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March 5, 2009

We're now into March and although the days are frigid, all I have to say that at least the sun has been shining! Let's hope for warmer days ... soon come!

Yes, I'm still tweaking away at the look of the emailed newsletter.  Again, please feel free to offer suggestions/ideas or any feedback.  Thanks to those that took the time last week.

Please support the theatre production of The Color Purple ... amazing show with a special offer!  Check under SCOOP.

Let's get right to as there is lots of exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


Toronto Singer Emma-Lee Ready For Her Close-Up

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

(March 01, 2009) At rehearsals for her upcoming Canadian Music Week shows Toronto singer Emma-Lee is giving Corey Hart's nonsensical 1983 hit the grown-up treatment.

Inside the compact east-end studio, with the combination of her dreamy vocals and the masterful acoustic trio, "Sunglasses at Night" has never sounded so mellow. "I love covering pop songs in a jazzy way," the songstress explained in a later interview.

"It's fun to pick a song where you would never pay attention to the lyrics and put it in a place where the lyrics are fully on display; which if you listen to them are a little bit ridiculous."

But wishing didn't just make it so, Hart wanted to hear Emma-Lee's version of his much-maligned tune before granting permission to record it, she tells her musicians after a second run-through.

The Bahamas-based, Canadian songwriter's stamp of approval was followed by a signed copy of one his greatest-hits discs.

"It came in the mail and it was really weird, not in a proper jewel case, no liner notes or anything, but I'm still going to frame it," said the vocalist whose moniker is derived from the birth name she prefers not to reveal.

The track will be one of three new songs on the iTunes re-release of her debut Never Just A Dream. Since it came out last summer, the self-financed album was primarily available online.

But on the strength of her delicate, captivating pipes (think kd lang or Sarah McLachlan) and cheeky, heartfelt lyrics, Emma-Lee, 26, has landed a record label and management deal with distribution at major outlets starting Tuesday.

Aside from the CMW gigs, at Glenn Gould Theatre and C'est What, next Thursday and Friday, respectively, also on the horizon are a slot at the prestigious South By Southwest music conference later this month, followed by her first national tour. It's been a somewhat bumpy path to HMV.

"I never wanted to sing in front of my parents when I was young," said the Beaches-born, Markham-raised singer who's had little formal training despite being raised in a musical family.

"I remember being in my room and keeping the door closed and cranking Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and singing along with them. That's really how I learned to sing."

She turned to dad for guitar lessons in her early teens and purchased a pink Fender Stratocaster with her Tim Hortons cashier earnings, but still floundered.

"I think if you lived in the city you were aware of things like open stages as a place to share what you were doing and hone your craft, but I didn't know anything about that. I always knew that I wanted to be a singer. I had no idea how to go about doing it."

When the family moved to East York – at her insistence – eight years ago, Emma-Lee began to connect with other musicians, including a drum-and-bass producer who recorded her for the first time.

"Remember in that movie Hustle & Flow, the girl puts the headphones on and there's this beautiful shot that goes to her and you see her realization of hearing her voice coming out?" she recalled.

"I totally had that moment: 'God, I've wanted to hear myself recorded for so long!' Because of that I was really encouraged to keep going."

She performed at lounges, recorded a couple of EPs and did the waitressing, telemarketer and movie-extra circuit. Then potential disaster struck.

In 2006, a lump on her neck turned out to be a growth on her thyroid gland. Its removal threatened vocal-chord paralysis.

"I was more concerned about the fact that might not be able to sing again and less concerned that I might have cancer," said Emma-Lee of the mass which turned out to be benign. "The first real vocal lessons I took were after my surgery (to) rehabilitate my voice."

The following year with large chunk of Never Just A Dream completed a "giant bleeding polyp" was discovered on her vocal chords. Its removal risked dramatically changing her voice à la Julie Andrews.

But Emma-Lee emerged intact, put "two really sh--ty years" behind her and finished the album funded by her savings, an Ontario Arts Council grant and the generosity of her musical village.

"Initially, I did want to make a record that sounded like an old '50s crooner-pop CD, but not all my songs were written that way," she said of her ethereal brand of pop with doo-wop, blues and country accents. "I wanted it to sound really natural, no electronic instruments."

She's no longer her own booker and publicist, but Emma-Lee is still very hands-on, offering to shoot her own pictures for this article. In the last few years, she has taken most of her publicity stills (wireless remote, folks) and that of her low-budget musician friends.

In December, she photographed a guitarist buddy's wedding in Jamaica. That was a one-off, as she's had to tell other pals who've requested her skills at their nuptials.

"I don't do weddings – unless it's a destination!"

Cosby Kid Chats about Successful Comeback

Source:  Kam Williams

(March 1, 2009) Born in Newark, New Jersey on April 9, 1979,
Keshia Knight Pulliam entered showbiz at an early age, making TV commercials as a toddler and already landing a recurring role on Sesame Street by the age of 3. But it was on The Cosby Show that she wormed herself into America’s hearts as adorable Rudy Huxtable, the baby of the much-beloved television family.

In 1984, she earned an NAACP Image Award for her work on that celebrated series, and a couple of years after that she became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for an Emmy. When Cosby’s 8-year run ended, Keshia turned her attention to academics and eventually attending prestigious Spelman College in Atlanta where she majored in Sociology.

Soon after graduating, she returned to the limelight as a contestant on a couple of game shows, emerging victorious on celebrity versions of both Fear Factor and The Weakest Link. In an effort ostensibly-designed to shed her little girl image, Keshia next posed for a swimsuit/lingerie layout in Black Men’s Magazine in 2005.

Since then, she successfully made the transition back to acting, appearing in such movies as The Gospel, Beauty Shop and Death Toll, before returning to TV to join the cast of House of Payne. Just last month, she won another NAACP Image Award for her performance on that Tyler Perry hit sitcom. Here, she talks about co-starring as Candace, a college student-turned-prostitute, in Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, the #1 film at the box-office two weeks running.

KW: Thanks so much for the time, Keshia.

KKP: You’re welcome.  

KW: Are you in touch with anybody from The Cosby Show?

KKP: Yes, Felicia Rashad actually came to the premiere of Madea Goes to Jail in New York, and Tempestt [Bledsoe] just sent me a text message a couple days ago congratulating me and letting me know I’d done a great job.

KW: What interested you in being a part of this movie?

KKP: I’d already worked with Tyler on House of Payne, so…

KW: [Cuts her off] That’s right. Congratulations on your Image Award.

KKP: Thank you very much.

KW: You might not happen to know this, but I happen to be a voter with the Image Awards.

KKP: I did know that.  

KW: And you got my vote.

KKP: Thanks, I really appreciate that. I worked very hard on the show and on Madea Goes to Jail, so it’s a pleasure and honour to still be recognized as an actress almost 30 years after I entered the business.

KW: Wait, you’re not even 30 yet, are you?

KKP: I’ll be 30 in about a month.

KW: Then how could you be recognized 30 years later, if you’re not even 30?

KKP: I said almost 30 years later, and I’ve been in the business since I was 9 months-old. 

KW: Oh really? I thought you got your start on The Cosby Show.

KKP: No, before that, I had already done Sesame Street, a feature film, print ads and national TV commercials. So, I’ve been at this a long, long time.

KW: What commercials were you in?

KKP: It was such a long time ago. Let me think… Del Monte corn… There were so many… Sorry, I can’t remember them all.

KW: So many child actors’ lives end up such a mess. How did you avoid that?

KKP:  Of course, you learn from the mistakes made by those who came before you, and even when I was on Cosby, I went to school and had lots of interaction with my peers. I think it’s funny how society so often focuses on the negative stories when there are so many positive ones about child actors who have made that transition and continued to be successful. From the Ron Howards and the Drew Barrymores to the Jodie Fosters, there are so many who have made that transition and transcended the whole child actor thing. Still, the press prefers to harp on the tragic stories.    

KW: You are originally from Newark. Do you remain in contact with any folks there? 

KKP: Yeah, I still have a whole lot of relatives who live up in the Newark, Irvington, South Orange area. 

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?

KKP: I don’t live in L.A. I actually live in Atlanta, Georgia. After I graduated from Spelman, I just stayed and never left. And I love it.  

KW: I forgot that Tyler Perry shoots his TV shows and his movies down there. Right?

KKP: He sure does. I’ve lucked out twice.

KW: How did you enjoy Spelman?

KKP: I loved it. I really enjoyed school, and I’m happy that I did decide to take that break away from the industry.  

KW: Was it hard being such a big celebrity on campus?

KKP: No, it’s a part of life. Everyone has their own different life experiences which make them who they are. No two people’s life experiences are the same. And mine are just unique to me.

KW: Did you ever meet anyone in real life like your character, Candace, in Madea Goes to Jail, a college student who becomes a drug addict and a prostitute?

KKP: I think everyone has a family member who may have had a drug addiction problem. That’s not foreign to anyone, no matter what your economic background, race or religion. I think it touches everybody’s lives. No one’s immune to it. But do I have a personal friend who shares the trajectory of Candace’s whole personal story? No.

KW: I sort of cut you off earlier while you were answering my very first question: What interested you in Madea Goes to Jail?

KKP: I really fought for this role, because I wanted to do something that was very different and a challenge for me as an actress. That’s what this role represented to me, and I’m very proud and excited about how it turned out. I think people will definitely leave the theatres seeing me for the actress that I am.

KW: Is the reason why you did the layout in Black Men’s Magazine, to try to break away from your cute kid image?

KKP: No, I think you’re misunderstanding me. It’s not about breaking away from an image. I think your body of work speaks for itself. It’s your job as an actor to take on new challenges, and building upon that body of work. That’s what defines who you are as an actor. For me, as an adult and as a female, I think that women are beautiful, and that there’s nothing wrong with celebrating their femininity, their sensuality, their sexuality, as well as their intelligence. We’re very well-rounded beings, and I represent all of that.

KW: How do you feel about being ranked #19 on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest Child Stars and #11 on E! Television’s 50 Cutest Child Stars, all grown up.  

KKP: Of course, it’s wonderful to still have people enjoy you and enjoy your work. So, I love that. 

KW: I was very impressed that you not only went on but won on the celebrity version of a couple of game shows: The Weakest Link and Fear Factor.

KKP: Yeah, those were a lot of fun to do. What I like is that they challenge you in different ways, one intellectually, one physically.  

KW: What did you do on Fear Factor?

KKP: I got run over by a Monster Truck, I had to swim with snakes, and I got dropped on a bungee cord out of a Plexiglas box over a canyon.

KW: Oh my God! Did you regret doing any of those stunts?

KKP: Not at all!

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

KKP: Umm… Nothing I can think of. People have it pretty covered. [Chuckles]

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

KKP: Working in this business, sometimes you get a nervous energy, but you have to sort of work through it. You can’t really live in a spirit of fear. You just have to kind of go for it.  

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

KKP: Oh, that’s a good one. I actually am happy.

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

KKP: A positive thought book called “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle.

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

KKP: I listen to everything. Let me think… What has been my song recently? Paper Planes by M.I.A. is very catchy. I like that, but I listen to everything from rap to Lenny Kravitz to Coldplay, depending on my mood. And my favourite song of all time is Always and Forever by Heatwave.

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

KKP: Mastering being comfortable in my own skin.

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

KKP: My mom, Denise. 

KW: Teri Emerson would like to know when was the last time you had a big belly laugh?

KKP: [Laughs] Okay, this is probably a really silly answer, but I was in the mall the other day, in the middle of the tie section of Macy’s with a friend when this guy came over and asked me my name. I said, “Keshia. How are you?” Then, the friend I was with said, “Oh, you just tell strangers your name,” even though he knew why the person had asked. [Laughs some more] I’m really silly and I just love to have fun. So, I then started joking, grabbing my crotch and going, “No, my name is Harold” in a deep voice. It was the funniest thing ever, because we had our own private laugh, while this person looked at us like, “You’re both insane.”   

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

KKP: Just by enjoying my work and by giving positive feedback.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

KKP: Wow! I would love to be remembered as a wonderfully-dynamic and multi-talented actress who left a legacy through her work and through her life of helping people and of being a positive force in the world. And I’d also like to be remembered for doing my best at everything that I set my mind to do, while helping to inspire others along the way. 

KW: Well, best of luck with Madea.

KKP: We’ve had a tremendous opening, and we’re still #1 in the country. I hope that more people can still get out to see it and laugh and cry, because it’s about all of us collectively, about overcoming situations, and everybody has situations.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Keshia. I really appreciate it.

KKP: Thank you very much.

To see a trailer for Madea Goes to Jail, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxgDVVx-T7k

Canadian Film Fest Cancelled As Sponsor Pulls Out

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(March 02, 2009) Independent filmmakers were mourning the cancellation Monday of the sixth annual Canadian Film Fest, a privately funded, grassroots event that had to be shelved after its cash-strapped sponsors were forced to bail.

Reached yesterday by phone, CFF founder and director Bern Euler said he was forced to call off his four-day event (slated to run March 24 to 28 at Toronto's Varsity and Carlton cinemas) after his main sponsor, Bell Video Store, a video download unit that is part of Bell Canada, slashed its own marketing budget in the current moribund economy.

“Each year we've grown,” said the 36-year-old Euler, a writer and filmmaker. “Last year, we had about 4,000 attendees at our screenings, panel discussions and parties. And I can't tell you how disappointed I am that we have to cancel this year.

“The Canadian Film Fest is not just a film festival. It's an actual cause. No other film fest in Toronto is explicitly devoted to Canadian filmmakers. And it's so hard for our filmmakers to find a way to get our movies, up on our screens, for us to see.”

The CFF showcases about 50 shorts, features and documentaries over the course of its run, with usually a dozen sell-out shows. A non-profit organization, it gets no federal, provincial or municipal assistance. The CFF functions on a shoestring budget that is funded by private firms such as Bell and Cineplex.

“The reality is we need about $50,000 to cover our marketing fees, which means one big sponsor (like Bell). But I'm not giving up,” added Euler. “We plan to be back in 2010.”

Yesterday, Toronto screenwriter/director Michael Sparaga, who has had two films ( Sidekick and Maple Flavour Films) debut at CFF, said he was heartbroken when he got the phone call from Euler. “Bern selected Sidekick as his opening-night movie in 2006, which was huge for me,” said the 35-year-old Sparaga. Last year he made Maple Flavour Films, a 46-minute doc that focuses on why Canadian movies never seem to find an audience at home.

“CFF has this wonderful vibe. The Toronto International Film Festival is this great, big beast that exists in Toronto, and unfortunately, eats up a lot of the funding. And I get that,” said Sparaga. “But for those Canadian films that don't get into TIFF, the Canadian Film Fest was another option. It shouldn't be underestimated.”

Welcome To Sing City

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

(February 26, 2009) Tonight we celebrate the ringer.

Gladstone Hotel hosts the finale of its fifth annual Karaoke Superstar contest. Starting at 9 tonight, finalists will sing in front of a panel of "celebrity" judges (Canadian Idol contestants, etc.) for their shot at a cut of the $1,500 in cash up for grabs. It promises to be a stellar showcase of some of the best non-professional pipes in the city.

Of course, this is almost antithetical to what karaoke is all about. Usually, performance quality is one of the least important things in karaoke. It's not about the money or the skill, but rather passion and, often, how many drinks you've had. It's about getting up and belting out whatever song you need to perform – or what the room wants to hear. It's about leaving your inhibitions behind and performing to the best of your ability, missed notes and all. It is pure, cringe-inducing fun.

It's also one of the cheapest, most enjoyable nights on the town – a town with no shortage of options. We dispatched some photographers to chronicle just a few of the places to bare your cover-song soul.


Hosted by Peter Styles in the Melody Bar from Wednesday to Saturday nights, this raucous sing-along has become a downtown tradition, celebrating its 10th anniversary in August. You can often find bachelorette and birthday-party entourages hollering their support.

"A lot look at it as a way of getting over their fear of people in general, their shyness, and it works really well," Styles says. "Often people will come in a party, and volunteer other members to come up."

Styles runs a tight ship – you could get booted off if you scream or take the microphone off the stage – but he's also generous with his "applause" sign, making sure the crowd is supportive, no matter the quality.

"The most popular songs are the songs that people can do together," he says. "`It's Raining Men,' `Bohemian Rhapsody,' `Love Shack' ... `Sweet Caroline' is a very popular song." (1214 Queen St. W.)

XO Music Studio

A friend who recently spent four years in Japan says the idea of singing karaoke in a crowded bar would be surprising to most people there. "The idea of doing something embarrassing, even for fun, would be weird for many," he says. However, singing in a private room with friends and family is a national pastime in Japan and Korea; hence Koreatown is bursting with rooms to rent for an hour.

XO Music Studio is one of the best known, with 16 private rooms ranging in size (a room that fits 10 people costs $40 an hour). The music selection is top notch, often supplemented by the latest hits – from Rihanna to Katy Perry, plus countless songs in Japanese and Korean – although figuring out how to input songs in the aging computer system can be an unexpected challenge. It was the ideal venue for a crew of microphone-shy Star staffers and their friends to butcher a few tunes, without fear of audience reprisals. (693 Bloor St. W., 416-535-3734)

Hip Hop Karaoke

As soon as the well-known deep bass groove opening of Dead Prez's "Hip Hop" blared out of the speakers, the knowing crowd went wild. Even better was Mike Simpson's verbal dexterity as he spat out the fast and complicated lyrics. The long-haired 24-year-old looks more rocker than rapper, but he loves the night and is known to test out his skills on some very tough lyrical workouts.

HHK started out in New York, but the Toronto version is celebrating its second anniversary with its next monthly instalment on March 20, and keeps getting bigger, now filling up Revival.

"You know, when I first heard of it, I thought it was a stupid idea," says co-organizer Noel Dix. "But we did it, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger, and I still can't believe how passionate people are."

The energy of the crowd is equal to that of a full-on concert, and unlike other karaoke, there's no TV screen to read lyrics from. Instead, often people are handed printouts of lyric sheets.

"We're kind of off the grid of karaoke so we have to do things in a very low-tech kind of way," says Dix. "But I think that's why people like it. It's raw. You drop the track and people get on the mike. There's nothing else to it." (783 College St., tinyurl.com/34vtsx)

Live Band Karaoke

Frontmen have a reputation for being prima donnas, which is what makes Shark Week impressive. The crack four-piece of seasoned musicians from several local bands is content to be the backing for Live Band Karaoke, on the last Tuesday of every month in the Drake Hotel basement. The night started out at the Bovine Club about three years ago, so guitarist Don Arsenault says the songs are skewed toward the heavy-rock vibe.

"It was very geared toward Bovine-type music, so I think the appeal was it's karaoke, but instead of getting up and singing `Brown Eyed Girl,' you can get up and sing the Sex Pistols," he says.

Over time, though, they keep adding songs, and will try to fake it through a number, like a request for some U2 at last Tuesday's edition. Arsenault says one of the benefits of performing with the band is that they can adapt.

"Sometimes it works like any karaoke night; sometimes you get people who haven't sang, or not only haven't sang with a band, but can't sing ... If it's going horribly wrong, we can subtly cut the song short," says Arsenault. "Ninety per cent of people who get up are good. I mean if you can carry a tune, you're good. Actually, even if you can't, it's karaoke. It's fun." (1150 Queen St. W., pinkmafia.ca)

Canuck Grabs Limelight As Next Bachelorette

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(March 04, 2009) Twenty-five eligible men be warned: The way to the latest Bachelorette's heart may be through the kitchen.

Jillian Harris, 29 – a Vancouver resident born in the picturesque town of Peace River, Alta., and the third-place finisher on the most recent season of ABC's The Bachelor – has been chosen as the centrepiece of the forthcoming season of The Bachelorette, it was announced yesterday. The show is expected to air in May on CITY-TV.

Harris was one of the most popular of the 25 women competing for the affections of Jason Mesnick on The Bachelor thanks in large part to her down-to-earth charm, which created a groundswell of support calling for her return. She became famous for her “hot-dog theory of men,” through which she claimed to be able to discover all she needed to know about a man from the toppings he chose for his hot dog – something she and a close friend developed when they were new to Vancouver and on a “quest for a good small-town man.”

But Harris also knows her way around a plate of good food. An interior designer and project manager for Browns Restaurant Group, Harris has designed and helped bring to fruition both the design and construction of many of the company's dozen Vancouver-area eateries in recent years, said Browns marketing and communications manager Jerusha Dunsmore.

Reached at her office yesterday, Harris graciously declined an interview saying she is unable to discuss the show yet. But her mother Peggy spoke of the mixture of excitement and apprehension that has permeated the family home in nearby Kelowna.

“Oh, we [Peggy and husband Glen] are just kind of taking a deep breath and saying we're in for the ride, I guess,” Peggy said with a chuckle as her cell phone chimed in with a slew of calls and text messages.

“[Watching The Bachelor] was a bit stressful, but for the most part exciting.”

Peggy and Glen were in Hawaii when Jillian was trying to decide whether to accept ABC's offer for The Bachelorette and have thrown their full support behind her despite “some slight trepidation.” Asked whether there were any moments on The Bachelor that were hard to watch, her lightning-quick reply was “the hot-tub scene,” a reference to a notoriously salacious kissing session which Jillian has since pledged not to repeat.

“It certainly seems unconventional, and they haven't had a great track record [keeping the chosen couples together], but magic happens. ... I guess Jillian's willing to take the chance,” her mother said.

In an interview with Us Magazine, Jillian said she understands the unorthodoxy of the show, but that “we are living in a world where people are doing things differently.”

Peggy said her daughter appears to be handling the heightened pressure of being the centre of attention well, but concedes The Bachelorette could represent “a whole new ball game.” But Dunsmore thinks her colleague is ideally suited to publicly play the field in search of something lasting, and to represent Canada on international airwaves.

“She's a pretty good judge of character, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her on there. I think it will be a breath of fresh air because she just is exactly who she is [on air],” Dunsmore said.


Special 25% Discount Offer For 'The Color Purple'

Take advantage of this SPECIAL discount offer and get 25% OFF the regular ticket price for this fabulous new musical running from February 10 - March 14, 2009 at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria Street.
THE COLOR PURPLE is best known as the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and a heart moving film by Steven Spielberg. Now this soul-stirring new musical that rocked Broadway has hit Toronto featuring most of the original Broadway cast.
Don't miss the amazing uplifting musical before it leaves our city.  Book your tickets now!
** NOTE: Show performances start at 2 PM or 8 PM SHARP!!  Latecomers may have to wait to be seated

In order for you to take advantage of the SPECIAL OFFER you must follow these guidelines:

- Tickets available are for performances up until
March 9th ONLY
- Offer is not valid for Saturday evening performances
- Promotional discount offer may be terminated at ANY TIME 
- No additional GROUP discounts are available with this promo

See the thumbnail flyer with dates, times, and prices of tickets available for this incredible offer.  Order tickets online or via phone by using the CODE:

For more info, contact Sandra Whiting, SWA Associates at: s_whiting@rogers.com or to order tickets online, go to: http://www.mirvish.com/colorpurple


Government Issues Warning On Mexico

www.thestar.com - Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press

(February 27, 2009) OTTAWA- The federal government wants Canadians to take note of the deteriorating safety situation in certain parts of Mexico. The Foreign Affairs Department has updated its travel report on Mexico. recommends that Canadians take particular care when travelling to areas in northern Mexico, especially around the border with the United States.

Cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez are the epicentres of the of bloody drug wars between Mexico’s main cartels. The Mexican government tripled its military presence in Ciudad Juarez this week. Foreign Affairs warns that firefights between soldiers and drug cartels can occur at any time, and travellers can get caught in the crossfire.

The U.S. State Department recently issued a travel alert for Mexico, and has instructed its diplomats in Mexico not to travel to certain areas unless absolutely necessary.

The U.S. State Department and universities around the country are warning college students headed for Mexico for some spring-break partying of a surge in drug-related murder and mayhem south of the border.

"We want to make sure they are as well-informed as possible,'' said Patrick Day, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. "It's important to us that they are safe, that we provide them with as much information as we can so that they can be safe.''

More than 100,000 high school- and college-age students from the United States and Canada travel to Mexican resort areas during spring break each year. Much of the drug violence is happening in border towns, and tourists have generally not been targeted, though there have been killings in the big spring-break resorts of Acapulco and Cancun, well away from the border.

Canada has not issued an official warning. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has an advisory on the government website, telling Canadians heading to Mexico to "exercise high degree of caution." The advisory was last updated Feb. 12.

A spokesperson for Travel Cuts, a travel agency providing discounted bus, air, train and other travel-related deals to students, said they only post warnings when the Canadian government issues one, and as such, have decided not to release any notices.

The U.S. State Department stopped short of warning spring breakers not to go to Mexico, but advised them to avoid areas of prostitution and drug-dealing and take other common sense precautions.

The University of Arizona in Tucson is urging its approximately 37,000 students not to go to Mexico. Other universities – in the Southwest and far beyond, including Penn State, Notre Dame, the University of Colorado and the University at Buffalo – said they would call students' attention to the travel warning issued Feb. 20 by the State Department.

"Sage advice," said Tom Mangan, a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "We have had documented violence, attacks, killings, shootouts with the drug cartels involving not only the military but law enforcement personnel. It is indiscriminate violence, and certainly innocent people have been caught up in that collateral damage.''

Mexico's drug cartels are waging a bloody fight among themselves for smuggling routes and against government forces, carrying out massacres and dumping beheaded bodies in the streets. More than 6,000 people were killed in drug violence in Mexico last year.

Some students said the warnings are unlikely to deter them.

University of Arizona sophomore Daniel Wallace, 19, who is going to Puerto Penasco for spring break, said he is not worried about violence there. Besides, he said: "It's relaxing, it's warm, I'm a big fan of the beach and the drinking age is lower. It's a fun place to go.''

With files from Precious Yutangco and the Canadian Press

Celebrating Hawaii's 50th

www.thestar.com - Jim Byers, Travel Editor

(February 27, 2009) It’s the big 50 for Hawaii, which is celebrating a half-century as the 50th state in the American Union. It’s never a cheap place for a vacation, as most consumer goods are flown in from the mainland or other distant points.

But the state’s tourism folks are anxious to fill the hotel rooms that propel Hawaii’s economy, and there may never be a better time for a deal in one of the most magical places on earth, with near-perfect weather, American sensibilities overlaying a tropical/south seas lifestyle, a riot of flowers, increasing sophisticated cuisine and hundreds of golden beaches.

Here are 51 reasons to beat a path to the 50th state:


 It’s a family place, with tremendous loyalties and honour paid to family “aunties and uncles.” When they do hula shows at various resorts, you’ll see just as many grannies up on the stage as you will slim, young women and men. There’s a lot to be said for a place that values its elders.


 Early mornings on Waikiki Beach, the debauchery of the previous night being washed away by quiet surf rolling in.


The state team sport is canoeing. Okay, it’s the double outrigger canoe, but it’s a sport Canadians can relate to.


  The drive to Hana on Maui, a 50-odd-kilometre stunner with 600-plus turns, 50 one-lane bridges and awesome views.


 The view from the towering green Pali cliffs high above Honolulu, where King Kamehameha pushed defeated Oahu warriors to their deaths  in a famous Hawaiian battle in 1795. Scary stuff.


 Awesome golf. The Kapalua courses offer views of the islands of Molokai and Lanai and, in winter, frolicking humpback whales. The Challenge at Manele Bay on the island of Lanai has a couple holes that sit on rocky cliffs 200 feet above the pounding surf.


 The roadside stands where folks sell fresh coconuts, juicy pineapples and moist banana bread, often on the honour system.


  Dipping your face into some shaved ice; the Hawaiian snow cone that features all sorts of gooey, tropical flavours. Try Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu.


 The green, jagged cliffs on the north shore of Kauai that plunge straight down into the blue Pacific, one of the most inspiring views on the planet.


 Listening to the stories of slack-key guitar players like George Kahumoku and Dennis Kamakahi at the Wednesday night concerts at Maui’s Napili Kai Beach Resort, a lovely family place that does wonders in preserving Hawaii’s glorious native culture. Check out the kids’ (keiki) hula nights.


  It’s a family place, with tremendous loyalties and honour paid to family “aunties and uncles.” When they do hula shows at various resorts, you’ll see just as many grannies on the stage as you will young women and men. There’s a lot to be said for a place that values its elders.


 Chatting with the paniolos - Hawaiian cowboys who still tend to cattle on the slopes of Maui’s towering Haleakala volcano and on the giant Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii.


  The nightly tiki torch-lighting ceremonies at resorts all over the state. It’s usually done by a good-looking, flat-stomach guy with a bare chest and a flower lei on his head. It’s corny but most folks eat it up.


 Catching sight of a humpback whale as it leaps from the ocean into the bright Hawaiian sun for just a moment’s glory. The sound they make when they topple back onto the water is like thunder and the joy of the experience is impossible to describe.


 A tour of Pearl Harbour on Oahu. The power of the place and the stories you’ll hear of doom and destruction and hope and survival will take your breath away.


 Chefs all over the state are putting a premium on buying local and the results are out of this world. Chai’s Island Bistro in Honolulu has insanely good seared tuna and the best curried dishes you’ll ever try, while Merriman’s near Kapalua beach on Maui serves entirely local produce and meat and fish.


 A silent, morning hike to the summit of Diamond Head in Honolulu and watching the sun rising from the blue Pacific. Or doing the morning sunrise trip to the summit of Haleakala (House of the Sun) on Maui.


  Driving past Hana and checking out the vast holdings of Oprah Winfrey, who owns most of the coast between the charming Hotel Hana Maui and Hamoa Beach. Keep going and you can visit the resting place of Charles Lindbergh, a low-key gravesite behind a tiny, perfect church in Kipahulu.


  Rolling in the sand at Lumahai Beach on Kauai, where Mitzi Gaynor “washed that man right out" of her hair in the movie South Pacific.


 The state flag has a Union Jack, remnants of its days under British influence from the late 1700s to the middle of the 19th century.


  Bright yellow plumeria, exotic heliconia and birds of paradise go wild in the tropical climes of Hawaii, making it a gardening paradise.


  Swimming with the spinner dolphins in Hulopoe Bay on Lanai, next to the Four Seasons at Manele Bay. Just swim out with a friend 100 metres or so and wait. They’ll find you and watching them glide past is one of the world’s great wonders.


  Watching the windsurfers jump and sail through the sky at Hookipa Beach on Maui’s wild east side.


  Checking out the roasted chickens, jewellery, fresh fruit and other wares at the Nahiku marketplace on the road to Hana, a tiny collection of huts near George Harrison’s former home that gives new meaning to the word ramshackle.


  Making the trek by donkey to Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai, where legendary Father Damien tended to lepers before himself succumbing to the disease.


  The views of Waimea Canyon on Kauai are an incredible sight, with miles of exposed red rock and deep-green forests clinging to incredible slopes in what some call the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.


  A walk through Lanai City, a tiny town filled with chatty, interesting locals. Kenne Williams at Dis and Dat will gladly talk about his shop and his love of life on sleepy Lanai, which features two renowned Four Seasons resorts, a couple of golf courses and miles of quiet.


  Plate lunches. A typical Hawaiian spot will serve up a good pound of kalua pig (like pulled pork), with giant scoops of rice, cole slaw and macaroni salad, usually for $5 or $6.


  Lining up for fresh bread late at night at Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai on Molokai, an island that remains virtually undeveloped. And thank goodness for that.


  Some of the most luscious sunsets you’ll ever see. The west side of any island is great, but sunsets on Maui often allow you to see the lights going out over not just the ocean but also neighbouring islands of Kahoolawe, Lanai and Molokai.


  It’s one of the few places in the U.S. where the indigenous, local language is still widely spoken. There’s a tremendous pride in Hawaiian heritage and more and more schools are putting an emphasis on having kids learn their own history.


  Checking out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. It’s a fascinating experience and you can get up close to steaming lava rock and see where fresh life takes over from destroyed habitats.


  Swinging on the massive vines that trail from the banyan tree in Lahaina, said to be the biggest in the world at more than an entire square block. It would take up the entire skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square - times two.


  Cracking open a fresh can of macadamia nuts. They go great with a locally made Longboard Lager.


 You can ski on the big island in the morning (okay, there are no lifts, but you CAN ski in winter) and swim at the beach in the afternoon. Try that in Collingwood.


  Shopping for trinkets at the omnipresent ABC stores, kind of a Mac’s meets LCBO meets Shoppers Drug Mart. You can’t miss them. The Marriott Waikiki Beach has two outlets, one in each of its towers.


Watching the girls and guys go by in Waikiki, where you can sip rum drinks and watch the sun slide into the Pacific, or dash into the Coach shop for that perfect purse, or buy a new iPod at the Apple store. Think of Bloor West with tiki torches.


 Listening to the music and seeing the local Hawaiian kids in their Sunday finest during an Easter mass at little Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina.


  Driving a Jeep over the rutted but panoramic Munro trail over the top of Lanai. Not for the faint of heart but a fun adventure.


  Checking out the lavender farms and the other “upcountry” sites on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui.


  Taking pictures of the ``Jesus Coming Soon’’ sign in Lahaina, made famous by The Eagles in the song, “The Last Resort.”


 Strolling through the shops at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui and pretending you belong there.


 Chatting with Clifford Nae’ole at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, who acts as their guardian of Hawaiian culture and sometimes leads sunrise chants on the beach. His brother, Iokepa, is director of the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program at the hotel and gives fabulous tours of the forests high above West Maui’s beaches.


  Checking out the massive surf on the north shore of Oahu, where waves at places like Waimea Bay can reach 30 feet or more in winter.


 Snorkelling or scuba-diving at Hanauma Bay on Oahu or down at La Perouse Bay on Maui, both protected marine sanctuaries where you can gaze at hundreds of fish, including the lovely state fish, the ..... wait for it ..... humuhumunukunukuapua’a.


  Listening to a local unleash a tune on the ukulele, an easily carried instrument that many Hawaiians take everywhere they go for impromptu jamming.


  The state bird is a nene, a relative of the Canada goose


  A cheap round of golf at Kukui O Lono golf course on the west side of Kauai, far from the crowds. It’s not a great course, but it’s fun to chat with the staff at one of the most down-to-earth golf centres around. Ditto for the Maui municipal course in Waiehu, and the Kauai muni course in Wailua, both of which have holes on the ocean.


  Hiking the Kalalau trail on the north shore of Kauai. The views are postcard perfect. Just don’t try it in flip-flops, a type of shoe Hawaiians call “slippers.”


Body surfing at Sandy Beach on Oahu (Obama’s favourite) or at Poipu on Kauai.


A perfect drink at the Mai Tai Bar at the newly renovated Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach, the legendary “pink palace” where John McCain met his wife, Cindy. Lots of good rum and not too sweet.

Click here for more photos from Hawaii


Lil Rounds Dazzles 'American Idol' Judges

Derrik J. Lang, Associated Press

(March 04, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Lil Rounds has made a big impression on the "American Idol" judges.

Kara DioGuardi proclaimed that Rounds, the 23-year-old mother of three from Memphis, Tenn., was a "powerhouse" after performing Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" at the end of the Fox singing competition Tuesday. Randy Jackson told Rounds she didn't "lose her swagger." And typically acerbic judge Simon Cowell described the performance in a word: brilliant.

"I have a sneaking suspicion we're going to be seeing you for many more lil' rounds," Paula Abdul said.

Rounds, who is up for viewer votes alongside the other 11 singers from the third group of semi-finalists, was the last to perform Tuesday. Besides Rounds, the judges also heaped praise on Felicia Barton, Jorge Nunez, Ju'Not Joyner and Scott MacIntyre, the 23-year-old blind piano player from Scottsdale, Ariz., who crooned Bruce Hornsby's "Mandolin Rain."

"In a sea of forgettable people tonight, you're the only one, actually, that I think that I'm going to really remember who I actually think that's got some relevance," Cowell told MacIntyre, "and I'm going to be amazed if you don't sail through to the next round, young man."

The episode wasn't a total lovefest. Cowell barraged many contestants with unflattering comments. He said Von Smith sang well — and looked "appalling." Cowell called Arianna Afsar's take on ABBA "absolutely terrible," but he saved his harshest criticism for Alex Wagner-Trugman, who growled Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues."

"We had fun watching you, just not listening to you," he griped.

The top three vote-getters will join previously picked finalists Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Alexis Grace and Michael Sarver. Dismissed semi-finalists will get a second chance at stardom when the judges select the last three finalists at the end of a special wild card round Thursday.

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

Indie-Rock Tomboy Neko Case Is Happy To Talk About Her New Solo Album

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(March 03, 2009) “Can't give up acting tough, it's all I'm made of,” Neko Case sings in the title song from her new album, Middle Cyclone. You don't have to pursue that thought very far to realize that it's really about what lies just underneath the tough exterior. It's a common mistake to think that every song describes the singer, but I've more than once been overwhelmed by Case's powerful singing, and she inhabits a stage in a way that makes it unsurprising to learn that her great-aunt was a pro wrestler way before that became a big-money game.

So, with Case's new songs echoing in my head, and with her coiled up in a chair opposite me, I look into her take-it-or-leave-it eyes and wonder: tough, or just acting tough?

Somewhere, no doubt, in between. You don't call yourself a tomboy at age 38 and write love songs to killer whales and tornados without some kind of grit, but if you're tough through and through you wouldn't lay yourself open in song the way Case does in a later lilting verse of Middle Cyclone: “I would trade you my empire for ashes.”

Since her emergence in the late nineties, Case has become the centre of a little empire of esteem, as the dark siren of country-inflected indie rock, as an unmistakable voice in the crowd that makes up Vancouver's the New Pornographers, and most recently as a mature songwriter whose craft has expanded to make it even harder to describe what she does. She still sings like a force of nature, but her lyrics show a capacity for keen emotional reflection that only a tough-acting, big-loving woman could have. It was a surprise at first to discover that Middle Cyclone is full of long songs, but on second thought, it makes sense, especially in the terms of engagement she set.

 “A lot of the love songs are about things, like loving mountains or loving rain,” she says. “One is about breaking up with the town that you're from. This Tornado Loves You was from a dream in which I was travelling, and I ran into a tornado, and it wanted me to read a book to it, because it couldn't hold the book and read it. He started out rather gruff, and them became kind of sweet.”

That sounds like a scenario for a children's book, though Case's presentation would probably be too tangled up with the rawness of life to get past many kids'-book editors. She tried writing a song for a film recently, and resisted excising everything that the producers thought might threaten a G-rating in the United States. In the end, she quit the project, took back the song, and rewrote it for her album (now a waltz called Magpie to the Morning).

“I'm sure I'm in all the songs,” she says, “but it's not crazy autobiographical. I write songs based on things my friends do, or stories I make up. I like the storytelling aspect, making it as fantastical as you want to. That's what reading books does for me. You can be the spider web or the tornado, all the time.

Fever is a little fairy tale about what would happen if you ran into Death. He wasn't looking for you, you just ran into him, maybe you would try to tip-toe the other way so he wouldn't notice you. What would Death act like if he thought he was unobserved? I kind of picture him like Mr. Peanut, with a top hat and a cane. In the song he's singing his own praises, dancing around and using a factory as a show hall.”

Prison Girls is real vintage Case, a coal-black ballad that evokes hard-boiled big-house films from the forties and fifties. “They've traded more for cigarettes than I've managed to express,” Case sings, evoking a closed world of degradation and violence in just a few words. But the idea for the song began somewhere else entirely.

Prison Girls was all about tour dementia,” she says. “It's about one of those nights when you wake up in a hotel and it's really dark and you have no idea where you are. You don't know if you're awake or asleep. And then very strange characters will come in and out.”

Fantastic as they may be, the songs, which were recorded with a changeable posse that included Garth Hudson, Jon Rauhouse, the Sadies and M. Ward, feel rooted in physical experience. Case sings a lot about animals and nature because that's a big part of the world as she knows it directly, whether in the scrubby desert land near her house in Tucson, or in the woods surrounding her place near Burlington, Vt., – “the fairy-tale forest,” she calls it, recalling the much more imposing forests on the West Coast where she grew up, an only child in a house bursting with dogs, and where she later attended art school (at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design).

Her record label (Anti-) wanted her picture on the album cover, and she resisted at first, because she said the songs aren't really about her, and she's not into being glamorous for a camera. But in the end she came up with a concept her inner tomboy could live with.

“I thought, “If I were an 11-year-old boy, and I was going to make my own record cover, what would it be? I decided it would be me on this awesome car with a sword.”

It's a pretty tough image, and sexy too, with her big-cat crouch and her hair streaming back as if a pounce is just about to happen. The dress was probably someone else's idea, because she'd rather wear pants most days, and prefers not to think about putting up an appearance pleasing to others.

“I'm pretty awkward unless I'm in a situation where I have to chop kindling or something, and then I feel pretty good,” she says, again thinking of her life in Vermont. “I tromp around in boots and look at things close-up, look for tracks. I always have my field guide.” Her voice dropped to a whisper: “What kind of track is that? Is it a fox? A marten? I find that stuff so fascinating.”

Fortunately for us, Case's tracks are much easier to find, neatly wrapped in a tidy plastic case. The field guide is still undecided as to just what kind of creature she is, but we know it's only half-tamed, and definitely rare.

Spears Returns In First Concert Tour In 5 Years

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Stacey Plaisance, Associated Press

(March 04, 2009) NEW ORLEANS — Dressed as a sexy ringmaster and directing a colourful cast that included jugglers, acrobats and martial arts dancers, Britney Spears delivered a tightly choreographed, if perfunctory performance Tuesday night as she kicked off her first concert tour in five years.

The 27-year-old's Circus tour kicked off in her home state of Louisiana at the New Orleans Arena before a nearly sold-out crowd that cheered on their idol as she gyrated and slithered across the stage while singing some of her biggest hits, from the recent Womanizer to her first and now classic song, Baby One More Time.

The wild applause has been largely absent from Spears' life since the last time she went on tour in 2004, as the singer endured a devastating downward spiral: Due largely to personal troubles, she went from one of pop music's most profitable, in-demand entertainers to an out-of-control tabloid persona who seemed to be on a path to destruction.

But over the last year, that path has been reversed, as she's embarked on a successful comeback that has seen her image, as well as her career, rehabilitated.

The Circus tour was another strong step in the right direction. Spears didn't interact much with the crowd — the only thing she uttered to the audience was “Thank you, New Orleans” at the end of the nearly two-hour show — and appeared at times to be lip-synching. But fans didn't seem to care, screaming wildly at the first sight of Spears, who descended from the ceiling on hoops suspended by wires, wearing a short red and black ringmaster ensemble.

Spears started the show with the title track to her new CD, Circus, then went right into Piece of Me, which she performed largely from a cage, part of the elaborate, grandiose stage backdrops.

Acrobats twirled from suspended fabric as Spears sang and danced, showing off her toned body with flirty, seductive moves. She got frisky with two male dancers as she performed Touch of My Hand while sporting a blindfold.

When Spears slowed down the show for Everytime, the audience could be heard singing the lyrics — “every time I try to fly I fall, without my wings I feel so small” — along with her.

“We're so happy she's back,” said 16-year-old Justin Scarbrough of New Orleans, wearing a T-shirt he designed himself that bears Spears' image and the words “I Support Britney Spears.”

"That was awesome," said 21-year-old Lauren Baudoin of Lafayette, La., after the show. Baudoin's sister, 18-year-old Lindsey Baudoin, said she liked that there were entertainers between the songs.

"It kept going," Lindsey Baudoin said. "It was nonstop."

In the past five years, Spears has gone through more tumult than many endure in a lifetime: She's been married and divorced, had two kids, gone to rehab, gone through a custody battle, found herself briefly committed, and been so out of control that her father, Jamie Spears, was appointed by a court to oversee his daughters' personal and professional affairs indefinitely.

But over the past year, Spears' life and career has rebounded. Her Circus CD, released in December, has already sold more than 1.3 million copies, and she's had two hits off the CD, the No. 1 Womanizer and the top five Circus.

The Circus tour, which takes Spears to 27 cities in North America before heading to Europe in June, is the pop star's biggest opportunity to connect with her still formidable fan base.

Spears is scheduled to play Toronto's Air Canada Centre on March 18, Montreal's Bell Centre on March 20, Edmonton's Rexall Place on April 6 and Vancouver's GM Place on April 8.

Dutoit Makes Faust A Piece Of Heaven

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

The Damnation of Faust
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Hector Berlioz. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children's Chorus and soloists, conducted by Charles Dutoit. Repeats tomorrow. 416-598-3375 (tso.ca)

(February 27, 2009) It was worth the 29-year wait since the last time Torontonians had a chance to hear a live performance of The Damnation of Faust, a "dramatic legend" by Hector Berlioz.

Under visiting conductor Charles Dutoit, the
Toronto Symphony, Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children's Chorus and soloists teased nearly every nuance out of this complex tapestry last night.

This was a performance that left one walking on air for a long time after leaving Roy Thomson Hall.

The Damnation of Faust is a hybrid creature – 2 1/4 unbroken hours of orchestral playing and singing that is neither cantata, oratorio nor opera. Although it has been staged, Berlioz was against the idea.

Although we hear music as mood- and emotion-conveyor all around us, 163 years ago, Berlioz's orchestral and vocal effects were revolutionary – offensive to many Parisians at the first performance.

Dutoit, who has championed this piece for years, was the master of this complex creation, guiding the orchestra through a fine, rich performance. The soloists – tenor Gregory Kunde as Faust, bass Willard White as Mephistopheles, mezzo Susanne Mentzer as Marguerite and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu as Brander – have sung this with Dutoit before. So, with their parts solidly memorized, they, too, could devote all their energies to conveying the deep emotion of the text and score.

In Goethe's literary interpretation of the Faust legend (Berlioz's inspiration), the doctor's love interest, Marguerite, meets a sad end. In Berlioz's version, Marguerite is whisked to heaven, while Mephistopheles personally escorts Faust down into the pit of hell.

It's interesting that, while embracing the Romantic ideals of self-fulfillment, love and reverence for nature, Berlioz turns around and ends the piece with an old-fashioned message of redemption through God – all the while making us listen to music that dispenses with early-19th century conventions. The composer also pushes the orchestra and voices beyond their usual technical limits.

Performed without intermission, this is a lot to digest. But, done so well and with such conviction, this Damnation is anything but.

Don't miss it.

Dett Chorale Lifts 'Rough Timber' Of Black Spirituals

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Robert Everett-Green

Voices of the Diaspora: Dett to Africa
Nathaniel Dett Chorale At Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on Wednesday

(February 26, 2009) In James Weldon Johnson's novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, a light-skinned black abandons his efforts to create a high-class kind of African-American music, so as to live out his adulthood passing as white. In other words, he decides not to become
Nathaniel Dett, the Canadian-born musician who spent his entire career trying to make art from what he called the “rough timber” of African-American folk music.

Dett was still a student when Johnson's novel was published anonymously in 1912, but seems to have already decided that the music formerly sung by slaves would be “of no value” unless it were “presented in choral form, in lyric and operatic works, in concertos and suites and salon music.” His main public instrument for pursuing this aim was a celebrated choir he founded at Virginia's Hampton Institute, a traditional seat of black learning.

Ten years ago, Toronto choral conductor Brainerd Blyden-Taylor established a choir for the same purpose, and named it after Dett. On Wednesday, Blyden-Taylor and his 20 choristers gave an anniversary concert that featured several works by their namesake, as well as newer pieces of what Blyden-Taylor calls “Afrocentric music.”

The phrase is no doubt a handy one when trying to explain what the Dett Chorale is about. When you actually spend time listening to Dett's music, however, it becomes rather ambiguous. Dett steeped himself in the techniques of European-style composition, and applied them very earnestly to the black spirituals. I would say his works on Wednesday's program were basically Eurocentric variations on African-American themes.

His setting of a Bahamian melody in Gently Lord, Oh Gently Lead Us, for example, was a textbook example of standard harmony and proper voice-leading. His souped-up motet Chariot Jubilee treated its famous tune to a degree of contrapuntal overload that begged to be compared to what J.S. Bach sometimes did with Lutheran chorales. But while Dett was sometimes prepared to go crazy, relatively speaking, with counterpoint, he took a very sober attitude toward the one element that everyone agrees is central to African-American music: rhythm. His rhythm is mostly the foursquare rhythm of a white congregation singing Rock of Ages.

At this distance in time, it's easy to see how issues of class animated Dett's work. He felt that black music needed to be lifted up, socially speaking, which meant adapting it to musical practices that middle-class people of all races could understand and approve. Those did not include the kind of blues and jazz that Dett might have heard a century ago. They certainly wouldn't have included the kind of profane hip hop you hear on the radio today.

To judge from Wednesday's concert, the Dett Chorale remains devoted to Dett's vision, with some allowances for the freer attitude toward the “rough timber” taken by more recent composers. Africa, a multipart new piece by Vancouver composer Brian Tate, extended the evening's rather restrained palette both ways, into a modest tone-cluster style at the beginning, and a foot-stamping, djembe-beating simulation of African music at the end. The dramatic, rather blunt style of much else in the piece reminded me of the choral music of Carl Orff, another skilled hand at brokering between perceived differences in cultural class. Robert L. Morris's And the Angel Spoke was one of those contemporary choral pieces that flaunt their modernity by inserting a bit of dissonant grit into almost every chord, though the orientation of the music was resolutely tonal.

Stewart Goodyear's suave Go Down, Death, a setting of one of Johnson's poems (with piano played by Gregory Oh), was perhaps the best thing in the show in terms of presenting a text in a clear, idiomatic and moving fashion. But my favourite items on this long concert (nearly three hours, including Blyden-Taylor's leisurely introductions of every piece on the program) were those that made the least show of compositional prowess: Rosephanye Powell's Drinkin' of the Wine, Dett's Listen to the Lambs, and Moses Hogan's Walk Together, Children. They were subtle, skilful arrangements that had none of the reverent condescension I hear in Dett's more ambitious music. At such times, the Dett Chorale came across as a fine gospel choir, not as an instrument in a kind of pious culture war that must have seemed well worth fighting a century ago, but now looks archaic.

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale repeats this program at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio Saturday at 8 p.m.

Barenaked Ladies' Page Speaks Out

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(February 26, 2009) The news that appeared on the Barenaked Ladies' website on Tuesday night, revealing that lead singer Steven Page had left the group, told only part of the story.

But last night, Page spoke to the Star from his home in Toronto and laid his cards on the table.

"When you're in a group like this, you've got five personalities who've been collaborating for 20 years and everybody's needs aren't always the same," he said, calm and collected.

Earlier in the day, fellow band member Ed Robertson had talked around the issue, saying, "I wish there was a succinct answer, because it would be really great to say, `Oh, it was creative differences.' In some ways, it's so much more complicated than that and in other ways, it's so much simpler than all that."

Page, on the other hand, spoke his mind clearly.

"Over the past couple of years, I've had to re-examine what I really want to do. How do I take myself to the place where I really want to be?"

For Page, this has increasingly proved to be his work composing for the stage, in particular for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where his scores for As You Like It and Coriolanus were wildly successful.

"When you're with a band, the band always takes precedence. You have to juggle what your priorities are. I was feeling like I had to shuffle things constantly and everything I really wanted to do was being pushed to the side."

All of this came to a head for Page with the tumultuous events of 2008 – the band's 20th anniversary, the release of a now-Juno-nominated children's album, Robertson surviving a plane crash and Page's arrest in New York State on cocaine possession charges that were later dismissed.

"As each major event in your life happens," said Page of that event, "you have to take a good look at yourself and ask `Is this the me I really want to be?' On so many levels, the answer I found was `No.' As you grow, you either get complacent or you pay attention to what is going on."

Page has struggled with depression in the past and he admits he's been through some rough patches in the past few years.

"I've struggled with my own sense of self-confidence and it manifested itself in a bunch of different ways. That's certainly something I've been working hard on. But I'm now at a place where I feel really good about the path I'm on and the kind of person I am."

But Page also wants to make it clear that while he felt the need to strike out on his own, he has nothing but good feelings toward the band.

"I wasn't unhappy with the group. Right down to our last show, the magic, the chemistry never went away. We were and we are brothers and we can never really lose that relationship.

"Yes, I feel wistful about my time with the band. I gave them 20 years of my life and I don't regret a single one of them."

For the future, besides his immediate project composing the score for Antoni Cimolino's production of Bartholomew Fair at Stratford this season, he has some surprising other ambitions.

"I've been working on writing a musical, which has always been a dream of mine. There have also been opportunities to perform in musical theatre and I've never had the time to commit to them. Now I do."

When asked what he thinks The Barenaked Ladies will be like without him, Page is positive. "It's not going to be the same band, but it's going to be a great band. They're all such fine musicians."

The reconstituted quartet, which marks its first show without Page at Universal Studios in Orlando on March 7, is set to hit the recording studio in April with no plans to replace Page's signature vocals.

And what about Page, walking the tightrope on his own for the first time?

"A band is a great safety net," he admits, "but you finally have to do without it. Sure, part of me is totally terrified. If this was two years ago, I would be freaking out. But thanks to positive change. I can finally do all those things that I kept myself from doing.

"I'm ready to stand up now and just be Steven Page."

With files from Ashante Infantry

Hey Rosetta! Stays Humble Despite Big Wins

www.globeandmail.com - Tara Brautigam, The Canadian Press

(March 02, 2009) CORNER BROOK, NFLD. — Rock outfit Hey Rosetta! catapulted from their humble roots as a bar band on one of Canada's most notorious party strips, cleaning up Sunday night at this year's East Coast Music Awards.

The young up-and-comers, who earned their musical chops playing on George Street in St. John's, walked away with three trophies for their album, Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood).

The six-member group performed their infectious hit, New Goodbye, to throngs of clapping fans at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook on Newfoundland's west coast.

“I think the word astounding comes to mind. This is blowing me away here,” said bassist Josh Ward.

Lead singer Tim Baker, who founded the band in 2005, said he hoped the armful of trophies wouldn't add pressure to their already meteoric rise.

“We get a lot of pressure from within I think more than anything else. Trying to please ourselves is a big enough battle,” Mr. Baker said, exalting the advantages of staying in Newfoundland.

“I find it really nice that it's a little bit isolated from the big buzzing scenes of Toronto and New York and Montreal or whatever. It's nice to not be in the rat race and not to be worried about what your shoes look like.”

Sultry songstress Jill Barber, who recently moved to Vancouver from Halifax, won jazz recording of the year and female solo recording of the year for Chances.

“For the most part, it's business as usual. I just have a different place to hang my hat these days,” she said backstage.

“I'm grateful that the jazz community has started to open their ears to my music a bit more.”

Barber also offered the audience her playful number, Oh My My.

Singer-songwriter Gordie Sampson, who hails from Cape Breton but is currently based in Nashville, won single and songwriter of the year for We are Young and So is the Night.

Nova Scotia's Matt Mays and El Torpedo took rock recording of the year for Terminal Romance.

“To get any kind of appreciation or a chance to get any kind of attention for the hard work that we've done, it's always nice,” Mr. Mays said.

Halifax band Joel Plaskett Emergency, who cleaned up at last year's event with six awards but missed out on entertainer of the year, took that honour last night.

New Brunswick's Matt Andersen was another big winner, taking male solo and blues recording of the year for Something in Between.

Canadian Idol star and Hare Bay, Nfld., native Tara Oram won country recording of the year for Chasing the Sun.

“I've dreamed of this for so long,” Ms. Oram gushed.

“I'm very overwhelmed and I feel very blessed in my life to get this recognition.”

Marie Nolan, wife of the late country musician Dick Nolan, was nearly speechless after accepting the lifetime achievement award honouring his 50-year career.

“I am proud of him, for sure,” she said, near tears.

The annual schmoozefest and awards ceremony, hosted by CBC personality Jian Ghomesi and Newfoundland singer Damnhait Doyle, capped four days of raucous club shows celebrating Atlantic Canada's musical talent.

The awards will be held next year in Sydney, N.S., from March 4 to 7.

Lynda Carter, 57, Goes Back To Her Singing Roots Of Soulful Covers

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Kennedy,
Associated Press

(March 03, 2009) NEW YORK–Lynda Carter peers at the ultrasleek stereo in her hotel room, trying to find the right button – any button, really – that will get it to accept her CD.

"Now, where would Play be?" she asks.

"Is it Enter?" she wonders. "That's not it."

"CD? Does that say CD?"

Carter played Wonder Woman on television, someone who stopped bullets with her bracelets or hopped in an invisible plane. On this day, she's more human – more alter ego Diana Prince – stumped by an unfamiliar stereo.

But not for long.

"Okay!" she says with delight as the right button is pressed and the squeal of a saxophone signals the beginning of Sam Cooke's torch song "You Send Me."

The voice that emerges, though, isn't Cooke's. It's Carter's. And, while walking over to a sofa, she can't help but sing along with herself, a grin plastered to her face.

"I didn't realize how much I missed music until I came back," she says, her tall frame swaying. "It's just a blast. It's so much fun."

That's right: long before she donned her famous star-spangled one-piece, Carter was a singer. She's getting back to it now with a new CD and a cabaret tour, proving that the 57-year-old is still something of a wonder woman.

"She's really a very incredibly talented singer," says drummer Paul Leim, the leader of her band who has worked with Carter since her Wonder Woman days, and also with the likes of Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers and Faith Hill.

"Hopefully, everybody will get a chance to experience the real Lynda Carter instead of the actress from the cartoon," says Leim by phone from Nashville, Tenn.

The album contains covers of standards like "Cry Me a River," "Blues in the Night" and "Summertime," as well as playful torch songs such as "Million Dollar Secret."

Carter even covers the Etta James classic "At Last," a song that also lends the CD its name. "It was `At Last' for a long time before I knew it was the president's dancing song," she insists, slightly chagrined.

Carter has lost little of her head-turning looks. On this day, she wears a short embroidered jacket, tight silk shirt and black leggings, a look few women decades her junior could pull off as well.

Besides being a powerful charity fundraiser, she turns out to be a news junkie, able to talk about presidential line-item vetoes or Tom Daschle with ease. She also embraces her inner goofball.

"I'm really kind of a corny person," she says. "I think I am so funny. I do – I crack myself up. I consistently, at least according to my children, make a fool of myself. I am a completely flawed person. It is what it is. I'm happy with it."

She'll be appearing this month on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard and then at Lincoln Centre in New York. In April, there's a fundraiser in Washington and a one-night stand in Modesto, Calif. And, in June, she'll be at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.

Carter, who grew up in Phoenix, got her first professional singing job at 14. At 17, she was on the road, playing the Catskills, clubs in the Reno-Tahoe area, and made her debut at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in a band called The Garfin Gathering.

"I thought I was living the dream. Being paid to sing was unbelievable for me. When being paid to sing no longer felt right, that's when I quit," she says.

She won the Miss World-USA title in 1972 and four years later landed the iconic role of Wonder Woman, which she played until 1979. She says its success was due less to the skimpy outfit than her focus on making Diana Prince feel real.

"People forget that I spent most of the time on television playing an alter ego. That's how I allowed people to really understand her."

Carter, who released her first album in 1978 and sang in several prime-time specials in the '80s, has returned to performing of late, as her two children with her second husband, lawyer Robert Altman, become young adults. She's appeared in The Dukes of Hazzard, Sky High and the TV series Smallville.

She recently played a sociopath on Law & Order and loved it. "People like me don't get those opportunities very often," she says. "My daughter called it creepy. So I thought I'd hit a home run."


Musicians Make Best Book Backers

www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(March 02, 2009) What will be more decisive in determining the winner of this year's
Canada Reads, which runs today to Friday on CBC Radio? The merits of the winning title, or the artistic credentials of the book's advocate? Past history would suggest the latter has had more than a small role to play, if you consider that a book's chances of winning have been greatly enhanced by having a musician in its corner. Five of the past seven winners have been championed by musicians, the list of successful testifiers including Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Steven Page, now ex- of Barenaked Ladies, and John K. Sampson of the Weakerthans, who managed the trick two years running. Last year's winning book, King Leary, was authored by Paul Quarrington, a writer who sidelines as a musician, and promoted by Dave Bidini, a musician who sidelines as a writer.  Sales of the book, which had been out of print before being selected for Canada Reads consideration, jumped 500 per cent in the first week after the competition. That puts a lot of pressure on singer/songwriter Sarah Slean's ability to make a compelling case for David Adams Richards' Mercy Among the Children this year. Slean, who has the advantage of alluringly seductive pipes, will do battle against actor Nicholas Campbell (for Gil Adamson's The Outlander), broadcaster/filmmaker Avi Lewis (for Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes), Quebec TV personality Anne-Marie Withenshaw (for Michel Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant) and novelist Jen Sookfong Lee (for Brian Francis's Fruit). The debate starts today at 11:30 a.m. (repeating at 7:30 p.m.) on CBC Radio One.

Prince On Target With New Album


(March 3, 2009) *Prince and retail chain Target are teaming up to release his latest effort, a three-disc CD package featuring his new albums "LOtUSFLOW3R" and "MPLSoUND," and a third by his new artist, Bria Valente.  The entire set is priced at $11.98, and will be on sale at Target and its Web site on March 29, according to the Associated Press.  "Prince has long been renowned as one of the world's most original and iconic musical artists," said Mark Schindele, Target's senior vice president of merchandising. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share his most recent work with our Target guests."   Prince has released his recent CDs through major labels, but they were one-album deals that gave him the flexibility to go elsewhere when the project was done. He is just the latest music legend to release new music exclusively through a major retailer. AC/DC and the Eagles were among the acts who sold millions of CDs through their partnership with Wal-Mart.

Twista Signs With EMI Global


(March 3, 2009) *Twista has signed a joint venture with EMI Global Music Services for his Get Money Gang Entertainment, reports Billboard.com.  The first project under the new partnership is the rapper's own sixth studio album, "Category F5," due June 16.   The set's first single "Wetter" was made available for digital download on iTunes last week.   Producers assembled for the project include Jim Jonsin, The Tastemakers, Street Runner, Good Will, MGI, Toxi and Traxster, while Kanye West, Akoon, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Static Major and Bobby Valentino, among others, make guest appearances.   Aside from "Wetter," the crossover track "She Got It" will appear on the set as well.

Michael Jackson Comeback Concerts Coming To U.K.

Source: www.billboard.com -

March 03, 2009) Michael Jackson is expected to announce a series of comeback concerts in London, music industry sources said on Tuesday. The 50-year-old last appeared at the World Music Awards in London in 2006, but the much-hyped return of one of the biggest selling artists of all time was a critical flop after he sang only a few lines of "We Are The World." The sources, who asked not to be named, said the singer may appear at a press conference at London's O2 Arena on Thursday. His record label Sony did not have any immediate comment.

Ciara And Timberlake Hook Up

Source: Jive Records

(March 04, 2009) *NEW YORK, NY - Multi-platinum singer Ciara is teaming up with her Jive Records label mate Justin Timberlake on her newest single, "Love Sex Magic."  Co-written by Timberlake and produced by The Y's, "Love Sex Magic" is an electric, dance-friendly duet that will be featured on Ciara's forthcoming album, Fantasy Ride. Fantasy Ride will be the 23-year old, Atlanta-based R&B/hip-hop singer/dancer's third album.  Ciara first came to national attention in 2004, with her 3x platinum debut album Goodies which spawned the No 1 hits "Goodies," "1,2 Step" featuring Missy Elliot and "Oh" featuring Ludacris. She followed up with her platinum-certified sophomore album in 2006, Ciara: The Evolution, which contained her No 1 hit "Promise" and the provocative "Like A Boy."  Since hitting the music scene at 18-years old, Ciara has continuously topped the charts and earned accolades as an all-around entertainer.  In addition to Justin Timberlake, Ciara is collaborating with other top producers and artists including Tricky Stewart, Danja and T-Pain for Fantasy Ride. Ciara is currently gearing up to shoot the "Love Sex Magic" video with Timberlake, Diane Martel will direct. Meanwhile, her current single "Never Ever" featuring Young Jeezy is developing at radio and the accompanying video is in the Top 5 at BET and in rotation at MTV, MTV Jams and MTV Hits.


One Week, Starring Joshua Jackson, Is A Road Movie And A Love Ballad To Canada

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(March 04, 2009) If there were a Genie for outstanding performance by a film distributor marketing a Canadian movie, Mongrel Media president Hussain Amarshi would definitely be a favoured nominee.

He has already had considerable success releasing Bollywood, Hollywood, The Corporation, Away From Her and Water (with box office ranging from $1.5 million to $2.2 million). But this week, Amarshi's instinct for promotional strategy will be put to the test again when the charming on-the-road parable
One Week opens on 60 screens across the country Friday.

Mongrel's tender loving care for One Week's theatrical debut features several imaginative promotional initiatives popping up on Internet sites, Roots stores and on Air Canada flights.

"When I saw this picture I found it inspiring, and I knew we had an opportunity to reach a wide audience," Amarshi explained after a well-received invitational screening hosted by the Ontario Media Development Corp. on Monday night. (The corporation invested $265,000 in the production, with more than $1 million coming from Telefilm Canada.)

The movie, written and directed by Michael McGowan on a budget of just over $2 million, is a road trip, a dark comedy and a love ballad to Canada, showcasing the country's spectacular scenery and musical talent.

It's the story of Ben, who has just been told he has stage IV cancer, with little hope of surviving. Ignoring the views of his fiancée (Liane Balaban) and parents, he resists going into treatment immediately and instead lights out on a cross-country motorcycle odyssey from Toronto to Tofino, B.C.

"I was blown away by the music," says Amarshi. "It's a great word-of-mouth picture. It makes people cry."

It might have been tempting to follow the recipe for releasing low-budget indie films: start with few screens, spend next to nothing on advertising, then rely on word-of-mouth and reviews.

But Amarshi sensed that a smart marketing campaign could turn an appealing little movie into the kind of popular hit Canadian producers dream of, but rarely achieve.

With a marketing budget of $1.2 million – most of it a loan advanced by Telefilm against anticipated receipts – Amarshi and his team faced the challenge of catching the attention of those who would embrace this movie, based on audience response at fests in Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary.

"There is no way we can compete with Watchmen (also opening Friday), which has a huge marketing budget," Amarshi admits, "but we will be playing in some of the same theatres and we need to have a presence."

Attracting audiences to movies made in English Canada has always been a tough challenge, whereas Quebec movies have often enjoyed a strong domestic market, thanks to the public's continuing appetite for movies expressing their distinct language and culture.

But for only the third time in the past 11 years, the annual Golden Reel award presented at the Genie ceremony next month will go to a movie made in English: the World War I epic Passchendaele (distributed by Alliance Atlantis), which has taken in close to $5 million at the domestic box office. The goal of Telefilm is for movies in English to take in $12.5 million a year by 2011 (almost twice as much as they have typically achieved in recent years).

Mongrel's campaign goes beyond the usual posters, trailers and TV ads, running contests and inviting Web browsers to finish the sentence, "If I had one week to live I'd ..." At the website oneweek.ca, visitors asked to "show us the best place in Canada to spend one week" have responded with personal photos and videos.

All of which might make One Week our breakout, getaway movie of 2009.

Actor Says Indie Movie Speaks To Challenges Of Generation

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Entertainment Reporter

(March 04, 2009) These days, Joshua Jackson is definitely on a roll.

Not only is the Vancouver-born actor making an impact on the small screen as one of the stars of the cult paranormal TV series Fringe, he's headlining the indie movie
One Week, which opens Friday at theatres around Toronto.

The Michael McGowan film tells the story of Ben, a typical 20-something who finds himself diagnosed with cancer.

But instead of opting for immediate treatment, he chooses to ride a motorcycle across Canada in a voyage of self-discovery, casting aside his fiancée and his family bonds.

"The point of the movie," says Jackson on the phone from Los Angeles, "is not to examine the horrors of a young man dying from cancer, but to look at how your mind grapples with the situation.

"I'm about to be erased, but I need to get my story told. What happens in that first moment – your flight- or-fight response. I can't just sit in the corner and suck my thumb and cry."

The 30-year-old actor, who shot to stardom in 1998 as Pacey Witter in the long-running series Dawson's Creek, says that when he first heard of the movie's premise, he referenced the old Talking Heads lyric that asked, "How did I get here?"

"Ben finds himself in a really difficult situation," says Jackson.

"He has to hurt the people he cares about. What he does is selfish, but to shake off his chains he has to cut his bonds.

"A lot of my generation," he admits, "has a sense of purposelessness and goes through the act of life rather than the experience of life. We look to the reward without understanding that the journey is the destination."

Jackson eagerly embraced the challenges of One Week, because he feels that "you have to put yourself out there, dealing with a topic as serious as this. It's not a fear of failure. It's a fear of success."

He senses that this problem is shared by his peers, whose parents were "a bunch of aging activists, but my generation could never figure out exactly what we wanted to change. Along came Britney Spears and the dot-com bubble, and we got lost along the way.

"But then mortality comes along and slaps us in the face, and we have to deal with it. Every young dreamer has a moment when he has to face reality and One Week is the story of Ben and that moment in his life."

It's a strange kind of watershed moment in Jackson's existence. The son of a Vancouver casting director, he was plunged into the acting profession by his mother in the hope that its toughness would discourage him.

Instead, he wound up selected for roles from the start and embraced the profession wholeheartedly.

He was cast in The Mighty Ducks at the age of 14 and found himself well on his way to a successful career. But even then, he was conflicted.

The kind of work he found himself doing, first on Ducks and later on Dawson's Creek, wasn't what he had always dreamed of.

"To tell the truth," he laughs, "I was never a Beverly Hills, 90210 kind of guy. I always secretly wanted to be on The X-Files."

But he took the starring role he was offered on the teen heartthrob series Dawson's Creek and played it faithfully for five seasons.

"I never spent too much time navel-gazing," he says of those years. "I know people loved the show and so I was happily a part of it."

Still, he's a lot more contented now as the star of Fringe, the crazily off-the-wall sci-fi series.

"It's complete madhouse escapist fun, which allows everyone to take a check-out moment each week, which they totally deserve.

"Hey," he laughs, "every thesis needs an antithesis."

In the meantime, Jackson is happy to bounce from serious work like One Week to escapism like Fringe, learning what he can along the way.

"There are a lot of subterranean things in your life and sometimes performances help you articulate things that you otherwise wouldn't have been able to understand,'' he says.

"That's why I love this business."

C'est pas moi, je le jure!: French Twist On Fractured Families

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

C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Starring Antoine L'Écuyer, Suzanne Clément, Philippe Doré and Gabriel Maille. Written and directed by Philippe Falardeau. 105 minutes. At the Royal. 14A

(February 27, 2009) A small boy lifts a sledgehammer to a family portrait, smashing the glass and frame.

He's 10-year-old Quebec hellraiser Léon, played by arresting newcomer Antoine L'Écuyer, and he's more bored than angry. The portrait isn't even his own family; it's of the neighbours whose house he has invaded. But Lord knows, Léon has his own domestic issues, with his parents in the midst of a divorce.

The scene from Philippe Falardeau's C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!), which opens today after a successful TIFF '08 bow, makes cogent commentary on the fractured state of Canadian home life. It's a theme in recent Canuck cinema also noted in the quietly devastating Lost Song, another TIFF stunner that also opens today.

A parental rift has driven away Léon's mom (Suzanne Clément) and sent the youngster on a spree of vandalism and attempted suicide (although he may be faking). Léon's dad (Daniel Briere) and older brother Jerome (Gabriel Maille) aren't able to do much. They sweep up the wreckage and untie the hanging knots.

Who's to blame here? Léon blames Providence on his situation ("One day, God ruined everything"), but he hasn't had much in the way of parental guidance. Dad, a lawyer, is too distracted and indifferent. Mom, a wannabe painter, gives her young son dubious advice: "It's better not to lie, but it's worse to lie badly."

The movie, set in 1968, was pitched in its home province Quebec as a Dennis the Menace kind of film, and it does have many funny moments. It's based on two popular novels by Bruno Hebert.

But writer/director Falardeau (Congorama) intends a deeper probe into the dysfunctional family. A subplot involving neighbour girl Léa (Catherine Faucher, another great find) further illuminates the pervasive darkness of the supposedly placid suburban '60s.

Léa's alcoholic uncle is all she has for a family. She's game when Léon hatches a plan to try to find his missing mother, who had fled to Greece at last word. If Léon doesn't get what he wants, he can always set the house on fire.

Impeccable production values help make this family angst unforgettable. Cinematographer André Turpin lenses with Ektachrome brilliance.

Léon's frustrated brother begs him to calm down: "You have to be happy! I just want you to be happy!"

A Careful Crafter Of Images And Moments

Source: www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(February 26, 2009) I must admit I wasn't expecting much from Quebec-based filmmaker Rodrigue Jean before meeting him. The first thing I was told about the award-winning director/producer/writer was that he flatly refuses to have his picture taken or to be filmed in any way. Poor guy, I thought: He either has two heads or a Garbo complex, or both.

The second thing, one that set my "typical Canadian film" bells ringing, was the précis of his latest film, Lost Song, which won the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at 2008's TIFF. On the surface, it's a film about an uptight, over-privileged young family spending a lazy summer in the pristine cottage country outside Montreal — and driving each other crazy. Spare me the problems of the rich and bored, I thought, while everyone around me is panicking about money.

But Lost Song and Jean both took me by surprise. The film is one of those domestic dramas that creep up on you, a kind of stealth version of more apoplectic films such as The Celebration or The Ice Storm. So little is said, but so very much is slyly implied, that after all hell breaks loose in the third act you'll be thinking about the film for the next two days, piecing together the hints, psychological cues and tight but loaded dialogue.

As for the film's creator — you'll have to take my word for it, but he does not have two heads (the Garbo complex, maybe). In fact, he's soap-opera attractive in a craggy, artsy sort of way. Imagine an unshaven Bruce Willis, but with real hair on his head, crossed with just a touch of Jacques Brel's brooding, nicotined pallor. And his conversation is the antithesis of his opaque public image. A careful, patient crafter of images and moments, Jean was happy to give full, considered answers to even the least full and considered questions.

Oh, the French, they are so … énigmatique.

This film really snuck up on me, because for the first 20 minutes I kept wondering why the protagonists, who appeared to have everything, were so unhappy.

Often with this film people mention different psychological things, like depression, why couples fight. What I wanted to do, and I've been working on it for 25 years, was explore my interest in the myth of Medea. I was always wondering what Medea would be in this world, in Canada, where people seemingly have everything, where most of the population is urban, and in a middle-class setting. So the characters are beautiful, they have careers — the only thing missing is a child. Once they get the child, the whole thing starts unravelling. That was the intent of the film, to see a couple who have everything but are unhappy, who want more all the time.

The baby "completes the picture" for this couple, but the mucky reality of a child disrupts their lives.

The reality of giving life, huh? I've always been interested in that — how do we treat childhood? People seem to glorify childhood, but the reality — well, Canada got a blame from the United Nations for the way we treat our children and our poor. So what is it about giving birth that is so glorified, but in reality youth are often abandoned? The film deals with that paradox: When the child is actually there, and it needs all that a child needs, the society, the couple, are not there. That's the big picture that informs the film.

Do you have children?

No, no.

I would have guessed you do, because the scenes of the baby crying constantly are harrowing.

Well, we are all surrounded by friends, family, who have children. People have asked me as well how did I get in the psyche of a woman for this film — well, we are all born, all have a mother, no? Giving birth and all that, it belongs to everyone.

The film has many long, quiet scenes where we only have the actors' faces to follow. How did you prepare the actors for these scenes without dialogue?

Paradoxically, it is done with speech. This film took five years to do, because it was almost impossible to finance because of the subject matter. So there was five years of talking with the actors. There was no casting; I knew the actors. But I had ideas about these actors that changed. So it was done with conversation. Lots of talking, over years.

I have to ask: Why do you refuse to have your photo taken?

It's quite simple. If one wants to be in front of the camera, one would be an actor. I feel very fortunate to be able to make films, but it's a very difficult thing. It takes years, you get kicked and insulted every step of the way, especially in this country. So the only thing left that one has is one's privacy. So — Ha! — Please, I want to keep that last bit!

Do you find it hard to promote your work when you won't do television interviews?

No. Everything is turned into a spectacle in this world. I work very hard, but that person who would be on TV is a construct. He is not my work. My film is me. If somebody has a weird curiosity to see me, that's the best picture they could get, the film.



New Brunswick

Among friends

In his 2002 road-trip movie Yellowknife, Rodrigue Jean cast faded disco queen and fellow Acadian Patsy Gallant in the role of a washed-out nightclub singer.

In good company

Of course, Lost Song shared the spotlight at last year's Toronto International Film Festival with a little film called Slumdog Millionaire. Maybe some of that movie's good luck will rub off on the Canadian feature.

Massimo Commanducci

Kiefer Sutherland Voices Arms Trade Doc

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
The Canadian Press

(February 27, 2009) When Shelley Saywell was planning her documentary about guns, the authoritative voice of Kiefer Sutherland – TV's freedom-fighting vigilante, Jack Bauer – kept resonating in her head.

"I kept hearing Kiefer's voice for some reason," says the Toronto-born filmmaker.

The 24 star was in Africa last summer shooting 24: Redemption, the two-hour TV movie that aired in November, when he was contacted by Saywell to narrate
Running Guns: A Journey Into the Small Arms Trade. The 70-minute documentary airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on History Television.

The Emmy-winning filmmaker's previous documentaries have included Crimes of Honour, Kim's Story: The Road From Vietnam and A Child's Century of War, which was short-listed for an Academy Award.

Saywell often uses her own voice to narrate her films, which lately have taken place in the world's deadliest war zones.

"It's hard to write in the third person when you've been to these places," she said.

Because Running Guns was more of an investigative piece, however, she felt she needed a "weightier" voice.

Sutherland – whose series 24 is sometimes accused of running up body counts as it dramatizes international terrorism – was closer to Saywell's story and more in tune with her cause than she even knew. The actor was on location in Africa, shooting scenes dealing with an out-of-control gun culture and exploitation of child soldiers.

Although the demands on his time are intense (Sutherland is also an executive producer on the series), he agreed to narrate the project if it could be arranged over the phone.

"I've never done that before, but he was such a busy guy and it took weeks to get him," said Saywell. "He has a big heart."

Sutherland's narration throws out some shocking statistics: there is one gun for every 10 people on earth; eight million small arms are manufactured yearly; and every year enough bullets are made to kill every human twice.

Saywell has seen first-hand how small arms have ravaged parts of the world. "I've been making films in conflict zones for years, and one film often leads to another."

She and her small crew have even been held up at gunpoint in Bosnia.

As dangerous as it is to cover these conflicts, Saywell said the difference is "we leave. These people are living in this unsafe, hideous environment all their lives."

Gay Community Welcomes Oscar Victory

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(February 23, 2009) New York — They were celebrating in the Castro district of San Francisco Monday after Milk, a film about one of the iconic figures of the gay-rights movement, took home two major awards at the Oscars.

Many gay advocates are hoping the win adds momentum to their cause as the California Supreme Court prepares to consider the legality of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state.

“For our community in California, it was a significant blow to have the right of marriage taken away,” said Paul Boneberg, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender Historical Society, which is based in San Francisco. “It makes this victory at the Oscars very welcome, and very much needed.”

The court will hear arguments on the legal challenge to Proposition 8 on March 5. But even if the measure is repealed, same-sex marriage as enacted in numerous foreign countries and two states is unlikely to become a reality across the entire United States.

Even as he spoke of his own dream of marrying, Dustin Lance Black, the openly gay screenwriter who picked up an award for Milk, spoke only of hoping for “equal rights federally,” which usually translates as civil unions.

Federally mandated rights seem unlikely. Marriage in the United States is regulated by the states, leading to a patchwork of laws that effectively bar even same-sex couples married in one state from having their union recognized in many others. Massachusetts and Connecticut are currently the only two states performing marriages. Same-sex couples married in foreign countries are recognized in New York and New Mexico, though those states do not perform gay marriages.

Still, the lavish and high-profile Oscar ceremony, seen by more than 40 million viewers across North America and tens of millions more across the globe, was the most visible event in years to highlight gay rights.

Thousands gathered in San Francisco to watch the broadcast at an annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser at the Fort Mason Center, and at the Castro Theatre, a few kilometres from where Harvey Milk was assassinated by a colleague in November, 1978.

“Anything that puts us front and centre is helpful,” said Bevan Dufty, the San Francisco politician who represents District 8 on the city's board of supervisors, the seat once held by Mr. Milk.

In featuring moments from Milk, Sunday night's Oscars became one of the first to include scenes of men kissing in a movie. The broadcast – laughingly dubbed “the gayest Oscars ever” by the website Gawker.com – was produced for the first time by the openly gay feature film director Bill Condon ( Dreamgirls, Kinsey).

Clutching his statuette, Mr. Black spoke movingly of his upbringing in a strict Mormon household and of his mother's acceptance of his sexuality when he came out as a teen.

Many Hollywood watchers suggested the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Sean Penn the top award for his portrayal of Mr. Milk over sentimental favourite Mickey Rourke in part to bring attention to the continuing fight against Proposition 8, which has sharply split California.

The ballot measure passed with 52 per cent after tens of millions of dollars flooded into California from business and religious leaders in other states. Conservatives picketed the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars are held, in support of Proposition 8.

Mr. Penn criticized the protesters and others who supported the gay marriage ban, and paid tribute to the election of Barack Obama, whom he called “an elegant man.” While President Obama said during the campaign last year that he would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which permits states to ignore civil unions authorized by other states, he opposes same-sex marriage.

The celebration of Mr. Milk's life carries a historical echo of the nasty fight over a previous anti-gay initiative in California. In 1978, the ballot measure known as Proposition 6 sought to ban homosexuals from teaching in the state's public schools. Three weeks after Mr. Milk successfully helped defeat the proposed legislation, he was gunned down.

While the right-wing blogosphere and talk radio lit up in predictable anger over the gay-friendly Oscars and supporters of Proposition 8 girded for next week's fight, Mr. Boneberg said true gay marriage might not be as far away as some would think.

“In California, the sodomy laws were repealed in 1975,” he said. “If you look at the progress made in the last 30 years, I think it's completely fair to say in the next 30 years we will have full equality in marriage.”

Hollywood Sees Film's Future Fortunes In 3D

Source: www.thestar.com -

(February 27, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Hollywood is turning to 3-D movies more than at any time since the 1950s to boost ticket sales, but the recession has created a distribution logjam that has blurred the box office outlook.

The Walt Disney Co. releases Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience today in theatres equipped for 3-D. But that means Focus Features' Coraline – which has been a hit, opening at No. 3 earlier this month – must cut its 3D presence to some 300 3-D equipped screens, probably before it has played to all potential fans.

"It's a statement about how the industry is just so behind an opportunity to make more money, at a time that we've been told constantly the economy is bad," said Jack Foley, president of distribution for Focus.

The roll-out of expensive digital equipment to show 3-D movies began early this decade and picked up steam after the 3-D version of 2005's Chicken Little became a hit.

Studios will release more than a dozen movies in 3-D before the year is out, about twice as many as in 2007 and 2008 combined. And 40 3-D movies are set to hit theatres over the next three years.

DreamWorks hopes its animated movie Monsters vs. Aliens can play on 2,200 3-D screens in the U.S. and Canada when it opens March 27, but right now that appears unlikely.

The National Association of Theater Owners says only 1,700 3-D screens exist, up from less than 1,000 six months ago.

Converting the vast majority of the 38,900 screens in the U.S. will cost $2 billion U.S., says association spokesperson Patrick Corcoran.

"It's a large capital investment and large capital investors are just not out there right now, so it's going to have to happen screen-by-screen, fairly piecemeal," he said.

The recession, however, has not seemed to dampen consumer interest in 3D, which can cost from $2 to $5 more per ticket.


Slumdog Kids To Get New Homes

www.thestar.com - Reuters

(February 26, 2009) The two main child actors from Slumdog Millionaire are to receive new homes after the small-budget movie swept the Oscars. Mumbai homes will go to the families of Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who played the young roles of the movie's central characters, Latika and Salim, in the rags-to-riches romance about a poor Indian boy competing for love and money on a TV game show. "These two children have brought laurels to the country and we have been told that they live in slums, which cannot even be classified as housing," said Gautam Chatterjee, head of a state-run housing authority.  Authorities said the homes would be apartments and near a "prime location." Rubina, 8, lives in a tiny hovel in a rubbish-strewn slum near railway tracks. Azharuddin sleeps under a polythene sheet-covered roof in the same slum. Open sewers run nearby; neither home has running water.

Cree Actor In Twilight Sequel

www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 26, 2009) Twilight fans will get some CanCon with their vampire love story when the movie sequel New Moon opens in November. Vancouver-born actor Bronson Pelletier will play a "significant role," a source has told the Star, insisting on anonymity pending final confirmation this week. The source added there were "a few" Canadians on the new film, which reunites stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in Stephenie Meyer's vampire-human tale.  Pelletier, who is part Cree and in his early 20s, has appeared in Discovery Kids' DinoSapien and Global TV's Renegadepress.com.

War Epic Passchendaele Among GG Winners

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(March 02, 2009) Acadian singer Edith Butler, dancer Peggy Baker and filmmaker/playwright Robert Lepage are among the winners of this year's Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Also named as winners are playwright George F. Walker, composer R. Murray Schafer and writer/singer Clemence Desrochers. Each recipient receives $25,000. The awards will be presented at Rideau Hall May 8. As well, actor/director Paul Gross was honoured for his film Passchendaele, winning this year's National Arts Centre Award for achievement over the past performance year. And philanthropist James D. Fleck was named the recipient of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts. "The presentation of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards is a time for us to recognize the invaluable contribution of our artists who have chosen the stage as a space in which to create and to express themselves and who dedicate their lives to enriching our own," said Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean.

Angela Bassett To Make Directorial Debut

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(March 04, 2009) *Angela Bassett is set to make her directorial debut with "United States," an independent film she will also produce alongside her husband Courtney B. Vance under their Bassett/Vance Prods banner. Based on the novel "Erasure" by Percival Everett, "States" is a dramatic comedy about Monk Ellison, a prominent black literary figure who writes a faux autobiography from the perspective of a barely literate hoodlum to decry what is wrong with the glorification of "ghetto" culture.   But when the book is lauded as a possible contender for the National Book Award, he must choose between pride and fame.   "States," adapted by screenwriter Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, is the first project produced by Bassett/Vance and is scheduled to begin shooting this summer.


T-Boz All About Business On 'Apprentice'


(March 3, 2009) *Fans of NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" can already tell that Tionne "T Boz" Watkins is not one for theatrics or drama.

In fact, she's so low profile that host Donald Trump couldn't even remember the correct way to say her name.  After one too many "T-own" pronunciations instead of the correct "T-on," he resorted to calling her "T."

 Hip hop “is probably not part of his world,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview. But Watkins said she did not go out of her way to suck up to the Donald. Plus, “I didn’t Omarosa it,” she said, turning one of the most infamous “Apprentice” contestants of yore into a verb. Compared to the likes of Season 2 cast members Andrew “Dice” Clay and Dennis Rodman, “I made boring TV.” 

 Her primary goal was to make sure that her charity, the Sickle Cell Foundation, was front and center, not her ego. She was born with the disease and has had to cope with the fatigue and a weak immune system all her life. 

 In Sunday's season premiere episode, T-Boz was suffering from a sinus infection and a 102 degree fever. She says it's the reason that she was rarely heard from during the challenge, which had the competing celebs selling homemade cupcakes for charity. She got annoyed when poker champ Annie Dukes in the first challenge called her out in front of Trump for supposedly not working hard enough, then acted all concerned off camera. 

 “I respect Donald Trump but I’m not going to make an [bleep] out of myself," she said. In the boardroom, some contestants felt they had to tell Trump every little thing they did to prove their worth. She didn’t. “They’d overtalk, trying to sound intellectual, being loud and saying nothing,” she said. “Shut up! I’ve been on TV for 17 years. I don’t have to fight for camera time. If you want me to get the job done, I’ll do it. I was there to raise money.” (She said she did raise money for Sickle Cell research, which means at one point she won a challenge as project manager.)

 The great thing for her is she didn’t have to live with the other celebrities such as “Surreal Life.” (”I’m not the roommate type!”) Rather, she got to go to a hotel at the end of each day and be with her daughter Chase and her mom. 

 The shooting days were really long, sometimes 16 hours or more, according to AJC. They’d often wake up at 4 a.m. for makeup and hair and not get back to the hotel until after 9:30 p.m. “They kept you tired and hungry,” she said, a recipe for good TV because people are more apt to blow up. 

 Watkins said once her sinus infection was over, she didn’t get sick again on the show. But she says she often gets sick when the seasons change. She became ill when on tour with TLC. She said she tries her best to take care of herself and takes lots of vitamins and prays a lot.

CTV Shutting Two Ontario Stations

Source: www.thestar.com - David Friend, The Canadian Press

(February 25, 2009) Canadian broadcaster CTV Television Inc. says it's shutting down two small Ontario television stations hurt by the struggling economy and a squeeze on advertising.

The broadcaster says it will not seek to renew the licences for stations CKNX-TV in Wingham and CHWI-TV in Wheatley and Windsor when they expire at the end of August.

The stations operate under the A-Channel brand and are in a part of southwestern Ontario hurt by auto layoffs, plant closures and streamlining of the manufacturing sector.

CTV said in a release Wednesday that the decision to close the stations reflects financial pressures at the company's conventional TV operations in the wake of the CRTC's decision last fall to deny fee-for-carriage charges that would have pumped more money into the industry.

"The traditional economic model for Canadian television is broken," Paul Sparkes, a spokesman for parent company CTVglobemedia (TSX:
BCE), said in the announcement Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, we may need to consider similar actions in other local markets given the current regulatory framework."

Last week, CTV announced that it was putting CKX-TV Brandon in western Manitoba up for sale after the CBC decided it wasn't going to continue paying the company to carry its news and entertainment content.

CTV is warning that it'll pull the plug on the Manitoba station if another broadcaster doesn't buy it.

"I view (these announcements) as a poker game between CTV and the CRTC," said Ian Morrison, a spokesman for the watchdog group, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

"It's CTV putting pressure on the commission."

The latest developments involving over-the-air networks mark what some are calling a sea change in the Canadian television industry.

Last month Canwest Global Communications Corp. (TSX:
CGS) decided to put its five E! channels up for sale, which sparked outrage in some local communities.

In Hamilton, a grassroots campaign has paired employees at CHCH-TV with other locals to rescue the station from being sold to a community outsider.

Instead the group is trying to keep the channel on the air with a new proposal to the CRTC later this spring.

"We (the group) have met and we have secured support from our local Members of Parliament, provincial legislature, local politicians," said Donna Skelly, a news anchor at CHCH and spokeswoman for the initiative.

"What we are proposing, is an all-news (station) – for the most part. It would be local . . . it wouldn't carry American programming."

Skelly said the group has created a five-year plan that is designed to make the station profitable.

However, turning a profit in this uncertain economy has been a challenge that big companies have failed to meet.

Last fall, broadcasters stormed from negotiations with the CRTC after the commission told Canwest, CTV and other private-sector stations that they wouldn't be allowed to charge cable and satellite distributors for carrying their channels.

Broadcasters called the decision unfair and warned that it could affect their operations.

Then earlier this month, the CRTC released a report which said that annual profits for private-sector conventional TV stations fell to a mere $8 million before interest and taxes, down from $112.9 million.

Revenues dropped 1.5 per cent to $2.1 billion.

The bottom lines at other major Canadian broadcasters have also been shrinking, and some companies have laid off employees to tighten their operating costs.

Canwest is working towards a Friday deadline to renegotiate the terms of bank debt and has put its five E! channels up for sale and is trying to sell other non-core assets, including overseas properties in Australia.

And public broadcaster CBC has been talking with the Heritage Department about concerns the economic downturn will drag the company into a deep deficit during the 2009-2010 financial year.

Bauer's Gun Loaded With Organic Bullets

Source: www.thestar.com - Leslie Kaufman, New York Times News Service

(March 02, 2009) When a dark-coloured SUV raced through the streets of Washington, flipped over and burst into flames on Fox's fast-paced action show 24 last week, viewers probably were not calculating how much carbon dioxide the explosion produced.

But executives at Fox have been paying close attention.

Today the network will announce that 24 is going green, becoming the first "carbon neutral" television series.

Among other things, Fox says, it has hired consultants to measure the carbon-dioxide output from the production, started using 20 per cent biodiesel fuel in trucks and generators, installed motion monitors in bathrooms and kitchens to make the lights more efficient, and paid the higher fees that help California utilities buy wind and solar power.

Car crashes posed a bigger problem; even hybrid vehicles emit carbon dioxide when blown up. To achieve true carbon neutrality the scripts would have to avoid shooting on location and staging chase scenes, something likely to disappoint even the greenest viewers.

So the producers decided to settle for buying carbon offsets, which in theory make up for emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, by paying other people to generate enough clean energy to compensate: in this case wind-power plants in India. The producers said they bought enough credits to offset 1,291 tons of carbon dioxide, just over a half-season's worth of emissions.

"If we've needed a car chase, we've had a car chase," said Howard Gordon, executive producer of 24. "Our obligation is first and foremost to the fans. If we have budget cuts and need to save money, then we'll have fewer car crashes."

Rupert Murdoch, spurred by a presentation by former U.S. vice- president Al Gore, said last year that he intended to make News Corp., Fox's parent, carbon neutral by 2010, and the network's campaign, the producers say, is part of that effort. Still, the green fervour is an interesting turn for a show known more for playing out terrorist themes pioneered by the Bush administration and for graphic portrayals of torture in prime time.

Gordon said he knew more sceptical viewers might see the effort as a way to rehabilitate the show's reputation among liberals, but he insisted that there was no connection.

"People continue to ascribe political agendas to the show, so they may see this cynically but, no, absolutely, one has nothing to do with the other," he said.

Fox is not the first network to tout its devotion to the planet. In November, NBC Universal committed to "greening" three shows, including the Nightly News With Brian Williams and Saturday Night Live, by using alternative fuels and increasing recycling and composting. Warner Bros. and Disney also have environmental divisions.

Still, Fox executives said they were the first to make a series carbon neutral and that they hoped 24 would be a model for other shows and inspire a higher level of environmental consciousness in viewers. Today the network will begin broadcasting announcements in which the stars of 24 – including Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Agent Jack Bauer – encourage viewers to take steps themselves.

"No one is kidding themselves that viewers want to see Jack Bauer stop in the middle of an action scene and deliver some line about the environment," said Dana Walden, a chairwoman of 20th Century Fox Television, who was the force behind the carbon neutral plan. But, she added, Fox hoped that the result would be "a more gratifying viewing experience, even if it is at a more subconscious level."

Figuring out how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions on a show that often shoots on location and is known for explosion-enhanced action was not easy.

The first step was to evaluate how much of the greenhouse gas was produced, examining everything from the cars used to ferry scripts across the Los Angeles area to flights taken by actors and executives.

Two categories accounted for 95 per cent of emissions: fuel for on-site generators, transportation and special effects; and the electricity used for sets and offices.

The cast, crew and contractors all made substantial adjustments. They shared scripts electronically and drove around in hybrid vehicles, eliminating the use of 1,300 gallons of gasoline, according to the network.

Still, by the show's own accounting, the realities of production often limited what could be done. Although 1,300 gallons of gas represents about 10 cross-country car trips, Fox said, it is not much for a show that goes through at least 1,000 gallons a week. (For other series, Fox said it was experimenting with hybrid 5-ton semi trucks.)

Gordon said it's still worth taking steps to minimize the show's environmental impact. "We are arguably the worst possible offender, which is why, in a way, it made sense to start with us," he said. "If we can do it, anyone can."


Derek Luke Cast In NBC Pilot 'Trauma'


(February 27, 2009) *Film star Derek Luke will transition to the small screen with a starring role in the NBC drama pilot "Trauma," according to the Hollywood Reporter. Kevin Rankin, Cliff Curtis and Jamey Sheridan are in negotiations to co-star in the project, a medical procedural about a team of emergency medical technicians. Luke will play a stoic trauma doctor who tries to be a good family man. Curtis ("Live Free or Die Hard") would play a genius surgeon and adrenaline junkie who travels by helicopter. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" alumnus Sheridan would play an intuitive doctor who runs the trauma center. Rankin ("Friday Night Lights") will play a paramedic who drives the fire department truck. Luke recently starred in the Biggie Smalls biopic "Notorious," in which he portrayed Sean "Diddy" Combs. He is currently onscreen in "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail."


Powerful, Poignant Look Across The Generations

Source:  www.thestar.com - Mark Selby,
Special To The Star

Letters to my Grandma
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Written by Anusree Roy. Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones. Presented by Theatre Jones Roy until March 8 at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. 416-504-7529

(March 04, 2009) On a practically bare stage, one lone figure emerges from the darkness. With minimal sets or props, she begins to tell of a life of hardships and strive.

But don't write this off as yet another clichéd one-person show. In the case of
Letters to my Grandma, which opened last night, you're immediately drawn into the story of Malobee, who explores the parallels between her life as a young immigrant growing up in Toronto, and that of her grandmother, who came of age in the turmoil of post-World War II India.

The appeal of this production lies in the charm of the performer.
Anusree Roy is also the playwright, one with a unique theatrical voice and an ability to connect with her multicultural audience.

On the eve of her own wedding, Malobee opens the last letter her grandmother ever wrote, and she examines not only her relationship with her grandmother half a world away, but, through their letters and through Malobee's own experiences, we witness the struggles each has had to face in their very different surroundings, where they were not always easily assimilated.

If the cross-generational vignettes in this 45-minute production seem a little disjointed at first, Roy's performance catapults them to a whole new level. Her transformation is so intense and impassioned, it's an extreme makeover. She has an impeccable sense of character, and her bilingual text gives the story extra authenticity.

Roy finds a delicate balance between honest moments of horror, with dashes of humour even in the darkest moments.

Playing with chronology may not be unique, but with minimal sound effects and with only lighting to indicate new chronological placement, this deceptively simple show packs an emotional wallop.

Roy's cohorts, director Thomas Morgan Jones and lighting designer David DeGrow, make up the young company that are clearly making an impact; their first effort, Pyaasa, earned two Dora Mavor Moore Awards. This is only their second show, and it's a criminally short run for a show so long on poignancy and power.

Letters is a winning production, signed, sealed, and delivered.

Television's Gilmore Girl Is Reborn A Doll

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Kennedy,
Associated Press

(March 02, 2009) NEW YORK – Lauren Graham swooped into the opening night party for Guys and Dolls yesterday evening with the radiant air of someone who had come home again, and in a way she had.

"When I was in high school I used to do shows like this all the time. I was actually Dolly in Hello, Dolly! if you can believe it," she revealed.

Having witnessed the Ethel Merman-style belt she brings to the role of Miss Adelaide, it's easy to accept what she says as gospel.

"This is where I started, doing theatre. For a long, long time, I got sidetracked into TV and films, but honestly, this is where I feel I belong."

But when Des McAnuff cast Graham in his production of Guys and Dolls, which opened on Broadway last night, a lot of people thought that he might be just a bit crazy.

Here was a woman best known for her seven seasons as Lorelai on Gilmore Girls, snapping out witty one-liners as if she were channelling Dorothy Parker, and McAnuff casts her as a chorus girl who is definitely a few sequins short of an evening gown.

Did he know what he was doing?

"Absolutely!" roared McAnuff in his crowded New York office a few blocks from the Nederlander Theatre. "First of all, Adelaide is dumb like a fox. Don't forget that she ultimately gets the guy and the life she always wanted.

"And she's also got a heart as big as Times Square, which defines Lauren as well."

Fair enough. Devotees of Gilmore Girls will recall how, as the coolest of all single moms, she could play verbal ping-pong with her sharp-as-a-tack daughter Rory one moment and then break down in gale-force tears when her heart got broken the next.

There's one more thing Graham and Adelaide have in common.

"She's a damn sexy woman," enthused choreographer Sergio Trujillo. "Wait until you see her do her strip routines. It's Marilyn Monroe time."

Guys and Dolls fans may shake their heads at this point because they don't recall any strip numbers for Adelaide, and they'd be right.

McAnuff and Trujillo have moved their production 15 years back from when it's usually set, to the period when Damon Runyon wrote the original stories that inspired the musical.

So now, instead of the slightly tawdry 1950s decorum of Adelaide's production numbers, we get the more distinctive raunch of 1935 burlesque, around the time Gypsy Rose Lee was making her mark.

For Graham herself, this marks the long-delayed completion of one of her earliest dreams: to star in a Broadway show.

The 41-year-old brunette was born in Honolulu and grew up in Washington, D.C., after her parents divorced when she was 5.

All through her adolescence, she worked on school and community theatre projects, earning her Equity card when she was 21, the same year she graduated from Barnard College with a BA in English.

She went on get a master's degree in acting at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the same school that trained Kathy Bates.

Graham headed to New York after her education was through, hoping to make it in the theatre, but television called her instead and she became a much-in-demand guest star on series like Third Rock From the Sun, Caroline in the City, Seinfeld and NewsRadio.

She also appeared in three series of her own, all of which quickly faded, the most memorable being Townies, a 1996 sitcom where she appeared opposite Molly Ringwald and Jenna Elfman.

She finally caught the gold ring in 2000, when Gilmore Girls went on the air for seven highly successful seasons.

And now she's back on Broadway, sashaying up a storm and sniffling through her psychosomatic illnesses as she sings about how "a person can develop a cold."

She admits Gilmore Girls fans will find it strange to see her as the brassy Adelaide, "but in the end, they see that it's really me underneath and they're able to embrace it as part of the whole package."

Maybe her next project can be a musical sitcom about a single mother who strips for a living in the 1930s. Call it Gilmore Dolls.

A Lovely Act With No Protection

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Entertainment Reporter

Blind Date
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Created by Rebecca Northan. Until March 7 at the Brigantine Room, 235 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(March 04, 2009) Do you believe in love at first sight? I do, because I've just spent 90 minutes under the spell of
Rebecca Northan, whose Blind Date opened last night at the Brigantine Room as part of World Stage.

This show has one of the simplest yet most inventive premises ever. Northan appears at a Paris bistro, all wide-eyed innocence and shaggy auburn tresses, wearing the requisite red clown nose.

The only thing she's lacking is a date, because some stupid fool has stood her up.

So what's a girl to do? She turns to the audience and picks up a guy at random.

Talk about walking on the high wire without a net! Northan's concept is that she can sustain a 90-minute improvisational blind date with someone who is not a performer.

Sounds crazy? Perhaps. But it works. Or at least it did last night and I have no reason to believe that this amazing woman couldn't keep a similar relationship going with any other person on any other evening.

Her drive-by boyfriend last night was a young man from the military who came equipped with a boyish grin and a girlfriend in the audience.

Rather than putting a damper on the proceedings, Northan made the other woman's presence viable by asking her opinion on her escort's kissing and soliciting her approval at selected key moments.

Northan has carved out a rather slippery slope for herself, because the evening is bound to head toward physical intimacy, which – with a stranger who's a theatrical amateur – might prove embarrassing. But somehow, her jaunty air and total lack of prudishness takes us serenely over the roughest potential patches.

In fact, the astonishing thing about Blind Date is how much depth Northan manages to slyly shoehorn into the piece, taking us into commitment, marriage and childbirth before we realize we're heading there.

Once again, I have to stress that this review is based on the interaction Northan found with last night's partner and the show could be totally different with another guy.

Still, I'm willing to wager that no matter who this gifted woman selects by chance from the audience, the end result is likely to contain the same mixture of uproarious laughter, honest sexuality and genuine emotion that it did last night.

Up until now, the phrase "blind date" has been the signature of an accident waiting to happen. But in the hands of Rebecca Northan, it becomes the recipe for a flight of theatrical fancy that is absolutely magical.


Killzone 2 Has Killer Looks, But No Script To Die For

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

Killzone 2

Platform: PlayStation 3
Rated: M
Price: $59.99
(out of 4)

(February 28, 2009) Whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, packages tied up with string? Sure, Oscar Hammerstein called it. Who doesn't have these things on their heart's "favourites" list? But we're a long way from the 1950s, and hard-core gamers need more than the simple pleasures of life to shrug off the dog bites and bee stings; our favourite things now include redonkulous polygon counts and high-dynamic-range visuals, massive "Holy crap!" sci-fi set pieces at regular intervals, constant adrenalin stimulus, and blooming explosions that would have triggered latent shell shock in postwar consumers of musical theatre.

In delivering all this and more, Killzone 2 offers enough to make a first-person-shooter fan break out into a spontaneous song-and-dance number. First, it looks fantastic. It's a PlayStation 3 exclusive, intended as a showcase for the console's raw power. It's obvious no expense was spared in making Killzone 2 the prettiest pony in the fold (inasmuch as the battle-scarred environs of a dystopian industrial hell-world can be called "pretty").

It's hard to know where to begin praising KZ2's technical accomplishments: Minutely detailed and ultra-crunchy textures, near-perfect particle and explosion effects, great models and animation, excellent set dressing and an overall cinematographic approach combine for the most scarily realistic sci-fi battlefield ever presented in a game.

And those big set pieces? Yeah. Wow around every corner. On the gameplay level, it doesn't try to innovate beyond making the experience as immediate and physical as possible. Killzone 2 is a very visceral experience; there's a lot of bob-and-weave built into the first-person point of view, which is at first a little distracting – even motion-sickening – but once you literally get your head into it, it creates a lot of immediacy, a strong sense of being in and part of the environment.

Everything from the way you sprint and use cover to the way the muzzle-climb of your automatic weapons is modelled contributes to this full-bodied feeling, and when the action gets heavy – and it's rarely otherwise – it all makes for some serious panic moments. You never feel like an invincible super-soldier; taking fire is terrifying and the constant, desperate scramble for cover and position can make your heart do flips.

Bad points? The writing, the story. Every time the intimate, immediate feel of the gunfighting would suck me in, some oafish bit of dialogue or sub-pulp plot element would set my eyes rolling and nudge me out of the zone. It's one thing to come up with some kick-ass "ain't it cool" moments and deliver them, but those awesome moments need to be strung together with something more than battle-opera clichés and off-the-shelf tough-guy dialogue.

I know: The story of Killzone 2 is the story of an invasion and occupation – how much story and motivation does that require, right? Good question. You should ask the makers of Company of Heroes, or the Call of Duty games, and see what their answer is. If you've got cinematic ambition – and one look tells you Killzone 2 does – a military setting and scenario is no excuse to go on autopilot when it comes to creating your characters. It's that kind of laziness (or maybe cluelessness; maybe the folks they're getting to write this stuff really don't know any better) that's keeping the whole medium down.

I've never been in a combat zone, and I know that macho-martial warrior-speak is part of the military vocabulary, but I've spent enough time around members of our armed forces to know that soldiers are – and will be, even in the 24th century or whenever – people first, and they deserve to be written as such.

Soapboxing aside, Killzone 2 is a pretty fun game, and a real technical showpiece. But if they'd put even half as much time and resources into working on the script and scenario as they did on designing the dropships, developing the grenade mechanics or modelling the characters' faces, they could have delivered an all-time classic. 


Torontonian Finalist For 'Best Job In The World'

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jaspreet Tambar,
Staff Reporter

(March 04, 2009) Out of more than 30,000 contestants, Christine Estima of Toronto was shocked that she would make it to the shortlist for the Best Job in the World.

"I thought my chances were slim to none," she said.

The criteria: Create a 60-second video explaining why the applicant is the best person for a six-month job, the responsibilities of which are exploring the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, feeding fish and reporting on the experience.

Australia's Tourism Queensland launched the contest to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

If a furnished home on Hamilton Beach isn't enough, Estima can look forward to a salary of about $123,000.

The money is significant for the 28-year-old who found subsisting on "bread and cereal" for two years while living in London, England instilled in her humility.

The decision to move to England was spontaneous. "I woke up one morning, and I thought ... why don't I go to London?" she said.

"I want to meet new people, try new things, experience new things," she said. "I like to be pushed out my comfort zone."

Estima, a journalist and playwright, is one of seven Canadian finalists. Her entry video, a ditty about her accomplishments and personality, can be viewed on islandreefjob.com.

When asked what she would do with the money, Estima said, "I want to travel the world for the rest of my life."

Cultural Veterans Scoop Up Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,
Entertainment Columnist

(March 03, 2009) Toronto dominates this year's list of winners of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.

Five of the eight arts figures who will be honoured during a three-day celebration in Ottawa in May are veteran cultural players in this city.

That includes three of the six Canadians receiving awards for lifetime artistic achievement:

Dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker, who arrived here from Edmonton almost four decades ago and returned in the early 1990s after an interlude in New York.

The distinguished composer R. Murray Schafer, a daring pioneer in the field of classical music, who last year marked his 75th birthday.

George F. Walker, the prolific playwright who mythologized the world of Toronto's down and out.

Two other veterans of the Toronto culture scene will get special ancillary awards.

Veteran philanthropist James D. Fleck, getting his third major award within less than a year, will receive the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Volunteerism.

Actor, writer, director and producer Paul Gross has been chosen for the National Arts Centre Award.

At 49, Gross is one of the youngest winners, but he quips: "I liked to think of it as a mid-career award."

Passchendaele, the World War I epic movie he wrote, directed, orchestrated and starred in last year, has been nominated for six Genie awards, but to Gross, the most important award is the Golden Reel award the film will win as the year's top-grossing Canadian film. It took in more than $5 million at the box office in 2008, making it one of the rare non-Quebec movies to snare this honour.

"Life would lose all meaning without our artists," said Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General, who came to the Young Centre in the Distillery District for yesterday's announcement.

Other recipients of the performing arts awards:

Internationally acclaimed stage director Robert Lepage, whose latest marathon play will be seen in Toronto at Luminato in June.

Singer and songwriter Edith Butler, who has promoted Acadian culture in Canada and abroad for half a century.

Clemence DesRochers, Quebec writer, broadcaster, singer and monologuist.

All eight will be feted in Ottawa from May 7 to 9. The awards will be presented at a dinner at Rideau Hall on Friday, May 8.

But the big gala performance takes place on Saturday, May 9, at the National Arts Centre, featuring guest stars, many performances and short tribute films produced by the National Film Board. Christopher Plummer, the celebrated classical actor, will be host of the show.

The awards have been an annual event since 1992. At yesterday's announcement, Soulpepper Theatre's artistic director, Albert Schultz, stole the show with entertaining anecdotes about that first show and his backstage encounter with a fellow performer, jazz musician Oliver Jones.

One element, a national telecast, disappeared from the mix. And no broadcaster has stepped in to give this year's awards show a coast-to-coast audience.


Groundbreaking Gay Author Scott Symons Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(February 25, 2009) Controversial gay writer Scott Symons, whose scandalous life and 1967 novel Place d'Armes rocked Canada's literary world, has died at age 75.

The Toronto-born author passed away at a Toronto nursing home on Monday after several years of poor health, his lawyer Marian Hebb said Wednesday.

She remembered Symons as a bold personality who never shied away from strong views on politics, love and literature, at times to the detriment of his personal relationships.

Symons' cultural impact was significant despite having published only a handful of books, adds his friend and literary executor Christopher Elson.

They included Place d'Armes, which shed light on a marginalized gay community, and Heritage, which celebrated early Canadian furniture and was published while Symons was a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum.

"One of the terms that he used about himself would have been as a liberator of love and as a loyal Canadian and as a dissident voice in Canadian culture, standing for things that might have otherwise been forgotten or have fallen into unpopularity," Elson said from his office in Halifax, where he is a professor of Canadian studies and French at the University of King's College.

"The works of the '60s and '70s will stand as a kind of an accomplishment of an odd intersection of the Canadian Tory spirit with the hippie era and the sexual revolution. And I think that his vast diaries, only some of which have been published, will be a mine for people interested in the life of Canada in the 40-plus years that he kept diaries."

Place d'Armes featured a gay protagonist, a sympathetic male prostitute and an unusual stream-of-consciousness style. It was published at a time when homosexuality was still considered a crime in Canada, and followed a scandalous tryst in which Symons left his wife and young son for a 17-year-old male lover, with whom he ran away to Mexico.

Hebb said many of Symons' personal relationships were characterized by volatile emotions, driven by a sharp tongue and passionate views that would often drive conversation to argument.

"He was somebody that seemed to crystallize people's opinions," said Hebb, who knew Symons for roughly 15 years. "People loved him or hated him and sometimes I think people didn't really know which they did because he seemed to provoke people's emotions, partly because of what he wrote and partly because of how he dealt with people."

After Mexico, Symons' moved to Morocco, where he spent 25 years and produced the 1986 novel Helmet of Flesh. He returned to Toronto in 2000.

One-time friend Marc Cote lauded Symons for being among the first to celebrate Canadian art and culture as curator of the Canadian collection at the ROM in the early '60s, noting that it was during this time that he wrote the groundbreaking book "Heritage."

"That was truly revolutionary because up until that point things Canadian were, at best, second rate," said Cote, owner of Cormorant Books. "Any Canadian artist or cultural product was – by virtue of it being Canadian – automatically second or third rate. He came along and said, `Not so."'

One of Symons' last published articles was an afterword to an anthology of his work, edited by Elson. It was written at the age of 65, as Symons' sense of his own mortality set in.

"Perhaps I'll manage a great sunset. I'll try," Symons writes in Dear Reader: Selected Scott Symons.

"But of this I am sure – I won't die pewling in a senile bed. I quest the right death. The given death. It will find me. I'll be ready, and I'll smile."

Longtime friend Mary Kay Ross said Symons' final years were marked by a host of health problems that left him barely mobile. She says she last saw him before Christmas and noticed a change in his demeanour.

"I was quite touched by the last years of his life when he really had so little, he had very little money, very few friends," said Ross, who knew Symons for 40 years. "He seemed to become much kinder and sweeter."

Ross said a high mass would be held at St. Thomas's Anglican Church in Toronto on Friday. It will be followed by a reception.

Symons is survived by a sister, six brothers and his son Graham.


National Ballet Buzzing With Fresh Ideas

www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Special To The Star

(February 26, 2009) "There are so many talented Canadian choreographers that Canadians don't know about," says Karen Kain. "They are much better known outside Canada. I don't think that's right."

That sentiment was in mind when Kain took over as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada in July 2005. Shortly after, she commissioned new works from Canadians Crystal Pite, Peter Quanz and Sabrina Matthews. Their combined résumé includes international patrons such as the Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Royal Ballet.

Next Wednesday they'll make their debuts with the National Ballet in a program simply called Innovation.

Ballet companies don't generally put on a full evening of new work.

"I might have been much more hesitant if I'd had more experience as an artistic director," Kain laughs, "but I'm glad I did it, because I see the way this creative atmosphere stimulates the dancers."

The three pieces, each up to 30 minutes long, are ambitious in every way. Pite's Emergence employs 38 dancers in the company in a complex structure inspired by a beehive. Matthews is bringing 52 singers from the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to join 10 dancers in the performance of Dextris. Quanz's In Colour is performed to a symphony created for him by a young composer, Anton Lubchenko, whom he met at the Kirov.

For the last three weeks, the studios at the Walter Carsen Centre have been a creative hive, with the company's dancers stretched to their mental and physical utmost learning three works (while rehearsing Romeo and Juliet).

Kain likes the effect.

"As a dancer myself, I derived incredible fulfillment out of being part of new creations. To have something made on you is the best possible feeling (for a dancer)."

Born and raised in Toronto, Sabrina Matthews studied at the National Ballet School and was recruited by Alberta Ballet, where she danced for 10 years.

Choreography found her. Under the first of three artistic directors, she was asked to make a work for the company's choreographic workshop. She got her first big commissions from the Royal Swedish Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet.

Matthews, 32, had been carrying around Vivaldi's oratorio Dixit Dominus for years, waiting for the right moment to choreograph something to it. Luckily, the Mendelssohn Choir was available for this time slot.

For 38-year-old Crystal Pite, artistic director of her own Vancouver company, Kidd Pivot, making work for the National Ballet meant having a huge number of highly trained dancers at her disposal.

"It's my first time working in a hierarchical structure," she says. "I looked for a parallel in nature."

Pite found Steven Johnson's book Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. Darned if she didn't find that beehives were not what you'd expect.

"The swarm is this amazing, intelligent being that has no leader," she says. The parallels in ballet were easy to draw: a multiplicity of simple actions moving together to make patterns.

Peter Quanz was asked to make a small piece for the National Ballet's choreographic workshop in 2006. In the interim, he has choreographed for the Kirov Ballet, premiering a work set to Stravinsky's Symphony in C in 2007.

Quanz shows great excitement for his collaboration with 23-year-old Lubchenko and 27 dancers.

If the performance of In Colour, inspired by filmmaker Derek Jarman's book Chroma and its "emotional journey into blindness," matches Quanz's thrill in creating it, the audience should be riveted.

Just the facts
WHAT: Innovation

WHERE: Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.

WHEN: Wed. until March 8

TICKETS: $20 to $200 at 416-345-9595

Dancers Leave Us Wanting More

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

White Moon Dance Nights
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Until tomorrow at the Michael Young Theatre, Young Centre, 55 Mill St.

(February 27, 2009) The virtue of brevity in dance – leave them wanting more, not glad for the end – can be experienced at
White Moon Dance Nights. The show's creators, Amy Hampton and Keiko Ninomiya, or AKA Dance as they are known, pay tribute to 80 years of Japan-Canada relations in a program mixing both countries' traditions.

They lead off with Denise Fujiwara's solo "Lost and Found." Emerging out of the dark as a worn and worried-looking woman, she is dressed in opposing halves. Under a grey cardigan, she is elegant on one side of her blouse and skirt, eccentric in jarring patterns on the other. She moves around the stage in mismatched heels, occasionally caving in on the dowdy side.

"They say the body never lies," she announces, like a Samuel Beckett character. "I always lie. And that's the truth."

The first part of a longer solo, "Lost and Found," is butoh married to clown. Fujiwara's facial expressions and eloquent carriage tell the story of a divided soul.

Joseph Welbes and Juri Hiraoka dance Matjash Mrozewski's very contemporary pas de deux choreographed in the traditional structure. Hiraoka's legs are like blades until she wraps them around Welbes' very upright self. "So go slow" is short, sweet and maintains the enduring appeal of two beautiful ballet dancers moving as one.

Hampton and Ninomiya choreographed and perform "In a Single Bound," a delicious romp about two super heroines duking it out to the live, upbeat sounds of DJ Gerald Belanger. Dressed like girl gladiators with short black capes, they give new meaning to the words "cat fight."

A much longer piece created by Ninomiya and her dancers, Zhenya Cerneacov, Hampton, Jennifer Helland, Alanna Kraaijeveld, is called "Mirror Bridge." A long strip of Mylar taped to the stage floor looks more like a stream. Dressed in black, trailing short black chiffon trains, the dancers move in a slow procession. They perform martial arts moves and gesture at each other with two pointing fingers to thunderous kodo drumming. Hampton, a guerrilla girl of dance, gives the most life to the piece. But it is a bridge too far.

Tokyo butoh master Kinya "Zulu" Tsuruyama teams up with Ninomiya for the novelty act of the evening. Under a single spot, a pair of hands and then another pair fondle the front of a figure whose whole head is covered.

Tall, shaven-headed, Tsuruyama is the figure in the cloak. The two reverse roles as he slips the hood over Ninomiya's head.

They arrange each other's hands to form poses and eventually move within the same long black garment. What they do is clever but doesn't make a lot of dramatic sense.


Jones Foursome Rallies To Second Title In Row

Source: www.thestar.com - Brian Mcandrew, Staff Reporter

(March 02, 2009) VICTORIA – Jennifer Jones has seen her dreams come true three times over. And she never tires of it.

The Winnipeg lawyer won her third national women's curling championship – and second in a row – last night with an 8-5 victory over Marla Mallett of British Columbia.

"It's unbelievable. I dreamed of this as a little kid," said a jubilant Jones, who will play in the world championship later this month in Gangneung, South Korea with third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin.

"We can't wait to go," said Jones, who's also the defending world champion.

It capped an incredible comeback for Jones, who finished the round-robin portion of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts tied for fourth.

She barely won a tiebreaker over Rebecca-Jean MacPhee of Prince Edward Island before tearing through Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan, then Marie-France Larouche of Quebec to get into the final.

"We never thought we were out of it. We never do," said Jones, named the final's most valuable player.

"We had so many bad breaks early in the week. We weren't playing bad but we never get down and always dig deep. We played great in the playoffs and outstanding in the final."

It was a disappointing finish for Mallett, who seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the tournament from the start.

The B.C. team went head-to-head with Team Canada through the first half of the 10-end game before a single mistake in the seventh end pushed Jones and company ahead for good.

Team Canada stole a pair of points in the seventh when Mallett, needing to draw to the four-foot ring, was light on her rock, which stopped in the top of the 12-foot ring.

"It was a little soft out of my hand and on this ice if you let it out soft it's going to grab the curl and go, which is exactly what happened," Mallett said.

"It's certainly disappointing. You'd like to come out on the other side but we had a great week, we learned a lot and we'll bring it back next year."

"At the end of the day it's just a game," she added.

Jones managed to steal a point to open the game after Mallett missed trying to run back a guard to take out the Team Canada shot rock. The two teams went on to exchange the lead for the next four ends.

Overton-Clapham set the tone in the third end with a draw to the button behind a guard.

Mallett was willing to surrender a point by drawing directly to the front of the shot rock and touching the edge of the button.

Jones replied with an exquisitely precise draw that barely bettered the Mallett stone on the opposite side of the button for two points.

Team Canada took the lead at the halfway fifth end when Mallett tried valiantly again to hold Jones to a single point.

Jones placed a well-guarded rock on the edge of the button and Mallett followed by planting her final rock on the edge of the four-foot. Jones drew to the opposite side of the four-foot ring that came to a halt just in time to secure the second point.


Ab & Butt Toners: 10 Best Exercises

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

I hate to see anyone feeling awful about their body, but at the same time that's what it sometimes takes for people to make changes. Looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself, becoming annoyed with how tight your clothes fit, going to the doctor's office and hearing about your health issues...Most times a wake-up call is exactly what we need.

So what areas of the body stand out so much that they practically initiate this wake-up call? We are obsessed with these two areas of the body -- glutes and abs. If an alien landed on earth and knew little of our culture, it would quickly assume that a firm butt and tight abs were reserved for those with royalty and prestige. It may sound crazy but just think of the way you look at someone with a tight butt or flat stomach.

A calorie-reduced nutrition program combined with exercise will do wonders to create a tight booty and firm abs. The formula that works for a healthy body is the same one that works for a great butt and abs -- nutrition, exercise and loads of consistency.

As far as nutrition, the biggest mistake people make is reducing calories as low as possible. After a few days of this insane approach, they're back to eating more junk then ever because the approach isn't realistic. The key is to reduce calories low enough to lose fat but still keep calories high enough to sustain your energy. Food, when used properly, can actually stimulate the metabolism to lose body fat. This is where eDiets can help! Our qualified dietitians have not only created great meal plans, but they're also accessible to you as an eDiets member whenever you have a question.

Your glutes and abs won't get tighter and smaller unless your overall body fat is reduced. You can perform all the butt movements on the planet for hours a day, but it won't make one bit of difference unless you lose body fat. Spot reduction is simply not possible.

To help accelerate your progress, I've constructed five great abdominal exercises and five great butt exercises. Take two exercises (one butt and one abs) and include them in your current workout (no matter what the workout is). Perform three sets of 15 reps of each on alternate days of the week. After three weeks, choose two other movements from the list. This alternating schedule will allow you to keep changing abdominal and butt exercises without adapting to the same movement. And it will also prevent boredom.


Vertical Scissors

Starting Position:

·  Sit on a chair or bench with your legs straight out in front of you.

·  Your hands should be under your butt for balance.


·  Contracting your abdominals, lift your right leg as you lower your left leg.

·  Reverse the positions of your legs by lowering your right leg and raising your left leg, mimicking a scissor.

Key Points:

·  Breathe rhythmically throughout the exercise.

·  Squeeze your butt and hip muscles as you switch legs.

Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch

Starting Position:

·  Kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment. Keep your elbows in.


·  Contracting the abdominals, curl your body downward toward your legs, stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your abdominals.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the weight stack touching.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weight and curling down.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Incline Bench Leg Raises

Starting Position:

·  Lie on an incline bench and stabilize your body by gripping the bench above your head with your legs extended out.


·  Contracting the lower abdominal area, raise your legs up until your hips form a 90-degree angle.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your legs touching the bench.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Point your chin toward the ceiling to avoid using your upper body.

Reverse Ab Curl

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips.

·  Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.


·  Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your hips.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Reverse Trunk Twist

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your arms out to the sides forming a "T" with your body.

·  Extend your legs straight up in the air so that your hips form a 90-degree angle with a slight bend in your knees.


·  Contracting the abdominal and oblique muscles, lower your legs toward one side keeping your feet together and your back on the floor. Stop at the limits of the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles.

·  This may start out as a very small range of motion and gradually increase as you get stronger.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After completing the set on the one side, repeat on the other side.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lowering your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.


Smith Machine Forward Lunge

Starting Position:

·  Place the bar across the back of your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.

·  Place one foot forward and one foot back. Both feet should be flat on the floor and facing forward with a slight bend in the knees.


·  Lower the weight until the front leg is at a 90-degree angle. The rear heel will come off the floor slightly but should remain straight with a slight bend in the knee.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the legs fully extending.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while lowering the weight.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Do not let the front knee ride over your toes (you should be able to see your foot at all times).

·  Do not let the back arch.

·  Never let the knee of the back leg come in contact with the floor.

Barbell Wide Stance Squat

Starting Position:

·  Begin by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Although the animation shows the feet wider than shoulder width, I've found that the glutes receive better stimulation when the feet are shoulder width.

·  Place a barbell across your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.

·  Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees.


·  Concentrating on the quadriceps muscles, begin to lower your body by bending from your hips and knees.

·  Stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your knees fully extending.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale as you lower down.

·  Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).

·  It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower. Otherwise, your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.

·  Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down.

·  Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.

·  Perform this movement in a slow and controlled fashion without using momentum.

·  You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement. It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.

Straight Leg Reverse Lift

Starting Position:

·  Start this exercise on your hands and knees.

·  Straighten your left leg as if you were going to do a push-up.

·  Keep the right leg bent, supporting your weight along with your arms.


·  Contracting the buttocks muscles, lift your left leg up toward the ceiling, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the buttocks.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the leg.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Do not let the back arch.

·  If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, you can add an ankle weight to the working leg to make it more challenging.

Dumbbell Lunges

Starting Position:

·  Stand straight with your feet together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.


·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position.

·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while stepping forward.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.

·  Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.

·  Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.

·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.

·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.

·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

Treadmill Incline Power Walk

Starting Position:

·  Stand tall with your legs straddling the belt.

·  Choose the manual program.

·  Step carefully on the belt.


·  Perform a five minute warm-up and then adjust the incline setting to 12. Increase your speed between 3 mph and 3.5 mph, based on your fitness level. Make sure to use your glutes and hips with each step Walk at this level for 15 to 20 minutes.

As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note

“It’s always worthwhile to make others aware of their worth.”

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Malcolm Forbes