June 18, 2009
OK, so you know your life is a little too busy when you wish everyone Happy Father's Day one week early. Sorry peeps - just seeing if you were paying attention ... so Happy Father's Day for this Sunday to all those exceptional fathers out there!
Have some updates to my PHOTO GALLERY featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (fast!) and Canadian comic Russell Peters (painfully funny!).
Don't forget to check me on Facebook folks!
Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into
your weekly entertainment news!
This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings. Welcome to those who are new members.
Dora Nominations Announced In
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner
(June 13, 2009) It was a big year for artistic director Chris Abraham and his independent Toronto company, Crow's Theatre. Its production of Anton Piatigorsky's Eternal Hydra received 10 nominations for the 30th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards yesterday.
And in the general category, Crow's remount of Kristen Thompson's I Claudia, at the Young Centre, earned five nominations. Abraham earned best-director nominations for both plays.
In the general division, the big winner among nominees was Buddies in Bad Times's Agokwe - created and performed by Ojibwa artist Waawaate Fobister - with eight nominations, followed closely by Dancap Productions's Jersey Boys, with seven.
The Canadian Opera Company garnered 12 nominations - eight in opera and four in general theatre. In dance, two companies each earned four nominations- princess productions' presentation of Radiant, and the National Ballet of Canada's program Innovation: Emergence.
The Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People collected 13 nods - six in the theatre for young audiences division and seven in the general category.
Improv comic Colin Mochrie won the $1,000 Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award for excellence while Leah Cherniak and Martha Ross, co-artistic directors of Theatre Columbus, were named recipients of the George Luscombe Award, for mentorship in theatre.
Other productions that impressed the Dora jurors included lady in the red dress, produced by fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company in association with the Young Centre (seven nominations), Soulpepper's A Raisin in the Sun (six) and Peggy Baker Dance Projects's Radio Play (four).
Penguins March To Glory
Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin Mcgran, Sports Reporter
(June 13, 2009) DETROIT–The kids are all right. In fact, the kids on the Pittsburgh Penguins are more than all right, they're Stanley Cup champions.
Superstar Sidney Crosby, limping on his left leg after a second-period hit and playing just one shift in the third, became the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup when the Penguins shocked the Joe Louis Arena crowd with a 2-1 win last night over the Detroit Red Wings.
At just 21, he's two years younger than Wayne Gretzky when the Great One first lifted the Cup.
"It was a lot heavier than I thought, but it was worth it," said Crosby, who played only 32 seconds in the third because of his injury and watched the rest from the bench. "It's a dream come true.
"It's everything you imagine and more. It's all the sacrifices you've made, and your parents. It's what all your coaches have done for you.
"All these people I wanted, I wanted to do it for. And the guys sitting next to you."
Crosby's knee got jammed when he was hammered by Johan Franzen in the second period.
"I couldn't stop or turn and couldn't afford to be out there,"
The Penguins' other young gun – 22-year-old Evgeni Malkin – took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Marc-Andre Fleury, 24, made a Cup-saving stop in the dying seconds, setting off a celebration few involved will ever forget.
Crosby hugged his father, Troy, who'd followed his son throughout the playoffs. Maxime Talbot put his toddler son in the Cup. Hal Gill carried around his daughter. Jordan Staal, just 20, joked he'd have to cross the river to Windsor to legally drink champagne out of the Cup.
"This is what we dream of, this is what hockey's all about, this is why we love the game," said veteran Bill Guerin, a trade deadline pickup last won the Cup 14 years ago.
"All I wanted the rest of my career was one more crack at it. Thank God for Max Talbot."
It was Talbot – a lesser light in a series dominated by stars – who was the Game 7 hero. The eighth-round pick in 2002 scored twice in the second period.
"That's why we won, everybody did their bit," said Talbot. "Look at Miro Satan, blocking shots. It's a storybook for me, I guess, but we won the Cup. I don't care how many goals. ... We won the Cup and I want to celebrate."
Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson scored on a slapshot at 15:53 of a crazy third.
Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom had a chance to force overtime, with a wide-open net off a rebound in a wild scramble in the dying seconds, but Fleury got over to stop it.
"That save was oo-wee," said Pens coach Dan Bylsma, shaking his head while reliving the moment.
Given Game 7s are pretty rare, what mattered to a lot of people was that the game itself rose to the occasion. The NHL had the sporting stage to itself on American TV and front-office types were hoping for a close game and a good show.
They got one. In a series that had just about everything, it finally had a victory by a road team. The Pens became the first team since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup after dropping the first two games on the road.
It was the experienced Wings who simply made too many mistakes.
"I thought we looked out of gas all series," said coach Mike Babcock.
It was the young Pens who had the poise – an aggressive forecheck and just enough defence with timely poke checks and blocked shots – that is the mark of champions.
And it was the third Cup for the Pens, now owned by the man – Mario Lemieux – who captained the 1991 and 1992 Cup-winning teams.
"The character we showed during the playoffs was unbelievable," said Lemieux. "The last two months, trying to get to the final. But the last few minutes of the game, they were a little long."
Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk, Basketball Columnist
(June 15, 2009) ORLANDO, Fla.–To earn the honour of hoisting the trophy that signified their 15th NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers beat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic last night, 99-84. Nemeses with bigger names fell as well.
Kobe Bryant won his first NBA title without the assistance of Shaquille O’Neal, his former partner in locker-room bickering. And Phil Jackson, the L.A. coach, finally broke his tie with the late Red Auebach to stand alone as the first coach to win 10 NBA championships.
“It’s been a long time since he had a champagne bath,” Bryant said of Jackson. “He took his glasses off, threw his head back and soaked it all in, because this is a special time. For us to be the team that got him that historic 10th championship is special for us.”
For Bryant, who led the Lakers with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocked shots last night and earned his first nod as most valuable player of the final, it was the culmination of a circuitous journey. A linchpin of the Lakers team that won three straight championships to open this decade – three straight championships in which O’Neal was named MVP of the final – the intervening seven years weren’t always kind. Bryant was labelled “uncoachable” by Jackson in a 2004 memoir.
He was complicit in the feud with O’Neal that led to O’Neal’s shipment to a championship team in Miami. And maybe until last night, he carried on his back what he called “a big old monkey” – specifically the notion that he couldn’t win without the Big Aristotle.
“I just don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism anymore,” said Bryant. “It was annoying. It was like Chinese water torture … From the standpoint of responding to the challenge, from people saying I couldn’t do it without (O’Neal), that feels good, because you prove people wrong.”
Jackson, who won six championships with the Michael Jordan-led Bulls and coached the Shaq-and-Kobe Lakers until 2004 before taking a season-long hiatus from the game, said last night that when he returned to the bench in 2005, he didn’t expect the team to win a championship this soon. But the Lakers improved quickly, especially with last season’s addition of Spanish 7-footer Pau Gasol. And after losing the final in six games to a veteran Celtics club one year ago, the Lakers won 65 regular-season games en route to the title.
“We’re going to go crazy a little bit, and we’re looking forward to that,” said Gasol, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds last night. “But it’s just been so much work that we put into this to make this happen today, and we love each other. We’re a great group, a great team, and this is amazing.”
Added Lamar Odom, a product of the O’Neal deal who supplied 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the decisive victory: “I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was 10-years-old, 9-years-old, and to finally get here and accomplish it is a dream come true … We set a goal early in the training camp and that was to win the NBA championship. Every time we came in as a group, we left that group by saying, ‘One, two, three, ring.’ We set a goal and we attained it.”
The Magic, who had a marvellous run en route to upsetting LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern championship, were no pushovers. They could have won Game 2 and Game 4 with shots at the regulation buzzer (they ended up losing both games in overtime). But last night, perhaps glimpsing the historic truth that none of the 29 previous teams that had faced a 3-1 deficit in the NBA final had rebounded to win it, they looked spent.
“They made a run, and instead of being the team that played like we did all season, we kind of started to hold our heads down,” said Howard, “and they went on from there … They played like a team that was hungry for a championship. Tonight we didn’t have the same effort and same fight that we had during the whole playoffs, and they did.”
Howard, the towering centre who came within a blocked shot of a triple-double in Game 4, didn’t approach that level of domination in the decider, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. While the Magic led by as many as nine points in the early going, the Lakers jumped out to a 56-46 halftime lead and weren’t really challenged after that.
Bryant, once frequently derided for his wont to win games as a solo artist, saw four teammates score in double figures last night, when Jackson, in the booze-soaked afterglow, recalled a long-ago game in Toronto when Bryant engaged in a one-on-one battle with Vince Carter. Bryant won the t ête-a-t ête, scoring 40 points to Carter’s 31 in a Laker victory. But as Jackson pointed out, Bryant’s dramatics took the Lakers “out of their team play.”
Recalled Jackson: “I talked to him a bit about leadership and the quality and his ability to be a leader, and (Bryant) said, ‘I’m ready to be a captain right now.’ And I said, ‘But no one is ready to follow you.’ He was 22 at the time. He was a young guy.”
That surely wasn’t the case last night, when the Lakers ran off a 16-0 second-quarter run in which the 30-year-old Bryant, who scored just two points in the stretch, was, in Jackson’s words, “the thrust that created shots for (other) guys.” Not that he has softened.
As Gasol said last night, thinking back to Bryant’s role in the U.S. win over Spain for the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics: “Kobe doesn’t have any friends on the floor when he’s playing against somebody else. That’s just the way it is … It would be the same if it was his brother. He would still try to destroy him, really. He wants to win that bad.”
Still, when the buzzer sounded last night – after O’Neal had already chimed in via Twitter: “Congratulations Kobe, (you) deserve it” – Bryant joined his peers in a hooting, hopping group hug before finding Jackson for a long embrace.
Said the coach of his star: “He’s learned how to become a leader in a way in which people want to follow him … He’s become a giver rather than just a guy that’s a demanding leader, and that’s been great for him and great to watch.”
B.C.'s Hayden Leaves Phelps In His Wake
Source: www.canada.com - By Terry Bell, The Province
(June 15, 2009) Brent Hayden made a little personal history Sunday night. The Mission swimmer beat American superstar Michael Phelps head-to-head for the first time in his career, winning the 100-metre freestyle in the Santa Clara (Calif.) Grand Prix.
Hayden, who won the 100-free at the 2007 world championships, clocked 48.44 seconds, a meet record. Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and then made headlines when he was videotaped with a bong pipe, finished second in 48.87.
"I was really excited and getting that time really put me over the top," Hayden said in a news release.
"It's great to have that speed at this point in the season and any time you beat Michael Phelps it's icing on the cake. He is such a great competitor and to race against him is an honour.
"A few years ago at this pool, he beat me on the turn and tonight I didn't want that to happen again and I had one of my stronger turns."
Phelps wasn't the only Canadian to have a good night.
Vancouver's Brian Johns and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Ryan Cochrane of Victoria won the men's 200 individual medley and 1,500-metre freestyle respectively, while Vancouver's Scott Dickens added silver in the 200-metre breaststroke.
But it was Hayden who brought the crowd to its feet last night.
"He'd never beaten him head-up, straight on," Tom Johnson, his coach at the national swim centre in Vancouver, said in a telephone interview.
"It's a big win. Any time you win an event in this meet it's pretty significant."
Johnson really likes where Hayden, who has been struggling with back pain for the past year, seems to be headed.
The 48.44 ties Russia's Evgeny Lagunov for the 14th fastest swim in the world this season. But all but one of those faster swims were done at a national championship where swimmers are in top form. Keep in mind, too, that some of those times were done with new swimsuits that could be deemed illegal prior to the 2009 worlds that are scheduled for Rome July 26-Aug. 2.
"It was a strong field but he controlled the swim right from the get-go," Johnson said of Hayden, who was wearing the same legal Speedo Laser he wore last season. "He really just wanted to do a good swim and have a good time, and if the time ended up winning the race, then that would be great.
"I think it bodes well for the [Canadian] world trials [July 8-11 in Montreal] and worlds coming up. He's in the mix."
Cochrane, the bronze medallist in Beijing, fended off a charging Robert Hurley of Australia for the 1,500 victory in 15:06.70. Hurley followed 0.38 seconds behind.
Cochrane, 20, had finished second to Phelps in the 400 freestyle on Saturday.
Johns blasted out of the start Sunday and was dominant, winning in 2:01.25. Jack Brown of the U.S., was second in 2:02.37.
Dickens, who was second in Friday's 100 breaststroke, finished strong to add a silver in the men's 200 breaststroke Sunday with a personal best 2:14.52.
Brenton Rickard of Australia won in a meet-record 2:10.37.
Admittedly, Phelps has yet to hit peak form. But Hayden also will show an extra gear as the season develops.
"He's not really in top shape yet," Johnson said of Phelps. "He's not bad but he's not in the shape that we've come to expect from Michael Phelps. But he's a great competitor and you have to give him some healthy respect.
"A win's a win. You gotta love it."
20 Years with Russell Peters
Source: Langfield Entertainment
It can’t be 20 years, can it? I truly hate remembering things in terms of decades. But after all this time, Russell Peters can still make me laugh until it hurts. His uncanny ability to mock not only accents but gestures unique to certain cultures, still tickles my funny bone. Apparently I’m not the only one, selling out the Air Canada Centre (and breaking ACC records in the interim) on Friday and Saturday night with new material cleverly intertwined with some of his classic, ‘older’ material.
Opening the show were the masterminds of DJ Starting from Scratch (Toronto) and DJ Spinbad (New York). Unbelievable mixes which readied the crowd for the main attraction. Russell arrived to a standing ovation in his hometown after a montage of shots of him dressed in various cultural garb. (See pics in my PHOTO GALLERY.)
Russell’s new material includes experiences from his recent travels but some of the bigger laughs came from homegrown soil like when he asked if there were any Sri Lankans in the audience. "It's good to see you're not on the Gardiner Expressway," referring to the recent Tamil protests. Russell quipped about relationships and how the younger and hotter the woman, the crazier they will make the guy. He went on to say that the best time to ask a guy for whatever you want is right after sex. And when men promise not to lie, "that's the first lie."
The front row took its regular whipping. One newly engaged young couple were the target several times with Russell referring to the pale-skinned bald man as Powder, while discouraging him from marrying so young. Then there was the Trinidadian couple whom he blamed for not knowing how to adjust their volume when they speak.
A compliment to his comedic skills is when other comedians come out to support him like Shaun Majumder and Jon Lovitz who I saw arrive for the show - and there were probably many more in the house.
Russell first took the stage in 1989 during an open mic event at Yuk Yuk's and his 20 year long and successful journey has led him down a road to currently developing a romantic comedy with Billy Crystal.
Russell remains humble accepting that his current sell-out success will eventually come to an end.
But certainly not in the immediate future as we still cannot get enough of Russell’s brand of comedic genius and how he can make a huge venue like ACC feel like a smaller, more intimate setting. A well-deserved sold-out homecoming for one of our own.
Anguilla Inspires Passion, Good Eats And A Bestseller
Source: www.thestar.com - Heather Greenwood Davis, Special To The Star
(Jan. 1, 2009) Anguilla, British West Indies – Almost 20 years after setting out on the adventure of a lifetime, Mel and Bob Blanchard are still living it.
The American couple made the small northern Caribbean island of Anguilla their home in 1989 after four years of visiting with their son, Jesse, on holidays. What followed were new careers as the owners and operators of Blanchards – a fine dining restaurant on Meads Bay Beach – and fame.
While the restaurant was planned, the fame took them completely by surprise.
"We've been in nine different businesses together over 35 years," laughs Bob Blanchard as we sit and chat in the restaurant's dining room. "Not all of them have been successful."
But Blanchards certainly is.
Mild success hit phenomenal levels after the couple detailed their experiences as newcomers to the island – where natives refer to themselves as "belongers" and where wannabes don't last long – in their book A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean.
Readers related to the American couple who left their Vermont home, packed up their things and headed to Anguilla in search of a life fuelled by passion.
The book came at the suggestion of a frequent customer to the restaurant who turned out to be a literary agent from New York. He mentored the couple into their first book deal and one year later, the details of their desire to shift their lifestyle, the trials that come with trying to gain acceptance in a small community, the way they created a family out of the people who became the restaurant's staff and how those relationships held fast after the devastating blow of the category 4 Hurricane Luis, had four prominent publishing houses battling over who would print it.
When the book became a Boston Globe bestseller and landed the couple on the Today Show, the restaurant's profile rose significantly, and suddenly crowds of fans were finding their way (in a pre-Eat, Pray Love kind of way) to Anguilla's sugary white shores.
"People come to this island in a huge way because of this book," says Bob as we sit in the dining area of the restaurant. "Almost every day we have people who come to the restaurant because they read A Trip to the Beach."
Publishers noticed the response as well. And so, while the Blanchards never set out to become authors, they now have two cookbooks (At Blanchard's Table and Cook What You Love) and a series of self-help books under their belt. They are also the hosts of a soon-to-premiere TV show Live What You Love, where they introduce viewers to people around the world who are living their passions.
Blanchard says that while the course they are on wasn't the one they planned, he's happy to be helping others.
Initially, not everyone on the island was blown away. One woman said she felt the book painted locals in a negative light.
"I am a proud Anguillan," she explains, clearly agitated. "That book made us all look backwards and stupid."
Others have yet to crack the spine.
Blanchard is aware that the book wasn't universally embraced on the island.
"My landlord was quite upset about it," he admits. "He didn't like my description of him."
But he points out, and others agree, that the book's success has had a positive effect on the island's tourism that has been beneficial to all. And no one has a negative word to say about the couple themselves, who, after almost 20 years on the island, are finally "belongers."
"It's a real honour, actually. We're Anguillan now and this is our home as much as Vermont is," he says.
Coco Love Alcorn
: A Young Veteran Of Every Genre
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 11, 2009) Toronto's Coco Love Alcorn gives a rare local concert Sunday to showcase her eighth disc, Joyful.
The singer/guitarist, 34, is an apt blend of a jazz vocalist father (John Alcorn) and seamstress mother, making music and collaborating on a merchandise line with her graphic designer husband.
Though she describes her unique "mush" of jazz, R&B, blues, folk, pop and hip-hop as a marketer's nightmare, the performer maintains a respectable following.
The Star spoke by phone with the musician who started off playing recorder in Grade 4, moved on to trumpet and guitar and has toured with Ani DiFranco, Burton Cummings and Chantal Kreviazuk.
Q: Did your parents encourage you towards music?
A: They always let me make lots of decisions about what I felt I wanted to be doing, which was amazing, but in retrospect, it would have been awesome if they had forced me to take piano lessons for 10 years. I would have hated it all those 10 years but I would've been able to play piano now.
Q: You got a scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music, but only stayed for a semester.
A: If I had stayed longer I would've had to start racking up student loans to pay for my living expenses down there, so I decided I would move back to Vancouver and try doing a few gigs to see if I liked music. That was 15 years ago and I haven't stopped gigging.
Q: Does having songs on TV shows like The L Word and Dead Zone pay well?
A: It's completely up and down. It's like, "This episode aired in Bolivia, here's your 12 cents" and "This episode aired in France, here's your $600."
Q: You celebrate brainy men in "Intellectual Boys." Is your husband one of those?
A: Yes. And that song is totally true. I think intelligence is darn sexy and I always got crushes on smart boys when I was in school.
Q: Do you ever interpret other people's songs?
A: I did a jazz album 12 years ago that was half original songs and half jazz standards. I would love to do some more cover material at some point; there are so many amazing songs out there, but I'm still detoxing from spending about seven years singing at a lot of weddings.
Q: What are the origins of your cool name?
A: I've asked my parents a million times and the story about Coco is just so boring, I don't even remember. I'm not specifically named after Coco Chanel. But Love was my great-grandmother's first name. When my dad was about 6 years old, he went on a walk with his grandmother, Love Parker, and I don't know how it came up, but he apparently promised her that he would name a child after her. And I came along and there you go.
Just the facts
WHO: Coco Love Alcorn
WHERE: Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W.
WHEN: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
COVER: $12.50 at 416-531-6604 or hughsroom.com; $15 at the door
Laura Izibor : R&B From Across The Sea
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 16, 2009) With little in the way of homegrown soul to emulate, Irish R&B singer Laura Izibor took measure of American soul legends like Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Donnie Hathaway and Roberta Flack.
On her debut, Let the Truth Be Told, the 22-year-old Dublin native, combines that vintage sensibility with a contemporary vibe akin to Alicia Keys and Jill Scott.
Izibor came to the fore by winning a national song contest at 15 and signed her first major label deal two years later. But she languished in record-biz turmoil – biding her time with tunes on Grey's Anatomy and the Scarlett Johansson film The Nanny Diaries, and opening act slots for James Brown and The Roots – before finally getting her album out.
Though she's apt to cover a Gnarls Barkley or Mary J. Blige tune in concert, Izibor was adamant that her first recording be entirely comprised of her compositions.
"It had to be my truth, it had to be honest, it had to be from the heart," she explained on the phone last week from Dallas, where she was touring with India.Arie. "The title felt like a strong, almost biblical statement."
The tracks are melodically and lyrically substantive, but her rich, fervent voice could use more adventurous arrangements than the disc's middle-of-the-road cast.
The strongest songs are the self-empowering "Shine," beseeching John Legend-style pledge "From My Heart to Yours," and "I Don't Want You Back" a kiss-off to a fickle boyfriend: "Maybe, maybe, maybe there was a time/ When I would have gave, gave, gave you my time."
The album ends with the churchy "MMM ..." whose title is also the song's hook.
"I'd written it and I couldn't come up with a chorus and I started humming a chorus and sent (the demo) off to my producer with a little note saying `I'm gong to finish it, don't worry' and he was like `Oh, it's genius!'" Izibor said.
"I was still wary, but the minute the gospel choir came in, it instantly came together and made sense. God, or whatever it is for you ... sometimes words aren't enough and it just sounded pretty."
As Let the Truth Be Told makes its North American debut, the performer said she has 30 new songs ready to go.
"I would love to get off the road and back in the studio right now."
King To Record Album Of Covers For Warner Japan
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson
(June 11, 2009) *Diana King is back in the arms of a major label. She is reportedly working on an album of covers for the Japanese arm of Warner Music. 'The album is being done exclusively for the Asian market. It should be released around summer', King told this column recently.
Among the covers that will be included on the album is James Blunt's global smash You're Beautiful.
King says her fans can expect some new music right after the completion of the album for Warner. 'I will be working on some new material once I have completed this project, so the fans can listen out for that', said King.
King was formerly signed to Sony Music's Work Group imprint in the 1990's. She released the albums Tougher Than Love and Think Like a Girl. In 2000 she signed with Madonna's Maverick label and released the album Respect in 2002.
King scored a string of hits on the US Billboard Dance, pop, R&B and European charts. They include remakes of Ain't Nobody, Stir it Up and Say a Little Prayer, Treat Her Like a Lady, Summer Breezin, Love Triangle, L-L-Lies and the gold selling Shy Guy, which camped out in the number one spot on several charts across Europe.
Omar Wilson: New Soul Singer Readying Debut CD Later This Year
Source: George Pryce, firstname.lastname@example.org
(June 11, 2009) *Whatever ignited inside Omar Wilson when he was only six years of age, is still burning brightly at twenty-eight.
The powerful and spiritual impact his voice had upon churchgoers in Norwalk, Connecticut's Calvary Baptist Church in those days is still warming hearts across the nation.
The remarkable evolution from a vocally gifted boy into a richly diverse singer-songwriter and arranger is the blueprint of Omar's ongoing musical journey.
Omar Wilson is no stranger to the struggles of life. Starting out in church and later transitioning first to rap and eventually to his own style of soul mixed with hip hop, he has steadily continued to build audiences throughout the U.S., with regular performances in showcases around New York City and Connecticut and opening for the likes of The Neville Brothers and Boyz II Men.
A three time winner of Amateur Night at The Apollo in 2007 (Harlem's world renowned theatre that has jumpstarted many of the nation's famous recording artists and stars), Omar, won on three separate occasions, garnering him the title of "Biggest Winner' that entire season. He is also the recipient of the 2004 Faces in the Crowd Showcase Award, named Unsigned Artist of the Month in the December 2004 issue of Street Mos Magazine and was featured in Rap Fanatic Magazine along with 50 Cent who graced the Vol. 4, 2005 cover. Most recently, Omar also won the award for Most Dynamic R&B Artist of the Year at the Underground Music Awards in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Omar Wilson's collection of emotionally charged and soulful tunes is a wonderful introduction to a singer inspired by the ebbs and flows of life and family. His songs tackle a broader spectrum of social issues (the nation's economy, homelessness, education, the Madoff ponzi scheme) rather than solely emoting the romantic fervor commonly found in contemporary R&B.
His preference to comment on life experience makes it no surprise when Omar sites 2Pac, Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke and David Ruffin as major influences. He prefers to utilize the self-invented term "B&R" The invention is meant to differentiate his often-gritty lyrics from those of other "R&B artists who seem to "have forgotten the second half of Rhythm and Blues," according to Omar. He can perhaps credit some of his artistic sensibilities to his roots; his father emceed at nightclubs in the 1970s and was a member of the band called Soul Messengers.
At six years old, the impact of Omar's soulful voice was evident to his audience at Calvary Baptist Church in his hometown of Norwalk, CT.
"When I sang solo gospel numbers, I would see the adults in the audience crying. Just brought to tears. As a kid, I didn't understand what was happening or how my voice was having this effect on people."
At seventeen, following a troubled period in high school while seeking direction and witnessing his peers being jailed or worse, Omar moved to Durham, North Carolina, where encouraged to rap, he joined a group called The Lost Souls along with three of his cousins. While working with producer Mike City (Brandy, Usher), the group released two albums, "Soul Talk" and "Life Is Life" distributed by Ichiban Records.
Audiences are continually "wowed" by the performer, re-affirming the emotional reaction he received as a child at his church performances. "I was getting a stronger response from my singing rather than my rap which, about five years ago led me to concentrate on my rhythm and blues rather than my rhymes. I love rap because it taught me how to outline any idea for a song which I was able to use as I started to write and sing."
During a Los Angeles studio visit, Omar recalls a pivotal conversation he shared with L.L. Cool J, whose work he deeply respects. "L.L. was sitting in the studio and one of our tracks was playing. He was really into it and started talking to me about pursuing this as a career. He really encouraged me to just focus on what I wanted to do and to allow nothing to stop me."
As a precursor to his debut album, Wilson wants to release a tribute album to 2Pac, his mentor and his inspiration as a singer/songwriter and actor. The album, tentatively entitled "Introducing Omar Wilson" and slated for release late 2009 will feature Angie Stone among other artists.
Reflecting upon his growing career, Omar Wilson confides, "I hope my singing and music will touch the deepest part of people's souls. I sing about life and what we all go through living it! I've slept on people's floors and lived on TV dinners but, on the flip side, I've also enjoyed working at my craft in top studios around the country. I know it's a journey and that it takes focus and dedication. I know it's what I've been put on this earth to do."
There's No Doubt Band Is Good But Gwen Stefani's The Star
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(June 17, 2009) If that 90-minute workout No Doubt's touring across North America doesn't kick-start Gwen Stefani's writer's block, I don't know what will.
The California ska-pop group is back on the road for the first time in five years, seeking inspiration for the new album that didn't come together before the tour.
And it's a shame the quartet doesn't have any material newer than 2001's Rock Steady, because it is an arresting, relevant outfit worthy of more than a 45-city oldies tour.
Frontwoman Stefani has said the lyrics don't come easy now with the distractions of her family and solo endeavours. Her mates - bassist (and ex-boyfriend) Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young - are almost all parents as well and hovering on either side of 40.
It's hard to imagine her not being able to match mentally what she has accomplished physically. The impossibly cut abs and non-stop jumping, skipping and skanking are evidence of the mother-of-toddler-sons' gruelling workouts. She never sounded winded and I couldn't catch her out with any backing vocals.
She dropped to the floor for 10 non-girly push-ups near the end of the show, reiterating what we already knew: the perfume-shilling fashionista - who came out wearing a sheer belly-baring top with baggy pants and knee high boots - can still hang with the fellas.
And as good as the band was - bolstered by keyboardists/horn players Gabriel McNair and Stephen Bradley - eking out strong, stirring rhythms and melodies, you couldn't take your eyes off the luminous Stefani who was missed during two quick costume changes.
Not that the others didn't give it a shot: Young baring and slapping his bum after the opening tune and returning for the encore in a pink tutu; Kanal and Dumont delivering blistering solos and athletic dance moves.
With Stefani doing all the talking and bringing fans on stage to dance and take pictures, the show had a loose, playful feel. And she didn't perform any of her solo material, which seems now so insipid compared to No Doubt's muscular catalogue.
On their feet for the entire show, the capacity crowd inside the Air Canada Centre urged the band on, singing along to songs such as, "Hey Baby," "Just a Girl," and "Underneath It All."
Let's hope they head straight to the studio when the tour wraps up in August.
Tickets are still available for the band's June 30 London, Ont. show.
Jazz: Has It
Been All Downhill Since 1959?
Source: www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
(June 13, 2009) Nineteen-fifty-nine – Jazz's Greatest Year: market slogan or a statement of fact?
In truth, it's a bit of both. Although Sony Music Entertainment has been bruiting the phrase about to drum up interest in its deluxe reissues of four 1959 vintage jazz albums – trumpeter Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain , the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Time Out and bassist Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um — it's hard not to feel a little awestruck when considering just how much was going on in the jazz world 50 years ago.
Commercially, 1959 was clearly a high-water mark. Kind of Blue , which arrived in stores on Aug. 17 that year, is by far the bestselling jazz album of all time; in a genre where even gold records are ridiculously rare, Kind of Blue has gone quadruple platinum. Take Five , a tune composed by the late alto saxophonist Paul Desmond for the Time Out album, became the first jazz single to sell a million copies. “It was never supposed to be a hit,” Desmond joked later. “It was supposed to be a Joe Morello drum solo.”
Unsurprisingly, both recordings have sparked commemorative tours. Drummer Jimmy Cobb, the only surviving member of the Kind of Blue band, has assembled a sextet to recreate the album in concert. Dubbed the So What Band after the album's opening tune, it will be performing at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (July 2) and the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (July 6). Also, pianist Dave Brubeck, who has billed his current tour as “Time Out – Take Fifty,” will be playing the Toronto Jazz Festival (July 1) as well as Montréal (July 4).
Everybody likes an anniversary, of course, but what's being celebrated isn't mere nostalgia, as both Kind of Blue and Take Five were revolutionary recordings that changed the way jazz was played. Kind of Blue attacked harmony; instead of following the convention of improvising on chord changes (that is, the underlying harmony in a tune), Davis gave his players specifically composed scales to solo on, a strategy that made the playing both freer and more melodic. Take Five and the rest of Time Out took on rhythm, shattering the hegemony of four-beat swing with melodies set in 5/4, 9/8 and other exotic time signatures.
The revolution didn't end there, either. In New York, on May 5, 1959, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane — who mere weeks before had been in the studio with Davis, recording the second side of Kind of Blue — cut Giant Steps , a breakneck exercise in polytonality that is perhaps the most carefully studied recording in jazz.
A few weeks later in Los Angeles, the Ornette Coleman Quartet began recording what would become The Shape of Jazz to Come . Coleman believed that improvisation shouldn't be constrained by chord changes and that jazz should focus on the feeling within a tune, not on its structure or harmonic grammar. By the time Coleman's group opened at New York's Five Spot, later that year, “free jazz” had become the focus of fierce debate both within and outside the jazz community.
Major moments, to be sure, but what does this celebration of the past say about jazz's present? Pointing out the surpassing greatness of these discs isn't quite the same as saying that little of consequence has happened since, but it's not far removed from that argument, either. Has jazz slowly ground to a creative standstill over the last half century, moving so far from its core values – as Wynton Marsalis and others have argued – that much of today's “jazz” seems hollow and insignificant when compared to past masterpieces? What does it say about the current scene that bold predictions about “the shape of jazz to come” are no longer welcomed?
Admittedly, the world was a different place in 1959. For starters, jazz was still being taken seriously back then – and not just by jazz fans. As late as 1964, Time magazine still considered jazz important enough to put pianist Thelonious Monk on the cover (something that wouldn't happen after Beatlemania set in).
It didn't hurt, either, that the rest of Western culture was in a vital phase of modernism, with a similarly strong sense of experimentalism in painting, film, classical music and fiction. High art still held the stage, and the albums we celebrate now were definitely presumed to be art.
Once pop culture took over, jazz – like high art and even modernism itself – got pushed to the margins.
It's worth noting that Kind of Blue and Time Out were recorded for Columbia, while Giant Steps and The Shape of Jazz to Come were made for Atlantic Records. Both were considered prestige imprints, and apart from reissues, each label is essentially out of the contemporary jazz market. (Columbia's current jazz roster consists of singer Tony Bennett, trumpeter Chris Botti and pianist Eldar.)
On the other hand, what the major jazz specialty labels were cranking out back then wasn't all that different from what they're doing today. Today, Verve Records' biggest star is singer/pianist Diana Krall, and much of what the label releases are pop-oriented albums by vocalists such as Ledisi, Kenny Lattimore and Teddy Thompson. In 1959, Verve's biggest stars were singer Ella Fitzgerald and pianist Oscar Peterson, and the company courted the pop end of the market with a slew of vocal albums by the likes of Mel Tormé, Mitzi Gaynor, Arthur Prysock and the Fraternity Brothers.
Some things, it seems, never change.
Julian Lennon Gives Help To Ailing Lucy In The Sky
Source: www.thestar.com - Gregory Katz, Associated Press
(June 13, 2009) LONDON – They were childhood chums. Then they drifted apart, lost touch completely, and only renewed their friendship decades later, when illness struck.
Not so unusual, really.
Except she is Lucy Vodden – the girl who was the inspiration for the Beatles' 1967 psychedelic classic "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" – and he is Julian Lennon, the musician son of John Lennon.
They are linked together by something that happened more than 40 years ago when Julian brought home a drawing from school and told his father, "That's Lucy in the sky with diamonds."
Just the sort of cute phrase lots of 3- or 4-year-olds produce – but not many have a father like John Lennon, who used it as a springboard for a legendary song that became a centrepiece on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
"Julian got in touch with me out of the blue when he heard how ill I was and he said he wanted to do something for me," said the 46-year-old Vodden, who has lupus, a chronic disease where the immune system attacks the body's own tissue.
Lennon, who lives in France, sent his old friend flowers and vouchers to buy plants at a local gardening centre, since working in her garden is one of the few activities she is still occasionally well enough to enjoy. More importantly, he has offered her friendship and a connection to more carefree days.
"I wasn't sure at first how to approach her. I wanted at least to get a note to her," Julian Lennon said. "Then I heard she had a great love of gardening, and I thought I'd help with something she's passionate about ... I wanted to do something to put a smile on her face."
Vodden admits she enjoys her association with the song, but doesn't particularly care for it. It was thought by many at the time that the classic was a paean to LSD because of the initials in the title.
"I don't relate to the song," said Vodden, described as "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes" in the lyrics.
Media And Universal Launch Music Service
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(June 15, 2009) LONDON – Virgin Media, the cable TV operator owned by entrepreneur Richard Branson, launched a new kind of music download subscription service Monday with Universal, the world's largest music company.
The service, described by the companies as a world first, will allow Virgin Media's broadband customers in Britain to stream and download as many songs and albums as they like from Universal's catalogue for a fee.
But entertainment lawyers said the service was unlikely to solve the global music industry's problem of billions of dollars lost to music piracy, and would need to offer content from big-name entertainers to be attractive to consumers.
Universal, by far the biggest industry player, has a roster of talent that includes U2, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and James Morrison.
Virgin said it was continuing talks with other British major and independent music labels and publishers about including their artists in the new service.
The music will be available to download in an MP3 format, giving buyers the ability to listen on a range of devices, including iPods, mobile phones and PCs as well as other MP3 players.
The subscription service, due to be available later this year, builds on mobile phone unlimited download services such as Nokia's ``Comes With Music," – allowing for a massive range of music to be downloaded – as the industry fights a losing battle against illegal downloading.
Revenue from digital music sales rose 25 per cent last year to $3.7 billion, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. But those legitimate music sales did not come close to offsetting the billions of dollars being lost to music piracy – an estimated 95 per cent of music downloads are still unauthorized.
IFPI Chairman John Kennedy said the new Virgin-Universal deal was "the kind of partnership" between a music company and an internet service provider (ISP) that he expects to shape the future of the music business internationally.
The IFPI has been harshly critical of ISPs in the past for exploiting loopholes in copyright laws to allow them to avoid clamping down on people who illegally download music using their services.
"It epitomizes the way in which the music business is adapting to the digital world, embracing new business models and responding to the changing needs of consumers," Kennedy said of the new service.
"It also marks new ground in ISPs' willingness to take steps to protect copyrighted content on their networks, and that sets a very encouraging example to the whole industry," he added.
Virgin and Universal said they expected the new service to ``drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media's network.''
They said they will also attempt educate file sharers about online piracy, temporarily suspending Internet access for persistent offenders.
Virgin did not release details of the anticipated monthly subscription costs Monday, but said an "entry level" offer would also be available for customers who download music regularly, but may not want an unlimited service.
"Britain has a world-class reputation for artists and music,'' said Lucian Grainge, Chairman and Chief Executive of Universal Music Group International. "Now British consumers will have access to a world-class digital music service. I believe this puts all of us at the forefront of a new era.''
But Jerry Reisman, a partner at U.S. law firm Reisman, Peirez and Reisman said that the Virgin-Universal deal will not make a big dent in the piracy market.
"The Virgin Media platform may add options for the over 30 crowd but the under 20 segment will still pirate the music for free," said Reisman.
Cliff Fluet, a partner at London law firm Lewis Silkin, said that the price of Virgin's service could not be determined until it was clear if artists other than in Universal's stable were on board.
Potential customers would also want to know if the service would offer tracks free of "digital rights management," or DRM, technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers, he added.
Is Back In Command In 'The Taking Of Pelham 123'
Source: www.eurweb.com -
(June 11, 2009) *It’s been said there is no transit system like that of New York City and Denzel Washington has spent his fair share underground although he now resides in California. Looking dapper as always, he was quite at ease in his role at the Command Center as subway dispatcher Walter Garber. “I grew up in New York so I was born in the subway,” he boasts. “I rode it almost everyday for many years. And he’s seen it all underground. “Yeah, if you can do it on a subway, then I’ve seen it--from robbery to parenting.
“When you are young you sneak on the trains, have fun, go down the steps, and take a few steps down that dark tunnel. You don’t go too far because you don’t know what’s down there. You know you have to get back before the train pulls in there. Our day started at the steps. We would go a quarter of a mile or half mile down. It’s just a whole other world under there. One set was an old station they didn’t use anymore. Church Avenue or something. That was trippy being on the other end. I remember coming home late at night, two, three, four in the morning, from wherever. The train would slow down and you would see the guys working and looking up. You were like, ‘Man, what are they doing out here?’ We were those guys out there at four or five in the morning. I remember a woman on the train was looking down at us and wondering what we were doing down there. ‘I’m down here working on the trains.’” [laughs]
But the NYC Transit’s Rail Control Center is an entirely different environment. “That was one of the first things I did, months before we started shooting, I went to the Command Center. It was huge. It was 10 times bigger than our set. It’s huge. One of the reasons I like working with Tony [Scott] is because, like myself, he’s a research fanatic. I know going in he’s going to have a lot of stuff for me to look at, to go to, so he got the MTA Command Center. We share a lot of these elements.
“I like being with the real folks. Once I got there and we made introductions I kept going back. You sit and you talk with people. Our technical advisor was a guy that started at the bottom and worked his way up. You talk to him and ask how you get to be in the position I’m in. He said, ‘You start at track maintenance. You might become a flagman. You work your way up, local dispatch, might be a conductor. You work your way all the way up the ladder.’ I don’t think that the character I played went to college. I think he got a job at 17 or 18, as track maintenance, and he worked his way up.”
Washington has certainly worked his way up the ladder, so he can choose what type of role he wants to do. So why another remake, he’s asked. “I think that number one, and especially in the case of this film more than ‘Manchurian’, I think it’s basically the story of a hostage situation on a train in New York City. I think that is what the two films have in common, and the fact that it’s New York City. I don’t know that my character and the character that Walter Matthau played are that similar necessarily. I don’t know why anybody would remake a film. I mean, literally the translation or definition of the word. Why would you redo it the same way? That’s my two cents. Now I haven’t been lying when I said that the backstory for Garber was based on a guy at the MTA.”
It is always great to see an actor with a track record should as Washington, still excited about the game and enthused about playing an everyday blue collar worker. Explaining how he got into the role, he says, “It was the deli. Just ate a lot and kept getting smaller and smaller sweaters to wear. I spilled coffee on myself. I was concerned a little bit about ‘Inside Man’ where I was a cop and a hostage negotiator. I just liked the idea of when they hand him a gun he had never held one before. He was an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation. He had a cloud over his head. He didn’t come to work knowing he was going to get an opportunity to redeem himself. He didn’t even know if he was going to redeem himself. It was something he felt like he needed to do. As he got into it deeper and deeper he just went for it, and he brought home the milk.”
John Travolta, Washington’s co-star did not do press for the film because he is still mourning the death of his son. “I talked to John two and a half weeks ago,” Washington says. “Needless to say, he’s struggling. He’s struggling. More than talking to him, I listened to him, for about two or three hours. It’s going to take time. What can you say but just be there as a friend. He’s such a sweet, sweet person. Our prayers are with he, his wife, and family.”
Carmen Ejogo accepted the role in “Away We Go” because she thinks the director Sam Mendes (“Revolutionary Road,” “Road to Perdition,” “Jarhead,” “Things We Lost in the Fire”) is “brilliant.” Most of the material offered her in the past was not up to her standards. “I’ve done many project where I thought this was my last project and I will never work again gladly and couldn’t have cared less if I didn’t. This project is the sort of thing that gives you excitement again.”
Maya Rudolph, the main female character, is the daughter of singer Minnie Riperton and Ejogo feels Mendes took a leap of faith casting her. “I absolutely love it. Love it,” she says. “I was watching the sound of music with my kids the other night and I was thinking about the roles I would’ve loved to have played growing up but were not able to because of my race.” Although Ejogo is happy about some change of events in colorblind casting, she knows all is not right with the world. “There are still issues to be dealt with.”
The English native and her husband actor Jeffrey Wright lives in Brooklyn, New York and The Film Strip asked her why put roots down there? “Love,” she beams. “My husband is American and this is where he calls home so I came to be here with him and I definitely can relate to the film in that way in terms of feeling displaced and not really knowing where home should be.
“I often contemplate whether we should be back in England but then what would that England be? I don’t even know what that is any more because it’s been so long since I’ve been there and to be here in 2001 was a really hectic time to decide to make this home. But I think when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/11 to Brooklyn to be away from the craziness a little bit, reinforced our decision. And then you have kids and you can’t really move.” Not that Ejogo and Wright would want to uproot their kids because Tinsel town doesn’t tug at their hearts.
“We’re both sort of strange fish in this business. We’re not really enamoured by it for the most part. It would have to be something really spectacular that would make us want to go [to L.A.].
David Bowie’s son director Duncan Jones first feature film, “Moon,” is quite a sci-fi undertaking. “I think we tried to stick to the science in certain aspects of it. As far as Helium 3 mining goes there was a book by Robert Zubrin called 'Entering Space' that I read quite a few years ago which is an amazing book. It's nonfiction by a guy who used to advise and work with NASA and it's all about how we would go about colonizing the solar system and doing it in a way which was sort of financially viable,” Duncan declares.
NASA being of great interest to me since I interviewed the first Black astronaut in Texas before his maiden voyage into outer space, I asked Jones if he kept us with the goings on at NASA? With an overwhelming and enthusiastic response of “Yeah” he was more than happy to explain his last encounter with NASA.
“There was a festival that we did in Texas and I actually got invited to do a screening of the film at NASA. So I went to Houston and did a screening at the NASA Space Center where about eighty percent of the audience was NASA employees. Astronaut Tom Jones was there. I showed the film, did a Q&A afterwards that started off with them asking me a few questions and then about three or four questions in I was asking them questions…Then basically the audience just started discussing things amongst themselves and I sat back” [laughs].
Duncan, whose father starred in sci-films, is not the reason he did “Moon,” but his father’s influence did rub off. “It didn’t really occur to me until after we finished the film and people started mentioning it to me,” he says. “My parents divorced when I was very young, and fairly unusually I was given into the custody of my dad so I grew up with my dad. So a lot of the things that he was listening to and the films he was watching and the books that were appropriate for me at that age when I was growing up he recommended.
“The whole idea of alienation and isolation which obviously he investigated in his early mid-twenties, I lived through and went through in my own way growing up. I was at graduate school at Vanderbilt in Nashville Tennessee and spent three years feeling I was on the far side of the moon and it’s no coincidence that the character Sam’s three year contract is the same as my three years at graduate school. That was kind of how I felt. I also had a long distance relationship like Sam.”
Who Ya Gonna Call For Comedy? Try Harold Ramis
Source: www.thestar.com - Philip Brown, Special To The Star
(June 13, 2009) While working on the screenplay for Ghostbusters, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman used to break down the three main characters as follows: Bill Murray was "the mouth," Dan Aykroyd was "the hands" and Harold Ramis was "the brains."
The titles could be used to describe the comedians themselves, particularly Ramis. Though his face wasn't as recognizable as his co-stars heading into Ghostbusters, Ramis had arguably had the biggest impact on big-screen comedy, having been the brains behind Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes and National Lampoon's Vacation, as either a writer or director. The five movies were huge hits and played a major role in changing Hollywood comedy, bringing the unconventional and unpredictable Second City style to the big screen.
"It was a kind of humour we had all been practising since the '60s," Ramis explained over the phone from his offices in Chicago. "We became the New Hollywood of comedy. The New Hollywood was already happening on the (dramatic) side with Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, and all those guys. But we were the New Comedy, for better or worse."
Ramis was at the centre of this comedic revolution, which appeared to reach a commercial peak when 1978's Animal House became the highest grossing comedy of all time – until audiences saw a 100-foot-tall marshmallow man in the summer of '84.
Ramis got involved with Ghostbusters when director Reitman and Aykroyd decided to refashion a script Aykroyd had written for himself and John Belushi.
"They literally came right from the lunch where they first talked about it to my office at Warner Bros. where I was finishing up Vacation," said Ramis.
Reitman and Aykroyd asked Ramis to help rewrite the script for Bill Murray, and to co-star as the nerdy Ghostbuster Egon. "It looked good to me, so Danny arranged for me to come to Martha's Vineyard and we met every day to write with no distractions. It only took three or four weeks, and we got a pretty good draft out of that."
That's quite the turnaround for an instantly iconic screenplay, but it speaks volumes for the kind of hot streak that Ramis and company were on.
For years, Murray acted as a sarcastic muse for the writer/director. Ramis likens his knack for writing in Murray's voice to his youthful affinity for rebels.
"I came of age in the `60s, so my role models were all rebels and outsiders. They were people who were anti-establishment, challenging authority by doing the wrong thing, the rude thing, and the improper thing, but not because they were losers.
"If anything they were smarter than everyone else and self-empowered. And that's Bill. I mean, even as a person before he was known to anybody he was kind of heroic in a big way."
Ramis's countercultural leanings also informed his original and sadly discarded ending for Ghostbusters 2, which involved the Ghostbusters "fighting the Statue of Liberty in Wall Street. In the end, the Statue Of Liberty ended up lying in Wall Street with her skirt lying around her waist. To me, it was just a great counterculturalist notion, but it's sacrilege to most people, treason even."
That's some pretty heavy stuff for a mainstream comedy, but much of Ramis's work offers social commentary under layers of belly laughs. Take Year One, Ramis's upcoming big-budget comedy starring Jack Black and Michael Cera. It's a movie he's been working on for years, a comedy about the dawn of civilization.
"The film has several levels built into it," said Ramis. "One is a psychological journey from innocence through self-indulgence to responsibility – which is what all my films are about, because I'm still working on that myself.
``Then the other layer is that it tracks Genesis in the way it describes the origins of civilization from man living in the state of nature (Adam and Eve) to the beginnings of settled agriculture with Cain and Abel. Kane kills Abel and the descendents of Kane go off and found civilization. That's quite a statement that the Bible makes, hinting at the inherent corruption of civilization since it begins with a murderer who's willing to kill to advance his own agenda."
Ramis directed Year One and co-wrote it with the young writing team of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who he initially discovered while they were intern and waiter, respectfully. The pair struck off on their own as successful writers/producers on NBC's The Office, but reunited with Ramis at his request.
"I started thinking that I didn't want to write alone for the same reason I wanted to work with Judd Apatow (who produced Year One)," said Ramis.
"I wanted a connection to a younger generation and they were perfect for it."
With Year One completed, Ramis has already given the young writers a new assignment: scripting a potential Ghostbusters 3, with the old veterans training recruits.
"I have a sense of what it will be and that's kind of half in the works at this point. No one has ruled anything out and no one has committed to it yet. We'll see if it turns into a movie or not."
New Short Premieres
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon
(June 16, 2009) There's a place known as the “uncanny valley.” It's a creepy abyss where little children and grownups – even cute anthropomorphic critters – stare at you with unflinching steadiness. Their movements look fluid and as high-tech as any computer can generate, but they are eerily unnatural.
Toronto-based Chris Landreth, a shining light among film animators, is one of the best at staying out of this valley and the kind of pseudo-realistic animation that can upset audiences. And yet, he intentionally makes it hard for himself, by creating human figures who are also burdened by surreal deformities.
In his long-awaited new short The Spine , having its North American premiere Wednesday at Toronto's Worldwide Short Film Festival, the lead character Dan literally and figuratively has no spine.
Dan's self-consumed wife Mary is horribly bloated. And their touchy-feely therapist actually is a grotesquely giant hand.
This style is in the same vein as Landreth's last film, the 2004 Academy Award-winning documentary short Ryan , about the troubled master animator Ryan Larkin. In that film, Larkin's body was depicted in shreds, just as many thought his life had become.
Larkin, who has since died, once subtly gave Landreth a jab, one artist to another, by saying that it's easy to animate the grotesque. What's difficult is creating beauty.
“I agree,” Landreth says. “This is one of the things that may be controversial about my film The Spine. On the first viewing, you get more of the sense of the grotesque than of the beauty. What I was trying to do with the film was give you a sense of both. Superficially, there's certainly grotesqueness.
“But for me at least, my motivation and what I hope people get from it – maybe not immediately, but soon after seeing it the first time – is that there is beauty. Dan and Mary's story is a very beautiful story.”
But to get to that point, there are myriad digital animation techniques Landreth had to use to avoid alienating audiences and slipping into the uncanny valley.
The phrase comes from a hypothesis by Japanese robotics specialist Masahiro Mori. The theory is that if you graphed peoples' general reaction to a cartoon character or other anthropomorphic figures, the response rises and becomes more favourable the more human the character becomes.
But then there's a sudden, drastic dip in the curve when the character becomes too human. Think of wax museums. Or the nearly lifelike animation in the 2004 feature The Polar Express , which many critics found highly unsettling.
As Landreth explains, “the characters look realistic, but something's not quite right, and people get creeped out by that. That's a phenomenon that's happened with these recent films where there's ultra-realism in the characters.”
But artists can avoid the valley by giving characters more naturally human movements and expressions. For example, elaborate puppets manipulated by hand. Or the National Film Board of Canada's award-winning 2007 short Madame Tutli-Putli , where real actors' eyes were painstakingly superimposed onto the faces of animated puppets; despite the weirdness that happens throughout the film, the human-like puppets elicit a warm response.
So how does Landreth avoid putting off viewers in The Spine ?
Believability is created, he explains, through facial twitches, quick eyeball motion and “[any] kind of overlapping action to make people buy it.”
For instance, there's the fast-twitching eye motion known as saccade. “It's all too often overlooked in films, even in [computer animated] films, where there's a great deal of realism like Final Fantasy or The Polar Express. There's a motion where the eye twitches involuntarily, many, many times a second. It's almost an imperceptible motion. But if the character isn't doing it, people notice it on some level.”
For Landreth, the trick is to get beyond technical flaws so that the characters seem human, although trapped in unusual bodies. In The Spine , the character of Dan not only sits formless without a backbone, but shreds of his forehead flap in the air from the wear and tear of insecurities, worries and just life in general.
“It just seemed obvious to me: What if people literally wore their lives on their bodies? There seems to me a layer of storytelling that's new, that's special, that makes an ordinary life like Dan's life more extraordinary. It's a common story told in a richer way,” Landreth says.
“With the characters in Ryan or The Spine , I'm using realism, but I'm not trying to fool the audience.”
In effect, they are beyond real.
The Worldwide Short Film Festival runs in Toronto until Sunday.
Allan King, 79: Pioneer Filmmaker Directed Warrendale
Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
(June 16, 2009) Allan King, the Canadian documentarian who pioneered "cinema vérité" with films such as Warrendale and A Married Couple, has died at age 79.
His family announced the death through a news release.
"A giant of Canadian cinema has departed the scene," said Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Unquestionably, one of the most influential filmmakers to have ever stepped behind a camera in the country, actually. Allan's impact on the documentary is right up there among some of the major international documentary filmmakers in the world."
Born in Vancouver, King began his career at the CBC in the 1950s and then moved on to the BBC.
In 1967, he shocked the cinematic world with Warrendale, which took an unflinching look inside an Etobicoke treatment centre for emotionally disturbed children. The film was commissioned by the CBC, but the public broadcaster refused to air it because the children in the film could be heard swearing.
It was eventually released theatrically to huge acclaim and has become requisite viewing in film schools.
"Obviously for someone like me in my generation as a documentary filmmaker, he's a giant," filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes, Act of God) said yesterday. "His reputation and his work, those things are huge.
"Warrendale was such a seminal film. And all of his work, and I'm speaking mostly from the documentary perspective, has had an enormous impact on the form in general, and documentary filmmakers around the world and in Canada, and I'm one of them."
In A Married Couple, released two years later, King turned his lens on Antoinette and Billy Edwards, a couple struggling to keep their marriage intact.
He paid them $5,000 to let a camera crew record their conversations in their Toronto home for about 10 weeks.
A Married Couple was at times difficult to watch, as it made viewers witness to the Edwardses' ferocious fights and to their tender moments.
New York Times movie critic Clive Barnes called it "quite simply one of the best films I have ever seen."
While he continued to work on documentaries, King also tried his hand at feature film. His first effort, Who Has Seen the Wind, was released in 1976 and won the Golden Reel Award for the highest-grossing Canadian film of the year.
During the late 1980s and '90s, King worked in TV, directing many episodes of Road to Avonlea. His accolades include a Gemini Award for Best Direction in 1992 and his appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006.
King's other documentaries include 1973's Come On Children, in which several young Toronto residents were put on a farm to see how they'd get along without adults, the 1983 unemployment doc Who's in Charge? and Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (2005), which dealt with Alzheimer's.
Retrospectives of his work have been held in cities around the world, including Toronto, London, Rome, Prague and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
King had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in April. He died in his Toronto home.
He leaves his wife, Colleen Murphy, and four children.
Moses Znaimer To Buy Vision TV
Source: www.thestar.com - John Valorzi, The Canadian Press
(June 15, 2009) ZoomerMedia Ltd. (TSXV:ZUM), a Toronto company owned by former Citytv pioneer Moses Znaimer, says it has struck a deal to acquire religious broadcast channel Vision TV in a move that brings Znaimer back into the television business.
Under the deal, announced Monday, ZoomerMedia will pay $25 million in cash and shares to acquire the Vision TV specialty channel.
In addition, ZoomerMedia is acquiring VisionTV's unit that runs CHNU-TV Fraser Valley and CIIT-TV Winnipeg, two western stations known respectively as Joytv 10 and Joytv 11.
The Toronto broadcaster is also acquiring Vision TV Digital Inc., which holds 47.2 per cent of One: The Body Mind and Spirit Channel Inc. The rest of the company is owned by Canwest Global Communications (TSX: CGS), Radio-Nord and Renewal Partners Co.
The purchase, along with a consolidation of private broadcasting assets owned by Znaimer and other transactions, will see the former Citytv head control nearly two thirds of an expanded ZoomerMedia.
Znaimer started Citytv in the early 1970s and pioneered new approaches to broadcasting that made the station highly successful. It became part of the CHUM Group that was eventually sold to CTVglobemedia and split up, with Rogers Communications (TSX: RCI.B) acquiring the conventional station and its affiliates.
In a related move Monday, ZoomerMedia struck a financing deal that will see insurance giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (TSX: FFH) buy 176 million common shares of Zoomer at 10 cents each. That will give Fairfax about 28 per cent of ZoomerMedia.
That financing is conditional on ZoomerMedia acquiring several media and real estate assets currently owned directly or indirectly by Znaimer, the company's president, CEO and majority shareholder.
The assets include:
– MZMedia Inc., which owns radio stations CFMZ-FM, the New Classical 96.3 FM and 103.1 FM and CFZM, Zoomer Radio AM740 in Toronto;
- MZTV Production and Distribution Inc., a television production and distribution business;
- Zoomer Management Ltd., a company that provides creative, production, communications and financial administration services to companies;
- The business which runs the annual Canadian conference known as ideaCity; and an office building in downtown Toronto.
After those deals are complete, Znaimer will hold 66 per cent of ZoomerMedia and Fairfax 28 per cent.
About $14 million of the $25 million price tag will be paid on cash and the rest, $11 million, will be a promissory note payable over 10 years at an interest rate of seven per cent a year.
"VisionTV has been broadcasting for 20 years and we believe that this network as well as the Joytv stations and One: the Body, Mind & Spirit channel, will add tremendous value to ZoomerMedia," said Znaimer.
"These acquisitions will enrich Zoomer's media assets to include radio and television broadcasting, as well as video production. In addition to being attractive businesses in their own right, we expect their complementary nature to Zoomer's magazine and on-line-web holdings will further facilitate the expansion of the Zoomer concept, and will assist CARP significantly in expanding its membership base.
"It also puts me back into TV, where I have a little experience, and a few ideas that should grow shareholder value."
VisionTV president and CEO Bill Roberts said: "This value transaction is in the best interests of our viewers, our stakeholders and the VisionTV Charity – and at a time of consolidation in the media industry, it represents a bold and affirming commitment to diversity and independent Canadian broadcasting."
"Our respective brands share complementary audience demographics and a common commitment to high-quality, award-winning Canadian content, and we welcome the opportunity to pursue exciting new opportunities together. We are also pleased that this business arrangement will re-energize the VisionTV Charity, providing the ample resources it needs to re-invent itself for the 21st century."
ZoomerMedia publishes Zoomer Magazine, the largest paid circulation magazine in Canada for seniors, with a paid circulation of 180,000. The company also generates royalty revenue through the provision of exclusive marketing and membership services to CARP, the national group for retirees.
It also provides online content targeting people 45 years and older and produces and manages www.carp.ca, the online home of CARP.
In trading Monday, ZoomerMedia shares rose 4.5 cents to 13 cents, a surge of nearly 53 per cent. Shares of Fairfax gained $6.59 or 2.4 per cent, to $284.25.
Signs Jonas Brothers Fever May Be Cooling
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(June 12, 2009) Howard Stern once proclaimed himself "King of all Media," which he indeed was, for a while anyway – say, mid-1996 through early 1998.
Stern's reign has come and gone, and the "All Media" mantle has now been passed to three handsome young princes who, in their moment, are perhaps even more entitled.
The Jonas Brothers – Kevin, Joe and Nick – suddenly seem to be everywhere all at once. Their 3-D concert movie, released last March, hits DVD shelves at the end of the month. Their sixth album, Lines, Vines and Trying Times, drops next Tuesday. And Sunday the 21st they take a break from their current international tour for a quick-stop whip through Toronto to co-host the annual MuchMusic Video Awards extravaganza.
And tonight marks the somewhat-belated Canadian debut of their new Disney sitcom, Jonas, with two back-to-back episodes starting at 6 p.m. on Family.
But let us first qualify this youthful ubiquity – it isn't all tweens and gravy.
The Jonas movie essentially crapped out in all three dimensions, pulling in something just shy of $20 million (U.S.) at the box office. The new series, Jonas, which debuted in the States last month, did so poorly in its initial Saturday night slot it has already been moved under the protective Sunday night umbrella of the lead-in Miley Cyrus hit, Hannah Montana.
There was reason for optimism back in January, when the show was first previewed for critics, the movie's disappointing release still a month away and the boys still coasting on the rush of a Grammy nomination and its attendant (if ill-advised) onstage jam with Stevie Wonder.
"What we've tried to do with Jonas," explained Disney Channel president Gary Marsh at the time, "is create a fusion of a sitcom and a music video, and use original Jonas Brothers songs as the foundation to glue it together.
"Think of it, if you will, as The Monkees meets Flight of the Conchords."
How about A Hard Day's School Night?
"We try to not overly flatter ourselves," allowed series co-creator Roger S.H. Schulman, "but it's hard not to make parallel comparisons to The Beatles in 1962, 1963, when you see the kind of response that the Jonas Brothers' fans have to them. It's a force of nature.
"So the whole (thing)," he joked, "is just a series of scenes in which they are running away from fans."
"It's very long," offers oldest Jonas Kevin.
Of the three – not counting the littlest JoBro, 8-year-old Frankie, who appears in the show as a kind of "bonus Jonas" – Kevin would seem to have the most to say. Such as it is.
Their real life, he insists, is not quite the unrelenting fan frenzy the sitcom and their publicists would have you believe.
"We're just like normal guys," he insists. "We like to hang out. We go shopping. We go see movies. We hang out with friends.
"We have an amazing team around us ... amazing friends ... an amazing family and friends ..."
I'm nodding in and out here, but I get the gist: Friends, family, amazing.
The adult conversation is somewhat more substantial. If for all the wrong reasons.
For example, the original concept of the show, which was apparently to have the boys doubling as spies.
"The spy concept was, I think, very big and very ambitious," allows series co-creator Michael Curtis. "(But) it was something that I think started to not feel quite right as the band got bigger and bigger.
"Doing a show that sort of captured more of their real lives and trying to turn that into a more grounded, real version of what they might be doing sounded more interesting and more fun to do."
But here's the real poser: Why in the world, on a show called Jonas, about a band named Jonas, starring three (four) brothers named Jonas, do the characters go by the last name of "Lucas"?
"The band is called Jonas," Curtis shrugs, "because the converted firehouse they live in is on Jonas St. So that's what they named the band after.
"We wanted there to be some sort of break between actual reality and the show that we're doing, so they came up with a different last name. I don't think we've used it once in 14 episodes. So it's worked out pretty good so far."
Jeff Probst : Host Not
Ready To Snuff Torch
Source: www.thestar.com - Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Los Angeles Times
(June 16, 2009) Nine years, 18 seasons and 15 iterations of wilderness later, Survivor host Jeff Probst is a man of simple needs: a shower to call his own and a movie theatre within driving distance.
"Gabon, Africa ... you don't want to go there," says the 46-year-old of the 17th season.
As for Tocantins, Brazil, where this past season was filmed, "I couldn't find it on a map now, and I was there for six weeks.
"It's in the middle of nowhere, with portable toilets and portable showers. In those two places we were living in tents at first. It was kind of romantic for a while," he says, not entirely convincingly, of the crew's accommodations, "but then we were about to lose our minds.
"Email was sketchy. We had phones, but you couldn't get reception. We called (creator and executive producer Mark Burnett) and said, `Dude, next time, hotel or mutiny.'"
The crew of 325 can put down their weapons. As they prepare to ship off to Samoa for the summer, where they will spend 3 1/2 months filming two seasons back to back thanks to budget cuts, things are looking downright luxurious.
"I just ran into our production designer, who said, `There's a movie theatre 45 minutes away,'" says Probst, showing off his extravagant dimples. "We've never had that. We've never had a hotel. I keep waiting for someone to say, `Dude, it's April 1. We're kidding.'"
The Emmy-winning host could be forgiven for getting tired of the game, even if the show has yet to lose its prime Thursday time slot since its premiere.
Last season had the kind of casting that producers dream about, with a villain in the self-knighted Coach and a hero in the rancher and ultimate winner J.T., but how many torches can one person snuff out and still remain engaged?
"I stay interested because there's always a hero and there's always an underdog," Probst says.
"I pull for the underdog until they become the hero, and then I want them to fall.
"This season I pulled for Sierra the whole time because she was the underdog the whole time. Is she whiny and bitchy? Yeah. But she's a good story."
And dreams of cellphone access aside, keeping the tale moving along for the 39 days of filming is, he asserts, his priority.
Probst dated a former Survivor contestant, Julie Berry, for several years, but while the show is in production "there's no fraternizing with the contestants," he says.
"The first couple seasons I would hang out with them, but all that would happen is they wanted to talk to me because they're bored, and we can't use that on the show. Every episode is about one thing, and that's about who is being voted out and going home." (That said, even those voted off don't get to go home until the end of the show.)
Probst will have fulfilled his contract by the end of the summer. Should he choose not to re-up, something he says he has yet to decide, Burnett believes that won't be the end of the adventure.
"Jeff's the face of the show," he admits, "but it's not a silly game. It has strong sociological values, which is why it's unbeaten in its time slot. America's Most Wanted has gone on for 20 years, so I think we could only be halfway through."
As for the face of the show, a decade of watching strategies play out hasn't been wasted when it comes to plotting his future. He's shot a pilot for CBS called Live for the Moment, in which a terminally ill person is taken on a series of adventures, and he'll be filming new episodes when he returns home to L.A. this fall.
"I'm more proud of this than anything I've ever done," he says.
Viola Davis Comes To Showtime
(June 12, 2009) *Viola Davis has parlayed her Oscar nomination into a recurring role on the second season of Showtime's original series "The United States of Tara," joining the show's lead actress and fellow Oscar nominee, Toni Collette. Davis will appear in seven of the 12 episodes of the show's upcoming season, playing Lynda B. Dozier, an unconventional artist who plays a significant role in the lives of Tara (Collette) and her daughter Kate (Brie Larson). The series was created by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning writer of the film "Juno," and follows the life of Tara (Collette), a housewife with dissociative identity disorder.
Guys And Dolls Going Dark
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(June 10, 2009) Sometimes luck just isn't a lady. Director Des McAnuff confirmed yesterday that his Broadway production of Guys and Dolls will close this Sunday night after 28 previews and 121 performances. The big-budget revival of Frank Loesser's classic 1950 musical opened to generally downbeat reviews on March 1 and has been struggling to find an audience ever since, despite the presence of stars like Lauren Graham and Oliver Platt in the cast. "We've been hanging tough, but we just never managed to turn the corner," said McAnuff during intermission of a dress rehearsal of his production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which is opening at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival on June 20. "We're all proud of this show and I believe in a different economy, there would have been room for us as well as Hair and West Side Story," McAnuff said, citing two other musical revivals that have proven to be hits. "But I believe in this show completely and I think it could have a substantial life on the road. We'll just have to see." Ironically, bad news in one quarter was matched by good news in another, as Stratford had an overwhelmingly successful day at the box office on Monday, following a string of generally strong reviews for its opening week productions. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," said a philosophical McAnuff. "We just move on to the next thing and hope for the best."
Kerry Washington Races To
(June 17, 2009) *Kerry Washington has joined Emmy Award winners Richard Thomas and James Spader in the cast of David Mamet's Broadway play "Race." The play is scheduled to begin previews on November 17 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and will open on December 6. Mamet, who wrote and will direct the production, has been secretive about what his play is about. Since its announcement last spring, no official information about the storyline has been revealed. Washington has starred in the films "The Last King of Scotland" and "Ray." Her screen credits also include "Life Is Hot in Cracktown," "Lakeview Terrace," "Woman in Burka," "Put It in a Book" "I Think I Love My Wife," "The Dead Girl," "Little Man," "Boston Legal," "Wait," "Sexual Life," "Against the Ropes," "The Human Stain" and "Bad Company," among others. Race will mark her Broadway debut.
Sweet It Is: Apple's New iPhone A Tasty Update
Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star
(June 17, 2009) Not content with the extraordinary success of the iPhone and iPhone 3G -- now topping 20 million units worldwide -- Apple, Inc., on Friday, will launch an even smarter smartphone: the iPhone 3G S (the "S" stands for speed).
But roughly twice the performance is only the beginning of its new feature set, promises the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company. If you caught the highlights from last week's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) then you're aware of the other juicy details, including more storage, video recording, voice control, digital compass, and more.
And so it was with great anticipation we received an early evaluation unit of the new iPhone 3G S last Wednesday — available Friday for $199 (16GB model) or $299 (32GB model) with three-year Rogers Wireless voice and data plan -- and we painstakingly put it through the gears to evaluate each of its new features.
The million dollar question remains: Is it worth the hype? The short answer is yes, as the new iPhone, available in black or white, delivers a handful of improvements over its predecessors and a few welcome surprises, too. It's not a perfect pocket pal, but pretty darn close to it.
But those who already own an iPhone 3G shouldn't feel too left out of the fun as some of the goodies built into the new smartphone are now downloadable via a free software upgrade, iPhone OS 3.0. Rogers, by the way, has now dropped the price of its existing 8GB iPhone 3G to $99 (with three-year term).
Details, details, details
When placed side-by-side, the iPhone 3G S looks identical to the iPhone 3G (both measuring 115.5 mm x 62.1 mm x 12.3 mm), but the new model is a smidgeon heavier at 135 grams. Both enjoy the same gorgeous 3.5-inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display (480 x 320 pixel resolution), but the 3G S includes a fingerprint-resistant coating on the screen to help reduce smudging.
First we tested the alleged "up to 2X faster" speed -- as promoted on the Apple website. We did this by launching the same applications ("apps") on both smartphones at the same time, tapping the same website from the list of bookmarks and accessing the inbox on the same email account. Without question, the new iPhone 3G S is faster, much faster, than the iPhone 3G. Apple won't comment on what was upgraded under the hood (such as a faster processor) but you will see the difference.
As with the older models, the new iPhone also has integrated GSM/EDGE/HSPA cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and accelerometer sensors that automatically rotate the view of the screen to fit the way it's held -- or offer more intuitive controls in downloadable games, which make up a good chunk of the more than 50,000 apps available at the iTunes App Store.
The camera has been upgraded from 2.0 megapixel to 3.0 megapixel -- which still trails behind other smartphones, such as the 5.0-megapixel Nokia N95 and Samsung Omnia -- but Apple has incorporated autofocus (or tap on the screen before taking the photo to manually sharpen an area or subject), improved low-light sensitivity, and -- here's the one we've been waiting for -- video recording. The video quality, by the way, is very impressive for a smartphone, thanks to smooth 30 frames-per-second VGA (640 x 480 pixels) recording. When you're done with the video you can trim the beginning and ending of a clip using your fingertip, then send it as a MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to another phone, email it or post it right to YouTube. The camera, however, still lacks an LED flash and digital zoom, though.
Also new is voice commands. While making voice-activated calls is old news (say someone's name in your Contacts list to dial the number), we were more interested in the ability to control your iPod using your voice. People, this is cool. Press and hold the circular home button at the bottom of the iPhone 3G S and you'll be prompted to say one of a couple dozen phrases, such as "Play songs by Black Eyed Peas," and after the somewhat synthetic female voice repeats your command, your music will emit out of the smartphone's speaker (or earbuds). Now you can ask "What song is this?" or say "Next track," "Shuffle" or "Play more like this" which kick-starts the Genius feature (if activated).
Similar to the Google-powered Android phones (HTC Dream and HTC Magic), the iPhone 3G S now includes a digital compass, to give you longitude, latitude and of course, direction (the red triangle points north). Now when you launch Google Maps (included) the screen will automatically rotate to match the direction you're facing. Very handy indeed.
Other notable improvements include longer battery life (now up to 30 hours for music playback), Nike + iPod support (use the sensor, sold separately, to track your time, distance and calories burned) and laptop tethering (connect it to your PC via USB or Bluetooth to surf the Net when no Wi-Fi is available).
If you've been holding out on buying an iPhone, scrape up the extra cash for the iPhone 3G S; aside from up to twice the memory and nearly twice the performance, the new additions are well worth the investment for those in the market for a smartphone. That said, if you prefer to type on a button-based keyboard or if you don't like the iTunes interface to acquire and manage your media then the iPhone 3G S still won't be for you -- though a handful of improvements (including those offered by software upgrade) make it harder to resist the delicious allure of the iPhone.
Swords & Soldiers: Generic Military Name Belies Cartoon
Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star
Swords & Soldiers
1,000 Nintendo Points ($10)
(out of four)
(June 13, 2009) Man, Swords & Soldiers is about the safest, most generic name you could hang on a military battle game. It's especially staid in the case of Ronimo Games' new WiiWare strategy title, considering that few of its outrageous combatants resemble anything like your garden-variety soldier, and of all the battlefield dangers they face (and deploy) swords are perhaps the least worrisome.
"Cartoon Combat Chaos" might be better, though the temptation to replace the Cs with "zany" Ks would be troublesome.
Appropriately titled or not, Swords & Soldiers is a pretty cool piece of work, displaying lots of very interesting design choices. The first and biggest of these is that it's a two-dimensional side-scrolling game. That's not so unique in itself; 2D side-scrolling was the default style for most of video games' history. What sets Swords & Soldiers apart is that it's a real-time strategy game (RTS), a genre that's almost exclusively played from a bird's-eye (or satellite's-lens) perspective. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of previous games that have attempted strategy in a profile view, a few light tower-defence games and Vanillaware's GrimGrimoire.
Placing strategic action on a 2D plane turns the battles elemental, a Newtonian clash of forces between two opposing poles: a base at each extreme and contested ground between. Placing virtual warfare on this single axis greatly increases the game's accessibility; players need not worry about all the flanking and facing and zones of control inherent in RTS as we know it, as S&S boils it down to two directions: moving in one means winning, while moving in the other means losing.
Further lightening the player's (or players') decision-making load is a reduction in the micromanagement endemic to RTS. Once deployed, your units – workers, soldiers etc. – go about their business autonomously, combat units advancing in the "win" direction. Swords & Soldiers is more of a "God" game than a proper RTS; once the battle's joined, the player's main task is to hurl offensive and defensive spells down from on high, aiding their troops and confounding their enemies. This is less strategy than tactics, and less tactics than artillery control, but it's perfectly balanced for the gleeful sense of barely controlled chaos the game aims to create.
There's lots of joy to be found in Swords & Soldiers, from the wonderful design and art direction of the playfields and the units of the game's three factions (Viking, Aztec and Chinese), to the spot-on implementation of Wiimote controls, to the basic adrenaline-rushing excitement of feeling, right in your gut, what each flash and scream and explosion means to the sometimes razor-thin margin between victory and defeat.
Ghostbusters: Something Strange Is Back In The 'Hood
Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(June 13, 2009) They had me at the snot.
I remember the exact moment when my 10-year-old mind became hooked on Ghostbusters: In the New York Public Library, Bill Murray's character is told to scrape ectoplasm off a wooden card catalogue, and the immortal Peter Venkman says, "Somebody blows their nose and you want to take a sample."
I think I laughed until root beer came out of my nose, and the movie proceeded to blow my mind.
Of course, I wasn't alone. It's been 25 years since Ghostbusters topped the box office for seven straight weeks and cut a swath across pop culture. The Ray Parker Jr. theme song was everywhere. I had the cassette-single, and the cameo-laden video was in non-stop rotation on Video Hits. The movie spawned tie-ins galore, including a cartoon series called The Real Ghostbusters. At the time, I remember being shocked – offended, even – that Slimer, the first green blob to be busted in the movie, had somehow become their ally on TV. But I let it go: the 'toon gave me my Saturday morning Ghostbusters fix, so logic be damned.
Now, fans' PKE meters are glowing green again. Next week, a new Blu-ray version of the original film is being released, as is a much-hyped video game that in many ways is the spiritual heir to the films (despite the fact that there have already been plenty of mediocre Ghostbusters-inspired games). And since we're in the age of the revamp – where no pop-culture entity can stay embalmed for too long – there's been a lot of seemingly legitimate chatter from the film's principals about creating a return to the big screen (see story on E8).
Indeed, the new video game now seems designed to generate buzz for Ghostbusters 3. It's somehow fitting – in an '80s sort of way – that Ghostbusters: The Videogame is being published by Atari (although it was developed by Dallas-based Terminal Reality). The creators have done well to offer a credible movie-inspired product (because most film tie-in games have earned themselves a special place in hell), with original stars Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd credited as writers, and with voice work by all four original 'Busters.
"We were consulted at every step of development, first signing off on the game environments and then the general plot of the game," says Ramis. "Then we did most of our dialogue changes on our feet the way we did in the film: with improv and line adjustments."
As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, there will also be new Ghostbusters action figures released that will bear the actors' likenesses for the first time after decades of toys based on the bizarre characterizations from the animated series. "We've survived long enough to see ourselves turned into plastic toys," jokes Ramis.
The game looks fantastic and plays pretty well. You star as a rookie joining the firm, and the first mission features the Sedgewick Hotel, where again, Slimer isn't on your side. (Happily, Venkman gets funkified again). Because of the repetitive game play, there are huge challenges in making a consistently funny game, but the stellar, quip-filled script goes a long way. As well, it's cool hearing Spengler remind you not to cross proton streams, which pretty much guarantees that it's the first thing you do.
Watching the original movie for the umpteenth time, I was reminded that it really is one of those timeless, cross-cultural films. Not to mention all the classic lines: "Back off man, I'm a scientist"; "When someone asks you if you're a god, you say `yes!'"; and the adrenaline-pumping "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown." There was also Venkman's classic putdown of nemesis Walter Peck in the mayor's office: "Yes, it's true. This man has no dick."
And let's not forget the CanCon. The movie was inspired by Aykroyd's life-long interest in the paranormal, something that seems to be a family affair. As he recently told the New York Times: "My great-grandfather, Sam Aykroyd, was a dentist, and he basically was the local critic, the local reviewer for any psychic show or act that came through his hometown of Kingston, Ont., in the 1920s ... my mother claims that when she was nursing me, a man and a woman appeared at the foot of the bed, so she called to my dad, and they opened up the family album, and it was Sam and my great-grandmother Ellen Jane coming to welcome the baby."
As with so many good things, plenty could have gone wrong. It was originally titled Ghostsmashers and Aykroyd had originally written the Venkman role for his friend John Belushi. When Belushi passed away, Murray grabbed a proton pack. Also, the original plan was for the crew to travel through space and time battling ghosts, but director Ivan Reitman decided it would be better set in New York City.
The film inspired a sequel in 1989, which Aykroyd has summed up best: "It was a good companion, not a fair, not a very good, but a good companion to the first movie."
Let's hope a third goes from goodness to greatness again. All together now: I ain't 'fraid of no ghost.
With files from Philip Brown
Hard Times Shut Down Hard Rock At The Dome
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Edwards, Staff Reporter
(June 17, 2009) It has weathered home run blasts off its windows from baseball sluggers Barry Bonds and Carlos Delgado, but the Hard Rock Cafe in the Rogers Centre apparently can't handle the economic downturn.
A brief written statement from Hard Rock International yesterday stated that the restaurant chain won't be renewing its lease when it expires on Dec. 31.
The strong-windowed restaurant has been a fixture at the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) since it opened 20 years ago, but a late afternoon visit yesterday found far more staff than customers.
A lone patron talked sports with a bartender, and a Spanish-speaking couple posed for pictures amid the rock memorabilia, which includes a top hat worn by Stevie Nicks and a Fender Strat guitar used by Jimi Hendrix to record "Little Wing."
The staff were prompt and polite, if a trifle lonely. It was a far cry from the excitement of the 1994 season opener, when former Jay Delgado smashed a home run off the Hard Rock's window.
The restaurant, originally owned by the Bitove family, drew praise from sports and travel writers, including John Devine of the Monterey County Herald, who wrote in 2003 that the park's three defining features were its retractable roof, its hotel and the restaurant.
Staff referred an interview request for this article to the head office of the Hard Rock chain, which includes 124 restaurants, seven hotels and four casinos worldwide.
After five days, the company sent a terse statement that didn't explain why the restaurant was closing.
"Since opening its doors in 1989 ... Hard Rock has enjoyed a rich history and appreciated the opportunity to serve fans visiting the Rogers Center," it stated.
The announcement comes as 20th-anniversary pins for the restaurant, depicting a woman playing an electric guitar, go on sale on eBay, with an opening bid of $11.31.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida paid $965 million (U.S.) to acquire Hard Rock International in March 2007. Current financial data on the company was not available.
On The Road With Dan Aykroyd
(June 13, 2009) To say that Dan Aykroyd has been bitten by the lure of the grape would be an understatement. He recently spoke to Josephine Matyas about his vacation choices, which are synonymous with discovering the wines of a region – and nowhere better than close to one of his homes, here in Ontario or in laid-back California. Aykroyd's become a bit of a wine aficionado (three years ago he morphed from admirer to producer by pairing with Toronto-based Diamond Estates Wines to market his own line of wines).
How did your interest in wines begin?
My wine story started rather dubiously with a Purple Jesus party at Carleton University in Ottawa. That was my first experience with wine, although I quickly learned that it was a nice gesture to bring a bottle of wine to a lovely young lady when I arrived for a date.
So, your taste in wine has developed somewhat since that rocky beginning?
I moved to Hollywood to finish the Blues Brothers movie at Universal Studios and the guitar player had a collection of California wines. The California wines are so beautiful ... they ruined my palate forever. And the drive through Sonoma is wonderful.
Where would your ideal route start?
My dream trip is to travel in mid-October, when the colours are changing in eastern Ontario. I'd take a dozen friends, two Harley-Davidsons and a few vintage cars – we'd have quite a convoy. Driving through Prince Edward County, I always stop for lunch on the patio at Lake on the Mountain Resort. They have a wonderful kitchen and serve a great tourtière with homemade chili relish. Picton is filled with great restaurants.
Where are some of the most memorable stops along the route?
We'd push on from the Picton area but first stop in Toronto for an Italian dinner at one of the fine restaurants on Avenue Rd. By this time, we'd be ready to overnight at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan Village. The inn and restaurant are spectacular, right on the Jordan River and it's the perfect spot to start a wine tour of the Niagara region.
Any favourite stops in the Niagara region?
After breakfast at the inn, we'd start by visiting the Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery and Hillebrand Estates Winery – followed by lunch at the Queen's Landing Inn.
Any new locations that inspire you?
We'd cross the bridge to New York state, admire the beautiful old buildings in Niagara Falls – there are some fantastic examples of American architecture that peaked around 1930 – then head for Lewiston. It's an undiscovered gem of a place. Upstate New York has undiscovered spots that will become new areas for vineyard operators. We'd taste some of the wines around Porter Center and Ransomville before turning around and heading back to Toronto, where we'd stop for a final nightcap.
Book Review : Kevin and His Dad
Source: by Kam Williams
Illustrated by Michael Hays
Little Brown Young Readers
“What could be better for a young boy than to spend a whole day with his father! With mom away on a Saturday, that’s exactly what Kevin gets to do. First, he and his dad clean the house together, and then it’s time for some baseball and even a movie. Told in Kevin’s words, this lovely picture book evokes the excitement, pride, pleasure and love a boy can experience with a father who includes him in both the work and play of a weekend day.”
-- Excerpted from synopsis --
With Father’s Day looming on the horizon, I’m sure plenty of folks are
starting to think about buying a meaningful gift for the man in their life. Well, any dad with a young son would undoubtedly appreciate this timeless classic, first published a decade ago, by Irene Smalls, the award-winning author of 15 children’s books and 3 interactive storytelling CDs designed with African-American youngsters in mind.
Over the years, Kevin and His Dad has proven to be increasingly invaluable given the unfortunate statistics on the state of the black family. For this reason, I heartily recommend this socially-relevant book which nourishes the notion of black boys bonding with their fathers. Neither sensational nor fanciful in tone, it rather relates a simple day-in-the-life of a father and son content just to be in each other’s company.
Delightfully-illustrated by Michael Hays, the matter-of-fact narrative unfolds in a way which suggests that Kevin takes all the pleasure in the world in such seemingly-mundane experiences as doing household chores, playing catch, or going to see a movie, at least when he’s next to his dad. Credit must go to the insightful author for subtly driving home such a salient point, for besides simply having a natural way with words, she’s a cultural historian with degrees from Cornell and NYU on her impressive resume’.
Ever so subtly, she weaves a richness right into the fabric of her carefully-crafted tale which reflects a deep understanding of how to touch on the African-American condition in an understated fashion while simultaneously exploring a very universal theme to which people of any ethnicity can readily relate. Ms. Smalls has dedicated Kevin and His Dad to the source of her inspiration, namely, her dear nephew Kevin who was adopted by his altruistic Aunt Irene at the age of 7.
I couldn’t think of a better Father’s Day gift than this truly touching tome.
To order a copy of Kevin and His Dad, visit: http://www.irenesmalls.com/
To hire Ms. Smalls to stage a storytelling presentation at your school, church or library, email: ISmalls107@aol.com or call (617) 266-0262.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Continues Her Chronicles Of Nigeria's
Agony In The Thing Around Your Neck
Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Bailey Nurse
The Thing Around Your Neck
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Knopf Canada, 218 pages, $29.95
(June 14, 2009) All together, the mesmerizing stories in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's latest book anatomize the lives of prosperous, cosmopolitan Nigerians whose education, mobility and Western values offer no protection from their country's harsh realities.
This superior collection accentuates the intellect, insight and blistering honesty that have made Adichie a prominent writer of her generation. Many of the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck contemplate the legacy of Nigerian independence: crime, political corruption, poverty and violence. Others interrogate the gender inequities that restrict the spirit of Nigerian women.
The result is a book impossible to put down. I tore through it like wildfire.
Adichie's previous novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, set during the Biafran War, won the Orange Broadbrand Prize. She seems able to glide easily between the novel and short story form. It is her prose, as much as her subject matter that compels so. Her style might be described as enigmatically ordinary; a prose so effortless that the work it does is practically invisible to the eye.
Adichie's narrators are casual and confidential; they speak as if they are addressing us over a cup of tea. Yet a return for closer reading reveals the dynamism of her individual sentences, which constitute a series of miniature dramas.
Adichie's collection shares themes with the latest work from Mumbai's Aravind Adiga, who won the Booker Prize for his novel The White Tiger. Adiga's new Between the Assassinations is also a story collection. Both authors use their tales to contemplate the way educated, enfranchised citizens have unwittingly contributed to their respective countries' moral decline.
In Adichie's "Cell One," a young man, the son of a professor, winds up in a Nigerian prison. He has been spoiled by his mother, who favours his light skin. As teenagers, he and his friends steal videos and electronic goods. Their academic parents overlook the criminal behaviour. Once in jail, the boy's attitude begins to change, especially when guards and prisoners humiliate an old man. In this dark coming of age tale, old men are pure; young men are corrupt and depraved. Adichie describes an unnaturalness of Shakespearean proportions.
In "A Private Experience," Chika, an Igbo medical student, gets caught in a riot between Muslims and Christians. A Hausa woman, a Muslim, leads her to safety in a boarded shop. Chika is frantic to find her sister. She feels devastated by a crisis that has nothing to do with her. "She knows the Muslim woman is on her knees facing Mecca."
Chika fingers her rosary and wishes that she too "could believe in a god, see an omniscient presence in the stale air of the store. She cannot remember when her idea of God has not been cloudy, like the reflection from a steamy bathroom mirror ..."
In every story, Adichie applies details that make her characters familiar: We realize we might be them. In "The American Embassy," a mother stands in line to request refugee status. Authorities had come to her house to arrest her husband, and shot her son instead. But once she reaches the emigration official, she balks at describing the child's murder. "She could not hawk Ugonna for a visa to safety.
"She saw the swift way the woman pushed her reddish-gold hair back even though it did not disturb her, it stayed quiet on her neck, framing a pale face. Her future rested on that face. The face of a person who did not understand her, who probably did not cook with palm oil, or know that palm oil when fresh was a bright, bright red and when not fresh, congealed to a lumpy orange."
Adichie writes lovingly of the Nigerian flora and landscape. It is her beloved country, and even characters that move to America remain enamoured of its beauty. In "Imitation," Nkem lives in Philadelphia as her businessman husband shuttles back and forth from Nigeria. She enjoys the ease of her American life, and doesn't mind the slightly condescending kindness of her white neighbours.
Still, settling in the United States was her husband's decision. It was not her idea to raise their children in schools where they learned nothing of Nigerian culture. When she discovers that her husband keeps a mistress in their Nigerian home, Nkem finally asserts herself.
Adichie reminds me a little of Edwidge Danticat in the way historical events and figures circulate in the backdrop of her fiction. Some of her stories unfold during the tyrannical rule of General Sani Abacha, who ran Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998.
"Ghosts" is a superb meditation on loss, the Biafran War and the late poet Christopher Okigbo. The final story, "The Headstrong Historian," reads like a tribute to Grace Alele Williams, the first Nigerian woman to run a university there. The story employs a single family history to illustrate how a colonial education severed Africans from their faith, history and culture.
With these new stories, Adichie proves that mastering the master's language can help reverse that process.
Toronto's Donna Bailey Nurse is the editor of Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing (McClelland & Stewart).
Colourful Chaos Lights Up The Streets
Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(June 15, 2009) Queens Quay was a scene of beautiful anarchy on Friday evening. A colourful, exuberant troupe of characters wound down the road, exploring their surroundings, clambering into passing cars and chasing cyclists on commandeered police bicycles.
And that was just a warm-up.
This parade into Toronto's Music Garden kicked off a free weekend of Cirque du Soleil performances that closed the third annual Luminato Festival, setting the standard for silliness, childlike wonder and eye-popping acrobatics that were to come.
From the first moments, Cirque's performers were determined to leave behind the big-top shows the company is known for and to get close to their audience.
To that end, the event was centred at two hubs, the homes of rival tribes that would eventually find harmony with each other through a loose storyline.
Nearly a kilometre down Queens Quay from the Music Garden was a fantastical water world crafted inside the Harbourfront Centre's Natrel Pond, complete with barely submerged stages.
It was ringed all weekend by a continuous stream of bodies as thousands of spectators braved two days of hot sun and were treated to a rolling array of vignettes.
Backed by Cirque's characteristically ethereal music, a group of jittery, splashy water nymphs romped through the pond in waders, bright orange tunics and swim goggles; a trio of men paddled themselves to a stage to act out an acrobatic fight scene that saw one performer execute a one-handed handstand on another's head; and a pair of hand-balancing experts twisted and turned their bodies in a series of handstands that seemed to ignore the restrictions of physics.
These staple acts were replayed throughout the weekend, but constantly improvised and adapted by the artists, who also cartwheeled around the crowded boardwalks and streets, charming children and adults alike. At the Music Garden, the other tribe set up shop in two geodesic domes decorated as the rooms of a Dr. Seuss-like house.
Acrobats and contortionists dangled from the matrix of bars above, dazzled onlookers with feats of balance and flexibility, and coaxed the crowds into joining their playful antics.
Two stilt walkers manipulate large wooden birds, craning their long necks to inspect a photographer as they wander through the crowds.
While the Harbourfront Centre's visitors had to be roped off at the pond's edge, the Music Garden's spectators were constantly pulled into the acts.
A trampoline bed had children bouncing on it as often as it had Cirque's tribesmen flipping and twisting, and though this site attracted smaller audiences, the intimacy of these performances earned an even more joyous reaction than did the Harbourfront shows.
Like many others, spectator Derek Resner stumbled upon the Music Garden by chance, and he soon attracted the tribe leader's attention.
The painted performer approached, wide-eyed, then suddenly licked the top of Mr. Resner's shaved head, drawing a chorus of cheers. A bewildered Mr. Resner later said he'd enjoyed the show “immensely.”
Though huge, the crowds were manageable.
But they were dwarfed by an endless stream of thousands who sampled the 1,000 Tastes of Toronto, a line-up of food tables that stretched for hundreds of metres between the two hubs, offering $5 treats by top chefs.
True to the theme of the two tribes learning to work together, some of the best moments came yesterday when the camps began to join forces.
At the pond, five acrobats from the two worlds came together, hurling themselves around two parallel 20-foot-high poles with a nimbleness and daring Spider-Man would be proud of, and earning a huge ovation.
A grand finale mounted at HtO Park was delayed about an hour Sunday night by a thunder shower, but the crowd of thousands stood steadfast. And as the clock struck 10, the skies finally cleared and the patient throng was treated to a final high-flying, hour-long spectacle.
The show concluded the weekend's theme of finding harmony, uniting all 60 performers from both tribes on a special 360-degree stage built at the midpoint between the two hubs and bathed in light under the night sky.
The stage floor was a trampoline and Cirque's brave souls artfully soared above their adoring audience, just as they had all weekend.
Mandel, Munsch Get Walk Of Fame Honours
Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(June 16, 2009) An actress, an author, an athlete, a comic/gameshow host, a pair of twin designers, a singer/songwriter, a bluesy/rock band and a late, great actor.
Canada’s Walk of Fame has released an eclectic mix of talent to mark its 12th year of honouring “the essence of the Canadian identity.”
“We are a creative nation, we are a bold nation. . .we are successful and we’re also humble about it. And that is the true essence of our Canadian identity. . .and it’s really what Canada’s Walk of Fame brand has evolved into,” said Walk of Fame CEO and President Peter Soumalias.
The inductees, who will be honoured in a ceremony in Toronto on Sept. 12 include:
Kim Cattrall, an author and actress best-known for her award-winning role as Samantha Jones in the hit HBO series, Sex In The City.
Author Robert Munsch, who has published more than 50 books, some of which have been translated and published in 20 languages around the world.
Athlete Chantal Petitclerc, one of the world’s most decorated paralympic athletes, with 21 medals, 14 of them gold.
Toronto native Howie Mandel, who started out in stand-up comedy and has since branched into television as host of Deal or No Deal and a new, hidden-camera show called Howie Do It.
Internationally-renowned fashion designing twin brothers, Dean and Dan Caten, whose clients include Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Rihanna.
Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Tom Cochrane who has championed a range of worthy non-profit organizations such as World Vision and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
Blue Rodeo, which got its start in Toronto and has sold more than 4 million records around the world.
In the Canadian Legends Award category, the late actor Raymond Burr – who died in 1993 – is being honoured for a career that spanned decades, including acclaimed television roles as lawyer Perry Mason and Ironside.
Ottawa Gives Caribana $415,000
Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelaman, Entertainment Columnist
(June 12, 2009) Scotiabank Caribana will receive $415,000 from the federal government's Marquee Tourism Events Program. The announcement was made today by Peter Kent, minister of state of foreign affairs (Americas) on behalf of tourism minister Diane Ablonczy. The Marquee money will be used to enhance Caribana's marketing and programming. This is the latest in a series of Marquee investments (ranging up to $3 million) in annual festivals. Other recipients previously announced include the Toronto International Film Festival, the Stratford Festival, the Shaw Festival and Luminato.
NBA All-Star Takes A Funny Bounce
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
(June 13, 2009) I don't want to be limited to basketball,” says the near-seven-foot man. “I've never been like that – there's a lot more to me than that.”
Chris Bosh, the skyscraping star of the Toronto Raptors, is 25 years old and still growing, at least in terms of his career. The all-star forward recently signed a contract with Warner Music Canada to deliver a comedy DVD. There's no title yet, and, really, not much of a concept in mind as to the material. “It'll have to make sense, and it's going to be funny,” says Bosh, from the office of his Max Deal Technologies company in Toronto. Make sense? Be funny? These are reasonable goals, ones followed by almost every comedic giant, even the ones who aren't, in a physical sense, as towering as he.
As for his own standing in the laugh biz, Bosh doesn't consider himself a big name, despite the major-label deal. “Oh, no, not yet,” says Bosh, recoiling, when asked if he should be considered the world's tallest free-standing comic. “Hopefully, this DVD will catch fire, then we can talk.”
If we were to chat about basketball and comedy, and the blending of one into the other, the conversation would be short. Yes, the Harlem Globetrotters get up to all kinds of hard-court hilarity. Sure, those multi-character Lebron James commercials for Nike are great. Admittedly, the droll behemoth Shaquille O'Neal has his moments (such as when he dismissed the high-cheekboned Bosh as the “RuPaul of big men”). Granted, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar nearly hijacked Airplane And undoubtedly there are few things more uproarious than the flailing, off-balance attempts by lanky hoopsters at on-the-court fisticuffs. But, mostly, basketball is not much for belly laughs.
Bosh's humour, as seen on his dozens of online videos – ESPN The Magazine called him the “most viral athlete in the world” – revolves around his various characters. He does a pretty good, white-wigged Burgess Meredith in a Rocky spoof, for example. One repeat character is Blane Harrington, who, with his Oxford accent, clunky spectacles and bow tie, is some sort of Bosh alter ego.
Harrington (played by Bosh) is a reporter who sets out to interview the actual Bosh. Along the way, he encounters more Bosh-played characters: a slacker cable guy, a tough-talking homeboy, a French chef. In terms of production, the videos have their amateurish moments. For example, the music playing in the background when the French chef appears is Dean Martin's That's Amore . French, Italian – all the same, right?
We should expect some of the popular characters to show up on the DVD (to be released this fall, along with a CD compilation of the basketballer's favourite music), but the comedic content is to be brand new. “It will be fresh, new material,” assures the multimillionaire. “I don't want people to pay their money and then have it be the same stuff they've seen online.”
Although his favourite comedians are stand-up artists – he likes the “Canadian humour” of Russell Peters and the smartness of Chris Rock – Bosh's DVD will be more in the way of skits and bits, intertwined with documentary-style footage. He's assembled a crew of creative writers for the project. “There'll be a lot of people involved,” he says.
It's June, and the Raptors' unsuccessful season ended more than two months ago. And yet the Texas-bred Bosh is still hounded by sportswriters who wonder about his hoop-world intentions. Because his contract with Canada's only NBA team will be fulfilled in 2010, there's speculation as to whether he'll be leaving the franchise that drafted him fourth overall from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2003. “I don't worry about it,” says the father of a baby girl, who splits off-season time between Toronto and Dallas. “I'm happy wherever I am, and this is where I am right now.”
This guy Bosh has many balls in the air (including new iPhone and iPod Touch applications), so he's pleased to speak about things not having to do with pick-and-rolls, squeaky sneakers and sky-hooks. “Honestly, I don't think about basketball all the time,” he says. “I meet different people, but it's five conversations on the same subject. There are other things I can talk about.”
He'll have more to discuss when the DVD comes out. When it does, we'll see if he's as good with the punchline as he is at the foul line.
Newest Raptor Evans Brings Needed Toughness
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(June 16, 2009) TORONTO – Reggie Evans isn't in basketball to win a popularity contest.
There is no love lost between the newest Toronto Raptor forward and his opponents; players hate to play him. Even Raptors captain Chris Bosh has said he never liked Evans until the two suddenly found themselves teammates last week.
That makes Evans smile.
"That's a good thing, that lets me know I'm doing something good. When Chris says he doesn't like me, I don't like Chris," Evans said, laughing. "I like him now because we're teammates, but I didn't like him either. There's nothing bad about it, it's a good thing."
The Raptors officially introduced Evans on Tuesday, a week after Toronto acquired the six-foot-eight, 245-pound hard-nosed forward in the trade that sent Jason Kapono to Philadelphia.
The Raptors also announced Tuesday they've extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Carlos Delfino, who spent this past season in Russia.
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo wanted to add toughness to a team that's been too nice for too long, and that's exactly what he got in Evans. He's a rough-and-tumble player, the likes of which Toronto hasn't had since Charles Oakley patrolled the Air Canada Centre hardcourt.
"He's going to address a number of things that I think are very important for our team – toughness, rebounding, intensity . . . he's bringing passion to the game and that's what we love to see," Colangelo said.
Evans' scrappy reputation was cemented by his actions during the 2006 NBA playoffs when he was playing for the Denver Nuggets. The 29-year-old was fined $10,000 by the NBA for grabbing the testicles of Los Angeles Clippers centre Chris Kaman while battling for position, a claim Evans has denied.
"The dude reaches from behind me, grabs my (private parts) and tries to rip them off, basically. I couldn't believe it," Kaman said then. "The first thought I had was, 'What the heck just happened? I get violated and I'm playing a basketball game."'
Evans could also bring some intensity to the locker-room. He's not a big believer in just leading by example. If something needs to be said, he'll say it.
"If I feel like something isn't right, if somebody's not bringing it hard to the game or hard in practice, I'm going to speak my mind," he said. "The only way we're going to get better, we have to work hard so if you want to relax, go sit down or just go home. That's just me, I'm a competitor."
Evans said he gets his work ethic from his mother, a single mom who worked two jobs to support her four kids.
"You just have to understand what it takes for hard work, we never had anything," said Evans, whose father was in and out of prison throughout his childhood. "My mama worked all her life. My mama always told me, `One thing you never have to worry about: the lights will be paid and the rent will be paid.' Just seeing her work so hard . . .
"And then I played for a high school coach who was really tough on me. So it's a little bit of both of them."
Evans adds an aggressive presence on the boards, averaging 4.6 rebounds in just 14 minutes a night last season. Though he has ranked in the top-10 in rebound rate four times, he's not exactly gifted offensively – he averaged just 3.3 points last season.
But on a team full of shooters, he pointed out, he doesn't need to score. And if he's ever been criticized for his style of play, he doesn't sweat it.
"I don't score but I'm in the league, there's a need for me," Evans said. "My opponents respect me, they know when I'm on the court, my teammates respect me, so I could care less what people feel about how I play."
Delfino, meanwhile, spent this past season with BC Khimky Moscow in the Russia-A Superleague. He averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 23.2 minutes in 26 games, scoring a season-high 25 points against Krasnoyarsk.
He also appeared in 10 Eurocup outings, averaging 13.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in 27 minutes. He scored in double figures in eight games with a high of 19 points against Benetton.
The Raptors acquired Delfino from the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 off-season and he played all 82 games in his lone season in Toronto (2007-08), averaging 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. He scored in double figures a career-high 32 times, with five games of 20-plus points.
Lennox Lewis In Boxing Hall Of Fame
(June 16, 2009) *Three-time heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis of Britain was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday, reports AFP. The 43-year-old athlete retired in 2003 with a record of 41-2-1, including 32 knockouts. He entered the hall in his first year of eligibility. Lewis, who began fighting as an amateur at the age of 15, said it was his mother who sparked his interest in boxing, hosting parties to watch big bouts when he was young. "I didn't really understand them at first," Lewis said. "People would come over the house for the big fight. She would be really excited about it. I remember sitting in front of the television watching all the great fights." Lewis said he hoped he'd be remembered as a proponent of boxing as a "magical dance". "Our sport is usually looked at as a brutal, savage sport," Lennox said. "I see it as a sweet science, a magical dance. For me, I just wanted to live up to that, and keep the dignity and the humanistic aspect and the positiveness of it ... so that people will remember that's what I did for boxing," Lewis said. Lewis, also a 1988 Olympic gold medalist, was inducted along with American bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales and South African junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell.