20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883


January 29, 2009

Does this seem like the longest winter ever?  You can tell I'm not a fan of the season but for those of you who are ... you must be in all your glory!

Thanks to all your love and support and prayers, I have survived another successful hip surgery.  I'm on the long road to recovery but want to thank you for all your notes and kind wishes.  It strengthens my spirit when I don't feel well enough to be strong.

Lots of news on arts funding and opportunities for artists, please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Now as we hit full swing into the new year of 2009, please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Update on Haydain Neale

December 19, 2008

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued well wishes to Haydain, myself and Yasmin. We are so grateful that we are in your thoughts and have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

Haydain continues on his path to recovery. It is no wonder that his therapists call him "the motivated man". I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that he works constantly on both this physical and speech therapy daily. He does his vocal exercises, and is in fine voice. In fact, just this week, he added "Silent Night" and "White Christmas" to his vocal repertoire!

Haydain’s speech also improves daily. New words come to him quite naturally; yesterday it was "reciprocity" and as always, he is an avid reader, and recently started to tackle "The Alchemist".

Haydain maintains his sense of humour, and greets his visitors with that vibrant smile that we all know and love. He is physically building his strength and mobility, working in a therapeutic pool twice a week and doing his physio daily. I am immensely proud of Haydain’s courage and conviction and I feel extremely positive about his recovery due to his motivation. I couldn't be more proud of anyone.

The journey is long, and difficult at times; but everyday we see improvements. This helps us stay positive and optimistic along with the love of support of family and friends. Friends like you.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers and letters and cards. We share them every day with Haydain and it is always a high point of his day. Please keep them coming!

Also, a special thank you to our beautiful daughter Yasmin, who has shared her Dad’s courage, strength and spirit all along the way. Yasmin you are a gift and your father and I couldn't be more thankful and proud of you.

Happy holiday to you and yours,

Michaela Hudson

Haydain Neale Family Trust
Many thanks to all who sent messages, thoughts, and prayers for Haydain and his family.  If you would like to make a donation to the Haydain Neale Family Trust, please visit any RBC location or use PayPal directly from the link below. Thanks again to everyone for their support!

PayPal : HERE


How Death Row Records Came To Canada

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(January 23, 2009) As gritty as a few blocks might be, as bad as some kids may think they are, the west side of Toronto doesn't immediately register as a natural home for Death Row Records and the legacy of Los Angeles gangsta rap.

Nor does a 48-year-old mother and recording artist, who likens her own music to Sheryl Crow's and Sarah McLachlan's, seem an obvious choice to oversee the back catalogues of Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog.

But as Lara Lavi, an American singer-songwriter and media lawyer, said, she was underestimated by some in the industry when she was lured by private investors from the U.S. West Coast to base her music and film start-up in Toronto's Liberty Village area.

Her company, WIDEawake Entertainment Group, surprised media watchers by making the winning bid for Death Row in court last week, buying the bankrupt, debt-ridden label for $18-million (U.S.) after, according to Lavi, Warner Music shied away from topping WIDEawake's offer. Lavi worked closely with the well-known Toronto-based entertainment lawyer Chris Taylor in securing the deal. This comes after the U.S. company Global Music Group tried to buy Death Row for $25-million, but pulled out after problems arose with the financing.

But WIDEawake's successful bid could wind up being a steal for Lavi's company. There is a vast trove of potentially lucrative, unreleased music and film material by the label's best-selling rap artists, Lavi said. For instance, many of Shakur's recordings released after he was fatally shot in 1996 have gone multiplatinum. But corralling the material and sorting out the royalties have been more work than many suitors were willing to handle. Death Row has been mired in business disputes and bankruptcy for years, and releasing the lost material means working closely with representatives of the artists, living and dead.

“When you're watching the market for acquisitions, there aren't too many good ones out there. And even the Death Row one, though lucrative and generating income now, there's still a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to revitalize this catalogue,” Lavi said. “You have to realize that only a fraction of the Death Row catalogue has gone to market.”

She noted that “thousands” of videos and music tracks were apparently found in a storage vault in Michigan.

“And I want to underscore something,” she added, “I am a fan. I listen to rap music. I listen to Tupac. I own [copies of ] this stuff, and I owned it before this. I don't know what qualifies a person to be a fan, if it's their skin colour or anything. … I have a huge respect for this genre. I don't worry about the things some of the folks worry about in terms of the misogyny issues and so on. This is America's oral history. This is a very key part of America's popular culture.

“I understand this youth. My nephews were part of this youth. They've all grown up now and are behaving a little better. But this is not something foreign to me at all.”

One thing Death Row's new label head doesn't have, however, is the larger-than-life tabloid notoriety of Suge Knight, who co-founded the label with Dr. Dre. Legend has it that Knight and associates threatened N.W.A. rapper Eazy-E and the hip-hop group's manager with baseball bats and pipes to convince them to release Dre from his previous contract.

Running feuds, disses on disc, gunplay, arrests: They grabbed as many headlines as the music itself. However, Dre's 1992 solo debut album The Chronic helped shifted hip-hop's spotlight away from New York for a time, while making a star out of rapper Snoop Dogg. But when Knight signed Shakur, who had had a falling out with his New York contemporaries, thereby upping the ante in the whole East Coast-West Coast rivalry, it solidified Death Row's prominence. With arresting, double-tracked vocals, Shakur turned the focus of his lyrics inward to personal struggles and persecution, creating the hip-hop sound of the 1990s.

Releasing more of Shakur's lost material means working with his mother Afeni Shakur, who oversees some of his work through the Amaru record label. “The reality of it is that there's new Tupac material that has never been released that falls under the Death Row domain, and there's new material that falls under the Amaru domain,” Lavi said.

“The issue is taking over the content and matching it up with the contracts to make sure we have all our paperwork lined up right, which is no small feat – and also making sure we've done (a big priority for me) a major positive outreach to the Death Row artists, who I think have been forgotten in this whole mix.

“It has become about prior management, whether Mr. Knight is in jail this week, and it has not been about the artists. I mean, Death Row is to West Coast rap what Motown is to the Detroit sound. These artists are far more significant and showing [more] longevity than any management that was put in place with Death Row,” Lavi said.

Lavi was recruited by a group of private investors to locate in Toronto to develop media projects that would cross into various formats, for example, Hustle City, a graphic-novel project the company has in the works with planned film and music tie-ins. Randy Lennox, who runs Universal Music Canada, was a key figure in bringing Lavi to Toronto, and Universal is signed to distribute the Death Row catalogue in Canada. An all-important distribution deal for the United States is pending.

Toronto Firm Snaps Up U.S. Record Label

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

(January 17, 2009) A little-known Toronto company has submitted the winning bid to acquire the rights to the back catalogue of influential rap label Death Row Records in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Liberty Village-based
WIDEawake Entertainment Group bid $18 million (U.S.) to purchase many of the assets of the label, including early seminal albums from artists such as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and many others.

"This just happened yesterday (Thursday) so we're still sorting out what we want to do," said Lara Lavi, CEO of WIDEawake in an interview from Los Angeles. "The Death Row catalogue includes masters and publishing for all the stuff, all the content that's been commercially exploited primarily through Interscope and Koch but there's probably a sizeable amount of more content that's never been released."

Death Row is a name brand rap label that helped pioneer the West Coast rap sound, especially gangster rap. In its way, the label's legacy in rap is similar to Motown and soul music. For WIDEawake, which beat out larger players such as Warner Music Group for the rights, the purchase is a coup, especially considering that up until now it has had only one artist on its roster, former In Essence singer Sean Jones.

Lavi says the company has been around since 2006, and this purchase fits into their plans for making serious moves in 2009. She says it's far too early to speak about what they plan to do with the catalogue.

"I think the important thing with the catalogue is to not go hog wild and try to release everything at once. There's no point in flooding the market. There's a lot of work that has to happen, to reshape the brand and reshape the message to consumers ... but doing it in a way that keeps its integrity," she said, also adding that as yet, much of the label's catalogue has not yet been released in digital form, which represents an obvious opportunity.

Lavi would not specify how many employees WIDEawake has, and did not speak about financing. She did tell the Los Angeles Times: "Whenever it's due, that bill will get paid. This was not an emotional decision. This was a business decision. You can't go into a deal like this without having a plan."

Originally owned by music mogul Marion (Suge) Knight – who is equally known for the label as his personal run-ins with the law – Death Row was at the forefront of the industry in the early '90s, selling tens of millions of records and creating along with it a ruthless reputation in the rap industry.

The label fell apart due to a number of reasons, including talent leaving, infighting among executives and lawsuits. In 2006, a California bankruptcy trustee was named to take it over, and since then, two bids to buy the firm have fallen apart, leading to this most recent bankruptcy proceeding.

Mayor Courts U.S. Moviemakers

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

(January 26, 2009) Toronto Mayor David Miller spent last week in Los Angeles trying to woo U.S. studio bosses, independent movie producers and expatriate Canadians in Hollywood back to Toronto with promises of high tax credits, an improved industrial infrastructure and the lure of a low Canadian dollar.

"The idea was to promote Toronto's excellence in film and TV production and post-production facilities," Miller said on the phone from Los Angeles. "And the timing couldn't have been more appropriate because of the low Canadian dollar."

Along with the attractive 80-cent dollar, Miller told Hollywood producers they will be charged just 78 cents for every Canadian dollar spent on city services.

Miller's trip, which had been planned "for some time," acknowledged that Toronto has lost its former Hollywood North lustre since 9/11 and the 2003 SARS scare, and along with it, millions of dollars in movie-related revenue to the U.S. New York and Michigan, in particular, started matching Canada's federal and provincial tax credits with their own "aggressive tax incentives," the mayor said.

Until recent months, an increasingly strong Canadian dollar further eroded Toronto's financial advantages to American filmmakers. Other factors have also kept U.S. production at home, Miller added.

"The past year has been particularly difficult because of the writers' strike and the credit problems that have affected the entire U.S. economy. In Toronto last year we did $500 million of movie business, and $100 million of that was from the U.S. In 2007 we did $750 million in (movie) business, with $250 million from Hollywood."

High on Miller's boost list was Filmport, the massive $80 million film production centre that is being built in partnership with the city-owned Toronto Economic Development Corp. on 20 hectares of east-end land. It's touted as North America's largest movie production facility. As a result of last week's flying visit to L.A., Miller said he is "confident that at least two companies are now considering using Filmport this year."

Miller met daily with representatives of major U.S. movie studios, many of which have undertaken expensive productions in Toronto in the past.

"They spoke very highly of Toronto, of our facilities and the skill of our workers," he said. "The message was very positively received and Toronto is very much on the radar in Hollywood. We are under very active consideration."

Feds Play Kiss And Make Up For Arts Cuts

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(January 27, 2009) The Harper government is trying to send a reassuring message to Canada's culture community.

The message comes in the form of $160 million in new money for the arts, a significant inclusion in the much-previewed federal budget Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will announce this afternoon.

That figure doesn't come close to the billions being spent in other areas.

But it is definitely an effort to kiss and make up with arts leaders who were angered by $45 million in cuts to arts funding announced late last summer.

The $160 million might have come as a surprise if James Moore, the young and hard-driving new Canadian heritage minister, had not boasted about the number in a weekend interview with the Montreal French-language newspaper La Presse.

According to Moore, the new money will include $100 million (spread over two years) for arts festivals, music and comedy across Canada. The other $60 million, also spread over two years, will be for the Cultural Spaces Canada program: constructing or maintaining theatres, museums and other arts buildings.

No doubt this new investment in the arts is intended to bring an end to complaints about last year's cuts. And for good reason. In Quebec, where support for the arts is a popular priority, the cuts – combined with Harper's ill-advised remark about arts people who go to glamorous subsidized galas to complain about their grants – was a turning point in the election. The upshot: by voting against Harper because of his arts policies, Quebec voters denied the Conservatives the majority that had seemed within their grasp.

When asked by La Presse about Bloc Quebecois demands to restore the chopped $45 million, Moore replied: "They are asking for a $45 million investment? You are now talking about $160 million."

However, the $45 million cut was an annual figure, and the $160 million investment is spread over two years, meaning its $80 million a year.

Nevertheless, Moore railed, if the Bloc, the Liberals or the NDP vote against this budget, it will clearly show they were liars when they presented themselves as protectors of artists.

And within this $160 million there's also another message being sent: Moore doesn't just talk about supporting the arts; he delivers.

This is the moment he has been waiting for, after weeks of intense pre-budget meetings with arts leaders all across the country, spreading the gospel that in his view, as he told me last month, "Support for the arts is not just a want but a need."

We might just conclude from this turn of events that Moore has a great deal more clout in cabinet than the two Tories who preceded him in the Heritage post: Bev Oda and Josée Verner.

Here's how Moore put it to La Presse: "I told the finance minister of the need for significant investment in the arts and culture in the budget, and I'm sure that priority will be respected."

Will a significant portion of this new money find its way to Ontario? At the moment, that's hard to say. But I think it's clear that the elusive, long-awaited $49 million of top-up funding for six projects in the Toronto Cultural Renaissance will not be forthcoming as long as this government remains in power.

As for the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the Canada Council, their best hope at the moment is to be left alone and escape harmful cuts.

Canadians Sing A Welcome To Obama

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

(January 17, 2009) Availability and flexibility will be the order of the day, says founder and artistic director Brainerd Blyden-Taylor of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale's performances in Washington next week during the celebrations for Barack Obama's inauguration.

The 21-person Toronto-based ensemble, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, has toured widely and performed at events for icons such as Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali. But the attention and convoluted logistics this gig has wrought are unprecedented.

Take, for example, the group's regularly scheduled rehearsal this past Wednesday night. Journalists and video cameras hovered all about the sanctuary of St. Timothy's Anglican Church in North Toronto as Blyden-Taylor put the classically trained singers through a modified, TV-friendly version of their paces.

The chorale was so inundated with interview requests that it held a separate media day earlier in the week and was savvy enough to use the opportunity to chat up its Western Canada tour and Glenn Gould Studio shows next month.

"The response has been pretty amazing," Blyden-Taylor said. "Emails from all across the country saying `God bless you,' `We're really proud of you,' `Do us proud.' It really feels like so many Canadians have been following and tracking these events over the last several months and would wish to be there in person, to be present at what is perceived to be as a very significant turning point in history. And it feels like we carry all of their hopes and wishes and certainly their energy and their pride."

Although the ensemble, named for Ontario-born black composer Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), is dedicated to performing Afrocentric music of all styles, including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues, the choristers, ranging in age from early twenties to mid-forties, are from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"I think we represent the diversity that is Toronto, that is Canada, and we certainly inspire a sense of inclusivity and connectedness," said Trinidad-born Blyden-Taylor, citing members with East Indian, Korean and Japanese heritage. "Even our visibly black (singers) are quite mixed. I am in large part a Scot, but you wouldn't know that just to see me."

The chorale was to leave Toronto by bus yesterday for performances today in Ann Arbour, Mich. Tomorrow they head to York, Pa., for the closest hotel rooms they could get, two hours away from the U.S. capital.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, the group will perform a 40-minute concert at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian on the last morning of a three-day festival entitled "Out of Many," a unification theme derived from Obama's election-night speech. The chorale is the only non-American act on the bill.

Then Tuesday, the ensemble will be showcased at the Canadian Embassy as part of an inauguration day event being hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission. The chorale has been told to get to the embassy by 6 a.m. to avoid transportation snafus, even though it is not slated to take the stage until after Obama's noon-hour swearing-in.

Some songs will be delivered at both engagements, such as "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is known as the "black national anthem," Blyden-Taylor said.

"The Smithsonian just said, `It's free to the public, and they will be coming and going, so you should prepare yourself for a transient audience and judge by the response of the audience the length of songs you can do.'

"We understand that we're singing outdoors at the embassy and we don't know yet how many sets and for how long."

Outside, as in out in the cold?

"As in outside," Blyden-Taylor confirmed, laughing. "That's the last we heard. They're planning a tailgate party in and around the parade, which would go right by the Canadian Embassy.

"We haven't sung outdoors in the winter very much, if at all," he admitted. "But we'll be there, dressed warmly and ready to sing."

And the upside of performing outside at an embassy with a panoramic view of Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Ave. is the chance of catching a glimpse of the new president.

"That's likely to happen, if we can get a decent vantage point; the parade route happens right by the Canadian Embassy," Blyden-Taylor said. "That's going to be a pretty good seat in the house."


Anguilla Inspires Passion, Good Eats And A Bestseller

Source:  www.thestar.com - Heather Greenwood Davis,
Special To The Star

(January 01, 2009) Anguilla, British West Indies – Almost 20 years after setting out on the adventure of a lifetime, Mel and Bob Blanchard are still living it.

The American couple made the small northern Caribbean island of Anguilla their home in 1989 after four years of visiting with their son, Jesse, on holidays. What followed were new careers as the owners and operators of Blanchards – a fine dining restaurant on Meads Bay Beach – and fame.

While the restaurant was planned, the fame took them completely by surprise.

"We've been in nine different businesses together over 35 years," laughs Bob Blanchard as we sit and chat in the restaurant's dining room. "Not all of them have been successful."

But Blanchards certainly is.

Mild success hit phenomenal levels after the couple detailed their experiences as newcomers to the island – where natives refer to themselves as "belongers" and where wannabes don't last long – in their book A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean.

Readers related to the American couple who left their Vermont home, packed up their things and headed to Anguilla in search of a life fuelled by passion.

The book came at the suggestion of a frequent customer to the restaurant who turned out to be a literary agent from New York. He mentored the couple into their first book deal and one year later, the details of their desire to shift their lifestyle, the trials that come with trying to gain acceptance in a small community, the way they created a family out of the people who became the restaurant's staff and how those relationships held fast after the devastating blow of the category 4 Hurricane Luis, had four prominent publishing houses battling over who would print it.

When the book became a Boston Globe bestseller and landed the couple on the Today Show, the restaurant's profile rose significantly, and suddenly crowds of fans were finding their way (in a pre-Eat, Pray Love kind of way) to Anguilla's sugary white shores.

"People come to this island in a huge way because of this book," says Bob as we sit in the dining area of the restaurant. "Almost every day we have people who come to the restaurant because they read A Trip to the Beach."

Publishers noticed the response as well. And so, while the Blanchards never set out to become authors, they now have two cookbooks (At Blanchard's Table and Cook What You Love) and a series of self-help books under their belt. They are also the hosts of a soon-to-premiere TV show Live What You Love, where they introduce viewers to people around the world who are living their passions.

Blanchard says that while the course they are on wasn't the one they planned, he's happy to be helping others.

Initially, not everyone on the island was blown away. One woman said she felt the book painted locals in a negative light.

"I am a proud Anguillan," she explains, clearly agitated. "That book made us all look backwards and stupid."

Others have yet to crack the spine.

Blanchard is aware that the book wasn't universally embraced on the island.

"My landlord was quite upset about it," he admits. "He didn't like my description of him."

But he points out, and others agree, that the book's success has had a positive effect on the island's tourism that has been beneficial to all. And no one has a negative word to say about the couple themselves, who, after almost 20 years on the island, are finally "belongers."

"It's a real honour, actually. We're Anguillan now and this is our home as much as Vermont is," he says.

Heather Greenwood Davis is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her trip was subsidized by the Anguilla Tourist Board.


Talk Show Gives Music Lovers A Voice

Source:  www.thestar.com - Nick Patch,
The Canadian Press

(January 28, 2009) Where many observers look at the music industry and see a crisis, Alan Cross sees an opportunity.

The nationally syndicated radio host is launching a new cross-platform music talk show next week, and he says there has never been a better time for such a project.

"Everybody loves music – interest in music has never been greater than it is now," Cross said. "What's different is that people are consuming music differently. They're not buying it the way they used to, or certainly not in the forms they used to."

And so Cross is experimenting with a form he's not quite used to: the Internet. After nearly three decades on Canadian radio, Cross's fluid voice and encyclopedic knowledge of rock music has made him a mainstay on dials from coast to coast with his show The Ongoing History of New Music.

Now, Cross is debuting ExploreMusic With Alan Cross. It will be televised on cable channel BiteTV on Monday and then available online at Toronto-based Aux.tv beginning Feb. 3.

He describes the show as a roundtable discussion program about the issues of the day in music. His co-host will be Jeff Woods, former program director of classic rock station Q107, and the show will feature two rotating panellists, who could be artists, musical entrepreneurs, industry execs or journalists.

"What we want to do is replicate the kind of conversation that everybody has at least a couple times a week," Cross said. "You get a bunch of friends together over beers and pizza or whatever, and you sit around and you talk and argue about music."

This is an idea that Cross has been incubating for years. He observed the proliferation of sports and news talk shows and wanted to create something similar for music fans to discuss the industry.

"To my knowledge, at this level, it's never been done before," he said. "The problem is that there's so much we can do with the show, and we will eventually evolve this into something much grander than what we begin with. Once we realize what we can do and once we realize what the audience wants us to do, then we can start tailoring things."

Cross talks about possibly making the show available in some form on cellphones and other handheld devices.

Most of all, Cross says he's enthusiastic about the prospect of establishing a running discourse with his audience.

"Most of the dialogue with critical discussion about music is one-way," he said. "You read about it, but you never get to rebut. You hear it maybe from a guy on the radio, or you see it on TV, but you never get a chance to rebut."

Rapper KO: Soon To Be A Legend In The Game

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Cory King Jr. / cck3000@yahoo.com

(January 16, 2009) *KO the legend is not quite yet a legend from the public’s perspective, but that may change very soon.

KO, a.k.a. Harold Brown, (26) is known in industry circles and considered by some of the biggest names in music to be the biggest thing to come out of the Golden State since the Apple computer.

Early on KO caught the eye of industry heads when he became the freestyle champion on LA Radio station Power 106, and that success was the springboard that allowed him to work with industry heavyweights like Brittany Spears, KRS-1, Destiny’s Child, and underground notables such as Brotha Lynch Hung, and Zion I to name a few. KO’s collaborations are about as diverse as his musical influences.  

Growing up in Central California exposed KO early on to a wide array of artists that you can hear fused in the unique sound that KO has crafted. In addition to listening to rappers like Kanye West, Jay-Z, and T.I., KO also enjoyed the music from the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana, and the Smashing Pumpkins; the list can go on for days.

With his musical influences ranging from the genres of pop, to hip hop, to electronic house, its no wonder why KO’s first single “She Wants To Get It” is garnering a huge response from all audiences. In addition to his soon to be released debut album, KO put out a mix tape with the world famous DJ Clinton Sparks which is available to download for free at www.kothelegend.com.

KO recently hooked up with EURweb to talk to Cory King Jr. about his recent projects, and his part time job as a music critic.

Cory King Jr: I listened to the single and I really like it. One thing that came to mind when I first was Michael Jackson’s “Keep It In The Closet.” It has a hint of that, so tell us a little bit about how you came up with the song, and how you executed it?

KO: I had the beat for a while, I made it; but I just kinda slept on it. And one day I was listening to it. I mean I’m an enormous Michael Jackson fan. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for Michael. One day I happened to be listening to “Dangerous” and I had the opportunity to fit it in there and I was inspired by that song. It just fit and I ran with it, then the song came out in like 5 minutes after that, once I had the idea.

CKJr: Growing up in Central California you mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of hip-hop being played there. If you had to narrow it down to two of your biggest influences, who were you listening to that influenced your style?

KO: As far as hip hop goes it was definitely Jay-Z that influenced me a lot as far as his flow and his lyrical content and musically its just too many to name but I would have to bring it back to Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers; those kind of people that just made great music, they inspired me a lot to kinda take from them as far as maybe how they perform, or different cadences they use when they write. I’m inspired by things like that.

CKJr: I read in your bio that you moved to San Francisco and began working with some of the local artists. Can you tell us about some of the people you were working with?

KO: I was up in the Bay going to school and I ended up not finishing school to pursue music as an art, so I was dancing for Nike and I ended up writing with people like Brotha Lynch Hung and Zion I. Doing shows with people like KRS 1 and all that stuff. It was a pretty good experience because I got to see the different side of hip hop, and be more underground and immersed in that scene. So that helped me find my balance of how to appeal to the mainstream and still try to appeal to the underground heads that appreciate lyrics.

CKJr: Brotha Lynch Hung is definitely a Northern California Legend; that’s a real good person to be influenced by and Zion-I is doing their thing on the underground scene. What’s the difference you noticed between the Northern California music scene in general, not just hip hop, and the Southern California music scene?

KO: I think they have two very distinct and very cool characteristics. In Southern California it’s all about tradition. I mean, if you look back at the 80s and you look today they still wear the Khakis, Pendleton. The sound has changed a little bit, but the image is pretty much the same in Southern California because they immersed themselves in that tradition. In the North what I love about them is they don’t really care what the rest of the country is doing. They’re just gonna do what they like and they support their own and they create their own movements and they have their own culture which is really cool because it’s very few other parts of the country that can say that about their music.

CKJr: What made you finally decide to make that move to L.A.?

KO: I felt like I had tapped out all my resources in San Francisco. I mean I always knew I wanted to do music. I really only tried to go to college because a couple of my teachers told me I would never make it, and I’m one of those people that if you tell me I cant do something then I have to prove you wrong. So, a lot of my teachers were like, “you will never go to college.” “You’ll never get in.” So I got in just to show em’, but I knew since I was 10 that music is where I was going to end up. So I had to go to the place that had the most opportunity without moving to New York or Atlanta because I wanted to stay in California.

CKJr: So, what were some of the challenges you faced early on trying to break into the music scene?

KO: It’s really that classic catch 22. It’s like that for any job really. No one wants to hire you without experience, but how do you get experience if no one will hire you? It’s that. You come to LA and you don’t know anybody and nobody will mess with you if you don’t have any credentials, but they you’re like how can I get any credentials if nobody will mess with me? Luckily I had a couple of friends in high places and I leveraged those relationships to open a few doors. That’s what helped me because as they say, although it’s kinda of cliché, it’s all about who you know.

CKJr: Ok. How did you come to work with acts like Brittany Spears, KRS-1; how did that come about?

KO: As far as KRS-1 and Nelly Furtado, that was just being on the grind. Different radio stations and promoters hearing about the movement that I had created underground and them reaching out and saying, “do you want to open for us do you want to go on the road with us?” So I was really blessed in that aspect. As far as the major people like Brittany Spears, that was kinda knowing the right people, and being at the right place at the right time. Being the freestyle champion on Power 106 really helped me out a lot because that got my name out and started a buzz, and that’s what allowed me to further my career.

CKJr: Ok. I read your blogs and it appears that you might want to add music critic to your list of talents. Right now who is KO feeling?

KO: I really love the transition that music is making, so I love DJ Clash he has a song called “I’m the Shit” Kid Cudi, 303, Katy Perry; I like that electronic sound that its moving to. I feel like before when electronic music was trying to break into the US it was a little too harsh. But now it adds those pop, R & B, rap under and overtones, so I think there’s this really nice balance. I like the transition that a lot of the rhythmic stations are making towards this new sound. I think it’s really cool.

CKJr: So, we know that you got your album coming out. You’re also working on Leighton Meester’s (Cheetah Girls) album. Do you have anything else in the works?

KO: Yeah. I have my own stereo line coming out through a company called iSymphony, it will start off in all the FRYs Electronics in Southern California, and it will spread to all the Best Buys, so were looking at releasing that in the summer. I have my artist signed to my label (HeviKoncepts) her name is Samantha Marcourt, so she will be out on the radio in March. My second single comes out in March. The video comes out soon. We got a lot in the works. I’m gonna hit the road and promote “she wants to get it” some more.

CKJr: How did you get a stereo line? Who thought of that? How did you get that made and in the works? Tell me about that.

KO: My manager actually happened to be good friends with people at iSymphony, and I had been trying to break the mold as far as deal structures go and the tradition in the industry, because as far an independent artist like myself, I can’t really take the traditional routes that all the majors take because we don’t have the same capital. So, we have to be as creative as we can and create synergies with different companies to promote ourselves. When I saw and met the head of iSymphony it just kind of sparked the idea. I ran it by my manager and he fine tuned it, and it ended up working out. The company loves my project and they support me a lot. They have a great product, so it’s a good match.

CKJr: Well, you will be the first hip hop artist that I know of with their own car stereo, so that’s pretty dope.

KO: I’m trying to break a lot of ground, so I want to be the first hip hop artist to do a lot of different things, so that’s the first step.

CKJr: What’s your take on the current state of music, and what changes are you trying to bring to the game?

KO: I really think that overall, music is in a really great place. I think it’s transitioning and it’s changing, and everything’s coming together. I feel like a lot of those established artists that are struggling to get back on are having a hard time because the listeners (consumers) are smarter now, and they’re open to more things now. As much as major labels want to put people in a box like “these people only listen to hip hop; these people only listen to rock.” It’s really not like that anymore. Everything is coming together. Everyone listens to everything. I think that’s really cool and great for music. It’s going to bring a lot of new sounds and new artists. I’m really excited to see what the coming years hold and where hip hop actually goes. It is changing and I think it’s gonna end at a really cool place.

CKJr: Ok, I see that your mixtape “I’m not your rapper” with Clinton Sparks got over 60,000 downloads. Tell me how that project came about and where do you want to go with it?

KO: When we first started I got together with my managers when I signed my deal. We sat down and thought of ways to promote myself as an artist and get people interested in what I do. The best way to do that is to associate yourself with something that’s familiar, and the mixtape is the best way to do that because you can take songs that people love already and put your own twist on em’. You have the freedom. Clinton Sparks was the person that I wanted to do my mixtape because he is such a big advocate of music, not just hip hop. From fallout boy, to Puff, all those people mess with Clinton and do mixtapes, so I wanted to do the same thing. Instead of taking the hottest instrumentals that was out; I just decided to remix my favourite songs and put my twist on them. Some of my favourite pop songs and rap songs. It ended up working out really well. Were getting great reviews on it. Its just kinda different from anything else that’s out because were not really worrying about capitalizing on what’s hot right now. I just did what I like and people ended up liking it too, so we were really fortunate.

CKJr: I know as an artist it’s good to have that creative freedom. So, as an artist what has been your proudest moment so far?

KO: The craziest thing is one of my friends who’s a publicist. She works with Star Trek, Pharell and that camp. She was in the studio one day and called me because she’s always promoting me and helping me out. She called me and said, “someone wants to talk to you.” But I couldn’t talk at the moment, so I had a voicemail and basically it was Jay-Z, he was like “you’re ill, you’re the next.” He’s definitely who I look up to. He’s helped me develop the flow that I have, so to have someone that you look up to give you kudos like that is pretty crazy. It’s surreal. That and getting to hang out with Timbaland last summer when the whole bidding war thing started, and hang out with all these different producers that I love like Dallas Austin and have him be like, “yo your music is ill, we want to do something.” Seeing people that you look up to and respect what you do is kinda surreal.

CKJr: I sure everybody in the game wishes they had that same opportunity. Ok. We know that you DJ, produce, write. Which one do you like most? Because you get a certain amount of gratification from each.

KO: It would have to be two because my favourite is definitely performing live, because it’s as simple as it gets when you’re performing live. You either do a good job and the audience is going to let you know, or you don’t. There’s no politics. There’s no bureaucracy it’s just a pure art form to perform live. I love that. I also love writing and producing because it’s like you’re developing a child from its inception. When you hear an artist deliver what you’ve written, what you created, and they deliver it well, then that’s also a good feeling. It’s like watching your kid graduate. So, those are definitely my two favourite things.

CKJr: Sounds good. Anything else you want to tell the people? Anything else you want them to know about KO, or is there anything else that you just want to say?

KO: I definitely want everyone to check out the website www.kothelegend.com. Keep downloading the mixtape. It’s free. I encourage people to download the mixtape, burn it, give it to your friends, because the more people that hear it, the better it is for me at this point. Check out the mixtape and tell their friends about KO.

Harvey Goes Back To The Beginning


(January 27, 2009) *Fresh from his winning stint in the celebrity edition of the British reality programme Come Dine With Me, (Michael) Harvey has returned to what first brought him notoriety with the So Solid Crew – music.

His new album Back To The Beginning features collaborations with the grime young star Chipmunk, former So Solid members and more… with productions by MOBO nominated DJ Scottie B. The first single from the album, the Double A Side Excuse Me and If I Was Your Man, has received ample radio and music TV play.

 As part of So Solid a then MC Harvey won a Brit Award, two MOBO Awards, an Urban Music Award, an NME award and achieved a platinum status with a landmark album They Don’t Know.

 When the So Solid dream came to an end following negative press about their image and associations with violence, Harvey, a once aspiring footballer, dropped the MC and stepped into the glare of the TV lights.

 They illuminated Harvey’s knack for presenting on Channel 4, Trouble and MTV. He took part in his first reality TV show The Games and then Sky One’s The Match proving his prowess for sports.

 The presenter turned producer with MTV and The Paramount Channel’s The Young Gods Of Comedy. He returned to reality TV participating in Sky One’s Celebrity Gladiators – his father was one of the original cast members in the 1990’s show on ITV. Harvey’s CV was further strengthened when he moved into films with parts in Stephen Segal’s Out For A Kill and Ultimate Fight. He also took theatre roles in Angie Le Mar’s The Brothers and the hit West End show Daddy Cool, for which he was nominated for Best Support Actor. It was there that he developed his relationship with cast member Javine Hylton who was later to be the alleged cause of his separation from wife Alesha Dixon.

 Though there are rumours that Harvey, father of one, will be the centre of further drama in the form of new Brit flick ‘The Big I Am’ and a new series on Living TV, it is Back to the Beginning, out on Kdot Records, that is taking centre stage in his life now.

 Harvey is plugging away in clubs internationally. He undertook gruelling preparation for this during his 2007 summer residency in Ibiza’s biggest hip-hop and R&B night Twice as Nice.

 He has proved that he can make winning chicken wings but to judge for yourself if his music is food for the ears, watch his latest video for Excuse Me ft. Ashley Walters and Romeo, a Double A Side with If I was Your Man ft. Nathan. Remixes come from Jaimeson, Skyjooce and new boy on the block U-BOY:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Az-5Y3smmKw - For more information visit: http://www.mcharveyonline.com

Seal Moved Anew By Sam Cooke Classic


(January 27, 2009) *Sam Cooke's 1963 single, "A Change is Gonna Come," experienced a resurgence during the "change"-themed presidential campaign of Barack Obama. The extra weight carried by the song was not lost on one Grammy-winning singer.

"It's so strange that you can be listening to a song 1,000 times and then you hear it one time and it means something completely different," said
Seal, 45, in an interview with AFP last week. "That is the power of music, it can affect you in such a profound way, and this is what happened to me."

The singer, whose recent album "Soul" has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, was referring to the new emotions he felt while re-listening to the Cooke classic, which came to embody the 60s civil rights movement and last year inspired him to record his own version in light of the change sweeping the globe with Obama's election.

"I heard it many many times," he said, "But I heard it recently and it had a different effect on me because of the political situation in America," said the British singer, born to a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother.

He said singles such as Cooke's "don't necessarily have civil rights connotations for me. When I hear them it refers to the personal change inside the individual."

Likewise, talking about Obama, Seal said "I think the biggest change that he's going to make is that he's going show the people that they are the change, that he can do nothing, he can only remind them of their power and their ability to make the change."

The fact that Obama had a white American mother and Kenyan father had extra meaning for him, said Seal, who is married to German supermodel Heidi Klum.

"It's how I was raised. I was raised in a country that taught me to believe in equality, to not see color," he said. "I feel proud because my children are mixed. It's an example to show them and say 'you're special, I always told you you were special'."

Springsteen's Dream Sounds Like A Work In Progress

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

Bruce Springsteen Working On a Dream (Columbia/Sony)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(January 27, 2009) Who's to deny Bruce Springsteen his contentment?

The Boss was apparently so caught up in a rush of autumn-years songwriting excitement towards the end of the sessions for 2007's Magic that he swiftly dragged the E Street Band and producer Brendan O'Brien back into the studio to knock out Working on a Dream with relative speed.

Maybe, after much tireless campaigning for Barack Obama, Springsteen wanted to have something ready just in case there was a presidential inauguration in his future, as indeed there was. He played for Obama's "We Are One" celebration at the Lincoln Memorial last week.

Maybe the death last year of E Street organist Danny Federici got him thinking about how much time he might have left. Maybe he got the call to play this weekend's Super Bowl halftime show a year ago and knew he'd better have some new product in hand to capitalize on the exposure. Or maybe he just couldn't bottle up all the optimism that comes with being a devoted husband and father when the side of right finally seems on the verge of victory again.

Whatever the case, Springsteen doesn't seem to have properly thought out Working on a Dream. It's got a few moments that sparkle – one of them, the wounded theme song of Mickey Rourke's acclaimed comeback film, The Wrestler, has already earned the man a Golden Globe – but it's also got a lot of lightweight tunes that barely mask their half-finished, transitory quality and lazy lyrical content behind a beatific "everything's all right" grin.

Sometimes it reaches for profundity and succeeds, as with "The Last Carnival." It's a moving acoustic paean to the departed Federici, dressed with imagery of a fairground being torn down and moving on to the next town with one fewer member of the entourage boarding "the train that keeps on moving / Its black smoke scorching the evening sky."

Sometimes it reaches for profundity and fails, as on the overwrought and overlong opener, "Outlaw Pete," a hackneyed Wild West tale whose burnished O'Brien production is totally at odds with the supposedly gritty subject matter.

But more often, Working on a Dream sets beneath-Springsteen clichés about the permanence of starlight, sunrise and love to robust E Street bluster that transmits an appropriate upbeat catharsis while each song is playing, but leaves you with very little in the way of melody or a memorable bon mot after the fade-out.

Still others, such as "What Love Can Do" or "Surprise, Surprise," offer little more substance than their titles, repeated over and over while the ho-hum accompaniment grinds on aimlessly.

Unfortunately, the rare tracks that qualify as experiments don't fare much better: "This Life" revisits dreamy Brian Wilson territory explored on Magic with the diminishing returns of familiarity. "Good Eye" is far too polished to be the snarly blues rant Springsteen likely intended it to be.

We can't expect perfection from Bruce Springsteen all the time. But we can justifiably expect him to try a little harder than most, I think, and Working on a Dream really doesn't try that hard.

Top Track: "The Last Carnival." The first tune that really stands out on the record, and it's the second-to-last track.


Andre 3000 Among GQ's 'Best New Designers'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2009) *GQ has crowned
Andre 3000 one of the Best New Designers in America for his prep-inspired men’s line Benjamin Bixby. As part of GQ’s third annual search, the artist, born Andre Benjamin, was chosen alongside five other honourees (Save Khaki, Robert Geller, Yigal Azrouel, Shipley & Halmos, and Rogues Gallery) as “a class of designers whose vision is as broad and diverse as the country itself.”  Andre 3000 launched his line in Feb. 2008, as a self-funded venture. At the time, the line consisted of about 70 pieces inspired equally by hip hop's love of prep styles in the 90s and college football circa 1935. Of the six designers selected, Andre is the only one who does not come from a strictly fashion background. 

D'Angelo Recruits Prince And Cee-Lo

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 21, 2009)
D'Angelo has enlisted Prince and Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley to help with his long-awaited comeback album, James River, which is expected to finally drop this summer on J Records.   D’Angelo already has collaborations with Raphael Saadiq, Roy Hargrove and Mark Ronson in the can.   James River will be D’Angelo’s first studio album since Voodoo in 2000.   D’Angelo’s also planning his first major tour in several years; he will perform in Europe this summer then tour the United States.   The dates and venues are still being lined up. Billboard.com reminds that in recent years the troubled artist has endured a serious car accident and drug-related arrests, and in lieu of new music of his own, he's made sporadic guest appearances on albums by Common, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip and J Dilla. "He's able to smile again and he's ready to connect [with fans]," Guion told Billboard last summer. "He's coming back. And he looks great, by the way."

Eye-Legacy: Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

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

(January 27, 2009) Seven years after her death in a Honduras car crash at age 30 comes the sophomore disc from Lisa Lopes. It seems to be a combination of leftover songs from her 2001 solo debut Supernova and vocal outtakes married to guests, such as her TLC bandmates, T-Boz and Chilli, and the likes of Missy Elliot. Either way, there's not much to it. Lopes sounds like she was practising in her bathroom mirror. There's a self-empowerment theme that recalls her hard-knocks upbringing and battles with alcoholism, but the rhymes aren't properly fleshed out: "Take advice/Think it over twice/Make the choice that helps you to sleep at night." ("Spread Your Wings"). This is an unnecessary addition to her catalogue, which is served just fine by the TLC hits and last year's DVD, Last Days of Left Eye. The saving grace is that this album is a fundraiser for the kids charity she was working on when she died. For diehard fans only.

The Show That Made Ella Famous

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(January 28, 2009) New York's Apollo Theatre is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its Amateur Nite Hour: a launching pad for stars like Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder and the late James Brown. The first 750 tickets to tonight's show were going for $7.50 (U.S.), with rapper Ron Browz, a Harlem native, as the featured performer. The theatre, built in 1914 in the heart of Harlem, was originally called Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque Theatre. Black people were not allowed in the audience then. In 1934, Ralph Cooper Sr. launched a live version of his radio show, Amateur Nite Hour, at the Apollo. Fitzgerald was among the first winners of the show, which allowed young performers to test their talent before a tough live audience booing bad acts off the stage. The theatre, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designated a state and city landmark in 1983. For the anniversary year, the Apollo will offer tours of the theatre.

Looking For Indie Canuck Bands

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(January 28, 2009) Fledgling indie rock bands, Kiss front man Gene Simmons wants you. That is, assuming you are Canadian. The legendary rocker is now soliciting electronic video demos from unsigned Canadian bands for his record label, Simmons Records. Simmons, whose longtime romantic partner, former Playboy playmate Shannon Tweed, is Canadian, recently said this of his plans: "We're going to find, develop, nurture and launch new talent emanating from – CANADA!!!," Simmons wrote in a blog post on his label's site (simmonsrecords.com).  "That's right, baby. Why here? Because you actually DO have the talent. And now, you have a WAY. "ME."

Canadian Rockers Menew Score Spot On Letterman

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(January 28, 2009) NEW YORK — Canadian rockers Menew will get their chance in the spotlight tonight (Wednesday Jan. 28) when they appear on the Late Show with David Letterman. The trio from Flamborough, Ont., recently released a third album, Of the Future. The Letterman appearance is a coup for the band, which records on its own RedCore label. Their website shows that their last performance was at the Starlight in Waterloo, Ont. Menew is set to stay in New York after the show and perform there on Friday at Arlene's Grocery. Former Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri are also scheduled for tonight's show.


Canada's Hope At The Academy Awards

www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(January 14, 2009) A strange thing happens yearly come Oscar time: Canada's entryfor the
Academy Award for best foreign-language film typically is a film the majority of English Canada hasn't even heard of, let alone seen.

This year is no different. The $4-million feature Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life) is on the short list of nine films up for best foreign-language picture. This list will be pared down to five official nominees in the category, to be announced on Jan. 22.

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre follows the heart-wrenching journey of an Inuit man removed from his life on Baffin Island and taken to Quebec City for treatment for tuberculosis. The story takes place in 1952 during the TB epidemic in the Far North.

At that time, notions of cultural relativism and the idea of caring for the cultural soul of native Canadians were far lower priorities than uprooting Inuit and sending them south for treatment.

When a supply ship in those days arrived at remote communities, Inuit families were brought on board for checkups. Those found to have TB would be swiftly removed from their families, often without the chance even to pack a bag. The journey to a sanitarium in the south could then take months as the ship continued to make stops at other communities.

But the aim of the film, written by filmmaker Bernard Émond and directed by Benoît Pilon, is not to dwell on injustices. “It's not a film about repairing what's been done in the past,” Pilon said.

Instead, the film focuses closely on the experience of the Inuit father who has been uprooted from the life in the northern wilderness he knows.

“It really works on this very personal level. We just follow this guy on a journey of despair and then come back to hope with a relationship with a little boy that a nurse had transferred from another sanitarium so that he can have someone to talk to. So it really becomes a really humanistic journey,” the director added.

With its otherworldly scenes of unspoiled Arctic life, matched with period costumes and scenes of mid-century Quebec, the film has performed well at Quebec box offices since its debut at the Montreal World Film Festival last fall. However, with the exception of those who have seen it on the festival circuit, such as at the Vancouver International Film Festival, it's relatively unknown in the rest of Canada.

Owned by Montreal's Seville Pictures, a subsidiary of Entertainment One, the film is scheduled for a limited English-Canadian release next month, possibly during the lead-up to the Oscars, although no dates have been confirmed.

Émond wrote the original screenplay in the early 1990s from the stories he heard during his time working as a video trainer in Inuit communities. But owing to the complexities faced by many co-productions, the script languished in development limbo. It eventually found its way to Pilon, known for his documentary work, but who also has a background in drama.

Benjamin Button Leads All Movies With 13 Oscar Nominations

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
The Associated Press

(January 23, 2009) The romantic fantasy The Curious Case of Benjamin Button led Academy Awards contenders Thursday with 13 nominations, among them best picture and acting honours for Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson, and a directing slot for David Fincher.

Other best-picture nominees are Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire.


Full list of nominees

As expected, Heath Ledger had a supporting-actor nomination for The Dark Knight on the one-year anniversary of his death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. But the Batman blockbuster was shut out from other top categories such as best picture and director.

Director Christopher Nolan shown here accepting the best supporting actor award awarded to Heath Ledger for his role in The Dark Knight at the 14th Annual Critics' Choice Awards on Thursday Jan. 8, 2009 in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP)

North American box-office performance as of Monday for Oscar best-picture nominees:
Frost/Nixon: $8.8-million (U.S.), released Dec. 5.

Milk, $20.5-million, released Nov. 26.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, $103.6-million, released Dec. 25.

The Reader, five nominations, $7.8-million, released Dec. 10.

Slumdog Millionaire, 10 nominations, $43.9-million, released Nov. 12.

Slumdog Millionaire lived up to its rags-to-riches theme, coming in second with 10 nominations, including a directing spot for Danny Boyle and two of the three song slots.

Real-life couple Pitt and Angelina Jolie both will be going to the Oscars as nominees. Jolie had a best-actress nomination for the missing-child drama Changeling.

The acting categories were loaded with surprises. Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes, best dramatic actress for Revolutionary Road and supporting actress for The Reader. But she was nominated for lead actress at the Oscars for The Reader and shut out for Revolutionary Road.

Actors considered longshots also sneaked in, among them lead-actor nominee Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, best-actress contender Melissa Leo for Frozen River and supporting-actor pick Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road.

Winslet reunited with Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road, but he also was shut out for a nomination on that film.

Other best-actress nominees were Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married and Meryl Streep for Doubt. It was a record 15th nomination for Streep, who already had more Oscar nominations than any other actor.

Joining Pitt and Jenkins in the best-actor category were Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; and Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.

Other acting snubs included Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino, Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky and Kristin Scott Thomas for I've Loved You So Long.

But perhaps the biggest surprise overall was the so-so results for The Dark Knight, which had been picking up momentum as one Hollywood trade guild after another picked it as one of the year's best films.

The largest blockbuster in years, The Dark Knight had eight nominations, but other than Ledger's honour, it scored only in technical categories such as cinematography, visual effects and editing.

Before his death, Ledger's reinvention of the Joker as a mad-dog anarchist already was bringing him Oscar buzz. After Ledger died on Oscar nominations day a year ago, an almost mythical aura grew around the actor, helping to fuel a record $158.4-million opening weekend for "The Dark Knight" last summer.

Long viewed as the favourite, Ledger won the supporting-actor prize at the Golden Globes. If the same happens on Oscar night, Ledger would be only the second performer to receive an Oscar posthumously, following Peter Finch, the best-actor winner for 1976's Network.

Ledger is the seventh actor to earn a posthumous nomination. Along with Finch, others include James Dean, nominated for best actor twice after his death, with 1955's East of Eden and 1956's Giant.

The other actors nominated after their deaths were Spencer Tracy (1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner); Ralph Richardson (1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes); Massimo Troisi (1995's The Postman); and Jeanne Eagels (1929's The Letter).

Directors of all five best-picture nominees all were nominated. Along with Boyle and Fincher, the directing category includes Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon, Gus Van Sant for Milk and Stephen Daldry for The Reader.

Featuring a cast of unknowns, Slumdog Millionaire mixes the humorous and the horrific in a love story about an orphan from the streets of Mumbai who becomes a champion on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

The film's newcomer cast was shut out in acting categories, but its 10 nominations included slots for screenplay, cinematography and musical score.

Slumdog Millionaire nearly became a casualty of 2008's collapse of studio arthouse divisions. Warner Independent had been set to release the film, which went into limbo after Warner Bros. shut down the specialty banner. The film faced the prospect of going straight to DVD until 20th Century Fox division Fox Searchlight stepped in to release it theatrically.

So far playing in relatively narrow release, Slumdog Millionaire has climbed to nearly $45-million (U.S.) at the domestic box office, with plenty of shelf life left to make good on its modest $14-million production budget.

The film dominated the Golden Globes, sweeping all four of its categories, including best drama and director.

Like Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler presents an on-screen drama whose theme parallels the comeback story of Rourke. Playing a former wrestling star with one last shot at glory, Rourke returns to the promise of his early career, before his bad-boy behaviour made him virtually unemployable in Hollywood.

The Wrestler earned Rourke the Golden Globe for dramatic actor. The film also won a Globe for the title song by Oscar winner Bruce Springsteen. But Springsteen missed out on a song nomination for The Wrestler.

Along with the two tunes from Slumdog Millionaire, the third song nominated was one co-written by Peter Gabriel for the animated blockbuster WALL-E.

The robot romance WALL-E is the latest Pixar Animation blockbuster coming in as the favourite for the animated-feature Oscar. WALL-E is up against the martial-arts comedy Kung Fu Panda and the dog tale Bolt.

A win for the critically adored WALL-E would be the fourth feature-length animation Oscar for Pixar, giving the outfit behind Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles half of the eight trophies since the category was added in 2001.

Oscar nominees are chosen in most categories by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as actors, directors and writers. The academy's full membership of about 6,000 was eligible to vote for best-picture nominations and can cast ballots for the winners in all categories at the Oscar ceremony itself.

The 81st Oscars will be presented Feb. 22 in a ceremony airing on ABC from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

This year's Oscars already present a departure from previous shows. Rather than a comedian, such as past hosts Billy Crystal, Chris Rock or Jon Stewart, the emcee this time is Hugh Jackman, star of the X-Men flicks and a Tony Award winner for best actor in a musical.

Rock, the Oscar host four years ago, has some advice for Jackman about handling the crowd of nominees, most of whom go home empty-handed.

"I'll tell him what Billy told me. An hour and a half into the show, most of the audience has lost, so you have to take that into account as you go on with the show," Rock said this week at the Sundance Film Festival. "But I'm sure he'll be great, singing and dancing and doing his thing."

7 Ways To Support Artists

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

(January 19, 2009) In Ireland, artists pay no income tax on earnings below 250,000 euros.

In Scandinavian countries, artists deemed to have made significant contributions over the course of a lifetime receive special recognition – and income support – from the government.

In Australia, legislation allows artists to average income over a five-year span, protecting them from the highs and lows of chosen careers that promise personal fulfilment at the cost of long-term security.

In Canada, we have a lot to learn about how to nurture the people who help us define ourselves, say artists and experts who have studied their economic well-being.

"Special status for artists is very controversial in Canada; it's just part of the landscape that we deal with here," says Kelly Hill of Hill Strategies Research, a company that specializes in analysis of the country's arts and culture sector.

"We all need to wake up, to understand the importance of culture in our lives, in our neighbourhoods, in our communities and to our economy," adds Rita Davies, Toronto's executive director of culture.

"It's a bottom-line issue and it's about being competitive. It's a competitive advantage on the world stage to have a thriving cultural scene."

Last summer, the Conference Board of Canada laid out the case in dramatic terms, noting the country's arts and culture sector accounted for $84.6 billion in economic activity in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of real Gross Domestic Product, and employed 1.1 million Canadians directly and indirectly.

But following the report's release, the Harper government sought to cut more than $40 million in crucial federal funding. During last fall's election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought to drive a wedge between the artistic community and "ordinary Canadians."

As the Saturday Star's recent series has revealed, artists are more highly trained and educated than the population at large, but their incomes lag far – nearly 40 per cent – behind the average living wage.

The series also demonstrated that artists – whether poets, actors, sculptors, dancers or filmmakers – aren't slackers or living the lives of pampered elites.

At least half of them juggle multiple jobs in order to practise their craft, with no promise of a stable income or a secure retirement.

In fact, the decision to pursue a career in the arts in Canada virtually guarantees a lifetime of uncertainty.

Other countries and jurisdictions have found effective ways and means to support their artistic communities.

As the Harper government prepares to release its next budget on Jan.23, there are a number of options observers and stakeholders say would preserve and enhance the lives of Canadian artists. Here are a few:


Two decades ago, the federal government offered self-employed individuals – artists among them – the chance to average their income over several tax years to mitigate the boom-and-bust cycles that are so typical of the artistic reality. Countries throughout Europe do the same thing in various ways. Within Canada, Quebec is a leader, allowing artists to spread out earned income over seven years.


Stable or even increased funding for "key" national institutions, like the CBC, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund, which puts money directly into the pockets of performers, directors and tech crews.

ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) would go one step further with a new media fund – modelled on a program now used in the TV business – with dollars coming from government and cable and satellite operators. That would help artists take advantage of growth in new media, including digital technology and the Internet. "Remember this is a clean industry – we don't have a large carbon footprint and we produce, by and large, good-paying jobs," argues Stephen Waddell, executive director of the union, which represents 21,000 performers nationwide.


New York City, Davies notes, is among the more enlightened places that subsidizes affordable workspace for artists. The recent opening of Artscape's Wychwood Barns project – an artistic colony/community development in the city's west end – is a rare victory for Toronto artists. John Brotman, executive director of the Ontario Arts Council, notes local governments and community groups are ideally suited to identify potential sites. But cities like Toronto don't have the revenue to go it alone. Dedicated federal and provincial funding is desperately needed, not just on the building side but to provide annual operating funds as well, Davies adds.


Policies In Toronto, the planning process has been used to guarantee, with the co-operation of developers, "no net loss" of artistic space in the critical Queen St. W. area, Davies says. In the past, artists have moved into cheap, rundown former industrial buildings and turned neighbourhoods into viable and "cool" communities, only to be forced out later by increased land costs and rising rents.


Federal tax incentives are better in every province than in Ontario. At the provincial level, the tax credit offered is higher for all production outside of Toronto. "In film, there's an anywhere-but-Toronto policy. No other jurisdiction in the world would undermine their film centres like this," fumes Davies. Waddell suggests that instead of just covering labour costs, tax credits could be expanded to include equipment purchase, studio space rentals and so on.


ACTRA is doing its part with plans to open a credit union on Jan.26 that will provide financial service to performers, their families and those in related industries. Banks are notoriously reluctant to back artists, Waddell says. "Like any other independent contractor, when the bank hears ... that you're a performer, the answer is 'no.' " Artists also need to learn how to market what they produce and that means training in entrepreneurship, a provincial responsibility, Davies says.


Why do we seem to love Hollywood stars more than our own? As media organizations downsize, many find it easier to fill airtime and space with foreign-generated content. Research shows that Canadians spent $25 billion on cultural goods and services in 2005, about three times more than spending by all levels of government combined. "Individuals should be encouraged to buy more local art, more local crafts, to see more local theatre or local films," Hill says. "If they do that, they're supporting Canadian artists and they're contributing to the earnings of Canadian artists. That is something we could all do as individuals."

Notorious B.I.G.'s Legendary Life After Death

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

(January 18, 2009) Lil Wayne claims to be the Best Rapper Alive, T.I. is billed as the King of the South and Jay-Z a.k.a. (Je)Hova has messianic status, but 11 years after his death Christopher Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G., still ranks among hip hop's top tier and is the subject of Hollywood's first rap biopic.

Notorious, which opened on Friday, stars first-time actor Jamal Woolard as the MC who was fatally shot in L.A. in 1997 at age 24 by an unknown assailant. The film's accompanying soundtrack features some of the Brooklyn native's biggest hits, such as "Juicy" and "Hypnotize," as well as previously unreleased tracks and tributes from other artists, such as Jay-Z and his vocalist widow Faith Evans.

Known also as Frank White and Biggie Smalls, but most commonly referred to as Big or Biggie, the rapper's enduring appeal is all the more impressive because the father of two only completed two albums, 1994's Ready To Die and Life After Death ... 'Til Death Do Us Part which sold 10 million copies after its posthumous release.

"There's a limited list of those that are going to be perennial all-stars – Tupac, Rakim, KRS-One, maybe Run and Ice Cube – and Big has definitely earned his place amongst them," said L.A. based Cheo Hodari Coker, Notorious co-screenwriter and author of The Life, Death, and Afterlife of The Notorious B.I.G.

"Big was a novelist on wax," he explained, listing "Somebody's Gotta Die" and "Real Niggas Do Real Things" among his favourite tracks.

"His writing style was similar to (Ernest) Hemingway, who's known for short, taut sentences, but when you pull back and look at the structure of the story he's telling it's incredibly complex. Big's storytelling is so vivid and so clear and so sharp that you don't need to play it over and over to understand the story."

Citing "Suicidal Thoughts," Toronto rapper and Flow 93.5 FM host J-Wyze, said Wallace's candid depiction of his hard-knocks upbringing made it okay for other rappers to show their sensitivity.

"Until (that era) of Nas and Big, MCs were pretty invincible," he said. "They were either teaching you something, or showing you how good they were at other stuff, or they were making you party. There weren't a lot of MCs talked about their vulnerabilities. `Suicidal Thoughts' was landmark for that. After that, everybody started talking about their pain."

(Most recently, Kanye West made an entire album, 808s & Heartbreak, about a break-up with his fiancée and loss of his mother.)

Coker, 36, also noted Wallace's ease with his unprepossessing 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame in a looks-oriented industry.

"Lil Wayne is no one's sex symbol, but he exudes confidence about who he is and that makes him sexy," he said. "Big was the first to say `I'm no matinee idol' – although now he is, literally – and that attitude about being yourself and making it about skill, that's one legacy of his."

Though he lauds Wallace's deft flow and wordplay, Canadian rap dean Maestro, a.k.a. Wesley Williams, said the performer's artistry hadn't sufficiently evolved and his stature was amplified by his tragic killing.

"I think he's still relevant," said Williams, 40, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his debut Symphony in Effect, "but the death was so sensationalized that it's made him a legend.

"People will say he's the greatest rapper of all time," the MC-turned-actor told the Star by phone from Vancouver. "He's definitely one of them, but people won't say the same about an artist like Nas right now for the fact he's still alive. But if Nas got murdered after he dropped (his classic 1994 debut) Illmatic, he'd be a god right now."

"I ain't heard no one spit like KRS-One and I ain't heard no one spit like Rakim. The majority of the artists are the offspring of about five MCs ... (Big Daddy) Kane, LL (Cool J), Jay-Z, Nas ..."

Williams said Wallace's death, believed to be rooted in an East Coast-West Coast feud between his Bad Boy Records and the Death Row label of estranged pal Tupac Shakur who was similarly gunned down in 1996 at age 25, was an ugly period in hip hop.

"He died prematurely, his career didn't get a chance to really jump off, but I think it's symbolic because it shows how we weren't moving as leaders ... . That beef and the cancer it spread was embarrassing. And I don't think people smartened up, they just got better security."

Amy Andrieux, senior editor of long-running New York-based hip-hop magazine The Source, disagrees."There's going to be arguments and tiffs here and there, but generally people are much smarter now and saying `We can't go beyond this point,'" she explained.

"There's an unspoken personal responsibility that people have assumed. Even Jay-Z and Nas when they had issues some years ago, handled it like men. They spoke and quelled it in front of everyone, which was a beautiful thing to see."

The Source is credited with discovering Wallace by featuring him in its popular "Unsigned Hype" column in 1992. The publication's current issue is a tribute to the rap star and in-depth look at the biopic.

Andrieux, 30, was a freshman at university when Wallace was killed. "It was such an amazing and profound time for urban music," she said. "There was a lighter spirit to it as well. We were so happy then. Hip hop was still very much regionally based until artists like Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac came along; they broke the ceiling and set hip hop on its way into this global community.

"Their deaths were a sombre moment for everyone in hip hop. To a certain extent hip hop lost that innocence after that."

Who better than other rappers to judge who belongs in hip hop's Hall of Fame? We asked local MCs to tell us where Biggie ranks and why. 

K'NAAN, 30: "He was definitely one of the greatest. He's probably the top one. He has the greatest rhythmic timing of anyone I've ever heard. When he does the famous Ugh! where he places that alone is such a tremendous thing. It's hard to choose to a favourite Biggie Small's track. "I Got A Story To Tell" was definitely one of them. Also "Kick In the Door."

Manafesto 29: "He was a really talented lyricist, his flow was so catchy and he had such swagger. `Big Poppa,' that was the one I liked. He's in my Top 5, along with Jay-Z and Eminem."

J-Wyze, 31: He's in my Top 3 with Nas and KRS and honourable mention to Black Thought and Redman. His rhyme pattern, the way he put words together, was crazy. ... He didn't choose words randomly. His stories were so precise you couldn't make a mistake about them. Take the way "Warning" starts – "Warning/Who's this paging me at 5:46 in the morning/Crack of dawning/Wipe the cold out my eye/Who's this paging me/And why?" – right away you're in a story."

JD Era, 23: "The way he put together lyrics, that's what made him so good. They're all vulgar, but I appreciated them; you have to take it in a little differently, not word for word. I'm a big Jay-Z fan, so I put Biggie No. 2 ... what he accomplished in two albums no one else has done. If Biggie was around still I don't know if Jay-Z would still be my favourite. It's crazy for the small amount of work he did to be so relevant now. It just shows how far ahead of his time he was."

A Canadian Director, An American Jackass And, Of Course, Cher

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Simon Houpt

(January 20, 2009) New York — The arc of most actresses' careers goes something like this: hot love interest, mom, grandmother/crazy aunt. But the sexually indefatigable singer known as Cher seems to be cornering the market on a newly emerging stereotype: the hot sixtysomething neighbour.

Cher is attached to star with the former Jackass Johnny Knoxville in
The Drop-Out, a slacker comedy from the Montreal-born writer Ricky Blitt that is due to go before the cameras in the summer. Knoxville, who starred in Blitt's previous film, the Special Olympics comedy The Ringer, will play a 35-year-old perpetual college student who successfully cozies up to his lady neighbour after his parents kick him out of the house, ensuring himself a steady supply of food, television and unexpected affection.

The role follows Cher's last screen appearance five years ago, in the Farrelly brothers' conjoined-twins comedy Stuck on You, in which she ended up in bed with the then-18-year-old former child star of Malcolm in the Middle, Frankie Muniz. Since then, Cher has been doing concert performances in what was once billed as her “farewell tour.”

During a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cher described Drop-Out's brand of comedy as “really crazy.” Twice nominated for an Oscar, and a winner for Moonstruck, Cher, 62, said Drop-Out is “such a good movie. It's like something you wait for your whole life, and it just happened to come now, when I'm a perfect age for it.”

Blitt, the younger brother of New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt, has had mixed success since moving to Hollywood in the mid-nineties. After writing for sitcoms including The Parent Hood and Family Guy, he created The Winner, which made its debut amid heavy hype on Fox in February, 2007. But the show, starring Rob Corddry, lasted a mere six episodes. The Ringer made only $40.5-million (U.S.) worldwide at the box office. The Drop-Out is Blitt's directorial debut.

Lee Daniels' 'Push' Wins Prizes At Sundance

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2009) *The
Sundance Film Festival's prizes for best U.S. drama on Saturday went to "Push," the Lee Daniels-directed film about a young woman, Precious Jones, finding her way out of horrific circumstances in 1980s Harlem.

Based on the 1996 first novel by the poet Sapphire, "Push" won both the grand jury and audience awards, according to the Associated Press. The film version is subtitled "Based on the novel by Sapphire" to set it apart from the Dakota Fanning-Chris Evans sci-fi thriller due out next month.

The 11-day festival, the nation's premiere showcase for independent film, saw lots of its participants jet out to D.C. on Tuesday for the inauguration of Barack Obama.  The president's presence, however, was still felt in various forms throughout the event.

Sundance Institute executive director Ken Brecher lifted up an honorary festival pass with the new president's name on it, and presenter Joseph Gordon-Levitt tugged at his red Barack Obama T-shirt, saying: "These awards are exercises in democracy, and it's a good time for democracy right now."

Gordon-Levitt cheered and gave Daniels a big hug before presenting the audience award to his film, which stars Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and Paula Patton alongside newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who plays pregnant 16-year-old Precious Jones.

"This is so important to me because this is speaking for every minority that's in Harlem, that's in Detroit, that's in Watts, that's being abused, that can't read, that's obese and that we turn our back on," Daniels said. "And this is for every gay little boy and girl that's being tortured. If I can do this ... ya'll can do this."

When he picked up the grand jury prize later in the evening, Daniels admitted: "I'm drunk. I got like three shots right after we got the last one."

Ricardo Montalban, 'Fantasy Island' Star, Dies At 88

www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(January 14, 2009) LOS ANGELES —
Ricardo Montalban, the Mexican-born actor who became a star in splashy MGM musicals and later as the wish-fulfilling Mr. Roarke in TV's Fantasy Island, died Wednesday morning at his home, a city councilman said. He was 88.

Montalban's death was announced at a city council meeting by president Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.

“What you saw on the screen and on television and on talk shows, this very courtly, modest, dignified individual, that's exactly who he was,” said Montalban's long-time friend and publicist David Brokaw.

Montalban had been a star in Mexican movies when MGM brought him to Hollywood in 1946. He was cast in the leading role opposite Esther Williams in Fiesta, and starred again with the swimming beauty in On an Island with You and Neptune's Daughter.

But Montalban was best known as the faintly mysterious, white-suited Mr. Roarke, who presided over a tropical island resort where visitors were able to fulfill their lifelong dreams – usually at the unexpected expense of a difficult life lesson. Following a floatplane landing and lei ceremony, he greeted each guest with the line: “I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island.”

The show ran from 1978 to 1984.

More recently, he appeared as villains in two hits of the 1980s: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and the farcical The Naked un: From the Files of Police Squad.

Between movie and TV roles, Montalban was active in the theatre. He starred on Broadway in the 1957 musical Jamaica opposite Lena Horne, picking up a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical.

He toured in Shaw's Don Juan in Hell, playing Don Juan, a performance critic John Simon later recalled as “irresistible.” In 1965 he appeared on tour in the Yul Brynner role in The King and I.

“The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in my Council District – where the next generations of performers participate in plays, musicals, and concerts – stands as a fitting tribute to this consummate performer,” Garcetti said later in a written statement.

Fantasy Island received high ratings for most of its run on ABC, and still appears in reruns. Mr. Roarke and his sidekick, Tattoo, played by the 3-foot, 11-inch Herve Villechaize, reached the state of TV icons. Villechaize died in 1993.

In a 1978 interview, Montalban analyzed the series’ success:

“What is appealing is the idea of attaining the unattainable and learning from it. Once you obtain a fantasy, it becomes a reality, and that reality is not as exciting as your fantasy. Through the fantasies you learn to appreciate your own realities.”

As for Mr. Roarke: “Was he a magician? A hypnotist? Did he use hallucinogenic drugs? I finally came across a character that works for me. He has the essence of mystery, but I need a point of view so that my performance is consistent. I now play him 95 per cent believable and 5 per cent mystery. He doesn't have to behave mysteriously; only what he does is mysterious.”

In 1970, Montalban organized fellow Latino actors into an organization called Nosotros (“We”), and he became the first president. Their aim: to improve the image of Spanish-speaking Americans on the screen; to assure that Latin-American actors were not discriminated against; to stimulate Latino actors to study their profession.

Montalban commented in a 1970 interview:

“The Spanish-speaking American boy sees Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wipe out a regiment of Bolivian soldiers. He sees ‘The Wild Bunch' annihilate the Mexican army. It's only natural for him to say, ‘Gee, I wish I were an Anglo.”'

Montalban was no stranger to prejudice. He was born Nov. 25, 1920, in Mexico City, the son of parents who had emigrated from Spain. The boy was brought up to speak the Castilian Spanish of his forebears. To Mexican ears that sounded strange and effeminate, and young Ricardo was jeered by his schoolmates.

His mother also dressed him with old-country formality, and he wore lace collars and short pants “long after my legs had grown long and hairy,” he wrote in his 1980 autobiography, Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds.

“It is not easy to grow up in a country that has different customs from your own families.”

While driving through Texas with his brother, Montalban recalled seeing a sign on a diner: “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.” In Los Angeles, where he attended Fairfax High School, he and a friend were refused entrance to a dance hall because they were Mexicans.

Rather than seek a career in Hollywood, Montalban played summer stock in New York. He returned to Mexico City and played leading roles in movies from 1941 to 1945. That led to an MGM contract.

Besides the Williams spectacles, the handsome actor appeared in Sombrero (opposite Pier Angeli), Two Weeks With Love (Jane Powell) and Latin Lovers (Lana Turner).

He also appeared in dramatic roles in such films as Border Incident, Battleground, Mystery Street and Right Cross.

“Movies were never kind to me; I had to fight for every inch of film,” he reflected in 1970. “Usually my best scenes would end up on the cutting-room floor.”

Montalban had better luck after leaving MGM in 1953, though he was usually cast in ethnic roles. He appeared as a Japanese kabuki actor in Sayonara and an Indian in Cheyenne Autumn. His other films included: Madame X, The Singing Nun, Sweet Charity, Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Montalban was sometimes said to be the source of Billy Crystal's “you look MAHvelous” character on Saturday Night Live, though the inspiration was really Argentinian-born actor Fernando Lamas.

In 1944, Montalban married Georgiana Young, actress and model and younger sister of actress Loretta Young. Both Roman Catholics, they remained one of Hollywood's most devoted couples. She died in 2007. They had four children: Laura, Mark, Anita and Victor.

Montalban suffered a spinal injury in a horse fall while making a 1951 Clark Gable Western, Across the Wide Missouri, and thereafter walked with a limp he managed to mask during his performances.

In 1993, Montalban lost the feeling in his leg, and exhaustive tests showed that he had suffered a small haemorrhage in his neck, similar to the injury decades earlier. He underwent 9 1/2 hours of spinal surgery at UCLA Medical Center.

Despite the constant pain, the actor was able to take a role in an Aaron Spelling TV series, Heaven Help Us. Twice a month in 1994, he flew to San Antonio for two or three days of filming as an angel who watched over a young couple.

In an interview at the time, Montalban remarked: “I've never given up hope. But I have to be realistic. I gave my tennis rackets to my son, figuring I'll never play again. But my doctor said, ‘Don't say that. Strange things happen. You never know.”'

Robert Townsend Knows 'Why We Laugh'

Source: www.eurweb.com - By RadioScope/EUR Journalist LaRita Shelby

(January 21, 2009) *Within our humour lies a rainbow of issues and
Robert Townsend covers them all in his new documentary "Why We Laugh: Black Comedians On Black Comedy."

The movie is currently set for multiple screenings at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, which is being held now.

Townsend displays rare and insightful clips and interviews from comedy giants Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Bill Bellamy, DL Hughley, Keenan Ivory Wayans and many more in "Why We Laugh." 

"Well if you know me, you know that I have always tried to educate in my work, as well as entertain and 'Why We Laugh' is no exception," Townsend told us.

The new film is inspired by the book "Black Comedians on Black Comedy" by Darryl Littlejohn.  In it Townsend has skilfully compiled a historic backdrop of the comedy material that has earmarked us as a people in the best and worst of times. 

From the satiric antics of the minstrel shows of the 1800s to the segregated stages of 1930s, 40s and 50s as well as the early days of Hollywood and the controversial rise of Step ‘n’ Fetchit, Pigmeat Markum and Moms Mabley.  Then it’s a glide through to the humorists of the civil rights movement to the contemporary points of view of Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson to name a few. 

Townsend is also mindful to note that often times behind the punch lines and follies are painful realities, “In many situations, it is a case of having to laugh to keep from crying.”

"Why We Laugh" is wrought with social and political commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and other scholars who apply a more academic assessment of the things that make us laugh.

"Why We Laugh" is written by Quincy Newell and John Long with Richard Foos; Jeff Clanigan of Codeblack Entertainment serves as Executive Producers. Also on the production team are Townsend, Littleton, Newell and Angela Northington. 

The Sundance Film Festival continues through January 25 in Park City, Utah.  For more information visit www.sundance.festival.org.

Also on deck for Robert Townsend is a new media project that he’s especially excited about. 

"The new thing is a web series called Diary Of A Single Mom which stars Monica Calhoun, Richard Roundtree and Billy Dee Williams," he told us. 

To see the latest creative scope of these webisodes, log on to www.Pic.tv.   

Streep, Penn win big at SAG Awards

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
David Germain, The Associated Press

(January 25, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Meryl Streep of the Roman Catholic drama Doubt and Sean Penn of the Harvey Milk film biography Milk won lead-acting honours Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The prize for overall cast went to the rags-to-riches saga Slumdog Millionaire, while Heath Ledger of Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight and Kate Winslet of the Holocaust-themed drama The Reader took supporting honours.

“Can I just say there is no such thing as the best actress, there is no such thing as the greatest living actress,” said Streep, the Academy Awards record-holder with 15 acting nominations, including one for Doubt, in which she plays an old-school nun in a war of wills against a progressive priest.

“I am in a position where I have secret information, that I know this to be true,” she said. “I am so in awe of the work of the women this year — nominated, not nominated — so proud of us girls. And everybody wins when we get parts like this.”

Penn played gay-rights political pioneer Milk but said the film had a universal theme.

“As actors, we don't play gay, straight. We don't play any of these kinds (of roles). We play human beings, and this movie is something that all of us involved are so proud of,” Penn said. “This is a story about equal rights for all human beings.”

Ledger's supporting-actor prize for his sociopathic reinvention of Batman bad guy the Joker put the late actor a step closer to becoming just the second performer to win a posthumous Academy Award. The first was Peter Finch, the best-actor recipient for 1976's Network.

The award was accepted by The Dark Knight co-star Gary Oldman.

“I'm quite emotional,” Oldman said. “It is a great honour to be asked to accept this on behalf of Heath. He was an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent, and it is wonderful that you have acknowledged that and honoured that talent tonight.”

Oscar buzz has been flying over Ledger's performance since before his death just over a year ago from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. With the SAG win and the Golden Globe, Ledger now looks like a virtual lock to receive the supporting-actor Oscar on Feb. 22.

Winslet offered a tribute to the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, both producers on The Reader, and said 2008 was a fabulous year for films.

“It's really an honour to be included in what I think is such a remarkable year,” Winslet said. “I really feel like everybody should be given a medal.”

The role already earned Winslet the same prize at the Golden Globes, where she also won lead dramatic actress for Revolutionary Road. But at the Oscars, Winslet has just one nomination, as lead actress for The Reader, in which she plays a former concentration camp guard.

As it did at the Golden Globes, 30 Rock swept the TV comedy honours, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin taking the individual acting prizes and the show winning the ensemble cast award.

Fey, creator and star of the series set behind the scenes at a sketch-comedy show, lobbed a wisecrack at Hollywood producers, who have battled Hollywood trade guilds over actors, writers and others' share of potential profits from Web programming.

Joking that one day, her young daughter would be old enough to watch reruns of 30 Rock on the Internet, Fey said: “She'll look up at me and say, ‘What do you mean, you don't get residuals for this?”'

Hugh Laurie, who won his second straight SAG prize for best actor in a TV drama for the medical show House, joked that he was disappointed one of his fellow nominees did not win.

“I actually had a hundred dollars on James Spader (of Boston Legal),” Laurie said. “This is just not my night.”

Sally Field earned the TV drama actress award for the family series Brothers & Sisters, while the advertising saga Mad Men was named best drama show. Accepting alongside his cast mates, Mad Men star Jon Hamm had kind words for the show's “dozen of viewers.”

Before the show, The Dark Knight won SAG's honour for best movie stunt ensemble, while Heroes took the same prize for television.

James Earl Jones was honoured with the guild's lifetime-achievement award for a career that included roles in Dr. Strangelove, Field of Dreams, Cry, the Beloved Country and The Man, in which he played the first black U.S. president.

The ceremony featured clips highlighting Jones' rumbling bass voice as the mouthpiece of Star Wars villain Darth Vader, the noble patriarch in The Lion King, even cable news with his “This is CNN” announcements.

“I want to thank you for all the work that you do,” Jones told the audience, quoting the Book of Genesis on how God breathed life into man. “I don't mean to embarrass anybody by comparing the actor to God, but once we've taken the role, we have a similar responsibility to breathe life into that role, and only the actor can do that.”

We Haven't Changed, The World Has, Redford Tells Sundance Opener

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 16, 2009) PARK CITY, Utah - For a guy who founded a film festival dedicated to thinking differently, the Sundance Kid seems to have a burr in his saddle over the notion of change.

At yesterday's opening press conference for the
25th Sundance Film Festival, Redford seemed almost grumpy at times as he wrestled with questions about how Sundance has been affected by harsh economic times and the challenges to independent film wrought by technology and shifting audiences.

The actor, director and arts advocate resisted the suggestion that a quarter-century of promoting and nurturing independent film through Sundance had changed his own outlook on life.

"I don't know so much that film has changed me as much as it has affected me," Redford said.

He made repeated references to "taking the long view," arguing that Sundance would never have succeeded had he and his fellow co-founders listened to naysayers back in the 1980s, when "independent film" meant something academic and obscure.

"The way we program this festival is the same way we've done it since we started," Redford said.

"What's changed, of course, is the world around us."

That world includes a new U.S. president come Tuesday, and Redford allowed that this is one change he can embrace.

"This is obviously a really, really important inauguration, because of the change it's representing," Redford said.

"I'm happy it's happening in the middle of our festival ... I'm personally excited because I'm glad to see the gang who couldn't shoot straight get out of there. You've got a lame duck guy (George W. Bush) going out, but he sure was doing a lot of quacking in the last while."

Redford, 72, was in full Professor Bob mode yesterday, arriving at the old-school Egyptian Theatre on historic Main St. dressed in a dark pea coat, matching beret and the eyeglasses he usually wears off camera. He still has a full head of dirty blonde hair (with some grey advancing on the sideburns), and like everybody else outside of Hollywood, he has a bit of a paunch.

Redford is either being forgetful or obstinate when he insists that the programming at Sundance hasn't changed over the years. When I first started coming to the fest in 1998, it was very much American and indie – which at the time was also a synonym for amateurish. It has since grown into a world-class event attracting participation around the globe, and producing films capable of mainstream attention and awards action, as happened three years ago when Little Miss Sunshine went from its Sundance preem to a Best Picture nomination. And Redford is obviously open to new ideas, even if he does seem a bit cranky about them. He confirmed a report that Sundance is considering a proposal by oil-rich Abu Dhabi to start a Sundance-style festival. He scoffed at a question of a potential Sundance boycott by gays, which had been threatened after Utah Mormons were blamed for the Proposition 8 resolution in California that struck down same-sex marriage in that state.

"I think to try to target Sundance seems sort of self-defeating since diversity is the name of our game," Redford said.

He's absolutely right about this. Sundance has always programmed gay-friendly movies, and this year's selection includes the hot ticket I Love You Phillip Morris, in which Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor play jailhouse lovers on the lam.

There is also a popular Sundance Queer Lounge on Main St. Redford certainly isn't planning any changes in his Sundance involvement. He gave a flat "no" to a question about whether he'd consider being Obama's proposed new culture czar, should the offer be made.

Professor Bob seems convinced that no matter happens, people will continue to make great films.

"Art will always find a way. I'm a firm believer not only of the strength of art, but of the importance of art."

A Small Film And A Big Leap Of Faith

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

(January 27, 2009) The inspiration came from an image "burned" into Ryan Ward's memory: a young blind man he saw from time to time on the subway, displaying the tics and verbal outbursts characteristic of Tourette's syndrome.

"I began to write this story about this young man who had Tourette's, and I really didn't understand why I was writing it or why I was so drawn to the subject matter, but I was," said Ward, a Winnipeg native who came to Toronto to study theatre.

"As I kept refining the story, I sort of realized that a young man with Tourette's is a perfect metaphor for an angry young man looking to find his place in the world," he said.

"And that's kind of who I was at the time and, to a large degree, still am."

Five years later, the result is
Son of the Sunshine, a film that Ward directed, co-wrote and stars in. Unanimously selected by the jury of the Slamdance Film Festival, a low-budget companion to the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, it premiered last week.

The film follows Sonny, a young man from a dysfunctional home scarred by drug abuse and dark family secrets, as he struggles to find love and meaning in the big world, following an operation to treat his condition.

But there's more hope, light and magic than grit and gloom in his struggle to overcome a tragic past. There are also soaring skies and iconic landscapes, and a sense of elemental mystery in Sonny's uncanny ability to heal others.

Associate producer Michael Sparaga said the film is coming away from Slamdance with "good buzz" and has already attracted early interest from Canadian distributors and even a few U.S. ones.

Ward will meet with Toronto International Film Festival folks upon his return, hoping his work finds a place in the coming fall line-up.

The film, made entirely with private financing, will need all the help it can get to break the eternal jinx on smaller Canadian films that prevent them from being box office successes at home, and make them little more than critically acclaimed anomalies abroad.

"This is a business based on precedent and there's no precedent for a no-name English-language drama ever succeeding at the box office (in Canada)," Sparaga said.

"You have to play the festival circuit ... for about a year or so, and you have to win some serious hardware before you're going to get a Canadian distributor to say, `All right, you've got nobody (well known) in it, but you've got the reviews we can run our ads on,'" he added.

Getting the project off the ground has required both a leap of faith and a monumental effort from Ward.

"It's taken everything I had and it's still taking everything I have," he said.

That included learning about Tourette's syndrome, a condition often characterized by uncontrollable outbursts, including profanity. Tourette's still largely baffles medical science.

"Every person with Tourette's is affected totally differently," Ward said.

The study has paid off: Ward's portrayal is intense, heart-wrenchingly authentic and powerful.

After crafting the script with co-writer Matthew Heiti over several years, Ward decided that last year, when he was 29, was do or die time. Any later and he'd be too old to play the lead character.

As an untried filmmaker (he'd made two short films), Ward faced a typical Canadian Catch-22: he had no luck getting financial support from Telefilm Canada, while other would-be investors wondered why he wasn't receiving grants.

The latest crunch came in getting a screen-ready master print to Slamdance on time. The festival accepted the film in November on the basis of what Ward called a "very rough cut." But a new print had to be made at the last minute, and was completed four hours before Ward drove to Buffalo for a cheap flight to Utah.

Sparaga said the end result was worth the budget woes and deadline pressure.

"It's a beautiful little film. I wouldn't be surprised if this has a particularly long and well-received festival run," he said.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

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

(January 27, 2009) How ironic that one of most brazenly sexual movie scenes in recent times should come from Woody Allen, who is as squeamish about carnal pleasure as he is aroused by it. The moment arrives early in the film, Allen's first Spanish stop in his ongoing cinematic tour of Europe, when Javier Bardem's sexy satyr Juan Antonio hustles the Vicky and Cristina of the title, played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson. Sensible scholar Vicky is shocked and ready to reject him outright; besides, her equally sensible fiancé Doug is at home in New York, not so patiently waiting for her return from her summer sojourn. Reckless hedonist Cristina, unfettered by man or morality, is intrigued by Juan Antonio and willing to put the smooth Spaniard to the test. He and his erstwhile conquests discover that amor hits you harder than a slam to the head with a cattle gun – especially when there's Antonio's ex Maria Elena (Oscar-nommed Penélope Cruz) still very much in the picture. Extras? This being a Woody Allen movie, one Spanish word describes the norm: nada.

Beals, Denzel Together Again On Big Screen


(January 28, 2009) *With production on her Showtime series "The L Word" completed for good, Jennifer Beals returns to her feature films roots with a role in the action thriller "The Book of Eli," starring Denzel Washington.  The pair will be working together for the first time since 1995's "Devil in a Blue Dress."   Albert and Allen Hughes are directing "Eli" for Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment. The story follows a lone hero named Eli (Washington) who must fight his way across the wasteland of a near-future America to protect a sacred book that might hold the key to saving humanity.    Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis are also in the cast. Beals is playing Oldman's sexual prize and Kunis' mother, a blind woman doing anything she can to protect her child.   "The L Word," meanwhile, is currently airing its final season. 


NBC's Talk Surge 'Last Gasp Of A Dying Network'

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

(January 18, 2009) LOS ANGELES–It is time once again – or will be, on June 1 – to pass the venerable Tonight Show torch on to a new generation.

Not that incoming host-elect Conan O'Brien us exactly "new" – at least, not to anyone who has ever stayed up past 12:30.

But turnover is a tradition for the seminal night-time chatfest, which since its debut in 1954 has passed from the affable Steve Allen to the more mercurial Jack Paar to Johnny Carson to Jay Leno in 1992. Things then got very complicated.

Now Leno continues to be locked in battle at 11:30 with CBS's David Letterman, and the waters have been muddied with the arrival of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. The fight has also spread to another front, a far less contentious 12:30 throw-down between O'Brien and Scottish import Craig Ferguson. Which on March 2 becomes Ferguson vs. Jimmy Fallon, with O'Brien taking on the man he himself had replaced at NBC's Late Night, Letterman.

Can't tell the players without a scorecard. And it gets more confusing still. Defying all logic and expectation, Leno, who leaves Tonight on May 29, will resurface next season on the same network, in a new nightly 10 o'clock spot, eating up five hours of precious prime-time.

"I think it's a tragedy, frankly," complained frequent guest Richard Belzer, the caustic comic and full-time NBC employee as one of the stars of Law & Order: SVU. "Jay Leno is going to be on every night, meaning that thousands of people will be out of work ... actors, producers, writers, wardrobe people ...

"I'm not denigrating Jay or his show. It may be good for comedy in a limited way, but it's a terrible, terrible trend for network television ... It's the last gasp of a dying network."

Others are making somewhat less pessimistic projections – a rather gracious concession for Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who was fired only two years ago from his brief tenure in the same position at NBC.

"NBC for me is like the crazy ex-wife I can't get away from," he said with a laugh. "(But) I give them a lot of credit for signing up Jay. I was surprised to see that. I think it's a smart strategic move for them in a very, very troubled place.

"On a historical level ... for the network that was a premier brand for scripted television, that's a little bit of a sad statement. But whether they make it go at a business level, we'll see."

O'Brien too, in his own inimitable way, remains philosophical. "People ask me, 'Does this, you know, in any way diminish the Tonight Show?' And my response is, 'I don't need any help diminishing the Tonight Show. I've got that covered.'

"You know, since ('54), the Tonight Show has been on at 11:30 on NBC. To me, that is sacred territory. The Tonight Show has huge resonance for me. So no, it doesn't in any way affect, I think, the show that I'm getting."

Even with as intriguing a contest as Letterman vs. O'Brien, and the complications that will resonate from Leno, the wild card in all this will be Fallon, whose sole qualification for the Late Night gig is a brief tenure as co-anchor of Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update."

"But I know what it's like to be on the other side of a talk show," says Fallon. "I know as a celebrity (that) you come on the show and you have a terrible story and nothing to talk (about except) a summer vacation or something that's just boring. It's up to the host to make you look good. I think that's my goal."

Fallon's long-time mentor, producer Lorne Michaels, is taking no chances, giving Fallon a thorough shake-down run on the Internet on latenightwithjimmyfallon.com.

O'Brien, who's been down this same road, suggests that even this won't be nearly enough.

"I hate to always sound like I'm a preacher of common sense, but I've told Jimmy that nobody who hasn't done one of these shows every single day can possibly imagine what that's like ... I learned how to do one of these shows by doing it. It was not pretty to watch sometimes, but it's the only way that you can do it. There's no college they can send you to."

Fallon's time-slot competitor, Ferguson, offers similarly cautionary encouragement – directed not at Fallon, but at the critics.

"I'm hearing all this negative stuff about Jimmy, and everybody commenting on his performance, which I find a little surprising given the fact he hasn't done anything yet. He's kind of like the reverse Barack Obama.

"Let's be honest, who amongst you thought I'd be sitting here four years (later)? I would have given me a couple of weeks.

"I think that we should give him a chance. Give Jimmy a month before you review him."

Fallon is understandably grateful for the support, particularly given the source: "I'm up against a really classy guy. In fact, I sent him a gift basket today with a collection of Sean Connery movies. And some Jagermeister for his writers."

And besides, it isn't Ferguson who worries him. "The way I look at it," he allows, "my only competition is sleep. Seriously."

Jon Dore The Adorable Jerk

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(January 20, 2009) It is not the case that all comics come from broken or dysfunctional families. Consider Jon Dore, the very droll star of The Jon Dore Television Show, which begins its second season of absurdity on the Comedy Network tonight.

Dore, 33, as well known for appearances on Canadian Idol as for his own mockumentary sketch series, was born and raised in “a really boring neighbourhood” near Ottawa's Nepean district. He springs from the conventional union of a special-needs teacher (father) and a nurse (mother), two straitlaced, civically conscious Canadians.

“I think my sister” – his younger sibling, Allison, is also a comic and actor – “ and I noticed my parents trying to help the world, and what did they get for it?” says Dore, his face a mask of Buddhist sobriety. “They weren't the better off for it. They lost their independence and had us, two selfish kids who want to be in the spotlight and not help the world at all.”

The tongue, of course, is lodged firmly in cheek.

Now based in Toronto, Dore started doing stand-up in Ottawa at the age of 21, talking his way onstage as a replacement emcee. “The Lord gave me a sign. What sign? The sign of the comedy club. It wasn't there one day and it was there the next day. It had to be divine intervention.”

The only problem, he recalled over a recent lunch, “was that I had no idea how to tell a joke. I didn't know how to write a joke. I was terrible. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but it forced me to look at how it was actually done.”

It took him a year to work up enough courage to try again, at Yuk Yuks in Ottawa. Soon, he was on the circuit, putting in the years of laborious craft-honing that would one day allow him to claim overnight success.

“What makes Jon Dore so special,” Yuk Yuks founder Mark Breslin says, “is his ability to draw you into his material through his magnificent deadpan. He's the king of the set-up. His commitment to meta-comedy reminds me of early Steve Martin.”

Experience has changed Dore's entire approach to comedy. There was a time, he says, when he would do anything for a laugh and if he didn't get it, he felt like a complete failure. “With the exception of Bill Cosby – my dad rented a Bill Cosby album when I was 12 – I didn't have a lot of stand-up influences. I discovered that I was boring, using the same kinds of material as other comics. And I wasn't happy. Slowly, I figured out how to tell my own jokes. I started phasing out old material and working in the new, and realized they didn't work together. And audiences know when a comic is comfortable onstage. Now, I can tell a joke that falls completely flat and I couldn't care less, which is a great feeling.”

While in Ottawa, Dore auditioned for and eventually won a regular comic gig on CTV's Canadian Idol. That three-year exposure, and finding family-friendly comedy fit for prime time, “definitely helped me realize what I didn't want to do.” It also connected him with the show's producers, John Brunton's Insight Productions and the Comedy Network, a relationship that led to his own Gemini-nominated show.

It was Brunton's imprimatur, Dore says, that helped him sell his show concept to Comedy Network godfather Ed Robinson. In the pilot, Dore interviewed a hairy man unable to land a job as a male stripper and then danced onstage, after having his own body waxed.

The network, he says, was actually lukewarm to the pilot and with good reason. “It was fine, but it didn't have a spine, a storyline, running through it, so we rewrote the concept with help of a show runner [Montreal's Ed Macdonald].” The new outlines won a green light for Season 1.

Season 2 follows the same basic formula, incorporating fictional elements of Dore's life (this season he'll fight white-male discrimination, getting older and violence) and interviews with real people about his problem. In the second episode, for example, he develops an erection that will not let go. In search of a solution, he beds the first buxom blonde he encounters and when, even that fails to cure the tumescence, interviews a reformed sex addict, a sex therapist, an Internet porn performer and his own Aunt Cathy. For much of the show, he wears a pail duct-taped to his groin.

In the off-season, Dore keeps his stand-up chops in tune by going on the comedy-club circuit. The lifestyle, he says, is not conducive to a serious relationship: “Single but straight. I'm pretty selfishly in love with what I'm doing right now.”

At some point, however, he would not be averse to trying to crack the world of Hollywood sitcoms, and he recently secured his United States visa papers. “It would be like starting over,” he concedes. “Not being known, not having relationships with club owners. But it would also be very exciting.”

Producer Brunton, for one, is bullish about Dore's future. He recently sold both seasons of the show to two foreign buyers and sold the concept to two others, including Germany.

The Jon Dore Television Show airs Wednesday nights at 10 ET/PT on the Comedy Network.

Pamela Wallin's Brush With Vulnerability

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(January 26, 2009) The veteran journalist-turned-diplomat Pamela Wallin has spent her career pressing and prodding – whether in interviews or high-level government meetings – trying to understand what makes people tick.

So when a Toronto television producer turned the tables on Wallin recently – and asked the newly appointed Canadian senator to undergo intense scrutiny herself for a change as the subject of portrait painters – the Wadena, Sask.-born farm girl initially balked.

“I was very reluctant and reticent because I'm not someone who deals well with sitting still or even having my picture taken – let alone be painted,” explained Wallin, one of eight high-profile Canadians who agreed to face the artist's brush in Bravo!'s new TV series,
Star Portraits, which will debut later this year. ( Star Portraits' other celebrity portrait subjects include Alex Trebek, Roberta Bondar, Enrico Colantoni, Ashley MacIsaac, Elvis Stojko, Colin Mochrie and the Amazing Kreskin.)

“I tried to explain to them that I'm used to being on the other side,” says Wallin, laughing, who worked 20 years as a broadcaster (probably best known as host of Canada AM), before accepting the post of Canadian consul-general in New York.

To actually stop and sit there, expose myself and make myself vulnerable … well, I wasn't sure I was ready for this extremely intimate encounter,” Wallin continues. “It's not like a photography session – and I'm definitely not the most patient person!”

Despite her trepidation, the partners at Toronto's PTV Productions worked on Wallin until she gave in and agreed to meet a trio of up-and-coming Canadian artists (Judy Finch, Jason Kronenwald, Gabor Paul Mezei) on the set of her old morning show at CTV's headquarters in the Toronto suburb of Agincourt.

In the end, she said the three-hour sitting was not as painful as she expected. As she relaxed – and got to know the three artists sketching her – she learned to let go and let them look in. “I'd never met them. You can't Google them and look up who they are. But in the end, I was glad I couldn't bias myself in any way. This is all about getting comfortable with someone crawling inside your head. And they all did that.”

Set to air this fall and hosted by Broadway singer Louise Pitre ( Piaf, Mamma Mia!), Star Portraits is a 13-part knock-off of a popular BBC series that routinely attracts more than five million viewers. The Canadian version, which has been tweaked somewhat to air here, invites three aspiring and/or established Canadian artists to meet with one well-known Canadian and then produce a portrait in two weeks.

As producer-director Theresa Kowall-Shipp explains it, Star Portraits is like a reality series – only classier. Part art, part biography series, at the end of each 30-minute episode, the person painted finally gets to see the finished works. That person can then choose one to add to his or her personal collection. The other two will be divided between the Portrait Gallery of Canada and auctions for the celebrities' favourite charity.

“We had to work at convincing some of the celebrities – some of whom were nervous of the process, which is a combination of intimate and invasive,” says Kowall-Shipp. “The artists get under your skin. They paint a personality. They paint what they perceive. And that's challenging. I'm not sure I'd have the nerve to sit for that.

“Originally, there was some scepticism, too, on the part of the artists. One said to me, ‘Oh my God, is this going to be Survivor Artist? Are we going to be thrown off the island? Is this going to be one of those dreadful reality shows?” admits Kowall-Shipp. “I can assure, this program is no such thing. By treating them honestly and fairly, we've managed to put them at ease. The word has spread fairly quickly in the arts community that we are giving people a fair shake. And we are not about mortifying them. This is based on art. And intimacy. It's not trying to demoralize or diminish – on the contrary – it's to honour the artist.”

On a damp day late last fall at Toronto's stately Graydon Hall Manor, Wallin finally got a peek at her completed portraits in the so-called “reveal.” She can't say which one she picked, but adds her choice even shocked her.

“I've got some portraiture at home, but mostly I'm the Group of Seven type. Scenics, the Prairies and the painting that my mother paints of Saskatchewan winters, and all that.”

Wallin adds she found it very difficult to narrow her favourite down to one. “You look at these, and I concluded they all belonged together. Each one saw a facet of me that I guess I'd never really thought much about before.

“At the end, one of the producers asked me, ‘Wasn't this fun?' And I said, ‘No, it was not fun.'

“But it was really amazing,” she adds, “because I learned how difficult it is for me to forfeit control. And it's good to go through that experience. To be vulnerable with strangers – the flip side of what I have asked everybody in my professional life to do.”

Raven-Symone Joins With Dove To Raise The Beauty Bar

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(January 28, 2009) *Raven-Symone has been a successful child model, a movie star, a recording star, and conquered television, including her Emmy-nominated Disney show “That’s So Raven” – Disney Channel's highest-rated and longest-running series.

It spawned Disney's most successful franchise, including soundtracks, dolls, episode DVDs, and video games. Raven-Symone has built an empire.

However, in all the triumphs and honour, it might surprise fans that the young star has also had to face off in self-esteem battles. That is in part why she has teamed with Dove for the Dove Self-Esteem Workshop Tour.

“We go around the country and talk to girls from the ages of 11-12 about self-esteem,” she explained.

Raven told EUR’s Lee Bailey that 7 out of 10 girls believe that they’re not good enough or don’t measure up in some way.

“When that happens, they turn to eating disorders and cutting and bullying and smoking and drinking to curb that,” she continued. “Hopefully by 2010 we will be able to reach 5 million girls to open their definition of beauty and give them the correct language to speak about their bodies.”

Raven said that she got involved because she loves doing things that help grow the confidence level of young females, and that she has always promoted that sense of confidence in her work as an actress and singer.

“I liked Dove because for a long time they’ve been doing the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign with no air brushing and no pulleys and strings,” she said. “I wanted to work with them for that reason and then they told me about this. It’s right up my alley, especially with my website, ‘Raven-Symone Presents.' It has all kinds of tie-ins with understanding and loving yourself and enjoying your confidence level.”

The 90-minute workshops sits down groups of pre-teen girls with Raven and author Jess Weiner and go through worksheets, exercises, role playing and other tools to talk to girls about inner beauty.

“We identify problems around you and in your life that are either bringing your self-esteem down or helping your self-esteem grow. We also show [attendees] pictures [showing] the difference between air brushing and not air brushing all the way up to role playing and putting them in situations so that when we’re not there helping them they know how to handle the situation of low self-esteem areas.”

The initiative hopes to reinforce in girls that beauty is not skin deep after all, but that it is in fact deeper than that.

“They have to look within themselves and they’re beautiful,” she said of women who may not be considered physically attractive. “It’s not always about what’s on the outside that says they’re beautiful. Who says that they’re not? It’s just that the small definition of beauty that’s circulating in our world right now doesn’t leave a window wide open for those that might not look like the supermodel type. That’s what we need to get clear. There are so many girls out there that are so many shapes, sizes, and colors that we need to open that window and widen it. Hopefully that’s what we can do today and that’s what Dove is trying to do. We’re trying to get the girls to question the beauty stereotypes. And get them to truly open up their minds.”

According to Raven, 41% of the African American teens feel that they’re not good enough or that they don’t measure up. Appalled by the statistic, she said it’s just “not fair.”

“We’re going to tell them that they’re beautiful no matter what they look like; no matter if their hair doesn’t grow. You don’t need a weave all the time,” she said, noting that she sometimes wears a weave herself.

Raven also said that she’s connected to the cause because it’s something that she has to deal with on a daily basis. Whether it’s bloggers complaining about her weight or industry-ites suggesting she drop some pounds, she said that just like every day women, she is confronted with self-esteem discouragement.

“Just being who I am in the industry and what I look like, I’ve definitely had negative language bombarded toward me that I do not fit that specific mold that they think beauty is,” she said. “But I look within myself and I take that and I say, ‘Let me hear what my friends are telling me, let me hear what my soul is telling, let me hear what my doctor is telling me’ and fix what I need to fix then and fix it in a healthy manner.”

“I don’t think there is a difference,” she said of her self-esteem issues and those of non celebs. “I think whether you’re 11 or you’re 55, there is always something that is going to try to bring you down and your self-esteem. Being in the public eye I can say, ‘You know what? I have it too and I’m changing it and I’m going to go and talk to other people about it. I think that we’re all in a similar boat. We’re all human beings whether we’re on TV, or a school teacher, or a taxi cab driver. This is something that we’re all affected by.”

Quite aware of what “they” are saying, Raven-Symone called herself a “thick and fabulous being,” but added that she does exercise everyday and is always looking to remain happy and healthy.

“Gotta love Dove,” she said. “Dove has established this amazing campaign for real beauty. To widen the definition of beauty and that everyone can be encompassed in it and not just the ones that are size 0 with long hair and the hottest clothes. Everyone is beautiful in their own way.”

For more on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty workshops and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, check out www.campaignforrealbeauty.com.


Idris Elba To Join NBC's 'Office


(January 16, 2009) *British actor
Idris Elba will appear in six episodes of the NBC sitcom "The Office" later this season. NBC made the announcement Thursday afternoon during its portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour in Los Angeles.  While details are being kept under wraps, NBC did say the actor will play a no-nonsense hire at Dunder Mifflin's corporate office who rankles Scranton branch manager Michael Scott, played by star Steve Carell. Elba was most recently seen in Guy Ritchie's "Rocknrolla." His credits also include "The Unborn" and he'll soon star opposite Beyonce in "Obsessed." He also just filmed the feature "Bone Deep."


As Borders Blur, A Hope For A New Style Of Theatre

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(January 27, 2009) “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson, aboriginal educator and artist

When Toronto's Theatrefront evolved from a loose association of artists into a formal company in 2001, its mandate was to develop new works through international collaborations, with the idea that communal experiences across continents could do wonders for the Canadian stage.

Daryl Cloran, Theatrefront's founder and artistic director, didn't even have much interest in securing a permanent base for his ensemble in Toronto. Instead, his team wanted to learn both “how to do theatre” and “why to do theatre” from the best of the best elsewhere.

In some cases, “elsewhere” has meant places that have been through war or major conflict. But, as Cloran says, “the thing that's most important … is that it doesn't just become about going over to a place that has been through strife and then reporting back on what they've been through.”

A case in point: Theatrefront's newest work,
Ubuntu (The Cape Town Project ), which opens tonight at Tarragon Theatre.

Directed by Cloran, the play is not just about politics in South Africa. The plot is centred on a man and a woman on separate continents who are both exploring family ghosts, but it's also about how we transcend the specifics of history and politics, about our shared humanity. Hence the title: The word ubuntu refers to the belief that humanity is tied together in a shared community.

More than three years in the making, Ubuntu is the second project of its kind for Theatrefront, following the Dora Award-nominated Return in 2006, which was built around visits to Sarajevo and included Bosnian actors among its cast.

In 2005, while still completing the Sarajevo show, Cloran and his colleagues – including his wife, Holly Lewis, another ensemble member – began visits to South Africa to make contacts with the Cape Town theatre community.

Their chief contact was Mannie Manim, the artistic director of Cape Town's Baxter Theatre Centre. Cloran and Manim auditioned 100 actors there, choosing four – Mbulelo Grootboom, Andile Nebulane, Abduragmaan Adams and Sonia Esgueira – to collaborate on the project with other players from Theatrefront. They took part in a series of month-long workshops led by Cloran, the first held in Cape Town, the rest in Toronto, inventing the show from the ground up.

Both Cloran and Lewis said the cultural cross-pollination was invaluable.

“The South African performers are really fabulous dancers, very physical, visceral performers. … It became a great challenge for the Canadian actors [to match their physicality],” Cloran said.

“They are incredibly brave performers. They take risks. Even in rehearsal the first time out, it's 100 per cent, and I find with a lot of actors I work with [in Canada], there's a slower approach in rehearsal. We try to understand it fully before we perform it,” added Lewis, who plays Libby, a young woman learning more about her distant mother's past.

That head-first approach has worked well for a play that was written collectively (with Cloran providing a shaping hand) and that has continued to be altered even through the preview performances this week.

The learning curve has also extended outside the theatre – and went both ways. The Cape Town actors have made all of their visits to Toronto in the dead of winter. While they marvelled at the snow at first, they were soon cursing the cold.

From Cloran's perspective as a visitor to their land, he found Cape Town to be a place of staggering natural beauty and he praised the warmth and hospitality of their hosts.

However, he learned not to be casual about security. Their cramped temporary apartment was enclosed by high walls topped with spiralling barbed wire, and the dangers of daily life occasionally encroached on the theatre. When Nebulane turned up late for the first rehearsal, Cloran, reluctantly, put on his tough director's hat and launched into a lecture on the importance of timeliness.

“I'm so sorry,” Nebulane said. “I came as soon as I could. But I got stabbed last night and I've been at the hospital.”

These lessons exchanged have helped shape the play's characters, while the traditions of Cape Town – its dancing, music and even the click language of Xhosa – have permeated the performance. And the trust the actors worked to forge has helped bring the cultural and theatrical common ground to the fore.

What Cloran and Lewis hope will emerge is a style of theatre that exists comfortably in a world where borders blur and communications technologies are collapsing great distances.

“The point is that we're making something that could only be made by putting South African and Canadian actors in a room together,” Cloran said.

Brave Exploration Of A Tormented Youth

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

You Fancy Yourself

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Maja Ardal. Directed by Mary Francis Moore. Until Feb. 14 at  Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave. 416-504-7529

(January 28, 2009) Saint Paul once wrote that there comes a time when we should "put aside childish things," but then he never met
Maja Ardal.

The irrepressible actor/author of You Fancy Yourself, which opened last night at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, proves that there is great entertainment value and dramatic validity in holding onto and exploring those often tormented years of our youth.

Ardal takes us back to Edinburgh more than 50 years ago, when she was a young girl newly arrived in Scotland with her family from Iceland.

She relives what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land, desperate to make any kind of friends, while trying her best to learn the ins and outs of her own personality as well.

She's a bold and appealing performer, not hesitating to dive into the deep end of the acting pool, giving us characters who totter on the edge of caricature but still somehow maintain a real sense of inner reality.

Her self-portrait, Elsa, is mercifully free of any cloying self-love or misplaced sympathy. She knows she was a brash, egotistical, often selfish young woman and she's not afraid to show those qualities to us.

It takes a brave actor and author to show one's self in the act of cowardly betraying her best friend at the hands of a batch of schoolyard bullies, but Ardal takes us there, lets us feel the pain and then eventually brings us out to a different kind of redemption.

She plays 11 characters in the course of the evening, with a wide variety of well-observed Scots accents and the body postures to match. You'll cherish her teacher's pet, the cloying June Macready, as well as the tight-lipped teacher, Miss Campbell, and the wistful Adelle (her pathologically shy best friend).

Ardal also has a deft touch at playing the surly young men in her class, including the poor, potato-eared David MacDonald, whose post-nasal drip masks an aching heart.

Mary Francis Moore has directed with a deft and deliberately invisible hand, avoiding any overt theatricality and letting Ardal's talent do all the heavy lifting. It's a wise choice.

It makes for an engaging and often touching evening of theatre, but the only caveat is that what seems to have been an hour-long one-act play has been given a superfluous intermission and about 20 minutes of unnecessary padding.

Despite that flaw, it's still easy to recommend You Fancy Yourself as a play with equal portions of heart and humour, both provided in generous amounts by the talented Ms. Ardal.


Michael Jackson's Thriller Planned For Stage

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(January 26, 2009) NEW YORK–"Thriller" a Broadway musical? Producer James L. Nederlander says he has acquired the rights for a stage version of Jackson's iconic music-video spoof of horror films. The show will include songs from two of the pop king's best-selling albums, Thriller and Off the Wall. "The Nederlanders and Michael Jackson represent live theatre and musical excellence, so let the music begin," Tohme Tohme, a spokesman for Jackson, said Monday in a statement. "I love the idea of making 'Thriller' a musical. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy has big secret, now what?" said Nederlander, head of the company that owns nine Broadway theatres. No word yet on who will write the book for the show or what songs will be included in the production, or who will direct and choreograph.


Pow! Straight to the Moon

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

Platform: Nintendo DS
Rated: T
Price: $34.99

"I walked on the Moon. I did a push-up, ate an egg on it. What else can you do with it?"
Captain Bern Hembrook, Apollo 19 astronaut

(January 24, 2009)  Well, there's lots of things you can do with the moon! You can gaze at it, howl at it or be struck by it, for example.

Most importantly to the world of video games, though, you can fight space aliens on it. It's a well-known rule of thumb in interplanetary warfare that 80 per cent of hostile alien invasions will begin with the establishment of a lunar beachhead, and countless games since 1982's Moon Patrol have given players the thrill of repulsing invaders amid airless craters and canyons. So when developer Renegade Kid announced their latest DS first-person shooter, they knew they didn't need to overhype it; they just called it Moon and let our beloved satellite's rep as a kickass battleground speak for itself.

Before anything else, the star of Moon is its own technology. Coaxing the DS into producing an acceptable first-person shooter experience is a mysterious art; only Nintendo's Metroid Prime Hunters and Renegade Kid's own survival-horror-shooter Dementium: The Ward have really managed it. With Moon, they've taken the Dementium technology and taught it some impressive new tricks. Claustrophobic corridors, huge open areas, the lunar surface itself – everything is beautifully rendered, and the game cranks it all out at a unwavering, silky-smooth frame rate. I don't want to know what kind of unholy pacts they had to make to get Moon looking and running so well, but the result is by far the best 3D engine on this hardware.

Players take on the role of Major Kane as he investigates a newly discovered alien facility, and he's got plenty to do. There's a lot of enemy-blasting with a variety of cool space guns, of course, and the alien robots and their bosses can be pleasantly clever. But Moon is more of an adventure-shooter than full-bore run-and-gun actionfest. It's heavy on puzzle solving, exploration, and steady revelation of story and setting, with Kane aided by a remote-controlled miniature robot à la Perfect Dark. There's even a fairly cool moon-buggy to drive.

Lots to do, and a great-looking world to do it in, and yet Moon is kind of ... boring? Is there a word that means "boring," without the negative connotation? It's just that I've recently replayed the old Duke Nukem 3D, with its excellent "Lunar Apocalypse" levels, and I so loved the pure, breakneck speed of that game that a more deliberate shooter like Moon feels pokey.

On the other hand, Moon's puzzle/exploration elements aren't really deep or challenging enough to grab me like an adventure game should. I can objectively understand how this particular balance might be exactly what some folks are looking for, but neither side of its action/adventure equation had enough propulsive force to give me that must-keep-playing feeling.


Austin Clarke: A Writer's Potholed Road To Success

Source:  www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(January 17, 2009) It was at a relatively advanced age – in his early 20s – when Austin Clarke realized that he was going to be a writer, in the sense of making a living as one. But once he came to that point, he says, he made some decisions about how he might manage that career.

"I did a lot," he says of a time in the late 1950s when he and his young family were living in Kirkland Lake, Ont., because of a newspaper job that Clarke, who had never been a reporter, had taken on. From newspaper feature writing, and then doing interviews for CBC Radio, he turned to writing fiction.

"I arranged my life in such a way that I was not depending on success or patronage. I was going to write and write and write until the establishment saw the virtue in my work. I was not affected by reviews. I would say, `This person doesn't know what he or she is talking about.'"

Born in 1934 and raised in Barbados, where he was a graduate of Harrison College, then a school for boys, Clarke was recommended (by the Colonial Secretary) for entrance into the University of Oxford, but lacked the funds to go there. Eventually he arrived in Canada, where he attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

A vocation as a writer – or an artist of any kind – was not encouraged in the country of his birth. "To be an artist in Barbados at that time had the very sneaky, negative implication that you were gay. Men – we grew up in this very masculine society – did not play with paint and pencils and did not write poetry."

What's more, there was no one for a person with writing talent to look to as a role model, not until the BBC began broadcasting a radio show called Caribbean Voices. Clarke heard short stories and poetry read by Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Jan Carew and Sam Selvon.

He found other role models in Canada and the United States. He tells a hilarious story of how in 1963 he got the CBC to agree to an interview he proposed with James Baldwin, although he had to pay his own way to New York City.

"I was so naive," he recalls. He simply assumed that Baldwin would be found there and went looking for him in a Harlem bar called the Red Rooster. "I'd be trackin' down Jimmy. The cats would be laughin'. `Here's a cat from Canada lookin' for Jimmy. Jimmy's gone.'" The writer had been living in Greece for some time.

"Then some good soul said to me, Why not try Malcolm?" That gave him heart. "You had to be cool to interview Malcolm."

And so Austin Clarke secured an interview with Malcolm X, recorded in the CBC's studio in New York. "It was transmitted immediately back to CBC. The next day I got this message (of congratulation) from (renowned CBC programming executive) Harry J. Boyle. I would say my life was made."

A stint with The Globe and Mail, a run of freelance interviews with the CBC and Clarke had the makings of a literary career. He began to consider how it would work. "I can say now, because I'm old enough to say whatever I want, that I set out very seriously to work very hard, which I still do, and to be the best writer in Canada. I think that anyone who goes into writing should have that in the back of his or her head."

Author of 21 books, winner of a Giller Prize, a Commonwealth Prize and a Trillium Award, a member of the Order of Canada, and a bearer of four honorary degrees, Clarke is grateful success came late. "I'm now one of the few (fiction writers) who can live off my writing," he says, recalling how he once thought it wouldn't help to be "a hotshot like some of the younger writers who made a big splash and are now no longer writing."

There were years at the beginning when he made no royalties or fees, but after the 2002 publication of The Polished Hoe, he could live off his writing alone. There was struggle, there was failure, and an elusive readership. For five years he was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. "The stories there were not so violent, but the intensity of listening kept me from writing anything." It was precisely because he thought it would give him material that he'd taken a position. "But I have only written about it once, glancingly, in The Question."

But there were also grants, and a wonderfully enriching time spent teaching from 1968 to 1972 at Yale, Duke, Brandeis University and the University of Texas at Austin. He lectured on black studies and taught creative writing. He was writer in residence at Concordia (then Sir George Williams), Guelph and the University of Toronto's Massey College. For several years he taught at U of T 's summer school for creative writing.

Clarke was on a writers' panel convened by the Canada Council in 1967. "I suggested that the Canada Council begin funding writers in residence, and that they would get the same amount as a senior artists' grant."

From his vantage point as a senior writer, Clarke can see how things could be done that would make a writer's life less of the foolhardy path it often is. "I wish the Canada Council would raise the reading fee," he says. (The Canada Council rate to support authors' readings at public venues was $200 for more than 20 years, and only in 2001 was it raised to $250.)

As one who is often invited abroad, and is hosted by Canada's representatives in foreign countries, Clarke sees how little our government does to capitalize on the work of its best artists. "It is always the artist; it is never the politician," he says, who comes to represent the spirit and culture of a country. "I am not expecting governments to underwrite 100 per cent of my work, but they could at least make some acknowledgement."

He was buoyed, after the statue of Al Purdy was erected in Queen's Park, to think more artists might be so honoured. "From what I know of him, easily one-third of his life was lived in poverty of some kind. The question has to be asked: To what extent would his art have benefited had he received more attention from the state in his lifetime?"

Artists Improving With Age

Source:  www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(January 17, 2009) It takes about 10,000 hours – roughly 10 years – to master anything, Malcolm Gladwell asserts in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.

The 10,000-hour rule certainly applies in the arts. But as artists grow older they develop even more. "Everything is distilled," says dancer Peggy Baker, 56. You make easier and better decisions. An artist is by definition someone who is "emerging throughout her life," says 60-something visual artist Vera Frenkel (who did not want to divulge her exact age).

We often honour our senior artists with prizes or respect, but society also has a tendency to regard them as past their prime. The truth is often the opposite. When he was starting out, writer
Austin Clarke, 74, hoped his career would build gradually, so that he would reach his prime earning years later in life, and not be "a hot shot" who had early success and then disappeared. As it happened, Clarke got his wish. With the publication of Origin of Waves in 1997, he moved toward a point where he could live off his writing alone. With The Polished Hoe (2002), winner of three major fiction prizes, his position was secured.

Dancers have a particularly difficult balancing act to perform as they age, because their physical abilities diminish with time. That is why the Dancer Transition Resource Centre in Toronto has proved so vital, offering grants and support for dancers leaving performance and advancing to a new occupation. The centre staff encourage dancers to view the possibilities for a transition from the beginning of their dancing years.

Montreal dancer, teacher, rehearsal director and all around wise elder Elizabeth Langley is not "old" by any definition of that word, except maybe in years. The founding director of the dance program at Concordia University, she took early retirement in her sixties and launched herself into a creative role, making new performance pieces into her seventies. At 75, she has a lot of wisdom to impart to artists who plan to keep on going no matter what.

"Own the roof over your head," is one thing she advises. Take care of yourself. Even those in totally sedentary occupations, such as writers, need to keep fit. Clarke, like the two men in Origin of Waves, is someone who habitually walks the distance from his house to his downtown haunts.

Most of all, what senior artists will tell you is that with success and recognition come the obligations to pass on what you know, teach your peers and be prepared to write a lot of letters of recommendation.

Heart & Soul Magazine Celebrates Love With A Power-Packed Issue Featuring The Nation's First And Favourite Couple

Source: OneDiaspora Group

(January 26, 2009) Baltimore, MD -
Heart & Soul magazine, the nation's leading source of health and fitness information for African-American women, lets love lead the way with a new, power-packed issue geared to help readers stride into 2009 with power, grace and confidence. With relationships as a central theme, the February/March issue is anchored by an endearing cover story on the unique-and very public-love affair between President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, a genuine, shared affection that serves as both an example and an inspiration.

Other features highlighted in the current book focus on such vital topics as how married couples successfully combine romance and business, tips on how to get past your mate's "deal breaker" issues, myths and truths about depression, how to win at both business and love and a timely look at ways to protect your credit and good name.  Also, in honour of its 15th anniversary, Heart & Soul kicks off the first in a series of top 15 lists with a take on the nation's leading hospitals.

Now on newsstands, the February/March issue also provides a hefty serving of expert-driven insights on health, fitness, nutrition, fiscal management and overall positive living, further underscoring Heart & Soul's role as the "healthy, wealthy and wise" choice for black women.  

"We're in love with love this issue," says Executive Editor Kendra Lee. "Certainly our president and first lady have an inspirational love story, and it's heartening to see it played out from the White House. But we're also issuing a call for our readers to love all aspects of their lives, starting with themselves. That means taking care of their physical health, their emotional well-being and their finances. At the end of the day, we challenge them to live their lives with their hearts wide open!"

Features in the current issue include:    

"Love, Obama Style" by Mary C. Curtis (p. 48).  Perhaps never before has the concept of "public displays of affection" been acted out on such a grand stage, but President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama's love affair has captured the attention and admiration of millions.  Writer Mary C. Curtis discusses how their romance has set an example for an entire nation.

"For Better or Worse - Marrying Work and Pleasure" by Maya Payne Smart (p. 50).  Married couples are increasingly finding success as partners in business as well as life.  With an estimated 1.2 to 3 million couple-owned businesses in the U.S., husband-and-wife-led ventures are becoming an attractive option for black families.  This piece, via first-hand testimonials, examines the best methods to combine love and business successfully.

"Working Wives - Balancing Marriage and Career" by Lorraine Sanabria Robertson (p. 54).  Women who excel at both business and marriage discuss how they are able to realize their dream careers without sacrificing their relationships.

"Deal Breakers (That Weren't)" by Pamela K. Johnson (p. 56). For some women, the line is drawn at the married man.  Others won't date a guy below a certain height, or one who lives too far away, or one who's unemployed.  These types of barriers often kill relationships before they can begin. Writer Pamela K. Johnson talks with women who've faced and fought through their deal-beaker issues, finding happiness, and even love, on the other side.

"Emotionally Bruised - Combating Myths About Depression" by Matt Robinson (p. 62).  As with many illnesses, when it comes to depression studies indicate that African Americans receive inferior treatment, if they get treatment at all.  And women are more prone than men to encounter the disorder. Matt Robinson's article boldly debunks 10 commonly held myths that prevent people from getting the help they need.

Other highlights include:

· Heart & Soul breaks down the nation's top 15 hospitals (the first in a series of "top 15 lists" in honour of the magazine's 15th anniversary).

· Arnesa A. Howell reviews fraud monitoring and tips on protecting your good name.

· While heart disease is the nation's No. 1 killer, learn how to combat it with diet, exercise and the right attitude.

· Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee fights asthma, and so can you.

· An older woman and a younger man can add up to a great, loving relationship.

· Wealthy Ways - How to get back on track during a down economy

· Good Stress, Bad Stress - Managing stress in the workplace

· Escapes - Five romantic seaside inns, just in time for Valentine's Day

For additional information or to set up an interview with anyone at Heart & Soul, please email Chris@OneDG.com, or call 213/840-8740.

About Heart & Soul

Heart & Soul, published bi-monthly by Heart & Soul Enterprises, LLC, is the leading source of health and fitness information for African-American women. For more information about Heart & Soul, the Heart & Soul Healthy Sister Movement and/or to contribute to its blog, please visit the Web site at www.heartandsoul.com.

Arts Prizes Will Find Our Nation's Next Stars

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(January 28, 2009) Luminato co-founders David Pecaut and Tony Gagliano have come up with another visionary event to put Canada and Toronto on the international arts map. And they got a $25 million boost in yesterday's federal budget.

The Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity promise to bring the best young talent from several arts fields to Toronto to compete for the title of most promising new artist.

As an excited Pecaut explained in a phone interview yesterday just after the budget was unveiled, there will be cash prizes of $100,000 or more for brilliant new artists in four fields: theatre, music, dance and visual arts.

"Yo-Yo Ma can't win this prize," Pecaut explains. "We'll be looking for the next Yo-Yo Ma."

"Budget 2009 will provide $25 million for an endowment to support the creation of international awards to recognize excellence in dance, music, art and dramatic arts," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promised yesterday.

It's the most innovative part of a cultural spending spree that adds up to about $530 million, of which $276 million constitutes new investment in the arts.

"I'm confident this unique event will make Toronto a cultural capital on the international stage," Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said in a phone interview last night. "Taken together, I'm certain this adds up to the largest cultural prize-giving in the world."

Coupled with the $15 million one-time gift they secured for Luminato last year from the Ontario government, this one-time federal gift surely makes Pecaut and Gagliano Canada's all-time most successful lobbyists for public arts funding.

Though many details of the federal budget had been leaked over the past week, news of the prize came as a startling surprise – the cherry on top of the package of treats offered to the cultural world by the Harper government in its determination to be known as arts-friendly.

In addition to the $160 million reported yesterday – $100 million for art festivals over two years, and $60 million for building and repairing cultural spaces, also over two years – the budget provides:

$200 million over two years for the Canadian Television Fund

$30 million to help magazines and community newspapers

$75 million to upgrade historic sites through Parks Canada

$20 million over two years and $13 million a year thereafter to help pay for training dancers, actors and musicians

The Canada Prizes for Arts and Creativity organization will be separate from Luminato and have its own board, but there will be a tie-in with the festival of arts and creativity founded three years ago by Pecaut and Gagliano.

Here's how the prize-giving works: starting next year, in the week before Luminato, 12 finalists in each of the four categories will come to Toronto, where their art will be showcased and adjudicated by internationally respected judges. This process, carried out at public venues all across Toronto, will be open to the public. Leading arts producers from all over the world are expected to turn up to witness it.

The next week, each of the four winners will perform at Luminato.

"A big component of this will be to reach out to arts educators and schools, with master classes conducted by distinguished artists on the jury," Pecaut promises.

"There is nothing like this worldwide, so it gives us a white space Canada can fill. It gets us off to the races by catching the world's attention and creating global excitement. Big-name arts people will feel compelled to come to Toronto for this event. It will be incredibly prestigious for Canada, we're sure."

But the long-term payoff is even sweeter. As the winners go on to ever greater triumphs and fame, they will always be grateful to this country and this city for launching their careers – and we will bask in the glow, sharing the credit for their achievement.

With files from Canadian Press


Harvey Tackles Relationships In New Book


(January 27, 2009) *Steve Harvey is plugging his new book "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships Intimacy and Commitment" during a mini promo tour that will take him up and down the East Coast.  Harvey collaborates with relationship advice expert Denene Millner to give women the ultimate playbook for dealing with men "on their terms, on their turf and in their way."  The book claims to shed light on "everything from why men are in the fixing business and not the talking business and why men cheat to how to get the wedding ring and why independent women should reconnect with their girlish side to make their men feel necessary." 


She's Never Stopped Redefining Movement

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

(January 26, 2009) Deborah Hay was one of nine choreographers at a seminal 1962 show in New York that created the postmodern dance movement. Inside Judson Memorial Church, Hay and her colleagues banished modern-dance theory and opened the floodgates of experimental freedom.

Currently, Hay is in Toronto creating the new work Up Until Now for Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT), which premieres Thursday at the Winchester Street Theatre. She is one of the most influential choreographers and dance theorists in the world today with three revered books under her belt. Now 67, she has never stopped defining and redefining the meaning of dance.

When we meet for an early-morning breakfast, Hay shares some memories of her time with Judson Dance Theater – the modern dance pioneers who mounted that legendary 1962 show.

“We were influenced by visual artists like Robert Rauschenberg and composers like John Cage,” she recalls. “We wanted to make dances like John Cage made music. We wanted to know his methods. That's what shaped our psyche. In the beginning, our goal was to challenge what dance could be, and because we were not bound by any rules, we would do anything to shock each other.”

Hay was born in Brooklyn and her first dance teacher was her mother. She ultimately became a modern dancer, but her cosmic shift, as she calls it, occurred when she saw a concert choreographed by Merce Cunningham in the late 1950s. Hay began training with Cunningham and danced with his company on the renowned 1964 Europe/Asia tour. “His dancers rehearsed without music, yet they moved perfectly together,” she says. “Time and space were being manipulated before my eyes, and for me, dance became something more than bodies moving. Merce used time, space and perception as an infinite source of material for dances.”

If Hay had the Cunningham cosmic shift, TDT artistic director Christopher House had the Hay epiphany when he saw her piece O, O in New York in 2006. “Her work possessed a powerful language,” House says. “And the performance by the five dancers was on an extremely high level in terms of subtlety and sensitivity. I had been choreographing for 30 years, yet I had no idea how she had achieved such remarkable performances from her dancers.”

In search of Hay's wisdom, House took part in her annual Solo Commissioning Project in Findhorn, Scotland. The workshop is limited to 20 participants, who, over 10 days, learn a Hay solo. They also learn her theory of what dance is, or to be more precise, what performance is: “Performance is how I practise my relationship with my whole body as my teacher, in relation to space, in relation to time, and in relation to other people. I teach the experience of performance,” she says.

House says he found her solo workshop the most challenging learning curve he had ever experienced.

Hay explains the technique she's developed over the last 40 years: “For many dancers,” she says, “the concern is with counts and body memory, and creating physical images and self-expression, and finding meaning. When you strip away these ‘dos,' you realize that performance is a thing in itself enhanced by smart choreography.”

Dancer Alana Elmer, who is in her fourth year with TDT, attempts to explain the Hay experience: “Deborah stretches what performance can be. It's an emphasis on the practice of being present. I am here, I am dancing, I am doing this choreography, and you, the audience, is aware that this is happening. You move beyond the mere mechanics of dance. There is no right or wrong interpretation. The relationships are happening moment to moment.”

Hay achieves this heightened awareness through two practices. On one hand, the dancers are given a score which contains concrete directions for the dance (move 13 steps, arm, arm, turn, turn) – clearly every dancer will interpret things differently, and Hay never demonstrates movement.

On the other hand – and this is the crux of her practice and theory – she asks impossible questions or gives impossible demands that, as House says, ambush the intellect of the dancers. For instance, she might ask, “What if where I am is what I need?” Or she might demand of a dancer: “Turn without turning.”

As Elmer points out, when a dancer is coping with these almost Zen-like concepts, he/she is pulled out of the realm of inner reflection. “You are hyper-aware of the many things happening at the same time,” she says. “You let go of training and invite the audience into your performance.”

“Deborah says that everything she has learned, she learned from her body,” House adds. “The paradox is that through these questions that get you into your body, she produces beautifully crafted choreography.”

Deborah Hay's Up Until Now

is being performed by Toronto Dance Theatre at the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto Jan. 29 to Feb. 7.


Super Bowl Nothing New To Argos Coach

Source:  www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich,
Sports Reporter

(January 28, 2009) Bart Andrus has had a busy couple of weeks as he takes a crash course in becoming head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.

But he found time to head home to Bigfork, Mont. – population 1,400 – and accompany his son Travis, a wide receiver, to the University of Montana for a recruitment visit.

That wouldn't have happened had his former employers, the Tennessee Titans, made it to Sunday's Super Bowl.

Andrus was the Titans' quarterbacks coach the first time they made the big game in 2000, losing 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. And until two weeks ago, he was an offensive assistant in Tennessee.

Here's what Andrus would have been doing had the Titans made it to the big show:

"The first part of last week we would have been working hard on a game plan. The practices after that would have been focused on aspects of that game plan," he says. "Yesterday would be media day, and (today) we would go into our normal routine for a game week. Saturday would be a walk-through and then we play the game on Sunday.

"In 2000, we tried to make it as close to what we had done during the season. These guys are creatures of habit and you want to keep them on the same routine as much as possible.

"As an offensive assistant, my focus would have been the same as it was during the season. I would have been focused on attacking the opposing team's nickel package, what they were doing during the year, what other people had done to be successful against them.

"Because you have two weeks, it's actually less of a grind than during the regular season.

"In 2000 there was some pressure because it's a huge game. But it was a lot of excitement, a lot of fun, a special experience to be there. But to see first-hand the interest from the media, from the fans ... it was overwhelming and humbling, too."

But because he signed on to coach in the CFL, a league he's familiar with only through television, things were a lot different.

``I've been trying to methodically go through and get some coaches that I'm comfortable with under contract. That's my focal point right now, building a staff.

``We did a little scouting at the Senior Bowl (in Mobile, Ala.). During the practices, I sat with Adam (Rita) and Greg (Mohns) and tried to project different players we might want to add to our negotiation list.

``And I got approached a lot by guys looking for jobs.

``I've been there before on the other end of it, so I tried to spend some time talking to them. But you feel like a guy with a pork chop tied around his neck at the pound."

As for Sunday's game, Andrus says it's a tough call.

``This time, I'm really torn because Kurt Warner was an Amsterdam Admiral (NFL Europe)," he says. "He played before I got there (Andrus was the Admirals' head coach for six years) but I'm still proud of the fact that he played there.

"But seeing Pittsburgh first-hand, I have to give the edge to them. It will be close, but Pittsburgh will win."

Steelers Survive A Vicious Encounter

Source:  www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins

(January 19, 2009) PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers are 6 1/2-point favourites over the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl and you can safely bet on this: It simply must be an easier game than the one they survived against the Baltimore Ravens and their brand of barely legal viciousness.

The Steelers prevailed in a seismic AFC Championship game last night, 23-14, and now have – and surely will require – 13 days to get themselves physically ready to perform again. The Ravens pounded on their hated rivals – who likewise gave as good as they received – in a punishing contest and both teams paid a significant price in damaged flesh. The most damaging injury might be to the knee of receiver Hines Ward; he left early and it didn't look good. The Steelers will cherish every minute of an extra week of preparation/healing time before the NFL championship meeting with Arizona.

"We need to get some guys back. I got banged up, a lot of guys got banged up out there," offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "We just kind of carried the wounded and kept plugging away."

Such was the nature of the hitting – right from the opening kickoff, on which Baltimore's Daren Stone was pancaked and concussed – that no one would have been surprised if Willis McGahee had been paralyzed, or worse, in the game's final, desperate three minutes. McGahee, who scored both Baltimore touchdowns on short runs, was hammered on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ryan Clark, who himself was wobbled by the collision. After a long delay, McGahee was carted off the field in what has become an all-too-familiar scene in NFL stadiums and seemed overdue in this one, given the contest's ferocity. The Ravens later said he had "significant neck pain" but could move his arms and legs.

Ben Roethlisberger, who outplayed his young QB counterpart, Joe Flacco, was himself a target and the Cardinals might just feel like a flag-football squad compared to the pounding he took from the Ravens. He had a sore shoulder afterward, among other things, but said what the winners always say: "It hurt. It still does. But winning takes away a little bit of the pain."

Roethlisberger was the more productive young QB in the face of a killer defence and Flacco, finally, was the rookie in over his head. Pittsburgh's game plan was simple, as linebacker James Harrison said afterward: "Stop the run and put pressure on Flacco and hopefully he'd make the mistakes he ended up making."

Flacco's first interception led to a Pittsburgh field goal and his second, returned 40 yards by Troy Polamalu in the final five minutes, sealed the Steelers' trip to Tampa.

The Ravens pounded Roethlisberger early and often; late in the first quarter, Byron Leftwich was warming up as Big Ben huddled in the stadium tunnel with the training staff after getting himself caught in a linebacker sandwich.

Roethlisberger never missed a beat as he returned and, hit as he released the ball, heaved a wobbler toward Santonio Holmes. Both Holmes and Roethlisberger assumed the ball was just being thrown away, but defender Fabian Washington slipped and Holmes turned it into a 65-yard TD play and 13-0 lead. The way the Ravens were not moving the ball it seemed a soccer team would have had better luck coming back from 13-0.

The league's No.1 defence played up to its reputation and its statistics, though, and it was as violent and intense as advertised. Brutal would be the better description.

Serena, Nadal Into Semis At Aussie Open

Source:  www.thestar.com - Paul Alexander,
Associated Press

(January 28, 2009) MELBOURNE, Australia – Serena Williams was having what she called an "out-of-body experience" Wednesday in brutal heat at the Australian Open.

Closing the Rod Laver Arena roof and cranking up the air conditioning helped the defending champion pull herself together and advance to the semi-finals – but left her opponent steaming.

"I felt I was watching someone play in a blue dress, and it wasn't me, because it was so hot out there," said the second-ranked American, who beat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. "And I kept trying to tell myself that it's not hot. But it got hotter."

Williams, seeking her fourth Australian title and 10th Grand Slam championship overall, next faces Olympic gold medallist Elena Dementieva, who had to play her entire match with the roof open. The fourth-seeded Dementieva ousted Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2 to run her winning streak to 15 matches after she won two tune-up tournaments.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal won his fifth match without dropping a set by beating Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-5, 7-5, though he was strongly tested by the sixth-seeded Frenchman. Simon broke his serve three times – matching Nadal's total for the tournament – and had a set point with the Spaniard serving at 4-5 in the second set.

But Nadal was up to the task, ripping several winners on the run that were never inside the court until they landed and skipped away untouched.

Simon, who won their last meeting in Madrid in October, is one of the quickest players around, but Nadal ground him down by constantly sending him sprinting from corner to corner. Even with the roof still closed, the lanky Simon was pouring out sweat.

Nadal got his seventh service break on a forehand that caught the line for a 6-5 edge in the third set, then held at love with Simon sending a forehand long on match point.

His victory set up an all-Spanish semi-final after 14th-seeded Fernando Verdasco – the lowest-ranked player to reach the quarter-finals – beat No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, last year's runner-up, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

The heat wave is forecast to continue Thursday. If Williams wins – Dementieva has won their last three meetings, including the Olympic quarterfinals – she would play a Russian for the third consecutive match in the final. Third-seeded Dinara Safina is facing fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva in the other semi-final.

"Me against the Russians, I guess," Williams said.

With temperatures soaring to 42C on a cloudless day – Williams had her rackets restrung during her match because they lost their tension – the retractable roof was closed after Kuznestova won the first set.

The heat was beginning to take a toll on Williams, and the eighth-seeded Kuznetsova was angry at the decision. She felt that the break gave Williams time to recover and that playing indoors benefited the American's powerful serve.

"Why should I not be?" Kuznetsova said. "Game going my way. I was very comfortable playing outside. It's two different games. One you play inside; one you play outside. Serena was tough. She's playing great. I give her credit. But I don't get this rule."

Neither did other players.

Even though Dementieva won, she felt the roof should have been closed before her match started. Tournament officials called a news conference to explain the decision-making process, bringing in the official doctor and meterologist to talk about the "Wet Bulb Globe measure" that determines when it's too hot.

"We do this to protect the players and to protect their ability to perform optimally," said tournament director Craig Tiley.

The roof was closed for the first time during a match under the tournament's evolving heat policy, which was changed after a heat wave two years ago. At that time, matches which started under open skies had to finish that way.

Down a set and a break and with Kuznetsova serving for the match in the second set, Williams broke to get even at 5-5 when Kuznetsova missed an open-court volley that turned the match.

Williams held and again broke Kuznetsova's serve, forcing the deciding set. The American broke to lead 3-1 and, after saving two break points with a pair of forehand winners, the result was never in doubt.

Once again, Williams won despite playing far from her best – she had 18 unforced errors to four winners in the first set.

"My balls started flying," she said. "They were pretty much hitting the people in the crowd. Definitely I was mortified at some of the shots I hit."

The break helped her pull herself together.

"With the roof closed ... it was definitely helpful," she said.

Dementieva made a fast start against 20-year-old Suarez Navarro of Spain, who upset Venus Williams in the second round, winning 16 of the first 18 points for a 4-0 lead.

She raced through the first five games in 22 minutes and, after eventually holding serve in a sixth game that went to deuce 11 times and lasted 17 minutes, finished off in 1 hour, 35 minutes.

"You can work so hard trying to get ready for the weather conditions, but when you have to face 40 (104 Fahrenheit) or 41 (106), there is no way you can get used to it," Dementieva said. "The best way is to play as quick as possible and just get away from the court. There is no way to adjust with the heat here."


The 10 Best Butt Exercises!

By Staff eDiets

Are boring old squats and lunges the extent of your butt workout? Do you even have an organized plan to attack your drooping bottom line?

While there's nothing wrong with squats and lunges, you could be getting a lot more bang for your butt by using a more effective set of exercises.

It's time to turn the other cheek and put your trust in the able hands of in-demand personal trainer Brad Schoenfeld. After all, the best-selling author of Look Great Naked makes a living by toning butts of all shapes and sizes.

Although they're super popular, squats and lunges do not earn top spots on Schoenfeld's list of the 10 best butt exercises.

"The quadriceps take over a much greater amount of stress in the movement," he says. "When one muscle takes away a lot of stress, it's not going to maximally fatigue the other muscles like the glutes (a nicer name for your bottom). The glutes won't fatigue to the degree they should. This will reduce development of the muscle. In most cases, the quads fatigue before the glutes.

It's not that they are bad exercises. But you're not going to get the development you want. When you're looking to maximize the glutes, you need more isolated movements. With squats and lunges, you're not really developing the gluteus medius and minimus. You're going to shortchange the other gluteal muscles, which is going to result in sub par development."

Schoenfeld says you should have a variety of exercises that work the butt from various angles and also tie in all three gluteal muscles, as well as the hamstrings. And forget about doing massive supersets. If you can do more than 15 reps without muscle fatigue, it's time to add more weight or resistance to the exercise.

"It's not about doing 100 different floor kicks," Schoenfeld says. "Floor kicks are certainly a good butt exercise, but you need to do them properly. You have to add sufficient weight. Doing 50 reps of an exercise is superfluous. It becomes an endurance activity at that point. You should be struggling by the last few reps."

Perfect Schoenfeld's picks for the best butt exercises and come spring you'll be ready to unveil a smaller, shapelier backside. And you may lose a few pounds in the process! Be sure to always rest 48 hours between workouts.

1. Stiff-Legged Deadlift: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp two dumbbells and let them hang in front of your body. Keeping your knees straight, slowly bend forward at the hips and lower the dumbbells until you feel an intense stretch in your hamstrings. Then, reverse direction, contracting your glutes as you rise upward to the starting position.

2. Good Morning: Begin by resting a barbell across your shoulders. Assume a shoulder-width stance and keep your lower back taut throughout the movement. Slowly bend forward at the hips until your body is roughly parallel with the floor. In a controlled fashion, slowly reverse direction, contracting your glutes as you raise your body up along the same path back to the start position.

3. Reverse Hyperextension: Begin by lying face down on a flat bench with your lower torso hanging off the end of the bench and your feet just short of touching the floor. Grasp the sides of the bench with both hands to support your body. Slowly raise your feet upward until they are just short of parallel with the ground, contracting your glutes at the top of the move. Then, reverse direction and return your legs to the start position.

4. Unilateral Hip Extension: Begin by placing your left knee on the bottom of an incline bench. Bend your elbows and place your forearms across the top of the bench so they support your body weight. Slowly raise your right leg as high as comfortably possible, keeping it straight throughout the move. Contract your glutes and then reverse direction, returning back to the start position. After performing the desired number of repetitions, repeat the process on your left.

5. Lying Abduction: Begin by lying down on your left side. Bend your left leg at a 90-degree angle and bring your left foot to rest underneath your right knee. Keeping your right leg straight, slowly raise it as high as possible. Contract your glutes and return to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, turn over and repeat the process on your left.

6. Standing Abduction: Begin by attaching an ankle weight to your right ankle. Stand with your feet together and grasp a sturdy, stationary object for support. Bring your right leg directly out to the side as far as comfortably possible. Contract your glutes and then slowly return the weight along the same path back to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, invert the process and repeat on the left.

7. Lying Leg Curl: Begin by lying face down on a leg curl machine, with your heels hooked underneath the roller pads. Keeping your thighs pressed to the machine's surface, slowly curl your feet upward, stopping just short of touching your butt or as far as comfortably possible. Contract your hamstrings and then reverse direction, returning back to the start position.

8. Standing Leg Curl: Begin by attaching an ankle weight to your right ankle. Grasp onto a stationary object and slowly curl your right foot forward, stopping just short of touching your butt or as far as comfortably possible. Contract your right hamstring and then reverse direction, returning back to the start position. After performing the desired number of repetitions, repeat the process on your left.

9. Kneeling Abduction: Begin by kneeling on the ground, assuming an "all fours" position. Keeping your right leg bent, raise it to the side as high as comfortably possible. Contract your glutes and then slowly return the weight along the same path back to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, repeat the process on your left.

10. Floor Kick: Get into an "all fours" position, placing your palms on the floor to support your body weight. Keeping your left knee on the floor, straighten your right leg and extend it behind your body just short of touching the floor. Slowly raise your right leg as high as comfortably possible, keeping it straight throughout the move. Contract your glutes and then reverse direction, returning back the start position. After performing the desired number of repetitions, repeat the process on your left.


Motivational Note

Source:  www.eurweb.com - by Louis Pasteur

“Chance favours the prepared mind.”