July 2, 2009
What a week last week ... with the passing of three entertainment icons - Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I thought my Blackberry and Facebook were going to explode with the news of the shocking death of Michael Jackson.
So, I've dedicated a special section for articles, spoken word by Dwayne Morgan and comments from both friends and celebs to cover the spectrum of emotion felt by this part of the world. Thanks to all for submitting your thoughts and moving sentiments.
I'm wondering if any of you have any experience with Wordpress. I am wanting to migrate my site over and need some assistance in this publishing platform - perhaps even some tutoring. So, if you have some experience or know of someone with a ton of knowledge, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Jackson, Pop Music Legend, Dead At 50
Source: By Todd Leopold, CNN
(June 25, 2009) He was 50.
He collapsed at his residence in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, California, about noon Pacific time, suffering cardiac arrest, according to brother Randy Jackson. He died at UCLA Medical Center.
Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said an autopsy would probably be done on the singer Friday, with results expected that afternoon.
"Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color," the Rev. Al Sharpton said. "To say an 'icon' would only give these young people in Harlem a fraction of what he was. He was a historic figure that people will measure music and the industry by."
Jackson's blazing rise to stardom -- and later fall from grace -- is among the most startling of show business tales. The son of a steelworker, he rose to fame as the lead singer of the Jackson 5, a band he formed with his brothers in the late 1960s. By the late '70s, as a solo artist, he was topping the charts with cuts from "Off the Wall," including "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."
In 1982, he released "Thriller," an album that eventually produced seven hit singles. An appearance the next year on a Motown Records 25th-anniversary special cemented his status as the biggest star in the country.
For the rest of the 1980s, they came no bigger. "Thriller's" follow-up, 1987's "Bad," sold almost as many copies. A new Jackson album -- a new Jackson appearance -- was a pop culture event. iReport: Share your memories of Michael Jackson
The pop music landscape was changing, however, opening up for rap, hip-hop and what came to be called "alternative" -- and Jackson was seen as out of step.
His next release, 1991's "Dangerous," debuted at No. 1 but "only" produced one top-ranking single -- "Black or White" -- and that song earned criticism for its inexplicably violent ending, in which Jackson was seen smashing car windows and clutching his crotch.
And then "Dangerous" was knocked out of its No. 1 spot on the album charts by Nirvana's "Nevermind," an occurrence noted for its symbolism by rock critics.
After that, more attention was paid to Jackson's private life than his music career, which faltered. A 1995 two-CD greatest hits, "HIStory," sold relatively poorly, given the huge expense of Jackson's recording contract: about 7 million copies, according to Recording Industry of America certifications.
A 2001 album of new material, "Invincible," did even worse.
In 2005, he went to trial on child-molestation charges. He was acquitted.
In July 2008, after three years away from the spotlight, Jackson announced a series of concerts at London's O2 Arena as his "curtain call." Some of the shows, initially scheduled to begin in July, were eventually postponed until 2010. Watch the reaction to Jackson's passing
Rise to stardom
Michael Jackson was born August 29, 1958, to Joe Jackson, a Gary, Indiana, steelworker, and his wife, Katherine. By the time he was 6, he had joined his brothers in a musical group organized by his father, and by the time he was 10, the group -- the Jackson 5 -- had been signed to Motown. Watch Michael Jackson's life in video
He made his first television appearance at age 11.
Jackson, a natural performer, soon became the group's front man. Music critic Langdon Winner, reviewing the group's first album, "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5," for Rolling Stone, praised Michael's versatile singing and added, "Who is this 'Diana Ross,' anyway?"
The group's first four singles -- "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" -- went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart, the first time any group had pulled off that feat. There was even a Jackson 5 cartoon series on ABC.
In 1972, he hit No. 1 as a solo artist with the song "Ben."
The group's popularity waned as the '70s continued, and Michael eventually went solo full time. He played the Scarecrow in the 1978 movie version of "The Wiz," and released the album "Off the Wall" in 1979. Its success paved the way for "Thriller," which eventually became the best-selling album in history, with 50 million copies sold worldwide.
At that point, Michael Jackson became ubiquitous.
Seven of "Thriller's" nine cuts were released as singles; all made the Top Ten. The then-new cable channel MTV, criticized for its almost exclusively white playlist, finally started playing Jackson's videos. They aired incessantly, including a 14-minute minimovie of the title cut. ("Weird Al" Yankovic cemented his own stardom by lampooning Jackson's song "Beat It" with a letter-perfect parody video.)
On the Motown Records' 25th-anniversary special -- a May 1983 TV extravaganza with notable turns by the Temptations, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson -- it was Michael Jackson who stopped the show.
Already he was the most popular musician in America, riding high with "Thriller." But something about his electrifying performance of "Billie Jean," complete with the patented backward dance moves, boosted his stardom to a new level.
People copied his Jheri-curled hair and single-gloved, zippered-jacket look. Showbiz veterans such as Fred Astaire praised his chops. He posed for photos with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the White House. Paul McCartney teamed with him on three duets, two of which -- "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say" -- became top five hits. Jackson became a Pepsi spokesman, and when his hair caught fire while making a commercial, it was worldwide news.
It all happened very fast -- within a couple years of the Motown special. But even at the time of the "Motown 25" moonwalk, fame was old hat to Michael Jackson. He hadn't even turned 25 himself, but he'd been a star for more than half his life. He was given the nickname the "King of Pop" -- a spin on Elvis Presley's status as "the King of Rock 'n' Roll" -- and few questioned the moniker.
But, as the showbiz saying has it, when you're on top of the world, there's nowhere to go but down. The relentless attention given Jackson started focusing as much on his eccentricities -- some real, some rumoured -- as his music.
As the Web site Allmusic.com notes, he was rumoured to sleep in a hyperbaric chamber and to have purchased the bones of John Merrick, the "Elephant Man." (Neither was true.) He did have a pet chimpanzee, Bubbles; underwent a series of increasingly drastic plastic surgeries; established an estate, Neverland, filled with zoo animals and amusement park rides; and managed to purchase the Beatles catalogue from under Paul McCartney's nose, which displeased the ex-Beatle immensely.
In 1990s and 2000s, Jackson found himself pasted across the media for his short-lived marriages, the first to Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie; his 2002 claim that then Sony Records head Tommy Mottola was racist; his behaviour and statements during a 2003 interview with British journalist Martin Bashir done for a documentary called "Living With Michael Jackson;" his changing physical appearance; and, above all, the accusations that he sexually molested young boys at Neverland.
The first such accusation, in 1993, resulted in a settlement to the 13-year-old accuser (rumoured to be as high as $20 million), though no criminal charges were filed, Allmusic.com notes.
He also fell deeply in debt and was forced to sell some of his assets. Neverland was one of many holdings that went on the block. However, an auction of material from Neverland, scheduled for April, was called off and all items returned to Jackson.
Interest in Jackson never faded, however, even if some of it was prurient. In 2008, when he announced 10 comeback shows in London, beginning in July 2009, the story made worldwide news. The number of concerts was later increased to 50.
Seventy-five thousand tickets sold in four hours when they went on sale in March.
However, when the shows were postponed until 2010, rumours swept the Internet that Jackson was not physically prepared and possibly suffering from skin cancer.
At the time, the president and CEO of AEG Live, Randy Phillips, said, "He's as healthy as can be -- no health problems whatsoever."
Jackson held open auditions for dancers in April in Los Angeles.
He is survived by his three children, Prince Michael I, Paris and Prince
to Michael Jackson
Source: Dwayne Morgan
I wasn’t expecting to write this;
It wasn’t on my to do list,
but it’s taken precedence;
you’ve given me so much,
It’s the least that I can do.
I wanted to be just like you;
The teenage Black boy on my TV screen,
that made people faint and scream,
every time you walked down the street;
they just don’t make them like they use to.
You were one of a kind,
And time will never produce another like you.
You gave the world your childhood,
And refused to let your inner child grow up.
You were the soundtrack to a generation.
You dedicated your life to the well being and enjoyment of others,
and what did we do?
We picked at you like vultures,
Ripping you to shreds,
until you looked nothing like your former self.
Yes, I too made jokes,
questioning whether you were black or white .
we thought that you’d gone off the wall,
but through it all,
there was still a love there;
a place for you in our hearts,
that’s come alive with word of your passing.
Despite the trials and controversy,
you refused to conform to society’s ‘norms’,
and marched to the sounds of your own beat,
in the process leaving us with beats to dance too.
I’m not old enough to remember
the first time a man walked on the moon,
but I’ll never forget the way you moon walked across that stage,
and how you had us trying to imitate you
in the school hallway the following day;
You left us more than just music.
There’s so much more that I feel I should say,
but what’s the point when these tributes usually come too late.
I will have to look at the man in the mirror,
and ask myself what more I can do to make this world a better place.
Truth be told, I’m envious,
Not of your fame or success,
But because there was something in you that we all wish we had;
a love for humanity; pure, beautiful, and naïve.
Despite the situation,
I always held out hope and believed;
I crossed my fingers and closed my eyes,
wanting nothing more than for you to succeed,
against the odds.
I wish you could have known
that you were truly not alone.
Your music will only stop long enough
for the entire world to watch your final show,
and embrace you with the love you’ve longed for.
Even in death,
There will be many who pick you apart,
But no-one can deny the power of your art,
So I say thank you Michael Jackson,
Dead at age 50 from a broken heart.
Fawcett Dies at 62, Succumbs to Cancer
Source: ABC News, By SHEILA MARIKAR
(June 25, 2009) Farrah Fawcett, the 1970s "It Girl" who was known for her cascading golden hair and bombshell body, died in a Santa Monica hospital today, ABC News has learned. She was 62-years-old.
"After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away," Fawcett's longtime romantic partner Ryan O'Neal said in a statement released by Fawcett's publicist, Paul Bloch. "Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world."
Fawcett became a symbol of the will to survive through her years-long battle with cancer, which was chronicled in the recent TV documentary "Farrah's Story." Her death comes on the heels of O'Neal's declaration that she agreed to marry him.
"I've asked her to marry me, again, and she's agreed," O'Neal, 68, told Barbara Walters who sat down with O'Neal and others close to Fawcett in the final days of the actress' life.
Fawcett and O'Neal began dating in 1980 and lived together with son Redmond. The two neverfficially tied the knot, but not for O'Neal's lack of trying.
"I used to ask her to marry me all the time," he said. "But ... it just got to be a joke, you know. We just joked about it."
Now, Fawcett leaves behind O'Neal, their 24-year-old son and her father, James. She was previously married to Lee Majors, star of "The Six Million Dollar Man," from 1973 to 1982.
Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. Although doctors declared her free of cancer in February 2007, a few months later they learned that the cancer had returned.
Fawcett's alternative approach to her cancer treatment was surrounded by much controversy. After her initial diagnosis, Fawcett received traditional treatments in California.
According to People.com, Fawcett was "disheartened" by both the reoccurrence of the cancer and the treatment she was receiving in the United States, so she traveled to Germany's University Clinic in Frankfurt in search of an alternative course of treatment.
Some reports have said that she received experimental stem cell treatment while in Germany. But Craig Nevius, who helped produce "Farrah's Story," told ABCNews.com that while details of the stem cell treatment have been widely reported, it has never been confirmed by the actress or sources close to her.
Last year, an employee at the UCLA Medical Center was disciplined for accessing Fawcett's medical records, a few weeks after the hospital announced that several employees had been fired for snooping in Britney Spears' records.
Fawcett's attorney told The Associated Press that an employee at the hospital reviewed the actress' medical records without authorization and then details about her treatment appeared in the tabloid the National Enquirer.
Though Fawcett returned home earlier this year, taking a break from long hospital stays, according to People magazine, the actress returned to the hospital for at least two weeks prior to her death.
Farrah Fawcett's Life in the Limelight
Fawcett first stepped into the spotlight playing Jill Munroe in the TV series "Charlie's Angels" in the 1970s. The series became a smash hit and Fawcett quickly became an iconic pin-up model for millions of men. She pioneered a feathered hairstyle dubbed the "Farrah Do" or "Farrah Hair" that remained in vogue throughout the decade.
She later went on to earn one of three career Emmy Award nominations for her role as a battered wife in the acclaimed television movie "The Burning Bed."
Fawcett stirred controversy when she posed nude in the December 1995 issue of Playboy, but buzz about the actress baring all only served to make the magazine fly off newsstands -- the issue was Playboy's most successful of the 1990s, with over 4 million copies sold worldwide.
Defying naysayers, in 1997, at age 50, Fawcett posed again for the July issue of Playboy, which also sold well.
Fawcett's last project was closely tied to her illness. "Farrah's Story," the 90-minute documentary chronicling her battle with cancer, featured footage shot by Fawcett and her friends on a home video camera. It aired on NBC in May, attracting 8.9 million viewers.
The film showed both the ugly and uplifting sides of her struggle, juxtaposing video of Fawcett vomiting and shaving her head with scenes of her dancing with friends during times when her health was up. "Farrah's Story" also featured moving footage of her lying on a hospital bed with O'Neal, and his solemn vow, spoken to the camera: "I will never love anyone like I love Farrah."
Namugenyi Kiwanuka - Woman with a
Source: Shannae Ingleton, What Women Want
(September 15, 2008) If you are Canadian and weren't living under a rock from '99-'04, you totally know who Namugenyi Kiwanuka is... and if you are anything like me you totally miss her and wonder what she's been up to. Well for those of you that don't know who she is I would highly recommend that you read her story below. I came to know her as the charming and lovable Host and VJ of MuchMusic's Da Mix and Rap City to name a few - she has since gone on to do wonderful things and Chatalaine recently named her as one of the 80 women to watch in 2008 for their 80th anniversary issue. She is still in the World of Journalism but has decided to pursue the path less traveled and in doing so has impacted and changed the lives of many.. Below is Nam's story:
Crazy Gemini but I think it's more about versatility
Single or Taken?
Where were you born? Raised? Live now?
I was born and raised in Uganda, East Africa. My family fled our country in the mid-80s because of Idi-Amin's civil war and moved to Canada as refugees.
[I am] based in Toronto but [I'm] currently living out of my suitcase and hoping to eventually move back to Kampala Uganda.
Bachelor of Journalism, Ryerson -- in the process of pursuing my Masters
First job ever:
Paper route -- delivered the "London Free Press" when I was around 10/11
First "real" job:
Since I left home at 16, I worked full-time at Wendy's while I was in high school. I had such a blast! and it's still my choice for a first date! What can I say, I’m a cheap date.
So what do you do?
Hard to sum up...Freelance Journalist/Videographer and an Ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross' Malaria Bites Program (www.malariabites.net)...I travel
Nam recently wrote an article in Jane Magazine click on the image below to read the article.
Take us along the path (personal & professional) that took you where you are today.
In high school I wanted to become an Engineer after my Art Class teacher crushed my dream of becoming a painter - argghhh she was sooo mean --- but when I applied for University, my English teacher pulled me aside and suggested I look into Journalism. Growing up in a very white and rich part of town, most of my guidance counsellors had concluded I would barely make it out of high school even though I primarily had A's. But I come from the breed of always wanting to prove the non-believers wrong:) This was one of the few times a teacher had seen beyond my skin colour and background. I was curious about what he said but I didn't really know what Journalism was. At the time, the only black faces I saw on Canadian TV were of Oliver, Master T and Michael Williams from MuchMusic. With my teacher's encouragement I applied to three universities and was accepted by all with Ryerson offering me an Entrance Scholarship. From then on I wrote for the school paper, wrote a short lived but much loved (by me) column for Mic Check Magazine, interned with Dini Petty and Carla Collins at CTV and finally after harassing Master T and his producer for about a year, I finally was offered an internship with MuchMusic and worked my way up.
Perseverance, determination and plain stubbornness - that's me in a nutshell.
Tell us a bit more about your life after Much Music?
To make a long story short, leaving Much was an extremely difficult decision to make because the people I worked with were like family. And I mean everyone from audio, the library, the producers to my crew of Petal and Andrea. But I needed to challenge myself. At NBAXL I was also offered a role as a producer so I was really excited about that. From NBAXL I moved onto to BET's Madd Sports but the show was cancelled after a couple of episodes. I shot a couple of pilots with BET but I decided to move to Sierra Leone to work with JHR, journalists for human rights. While I was still at NBAXL, I spoke at an event for JHR about what it was like to grow up in a war zone and I shared my experiences of living in a refugee camp in Kenya. I’d kept in touch with JHR during my time with NBAXL and for years wanted to work with them. I moved to Sierra Leone the summer of 2007 for an 8-month placement but unfortunately I became sick with malaria, was treated with a banned medication which almost killed me and had to be flown to the UK for treatment. I couldn't believe the irony of working with an organization whose role is to promote basic human rights to then first-hand learn how hard it is for people in many parts of the world in getting basic health care. I decided to write an article for the Toronto star about my experience and the Canadian Red Cross approached me to work with them on a campaign created to raise awareness and funds for www.malariabites.net. People ask me a lot about why I would leave the world of celebrity to work in Africa and I think it's a really interesting question. My motivation to work there was due to my childhood and to a sense of guilt of having been saved to do something that was bigger than myself. When you think about it, everyone has a compelling story. The stories of Beyonce and Britney spears are no more compelling than that of a Grandmother in East Africa who's raising 19 AIDS orphans because her own children died from the virus. In fact the latter story is more interesting because it is empowering and uplifting. It’s such a powerful experience to meet someone who is sacrificing their own well being and livelihood to take care of others. It’s frustrating to see these types of stories ignored when a place like Africa is covered. It’s not always about suffering and drought but about the strength of the human spirit especially the power of women back home.
What did your parents want you to be?
My dad always wanted me to get an education because with it I could do anything and I would be independent.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never want what isn't yours and always take care of what is” and;
“Those that matter don't mind, those that mind don't matter”
What advice do you have for women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Always, always, always believe in your vision of yourself and try to not let YOURSELF down. Never compromise your values and yourself because what is meant to be yours will reveal itself in due time.
What’s next for you?
Masters degree and language lessons. When we moved to Canada, my teachers discouraged my siblings and I from speaking in our native languages and when you're younger, all you want is to be accepted. When I first moved to Canada, I spoke 4 languages and now I barely speak English (lol)...so French, Luganda (my native language) and Spanish lessons are a priority...when you think about it, language really is one of the factors that separates people. Working with the Canadian Red Cross, I've been so impressed to be surrounded by people who speak 5 languages or more! it's embarrassing to show up to the table with only one.
(Ryerson University recently did a story on Nam in their Alumni Magazine)
Click on the image to read the story - it is very telling... She has been through a lot more than you would think!!
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?
Uhmmm...I try not to think that far ahead. After I got sick last year, I realized that often times, instead of focusing on what's going on in our daily lives, we focus on what's going to happen. I've learned to try to live each day as it approaches and to welcome it with anticipation but hopefully I'll be doing something I love surrounded by my friends and family and traveling around the world.
Some of Namugenyi’s must have’s:
My 'must have' of the moment would be American Citizenship!!! I'm so proud to be Canadian but I would love to vote in the upcoming election. I believe that Obama is the leader that is needed now not only for Americans but for the rest of the world. He's a man of integrity, passion and commitment. But in the meantime, I'll settle for the Coach Bleecker bag....just like a Gemini (laughing)
And lastly… In your opinion, What do Women Want?
As a woman, what I want is acceptance, love and respect.
To donate a $7 mosquito bed net, which helps to prevent Malaria the number one killer of children under the age of 5 in Africa (more than HIV/AIDS or TB), please log onto www.malariabites.net
If you have any questions for Nam, please put them in the comments section below and Nam will be logging in to respond!
And you can also check out the article that Uganda Pulse wrote on Nam HERE.
That's all for now! Stay tuned for our next featured lady... Hint: Watch out Mr. Trump! Do you know someone that is "What Women Want" material? If so, email us and tell us why.
"Literary Journey" is on October 19th... RSVP here... Join our FAN PAGE for updates!
Gary Beals - The Rebirth of ...
I have an unsolicited recommendation for a CD purchase … the Gary Beals’ The Rebirth of ... this CD blew me away. The soulful tones and marked vocal maturity of Gary is not only praiseworthy but damn, this boy can wail! The beats are wicked and the songs relevant - I can hear influences of Usher and Ne-yo and them bam – in comes some of Gary’s unique soulful flavour! The winners of this CD from the Langfield Entertainment giveaway have told me nothing but positive feedback. Please support Canadian talent and pick up this CD – for the exact link to the iTunes retail digital download go HERE. The hard copy of the CD is available by order via www.garybeals.com or it can be ordered through any large music retailers.
Gary Beals : Almost Famous, Freshly Excited
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 09, 2009) Five years between albums can be a career squasher for nascent pop musicians, but Canadian Idol runner-up Gary Beals's absence couldn't be avoided.
"I lost the passion for music," explained the 26-year-old vocalist, who said he worked at regular jobs – call centre, mutual funds – after wrapping the promotion and tour of his 2004 Juno-nominated debut.
"I was frustrated (with the music industry)," said Beals. "I had no direction. Instead of me going back into it again kind of lost, I said `Let me just back up.'"
For several years, the Toronto-based Nova Scotia native, who honed his smooth, pliant pipes in church choirs, only sang in the congregation at Sunday services. Eventually, the singer, whose current full-time gig is desk job in the Ministry of Community and Social Services, concluded "I was blessed with a gift and I can't sit idle on it."
The Rebirth of ... is a primarily self-financed endeavour on Beals's label, Liberated Entertainment.
With dashes of reggae and dance music, the disc, which fans of Ne-Yo and Usher will appreciate, is typical R&B – lots of begging and apologizing that the singer/songwriter says is and isn't autobiographical.
The album closes with "Giving You All," a straightforward gospel tune, but it's difficult to discern whether some other songs address spiritual or human love.
" I didn't want to be real specific, because I want everybody to be able to relate – if it's between you and God, or you and a girl, or you and a guy, or you and your mom," Beals said. The disc was recorded in Toronto over six months last year with five different producers, including Marcus Kane and Orin Isaacs, who worked on the singer's last record.
The strongest track is the Positivibes-produced "Excuse Me," which showcases his lush, layered vocals over a strings-bolstered groove sexy enough to give depth to potentially icky entreaties like "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven, angel?"
Asked about a standout track, Beals reacted like a parent reluctant to name a favourite child but cited "You Never Left," an ambiguous song of gratitude, among his highlights.
"One of the reasons I did come back is people were always on me, encouraging me to reach toward my dreams. This song is dedicated to those supporters who showed me genuine love."
When the Star caught up with the entertainer last week he was on his way into rehearsals with a seven-piece band for tonight's show. The shoulder-length braids are gone, but the endearing manner that engaged 2003 Idol viewers remains.
He copped to being "nervous and really excited" about performing again but maintained, "I can still hit all the notes!"
Just the facts
What: Gary Beals CD release show
Where: Revival, 783 College St.
When: Tonight @ 8pm
Roar-It’s A Barrel Of Fun
Source: Movie Entertainment - Melanie Reffes
(July 2009) Steeped in history and oozing charm, the Niagara Peninsula is an all-inclusive choice for a Canada Day blowout par excellence. From the thunderous roar of the famous falls to top-notch theatre and the best wineries this side of Tuscany, this southern Ontario spot is a treasure chest of fun for the entire family.
From Niagara Falls, Ont., it’s only 22 kilometres to the smaller, more “boutique” town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (or NOTL, as the locals call it), and just a short hop over the mighty Niagara River to Niagara Falls, N.Y. July is party time, with celebrations of both Canada’s 142nd birthday and the United States’ Independence Day. Fireworks light up the skies on both sides on July 1 and July 4.
At 55 metres, the American Falls are slightly higher than the Horseshoe Falls in Canada, although daredevils have historically preferred the Canadian side because there’s a greater flow of water and fewer rocks. Nowadays, the falls are less about plunging over in a barrel and more about tourism, with 28 million people expected to visit this year.
Marilyn Monroe became a fan while filming the thriller Niagara Falls in 1953, and Princess Diana vacationed here with her princely sons in 1991.
For the rest of us, there is no better way to explore the roar than aboard the Maid of the Mist, a tour boat that motors to the foot of the falls (www.maidofthemist.com).
Just to the north, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a cornucopia of grand mansions on avenues lined with red poppies and pink peonies, churches and cemeteries that salute the past, acres of wine-ready grapes, and the Shaw Festival Theatre showcasing the work of playwright George Bernard Shaw (www.shawfest.com).
On Queen St. in NOTL, the Maple Leaf Fudge shop rocks with the real deal, still creamed on marble slabs and cooked in cop- per kettles. A chuckle and a cone go hand-in- hand at a shop called Cows, with its bovine themed line of High School Moosical and Dancing with the Steers clothing, and its cutesy ice cream flavours including Moo York Cheesecake and Cowrispy Crunch.
Enjoying a climate similar to that of France’s Burgundy region, Niagara is a bonafide bonanza of wineries. The Shiraz Icewine at the Pillitteri winery and the White Moose Riesling at Konzelmann are must-sips for savvy oenophiles on a tastings tour, Hillebrand hosts jazz-and-wine concerts, and gourmands will applaud the menu at the Reif Estate. When you’re ripe for relaxation, a spa at the White Oaks Resort beckons with a bevy of vino-treatments.
Formerly the home of a family of engineers whose projects included Canada’s Parliament buildings, the Keefer Mansion Inn (www.keefermansion.com) tempts with a Book Lovers pack- age that includes a $250 gift certificate for the nearby Book Depot. The Prince of Wales hotel has an 8,000-bottle wine cellar and is worth the splurge. A stay at the Pillar and Post will remind you why you booked a vacation in the first place. (Both at www.Vintage-hotels.com.)
The big Canada Day blowout is at Fort George & Simcoe Park in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Activities include heritage displays and historical arms demonstrations. At night, the Fort George Fife & Drum Corps performs, followed by fireworks. In the park, the Willow Cakes and Pastries shop slices up a Canada Day Cake big enough for 1,000 people.
The Friendship Festival (www.friendshipfestival.com) straddles the border with a stellar line-up of concerts, activities for kids and the Miss All Canadian Pageant.
Break through to the other side
A Discovery Pass costing $33 U.S. for adults and $26 U.S. for children includes entrance to Niagara Falls State Park, Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Niagara Adventure Theatre and the Niagara Scenic Trolley. Snow Park Niagara has an NHL-size skating rink and snow-tubing hill operating year-round.
Nearby Buffalo is well worth the drive for a taste of American culinary history at the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were invented in 1964.
The Niagara Wine Trail is full of sleepy hamlets, farm vistas and a dozen wineries.
A Vino Passport ($20 U.S.) includes a tasting at each winery.
Washington, 89: Hamilton Jazz Icon
Source: www.thestar.com - Graham Rockingham, The Hamilton Spectator
(June 30, 2009) Jackie Washington was often referred to as a blues singer, but the description never really fit.
He was always such a happy guy, devoting his life to making people smile. And the world is a less happy place without him.
A Hamilton cultural institution revered as a mentor and friend by musicians across the country, Washington died peacefully at 1:22 p.m. Saturday at Hamilton's St. Joseph's Healthcare, from complications resulting from a heart attack. He was 89.
Margaret Stowe was one of about 15 family and friends at Washington's bedside when he passed away.
"It was very peaceful and lovely," said Stowe, a Toronto-based jazz guitarist born in Dundas. "Everybody was very quiet. His music was playing softly from a CD player in the background. It was one of his own records, Midnight Choo Choo, one of his favourites."
The grandson of a runaway slave, Washington was known as much for the good-humoured stories he told as the songs he sang.
A self-taught guitarist with an uncanny feel for melody, he recorded three solo albums and four more with his friends and collaborators Mose Scarlett and Ken Whiteley.
He was a member of the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame and held an honorary doctorate from McMaster University, a tremendous achievement for a man who never attended high school.
Washington was also one of Canada's first black broadcasters, working as a disc jockey playing jazz during the '40s and '50s for two Hamilton radio stations.
As well, he did stints as a railway porter, factory worker, washroom attendant at Duffy's Tavern, and shoeshine operator at the Fort Erie racetrack (where he developed a lucrative ability to handicap horses).
And he was a great-grandfather, survived by his wife, Eleanor; their son, Michael; grandson Michael; and five-month-old great grandson, Miles.
Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of old-time music, he listed almost 1,300 songs in his repertoire - most of them he knew by heart.
He specialized in the popular songs of the '30s and '40s, and, at his peak, was one of the better scat vocalists in the country.
In recent years, arthritis prevented him from playing his beloved guitar. Despite poor health -- diabetes left him blind in one eye and forced the amputation of his right leg 20 years ago -- Washington continued singing wherever there was an audience.
Author James Strecker, who helped Washington write the book More Than A Blues Singer, in 1996, remembers an unflappable spirit.
"I was walking down a hospital hallway on the way to visit Jackie after his operation," Strecker said. "I couldn't find his room until I heard the laughter. They'd amputated half of his leg, and here he was, naked stump plunk on the bed, laughing and flirting with three women at his bedside."
Washington last performed in public three weeks ago during a special reception at McMaster's Convocation Hall to thank him for donating a collection of his music, personal papers, photos and artwork to the university archives. (It is housed alongside those of Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat and Bertrand Russell).
Although short of breath due to a chronic heart condition, Washington managed to sing three songs written with Scarlett and Whiteley.
He introduced the old Mills Brothers' hit "I Ain't Got Nobody", as "a tribute to Anne Boleyn's head." It was a joke he had told thousands of times in coffee houses and concert theatres across the country. It still evoked laughter.
About a week later, Washington was admitted to hospital complaining of breathing problems. His condition deteriorated. He suffered a heart attack last Monday and never recovered.
Born in Hamilton on Nov. 12, 1919, Jackie was one of 15 children - 11 boys and four girls - born to Rose and John Washington. He was the third-born and last surviving sibling.
Jackie's grandfather George had escaped slavery and come to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Stories passed down through the family have him fleeing Virginia after killing a white overseer. George settled near Welland, starting a family in a two-room sharecropper's shack.
Jackie's father, John, made his way to Hamilton where he met and married Rose in 1916. The Washingtons were one of the few black families in Hamilton during those early years. John got a job hauling trash for the city. Rose, who had been born in an orphanage, worked as a domestic servant.
"She was raised to work ... and work she did," Jackie told The Spectator in a 2003 interview.
There were always musical instruments in the house, and the Washingtons quickly earned a reputation for their musical abilities. Jackie was five when he made his first public appearance singing onstage at Bennetto School. He was given his first guitar at the age of 13.
During the Depression, Jackie and three of his brothers brought in extra money by performing as the Washington Quartet. They sang Stephen Foster minstrel songs such as "Old Black Joe" and "Camptown Races" in just about every church hall in the city. If a congregation couldn't afford to pay the brothers, they'd send them home with food.
Tragedy struck the Washingtons in 1938 while the brothers were rehearsing for a summer gig with a swing band at the northern Ontario resort of Waubaushene. Ormsby, the eldest of the four, drowned in a swimming accident.
Without their bass singer and arranger (by that time they were harmonizing songs popularized by the Mills Brothers), the Washington Quartet stopped performing.
Jackie took a job as a porter with the Canadian Pacific Railway. At $20 a week, it was good work for a young black man in the '30s.
At the CPR, Washington developed a lifelong passion for trains. Years later, he had a hobby making detailed sketches of locomotives from memory (some are now in the McMaster archives).
The railway was also where he learned to turn his cheek to racism.
"We had a CPR representative come and lecture us on what we had to do," Washington told The Spectator. "One of his questions was, 'What would you do if somebody called 'you a black son of a bitch?' The first thing I thought was, you punch him. He said, 'No, no, no, you don't do that. You take it.' He said, 'Use this (pointing to his head), instead of that (raising his hand).' That was a great thing to learn."
Washington left the railroad to join the army in 1941 but was given a medical discharge in 1943. Unwritten racial bars made it difficult for Washington to find a factory job, even in wartime, but he eventually landed one at the American Can plant on Emerald Street, where he worked until 1946.
His love for jazz also led him to a part-time radio career. From 1943 to 1946, he worked with Sonny Johnston on CKOC as the Personality Boys. From 1948 to 1953, there was The Jackie Washington Show on CHML. Washington became a regular at area dance halls such as the Brant Inn, the Royal Connaught Hotel and the Alexander Ballroom. Even in the music world, however, Washington encountered bigotry.
"There were some places that we couldn't go into unless we were playing," he said. "They didn't allow blacks unless you were onstage. They didn't let blacks in to dance. Sometimes they'd let us in, but not to dance. We'd have to go stag."
Instead, Washington used his considerable charm to get backstage, where he met many of the leading jazz musicians of the era - Clark Terry, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and Count Basie. Some of them, including Duke Ellington, would even drop by his mother's house for home-cooked meals.
In the '50s, Washington was working at three racetracks, shining shoes. He later admitted in an interview that he made more money under the table, handicapping horses. He also worked for tips as a washroom attendant at Duffy's Tavern opposite Gore Park, a hot spot for visiting jazz musicians at the time.
Washington's musical career took off with the '60s folk craze. He became a fixture on the southern Ontario coffee-house circuit, playing venues such as the Black Swan in Stratford, the Ebony Knight in Hamilton and the Penny Farthing, Mousehole and Riverboat clubs in Toronto's hip Yorkville district.
During that time, he traded songs with Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, David Clayton-Thomas, Lonnie Donegan, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. He played at folk festivals across the country, appearing at Hamilton's Festival of Friends more than 25 times.
With the help of Bill Powell - owner of the Ebony Knight coffee house in Hamilton during the '60s and Knight II in the '70s - Washington became a mentor for musicians such as Tom Wilson, Stan Rogers, Jude Johnson, Amos Garrett, Murray McLauchlan and Paul Langille. He taught them songs written decades before they were born.
By the '80s, he was a regular guest on CBC radio.
"Know what it is about Jackie?" the late CBC host Peter Gzowski once said. "I'd say he makes you feel good, just being around him. He's like Mr. Dressup that way, or the Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, or my 4-year-old granddaughter Samantha."
Six years ago, when Washington was in ailing health and lacking a steady income, fellow musicians decided to repay him for all the good times, with a benefit concert at Hamilton's Tivoli Theatre. Jeff Healey, Ian Thomas, Garnet Rogers all performed, along with Wilson, Johnson, Scarlett and Whiteley. The show was a sellout.
The money raised was placed in a trust fund so that Washington could afford a room in a downtown seniors' residence. He spent his last years at the Residences on Augusta, where he sometimes held impromptu concerts in the building's cafeteria-lounge.
There he was watched over by a group of friends and fellow musicians - The Jackie Washington Committee - which included Terry Bramhall, David Kidney, Cathy Powell, Mose Scarlett, Margaret Stowe and Jennie Struiksma. In Washington's final days, the committee was also supported by Ken Whiteley, Irene Manning, Patti Warden, Reg Denis, Tom and Marilyn Scott, James Strecker, Michelle Josef, Albert De Vos and Glenna Green.
Friends and family were looking forward to hosting his 90th birthday in November.
Birthdays were always important occasions for Washington. He had an uncanny memory for them, storing hundreds of birthdates in his head. It was like a parlour game for him. You'd call out a name, and he'd respond with the correct date.
At his 89th birthday party last year, Washington told the story of how he came to appreciate the power of birthdays. It all had to do with a smile.
"It started out when I was in Grade 4 at the old Bennetto School," Jackie said. "There was a girl, Ruby, blond and blue-eyed, prettiest thing, but she wouldn't have a thing to do with me. One day I overheard the kids say that Friday coming is Ruby's birthday. A little light came on in my head.
"Well, come Friday, she was getting ready to put me down again and I said 'Happy Birthday, Ruby.' She stopped and her face changed into a big smile and said 'How'd you know that?'
"'Magic,' I said."
Remixer To Take Centre Stage At Jazz Fest
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 26, 2009) You know the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival has a progressive programming policy when a dub and reggae remixer gets a prime slot.
That would be Toronto native Jesse King, better known as Dubmatix. Though he's efficient on drums, bass, guitar and piano, the inventive producer will be stationed behind a laptop during tomorrow's free 5 p.m. show at Nathan Phillips Square.
Accompanied by a band comprised of percussion, bass, sax and two vocalists (including reggae veteran Jay Douglas) he'll recreate the mash-up of reggae and electronica that defines his work and current Juno-nominated disc Renegade Rocker.
Though he could probably run the instruments from his computer – he did play and program all the music on the album – King recognizes the need to engage the audience.
"I'm not a big talker on stage – `How ya doing? Let's play some music,'" said the 37-year-old, who has toured Canada and overseas since releasing his first Dubmatix album, Champion Sound Clash, in 2004.
"Just me, the music sounds great, but it's visually not that stunning. When all eyes are on (a singer) I can focus on making the music."
He hopes the improvisational elements of digital effects, and the inclusion of jazz saxophonist Paul White, will appeal to jazz-minded attendees at tomorrow's gig.
"Jazz is almost the antithesis of reggae: it's a lot of notes, a lot of chord changes and progressions; it's extremely technical and to improvise you really have to be exceptional to get your message across," said King, at ease in his studio.
"Reggae's the opposite in that you play just a few notes; but the challenge is to make those few notes count."
King got an early introduction to music courtesy of pianist and jazz impresario dad Bill King. In his teens, he played in rock and blues bands before discovering reggae.
"I hooked up with two guys, one Bajan, the other Jamaican, who spoke hardcore thick patois and I couldn't understand them for the first few weeks. I was 18, I was white, we would go play all these clubs in Scarborough and Mississauga and their core audience was not white, and that was a great experience. I would walk in and always kind of get the look checking me out: `What are you going to do?' And at the end of it everybody was always cool."
This Week, There Ain't Nothin' Like A Dame
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 30, 2009) If the 23rd edition of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival was cast as a battle of the sexes, the women would be in the lead.
Of the dozen or so shows I've seen, it's the dames who've delighted most.
Last night at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre, Melody Gardot treated the near capacity crowd to a scintillating show with a luscious voice that has hints of Nina Simone and Shirley Horn, its variations best described in indigo and sapphire shades of blue, or of cascading, pooling and rippling water. Accompanying herself on piano, and backed by a creatively spare rhythm section, horns and vibes, the Philly native delivered the moody gems of her newest album My One and Only Thrill. Clad in fishnet stockings and stilettos, she displayed a fetching pair of gams the photographers are still talking about.
Next door at the Fleck Dance theatre Hiromi dazzled the young, attentive crowd on solo piano with a set of original tunes that incorporated ragtime, blues, bebop and classical music. Don't know which was more infectious her technical prowess and creativity or her evident enjoyment of the music.
On Sunday, it was the Maria Schneider Orchestra that thrilled at Enwave courtesy of Grammy winning composer-pianist Schneider's arrangements of harmony and melody so unique the 18-piece group founded in 1988 doesn't sound like a typical big band. Pronouncing herself "so happy to be finally playing Toronto," the Minnesota native led the orchestra though pieces that were the deft blend of lightness and intricacy you'd expect from a protégé of famed arranger Gil Evans. The evening's standout soloists included trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who used electronic effects to deliver bird calls, and saxists Rich Perry and Donnie McCaslin.
The undisputed stars of the opening night Friday kickoff of the 10-day festival were Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at the Nathan Philips Square. The folks inside the jam-packed tent stayed on their feet the whole night dancing to the group's killing blend of retro soul which included a stirring version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" in tribute to Michael Jackson.
Across the street at the Four Seasons Centre, where jazz giant Sonny Rollins, 79, put on a pleasurable, if brief show, that same night it was disheartening to see that he filled half of the 2,100-seat auditorium after selling out 2,500-seater Massey Hall three years ago.
So, the fellas are off to a slow start, but all is not lost. Medeski Martin & Wood rocked the tent Saturday night and Jamie Cullum's nearly sold out gig tonight promises the same. Not to mention Branford Marsalis's and Tony Bennett's forthcoming appearances.
Al B. Sure Comes Back Home To Singing
With His Hidden Beach Recordings' CD Release
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley
(June 25, 2009) *I recently witnessed a master performer do his thing at the Laugh Factory in Long Beach, that master was Al B. Sure. I totally enjoyed seeing him work the room, interact and dance with the audience, and let's not forget hitting those high notes that only Al B. Sure can do. After 15 years out of the recording lime-light “New Jack Swings' most popular romantic singer” releases a new album, “Honey I'm Home,” on Hidden Beach Recordings.
“As a child I tried to emulate Smokie Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye,” singer/songwriter/producer Al B. Sure said to me recently when I asked him where his tenor voice came from (because his speaking voice is a bit deep). “(But) I had a deep voice as a child.”
Al said with this new CD release, “Honey I'm home,” he hopes to take us back to the times of Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones.
“I think it was the pressure from people at airports...the basketball courts and at business meetings saying, 'when' (are you coming out with a CD), it's been too long,” Sure said when asked what made him decide to record an album after 15 years. “I wasn't sure where to find home.”
Al didn't want his CD to be “in the trendy zone” but he wanted to maintain his sound. He did just that with the help of long time production partner Kyle West and Michael Mani.
Sure started in the music business in 1988 with the debut of the multi-platinum selling album “In Effect Mode.” That album produced his signature songs “Nite and Day” and “Off on your own (Girl),” both released as singles. He has a total of 15 singles that reached the top of the Billboard charts. Al received Grammy and American Music Award nominations. He won an American Music Award for Best New Artist, a Soul Train Music Award for Best New Artist and more than 35 ASCAP Awards for his songwriting and production skills.
“As an artist I try to be responsible,” Sure pointed out. “I'm about being a true artist, songwriter and composer...I take my lessons from Quincy Jones.”
Well Quincy would be proud of this project. “Honey I'm home” is trendy yet takes you “home” to the times of yesterday when hearing that Al B. Sure tenor voice put a smile on your face as you were serenaded. It's a 12 song CD and Al B. Sure takes you through a journey of songs and sounds. On “I Love it (Papi Aye Aye Aye),” the first single, it features the world renowned cellist Tina Guo. The single was produced by Al B. an Kyle West.
Aside from that one my favourites also include “All I wanna be” and the cover song “Lady in my life,” where he truly proves that he is a master tenor.
Rollins Gets Jazz Fest
Rolling In Fine Style
Source: www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
(July 1, 2009) It would be hard to imagine a better start for a jazz festival. On Friday, the first night of the 23rd TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, Sonny Rollins strode onto the stage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Resplendent in a white jacket over a black T-shirt and pants, the saxophone colossus politely acknowledged the audience's applause, then directed his rhythm section - bassist Bob Cranshaw, guitarist Bobby Broom, drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Victor Y. See Yuen - as they set up the insistent, triplet-based pulse of Sonny, Please.
Then Rollins dove in. His playing was tentative at first, offering simple variations on the main theme. Once locked in, though, his playing took off, offering dense, cascading strings of eighth and 16th notes as he explored the outer reaches of the tune's harmonies. Rollins was on fire, spinning ever more elaborate lines off the ostinato bass before shifting to the "name that tune" section of his solo, in which he quoted at least a half-dozen standards (I Can't Get Started, On the Street Where You Live and La Marseillaise among them).
It was a hard performance to top, and for the most part, the band didn't. Cranshaw covered the full range of his five-string electric bass in a lovely solo during In a Sentimental Mood, trombonist Clifton Anderson showed off his range and versatility on They Say It's Wonderful, while Broom was in fine form throughout, particularly with the hard-swinging Strode Rode.
Despite a bit of edge-of-the-stage dancing during the calypso Nice Lady, the 78-year-old Rollins couldn't rekindle the spark of that smouldering first solo and brought the performance to a close after Strode Rode. Not that there was cause for complaint; the high points of Rollins's 70-minute set were so magnificent, it felt a bit greedy to want more.
Besides, the nice thing about jazz festivals is that great moments can be found almost anywhere. Late Friday, bassist Michael Bates brought his superb Outside Sources quartet to the Rex. Quinsin Nachoff (who, like Bates, studied at the University of Toronto) is one of the best reed players of his generation, while trumpeter Russ Johnson offers such a perfect blend of technique and inspiration it's hard to believe he's not better known. The show was nothing less than dazzling.
Not so Medeski, Martin & Wood, who played Saturday at Nathan Philips Square. There was no denying the trio's technical command, and they employed an impressive variety of instruments, effects and techniques in their nearly two-hour set. Yet the music itself was strangely tedious. MMW had essentially only two modes - electric boogaloo and what might be termed Weather Report Lite - and spent the evening offering little more than textural variations.
Less may not have been more for MMW, but it definitely was for guitarist Charlie Hunter, who was at the Pilot that night. Working as a duo with drummer Eric Kalb, he offered a witty, loose-limbed performance that moved easily between funk and standards, sometimes in the same tune.
Midway through the Maria Schneider Orchestra's Sunday set at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, Schneider remarked on how happy she was finally to be playing Toronto. Judging from the rapturous applause at the end of the show, no doubt many in the audience were hoping she'd come back soon - like, maybe, next week.
Unlike most big-band leaders, Schneider doesn't play with her band; she merely writes the scores, and conducts. But that's more than enough. Her compositions seem to encourage melodic, individualistic solos, and thus the 100-minute set moved from bright spot to bright spot, thanks to such soloists as trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Ryan Keberle and (particularly) drummer Clarence Penn. No wonder critics consider this the best big band in jazz today.
Sought-After Drake Signs With Young Money Label
Source: www.thestar.com - Billboard.com
(July 01, 2009) Looks like Universal was the victor in the bidding war for Drake after all. While sources close to the deal predicted Universal Motown was the closest to snagging him, the Toronto-born rapper officially signed to Young Money with distribution through another Universal label, Universal Republic, on Monday. His debut album, Thank Me Later, with reported collaborations with Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z, is slated for a late 2009 release. "Just know that whatever label we sign to it'll be because they'll add to what we've created on our own," Drake said last month. "I am very happy in my situation now, which is signed to Cortez (Bryant) and Gee Roberson at Young Money and management through `Hip Hop Since 1978.' The most important thing for me is being around my team – they are stronger than any label." This summer, look for Drake as part of the "Young Money Presents: America's Most Wanted Music Festival" tour with Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and Soulja Boy Tell 'Em. Drake, a.k.a. Aubrey Graham, is also an actor who starred as Jimmy Brooks on TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Jay-Z Officially Announces Sony Pact
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough
(July 1, 2009) *Jay-Z's Roc Nation label will be distributed through Sony, the rapper confirmed to Billboard on Friday, while his recent deal with Atlantic is only a one-off situation for his upcoming album, "Blueprint 3," due Sept. 11. "Sony is Roc Nation. That's where Roc Nation's going through," Jay-Z told the publication. As for the one-time Atlantic deal, "That's pretty much just for this specific album," he clarified. "Roc Nation -- we're experts in marketing and making records. But we do distribution deals. On this one, we're working directly with the Atlantic staff, which is Julie [Greenwald], Lyor [Cohen], Kevin [Liles] and Kyse [Mike Kyser]. For the rest of the Roc Nation artists, we did a distribution deal with Sony." Jay-Z also told Billboard he originally approached Def Jam with the same distribution deal idea four years ago, but was shut down. "You have to figure, this is like four years ago, and to them it was just like, 'Are you crazy? No! Make a song!'" he said. "To me it was like, I've sold companies for huge amounts of money. I'm an entrepreneur -- that's what I've been all my life. I can't just sit here and make records and not do anything else. Why wouldn't you want to do this with me? I felt under-utilized." When his Def Jam contract was nearing expiration and he had one last album to release with the label (in this case, "Blueprint 3"), Jay-Z opted to buy himself out of the contract for a reportedly $5 million price tag.
Keri Hilson, Ne Yo, Toni Braxton, Nas And Jazmine Sullivan Set For Reggae Sumfest In Jamaica
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson
(June 25, 2009) *This year’s staging of the annual reggae festival, Reggae Sumfest will feature the biggest names in reggae, dancehall and Caribbean music. Added to the roster are top US acts including Keri Hilson, Ne Yo, Toni Braxton, rapper Nas and newcomer Jazmine Sullivan. The event will be the maiden performance in Jamaica for Braxton, Sullivan, Nas and Hilson. Ne Yo last performed in Jamaica in 2007. Hilson has been burning up the airwaves in Jamaica with hits including Knock You Down, while Nas is known for his large catalogue of hits. Ne Yo’s hit streak has been running unchecked on the Jamaican airwaves with Mad, Miss Independent and Closer. Sullivan intrigued the Jamaican population when she paid homage to reggae with the number Need U Bad. Braxton has been a favourite among Jamaicans ever since she exploded on the musical radar in 1993 with Another Sad Love Song. Beenie Man, Damian and Stephen Marley, Bounty Killer, Mavado, Serani, and Lady Saw are among the dancehall and reggae giants who are billed to perform at Reggae Sumfest. Reggae Sumfest 2009 runs from July 19-25 in Montego Bay.
The Right Thing Still As Fresh As A Black President
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
(June 30, 2009) Fight the power! Kapow!
Spike Lee's masterful Do the Right Thing is constantly in your face, from its dancing pugilist opener to the one-two punch of Radio Raheem's "Love/Hate" brass knuckles to the torrent of abuse hurled by the film's hot-and-bothered races.
Released 20 years ago today, yet still as fresh as a black man in the White House, the film survived its fiery birth to become a modern classic, as verified by the American Film Institute.
Back in June '89, excitable movie critics and reporters for such disparate magazines as Newsweek, New York and Rolling Stone predicted race riots from the film's unresolved tensions. It was journalist's code that only white people could handle the truth, as dramatically conjured over one scorching day and night in New York's incendiary Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood.
No such eruptions occurred, unless you count the vocal outrage over the film's Oscar snubbing, but what exactly was the truth the film revealed, more subconsciously than consciously? What is the "right thing" that Ossie Davis's street sage Da Mayor counsels Lee's pizza-boy protagonist Mookie to always do?
It's the brilliance of this movie, which Lee produced, directed, wrote and starred in, that each viewing prompts an altering of attitudes and a shifting of allegiances.
We might at first side with Italian pizzeria owner Sal (Danny Aiello), who is just trying to earn a buck selling slices, along with sons Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson). Who wants trouble, especially on a 100 F day? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Or we might feel for Korean grocer Sonny (Steve Park), whose serious demeanour and fractured English are mocked by all.
Who among the Brooklyn natives do we high-five? Da Mayor, who is also the neighbourhood drunk? Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), whose non-stop boom-box love for Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" tests the patience of even fans of the band?
Where do we stand on Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), a funky egghead who harbours rage about Bed-Stuy's changing faces, as exemplified by the white Italian stars hanging on Sal's wall? Or radio deejay Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), who just wants everybody to chill out, and that's the truth, Ruth.
As Mookie, the central figure amongst Do the Right Thing's riot of characters, Lee leads us through a wonderland of colourful persons and poses (also expressed by the film's bold rainbow art direction), but he refuses to point to the rabbit-hole exit.
He provocatively ends the movie not only with unpredictable acts of aggression and reconciliation, but also with quotations by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, one denouncing violence and the other justifying it. You have to make up your own mind and do your own right thing.
The ambivalence may have cost Lee some well-deserved gold at that year's Academy Awards. The film received just two nominations – Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Aiello) – but there were no wins and no nom at all for Best Picture, which went to the cloying Driving Miss Daisy, a race-relations story of entirely different provenance and impact.
Lee had the last laugh, though: everybody still talks about Do The Right Thing, still his greatest achievement, while nobody talks about Driving Miss Daisy.
Do the Right Thing speaks to the immediate frustration of an era – including police brutality allegations and unhappiness over then-New York City mayor Edward Koch – while also pointing to a future, a generation beyond, where the unimaginable would occur: a black man would be elected U.S. president.
"Keep hope alive!" a character says in the film, sarcastically quoting Rev. Jesse Jackson.
It's romantic to think that a young Chicago law intern named Barack Obama, who saw Do the Right Thing on a first date in June '89 with his eventual wife Michelle, heard that sarcasm and decided to do something audacious about it.
He had 20 years to think about and appreciate this momentous movie, as have we all.
Kerry Washington: Actress Stars In Indie
Film ‘Life Is Hot In Cracktown
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough
(July 1, 2009) *Actress Kerry Washington, considered one of the most beautiful women in entertainment, has taken on a role in what some are calling a very “ugly” film.
The new movie, “Life is Hot in Cracktown,” is based on the short story collection by writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo, and weaves various stories of how crack cocaine has infiltrated the inner-city streets and affected four lives in particular.
Washington plays the role of a drug addicted, pre-op transsexual prostitute in the film that’s been called gritty and so raw, it’s hard to watch. However, that might just be the reason Washington chose to take on the film.
“Some of my choices to do a film are not necessarily logical,” she told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “They come from reading a script and being moved by it on a deeper level, and I felt that way with ‘Cracktown.’”
“One of the reasons I became an actor is because storytelling is really important,” she continued. “To tell the stories of who we are as a society and as a culture, that’s vital to the human experience. Sometimes we don’t always tell the stories of people whose lives we might find uncomfortable or disconcerting; disenfranchised people. I think everybody deserves to have their stories told, so that was part of the decision, too; wanting to be a part of the honest telling of a community that we don’t always acknowledge.”
Washington reflected on times when she herself was guilty of looking past people like her character. She admitted that there are times when she has driven on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood – known to be a trany prostitute locale – and pretended not to see the working girls.
“Sometimes we’re afraid to make eye contact with who we are as a city, as a nation, as a world,” she said. “It’s important for us to sometimes slow down and take everybody in, to really acknowledge what’s going on in our world and film allows us to do that. It allows us to have a window into worlds in our own lives that we might want to ignore or suppress.”
Washington said that she did a lot of research and reading on transsexuals, but learned most about what life might be like for a transsexual from a trans-woman who helped on the set and listening to and getting to know the transgender community.
“One of the things I learned was that for most trans-women, these are people who are born knowing that they are women, but their biology has betrayed them in some way,” she said. “The real question to ask myself was, ‘What if I couldn’t take my identity as a woman for granted?’ Here I am this sort of post-modernist, post-feminist woman and I’m at the gym trying to work off my butt and thighs, but what if I was spending thousands of dollars in hormone therapy and injections because I desperately needed to have a butt and thighs because I felt that’s who I was? What if I was me, but my body betrayed me and I couldn’t physically be who I knew I was?”
When asked if she was particularly challenged by this role, Washington explained that she preps for every role with research.
“It’s never just another role for me,” she said. “I take what I do very seriously. In some ways it’s not the different from, say my role in ‘The Last King of Scotland.’ I’m a kid from the Bronx, so when I get asked to play Idi Amin’s wife in Uganda in the ‘70s, I have a lot of work to do – culturally, linguistically, physically, psychologically, socially. I have a lot to wrap my head around. This role was similar. In the same way as when I got off the plane in Uganda, understand this culture and this character. I had to do the same thing with this woman.”
She also said that it’s hard for her to watch her work, in part because she gets so lost in her roles.
“Every once in a while I’ll see work of mine that I’m sort of so in it when I’m doing it that when I see it it’s sort of like someone showing you a video of you being drunk at a party – I just don’t remember it and it’s a little disconcerting. I really lent my heart and my soul and my life to this film. I really disappeared into this world.”
“Life is Hot in Cracktown” was filmed almost two years ago, Washington revealed, and it opened in limited release this past weekend.
“Sometimes it’s important to watch things that are hard to watch because we can run into danger when we stop acknowledging our fellow human beings and their stories and their humanity,” Washington said. “It’s like we want to ignore the kid on the street, and the woman on the corner, and the kid that lives in the crack hotel, and the violent gang member. We don’t want to pay attention to them, we don’t want to see them and I think that’s an illness. I think life is hard and that’s one of the things that the film speaks to.”
Michael Sparaga : On The Road
With A Real Canadian Superhero
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor
(July 1, 2009) Here's a Canadian superhero for your July 1 celebrations: filmmaker Michael Sparaga. He was the guy behind Sidekick, a 2005 feature film that billed itself as Canada's first superhero movie and was financed on his personal credit.
He was also the guy who decided to take its distribution into his own hands, since getting Canada's movie exhibitors to give over their screens to a Canadian film is like getting a Tory elected in Toronto. With some money from Telefilm Canada, the national film investment agency, he got in a car with a print of the movie, his director and two cast members, and drove from Halifax to Vancouver, screening the film for a few nights in eight cities, talking to audiences and thanking taxpayers for the opportunity.
Not only did he do that, but he also took a camera along with him and made a doc about the experience. That would be Maple Flavour Films (Super Channel, 8 p.m.), an analysis of all that plagues the Canadian film industry cleverly disguised as a road-movie doc. Sparaga's team films him in the driver's seat evaluating how each screening has fared as he heads to his next destination, while Sparaga himself does man-in-the-street interviews with Canadians who mostly don't like Canadian films, never go to them, can't name a Canadian star other than ones who are working in Hollywood and can't name the Canadian film awards. (They are the Genies, not the Junos.)
None of this is very surprising in a nation where the amount spent on tickets to English-language Canadian films hovers around 1 per cent of the total box office. In between those scenes in the car and scenes on the street, Sparaga features a series of interviews with film professionals who explain the problem and speculate on possible solutions. Some look longingly at the Canadian-content regulations that have created a vibrant music industry (and explain why the word Juno comes so easily to the lips of the person on the street). Others suggest more commercial fare is needed, while some believe more art-house fare is the answer.
Sparaga has tidily summarized the embarrassing plight of the Canadian film here and, as one of his subjects comments, it is now time for those in the industry to stop talking and start reviewing the possible solutions and either reject or implement them. There are lots of people in this doc ready to say they don't like Canadian movies, but my reaction is always: How would you know you don't like them if you can't ever find them at your local theatre?
Of course, this being the Canadian film industry, Sparaga's story does not have a fairy-tale ending. The point of his tour was to get enough word of mouth going that Sidekick would get a further theatrical release; it didn't. And now his doc is airing on a financially struggling pay channel that is largely eclipsed by its competitors. Oh well, you can also download Maple Flavour Films at iTunes Canada, and it will show up on free TV eventually. You want to be a Canadian superhero, you have to be long on patience.
Check local listings.
Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs Comes Wrapped In Warm Fuzzies
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
(out of 4)
Animation featuring the voices of Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo and Simon Pegg. 94 minutes. At major theatres. G
(July 01, 2009) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a Jurassic lark.
This third trip to the Ice Age cooler should delight families with its amusing new dino buddies, even as it risks terrifying tots. There's a marauding Tyrannosaurus rex that isn't interested in laughs.
In the main, though, the film is a hoot, no matter whether you see it in conventional 2-D or the available 3-D version. It's also arguably the best to date in the franchise, directed once again by Carlos Saldanha, who also helmed second chapter Ice Age: The Meltdown.
Family values turn to tribal trauma after woolly mammoths Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) announce to their prehistoric pack that they're expecting a bouncing bundle of fur.
Sabre-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) takes this as his cue to go solo (no way is he babysitting), while nutso sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) has the opposite reaction, regretting his lack of offspring.
Both find immediate relief as Diego splits while Sid sits, like Dr. Seuss's Horton the Elephant, upon three dino eggs he happens upon. Rather, Sid tries to sit upon them; the eggs prove to be a real handful, especially when they hatch into three boisterous biters.
Trouble really ensues when the mother dinosaur comes looking for her brood, leading the Ice Age crew into an underground world that time forgot – and which palaeontologists must forgive.
There they meet Buck (Simon Pegg), a weasel with an eye patch who seems to think he's a pirate. Buck looks like trouble, but he proves to be a valuable ally when the going gets rough and the T rex comes thundering.
The expanded family dynamics extend to Scrat (Chris Wedge), the acorn-chasing squirrel whose slapstick antics also enlivened the first two Ice Age movies. He now has both a love interest and a competitor in female squirrel Scratté (Karen Disher), their frolics goofily set to a Lou Rawls tune.
It could drive a guy nuts, but families should herd themselves to the multiplex for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Public Enemies: Depp Keeps The Shadow On Dillinger
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(out of 4)
Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard. Directed by Michael Mann. At major theatres. 14A
(July 01, 2009) Michael Mann's Public Enemies is so darkly gorgeous you want to spray whipped cream on it and eat it like chocolate cake.
Shadows, overcoats and fedoras are jet black and shiny in Dante Spinotti's vivid digital lensing. The effect renders faces and motivations more mysterious and accentuates the moral ambiguity of a Depression-era gangster story where you cheer the sharp outlaws and boo the dull coppers and greedy bankers.
Where Mann and his leading man Johnny Depp go wrong is in extending this midnight aesthetic to Depp's portrayal of John Dillinger, the dapper thief who helped make the 1930s "the golden age of bank robbery," as a frontispiece tells us.
Depp plays Dillinger almost as a ghost, hinting at the man's charisma but never quiet nailing the flesh-and-blood figure who dominated newspaper headlines and enraptured hero-hungry Americans during his brief blazing reign in the early 1930s.
We don't get to know how or why Dillinger became a master bank robber and risk-taker.
The early going where he and his cohorts brazenly bust out of the Indiana State Penitentiary is so swift, it's almost impossible to recognize the players.
Depp is in many respects a perfect fit for the dimpled Dillinger. He's a movie star playing a movie star wannabe; the two could even share the same monogrammed cufflinks.
Dillinger developed his signature one-handed bank counter leap after seeing it done in a film, and his bloody final act – a rat-tat-tat highlight of Public Enemies – occurred outside Chicago's Biograph Theatre following a screening of the crime picture Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable as a gangster.
Mann and co-screenwriters Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman faithfully adapt the Dillinger portion of Bryan Burrough's absorbing 2004 book by the same name, using the same locations where famous breakouts and shootouts occurred.
Yet even while honouring history, and the birth of the FBI that resulted from America's first "war on crime," Mann is more inclined to coolly observe it than to make compelling drama out of it, a puzzling move for the master hand behind the superior crime film Heat.
He's not terribly interested in the tale's main adversarial contest, whereby FBI agent Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale with an abundance of clenched-teeth vigour, hunts Dillinger at the behest of newly crowned bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup, never better).
We first meet Purvis as he's shooting Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) with the icy dispatch of a dead-eyed hunter practising for bigger prey. His motivations are also obscure – is he driven by vendetta or simply following orders? – and we're also given little indication of the high regard the public had for Dillinger, the public enemy people regarded more as Robin Hood.
A much better pairing is Depp with Marion Cotillard, who as nightclub coat-check girl Billie Frechette, the love of Dillinger's brief life, gives smouldering assent to crazy romance both between the sheets and on the streets.
Two other performances stand out: Giovanni Ribisi as trusted Dillinger associate Alvin (Creepy) Karpis, the Montreal-born brainiac who also backed the Barker Gang; and Stephen Lang as Charles Winstead, the laconic Texas Ranger conscripted by Purvis to join the Dillinger manhunt.
Public Enemies is alert to the irony of gangsters aping movie stars and vice-versa, but the film's most telling moment occurs when Dillinger vanishes in plain sight.
He sits smirking in yet another movie theatre as a public service newsreel comes on, showing a wall-sized portrait of Dillinger and advising moviegoers to look to their left and right, in case Public Enemy No. 1 is amongst them.
Incredibly, nobody notices Dillinger. He's a phantom, just as he remains in Depp's flawed portrayal of him in Public Enemies.
Canada Day, Let's Hear It For The True North Strong And On TV
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(June 30, 2009) A holiday Wednesday – now that's just cruel. Inconvenient mid-week closings of banks and booze stores. No long-weekend jaunts to the cottage. On top of which, it looks like rain, which is bound to put a damper on family barbecues and fireworks. With no one around to help clean up the mess.
Happy Canada Day.
It could be worse. You could be stuck inside, camped in front of the TV with nothing to watch but Rita MacNeil.
Not that I have anything against Rita MacNeil – the woman is after all a national monument ... um, treasure. And really, is it even worth having any Canadian holiday without that traditional Rita MacNeil special? It airs tomorrow night, complete with singing coal miners (good acoustics, I guess), as Rita MacNeil Presents Men of the Deeps at 10 p.m. on CTV.
There is also, inevitably, a CBC variety special, Canada Rocks the Capital, featuring Sarah McLachlan, Marie-Jo Therio and K'naan, immediately preceding Rita and the boys at 9.
But these are but the tip of this year's Canada Day TV iceberg.
Here are a few somewhat less traditional viewing suggestions as we wish ourselves a happy 142nd (and really, we don't look a day over 129):
GAS OR GRASS: Two competing all-day/all-night comedy rerun retrospectives, both featuring shows that have only recently run their respective course, between them encompassing both extremes of Canadian cultural identity.
I, for one, can never get enough Corner Gas, not even tomorrow's Canada Day mega-marathon on The Comedy Network starting at 3:30 a.m. (or very late tonight, if you prefer), and running all the way through to 10:30 p.m.
Too warm and fuzzy for ya? Visit the other side of the tracks – hell, the entire country – with Showcase's equally exhaustive multi-episode marathon of Trailer Park Boys, culled from the best of seven years' worth of profane, pot-fuelled shady shenanigans. It starts at noon tomorrow and runs all the way through Thursday morning at 5:30.
ALL DUE CREDIT: We share this commemorative birthday week with Saturday's somewhat better-timed American Fourth of July. How appropriate then that we celebrate as well with perhaps the quintessential cross-border comedy, Due South, a mini-marathon on CMT starting at 7 p.m. with the 1994 series pilot and four back-to-back episodes, repeating again immediately thereafter at midnight.
By then, you may be in the mood for something a little more Gross – as in Paul Gross, the homegrown star of Due South and the producer-director-writer-star of his 2008 passion project, Passchendaele, which airs on The Movie Network tomorrow night at 9.
The various TMN channels are appropriately chock-full of Canadian content Wednesday night, including Ellen Page in Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments at 7:30; Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg at 7:40; and Bye Bye Blues at 8, followed by Waydowntown at 10. Page can be seen again in The Stone Angel at 8 (on HBO Canada).
A LONG TIME AGO from a country far, far up north: Spike TV once again recycles the entire Star Wars canon all this week, starting over again tomorrow at 3 p.m. with Episode II: Attack of the Clones – neatly skipping over Episode I: The Phantom Menace, for which I'm sure we can thank Jar Jar Binks. Vancouver-born Hayden Christensen begins his journey to the dark side to become the nascent Darth Vader, completing that journey three hours later at 6 in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
A somewhat more indigenous genre franchise is celebrated on Space tomorrow, starting at 5 p.m. with the 1994 feature film Stargate, the inspiration for several subsequent Vancouver-shot series, and additional tie-in TV movies like Stargate: The Ark of Truth, which follows at 7:35, and Stargate: Continuum at 9:45.
Attack Likely Killed Billy Mays: Medical Examiner
Source: www.thestar.com - Mitch Stacy, Associated Press
(June 29, 2009) TAMPA, Fla.–Television pitchman Billy Mays likely died of a heart attack in his sleep, but further tests are needed to be sure of the cause of death, a medical examiner said Monday.
Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said Mays suffered from hypertensive heart disease, and the wall of the left ventricle of Mays' heart and the wall of one of his arteries were enlarged. The boisterous, bearded 50-year-old, known for hawking OxiClean and other products on national commercials, was found dead Sunday by his wife in their Tampa condominium.
"The heart disease is perfectly consistent with sudden death," Adams said.
An official cause of death will be issued after toxicology and other tests are completed in eight to 10 weeks.
"While it provides some closure to learn that heart disease took Billy from us, it certainly doesn't ease the enormous void that his death has created in our lives," his wife, Deborah, said in a statement. "As you can imagine, we are all devastated."
Adams said Mays was taking the prescription painkillers Tramadol and hydrocodone for hip pain, but there was no indication of drug abuse. Mays had planned to have hip-replacement surgery Monday.
Mays told his wife he didn't feel well when he went to bed sometime after 10 p.m. Saturday. Earlier in the day, he said he was hit on the head when his flight from Philadelphia had a rough landing at Tampa International Airport. The airline said no passengers reported serious injuries.
Adams said the autopsy showed no evidence of head trauma.
In a 911 tape released Monday, a frantic woman tells emergency operators she found Mays cold and unresponsive. The woman isn't identified, but police have said Deborah Mays found her husband dead.
When asked what had happened, the caller says she doesn't know.
A second person got on the phone as the operator encourages them to get Mays on the floor to start CPR.
"We can't get him up, ma'am," the woman says. "He's gone."
Born William Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, Mays developed his style demonstrating knives, mops and other "As Seen on TV" gadgets on Atlantic City's boardwalk. For years he worked as a hired gun on the state fair and home show circuits, attracting crowds with his booming voice and genial manner.
After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning products on the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network, now known as HSN.
Commercials and infomercials followed, anchored by the high-energy Mays using them while tossing out kitschy phrases like, ``Long live your laundry!"
HSN released a statement Monday morning, praising Mays as a ``legend in the electronic retail history whose personality, entrepreneurial spirit and thoughtfulness for others have always been larger than life."
His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Mays plenty of fans for his commercials on a wide variety of products. People lined up at his personal appearances for autographed colour glossies, and strangers stopped him in airports to chat about the products.
"I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "I think it shows."
Mays liked to tell the story of giving bottles of OxiClean to the 300 guests at his wedding, and doing his ad spiel (``powered by the air we breathe!") on the dance floor at the reception. Visitors to his house typically got bottles of cleaner and housekeeping tips.
Besides his wife, Mays is survived by a 3-year-old daughter and a stepson in his 20s, police said.
CanWest Selling Hamilton And
Source: www.thestar.com - David Friend, The Canadian Press
(June 30, 2009) Specialty television company Channel Zero is about to dive into the conventional television industry with a programming model that meets somewhere between local television and cable news.
The relatively small Toronto-based company announced Tuesday that it plans to buy local TV stations CHCH-TV in Hamilton and CJNT-TV in Montreal from struggling media giant CanWest Global Communications Corp. (TSX: CGS), and turn one of them into an over-the-air news station.
The deal is subject to certain conditions and will be done through an affiliate of Channel Zero Inc., which owns short-film channel Movieola and Silver Screen Classics.
Both CanWest stations currently operate under the E! Channel brand and show popular U.S. television shows like "Deal or No Deal" and "How I Met Your Mother."
However, the new plan will scrap those shows in favour of mostly news programming from a regional perspective on CHCH-TV, followed by movies in prime time and overnight. The film selections will mostly be modern classics and blockbusters that appeal to a wide audience.
On CJNT-TV, the platform will focus on foreign films, multicultural music videos and other similarly themed shows.
Channel Zero's unexpected move comes as major Canadian broadcasters like CTV and CanWest bemoan their over-the-air television stations saying that the model is broken and that many of their stations are unprofitable.
In May, CTV told the CRTC that it couldn't afford to operate some of its conventional TV stations, and would be willing to sell them for a dollar each. Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX: SJR. B) took them up on the offer, and purchased three stations for three dollars.
Channel Zero has declined to reveal its offer price, but Cal Millar, the vice-president and general manager of the company, insisted that it was more than a dollar each station.
He also defended the company's decision to buy conventional TV stations that have been seen by others in the industry as financial dead weights.
"I'd agree with you if you said conventional broadcasting is a tough go of it, but (with) over-the-air, it depends what you're broadcasting – it depends to whom you're relevant," he said.
"If you can strike a relevant positioning with an audience, they don't care how they receive you, just that they can get access to you."
One of Channel Zero's conditions is that unionized employees at CHCH agree to a renewed collective agreement, which would maintain all current provisions of the labour contract except for changes to pensions and benefits.
CanWest didn't provide specifics on what changes to pensions and benefits would be required.
Assuming the conditions are met and the deal gets approval from the federal broadcast regulator, Channel Zero would offer employment to all of the current employees at CHCH and CJNT.
The deal marks the latest sale for CanWest, the Winnipeg-based media company that has been treading water while struggling to refinance its large $4 billion debtload.
On Tuesday, CanWest faces another deadline to reach an agreement with certain key creditors in principle on a long-term recapitalization.
Meanwhile, CanWest hasn't announced any deals to sell its remaining E! channels in Red Deer, Alta., Kelowna, B.C. and Victoria, which are expected to close by Sept. 1 if they haven't found a suitor.
Show Scoops 6 Doras
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(June 30, 2009) A one-man play about unrequited love had no trouble finding affection at the 30th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Toronto's version of New York's famed Tonys.
Agokwe, from Ojibwa artist Waawaate Fobister, won a leading six awards in the general theatre division at last night's gala at the Winter Garden Theatre, hosted by CBC Radio's Jian Ghomeshi.
The tale of star-crossed love between two teenage boys on neighbouring reserves nabbed awards for Outstanding Production of a Play and Best New Play.
Fobister also won Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role while Ed Roy was honoured for his direction of the Buddies in Bad Times production.
As part of the new-play award, Fobister also received a $5,000 gift created in memory of the late arts patron Bluma Appel.
The Sound of Music snagged three awards, including Outstanding Set Design for Robert Jones and Outstanding Production of a Musical for Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and David Mirvish.
Also honoured was its star, Elicia MacKenzie, a Surrey, B.C., native who landed the role of Maria von Trapp on the CBC series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? She won Best Actress in a Musical.
Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, earned two Doras, including directing honours for Des McAnuff and a performance award for Jeff Madden of Toronto.
Taking the honour for Outstanding New Musical/Opera was Sanctuary Song, composed by Abigail Richardson and written by Marjorie Chan.
In the independent theatre division, Eternal Hydra from Crow's Theatre led with four awards, including Outstanding Production, Direction of a New Play or Musical.
Sweeping the dance division was the National Ballet of Canada's Innovation: Emergence, which landed four awards, including Outstanding Production, Choreography and Performance.
War and Peace captured Outstanding Production in the opera category for the Canadian Opera Company/English National Opera.
And Walking the Tightrope scored both awards given to kids' theatre.
Magazine Has Shut Down
(June 29, 2009) The magazine was launched in 1993 by music industry legend Quincy Jones and it served as widely revered urban magazine.
"On behalf the VIBE CONTENT staff (the best in this business), it is with great sadness, and with heads held high, that we leave the building today," said Danyel Smith, former Chief Content Officer of Vibe Media Group and Editor in Chief of Vibe.
"We were assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news," Smith said in a statement released to AllHipHop.com. "It’s a tragic week in overall, but as the doors of VIBE Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine’s sixteenth anniversary, it’s a sad day for music, for hip hop in particular, and for the millions of readers and users who have loved and who continue to love the VIBE brand. We thank you, we have served you with joy, pride and excellence, and we will miss you."
In the 90's, VIBE experienced meteoric success as a business and an outlet for urban journalism.
It has ailed under the ownership of private equity firm Wicks Group of Companies, AOL reported.
The magazine had seen a dramatic reduction in ad pages and circulation.
Earlier this year, employees were put on a four-day workweek and other cuts were made such as scaling back to 10 issues per year.
There is speculation that the magazine will transform into an online-only entity.
Playing Well Is Not Enough For These Argos
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin
(June 30, 2009) Given a CFL-virgin coaching staff, a plethora of new faces at key positions and with only two exhibition games under their belts, a losing result in tomorrow's opener at Ivor Wynne Stadium might have been acceptable if the Argonauts merely played well, showing significant progress.
However, with an albatross nine-game, regular-season losing streak around their necks coming in, victory is the only acceptable outcome.
"Just playing well is not important,'' quarterback Kerry Joseph insisted. "Every time you step on the field as an athlete it is all about winning. We haven't won in a while. Yes, it's coach's first regular-season game, but as a player, it's about winning.''
The Argos' new head man, Bart Andrus, is a stickler for details. Yesterday at St. Marcellinus Secondary School in Mississauga, his team went through its paces in preparation for the Ticats. The reason Andrus chose that practice location, about 15 kilometres from the usual Erindale facility, is they wanted to practise on Field-Turf, the same surface as in Hamilton. He can control where and when they practise. Other things he can't.
"I checked the forecast for Wednesday and there's a chance of rain, so I was sort of hoping that it would rain on our practice today,'' he said.
It already feels different. At this time last summer, the feeling in Argo-land was decidedly upbeat. They had a wide receiver corps with NFL experience. They had emerging force Dominique Dorsey at running back and special teams. They had Joseph, the CFL's most outstanding player, at quarterback with the perennial Next One, Michael Bishop, ready to share playing time. It all crumbled.
"I don't even think about last year,'' Joseph said. "I'm just focusing on Hamilton. I'm just focusing on our game plan. I'm focusing on what coach (Greg) Marshall is going to try to do defensively against us. I'm not even worried about last year.''
Andrus, to his credit, seems to be an impatient man. He wants it now. If you're seeking excuses, you won't get them. There might be growing pains, but he's not willing to admit it. His first CFL game was against Montreal a couple of weeks ago. He felt compelled to stretch the field for Joseph to find out about his receivers. Then he used the second game to evaluate his running backs. Despite the short curve, he's not in the mood for a shoulder shrug and the excuse, "We played well in defeat.''
"We put it on the tee and we want to win,'' Andrus insisted. "That held true for pre-season, too. I don't like to lose at all. We have every intention of winning the (Hamilton) football game. We're going to be disappointed if that doesn't happen, just like we are every game. I can't ever remember losing a game and not feeling bad about it.''
And it's not just returning Argos that feel the same way. Newcomer Rob Murphy, an 11-year pro, doesn't want to hear about Argos' moral victories.
"It's very important,'' Murphy reiterated. "With the new regime here and the new players, it would get us started on a good foot. With all that down time and you're thinking about the success you had on the field, if you get that win. It's definitely a positive. I think you need to go out and win this first one.''
Andrus and his staff realize that this is a new game with a wider, longer field, more motion and the possibility of coaching missteps. As such they are ready to make adjustments not only at halftime, but series-to-series or snap-to-snap.
"We'll probably see some things exposed and I'll anticipate that Hamilton will probably see some things exposed," Andrus said. "Our philosophy is as they get exposed, how do we adjust? Can we correct it immediately? Can we correct it as we're in the middle of the game? How fast we can do that will determine our success."
The Argos' last win was Labour Day in Hamilton and contrary to accepted norms, it seems they have been wearing white shoes ever since.