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Hope you all had a great long weekend this past weekend - isn't it fantastic to have that extra break during our long winter months!? 
Let's get right to as there is lots of exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


Land of K'Naan

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

(February 15, 2009) Never mind the CNN spot, Los Angeles Times nod, Esquire plug and all the other high-profile buzz around K'Naan's forthcoming sophomore disc. As far as the Toronto rapper is concerned, Troubadour is already a smash.

"It's how my mother feels – that's the trajectory of success, that is how I decide; and she's been moved by the album," says the 30-year-old performer of the 14 tracks comprising urgent, universal songs about love, hope and struggle in a mélange of traditional African rhythms, hip hop, rock, reggae and pop.

"And my second measure of success is how my own people feel about the music I make about them," says Somali-born Keinan Warsame, who settled here with his family in the early '90s after fleeing civil war at home

"If they feel like the music is about them and not for them, it's not successful to me; but if it's about and for them, as well as for everyone else, then I'm satisfied."

While "America" features entire verses in his native tongue, "Somalia" recounts Mogadishu's mean streets, and references to uniquely African immigrant experiences are sprinkled throughout the album,

K'Naan knows some members of his ethnic community won't be able to get past the hip-hop overtones in his work.

"The older people who understand my music, who understand English, they don't think I'm a rapper, they think I'm a poet." And for that, says the grandson of famed Somali poet Haji Mohamed says, "they really honour it."

But the elders generally "don't like hip hop; they don't think the kids should be listening to it. They see it as vulgar joke music that is demeaning and degrading to women, and that's not in our culture. A guy from Somalia calling a girl a ho is unheard of. We don't demean our women that way."

This brings to an interesting juncture our conversation over tea at a downtown Toronto hotel during K'naan's hectic days of promotion prior to the launch of his first North American headlining tour, which lands at the Mod Club on album release day, Feb. 24.

Earlier in our chat, in his unhurried, philosophical way, the MC defended his use of the N-word in his rhymes, which, with no equivalent term in Somali, doesn't seem like a natural undertaking.

"I grew up partly in Somalia's vicious streets and partly in North American streets," he said. "I never lived in the circles of the goody-goodies. I was a high-school dropout, hung out with thugs.

"I learned the endearment of `n----r.' It would be nice and all positive of us to say, `Well, let's not do it in music,' but we say it in our households. Until we agree to stop that ..."

I wonder now, albeit gratefully, why he cherry-picked this word, and not that other term, from the urban landscape. "I think it's different in the sense that there is no way to make `ho' nice," he replies with a laugh. "Even if Lil' Kim can sound good saying it, `ho' is still a problem.

"`N----r' is a problem in the sense that it was connected to social class and such, but it's not a personal ... degrading of a woman – that's intense to me, and I'm from powerful women."

How does the married father manage such terminology with his two toddler sons? "My kids are interesting in the way that they're being raised, because I don't give them the panic factor of language. My (3 1/2-year-old) son will say `Oh, s--t!' instinctively sometimes. And I'll say, `You know, it's cool between you and me, but when there's the neighbours and stuff, they don't like hearing that.'

"So that he doesn't find the value of it to be more beautiful than it is," the father explains. "When we hide something and make it secretive, we make it beautiful to kids. I give them the freedom of language."

Meanwhile he's demanding his own artistic freedom, brandishing a genre-hopping sound in an industry that likes to pigeonhole. "The truth is that I'm an ambitious person and I feel like when we say `The game is not ready,' or `Are people ready for a fresh sound?' or `Can they take you without a genre?' – I feel they must.

"If you don't drive people forward as an artist, what will? We're not plumbers. We're supposed to be innovators. We're supposed to be inspiring. We can't just say, `Oh, that's what they're listening to. I'm going to do that too.'"

Troubadour's eclectic creative village included Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, rappers Mos Def and Chubb Rock, reggae toaster Damian Marley and an L.A. children's choir.

K'Naan spent four months in Jamaica's capital, recording at the Bob Marley family's studios, with access to the late reggae king's old engineers and the B3 Hammond organ he used on Exodus. He'd bonded with Marley's sons Stephen and Damian when he went on the road with them last year.

"I had my own bus on the tour," he says, "but Stephen insisted that I go on their bus, because he wanted us three to be together. One day Stephen woke up and came to me in the lounge area and said, `I just had a dream and Bob visited me in the dream and said that he was proud of us, because of the work we're doing together.' And that was powerful.

"Someone once made the mistake of calling me an opening act around Stephen – and he said, in a more vulgar way, `What are you talking about? K'Naan's show is sunrise and we're sunset.'"

It's surprising, then, that noted studio genie Stephen doesn't rate any production credits on Troubadour. "We did some songs together, they didn't make the album. Stephen in a sense was kind of a spiritual producer of this album, because he was there and he gave me the space to create, not only the house and the studio of Bob, but the things I needed.

"If we ran in trouble ... if the label was like `We're not paying for that, because you're doing crazy stuff now, you're bringing weird musicians into the thing,' I'd call Steve and he would pay for it."

K'Naan's sense of humour comes across on the disc, particularly in "15 Minutes Away," about relying on money transfers from friends during hard times on the road.

For a reporter's benefit, he recalls a rock-bottom moment in New York with band member Rayzak. "I'd just recorded stuff on (the ultimately Juno-winning 2006 album) The Dusty Foot Philosopher. I had no record deal, nothing. And we went to New York, because I have some musician friends who play for major artists and who were like `You gotta come through, they gotta hear your music.'

"But they don't understand that it takes a lot for us to come through – (the cost of the) hotel most of all. So we got this motel off somewhere and we were like 'Oh my God, this place sucks, but this will do, because tomorrow we'll get up and we'll get together with these legendary musicians.'

"We decide to use the iron to iron our jacked-up clothes. Why did the clothes start to smell really bad? There's something wrong with this, we can't wear this anymore. What are we going to do? Ray opens the iron and for water someone had pissed in it. It was horrible."

So, inquiring minds want to know, where does major label guy stay when he's in the Big Apple now?

"Usually at The Bowery Hotel, which is like a great boutique hotel," he says bashfully of the establishment, which boasts marble bathrooms and 400-thread-count linens.

"It's beautiful. It's a hell of another world from where I was."

Genie Award Voters Anoint The Necessities

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(February 10, 2009) The Genie Awards may be for Canadian films, but this year's list of nominees, announced Tuesday Feb. 10 in Ottawa, are particularly notable for the attention they have received elsewhere.

For example, The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre), about the tuberculosis epidemic of the mid-1900s and its effect on an Inuit family, led with eight Genie nominations, including best picture and best original screenplay. The heavily-promoted Paul Gross epic Passchendaele earned six nominations. Necessities was Canada's entry for an Academy Award for best foreign-language film, but it ultimately failed to get nominated.

Nevertheless, that pre-Oscar process created more interest in the U.S. than this gentle, subtle film might have otherwise received, particularly given that it is in Inuktitut and French and subtitled throughout. And the Genie nominations can only help its theatrical run in English Canada, scheduled to begin next week.

Other leading Genie contenders include Everything Is Fine (Tout est parfait), a film about a young man dealing with the suicide of friends that is squarely at home in the high realism of Quebec cinema. It's nominated for best picture, as well as six other categories. Paul Gross's heavily promoted war epic Passchendaele, the modern-day Indian fable Amal, the 1960s family drama Mommy is at the Hairdresser's ( Maman est chez le coiffeur) and the story of a man's haunting Second World War past, Fugitive Pieces, all received six nominations each.

“It's a very diverse slate of nominees,” said Sara Morton, chief executive officer of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. “There's a very strong showing from the West with Normal, Fugitive Pieces, Passchendaele. ... And then it's quite diverse in terms of language. There's a good split between English and French, of course. But then one of the films is in Hindi [ Amal] and another one is in Inuktitut.”

Other notable nominees include Guy Maddin's eccentric pseudo-documentary My Winnipeg and Yung Chang's acclaimed Up The Yangtze, which are both competing for best documentary against Jean-Claude Labrecque's Infiniment Québec. The situation drama Young People Fucking – which sparked lots of news coverage for its name, but less for its actual relationship-based storyline – was uncharacteristically inconspicuous, receiving a single nomination for Kristin Booth as best supporting actress.

Meanwhile, the international flavour continues with contenders such as Deepa Mehta's drama on spousal abuse in the South Asian immigrant community, Heaven On Earth. It is up for best original screenplay and has given Bollywood superstar Preity Zinta a Genie nomination for best lead actress.

Or take Amal, which is also up for best motion picture. Following the story of an auto-rickshaw driver caught in a tangle of riches that crosses the usual class divides in Delhi, the film received good press when it played the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007, and good reviews during its Canadian theatrical release last summer.

But the film has also won at least 20 awards on the international festival circuit and has helped to strengthen the bond between Canadian and Indian cinema.

A Genie nomination, beyond simply a pat on the back from the Canadian film community, gives films such as Amal more heft when negotiating distribution deals abroad, said Toronto-based David Miller, one of Amal's producers.

“I think in Canada, we don't always look at how the rest of the world sees the films that we make here. We make unique films that are accepted abroad. Amal has been lucky. We've been acknowledged by a number of countries all over the world,” Miller said.

“Now that we're trying to get into the U.S., something like the Genies means a lot. And it's something that we can take to U.S. distributors and say that not only were we successful in our domestic theatrical release, but we're actually being recognized by our peers.”

Picks and pans

THE EGREGIOUS OVERSIGHT How did the judges leave out Jan Kaczmarek's haunting music for Paul Gross' Passchendaele from best original score?

THE RACE TO WATCH Best documentary. With nominations for Infiniment Québec , My Winnipeg and Up The Yangtze this one will be a doozy.

THE HARD NUMBERS With the exception of Passchendaele, which has grossed more than $4-million, many of the nominated films did not last more than two weeks at Canadian cinemas – if they were screened at all.

Peter Keleghan: Smarter Than He Acts

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

(February 16, 2009) Peter Keleghan usually plays that guy, you know the type, not terribly bright but successful in spite of himself, and often not the most principled either.

Whether he's playing vain and dim-witted news reader Jim Walcott (The Newsroom) or sleazily vacuous executive Alan Roy (Made in Canada), needy and hapless Ranger Gord (The Red Green Show) or even George Costanza nemesis Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld, Keleghan has a knack for playing the hilariously insufferable to comedic perfection.

As he approaches his 50th birthday this year, Keleghan wonders wistfully if it isn't time to break out of the mould that has earned him steady work and acclaim, most recently as the recipient of the ACTRA Award of Excellence, to be presented Friday.

"Age has never bothered me. I have a lot more to do though. I want to get out of playing the stupid a--hole. A romantic lead or something would be nice," Keleghan says, with a hint of whimsy.

In person, Keleghan is anything but an intellectual flyweight. He's still funny, but he's also substantial, a "rabid" supporter of Canadian film and television, with a raconteur's stable of wise and witty tales to illustrate his thoughts and ideas.

On his success as a comic actor, Keleghan says: "I think maybe if I have a strength, it might be that I play comedy straight, I do the comedy in a straight way. The wink-wink broad stuff I have a great deal of problems with."

As a painfully shy pre-pubescent, the Montreal-born Keleghan's mother had her sights set on having her only son go into the priesthood, a plan the altar boy would have willingly accepted until puberty – and girls – entered the picture.

For a shy guy, drama in high school was merely a means to meet and impress girls, but Keleghan really had his heart set on becoming a pilot. (In fact, he's had a pilot's licence for decades).

"You needed science, chemistry and physics (to become a commercial pilot). So I took all of that in high school and then I failed it, and then I took summer school to make it up and I failed that," Keleghan says.

"So I looked at my marks and I saw drama and English – A and A-plus – and math and physics – F, F – and I put two and two together and got five, and decided to become an actor."

Undeterred by a couple of drama professionals who flatly told him to consider another line of work, Keleghan persevered through adversity and perversity – his first couple of film roles had him in drag – until he mustered the pluck to shoot for the big time, heading to Los Angeles in 1991.

There, he picked up spots on shows like Cheers, Murphy Brown, General Hospital and, of course, Seinfeld, where he played Lloyd, an old high school friend of George who managed to get under his skin in a particularly irksome way (a role he was forced out of by visa problems).

Keleghan shot numerous pilots, working alongside yet-to-be-discovered stars like Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney.

But after four years or so, Keleghan realized La-la Land, and "the way people live down there and the claustrophobic paranoia of the people" was not for him.

"I couldn't stand living there. I had friends that were in the business who hadn't worked in seven years. They were 45-year-old waiters waiting for their break. It was depressing," Keleghan says. "What was it Jerry Seinfeld said? `L.A. is like Vegas, except the losers stay.'"

Keleghan still heads back from time to time to L.A. for "pilot season" – last year's Business Class came very close to being picked up.

But mostly, he's content to work steadily in Canada, live in Toronto with partner Leah Pinsent, and hang out and talk acting with father-in-law Gordon Pinsent.

A proponent of the arts in Canada, Keleghan is unimpressed with the Conservative government's apparent disregard for it.

But he says he's grateful for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "gaffe" during last fall's election campaign in which he suggested "ordinary Canadians" didn't care much about artists.

For the first time, Keleghan said, Harper inadvertently injected Canadian culture into an election campaign in a way the artistic community has tried to do for decades.

"You couldn't think of a more ridiculous thing to say. At the same time, it brought so much attention to the arts," he says.

As for this week's award – which the union bestows in recognition of an actor's body of work – Keleghan said it is in no way a send-off, and he's more than pleased to be in the same company as Paul Gross, Wendy Crewson and father-in-law Gordon Pinsent.

"Hey, Sarah Polley got this award and she's not done," Keleghan says.

ole Tanjola’s Shiloh Signs With Universal Republic

Source: ole majorly indie

(February 18, 2009) NEW YORK: Recent ole tanjola addition and Universal Music Canada recording artist
Shiloh has signed a U.S. deal with Universal Republic, home to artists Cobie Caillat, 3 Doors Down, Amy Winehouse and others.

“I’m thrilled,” said Shiloh about this latest development in her accelerating career.

“It just opens a whole lot of doors for me, and I am excited to be entering the U.S. with an amazing label behind me.”

The 15-year-old Toronto-based singing and songwriting sensation is currently prepping her as-yet-untitled debut album, which contains nine songs co-written by Shiloh and several ole writers.

ole cuts include “Better,” co-written by Shiloh with ole’s JC Smith and Rupert Gayle; “Get To You,” “Missing Existence,” “Strong Enough To Cry,” “You’re Not Alone” - all co-written with Gayle; “The Fight,” co-authored by ole tanjola’s Alonzo; “I Remember,” co-written by Rebecca Everett and Mladen, the self-penned “Ruin Me” and her new single, “Goodbye, You Suck,” co-authored with Rob Wells (Backstreet Boys, Nick Lachey).

Shiloh has already scored a hit with the track “Operator (A Girl Like Me), the No. 2 Best Canadian Selling single.

Shiloh has also accumulated more than 1 million views on MySpace and YouTube.

Universal Republic has offered no release date, but says the album will be delivered to bricks-and-mortar and online retail “in early spring.”

Upon signing Shiloh, Universal Republic President and CEO Monte Lipman remarked:

“Shiloh is a fiery, innovative artist who you remember from that very first impression.

“Her unique presence and remarkable vocal power is sure to captivate U.S. music fans.

“We look forward to a memorable and successful launch, and the entire company joins me in welcoming Shiloh to the Universal Republic family.”

Adds Randy Lennox, President and CEO of Universal Music Canada, who previously signed Shiloh to a worldwide recording deal:

“Shiloh has quickly become one of the most talked about artists in Canada. We’re thrilled to be working alongside Monte, Avery (Lipman, Co-President and COO) and their entire team on one of the most anticipated acts to come out of Canada in some time.”

Daniel Mekinda, Managing Partner, tanjola, said that he and fellow Managing Partner Ivan Berry were excited about Shiloh’s prospects with the Universal team.

“Shiloh is the real deal,” said Mekinda. “She’s a killer singer, songwriter and performer, and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with the team at Universal Republic.

“Shiloh has made a tremendous impact in Canada with Universal Music Canada efforts thus far, and we know she’ll continue to do the same in the U.S. and other territories, especially with the added muscle of Universal Republic behind her.”

Robert Ott, ole Chairman & CEO, says Shiloh offers exciting potential.

“Within minutes of meeting and hearing this special talent, we knew that we wanted to work with Shiloh,” said Ott.

“She is the real article all the way around, performance, voice, personality and I would say most of all as a songwriter beyond her years.

“Add to this the tanjola development team and you can’t help but get excited.”

Born in Abbotsford, B.C., Shiloh first gained attention when she won the 2006 Bounce Showdown - staged by Edmonton CHUM-owned The Bounce - when she was only 13.

Shiloh’s music has already been placed in the hit Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz film What Happens In Vegas, the DVD version of Doctor Doolittle 4 and the CW hit TV series Gossip Girl.

Shiloh’s second Canadian single, the ole tanjola-published “Goodbye, You Suck,” was serviced to radio and video outlets on February 6.

An expected spring release date and title for Shiloh’s debut album will be announced shortly.


about tanjola

tanjola, an ole co-venture, has built a strong roster of songwriters over the past two years. These songwriters have combined to sell millions of albums worldwide and have been the recipient of many song writing and artist awards. These songwriters include: Fontana North/Universal recording artist Dru, Vancouver singer/songwriter Alonzo, Toronto based Juno Award winner Rupert Gayle, multiple award winner and Jacksoul front man Haydain Neale, and most recently Universal Canada/Universal Republic recording artist Shiloh.


about http://www.olemm.com/enewsletter/Images/newsreleaselogo_small.jpg

ole is one of the world’s largest independent, full-service music publishers, with offices in Toronto, Nashville and Los Angeles. Founded by Robert Ott (former VP/GM BMGMP Canada) and Tim Laing (former radio and TV producer and finance executive), ole is now Canada’s largest music publisher. ole boasts a team of 30 experienced industry professionals focused on acquisitions, creative development and worldwide administration. ole has been named the Canadian Country Music Association Music Publishing Company of the Year for 2007 and 2008, the first time in 15 years the honour has gone to an independent publisher.

The ole catalog includes over forty thousand songs and thirty thousand hours of TV music across all genres. ole has completed over $60MM USD in acquisitions over the past four years, including purchases of the Jody Williams Music catalog, Balmur, Keith Follese, Lighthouse, Frank Myers, Dream Warriors, Logrhythm’s Matt Morris titles, Encore, David Tyson, and Marsfilm Music catalogs. ole has also purchased the worldwide music rights for WGBH’s award-winning children’s series Arthur, Amberwood Entertainment’s The Secret World of Benjamin Bear, Rollbots, and sci-fi cult series Lexx, and all of the music in Nelvana’s vast TV/film catalog. Recent purchases include the majority ownership of the WGBH music catalogue and co-ownership of the music rights for CCI Entertainment.

ole is an expert in administrating and sub-publishing music copyrights and has concluded worldwide publishing administration agreements with some of the world’s leading songwriters, publishers and film and television producers. ole is a direct member of SOCAN, ASCAP, BMI, HFA, CMRRA and SESAC. ole leverages considerable industry relationships, board positions and knowledge of key collection issues to enable deep analysis of income trends. This is paired with an aggressive collection policy. For sub-publishing clients ole fields the largest, most sophisticated administrative and creative teams in Canada.

Staff songwriters and composers include: Jack Lenz, Gerald O’Brien, Mark J. Feist, JC Smith, Derek Brin, Rupert Gayle, Tebey, Gilles Godard, Rebecca Everett, Mladen, James Huff, Willie Mack, Kelly Archer, and Roger Springer. ole also administers for songwriters David Kopatz and Dr. Alex Tsisserev of Mad Love Music.

ole co-ventures include Last Gang Publishing, representing artists Mother Mother, O’Luge, Rides Again, Let’s Go To War, Panurge, Murray Yates (Forty Foot Echo), and Steven Dall. Nashville-based co-venture Roots Three Music includes songwriters Chris Thorsteinson, Murray Pulver and Dave Wasyliw of Doc Walker, Bruce Wallace, Steven Lee Olsen, Denny Carr, and Kaci Bolls. ole’s urban co-venture with Tanjola (formerly ib Entertainment) has brought Dru, Alonzo, Haydain Neale, Alex Greggs and Shiloh to the roster. ole has also entered into a co-venture with LA-based Five K Entertainment headed by Victor Murgatroyd, former Vice-President of A&R for j records.

ole songs have appeared in national ad campaigns for Toyota, Sears, The Bay, and Telus as well as televisions series The Sopranos, The Black Donnelly’s, The Hills, Cold Case, Trailer Park Boys, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Whistler, Da Kink In My Hair, and Falcon Beach.

Notable copyrights for ole include the Taylor Swift singles “White Horse”, “Tim McGraw,” “Picture To Burn” and the iTunes No. 1 Selling Country Song of 2007 “Teardrops On My Guitar”, Kelly Clarkson’s Billboard #1 single “Miss Independent”, “Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Aguilera and Lil’ Kim, “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles, Craig Morgan’s “That’s What I Love About Sunday” (2005 Billboard Country Song of the Year), “Shoes” by Shania Twain (from the album Music Inspired by Desperate Housewives), Sean Paul’s “Change the Game”, Trace Adkins’ “High”, “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner, and “It Was Me” by George Strait. Recent ole cuts include “I’m Already There” by Westlife, “After Tonight” by Justin Nozuka, “Once In A While” by Akon, Kristy Lee Cook’s “15 Minutes Of Shame”, “Another Pot O’ Tea” by Anne Murray/Emmylou Harris, “You Got Me Runnin” performed by Doman + Gooding and written by Dru and Rupert Gayle, “Streetlights” performed by Kevin Borg and written by Steven Lee Olsen, “Lies” performed by Martina McBride and written by Gerald O’Brien, “Goodbye You Suck” by Shiloh and five songs on the latest Road Hammers album.

ole is committed to being the best and most innovative global destination for world-class songwriters, composers, and management talent, and the first choice music source for creators in all media.



India.Arie Refreshes Her Soul On New CD, 'Testimony, Vol. 2'

Source:  Canadian Press

(February 12, 2009) NEW YORK — When India.Arie debuted in 2001 with "Acoustic Soul," a CD brimming with messages about self-worth, inner-beauty and positivity, she was seen by many as a strong, self-assured musician who was impervious to the more vain and superficial pitfalls of celebrity.

Not really.

The 33-year-old singer says people misinterpreted her image as a "role model" and she struggled with her own insecurities.

She's taking a new approach with her fourth studio CD, "Testimony, Vol. 2: Love & Politics," released this week.

The Grammy-winner hopes to expand outside the R&B/soul genre to a more world music sound with her new disc. She travelled alone to
Hawaii for 10 days to refresh her spirit, and that's where she wrote most of the album's songs.

AP: It's been three years since your last release. How'd you prepare yourself for a new album again?

India.Arie: It's funny because you know how everybody watches TV, everybody reads magazines, all of us, and you constantly (see) there's (one) or two or three female artists who talk about, "I had another breakdown, I had to take a little break. I was working so hard I almost had another breakdown." ... It's really a common experience as a woman in the music industry because we're wired to be emotional, so if you have these things that are kind of like assaulting emotionally over a long period of time, your emotional body gets kind of worn out, you get tired. It's not a tired that sleep fixes, it's tired that you have to go home and fix. That's where I was.

AP: Can you talk about your new CD?

India.Arie: I always considered myself a world music artist. With the production of this album, I made a world music album, all kinds of sounds, all kinds of guest appearances, all kinds of different people from different cultures. ... It really is my interpretation of world music. And also lyrically, just talking about more than just my world, my internal world, which is what I normally like to talk about ... (and) addressing my opinion about what's going on in the world.

AP: What sparked this kind of sound and approach?

India.Arie: What helped me want to expand the subject matter and the sound of this album is because I'm expanding as a person. Just like in my everyday, personal life growing up, one of my biggest lessons of the last 10 years has been learning how to speak my mind, speak up, have hard conversations with people, say things I want to say even though I know people might not like it. Be myself, even though I know some people around me might not like it. Really, the last three years that lesson was super-intensified.

AP: How do you feel compared to the early days of your career?

India.Arie: I think when I first came out the image that people had of me was that I was a person comfortable in my skin, particularly because (of) the song "Video." But one thing that people didn't understand about the song "Video" or about me as an artist was that my songs for the most part are affirmations. So I'm writing these songs about who I want to be, how I want to see the world and what I want to see humanity be. That's why a lot of people say it's too positive because I'm not talking about what's really going on in the world - but I'm not CNN, I'm a songwriter.

On the Net: http://www.indiaarie.com

INDIA.ARIE is known and cherished by fans and fellow musicians as a poet, a songwriter, a daughter, a producer, a musician, a sister, a singer, an advocate, a friend and a philanthropist -- but she is possibly best known for the love in her music that has inspired and motivated people worldwide.

From the moment that her very first single “Video,” and her multi-platinum debut album Acoustic Soul were released in 2001, India's music established an extraordinary bond of trust, affection and communication with her followers. Her sophomore release the platinum selling Voyage to India in 2002 was hailed worldwide by critics. The New York Times called it “music that only further enhances her reputation as an artist of substance; centering on her acoustic guitar and confident but restrained vocals, it recalls such soul masters as Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack.” In 2006 she released her No. 1 charting album Testimony: Vol.1, Love & Relationship, a beautiful collection of songs treasured by fans for its intimate, heart-tugging portrait of a lover’s parting and its after-ache.

Although they’ve been understated, the politics of India.Arie’s Grammy-honoured music have also been on open display ever since Oprah Winfrey pointedly thanked her for writing the sentiment “I may not be built like a supermodel/But I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally” – a declaration of independence from a set agenda that, eight years later, remains as politically definitive as any protest song ever written. Winfrey also singled out the Testimony: Vol. 1 track “There’s Hope” as “music that really stimulates and revives the soul,” and India’s music was known to be heard on campaign buses and planes, rallies and fundraisers during the historic Presidential run of Barack Obama.   

“I want people to hear my music for a long time,” says India, “for this generation to say decades from now: ‘This still says what I think’ and girls who are 11 now, who were 1 when I wrote ‘Video,’ can say, ‘That’s how I feel.’” A broadening awareness of her own calling and of our collective worldwide dialogue is central to Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics (Soulbird Music/Universal Republic/Universal Music Canada), the fourth studio album by India.Arie. Years after completing her first multi-platinum album, “I feel my music is even more in accordance with where people are. Everybody’s looking for ways to feel better -- the world is so unpredictable, people are looking inside themselves to ask what’s meaningful in life. My music has always addressed this, and now it’s so much in vibrational accordance with what people are thinking.”

India.Arie has stood often with her peers in the top echelon of entertainment as an activist for global health and human dignity. As a U.S. Ambassador for UNICEF, she traveled to Africa several times to address the AIDS crisis, and filmed the VH-1 documentary Tracking the Monster: Ashley Judd & India.Arie Confront Aids in Africa. “I Am Not My Hair” was central to Lifetime Television’s recent “Stop Breast Cancer for Life” public awareness campaign, “Beautiful Flower” was used for fund-raising for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, “She Is” was created for the documentary on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf entitled Iron Ladies of Liberia, and “What About the Child” has been used in conjunction with various UNICEF events.

Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics
is, as always, a searching, insightful, honest and creatively accomplished expression of inner emotions, and the interconnectedness of all of us. India adds that it’s a reflection of changes – hers and ours, too. “There’s nothing you can do or say that’s separate from other people any more,” she observes. “Now you can have the whole world in your laptop, you are a part of the world instantaneously. Laying things on the table for conversation, that’s politics. Politics is what happens when a group of people get together, and section themselves off. A lot of my album is about how we define and separate ourselves. I know from traveling around the world that people are now talking about all these different things. That’s what the album is about.”

Two tracks from the album were released digitally in advance of its full release: the jazz-flavoured melodic bubbler “Chocolate High," featuring long-time friend Musiq Soulchild, and the romantic, exuberant "Therapy," featuring Jamaican roots artist Gramps Morgan, co-written and co-produced by emerging artist Novel, who previously collaborated with India on “Purify Me.”

India.Arie doesn’t hesitate to point out that the lush, diverse and tasty album arrangements and clarity of its sound reflect a new breakthrough in her craft as a producer: “This is the first album that really represents me vocally, lyrically, sonically. In my last album, my goal was to express the emotion and the vision musically, along with the words. I accomplished that on this album. It’s an unhindered expression.”  Based on rhythm tracks cut live with her band over a month of sessions, India’s love of performance also shines through every song, and she gives album co-producer Dru Castro credit for a smooth creative process that extended through a solid year of post-production on the individual songs. “Collaboration, manifesting what I heard in my head really quickly, doing it all exactly and fully -- that was fun, and my best studio experience ever.”

The second volume of Testimony, she notes, was originally planned with songs that hadn’t fit conceptually into Love & Relationship – but a chance meeting with Turkish icon Sezan Aksu in New York “changed the vision of what I can do. It made me just say: Do what I want to do, no matter the consequences. I went to Hawaii the next month, visualized the album, started writing songs.”

The album’s spiritual and emotional core can be found in the romantic and compassionate songs “He Heals Me,” “River Rise,” “The Cure,” featuring Sezen Aksu’s vocal, and “Better Way,” featuring roots-music superstar Keb Mo, India says. “Exactly a year later, I look at those songs and know they came out of that travel. I wrote ten songs in ten days in Hawaii, and when I came back, that inspiration was still so alive, I wrote five more.” She adds: “‘Ghetto’ and ‘Yellow’ I started with Shannon Sanders while we were touring Acoustic Soul, and I was surprised at how much new life was breathed into them. I love these songs, and I love ‘Pearls,’ (India’s revival of the Sade fan favourite, featuring the brilliant Ivory Coast multi-talent Dobet Gnahoré).”

“These songs symbolize being more empowered, honouring feelings more. Not fitting in anyone’s box anymore. This album sounds like me, now, not trying to live something or capture something. It’s just now. A sonic representation of who I am.” Other album collaborators include hip-hop pioneer M.C. Lyte on “Psalms 23,” acclaimed jazz original Rachelle Ferrell, co-writer of “Better Way,” and India’s mother, stylist and all-around inspiration Simpson, co-writer of “Long Goodbye” and “A Beautiful Day,” a track originally composed on the spot during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, with GMA co-host Robin Roberts.

The creative strength and satisfaction underlying Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics also reflects India’s experience of a world that’s becoming closer to us all. ”I always looked at myself as a world music artist -- even when I was playing coffee houses in college,” she reflects. “I was always unsatisfied to be filed under urban, only. This is the first world music album that I’ve made. It addresses politics in a way that people don’t expect. One of the biggest political statements it makes is that there’s a new definition of what it means to be part of the world -- to have an album that involves Musiq, Dobet, Sezen, Keb Mo, Lyte, Gramps, doing things together without being in the same place with them, and what it means for all these people to sing songs together.”

INDIA.ARIE has sold over 8 million albums worldwide, including the double-platinum Acoustic Soul, the platinum Voyage to India and her number one album Testimony: Vol.1, Life & Relationship. Her honours include 17 Grammy nominations, 2 Grammy Awards, 4 NAACP Image Awards, and various awards from BET, Billboard, MTV, VH-1, Vogue, Essence, and others. Her songs have appeared in such films as Sex and the City, The Secret Life of Bees, A Soldier’s Story, Radio, A Shark’s Tale and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Arie launched her own label, Soulbird Music, in June 2008 through Universal Republic, with the release of singer-songwriter Anthony David's album Acey Deucy and the Grammy-nominated single "Words," a duet with Arie.

Reviews Are In For India.Arie's New CD

Source: Giant Step /GiantStep.net

(February 17, 2009) "One of the most determinedly virtuous songwriters in R&B or pop, India.Arie strives to make faith, goodness and positive thinking seductive...As usual most of the songs feature India.Arie's acoustic guitar and her forthright but still girlish voice, with its Stevie Wonder phrasing." -- The New York Times

"Whether dealing with heartache, revelling in newfound love or pondering the human condition, her songs resound with keen insight and warm passion. It gives her Testimony a ring of truth." -- USA TODAY

*The world renowned, award-winning singer/songwriter India.Arie chronicles the next chapter in the series on Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics.

India has received 16 Grammy nominations, 2 Grammy awards, 3 NAACP Image Awards, along with awards from BET, Billboard Music, MTV, VH1, Essence Magazine and others since coming onto the national music scene in 2001 with her debut, Acoustic Soul.

That album, along with Voyage To India and the more personally expressive Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, have all been received critical acclaim nationwide and made her a respectable and noted artist in a very short amount of time.

The new album from India.Arie, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics, includes the singles "Chocolate High," featuring a duet with Musiq Soulchild, and "Therapy," featuring reggae recording artist Gramps Morgan. On "Chocolate High," India.Arie indulges in the deliciously rich metaphor for love, while on "Ghetto" she expresses her deepest sorrows for the poor.

Covering Sade's classic "Pearls" with African singer Dobet Gnahore, India.Arie's eclectic collaborations also include Turkish pop artist Sezen Aksu ("The Cure"), Terrell Carter ("Yellow") and MC Lyte ("Psalms 23").

With unabashed optimism and elegant lyrical phrasings, Testimony: Vol. 2 is India.Arie's message of hope in 2009


Party Goes On For Student Travelers

Source: www.thestar.com - Megan K. Scott,
The Associated Press

(February 03, 2009) NEW YORK - College students don't seem to be planning staycations for spring break.

Bookings to popular beach destinations are strong, according to travel companies, and volunteering vacations continue to gain momentum.

Here's how students will be spending their break.

International beaches: Cancun and Jamaica are top destinations for spring breakers, according to Patrick Evans of STA Travel. Some 30,000 revellers are expected to visit the beach spot in Mexico this year. The same number came to Cancun last year, according to Quintana Roo's Tourism Office.

Also popular is Acapulco, Mexico, according to Chute. Acapulco has some of the hottest night clubs, and many are open all night, he said.

Scott Schechter, 22, a Boston University senior, said he was looking for that big-party atmosphere. "Generally, when I think of spring break, most of the nice spring break locations that aren't trans-Atlantic would be in Mexico," he said. "The idea of travelling outside the country makes it a little more exciting."

Perhaps because of the economy, more students are choosing the Party Bus this year, said Evans. The bus departs from locations in California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, to Mazatlan, Mexico. Prices for the seven-night trip (two nights on the bus), start at US$300 per person on StudentCity.com.

Besides Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are the most popular international destinations for people booking through Travelocity, according to Genevieve Shaw Brown, senior editor.

But she said both have slipped in overall popularity from last year, which suggests people are vacationing closer to home.

Adventure: Demand for trips to Asia and Australia is up, according to Atle Skalleberg of StudentUniverse.com. And France, Italy, Spain, and U.K. remain popular too, he said.

"The exchange rate is still not great for Americans, but it is a lot better and that seems to be enough," he said. "The other reason is we have had some pretty competitive pricing to Europe this year."

Also popular this spring break are ski trips to Colorado, said Debbie Gibb of the Student and Youth Travel Association.

Jennifer Rudolph, spokesperson for Colorado Ski Country USA, said resorts are offering more creative deals this year because of the economy. Colorado has also experienced near-record snow fall this season.

Domestic: Panama City Beach, Fla. remains a top destination for the college crowd, according to Chute. Once again the beach hosts mtvU's Spring Break party March 8-21. The beach's north Florida location makes it accessible for road trips, he said.

Hotel bookings are strong, according to Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau. But he said it's too early to determine if the economy has had a negative impact, so Panama City Beach is doing some aggressive marketing.

"In addition to college students, the month of April, we're really gearing out activities and marketing to families," he said.

The top three spring break destinations based on Travelocity bookings are Las Vegas, Orlando and South Florida. Las Vegas was No. 3 last year. Also making the top 10 this year was Washington, D.C. Travelocity does not separate bookings by families and students.

In Vegas, average daily hotel rates are down 28 per cent, said Travelocity's Brown.

"So that combined with the fact that there are deals galore, free nights, two-for-one show tickets, Las Vegas is going to be more popular this year than last," she said.

Also popular this year are South Beach in Miami and South Padre Island, Texas, according to Gibb.

Alternative spring break: It's been more than three years since Katrina, but spring break volunteering is growing exponentially, according to Andrea Hutchinson, of Adventures in Travel Expo.

"We're farther away from Katrina, but President Obama was just elected," said Steven Roy Goodman, educational consultant. "There has been a real resurgence of a spirit of service."

Intrepid Travel in Canada has set up almost 40 trips that are 100 per cent carbon offset, and volunteering trips have gained sales momentum in the past year, according to Christian Wolters, marketing manager.

The great thing about alternative spring breaks is students can solicit donations, said Goodman.

Anna Rice, 19, a sophomore at Northeastern, hit up friends and family members to help with the cost of her trip to New Orleans. She is going to be rebuilding an animal shelter.

"I didn't have a lot of money and I wanted to go away for spring break," she said. "It should be fun to do community service and I like animals."

Jimmy Camacho, 26, a senior at San Diego State, will be working in Honduras to bring clean water access to a village. This is his second volunteer trip there.

About 40 students are going, and many of them are interested in the Peace Corps, he said.

"I think this program was attractive in that it's only a week and not a two-year commitment," he said. "It gives you work experience while allowing you to experience a new country and make a lot of new friends."

Evans said Dominican Republic and Costa Rica are also drawing interest for volunteer opportunities.

Cruises: Cruise lines in general do not market to college students, according to Heidi Allison-Shane, spokesperson for CruiseCompete.com. But that doesn't stop college kids from setting sail.

Chute said cruises to the Bahamas are popular this year. Spring breakers drive to Fort Lauderdale and take a Discovery cruise ship to Freeport, where they spend four nights.

Cameron Pittman, 21, a senior at Vanderbilt, said it's tradition for the seniors in his fraternity to take a cruise. About 25 of them are going to the Caribbean with Norwegian Cruise Line, departing from New Orleans. Other groups on campus are taking the same seven-day cruise, he said.

Pittman has gone to Panama City Beach and Destin, Fla., for previous spring breaks, which he said were "kind of boring." There's more to do on a cruise, he said.

"I can't wait," he said. "Everybody can't wait. It's going to be a lot of fun."


Béatrice Martin : The Indie It-Girl And A Youtube Baby

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(February 11, 2009) ‘Yeah, it's insane.”

That's all 19-year-old Montreal singer-songwriter
Béatrice Martin can say to describe what has happened over the past few days.

The stars aligned. Fate smiled. But really, her leap to fame outside Quebec was propelled by two unlikely sources: Good Morning America and Hollywood gossip hound Perez Hilton.

Here's what happened.

Photographer Francis Vachon (whose website says he's Quebec City-based) made a time-lapse video of his baby son playing in the dining room. He happened to set the video to Ensemble, an infectiously bouncy song by Martin, who records and performs under the stage name Coeur de Pirate. Her music is indie, but she straddles the mainstream and has appeared in Elle magazine and other press.

Vachon's sped-up video of his nine-month-old boy has gone viral on YouTube since he posted it nearly three weeks ago, with hundreds of thousands of views – more publicity than Martin's Montreal-based indie label Dare To Care could ever hope for.

“I had nothing to do with it,” Martin said yesterday by phone from Montreal. Vachon has since been in contact with Martin's people. “He was very grateful, and we were very grateful. It really was a good deal for us because that helped get us seen on iTunes in America and Canada.”

Then Good Morning America ran a segment about the video. Martin didn't actually appear on the show herself, but there was her music playing to an entirely new North American audience. Then midday Monday, Perez Hilton posted an unexpected endorsement for Martin's French-language chansons and included a snippet of her song Comme des Enfants: “We have no idea what she is saying, but this is lovely!” Hilton enthused.

And even though he might not be known as an arbiter of taste, don't underestimate the effect his praise of Feist had on introducing that singer to an ever-growing audience.

Now for the big qualifier to this tale of chance. While Martin had no involvement with the viral video, Hilton or Good Morning America, things were still progressing quickly for the singer's career. She had already sold her song Ensemble for use in an upcoming television commercial in Quebec for the telecom company Telus. (This also puts Martin in good company with Feist, whose songs are on the soundtracks for a number of ads.)

“It has pretty much all happened all this week and last week. So I'm a little overwhelmed,” Martin says.

She had already sold 22,000 copies of her debut album Coeur de Pirate, a highly respectable number in the Quebec market, since it went on sale in September. It is also nominated for a Juno award for best francophone album, and she has signed a record deal in France. But does she now plan to push into the anglo market?

“When it comes to my kind of music, lyrics are very important. It's more a dérivé of French chansons. So I guess it's going to be kind of hard for me to make it in the rest of Canada. But if I ever start singing in English, for sure.”

Brad Paisley Leads Country Music Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - John Gerome,
The Associated Press

(February 11, 2009) NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Brad Paisley leads all finalists for the Academy of Country Music Awards with six nominations, but the biggest surprise might be former Trick Pony singer Heidi Newfield's five nods.

Paisley was nominated Wednesday for entertainer of the year and male vocalist, an honour he won last year. He's also a finalist for record, song and video of the year for "Waitin' on a Woman," and for vocal event of the year for "Start a Band" with Keith Urban.

Newfield released her solo debut, "What Am I Waiting For,'' last August after 10 years with Trick Pony. She's nominated in five categories, including song of the year and video of the year for ``Johnny and June," an ode to the late Johnny and June Carter Cash.

"My manager called and woke me up this morning and said 'Turn your TV on' ... My husband and I watched the nominations with teary eyes and total elation," said Newfield, who won a 2001 ACM Award for top new group with Trick Pony. "The support and excitement for me and this record has really blown me away.''

The Academy of Country Music Awards air on CBS from Las Vegas on April 5.

Kenny Chesney, the ACM's entertainer of the year four years running, received four nominations, including another in the coveted entertainer category. A fifth straight win would tie him with Alabama for the most consecutive entertainer trophies.

George Strait and Jamey Johnson also received four nominations apiece. Johnson, a relative newcomer, is up for top new male vocalist, as well as single record of the year and song of the year for his hit "In Color." This is the first time Johnson has been nominated as an artist. He won song of the year honours in 2006 for co-writing Strait's "Give It Away.''

Strait is again in the running for song of the year, this time for "I Saw God Today." The superstar's other nominations are for entertainer, top male vocalist and video of the year.

For the first time in her career, Carrie Underwood is nominated for entertainer of the year. Historically, women don't get nominated too often in this category. If she wins, she would become the just the seventh female to take the award, putting her alongside Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and, most recently, the Dixie Chicks in 2000.

Underwood is also up for female vocalist, which she's won the last two years.

Urban got three nominations: entertainer of the year, top male vocalist and vocal event of the year for "Start a Band.''

Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, James Otto, Jake Owen, Taylor Swift and Sugarland each received two nominations.

Several categories will be opened up to interactive fan voting, including entertainer of the year for the second time. Last year's winner, Chesney, took issue with allowing fans to choose the show's top honour instead of ACM members, saying the method amounted to ``complete disrespect" of the artists because it turned the award ``into a sweepstakes to see who can push people's buttons the hardest on the Internet.''

Online voting will begin Friday on GACTV.com.

Jessica Simpson, LeAnn Rimes, Kellie Pickler and Julianne Hough read the nominations live Wednesday during CBS' The Early Show broadcast.

Dancing with the Stars champ Hough is nominated for top new female vocalist, an honour she says caps "an amazing year and a half" in which she's toured with Paisley and Strait and had a hit song with "That Song in My Head.''

"I'm definitely very fortunate," she said. "Everybody has been so welcoming.''

Rimes will receive the ACM/Home Depot Humanitarian Award for her community service and charitable giving.

Gold Dust Woman Justifies The High Price Of A Fleetwood Mac Concert

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(February 11, 2009) “We wish we didn't have to charge anything,” says Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac singer. “We wish we could go out and play. That's what we do – we're performance artists.”

Rock on, gold dust woman. During a teleconference Tuesday, Nicks and her fellow Mac mates were chatting up their upcoming North American tour (which kicks off March 1 in Pittsburgh, with dates in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver to follow) when the subject of ticket prices came up. Fleetwood Mac, legendary for its rock-star indulgences in its prime, charge up to $149.50 for top seats in Toronto.

“The price of life in general is a gazillion dollars more than it was four years ago,” reasoned Nicks, not an economist. The British/Californian band's most recent tour wrapped up in 2004. “Our emotions are about trying to do this in the best way that makes sense for our audience,” chimed in drummer Mick Fleetwood, “and in a way that we can get to our audience.”

Ticket prices and ticket distribution are a touchy subject these days. A $510-million Canadian class-action suit filed this week alleges that Ticketmaster and subsidiary TicketsNow.com are conspiring to hold seats from the public and reselling the tickets at a higher prices – seemingly a violation of anti-scalping laws

Those looking for Fleetwood Mac seats for the Air Canada Centre show on Ticketmaster.ca are able to pay face value, but also are offered “Official Platinum Seats” at the site's Marketplace, where concertgoers can purchase premium seats at inflated values – as much as $800 a ticket.

The band is represented by Irving Azoff, who also happens to be chief executive officer of Ticketmaster Entertainment, and will become executive chairman of Live Nation Entertainment if the just-announced merger of Ticketmaster and concert promoters Live Nation goes through. Asked about any unsavoury ticket-selling practices involving Fleetwood Mac, Nicks promised she would be “making phone calls” on the matter.

Nicks went to say that tour's “Unleashed” title refers to the unleashing of the band's furies “back into the universe.” Asked if the public would be able to handle all the pent-up rage, Nicks answered in the affirmative, but cautioned that fans might need to bring their “armour.”

That, and their gold card.

For Ivan Ilic, Piano Is A Way Of Life

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

(February 12, 2009) For so many artists, vocation is not a life choice as much as a way of life.

Serbian-American pianist
Ivan Ilic is a perfect example. The 30-year-old was going to study mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. But, finding himself alone and free when he entered university at age 17, "I realized I could do anything I wanted, so I found myself playing piano all day," says the adopted Parisian in a phone interview.

He had taken piano lessons, "like many middle-class kids do." He also participated in sports after school. Music was "one of those activities, like the others."

At Berkeley, Ilic discovered he could get good marks without attending classes, worked at the piano every day and managed to squeeze in liberal arts courses. He ended up with two degrees – one in mathematics, the other in music – and a fellowship to study piano at the famed Conservatoire de Paris.

Now, barely a decade later, Ilic is still in Paris, has released a CD of Préludes by Claude Debussy and gives solo recitals in France, England and North America.

Ilic arrives for his Toronto debut next week, with a recital at Classical 96.3 FM on Tuesday afternoon, and another at the Glenn Gould Studio a week from today.

The Thursday program will include six of Debussy's 24 Préludes and two Op. 10 Ballades by Johannes Brahms. There will also be Canadian content, most notably the premiere of Toccata, commissioned from Toronto composer Brian Current, and two pieces by John Metcalf.

The program starts with Afterglow, a recent composition by American Keeril Makan. Ilic's choice of opening a program with this meditative, tonal piece provides a window into his keen grasp of concert dynamics.

Even on his Debussy CD, Ilic has rearranged the order of the Preludes to heighten the tension and release.

"When you're a performer and play these pieces every night, you notice where the audience coughs, when they get restless and when they hold their breath," says Ilic. Like an actor who knows how to work a script, Ilic uses these observations to mould the music.

Ilic will use the Makan piece as a warm-up for the intensely abstract, impressionist sounds of Debussy.

"Audiences tend to be anxious when they first hear Afterglow," Ilic explains. "But it works with the harmonics of the piano in such a way that the audience listens to the rest of the program differently."

Put another way, "At first, they're uncomfortable, then they reach a Zen-like state."

It's not clear that Ilic himself knows much about Zen-like states. Part control freak, part explorer, he has learned the art of sound recording and editing as well as managing a concert career.

Ilic's tastes are eclectic, from jazz to reading fiction. He'll pop into a museum on a whim. It helps form a well-rounded aesthetic.

"I was just walking down the street and saw this beautiful building," he says of the previous day spent in Bordeaux. "It was the [Musée national des douanes], the museum of tariffs. It's not the sort of place that I'd ever think to visit, but I went in, and it was a fascinating lesson in French history."

Ilic grew up in California, spent summers with his grandparents in Serbia and now lives in Paris. "As a multicultural person, I look outwards for nourishment," he says.

Then he turns around and feeds this life back into the music.

Just the facts
WHO: Ivan Ilic

WHEN: Feb. 19, 8 p.m. (Brian Current chats at 7:30 p.m.)

WHERE: Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

TICKETS: $25-$30 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com

Jim Cuddy Finds Pain A 'Clarifying Thing'

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

(February 14, 2009) "I always write from the wounded side of love."

That's not the sort of comment you expect to hear from
Jim Cuddy, who's normally known as the upbeat side of Blue Rodeo. (Greg Keelor was long ago given the title "Chairman of the Dark Days.")

But Cuddy, who's performing with The Jim Cuddy Band tonight at Massey Hall, is ultimately the perfect Valentine's Day troubadour: bitter and sweet entwined in a fabric so tightly woven it's hard to pull them apart.

Sure, everyone knows that he's been happily linked with actor Rena Polley for the past 30 years, and that their three-children-successful marriage is one of the miracles of modern pop music.

But that doesn't mean there haven't been times before and after he met her that didn't tug at Cuddy's soul and leave some painful emotional scar tissue he managed to put to fine creative use further on down the road.

When quoted a line from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks – "without a hurt, the heart is hollow" – he nods sagely. "That's just how it is."

Looking back on his youth, he admits that "for a long time in my life, I liked girls who were bad for me." He recalls one in particular. "Her name was Nancy Walker, she had the best handwriting in the class, while my penmanship was, and continues to be, horrendous."

His Valentine's Day concert tonight reminds him of those times in school when "it was a crushing experience to see people leaving or not leaving valentines on your desk. And when the one you loved passed you by, it broke your heart."

He sits quietly, eyes in the past, remembering the pain. "It took me a long time to get over that. Liking the perfect girl, loving an image and she didn't love you back."

By the time he got to Queen's University, Cuddy had begun writing his own music and was looking for mentors to improve his guitar playing. "There was one guy, Walter Macnee, who I swear was the best guitarist I had ever heard. I pursued him for lessons, but he finally turned his back on it all. He's now president of MasterCard for the Americas."

Even without Macnee's guidance, Cuddy found his way and learned that "girls were very sympathetic to music. I was off to the races."

At this point came his great traumatic love, whom he prefers to leave nameless. "She had been someone else's girlfriend," he recalls, "but I fell for her hard. I had my heart so severely broken by loving somebody who didn't love me back. But I learned something.

"Pain is the most clarifying thing. Joy can be very unfocused, but pain embodies everything inside of you."

A few years after that, Cuddy met his wife, and he recalls the moment with a Zen-like clarity more than 30 years later. "It was 1978, one day just before reading week at Queen's, and I was jogging. This girl went running by me in the other direction and – bam! – I was smitten. She had a huge smile and curly hair. I found out who she was and asked her out on a date. She was leaving town, but she met me the next day for breakfast and we talked for hours. For the first time in my life, it crossed my mind that I could spend my life with one woman."

In 2008, in fact, Cuddy, on tour, found himself in Kingston at just that time of year and went to Morrison's, the greasy spoon where they had met years before. He ate a solitary breakfast and told the waitress he had met his wife there 30 years before. "That's sweet, honey," was her response.

But Cuddy is the first to admit that it hasn't been all sunshine and roses for the past three decades.

"When Blue Rodeo began to break big," he admits, "it caused a major adjustment in our lives. We started out as equals; I was playing a bar band and she was a working actress.

"But when the opportunities come, you can't not take them, and I found myself on the road an awful lot of the time. I started to think that she didn't want to lead the life we were leading. And we had two kids by that time, which made it really tough."

What did they do? "We worked it out. If you have a total commitment to a relationship, that's what you do."

Age is bringing another side of reflection to Cuddy's thoughts on relationships. A few years ago, he wrote the poignant "Pull Me Through" when his aunt died, offering his feelings on what happens to someone when their long-term partner passes on.

But now, Cuddy is starting to see those same shadows on his own personal horizon. Two of his kids have left home and the 53-year-old artist, although in excellent shape, describes this decade as "a real reckoning, an acceptance of alterations in the body that are difficult to take. The thought of turning 60 scares me more than anything else ever has before."

At the same time, Cuddy says he's in the right profession for aging gracefully. "I always looked ahead to Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. I've always appreciated that I'm in a profession that won't put you out to pasture just because you're getting old."

Just the facts

WHO: The Jim Cuddy Band

WHERE: Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

WHEN: Tonight at 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $29.50-$49.50 at

Mariza : Return Of The Fado Queen

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Goddard

(February 12, 2009) A few things you need to know about Mariza, one of the world's great singers.

Claim to Fame: The foremost star of Portuguese fado. Since her first international release in 2001, she has taken the music worldwide and led a revival among Lisbon's youth.

Stage presence: At 35, she is unconventionally beautiful, with a young, girlish face and boyishly cut white-blonde hair.

New album: Terra. One track features Tito Paris, a renowned Cape Verde singer and guitarist whose restaurant, Casa da Morna, lies in Mariza's Lisbon neighbourhood.

Street cred: Mariza sprang from humble beginnings, as did Amália Rodrigues, who was discovered while selling apples in the street and died in 1999 as fado's greatest star.

Childhood: Born in the capital of Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony. Her father was Portuguese, her mother African. When Mariza was 3, the family moved to Lisbon, where her father took over a small taverna and hired fado musicians on weekends for entertainment.

Testimonial: "An amazing voice, so natural," Spanish film director Carlos Saura said of the singer's abilities after his film Fados opened at the Toronto International Film Festival two years ago. "Such elegance. She doesn't seem to make an effort."

Mariza appears at Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., tomorrow night at 8. Only a few seats left. Go to masseyhall.com or call 416-872-4255.

Norman Connors Is Back With 'Star Power'

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(February 12, 2009) *The man that brought “Quiet Storm” and “You are my Starship” to the airwaves, Norman Connors, is back with a powerful album release on his “indie” label Star Ship Records in partnership with Shanachie Entertainment. The CD titled “Star Power” features the vocals of Peabo Bryson, Howard Hewitt and Christopher Williams, and musician help from Bobby Lyle and Ray Parker, Jr.

 “I was working on this project for three years,” Norman points out. “I figured if you are a real star you have power. Just about all my friends are stars and feel blessed.”

Connors goes on to say, “My friends are writers, musicians, and singers. Peabo is one of the great voices.”

Grammy Award winning Peabo sings one of Norman’s classic songs, “You are my Starship,” like only Peabo can sing it. Guitarist Ray Parker Jr. makes his instrument sing Michael Jackson’s 1979 hit, “Rock with You.” One of Norman Connors recording artists Danny Boy can be heard on “You take my Breath Away.” Howard Hewitt and another Connor’s artist, Antoinette Manganas, sing a duet on “Where do we go from here.” Antoinette can also be heard on a funky version of “Sweetest Taboo” and the piano driven “Walk on by.” Keyboardist Bobby Lyle and vocalist Christopher Williams are on the finger popping “Used to be."

“I want to expose Norman Connors,” he said about this album.

Connors was 16 when he performed with legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in New York as a drummer. In 1972 in his late teens he became a producer and discovered (and worked with) Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofil, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Carne. Norman went on to become a multi-platinum producer and instrumentalist. In 1976 he teamed up with Michael Henderson – who teams with him on this project – and created his signature song, “You are my Starship.”

“I did about 30-40 concerts this year,” Norman said when asked what he has been doing. “I feel like I am not just a producer and songwriter, but the ambassador of music. I am really for putting music back into schools.”

For those who are not familiar with Norman Connors listen to the piano driven “Stormin’ Norman” on the “Star Power” CD. For those who are fans and know Connors work, this CD is a perfect gift for you and your loved one, especially since it is released February 14, 2009 on Valentine’s Day.

Sheila Jordan : `I'm Just A Messenger Of The Music'

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

(February 12, 2009) The celebration of Sheila Jordan's 80th birthday last fall, which included a weeklong series of shows at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in New York, was far from a denouement. The award-winning vocalist still performs more than 100 concerts annually, most often in duo with long-time collaborator bassist Cameron Brown. Noted as an imaginative scat singer, she's in town this weekend for a special appearance at Chalkers Pub in a trio with local players.

Raised in a poverty-stricken coal-mining town in Pennsylvania where, she recalled, "we sang to keep sane," Jordan honed her chops in Detroit. She was famously inspired and mentored by Charlie Parker; her short-lived marriage to his piano player Duke Jordan, the story goes, was an effort to stay close to Bird's music.

The Star spoke with the veteran bebopper by phone from her farm in upstate New York.

Q: There's been a lot of fuss about you becoming an octogenarian. Had enough?

A: No. I'm glad I'm still alive at 80 and still singing and touring. I worked very hard from the time I was a kid, a teenager, with this music. I'm just glad to still be able to do it and encourage other young singers and middle-age singers to keep the music going. That's what my purpose is. I never thought of myself as a diva, nor do I want to. I'm just a messenger of the music and that's what I want to do, whether I sing it, teach it, or just go out and support it.

Q: How do you keep your voice in shape?

A: I don't smoke and I don't drink. And I don't dwell on `Am I going to lose my voice, is it going to go out on me?' Stuff happens. Sometimes you have a cold or whatever. I just pray and try not to get uptight about that, because I don't have the big booming voice to begin with and I was never classically trained. My voice is a small voice, but I have a head full of improvisation. When I warm up is when I go to sound check. I'd rather warm up with a song than do-re-mi and all the scales.

Q: How do you see your role with singers that you teach?

A: To help them get in touch with their emotions, their listening and their time. The three main ingredients for jazz are: what's attached to your head, your ears; what beats in your chest, your heart; and what taps in your foot. Time is of the essence in jazz. I'd rather have great timing than perfect pitch.

Q: Don't you have a Canadian connection?

A: My father was Canadian, but I didn't really know him that well. I used that when the United States was so brought down by our government. I'd just say `I'm Canadian,' which wasn't lying because I didn't say I lived in Canada.

Q: You're known for being pretty outspoken. Have you ever gotten in trouble for anything said on stage?

A: A few years ago I was singing in Paris and I dedicated this tune to George Bush – "(I'd Like to Get You on a) Slow Boat to China." There were two U.S. servicemen in the audience and they got up and walked out. They didn't try to beat me up or anything, but they were not happy.

Q: When will you finalize the set list for the Valentine's Day show?

A: Five minutes before. (Laughs). No. Sometime during that day, maybe when I meet up with the other musicians for rehearsal. I'll probably do the thing I wrote called "Ballad for Miles" (from current and 21st album Winter Sunshine), followed by – what else – "My Funny Valentine." It wouldn't be right without doing that tune on Valentine's Day.

Just the facts
WHO: Sheila Jordan with pianist Dave Restivo and bassist Don Thompson

WHEN: Saturday 2 p.m. & 6 p.m.

WHERE: 247 Marlee Ave.

TICKETS: $25 at ticketweb.ca or 1-888-222-6608

Soul Of John Black: Funk, Jazz, Rock, Soulster Bets On ‘Black’

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

(February 18, 2009) *What’s in a name? Soul, funk, jazz, bluesified band The Soul of John Black may not have the answer –- after all, there is no one by that name in the band – but the new disc from the group and frontman guitarist JB a.k.a. John Bigham certainly tells a lot.

In true JB style, as he’s worked with the likes of Dr. Dre, Nikka Costa, Eminem, and Fishbone, the CD, titled, “Black John” is laced with cross-genre tracks. It’s new and old. It’s R&B, rock, blues and jazz. It’s John Black, Black John, and John Bingham.

“John Black is the name of the band. John Bigham is my name. People call me JB, and that’s pretty much it,” the singer explained. “It’s a good band name. It represents the other side of me. It’s an alter ego. When I found this character, I felt like it was coming from an unknown place. It was something that had probably been building since I was a kid in Chicago, just listening to music on Chicago radio.”

The Chicago native followed his musical roots all the way to Los Angeles where his avant-garde style impressed even the late, great jazz legend Miles Davis. He said that a friend of his passed on a mix tape of instrumentals he did to Davis. It was Bingham’s assorted sound that drew Davis in.

“I was really listening to jazz fusion and stuff like that; just funky stuff,” he said. “There was no real style in particular. I don’t consider myself writing in any style. If it’s a style, it’s after I write it. It’s like, ‘What is it?’”

What it is basic and recognizable, but fresh and edgy.

“That’s what it is. That was a conscious effort.”

Bigham’s story begins quite modestly. The guitarist had hob-knobbed with legends and played with some impressive bands, but as he explained, he had no designs on being a lead.

“I wasn’t really trying to be a front man. I just do whatever I need to do,” he said. “My main thing was that I wanted to be a musician. When I decided I wanted to do my own thing, of course I had to step out in front because there is nobody else – there’s me.”

After playing with Fishbone for eight years, Bigham decided to try something new – which he’s since become a pro at.

“That was my longest stint doing anything. I figured it was time for me to do something else. I wrote a few songs and found I could actually sing these songs myself. I decided that the best way to get my songs out there was just to do it myself. So I just started teaching myself to be a performer,” he said.

While his sound attracted a respectable following, record labels wanted to hear more of what Bigham & co gave on stage. Enter the first official record from the Soul of John Black in 2003.

“It did really good. So I said, ‘Why not do another one?’ I’m not really trying to be this big thing. I’m just doing the music and having fun doing the music and we just kept it going and we decided, let’s try it again,” Bigham described.

“Before this record, I did ‘The Good Girl Blues’ last year and that thrust me into the blues world all of a sudden. I did a record, we put it out on our own, and then someone called us up and wanted to take over the record. That was a blues label and next thing you know I was up for a WC Handy Blues Award for Best New Artist.”

So for “Black John,” Bigham wanted to do all kinds of blues styles, which he explained includes the basics of R&B.

“I am doing blues styles that people may not be familiar with. Some of the other blues styles are Rhythm & Blues, like Bobby Blue Bland, Jerry Butler, or Johnny Taylor – people like that.”

For the disc, Bigham said that music fans can expect a familiar sound that’s fresh and new.

“The sentiment is vintage, but they can expect something that’s fresh and original.”

To check out what’s fresh and original, visit the website at thesoulofjohnblack.com where you can download (for free) the lead track, “Betty Jean.”


Actor Insists Hip-Hop Gig Is For Real

Source: www.thestar.com -

(February 12, 2009) Joaquin Phoenix insists he isn't being arrogant, but acting, unlike hip-hop music, just doesn't excite him any more. The twice Oscar-nominated actor says he doesn't understand the controversy surrounding his decision to quit acting for the sometimes violent world of hip-hop music, even though it came at the height of his career. And he didn't really think anyone would care. "It's a personal thing. It's not a judgment on other people or on the industry," Phoenix, 34, said yesterday.  His decision was disclosed only a few months ago and took Hollywood by surprise. The shock of it, coupled with his falling off stage while performing at a Las Vegas nightclub, has many industry watchers thinking this new act is a spoof cooked up with his brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who is chronicling Phoenix's crossover in a documentary. "I can see how people might think it is shocking," he said. "But by saying my life is a joke or the thing that I love is a joke, well, that bothers me."

Nas And Damian Marley Team For Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2009) *Nas has been in Los Angeles for the last several weeks quietly recording a new album with reggae star Damian Marley, Billboard.com reports.  "We've been recording in a studio, where people like Mick Jagger are recording. No one knew who we were," Nas' manager, Anthony Saleh, tells Billboard. "We're going to Miami this week to finish it up and we're aiming to tour for the album this summer."  The as-yet-untitled collaboration will likely be released in the spring. But it is not yet clear what label will release the project; Nas is signed to Def Jam, while Marley records for Universal. In addition to its regular incarnation, the album may also be released in a special edition exclusively through Best Buy or Target. A portion of the proceeds will go toward building a school in Africa, though details are still being solidified.

Ciara's 'Fantasy Ride' To Finally Become Reality

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2009) *Ciara's long-delayed new album will finally see daylight this spring, according to Billboard. "Fantasy Ride" is scheduled to start its engines on April 7. The Jive album was originally due last year, and several tracks intended for the CD have already either leaked or been sent to radio, including "High Price" with Ludacris and "Go Girl" with T-Pain. The most recent, "Never Ever" featuring Young Jeezy, samples Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' classic "If You Don't Know Me by Now." It sold 15,000 downloads last week in its first week on the streets, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album is the follow-up to 2006's "The Evolution," which has sold 1.3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's about one-half of the tally for her 2004 debut "Goodies."

Eminem's 'Bottle' Cracks Billboard Record


(February 13, 2009) *Eminem's new single "Crack a Bottle," featuring Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from No. 78 just a week ago. The jump sets a Nielsen SoundScan record for opening week download sales (418,000). The first-week total beats the prior mark of 335,000 downloads earned by T.I.'s "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna in the Oct. 18, 2008, issue. Among all weekly totals, "Bottle" ranks third behind Flo Rida's "Low" (467,000 on Jan, 12, 2008) and Lady GaGa's "Just Dance" (419,000 on Jan, 10, 2009).  "Bottle" is the second Hot 100 No. 1 for both Eminem and Dr. Dre. Slim Shady's only leader was 2002's "Lose Yourself," which spent 12 weeks at the summit, while Dre last led in 1996 as a featured artist on Blackstreet's "No Diggity." 50 Cent moves his No. 1 total to four, having last topped the list with "Candy Shop" (9 weeks in 2005).

3 Canadians Make Short List For Youtube Symphony's Internet Orchestra Competition

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

(February 15, 2009) The next step is underway in the world's first Internet-run orchestra competition, the YouTube Symphony, which was announced at the beginning of December. According to Google Canada spokesperson Tamara Micner, the YouTube Symphony competition has received more than 3,000 video audition clips from 70 countries. These are largely from teenagers and 20-somethings who are competing for a spot in this orchestra. A panel of judges, drawn from the long list of sponsoring symphony orchestras around the world, has narrowed down the candidates to a short list. YouTube visitors can listen to the clips and vote for their favourites. Three Canadians made the cut: two violinists (tinyurl.com/violincarolyn and tinyurl.com/navonod) and a bass player from Kitchener (tinyurl.com/ianwhitman). The winners of this virtual competition will be revealed on March 2. They will be invited to New York City for three days of workshops and rehearsals, followed by a concert with San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall April 15. Also, organizers will combine many of the videos into an Internet-only YouTube Symphony. Full details at YouTube.com/symphony.

Stevie Wonder To Receive White House Concert


(February 16, 2009) *Stevie Wonder, whose music and presence were a major part of Barack Obama's presidential run, will be recognized for his contributions to both the campaign and the music world with a concert in his honour. The White House says the president and first lady will present Wonder a Library of Congress award on Feb. 25. The concert will be broadcast the next day on PBS as part of its "Performance at the White House" series. The award-winning Motown legend performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on the night Obama accepted his party's nomination. He also sang at a concert during the week of Obama's inauguration. His song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and "Higher Ground" were used as theme songs during Obama's campaign stops.

We Remember Estelle Bennett Of The Ronettes


(February 16, 2009) *Estelle Bennett, a member of the famed singing trio Ronettes, was found dead in her home in Englewood, N.J. on Feb. 11, reports the Associated Press. She was 67. Bennett's brother-in-law, Jonathan Greenfield, said police discovered her body in her apartment on Wednesday after relatives had been unable to contact her. The time and cause of death have not yet been determined.  Greenfield is the manager and husband of Bennett's sister, Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector.  The Ronettes' famed 1963 hit "Be My Baby" epitomized the famed "wall of sound" technique of its producer, Phil Spector. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Sisters Veronica "Ronnie" and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley -- signed with Spector's Philles Records in 1963. Their recording of "Be My Baby" hit No. 2 on Billboard magazine's pop music chart that year. Among their other hits were "Walkin' in the Rain" and "Baby I Love You."  Ronnie Bennett had married Spector in 1968 but they divorced six years later. Greenfield said Ronnie Spector was devastated over her sister's death.  "Estelle was Ronnie's sidekick in the Ronettes," Greenfield, of Newbury, Conn., said Thursday from New York. "She was very much into fashion and worked with Ronnie on the whole look and style of the Ronettes."

Wyclef To Open School In Haiti


(February 17, 2009) *Wyclef Jean is planning to build a new school in his native Haiti, and hopes to start raising money for it within the next six months, reports Allhiphop.com. The Yéle Center joins a number of projects spearheaded by Wyclef to help bring long term relief and stability to the impoverished area.  In May, Jean's humanitarian initiative Yéle Haiti partnered with the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) to launch Together for Haiti, an effort designed to respond to Haiti's food crisis by providing jobs and food. Jean's humanitarian efforts continued in September with the creation of the Haiti Storm Relief Fund, which was launched in response to severe storms that plagued Haiti at the time, supplies food, water, purification tablets, tents, blankets, medical supplies and hygiene kits to storm victims.

Rock Star Winner Now Homeless

Source: www.thestar.com -
Star staff

(February 18, 2009) J.D. Fortune's fortunes have drastically changed.  The Mississauga-born singer who leaped to fame in 2005 when he won the CBS reality contest Rock Star: INXS and became the front man for a major international pop band, is back in Canada, homeless and living out of a pickup truck after the other INXS members abruptly sacked him at the end of an international tour more than a year ago. "I was in an airport in Hong Kong and literally got handshakes of `thank you very much,'" Fortune told Entertainment Tonight Canada.  "I found myself really alone because I had travelled with these guys for 23 months. Some of the audiences we played for were upwards of 80,000 people." Part of Fortune's downfall appears to be linked to his heavy use of cocaine when he was with INXS. "It got as bad as it needed to be for me to numb out the fact that this was going to come to a screeching halt," he told the Global TV show. Since then, he has come off drugs and sunk almost all he owns into a new solo album, The Death of a Motivational Speaker, which is due for release this year.


Canadians Come Out Strong At Berlinale

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Naomi Buck

(February 13, 2009) BERLIN — Amidst the hype of the annual Berlin International Film Festival, which awards its Golden Bear prize Saturday night (Feb. 14), Canada has earned an important distinction from at least one critic.

“The Canadians should win the most-laid-back award,” said the German journalist sitting next to me at the world premiere of Gary Yates's High Life.

Indeed, pretension is something that the Canadian filmmakers in Berlin are lacking. Wearing jeans and a baseball cap, Winnipeg-based Yates introduced his film with an anecdote from his trip to Berlin. While going through airport security in Toronto, a hookah pipe was discovered in the lining of his carry-on bag. Initially relieved to have found the long-lost pipe, Yates then had a moment of panic: Would he make it to Berlin? The two security guards looked at the object, looked at each other and then waved him through.

High Life, based on Lee MacDougall's play of the same name, is a brilliantly acted gangster flick of a bank heist that goes wrong, thanks to the absolute ineptitude of its drugged-out protagonists. Like the other Canadian films here, High Life is not in the running for the Golden Bear, but the Berlin audience was full of praise. When the first serious question came from the audience during the Q and A – why Yates had chosen to set the movie in 1983 – the director, squinting into the lights, said, “Aw mom, you promised not to ask any questions.”

Philippe Falardeau's C'est pas moi, je le jure ( It's Not Me, I Swear) was met with equal enthusiasm by a thousand-strong audience of mainly children. The film, soon to open in English-speaking Canada, is the story of Leon, an energetic 10-year-old who refuses to conform to the strictures of life in small-town Quebec in the 1970s, preferring to rob the ice-cream truck, throw eggs at the neighbour's roof and, when desperate, hang himself from a tree.

“It wasn't intended as a children's film so I was surprised that they put it in the youth program here,” Falardeau said, “but maybe it was a good call.” Following the screening, the leads – Antoine L'Écuyer and Catherine Faucher (10 and 12, respectively) – were swarmed by young fans for autographs.

Two documentaries played in the festival's Forum section: Richard Brouillette's L'Encerclement (Encirclement) and Petr Lom's Letters to the President. Brouillette's film, shot in black and white, explores the origins of neo-liberalism in a nearly three-hour marathon of interviews with noted intellectuals. Berlin's left-leaning daily, the Tageszeitung, called it the “most fact-based thriller” in the Forum program, conceding that it demanded a “well-slept audience.”

Letters to the President, a portrayal of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is remarkable for the access that Czech-born, Barrie, Ont.-raised director Petr Lom gained. Following the press screening in Berlin, Lom explained that it took several years, hundreds of phone calls and a “smart way in” to get permission to shoot the film.

Lom focused on the Iranian practice of writing letters to their president and Ahmadinejad's commitment to respond to their requests. The President's media adviser appreciated the “working title” of Lom's project: Democracy in Action.

Lom shows letters pouring in to the Presidential Letter Answering Centre, talks to their authors and watches the bureaucrats processing them with various strategies of inaction. The camera follows Ahmadinejad on his tours of the impoverished countryside, promising running water and roads to throngs of peasants, kissing the photographs of martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war, reassuring a boy that he will recover from cancer “because he's young and strong.”

Avoiding narration or explicit judgment, the film shows the populist propaganda machinery at work, and offers an insight into the poverty, desperation and political hypocrisy in Iran that Western viewers rarely get to see.

Protests by the Club of Iranian and European Filmmakers against the Canadian co-production fell flat when it became clear that they had not seen – or understood – the film but simply assumed it to be “propaganda for the Iranian terror regime” because it had been shot with a government-issued permit. In fact, as Lom explained, the Iranian Vice-President was quite disappointed with the rough cut. “He told me I was a bad filmmaker, which I probably am in his books.”

Lom was glad to get the material out of Iran after his five-month shoot, feeling he was sitting on a “time bomb.”

Toronto native John Greyson is also presenting a finished product in Berlin. Fig Trees, his portrait of AIDS activists in South Africa and Canada, was completed just in time for the festival, having been accepted on the basis of a rough cut.

“That's the great thing about the Berlin festival. They support their filmmakers over the long term,” he said over coffee at one of the many festival bars. Greyson has had four films in the festival since his first entry, Urinal was invited to the still-divided city in 1989.

“This festival champions two things I feel strongly about: queer content and experimental form. Despite huge industry pressure, it has maintained a huge commitment to the marginal and innovative,” of which Fig Trees – which takes its cue from an opera by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson and is narrated by an albino squirrel – is perfect evidence.

Another long-time Canadian friend of the festival, Michael Snow, was back in town as an honorary guest of the Forum Expanded program, which presents film-related installations, exhibitions and discussions in various venues across Berlin. Snow's Puccini Conservato, a 10-minute handheld study of loudspeakers playing music from La Bohème, opened the program, followed by two other Puccini-inspired short films by two other directors. And when a corpulent critic stormed the stage, grabbed the microphone and exercised his right to call the works offensive and ridiculous, Snow – true to Canadian form – didn't bat an eyelid.

Telefilm Canada festival representative Brigitte Hubmann, pleased with this year's Canadian showing, attributes the success of the Berlinale relationship to the annual trip its programmers make to Montreal. “They view all we have to offer. They know more about Canadian films than many of us do.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Timing, And Empathy, Are Everything

www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(February 14, 2009) LOS ANGELES–When new mother Naomi Watts signed on to co-star in the globe-spanning financial thriller The International, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Her first child, Alexander, was only 3 months old then and she was still nursing when shooting began. The petite 40-year-old actor looks back now and admits: "I didn't have the foresight to know what it would be like. It was definitely hard. I'm normally someone who is so focused on my work that nothing else could distract me, but this time it was very different."

British-born Watts was attracted to the ripped-from-the-headlines story of one of the world's most powerful banks financing a web of arms dealing, money laundering and murder, but was dubious about the long, gruelling film shoot spanning two continents and four countries.

"I met with the director, Tom Tykwer, and he said I could do it in five weeks in Berlin, which suddenly seemed doable to me, so I said yes," she recalled. "When I got there they had already been shooting for two months and my days were so condensed I shot every single day and took my baby to the set, except when we were shooting nights and then I would have to send bottles of milk back to the hotel and then feed him all day. I didn't get proper rest and I felt like I was doing a balancing act."

She was fortunate to have as her co-star Clive Owen, the British actor who, despite his rugged, tough-guy good looks, is a sensitive and caring family man who had his wife and two daughters, aged 11 and 9, on the set with him as much as possible.

"He's a good-looking man and easy on the eye, but I found him to be completely without any ego," said Watts. "He takes his work very seriously but he has this British schoolboy sense of humour and can laugh at himself. I really enjoyed working with him and I hope to get to do it many times again."

Watts portrays a Manhattan assistant district attorney, working with Owen's Interpol agent to follow the money trail and bring the bank to justice. The action includes a chase across the rooftops of Istanbul, a showdown at the Blue Mosque and an explosive shootout at New York's Guggenheim Museum, which was meticulously recreated in a disused railway building in Berlin.

"It's uncanny how timely the film is, when you think that I was sent the script a year and a half ago," said Owen. "Although it's a big, expansive, entertaining thriller, it's based on proper research and a big part of the film is devoted to making you question the way banks operate.

"Do they use our money appropriately? Are they totally sound institutions? With the financial collapse and what's happened in the past year, they're now the biggest questions on everybody's minds. I don't think I've ever been involved in a movie that's as timely as this one."

Owen's character is not the typical hero.

"He's not slick and he's not the cool cop, tracking the bank down," he said. "He's a volatile, passionate, committed, even hot-headed and obsessed Interpol agent, trying to make others see what he sees the bank doing."

Watts and Owen were talking at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Owen, dressed in a dark Giorgio Armani suit and demonstrating why he is a regular on the fashion industry's best-dressed lists, was due to return to England the next day to watch his beloved Liverpool soccer team play a vital league match against Chelsea.

Watts, wearing a beige top with black stripes over black jeans, had flown in from New York, where she lives with her partner of four years, actor Liev Schreiber, and sons, Alexander, now aged 18 months, and 7-week-old Samuel.

The International was the first film Watts made since becoming a mother, but up till then the actor had been worked virtually non-stop since her breakthrough role as an aspiring starlet in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

"I was burned out, and when I met Liev I wanted us to spend more time together. And then I got pregnant and had the baby, and then I got pregnant again, so that's how things have gone," she said.

"But I feel I want to go back to work this year and I'm doing 10 days on a very small movie called Mother and Child, with Annette Bening and Samuel L. Jackson, and then I'm looking at a couple of other things for maybe later in the year. I've missed working but my life is very full right now."

Owen has spent more time away than he has at his London home in the past couple of years. But he makes sure his wife, Sarah-Jane Fenton, whom he married in 1995 after they appeared together as Romeo and Juliet at the Young Vic, and their two daughters join him on his foreign locations as often as possible.

"The girls come out when they have breaks," he said. "I won't say no to a film because it's taking me away from the family, I just take it and then we make it work. We never spend too long apart."

He has another movie due for release shortly, Duplicity, which he filmed in New York and in which he appears with his Closer co-star Julia Roberts. He also recently finished The Boys Are Back in Town, a dramatic comedy filmed in Australia.

Owen, 44, worked semi-anonymously for a dozen years in the London theatre and in numerous television series before his role in 2001's Gosford Park earned him awards and the attention of Hollywood. Since then he has worked with some of the film industry's leading directors and actors in movies such as King Arthur, Closer, Sin City, Inside Man, Children of Men and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

"For me, success has always been about working with the best possible people, so I couldn't be happier with the way things are going," Owen said.

"I'm in a very good place as far as work goes and at the same time. I'm still taking enough time off to hang and spend substantial time with the family, so long may it continue.

"I'm having the best time of my life at the moment and sometimes I still think I'm 20. I never think about age or about getting old. I'm a great believer in enjoying being where you're at, whatever your age is."

Economy Will Take Some Glitz Out Of The Oscars

Source: www.thestar.com - Christy Lemire,
The Associated Press

(February 12, 2009) LOS ANGELES – It's a city where perception is reality and image is everything. But Hollywood is having trouble keeping up appearances in the midst of the nation's economic downturn, even during its splashiest, most self-celebratory time: awards season.

Of course, the show must go on. The
Academy Awards bring $130 million into Los Angeles, and city economists expect that to be true this year, too. But it's in the ancillary activity – parties, studios' campaigns for Oscar votes, glossy ads in trade publications – where less money is being thrown around.

Even director Danny Boyle, whose Slumdog Millionaire is the front-runner to win the best-picture Oscar, acknowledged the awkward paradox of backslapping as the economy slides backward.

"When you read a headline like last week, I read 60,000 jobs lost in a day in America, you just think you've got to be very careful because we live in a very glamorous world, you take lots of photographs, there's lots of smiling asked for and stuff like that," Boyle said backstage after winning the top prize from the Directors Guild of America.

"We're very lucky," he added. "And we're aware of that."

So how does the lavish machinery keep running during such tough financial times?

Longtime events planner Chris Benarroch says smaller parties are the new normal, "not having things for 1,500 people, maybe 100 or 250." Entertaining at home is also becoming a popular option, with studio or agency executives hosting a dinner, for example. With elegant linens, candles and flowers, that costs maybe $50,000, versus the half a million dollars and more that can go into enormous soirees staged from the ground up.

"There's more emphasis on buying out a restaurant like Spago, not going over the top where you were building a tent with decking, floor-to-ceiling creating a whole environment in a parking lot or a raw space. You're using an already existing venue," she said. ``You're going to see a lot of people attending the (post-Oscar) Governor's Ball more than ever before, taking advantage of that opportunity. Everyone is just really scaling back."

The annual Vanity Fair party on Oscar night will be more intimate with a smaller guest list – the Sunset Tower Hotel expects about 750 people – and chicken pot pie will be on the menu: "The whole idea of, in tough times, it'll be cozier and we'll be serving comfort food, the kind of food that makes people feel better," said the magazine's spokeswoman, Beth Kseniak.

The added benefit: It'll be even more exclusive than ever before. ``It's always hard to turn people down," Kseniak said, "and this will make us have to."

Normally corporate sponsors help pay for the cost of a party and get the prestige of their association – Cartier co-hosted a Golden Globes viewing and post-party with NBC/Universal, for example. But that money is drying up, too.

"One by one they were like, `We just can't do it. We just don't have the funds,"' said Benarroch. "Normally it's a huge coup to have a company come on board and host an Oscar party. Normally we have the pick of what works best with the film. This year, it's slim pickings. ...

"What company's not laying off people?" she added. "How do you justify that?"

The economy is also affecting the way awards campaigns play out in the trade publications, where high-profile ads are a crucial component of the annual bragging rights.

"It would be ridiculous to say it isn't," said Variety president and publisher Neil Stiles. "You can see it in the volume of advertising we're carrying and The Hollywood Reporter is carrying or not carrying, coupled with the L.A. Times on the fringes and The New York Times."

Stiles wouldn't say exactly how much Variety's print ad sales are down, but said it's less than 40 per cent. (The Hollywood Reporter declined comment because it didn't want to reveal financial figures.) Variety's online ads, meanwhile, are up about six per cent from 2007 to 2008, though the expectation was that they would have increased by 15 per cent.

Several elements are at work simultaneously, Stiles said. Almost half the number of films were offered for awards consideration compared with previous years. Then the art-house branches of several major studios, often the origin of such awards contenders, got folded into the studios themselves – Warner Independent into Warner Bros., for example – shutting down internal promotional infrastructure.

Now, the corporations that own these studios are reporting huge quarterly losses. News Corp., parent company of 20th Century Fox, announced that it lost $6.4 billion in its most recent quarter. Walt Disney Co. reported a 32 per cent decline. Time Warner Inc., which owns Warner Bros., posted a $16 billion loss in that period.

The result: They just don't have the money to promote their films the way they once did.

Studios are traditionally reluctant to go on record discussing the financial specifics of their campaigns. But long-time awards observer Tom O'Neil, columnist for the website TheEnvelope.com, estimates Oscar budgets are down 30 per cent to 40 per cent this year.

"The average Oscar campaign now is in the range of $5-10 million, where it used to be in the range of $7-20 million. `Gladiator's' was $20 million" when it won best picture and four other Academy Awards in 2001, he said.

Meanwhile, new emphasis has been placed on online ads and Q&A screenings, where a studio brings in the director or stars to answer questions after a showing of the film.

"There used to be a lot of luncheons and dinners they would do for about $15,000 apiece to bring in 80 Hollywood insiders, hoping to net 30 Oscar votes, and they realized that's not efficient – that for $6,000 to $10,000, they can do a Q&A screening and bring in 200 guild members, which is likely to have a much higher percentage of Oscar people."

Another way the studios are cutting back, O'Neil said, is in the number of what he called "illegal Oscar parties."

"There's always some bogus, alleged reason for, you know, a star's birthday, or congratulations 'cause they just won a guild award or got nominated. You're not, obviously, allowed to campaign blatantly to Academy members – it's against their rules, they can pull your number of tickets to the ceremony per studio, that's the punishment – but there are scores of illegal Oscar parties that go on every season. There used to be, certainly, more than 100 of them during Oscar season."

Now, he estimated those have been cut by about 75 per cent.

Still, glamour must prevail. Jack Kyser, founding economist of the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., still expects the Feb. 22 Academy Awards to bring $130 million to the city. That's everything from hotel suites, where designers share their fashions with top stylists for weeks before the big event, to the annual nominees luncheon to plastic surgery sessions.

"You're on stage globally so you've got to look your best," Kyser said. "So you'll go get your lips plumped, you'll have Botox injections, maybe a little tan sprayed on you."

Maybe the escapism Hollywood provides is more necessary now than ever, said veteran jeweller-to-the-stars Neil Lane. Celebrities are still making a statement, but perhaps it's through valuable yet understated pieces and less bling; then again, that might be a matter of individual taste, he said, not an effort to avoid seeming ostentatious.

"If the look commands a huge, expensive diamond then that's what you wear. I don't think the economy is going to prevent that. If that's what the look is about then that's what you need to do," said Lane, whose designs most recently appeared on Katy Perry, Sheryl Crow, LeAnn Rimes and others at the Grammys. "Hollywood is definitely aware of the world. Hollywood is definitely sympathetic. I am very sympathetic to the crisis in the world. But again – it is Hollywood. ...

"The world doesn't want to see paupers going to the red carpet in rags and tatters," Lane added. "They want a moment of respite and happiness and joy. They want to go `Wow!' and have their eyes open. They want to dream."

– – –

NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.

Steven Soderbergh : The Revolutionary, The Filmmaker

www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(February 15, 2009) There will never be another Che Guevara. That's the judgment of American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, creator of the two-part, 41/2 -hour epic about the Latin American revolutionary's battles in Cuba and Bolivia, which opens commercially on Friday.

“The speed with which we swallow and disgorge people is so accelerated now that things don't register in the same way that they did 50 years ago,” Soderbergh observed during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, as he pondered Guevara's iconic status. “There is no question that the Cuban revolution today would have been stopped in a matter of weeks. It is what I call the last analog revolution. Even seven or eight years later, by the time Bolivia happened … war changed. I don't think we are going to see somebody like that emerge again. He really was a product of his time.”

Which only adds to the mystique of the doctor, thinker and guerrilla who helped Fidel Castro overthrow the Cuban government in 1959 but was executed by Bolivian forces in 1967 after a disastrous attempt to export the revolution.

Yet if moviegoers go to Che looking for elucidation, they may be disappointed. The epic, which is being screened across North America after a brief run in New York and Los Angeles before Christmas, is not so much a conventional biopic filled with motivational events or revealing moments as it is a portrait of a man, relayed through action.

“One of the things I was compelled by was his will, just the ability to sustain his belief in his ideas over a long period of time under extreme circumstances,” Soderbergh remarked. “It's very unusual. Most of us go through periods where we are very passionate about something or someone, but it tends to ebb and flow. In his case, it just doesn't.”

When Soderbergh was first approached by producer Laura Bickford and actor Benicio del Toro, who plays Guevara, about the possibility of a Che film, the director was curious simply to know more about the man behind the image that has adorned a million T-shirts. As the project developed – the film was eight years in the making – he decided it was this unrelenting aspect that made Guevara unusual.

For all the idolization over the years, he was not, however, a nice guy. “There was no point at which he dropped his ideology in dealing with people,” Soderbergh said. “Everything with him has to follow a certain standard. The people I talked to in Cuba [including family members and former comrades-in-arms], everybody said he was kind of a pain in the ass … a really strict disciplinarian.”

The movie was shot in two punishing shooting schedules of 39 days each, with the first part filmed in Puerto Rico, Mexico and New York, and the second in Bolivia and Spain. The two parts make up Che and are separated by an intermission. Soderbergh said his main instructions to his star, who had studied Guevara for years in preparation for the role, were hurry up.

“One of the few times that Benicio and I talked about the character, I just said, ‘Look, let's make sure he's not nice. He's fair, but he's not nice. Don't be afraid to be hard.'”

Still, the film is a sympathetic portrait. Thus far, critics who have seen it are divided as to whether its lengthy and meticulous recreation of the battles in Cuba and Bolivia is admirable or misjudged, but some complain that the film avoids the least admirable episode of the revolutionary's life – the years after 1959 during which the strict disciplinarian, as Minister of the Interior, oversaw the executions of Castro's opponents.

“I picked the two sections of Che's life that are closed,” Soderbergh said in his own defence. “Cuba is still happening, that story is still being written, Fidel is still around. … Most of his time there, [Che] is being a bureaucrat, so that wasn't as interesting to me.”

He also wasn't interested in Guevara's personal life, which included two wives and five children.

“That was a decision I made early on, because I felt like, you know what, everybody's got a personal life, everybody in that jungle has a personal life. That's not unusual and I don't really care. Everybody gave up something to go and do this. I just didn't feel like that was as big an issue as these larger issues. He is literally, by hand, trying to remake a society, first in Cuba and then in Bolivia. That's bigger than what your spouse is up to.”

Soderbergh allows one scene in the film to tell what needs to be told – he shows Guevara sharing a brief moment with his second wife, Aleida, before he leaves Cuba for Bolivia. “He and his first wife Hilda, that relationship had basically ended before he left Mexico to go to Cuba,” the director said, adding: “The second time, after he married Aleida and had four [more] kids, he could have stayed in Cuba indefinitely and been a rock star. He walked away to do it again, which also makes him unusual.

“There are some great letters he wrote to her, when he was in the Congo [in 1965, shortly before he went to Bolivia]. I guess she had written some letters that were sort of emotional and he writes back saying, ‘You knew what you were getting into. This is it: You marry a revolutionary, this is what you have to deal with.' He's not cold, but he is just saying we can't have this conversation over and over again.”

How movie audiences will react to this often anti-dramatic account of Guevara's battles will be determined in the next few weeks, but Soderbergh has no particular fear of a political backlash against the film in the United States.

“You have to separate the Cuban nationalist lobby that is centred in Miami from the rest of the country,” he said. “The rest of the country doesn't really understand why we still have the embargo. We are trading with China. It's one of those strange circumstances where a very small group of passionate people are dictating the policy of the U.S. government. If you are running for president, you have got to win Florida and you can't win Florida without saying ‘I am for the embargo.'”

Soderbergh argues that the embargo is counterproductive, and that the fastest way to make Cuba more democratic would be to send American tourists there in droves. “When people get a taste of a certain kind of freedom, it is very infectious,” he said. Indeed, it's how revolutions begin.

Top Dog Leaving Redford For De Niro

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

(February 18, 2009) The world of independent film is reeling from news that Geoffrey Gilmore, the Sundance Film Festival chief, is jumping to the upstart Tribeca fest in New York.

Gilmore, a 19-year Sundance veteran who has presided over the Utah gathering's rise as the premiere event for indie film, issued his shock announcement yesterday.

He'll become the new chief creative officer for the Tribeca Film Festival on March 1, in time to assist with this year's fest, scheduled for April 22 to May 3.

Gilmore issued a brief statement saying he'll miss Sundance, but Tribeca offers "a huge change and an enormous opportunity."

His switch from the west to the east is also for personal reasons, since he's originally from New York.

Gilmore's defection has unleashed a flood of speculation about whether the move represents a widening rivalry between the two festivals.

"I think it's quite significant, but is it bigger as a Tribeca story or as a Sundance story? That's an interesting question," said Eugene Hernandez, editor-in-chief of the online journal indieWire.com.

"Geoff's name is as synonymous with Sundance, within industry circles, as Robert Redford's."

Sundance founder Redford said that last month's 25th-anniversary edition of the fest "has been a time of candid reflection" and that Gilmore is embracing change.

"I support completely his decision. The timing is right to move on. We wish Geoff only the best as he embarks on the next phases of his life and career."

In leaving Sundance, Gilmore is leaving one actor-dominated festival to join another. Tribeca was started early this decade by actor Robert De Niro as an economic and cultural boost to a part of New York most gravely affected by the terrorist attack of 9/11.

Before last month's Sundance fest, Gilmore dropped hints that he was growing restless and disillusioned with independent film and was seeking new challenges. Tribeca has some indie content, but it's a far more commercial affair than Sundance: it hosted the world premiere of Spider-Man 3 in 2007.

"Is the independent arena creatively moribund and/or has the audience itself changed either because of a generational shift or simply a transformation in public taste?" Gilmore wrote in a column for indieWire.

"It's difficult to say whether the new generation will continue to harbour the passion for film that we had. Independent film has broken a lot of ground and had a lot of success in the last two decades. But what was innovative then is now familiar."

A successor for Gilmore at Sundance has not been named. The betting is that he'll be succeeded by John Cooper, currently the fest's director of creative development and director of programming, who has been there almost as long as Gilmore.


Surge Of Moviegoers Boosts Cineplex Galaxy

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(February 12, 2009) A surge of Canadians heading to movie theatres has helped cinema chain operator Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund turn a fourth-quarter profit, despite a tough economy. Cineplex Galaxy says holiday season Hollywood blockbusters boosted attendance at its theatres by 16 per cent in the final quarter of 2008. A line-up of marquee titles like "Quantum of Solace," the latest addition to the James Bond franchise, and vampire romance "Twilight" helped lift the theatre chain to a $7.1 million profit. That was up from a $2.8 million loss in the same period last year. Total revenues rose to $211.4 million from a year-earlier $182.6 million. Cineplex says a stronger slate of titles over the holiday season compared to 2007 was at least partly responsible for the improvement. Cinema chains often tend to thrive in a bad economy, because they're considered a relatively cheap form of entertainment.

Hitting 50 'Liberating,' Pfeiffer Says

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Associated Press

(February 10, 2009) Berlin — Michelle Pfeiffer has no problem with getting older – in fact, she says, she found hitting 50 “liberating.” Pfeiffer appeared at the Berlin film festival Tuesday Feb. 10 with Cheri, directed by Stephen Frears, in which she stars as a 1920s lady of leisure who strikes up a relationship with a much younger man, played by Rupert Friend. “It seems that my leading men just keep getting younger the older I get,” Pfeiffer told a news conference. “It seems that people have an aversion to casting people of the same age – luckily for me, I don't really mind it.” “The older you get, the roles actually become more interesting,” said Pfeiffer, who turned 50 last year.  “If you think hitting 40 is liberating, wait till you hit 50 – and I was surprised at how liberating it was,” she said. “The anticipation of something is always much worse than the reality.” Cheri, a melodrama which also stars Kathy Bates, is an adaptation of a novel by French writer Colette. It teams up Pfeiffer and British director Frears 21 years after Dangerous Liaisons, a film of which the actress said she had “fond memories.” Cheri, which had its premiere in Berlin, is one of 18 contenders for the top Golden Bear award at the annual festival. The winner will be announced Saturday.

Halle Berry Steals Heist Role

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(February 18, 2009) *Halle Berry has signed on to star in "Who Is Doris Payne," a film based on the true story of an international jewel thief whose career spanned five decades.  According to Variety, the project is being written by Eunetta Boone and developed by J2 partners Justin Berfield and Jason Felts.  The real Doris Payne, now 75, made her mark by stealing diamond jewellery from stores such as Neiman Marcus and Town and Country. "Her success was based purely on her good looks, incredible charm, and gorgeous clothes," reports MTV's Movies Blog. "She would simply ask to see trays upon trays of rings, earrings, or watches and try on so many that clerks would forget how many they had given her.    "She made thousand pawning the jewellery and even expanded her trade overseas to Switzerland and Monte Carlo, living the high life in between while raising her two children."    After police finally caught up with Payne, she served no more than 5 years in jail, though she is currently back behind bars for stealing a ring from Neiman Marcus.


CRTC To Ease Burden On Cash-Strapped Stations

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Media Reporter

(February 13, 2009) Canada's broadcast regulator is expected to announce today a new kind of television licence designed to give some of the country's cash-strapped small-market TV stations some relief in an economic downturn.

The move comes in advance of licence renewal hearings for Canada's largest broadcasters, including Global and CTV, which have argued to the regulator that small-market TV is struggling.

Though the full details of the plan are not known, it is expected the regulator will propose shorter licence terms for some stations, including terms as short as two years or less. That concession would allow the networks to come back before the
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and seek further changes if their economic situation worsens.

Licences are usually issued for a seven-year period for the broadcasters. While large-market TV stations, such as CTV and Global outlets in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, are profitable, smaller cities are facing steep challenges, the companies say.

Those stations generally make up the secondary networks operated by both broadcasters. Global owns the E! network, which has stations in Montreal, Hamilton, Red Deer, Alta., Kelowna, B.C., and Victoria, and has been losing money. CTV operates the A channels, with stations in Barrie, Ont., Victoria and other smaller centres.

Given the eroding financial climate for small-market TV, the CRTC has signalled that it wants to be flexible on the licence, however it is not clear if it will be enough to satisfy the networks. CanWest Global Communications Corp. recently said it was putting the E! network up for sale, and may shut the stations if a buyer can't be found. Strapped for cash and burdened by a $3.7-billion debt, CanWest has decided to sell some assets, and it has said the E! stations are losing money.

The CRTC could also decide to revisit its television policy, a move that may open the door for networks to revisit their proposal to charge cable firms fees for their signals. The networks want to be able to charge monthly fees, as cable channels do, including many specialties owned by CTVglobemedia Inc. and Global.

However, the proposal has met much resistance from the regulator, the cable industry and consumer groups. Cable firms, including Rogers Communications, have called the proposal a cash grab.

In denying the fee proposal last year, the CRTC said the TV networks had not made a strong enough case that they needed the fees.

"Our position really hasn't changed. We believe we made a strong case," CanWest spokesman John Douglas said yesterday. "Our regulatory agenda continues to include fee for carriage."

Earlier this week, the CRTC published its annual financial figures for the industry, showing that profits at Canada's major commercial TV networks had fallen more than 90 per cent last year. Several factors led to the declines, including the migration of TV audiences and revenue to the Internet and to cable, and the impact of the TV writers strike last year.

The national conventional networks, including CTV, Global, CITY-TV, and French broadcasters such as TVA, saw their biggest-ever drop on a percentage basis in profits before income tax. Those profits, reported by the federal regulator, fell to $8.04-million from $112.94-million last year.

Dr, Gates Gets Honest about Abe

Source: Kam Williams

Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. was born in Piedmont, West Virginia on September 16, 1950 to Henry, Sr. and Pauline Coleman. Today, he is a world-renowned scholar and educator and the Alphonse Fletcher Professor at Harvard University.

In his capacity as a public intellectual, he has served as host of “African-American Lives,” a PBS series which employs a combination of genealogy and science to reconstruct the family trees of the descendants of slaves. And just last year, he co-founded “The Root,” a sophisticated website dedicated to the concerns of the black intelligentsia.

Here, in conjunction with the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, Professor Gates discusses two new projects revolving around the 16th President, his book, “Lincoln on Race and Slavery,” and his PBS special, “Looking for Lincoln.”

KW: Hi Dr. Gates, I’m honoured to have this opportunity to speak with you.

SG: No, it’s my pleasure.

KW: Where should I start? What approach did you take in terms of producing your new PBS series on Lincoln? 

SG: Lincoln’s myth is so capacious that each generation of Americans has been able to find its own image reflected in the mirror of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is our “Man for All Seasons.” There’s a Communist Lincoln, a Republican Lincoln, Lincoln the writer, Lincoln the orator, Lincoln the atheist, Lincoln the Christian, Lincoln the war criminal, Lincoln the Savior of the Union, the Confederate Lincoln, the African-American Lincoln, etcetera. So, I wanted to look at all these myths about Lincoln, deconstruct them, and see what the actual man was like. And, frankly, I also wanted to confront the complexity of his attitudes towards slavery and racial equality, which weren’t exactly the same thing. For, while he was fundamentally opposed to slavery, it took him a while to embrace racial equality.   

KW: As a person who majored in black studies, I appreciated the fact that you included Lerone Bennett and a discussion of his 650-page biography of Lincoln, “Forced into Glory.” Bennett’s ordinarily overlooked when it comes to Lincoln scholars, since he indicts the 16th President as a racist who very reluctantly freed the slaves.  

SG: Thank you. First of all, I admire Lerone Bennett. When I was 18, I read his essay in Ebony Magazine, “Was Abe Lincoln a White Supremacist?” At the time, I didn’t have the intellectual sophistication to judge his evidence. But of course it was a shock when I read it. 

KW: Did you enjoy doing research for the series?

SG: It was a delight! [Chuckles] Doing this film was a learning experience for me, because I hadn’t explored much of the Lincoln scholarship other than George Fredrickson’s last book. [Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race] I went back to read Lincoln’s own words and what historians had to say about him.

KW: What did you learn?

SG: That he was an enormously complex man… that he had his flaws, but he changed. He progressed. He changed during the Civil War. Through the efforts of Frederick Douglass and the achievements of the 200,000 black men who fought in the Union Army, he came to have new respect for black people. And, in fact, in his last speech he advocated the right to vote for the black veterans and for the “very intelligent Negroes.” That’s what made John Wilkes Booth kill him. Booth was in the audience, and said, “That’s it. That means [N-word] citizenship. And I’m going to run him through.” So, Lincoln literally gave his life for espousing black rights.    

KW: On the show, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says, “It’s not Lincoln’s fault that he was mythologized. Lincoln had to live in his times.” You responded to her by saying, “Doris was right,” and “I’ve come to admire him.” How did you get to that point?

SG: I really got to that point in the middle of that interview. I had been walking around upset with Lincoln’s reluctance to support equal rights and his determination to free the slaves but to encourage them to migrate to Panama, Haiti or Liberia. Doris said, “You’re upset because you feel like you’ve been lied to. But Lincoln didn’t lie to you. The historians did.” There’s a cult of Lincoln among some historians who feel almost like they’re the disciples of Christ. Lincoln is like a secular Christ in America. So, once I could get straight about who to be upset with, I was fine.

KW: Another thing you said which upset me was when you spoke about Lincoln’s being the seminal story in American History. Do you really think that Lincoln has replaced the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the rest of the Colonial Period?  

SG: Oh, sure, absolutely. The primal event in American History, other than the founding itself, is the Civil War, saving the Union, defending the Constitution, and redefining the Declaration of Independence to include all men, which Lincoln did. Lincoln was very consistent about that. So, whereas you can’t have subsequent events without the founding, it really was the Civil War which was the truly great American Revolution.

KW: Tell me a little about “Lincoln on Race and Slavery”

SG: In this book, I examine three strands of thought. Imagine a braid of hair. Most of just us say, “Lincoln freed the slaves, therefore he liked black people.” That’s the braid, but it turns out the braid has three strands. One strand is how he felt about slavery; another is how he felt about racial equality, and the third is colonization. We find contradictory impulses in Lincoln at least through 1863 when he finally begins to do the right thing, and all three strands are re-connected into a new braid.  

KW: What do you think about our new president?

SG: I think Barack Obama is going to be one of the best presidents in the history of this republic.

KW: Is there a question you’ve never been asked, that you wish someone would?

SG: [Chuckles] I’ve pretty much been asked everything… Here’s one: Why do I do what I do? 

KW: Why do you do what you do? 

SG: Because I love black people, and my goal is to restore black history from on the grand scale, the broad sweep of history, down to the level of each black person’s family tree.

KW: Speaking of family trees, will there be a third season of African-American Lives?

SG: My next series is called “Faces of America,” where I’ll be tracing the roots of two Jewish-Americans, two Arab-Americans, two Latino-Americans, two Asian-Americans, two West Indian-Americans, two Irish Americans and an Italian-American. So, we’ll be employing the same genetics and genealogy format, but for the broader American public. I’m very excited about it.  

KW: When I interviewed Lisa Kudrow, she told me a similar British TV-series is helping her trace her roots which had sort of hit a dead end with the Holocaust as far as she knew. 

SG: Yeah, these genealogy shows are popping up everywhere now. And most of them are the sons and daughters of African-American Lives, so I’m very proud of that.

KW: I remember you traced most of your roots back to Ireland.

SG: Only on my father’s side. I definitely have something called the U Neill Haplotype on my father’s sign, which means I’m related to 8% of all the men in Ireland. [Chuckles]

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

SG: Sure, I was afraid the American people weren’t going to do the right thing and overcome centuries of discrimination by voting for the better candidate. A month ago, my 95 year-old father had pneumonia and I was afraid.

KW: 95! God bless him!

SG: Thanks. A little fear is a good thing. Being paralyzed by fear, however, is not a good thing. 

KW: Why did you stay at Harvard during the great exodus of so many other African-American professors after they were mistreated by then Harvard President Larry Summers (who is now in the Obama administration?

SG: I stayed to defend what I, Cornell West, Anthony Appiah, former Harvard President Neil Rudenstine and our other colleagues had all built. I felt that it would be vulnerable, if I left. That’s why I stayed, and it was the right decision.

KW: How are Harvard students different from Princeton students?

SG: I’ve never taught Princeton students.

KW: Wait, I live in Princeton, and I used to see you around town and even met you here at an NAACP function.  

SG: I was at the Institute for Advance Study while on leave from Harvard. But I didn’t teach. I was on sabbatical. However, I would imagine that the students are just as smart and as energetic and wonderful as the students at Harvard. They’re from the same gene pool. [Chuckles]

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

SG: I’m a very happy person. My life has been such a fantasy, I’m sometimes afraid that I’m going to wake up and it’ll turn out that I’ve been in a coma.

KW: That’s the vibe you give off, like Alicia Keys, who has a very grounded vibe. 

SG: Yeah, she’s very centered.

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

SG: A biography of Alain Locke by Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth.

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

SG: My mother, Pauline Coleman Gates, who is deceased, and my father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr.

KW: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve ever had to overcome?

SG: I had an infected hip replacement, a 300,000 white blood cell count, which is huge. So, I had to have emergency surgery, because I could have died. I wasn’t frightened, but that was the biggest obstacle. That’s when you’ve descended into the valley of the shadows, and you have to fight to come back. And fortunately, I made it.   

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

SG: I almost exclusively listen to Soul Street on XM Radio, Channel 60. It’s R&B from the Fifties and Sixties. I’m just an old-school black man.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

SG: I want them to watch my programs and then give me their feedback and tell me what they think. That’s the best way they can help.

KW: What advice do you have for young black kid who wants to follow in your footsteps?

SG: Overall, by staying in school, deferring gratification and believing in the power of education is the way that we can help ourselves as a people.  

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

SG: As a man who loved black people, and who fought to preserve their great cultural traditions!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dr. Gates.

SG: Thank you, buddy.

To see a trailer for Looking for Lincoln hosted by Skip Gates, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p91V-BHfe6k

Details Of Transition To Digital TV A Little Blurry

Source: www.thestar.com -
Michael Geist

(February 16, 2009) Starting this week, hundreds of U.S. television stations plan to shut down their analog broadcasts as they complete the transition to digital over-the-air broadcasts. While the U.S. had planned for a nationwide change this month, last-minute legislation delayed the full mandatory transition until mid-June.

The U.S. experience to date highlights what should be a major concern for Canada – the transition from analog to digital broadcasts is years behind that of the United States, with virtually no industry or government support. This sounds like a purely technical issue, yet the policy implications of that transition will have a profound effect on the national broadcast and telecom landscape.

The basic transition is fairly straightforward. For decades, Canadian broadcasters have used spectrum to transmit over-the-air analog broadcast signals.

Before the widespread use of cable and satellite, many Canadians used antennae – "rabbit ears"– to access those broadcast signals. Today, approximately 10 per cent of Canadians still rely on over-the-air television signals.

Early in the next decade, Canadian broadcasters are scheduled to complete the switch from analog to digital broadcasts. The shift to digital brings several advantages including better image and sound quality, as well as more efficient use of spectrum that will open the door to new telecom services.

The shift will require some significant investments, however, since broadcasters must phase out their analog transmitters in favour of new digital equipment. Regulators first hoped broadcasters would voluntarily make the switch. In response to concerns that North American broadcasters were moving too slowly (several European countries have already transitioned from analog to digital), both the U.S. and Canada established mandatory deadlines by which the change must be completed.

Canada and the U.S. negotiated an agreement on the digital television transition in 2000, but the U.S. is now more than two years ahead of Canada, with its mandatory transition set for June 12, 2009. By contrast, the Canadian deadline is Aug. 31, 2011 (there are some exceptions for northern and remote communities).

Notwithstanding the longer Canadian phase-in, there are mounting concerns that Canadian broadcasters will not be ready in time. Last year, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chair Konrad von Finckenstein delivered a stinging rebuke to the broadcasters, noting the paucity of digital transmitters in Canada and lamenting that "so far, the industry has not shown the sense of urgency that I think is called for right now." Given the difficult economic climate, Canadian broadcasters are likely to lobby Industry Minister Tony Clement heavily for a deferral of the digital transition.

The shift also has implications for Canadian consumers, who may need new equipment because televisions without a digital tuner will require a special set-top box to view the over-the-air digital signals. This additional cost could affect lower-income Canadians, who are more likely to rely on over-the-air signals than cable or satellite services.

U.S. lawmakers have established a plan to support those in need of the digital equipment with a $1.5 billion (U.S.) coupon program that subsidizes the cost.

At the moment, there are no similar plans in Canada.

The CRTC has made it clear consumer subsidies fall outside its statutory mandate and, last week, Heritage Minister James Moore told a House of Commons committee there were no government plans to establish a consumer program.

The digital transition may result in some challenges for broadcasters but the implications are even greater for telecommunications. An important by-product of the transition will be that much of the spectrum now used by broadcasters for analog broadcasts will be freed up for other uses. Next week's column will examine the potential for dramatic new uses of spectrum – including more open networks and unlicensed "white spaces" that could foster new innovation and deliver wireless broadband services.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

Demetri Martin Steps Up

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Andrew Ryan

(February 16, 2009) Small things delight Demetri Martin. The mop-topped comedian and long-time contributor to The Daily Show upholds the fine tradition of surreal comedy, while sharpening it for today's informed slacker. Where comics once made jokes about airline food and relationships, Martin focuses on more arcane Gen-Y minutiae.

To wit: “Most castles in America are located in fish tanks,” said a completely deadpan Martin recently. “About 99 per cent are located underwater. So we have what is called a submerged monarchy in the United States.”

Such observations are typical fare from Martin, who possesses the rare ability to appear both bored and bemused before an audience. He may resemble a character from That ‘70s Show, but he has the Steven Wright sensibility down cold.

And however low key, he's also today's hot comedy player, as evidenced in recent cover stories by Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. His Daily Show reports and stand-up clips featuring trademark easel-board presentations are among the most downloaded on YouTube. (At 35, Martin also looks about 18, which possibly explains his appeal to the largest slice of the viewing demographic.)

The inevitable next rung for Martin has been loudly announced lately on billboards and in print ads:
Important Things with Demetri Martin, presents the lanky satirist with his first weekly comedy series, starting tomorrow.

“It's a good show, and it's thing-oriented,” he said in an interview. “It's not a topical show in as much as it covers news, but more that it covers a simple thing, like an object or an emotion. I try to treat things very broadly in that sense.”

Created for Comedy Central by Jon Stewart's production company, the seven-part series allows Martin wide-open comedic range, through sketches, animation and musical performance. At one point, the ambidextrous host simultaneously plays a guitar, three bells, a chord organ, a harmonica and a tambourine, while turning pages on a flip chart.

The first show's theme is timing, to be followed by Martin-style treatises on power, anger and other abstract human-condition issues. “We have an entire episode on chairs; that's probably my favourite,” said Martin.

In a nod to followers, Martin will also bring out a marker and flip chart on occasion to demonstrate some of his patented “product ideas,” including one he came up with recently on an airline flight.

“It's called a baby silencer,” he said. “It's kind of a funnel the baby wears over the nose and mouth. There's a tube going to headphones that go to the baby's ears, so when it's crying, it's going right back to his ears, like, ‘Wah – ow, God, that hurts. That's me. I should stop.' And then baby stops crying. That's still in development.”

This type of reflections occur naturally to Martin, whose world view was shaped by his working-class upbringing in Toms River, N.J., where his Greek-American parents ran a diner (his father is also a Greek Orthodox priest). An outgoing teen, and high-school president, the young Martin was drawn to the stand-up routines of Bill Cosby and Wright, and was particularly fascinated by the works of cartoonist Gary Larson.

“I loved The Far Side,” he said. “They usually left a situation hanging, so you could visualize the next part in your head. There was something in the economy of just lines or words that had a certain elegance to it, for my taste of comedy. It kind of led naturally to doing it onstage.”

Higher learning was important, too. Martin studied history for several semesters at Yale before switching to legal studies at New York University on a full scholarship. With one year of law school to go, he made a fateful life choice.

“One day I just decided, ‘Yeah, I'm going to be a comedian now,' and dropped out of law school,” said Martin. “I hadn't really tested if stand-up comedy was a viable career option.”

By his recollection, Martin's inaugural stand-up turn occurred on July 14, 1997 – Bastille Day, as it turned out. “It seemed like a good omen, I think, if you're French and you don't like fascism and you like comedy.”

After grinding it out in New York clubs and the comedy festival circuit, his profile achieved liftoff in 2000 when he added his simple sketches to the act. “Very often when I was trying to think up jokes, I would doodle,” he said. “I started to realize that certain jokes just work better as drawings.”

And from there, everything seemed to fall into place. Martin worked as a writer on Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 2003 to 2004 and one year later debuted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as the show's “senior youth correspondent,” which required him to expound upon such trends as hookahs and text-messaging.

“I've only realized lately how strange it is to get into show business and have mentors who are almost like professors,” said Martin. “First, I had Conan, and then Jon, probably two of the funniest men on television. It taught me you can really learn something, if you pay attention.”

As with the career path of other comic actors, including Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, the next logical step was film. Following small roles in Analyze That and The Rocker, Martin has already filmed the lead role in the upcoming movie Taking Woodstock, slated for release this summer.

Based on the book of the same name, the sixties-era period piece casts the comic into the role of Elliot Tiber, a closeted gay man who was instrumental in putting on the fabled Woodstock concert. Martin said the involvement of director Ang Lee sealed the deal.

“Hey, I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This guy made people run on the tops of trees – this is a talented person. It all felt a little strange, since I've only done small film parts and this was a lead role – and it was in the sixties and I was Jewish and playing a gay character – but it was cool,” he said.

Important Things is of more immediate concern for Martin, who seems anxious about what viewer response to the series might be. Most of his earlier comedy accomplishments came as a result of random stand-up meandering and good timing; in essence, he merely brought the things that amuse him to public attention. This time, though, he put in a lot of effort.

“The truth is, I tried pretty hard on this show,” said Martin, beaming with pride, “from the music to the drawings and stuff, and everything else. I'm not a great artist, and I'm not a great musician, but I do think I'm a pretty good comedian.”

Important Things with Demetri Martin premieres Wednesday, Feb. 18 on the Comedy Network at 10:30


'Brian McKnight Show' To Debut In The Fall

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2009) *Brian McKnight's one-hour weekly talk show has been green-lighted to premiere this fall on My Network TV, reports TVNewsday.  Producers Litton Entertainment announced that the "Brian McKnight Show" will feature performances from Hollywood stars, musicians, athletes and comedians.   "Yesterday's announcement that My Network TV is returning Saturday night time periods to their affiliates has opened up whole new conversations for us," said Tom Warner, executive vice president, Litton Entertainment.


Poor Celie's Rich Performance

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

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

(February 12, 2009) Libretto by Marsha Norman. Music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis. Directed by Gary Griffin. Until March 14 at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St. 416-872-1212

Open your heart to the big, bountiful musical called
The Color Purple that opened at the Canon Theatre last night and you will be well rewarded.

Alice Walker's prizewinning novel about Celie, the poor black girl who grows from a childhood of oppression to a maturity filled with happiness and grace, takes so many years (1909-1949) and involves so many people that you might wonder how it can all fit on a stage in less than three hours.

But it does, largely thanks to the skill of librettist Marsha Norman and director Gary Griffin. Without ever feeling that you're being overburdened with information or rushed through a Coles Notes version of the book, you get to know and love all the major characters.

Yes, Sofia is there in all her feisty, freewheeling glory, played with unabashed enthusiasm by the awesome Felicia P. Fields, with Stu James making a sweet counterpart as her on-again, off-again husband, Harpo.

That epitome of sex and charm, Shug Avery, dazzles us on every level in the electric work of Angela Robinson and her Act I duet with Celie, "What About Love?", provides the show with one of its emotional highlights.

There's also amazing work from Rufus Bonds Jr. who turns the misogynistic Mister from a potentially hateful caricature to a fully complex creation capable of genuine redemption. And mention must be made of the three "church ladies" (Kimberly Ann Harris, Virginia Ann Woodruff and Lynette DuPree) who provide welcome humour as the decades pass.

But none of this would work at all if there wasn't an amazing actor playing Celie and this production has one in Kenita R. Miller.

It's hard to figure out which aspect of her work to praise first. She ages 40 years over the course of the evening with total conviction and makes us believe equally in her gawky childhood and her radiant middle-aged self.

Celie has to deal with a variety of losses – sister, children, lover, friends – and Miller makes every one trigger a different kind of pain. There's no danger of her life turning into a monotonous catalogue of woe; she sees to that.

And if all that wasn't enough, she expresses these feelings in the soaring songs of Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis with a vocal power that is remarkable. Yes, she can bring the roof down with her power, but she can also whisper a single word and fill it with the most intense conviction.

The show has also been blessed in its physical production, with John Lee Beatty's set and Brian MacDevitt's lighting capturing the intense red-dust rural Georgia landscape, while Paul Tazewell is allowed to let his costumes peacock forth in vivid urban hues.

As mentioned, Gary Griffin does a superb job of directing, allowing the big moments to sprawl across the stage as they must, but knowing just how to focus our attention down to one or two people when the moment demands it.

Donald Byrd's choreography has the right kind of splash for the moments of celebration, but it misfires in what I feel is the one unsuccessful sequence in the show.

After many years, Celie finally reconnects with her sister, Nettie (played competently by understudy LaTonya Holmes at the opening performance), who now lives in Africa.

While understanding why it's necessary for Celie to sense some of what that country really means, what winds up on stage looks like outtakes from The Lion King, and takes the show away from the solid base of reality where it has lived all night.

But that's a minor complaint. Regardless of your age, gender, or the colour of your skin, The Color Purple has something resonant and touching to say about existing in this grand, confusing, often upsetting, but ultimately inspiring universe.

Come and listen to the song it's singing. You won't forget it.

Dirty Dancing Announces Last Show In TO

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

(February 15, 2009) Nobody puts Baby in a corner, but they can ease her out of the theatre.

David Mirvish announced Sunday that
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage will play its 582nd and final performance at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on Sunday, March 29.

Since opening on Nov. 15, 2007, it will have played to more than 800,000 audience members and, according to Mirvish Productions, have generated $500 million in economic spinoff to the city (although it wasn't specified how much of that was in out-of-season watermelon sales).

It represents an impressive showing for the musical, which opened to mixed reviews and was specifically marketed to audiences (largely female) who were fans of the original 1987 film about a girl's coming-of-age in the Catskill Mountains during the summer of 1963.

Fans of the movie were delighted that the stage version duplicated the cinematic experience while those who didn't enjoy the show found that slavish fidelity to be the production's weak point.

Nevertheless, 800,000 people is an attendance figure not to be sneered at. Coupled with the fact that We Will Rock You is still running after nearly two years and that shows like The Sound of Music and Jersey Boys are also playing to healthy houses, it sends out a message that Toronto's commercial theatre is a viable concern once again.

Mirvish pronounced himself "delighted with the success of Dirty Dancing." According to all reports, it paid off its production costs shortly after its first anniversary and has been running at a profit since then.

No one knows what's going to follow at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, but it's a good omen that the city's most desirable playhouse will be available for some of the new productions that Mirvish will reveal Tuesday morning as he announces his 2009-2010 subscription season.

Uggams A Natural To Play Horne

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(February 18, 2009) PASADENA, Calif. For Leslie Uggams, playing Lena Horne in Stormy Weather – a hot new show currently at the Pasadena Playhouse – is not just another acting job.

"Lena is one of my icons," Uggams explained last week during an onstage conversation with Sheldon Epps, artistic director of the Playhouse.

And Uggams could become the second performer to win a Tony playing Lena Horne. The first was Horne herself, for her sensational turn in Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music (1981).

A hit in Pasadena, where it has broken box office records and had its run extended, this sizzling musical bio has the smell of a popular winner, so chances are good it will wind up on Broadway, where Uggams won a Tony 40 years ago in Hallelujah, Baby!

The creative team for Hallelujah, Baby! – a show about the civil rights movement that had been conceived as a vehicle for Horne – featured several legendary figures: book-writer Arthur Laurents, composer Jule Styne, lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Like Horne, Uggams – who went on to star in the hugely popular TV miniseries Roots – had to juggle career ambitions and life on the road with the demands of being a wife and mother. And like Horne, who was constantly humiliated even while becoming the first African American to get a long Hollywood studio contract, Uggams had to fight racial prejudice.

Her popularity with audiences made Uggams a regular on Mitch Miller's TV show when she was a teenager half a century ago. It was not until later that she became aware the network tried to get rid of her because affiliate stations in the South refused to take the show as long as she was on it.

In addition to talent and beauty, there were two qualities that made Horne memorable. One was the audacious sexuality she brought to songs like "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Honeysuckle Rose." The other was the underlying anger and defiance that energized her performances.

Of course, she had reason to be angry. MGM didn't know what to do with her. She famously lost one battle when the role of Julie in the 1951 remake of Show Boat was snatched away from her and given to white actor Ava Gardner.

And even while actively working for civil rights and breaking new ground, she was resented by her own people, partly because she married a white man.

In Stormy Weather – written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and directed by Michael Bush – there are two Hornes, sometimes onstage arguing with one another. Uggams plays the older Horne, despairing and reclusive after suffering many blows: the death of her husband, her father, her drug-addicted son and her dear friend Billy Strayhorn.

A happy surprise bonus is that Uggams meets her match in Nikki Crawford, who plays the younger Horne and gets to sing such great songs as "How Deep Is the Ocean" and "Push da Button" (the latter from the Broadway show Jamaica).

Uggams stops the show again and again with "From This Moment On," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Yesterday When I Was Young."

These two Hornes are not the only dynamic talents showcased. Kevin Morrow is heartbreakingly marvellous as Strayhorn, Horne's gifted gay friend who wrote "Lush Life."

And Dee Hoty brings a needed comic punch to the role of Kay Thompson (best known for starring in the movie Funny Face and writing the Eloise books).

Her agenda is to drag Horne out of seclusion and persuade her to do a show about her life. The result, of course, was The Lady and Her Music.

Horne is still alive. But at 91 she has stopped performing and rarely leaves her New York apartment. Maybe she'll make an exception for the Broadway opening of Stormy Weather.

Erica Peck goes from We Will Rock You to Irish wife in new Lloyd Webber show

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

(February 16, 2009) Erica Peck is only 22 years old and for the past two years, she's been starring as Scaramouche in the hit musical We Will Rock You.

That would seem like achievement enough for a young woman, but she's going to leave the Queen musical on March 8 and tackle something completely different, playing a young wife in strife-torn 1970s Northern Ireland, fighting to hold on to her man and her beliefs in The Boys in the Photograph.

This new show is by We Will Rock You's writer/director Ben Elton and Andrew Lloyd Webber, a rewritten version of their 2000 London musical The Beautiful Game.

It's opening at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in April, with a fair bit of Mirvish money behind it, and even though no Toronto date has been set, there's a good chance it will wind up here in the not too distant future.

That's a lot for one woman to have on her plate at an age when most of her peers are still in theatre school. How does she handle it? Judging from a recent interview, a combination of peppermint tea and positive thinking.

"I still wake up some days and can't believe what I'm doing! I haven't been bored for a second, honestly, and I don't want it to ever end."

Looking at her now, she radiates confidence and has the slick air of someone who's been working the show-business scene for years. But she hasn't.

In fact, it's been quite a crazy journey for the girl who was plucked out of her second year at Sheridan College and entrusted with helping to carry a giant show, with nothing more substantial under her belt than two high school musicals and a summer at Canada's Wonderland.

"You gotta love those people at the Mirvish office," she giggles gratefully. "They really took a chance on me. They were the best. And so was Ben."

She's talking about Elton, who has become Peck's mentor.

"He's been the most important one in building my confidence, my self-esteem, everything," she says.

Still, a quick look at her life would indicate that it's never really been that tough going for the cheerful Peck.

She was born in London, Ont., on Aug. 15, 1986. Her parents moved to Port Credit and, before too long, Peck had decided music would be her life. But it wasn't due to any parental push.

"My parents were so not stage parents," she laughs. "They were both social workers, but they were very much about letting me find my passion and it turned out to be music."

Her folks played B.B. King to her and she played Éponine in her school's production of Les Misérables. She even squeezed in some gospel choir on the side, but she'd made her mind up.

"I've always been a big rock 'n' roller," she sighs. "I do love my Heart."

So when she entered the musical theatre program at Sheridan, it wasn't exactly a match made in heaven.

She praises some of "the great teachers I had," but ultimately felt "the program was too conservative and formal and not for me."

So, even though she wasn't supposed to be auditioning while in her second year, she snuck out to the open call for We Will Rock You and belted out "Heartbreaker," the number she had sung "five times a day, six days a week" at Canada's Wonderland the summer before.

After a call-back, they finally offered her the role.

"The moment they told me I was cast I knew my whole life would change totally and very quickly,'' she recalls. ``But I just wasn't really sure how it was going to change."

But now she knows. And she likes the way it has.

Her one big wish?

"I want We Will Rock You to still be playing after I finish doing The Boys in the Photograph so I can come back to the show and the people I love."

From Ancient Egypt To '70s Jamaica, New Season Packs A Lot In

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

(February 18, 2009) David Mirvish stepped onto the stage of the Princess of Wales Theatre yesterday morning and offered the people of Toronto a recession-busting bundle of nine plays and musicals.

Mirvish said he hopes audiences will look at the varied productions and say, "We're going to leave our problems behind for a while and enter somebody else’s world where things are different."

Everything from reggae to revivals, from Dubya to drag queens will be on display next season. And there's a chance that another reality TV show might be part of the mix.

Seven of the shows are part of the traditional
Mirvish subscription package, while two of the more avant-garde entries will be "bonuses" outside the regular season.

One of the subscription shows is a returning city favourite: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

When this production opened in London, the lead had been chosen in a reality-TV talent hunt, just as the CBC reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? found a star for the Toronto production of The Sound of Music.

Asked yesterday if TV viewers would choose a Joseph here, Mirvish only said, "I think that would be a great thing." Sources at CBC-TV conceded that: "We're in discussions but nothing for sure at this point."

The Mirvish season starts with The Harder They Come, the hit London musical based on the 1972 Jamaican film that made Jimmy Cliff and his reggae music worldwide sensations. To acknowledge that fact, Cliff was on hand yesterday to sing a medley of some of his greatest hits.

Actor Barry Flatman, portraying George W. Bush, was also present to remind us that Studio 180's superb production of Stuff Happens, by David Hare, will be revived by Mirvish Productions next season.

The study of how Bush and his cabinet caused the war in Iraq to happen against all good reason was probably the finest show of 2008 in Toronto.

A nicer legendary figure comes along in the person of Israeli actor Chaim Topol, who'll appear as Tevye in what is billed as his "farewell tour" of Fiddler on the Roof.

The popular Bock and Harnick musical based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem reiterates the theme of family that seems to run through the whole Mirvish season.

Good, bad, normal, dysfunctional, racial, ethnic, political, sexual: all kinds of family groupings are on display.

The next one up is probably the most traditional: Little House on the Prairie. Based on the classic stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which in turn gave rise to the beloved TV series, this new musical version broke house records at the Guthrie Theatre of Minneapolis when it premiered there last summer.

Melissa Gilbert, one of the TV show's original stars, will appear in the musical here as well.

For something completely different, there's Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Based on the maestro's own cult comedy classic, this zany song and dance version recreates all of the original's film highlights, including the Monster tapping his way through "Puttin' on the Ritz."

The Mirvish musical after that brings us another group of odd men out: the drag queens of the Australian outback in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Already a hit in Australia, this show is scheduled to open in London next month and have its North American premiere in Toronto in the spring of 2010.

Two very different pieces will appear as "bonuses." One is Cloud 9, Caryl Churchill's gender-bending comedy that is as relevant now as when it premiered 30 years ago. Alisa Palmer will direct an all-star Canadian cast, headed by Ben Carlson, Megan Follows and Ann-Marie McDonald.

And last year's Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning study of the ultimate dysfunctional family, August: Osage County, will come to the Canon for a limited run, starring Estelle Parsons.


Afro Samurai Is Badass But Lacks Finesse

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

Afro Samurai
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Price: $69.99
Rated: M
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(February 14, 2009) Like all formula-bound genres, it's what a game does within its framework that makes the difference between crap and classic. For "beat-'em-ups" like Afro Samurai, the three key factors are Flash, Finesse and Badassery.

(The formula for the beat-'em-up game, a genre that stretches back in time through Devil May Cry and God of War to arcade classics like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, is simple and almost unvarying: Move into an area, kick the bejabbers out of everything you find there, move on and repeat with occasional boss battles until victory, vengeance and/or the kidnapping victim are safely in your hands.)

Of badassery, Afro Samurai has plenty. In a genre whose lead characters seem to be engaged in a kind of arms race over who can be more over-the-top in costume and weaponry – Devil May Cry 4's Nero, with his duster-and-hoodie combo, glowing demon hand, double-barrelled revolver and giant sword powered by a motorcycle engine, is current "leader" in this insane spiral of Mutually Assured Ridiculousness – Afro Samurai's Afro is dangerously understated.

All lean muscle moving in loose, practical swordfighter's clothes, with rakish Bogart cigarette and a plain ol' katana that speaks for itself – he is to Nero what Michael Caine in Get Carter is to the Ultimate Warrior. He slices and dices in wonderful high style. His one affectation, that architecturally improbable hairdo, is so unspeakably righteous you'd never dare call him on it, even if he wouldn't chop your elbows off for doing so.

On the Flash front, Afro Samurai scores a couple more wins. Visually, it's a stone knockout, maintaining the look and feel of its parent anime, a wonderfully rendered and textured blend of medieval Japanese and hip-hop stylization: flowing organic forms, watercolour shades and great epic spurts of bright-red blood straight out of a Samurai-sword opera.

On a sonic level – if you can get past the repetitive, foul-mouthed callouts of the henchpersons you're mowing through – you're treated to some gleefully rambunctious voice work from certified urban ham-in-a-can Samuel L. Jackson, and a wicked East Asia-meets-East Coast soundtrack courtesy of legendary producer RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. In terms of pure audiovisual presentation, there are very few games in Afro Samurai's league.

But if it looks like a good game and sounds like a good game, it doesn't necessarily follow that it is a good game. All the Flash and Badassery in the world won't buy you a coffee in the beat-em-up leagues without that Finesse, and here's where Afro Samurai trades in its razor-sharp blade for a whiffle bat.

A top beat-'em-up is like a finely tuned instrument: Playing it well – or even hacking away at it – gives you a feeling of rhythm, of beats and riffs that come off with a satisfaction akin to that of making music.

Afro Samurai has none of this tuning, none of this crispness. It's by turns mushy and obstinate, either fighting against you for control or letting you flail into a haze of soggy button-mashing.

Afro's badassery never makes that all-important journey from your eyes, through your hands, to your gut.

A character with this much cool and this much talent backing up his style deserves better.

When Gaming Gets Emotional

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

(February 14, 2009) Heartache and heartbreak, love and love's loss – these are familiar themes in video games. Princesses and girlfriends in these still-male-dominated worlds are forever abducted and jeopardized, obsessed over and quested for. But that's procedural heartache, straight-up rescue-the-damsel heroic pulp. More important are the games that are now dealing with the complexities of real-world relationships, in ways only games can.

At last week's Global Game Jam, a gruelling online test of coding and creation, individuals and small teams from around the world worked to produce a full game in just three days. Amid the arty shooters, block stackers, weird racers and experimental mechanics and interfaces of every sort, I came across a little puzzler called
Custody, from Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Team Akrasia, which arrested me with its stated aims: "(Custody) provides real insight into the effects of separation and divorce upon a vulnerable child. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old child, the melodrama of divorce and jockeying for custody appear as crayon sketches marked by confusion, helplessness, blame ..."

Custody (globalgamejam.org/games/custody) immediately sold me on its emotional experience by being almost completely obscure in its gameplay. After a single tutorial screen that explains nothing, you're left to wander Custody's chalkboard-scrawled territories, figuring out the rules of its digital world on your own.

After an hour of play – moving my cartoon kid along borders, picking up emotionally evocative items such as a beach ball or a shattered vase and dropping them into a parent's "world" – I felt I was beginning to see the game's causes and effects. Placing an object in Mom's world, for example, could cause the amorphous borders to subtly shift.

But maybe I was wrong; maybe everything was completely random and out of my control, and any patterns I felt were just my brain desperately trying to fabricate a sense of agency, of identity. If that doesn't express a kid's divorce experience, what does? (According to the Global Game Jam website, Team Akrasia's design "draws off research in the psycho-dynamics of divorcing families.")

It's no surprise that simply grasping the rules is at the core of games that deal seriously with an emotional payload. This mirrors life, after all, and if it seems like I'm skimping on the details of how these games actually play, that's why.

The obscure mechanics, and the goal of self-discovery through the act of play, are so essential to the emotional experience that to descibe them more explicitly would ruin the experience, like giving away the ending to a movie.

Take Jason Rohrer's Passage, a little masterpiece in this line of "art games." It is, as Ian Bogost understates in a review on the Water Cooler Games online forum, a "simple approach to a difficult theme": love and mortality.

Playing is as simple as pressing the direction keys and a single playthrough will take almost exactly five minutes, but I was more emotionally affected by five minutes with Passage than by 100 hours with Final Fantasy VII or any other video game melodrama. I wept real, sobbing tears after five minutes with a colourful smear of blocky pixels.

What actually happens, you ask? Well, you walk down a long, narrow, low-resolution corridor with your life partner until she dies, and then you die. It's utterly compelling when you play it, but it's garbage on paper. The best I can do is urge you to download it (at hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/passage) and give it a try (but keep the tissues handy).

The poster child of this emotional-games movement is Jonathan Blow's multi-award-winning Braid. At first glance – especially if you're glancing at a screenshot – Braid seems a standard, if very pretty, platformer in the Super Mario vein, complete with an industry-standard save-the-maiden plot.

In fact, Braid (braid-game.com) quickly begins to subvert the cliché and turn it back into itself, in a nightmare of obsession, inevitability and the fallibility of memory. With each new stage, you're tasked with figuring out a new, increasingly obscure and tricky twist on the game's central time-control mechanic; with each intra-level scene and its attendant prose, your feeling of unease and wrongness grows, until the whole thing culminates in a gut-dropping finale – raw and real but ambiguous enough that it will be talked and argued about for years by players and anyone else looking at games from an artistic/emotional perspective.

That's the power of video games, the power of an interactive medium experienced actively by an agent rather than passively by an observer. It's the ability to viscerally show rather than tell, to involve rather than project, and it has immense potential for emotional delivery. And it all starts with love.


10 Things Men Wish Women Knew

By Shawn McKee, eDiets Staff Writer

(March 24, 2008) Spring is here -- and that means love is in the air! Flowers bloom, birds chirp and people wake from their winter slumbers, looking for love. Yes, romance blooms as the warm, spring air coaxes us out of our caves and into the sunny world around us.

For as long as people have been pairing up, they've had problems with communication. So to help alleviate some of the problems that arise when the sexes try to coincide in courtship, I've put together a list of things women should know about men. As a man, these are the things I wish every woman knew about me -- and my brethren -- to make life simpler for everyone.

We lie. But it's not as bad as it sounds. Generally, we do it to make you feel good or avoid trouble. Were you really looking for the truth when you asked: "Does this make my butt look big?" We think your butt looks great. Everything you try on looks "great." Let's leave it at that.

We're insecure -- just like you. This seems obvious, but since men tend not to open up about their feelings, it may be hard to actually recognize. We want to feel wanted and needed. Throw us an occasional compliment, ask us to help you do something manly or laugh at our dumb jokes. Pointing out our imperfections is painful for us, too, so take it easy when addressing our growing beer belly, receding hairline or bedroom prowess.

Your body is sexy. Fitness is sexy. You don't have to be built like a ballerina to turn us on, but the fact that you take care of yourself is important. Plus, we love seeing you in your sexy little workout clothes and we're hoping that when you get home from the gym you'll suggest we "hit the showers" together.

The eyes have it. We think you're sexy, remember? Sometimes our eyes wander, but that doesn't mean we're planning on straying. It's unnatural for a man to ignore a beautiful woman -- it's science. So, if you catch your man ogling another beauty, don't point out all her imperfections and call her a "skank." Jealousy is not pretty.

Acceptable actions for you to take: Punch him in the arm, make a smartass comment about her outfit, say "You wish," start ogling a handsome man in the area, suggest a threesome (then add "you wish") or anything else that's shows you're confident and can laugh off a faux pas as trivial as our naturally wandering eyes.

We're always ready for sex -- always. That's pretty much it on that one. So, feel free to initiate whenever you're feeling randy.

Subtly is lost on us. This is one that always seems to baffle women I know. "I flipped my hair, smiled and touched my neck, how could he not know I'm interested?" Because he doesn't get subtle clues, as a matter of fact, subtly is all but lost on the male species.

I'm not sure why this is, but if you want something, you may just have to ask directly. Is it as fun as dropping hints about what you want for your anniversary and being surprised when you don't get it? Maybe not, but it will eliminate a great deal of miscommunication.

Cookies, cakes and the kitchen. When you cook for us, it's the sexiest thing ever. We love food and we love women, so a woman who can feed us pretty much covers all the bases. Watching you cook is better foreplay than pretty much anything, unless you're cooking wearing only an apron, then it is the best foreplay -- ever.

You don't really want to know what we're thinking. Men's minds, like their eyes, tend to wander. You ask, "What are you thinking?" And you get a blank stare. It's not because we're not thinking anything, but because we know you don't care about the finer points of a 3-4 defense, who would win in a fight between a ninja and a pirate (ninja, in case you're wondering), or how many hot dogs we think we could eat in 20 minutes. So, when we reply, "How beautiful you are…" Just accept it.

Directions? We don't need no stinkin' directions! We don't ask for directions because we like to solve problems, it makes us feel accomplished. Half the fun of going somewhere is the trip, so getting lost and finding our way back is a big part of the fun of going to your co-worker’s birthday party. We're explorers by nature; let us have our great expedition -- even if it makes us late. You can blame us for being late -- we don't mind.

Stop asking, "Where is this going?" We don't know. We know where we hope this will go, but we're not going to stop and ask for directions. You have a right to ask this at some point as the relationship develops, but we're trying to enjoy the trip, not rush to the destination. Asking will just make us feel pressured, so just skip this question all together and enjoy the ride.

We really just want to make you happy, that's all. More often than not, we'll do the right thing, but take it easy on us when we act like the cavemen we are, at least we're trying.

Shawn McKee is not a doctor, psychologist or relationship expert of any kind. He is, however, a man. Which he thinks gives him the authority to write about things men like.

Tories Announce Details Of Reworked Canadian Magazine Fund

www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(February 17, 2009) The Harper government is going ahead with plans to create a new $75.5-million Canada Periodical Fund that merges the functions of the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore announced yesterday.

It's hoped the new fund, which preserves the total level of funding now provided by the PAP and the CMF, will be up and running in the spring of 2010. Moore's decision affirms an announcement Canadian Heritage made 13 months ago saying it planned to “redesign,” with industry consultation, both programs, which subsidize the delivery of domestic publications (PAP) and fund editorial content and business development (CMF) into one “modern, streamlined program” assisting Canadian magazines and community newspapers.

The new program caps at $1.5-million the amount that an individual title can receive in a fiscal year. Eligibility is expected to be determined by a formula based on the readership of each publication as well as a minimum overall Canadian content of 80 per cent.

One key eligibility element, Moore said, is that a periodical must have an annual paid circulation of at least 5,000. As a result, it's expected some of the country's largest magazines could see modest reductions in their annual allocation. In 2007-08, more than 230 commercial magazines, English and French, earned editorial content assistance via the CMF, with Maclean's, Chatelaine and Canadian Living ranked as the largest recipients at $396,389, $228,769 and $205,308, respectively.

The biggest chunk of the promised $75.5-million – $72-million – allows publishers to spend their annual allocation in the ways they see fit, whether it's for the creation of content or online delivery or business development.

Until the new Canada Periodical Fund comes into effect, the PAP and the CMF will continue. The government also has instructed Canada Post to continue to provide $15-million annually to the PAP for the next two fiscal years. (In 2006, Canada Post announced that it planned to withdraw from assisting the PAP.) Mark Jamison, chief executive officer of Magazines Canada, was pleased with yesterday's announcement. “The new program will provide greater flexibility to publishers, providing more options in making magazines accessible to Canadian readers,” he said in a statement. “It addresses the changes taking place in the publishing sector and will be more relevant in today's environment.”

Arts Groups Seek CanCon Rules For Web

Source: www.thestar.com - Joanna Smith,
Ottawa Bureau

(February 18, 2009) GATINEAU, Que.–Canadian arts groups say the time has come to protect homegrown content by making Internet distributors obey the same rules applied to radio and television broadcasters.

"This is a battle for the future," Richard Hardacre, national president of performing arts guild ACTRA, told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission yesterday. "What we want is a place for Canadian storytellers and our stories. We want to share our talents with Canadians and with global audiences." ACTRA was one of five cultural groups that kicked off the first day of hearings to review the laissez-faire approach the CRTC has taken toward professionally produced online broadcast content.

The CRTC exempted new media from regulation in 1999, when few households had access to high-speed Internet connections and in 2007 it also gave a free pass to content broadcast to mobile devices.

The hearings are pitting Internet service providers against arts groups pushing for better protection of Canadian content online through a tax or levy on Internet use that would help finance domestically produced new media.

"We think it's high time we create a fund to make sure that there is enough Canadian content there, as we did in the past for traditional broadcasting," said Alain Pineau of the Canadian Conference of the Arts.

Internet service providers maintain they would have to pass on any extra costs to consumers.

The commissioners asked the arts groups why the industry needs more money since there is already the Canada New Media Fund, which will receive $28.6 million over the next two years and $14.3 million annually after that.

Hey Look, We Made Front Of The Atlantic

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

(February 18, 2009) "Toronto Wins" trumpets the front cover of the March issue of The Atlantic, the victorious headline set against a panoramic, lakefront shot of the Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and the skyscrapers of the King-Bay financial nexus.

But before we descend into an orgy of self-congratulation, consider that Toronto is one of four cities touted as a potentially strengthened survivor of the current financial crisis – along with New York, Chicago and San Francisco. And each has its own cover.

Readers across Canada will see the Toronto cover, while those in Chicago and San Francisco have been targeted with specially tailored issues featuring their city on the cover. The rest of the U.S. is receiving the New York version.

The accompanying article, by U.S.-bred, Toronto-based urban theorist Richard Florida, offers a historical analysis of how past financial crises have contributed to the rise and fall of various urban centres and regions. There is actually very little about Toronto in the piece, which focuses more on perceived future losers such as the Sun Belt and suburbia in general.

"Obviously, the intention behind the cover is to try to attract some attention on the newsstand," said Zachary Hooper, who handles public relations for the Boston-based magazine.

"Toronto is indicative of the kinds of cities that Richard Florida talks about in the article. And then, of course, Richard Florida being based in Toronto is an added local hook."

The Atlantic, which underwent a major redesign at the end of last year, averages sales of roughly 20,000 copies per issue at newsstands in Canada, about half that number in Ontario.


Dreamgirls Earn NAACP Image Awards

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(February 13, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson, co-stars in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, both glided away with trophies last night and wowed the audience with individual performances during the televised 40th annual NAACP Image Awards. Beyoncé won the Female Artist category while Hudson picked up the New Artist award.  The Secret Life of Bees won for Outstanding Motion Picture. Grey's Anatomy won for TV Drama. The awards show coincides with the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


Leading The Way, One Salsa Class At A Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Sarah Barmak,
Special To The Star

(February 12, 2009) Normally, any attempt to follow my partner's lead on the dance floor would result in an awkward struggle or, worse, battered toes. Now I know why.

"You know, you're a better leader than you are a follower," says dance instructor Danny Leong.

For the first time, I think I might actually be enjoying dancing – and formal dancing at that.

I'm a woman, and I've been leading a man around a sunlit dance floor for half an hour. Not easy when he's more than a foot taller than me, but somehow, it's more fun.

Joy of Dance studio at Danforth and Broadview Aves., women are encouraged to take the lead, and men have permission to follow – even if they're following another man. It started last year, when the studio began offering same-sex salsa and ballroom classes.

"In ballroom you need a leader and a follower," says Jennifer Jones, the studio's owner. "You need to have the two roles for that choreography to work."

She leans in to emphasize her next point.

"It's the roles that should be sacred, not the gender." Which is why I'm twirling my partner in a salsa spin, leading him into a turn and gently correcting his timing.

Since the mid-1990s, same-sex dancing has become a growing international subculture, but mainstream dance studios have largely been slow to catch on – Joy of Dance excluded. It's been featured at gay and lesbian sport events such as the EuroGames and the Gay Games. The first same-sex world championship was held in Sacramento, Calif., in 2005, put on by the World Federation of Same-Sex Dancing.

U.S. television series Dancing With the Stars jumped on the bandwagon last year, featuring a man-on-man tango (or "mango") between actor Steve Guttenberg and dancer Jonathan Roberts.

A rumour that Lance Bass would take a male partner on the show came to naught, however. And most international dance competitions and academies have continued to resist the trend.

Their reluctance is partly understandable. Much of the appeal of ballroom dance comes from its ability to take us back to an older time, where traditional gender roles were played out on the dance floor. And there's no denying salsa's macho undertones.

"Competitions have limited it to be men and women, not even discussing it," says Jones. "They say, `That's not the way it's done.' That has to change."

Leong, 28, taught the first same-sex class the studio offered last fall.

"As a follower, you have to be aware, but not take charge," he explains, talking about the differences between roles. "The best part of same-sex dance is you can switch roles if you're advanced. They call it `stealing the move.' They do it in swing, but in salsa it's not common. Salsa is considered a macho dance.

"It's the same with ballroom – men have to be leaders, ladies have to be followers. But not any more. Society has changed."

Leong has been dancing since he was 6. "I didn't know dancing as a follower existed" for a man, he says.

Leong says he was first intrigued by so-called "Jack and Jack" dancing, in which two men dance together as part of competitive swing "Jack and Jill" competitions (though the pairing isn't explicitly gay). "Jill and Jill" dances are also common. In some same-sex dancing venues, the names Jack and Jill have been discarded entirely in favour of the gender-neutral "Pat and Chris."

Leong discovered same-sex dancing in Toronto's gay community – which still hosts a swing-dancing club called Swingin' Out – and he wanted to bring it to a dance studio. He suggested the classes to Jones, who embraced the idea.

Jones, a bubbly blond who greets almost every dance student personally, explains that she had always envisioned her studio as "more inclusive."

"In the ballroom industry there's a sacredness to the concept of men and women only dancing with each other. Why is that so sacred? To say that's how it's always been done is not good enough."

She says that in her classes, "nobody questions it, nobody asks, `What's going on?' That's the world I want to live in, where you don't have to question it."

The studio welcomes same-sex couples to every class already, but wanted to introduce same-sex classes, too.

"I think there's a group that would feel more comfortable in a same-sex class," says Jones.

One of those people is Lisa Ivens, 46, who dances in Leong's salsa class with her partner, Sylvia LaFontaine, 36. Ivens leads and Sylvia follows, an arrangement they say feels natural.

"Years ago, when I went to Arthur Murray (dance studio), they gave me a follower position because I'm a woman," she says. "I want to lead."

She says that while the studio welcomed same-sex couples, she felt awkward at its Friday-night socials, where every couple was straight. At Joy of Dance's socials, same-sex couples mingle on the dance floor with straight couples.

"I probably wouldn't be dancing as much" without the same-sex classes, Ivens says.

Although same-sex dancing specifically accommodates same-sex couples, it has had the added benefit of allowing straight dancers to experiment with different roles.

"If a female decides to take the leadership role, it's not necessarily attached to sexual orientation," Jones says. Some women simply make great leaders, she says.

Another added benefit: because women no longer are limited to the follower role, they don't have to wait to dance on the sidelines if there aren't enough men available, says Jones.

"Women are beginning to say, `I don't have to wait; I can take the lead.'"

Joy of Dance is at 95 Danforth Ave., third floor. Contact 416-406-3262 or joyofdance.ca


Shaq, Kobe Winners Again In All-Star Game

www.eurweb.com - AP News

(February 16, 2009) And just like the good ol' days, they won again.

Bryant led all scorers with 27 points, O'Neal partied his way back onto the
All-Star stage with 17 in just 11 minutes, and the Western Conference beat the East 146-119 Sunday night.

"It felt like old times," O'Neal said. "I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me."

Back on the same team for the first time in nearly five years, the three-time champions shared the game MVP award. They helped the West get untracked after an awful start, then teamed up for a few buckets that helped blow it open in the third quarter.

"I tell you what, those two guys together, that's a deadly combination as we all saw tonight and we have all seen in the past," East coach Mike Brown said.

"They are where they are right now, but if they were to stay together, no telling how many more rings they would have had on their fingers and toes."

And they did it in the ways that made them so different — Bryant with his cold-as-ice stare and focus, O'Neal as the oversized clown who made fans and foes alike laugh.

O'Neal is now complimentary of Bryant, calling him the best player in the NBA. Bryant still seems uncomfortable talking about his relationship with O'Neal — if there is much of one.

"We are not going to go back to the room and watch 'Steel Magnolias' or something like that, you know what I'm saying, crying, all that stuff," Bryant said. "We had a good time. That's all."

It was their first time on the floor as teammates since the 2004 NBA finals. O'Neal was traded to Miami that summer, breaking apart a duo that produced three straight titles but was perhaps better known for its frequent feuding that made the breakup inevitable.

"I think it is a great life lesson for people," said West coach Phil Jackson, who led O'Neal and Bryant to their titles with the Lakers. "This is something that the people work together, people find a way to get through situations, find harmony in their life, find cohabitation."

Bryant and O'Neal shared a slight hug after being announced as MVPs, then playfully fought over the trophy commissioner David Stern handed to them. They joined Bob Pettit, who won four times, and Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only three-time All-Star MVPs.

"The Big Legendaries," O'Neal said.

Amare Stoudemire scored 19 for the West, which bounced back from its loss last year in New Orleans, when Bryant was limited to just a few minutes of action while resting a dislocated pinkie finger.

"We wanted to be aggressive," Bryant said. "We talked about it before going out there, we wanted to play. We lost last year and we wanted to make sure we came out here and played the game hard, come out here with a win."

LeBron James led the East with 20 points. Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade each scored 18.

O'Neal missed the All-Star game last year after 14 straight selections, and he brought back his unmatched entertaining abilities. Players were introduced on a stage behind the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop dance group. O'Neal, the last reserve to come out, was wearing one of their masks and boogied along with them before taking his spot on the court.

"I wanted to do something a little different and unique," O'Neal said. "I realized that this may possibly be my last one, so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans."

He later jazzed up a comedy skit in which players sang love songs for a fake Valentine's Day CD with an energetic rendition of Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen."

The weekend festivities were a welcome distraction for Phoenix basketball fans, whose disappointing Suns were apparently in the process of dismantling their team while the fun was going on around them.

Phoenix coach Terry Porter will be fired Monday and replaced by assistant Alvin Gentry, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke Sunday night on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made.

The changes may not stop there.

Stoudemire, who started for the West, is the biggest name involved in trade rumours ahead of next week's deadline. Just in case he won't be seen again for a while, Stoudemire earned a pair of loud ovations before the game from the celebrity-filled crowd that included Muhammad Ali, plus Sen. John McCain sitting four seats away from Spike Lee.

O'Neal also could be moved, and he showed he's still got plenty of game left if somebody wants him.

"That's the first time I have seen an MVP that played 11 minutes in an All-Star game," Jackson said. "But he really had an impact on the game, there is no doubt about it."

The East started quickly, while the West missed nine of its first 11 shots and trailed 20-10 when Jackson called timeout and inserted O'Neal with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. The West scored the next 11 points with Shaq and Kobe on the floor, part of a 19-0 run that made it 27-20.

O'Neal, enjoying a resurgence this season after an injury-plagued 2007-08, had three baskets and set up another during the run. There was little interaction between he and Bryant, who both insist they've patched things up, aside from normal basketball plays.

O'Neal returned midway through the third quarter with the West already ahead by double digits. Bryant set him up for a layup, then made one himself for a 97-85 lead.

"It is fun to see them compete like they did tonight," James said.

O'Neal scored the next eight West points, including one basket when Bryant fed him for a dunk. Another came when he ran a give-and-go with Hornets guard Chris Paul — with O'Neal feeding the 6-foot Paul in the post and swooping in from the perimeter for a dunk.

Paul, Brandon Roy, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker all finished with 14 points for the West. Paul also had 14 assists.

Dwight Howard had 13 points and nine rebounds in a disappointing performance by the East, which shot only 47 percent in a game usually absent of defense and was outrebounded 51-38.

Notes:@ President Barack Obama delivered a taped message at halftime urging public service. Also at the half, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo gave rings to the members of the men's and women's gold medal-winning teams who were in Phoenix. The players in the All-Star game came out for the presentation in their USA warm-up outfits. ... The Canadian anthem was performed by Canada native Tamia Hill, wife of Suns forward Grant Hill. ... Tim Duncan and Parker, whose San Antonio Spurs have ended many recent Phoenix postseasons, were booed before the game.

NHL Play-By-Play In Punjabi Scores Big Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Raveena Aulakh,
Staff Reporter

(February 16, 2009) Saturday is Hockey Night in Punjab at the Sonds' Malton home.

A half-hour before the first game of the night begins, Navdeep Sonds, 27, switches on the TV and stacks pop and munchies on a table next to the couch. As the game begins and the two Punjabi hosts start announcing, his parents also join him.

"I watched hockey regularly but since this started, I don't think I've missed a day," said Navdeep, a software developer.

"I wish they could announce more games," he said.

Navdeep will soon get his wish.

Hockey Night in Canada's weekly Punjabi broadcast started in October when the CBC, picking up on a brief experiment from last season's Stanley Cup, brought Parminder Singh of Toronto and Calgary's Harnarayan Singh to call the game online and on some channels.

It has been so well received in the Punjabi community that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is considering Punjabi broadcasts of Leafs games two to three times a week, and even the Raptors.

And on Feb. 21, when the Leafs play the Canucks at the Air Canada Centre – Mats Sundin's first game against his former team – the morning practice will be opened to the Punjabi community and the two hosts will announce from the arena for the first time.

"CBC has been working on this for a while and we are extending it to other Leafs games and we are excited about it," said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and COO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. "It's all about extending hockey to a variety of different communities and engaging kids in a variety of different ways. We'll see how it goes."

The logistics of additional Leafs or Raptors games are still to be worked out, said Shannon Hosford, senior director of marketing, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. "But we are thrilled the hosts want to do it. Toronto is changing and people are not from the traditional hockey backgrounds. But they like hockey and we want them to connect with the Leafs in their own language."

Punjabi, spoken by immigrants from north India, is the fourth most-spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese.

"I knew there is a huge Punjabi-speaking population but never thought the response would be so good," said host Parminder Singh, 27. "We were surprised, too."

A day after they announced the first game in Punjabi, a Facebook group dedicated to Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi sprang up and within hours had a few hundred members.

After the first two games, Rogers and Bell picked it up in Toronto and Shaw did in Vancouver, and the Punjabi broadcast got its own channel.

That's when the two hosts realized they had stumbled onto something really big.

The viewership has since multiplied many times over. "I would say we have close to a hundred thousand viewers in Canada," said Parminder, adding the Punjabi diaspora is one of the largest in the world.

"We've been getting amazing feedback," said host Harnarayan Singh, 24, a reporter for CBC Radio in Calgary. He's heard how families, including grandparents, now watch the game together. "Many parents and grandparents would earlier watch the game but they mute it because they don't understand what the commentators are saying. Now, they are much more involved."

But before they could engage the community, they had to come up with a proper lexicon. Some terms are easily translatable from field hockey, so "stick" is "soti."

"He shoots, he scores" became "mahriaa shot, keeta goal."

The real challenge was to find a word for "puck." The two settled on "tikki" based on a puck-shaped potato appetizer. But they started calling it puck after a few games when viewers told them they understood what it was. Another term they struggled with was icing. Ice in Punjabi is "barf." "Barfed" the puck sounded ridiculous and so they stuck to the English term.

The pair announce two games back-to-back, analyze and interact with viewers on a Facebook group. They also ask game-related questions and give out prizes.

The idea is to get the community as involved in hockey as it is in basketball. "Leafs have not been (as) able to tap into the (South-Asian) market as Raptors," said Parminder. "We want to change that. Having more games in Punjabi will definitely help connect people to the game, and especially the Leafs."

In four months, the two hosts have also become celebrities of sorts. When they go to the gurdwara (Sikh temple), children surround them, asking about their favourite players. "It feels good to have brought hockey closer to these children," said Parminder, a part-time host for Omni TV and a graduate student at the University of Toronto. "We've been told how this has made them feel more Canadian than ever before."

The two are always looking to introduce new elements into the show – one segment may be a Punjabi take on Don Cherry's Coach's Corner. "We'll have our own Don Cherry with colourful turbans and kurtas," the traditional long shirts worn in parts of South Asia.

For Toronto's Harminder Kaur, 23, watching the Punjabi broadcast unites the family.

"My parents were never hockey fans but now they won't leave the room while the Punjabi show is on," she said.

Canadian Olympians Stand By Charity

www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(February 14, 2009) VANCOUVER–Many of Canada's top Olympians sent a message to the officials who booted the charity Right To Play out of the athletes' village for the 2010 Winter Games: We still believe in doing the right thing, even if you don't.

Some 70 Canadian athletes, a veritable who's who of Canadian Olympic sports including kayaker Adam Van Koeverden, Mark Tewksbury, Beckie Scott, Marnie McBean and Silken Laumann, endorsed a statement supporting Right To Play.

"As we, the athletes, have been talking to each other, we found something felt ... violated by the IOC's ruling," said the statement released yesterday.

One of the leaders in the campaign to collect support for the statement was Olympic rowing gold medalist Adam Kreek, who took his bright red Right To Play ball on Thursday to a number of year-to-go celebrations for the 2010 Games.

"We can communicate our sense of outrage and our disappointment and see if the IOC is up to living up to the ideals the athletes have committed to," said Kreek. "We see this as something that is intuitively wrong, looks wrong, feels wrong and doesn't sit right in our stomachs. As athletes, we want to stand up for what's right."

It was the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) which made the original decision to bar Right To Play for the first time since its inception in 1992 because the charity's sponsors conflicted with their own. The International Olympic Committee later cut its ties to the humanitarian group.

"It's an amazing story how this organization was born from the Olympics with so much energy and power," said Olympic moguls champion Jenn Heil. "It's a success story and it's important to make the organization accessible to athletes. It's what's made it successful in the past. It takes the Olympics further as a celebration of sport and what it can teach us all about sharing."

Scott, the Olympic cross country skiing champion who is a member of VANOC's board of directors and the IOC Athletes Commission, has long been a staunch supporter of Right To Play, put herself out on a limb by signing the statement, as did three-time Olympic rowing gold medallist McBean, who works for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Newest Raptor Shawn Marion Ready To Be Unleashed

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith,
Sports Reporter

(February 17, 2009) It's basketball, it's not quantum physics or global financing or subprime mortgages, and all Shawn Marion wants to do is play it.

The newest Raptor says he doesn't have a position, isn't too worried about the intricacies of Toronto's offence or defence and doesn't have any concerns about how he'll mesh with his new teammates.

Put him on the court, toss up the ball, let him go and he'll be fine.

"For the most part, we're just going to go out and play ball and everything will take care of itself," Marion said today, a couple of hours before he took the court for the first time with his new team. "Whenever a trade happens, there's a little momentum drive and hopefully it can drive us in the right direction and get us going.

"It's just basketball; we just have to go out and play basketball and have fun doing it."

The 30-year old Marion was obtained by the Raptors along with Marcus Banks and some cash last week for Jermaine O'Neal, Jamario Moon and a future conditional first-round draft pick.

He leaves the Miami Heat in fifth place in the NBA's Eastern Conference to join the 21-34 Raptors as Toronto tries to make up the five games that separate it from the final conference playoff spot.

Marion's got 27 games left on a contract that pays him more than $17 million this season and expires July 1, but if there are any concerns about his new job status, he wasn't making them public today.

After spending this season in the shadow of Miami's Dwyane Wade, and trying to mold his game to fit in with one of the premier guards in the league, Marion must now adapt to playing alongside Chris Bosh, one of the premier power forwards in the NBA.

"I know what he's capable of and I'm usually on the other end guarding him," Marion said of his new teammate. "Now I get to play on the side with him. He's definitely a talented player. I think we can compliment one another, especially with (Jose) Calderon at the point guard position, who's a very good distributor.

"I think I'm a basketball player first. When you look at me, I want you to look at me as a basketball player, don't label me at a position. I'm able to guard one through five, easily; that's a blessing but at the same time, I'm put at the three and four primarily. I'm able to make people around me better because I know the game and I feel that when you make people around you look good, you look even better."

This is the second time in a year that Marion – and Banks – have been part of an NBA blockbuster trade. Last February, the two were dealt from Phoenix to Miami for another O'Neal – Shaquille.

"This is better than the change I made last year," said Marion. "I went from the first place team in the Western Conference to the last place team in the Eastern Conference. We're only five games out of the playoffs, it's not unreachable for us, we've got 27 games to go, I think it's very obtainable.

"At the same time, hopefully this gets us revved up a little bit and we can get it going."

Banks, a 6-2 guard, will be in a fight now to simply get minutes on a Toronto roster with a glut of backcourt players. Banks is more of "combo" guard, equally confident playing either backcourt positions and said his versatility should allow him to squeeze some minutes out of Toronto coach Jay Triano.

"Some toughness," Banks said when asked what he brings to Toronto. "I'm a guy who never backs down from anyone, especially point guards. I feel like I can come out and put some pressure on them, make guards guard me on the other end, too."


Kobe Bryant Sets Another NBA Record

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2009) *Eight days after dropping 61 on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden – a record for most points scored at the venue – Kobe Bryant set another mark Tuesday night by becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 23,000 career points. The Los Angeles Lakers star scored 34 points to lead his team over Oklahoma City 105-98. He set the record at 30 years and 171 days by sinking a free throw with 5:13 remaining in the second quarter, reaching the mark five days sooner than the old record set by Laker legend Wilt Chamberlain. Spain's Pau Gasol added 22 points and Lamar Odom, rumoured to be dating Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson,  had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who improved their NBA-best record to 42-9.

CFL Coach Of The Year Nominees Announced

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(February 13, 2009) The Canadian Football League has released its nominees for the 2008 coach of the year award. John Hufnagel, who led the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup victory over Montreal last fall, is nominated along with Ken Miller of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Marc Trestman of the Alouettes. The Stampeders had the best regular-season record at 13-5 and went on to defeat the hometown Alouettes 22-14 in the championship game. Miller led the Riders to a 12-6 record, good for second place in the West. Trestman guided Montreal to victory in the East final after posting an 11-7 record in the regular season. The winner of the Annis Stukus Trophy will be announced March 3 in Hamilton.


10 Most Effective Exercises

By Glenn Mueller, eDiets Contributor

Let's face it: Some exercises are simply more effective than others. If you are going to make the effort to incorporate regular exercise into your life, then you want to get the most out of each workout session.

In order to help you get in the best shape of your life, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro Raphael Calzadilla provides a top-10 list of the most effective exercises out there. You'll notice he didn't say the best.

"I tend to get a lot of requests for the best exercises from people who are really just looking for a magic bullet," Raphael says.

It does take hard work to get in shape. Raphael recommends people follow a healthy meal plan and adopt an exercise regimen that includes both cardiovascular activity and resistance training. He also reminds people to consult their personal physician before beginning any new exercise routine.

Raphael believes certain exercises stand out in terms of overall effectiveness. Most of the exercises he selected involve compound movements, which impact multiple muscle groups. Though isolated movements are also good, Raphael believes performing exercises with compound movements can give you the best bang for your workout buck.

"I also selected these exercises based on a balanced approach to overall fitness," Raphael says. "Most people are out of balance with regards to strength and < levels of flexibility."

If you choose, Raphael says you can do these 10 exercises as an individual workout. He recommends doing 10-12 repetitions for the upper-body exercises and 10-15 repetitions for the lower-body exercises.


1. Dumbbell Chest Press: This exercise activates the muscles in the upper, middle and lower chest, as well as the shoulders and triceps. In order to complete this exercise, you need to lie on a flat bench with your spine in a neutral position. Now, hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.

Contracting your chest muscles, press both of your arms upward above the chest until they are almost fully extended, with a slight bend in both elbows. Slowly return to the starting position.

"It is important to maintain proper form throughout the movement," Raphael says. "When you reach the top of the movement, do not fully lock your elbows. And be sure to contract the chest muscles, as opposed to just extending the arms."


2. Cable Wide Over Grip Lat Pull-Down: This exercise impacts a number of muscles, including the upper back, the shoulder and the biceps.

"Ideally, I would choose the chin-up, but most people are unable to do them," Raphael says. "This exercise simulates the same movement, though. It is a good alternative until you are strong enough to perform chin-ups."

In order to perform this exercise, extend both arms up and reach for the straight bar. Now, sit tall with your knees supported under the leg pad with knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should be a little more than shoulder-width apart, and you should use an overhand grip and keep a slight bend in the elbows. Relax your shoulders and keep your chest raised.

Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows and stopping when the bar is just above your chest. Slowly return to the starting position and stop just short of the weight stack touching.

"Do not rock your body when performing this exercise," Raphael says. "And do not allow your upper back to round or your chest to cave in."

3. Fitball Prone Trunk Extension: This exercise works your lower back.

"Most people don't work the lower back, and the lower back needs to be strengthened," Raphael says. "You can also do this exercise in your own home if you own a fitball."

Lie on the fitball with your knees on the floor and your feet up on their toes. Place your hands behind your head. Maintain a neutral spine with your head and neck relaxed as a natural extension of the spine.

Contracting the lower back muscles, raise your chest off the ball slightly. Now, slowly return to the starting position.

"Exhale while lifting your body and inhale while returning to the starting position," Raphael says. "Do not hyperextend your back or overdo the range of motion."


4. Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press: This exercise impacts the entire range of muscles in your shoulders, as well as the biceps and triceps. Sit up straight on a bench with your feet comfortably resting on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle with your palms facing forward. When you do this exercise, your hands should be slightly higher than your shoulders.

Contracting the shoulder muscles, raise one arm toward the ceiling and stop when your arm is fully extended, with a slight bend in the elbow. Slowly return your arm to the starting position. Raise and lower the other arm in the same manner. Alternate the right and left sides in order to complete the set.

"You don't have to do one arm at a time," Raphael says. "They can both go up at the same time."


5. Barbell Close Stance Squat: This exercise works the butt, quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thighs and outer thighs. Stand tall with your feet closer than shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in the knees. Place a barbell across your shoulders. Be sure the bar is not resting on your neck.

Contracting the quadriceps muscles, begin to lower your body by bending from your hips and knees and stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your knees fully extending. Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).

"You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement," Raphael says. "It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body but if done improperly, it can lead to injuries."

6. Dumbbell Lunges: This exercise works the front of the legs and the butt. It also works the back of the legs to some degree.

Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contract the quadriceps and push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

"If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first," Raphael says.


7. Bench Dips: This exercise works the back of the arm, the triceps and the shoulder.

"I would prefer that you perform straight dips, but not everybody can do them," Raphael says.

Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place your palms on the bench with your fingers wrapped around the edge. Now, place both feet on the other bench. Slide your upper body off the bench with your elbows nearly but not completely locked.

Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. Contracting your triceps muscles, extend your elbows and return to the starting position, stopping just short of the elbows fully extending.

"Beginners may wish to start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle," Raphael says.

8. Dumbbell Double Biceps Curl: This exercise works the biceps and part of the shoulder. Sit on a bench or chair with both feet in front of your body and keep your back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at each side and your palms facing forward.

Contracting the biceps muscles, raise the weights toward your shoulders, stopping just short of the weights touching the shoulders. Slowly return to the starting position.

"Your upper arms should remain stationary throughout the exercise," Raphael says. "Do not rock the elbow."


9. Double Crunch: "The reason I like the double crunch is that you are activating the entire abdominal area," Raphael says. "The key is to contract tightly at the top part of the movement."

Lie on the floor with your head facing up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle, with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Now place both hands behind your head.

Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

10. Bicycle Maneuver: "Research consistently rates this as one of the most effective abdominal exercises," Raphael says. "It works your entire ab region."

Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle-pedaling motion; alternate your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

"This can be a more advanced exercise," Raphael says. "Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back."


Motivational Note

www.eurweb.com - by Robert Schuller

(February 14, 2009) “Our greatest lack is not money for any undertaking, but rather ideas. If the ideas are good, cash will somehow flow to where it is needed.”