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August 13, 2009

Strange weather is triggering havoc all across our country ... what a summer!

What a week it was for me last week with the fraudster all over my email hacking away at all my contacts.  In case you missed last week's edition, if you received a strange email from me ("I really need your help" in the subject line) requesting funds because I lost my wallet in the UK, PLEASE DO NOT RESPONDTHIS IS A FAKE REQUESTSee related story under TOP STORIES. Again, I am touched by all of you who thought I was in some trouble overseas ... my sincere thanks for everyone's concerns and care.  Check out a Canadian company that  works diligently on emergency management - Futureshield.

Do yourself a favour if you're looking to increase your web presence with the good people at
URBANCY (as well as discount!) for some very cool web services ... check it out under OTHER.  You'll see the results of my association with them in short order! 

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


Fraudster Posing As A Friend Stuck Overseas Without Funds Cons Good Samaritans

Source: Amy Fuller,
The Canadian Press

(August 10, 2009) TORONTO - An Internet con artist has targeted hundreds in upscale Toronto neighbourhoods in recent days, preying on the goodwill of people led to believe their friends are stranded overseas and need money now.

Police are trying to track down the culprit, but cyber crime can originate anywhere in the world, making it difficult to make an arrest.

The fraud begins when the hacker finds a way into a private email account and changes the password so the account is inaccessible to the owner, Det. Murray Barnes of Toronto police said Sunday.

The hacker then poses as the owner of the account and spams everyone on the address list, claiming to be stranded in a foreign city such as Birmingham, England.

He or she pleads with friends to send money. Those who reply typically get brief responses urging them to send the money quickly via Western Union-meaning the funds can be accessed from anywhere.

The hacker generally asks for an amount that seems reasonable, enough to pay the airfare from London to Toronto, for example.

Barnes said the fraud is widespread around the world and he's sure a lot of people have sent money without ever reporting it.

"Quite a few people have been taken hook, line and sinker by this," he said.

Most recently, the hacker targeted a high-earning group by breaking into a Toronto medical professional's account.

"This person's email list was vast and covered a lot of people in that profession."

One of the 400 contacts who received the request sent $2,500, while another sent $1,000.

Barnes has been aware of the scam since he received one of the bogus email appeals for money 18 months ago. He didn't fall for it: he knew his friend wasn't in London, England as the email said.

Yet the case is a tough one to crack. Even determining the fraudster's sex is a challenge, since he or she takes on the identities of various email account holders. Barnes said he thinks the emails originate with a male suspect, though he can't say for sure.

The suspect could be in Toronto or any of hundreds of cities worldwide, and he claims to be in locations ranging from the U.K. to the U.S., depending on who he impersonates.

The scam can occur with any kind of email account, too, whether Hotmail, Rogers or Bell. In one case, an account owner supplied the password in response to an email that seemed legitimate, Barnes said.

"Whatever password they can get their hands on, they will access and take over that account."

Should detectives identify a suspect and find that he is based outside Canada, Toronto police would have trouble laying charges for a crime committed beyond their jurisdiction. Barnes doesn't know of any major investigations into this particular scam elsewhere in Canada or internationally.

"If the suspect is based in another country, I'm in a different kettle of fish," Barnes said.

"You keep plugging away and hope they make a mistake and leave a trail I can follow, then are found in a country I have access to."

He advised that anyone who receives a plea for money check its validity by contacting the apparent sender by some means other than email.

The spate of fake pleas for money came as hackers put a popular social media site, Twitter, out of commission for several hours Thursday in an attack on a blogger in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Weather Been Less Than Co-Operative This Summer? Don't Blame Your Meteorologist

www.thestar.com - By Tobi Cohen, The Canadian Press

(August 09, 2009) MONTREAL - Bone-dry temperatures in British Columbia that have led to hundreds of wild fires. Home-ravaging tornadoes in western Quebec. A violent wind storm in Alberta that left a woman dead at a country music jamboree.

In a country where temperatures can range from -40 C to 40 C and where precipitation comes in the form of snow, sleet, hail and rain, talking about the weather has undoubtedly become a favourite pastime.

So too has meteorologist-bashing.

David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, recalls a confrontation with a woman in a grocery store about a year ago.

"(She) just blocked my food cart and just reamed me out about being so wrong about the forecast and how it spoiled her summer holidays," he said.

In the last few weeks alone, his former barber told a colleague that Phillips "just tells lies," while a taxi driver described his forecasts as "lousy."

One irate Canadian wrote an email to his employer that said "I don't believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Another read: "I might as well just flip a coin. (It's) more accurate than he is."

Despite much criticism, particularly for this summer's outlook, Phillips maintains he wasn't totally off. June was in fact colder and wetter than normal in the East.

The West has certainly been hot and dry and while predictions that the East would warm up by late summer have yet to materialize, he cautioned it's still early August.

But while he admits he's "been beat up a lot this summer," Phillips believes Canadians are generally forgiving.

The same can't be said for other parts of the world.

In a speech several years ago to a group of meteorologists and weather personalities, Phillips recounted some grim tales:

-Until the 1960s, British law decreed that someone found guilty of trying to predict the weather could be burned at the stake as a heretic.

-In the 1990s, the Taliban banned weather forecasting in Afghanistan, calling it sorcery.

-Thailand's chief meteorologist was fired for failing to predict the 2004 tsunami. Ironically, the country's previous top weatherman was fired six years earlier for warning that the southwest coast could face a deadly tsunami.

-In 1996, Peruvian meteorologist Francisco Arias Olivera was hanged from a tree by an angry mob outside a TV station after a flash flood killed 17 people. He had predicted 50 millimetres of rain in 24 hours but the town was bombarded with 480 in 12 hours.

"Canadians like to ridicule weather forecasters but fortunately not like they do elsewhere," Phillips said.

Meteorologists argue weather forecasts are actually far more accurate today than ever before.

Environment Canada, which has long tracked the accuracy of its forecasts, says five-day forecasts now are as good as two-day forecasts were some 25 years ago.

Rene Heroux, a Montreal-based Environment Canada meteorologist, says predicting severe weather is trickier.

He said residents of Mont-Laurier, Que., had an hour's notice last week that a tornado was headed their way. That's about as good as it gets, he said, adding Oklahoma residents got just 20 minutes notice before some of the deadliest tornadoes struck in May 1999.

Ian Rutherford, executive director of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, said Canada is a difficult place to be a meteorologist.

"We have oceans on three sides, we have mountains in the middle and plains," he said, adding the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, the Ottawa River valley and the fact Canada lies in the middle of the East Coast storm track make weather all the more difficult to predict.

And while radar, satellite and supercomputer technology that can process millions of equations simultaneously have dramatically improved weather forecasts since the 1960s, Rutherford said Canada still has a poor observation system that makes it tough to track weather from a distance and predict where it's going.

"We have a very sparse population and it's very expensive to put weather observing sites in place where there aren't people," he said, noting the weather observation network in Canada is actually sparser now than it was 40 years ago.

Phillips, however, thinks Canadians need to better understand how to interpret forecasts.

Some believe a 30 per cent probability of rain means it will rain for 30 per cent of the day or that 30 per cent of the region will get wet.

Noting many Canadians also accuse forecasters of trying to "cover their asses" with catch-all weather reports that include everything from sun to thunderstorms, Phillips said that's just the nature of the last few summers.

Still, some say forecasters should do a better job of explaining it.

Jeff Calderwood, chief executive of Canada's National Golf Course Owners Association, said business is down between 10 and 15 per cent in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Inclement weather is a big part of it but so too are bad forecasts, he believes.

"The way weather is reported tends to put too much emphasis on the chance of rain," he said. "The standard forecast such as 40 per cent chance of showers actually means that golfers will probably have fine weather.

"But that's not how it is perceived. If the same data were reported as 60 per cent sunshine, the effect on golfers' psychology would be much more positive."

Maxwell To Go Back On Tour In Sept.

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 12, 2009) Maxwell will hit the road again this fall after wrapping a sold-out summer run behind his fourth album, "BLACKsummers'night."   The R&B crooner, who spent the summer on a 24-city club and theatre tour of the US, has added several Canadian dates and sporadic US arena shows to his fall schedule, which begins Sept. 25 in Toronto and currently runs through an Oct. 17 performance in San Francisco, reports Live Daily.   Common and Chrisette Michele will perform in the opening slot for most shows. More concerts will be announced in the near future, according to a press release. Details are listed below:

September 2009

25 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
26 - Detroit, MI - Joe Louis Arena
28 - New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
30 - Richmond, VA - Richmond Coliseum

Tonya Lee Williams Joins The 3RD Season Of CBC's "The Border"

Source: Sasha Stolz

(August 07, 2009) Tonya Lee Williams will play a senior U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent, in the Canadian drama about elite Canadian immigration and customs officers working with U.S. authorities to defend the Canadian-U.S. border against outside threats.

Williams best know for her starring role as Olivia Winters on The #1 daytime Soap The Young and The Restless joins the cast of The Border a Canadian drama airing on CBC Television and 20 other TV networks worldwide. The series is set in Toronto and follows agents of the fictitious Immigration and Customs Security (ICS) agency, created by the Government of Canada to deal with trans-border matters concerning Canadian national security including terrorism and smuggling. 

Williams will be recurring as Constance Meade, Director of Intelligence and Detection for the US Department of Homeland Security.  Meade is a highly-placed American government official who knows where the bodies are buried.  She operates in the murky backstage world of Beltway politics - secret meetings, political trade-offs, influence peddling, the constant manoeuvring and jostling for power.  She's a conduit to the corridors of power, able to get things done in the bureaucratic thickets of Washington, she's tough, uncompromising, and authoritative, willing to make hard choices and see them through.  The issues in the show are drawn from issues that currently face Canada and the rest of the world such as 9/11, The Darfur Crisis, human rights violations in China and trans-national crimes such as pedophiles and international crime rings. The Border show's the Canadian perspective in facing national security issues that would affect the country.

Ms. Williams plans to continue her role on The Young and The Restless while working on The Border. She is also Founder and Executive Director of ReelWorld Film Festival a Canadian Non-Profit Film Festival, dedicated to promoting cultural diversity in front and behind the camera, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in April 2010.

Two time Emmy Nominated Tonya Lee Williams is an established internationally actor.   She's best known for her starring role as "Dr. Olivia Winters" on the popular daytime drama The Young and the Restless which has garnered her with two NAACP Image Awards. She has also been honoured with many other awards including; Howard University's, The Legacy of Leadership Award; the prestigious Harry Jerome Award in 2004; the 2005 ACTRA Award of Excellence; the 2007 African Canadian Achievement Award; and the city of  Oshawa's 'Walk of Fame' Award'.

For more info go to www.tonyaleewilliams.com

Jeanine: America 's Favourite Dancer

www.thestar.com ­ Debra Yeo, Toronto Star

(August 06, 2009) Nigel Lythgoe knows how to call them.

The So You Think You Can Dance judge predicted Wednesday night that
Jeanine Mason and Brandon Bryant would be the last two dancers standing in the TV competition.

Last night, Mason, 18, won the title of " America 's favourite dancer"; Bryant, 19, was runner-up.

"I never imagined this," a teary Mason said after host Cat Deeley made the announcement at Hollywood 's Kodak Theatre.

"I never thought I would be giving an acceptance speech at the Kodak, but thank you academy," Mason joked, in a reference to the theatre's status as home of the Academy Awards.

The contemporary dancer from Florida is only the second woman to win in five seasons of SYTYCD. Sabra Johnson won in 2007.

Mason claimed her $250,000 ( U.S. ) prize after viewers cast 21.6 million votes Wednesday night, a record for the show.

Mason earned consistent praise throughout the program, although not as glowing as competitor Kayla Radomski, who came in fourth.

"I never saw Jeanine coming and you have dominated week after week," guest judge Adam Shankman told Mason Wednesday. "I so underestimated you and I'll never forgive myself."

Guest judge Lil' C had described the competition as "the survival of who's the hungriest. You have to have a voracious appetite for success and triumph and, Jeanine, week after week you have proven that you are the epitome of what I just described."

Mason had a formidable opponent in Bryant, another contemporary dancer from Florida , who was described as a powerhouse.

Bryant had a rough start after guest judges Lil' C and Mia Michaels took a dislike to him in auditions, but he made it through, and earned kudos week after week with flawless technique and breathtaking athleticism.

"You are born to dance, Brandon ," judge Mary Murphy told him after his solo Wednesday night.

Still, as guest judge Debbie Allen pointed out, the contest is about favourite, not necessarily best dancer.

Radomski, 18, of Colorado , was one of the best in the judges' eyes but failed to connect with viewers.

Shankman told her Wednesday she was one of the best dancers he had ever seen in his life.

But Lythgoe may have pinpointed the problem when he noted, after a country and western jive routine, it was the first time that season Radomski had showed her personality onstage.

Second runner-up Evan Kasprzak seemed to have personality to burn, but it wasn't enough to win him the prize. The first Broadway dancer to compete on the show, the 21-year-old from Michigan had been a surprise pick for the finals.

"I never saw you in the top four," Shankman told him. But "dude, you're like the molehill that became the mountain on this show."

A new season of So You Think You Can Dance begins Sept. 2. Canada 's edition of the show begins Tuesday on CTV.


FutureShield’s Internet Security

Source:  Cynthia Weeden, FutureShield

FutureShield Inc. was founded in Toronto, ON, Canada in 2005, on the premise that there is a strong need for domain expertise in integrating software solutions for security, emergency management, and critical infrastructure protection.

FutureShield works on behalf of our customers rather than our vendors and this ensures that we have an independent market view rather than the approach of a sales person hired by a specific vendor. This allows us to remain agile and choose the correct vendor for the correct project. We work with our customers in a true partnership to ensure the software sourced is best of breed and our loyalty is to our customers first and foremost.

FutureShield President, Cynthia Weeden, brings with her fifteen years of experience in executive management of commercial software companies. She has worked around the globe to bring technical systems to new markets including the first fax/modem pooling software (pre-internet), and object-based server automation. Her process includes evaluating usability, connectivity and company longevity to consistently pick the winners in an emerging market. She is also able to work with security, emergency management, and IT groups to help them speak a common language which ensures the best technical solution to suit the needs of daily users.


Rapper Drake Has Fan In Jamie Foxx

Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn
, The Canadian Press

(August 12, 2009) Hollywood heavyweight Jamie Foxx says he's taking Toronto actor-turned-rapper Drake under his wing to help ease his way through superstardom.

"I'm going to be watching that young man and helping him every step of the way because I think he can really be a superstar," the acclaimed singer-actor said yesterday, in a pre-concert interview.

"I think for women out there, for the young girls coming up, he provides a little bit of integrity and so I applaud him."

That integrity, said Foxx, comes from the 22-year-old's roots as an actor on CTV's Degrassi: The Next Generation.

"I think he sees the world in a different prism; he sees it in a different dimension," explained Foxx, 41, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray.

"As a musician, sometimes it can be two-dimensional, but as an actor and a musician, it's three-dimensional because he knows what to say and how to move a person's emotions because he comes from that television background."

Drake, whose full name is Aubrey Drake Graham, has been storming the charts lately with his single "Best I Ever Had" and plans to release his debut album, Thank Me Later, by year's end.

Next month, Drake is up for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Drake has also collaborated with Foxx on a remix of his single "Digital Girl," and performed it with him on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in June.

Foxx said he asked Drake to join him onstage at his Toronto concert last night in support of his third studio album, Intuition. The show, at the Sound Academy, was Foxx's only scheduled Canadian stop on "The Blame It Tour."

Besides Drake, Foxx has also reached out to American Idol contestants, appearing on the series last year to mentor them.

Now that Idol judge Paula Abdul has quit the show, it seems Foxx may not been so keen on returning.

"Oh that hurt me," he said of Abdul's departure last week. "It hurt me because I like that chemistry. It's a different show without her."

Earlier yesterday, Foxx appeared at a news conference to help launch the LG Life's Good FilmFest, which awards $100,000 to the best short film submitted by the public.

The actor-singer discussed the evolution of his career, from his start as a stand-up comedian and then a cast member of TV's In Living Color, to his foray into film and finally music, his first love.

Foxx also told reporters he plans to dress in drag next January to reprise his role as Wanda from TV's In Living Color for a comedy film. If a biopic on late pop icon Michael Jackson is ever made, Foxx would "love to be a part of it behind the scenes." Foxx paid tribute to Jackson at the BET Awards in June, opening the show with a re-enactment of the choreography from the "Beat It" video.

Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn
, The Canadian Press

(August 12, 2009) Hollywood heavyweight Jamie Foxx says he's taking Toronto actor-turned-rapper Drake under his wing to help ease his way through superstardom.

"I'm going to be watching that young man and helping him every step of the way because I think he can really be a superstar," the acclaimed singer-actor said yesterday, in a pre-concert interview.

"I think for women out there, for the young girls coming up, he provides a little bit of integrity and so I applaud him."

That integrity, said Foxx, comes from the 22-year-old's roots as an actor on CTV's Degrassi: The Next Generation.

"I think he sees the world in a different prism; he sees it in a different dimension," explained Foxx, 41, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray.

"As a musician, sometimes it can be two-dimensional, but as an actor and a musician, it's three-dimensional because he knows what to say and how to move a person's emotions because he comes from that television background."

Drake, whose full name is Aubrey Drake Graham, has been storming the charts lately with his single "Best I Ever Had" and plans to release his debut album, Thank Me Later, by year's end.

Next month, Drake is up for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Drake has also collaborated with Foxx on a remix of his single "Digital Girl," and performed it with him on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in June.

Foxx said he asked Drake to join him onstage at his Toronto concert last night in support of his third studio album, Intuition. The show, at the Sound Academy, was Foxx's only scheduled Canadian stop on "The Blame It Tour."

Besides Drake, Foxx has also reached out to American Idol contestants, appearing on the series last year to mentor them.

Now that Idol judge Paula Abdul has quit the show, it seems Foxx may not been so keen on returning.

"Oh that hurt me," he said of Abdul's departure last week. "It hurt me because I like that chemistry. It's a different show without her."

Earlier yesterday, Foxx appeared at a news conference to help launch the LG Life's Good FilmFest, which awards $100,000 to the best short film submitted by the public.

The actor-singer discussed the evolution of his career, from his start as a stand-up comedian and then a cast member of TV's In Living Color, to his foray into film and finally music, his first love.

Foxx also told reporters he plans to dress in drag next January to reprise his role as Wanda from TV's In Living Color for a comedy film. If a biopic on late pop icon Michael Jackson is ever made, Foxx would "love to be a part of it behind the scenes." Foxx paid tribute to Jackson at the BET Awards in June, opening the show with a re-enactment of the choreography from the "Beat It" video.

Jamie Foxx A Triple Threat At Packed Show

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

(August 12, 2009) Jamie Foxx has had an enviable challenge: how best to integrate his talents as comedian, actor and musician.

Last night's packed show at Sound Academy was evidence that the 41-year-old Texas native, who attended college on a classical piano scholarship, is honing in on the formula.

Foxx's raunchy brand of R&B, more R. Kelly than John Legend, is better suited to nightclubs, or arenas, than the soft seat Sony Centre he played here in 2005 with a show split into separate segments of comedy and music.

This time he moved seamlessly between standup, singing and theatrics while delivering often extended versions of tracks from albums Unpredictable and Intuition.

Clad in a black leather ensemble, Foxx opened with independent women ode "She Got Her Own" which segued into the Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams." That was followed by a snippet of Kanye West's "Slow Jamz" (singing that hook opened the door to Foxx's recording career) which melded into Prince's "Do Me Baby."

But in between those serious and sexy tunes, he faked throwing his $2,000 jacket into the audience – recession, folks! – and asked female fans if he could kiss them with his "black-ass, weed-smoking lips."

Later he did a blues segment, à la Ray Charles, feigned back injuries after executing old school dance moves and riffed about a woman who fainted in the front row – "I thought it was a fight...I'm trying to be sexy up here in this suit, but it's hot, I might faint in this motherf----- too."

That's why no matter how high the notes he hits or how deft the musicianship, Foxx's label will always be entertainer rather than mere singer.

Bringing out Toronto rapper Drake, with whom he collaborated on new single, "Digital Girl" to spit a few verses should've been a coup, `cept the emcee who dropped out of Lil Wayne's tour after exacerbating a knee injury in a bad fall last month is starting to seem a little irresponsible for admittedly not following management's orders – and presumably doctor's – to stay offstage and tend to his health.

The best part of the concert was Foxx's irrepressible joy. He urged the audience to bootleg Intuition: "I don't need the money, I just want you to have my music, this is all I ever wanted to do."

Intuition's lead single "Blame It" which held the No. 1 spot for 14 weeks should earn the father of two the Grammy that has eluded him through five nominations.

The disappointing part – funny, though – was when Foxx, who told the audience he's looking for his own Michelle Obama, invited some female concertgoers onstage for an "interpretive dance" contest during masturbation ditty "Slow."

It's that same dichotomy between his choice of sensitive film roles in Ali and The Soloist and the one he's going to start shooting in January which resurrects his cringing parody of African American womanhood, Wanda, the hootchie transvestite from In Living Color.

That's Entertainment!

Measha Brueggergosman Was To Perform First Show Since Open-Heart Surgery

www.thestar.comJohn Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(August 10, 2009) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE – What the Shaw Festival had billed as "An Enchanted Evening" quickly became a cursed evening. Last night, a violent thunderstorm washed out Canadian soprano
Measha Brueggergosman's first public concert since undergoing emergency open-heart surgery two months ago.

The 32-year-old diva had been scheduled to appear with a small orchestra on an open stage on the site of Fort George to sing a mix of art songs, cabaret music and Broadway favourites, as well as two duets from George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess with singer Marcus Nance.

The setting, inside a clearing ringed with gorgeously lit, tall trees, could truly have been enchanting. Yet, although the concert had been billed as a rain-or-shine event. The audience was even provided with emergency plastic ponchos to allow the camera crew from Bravo! To continue taping the concert.

But the severity of the lightning and the rain that began as soon as the opening act had finished a 45-minute set made it impossible to continue. Audience members scurried to find shelter under tents and inside their cars. Everyone waited patiently for more than a half-hour before organizers gave up hope that the storm would abate in time.

By the time staff walked around to let clustered patrons know that the concert was cancelled, the artists had already fled the scene.

Although Shaw spokespeople were gone, too, the staff left to help clear the Fort George site made it sound like there would be no rain date, and that that ticket refunds would be available from the Shaw Festival box office today.

It was an unexpected end to an evening that had begun very nicely, with Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell declaring from the leaf-ringed stage that she loved the open-air setting.

"I want it for my fifth space at the festival," she declared, to applause.

Maxwell must have changed her mind quickly once the storm hit.

The one musical bright spot last night was jazz pianist Michael Kaeshammer and his trio – bassist Marc Rogers and drummer Mark McLean. Their opening set offered up a high-energy display of fine musicianship propelled forward with boogie-woogie force.

Kaeshammer has piano technique to burn, and has an acrobatic way with a grand piano. Drummer McLean was another treat, wowing the audience with a couple of virtuoso solos.

But the evening's enchantment hinged on the headline star. The fact that she never even made it out to the stage means that people in this part of the world will have to wait quite a bit longer to hear Measha Brueggergosman sing live once again.

Trust Your Gut, Know Your Timbits

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(August 07, 2009)
For a feature interview last year with this newspaper, Bryan Adams was asked all sorts of questions, some of which he answered. Queries regarding relationships with Elle Macpherson and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, seemed to cut at him like knives. A harmless request for self-definition – Is he a rock 'n' roller who takes pictures, or a photographer who finds the time to rock? – was brushed aside with a smile and the wave of a hand.

Later in the year, however, the gravel-voiced pop star was more personable on a solo world tour of intimate venues that supported his 11th studio album (dutifully entitled 11) . At the suave Carlu concert hall in Toronto , Adams was almost effusive – strumming and talking, and talking and strumming until his flapping gums, not his fingers, bled.

Bryan Adams: 'I can tell the difference between a beaver tail and Horton’s bits.'

It seems that Adams, who has cultivated a highly productive musical career, and respect as a celebrity-portrait photographer, is comfortable enough chatting, but on his own terms. So, in advance of the upcoming Canadian leg of his international tour – he's with a band for these shows – we e-mailed him a list of general questions. The You Want It, You Got It singer enthusiastically answered every last one, handling our snapshot quiz with aplomb.

Who are you?

A songwriter and photographer.

Career highlight?

Being able to pay my rent from music.

Career low point?

Not being able to pay rent from music.

How would you rate your guitar playing?


Greatest regret?

Not taking any guitar lessons.

Your most admirable trait?

I like to give stuff away.

Your motto?

Trust your gut.

Most memorable gig?

Last week in Newcastle .

One thing that even your biggest fans don't know about you?

I like to sleep in cars, meaning I'm able to sleep in cars when travelling.

What gets you excited?

Making things work, creating something from nothing.

Greatest fear?

Boredom, not being able to do things.

Your most Canadian trait?

I can tell the difference between a beaver tail and Horton’s bits.

Your hero?


Who would you like to photograph?

Elizabeth Taylor.

Finish this sentence: A man should always …

… honour his family.

Finish this sentence: A man should never …

… do an interview before lunch.

Is the best, as the song goes, yet to come?

Let me have lunch before I answer that.

Bryan Adams plays Sherbrooke, Que., Saturday; Quebec City, Sunday; Montreal, Aug. 10 and 11; Ottawa, Aug. 12; Toronto's Massey Hall, Aug. 13 and 15; Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall, Aug. 14; Vancouver, Oct. 1 and 2.

Young Singer's Rise Means It's Justin Time

www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen, Special To The Star

(August 09, 2009) Bieber Fever has arrived, and it's an epidemic of teenage proportions.

The first symptoms are obvious: the 150 or so love-smitten lasses who lined up last Friday around the block of MuchMusic, are declaring their devotion to pop music's latest cherub –
Justin Bieber – through homemade "I Heart Justin" T-shirts, handheld posters and banners.

The number may seem small at first glance, but it's only 9:40 a.m. When the fresh-faced mop-top finally takes to the stage for his debut Much on Demand performance eight hours later, the sizeable armada flotilla of transfixed teenagers – numbering around 1,000 as they lay siege to the corner of Queen and John – unleash siren squeals of eardrum-shattering adoration.

"Marry me!" screams one decibel-smasher, managing to cut the air amidst a sea of unabashed love declarations, as Bieber slaps hands with the crowd and never loses his charismatic smile, walking through a gauntlet of outstretched hands straining to touch the latest Adonis.

"You fans are amazing!" shouts Bieber. The claim to fame of the 15-year-old – a protégé of R&B superstar Usher – rests on "One Time," a single upbeat pronouncement of puppy love that's still very much in the embryonic stages of becoming a U.S. hit.

To this shrieking wall of teeming estrogen, however, Justin Bieber has already penetrated the Jonas Brothers stratosphere of popularity. What's more, he's one of us: Canadian, hailing from nearby Stratford.

So how did Bieber Fever infect so many so quickly? Virally, of course: While there's no shortage of Disney (Miley Cyrus, the aforementioned Jonas trio, and Demi Lovato) and non-Disney (16-year-old Shiloh, another Canadian) teen talent flooding the market, none has exploited the YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook social networks quite as effectively as young Bieber.

YouTube has been his biggest coup: as of Friday, almost 3.8 million viewers have seen Bieber's official video at least "One Time." Ten million more have witnessed his performance of Chris Brown's "With You."

Even when Bieber simply plays the drums – one of four instrumental talents self-taught by ear that include guitar, piano and trumpet – spectators are attracted: almost 500,000 at last count.

Thrown in over 278,000 Facebook fans, 105,000 Twitter followers and 2.5 million MySpace fans, and Bieber is helping to Usher in a new era of music marketing: immediacy.

"I think Twitter has allowed the average fan to feel like they're hanging out with the artist," says Daniel Mekinda, whose Toronto firm tanjola manages the career of Universal recording artist Shiloh.

"It allows for a much quicker, simpler dialogue between the artist and their fans, and created a new, closer relationship between the artist and the fan."

It's certainly benefited Bieber, who regularly Twitters his whereabouts his promotional travels. The young singer, now based in Atlanta after signing a record deal eight months ago backed by label powerhouse Island Def Jam Records, handles such duties with aplomb.

"It's been awesome," he smiles, a little groggy during this early morning interview at a downtown hotel.

"At first, I didn't know if this is what I wanted. But I really love to be in the spotlight, and just be the centre of the attention."

In fact, a year ago, he claims his aspirations were much different. He attended Stratford's Northwestern Secondary, dated a few girls, and lived the life of a "regular kid.

"Before, I was really concentrating on sports," says Bieber, who lives with Pattie, his mother. "I played hockey a lot. I was really focused on sports."

However, three years ago, he entered the local contest Stratford Idol, and decided to bring a camera to record his performance for absent family members.

"I put videos of the competition on YouTube for them to see, and it just kind of blew up," Bieber recalls.

"I got a couple thousand hits, and then I got a couple million hits."

Bieber posted more videos of himself covering hits, but it was his version of Ne-Yo's "So Sick" that caught the attention of Scooter Braun, a former marketing executive with Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Records. Braun was engaged in some consulting work for Akon when he discovered Bieber.

"I was online doing research – and Akon's kid was singing Aretha Franklin's `Respect,'" Braun remembers. "There was a related video – and I clicked it, thinking it was the same person – and it was Justin in his first-ever singing competition at 12 years old."

Braun found more Bieber videos, including one of him busking in front of the Avon Theatre, but was sold by his Ne-Yo rendition.

"I was blown away that a little kid had a range like that," admits Braun, who also manages rapper Asher Roth. "Then I stalked him."

Braun left messages at school and with anyone he could think of to reach Bieber, who said his mother initially called his future manager back "to shut him up."

Instead, a two-and-a-half hour conversation ensued.

"It turned out he was a cool guy," say Bieber. "He flew me out to Atlanta where I went to a studio to meet some people, and Usher was there. It was an accident that we met. I went up to him and said, `Usher, Usher! I love your songs. You want me to sing you one?'

"And he politely denied me."

Usher eventually came around, flying the youth back to Atlanta for an audition, and then emerging victorious in a bidding war against Justin Timberlake to partner in Bieber's recording career with manager Braun.

"Usher is very passionate about this project," states Scooter Braun.

"He's very protective of Justin. He sees himself at that age, and he doesn't want Justin making any of the mistakes he made. He wants Justin to win.

"And one of the best things about having Usher as part of the team, is that he will understand what Justin is going through. To have that outlet for Justin is invaluable and really a blessing."

The odds seem to be stacked in Bieber's favour. "One Time," which has already been a Top-10 hit on iTunes Canada, is written by Chris "Tricky" Stewart and Terius "the-Dream" Nash, authors of Rihanna's mega-hit "Umbrella" and Beyoncé's chart-topping "Single Ladies (Put A Ring on It)"; his debut album My World will be dropping before the end of the year (a release date is still being mulled over) and he's appearing in an upcoming Nickelodeon movie called School Gyrls with Mr. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon.

At the moment, however, Bieber is trying to retain as much normalcy as he can with a hectic promotion schedule that finds him in Florida, Michigan, Kentucky, New Jersey and New York before September.

"I sort of set out one day a week at least to myself, to just be a regular kid and do regular things," he says.

"I think it's really important, because I'll never get these years back. I'm working a lot now, and I'll never get these years back.

"I don't want to be 30 and say, `Wow, I didn't really do anything with my childhood,' so, I'm trying to do what I'm doing and trying to be a kid."

St. Vincent Is Poised To Soar

www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(August 07, 2009)
In fairy tales, the better magic usually happens to the humble and poor, not the proud and comfortable. There's a lot of magic in Annie Clark's new album of songs, and she says she might not have found it if she had clung to the one object in her musical life that makes her feel safe. Instead, she put away her guitar, the mainstay of her art and music until now.

Clark, who records as
St. Vincent , writes songs that feel as if they had been gathered at the edge of a village fair at dusk, when the daylight people go home and the shadows come alive. When she sings in her soft, diamond-bright voice, she sometimes seems to be holding firm against her own inclination to flee, determined to stare down whatever the darkness offers, or even go it one better.

“Paint the black hole blacker,” she sings in The Strangers , the opening song from Actor , her second album on the indie-rock label 4AD. A cascade of woodwind sound tumbles again and again down a wide unstable interval, like a waterfall that may lead to another world if you have the guts to dive through it. “I wanted to write without anything I was comfortable with,” Clark says on the phone from her Brooklyn apartment. She wrote at the piano, a more distant and fickle partner, and at her computer, a box of tricks that offered no familiar patterns for her hands to follow. “I wanted to mess with my processes and write music that was smarter than I am,” she says.

Clark already seemed plenty smart when she released her solo debut album, Marry Me , two years ago. Her songs were shot through with sunlit mystery and a distinctive kind of song-craft rich in unexpected harmonies. Actor is an even more assured and unsettling piece of work, and it may vault her into the same high indie orbit as Arcade Fire (with whom she played her first-ever solo set in 2007). Clark and her band recently got a coveted spot playing on the Late Show With David Letterman .

She came to show business through a family connection, acting as road manager for her uncle's jazz duo while still in her teens (she's now 26). Three years at the jazz-oriented Berklee College of Music in Boston expanded her range, as a guitarist and song-maker. She joined the Polyphonic Spree, the robe-wearing avant-pop choir from Texas (where Clark grew up), and played in Sufjan Stevens's touring band. The link with Stevens is audible in her fondness for rich accompaniments and translucent Debussyan harmonies.

“I think I'm always looking for things to be more nuanced and more delicate, to have the highs be higher and the lows be lower, emotionally or sonically,” she says. “Then there's the other side of it, that's kind of scrappy and frantic and a little bit unhinged. What's exciting for me is the juxtaposition of those things.”

The two come together most vividly, for me, in The Bed , which starts with a black-key pentatonic tune about facing down the monsters under the bed with daddy's revolver. The arrangement seems to mimic the Chinatown stereotypes of old Hollywood film scores, but then it takes flight, soaring high across a fantastical rainbow as Clark commands the beasts to “put your hands where we can see.”

“That particular song is the piece I'm most proud of, in terms of the arrangement and melody,” she says. “It feels like a piece of music, more than a little song. I mean, if you took the vocal away, it would still feel like an orchestrated piece of music.”

The Strangers is another song that seems to combine the magical miniature with the widescreen epic. For Clark , the challenge was the same as the one confronting a bridge engineer trying to span a gorge.

“I knew where I was going to start and where it was going to end up, but not how it was going to get there,” she says. “Harmonically it was mapped out, but it needed a change of meter and time signature at the point where this fuzzy aggressive guitar come in” – one of the few spots on the record when her surprisingly tough guitar-playing seizes the foreground. “I needed a beat that was going to truck us through the song, like the cart that takes you around the amusement park, past the creepy figures shooting sparks out of their eyes.”

With some help from producer John Congleton, she found a solution that makes the guitar's entry seem like a collision that propels the song onto a new path in a parallel dimension. Several other songs make subtle use of the transposition and inversion tools found on the music software programs Garage Band and Logic Studio.

“I wanted the pieces to be fractal or mirror images of themselves,” Clark says. “No one will necessarily hear that there's so much ‘math' involved, but I felt it would give the record more foundation and continuity.”

The endemic role-playing in her lyrics doesn't actually extend to her professional self: St. Vincent is a stage name, not a persona. But many of Clark 's songs are open letters to people known to her.

“I think probably most of the lyrics are coded and directed at someone I know, or even at myself,” she says. “I would like those people to hear it and get it, but it's funny, because you'll have a song in mind about someone, and they'll hear it and interpret it in a way that's completely unexpected.”

Similarly, strangers often surprise her with their own cover versions of her songs. That kind of tribute just magnifies her feeling that, in spite of her success, there is something miraculous about the fact that people respond to her work.

“I'm always still a little surprised to hear that anyone likes my music,” she says. “I kind of can't believe it … There were these two super-sweet sisters in London who came to the tour bus, like, an hour after the show was over. They gave me a cover they had done of Marry Me , and it was loads better than the original!”

St. Vincent plays the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto Aug. 8 and the Rokbar in Hamilton on Aug. 9.

Not-So-Glamorous Life Of An Idol Star On Tour

www.thestar.com ­ Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(August 10, 2009)
 About halfway through a demanding 52-date North American tour with the other top-10 American Idol finalists, runner-up Adam Lambert exudes a kind of golly-gee lucky-me attitude.

It isn't easy. Travelling mostly by bus – actually three buses, one for the guys, one for the gals and one for the band – the 27-year-old Californian admits the hit-and-run touring schedule is taking its toll.

"It is a bit tiring but it's definitely worth it. Any time I feel a little bit tired when I get onto the stage for my set, I'm immediately charged up by the audiences," Lambert said.

"The audiences have been so positive and passionate about what we do and they definitely make you forget about being tired when you get out there," he added.

Back when Lambert toured back in 2005 with the first North American tour of the Broadway hit Wicked, he got to spent extended periods of time in each city.

This tour, which hits Hamilton on Friday is, well, "different," he said.

"There's 11 of us on one bus and the bus is not that large so it's definitely close quarters. It's a good thing that we all get along as well as we do," Lambert said.

"It's a lot of work but ... we're all goofy together, we make each other laugh. The food is not great, I'll be honest with you ... but you live with it."

Down time is virtually non-existent, though Lambert got to spend four hours recently in the tony Washington, D.C. suburb of Georgetown, wearing dark glasses and a trucker hat to retain his anonymity.

But the mascara-wearing, flamboyant, "out" star of Season 8, is looking to a future of touring as a performer and this one, as gruelling as it is, amounts to good practice.

"This is the first time I've gone from city to city, like, daily. So it's definitely learning experience and it's a kind of initiation for all of us for the rest of our careers, I think," Lambert said.

In addition to the touring, there's also requests for interviews for the guy who became a unwitting poster boy for gay empowerment, which included a June cover story in Rolling Stone magazine.

"I'm trying to be a singer, not a civil-rights leader," Lambert told the magazine.

But the tour has been a positive experience, he noted.

"I've met a lot of fans both before and after the show, people that you wouldn't suspect would be open to that (being gay). I think it's really cool," Lambert said.

"I'm not consciously trying to change people's moral opinions on anything. I really am trying to focus on the music. And if as an indirect result, (people) are more open to different types of lifestyles, then that's awesome, I'm thrilled about that. But that's not my goal."

A handful of members of the infamously virulent and anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas picketed a show in San Jose, Calif., but it was barely noticed, Lambert said.

Lambert also takes an opportunity to bid adieu to Idol judge Paula Abdul, who recently announced she's not returning for Season 9 – "she will be greatly missed by the audience," said Lambert, who considers her a friend, and to squelch a rumour started by Billboard magazine that he's about to become the new front man for iconic British rock band Queen.

"That's false. That's been a big old rumour that the media kind of perpetuated," Lambert said.

Lambert performed with Queen veterans Brian May and Roger Taylor during the Idol finale on May 20 and they both expressed an interest in a working together in the future.

"They (May and Taylor) basically said, 'Hey, you know, we should collaborate sometime.' That was really the extent of it and then the media turned that into 'Oh, he's been asked to be the new lead singer (of Queen)'," Lambert said, with a laugh.

Like Season 8 winner Chris Allen, Lambert is in fact on a project of his own, an as-yet untitled album set for release in November.

When the Idol tour ends on Sept. 15, he's got about four weeks to "really hit it hard and finish it all up."

While the Idol tour won't be coming to Toronto, Lambert has nothing but praise for the city where he spent two months in late 2005 and early 2006 as part of the cast of Wicked – understudying the role of Prince Fieryo.

"I like the community up there, it's really like liberal and open and people just kind of let each other do their thing. I like that attitude," Lambert said.

"I love the way that the society functions up there. I think it's like a role model."

Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg Rock Chicago's Lollapalooza

www.globeandmail.comRos Krasny, Reuters

(August 08, 2009) Chicago —Chicago took a Dogg walk on the wild side on Sunday when rock legend Lou Reed and rapper Snoop Dogg took the stage at opposite ends of the Lollapalooza music festival .

The three-day event had a hefty dose of nostalgia this year with Reed, 67, joining 1980s electronic band Depeche Mode and Jane's Addiction with original lineup among the headliners.

Some 85,000 fans endured rain on Friday and sweltering heat on Sunday in downtown Chicago's Grant Park to listen to more than 140 bands and artists appearing on eight stages, including the offspring of a Beatle: George Harrison's son Dhani and his band TheNewNo2.

An orgy of loud sounds, beer and street food with Chicago’s famous skyline as a backdrop offered something for music fans of all tastes.

Among the modern acts performing at what is billed as the largest alternative music festival in the United States were Britain's acclaimed Arctic Monkeys and Las Vegas pop quartet The Killers.

The orgy of loud sounds, beer and street food with Chicago's famous skyline as a spectacular backdrop offered something for music fans of all tastes, from trip-hop to epic metal, as well as a non-stop dance arena.

Steady rain on Friday gave the festival a touch of Woodstock-like mud and grime.

This year's “Lolla” was put on in the middle of a deep recession which has savaged discretionary spending for many.

Poor ticket sales and lost sponsorships has forced the cancellation of music festivals from Florida to San Francisco to Scotland this year.

But Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza's impresario and Jane's Addiction front-man, told local media this week that the popular event is “recession proof.”

Ticket sales approaching 230,000 proved him right, and merchandise vendors reported strong traffic as well.

“This is my big trip for the summer. I bought about 20 t-shirts,” said Cameron Piechota, 19, of Sioux City, Iowa, watching singer-songwriter Neko Case perform.

Chicago, mindful of its image as it vies for the 2016 Olympic Games, beefed up medical personnel and provided misting stations and cooling buses to help cope with the heat. Vendors distributed free water bottles.

Lollapalooza saw its first death since finding a home in Chicago five years ago. A 39-year-old man died early on Friday afternoon of a heart attack, before most patrons had cracked open their first can of beer.

The festival, which in the 1990s toured the nation each summer, is contracted to stay in Chicago's Grant Park through 2018. Under current terms, if Chicago wins the Olympics, the festival would skip 2016 but run through 2019.

Will Bob Dylan Release A Christmas Album?

www.thestar.com ­ John Sakamoto, Toronto Star

(August 07, 2009) "Coming soon, just in time for the holidays, is
Bob Dylan Sings the Christmas Carols."

A couple of years ago, one of the millions of people around the world who have exactly one impersonation in their repertoire created a satirical radio ad for the most far-fetched Dylan album, complete with aggressively nasal imitations of seasonal classics such as "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" ("Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh to-niiiight.")

Now, proving once again that parody simply can't keep up with reality, reports have surfaced that such a project actually appears to be imminent.

Authoritative Dylan fan site Isis is reporting that recording sessions took place in May at a studio in Santa Monica , Calif. , owned by Jackson Browne. Among the musicians reported to have taken part is David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.

"At one stage, backing singers were considered, but it isn't clear if any will appear on the finished product," the site states. "The album is said to have been mixed and finished in June."

Isis also reports that Dylan recorded "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Silver Bells."

Another site, Bully Pulpit, reports that "Must Be Santa," "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" were also tackled.

(Part of us still won't believe all this until we get a reply to one of our emails to Sony Music Canada , Los Lobos' management and BobDylan.com.)

"At first glance it may sound bizarre, but I don't think Dylan cares much about what his detractors might make of it," Scott Marshall, author of the forthcoming book God and Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life told bullypulpit.com. "Dylan still sings songs from Slow Train Coming to this day, and he's both never renounced being Jewish or renounced his experience with Jesus some three decades ago."

Meanwhile, Britain 's Uncut Magazine is already making good-natured sport of the project. Among the song titles suggested by contributor Terry Staunton : "A Hard Reindeer's A-Gonna Fall," "Sleigh, Lady, Sleigh" and "Girl From The North Pole Country."

By the way, that not-so-implausible parody radio ad mentioned at the top ends with this tag line: "Order within the next 10 minutes and get Bob Dylan Sings the Christmas Hits Drunk."

Suddenly that seems like a slightly less far-fetched proposition.

Calvin Richardson Is Back With 'The Soul Of Bobby Womack' On The Shanachie Label

By Eunice Moseley

(August 6, 2009)  *“I really wanted to stay as close to the original as possible,” Soul singer/songwriter
Calvin Richardson said about his new project, “Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack” to be released this month on Shanachie Entertainment. “I went into the Bobby Womack mode...I had a week to prepare ...never had a chance to rehearse (with the live band).”

Calvin admitted this is the first album he recorded with a live band, a band that happens to belong to Inspirational singer Ann Nesby. Ann is featured on the “Love has finally come” selection on the CD. That particular Bobby Womack cover was originally sung with Patti LaBelle, but Ann Nesby was the perfect one to attempt it. Not  many can compare to Patti, but the incredible vocals of Nesby did it with no sweat. That was one of my favourite songs on the album, not only because of Ann's soulful contribution and Calvin's unbelievable passion on the song, but it has a Jazz feel to it, thanks to the horn playing of Michael Burton.

Richardson is a native North Carolinian, the eldest of nine children. His musical influence as a child came from his mother who sang in a Gospel group (The Willing Wonders). He was allowed to listen to secular music and thus was influenced further by Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway and Bobby Womack. Those influences are noticeable in his style and delivery, but the Calvin Richardson difference is his Urban Contemporary twist.

Encouraged by his friends K-Ci and JoJo, Calvin formed a group Undacover whose first single “Love Slave” (Tommy Boy Records) was featured on the 1995 soundtrack of the “New Jersey Drive” movie. The group folded but Richardson kept going by releasing a solo project, “Country Boy,” on Uptown/Universal Records in 1999, which featured vocal help from Chico Debarge, Monifah and K-Ci.

His song “More Than a Woman” was recorded by Angie Stone who had him as a featured vocalist (later it was released with the featured vocals from Joe) on her “Mahogany Soul” CD. His “There goes my baby,” which he co-wrote, was recorded by Charlie Wilson. In 2003 he released his sophomore album on Hollywood Records, “2:35pm.” In 2008, his third CD, “When love comes,” was released on Shanachie Entertainment.

 “I wanted to put an (original) album out every year...Shanachie asked me to do a dedication to Bobby Womack,” Calvin pointed out.

Richardson said he jumped at the chance because of Bobby's influence on him. He was also the one who chose the Womack songs to go on the album and some of them, he said, he hadn't even heard before, but in a week he was ready. One of the things Bobby Womack use to do that Calvin included in this album was talking before and during his songs.

 “He did start talking like that,” Calvin laughs. “It's to set you up.”

Richardson did a masterful job on the “Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack”  CD. I could listen to it over and over again, and this is not because I am a Calvin Richardson fan, but because of the quality of his vocals. I love good vocalists. His unbelievable soulful sound  and his delivery makes it seem as though he does it all effortlessly.

Aside from “Love has finally come,” other favourites of mine on the CD include “Across 110th Street,” a lover's plea; “Your welcome, stop on by,” a finger snapping get-you-going song; the sad “Harry Hippie,” “American dream,” a master-piece of Soul mixed with Urban/R&B and Calvin, hauntingly, sounding so much like Womack; “Daylight,” has a bit of a Jazz influence, and “Facts of Life,” has that Bobby Womack signature style having a smooth transitions from talking to singing.

For more on Calvin Richardson or to heard from his “Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack” CD log onto www.IamCalvinRichardson.com or  www.myspace.com/CalvinRichardson

Get Ready For Sam And Ruby

Source: Tiffany Mea, Publicity Manager, Rykodisc | Warner Music Group

(August 06, 2009)  *It's rare when new artists meet the challenge of addressing universal themes in unique ways. But that's exactly what Rykodisc duo SAM & RUBY have accomplished with the dozen songs on their debut album THE HERE AND THE NOW, releasing August 11th, 2009. 

If the best music sometimes defies category, then Sam & Ruby are in a league of their own-with a unique blend of pop, folk/R&B, and a sprinkling of Americana roots mixed in.

Gifted songwriters and artists on their own terms, Sam Brooker and Ruby Amanfu came together amidst the pressure cooker that is the Nashville music community, finding creative commonality despite very different backgrounds.

Brooker was raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, while Amanfu was born in Ghana and eventually raised in Tennessee. Those geographical influences, along with the experiences gained via living the artistic life, give the tracks on THE HERE AND THE NOW a sound that comes from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.

Beguiling and entrancing, these ultra-talented musical soulmates envelop listeners into an emotionally charged world of flawless harmony.   The Tennessean's Dave Paulson describes the duo as "effortlessly unique."  Songs like the opener "What Do I Do Now," with Brooker's funky, finger-picked backbeat introducing Amanfu's expressive vocal, sets the stage for the pair's musical mesh. SAM & RUBY, together with co-producer Chris Farren seem unafraid to throw in whatever instrumentation the communication calls for, giving each track character-- appropriate to the moment.
"While most of the songs dabble in softer hues, the supple arrangements -- a hint of violins on "Heaven's My Home," a bit of brass on "Too Much" -- vary the shadings and add to the allure," says Lee Zimmerman of Performing Songwriter magazine.

The foundations of relationships - human and otherwise - inform most of the songs on THE HERE AND THE NOW.  The Grammy-nominated "Heaven's My Home" (written by Amanfu with Katie Herzig and as previously recorded by Canadian roots outfit The Duhks) speaks to the pair's spiritual side, but even tracks like "The Suitcase Song" can be looked at through the lens of both the literal and the metaphysical.

But the core of the album's subject matter comes from the joys and pains of one-to-one, man-to-woman interaction. From the lifting up of love on "This I Know," to the realization of needed separation found on "More," to the abject statement "Ain't Love Somethin'," SAM & RUBY come at the idea of human contact with fresh eyes and empathetic souls.

Says Ruby, "We try not to fear honesty in our writing and tackle the things that hurt, the things that aren't always pretty.  We wanted this record to be honest and conversational."

It's that smooth, sexy take on the everyday that makes the music on THE HERE AND THE NOW stand out, and makes the story of SAM & RUBY one that's begging to be told.

Tour Dates:

08/05/09   Green BayWI A'Bravo
08/09/09   Nashville  TN 3rd and Lindsley 
08/11/09   Nashville  TN Grimey's In-Store
08/28/08   Knoxville  TN Square Room   
10/07/09   Columbia  SC White Mule
10/09/09   Orlando    FL  Cameo Theater 
10/10/09   Ft. Lauderdale  FL Broward Ctr for the Performing Arts
10/12/09   Tampa  FL   Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center 
10/28/09   New Albany IN Ogle Center at Indiana University

Opera Composed On Twitter To Be Staged In London

Source: www.thestar.com - Gregory Katz,
Associated Press

(August 11, 2009) LONDON–It probably won't be Madame Butterfly, but it should be fun.

In an effort to get more people involved with opera, which sometimes suffers from an elitist, highbrow reputation, London's world-famous Royal Opera House is turning away – temporarily – from classic talents like Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini and giving the composer's pen to ... just about anybody.

All you need to contribute is a computer or a mobile phone and an account on Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site that is open to all.

It's a very democratic approach – the plot will be worked out by twitterers contributing one line at a time, then put to music by professionals – but some harbour doubts about the quality of the work that will be performed in September.

"It's a gimmick, but not a malign gimmick" London music critic Norman Lebrecht said. "I wouldn't put too high hopes on it. It won't produce great opera."

He said the use of Internet technology to concoct a collective work of art is not new – but that success stories have been very rare.

"In the earlier days of the Internet there were a number of collaborative novels, including some started by major writers, and none of them worked," he said.

Royal Opera House officials claim it will be the world's first "online opera story." Fans are contributing to the libretto line by line, their imaginations limited only by the Twitter format, which allows a maximum of 140 characters to be posted at a time.

Alison Duthie, director of ROH2, the Royal Opera House's contemporary program, said the use of Twitter is part of a wider effort to get more people interested in the art form.

"We wanted to engage with audiences in the creation of an opera," she said. "We felt it would be a good way to be interactive with the public and with audiences. We wanted to explore how to get people involved at a creative level."

The plot that is taking shape is surreal and, at the same time, very dramatic, she said.

"At the end of act 1, scene 1, our hero had been kidnapped by a flock of birds and is in a tower awaiting rescue," Duthie said. ``That feels extremely operatic, people are really getting into the story line."

There is also a talking cat.

More than 350 people have contributed so far, with more signing on every day as word of the unusual project spreads.

"It's the whole social networking thing," said Stuart Rutherford, a contributor. "Everybody wants to be involved in something together, even if it's in a small way. Hundreds of people will get involved and it's great to be able to say you took part."

He said the use of Twitter could help make opera more popular with young people.

"The Royal Opera House is saying 'We understand, we're not archaic,"' he said.

Once the hundreds of amateur authors have sent in their input, known as tweets, the work will be shaped by professionals, including a director and two composers, Helen Porter and Mark Teipler.

Then, several singers will be chosen and the resulting ``mini-operas" will be performed during a Royal Opera House festival in September.

Neil Fisher, classical music editor of The Times newspaper, said he is slightly cynical about the project because it seems to be a way for the Royal Opera House to get "some easy publicity" before the start of the new season.

But he conceded it could be effective at a time when elitism and high ticket prices are dampening enthusiasm for opera.

"If it gets people into opera who wouldn't otherwise have had the chance, that's great," he said.

Music No Longer Cause Of Conflict Between Parents, Kids

Source: www.thestar.com - Calvin Woodward
, The Associated Press

(August 12, 2009) WASHINGTON – Forty years ago, young Americans moved to music their parents despised, upended the conventions of their elders and, as the saying went, did not trust anyone over 30.

These days? All is groovy in the American family.

So finds a poll, out Wednesday, that examines the generation gap four decades after Woodstock and the rebel yell of 1960s youth.

The Pew Research Center noticed what could be an eternal truth: Young people and older people exhibit marked differences in attitudes. Whether it is the work ethic, religious beliefs, racial tolerance, the way they treat other people or the use of technology, the young and the old are not on the same page.

What is striking, researchers say, is that the differences seem not to matter anymore.

Young people, far from rejecting the values of their parents, seem to fault themselves for not living up to those standards. People under 30 tend to think older people have better moral values than they do, the poll said.

"This modern generation gap is a much more subdued affair than the one that raged in the 1960s," said survey authors Paul Taylor and Richard Morin, "for relatively few Americans of any age see it as a source of conflict – either in society at large or in their own families."

They have come together over music, too. Rock rules across generations, and the Beatles are high on the list of every age group's favourite musicians.

Inside the home, the researchers say, "something approximating peace seems to have broken out between parents and teenagers."

Only 10 per cent of parents of older children said they often have major disagreements with their kids. Nearly twice that many reported sharp conflicts with their own parents back when they were growing up. Parents also say they are spending more time with their children than their parents spent with them.

In the years since Aug. 15-18, 1969, the weekend the muddy chaos of the Woodstock event marked rock music as the great divide between generations, that fissure seems to have closed.

In 1966, one survey found rock was distinctly on the margins – liked only by 4 per cent, disliked by 44 per cent, clearly the most unpopular form of music. Now it is No. 1 overall, and the favourite of every age group except those 65 and over, who prefer country, according to the poll.

In the new poll's multigenerational battle of the bands, the Beatles come out on top, favoured over the Eagles from the 1970s; the late Johnny Cash, a dominant country star for nearly half a century; the recently deceased Michael Jackson; Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones.

The Beatles are just one of the bands from the 1960s and '70s loved by people who were born well after those acts broke up.

Hip-hop is a dividing line now: the second favourite music type for the young, off the charts for people 50 and older.

The poll follows one done a month ago that puzzled researchers because so many people in it – close to 80 per cent – said they believed a generation gap exists in America. That is even more than identified a generation gap in 1969: 74 per cent.

Pew decided to take a closer look and found that the gap, if broad, is not deep.

Only one-quarter of respondents see strong conflicts these days between the generations. That is down from 42 per cent who saw such tensions in 1992. Fully two-thirds now say such conflicts are either weak or do not exist.

Among other findings:

55 per cent identified strong or very strong conflicts between immigrants and U.S.-born citizens; 47 per cent between the poor and the rich; and 39 per cent between black and white.

73 per cent say younger and older people are very different in their use of technology, 69 per cent see such differences in musical tastes, 58 per cent in the work ethic, and 54 per cent in moral values.

Pew interviewed 1,815 people by telephone July 20 to Aug. 2 for a poll that has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Its findings about musical acts were put to a second round of interviews.

In 1964, Berkeley free speech activist Jack Weinberg commented, "We have a saying in the movement that we don't trust anybody over 30." Others picked up on the thought. It inspired a slogan on buttons.

That attitude seems gone. If anything, people under 30 may be disinclined to trust themselves.

Two-thirds of respondents under 30 said older people have a superior work ethic, better values than the younger generation and more respect for other people. Older people agreed they are superior in those ways.

The young got the nod from young and old on matters of tolerance. They are considered more open on race and on groups different from them.

Forty years after, opinions about Woodstock remain diverse. "Hippie drug fest," said one respondent. "A celebration of freedom and new ideas," said another. "Everyone went to a field and got naked," said a third.

But the rancour behind that disagreement is long gone.

Britney And Justin: The Opera

www.thestar.com - John Sakamoto, Toronto Star

(August 11, 2009)  The way composer Jacob Cooper sees it, Britney Spears is already so much larger-than-life, she verges on being a fictional character.

All she needs is a little push.

Which brings us to Timberbrit, an opera about Spears and former paramour Justin Timberlake that brings the pop tart's seemingly endless loop of ups and downs to a fittingly dramatic conclusion.

The plot in a nutshell, as laid out at
www.myspace.com/timberbrit: Spears's "latest downswing has propelled her to her final hours, and her erstwhile lover Justin Timberlake, prompted by her imminent demise, rushes to her side to express his undying love and attempts to win her back."

The production's music springs from a technique called "time-stretching," in which songs are radically slowed down, analyzed in minute detail, and used as a springboard to something original.

You can watch a video for one of the songs, the "Toxic"-inspired "Worst Fantasy," – which uses what Cooper calls "the elements of the slowed-down music (glissandi between notes, slow vibrato, microtonality) as a singing `style'" –
on YouTube.

Cooper, 29, is no genre tourist. He is the recipient of a prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his compositions have been performed by ensembles across North America. He is now working toward his doctorate in composition at the Yale School of Music.

Following is an edited version of a Q&A conducted via email.

Q: Could you talk a bit more about "time-stretching." What gave you the idea to apply it to Britney Spears's music?

I started experimenting with time-stretching in the fall of 2006. I used audio software to slow down pre-recorded pieces and discovered that when I slowed down these works to at least about an eighth of their original speed, it revealed things in the music you couldn't otherwise hear: intonation variances and tuning issues, for example. That is, if four women were singing in unison, you could hear one voice come in slightly out of tune at the beginning of a phrase, then quickly adjust to tune with the others, an adjustment that cannot be heard in real time. At this speed, slurs between notes become extended glissandi and vibrato becomes repeated awkward pitch bends.

At the time, I was working on a commission for the NOW Ensemble, a New York-based chamber group. My discovery led me to try time-stretching a recording of the "Introit" to Josquin's Gaudeamus Mass; and out of this I created an electronic accompaniment track for a piece with the ensemble's live instruments. I used the characteristic elements of the time-stretching as inspiration for the composition of the instrumental parts – for example, I intentionally detuned the instruments at specific points.

After completing this piece, I realized that I wanted to shift the balance away from electronics and towards live instruments that recreate the sounds I'd discovered. I was experimenting with slowing down pop music (in general, my work takes its inspiration from many different kinds of music) and realized that there were a few Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake songs that I could imagine sounding very interesting slowed down. From here, I decided to make an opera and story out of it. These two iconic figures, with their status in the pop world, obviously made good subjects. I found slowing down the pop music particularly interesting because it turned the feel of the music onto its head, transforming light and breezy gestures into grandiose and hyperdramatic ones.

Q: The setting of Timberbrit is a dying Spears's final concert. How did you get the idea for that? Did the plot – especially the idea to bring in Justin Timberlake trying to rekindle their romance – evolve/change from your original conception?

I started experimenting with Britney and Justin's music in May 2007. I developed the idea for the opera and started working with Yuka Igarashi, the librettist, by the end of that summer. She and I developed much of the storyline as she was writing the new lyrics. We knew all along that Justin would be part of the drama, and it gave us an opportunity to adopt the two predominant themes of traditional opera: love and death. At the time we began working on the piece, we thought of the work as a sort of hyperbolic extension of her rise and fall from stardom. (At one point in the winter of '07-'08, incidentally, this seemed to become a little too real of a possibility.)

Working with J.J. Lind, who directed the semi-staged version, the three of us collaborated to produce a semi-staged show in spring of '08 that incorporated elements of a live pop concert, most significantly, live video projections on screens behind the singers, as is often done at stadium concerts. We wanted to focus on the idea of Britney as a performer, not just in concert but, against her will in some ways, all the time.

Q: Did you intend all along to make a larger comment about the nature of pop stardom, or did that grow out of working on the libretto?

I started the project initially because I found the slowed-down pop music interesting and knew I could make something even more interesting from it. Then I realized Britney Spears had many of the characteristics of a traditional opera character, and decided to make an opera out of it.

I essentially mean that her life is dramatic enough – including child stardom (the Mickey Mouse Club), teenage stardom (a pop star and sex symbol), a famous courtship (with Justin), two marriages, two pregnancies, two divorces, and, perhaps most significantly, a meltdown that became so severe it almost ended in death.

It would have perhaps been more accurate to say that Britney's life could be incorporated into that of a traditional opera character. I felt like her dying as a result of a worsening relationship with the public was reminiscent of Isolde's dying of a broken heart.

My ideas of pop stardom came as I researched her career to develop the melodrama.

Q: What big idea do you want listeners to take away from Timberbrit?

The central theme of the opera turns on the idea of performance. Today's performers, Britney Spears being one iconic example, are constantly on display, and their lives beyond the stage become, in some ways, a perpetual performance. This makes us, as an audience, a kind of voyeur. In all dramatic works, opera included, we derive a sort of guilty satisfaction by witnessing something we shouldn't be; in some ways the intrigue of celebrity news and culture is just an outcrop of this timeless desire. Timberbrit strives to emphasize the blurred line between the audience as spectator and the audience as voyeur. For example, in the fully staged version we are planning to include a live video projected behind the singer that starts out broadcasting the typical staged performance but deteriorates into flashing images of paparazzi footage.

Timberbrit also offers listeners an interesting juxtaposition between the familiar and the foreign. People don't usually think of pop and opera as having many similarities – and in essence, they are correct about this. Putting a pop star into the tradition of opera puts a different spin on a familiar saga. Musically, I want people to hear something familiar as new and different – while some sounds they may hear in the music are recognizable from the original pop versions, listeners are alienated from what they usually know, and must listen anew.

Q: What stage are you at in terms of expanding Timberbrit into a full-length opera?

As of now, the opera is about 50 minutes long, and our first performances of it, in spring '08, were semi-staged. To bring it to a fully realized show, we'll be adding dialogue in between the numbers and perhaps adding one or two more songs. We have a new director for this fully staged version, Jaime Castenada of FireStarter Productions. He's an up-and-coming director from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and he just relocated to NYC to be a director at the Atlantic Theater Company. He and I have been discussing how to approach the fully staged version for a while and started workshopping with the performers this past winter; we will be doing much more with it this coming fall and plan to have it ready to be staged by the spring or summer of 2010.

Q: Are there any preliminary plans to take it on tour, perhaps to our neck of the woods?

Yes, we have been planning to take it on tour. Our contacts are primarily in New York City, Chicago, and the major Texas cities, so we'd initially had plans to start there and then build on press received from those locations to develop a more extended tour. The recent national publicity has made it more likely that we could strive for an extended tour sooner. We'd love to take it Toronto at some point in the near future.

Busking Quartet Takes Chamber Music To The Streets

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

(August 11, 2009) Even busking has its unwritten rules.

A 3-year-old boy, charmed by the sweet sound of Toronto's lone string quartet of the streets, was given a small clutch of change to toss into the open violin case.

But when he saw the glinting coins left behind by other passersby, the sight of easy money proved too seductive. Instead of letting his own change drop into the case, he suddenly lunged for a fistful of more and his mother had to quickly intervene. Violinist Kenin McKay is more charmed than appalled in retelling her busker's anecdote.

Over a summer in which clear weather has been at a premium, McKay and her string-playing partners – violinist Sharon Lee, violist Mohsin Bhujwalla and cellist Amahl Arulanandam – have been plying, or let's say playing, the streets, trying to exchange the rich musical possibilities of a classical string quartet for a bit of cash.

They've been regulars at Bloor and Brunswick Sts. They have graced the bustle of Yorkville, St. Lawrence Market and Dundas Square. But of all their improvised concert stages, none has proved more lucrative than Church and Wellesley Sts., the main intersection of the city's Gay Village.

"I have a theory about that," says a smiling McKay over a round of coffees at a nearby coffee shop. "There are more men on this street, and they tend to carry change around in their pockets, so it's much easier to just reach in and get some."

She may have a point. But on a typical Sunday night, it's hard to imagine how the quartet's version of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik could successfully compete with a drag queen lip-synching The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" at Zelda's across the street.

But within moments of them starting on the well-known Mozart piece, more than a dozen people are clustered around the musicians, clearly able to filter out the noise of the street and the din of Zelda's jet-fuelled drag queens.

"Toronto is more busker-friendly than you might think," says Lee. Despite taking up more room than a typical lone busker, the quartet has felt welcomed everywhere – except in Yorkville.

Despite the area having a particularly active evening pedestrian life, "people tend to avoid us or listen from across the street," Bhujwalla observes.

Besides the rainbow of humanity that converges in the Gay Village, children are often the quartet's most ardent supporters.

"We're funded by 2-year-olds," laughs Bhujwalla, recalling a Saturday-morning crowd at St. Lawrence Market.

The quartet – an ad hoc collection of current or recent students from the faculty of music at University of Toronto – pulled itself together and keeps to a schedule via Facebook. With business cards at the ready, Lee is ready to accept offers of playing at barbecues, wedding receptions and any other event where pleasant background music could be of use.

One day, the organizer for Canada Day festivities in Yonge-Dundas Square caught them playing on Church St. and asked if they would play on the nation's birthday. "She said we were the most multi-ethnic chamber group she had ever seen," recalls Arulanandam.

The cellist says that busking, even during a wet summer, has helped offset a dip in freelance music jobs in the city this summer.

McKay explains that busking makes a lot more sense than a regular summer job. "If you're a musician, you have to spend several hours practising every day. If you take a summer job, then you have to go home and practise after a long day; it's almost impossible."

A lively debate quickly follows among the four string players about how much practice time is ideal. "But busking has made a real difference for me because it puts me in front of a real audience every day," Bhujwalla interjects.

He says that having listeners standing just a few feet away has helped him get over stage nerves in a flash. "I feel like I have a lot more confidence now," he smiles.

But having no barrier between performer and listener can have its downside, too.

Lee relates an unpleasant episode during their stay in Yonge-Dundas Square on Canada Day, when an odd-behaving man took off his flip-flops and started clapping them right in front of the quartet.

"If that wasn't bad enough, he stood right behind me, so close that I had to stop because I couldn't play without bowing into him," Lee recalls. Unfortunately, the man wouldn't move away, or keep quiet, so other people in the crowd started yelling at the disruptive presence.

"It was not a pleasant experience, but it was nice to see the crowd trying to protect the musicians," Lee concludes.

After all, the show must go on.

Lynda Carter's Wonder Years

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Columnist

(August 08, 2009) Lynda Carter is a wonder.

That shouldn't be such a surprising statement, because – after all – she is the actress who played Wonder Woman for three iconic seasons on television.

But there's much more to her than that. She's a tough-'n'-tender lady who has known a lot of ups and downs in both her personal and professional lives, surviving scandal, battling alcoholism and trying to live with having been Wonder Woman. The sexy role that made her famous is still an albatross hanging around her neck 30 years later.

Even now, my memories of her as Wonder Woman are so strong that I half expect her to deflect my tougher questions with her bracelets, just like she used to do with the bad guys' bullets back in her crime-fighting days.

"That was another lifetime ago and I don't have the slightest idea where any of that stuff is anymore" she says with a laugh over the phone from Aspen, Colo., on vacation with her husband of 25 years, Robert Altman, and their two children, James and Jessica.

"I don't like to live my life in the past. I'm always thinking of what I'm doing right now."

And that happens to be showing up at the Indigo in Yorkdale Shopping Centre this afternoon at 4 p.m. to meet the fans and sign copies of her CD, At Last.

It's an ear-pleasing collection of various styles from jazz to country ("I'm like a one-woman iPod shuffle!"), all delivered with lots of style and an unsurprising smoulder underneath.

But the 58-year-old Carter isn't one of those stars (Cybill Shepherd, anyone?) who suddenly breaks out with an ill-advised recording that never should have been made.

In fact, Carter didn't begin as a beauty pageant queen, or a sex symbol, but as an honest-to-God singer and – until she was 20 – that's where she was headed.

"I'm enjoying the fact my career has come full circle," she says proudly.

Carter was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 24, 1951 to an Irish father and a Mexican mother. Her first attraction to show business came through "all those variety shows that were on TV in those days. I didn't dream so much of being a star as of being an entertainer.

"My favourite was Dinah Shore. I still see her singing about `seeing the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet' and blowing us all a big kiss every week."

After a childhood during which she "started singing in everything I could: strawberry festivals, plays at school, all that kind of stuff," Carter joined her first band when she was only 14.

"You know the kind of group it was," she says with a chuckle. "Guys who could play five or six chords and I was the girl with the tambourine.

"But soon I played with a better band and before too long I was singing with a group of adult musicians who played at jazz and supper clubs. Then I hit the road with them and was making $400 a week touring, which seemed like a fortune back in 1970."

That might have been great professionally, but how did it work out on the personal level? What was Wonder Woman like as a teenager?

There's a long pause before Carter answers the question.

"I was a really cute kid, then I got really awkward. I was awkward for such a long time." She sighs. "I never dated much all through high school. I never fit in very well. I always felt like an outsider."

Carter was also canny enough to know that touring as a band singer wasn't the ideal career path for a 20-year-old. "I left the road and went to a model agency, where I met the woman who was also running the Miss Phoenix pageant. In the space of a few months, I went from being Miss Phoenix to Miss Arizona to a finalist in the Miss World competition."

Although Carter was successful, she knew this wasn't the life for her and so she moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in acting class.

"There were a lot of lean times when the money ran out," she recalls. "I would get a few jobs on TV, but then I would be broke again."

Then she was cast as Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) in a TV series that no one thought was going to go anywhere. It wound up being a surprise hit for three seasons.

In a va-va-voom red-white-and-blue outfit made up of a striped bustier and star-covered hot pants, Carter might not have seemed like a symbol of the Women's Lib movement, which was grabbing headlines then, but she knew what she was doing.

"Sure, Wonder Woman looked sexy and all that stuff, but I also wanted it to be about how a woman could be strong and decisive. She wasn't against men. She was against bad things happening, no matter who did them.

"I made a conscious choice to be a real solid woman, for other women. Some people thought it was exploitative but they had no idea of what would be coming next on TV, which would be total jiggle city."

After Wonder Woman left the screen, Carter deliberately stayed away from playing more seductive characters, with one notable exception: her dynamic portrait of sex symbol Rita Hayworth in 1983's The Love Goddess.

"I loved being her," Carter recalls, "even though it's as hard to play a real-life character as a cartoon one. When you portray anyone larger than life, it's so important to concentrate on the humanity."

While Carter's professional life has seen far more ups than downs, she has had some personal struggles to deal with as well.

In 1993, her husband was the central figure in an ugly and highly publicized fraud trial, connected with the takeover of Washington's First American Bankshares Inc. by Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Carter stayed by his side until he was finally vindicated with a not-guilty verdict.

In 1998, she went into a treatment centre in Baltimore, Md., after a long struggle with drink. Although she has never denied the issue, Carter doesn't like to dwell on it.

"I didn't want to become a poster child," is how she puts it. "It is what it is. When you're in the throes of alcoholism or addiction, you're in such pain and you feel such shame because you can't control this thing. We need help. We need each other."

She looks at her life to date – singer, actor, sex symbol, wife, mother, recovering alcoholic – and calmly states the one thing she knows she has learned.

"We do the best we can."


Ottawa Affirms Renewal Of Canadian Music Fund


(August 05, 2009)
The federal government renewed funding yesterday for the Canada Music Fund, which helps underwrite the creation and production of Canadian music. Heritage Minister James Moore said the CMF will receive $27.3-million annually for the next five years. The structure of the fund is also being changed, he said, to increase the visibility of Canadian music on digital platforms and in international markets. Launched in 2001, the CMF received close to $23-million last year. About one-third of the money is used to grant new Canadian artists for tours and recordings. Staff

Neil Young Honoured By Grammys

www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(August 11, 2009)  SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Neil Young is finally going to be recognized by the Grammy Awards. The Toronto-born 63-year-old, who has never won a Grammy, will be honoured as the 2010 MusiCares Person of the Year with a gala dinner and a concert just prior to next year's Grammys. The award, given by the MusiCares Foundation and the Recording Academy, which organizes the Grammys, recognizes artistic accomplishments as well as philanthropic work. For more than 20 years, Young and his wife, Pegi, have organized an annual, star-studded concert in Mountain View, Calif., to benefit The Bridge School, an organization that educates children with severe speech and physical impediments. Performers over the years have included Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Green Day, David Bowie, and Barenaked Ladies. This year's benefit will take place Oct. 24-25. Young becomes the first Canadian to ever receive the honour, following such past winners as Bono, Quincy Jones, Elton John and Aretha Franklin. Neil Diamond received the award this year and performed "Sweet Caroline" during the telecast. The Grammys will be held on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. "It is an honour to celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Neil Young at our 20th annual MusiCares Person of the Year tribute," Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said in a release. "Neil has set a standard of artistic integrity and iconoclastic creativity for more than four decades, and his achievements have been matched by his unwavering humanitarianism. "He is a shining example of how music people offer their creative gifts to the world, and how they also give back through their commitments to charitable endeavours."

Teddy Pendergrass Health Crisis Update


(August 11, 2009) *Legendary R&B singer/songwriter
Teddy Pendergrass is thankful for the support of fans since being hospitalized for what is described as a health crisis.  The 59-year-old entertainer, who has been staying at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia for about a month, recently found himself at the center of rumours that involve him being close to death.  Pendergrass and his wife, Joan, spoke out about the gossip while expressing his appreciation to fans for their concern.   "I wish to thank my fans for their prayers, concerns and love," the Kingstree, South Carolina native said in a statement. "While I have faced recent health challenges, I am in the care of my wonderful doctors, wife Joan and family." According to reports, the nature of Pendergrass' illness is not publicly known.  Although he understands the curiosity of his fans, the Grammy-nominated vocalist requests that “you respect our privacy." "Do know that I'm looking forward to continuing my work at the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to help people with spinal cord injuries," he added.  Pendergrass’ current health issues mark the latest chapter in the singer’s saga surrounding his physical well-being. In 1982, he was involved in a life-changing automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down with limited use of his arms after sustaining damage to his spinal cord.  Since the accident, the singer has worked with the Spinal Cord Injury Association to help those suffering from spinal chord injuries. Pendergrass briefly returned to the stage a year after announcing his retirement from the music business in 2006 to celebrate his music career, acknowledge the impact of his auto accident and thank fans for helping him at an event called "Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities."

Aida's Brothers And Sisters: Black Voices In Opera And Concert

www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(ArtHaus Musik)
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)

(August 11, 2009)  Leontyne Price opened the new Metropolitan Opera House (in the premiere of Samuel Barber's Anthony & Cleopatra). Grace Bumbry was the first African-American to sing Wagner at the Bayreuth Festival. These two milestones came less than 30 years after Marian Anderson had been dropped from a Washington, D.C. concert lineup in 1939 because the Daughters of the American Revolution could not stomach having a non-white singer on stage.  Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the U.S. President, publicly resigned her membership in the Daughters and was instrumental in inviting Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people. This 1999 documentary by Jan Schmidt-Garre and Mrieke Schroeder uses these events as a jumping off points in a multi-layered, 90-minute look at the history and evolution of African-American singers on the opera stage. Interviewed are many great names from the recent past, including sopranos Price, Bumbry, lyric soprano Reri Grist and mezzo Betty Allen (who died on June 22, aged 79), interspersed with period video footage. The weakest element in this otherwise absorbing documentary is a series of new opera snippets used to link themes together. Otherwise, this is a neatly structured look at an important slice of operatic history. It is also a potent reminder that the overwhelming majority of classical performers and instructors are still Caucasian. There are no extras.


John Hughes Made Those Teens So Big, So Beautiful

www.globeandmail.com - Lynn Crosbie

(August 07, 2009)
This sad, inclement summer continues apace.

Writer and director
John Hughes died Thursday while taking a morning walk in Manhattan , during a visit with his family.

A poetic way to die, yes, and cinematically luscious. The man was only 59, and because walking so often generates good ideas, perhaps Hughes was plotting a masterpiece sequel to The Breakfast Club.

One that will never happen now, unless someone like Rae Lawrence (author of the sequel to Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls ) comes along. Or Alexandra Ripley, another heretic, who picked up where the defiant Scarlett O'Hara and indifferent Rhett Butler left off not giving “a damn.”

That would be a terrible mistake. Just hours after his death, the filmmaker is being hailed as the voice of a generation, the eighties teen director, and, more tepidly, “the youth impresario.”

Hughes's zenith occurred in the 1980s – a miraculous decade for him – with his Brat Pack films ( Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles , Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink ); his comedies (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Home Alone and Uncle Buck ); and his post-teen melodrama, She's Having a Baby .

In 1991, he made the preposterous Curly Sue , then stopped directing, focusing instead on writing horrible films such as Beethoven, Maid in Manhattan and Drillbit Taylor .

A former ad-copy writer, Hughes wrote, when very young, for The National Lampoon: His hilarious, sexy stories – My Penis and My Vagina – are unforgettable, and seem, in retrospect, to lay the ground for the comic, soft-porny vibe in many of his films.

Consider, for example, the actually quite noir aspects of the on-the-surface fluffy Sixteen Candles : In this film, the hot rich guy, Jake, the love object of the Molly Ringwald character, becomes angry when his current and gorgeous girlfriend throws a party in his parents' mansion, and the place is fairly trashed.

So Jake gives the unconscious babe to a 14-year-old “dweeb,” played to creepy, endearing perfection by Anthony Michael Hall, who drives her around (he cannot drive) in a Benz, then has sex with her after she flops on top of him.

A shocking, listless spin on rape? It doesn't matter! Ringwald, Hughes's muse, the Dietrich to his Josef von Sternberg, lands the hot guy! The freckled, flame-haired oddball-intellectual and second-hand-chic girl, one of Hughes's most passionate archetypes – the outsider – gets to sit cross-legged on Jake's table while he feeds her birthday cake and the sun bounces off his heroic jaw and fountain of shiny black hair.

The girls cried; the girls sighed. Female emotion, especially culled from the kind of girls that Courtney Love (who spent her tenure at Lollapalooza in 1995 watching The Breakfast Club in her trailer over and over again) calls “Pretty on the Inside,” moved Hughes's product like bulldozers.

But that whole teen-anguish business – think of Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller's rich, disturbed friend, who destroys his father's sexy sports car in one of those dreadful “You love that car more than me!” moments – never appealed to me.

Hughes's sentimentality, in all of his films, was mortifying. John Candy's Del Griffith is hilarious and he is a self-pitying, pain in the ass who is merely maudlin when he asserts, to a maddened Steve Martin, “I like me! My wife likes me!” Uncle Buck is funnier, but still a huge ball of cheese who smells off and is plainly sexually unsettling when he defends his young niece's virtue with far too much vigour.

As for those teens! They are not quite my age – I guess St. Elmo's Fire is, horribly, my movie, but close enough – and I never related to a single one of them. Not to the athlete, the brain, the basket case, the princess, or the criminal. Their trials seemed unreal; their emotions fraudulent: This is why Hughes was so good.

A bizarre hybrid of Randall Kleiser and Robert Altman, Hughes made dramatic films about kids that were, simultaneously, cheap, vivid and empty as spun sugar and as intense as theatre. (There is never an extraneous shot in a John Hughes film, and most of them close in on the cast with a ruthless, adoring eye).

Think of The Breakfast Club again (my great favourite). The high school kids' anger, their snobbishness and isolation, their crying jags, their solemnity (a juvenile Bowie quotation constitutes the film's epigraph, portentously). All are repellent, self-indulgent and cartoonishly excessive; all are utterly authentic to the experience of being a teenager.

It is not that Hughes's kids are like real kids: It's that they dramatize what it is to be that age and seething with enormous, unwieldy, tempestuous emotion, arrogance, ignorance and the first intimations – through lovely youth – of power.

As one ages, these films seem still more masterful, in their bravery, their ability to magnify the tiny dilemmas of teens, without ever intruding with impatience, or wisdom.

In this regard, the mysterious Hughes (why did he walk away from everything?) brilliantly pre-conceived the likes of Columbine's Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, unimaginable ghouls then, but still, teenagers, for no apparent or comprehensible reason, filled with explosive rage and a profound sense of their otherness.

As to otherness: John Hughes invented white-teen cool, by ennobling Molly Ringwald's various incarnations, by making her pre-grunge look, her riot of dyed hair, and her creativity, sexy and desirable qualities, not grounds for being stomped by the “sosh” kids or the rich preppies, who disdained townies like her.

He made Judd Nelson sexy too – no small feat. He filmed the dull-as-dirt and catalogue-handsome Matthew Broderick with such Technicolor ardour, the little actor devoured the screen. He made them all so big, and so beautiful.

Was Hughes thinking, as I so often do, of the scene in The Breakfast Club , when the “criminal” Nelson leans into Ringwald in the school parking lot, at the end of the film? When she then kisses him and he swoons, he actually swoons, and she places something in his black-fingerless-gloved hand – one of her great, shining diamond earrings – and closes his fingers over it, making his hand a sleeping flower.

Did Hughes swoon also? I hope so – this monstrously underrated auteur, I also hope, is being bathed in the light of a million diamonds as he takes his place among the great, shining stars.

Has Role Models, Will Time-Travel

Source: www.globeandmail.com ­ Rebecca Dube

(August 07, 2009)
Rachel McAdams is pushing peppermint tea.

The Waldorf-Astoria waiter who just ostentatiously deposited a silver tray bearing hot water in front of director Robert Schwentke neglected to leave a tea bag before sweeping out of the otherwise empty room where the German-born director and his Canadian leading lady are giving press interviews for
The Time Traveler'sWife. (Her Australian co-star, Eric Bana, has already taken his leave.)

“Do you want to use my peppermint?” McAdams inquires, her slender fingers plucking the tea bag off her plate and offering it to Schwentke, who demurs.

But McAdams is not so easily deterred. “You can make, like, 18 cups out of this. Sure you don't want this?” she asks. After all, this is a woman with a website called GreenIsSexy.org. She knows from recycling.

Schwentke is content with plain hot water, though, so the interview continues.

Rachel McAdams photo by Frank Ockenfels

“ As actors, we understand that push-pull in life, where you're separated from your family and your friends for long periods of time, and you're sort of thrust into a world you don't know. ”— Rachel McAdams

The vision of this spectacularly elegant woman in a designer gown trying to press a peppermint tea bag into extended service encapsulates the image of down-to-earth glamazon that McAdams, 30, manages to portray both onscreen and off. In her single-shouldered mini-dress, and with her light brown hair swept into a gleaming French twist, McAdams resembles no one more than a young Audrey Hepburn. Then, as she relaxes into her chair with a slouch, she looks more like the girl next door – albeit one with amazing skin and killer five-inch heels.

But it is her ability to portray a woman with a singular passion – true love – so believably that won the actor her latest role: that of a woman who marries a time traveller with a genetic quirk that causes him to disappear at inconvenient moments, in the film based on Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel. It's hardly a conventional love story, and Schwentke ( Flightplan ) says McAdams's presence is the key to persuading audiences to suspend disbelief.

“There's no moment where I look at Rachel in the movie and say, ‘Well, I don't think she would have signed on for that, I don't think she would have been swept away, I don't think she would have been so in love with this guy,'” Schwentke says. “There's like a chemical reaction between her and the camera that's very, very special.”

Sitting next to Schwentke, who's nursing his hot water, McAdams absent-mindedly traces small circles with her finger on her bare leg. “Well, thank you, I appreciate that,” she says politely.

Her breakthrough role came in 2004's The Notebook , a tear-jerker romance based on Nicholas Sparks's bestselling novel of star-crossed lovers. Audiences fell for the luminous McAdams, and she fell for co-star Ryan Gosling, with whom she had a tabloid-thrilling, on-and-off relationship for three years.

She recently went public with a new beau, actor Josh Lucas; they canoodled at an Obama inauguration party. More recently, they've been spotted together around Toronto and New York . She stays diplomatically silent about her own romance, but doesn't hesitate to gush about the inspiration for her role as one half of a committed, passionate couple: the relationship between her father, a truck driver, and her mother, a nurse.

“My parents are still very much in love, and as a kid growing up, I think I took it for granted,” she says, staring off into the middle distance as she muses about her upbringing in London, Ont. “But now I'm absolutely in awe of that kind of commitment and perseverance – the fluctuations, and riding those out, the trust that comes with that.”

The Time Traveler's Wife concerns itself less with the fireworks of falling in love than with the work of sustaining love through the vicissitudes of life – and McAdams acknowledges the latter is infinitely more challenging. “They're constantly having to re-evaluate their relationship and choose each other. As much as it does seem fated, they could walk away,” she says.

And, strange as it may sound, McAdams can also relate to the plight of a time-traveller cursed to be constantly torn from the present and thrown into strange situations. (For fans of Bana's physique in particular, and male onscreen nudity in general, it's worth noting that the movie stays true to the book's contention that, while Bana's character can travel through time, his clothes cannot.) “As actors, we understand that push-pull in life, where you're separated from your family and your friends for long periods of time, and you're sort of thrust into a world you don't know,” McAdams says.

Making The Time Traveler's Wife provoked no such geographic dissonance, as it was filmed mostly in and around Toronto , where McAdams makes her primary home. Of course, that convenience presented its own set of challenges. After a long day of immersing herself in the role of Clare, McAdams says, she'd have to come back down to earth and the real-life duties of grocery shopping and toilet cleaning.

Still, the shoot did give her the opportunity to discover new wonders in her own back yard, including a gorgeous meadow outside Toronto that hosts some of the movie's pivotal scenes.

“You think you know a place so well, but really sometimes that's the most unexplored place to you because you take it for granted,” she explains. “So I got to experience where I come from through this film in a totally new way, which was unexpected and really kind of exciting for me.”

If McAdams's career shows any pattern, it might have something to do with experiencing the unexplored. The actress is notoriously picky about her projects, and has resisted typecasting, going from the smash hit Wedding Crashers to the psychological thriller Red Eye to a supporting role as a sardonic sister in the ensemble comedy The Family Stone , all released in 2005.

After a fallow year in 2006, she co-starred in the 1940s-set Married Life (2007), the war drama The Lucky Ones (2008) and this year's political drama State of Play .

She was reportedly director Jon Favreau's first choice to play secretary/love interest Pepper Potts in Iron Man , but turned it down. (The role went to Gwyneth Paltrow.) This winter, she'll appear with Iron Man 's Robert Downey Jr. in the much-anticipated Sherlock Holmes movie, her first foray into a full-blown Hollywood action blockbuster, playing a seductive adversary who matches wits with Holmes – a role that seems quite a bit meatier than that of your standard lovelorn secretary.

When it comes to choosing roles, McAdams says, she defers to fate. “In a weird way, I think they choose you,” she says, frowning thoughtfully. “I try to go with that pull. It's a good sign when you can't stop thinking about it. … I try to just embrace it when it comes; it's almost out of my control.”

So if love is a constant choice, but movie roles arrive on the wings of destiny, what does the future have in store for McAdams? She professes to have no idea – and likes to keep it that way. While she says she'd be tempted to time-travel to the past to watch her parents fall in love, getting a preview of her own life holds no allure.

“No, I'm more interested in the past than going into the future. I suppose I should be more fascinated with the present than anything else. I mean, that's what the Buddhists and everyone tell us: There's the key to happiness,” she says, punctuating her point with a burst of laughter.

“But no, I don't think I would go forward. I like the element of surprise.”

Hard-Working Actor Sam Neill Happy To Be Busy

www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(August 09, 2009) A more modest movie star you're probably never likely to meet, but Irish-born New Zealand actor Sam Neill can't hide his satisfaction with his workload of late.

"I seem to have had an abundance of choices in the last few years, and I like being productive," he said during a break in shooting in Toronto of the made-for-U.S.-television series, Happy Town.

"It's about a small town in middle America where strange things happen ... it's all a bit of a mystery, even to me."

That show won't be seen until fall, but the self-effacing Neill – he turned down a knighthood this year, saying "I'm very pleased to be asked, but I'm not grown up enough for that" – will be all over screens small and large in coming weeks.

Having just come off the 2007 British historical drama series The Tudors, in which he played Henry VIII's powerful facilitator, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and last year's Crusoe, the NBC adaptation of the popular adventure novel, Robinson Crusoe, he's starring – along with Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe – in the sci-fi vampire flick-with-a-twist, The Daybreakers, as part of next month's Midnight Madness series at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"It's an imagined vampire world where humans are farmed and hunted for their blood," Neill explained. "I play a vampire industrialist who produces blood to feed the vampire population."

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park action hero, Neill was twice turned down to replace Roger Moore as James Bond in the movie franchise – first in favour of Timothy Dalton, then Pierce Brosnan.

But he's not suffering. Work seems to keep coming his way, said the one-time documentary maker.

"There are no guarantees in this business, and there's nothing worse for an actor than being out of work. I like to keep busy."

Neill was seen last year alongside Peter O'Toole and Bryan Brown in the British comedy-drama Dean Spanley, and in the Australian true-life murder story In Her Skin. He recently wrapped up work on the adventure/fantasy feature Under the Mountain in New Zealand.

And tonight at 8 he appears in the first half of the two-part, four-hour made-for-CBC-TV historical miniseries Iron Road, an $18-million Canada-China co-production that purports to tell the story of the thousands of Chinese labourers who built the trans-Canada railway in the late 1800s.

Neill plays Alfred Nichol, a ruthless Canadian railroad baron whose ambition knows no bounds, and who imagines the coolies he's hauling in from China by the shipload – one Chinese worker is said to have died for every mile of track – are so many replaceable cogs in his unstoppable machine.

"It's a part of Canadian history I knew nothing about till I saw the script," Neill said. "The other day I walked by that rather magnificent memorial to Chinese railroad workers by Eldon Garnet and Francis LeBouthillier (on Blue Jays Way), and I was impressed to learn how large a story it is."

The miniseries, directed by Chinese expat David Wu (The Snow Queen), also features Chinese actress Sun Li as Little Tiger, a female labourer disguised as a man, and Canadian actor Luke Macfarlane (Kinsey) as Nichol's son James, who falls in love with Little Tiger and protects her from an evil gang that's pocketing the wages of dead workers and driving his father's enterprise into bankruptcy. The role reunited him with O'Toole, who has star billing as Nichol's alcoholic recruiting agent in Hong Kong.

Shot in Hong Kong and B.C., and based on a 2001 opera written by Mark Brownell and Chan Ka Nin, Iron Road is the first Canada-China co-production since Bethune: The Making of a Hero in 1992. The studio in China "is a gigantic back lot that makes anything in Hollywood look like a tiny garden," Neill said. "In one section there's a replica of old Hong Kong. It's really one of the wonders of the movie world."

In his albeit limited down time, Neill likes to lose himself in his vineyards in a remote part of New Zealand's south island. His Two Paddocks pinot noir, he's happy to see, is stocked at better LCBOs.

"I'm a mountain man up there," he said of the small winery he established in 1993 to keep his family and friends supplied with premium plonk. "It's pretty isolated.

"Wine runs in my family – we've been producing it or importing it for four or five generations.

"Of course, it's winter there now, and the vines are bare. But in the summer I pretend to bend my back to the work along with the rest."

Sam I Am

Sam Neill's vital stats:

Born: Sept. 14, 1947, in Omagh, Northern Ireland, as Nigel John Dermot Neill. Family moved to Republic of Ireland, then to New Zealand. Began acting at university in Wellington.

Key roles: Judy Davis' rejected fiancé in 1978's My Brilliant Career; Damien in 1981's Omen III: The Final Conflict; Capt. Borodin in 1990's The Hunt for Red October, the acquirer of Holly Hunter in The Piano; the first and third Jurassic Park movies.

See also: Cinema of Unease, an analysis of New Zealand film written and directed by Neill.

Jeremy Piven Pushes The Comedy Limits

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(August 11, 2009) While HBO's popular TV series Entourage was on hiatus last summer, actor Jeremy Piven shot a movie called The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard that he recently promised a Toronto audience takes comedy to a whole new “outrageous” level.

Judging by the guffaws and shocked gasps from the crowd during the pre-theatrical release screening, Piven and his cast of hard-core comics delivered.

“We definitely went for high, big, broad comedy,” says Piven with a snicker in an interview the day after the screening of the film, which is set in car lots scattered around Alhambra, Calif. “There were times – like for instance during a dinner-table scene where James [Brolin, who plays a car-dealership owner who is married] hits on Dave [Koechner, who plays a straight salesman] – that I literally had to pinch myself. I said to Jim, ‘You go home to Barbra Streisand every night and you're basically knocking around with a bunch of us freaks, hitting on a guy. … What is she saying?'

According to Piven, Brolin answered that his wife thought he was out of his mind. “But the reality is,” he continues, “Barbra went to our screening [in Los Angeles] and she laughed the loudest. It was just so confirming. You would not be doing the movie justice to say that it's just a guy's movie. I think this movie is pretty acceptable for any generation – and any sceptic.”

Parents be advised when the film hits theatres this Friday: Are there hilarious parts? Definitely. Is it remotely politically correct? Not on your life.

Produced by Piven's brother-in-law Adam McKay (a veteran Saturday Night Live writer as well as the director of Step Brothers and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ), Piven is the lead in a cast that also includes Ed Helms and Ken Jeong (both scene stealers in the wildly successful comedy The Hangover ), Kathryn Hahn ( Step Brothers ), Ving Rhames ( Mission Impossible: III ) and Craig Robinson ( Pineapple Express ). Big-name acting veterans make cameos too, including Brolin, Alan Thicke and Will Ferrell (a dead man in wings who hangs out with two potty-mouthed singing angels).

“I feel so incredibly lucky to have worked with these actors,” says Piven, who grew up in Chicago. “I may offend some people, but I have to be honest with you, and say this is the funniest cast I've ever worked with in my life. Bar none. When you work with such stone-cold comedy actors as these guys, you've just got to be on your toes. We probably improvised about 30 per cent of the script, with lines that just spewed out … at a speed I couldn't believe.”

Written by Adam Stock and Rick Stempson, The Goods tells the story of Don Ready (Piven), who has been hired by Ben Selleck (Brolin) to help save an ailing car dealership in the California city of Temecula along with his ace sales team, whose chief activities consist of selling, drinking and going to strip clubs – not necessarily in that order. Directed by Neal Brennan (co-creator of Chappelle's Show ), the film is the first production from Ferrell and McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions.

Sporting a jaunty The Goods ball cap, jeans and a T-shirt, Piven readily admits the character he's most recognized for is Entourage 's foul-mouthed, insult-slinging Hollywood uber-agent Ari Gold – a role he's had since 2004 that's won him three Emmys and, he admits, resuscitated his career. But he adds that the role has been both a blessing and a curse – the latter because most people assume in real life he must be as slick and acerbic as the obnoxious Gold.

“I guess it's a compliment that when you play a character, and flesh him out, people assume you are Ari Gold. But when I went on a trip to India [documented in a two-hour travel special on the Discovery Channel in 2006 called Journey of Lifetime with Jeremy Piven ], people wanted to know which character I was playing,” he recalls. “And I'm like, ‘Oh, that's me. I'm just a very low-key stage actor from Chicago,'” he says.

Still, given how driven and obsessive Ari is, what personality traits might he share with the Entourage wheeler-dealer? “Well, I don't have a family and kids like Ari does, and it's not all about the money for me,” he insists. “And I'm not an equal-opportunity offender like he is.

“But am I passionate about things? Yes. Am I reactive in my worst moments? Yes. Can I take that energy and then infuse it as honestly as possible into this other guy's persona? Absolutely,” says Piven, a yoga devotee who considers himself a Jewish Buddhist.

“I have been working as an actor since I was 8,” says Piven, who has also appeared in films such as Grosse Pointe Blank , Black Hawk Down and RocknRolla . “I have worked without stopping for 25 years. Am I an actor with some range? I hope so. Am I totally misunderstood? Yes.

“So there you go,” adds the 44-year-old. “My journey is, I wasn't an overnight success. It took me over 20 years. I'm the oldest, fresh face out there.”

Dancy Shines As Uncommon Adam

www.thestar.com ­ Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

Starring Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne and Peter Gallagher. Directed by Max Mayer. 99 minutes. At the Varsity. 14A

(August 07, 2009)
Adam is a creature of habit. He eats the same bran cereal for breakfast every morning and the same pre-packaged macaroni and cheese for dinner every night.

Life by rote is often standard fare for someone living with Asperger's Syndrome and it's a necessary stabilizing force in Adam's life following his father's recent death.

But life stands still for no one as Adam – whose Asperger's makes it difficult to decipher the intricacies of everyday human interaction – is about to find out.

Writer-director Max Mayer, in making his leap from television onto the big screen, delivers a remarkably assured and engaging film about life's daily struggles and the nature of love.

Fortunately, he has chosen well in casting British actor Hugh Dancy in the lead role.

Dancy winningly portrays Adam as a socially awkward savant struggling to bridge the emotional gulf that separates him from others.

It's not an easy journey. Give him an opening and he'll bore your ears off about telescopes and the speed at which the universe is ever expanding outwards. Ask him if he wants to see your latest baby video and he'll give you a flat `No, thank you,' not realizing that he's crushing your spirit in the process.

His friend, Harlan, urges him to stop looking to the stars and focus on the delights of the fairer sex down on Earth.

But it's only when Adam meets his new upstairs neighbour, Beth, (Rose Byrne) that he begins to feel the first stirrings of sexual desire and the possibility of love.

Mayers's script is thoughtful and intelligent throughout, allowing the relationship between Adam and Beth to unfold in unexpected ways.

As capably portrayed by Byrne, Beth is a bit of a daddy's girl, who remains vulnerable and guarded after ending a bad relationship with a cheating rat of a boyfriend.

Dancy's performance is genuine and moving throughout and, through Mayer's script, we see a subtle evolution in his ability to empathize with others and to see himself through their eyes.

"I'm not Forrest Gump," he says with mock chagrin when Beth presents him with a box of chocolates. It's his way of saying he can joke at his own expense and it's one of the film's funniest and most illuminating moments.

Mayer also draws fine performances from the supporting cast, including Peter Gallagher as Beth's doting but ethically challenged father and Frankie Faison as his only friend, Harlan.

But the film rides on Dancy's wonderfully authentic performance. Women will swoon for Adam, even if his ability to express love is a bit short of ideal.

For Dancy, who has been steadily rising up the ladder over the past decade to larger and better roles, this may be the film that finally gives him the attention he deserves.


Keeping Watch For Oprah at TIFF

Source: www.thestar.com - Malene Arpe,
Toronto Star

(August 12, 2009) Rumour, sources and people I know have it that Toronto will be graced with the presence of Oprah Winfrey during the Toronto International Film Festival next month. That speculation hasn't been confirmed by TIFF or distributor Lionsgate Films since it was blogged yesterday (thestar.blogs.com/stargazing). But it hasn't been denied, either. The chance of Oprah adding to the festival's star wattage has credence because she and actor-director Tyler Perry have joined forces to promote Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, which is getting gala treatment at TIFF Sept. 12. It earned Mo'Nique a special jury prize at Sundance for her role as the mother of an obese teen incest victim. See the trailer at oprah.com.


Toronto Model The Beautiful Face Of A Beastly Regime

www.thestar.com - Allan Woods, Ottawa Bureau

(August 09, 2009) Chrystal Callahan received a dignitary's treatment the first time she arrived in Chechnya in 2007. She was there to film a documentary about the effects of war on a team of young Greco-Roman wrestlers and she ended up sharing coffee and ice cream with President Ramzan Kadyrov, a fearsome 30-year-old leader installed by the Kremlin months earlier.

When the Toronto native returned to the war-weary Russian republic this summer, the Chechen government made her a television star. Within weeks of her arrival, Callahan, a former model, was presenting the news on state-run Grozny TV.

She's a foreigner in a land where most fear to tread. And her black skin only makes her more exotic to locals.

"Walking down the street everyone just watches, just looks," she said in a telephone interview from Grozny.

"It's this huge thing, and everyone (who sees me) is like, 'It's Cree-stall, it's Cree-stall,' " she says.

But Callahan's beautiful face is fronting for a beastly regime that has used force and fear to bring an uneasy calm to the republic after 15 years and two brutal wars against Islamic separatists. She insists she has complete journalistic freedom even if there are frequent mentions in every show of Kadyrov, a leader whose loyalty to Moscow has made him impervious to accusations of kidnap, torture, murder and a host of human rights abuses.

Her show appears every Sunday night, transmitted across Russia via satellite. Callahan, who is learning Russian, broadcasts in English.

There are segments on the Internet of Callahan trying on traditional Chechen dresses or explaining how to tie headscarves, which are now mandatory for women visiting schools or government offices in the majority-Muslim republic.

Newspapers and camera crews from around the world have been calling for interviews as her profile grows.

But life as a celebrity in Chechnya seems increasingly out of touch with reports coming out of Russia's North Caucasus region, where conservative estimates put the combined military, insurgent and civilian death toll from two wars at more than 68,000, and access to the region is still shut down for frequent counterterrorist operations.

Security has improved since 2007, when President Kadyrov came to power and cemented his reputation as a brutal anti-terrorist, wealthy warlord and alleged human rights abuser-in-chief.

High-profile attacks – such as the 2002 siege of a Moscow theatre that killed more than 100 patrons and their 39 Chechen captors, or the 2004 Beslan school massacre where 334 civilians were killed, many of them children – appear to be a thing of the past.

But Kadyrov's tactic of convincing rebels to change allegiances and killing those who refuse has raised new concerns.

Critics of Kadyrov, some of them confidants who had sought refuge abroad, have been turning up dead with alarming frequency – at least three have been executed in the last year.

Last month prominent human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped in Grozny in broad daylight. Her lifeless body was dumped in neighbouring Ingushetia. There were bullet wounds in her head and chest.

Moscow-based Human Rights Watch researcher Tanya Lokshina recently documented a campaign of so-called collective punishment where the families of Chechen insurgents have been targeted by authorities. Their houses have been burned and their lives have been threatened. "I think that Ramzan Kadyrov perceives his power as presently stable and does not feel the need to demonstrate a good record any longer," Lokshina said.

This year, the number of young Chechens going off to fight with the insurgents is reportedly on the rise, as are allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings.

But Callahan's view of Chechnya, which she says could be her home for another year, is glowing. Her path through life has landed her in the pages of Vogue magazine as a Tokyo-based model and led her to the shores of post-tsunami Sri Lanka as an aspiring filmmaker.

She says her work is not censored. She claims to feel safer here than in many of the other cities she has lived in or visited.

"I lived in New York for almost a year. The time I was there, a model got shot in the subway. I really don't understand what people are comparing this to," said Callahan, who refused to give her age as anything but 20-something.

Critics say the only person who may like the attention more than Callahan is Kadyrov, who is known for hosting visits by Russian pop stars and once convinced former boxing champion Mike Tyson to launch a boxing competition in the city in 2005.

"He loves it. He loves splashy events, bright things, and he really rules Chechnya as if it's his own little kingdom," said Lokshina.

But people should think about the consequences before they consent to sharing a stage and their fame with the 32-year-old leader, she said.

"I really think that a person, an artist with a strong conscience, would think twice before accepting an offer from Mr. Kadyrov as there are very serious allegations against him."

Back in Toronto, Callahan's family watches happily as her budding career takes shape. No one actually thought she'd gain entry to Chechnya when she first tried in 2007. Now that she is there, they're confident she knows what she is doing and realizes where she is doing it.

"I don't think she's over there with blinders on," said Fred Boyer, her uncle.

"She knows it's a male society there, it's not as liberal as here, but ... she has a lot of freedom to report and do what she wants to do. I chalk that up as a positive."

Callahan sees so much of the positive that she says she can't understand the world's "fixation" with a negative Chechnya.

"I think there's something journalists find sexy about Chechnya being in a conflict, and it's not. It really isn't. I live here."

Ramzan Kadyrov A Blood-Soaked Saviour

His round, bearded face and wide boxer's shoulders hang from billboards throughout Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. His name is uttered frequently, reverently and rarely in anger – for that could be a costly mistake.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the region's 32-year-old president, is at once Moscow's saviour and Chechnya's scourge. Installed by former Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2007, he has brought security and development to an area that has been twice destroyed in fighting with Islamic separatists.

But that calm has come at a steep price. Sadistic, state-sanctioned torture and killings, kidnappings, intimidation and a cult of personality around Kadyrov worthy of Josef Stalin, the Soviet wartime leader, are just some of the charges the young leader has been unable to cast off.

His father, who won the presidency in October 2003, was assassinated seven months later. Now there is a towering statue of Akhmad Kadyrov in central Grozny and the son wields nearly absolute power in a region where anyone who steps out of line can disappear or turn up dead. Prominent Kadyrov critics have been killed as far away as Moscow, Dubai and Vienna. The accusations stick, though charges are never laid.

His defence when initially fingered in the unsolved 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya: "I don't kill women." As for the rest? Watch out, he told Russia's GQ magazine in 2005: "I will be killing as long as I live."

– Allan Woods

We Knew It All Along: Paul Gross Is The Devil

www.thestar.comRob Salem

(August 10, 2009)  PASADENA, Calif. - If you've ever wondered how Paul Gross is simultaneously able to star in, direct, produce, edit and score his film and television projects, I have at last uncovered the answer.

Paul Gross is the Devil. Or at the very least, a devil.

"You know, there are many different kinds of devils," suggests the Canadian industry icon, now co-starring in ABC's witchy
Eastwick as Daryll Van Horne, the same slyly satanic seducer played by Jack Nicholson in the Witches of Eastwick film, also based on the 1984 John Updike novel.

"I'm sort of the Eastwick devil," Gross grins, as malevolently as his leading-man looks allow. "We'll kind of unfold that as it goes and I think you'll come to see that my powers really are limitless. I can do almost anything ... including (keeping up) the big schedule at home."

Indeed, it's been kind of nice for a change to not have to be the guy running the show.

"This has been the most fantastic holiday," he says. "I don't work in every scene. I don't work every day. It's really great for a change to be able to just concentrate on acting."

That, and learning how to surf. "I'm not very good at it. I've had a couple of lessons and I've had a surfboard almost split my head in two. But other than that, I really enjoy the sport."

The concluding ABC sessions here at the TV critics tour were the most productive, packed back-to-back, nine new shows in all.

An intriguing phenomenon became evident early on: the alphabet network has become something of a refuge for rejects from other networks.

Last season, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton co-starred in Back to You, a promising but short-lived sitcom prematurely cancelled by Fox. Both actors now have new solo sitcoms on ABC, Hank and The Middle, respectively, as does one-time co-star Ty Burrell in the terrific Modern Family.

ABC is also now adopted home to three of the former stars of Firefly, also cancelled by Fox in its first year. Nathan Fillion soldiers on, channelling Angela Lansbury in ABC's Castle, and two of his Firefly shipmates, Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk, co-star in the amped-up ABC remake of the 1980s alien invasion saga V ... which additionally features two of ABC's own cast-off castaways, Lost casualties Elizabeth Mitchell (though maybe not) and Dominic Monaghan.

Another ABC actor acquisition, Christian Slater, who now headlines ABC's The Forgotten, had his prior NBC series, My Own Worst Enemy, yanked after just a handful of episodes. And Scrubs represents a double rescue, having itself been resuscitated by ABC after its cancellation by NBC, and now with one of its stars, former janitor Neil Flynn, playing husband to Heaton in The Middle.

CAN SHE TALK? Elsewhere in TV land ... actually, on TV Land ... Joan Rivers has found her first, best destiny, the job that she was born to do: a new reality show in which she accosts incredibly wealthy people, on the street and in their homes, to ask in her own, uniquely abrasive manner, "How'd You Get So Rich?"

Even Rivers is floored by some answers. Like the guy who invented the Slanket (a blanket with sleeves), originally as a gag gift for an uncle he didn't particularly like. He's 27 and is now worth $74 million (U.S.). Or the guy who invented the five-bubble bubble blower.

"You want to kill yourself," Rivers cracks. "Five bubbles. Big f---ing deal. Now he lives next door to Barbra Streisand. His dog has a psychiatrist. No lie. And you can't laugh, because you're filming, you know? I mean, this woman comes in and she tries to make the dog feel relaxed. How much more relaxed can you be? You can lick your balls. I don't know what more you want."

There was also time for a parting shot at the guy who got her old job guest-hosting The Tonight Show. "I think it's brilliant that they put Leno at 10 o'clock now, because Americans will get bored and go to sleep earlier," she snarks. "That's all I have to say about that. It's nice for the Midwest because the crops will be greener."

Though TV Land Canada will not be carrying the show, CTV sister station The Comedy Network will have Rivers getting it as good (as in bad) as she dishes it out in the upcoming Joan Rivers Comedy Central Roast, to air sometime in September.

TRUTH FAIRY You hear a lot of talk these days anticipating Tim Burton's reimagined Alice in Wonderland, scheduled for a theatrical Christmas release. But another, even more extreme revamp will precede it by several months here on the SyFy channel (no Canadian carrier has yet been confirmed).

The B.C.-shot Alice takes the same approach as the cable network's earlier Oz update, Tin Man, a contemporized take starring Toronto actress Caterina Scorsone (Missing) as Alice, Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts, Matt Frewer as the White Knight and Harry Dean Stanton as the Caterpillar.

While the rest of the cast raved on about the "fairy-tale" shoot, Stanton sat at the far side of the panel, slumped into his customary scowl.

"I never read Alice in Wonderland," he sniffed. "Fairy tales always bored me to death. Still do.

"I see it as an acid trip. The whole thing is an acid trip. A well-written, articulate and well-defined acid trip."

I can only imagine how he'd interpret Snow White.

Star TV columnist Rob Salem, having somehow consecutively survived Comic-Con and the critics tour, will be checking into a chronic-care facility immediately upon his return home. He will have the television removed from his room. You can reach him (eventually) at rsalem@thestar.ca.

Wanda Sykes To Fox?!


(August 07, 2009) *Wow, talk about what seems to be strange bed partners. We all know that comedian
Wanda Sykes is a huge supporter of President Obama. And we all know Fox News is a huge hater of the prez. But those facts didn't stop Fox family member Fox-TV, and the funny lady from hooking up.

As writer Lacey Rose from Forbes.com puts it, "In a bid to shake up a late-night landscape dominated by white men and score ratings points along the way, Fox is handing the late-night keys over to a black woman."

Hmm, this could be very, very interesting ... if it works

Here's the bottom line. This Fall, Sykes will roll out a Saturday night talk show in a time slot formerly occupied by Spike Feresten. In addition to giving the Emmy winner an opportunity to comment on the week's news through skits and panels, the programming decision strengthens the parent company, News Corporation's, network's late-night footprint.

Even though executives at Fox had been courting her, she just wanted to do stand-up comedy, her movie gigs and her role on CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

Then came Obama's campaign, and she realized she also wanted an outlet to discuss her views.

The comedian who's known for her tart tongue, says her Saturday night show will include her take on the news and its characters, ranging in style from HBO's Bill Maher to E!'s Chelsea Handler.

Also she says there'll be no musical guests unless former Vice President Dick Cheney puts out a hip-hop album. In that case, "we're booking him," the comic reminded.

But being that the network is owned by conservative media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, isn't she the least bit concerned about being censored?

"Nothing is off limits," Sykes responds.

Alrighty then! We can't wait to see her weekly take is on both sides of the political aisle, but especially from the Republicans, who continue to prove daily that there's limit on their mission to be seen as the party of small minds and almost unlimited stupidity.

Abdul Gone, But Not Forgotten

www.thestar.com ­ Rob Salem

(August 07, 2009) PASADENA, Calif. - The Fox press day yesterday at the TV critics tour could not have been more opportunely timed, falling smack in between
Paula Abdul's bombshell tweet that she would not be returning to American Idol, and last night's gala season finale of its up-and-coming cousin, So You Think You Can Dance.

Anticipating the obvious, Fox executives did not even wait to open the floor to questions. "It's something that's very saddening to us," allowed a somewhat shell-shocked Peter Rice, Fox's incoming entertainment chairman, who upon his arrival only four months ago had this thing dumped into his lap.

"Paula is the only member of Idol whose contract was up this year," he explained, "and we have been talking to her for most of the season. We very much wanted her to return.

"In the past few weeks the negotiation has sort of come to a conclusion and we made an offer that we feel was very fair to Paula. It was a substantial raise from the money she had been paid in the past. But Paula has decided not to return.

"It was not our choice. It wasn't what we wanted to happen. We wanted Paula to come back to the show."

So what's next? "It's only been 36 hours," said Rice, "so we don't have big announcements to make about what we are going to do. We've been focused the past 24 hours on the audition process, which will continue over the next seven weeks. Our intention is to have guest judges at each one of those auditions."

And also, it seems, through the season itself, which starts in January. Rice confirmed that they're going to stick with the current, often problematic judging panel format of four. Negotiations are underway with several intriguing candidates, including already confirmed guest judges Victoria Beckham and Katy Perry.

Abdul's future would seem less certain, though her former Idol boss, Dance executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe, says he's already been on the phone with her to discuss future "opportunities" on his show, which even as it ended its fifth season last night, is already well into production on a supplementary sixth, to start airing in the fall.

"I've been trying to get her since Season 1," Lythgoe reveals. "I don't know anybody with her experience as a dancer, a choreographer, as a performer and a judge."

He added that any Dance role Abdul might play would definitely not be permanent. But then, he remains not entirely convinced that Abdul will ultimately, actually leave Idol.

"Until that show goes on the air, there remains an opportunity for negotiation."

With all the talk of Abdul's leaving, we've all but forgotten about Jay Leno's return. But this season on NBC, we will be able to think of little else, the new nightly 10 o'clock Leno show comprising 25 per cent of that network's prime-time schedule.

Leno certainly seems up to the task: rested and refreshed, clear-eyed and confident, and a dozen pounds lighter from a four-mile-a-day running regimen.

"We're going to ratchet things up a bit," he enthused. "It's going to be a little bit more intense. There will be a lot more comedy in the show."

So all the unemployed writers of the scripted dramas that used to occupy that 10 o'clock slot will have something to look forward to after they've tucked their starving children into bed.

Leno's been hearing this kind of thing a lot and it's starting to get to him.

"Well, let's look at all of those fine scripted dramas," he semi-snarls when I broach the subject yet again. "The Biggest Loser? Dateline? Not really.

"NBC tried scripted programming at 10 o'clock: Lipstick Jungle, Kidnapped, My Own Worst Enemy, hugely expensive shows. I thought they were okay, but for some reason they didn't catch on. So you try something different.

"There are still plenty of places to go where you can get scripted dramas. There's more of them on the air now than you ever had before. So I don't see that as a problem."

Rather than rendering writers redundant, Leno insists quite the opposite is true.

"The thing that annoys me," he says, "is that we have writers ... probably not as many as five different dramas, but you'd be surprised. There's a lot of them, and I'm proud to say they are in the top 5 per cent of the highest-paid writers in the guild.

"So in terms of taking work away from people, I don't think so. I think you are just switching it over here. Okay, so instead of drama writers, now you have comedy writers. If you want to say drama writers are better than comedy writers, you are welcome to say that. I don't necessarily agree."

Mad Men To Bypass Cable Rules

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

(August 12, 2009) There's a new way for Canadian fans to see the American drama series Mad Men when its third season debuts Sunday on cable network AMC.

Those who don't subscribe to the digital cable channel – available on Rogers but not on Bell's Expressvu satellite service – can download the multi-award-winning show about a Manhattan advertising firm in the 1960s on Apple's iTunes, the Toronto Star has learned.

Each episode will be available for downloading to computers and cellphones at itunes.ca the day after broadcast, any time after midnight Sunday, for $2.49 in standard definition and $3.49 in high definition.

An exclusive deal between the show's Canadian distributor, Maple Pictures, and Apple iTunes Canada makes Mad Men the first top-rated TV show in history to bypass Canada's conventional TV protocols – pay TV, network television and/or syndication – as a paid digital download.

Maple Pictures will make the official announcement Monday.

Customers can also purchase a season pass, which allows episodes to be downloaded automatically the day after they air on AMC.

The previous two seasons of Mad Men have been available since 2007 on iTunes the day after broadcast, but not exclusively. CTV purchased and aired them in the past year on that network and Bravo! in Canada.

There will be no conventional TV broadcasts of the third season other than on premium digital cable services that, like Rogers in Toronto, carry AMC, said a source close to the show's producer, Los Angeles-based Lionsgate Films.

When The Sound Booth Is Made Of Straw Bales

www.globeandmail.com - Joe Friesen

(August 11, 2009) Kelwood, Man. — For 10 days in the middle of the howling Prairie winter of 2008, Grammy Award-winning producer Ken Nelson worked in the tiny, frozen hamlet of Kelwood, Man.

Having followed the likes of Coldplay to record in exotic locales across the globe, the British music producer was accustomed to working at the edge of his comfort zone. But a 100-year-old wooden church, where the only billboards begged for volunteers for the ladies' tea, was unusual even by his standards.

Pews were piled halfway up the wall to accommodate the mess of drums and keyboards that had supplanted the congregation. Thick bales of straw hauled straight from farmers' fields were stacked around the speakers to muffle their massive sound. And as a pale yellow sun poured through the stained glass, Nelson – the superstar British-based producer of pop-music giants Coldplay, Gomez and Snow Patrol, among others – nodded in rapt concentration as local girl Alana Levandoski stood at the altar and sang what became the title track on her new album, Lions and Werewolves , released last month.

Levandoski in March, 2008, in Kelwood, Man.: She has toured nine countries since her first album came out in 2005.

Levandoski, 30, was then in the early stages of recording the album, and later spent three weeks working on the vocals at Nelson's Parr Street Studios in Liverpool. The album took a lot longer than expected, but she was prepared to sacrifice time for the sake of quality.

“I wanted this to be an organic process, however long it took. I'd much rather have something that I'm just ridiculously proud of, that I can go to the grave with, than have it come out five months earlier,” she said.

“I feel like I made a work of art, and nothing in this album was sacrificed in the name of making a single.”

Levandoski recently completed a tour of Britain and has dates in the West later this summer and Ontario in October. After a gruelling 12-hour video shoot in a Toronto boxing ring a week ago, she played the Edmonton Folk Festival this past weekend.

A slight, sweet-voiced singer-songwriter, Levandoski is a rising talent in the Canadian music scene. She had originally planned to record Lions and Werewolves in Winnipeg at the same studio used by the Weakerthans, but couldn't book enough time. When the studio offered to move the recording equipment elsewhere, Levandoski thought of her hometown. Nestled in the gently sloping hills near Riding Mountain National Park, Kelwood is a shrinking town of 70 people anchored by a single stop sign, a legion hall and a curling rink.

When he arrived in Kelwood, Nelson stepped out of the car and into the cold, crushing silence of a still Prairie night.

“I've never experienced anything like it. It was so quiet I couldn't believe it,” he said.

At first, he worried that the recording might be ruined if the rumble of passing cars leaked through the church's thin walls. After several days he came to understand it could be weeks before another car rolled down the road.

Nelson and an assembly of musicians from across Canada became famous figures in town, as people stopped in the street to say hello or invited them over for a visit. The town's unelected mayor even made a point of getting his picture taken between Nelson and Levandoski.

It's been nearly four years since Levandoski's first album, Unsettled Down , was released by Rounder Records in 2005. Since then, she has toured nine countries and played nearly 500 shows. She's been to Muscle Shoals, Ala., where she wrote a song at FAME Studios while strumming on Otis Redding's Gibson guitar, and travelled to Liverpool, where she set her sights on persuading Nelson to work with her.

“I wanted to work with him for 2 years,” she said. “You can tell he has a way of just going through a room and sweeping it all up.”

Nelson signed on. But the difficulty was that Levandoski and the musicians – keyboardist David (Soul Fingaz) Williams, bassist Milos Angelov, drummer Eric Paul and guitarist Murray Pulver – had just eight days to produce an album. By comparison, the album Nelson had just finished took 4 months.

“It's exciting,” Nelson said. “If you've got 4 months to make a record, it'll take 4 months. If you've got eight days, you can do it in eight days. I prefer working like this.”

When he's at home in Liverpool, Nelson works from behind the thick glass of a recording studio, speaking to musicians through an intercom. In Kelwood, Nelson walked among them, encouraging and tweaking. Nelson said he was convinced of Levandoski's talent as soon as he heard her sing, even if her country-music background contrasts with the pop musicians he typically works with. “Alana had heard of me and liked the work that I'd done. She sent me a CD with 12 tracks, and those are basically the 12 tracks we're recording now,” he said. “I loved them, loved the songs, loved her voice …When I met her in Liverpool, I was blown away.”

Levandoski decided to return to her roots in Kelwood after living in Winnipeg for several years, part of a back-to-the-land movement of postmodern pioneers: young people who want a simpler life in the country. She bought her house there for $1. As a little girl, she never attended school, but would study with her mother and siblings in the mornings, leaving her afternoons free for horseback riding and artistic pursuits. Her father, a carpenter, built a curtained stage in her bedroom and her mother, a visual artist, painted the backdrops for the plays that Levandoski directed. Her writing began with trips to the creek, where she would sit with her dog and compose poems.

She laughs at the memory. “I wrote poems about adventures and tragic love/death, where they end up together but they die.”

Her sister now runs the local café, where the musicians gathered for breakfast and supper every day. The walls are decorated with photos taken by her brother. Levandoski pointed to her favourite image, a bleak winter landscape at dusk. “It's honest,” she said. “It's the landscape I grew up with.”

Honesty is what Levandoski is striving for in this album, and she thinks recording in her hometown adds to the authenticity. “I want the album to be true. I want people to believe me, that I'm being genuine.”

“The idea for the record is that I wanted everybody in the room to feel a little out of their element,” she added. “I didn't think we'd end up in a pioneer church in my hometown, but I wanted something unusual.”

The new album will be a bit of a departure, and she's conscious of managing her image in a way that suits her ambitions.

When a photographer suggested a picture of her standing in a wheat field to accompany this story, she flatly refused. She's been there before, and she's not just the girl from the Prairie any more.

“There's only so many autobiographical songs you can write about growing up on the Prairies,” she said. “I didn't want to corner myself. You can't put a phone book on someone's head and tell them not to grow. They want to keep you in a wheat field, and even though it's vast, it can be a corner just the same.”


Not So Fast, King Conan

www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(August 10, 2009) David Letterman is king of late-night television again. You just won't hearhim or CBS crowing about it anytime soon – not after NBC gave the crown to Conan O'Brien based on one week's ratings, much to their regret now. Letterman started his vacation last week with a four-week winning streak, the first since 1995. It just all goes to show that late-night TV is experiencing remarkable changes in viewing habits, with more than Letterman and O'Brien in the mix. With O'Brien, Tonight has become a home for young viewers, and preciously few others. He's a particular hit among men up to age 34, and is winning among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic that NBC uses as the basis for its ad sales. Yet the show has lost two million viewers in a year: Jay Leno's Tonight averaged 4.6 million viewers each night during the last week of July 2008; a year later, O'Brien had 2.6 million. Experience shows the folly of counting O'Brien out too early. Still, can NBC truly be happy with a show that appears to turn off such a large segment of viewers? The true test will come this fall, when Leno begins his prime-time NBC comedy show. Many of Leno's older viewers have migrated to Letterman, although the CBS host's audience gain doesn't match what O'Brien has lost. Some have turned to ABC News' Nightline, which has also seen its ratings go up, helped by the Michael Jackson story.


SummerWorks Is Sexing Up Theatre

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(August 07, 2009)
When Matthew Jocelyn was handed the artistic reins at Canadian Stage Company earlier this year, sceptics in the theatre community wanted to know what he knew about Canadian theatre after spending most of his career working in France.

When the subject came to what theatre he had seen recently in Ontario , he didn't mention Canadian Stage or Tarragon Theatre or Factory Theatre. Instead, he brought up two large festivals – the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival – and one little one: SummerWorks.

With this, Jocelyn showed himself in tune with many of the city's artistic directors. Over the past decade, SummerWorks, billed as Toronto 's Indie Theatre and Arts Festival, has become perhaps the city's most important birthing ground for new theatre. The two-week festival punches well above its weight, holding a position of artistic influence up there with the country's bigger festivals, despite being a fraction of their size.

Shows that debut at SummerWorks now routinely reappear on established theatres' playbills a year or two later. It's become a one-stop shopping centre for artistic directors – including Jocelyn, who imported The Wedding Pool to France after seeing it there.

Theatre Passe Muraille's recent season was almost entirely composed of shows that premiered at SummerWorks, including Trudeau and Me , You Fancy Yourself , Appetite and Tijuana Cure .

SummerWorks has shown a particular knack for catapulting young female playwrights into the mainstream. Hannah Moscovitch's Essay and The Russian Play were both festival hits before premiering at Factory Theatre, while d'bi.young's blood.claat started life at the festival before winning her two Doras and being showcased at the National Arts Centre's Magnetic North Theatre Festival. And this season, Tarragon Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Erin Shields's If We Were Birds – a retelling of Ovid's Metamorphoses – which was a smash at last year's SummerWorks. (Both young and Shields are back at SummerWorks this year with new plays.)

The festival's influence extends beyond Toronto , too. SummerWorks artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld has hosted artistic directors from the Maritimes to B.C. – and, this year, there is even one coming from France . No wonder more than 200 applications were received for the festival's coveted 33 slots this year. (The rest of the 42 shows on the bill were curated by Rubenfeld.)

But while SummerWorks has been an important event within the theatre community for almost a decade now, audiences have been slower to catch on. The festival was founded in 1991, in the style of the Fringe, as an overflow for troupes that didn't get into the bigger unjuried festival. Though artistic director Franco Boni transitioned it to a juried showcase eight years ago, it still retained the reputation of being the Fringe's poor cousin until recent years.

Attendance made a giant leap from 9,000 in 2006 to 13,500 in 2008 as theatregoers began to realize that SummerWorks is a less hit-or-miss place, where you can see next year's hit before everyone else – and for a fraction of the ticket price. (All shows are just $10.)

Rubenfeld has also been working intensively on the festival's brand since taking over two years ago, changing the festival's “personality” to be more in tune with the hip, artsy and slightly edgy Queen West neighbourhood where it takes place. To that end, he's polished the advertising and marketing, added an indie music series in conjunction with CBC Radio 3 and Exclaim! (this year's bands included Miracle Fortress, Think About Life and Kids on TV), and expanded into the trendy Gladstone Hotel, which the festival turns into a pay-what-you-can performance art funhouse on weekends. This year, he's also added walking tours of the neighbourhood.

A playwright who doesn't shy away from provocative subjects, Rubenfeld has also created buzz through a controversial online advertising campaign. Last year, he produced an ironic YouTube video that featured female playwrights – including Moscovitch, Claudia Dey, and Linda Griffiths – proclaiming their “hotness,” talking like Valley Girls, and engaging in a pillow fight in their underwear. Not everyone in the theatre community was impressed. Some felt it was sexist, others simply embarrassing; notably, Toronto producer Naomi Campbell bemoaned the “juvenile antics” on the festival's blog.

At the same time, however, the video attracted notice as far away as Britain . It has been viewed more than any of Stratford Shakespeare Festival's online promos – even though SummerWorks attracts about 2 per cent of its audience.

Rubenfeld found the controversy over the video and ensuing discussion productive and invigorating, and isn't shying away from being provocative again this year. One SummerWorks promo called “How to Pitch a play in Canada ” features actor Alon Nashman trying to win a grant from the Toronto Arts Council by pitching a show about a gay aboriginal. Another features Rubenfeld giggling like an idiot while asking actor Maev Beaty about the nudity in her show Montparnasse .

Rubenfeld says he's experienced about “20 to 25 per cent resistance” from the theatre community, but is undeterred by his mission to up the festival's cool factor and make it “not something you should go to, but really want to go to.”

“I don't think my job is to please people,” he says. “Theatre can be sexier in general.”

SummerWorks runs from Aug. 5 to Aug. 16. For Nestruck's picks and reviews visit globeandmail.com/blogs/theatre. For details on performances, visit www.summerworks.ca.

Duo Sending Flying Ace Billy Bishop Back To War

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(August 10, 2009) John MacLachlan Gray and Eric Peterson are both 62 years old. So was World War I flying ace Billy Bishop when he died.

That lends a certain bizarre symmetry to the fact that Gray and Peterson are about to open a new production of their 1978 musical
Billy Bishop Goes to War for Soulpepper Theatre. "We've outlived the age Bishop was ever intended to be!" laughs the quixotic Peterson, best known to most Canadians as Oscar from Corner Gas. "Just think of us as two old farts approaching the script with a fresh eye, which allows for a continuing amount of questioning and exploration."

"The further away you get from the actual events of the show, the better aware you become of the whole notion of survival." That's Gray talking, the grumpier of the two, a man who has made bearded, beetle-browed irascibility his stock in trade during a long, successful career as a writer, columnist and TV commentator.

"We've both survived," adds Gray, speaking of himself and Peterson on a career as well as a literal level. "That, in fact, is the theme of the show."

Total disclosure: I've known Gray and Peterson for close to 40 years, since we were theatre students together at the University of British Columbia. I also was the artistic director of Festival Lennoxville in the summer of 1978, which hired them to work together as an actor-musician duo on a play by Tom Cone called Herringbone, in which Peterson played many different roles and Gray snarled sardonic ditties on the piano.

I didn't know what they were doing in their spare time until I went to Vancouver that November and saw Billy Bishop Goes to War.

The two men had brilliantly co-opted the structure they had been working with all summer (a structure, to be perfectly candid, that Paul Thompson at Theatre Passe Muraille had developed years before), giving a uniquely Canadian perspective to the true story of a kid from Owen Sound who became a sort of accidental hero during World War I.

"It was a big departure back then for someone to write something that said war wasn't a bad thing and that the people who fought it weren't all dupes and idiots," suggests Gray, evoking the post-Vietnam malaise that held the arts in thrall for years.

"I think that's one of the reasons the show was so popular," reasons Peterson. "All those veterans, mainly from World War II, who were proud of their service, but weren't allowed to admit that pride.

"Citizenship, obligation, local boy makes good. These were all solid virtues and our show gave people a chance to embrace them again."

Gray and Peterson are both known widely for their liberal politics, so it initially seems strange to find them creating a piece that celebrates certain aspects of war, but they have strong feelings on the topic.

"You can't separate war from human nature," snaps Peterson. "It's life.''

"Yes, war is like life," agrees Gray, "only it's a lot faster. If you live long enough, you get to see all your friends die. For my grandmother, it took until she was 109. For most of the men like Bishop, it happened in six months.

"So is war a good or a bad thing?" he queries acidly. "You might as well ask if cancer is a bad thing. There has never been a body of artistic work advocating war per se, the senseless killing of fellow men. But there can be elements of humanity and nobility in the fighting of it and that's what we wrote about."

Gray's voice mellows.

"My son Zach acted in the show at UBC last year and it chilled me seeing him. He was the age of some of the guys who fought it. And you think, `They might not come out of this,'" he adds, his mind on the mounting Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.

Peterson tackles the final question.

"Why are we doing it again? Because theatre might happen again. And maybe because this is the first time the play's been performed when this country's actually been at war."

Billy Bishop Goes to War is on stage until Aug. 29 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. Call 416-866-8666 or go to


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Teen Fans Bitten By Twilight

www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(August 11, 2009)  Twilight struck a vein at the 11th annual Teen Choice Awards. The adolescent vampire drama dominated Sunday's Hollywood ceremony with 11 wins, including choice movie drama, romance, liplock, rumble and soundtrack. Kristen Stewart won the movie drama actress category while Robert Pattinson picked up two surfboard-shaped trophies: one for movie drama actor, another for male hottie. "We'll see you guys in theatres Nov. 20th," said co-star Taylor Lautner, teasing the squealing crowd. Lautner and Ashley Greene were honoured as male and female movie fresh faces while Cam Gigandet was crowned movie villain. Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke joined the cast onstage to accept the pack of trophies. The Teen Choice Awards were selected by over 83 million online votes . Several winners – including 16-year-old Miley Cyrus and show hosts the Jonas Brothers – took home multiple trophies.  Cyrus sailed away with six awards, winning for comedy TV show and actress for Hannah Montana; music/dance movie actress and hissy fit for Hannah Montana: The Movie; music single for "The Climb" and summer song for "Before the Storm" with the Jonas Brothers.  The Jonas Brothers won five trophies, including choice male red carpet icons.


Canada Moves To 2-0 At Under-18 Hockey Tournament

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(August 12, 2009) BRECLAV, CZECH REPUBLIC – Canada's entry at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 hockey tournament is benefiting from a potent Ontario Hockey League connection.

OHL forwards John McFarland, Tyler Toffoli and Tyler Seguin were the difference for the second straight game, combining for six points in a 6-3 win over Switzerland that improved the defending champions to 2-0 in Pool A. The Swiss fell to 0-2.

McFarland scored twice – giving him three goals in the first two games – while Toffoli had a goal and an assist and Seguin added a pair of helpers. The trio had seven points in Tuesday's tournament-opening 3-2 win over Sweden.

McFarland, coming off a solid rookie season with the Sudbury Wolves, said the team's training camp earlier this month in Calgary helped the players build cohesion, both on and off the ice.

"Having that couple days at camp to grow with some linemates has really helped us," said McFarland. "(It's) a great group of guys that all want to get better as a team, and are all here to do one thing, and that's win a gold medal."

Canadian coach Bob Boughner lauded the trio for its offensive creativity, going so far as to suggest that the team's gold-medal chances hinge on how well the line performs the rest of the way.

"That line's got great chemistry," said Boughner. "They're a line that doesn't need many chances to bury it. Sometimes, because they're so talented, they tend to get overcreative, but our job as coaches is to make sure that they play the same as every other line.

"That line's got to be our best line every night for us to win a gold medal."

Jeffrey Skinner of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers also had a pair of goals and was named the player of the game, while Michael Bournival of the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes added a single. Calvin Pickard stopped 14 shots to earn the win.

Reto Schmutz, Eric Arnold and Gaetan Haas replied for the Swiss, who fought gamely for one period but couldn't keep up with a relentless Canadian attack. Canada outshot Switzerland 42-17 – highlighted by a 15-2 advantage in the second period – and would have won by more had it not been for a strong performance from Swiss netminder Lukas Melli.

Switzerland actually held a brief lead in the first period, when Schmutz and Arnold scored just over a minute apart to erase a 1-0 deficit. McFarland tied things up late in the first, but that didn't spare the players from a Boughner tirade between periods.

"I was thinking about calling a timeout early, but I didn't want to waste it," said Boughner. "So I let them get through the first period, and I laid into them pretty good in between the first and second about not coming out hungry and prepared and focused.

"To tell you the truth, that's been our problem the last two games. I challenged the leadership and character of the team, and they came out harder."

Skinner's short-handed goal early in the second gave Canada the lead for good, and Toffoli, who plays for the Ottawa 67's, expanded the lead on a power-play at 7:05. Haas cut the deficit to 4-3 late in the period, but McFarland restored the two-goal advantage at 12:24 of the third on a pass from Seguin, a Plymouth Whalers winger.

Bournival completed the scoring with 23 seconds left.

The Canadians face the host Czechs on Thursday, and McFarland said the players are encouraged by the progress they've made so far – though there's still plenty of room for improvement.

"We're getting there as a team," said McFarland. "We have one more game to ultimately get ourselves ready to win a gold medal.

"We have things that we want to get better in, and things we're learning night in, night out."

Wednesday's other Pool A game saw the Swedes even their record at 1-1 with a 4-1 victory over the Czechs (1-1) at Breclav.

In Pool B action at Piestany, Slovakia, Russia improved to 2-0 with a 7-1 rout of Slovakia (1-1), while U.S. (1-1) earned a 3-2 victory over Finland (0-2).

Jamaica Withdraws Request To Ban Powell From Track Meet

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raf Casert,
The Associated Press

(August 12, 2009) BERLIN – Jamaica withdrew its request to ban sprint star Asafa Powell and several teammates from the track world championships Wednesday, just hours after saying they would be kicked off the team.

IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss said the world governing body put pressure on the Jamaican federation to change its mind because the exclusion of the six prominent athletes would reflect badly on the championship.

The Jamaican federation has been in a dispute with the athletes after they missed a mandatory training camp for worlds last week.

"We asked Jamaica to reconsider in the interest of sport,'' Weiss said.

The championships begin Saturday with a program that includes the opening heat of the 100 meters, where Powell is a medal contender behind fellow Jamaican and Olympic champion Usain Bolt and defending world champion Tyson Gay.

"We are all relieved to have that news," said Paul Doyle, the manager of five of the athletes. "It was all very unnecessary.''

The decision ended a tumultuous day at the IAAF Congress, where the initial announcement that Powell, Olympic champions Melaine Walker and Shelly-Ann Fraser and three others would be excluded created an uproar.

"We didn't like it," Weiss said, adding that it was the IAAF's job to make sure nations field the strongest possible teams. "The world championships, that is our baby. We take care of our baby.''

Jamaican federation president Howard Aris refused to comment on the dispute throughout the day.

The controversy stems from the athletes' decision to skip a training camp for worlds last week in Nuremberg.

Doyle said his athletes had already set up their own preparations in Italy by the time they were notified of the training camp.

"None of us received official notice it was supposed to be mandatory," Doyle said. "It was not fair to treat the athletes this way.''

The exclusion of the high-profile runners would have dented the appeal of the world championships, as one of the most anticipated battles is between the Jamaican and American sprinters.

Powell's absence would have weakened the Jamaican sprint relay team, while Fraser is a favorite to take gold in the women's 100.

The other three athletes are hurdler Brigitte Foster-Hylton, sprinter Shericka Williams and 400 runner Kaliese Spencer.

Andrus Hands The Ball To Pickett

Source:  www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard,
Sports Reporter

(August 12, 2009) Saying he's looking for someone to "move our team a little better," Argonauts head coach Bart Andrus is changing his starting quarterback.

Andrus said yesterday
Cody Pickett will replace the struggling Kerry Joseph when the Argos host the B.C. Lions on Friday, searching for their first victory at home in more than a year.

"I think that he's ready for this," Andrus said of Pickett, a former San Francisco 49er in his third year in Toronto. "And, I have no reason to believe that he won't have some success right now."

Andrus, who played quarterback at the University of Montana, said, "I know what it's like to be in (Pickett's) shoes" – waiting for an opportunity to start as the team struggles offensively.

"And, I think that it's time for him to get that opportunity and see if he can't spark us, see if he can't move our team a little better," Andrus said after practice in Mississauga.

Pickett, who made two starts last season, both losses, played the fourth quarter last Friday as the Argos were whipped 25-0 in Montreal, their first shutout loss since 1992. He was 7-for-11 for 83 yards in place of Joseph, who passed for just 61 yards before being knocked from the game.

"I'm excited about the opportunity and hopefully we'll go out and play well," said the 29-year-old Pickett, who played in nine games for the 49ers in 2004 and 2005, including two starts.

Pickett, a native of Idaho who qualified three times for the U.S. high school rodeo championships in a sport he learned from his father, Dee, a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, said he feels "more mature" for this start after facing the Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders in back-to-back games late last season.

"I've been preparing for a chance and I'm going to get one this weekend," he said. "I'm just going to try and go out and do the best I can to get the ball in my play-makers' hands and make good decisions."

Changing starters – Andrus told the quarterbacks at morning meetings before practice – is the latest chapter of a tumultuous early season for the offence of the Argos (2-4), who have scored the fewest points in the CFL.

The receiving corps has battled injuries and the saga of Arland Bruce, the Argos leading pass-catcher last season, who was shipped to Hamilton after a falling out with Andrus.

The offensive line has surrendered the most quarterback sacks in the CFL and the team has turned the ball over way too much.

Joseph, the 2007 league MVP when he led the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Grey Cup championship, said "there's no reason to hang your head" about losing his starting job.

"It's a decision that Bart ... makes and as players you roll with and just go," said the 35-year-old Joseph, who through six games has thrown a league-high 10 interceptions and has the lowest pass completion mark (56 per cent) among regular starters.

"It's part of football. It's part of this business. It's part of life."

Joseph, who spent the early part of last season looking over his shoulder at backup Michael Bishop, vowed to be "the positive guy on the team to help get this victory."

In the latter part of practice, in which both quarterbacks took a lot of first-team plays, Joseph and Pickett kneeled beside each other on the sidelines and chatted for a few minutes. They later jogged together with third-stringer Stephen Reaves.

"Cody's played in this league and he's a veteran quarterback so he understands and we, as quarterbacks, always communicated with each other," Joseph said. "He has the confidence and the guys on the team believe in him, so he's going to go in there and do well."

And, if he doesn't, Andrus made it clear he's ready to call Joseph's number again. "By no means are we gun-shy about bringing Kerry back."

MURPHY'S LAW: Offensive tackle Rob Murphy didn't practice yesterday due to a recurrence of back spasms but Andrus said he's "probably a go for the game" Friday.