been torn apart by war — including that of a talented actress, widow and mother of two, for whom life continues to unfold in unexpected ways.

'American Violet' Blooms In Theatres

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(April 17, 2009)  "There's no way possible I could have lived with myself taking a charge that I know I did not do. I was setting an example for my girls. And also, learning from my mom; she's always told me what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong, so why would you plead something that you just know you didn't do?"

*In November 2000, 20 residents of Hearne, TX were rounded up and arrested on drug distribution charges.

While on the surface, the raid seemed to be a triumph in the war on drugs, with 20 criminals behind bars. In reality, the event was an attack on African Americans in the small town of 5,000 people.

All 20 were fingered by a hapless crack addict who later admitted he was threatened by authorities if he did not implicate 20 residents of the Hearne housing projects.

The residents were booked and offered plea bargains if they confessed. Several innocent people took the plea bargain.
Regina Kelly, a waitress and mother of four, refused. 
With a battle than began that fateful day in November, Kelly became the lead plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas lawsuit that accused the district attorney's office of targeting minorities.

The new film "
American Violet" tells Kelly's story of defiance and suffering. It stars Nicole Beharie as Kelly and features Alfre Woodard, Michael O'Keefe, Charles S. Dutton, Tim Blake Nelson, Will Patton and Xzibit.

     "At first, I didn't' know it was a movie," Kelly said upon being approached about the project. "We thought it was a documentary. I had done documentaries already. I didn't find out about the movie-movie until two months into filming. It was kind of strange to say 'a movie about me.' Who gets to say that? My mom didn't know. I didn't tell anyone in my family. I just told them two weeks before the screening in Hearne. I told them I needed them to be available one day and don't ask questions, just dress up and come on. My mom was like, 'Oh my God.' She was so happy. She was so thrilled. They were so proud. It was a great experience."

"Everything is right on point," she said of realism of the true to life drama. "I've see it, I don't know how many times, and I still cry every time I see it. It's like reliving it over and over and over. They're so on point; it's amazing how close it is to my story. The film is 98% accurate."

Kelly told EUR and other outlets that she was extremely excited about the film and has watched it over and over since its completion, but she said that its authenticity is rather saddening.

"We're all excited about it, but watching the film, it brings back memories," she said.

"The deposition was the hardest thing because the way they talked to me, it was as if I was nothing," she continued reflecting on the scene in the film. "It was so hard to just sit there and act like everything was ok and it really wasn't. It frustrated me because they really did not care."

Actress Beharie was inspired by Kelly's story and anxious to take the role in order to get the story out to the public and bring exposure to corruption and racism in law enforcement.

"I hope it affects people in the same way that it affected me. When I read the script, I was disgusted that it happened," Beharie said. "Some things happened in the beginning, but what she did in that moment [was] a totally different situation. I think that's what the film is asking you to look at. It's easy to say, 'Hmmm, four kids. Where is the money coming from?' and make the judgment that she did do this, or that she would do this, and also to assume that she wouldn't stand up because she had so much to lose.  I think that's what makes the film more powerful."

While Beharie was impressed with the real-life heroin, Kelly explained that the feeling was mutual. She was quite impressed by the classical trained actress.

"It was great. She's a very good actress and I'm so proud she took this part," Kelly said. "Nicole and I are nothing alike, but in the film she's just like me."

Kelly continues to find strength in her children who inspired her to stand up to the police and the District Attorney as they hammered away, attempting to convince her of guilt.

"There's no way possible I could have lived with myself taking a charge that I know I did not do. I was setting an example for my girls. And also, learning from my mom; she's always told me what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong, so why would you plead something that you just know you didn't do?"

Charges were eventually dropped and criminal records expunged, but Kelly's life has never been the same. Standing up to the law and the city's District Attorney brought her and her family nothing but fear and misery, so she recently moved to Houston.

"I was tired of making my kids join in this fight that I chose. It was time for them to be free and be children. I'm just happy to be gone. It feels good."

"American Violet" opens in select theatres today. For more on the film, visit www.americanviolet.com. For more on Regina Kelly and updates on the Hearne, TX drug raid, go to www.reginakelly.com.

A Hollywood Princess Brings New Life To Squalid Grey Gardens

www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(April 17, 2009) NEW YORK — Drew Barrymore's heavy drinking days are behind her, but there was good reason that, when she was shooting the telefilm Grey Gardens in Toronto, she spent her weekends on the sozzled side of life.

"I would go to a bar every Saturday night and just pound drinks as a release," she recalled the other day, "and then recover Sunday and then go back to work on Monday."

Work was the reason she needed the release in the first place. Because while Barrymore, a native of Los Angeles and a descendent of Hollywood royalty, has lately gained a comfortable perch as a bankable leading lady of middlebrow romantic comedies, she belongs more to the species of celebrity known as Star than the one known as Actor. And yet for Grey Gardens, the period film that premieres tonight on HBO Canada, Barrymore pulled a Daniel Day-Lewis: not just staying in character on-set through the course of the 7-week shoot, but also cutting herself off from the usual barrage of communications she typically endures every day ("no cellphones, no television, no music, no driving, no newspapers, no magazines, anything") in order to get in touch with her character's isolation.

Barrymore's challenge was formidable: to play not just a dramatic character but also one about whom many people feel terribly proprietary.

This new Grey Gardens is a faintly fictionalized retelling of one of the most famous stories in American documentary history: how, beginning in the 1930s, Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt Edith Bouvier Beale and cousin known as "Little Edie" slid from New York high society to destitution over the course of four decades. By the time Albert and David Maysles, the noted U.S. documentary filmmakers, turned their cameras on Big and Little Edie to make the 1975 cult hit Grey Gardens, the Beales' sprawling home in the Hamptons was a neglected, profoundly unsanitary mess. The Little Edie in the Maysles' Grey Gardens is an icon in the gay community, revered for her quirky fashion sense, sly and sometimes ironic humour, persistent aspiration to glamour despite her pathetic circumstances, and the oppression she suffered for much of her life under her mother's manipulations.

Barrymore, on the other hand, is a self-described valley girl, a former (brief) wife of Canadian shock comic Tom Green, a staunch creature of contemporary pop culture. Today, in a roomy hotel suite on a high floor overlooking the southern swath of Central Park, she looks like a slobbily dressed PR assistant, in jeans, a grey T-shirt and a dark-blue cardigan that dwarfs her small frame. Her hair is bobby-pinned back and off to the side in random thatches, dark roots calling out for the bottle. She pulls her booted feet up onto the couch and tucks her legs off to one side.

Which is as good a reminder as any as to why Barrymore was not at the top of the casting list when the first-time writer-director Michael Sucsy started kicking around names for his Little Edie. Whoever it was had to be able to hold her own opposite Jessica Lange as Big Edie. No matter: Barrymore, who began producing films a few years ago ( Charlie's Angels, Fever Pitch), is used to making things happen. "When I read Michael's script, I just flipped out and was, like, 'I will do anything that I can to get this part.' " She finagled a meeting with Sucsy and made her pitch, putting aside her tomboyish tendencies and glamming up for the encounter (Little Edie had once been a model). She brought along a thick binder of research material, throughout which she had scrawled notes on the character and the film.

She knew there was nothing on her CV to prove she could pull off the acting challenge; indeed, she didn't even know herself whether she could do it. Still, she said this to Sucsy: "I look to you as that person who might take a chance on me, because that's how people know people can do it, because there's someone out there who takes a risk on somebody, so will you please be the person who takes a risk on me?"

Speaking this week in New York, where he'd come for the film's red-carpet premiere, Sucsy laughed ruefully at his recollection of that first meeting. "Yeah, she said, 'I want to do this with my career, and I need someone to take a chance on me,' and I said in my head, 'But why does it have to be me?' I did say those words, of course smiling through my teeth."

In the end, of course, Sucsy was won over by Barrymore's commitment and ability to make herself open to his direction. "In retrospect, it makes perfect sense to have somebody with Drew's great comedic timing in a role like that."

Still, Barrymore admits it took until the final weeks before she felt in the zone. "There was a point towards the end of filming when we were doing one of the documentary scenes, and I realized that I wasn't, like, on the verge of vomiting before we did it, and I thought, 'Oh, this is good, maybe I'm getting more comfortable in her,' you know? Like, I was looking forward to it, versus the fear of, like, 'Am I gonna pull this off?' kinda thing."

Barrymore was able to draw in part on her own history to fill out the character of Edie. After a promising start as a child actor in films that included E.T. and the Stephen King thriller Firestarter, she began losing out on roles as she became known for her wild behaviour. After a stint in rehab, she clawed her way back to prominence in Hollywood. "There was a time in my life where I was definitely held back and wasn't able to get work, and my whole life fell apart, so I sort of retreated back to those days. I definitely related to that, just being an outcast, and being sort of put away, or put aside."

Also, though Little Edie was desperate to be in the spotlight — she apparently permitted the Maysles to make Grey Gardens because she hoped it would make her a movie star — she hated how she was regarded by her Hamptons neighbours. "She'd walk into town and people would stare at her like she was a freak, and I know what that feels like!" says Barrymore. "So, you know, I identify with someone who's like, 'Screw this, I'm staying home!' " For the most part, Barrymore is getting beyond her days of being regarded as a freak. (She says that, while she's usually in touch with most of her "ex-boyfriends," she hasn't seen Tom Green lately. "He's on, like, Celebrity Apprentice," she noted. "I watched it the other night just to see how he's doing.") And she's doing more work behind the camera, including her forthcoming directorial debut, Whip It! in which she co-stars with Halifax's Ellen Page.

In fact, the older she gets, the more interested she becomes in artistically complex endeavours. Sure, she starred in a pair of slick Charlie's Angels movies that made hundreds of millions of dollars, but listen to her now: She'd love to run a studio that makes films, not movies. "I'd be like Bob Evans [the legendary former Paramount chief], doing my reel about how our studio's going to be different, and how we're really going to be about making movies, as opposed to business.

"I would want to go back to another time. I'd be out there, trying to make films with the new Hal Ashbys rather than the tent poles."

Kam Goes Solo with Jamie

Source: Kam Williams

Texas native Jamie Foxx was born Eric Marlon Bishop on December 13, 1967 and raised by his grandparents from the age of seven months following the failure of his parents’ marriage. Although he was a star athlete at Terrell High on both the school’s football and basketball teams, he majored in classical music and composition in at the U.S. International University in California.

The versatile actor/comedian/singer/musician/writer/producer/director got his start in showbiz in 1989 when he went on stage on a dare on open mic night and tried his hand at stand-up. After spending time on the comedy circuit, he joined Keenan Ivory Wayans, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans and Tommy Davidson in the landmark Fox sketch comedy series "In Living Color," creating some of the show's funniest and most memorable moments.

In 1996, he launched his own series, "The Jamie Foxx Show," which was one of the top-rated programs on the WB Network during its five-year run. Jamie not only starred on the series but also was the co-creator and executive producer, and directed several episodes.

He made his big screen in Toys in 1992, followed by appearances in Booty Call and The Players Club. He received critical acclaim for his riveting work and in Any Given Sunday and as Bundini Brown in Ali, breakout roles which inexorably led to 2004, the Year of the Foxx, when he delivered a trio of powerful performances in Ray, Collateral and Redemption.

He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles as well as the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), BAFTA and NAACP Image Awards. Jamie simultaneously garnered Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG Award, BAFTA Award, and Image Award nominations in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his work in Collateral. And he landed Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations and won an Image Award for his portrayal of condemned gang member-turned-Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stan "Tookie" Williams in Redemption. That amazing feat marked the first time that a single actor has received three Golden Globe nominations and four SAG Award nominations in the same year.

Foxx has since appeared in Dreamgirls, Miami Vice, Jarhead and The Kingdom, and will next star in the drama Law Abiding Citizen directed by F. Gary Gray. Besides his outstanding work in front of the camera, Jamie has also achieved a thriving career in music. His eagerly-anticipated J Records debut, "Unpredictable," was nominated for eight Billboard Music Awards, three Grammy Awards, one Soul Train Music Award and two American Music Awards, for which he won Favourite Male Artist. And his second album, "Intuition," was just released last December to rave reviews.

Here, he talks about his new movie, The Soloist, a true story in which he plays Nathaniel Ayers, a Juilliard-trained child prodigy, who ended up homeless after developing schizophrenia. In the film, Ayers is befriended by Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), an L.A. Times reporter who hears him playing the violin in the park.

KW: Jamie, I loved The Soloist and I’m so honoured to get this time with you.

JF: Thank you, bro.

KW: My first question is, did you get to meet Nathaniel Ayers on the streets in preparing to portray him?

JF: Yes I did. As a matter of fact, I snuck downtown with a little bit of a disguise and a security cat, and I just hung out right next to Nathaniel. He had no idea that I was watching him. I got a chance to see him speak to the world, and get excited, and be happy, and sad, and play his music. And I saw him preach. Watching that I was able to gather a lot of great information about who this guy was that I was about to play, without hearing anybody’s opinion of him, but just from my firsthand look at him. Later, I was formally introduced to him, and he was on his best behaviour. He smiled because he gets it that they were going to do a movie about his life. And then you see him not get it, and wondering, “What’s going n here?” And then he’d swing back around and get it again. So, it was very interesting. And while all that was happening, I had a video camera on my phone that I used to record him the whole time. So, I came home, watched that footage, the footage I filmed when he wasn’t watching, and the footage I filmed when he was aware.    

KW: How did you prepare for the role after that?

JF: It was a matter of putting him together. Losing the weight… getting the hair right… getting the makeup right… and going to that place that I have feared going to for a long time, that is, losing your mind.

KW: What made you afraid of that?

JF: As a child I always feared losing my mind. There was a guy in my neighbourhood who always walked up and down the street talking to himself. I won’t say his name, but I would always go, “Ooh, that’s scary.” And then, when I was 18, I had a horrible experience when somebody slipped something into my drink. It was a college prank that really went bad, and I hallucinated for 11 months. The doctors said that sometimes people go and they never come back. I was lucky enough to get back, but the way I recovered was by playing music all the time, because I was in a music school. Isn’t it interesting that Nathaniel Anthony Ayers had a similar situation?

KW: Very.

JF: So, at one point while preparing for this movie I woke my manager at like three in the morning, saying, “I got it, I’m him, I know exactly what’s going on. Nathaniel says this, that and the other, because he feels this way and that way. I used to do the same thing when I was in college. I played music, and the reason we play music is so we can soothe ourselves. I’m him!”   

KW: How did your manger respond?

JF: He goes, “Foxx, I’m on way over to your house, because this is a little strange.” And when he gets there, I’m telling him all these different things which to him sounded like I was losing my mind. But to me, it made perfect sense, and that’s who Nathaniel Anthony Ayers is. Everything that he’s doing makes perfect sense to him. That’s why when Steve Lopez says, “You need help,” Nathaniel responds, “No, you don’t get it. This is what it is. This is what makes me feel comfortable. This is not your mind. This is my mind.” So, there were a lot of different parallels going on.

KW: After seeing The Soloist, I spoke to the film’s director, Joe Wright, because I was upset that it hadn’t been released last fall during Oscar season like originally planned. It struck me as a cross of A Beautiful Mind and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But I think you did a better job at conveying the feeling of insanity than either of those other pictures, which were both excellent, too. 

JF: Thanks.

KW: Joe told me that you filmed on location on Skid Row and hired a lot of the homeless as extras. What was that like?

JF: It was interesting. I learned to have a different outlook on Skid Row. I arrived with my bravado, being an urban kid from the country, and thinking that there were people there out to get you. There’s gangbanging going on Skid Row… people selling drugs… people on the come up… So, I went down there with an attitude like, “Yo, I’m going down here, but I’m watching my back.” But I quickly learned that that wasn’t what it was all about. They were mostly people who were really just trying to survive and to hold onto the little bit of human dignity they had left. I met actors down there, lawyers, and people who had been released too early from mental institutions that had turned their backs on them. People who had been living a couple of paychecks from being homeless, and then something bad happened, they lost everything, and now they don’t know how to get back. I learned a lot of lessons, so when I look at them now, I don’t think of them in the same way that I used to. I have to thank Joe Wright for that.   

KW: It reminds me of how when I was watching the State of the Black Union recently, I saw former TV talk show host Iyanla Vanzant talking about recently becoming homeless. And she had been an attorney and a best-selling author.

JF: Yeah, it blows your mind, man, because you never know where you might be. That was another thing I said to my manager that night, “And this is what’s going to happen: I’m going to lose all my money. I’m going to lose this house, and I’m going to end up homeless.” And to me, it really felt like that could happen. And sometimes, in those situations, it really can.

KW: When you mentioned videotaping Nathaniel, it reminded me of a video I saw of you on the internet at the presidential inauguration where you were using your phone to tape a student from the Naval Academy, Chidiebere Kalu, singing acappella in his dress uniform. YOUTUBE

He actually happens to be a friend of my son, who’s producing some tracks with him. Were you really impressed with Kalu? 

JF: Yes, he just text-messaged me. I let him know to have some patience. I’m trying to get it all together, so when I come to him it’s real legit. [Jamie starts singing the same song Kalu sings on youtube]. Whatever that song was, I called him on his answering machine, and said, “Young man, I’ve got some great ideas for you, I’m just trying to put it all together.” I think we could really do something special with him. When I listened to his music, I just didn’t think that was the way he should go. I think that he could stay clean. He could be a real beacon coming from the military, doing some great inspirational music that would also sell. I don’t want him to feel like he’s corny, because I know he’s got his thing going. But with some of the music I heard, I was like, “That’s cool,” but we need to find the right music for him and then capitalize on where he’s coming from. This video footage I have of him is just amazing! 

KW: Is there any question no one has ever asked you, that you wish someone would?

JF: Yes, there’s a question. How come they don’t ask me about how great I play ping-pong?

KW:  Okay, how great do you play ping-pong?

JF: I’m bad! I will challenge anybody. Don’t even think about it. Unless you’re left-handed and from China, you don’t have a chance.

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

JF: All the time.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

JF: Yes!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

JF: Every day, man. [Chuckles] If you hang out with me, you’d see. I hang out with all comedians.

KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?

JF: I live on a farm outside of L.A., about an hour away. On a 40-acre avocado farm.

KW: Jimmy also wants to know, when did you think that an Oscar was attainable? When you left Texas? When you were on In Living Color?
JF: When we attained it.

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

JF: To be honest, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to? 

JF: Intuition.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

JF: Ooh… The biggest obstacle? The mental obstacle of thinking that just because I was African-American that I couldn’t have it all.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

JF: Barack Obama.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: Is there anything your fans can do to help you?

JF: By always telling me if it’s good, bad, or all right.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks, if someone produces is a movie about the life of President Obama would you consider playing him?

JF: [Answers doing an impressive Obama impersonation that sounds just like the President] If there’s any indication, that America is not the most incredible country in the world… [Chuckles] Yes I would. 

KW: And the good Reverend had a follow-up, who would you like to see cast in the role of Michelle Obama?

JF: Hmm, who would it be? Halle Berry.

KW: Reverend Thompson also says grandmothers have played an exceptional role in the black experience, and that in your song, "I Wish You Were Here," you pay tribute to and share about your grandmother. She asks what role did your grandmother play in your life and how did she influence your spirituality? 

JF: She gave me everything. She gave me the tools to be who I am, from music to athletics to knowing how to be a gentleman. She did it all. 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman wants to know whether you still get royalties from Booty Call?

JF: [LOL] Yes, but they’re very small checks.

KW: Marianne Ilaw was wondering whether you would consider recording an old school R&B album updating hits from the Seventies.  

JF: [Pauses to think about it] Umm…. No.

KW: Keith Kremer asks if you’re Ugly Girl character from In Living Color going to make a cameo appearance in one of your future movies?
JF: Yes.

KW: Finally, aspiring scriptwriter Chris Carden says he’s got a great screenplay he wants you to read.

JF: That’s okay.

KW: Well, thanks again for a great interview, Jamie and good luck with the film.

JF: Thanks, bro.

To see a trailer for The Soloist, visit HERE.

To see the video of Navy Midshipman Chidiebere Kalu singing for Jamie Foxx at the Presidential inauguration, visit HERE.

From Buenos Aires To Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson,
Special To The Star

(April 17, 2009) It's a wise move by organizers to wait until after Passover to launch the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. After all, it can be a serious challenge to stay awake through a movie when your body's preoccupied with matters of digestion.

That's not to suggest that the contents of the 17th annual TJFF are not equally satisfying. Presenting features, docs and shorts over nine days and nights, starting tomorrow, the festival offers a diverse selection of new works from Israel and throughout the Diaspora, with a special focus on the achievements of the Jewish composers and lyricists who turned the Broadway musical into an American art form.

Among the fest's dramatic fare, immigrant stories and family sagas dominate. Camera Obscura, the opening-night film, tomorrow at the Bloor Cinema, combines aspects of both, alongside some more adventurous elements.

This Argentinean period drama begins with the birth of its heroine as her family arrives in Buenos Aires, having escaped the pogroms in Russia.

A few animated sequences and glimpses of her late-life romance with a photographer add vitality to Maria Victoria Menis' handsome but stilted feature, which plays like The Bridges of Madison County, if transplanted to rural Argentina.

A French drama making its Toronto premiere on April 20 at the Bloor, Cycles benefits greatly from the presence of a top-notch cast and an insightful script from writer-director Cyril Gelblat. Miou-Miou and Charles Berling play adult siblings who cope with both the worsening mental state of their Holocaust-survivor mother and their estrangement from their own children.

The star of many of the decade's best Israeli features (including last year's The Band's Visit), Ronit Elkabetz leads a similarly formidable cast in Shiva, which she also co-wrote and directed with her brother Shlomi (it screens Monday at the Bloor). Set during the first Gulf War – the threat of chemical attack means characters occasionally have to converse through gasmasks – Shiva is a bustling portrait of intra-family combat as a Moroccan-Israeli clan observes traditional funeral rituals for seven very testy days.

Of the TJFF's many documentaries about modern Israel, My First War may be the most compelling. An army reservist who brings his camera when he's called up to fight in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Yariv Mozer provides a first-hand view of the recent conflict. The events and their aftermath provoke many of Mozer's fellow soldiers to question the efficacy of war. The winner of the fest's second annual David A. Stein Memorial Award, it screens at the Al Green Theatre on April 19.

On April 23 at the Bloor, the TJFF hosts a homecoming for a Toronto feature that recently debuted at Sundance. Written before David Bezmozgis scored major literary cred with his 2004 collection Natasha and Other Stories, Victoria Day is his sensitively wrought coming-of-age story of a North York teen who is troubled by his conflicts with his Russian-immigrant parents, his desires for two very different girls and his role in the fate of a missing hockey teammate.

Exhibiting much of the subtlety and precision that Bezmozgis brings to the pages of his short stories, his feature debut is a haunting study of adolescent confusion.

The same subject gets a far more comedic treatment in Bart Got a Room, an affable but thin slice of ham about a Miami teen's prom-night worries (it screens April 25 at the Bloor and starts a Toronto run on May 1). Though writer-director Brian Hecker keeps most of his attention on young Danny (Steven J. Kaplan), the kid's not half as funny as William H. Macy as his newly single father. Contributions by Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) also brighten the proceedings.

For real razzamatazz, check out Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance, a special series devoted to such masters of the musical as Stephen Sondheim and Frank Loesser. Classic movie versions of Broadway sensations like Duck Soup, Gold Diggers of 1933 and The Pajama Game all get rare screenings at the fest, as do documentaries on their makers.

Another work of enormous historical value closes the TJFF at the Bloor on April 26. In 1959, NBC's Sunday Showcase aired a made-for-TV adaptation of What Makes Sammy Run?, Budd Schulberg's satirical novel about a ruthlessly ambitious huckster who works his way up Hollywood's pecking order. Thanks to the discovery of a long-missing reel in 2005, it has finally been restored to its complete form, albeit not in what the Sunday Showcase announcer promises to be "in living colour!" Even when preserved in smudgy black-and-white, Larry Blyden and future Dynasty star John Forsythe are razor-sharp in Schulberg's vicious poison-pen letter to the movie business, rewritten for the small screen by the author with his brother, Stuart.

Ben Stiller has often talked of making his own take, but any new incarnation is unlikely to retain the punch of this 50-year-old teleplay. Its reappearance ends the TJFF with some old-school panache.

The Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs tomorrow to April 26 at the Bloor Cinema, the Al Green Theatre and Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Grande. See tjff.com for schedule and details.

Things Are Looking Brighter In The Dark

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

(April 20, 2009) With the recession in full swing, it's time to look at how the arts and entertainment industry is coping, and how various sectors plan to keep their audiences in the months ahead. This is the fifth story in a series.

Tough economic times are proving to be box-office gold for the
movie industry, especially in Canada.

Last year's worldwide movie grosses set a record at $28.1 billion (all figures U.S.). And homegrown audiences are helping lead the charge.

"It speaks to the fact that during these difficult economic times, people need escapism now more than ever and going to the movies is very affordable escapism," says Pat Marshall, vice-president of Cineplex Entertainment, the country's largest movie exhibitor.

Recent figures from Rentrak, which charts entertainment industry numbers, show a healthy 14.85 per cent increase in North American box office this year over last, with the figure for Canada at 15.5 per cent.

Global ticket sales, meanwhile, are up 12 per cent over last year.

Cineplex itself notched record gains in 2008, with profits up 30.6 per cent to $34.6 million.

While others in the business world are hunkering down in the midst of the recession, Cineplex just spent $8 million to expand its theatre complex at Fairview Mall – its first such move in Toronto in more than a decade – and announced plans to open a 10,000-square-foot entertainment centre this summer as part of its revamped SilverCity Newmarket Cinemas location.

Cineplex has expanded its audience base by diversifying its product beyond movies, by providing filmed live performances of rock concerts, sporting events, ballet and New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Perhaps an indication that opera lovers find going to the local multiplex a frugal alternative to a trip to New York, screenings of the Met's operas have proven so popular that there will be a Sunday, May 3 screening of Madama Butterfly, expanding from the usual Saturday-afternoon opera screenings because of the demand for tickets.

The success of a recent Tragically Hip concert broadcast live in theatres across Canada is a sign that more music shows will be coming in the future, Marshall said.

Marshall also noted that with more than a dozen 3-D film projects in the works – including Canadian filmmaker James Cameron's Avatar set to open in December – this will be a huge year for the in-your-face technology.

At the other end of the scale, the independent Kingsway, Revue and Bloor theatres are also maintaining a steady flow of black ink despite economic worries.

After several years of sitting dark, the Kingsway, at 3030 Bloor St. W., reopened Jan. 3 with a big investment in renovations, just as the recession started to accelerate.

"We're doing very well and not because we're operating as a $3 discount rep theatre," manager Rui Pereira said. "We charge $10 and, although attendance still depends on the quality of the movie, people in this neighbourhood are willing to pay almost as much as the $12.95 they would pay at the Queensway."

Distributors are taking notice. The Kingsway is doing so well with second-run releases like last weekend's Slumdog Millionaire and One Week double bill, that on Friday it will become the first single-screen venue since the Eglinton Theatre closed in 2003 to open a major first-run release (The Soloist).

"We're seeing fairly stable attendance and revenue, which is shocking, actually," said Tim Bourgette, manager of the Revue Cinema at 400 Roncesvalles Ave. "We're a bit surprised, with all the doom and gloom in the media, that we're not experiencing more bumps in the road."

At the Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., the largest single-screen auditorium in the city with 850 seats, manager Robin Sharp says the recession is proving to be a good time to grow the business and finance renovations.

"Our business has gone up as the economy has gotten worse," he said.


Movie critic Peter Howell lists his Top 10 blockbusters to watch for between now and Dec. 31:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1): Ever wonder how Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) got those wicked hangnails? These and other revelations will attempt to survive the film's unfortunate Internet leak.

Star Trek (May 8): Phasers set on "revive" for this ambitious attempt to save a beloved sci-fi franchise. It's about the early days of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) before they were boldly going on the USS Enterprise.

Angels & Demons (May 15): Before The Da Vinci Code, there was another dastardly religious plot for symbol sleuth Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to unravel. This prequel co-stars Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård.

Terminator Salvation (May 21): This future-shock franchise has morphed more often than a T-1000 cyborg. But the fourth film chapter (the first without the Governator) is charged to deliver serious jolts, with the explosive Christian Bale playing humanity saviour John Connor.

Up (May 29): A retired balloon salesman (Edward Asner) hitches his product to his house and flies to South America for the adventure he'd always promised his late spouse. No stars and no explosions, but it's this year's big release from Disney/Pixar.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June 24): That's quite a handle, when all you really need to know is that this is Transformers 2, wherein giant robots and puny humans (led by Shia LaBeouf) blow things up real good while working out their differences.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1): That's Ice Age III, for those keeping score at home, and for studio execs counting all the cold, hard cash this popular prehistoric animated franchise hauls in.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15): The sixth in the Potter film franchise, still one book behind the print revolution, and once again starring a rapidly aging Daniel Radcliffe as the wizardly Harry.

The Wolfman (Nov. 6): The already hairy Benicio Del Toro goes all the way with this remake of the 1941 horror classic. Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt co-star.

Avatar (Dec. 18): Fourteen years in the making, it's how writer/director James Cameron hopes to top Titanic, his history-making epic. Australian Sam Worthington stars as a disabled marine who bonds with alien DNA for this eco-themed adventure set 200 years in the future.

SAG Deal Bodes Well For Toronto

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

(April 21, 2009) A tentative deal between the largest actors' union in the U.S. and the major studios is potentially good news for film and television production in Toronto and Canada.

The board of the
U.S. Screen Actors Guild has narrowly approved a new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing the major Hollywood studios that could lead to the end of a two-year impasse.

That impasse has meant a dramatic decline in studio approvals of feature film productions, some of which get shot in Canada.

"That (tentative deal) is the good news. The bad news is that it looks like it's going to take up to five or six weeks to get it ratified," said Ken Ferguson, president of Filmport Studios, noting the agreement still requires mail-in ballot approval by the U.S. union's 20,000 members, which isn't likely to be completed until the end of May. "We've been waiting for this day for a long time. It is definitely going to be good for business. It may not necessarily open the floodgates but ... it removes a fairly major obstacle."

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, said the SAG dispute has mostly held up studio approval of big-budget feature films.

With the Canadian dollar falling to about 80 cents U.S., the film and TV production industry here is once again poised to attract increasing amounts of U.S. business, Waddell said.

Rhonda Silverstone, manager of the Toronto Film and Television Office, said the city is being "scouted" by both U.S. studios and independents for numerous projects, and resolving the SAG dispute will definitely benefit the industry here. After a "dismal" 2008, Toronto has seen a "flurry" of U.S. TV pilot production since the beginning of the year, but bigger projects won't be approved until the SAG agreement is ratified, she added.

Waddell said the SAG union has lost ground in TV production to its smaller rival union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, in the past two years as studios and producers have "gravitated" there after that union ratified a similar deal in June 2008.

"Most, if not all, of the television shows that are being shot in Canada are now in AFTRA, not SAG, contracts. (SAG) was severely weakened as a result of this situation because AFTRA was able to pick up a lot of jurisdiction in television that it didn't have prior to this situation," Waddell added.

Ferguson said the worldwide recession and the financial restructuring of some major U.S. studios is another reason film production is lagging. But Ferguson called the SAG dispute "a huge barrier."

Toronto is approaching the busiest time of year for film and TV production, Ferguson said, adding he hopes the labour agreement is ratified in time for big-budget films to get approved.

Sugar: Bittersweet Baseball Tale

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

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Starring Algenis Pérez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, Ellary Porterfield and Jaime Tirelli. Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. 120 minutes.
At the Varsity. 14A

(April 17, 2009) They barely speak English and don't understand the references – what is Cracker Jack? – but a group of rookies from the Dominican Republic happily begin singing, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

They know the song is about baseball, which is what they live for. Their devotion, though, isn't always rewarded. It's a scene from
Sugar, a film by Half Nelson duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden that sagely reflects on how there's more than a teaspoon of vinegar in the assumptions and adages that shape America's national pastime.

Most people, non-fans included, believe that the DR is a Caribbean island haven for baseball, with all kinds of raw talent available for the price of a plane ticket. The assumption has some factual basis – there's an abundance of DR players in the major leagues – but the reality is far more Darwinian.

Then there's the hoary adage, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." This, too, doesn't always bear up to the rough scrutiny of a game where winning is everything, and where often, in the case of injuries, your real character is exhibited in how you cope with not playing.

These are the sour lessons for Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Pérez Soto), a cocky kid from San Pedro de Macoris who, at the age of 19, attracts the interest of big-time scouts for his powerful knuckle curveball.

A star at home, he's called Sugar for his love of desserts (although he claims it's for his way with the ladies). He heads to spring training in Arizona with dreams of milk and honey, promising his girlfriend he'll buy her a Cadillac.

Sugar quickly learns there's more to the game than smoking a hot pitch across the plate. He has to learn English on the fly – or else he'll be eating nothing but French toast at the local diner – and he has to be consistent on the mound.

"Remember life gives you lots of opportunities," someone tells him. "Baseball only gives you one."

Sugar demonstrates enough potential to win a trip to Bridgetown, Iowa, and a coveted spot on the Bridgetown Swing, the farm team for the Kansas City Knights (a pseudonym, perhaps, for the Kansas City Royals?)

He's billeted with a rural family called the Higgins, who love baseball and are happy to help house and feed rookies, as long as they don't play their music loudly or have girls in their room.

This last resolution is tough for Sugar when temptation is right under the same roof, in the person of comely daughter Anne (Ellary Porterfield), who gives him come-hither glances while at the same time recruiting him for prayer services.

After a promising start with the Swing, disappointments and setbacks begin to mount for Sugar. Some are serious (racial tensions and injury) and others less so (homesickness and rejection) but all wear upon his resolve.

Algenis Pérez Soto delivers an affecting and empathetic performance in the title role, one that is drawn from real life. Soto had pro baseball ambitions of his own, but he was working in a resort hotel when Fleck and Boden (who share both screenwriting and directing credits) astutely tapped him for their film.

A standout at Sundance '08 and TIFF last fall, Sugar is a departure from movies of its kind in quietly observing that life is often a series of base hits rather than grand-slam homers. The film has few moments of high drama and the games played matter only in how they shape Soto's character.

If the film has a message, it is this: Ambition and talent are necessary to succeed, but determination and self-awareness are the more rare and lasting qualities.

The Da Vinci Code Gets A Sequel In September

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

(April 21, 2009) After years of waiting, Dan Brown fans can finally start counting the days – 147 to be exact – until the release of the long anticipated follow-up to the author's phenomenal 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code.

The Lost Symbol, featuring familiar Brown protagonist Robert Langdon, will hit stores Sept. 15. The first North American print run of five million copies is the largest ever for publisher Random House, which made the announcement yesterday.

"This novel has been a strange and wonderful journey," said Brown, in a statement released by the publisher. "Weaving five years of research into the story's 12-hour time frame was an exhilarating challenge. Robert Langdon's life clearly moves a lot faster than mine."

Then tentatively titled The Solomon Key, the new novel was initially expected to hit stores as early as 2006.

"We've been waiting for this for years," said Deirdre Horgan, chief marketing officer for Indigo. "We're quite pleased as a book retailer that this huge book is coming out in the fall, leading into the holiday period. This is something our customers are anticipating and that we can build an interesting marketing campaign around.

"It also comes at an interesting time. We've noticed in the last six months that people have been turning more and more to books, probably because they are such an affordable escape."

Although no plot details were provided, it was previously reported that The Lost Symbol is set in Washington, D.C., and delves into the Masonic order.

The Da Vinci Code has sold 81 million copies worldwide, the most ever for a book not written by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It has spawned numerous spinoff titles and was made into a 2006 film starring Tom Hanks, as well a board game and a video game.

The novel, about the possibility that Mary Magdalene gave birth to a child fathered by Jesus, was condemned by the Catholic Church. In another controversy, Brown won a plagiarism case against author Lewis Perdue, who claimed The Da Vinci Code was lifted from two of his own books.

The runaway popularity of The Da Vinci Code also boosted the so-so sales for Brown's previous titles, including Angels and Demons. The movie of that book, also starring Hanks, will be released on May 15.


Freeman, Jones In Actors Hall Of Fame


(April 17, 2009)  *Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones join Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Dame Judi Dench as part of the 15 film veterans chosen for this year's Actors Hall of Fame.   The list of honourees, which the organization's president, Rusty Citron revealed Thursday, also includes Robert Duvall, Kirk Douglas, Gene Hackman, Olivia de Havilland, Hal Holbrook, Anthony Hopkins, Angela Lansbury, William H. Macy and Maggie Smith.   The Actors Hall of Fame honours career achievement in theatre, film and television. Criteria for nomination include peer recognition and awards, humanitarian contribution to the dramatic arts and education and a demonstrated advancement of the craft of acting.    Per the Hollywood Reporter, honourees are voted for by members of the Actors Hall of Fame's board of electors, who are dramatic arts educators representing more than 100 accredited colleges and universities.   The new inductees join the 38 charter members of the hall. An induction ceremony and celebration will take place this year in Los Angeles.

Sean 'Diddy' Combs To Star In 'Sarah Marshall' Spin-Off

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

(April 17, 2009) Producer/Rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs is set to appear in the spin-off to the comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," titled "Get Him to the Greek." Combs will star alongside Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men"), Rose Byrne ("Knowing"), Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in the Judd Apatow-produced, Nicholas Stoller-directed film.  In the film, Combs plays the role of "Sergio," an executive who owns a record label. Moss will play Daphne Binks, the girlfriend of Aaron Greenberg (played by Hill), while Brand plays an out-of-control rocker named Aldous Snow. Byrne will play Jackie Q, a scandal-ridden pop star and Snow's character's newest love interest.  The film is scheduled to be released in April 2010.

McKellar Wins Screenwriting Award For Blindness

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(April 21, 2009) Toronto — Actor-filmmaker Don McKellar won the award for best feature film screenplay for his film, Blindness, at this year's 13th annual Writers Guild of Canada screenwriting awards Monday night in Toronto. Other notable winners included Greg Spottiswood for best radio drama for an episode of the CBC radio drama Afghanada and Andrew Wreggitt for best movie of the week or miniseries for Mayerthorpe.  Among other categories, comedian Brent Butt won best script for an episodic half-hour show for Corner Gas, while Adam Barken won best episodic one hour show for Flashpoint. The awards were given out Monday night in Toronto.

Will Smith In 'Business' With Sci Fi Channel


(April 21, 2009) *Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment has produced a new crime drama for the Sci Fi Channel. "Unfinished Business," according to the Hollywood Reporter, is about an ex-cop who starts seeing flashes of memories from the recently deceased. The visions compel him to help wronged souls resolve their unfinished business. The network, which changes its name to Syfy on July 7, plans to air "Unfinished Business" as a two-hour movie that will also serve as a potential series pilot. Smith is on board as one of the project's executive producers.

Canadian Lands Role In Twilight Sequel

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 22, 2009) Veteran actor Graham Greene has joined the cast of the Twilight sequel, New Moon. The Canadian performer appears as Harry Clearwater, an old friend of Bella's father and a Quileute tribal leader. New Moon is filming on locations in Vancouver and Tuscany, Italy and focuses on a growing friendship between Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, and childhood friend Jacob Black, played by Taylor Lautner. Robert Pattinson resumes his role as Bella's vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, while Montreal's Rachelle Lafevre returns as the vampire Victoria. New cast members include Dakota Fanning as Jane, a powerful member of a vampire coven known as the Volturi, and Vancouver's Noot Seear, who plays Volturi member Heidi. The 56-year-old Greene appeared in the films Dances With Wolves, The Green Mile, Die Hard: With A Vengeance and the TV show, Northern Exposure.

Treach Gets 'Gangsta' For New Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 22, 2009) *Naughty by Nature rapper
Treach will appear in a new film titled "Think Twice Little Gangsta," about the accidental killing of an innocent child by gang members who were attempting to off one of their own during an anti-violence rally. Ruff Ryders Records’ President Walt Rogers and other local rappers also participated in the film, which was shot both in New Jersey and Los Angeles, according to New Jersey's Herald News.  Jamie Bland is directing the picture, which has yet to set a release date. In the meantime, Treach is reuniting with Naughty By Nature members DJ Kay Gee and Vinnie for another group album, titled, "Anthem, Inc.


Bob & Doug Taking Off Again

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

(April 19, 2009) They have a surprising amount in common: Both are still identified and adored as charismatic comic characters they created almost 30 years ago. Both have, over the years, successfully made the transition from actor to director/producer.

And both have now reunited with friends as voice actors in a new, adult-oriented prime-time cartoon series, both debuting tonight on Global as additions to its Sunday-night cartoon block.

SCTV staple Dave Thomas's toque-topped Doug McKenzie and his hoser brother Bob (sort of) are reborn in animated form in the Thomas-produced
Bob & Doug, debuting tonight at 7:30.

And then there's Henry Winkler, Happy Days' former Fonzie, re-teaming with his more recent pals from Arrested Development to voice a faculty full of dysfunctional high-school teachers in Sit Down, Shut Up, bookending The Simpsons in an 8:30 simulcast with its originating network, Fox.

Thomas and Winkler are both delighted, and a little surprised.

Thomas particularly. He and his SCTV writing/performing partner Rick Moranis saw their beer-guzzling, bacon-frying McKenzie Brothers, originally intended as Canadian-content filler, explode into a pop culture phenomenon on both sides of the border. Decades later, there was a second surge of McKenzie mania when their co-directed 1983 feature, Strange Brew, was released on DVD to an avid new audience, on college campuses.

"About five years ago," Thomas recalls, "I got a call from Warner Brothers saying, `We're releasing (Strange Brew) on DVD and we wanted to know if you and Rick would do commentary.' And I said, `We won't, because you don't pay.' And they're like, `Oh, okay.'"

As it happened, Thomas had just started up Animax, his own L.A.-based animation production house. "So I said, `I will give you an animated Bob & Doug short.' And they're, like, `Oh, you have that?' And I said yeah ... I actually hadn't even started it. I just lied."

His Animax team came through, and once the cartoon short was finished and on the disc, he started thinking about selling the concept as a full-on animated series.

Thinking, not doing. "I got busy with other stuff and forgot about it," he admits."Like everything significant I've ever accomplished, this happened by accident. If anything in my career had actually happened by design, I would still be in Dundas, running a sheet music store."

Once the project did get underway, it became immediately clear that Thomas was going to have to proceed without Moranis, with whom he shares the rights to the characters, and who remains marginally involved as co-producer. But not as the voice of Bob.

"Rick is pretty much retired now," Thomas explains, "so it's not like he's really dying to work. At first he said he was going to do it, but then he said, `Dave, I'm in New York, you're in L.A. ... you know, would it be easier for you if you just got someone else to do the voice.

"And I said `Yeah, but I don't want you to be excluded.' And he said, `I would love to be excluded. I just don't want to do it, you know?' I could have pressured him, but I didn't."

It turns out that, without knowing it, Thomas already had the perfect replacement – Dave Coulier, known from Full House and as the ex-boyfriend immortalized by a jilted Alanis Morrisette in her revenge song, "You Oughta Know."

"I've known Coulier for years," says Thomas, "since we did America's Funniest People together. He does a ton of animation voices, and he's an amazing mimic, and a stand-up comic, and real funny ... so I just asked him, `Can you do the voice?' And he's like (in character), `Geez, I don't know, eh?'

Coulier joins a predominantly Canadian cast that includes Pat McKenna, Derek McGrath, Neil Crone, Maurice LaMarche, Ron Pardo and Jayne Eastwood.

Winkler, too, finds himself surrounded by familiar faces, his Arrested Development co-stars Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, and series creator Mitch Hurwitz, along with Pushing Daisies' Kristin Chenowith, Spongebob's Tom Kenny and Saturday Night Live stars Cheri Oteri, Kenan Thompson and Will Forte.

Unlike Thomas, Winkler's animated alter-ego could not be less like him in real life. Over the course of his prolific producing career, he has earned a reputation as the nicest guy in show business.

"What I've learned over the years," he says, "is that you don't have to yell at somebody to get their best work. The yelling, the screaming, the being cruel, that's just kind of working out your own craziness."

Not an option for science teacher Willard Deutschebog, Winkler's Sit Down, Shut Up character, a creepy, paranoid, porn-addicted hypochondriac. "He takes a pill to keep his large intestines on the inside," jokes Winkler, and one "to make sure his toenails don't fuse into a hoof."

Being back in high school is nothing new to Winkler; in a sense, he really never left.

"Going to school for me was like climbing Everest with no clothes on. I'm not kidding. It was torture, because I'm so dyslexic. I grew up thinking I was stupid."

Winkler has drawn on that experience to write a series of kids' books – he's just finished his 16th – dealing with dyslexia.

Sit Down, Shut Up, then, could be considered his revenge on teachers.

"I love teachers," he insists. "But in fourth grade I had the worst teacher in the world, Ms Adolf – and I am telling you, she was related. I raised my hand in class to ask this woman if I could go to the bathroom. I'm still waiting for her to call on me."

CBC Bets On Comedies With New Line-up

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 22, 2009) The CBC has decided that what Canadians can really use these days is a good laugh. Unveiled Tuesday, its upcoming prime-time schedule features a half-hour show with comedian Ron James, a Juno-esque sitcom and a father-son P.I. show set in Newfoundland.

This fall, the public broadcaster will air 12 episodes of
The Ron James Show, a combination of sketches and stand-up from the Halifax native.

In January, it plans to bolster its line-up with The Republic of Doyle, a one-hour comedic drama about a dysfunctional father-son team of private investigators in St. John's. That month will also see the debut of 18 to Life, a comedy about a couple who defy their parents and advice from friends, and get hitched at the tender age of 18.

“Comedy is coming back,” asserted Kirstine Layfield, the CBC's executive director of network programming. “We know that Canadians love comedy. A lot of our culture is in our comedy.

A lot of what makes us nationally different from other places is in our comedy. So we're putting more of it on because it looks like this is what Canadians want to see.

“We're also very good at it,” Layfield added, pointing to the continued success of The Rick Mercer Show (also returning this fall).

Still, picking potential hits is never easy. And the embattled broadcaster – reeling from a soft advertising market, a $171-million deficit and the need to cut 800 jobs – is under incredible pressure to see their new prime-time line-up boost ratings and hopefully shore up shrinking ad dollars.

Last year, the CBC aggressively targeted the female viewer, offering such programs as Being Erica and Heartland – both coming back for the 2009-2010 season. This year, Layfield said, the goal is to differentiate the CBC from “the programming offered on CTV and Global … and we feel we can really represent the best in Canadian comedy.

“Ron James is a great example. He's seen as Everyman Canada.”

Republic of Doyle, meanwhile, is about a father (played in the pilot by New Brunswick-born actor Peter MacNeill) and son (Newfoundland-native Allan Hawco) who fight crime – and each other – in oil-rich Newfoundland.

“This show really shows off our great East Coast – its vibrancy, colours, identity and the passion of the people who live in Newfoundland,” Layfield said.

She added that the CBC is casting the series now. Only Hawco has been guaranteed a role going forward. And there is speculation that the CBC would like to line up a big-name actor for the role of the father in order to make the show more sellable to international buyers.

Other new fall additions include two reality-based series: The Battle of the Blade, an elimination-style show that pits Canada's top figure skaters against one another, and Canada's Super Spellers, a televised spelling bee with 12 young finalists, hosted by Evan Solomon.

Also returning to the CBC schedule will be The Border, Little Mosque on the Prairie, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Dragons' Den, The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos and the fourth and final season of The Tudors.

There was no word on the rest of CBC pilots – which include B Team, Memory Lanes, Throwing Stones and Abroad, about the romantic misadventures of a Canadian woman in London, based on the experiences of Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren.

To make way for the new shows, the CBC cancelled Sophie, while the fate of the Alberta-set soap Wild Roses is still up in the air.

The network plans to finalize its fall/winter season this week.

Hollywood's Oddballs Find An Appearance On Dancing With The Stars Can Improve Their Image

Source: www.thestar.com - Erin Carlson,
Associated Press

(April 16, 2009) Not so long ago, rapper Lil' Kim perpetuated an X-rated public image that could make even the baddest girls blush.

Her raunchy roster of songs include the hit "Magic Stick" and lyrics much too graphic to repeat, and she has jail creds, serving 10 months in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about a 2001 gun battle outside a New York radio station.

But now – nearly two years out of jail – Kim haunts the PG-rated pastures of
Dancing With the Stars. Watching her twirl like a princess in floaty chiffon and weep with joy after her successful Argentine tango, it's easy to forget the wild woman who wore a purple pasty on an exposed breast on national TV.

Viewers are rooting for Kim, along with more wholesome contestants like Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson. After a recent well-reviewed performance, the rapper said the ABC dance competition was "bringing out the sensitive side of Lil' Kim."

Which raises the question: is Dancing With the Stars the new rehab? With each season, celebrity dancers of varying degrees of infamy seek redemption on the family show through a Total Image Overhaul. But witnessing, say, a formerly jailed rapper shake her bonbon (and ex-con status) might be part of the cheeky fun.

"The strange thing is a lot of people have been on the show who do come from a more slightly edgy background or who have got a reputation possibly for being more edgy; when they get on the show, tend to be very likeable," says executive producer Conrad Green.

"There's something about the rosy glow of Dancing With the Stars. It's kind of hard (to resist). Even if you're ... a bad boy, you start wearing sequins and playing the game."

The eighth season of the top-rated series recruited some other bawdy contestants: Jackass daredevil Steve-O, who recently completed rehab after battling drug addiction; Denise Richards, whose messy divorce from Charlie Sheen branded her a tabloid target; and Holly Madison, former Playboy playmate and girlfriend of Hugh Hefner.

The show, which debuted in 2005, has a history of extending the spotlight and second chances to Hollywood oddballs, outcasts and others with sordid backstories. Some examples: actor Tatum O'Neal, who recounted her drug addiction recovery in a memoir; Heather Mills, who went through a nasty divorce from Paul McCartney; E! reality star Kim Kardashian, who rose to fame because of a sex tape featuring her and reality star Ray J; and trash TV impresario Jerry Springer.

Green says the show had a "breakthrough" in the third season by casting Springer, an unexpected fan favourite, loving father and good sport. "Everyone expected `Jerry Springer: King of Schlock' and all that kind of stuff for the show," says Green. "He showed a completely different side of himself and he's a very likeable, charming guy."

Truth be told, fans of the kitschy ballroom dance show are probably not judging the contestants' moral character as much as how well they move on the floor. Sex appeal can lead to success on the show. Season 8 stud Gilles Marini exudes it. So does Lil' Kim. See also: the crackling combination of past partners Mario Lopez and professional dancer Karina Smirnoff.

Who'd complete Green's dream cast? Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and singer Michael Jackson, who have both weathered sex scandals far more humiliating than Lil' Kim's prison stint.

"Karina and Bill Clinton, now that would be dynamite," Green says, considering possible pairings. "I actually think he'd be quite a good mover."

Ellen Dedicates Award To Carl Walker-Hoover

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 20, 2009) *
Ellen DeGeneres, who won a GLAAD Media Award on Saturday for an episode of her talk show, dedicated the honour to Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11 year-old African American boy who committed suicide because school bullies called him "gay."

Walker-Hoover hanged himself on April 17 - five days before his 12th birthday - after enduring daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother's weekly pleas to the school to address the problem.

The junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, NY did not identify himself as gay.

"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" was awarded for its episode "Ellen & Portia's Wedding Day," covering the host's wedding to actress Portia de Rossi. In her acceptance speech, she told the black tie crowd at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater, "In my opinion, we are not fighting for gay rights, we are fighting for equal rights."

"Milk," about slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, was named best film. "Desperate Housewives" was chosen best TV comedy, and "Brothers and Sisters" was named top TV drama.

The 2009 awards marked the 20th year that films, TV shows, performers and others have been honoured by GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Comedian Kathy Griffin accepted the Vanguard Award for her work in the gay community. The makers of video sensation "Prop 8: The Musical," a parody of the conservative campaign backing Proposition 8, were singled-out with a special recognition award, and the musical number was performed on stage. Reverend V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop in the Episcopal Church, was given an honorary award for his work as a religious leader and activist.

Kavner's Long And Winding Rhoda

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(April 21, 2009) Ironically, for an actor so indelibly identified by her distinctive voice, Julie Kavner remains adamantly unwilling to talk.

At least, not outside The Simpsons studio and the occasional Woody Allen film set (she's done seven).

Kavner has, for the past 20 years, preferred to let her animated alter-ego Marge Simpson do all the talking for her, eschewing public appearances, and refusing to be videotaped or photographed at work.

She is so notoriously press-shy – she once snuck out in the middle of an ensemble interview on Inside the Actors Studio – she has been branded a virtual recluse.

And yet, here she is on the phone – and there is no mistaking that throaty rasp, which has been described, not inaccurately, as the sound of "honeyed gravel."

"It's true," she concedes, "I tend not to like (being interviewed). But this was something I really wanted to talk about."

"This" being the long-overdue DVD release of the seminal '70s sitcom spinoff Rhoda. The first-season set hits stores today, to coincide with the show's 35th anniversary. "It was about time," Kavner complains. "I mean, they put everything else out there ..."

Though her Simpsons success has guaranteed financial security for several lifetimes – last year she and her castmates negotiated a per-episode pay bump to $500,000 – Rhoda remains closest to her heart. "It gave me my life, it gave me my career, it gave me the love of my life, David Davis."

Davis, with whom she has lived since the '70s, was also responsible for kick-starting her career, calling her in "as a favour to a family friend" to read for a one-shot role as Rhoda's sister on Mary Tyler Moore. She didn't get it. "A year later," she says, "they spun off the show, and David remembered me and brought me back in."

This time, Kavner won the role of Brenda Morgenstern, the sitcom poster-girl for low self-esteem ... initially, both on and off screen, having suddenly found herself surrounded on all sides by seasoned television professionals. "Valerie Harper and Nancy Walker and Hal Gould and David Groh ... and (behind the scenes) David Davis and James L. Brooks and Lorenzo Music and Allan Burns ... I was the new one. It was my first paying job.

"But they couldn't have been nicer and more welcoming. It was always, always about the work ... none of that, you know, diva bulls---."

Rhoda earned Kavner the first of two Emmys (the second was for The Simpsons), and yet, when it was cancelled after 4 1/2 seasons, she found herself slumming it on the dinner-theatre circuit, including a fondly remembered tour of Western Canada.

In the early '80s she had a guest shot on Taxi as yet another sitcom sister (Tony Banta's, played by Tony Danza), and then five years later made an extraordinary leap to the big screen and her first Woody Allen film, Hannah and her Sisters.

It was shortly after her second, Allen's Radio Days, that sitcom serendipity struck again and she was rehired by her old Rhoda boss, James L. Brooks, for the unmatched ensemble of Tracey Ullman's revolutionary Fox sketch show.

"That was the most amazing work I've ever done in my life," she enthuses, "and at the same time it was like going back to school. I learned an incredible lot from Tracey and that amazing group. It was extraordinary, just extraordinary."

And ultimately extraordinarily lucrative. The Simpsons started out as crudely drawn 30- and 60-second interstitial segments of The Tracey Ullman Show ... and went on to become a double-decade television phenomenon and an industry unto itself.

"Can you believe we just started our 21st year?" Kavner marvels. "It all comes down to the writing. For the Rhoda show as well. The writing is everything."

Well, maybe not everything. The talking has something to do with it, too.


Brandy Lands ABC Comedy Pilot


(April 17, 2009)  *R&B singer-actress Brandy will return to series television in the ABC pilot "This Little Piggy."  The comedy, according to the Hollywood Reporter, follows two adult siblings (Jeff Davis, Rebecca Cheskoff) who move in with their eldest brother (Kevin Rahm).  Brandy, who starred in the long-running UPN sitcom "Moesha," will play Davis' high-maintenance wife. The entertainer's last album, "Human," was released in 2008 and spawned the well-received single "Right Here (Departed)."

'Idol' Champ Fantasia To Star In Reality Series

Source: www.billboard.com -
The Hollywood Reporter

(April 16, 2009) Former "American Idol" star Fantasia Barrino will return to reality television in a new unscripted series on VH1.  The nine-time Grammy nominee has received a series commitment from the network for a show, as yet untitled, that will premiere in early 2010.  The project will chronicle Fantasia's life as a recording artist and young single mother.  The North Carolinian rose to fame as the winner of the third season of "Idol" and has gone on to a successful career as a recording artist. Her autobiography, "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale," led to a Lifetime movie in which she played herself.

Corner Gas Crank Cuts The Conduit

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

(April 20, 2009) Corner Gas closed shop a week ago, but Eric Peterson – who played cranky Oscar Leroy – is not unemployed. He's co-starring in Soulpepper's production of Glengarry Glen Ross at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District. "Having my own plant closed, I understand the pain of auto workers," Peterson says. "My life has been lived that way: theatre is the working poor. But I'm glad to have the work." To save money, Peterson has ditched his cellphone. "I'm tired of the conduit of the cellphone company to my wallet. But I miss it in the grocery store. What did my wife send me to get?" Peterson's wallet contains a stash of loonies and toonies to hand out to supplicants. "I have wonderful conversations and it is good for the infrastructure because the money goes right into the economy," he explains. "I don't care if they are strung out; they are interesting people. "Politically, these people should be cared for better," Peterson adds. "I am not St. Eric. The loonie or toonie isn't going to save me."

Skating Reality Show Among CBC's TV Offerings

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

(April 21, 2009) CBC announced its slate of television shows for the 2009-2010 season, and two new reality competitions will be among the first new series Canadians will see.  The fall premieres includes Battle with the Blades, a combination of skating and Dancing with the Stars. It teams up top figure skaters with hockey stars and culminates in weekly pairs figure skating performances.  Evan Solomon will host Canada's Super Speller, a game show that features 12 finalists competing against each other in a spelling contest. There is also The Ron James Show, a weekly program featuring the well-known comedian.  The winter slate includes CBC's two new scripted series, including 18 to Life, a new domestic comedy focusing on two teenagers who marry, despite the wishes of their friends and family. There is also The Republic of Doyle, a one-hour comedic drama focusing on the Doyles, a pair of father-son private investigators in St. John's, Newfoundland.  Returning series include Rick Mercer Report, Being Erica, The Border, Little Mosque on the Prairie, This Hour has 22 Minutes, The Tudors, Dragon's Den and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, although due to CBC budget issues, some will have fewer episodes than in previous years.  The two series that were cancelled were Sophie, the single mother comedy starring Natalie Brown, and Wild Roses, a soap opera set amongst oil families in Calgary.

Global Police Drama Picked Up By ABC

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 22, 2009) Another Canadian cop show has been picked up for broadcast in the United States. E1 Entertainment says the upcoming Global drama Copper has been nabbed by ABC. Copper is billed as a character-driven workplace drama about five rookie cops plunged into the high stakes world of big city policing. It's co-created by Tassie Cameron, co-executive producer of CTV's Flashpoint, which was picked up last year by CBS. CTV's new crime drama The Bridge has also been picked up by CBS, while CTV's The Listener, about a telepathic paramedic, is set to air on NBC. Production on Copper begins in Toronto in June.


Weekend Of Laughs Ahead As Toronto Hosts Big Names In Comedy

Source: www.thestar.com - Erin Carlson,
Associated Press

(April 16, 2009) A trio of top-drawer comic talent will keep Toronto in stitches this weekend.

Jerry Seinfeld, whose sitcom "about nothing" ran for nine seasons from 1989 to 1998 on NBC and remains popular in syndication, brings his own brand of observational humour to Massey Hall for four sold-out shows, two each tomorrow night and Saturday night.

Seinfeld, 54, has returned to doing occasional stand-up tours since the series ended, as well as brief television appearances and voiced the character of Barry in 2008's Bee Movie.

Lisa Lampanelli, a.k.a. the Queen of Mean, plays two gigs Saturday at the Danforth Music Hall.

The Connecticut-born comic, who has listed Lenny Bruce and Don Rickles as among her chief influences, has been compared to radio shock jock Howard Stern because of her penchant for blue language and her tirades concerning sex and race.

Canadian Norm Macdonald headlines at Yuk Yuk's Toronto club at 224 Richmond St. W. tomorrow night and Saturday night. (Tickets: $47.25 at 416-967-6425)

Macdonald, who shot to fame for his appearances on Saturday Night Live as the anchor on the Weekend Update from 1993 to 1997, is a friend of Yuk Yuk's founder Mark Breslin, one of the clubs where he began his career in stand-up.

The Quebec City native, 45, has since written and starred in two films, Dirty Work and Screwed, and post-Saturday Night Live has starred in a number of sitcoms, including The Norm Show and A Minute With Stan Hooper.

Macdonald released a comedy album in 2006 called Ridiculous that featured performances by Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon and Jon Lovitz.

Macdonald is also an avid high-stakes poker player who placed 20th out of 827 entrants in the 2007 World Series of Poker.

Seinfeld Still The Master Of Much Ado About Nothing

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

(April 19, 2009) Jerry Seinfeld ended the last of four Toronto shows last night at Massey Hall just as he began them, with a standing ovation.

It's amazing what nine years on a hit network sitcom can do, and still do, even another nine years after the fact.

Indeed, one might wonder why the man even bothers, having made enough cash from his eponymous series – which still seems to air on some channel somewhere every half-hour of every day – to buy and retire to his own personal country.

And yet, here he is, back in Toronto (a long-favoured stop) to kick off a 14-city concert tour.

And clearly having the time of his life.

And I mean really enjoying himself, perhaps surprisingly so, given his generally perceived persona – on TV and on the stand-up stage – as a laid-back, detached, somewhat bemused, slightly cynical observer of human foibles.

This was not that Jerry Seinfeld. Nor was he the more likely comic elder statesman – his 55th birthday is at the end of this month – a little slower, a little crankier, a lot less ambitious, content to coast on his success rather than try, at this late date, to raise the bar.

No, this Seinfeld was like a big kid, more energized and enthused than I've ever seen him, wildly mugging and gesticulating, bounding back and forth across the Massey stage like a puppy that desperately needs to pee.

And funny ... well, we expected no less. The man has never been anything short of hilarious, an often-imitated textbook template for a generation of observational comedians too young for George Carlin or any of those who preceded him.

For a while there in the '80s and '90s, every comedian was starting to sound like Jerry Seinfeld, the master of that particular domain – sometimes referred to as the "Didja ever notice/Don't ya hate it when/What is up with ..." School of Stand-Up Comedy.

And now Jerry Seinfeld doesn't even sound like Jerry Seinfeld. If anything, he's ventured into the more aggressively animated (though a tad more cheery) territory of a ranting Lewis Black – who himself hits town Saturday night to play the more intimate Winter Garden.

There is certainly no shortage of fresh foibles to observe, from old-school topics like commercials and brand names ("Don't you think it's a little arrogant to call a breakfast cereal `Life'?") to a good 20 minutes on modern cellphone society.

The spirited set ran a good hour, topped by a short Q&A session in lieu of an encore, during which Seinfeld was required to remind us that Kramer, George and Elaine are in fact fictional creations ...

Age and wealth have not mellowed Seinfeld, but seem rather to have inspired him.

It's as if no longer having to work for a living has made him that much more excited to be back out on the road doing it.

Either that, or sheer boredom. More than once he joked (or not) to the audience that the real reason he was out doing these shows was that he "had nothing else to do."

Hmm. A show about "nothing." Somehow that has a familiar ring.  

A Black (And White) View Of The World

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(April 21, 2009) 'Until I was 15, it was constant, every 10 seconds they'd tell us that some stranger with candy was going to grope your nuts. But nobody I knew had their nuts groped, and no stranger ever showed up."

It is morning, and because he has not yet had his coffee,
Lewis Black is only mildly wound up about the crazed America of the 1950s, an era in which the bogeyman business thrived. The comedian, commentator and sometimes actor is often seen at his boiling point best on television, but in person he's likeable and entertaining, even when less than spitting mad. He was in Toronto recently to promote his Canadian Dual Citizenship stand-up tour, which kicked off in Ottawa last night.

Dressed smartly casual in jeans and a navy blazer, the bespectacled 61-year-old sits comfortably in a hotel's basement screening room. His opining alternates from sputtering gravel-voiced outbursts that elicit giggles from a photographer to more soberly delivered thoughts.

"The fear card is the worst card you can use on another human being," suggests the host of the TV series The Root of All Evil, carried in Canada on the Comedy Network. Black spent his formative years feeling "relatively safe" in Washington, where his father's position in the defence industry gave his family access to a bomb shelter right across the street from their home. Looking back at that "strange time" and seeing the parallels of today, he shakes his head. "It was reprehensible for them to use that fear factor over and over and over."

Lewis Black on Obama: 'People are saying he’s talking too much. That’s because nobody spoke to us for so long. And they’re yelling at him for doing too much and pushing too fast. Well, that’s what he’s supposed to be doing, you schmuck!' (Chris Young/CP)

It was founding father and second president of the United States John Adams who said that fear was the foundation of most governments. Famously, president Franklin Roosevelt told a scared nation in 1933 that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But then again, there's the tag line to David Cronenberg's 1986 sci-fi film The Fly, which suggested: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Black, as a touring comedian, has seen the fear at its unreasonable worst. "I'll be in Hoohaville, in the middle of Missouri," says Black, who gained a following with his rants on The Daily Show, "and I'll tell the people there, 'The terrorists are not coming here. You can stop worrying, and go about your business. I mean, it took us two hours to find out where the [heck] you were living. Let's move on.'"

In many ways, Americans have moved on. The fear-mongering Bush administration is out of office, replaced by a mint-cool President who faces an FDR-like economic crisis. Asked if the thumb-pointing Obama offers hope, the often-fuming bipartisan comedian responds favourably. "I think he's great, in the sense that he speaks English, which is a nice thing to have for a change."

Naturally, a former playwright with a masters degree in fine arts at the Yale School of Drama would appreciate language proficiency, not necessarily a requirement for America's highest office.

"Now people are saying he's talking too much," Black continues, bile rising. "That's because nobody spoke to us for so long. And they're yelling at him for doing too much and pushing too fast. Well, that's what he's supposed to be doing!"

You would be surprised to learn that it's the lanky leader's brood, not necessarily his policies and vision that Black finds appealing. "They actually seem to be a legitimate family," he says of the Obama quartet. "They seem to enjoy each other."

This would be opposed to the previous two first families, and their tense dining-room situations. "Chelsea, Lady Macbeth and her husband?" Black cracks, wondering about the Clintons. "That would be something.

"And Bush and his wife, with the two daughters — how creepy is that?" he asks, suggesting that joining the Texans at their table would be uncomfortable for him.

The promotional posters for the Canadian tour have Black dressed in hockey garb. But there won't be much in the way of northern content; the Dual Citizenship tour label has more to do with the socialist's appreciation for Canada's left-wing political personality.

"Canada gets it. You have universal health care so far ahead of us, and there just seems to be more of a sense of really trying to create something," says the author, who in his 2005 book Nothing Sacred wondered how the United States could elect a "leader of the free world" who had never actually seen the world. "For God's sake, the man never even made it to Canada," Black wrote of the young and unadventurous George W. Bush. "That's almost impossible. Even drunk on a bet you can make it to Canada."

More recently, Black issued Me of Little Faith, a 2008 collection of essays on the inconsistencies and oddities of religion. There's a chapter on a fleeting fling with spirituality that provided him the belief that "everything was going to be fine," whether to do with a play that needed finishing or anything else.

That was in the mid-1970s; his faith has long since withered. Yet, in the face of economic calamity, the supposed curmudgeon has hope. "I've always been optimistic," he says. "I think it boils down to people being talked to as if they were intelligent. That's the nice thing with Obama. He at least tries to talk to the American people, and the rest of the world, as if they were intelligent."

Even if the sky does fall, Black's not so worried. "I've got shoes," he explains. "I've got lots of shoes that I can trade if I need to." There you have it: We have nothing to fear, barring the lack of loafers.

Lewis Black plays Toronto, April 24-26; Winnipeg, April 29; Regina, April 30; Saskatoon, May 1; Victoria, May 5; Vancouver, May 8-9; Calgary, May 12; and Edmonton, May 13.


John Cleese Confirmed For Toronto Just For Laughs

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 16, 2009) John Cleese, one of the founders of the Monty Python comedy troupe, will bring his cheeky British brand of humour to Toronto's Just for Laughs festival this summer. Organizers say the Oscar-nominated English comedy giant will host two Britcom galas as part of the festival at Massey Hall on July 18. The line-up also includes Ross Noble and Jimmy Carr, who also hail from across the pond. Now entering its third year, the Toronto Just For Laughs festival stems from the long-running comedy celebration in Montreal. The Toronto event runs July 15-19.


Canada's Oldest Summer Theatre Destroyed By Fire

www.globeandmail.com - Martin Mittelstaedt

(April 20, 2009) The Red Barn Theatre was a well known cultural fixture in the Lake Simcoe area, and with 59 years of staging performances, had the distinction of being Canada's longest-running summer theatre. But it took only a few brief hours on Saturday night to reduce it to rubble as flames swept through the structure, leaving the local artistic community in shock.

The cause of the fire, which started around 10 p.m. and quickly engulfed the 19th-century barn, is not known and is under investigation by York Regional Police and the Office of the Fire Marshal. It follows another barn fire in the area about a week and a half ago.

"They are trying to determine the cause of the fire, whether it was arson or not," said Sergeant Rob Dettman of York Regional Police in Georgina, Ont.

While authorities try to determine the cause, those who loved the theatre, located at Jackson's Point, are mourning its loss. With an initial season that dated from the summer of 1949, the Red Barn has been the stage for hundreds of performances, and helped develop the country's theatre community over the decades.

"A who's who of Canadian theatre trod those boards over the years, and it's just a calamity," remarked Diana Rowney, who is working on a book about the Red Barn.

Ms. Rowney, who watched the fire as it destroyed the building, says the barn is likely a total loss, although its silo might be salvageable.

The Red Barn was operated by the Lake Simcoe Arts Foundation, a charity, but the use of the building was donated by the Sibbald family, which has owned the property since the late 1800s and operates the Briars, a nearby resort.

Family member Peter Sibbald, in a blog yesterday, posted a dramatic picture of the fire, showing flames leaping over the building, which dates from 1883.

In his blog, he said the theatre "gave its final performance. To an audience of fewer than one hundred, mostly comprised of family, Briars Resort employees, friends, neighbours ..."

York University fine arts professor Don Rubin says the destruction of any barn theatre is a major cultural loss because few remain. Using barns as a venue was common from the 1920s to the 1940s - a way of staging theatre that has developed only in North America.

With seating for a few hundred arranged around a large stage, barns made for surprisingly good venues, with theatre-goers and actors often in close quarters, something not always possible in modern buildings.

"There are very few barn theatres still operating in North America," Prof. Rubin said. "The real loss is to Canadian theatre history."

He says the only remaining theatre of this kind in Canada that he is aware of is The Piggery in North Hatley, Que.

Within the arts community, the Red Barn was seen as an incubator that helped actors, producers and directors build other theatres.

Among the more prominent are Brian Doherty, a Toronto lawyer who founded the Shaw Festival, Marigold Charlesworth of National Arts Centre fame, and Bill Glassco, who established the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.

The Red Barn's artistic director, Jordan Merkur, said the theatre was more than just a structure, it was part of a tradition of theatre-going.

"The Red Barn does not represent a building. The Red Barn represents 60 years of artists putting together theatre and the community supporting that theatre," he said. "That's pretty remarkable."

He said work was under way signing actors and designing sets for the 60th season, which was to feature The Glass Menagerie, one of the shows from its first season.

Hugh Sibbald, a spokesman for the Sibbald family, said work has already begun to see if the season can be salvaged by having the performances staged elsewhere in the area. "We hope to see the theatre rebuilt," he said.

Audra McDonald Joins 'Twelth Night'


(April 21, 2009) *Broadway maven Audra McDonald will join Raul Esparza and Anne Hathaway in the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of "Twelfth Night," reports Variety.  McDonald, who currently stars on ABC's "Private Practice," will play the countess Olivia, with Esparza portraying music-loving duke Orsino in the New York staging.   Hamish Linklater ("The New Adventures of Old Christine") and Jay O. Sanders will play the prankster drunks Andrew Aguecheek and Toby Belch, respectively, with Michael Cumpsty playing the object of their torment, Malvolio. David Pittu ("What's That Smell?") plays the clown Feste.    Directed by Daniel Sullivan ("Proof"), Twelfth Night plays Central Park's Delacorte Theater June 10-July 12. The complete cast remains to be announced.


To The Victor, The Spoils

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

(April 18, 2009) Sport is so integral to the human experience, it's no wonder our arts are suffused with it.

Sports movies have traded for decades on the thrill of victory/agony of defeat, the eternal appeal of the underdog victory, and the fact there's nothing in the rulebook that says a (dog/mule/monkey) can't play.

Sports literature gives us stirring biographies and behind-the-bench dirt.

Sports comics? They're big – huge – in Japan. But nothing puts armchair athletes and couch-bound coaches in the game like ... another game.

Sports and videogames have been bound together since October 1958, when physicist Willy Higinbotham hacked into a ballistics computer at Brookhaven National Laboratory and made it display a simple tennis game on an oscilloscope. Tennis for Two, the first true videogame, had open-house attendees lined up by the hundreds for the chance to lob that glowing green blip at each other.

In the ensuing 50 years, no sporting pastime – from hockey to jaialai, lacrosse to luge – has gone unsimulated in the virtual realm.

Today, sports games make up about 40 per cent of the industry's sales, with yearly updates to major franchises flying reliably out the door, season after season. The mammoth Madden football series alone has sold more than 70 million copies since its 1988 debut.

There's no mystery to why sports translate so successfully to the interactive screen.

Call it the Three F's: familiarity, fantasy and friends. Sports are a known cultural quantity; their rules and expectations require little or no explanation. This is why Eisenhower-era nuclear nerds went crazy for Higinbotham's game and why Atari's PONG, another tennis sim, ate up quarters by the carload in 1972 while its predecessor, the more sophisticated sci-fi battle game Computer Space, languished.

On the fantasy side, "Star Quarterback," "Winning Coach" and "Olympic Gold Medallist" are escapist archetypes with more presence in the human mass psyche than even "Heroic Knight," "Deadly Ninja" or "Space Marine."

As for friends, well ... like sports, video games are intensely social; whether playing head-to-head online or on the couch, or simply posting scores to a leaderboard, sport idioms only enhance the intensity (and fun) of the trash-talking, names-taking, bragging-rights-securing competition inherent in videogames – a competition even non-jocks can get into.

With so many sports games from so many eras, it's tough to single out top titles; it all comes down to personal preference and personal experiences. That said, here are some personal picks:

Wii Sports (2006): Not only the best-selling sports game of all time, but the best-selling game of all time, period. PONG for a new era, Wii Sports defines the joy of pick-up-and-play competition, replacing hardcore sport-simulation with good old-fashioned fun, spawning as many "We couldn't tear Gramma away!" anecdotes as there are Wii owners.

Dr. J & Larry Bird go One-on-One (1983): The first videogame to bank on real-world sports superstars, and still an all-time benchmark for pure sports-game fun. My sports-nut brother and I played the hell out of this on our old Tandy, and we both fondly recall its sweetest payoff: shattering the backboard with a massive slam-dunk, drawing the hilarious wrath of the harried janitor that came on to sweep up the shards.

NHL '94 (1993): The speed and fluidity of ice hockey perfectly married to the speed and fluidity of videogames. The best hockey game, ever.

Epyx's Games series (1984-1990): Summer Games and Winter Games were great collections of seasonal Olympic sports: tight, satisfying and crazily competition-enabling. On the other hand, who didn't love the weirdness of World Games and California Games? We just couldn't get enough Caber Toss, Sumo Wrestling and Hackey-Sack.

Super Dodge Ball (1988): Whether in the arcade or on the NES, Technos' Super Dodge Ball was the fastest, toughest, trash-talkingest two-player spikefest going. Memories of this game keep the dream of a pro-dodgeball league alive.

Punch-Out!! (1987): The '84 arcade original was pretty rad – we all cheered when our local 7-11 brought it in to replace the crummy Bank Panic – but it's the '87 NES game that lives in our hearts. What's not to love about an underdog boxer, so tiny he has to leap in the air to land one on the chin, taking on a pre-meltdown Mike Tyson?

Playing The Path Less Travelled

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

(April 18, 2009) "If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise." Perhaps Belgian designers Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn were humming this line from the children's ditty "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" while creating The Path (thepath-game.com; $9.99), a wonderfully strange downloadable computer game that serves as a contemporary retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale Little Red Riding Hood.

But the Tale of Tales development studio's independent game is certainly not for everyone: It's a slow-paced adventure with no fighting, very little dialogue, and when you attain the game's sole goal, you die. In other words, Halo fans need not apply.

If you're in the mood for something different, however, The Path is it. Whether it's really a "game," as opposed to a short piece of interactive fiction, might be a worthy discussion; it's an entertaining and thought-provoking digital diversion nonetheless.

Six sisters, ranging in age from 9 to 19, live in an apartment in the city. Their mother sends each of them to visit their bedridden grandmother, who lives deep in the woods, but instructs them not to deviate from the path. You select which girl starts the journey, and will return to the apartment to pick other girls once you reach your destination. Eventually you'll play as all siblings.

Despite a warning about lurking wolves, to get the most out of this 220-megabyte download you'll intentionally veer off the road to grandma's house and roam about the huge forest. In it, you'll find temptations, dangers, wonders, choices and consequences – including special story elements for each of the girls. You'll collect more than 150 items, encounter haunting apparitions and visit places such as a tent, a field with a scarecrow and bogs. Granted, this is a vague description of what you'll explore and experience in this dark game, but it would spoil the adventure for you to give it all away here.

Once you get to grandma's house, the perspective changes from third- to first-person. Will you head straight to her bed or look for hidden rooms and messages?

While the game doesn't contain a recommended age rating, aside from the macabre theme there are some mild sexual themes and violent imagery (though more suggestive than graphic), it's probably better for a teen than a child or tween. That said, The Path was designed to be accessible. You can play with keyboard, mouse or game pad, and can interact with items by simply letting go of the controls.

It would be remiss not to mention the game's atmospheric graphics – including occasional hand-drawn images that scatter across the screen, colours that change depending on what's happening, and smooth animation – and haunting soundtrack performed by Jarboe (hear a clip from "Safe Song" at thepath-game.com).

If you approach this short horror game as an experimental interactive narrative rather than a typical game with clear goals and rewards, you won't be disappointed.

What A Difference An 'i' Makes

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

(April 4, 2009) What do you do for an encore after selling more than 100 million Nintendo DS hand-helds? If you're Nintendo, you launch a new and improved portable gaming machine: the Nintendo DSi.

Don't worry, all the Nintendo DS games you've already bought will work on the new system, plus Nintendo doesn't plan to phase out the existing $139 Nintendo DS. But if you're anxious to see what's new in this slick successor, you won't be disappointed – if initial hands-on time is any indication.

Available tomorrow, the $199.95 DSi might not look much different than the DS at first glance, except it's a tad thinner and a smidge longer (137 millimetres by 75 mm by 19 mm) and sports a matte rather than glossy finish. Flip open the clamshell player – which comes in black or turquoise, to start – and you'll see the familiar backlit dual screens, though slightly wider at 87 mm apiece, and brighter, too. The bottom display is still a touch screen, where the gamer can use a fingertip or stylus pen (two included) to control the action. A microphone is located in the centre of the unit for spoken commands, recording your voice, in-game interaction and more. Depending on what you're using it for, the lithium-ion battery can last up to 14 hours on a single charge.

So, what's new? Along with the DS card slot at the back of the unit for snapping in game cartridges, the right side of the DSi features a SecureDigital memory card slot for adding photos and music.

Yep, the DSi is also a portable music player, with built-in speakers and headphone jack, capable of reading AAC files (the format used by iTunes; sorry, no MP3s) copied over from your personal computer.

There's even a handful of entertaining screensavers to watch while the music is playing, and a few interactive games such as an F-Zero-inspired space shooter and a Mario Bros.-esque platformer. You can also tweak the music by playing with filters, such as one that removes the vocals from a track so you can sing along karaoke-style.

One small catch: the Game Boy Advance slot is now gone, therefore the DSi won't be able to play GBA titles or accept peripherals such as the mock instrument bundled with Activision's Guitar Hero: On Tour.

And what's this? The small circles on the top and inside of the DSi are cameras – one to capture the owner, the other to snap photos of friends (a "snap" noise cannot be disabled, so the subject can hear when a photo is taken). These two 0.3-megapixel cameras can be used in some games – such as capturing your movements in the new WarioWare: Snapped! – or to fool around with the robust photo editor by adding special effects and then emailing the result. Yes, the DSi has built-in wireless capabilities for playing multi-player games, communicating with other players (and maybe one day allowing real-time video chats over the Internet), and most importantly, letting players access an online store called DSi Shop.

The latter is where the Nintendo DSi really shines.

DSi Shop set to open

Not unlike how the iPhone and iPod Touch let users access tens of thousands of applications from Apple's App Store (part of iTunes), Nintendo's pièce de résistance is the DSi Shop, which officially opens tomorrow and will allow players to download games, demos, game add-ons, independently created and distributed games, and in all likelihood, classic hits including older GBA titles.

For the first time in Nintendo's 20-year history in portable gaming (the original monochrome Game Boy debuted in 1989), players can wirelessly download new content – such as a free Internet browser – so long as they've got a high-speed wireless connection.


The Alpha Female : Pros, Cons & Coexistence in the Caribbean

Source: www.bocca-fina.com - By Chet Euton

(January 2009) The
Alpha Female, she exists and they are out there. Not traveling in wild marauding packs or hysterically shrieking mobs but managing corporations, leading governments, inspiring others, building countries and reconstructing the Caribbean in all contemporary aspects. The historical existence of women throughout the Caribbean especially women of color who have in the past toiled as field labours and household servants has always served as a benchmark for today’s enlightened upwardly mobile Caribbean women wanting to realize new accomplishments and break personal grounds. Their social and civil status as minuscule as it may have been is taking on new dimensions and the Caribbean woman is redefining her self. At present irregardless of her now diverse ethnic origins, she is the epitome of Alpha Female!

For starters forget the pejorative perception associated with Alpha Males, the excessive masculinity, the tyrannical behaviour and the sexual aggression. The Alpha Female from tip to toe is a dissimilar persona with inherent qualities suited for her success and her survival. But what does it take for a woman to be successful on a small island where slave mentality still roams better than cellular service? What are the advantages of these accomplishments and what are the costs?

Before we can identify “Ms. Alpha” and her focus let us first seek to define her broadly so as not to limit our assessment. This hybrid woman in layman terms is all of or combinations of the following traits, physical prowess, self assuredness, voracious intelligence, a high achiever, shrewd when required, socially which in Caribbean societies by nature is often quite a fleeting experience for women in general.

In my humble estimation because of the era we live in, there isn’t too much “Major Pioneering” by professional women today. Now I didn’t say there wasn’t any and before some of you get defensive grab a rope and saddle up, this is what I am indicating. There have been numerous women in previous decades that have opened crucial and key doors to attain many principal achievements, which have set precedence and bookmarked history. Logically today the next step for the Alpha adept, effortlessly talented (in her field) and able to achieve her goals wholly! Not to be confused with the controlling, loudmouthed, over assertive, typical type “A” female; the “Other” female who is an insecure self indulgent doppelganger that thrives on pandemonium, misinformation and misdirection to greatly complicate life. But that is another topic of discussion.

What motivates The Alpha Female? Largely the potential for success; success that she may measure by her journey, her results, recognition or possibly the wealth, prestige and power that normally motivates her male counterparts and accompanies the diverse levels of success in today’s patriarch societies. A success Female is to take it to the next level, pick up the ground work and run with it. It’s more the utilization of inroads that have been laid, developing the networks and strategically placing ones self based on this precedence in a position to obtain success. Take for example Professor Joycelin Massiah who in my assessment is one of those few pioneers and a genuine Caribbean Alpha Female. Professor Massiah’s life path rises above Caribbean boundaries, having been born in Guyana, studied and worked for several years in Jamaica and now residing as a citizen of Barbados. She is a renowned Caribbean academic, scholar and intellectual who can be characterized by her many “firsts”, an appropriate indication of a career focused on nothing short of excellence. Professor Joycelin Massiah is well known for her groundbreaking research project on “Women in the Caribbean” and her vision and commitments are most definitely an integral component to the overall evolution of the Caribbean region.

What are the pitfalls? In most instances the very qualities and character that drives the Alpha Female to the forefront of her endeavours ironically aren’t enough to propel them to their goals, and may even be possibly holding them back. Such situations and missed opportunities are often produced by men’s unwillingness to mentor women, the fear of emasculation by men in professional and personal relationships with Alpha Females. Blatant discrimination, women’s segregation from informal networks, an uncertainty to consider women for challenging posts and women’s own battles to balance careers, relationships and families.

Ultimately the greatest disadvantage is the definite chance of losing oneself on the pilgrimage to success. Case in point I quote Marianne Williamson “Electing women to positions of political power does not in itself guarantee the expression of a feminine voice in the external world. Once in power, women can be tempted to conspire with the paternalistic system that they feel has so magnanimously allowed them a place at the table. They feel compelled to be strong men among strong men.”

Now I am not devaluing Ms. Alpha by no means, way, shape or form. Nor can I propose answers or solutions to these barriers. Empowerments come from within; I merely want to convey my commendation of her independence and individuality in an ever more industrialized Caribbean region while shedding light on the trials and tribulations of the Alpha Female. My suggestion is a “Peaceful Coexistence” a cold war term that in concept asserts contrasts can exist. Let us be cognizant of this on a day to day basis with hopes of lessening the “Antagonistic contradiction” with mutual respect and unfeigned equality.

Inevitably with anticipation we may be looking at an era of Caribbean Alpha Females who are consensus leaders, providers and builders. Who don’t lead from the front but propel their colleagues, constituents and companies forward using the conventional female skills such as listening, nurturing and the conscientiousness that is woman. Hopefully with inclusive support, the prospect of keeping this strange new world together and all the while encouraging humanity the alpha female will take her respective place in Caribbean society.

New Chapter In Internet Publishing

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

(April 19, 2009) Time is running out for Canadian writers and publishers to decide whether to get under the covers with Google.

As it stands now, you can go to Google Book Search and read a substantial chunk of The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region, replete with colour illustrations. With a click of the mouse, you can also order a copy of the book from a sidebar menu of retailers.

Wayne Grady, the Ottawa author of the book, looks forward to the day when you will also have the option of downloading a digitized version of the entire text for a price, with a percentage of the proceeds devolving to him.

That day will arrive sooner than later if the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action Settlement (Google Settlement, for short) gets the green light. Negotiated in the U.S. between authors and publishers on the one side and the Internet search behemoth on the other, the agreement will be reviewed in June by a New York court. It provides for rights holders to be compensated for titles currently on the Google Book Search site, as well as future acquisitions.

In the meantime, rights-holding authors and publishers have until May 5 to opt out of the agreement. In that event, they retain the right to have their titles removed from the Google Book Search, as well as to sue Google for infringements of their copyright. Otherwise, their silence will be understood as consent. The decision pertains to Canadians because U.S. copyright law claims jurisdiction over almost any book, regardless of its origin.

Count Grady in.

"It's an excellent tool for writers. At the very least it's going to be good promotion for our books," says Grady, who is also chair of the Writers Union of Canada.

"The mood among writers is that it's inevitable.... And it's okay if it happens. There are people who are horrified by it and feel that we're selling our rights down the river to a huge entity. But I've only heard that from few a people."

The union has recommended that its 1,800 members do not opt out, at least for now. A writer who doesn't opt out before May 5 forfeits the right to sue Google – universally thought to be a futile prospect, in any event – but retains the right to remove existing property from Google until April 2011.

"It's very unlikely that an individual is going to be able to negotiate a settlement as valuable as a collective settlement," says Writers Union executive director Deborah Windsor. "Our American partners sat at the table for three years and worked diligently to represent the rights of creators. There are things about it I find a little wonky, but I know the process of negotiating a multi-million dollar settlement wasn't easy and I don't think we could craft a better one."

The contrary view – a small minority, at least based on the feedback received by the union – is represented by Sarah Sheard, a Toronto novelist and therapist who is also a board member at Coach House Press. Sheard's objections range from a basic distrust of Google's motives to fears that the agreement paves the way for Google to carve out a virtual e-publishing monopoly – a concern shared by some European writers and publishers.

"I'm not going to devote my life to trying to take Google down at the knees," she says. "But I would be very encouraging of any effort by a Canadian e-book publisher to provide Canadian writers with an alternative to selling their property to Google for a bowl of porridge."

Sheard resents being required to opt out of an agreement negotiated as a consequence of Google's 2004 decision to begin digitizing more than 7 million books it acquired from U.S. libraries, without the consent of rights holders.

"You don't seize someone's property and then say, `If you don't want us to make money off it, you'll have to opt out.' It's a dangerous precedent," she says.

Without wading too deeply into the details, rights holders will receive a lump sum payment of between $60 and $300 (all figures U.S.) for each title now on Google Book Search and as much as 63 per cent of future revenues generated from digitized sales. Google is required to contribute an initial $125 million to an independent Book Rights Registry, which will disperse the payments.

Access Copyright, the Canadian agency charged with spreading the word, has sent the background information to 7,000 writers and publishers, and reached more than 600 rights holders. Pertinent information and updates are posted on its website (accesscopyright.ca).

So far, Windsor says, only three of the 200 or so Writers Union members she has heard from directly intend to opt out.

"I assume that the U.S. court will say that it's an okay settlement but it needs some tweaking," Windsor says. "They will make some changes based on that. And then we will go forward."

McDonald's Offers Free Java In Coffee Wars

Source: www.thestar.com - Dana Flavelle,
Business Reporter

(April 21, 2009) If you haven't tried McDonald's coffee in recent years, John Betts is hoping you'll give it another shot.

In a bold move that promises to heat up the morning coffee wars, McDonald's is offering customers a free morning coffee every day for the next two weeks – a savings of about $1.22, including tax, on a 10-ounce cup.

That might not sound like much.

But with Canadians drinking 36 million fewer cups of coffee in the last 12 months, the battle for a larger share of a declining coffee market is heating up.

"Our coffee sales are up so far this year," said Betts, president of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada. "We sold 4 million more cups of coffee in the first quarter."

That represents a double-digit increase over the previous year, a spokesperson said later, a considerable gain at someone's expense as the overall market declined.

Sipping on a premium roast Arabica coffee – a notch above the watery brew McDonald's used to sell before switching to Mother Parkers as its supplier – Betts says he's hoping the freebie will prompt even more consumers to give the brew a try.

The promotion is clearly aimed at turning up the heat on market share leader Tim Hortons Inc., Perry Caicco, a financial analyst with CIBC World Markets, wrote in a note to clients.

Given that 60 per cent of Tim Hortons' sales occur in the morning, and more than 50 per cent of those are coffee, the rival giveaway could hurt its performance this quarter, Caicco cautioned investors.

Tim Hortons, which has 2,917 restaurants across Canada, twice as many as McDonald's, saw its share price slide 32 cents yesterday to close at $30.47 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

For Canadians, coffee is the most popular restaurant menu item, accounting for 30 per cent of all sales, according to the market research firm NPD Group Canada Inc.

But even the daily java habit isn't immune from the recession.

Canadians bought a staggering 1.8 billion cups of coffee from restaurants last year, NPD data shows. That was down 2 per cent – or 36 million cups – to the end of February when compared to the previous 12-month period.

Defying the "trading down" trend seen in the U.S., most of the softening in Canadian sales occurred in plain old brewed coffee as consumers cut costs by skipping the second cup mid-morning but continuing to treat themselves to a mid-afternoon latte, according to NPD. "There's a lot of talk about trading down in the U.S. In Canada, it just doesn't happen in our restaurant market. I've never seen it in our data," NPD's Robert Carter said.

On the same day McDonald's kicked off its promotion, owners of the Second Cup chain said sales in the last three months fell 3 per cent at restaurants open more than a year, bad news for investors in Second Cup Royalty Income Fund, which announced an 18 per cent cut in its monthly payout to unit holders.


Painting Stolen By Nazis Recovered By Montreal Man's Estate

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 20, 2009) NEW YORK–A 17th century painting, stolen by the Nazis, is being returned to the estate of a Canadian Jewish art dealer. The work will be returned to the estate of Dr. Max Stern on Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The ceremony will be held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Details of its recovery will be discussed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. attorney's office. The 1632 Dutch Old Master is called "Portrait of a Musician Playing a Bagpipe." Stern escaped to England in 1937. He later moved to Montreal and became an art dealer again. He died in 1987. He left his estate to McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Moose Meets Danseuse

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 22, 2009) He looks kind of enamoured," gasped Karen Kain, partly amused, yet feigning alarm, as she got her first glimpse of a startling new portrait by Toronto artist Charles Pachter.

Over the years in her fabled career, Kain was partnered by Rex Harrington, Rudolf Nureyev and Frank Augustyn. And in her personal life she has a well-known partner in actor/producer Ross Petty.

But thanks to the fanciful imagination of Pachter, who has been building myths out of Canadian icons for decades, Canada's most beloved ballet star of all time has now been paired off with that monarch of the North, the moose.

The painting, created by Pachter as a gift for DAREarts – a wonderful organization that helps Toronto school kids at risk by getting them involved in the arts – will be officially unveiled tonight at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex during a DAREarts gala, where Kain is an honouree. And it will be auctioned off, with Harrington taking the role of auctioneer. Appraised value: somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

Yesterday, Kain was given a pre-gala sneak preview of the work in a studio at the Walter Carsen Centre, headquarters of the National Ballet Company, where she became artistic director after hanging up her dancing slippers.

Among those on hand for this odd ceremony were Kevin Garland, the company's executive director, and Marilyn Field, the former teacher who founded DAREarts 13 years ago.

Pachter has presented Kain in the garb of one of her great roles: Giselle.

Just what role the moose might be playing is not entirely clear, but the title of the work – Moose Lake Pas de Deux – is suggestive.

"I've spent my life trying to create a mythology out of our own culture and history," Pachter explains. "In this case I've imagined a meeting of two majestic creatures, both Canadian icons in their own way."

The human one, Kain remarked ruefully, is a rather large figure.

Or as she put it: "I seem to be the same size as the moose!"

Still, she says, "It's really cute. And I love the far North."

Pachter has been obsessed with the moose for decades, most famously in his early work Queen on a Moose, and most recently in his delightful all-Canadian children's alphabet book, M Is For Moose. So it was no surprise when he dubbed his own royal palace – a combined studio, home and entertainment space near the Art Gallery of Ontario – the Moose Factory.

But usually that majestic beast of the Canadian forest has done a solo turn, sometimes in a spotlight, sometimes on a diving board.

Once, when he met the Prince of Wales, Pachter showed the heir to the throne the image of the monarch and the moose. Two old raconteurs named Charles shared a laugh, and the one with the British accent asked if he could have copies for his two sons, so they could enjoy seeing their granny riding a moose.

Pachter's moose rarely hobnobs with commoners. Until now, the other humans who have shared a canvas with the moose were Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean, both representatives of the Queen.

But now Kain has been given the royal treatment.

Pachter found inspiration in Movement Never Lies, a memoir Kain wrote in collaboration with arts journalist Stephen Godfrey. Reading the book (published in 1994 shortly after Godfrey's death) made him understand the hardships Kain endured on the way to achieving her unique place in Canada's cultural life.

"That's why I decided to pair her with that other majestic creature, the legendary lord of the land," says the artist. "What a dynamic duo they make: Canada's very own Beauty and the Beast. And doesn't she give him class?"

Yes, and he appears to be giving her something as well: possibly wilderness tips on how to survive while roughing it in the bush.


Cleveland's Mike Brown Wins Coach Of The Year

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 22, 2009) *The NBA's Coach of the Year award for the 2008-09 season goes to
Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who received a total of 355 points - including 55 first-place votes out of a possible 122 - from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Brown directed the Cavaliers to an NBA and franchise-best 66-16 record. With the 66 victories, Cleveland became just the 12th team in NBA history to win 66 or more games in a season.

The Cavaliers also posted a 39-2 home record at The Q, which tied for the second-best home record in league history. Their 27-14 road record tied for the second-best road record in the league this season.

“Mike Brown is one of these rare people that has nearly every tool in his tool box. He is smart, hard working, and selfless," Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert said. "He is curious and hungry to learn. He is philosophically driven and derives his decision making from his strong philosophy.

"Mike is a man of character and integrity. He is a natural leader and has a ‘magnetic charisma’ which automatically attracts people to him and his message. He has stuck to his ‘defense first’ strategy when it would have been much easier not to. As a human being, Mike treats everyone with respect no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Brown earned Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honours on three different occasions this season: in Dec. 2008, in Feb. 2009 and in March 2009, when he led Cleveland to 16 victories, tying the NBA all-time record for most victories in any month.

At 39 years, 24 days old, he became the fourth-youngest coach to lead a team to 60 wins in a season. He joins Bill Fitch (1975-76) as the only head coaches in franchise history to receive the coach of the year award.


Ask the Trainer: Starting a Fitness Program

Source: www.ediets.com -
Raphael Calzadilla

(April 17, 2009) My name is Andrea, and I am having a problem losing weight. I am 130 lbs. and trying to lose at least 10 lbs. I don’t know where to start. What should I do first to accomplish my goal? Thank you. - Andrea


One of the reasons I like your question is because a lot of people can relate to it. There are many people who want to lose weight and get in better shape, but they simply don’t know where to start or how to design a plan that makes sense. I’ve found that what a person will do is start eating less and working out.

However, a haphazard approach to lowering calories and increasing activity backfires in many cases because what people tend to do is lower calories too much and work out excessively. So energy gets zapped, the body burns out from too much exercise at once, the process feels overly regimented and soon the person gains more weight then what they started with due to frustration.

There is a right way to start and a wrong way, and I’m going to outline the right way for you.

There are three components that will be instrumental in reducing your weight from 130 to 120. Let’s take a look at each and how to best add them to your program

1. Cardiovascular exercise – In many cases, I’ll begin with a person’s diet and total calories, but in your case I want to simply get you moving more and focused on the most effective type of exercise. You didn’t mention anything about your current exercise plan, so I’m going to make an assumption that you’re not very active.

I want you to add three days of cardiovascular exercise per week for 30 minutes per session. Your intensity level should be moderate in the sense that you’ll feel somewhat challenged but can still carry on a conversation if you needed to – but would choose not to. The key to cardiovascular exercise is finding an activity that you enjoy such as walking, cycling, cardio classes at the gym or cardio tapes that you can pop into your DVD and get a workout right in your living room.

You may want to browse a site called www.collagevideo.com. Collage provides many types of fun DVDs, and you can watch a demo of any DVD you may be interested in. One very good beginners program is Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds. Remember, the key to cardiovascular exercise is finding something you personally enjoy.

2. Strength Training – Working out with weights is an excellent way to tighten muscles. so that when you lose 10 pounds you’ll have a much leaner and well toned body. People who avoid strength training don’t look as tight and lean as those who strength train consistently. You don’t have to fear getting bulky because bulk is simply the combination of body fat on top of muscle or it’s simply all fat. Once you lose those 10 pounds, you’ll look even leaner from an effective and intelligently designed strength training program.

I’ve designed an online video strength training program for pre-beginners (those with injuries or trepidation about starting), a beginner program and an intermediate program. I would like you to begin with the beginner program and strength train 2 times per week on alternate days of the week. You’ll need to work from the bottom up as far as the exercise order and I want you to perform 1-2 sets per exercise for 12-15 repetitions.

Here’s the link: http://healthnews.ediets.com/video/fitness-videos/2008_10_01_archive.html

The following is a schedule you can follow:

Monday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Tuesday – Strength Training for 20-30 minutes
Wednesday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Saturday – Strength Training for 20-30 minutes
Sunday – Rest

After two weeks on the program, try to progress by adding another cardio day or increasing time on your cardio to 35 minutes. Also, increase a set or slightly increase weight poundage on your strength training program. By the way, I also add flexibility exercises on my program, which I encourage you to perform as well.

3. Nutrition – Even if you strength train and perform cardio with a vengeance, it will not produce effective results without proper nutrition. Food can help stimulate the metabolism. As I mention in most of my articles, you must be in a slight caloric deficit to lose body fat.

You have to consume enough food to provide energy for your workouts, but they must be just low enough to produce a fat loss. Unused calories are turned to fat, regardless if they’re from protein, carbohydrate or fat.

I don’t know what your current nutrition consists of, but I recommend that you follow these guidelines:

-- Begin with a calorie level of your weight multiplied times 15 calories per pound then subtract 500 from that number. So in your case it’s 130x15 = 1950 calories. Then we subtract 500 from that and we have a starting amount of 1450 calories. This is merely a starting point! The accuracy can only be determined based on your height and by a more thorough analysis by our registered dieticians.

-- Consume 4-6 meals and snacks per day spread every 3 hours or so and make sure there is protein and carbohydrates (and some monounsaturated fats) in each meal. I recommend following one of eDiets meal plans to make this a whole lot easier for you. The work is already done for you! If you follow one of our plans, I recommend the Glycemic Impact plan because it’s marvelous at helping to control blood sugar levels, which in turn will help you to lose fat.

OK, Andrea, you now have a starting to lose those last 10 pounds! Trust the process, maintain consistency and if you decide to join eDiets, please know that we can make this process easier for you. As a member, you can stop by my Exercise and Fitness support board.

Best of luck,


Motivational Note

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

Source: www.eurweb.com- Nelson Mandela