20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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May 14, 2009

Yes!  It's finally happened!  I've joined Facebook!  Please feel free to add me as a friend or sign up for Facebook so you can see regular updates on me and Langfield Entertainment - just click the facebook icon here. 

I told you last week that there was a musical tribute to
Washington Savage being planned and all the details are under SCOOP.

Now perhaps you're not a big fan of theatre (a REALLY big section this week), but make sure you browse by this section now and then - such a crossover of talent between actors and vocalists - not to mention that it's one of the most difficult mediums to perform.  So, check out

And it's Adam Lambert and Chris Allen in the finals for American Idol.  Danny Gokey's gone and I, for one, will miss his humility and soulful voice!

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


“Celebration Of Music” Tribute to Washington Savage – Monday, May 18 – 4:00 pm to 9:30 pm

In honour of the music and life of our friend Washington Savage, please join us this holiday Monday to pay musical tribute to this genius who left us much too soon. Washington Savage passed peacefully into the arms of The Lord April 30, 2009.  A fearless genius, Washington created and inspired all the while humbled by humanity itself.  He will be remembered and forever missed by his family and friends. 

Artists create…this is their chance to play, sing and dance with and for others who excel at expressing their feelings through music. 

There are many who have expressed an interest in contributing funds to his family.  As such, admission to the event is a donation, all of which will go to his children.

Backline will be provided; hors d’oeuvres will be served, cash bar.

A partial list of performers, as more and more are confirming, include:

Joe Sealy
Eddie Bullen
David Williams
Bruce Skerrit
Etric Lyons
Jeff Jones
Bryant Didier
Corey Blackburn
Sekou Lumumba
Tony Rabalao
Brooke Blackburn
Adrian Eccleston
Danny Depoe
Aadin Church
Saidah Baba Talibah
Piera Savage

For further information please email: Shannon @ nenala@yahoo.com

MONDAY MAY 18, 2009
Palais Royale
1601 Lakeshore Boulevard West
4:00 pm until 9:30 p.m.
Admission: Donations, all of which will go to his children

Bio of Washington Savage

Washington Savage, long hailed as one of Toronto’s favourite pianists, and most recognisable personalities, is an accomplished pianist, producer, arranger, composer, lyricist and musical director.  He has performed with and written music for a diverse range of artists.

Being hand picked (at the age of 16) by honorary Order of Canada recipient and Canada’s own Ambassador of Blues, Salome Bey, to be her pianist, Savage has gone on to perform in every type of venue: from church halls to stadiums.
  His volunteer work is centered on youth choirs, and giving them option/opportunity of various music genres in their lives; whereby discipline, study, and understanding helps them to create options and make decisions based on openness of mind and variety of choice .

Raised in the church, he formed his first choir “God’s Creation” which helped to harness his love of tones and shapes within the cornucopia of colors that is music…his specialty.

Being courageously versatile has led him to work with artists such as: Deborah Cox, Billy Newton Davis, Margie Evans, Shannon Maracle, Jackie Richardson, and Liberty Silver (for whom he was a co-writer) to name a few.  He has performed for such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Touring (North America and Europe) has included  Molly Johnson’s Juno award winning band “ The Infidels”,  Tom Cochrane’s “Red Rider” , and the late Jeff Healey , on the “Feel This” tour (with whom he recorded). 

Closer to home,  and further back in time,  theatre productions have included “Coming through Slaughter” and “Indigo” with Salome Bey,  “Mamma I Want To Sing” (the longest running black off- Broadway  musical in history) , and,  most recently, at the Berkley Street theatre production of “Steal Away Home” by Shantay Grant.  Washington has been musical director for the last 8 years at the “Harry Jerome Awards”, and adding to that, in recent years the “Crystal Awards” for W.I.F.T. (Women in Film and Television) and S.A.W.W. (South African Women for Women).

 He has founded two original bands: “Age of Reason” and “BLÄXAM”, for whom he solidified a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music, U.S.A. (New York).  Their CD “Kiss my Afro” was released independently in 1998 to critical acclaim.  The latter achieving great success and being the opening act for such performers as Roy Ayers,
Corey Glover (Living Color), Maceo Parker, and the Reverend Al Greene.

Playing at Toronto’s most prestigious restaurants, bars and lounges has helped to cement his reputation:  North44 (for 12 years), the Windsor Arms hotel (3 years), Sassafraz (pre- fire, for 4 years), Centro, Acqua, Rosewood (for which he was also the talent booker), Opal Jazz Lounge, Cittadini and Sopra Upper Lounge.

2007 saw the debut of his solo piano CD entitled “Savage Piano Lounge”.    An independent release on Sweet 16 records, it showcases his versatility and includes two original songs: “Tyrant Saint Blues”, and “One of Three”.

Savage is currently anticipating the premiere performance of the first movement from his symphony by the Brampton Symphony Orchestra in November 2008.

The “Froadia” symphony saw first light when Savage was Musical Director at, and trying to write an opening piece for the Harry Jerome Awards.  Being as such, the first movement was inspired by him, and is therefore named “Harry Jerome”.
  Consisting of five movements, it is Washington’s first foray into the untapped venue of black Canadian classical composer.  “Uncle” Marcus, Savage’s brother who passed away, was the inspiration for the second movement, a hauntingly unforgettable ode to the tyrant on the hill. 

The third movement entitled “Ben Johnson”, of whom the composer still thinks of as a hero, is a mercurial piece of Canadiana, tracing the twists and turns of Johnson’s being bounced between nationalities like a Tim Horton’s Timbit at a hockey tournament.
The honourable Lincoln Alexander is the focus of the fourth movement- vastly romantic, highly intelligent, wise and observant is the tone defined here. 
The final piece, entitled “Spadina and Dundas” captures the daily lives: loves, hardships, struggles and victories of the many black families that settled in that section of Toronto between the 1940’s through to the 60’s

Washington Savage is truly an original.


Singer Sean Jones Shares The Love With His New Album

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Afro P

(Sping 2009)
Sean Jones is in love. We're not talking about candlelight dinners and moonlit walks. Jones is in love with his art and the process of creating. Sway caught up with the passionate but eclectic crooner and former In Essence frontman while he was on a promotional stop in support of his latest release, This Is Love.

This is Love has an organic and timeless feel. It almost sounds like a live album. Do you think other Canadian musicians will imitate this fresh approach?
That's a tough question because clubs will always be there and dance music will always be there. Dance music right now comes with a lot of beats that can be made in a studio setting, and the music may be good but often it's usually only remembered for a few months. But timeless music is an entirely different animal and you are going to have to be able to bring it live. I'm not trying to make a statement with more organic-sounding music. I just want to make the music Sean Jones wants to hear and what I think the rest of the world wants to hear.

What do you like most about playing live?
Ahhhhh... it's the look on everyone's face. I mean I can get up there, they will introduce me and everyone knows me from In Essence. They may have seen me on TV, but they don't know me in this way with a guitar strapped on and a full on rock band supporting me. I can start a song and by the end the audience, one that has never heard of me, is at attention and that is when I know the music, the lyrics and melody have touched them. I love that "wow" factor.

How did working with In Essence open your eyes about the music industry?
In Essence was definitely a learning experience. Being with a major label, we found out about how the labels work — it's all about the bottom line. Not so much artistically, but monetarily. It's totally about business. Fortunately, I've chosen to sign with WIDEawake Entertainment Group which handles all the pieces I need to build the Sean Jones brand and fan base. So I'm really excited about this project. Everyone is completely positive. They completely believe in it. I've got so much support right now I get emotional just thinking about it; I'm very blessed. But you have to know how to manage all that support. Lara Lavi and the team get me and get what needs to happen. That's one of the most important lessons learned from my time with In Essence.

Lastly, we have to talk about Barack Obama. Your song "Wounded" was inspired by his campaign for the Presidency. You mention things are boundless now. How has his victory impacted you?
Well, I think everyone recognizes and realizes how historic and powerful his election was. Everyone wanted this man to win — the world wanted this man to win. For hundreds of years, people of colour have been discriminated against and now for a superpower to be led by a man of colour — well that speaks volumes around the world. So any child who feels that they cannot accomplish great things can just look at Barack Obama. It will take blood, sweat and tears, but anything can be achieved.

This Is Love is available through music vendors across Canada. To find out more about Sean Jones visit seanjonesmusic.net.

Q&A: Juliette Powell

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Del F. Cowie

(Sping 2009) Former MuchMusic personality
Juliette Powell may be a long way from hosting Electric Circus, but that doesn't mean she has forsaken the media beat. The first black Miss Canada is now a very busy social media expert, consulting for a wide range of high-profile corporate clients, blogging for noted political website The Huffington Post and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Incidentally, Wales co-authored the foreword to Powell's New York- and Montreal-based new book 33 Million People in the Room: How to Create, Influence and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking (FT Press) where she draws on her experience in traditional media and communications to assess social media strategies.

It really comes across that the ideas in the book are part of your everyday reality.

Essentially, I'm talking about patterns I've noticed in my own life. I realized that these are things that are constantly replicated in the businesses that I've been privy to because they've been my clients. So I've had kind of an insider's view. And the patterns that constantly emerge are this idea of picking your people — surrounding yourself with great people who oftentimes are a lot smarter than you, who go that extra mile because they believe in you.  [Barack] Obama really does embody that kind of ability to communicate a message that's not about one person or one brand, but rather something that we can all believe in, so that you can then start building on your social capital and affecting the culture at large.

You have a specific section on Obama and his use of social networks in the book. What did Obama specifically do better in his social networking strategy than his opponents?

Essentially, Obama just built on [2004 Democratic presidential primary candidate] Howard Dean's campaign strategy, with the exception that he was able to harmonize both his internal campaign structure with the outreach that was done, through social networking platforms and social media, to people that bought into this idea and decided to use the tools on mybarackobama.com. In other words, Obama was able to understand the internet's amazing capacity for networking and for virally spreading a message; he invested far more than any of his opponents on the internet. There were no hard sells in terms of getting donations and there was a multi-step process before Obama ever reached out online and said "OK, I need you to give me money now" to build the campaign. He was able to leverage pre-existing tools that were free — not just to begin the campaign, but free to users — which made a huge difference. Hillary [Clinton] had a social networking site that took the opposite tact of the one that Obama took. His was really talking about the empowerment of being a part of a movement. Hers was about supporting her.

What do you think is the future of social networking?

There are many people that feel like it's part of our human evolution. The impact that technology is having on us as human beings is a two-way street. As much as we're the ones creating the technology, the technology is also shaping the way the way we think about our world, the way we think about ourselves and our capabilities within that world. It definitely has a strong impact on our capacity to accelerate change. So that's not good or bad, it all depends on what we decide to do with it. "What's our intention going to be?" [is one of the questions] and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to write the book. There are so many people that think of socially connected technology as being a game.

Surfing Film To Reflect Positive View Of Jamaica

Source: Jamaica Gleaner - Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter

(May 10, 2009) Surfing in Jamaica will soon hit the big screen.

A docudrama based on the development of the sport in Jamaica is scheduled for release in the Caribbean in mid-June.

The 76-minute feature length film dubbed
Surf Rasta combines surfing and skateboarding scenes highlighting the journey of Anthony 'Billy' Wilmot, and sons Inilek, Icah and Ishack in relation to the emergence and continuation of the sport in Jamaica.

The film took five years to be completed and has a similar storyline to the Jamaican movie Cool Runnings. It sees the surfing team fulfilling their dreams to compete in the World Surfing Games in Ecuador.


Director Rick Elgood said he was motivated to produce the docudrama while filming a scene from the movie One Love. He said while at the Norman Manley International Airport, he came across the team on their arrival back to the island from an international competition.

"I bumped into them when they had only been to one or two international surfing competitions," Elgood said. "I hadn't seen skateboards in Jamaica and they were really just about the only ones who had them and were practising surfing and skateboarding," Elgood said.

Elgood said he immediately seized the opportunity and saw it as a fantastic move to have the team involved in the One Love movie at the time.

"I got them into a couple of scenes skateboarding in the background. I wanted to give it a contemporary type of feel," he said.

After discovering how far they were into surfing, he said he decided to make the docudrama about the start of and development of surfing in Jamaica.

"I felt it was a really wonderful thing to be doing in Jamaica, as it is a relatively cheap sport that any kid or youth can do," Elgood said.

He indicated that the production of the film was difficult because it was an independent documentary and hence the length of time it took for completion.

Elgood said it is likely that the film will be premiered at the Barbados Film Festival

"The film is a positive view of Jamaica, something that is not necessarily seen around the place too much and so it will help to push Jamaica's surfing ability into the international surfing and skateboarding communities," he said.

Wilmot, who is now the president of the Jamaica Surfing Association, said Elgood approached him and an agreement was reached to shoot the movie.

"He started shooting footage here in Jamaica and then the team was going to Ecuador for the World Games in 2004. He came with us and shot footage over there as well," Wilmot said.

Wonderful Concept

Wilmot said it was a wonderful concept and an idea that they hoped would help the sport to move forward as much as possible.

"It will be exposure for Jamaica and Jamaica's surfing. It is a positive move towards cementing the work that we have started in exposing Jamaica as a surfing nation and as a tourism product," he said.

Also featured in the film are international pro-surfer Dan Malloy who has been a Jamaican surfing mentor for a number of years, Luke Williams and female surfer Danielle O'Hayon.

For more information visit www.surfrastamovie.com

Ryan O'Neal Offers Grim Outlook On Farrah Fawcett

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Bob Tourtellotte, Reuters

(May 08, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Actor Ryan O'Neal has told People magazine that his companion Farrah Fawcett, who has battled cancer for nearly three years, is now bed-ridden, bereft of her famous blonde hair and near the end of medical treatment.

“She stays in bed now. The doctors see that she is comfortable. Farrah is on IVs, but some of that is for nourishment. The treatment has pretty much ended,” O'Neal told People in an interview on the magazine's website on Thursday.

Fawcett, 62, became an international sex symbol in the 1970s for her famous swimsuit poster and her role as one of a trio of female private detectives on the hit television show Charlie's Angels.

She has stayed in the Hollywood spotlight ever since, and in September, 2006 was diagnosed with anal cancer. Four months later, she declared herself cancer free, but the disease returned in May, 2007.

O'Neal, himself a 1970s sex symbol and the father of Fawcett's son, Redmond O'Neal, has been Fawcett's on-again, off-again companion for many years.

He said the Texas-born Fawcett has now lost all the tousled blonde hair that drew the attention of her legions of fans. O'Neal keeps her locks at his home.

“I rub her head. It's kind of fun, actually, this great, tiny little head. How she carried all that hair I'll never know. She doesn't have a vanity about it,” O'Neal said.

The interview comes one week ahead of a May 15 television special called Farrah's Story, on U.S. network NBC, in which the star documents her battle against the disease, taking video of her visits to doctors in the United States and Germany, and providing poignant moments of her and her family's lives.

Redmond, who is currently in a Los Angeles jail for violating probation on drug charges, was briefly released late last month so he could visit his mother, and he is seen in the documentary climbing into his mother's bed to curl up beside her while she is sleeping.

In a separate story set to run in the magazine's print edition that hits newsstands on Friday, Fawcett is described as looking “hauntingly gaunt” in the documentary.

But O'Neal said Fawcett “hasn't had last rites yet. We're not there.” In fact, he said she still hopes for a “miracle” cure. “A last gasp,” O'Neal said.


Hotel Valencia - Where Luxury And Style Have A New Address

Source: Dawn Langfield

Recently I was in California and I stayed at the fabulous Hotel Valencia in Santana Row (San Jose).  Designer everything (including beds and linens) and VIP treatment to all guests – what more could you ask in a hotel?  Walking by the front desk, they just may call you by your name – and sitting at the pool – you can simply pick up their house phone and order food. 

Oh and did I mention that a full buffet breakfast is included in your room rate?  There is a great gym with a view over Santana Row, complete with TVs, a basket of towels on ice and a bowl full of oranges.  Also, you get housekeeping service twice a day … twice a day!!
Not to mention the amenities of their location, location, location.  Santana Row reminds me of Toronto’s Yorkville area.  You can step out of your hotel and be in the midst of fine dining (best sushi – Blowfish – and best Indian food – Straits - I’ve ever had), middle to high-end shopping (Gucci to Brooks Brothers to H&M), courtyard parties with entertainment … the list goes on and on.

Should you ever find yourself in San Jose, California, this is the place to stay.  The room rates are extremely reasonable and you get much more than what you pay for. 


More information:

Luxury and style have an address at this 212 room chic contemporary hotel in San Jose. Elegant old world European style meets sleek modern design to create the ultimate in cosmopolitan sophistication.

A modern classic, Hotel Valencia Santana Row will appeal to travelers with the most discerning taste. Our focus on comfort and luxury is evident throughout, from the detailed architectural craftsmanship to the exquisite plush finishes. Whether your stay in San Jose is for business or pleasure, we commit to making your experience the one you desire at Hotel Valencia Santana Row.

Hotel Valencia is situated at the heart of the vibrant Santana Row urban oasis, isolated from the hustle and bustle of San Jose and Silicon Valley. This European-inspired neighbourhood of Santana Row is home to a dynamic mix of upscale shopping, dining and entertainment. With its intimate sensual Mediterranean façades and lively boulevards, you will feel as if you have been transported to another time. Hotel Valencia Santana Row is in the center of it all, exactly where you want to be.

Hotel Features:


212 elegantly appointed accommodations


The only hotel located on Santana Row, away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose and Silicon Valley


Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast served daily in Citrus Restaurant


Vbar, an ultra modern lounge with expansive balcony views


Fitness Center


4,000 square feet of meeting and event space


Ayoma Life Spa, offering a complete menu of herbal skincare and body treatments


Outdoor year-round swimming pool


Complimentary wireless Internet in guest rooms and all public areas of the hotel


Business center with 24/7 access


Same day laundry and valet


24-hour room service


Handicap accessible facilities

Click here or call us at 866.842.0100 for reservations or for additional information about lodging at Hotel Valencia Santana Row, one of the finest San Jose luxury hotels in silicon valley, and the only hotel on Santana Row.

Sophisticated Eats. Swanky Drinks. Fine Dining at Hotel Valencia Santana Row

At Hotel Valencia Santana Row, choose from some of San Jose’s most popular and modern restaurants and lounges. Citrus restaurant offers a classic menu with hearty steaks, fresh seafood and vegetarian plates in an open-air setting, perfect for romantic dinners, group gatherings or business dinners. Click here to read more about Citrus restaurant.

Vbar and Cielo, Santana Row’s hottest nightspots, offer intimate and cozy settings for enjoying your favourite drink. Vbar is an ultra-hip lounge complete with flat panel tv’s and a state of the art sound system, with an expansive balcony featuring prime views of Santana Row. Click here to read more about Vbar.

Cielo, a relaxed rooftop wine terrace and bar (open during season) offers cozy and comfortable seating and stunning views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Vbar and Cielo are both ideal settings for special events and private parties. Click here to read more about Cielo.


Prix Fixe menu available for seatings by 6:30pm only, Monday through Thursday.
$30 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.

A Luxury San Jose Hotel where Urban meets Chic.

Hotel Valencia is the only hotel on Santana Row in San Jose, in the center of it all near entertainment, fine dining, shopping and more. Experience luxurious rooms and suites, fine dining in modern settings, mind-body fitness programs and spa treatments, and comfort and luxury during your entire stay. For San Jose, the Santana Row hotel to stay at is Hotel Valencia. 


212 guestrooms and suites are decorated and feature custom designed beds with 300-thread count Egyptian cotton linens, plantation shutters, and a 16-foot ebony solid wood credenza. Amenities include complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access, twice daily maid service and state of the art technology in room. Click here to read more about Hotel Valencia Santana Row’s accommodations.


Experience fine dining in a modern setting at Citrus restaurant, featuring hearty steaks, fresh seafood and vegetarian plates. Also experience an intimate lounge with expansive seating at Vbar, and Cielo, a relaxed rooftop wine terrace and bar. Click here to read more about dining at Citrus.


With almost 4,000 square feet of meeting space, Hotel Valencia Santana Row is the ideal place for a training seminar or executive board meeting. And our professional and experienced staff will ensure your meeting is a success. Click here to read more about our meeting space.


Our 4,000 square feet can accommodate small, large, day or evening events. Celebrate any type of special occasion, from corporate holiday parties to birthday celebrations, at Hotel Valencia Santana Row. Click here to read more about our event space.


Versatile event space and an open-air courtyard with views of the Santa Cruz Mountain or Santana Row Mediterranean architecture at Hotel Valencia Santana Row provide stunning settings for an unforgettable wedding and reception. You and your guests will enjoy our luxurious accommodations, exquisite catering menus, and exceptional service. Click here to read more about the hotel’s wedding services.

San Jose Location

Hotel Valencia Santana Row is located in the center of it all, just 10 minutes from the San Jose Convention Center and San Jose International Airport. Find entertainment, fine dining, shopping, nightlife and attractions nearby. Click here to read more about Leisure Travel.


Rapper Classified No Longer A Secret

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

(May 07, 2009) Nova Scotia breeds its rappers prolific, apparently.

Halifax-via-Enfield rhymer
Classified's first-ever gig back in the early `90s was opening for Buck 65 (when he still went by the name Stinkin' Rich) and, while the two otherwise have little in common musically besides a gift for small-scale storytelling, both artists have gone on to set a truly abundant standard of output for other MC/producers to match.

Class's personal album tally now stands at 12, but there's one small difference with the latest, Self Explanatory: for the first time, he's got a major label, Sony Canada, behind him. Thus, for the first time, the public at large stands a chance to hear one of the more gifted and pop-minded fixtures – Joel Plaskett guests on the new album along with Maestro, Moka Only, Royce 5'9" and, of course, Buck 65 – of a sturdy East Coast hip-hop scene that's still, as he puts it, "very grassroots. If you're from there, you know about it. If you're not from there, you don't."

The Star spoke with the amiable 31-year-old MC known to his mom as Luke Boyd during his last trip to Toronto.

Q: So, the "major-label debut" is upon us. Did you approach this record any differently than the other 11?

A: It wasn't like I sat down and went: "Okay I've got to make a major-label album" – whatever the f--- that is. I showed Sony three or four of the songs once I started working on it and they were interested and said, "Go back and finish the album." So I went back to my home studio and finished the record.

I used a lot more live instrumentation on this, just for excitement for myself. I've been making beats for a while and to go into the studio and go, "Okay, here's my drumbeat, here's my sample, here's my rap, the song is done" is getting old. It's been done. Everyone's been doing it. My dad plays guitar and my brother plays drums, so I can get really cheap studio musicians. So I just thought I'd bring them in, bring some keys in and sh-- and step it up from where the last album was. I'm growing. I just had a baby six months ago!

Q: What prompted you to finally make the leap?

A: I've always sent stuff out to the labels and everyone would go, "That's good stuff," but nobody ever wanted to do a deal. I've always had my own label and I hooked up with Urbnet in 2003, but Urbnet's only one guy, so it's basically me and him trying to put the records out. And I've sold 30,000 or 40,000 records independently.

But Sony were pretty open to letting me do what I wanted to do and then putting their team and their push behind it, so that's really what I've been looking for ... I've always been doing the business sh-- and I don't like the business sh--. It takes away from doing the music and it's just very frustrating and it almost makes you not even want to do the music, so to have them come in and handle the business is great.

Q: I really like how ordinary the "day in the life" – procrastinating in the studio, smoking weed with the boys, riding bikes, hitting a show – you chronicle on Self Explanatory is.

A: It's not some big f---ing crazy story that some director wrote. You're from New Brunswick, you know – it's just small-town. Anyone can feel it. It's a real record, it's not some fairytale sh-- and a lot of people go through the same things so that's why, I think, anyone can relate to it.

I'm not a big, flashy guy. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a regular guy. I like to be at home, I like to do my studio sh-- from 10 to 5, then go back home and live a normal life, watch a movie and eat some dinner. I'm that guy. I'm not flashy, chains blingin', "I got my deal I'm gonna buy a fancy car" – I'm not that guy. I make fun of that guy.

Q: What made you structure parts of the album like a track-to-track version of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books?

A: Back in the day, those were the only books I read and I just thought one day, "Wouldn't it be cool to do an album like that Choose Your Own Adventure sh--?" One song ends and if you want to continue the story, you go to the next one. The album was already half done when I thought of that idea, so I still might do a whole album like that with some kind of crazy story.

Just the facts
WHO: Classified
WHERE: The Phoenix, 410 Sherbourne St.
WHEN: Friday, May 15, 10 p.m.
TICKETS: $20 from Ticketmaster

Hip Virgin Visits Fans' `Graceland'

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

An Evening With The Tragically Hip
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)
At Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., for five more concerts until May 19. Tickets $49.50-$89.50 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com

(May 12, 2009) If this were a poem, it would be called Is That Weed I Smell and Other Observations of a Hip Virgin.

It's not a poem, but this is a snapshot of my first time seeing
The Tragically Hip live, sitting in front of a couple of guys from Timmins who drove seven hours to see the band for the 12th time.

Neither mid-tempo tunes, nor the laid-back, three-song acoustic set would put these reverent fans in their seats for the two-hour show. That also made it difficult for ushers to zone in on the brazen marijuana smokers – something else I'd never witnessed at Massey Hall.

Attendees ranged from teenagers to their grandparents, evidence of the 26-year-old Kingston band's ability to stay fresh and relevant, with their subtle politics, dense rhythms and unapologetic Canadian-ness.

Though playing to loyalists, animated front man Gord Downie still made a point of announcing song titles and giving back stories of tunes such as "Morning Moon," "It Can't Be Nashville Every Night" and "Now the Struggle Has a Name."

I guess the quintet is into whites of their eyes intimacy, kicking off six shows at the venerable theatre instead of one at the Air Canada Centre. That gave Timmins fans Steve Charbonneau and Stacey Cress a first, too. "Being here, it's like our Graceland," Charbonneau said of Massey Hall and its links to Neil Young. "But it's closer and we don't need a passport."

k-os Plays, They're Happy To Pay

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

(May 11, 2009) Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.

That was the sound of Jeremiah Pick's deposit in a donation box on the way into
K-os's show at Kool Haus Saturday night.

"A buck. Four quarters," the 19-year-old music student unabashedly told a hovering reporter.

Perhaps that was just a down payment, until he assessed the rapper's performance on this novel free-entry, pay-what-you-want "Karma Tour"?

"'Fraid not. I'm down to my last six bucks," Pick explained. "This is the third time I've seen K-os for free. It's beautiful. I love his music."

Fortunately, his were rare empty pockets. About two-thirds of the people the Star saw enter the venue in a half-hour period pulled out bills at the donation station, which also accommodated credit and debit cards.

Tim, a.k.a. "Karmamanager," inveigled concertgoers with a stack of CDs in each hand. Every contribution yielded Yes! It's Yours, a disc of 11 fan remixes from K-os's acclaimed new disc Yes!

"If someone is willing to play for me, I'm willing to pay for it," said Dunja Illic, 18, of her $20 gift, even though she admitted to downloading most of the music she listens to for free.

"The tour has to be paid for. And this is a deal. I don't expect to go to a concert and pay less than $30 to $40."

Customer service rep Tina Joelle, 25, was among those who said her post-show payment would "depend on how good it is." And then she planned to allot the deserving combination of the two $10 bills she carried to the David Suzuki Foundation, which had a table set up with volunteers collecting names and emails.

"I think this is a pretty interesting concept," Joelle said. "I don't know how he can afford to do it, but it gets a lot more people out."

Not as many as you might expect, though. With no advance tickets sold, the line-up was around the block, but everybody got in. The 2,500-capacity venue was about 65 per cent filled for the Whitby native's 75-minute set. This would have been a sold-out $35 ticket at the half-the-size Phoenix that 17-year-old Olivia Vasquez would have missed. With a $30 limit, this was a risk-free opportunity for her to check out an intriguing but unfamiliar artist.

Those who paid according to their appreciation of K-os's work got their money's worth, because the more familiar you were with his synthesis of hip-hop, pop and rock, the more satisfying the concert.

Before a plain backdrop inked with a giant YES! and a genuine colour-changing traffic light, the rapper bounded to the mic, bounced around like a boxer, then cut a workman-like swath through his four-album catalogue. Highlights included new tune "I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman" and 2004 hit "Crabbuckit," which he called "some karaoke s--t."

Save a one-song appearance by rapper Saukrates and the Burt Bacharach and Naughty By Nature quotes, there was little fat or frivolity in the two-time Juno winner's approach. Newcomers would have been impressed as much by the singing emcee's versatility – he occasionally supplemented the fierce five-piece band on synth, harmonica and guitar – as by his clever rhymes, which included a swine flu reference.

Billy Joel : A Not-So-Angry, Not-So-Young Piano Man

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ray Waddell,

(May 07, 2009) Billy Joel is still the pride of Hicksville, N.Y., still the Piano Man and maybe still Billy the Kid. But he's no longer an "Angry Young Man" as he celebrates his 60th birthday Saturday.

"A true master of American popular music,
Billy Joel has created a catalogue of songs that stand among the finest ever written," says Steve Barnett, chair of Columbia Records, Joel's record company home for more than 35 years.

The journey that transformed William Martin Joel to superstar Billy Joel began in New York's Long Island suburbs, spurred on, as was the case for so many rockers, by the Beatles' 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

At 14, Joel joined a band called the Echoes that played anywhere and everywhere. The Echoes became the Lost Souls and scored an ultimately unsuccessful record deal. But by the late '60s, Joel was well on his way in a band called the Hassles.

Dennis Arfa, Joel's booking agent since 1976, met Joel when a band Arfa was managing opened for the Hassles.

"In those days, Billy was one of the hot guys in the Long Island music scene," Arfa says. "There was the Vagrants, the Illusion and this guy Billy Joel who played with the Hassles."

Following a brief sidetrack in a hard rock duo Attila, Joel decided to focus on songwriting, recording a demo that became his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor, in 1971.

That debut contained chestnuts "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now," songs that never got their proper due until they appeared on the live album Songs in the Attic a decade later.

Touring began for Joel in support of Cold Spring Harbor, as did the hard lessons of the industry. Unhappy with his first record contract, Joel waited it out as piano player Bill Martin at the Executive Room in Hollywood, a period Joel says has been exaggerated by legend.

The experience led him to write "Piano Man," for his Columbia Records debut, released in 1973. The single was Joel's first hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

By 1976, Joel had moved back to New York and released Turnstiles, another less-than-hit album that nevertheless boasts the now-classic "New York State of Mind," one of his best-loved songs.

By then, Joel was a headliner. "We didn't want to be an opening act anymore around the mid '70s," Joel says. "Our best way of showing what we could do was to headline smaller places. It was a longer, harder slog to do it that way."

Slowly, Joel and his band began to build touring strongholds. "Philadelphia was a big town for us. Phoenix, Memphis, Miami, Buffalo, Austin," he says. "A lot of college towns that was our bread and butter."

While his early recording success was relatively modest – none of his first three releases for Columbia reached the top 20 on the Billboard 200 – Joel's touring was strategic.

"When we did a show, it was never just a booking, it was, 'What is the purpose of this? What are we doing next?'" Arfa says.

The relentless touring and modest airplay set the stage for The Stranger in 1977. The album made use of Joel's touring band, translating the live energy into a mix of stirring ballads and jubilant anthems.

Suddenly the switch was flipped.

"I remember we were opening for the Doobie Brothers in 1977 in Pittsburgh," Joel says. "We had been opening for the Doobies, and it was, 'Get off the stage!' The audience didn't want to hear `Piano Man,' they wanted boogie. And we got about halfway through the set and played `Just the Way You Are' and the crowd went crazy.

"We looked at each other, like, `What the hell was that all about?' We didn't realize how much airplay that song was getting. We didn't even like doing the song, we thought it was like a chick song. It was just a new song to do so we did it. And, boom, the audience just goes nuts. Obviously something was going on, and after that it all changed."

The Stranger was a landmark pop album of the late '70s, spending six weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and selling more than 10 million. The single "Just the Way You Are" won Joel his first two Grammys, for song and record of the year.

Other popular artists noticed. "I've always been a fan of Billy," says Elton John, Joel's co-headliner on their Face 2 Face tour, which comes to Toronto's Air Canada Centre on May 26 and 30. "I happened a little bit before Billy, and Billy was always referred to in the beginning as `the American Elton John.'

"To be honest with you, I never saw that. I thought he was so American and not British at all in the way he wrote songs. I just loved the way he wrote songs."

Hit albums followed, and a two-disc Greatest Hits package released in 1985 has sold more than 20 million copies.

River of Dreams (1993) is Joel's most recent album of original pop songs. In 1994, he received the Billboard Century Award.

While Joel has focused on live touring in recent years, no one disputes his songwriting legacy.

"`Just the Way You Are' is (an) amazing song. It's a standard people will be singing long after Billy and I are dead and buried," John says. "He's a proper songwriter in the old tradition of songwriting. And he writes about issues that are very close to his heart, like `Allentown.'"

Critical opinion of Joel ebbs and flows, but ultimate judgment comes from the court of public opinion, which Joel rules by way of the box office.

"What matters is your own opinion and the opinion of people that you respect that you work with," Joel says. "If I don't do a good show, I know I didn't do a good show, and the guys I work with know, and I let them down."

And Joel feels an obligation as a performer: "Never lose sight of the fact that it's the audience who's paying your bills. You are the entertainer, that's what you're there for," he says.

"I don't think you're onstage to make political speeches or dump a whole bunch of new material on an audience when they want to hear stuff they know. There's a balance you have to strike, and there's also an obligation to the people who work with you and the people who pay to see you."

He's The One: Boss Shakes ACC

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

(May 08, 2009) You know what it is that keeps Bruce Springsteen being Bruce Springsteen? The dude still gives it up. Every night, the dude gives it up.

Unlike the large numbers of greying devotees who began flocking the streets outside the Air Canada Centre yesterday, homemade banners and horrific "It's Boss time!!!" T-shirts on proud display, hours before the Boss and his beloved E-Street Band were to take the stage, I had my doubts going in.

Latter-years Bruce hit the lowest of his low ebbs this year with the anemic feel-goodery of the recent Working on a Dream album. You kinda got the feeling last night, though, that even latter-years Bruce knows that and is working very hard to make up for it.

He and the sturdy, 10-piece E-Street "arkestra" came out in full to-the-cheap-seats anthem mode, braying "Badlands" and a nicely kickin' "No Surrender" – we got Max Weinberg behind the drum kit, not fill-in son Jay as on some dates, and it showed – to the rafters with passably youthful gusto, if not quite the faultless higher-register pipes the Springsteen of 20 years ago could pull off. Then, bravely, came Working on a Dream's sluggish opener, "Outlaw Pete," stretched out to even more epic length yet, as it turned out, delivered with all the dynamism that producer Brendan O'Brien failed to coax from the recorded version. Suddenly, as the Bo Diddley-esque chug of "She's the One" started rattling the rafters, the evening was imbued with an unshakable optimism.

From there on in, Working on a Dream was notably scarce in the set list, although the dowdy "Kingdom of Days" and the just-okay title track – you can tell when Bruce is coming up short in the lyrics department because he just repeats the title over and over – popped up to sap some of the wind from the sails of a positively rabid crowd.

Replacing the new stuff was some old stuff that could hardly be accused of being overplayed: a honky-tonkin' version of Nebraska's "Johnny 99" that let Steve Van Zandt flex his guitar chops; a sprawling, dramatic "Racing in the Street" that reminded you how widescreen Springsteen played it right from the get-go; and, perhaps most impressively, an authentically swingin' version of "The E-Street Shuffle" (by audience request, I believe) in which Bruce did manage to match the brash young voice he laid to tape in 1973. He would later return to The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle toward the end of a predictably long encore with "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" that had 60-ish women "freedom dancing" and passing joints around.

Before that, of course, we'd been stoked by "10th Avenue Freeze Out" and the Clarence Clemons sax solo from "Born to Run," and even come to respect the uplifting might of the post-9/11 crie de coeur "The Rising" and the curious R.E.M.-meets-"Don't Fear the Reaper" jangle of "Radio Nowhere." I hope I still play that hard when I'm pushing 60. It gives me hope.

DJ Quik & Kurupt Come Together

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

(May 07, 2009) *Why is it ok for rock musicians to make music well into their 40’s and 50’s? The Rolling Stones can barely get on stage without a lift and they still play to packed crowds.

Tina Turner is almost 80 years old and still doing her thing. So why Hip Hop artist that are in their 30’s have trouble getting accepted is beyond comprehension, especially when they continue to make good music? Rap music has always been the voice of the young by the young. A rapper in their thirties is like being a running back in the NFL. Meanwhile the quarterbacks and kickers sometimes play into their 40’s. 

Very few artists have the knack to maintain visibility in the music industry for over 10 years. The number of artist that have achieved this feat can easily be counted on one's fingers.

Two artists that have managed to ride their careers into their second decades are
DJ Quik & Kurupt. Quik burst on the scene with the 1991 release of “Quik Is The Name.” The album was one pioneering records that put West Coast Rap at the forefront of the game. Kurupt was part of the core of Death Row Records which would release several multi platinum classic albums some of which included Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” (1992), Snoop Dooggy Dogg’s “Doggystyle” (1993), and Tha Dogg Pound’s “Doggfood” (1995). Both have collaborated together on projects in the past.

While the two were working on Snoop Dogg’s “Ego Trippin” the idea was thrown out about them doing an album together. They both thought it was a no brainer. After a year of recording in the studio the result is “Blaqkout.” The pair took the time to talk to EUR about the project and how it came together, Quik having to call the cops for the first time, Kurupt’s film career, and bizarre foods.

Its always good to see two well established artists come together and do something for the people that matter the most; the fans. A lot of times groups fall apart for no reason other than the proverbial "creative differences." But if all parties involved are on the same page then it can become something special. Kurupt spoke about how the whole project came together and who helped make it happen:

“We were working on Snoop’s album ‘Ego Trippin.’ The idea came up. Snoop had a talk with Quik and let him know [you gotta drop an album] and just let him know that he was still relevant. I had that talk with him too. Then Unk (Snoop) came to me and was like we (Quik & Kurupt) should make a whole album. I was like that would be the bomb and It was a privilege for me. When we went in he convinced me that he was totally serious about the project and I convinced him that I was serious about it, and we’ve been rollin’ ever since.”

Not only has Kurupt been keeping busy on the musical tip but he has been a solid performer on the big screen as well. In 2003 the rapper held his own on the big screen along side the film legend Harrison Ford in “Hollywood Homicide.” He talked about his passion for movies and an upcoming project he is working on:

“acting is a second love for me. My first love is Hip Hop or music in general. Not only acting but also writing them and being a part of the production. You’re going to see a lot more of me, but you’re also going to see me step my game up. I just wrote a new movie called “Emerald City” which is basically me, Snoop Dogg, Daz, Katt Williams and Christian Audigier who does Ed Hardy (clothing). This is a film that I wrote with my partners and it’s a classic.”

Neither of these two are strangers to classic material. Each one can keep shows rocking off of past works and collaborations. One such collaboration that was done right after Quik’s short jail stint was “Can U Werk Wit Dat.” The song was a worldwide club hit that led to the group getting signed to Interscope Records, but the album and the group were subsequently shelved due to bad business practices by some of the parties involved. Quik talked a little about what went wrong to a project that had so much momentum:

“It pretty much depresses me because I had to call the police on somebody that was involved on that project. I had to file a police report. I got assaulted. It got weird. It got really dangerous. It wasn’t fun. It got violent and stupid and I didn’t want to get hurt, and I didn’t want to get nobody else hurt. So I walked away from it. I mean we would take the stage and it was bad energy on the stage. I don’t know if some people were ready for the fame involved with that project. It got to the point to where people were trying to dictate the creative process, and then it went to ‘produce a record like this because I said so.’ I’m like are you crazy? Police!! These ni**as is getting violent in here. These ni**as is trippin.”

This upcoming project doesn’t seem to have any of those negative elements surrounding it. The two sound like they have a mutual respect for one another’s talent and actually enjoy working together. When asked about the direction they seen this project going Quik said:

     “We did the fast track because it became fun to record. Most projects that involve big names, sometimes they can get a little conflicted because egos, or timing schedules. This man (Kurupt) was always on tour. The beautiful thing about it was we were so motivated by the record. So when he would get off the road with Snoop or promoting DPG (Dogg Pound Gangstaz) he would come to the studio and knock out tracks.”

The proof is definitely in the pudding. The duo’s first single “Hey Playa: Moroccan Blues” is already gaining the support of listeners and DJs alike. Quik talked about where they got the idea for the song:

“I was watching Andrew Zimmern’s bizarre foods on the travel channel. I like how he is so cavalier about trying new things. He goes as far as eating indigenous worms out of trees, and bull testicles, rooster testicles, he’ll eat the stuff…..He ate this stuff called Kaliah in Morocco and he said it was so gross that the camel he rode on to get there was a better prospect. Then he went to this other restaurant and this guy was playing this music and it reminded me of that “Addictive” sample I used for Truth Hurts.”

The duo have a tentative 20 city tour scheduled. The single is getting love on dance floors across the country. Kurupt and Quik are staying active musically. Kurupt was scheduled to appear in Memphis at the Beale Street Music Festival May 3rd. Quik hosts a set once a month at the Key Club in Los Angeles called “Quik’s Groove” which has been creating quite a buzz. If you’re a fan of hip hop in general and West Coast Rap in particular, then you need to get “Blaqkout” which hits the stores June 9th.

For MORE info on Quik, Kurrupt and "Blaqkout," go to http://www.myspace.com/djquik.  

Ricardo Lemvo : A Bridge Between Cuba And Africa

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(May 07, 2009) The owners of Lula Lounge see themselves not so much as operating a club as running a catalyst for music to expand and evolve.

Two years ago, partner Jose Ortega decided to mix local Latin musicians with African-born players he knew.

He and percussionist Luis Orbegoso brought together a 14-piece outfit they dubbed SalsAfrica, with a mandate to explore the African roots of salsa dance music.

As role models, they looked to venerable Senegalese bands Africando and Orchestra Baobab.

And they especially looked to
Ricardo Lemvo. Born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, based in Los Angeles, Lemvo ranks as one of the top stars and innovators of Afro-Latin music with his band Makina Loca.

"He is a bridge," Orbegoso says of Lemvo. "He is a lover of Cuban music who crosses it with a number of commercial African rhythms such as soukous.

"He can start out with an authentic Cuban sound, then out of nowhere soukous dance music comes in. And vice versa. He can be singing in Lingali (a Congolese language) and have this authentic Cuban sound in the background."

On Saturday, Lemvo is to join SalsAfrica onstage at Lula Lounge.

The role model is to front the local players for the headline concert of LulaWorld, a festival running to May 22 celebrating the club's seventh anniversary.

"We didn't know him before," Orbegoso says of the guest vocalist who arrived ahead of time to rehearse. "He's a fantastic person – easygoing, easy to work with."

Also in the line-up for the occasion is Jesus (El Niño) Perez, a Cuban singer and former founding member of Makina Loca now living in Montreal.

SalsAfrica includes local singer Yeti (Lady Son) Ajasin of Nigerian background and Guinea-born singer Katenen (Cheka) Dioubaté, providing backup vocals for the night with an array of pan-Latin American instrumentalists.

Just the facts
WHO: Ricardo Lemvo with SalsAfrica
WHEN: Saturday, doors 7 p.m., show 10 p.m.
WHERE: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.
TICKETS: $25 advance, $35 door, 416-588-0307 or lulalounge.ca

LaKeisha Jones Is 'So Glad' About It

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

(May 11, 2009) *Season six of “American Idol” may have crowned Fantasia Barrino as champ, but the 2004 season also introduced the world to powerhouse singer LaKisha Jones who has since gone on to tour with “AI”, scored a role in “The Color Purple” on Broadway, gotten married, has a baby on the way, and is finally releasing her debut disc “So Glad I’m Me” next week, May 19th. All from a humble start on one of the most popular television shows in the world.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time and letting things unfold,” Jones told EUR’s Lee Bailey and reflected on her days on the “American Idol” stage.

 “Every time I get a chance to watch the new season, the whole process is memorable for me,” she reminisced. “That platform basically allowed me the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. I had a great experience and I won’t’ forget it. It certainly opened doors for me that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened. I’m grateful.”

Unbeknownst to many, Jones actually tried out for the talent completion a few years before being invited to Hollywood for season six.

“I tried out in 2003 and I didn’t make it. I didn’t tell a lot of people,” she said.

Shortly after the failed audition, she packed her bags and headed to Baltimore, near family, after being laid off from her job in Houston – but not before taking 2nd place in Houston’s “Gimme the Mic” competition in 2005.  

“I was working at a bank (in Baltimore) and I had shown them a tape of when I did ‘Gimme the Mic.’ My supervisor told me I should try out for ‘American Idol’ and I didn’t want to tell him that I already had,” she said.

Jones’ bank boss insisted that she go to New York to audition, so much so that he gave her money for gas and food. She drove to New York, with her young daughter, stood in line, auditioned, and made it to L.A. for the show and eventually to the final four contestants. Jones never returned to her job at the bank – with blessing of her boss and coworkers, of course.

“It was definitely a blessing. I had only been at the job for four weeks,” she said.

On May 19, Jones releases her debut disc that she’s titled “So Glad I’m Me.”

“I am glad to be who God made me to be,” she said of selecting the title of the disc. “I think so many times, when you’re trying to break into the industry, a lot of people are trying to mimic certain people or want to look a certain way. Well, with Lakisha Jones, what you see is what you get. It’s too hard to be two different people. I am so glad to be the size I am, the way I look and being LaKisha Jones. This is who God made me.”

She assured that her take on life and the title by no means means she considers herself perfect.

“It means that I am LaKisha Jones; I am not trying to be Beyonce, not trying to be Ciara, not trying to anybody, but me. I don’t want to be anybody else. God made me special. This is me and I’m glad to be that,” she said.

     Jones also talked about the inspirational track “Grateful” which reveals even more of what and how she’s thankful.

“I’m grateful for having the opportunity that I had, and now being able to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which was to take care of my child and do that by singing. I’m grateful for all the people that voted me on the show. I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for my life, my health and strength. That’s where that song came from.”

The song, which was the last to be added to the disc, has gospel and spiritual undertones. While Jones explained that she didn’t really have gospel designs for the album, she knows that the track’s message lends itself to an inspirational feel.

“Right before ‘Idol’ I was laid off from my job. My car got repossessed. I moved to Baltimore and didn’t have any money. I went from that point to living out my dream. I came off of ‘Idol’ and I bought a house for me and my child, I got a car, I’ve done Broadway. I can’t believe it, but I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful, thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s just that type of song. It ain’t nobody, but God, and I’m so thankful. It just pours into that.”

The first single, “Let’s Go Celebrate” is rather upbeat with a moderate tempo, while Jones is most known as a ballad songbird from her days on “Idol.”

“This CD is a little different for me,” the now married Jones told us. “I’m a ballad singer. I love slow, powerhouse, all-in-your-face singing. This CD is different for me because [it] doesn’t have a lot of that. It kind of shows a different side of me.”

The recording process was also a little different for Jones, too. She began recording “So Glad I’m Me” about a year and a half ago just as she was starting work on “The Color Purple.” The disc was pieced together from studio time in Los Angeles, Houston, and Cleveland.

“I can definitely say that I don’t like the recording process,” she revealed. “I love singing live, but with the recording process, the decisions that have to be made, then other people have their opinion – it’s something. You have people who want you to be who they want you to be and not who you are. I’m very strong in my convictions about being who I am.”

For more on LaKisha Jones and her new disc, “So Glad I’m Me,” check out www.lakishajones.com or www.myspace.com/lakishajonesmusic.  

John Legend To Launch Brother's Career

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 13, 2009) *John Legend has dipped into the family pool for his next project, a new album on his HomeSchool Records imprint from his brother, R&B singer Vaughn Anthony.

"[Vaughn] has a great voice and a great talent for writing, and I've seen that grow over time because he just worked so hard at it," Legend tells Billboard.com. "I think he's ready now."

Anthony officially signed to HomeSchool in November 2007, just weeks after unveiling the label's first signing, British singer Estelle. Since then, the 28-year-old has honed his craft by appearing as one of Legend's background vocalists on tour and releasing a six-track E.P. on iTunes in 2008 entitled "Mr. Everything."

A debut album featuring music by the Runners and Phatboi Productions is next on Anthony's schedule.

"Just being on the road and watching John, it helped me develop a lot," says Anthony, whose first single will be "In Your Shoes," a song co-written with his brother and currently featured on his MySpace page.  "It's been longer than I've wanted to wait, but now I feel like it's really my time."

To introduce Anthony, Legend will host a showcase for industry executives at S.O.B.'s in New York tomorrow night (May 14) in the hopes of securing a distribution deal. Chrisette Michele, Ryan Leslie and Kat DeLuna are among the VIPs expected to attend, and both Legend and Estelle are rumoured to be performing in addition to Anthony, who will debut seven tracks from the upcoming album.

Legend also shared his excitement with Billboard.com over the success of "Magnificent," his unlikely collaboration with rapper Rick Ross that currently sits at No. 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

"I think it might have surprised people because [Ross] is not really associated with our movement as much," says Legend. "I have a lot of respect for him. Rick has really put himself in the upper echelon of MCs right now; his new album is really good, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Canadian Pianist And Composer Pull Us Under, Happily So

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

(May 13, 2009) If the essence of poetry is controlled repetition and variation, then last night's performance by Toronto pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico at the Glenn Gould Studio was musical poetry at its finest.

Quilico has made a career of championing the work of Canadian creators. Veteran composer Ann Southam couldn't hope for a finer advocate as the pianist laid out her 90-plus-minute suite Pond Life: Ponds, Creeks and a Noisy River with elegance and clarity.

The recital marked the launch of Quilico's recording of the piano suite for the Canadian Music Centre's CentreDiscs label. Both the disc and the printed score are significant additions to this country's piano repertoire, and will hopefully catch the attention of performers and audiences beyond our borders.

Some composers write big, emotionally or technically aggressive music that leaps off the stage to grab the audience. Others slowly tease the listener's ears, stealthily insinuating their musical ideas into our consciousness.

Southam uses the latter method in Pond Life, mixing some techniques from 12-tone writing with the tried-and-true minimalist template of laying out short musical patterns in long, repetitive loops. Southam's secret weapon is a playful lyricism that winks and smiles atop and beneath the surface.

There are 11 sections in Pond Life, which was directly inspired by the sweet green and blue washes of colour in a 1986 painting by Toronto artist Aiko Suzuki, who died at the end of 2005. Slow, meditative movements alternate with tightly wound clusters of fast-moving piano keys to create a metaphor for the teeming life lurking beneath the pond's still, glassy waters.

Because Pond Life unfolds in a slow, circular manner, once the music has teased us in we can remain suspended within it seemingly forever. It was a truly magical experience – one that the disc allows us to repeat in the comfort of our favourite listening position.

There is more of Southam's magic coming later this month, when pianist Eve Egoyan presents the hour-long Simple Lines of Enquiry (also in honour of a freshly recorded CD) at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre on May 30.


Flaming Lips Singer Puckers Up

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 07, 2009) Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne has apologized after calling Montreal indie-rockers Arcade Fire "pompous." "I really feel bad about it," Coyne said in an interview posted on Entertainment Weekly's website. "I like enough of their music. The idea that I'm somehow against them ... I'm not!" In an obscenity-laced March interview in Rolling Stone, Coyne said: "I'm a fan of them on one level, but on another level I get really tired of their pompousness." He also accused Arcade Fire of treating their crew and fans like crap, though he used a different four-letter word. Now, Coyne says he was talking about "the guys that were running their stages at a couple of festivals," not the band itself. "I wish that had never happened," he told Entertainment Weekly. 

Will.I.Am Praises Mijac's Singing Voice

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 07, 2009) *Will.i.am, one of the producers working with Michael Jackson on an upcoming album, is attempting to silence critics who believe the King of Pop is way past his prime.  The Black Eyed Peas frontman recently recorded new material with Jackson and claims the pop legend – who begins a 50-date stand in London this summer – can still belt tunes at age 50 the way he could in his 20s and 30s. His secret? A three-hour vocal warm-up.  "He's just 'mi mi mi mi mi mi'. He's doing voice testing just to sing for five minutes," will.i.am told Starpulse. "He's testing his voice for three hours to sing for five minutes. (Bandmate) Fergie don't do that s**t. Usher don't do that s**t. None of the people that you think still got it do that. I've seen it, in my house.  "That's because he's a perfectionist and he just likes testing his voice. I've seen it... Perfect pitch."

Apollo Kre-Ed Shoots Video In The Bahamas

Source:  www.eurweb.com
- By Kevin Jackson

(May 07, 2009) Bahamian reggae artiste Apollo Kre-ed got in front of the cameras recently for the video shoot of his latest single Ghetto Star Remix featuring Jamaican artiste General Degree.      The locations for the shoot were Green Parrot Bar & Grill, The Grove, which is Apollo Kre-ed’s community in Nassau, as well as at the Nitor Filmz Studio, the base of director Utah Taylor.     The concept behind the video was to show the struggles and the success of Apollo Kre-ed as an artiste up to this point in his career. Apollo has been working tirelessly to get his career to the next level by travelling to Jamaica to record, performing in the Bahamas at various events, releasing music and being featured on various radio and TV shows.     Commenting about the video shoot Apollo Kre-ed said “This is my fourth (video) project thus far and once again it was fully paid out my own pocket. Like I tell people and artist who come and ask me "how do I do what I am doing" I tell them straight up. I sacrifice to achieve my goal and I won't stop until I get it and that is what separates Apollo Kre-ed from the rest of these “so called” artistes. This particular video shoot got the attention of a lot of people and I now feel that people are starting to respect me as one of the hardest working artistes of the Bahamas.”

Reggae Sumfest Countdown Begins

Source:  Jamaica Observer

(May 07, 2009) Reggae Sumfest, known as the world's greatest showcase of reggae music, will take place from July 19-25 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, a release from the organisers, Summerfest Productions, stated. The July 19 beach party and the ensuing three days of epic live performances (starting with Dancehall Night on Thursday, July 23) that make up the annual event, will captivate the thousands of tourists and Jamaicans alike who make the trek each year to this, the Mecca of reggae music festivals. According to the organisers, they are looking to make this year's Reggae Sumfest, another 'one to remember'. While they are busy negotiating the acts for the usual slate of international inclusions in the line-up, some of the top flight local acts have already been confirmed. Among them, is the King of the Dancehall, Beenie Man. Last year The Doctor, as he is also called, brought a fitting finale to Dancehall Night exhibiting high energy and his usual flair. Once again, joining The Doctor on the line up is his lyrical counterpart, Bounty Killer. Included in this year's roster is high-riding, dancehall act, Mavado. The Gully Gadd will be taking the Sumfest stage following a year-long ride on the charts and the success of his sophomore album, Mr Brooks... A Better Tomorrow. His Alliance counterpart, Busy Signal is also on the bill. Reigning prince and princess of reggae Tarrus Riley and Etana, will also be sweetening the 2009 Sumfest offerings. The two have been having a spectacular year captivating radio stations, music charts and audiences world-wide showing love and appreciation for their music. In what has been a rare occurrence for the past several months, the individuals making up the reggae group Morgan Heritage will be performing together on the Sumfest stage, almost a year since they split directions in pursuit of solo projects. Also confirmed for the line-up is veteran reggae crooner Coco Tea. Summerfest Productions will take over Montego Bay from July 19-25 for the 17th staging of 'the greatest reggae show on earth'.

Why Does 20 Years And En Vogue Belong In Same Sentence?

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 9, 2009) *You may not have given it a second thought, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of Grammy nominated female singing group
En Vogue.  Now that it's duly noted, how about a celebration of some kind? OK, as long as we're invited we're down for that. So with a legacy as one of the most popular and successful female groups of all time, En Vogue is celebrating this milestone with a reunion of all four original members: Cindy Herron-Bragg, Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones.  To kick-off this year-long Anniversary Party, all four members will reunite for a special Mother’s Day Concert in New York, followed by an appearance on ABC’s daily chat fest ‘The View’ on Monday, May 11th and a June 7th episode of A&E’s ‘Private Sessions.’ We can only assume our invitation is in the mail.

Take Love Easy: Sophie Milman

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

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)

(May 12, 2009) With apparent effortlessness this Toronto-based singer uses her throaty pipes to convey a range of emotions. She begins the opening track "Beautiful Love" low and mournful with just bass accompaniment, then as the guitar and drums kick in, Milman's voice becomes light and celebratory making way for pianist Paul Schofel's swinging solo; she ends the tune on a dramatic wistful note. That's typical of the warm, tasty sound, outstanding playing and inventive arrangements that define the 25-year-old's third album, already atop the iTunes Canada jazz chart. Gliding through Duke Ellington ("Take Love Easy") and Cole Porter ("Love For Sale") gems, as well as bold Bruce Springsteen ("I'm On Fire") and Joni Mitchell ("Be Cool") covers, Milman makes them her own. The only consideration is how much you like her dusky sound and its distinct tremor. Top Track: "I Concentrate on You" serves up a dreamy vibe and masterful alto sax (Wessell "Warmdaddy" Anderson).

Will.I.Am Launches I.Am Scholarship


(May 12, 2009) *During a visit to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week, will.i.am launched his new scholarship program aimed at providing at least one graduating high school student with full tuition, books, and fees to a four year accredited college or university. The Black Eyed Peas star kicked off the "I.am scholarship fund" by footing the bill for four young African American male guests on the "Oprah" show. Will told the winners, "The only thing you have to worry about is succeeding and showing the world that the youth is the future of America and the world." will.i.am created the "i.am scholarship" program to assist students who want to attend college but need financial assistance to make it a reality. For additional information, please visit www.iamscholarship.org or www.dipdive.com. 

Eminem To Play Multiple 'Kimmel' Gigs


(May 12, 2009) *Eminem will promote the release of his upcoming album "Relapse" by performing for three non-consecutive nights on ABC's " Jimmy Kimmel Live," beginning with an "exclusive" performance on Friday (May 15).  The run continues the following week, according to E! Online. He'll perform live in Kimmel's studio on May 19, the day of the album's release, and then, perform two songs live via satellite from his hometown of Detroit on May 22.   The trio of appearances follows similar multi-night stands by U2 on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and Prince on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Meanwhile, Slim Shady is also set to give a three-hour interview on Sirius XM's Shade 45 channel, taking fans on a behind-the-scenes tour of the making of the album and giving track-by-track commentary.

Domestic Rights To Ndour Doc Acquired

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 13, 2009) *North American rights to the documentary "I Bring What I Love: Youssou Ndour," about the Senegalese musician, has been acquired by Shadow Distribution, a Waterville, Maine-based independent distributor.  The music-filled work from director Chai Vasarhelyi shows Ndour, a devout Muslim, working on his "deeply personal and religious" album, "Egypt," which he hoped would help promote a more benign portrait of Islam, reports Reuters. But "Love" also chronicles the album's disappointing reception among Muslims in Senegal, where it is denounced as blasphemous. Vasarhelyi followed Ndour for more than two years, filming in Africa, Europe and the U.S.

Stevie To Play Free Montreal Jazz Fest Gig

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 13, 2009) *Stevie Wonder is scheduled to give a free outdoor concert on the opening night of this year's Montreal Jazz Festival, to be held from June 30 through July 12. The gig will double as the inaugural performance at the Place des Festival, a new plaza that a press release describes as part of a still-under-construction public space that "will likewise ensure the future of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal." Wonder's set--which will also be viewable on giant screens that will be deployed on other stages throughout the festival site--is one of more than 650 free outdoor concerts set to take place during the multi-day festival. Details for additional free outdoor concerts and activities will be announced June 8, according to organizers. Among the more than 150 confirmed artists are Jeff Beck, Harlem Gospel Choir, Buddy Guy, Mos Def, Pink Martini, The Dears, The Orb, Burning Spear and Toots & The Maytals. A complete list of confirmed acts is available at the festival's Web site, as is ticketing information.


Festival's Top Prize To Regent Park Documentary

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

(May 09, 2009) As Hot Docs comes to a close, Toronto's Regent Park enters the spotlight.

Invisible City, Hubert Davis's look at three years in the lives of two teenagers, takes home the Best Canadian Documentary award at the annual fest. "This award goes to a film that weds form and content with extraordinary grace and intelligence," the jury notes read.

The award comes with a $15,000 cash prize. The prizes were announced yesterday.

One Man Village, directed by Simon El Habre, won the Best International Prize, for its look at the last inhabitant of a devastated Lebanese village.

Cooking History won the Special Jury Prize: International Feature. The doc focuses on military cooks survival strategies during 20th-century conflicts. Here is a list of the rest of the Hot Docs award winners, with audience favourite awards to be announced Monday:

Special Jury Prize: Canadian Feature: Waterlife.

Best Mid-length Documentary Award: Rabbit à la Berlin.

Best Short Documentary Award: The Delian Mode.

HBO Emerging Artist Award: Chung-ryoul Lee, director of Old Partner.

Outstanding Achievement Award: Alanis Obomsawin, director of Professor Cornett – Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?

Don Haig Award, awarded to emerging Canadian documentary filmmaker: Brett Gaylor (RiP! A Remix Manifesto); Runner-up Tracey Deer (Club Native) also received a jury prize.

The Lindalee Tracey Award: Laura Bari and Will Inrig.

Dolphin Hunt Movie Wins Hot Docs Audience Award

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 11, 2009) The celebrated documentary The Cove has claimed the Hot Docs Audience Award.

The American-made film, which also won the audience award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, follows dolphin trainer Richard O'Barry and his team of activists as they travel to Japan to shed light on that country's dolphin hunt.

65 – RedRoses, a Canadian-made film about an online network of girls with cystic fibrosis, finished second in audience voting.

Third place went to Inside Hana's Suitcase (Canada-Czech Republic), which tracks the journey of a suitcase that belonged to a child who was incarcerated for being Jewish during the Holocaust.

Organizers said this year's festival was the most successful Hot Docs yet. They estimated that 122,000 people attended screenings – a 42 per cent increase over 2008.

Hot Docs – widely regarded as North America's largest documentary festival – ran from April 30 to May 10, with more than 170 documentaries on its schedule.

On Friday, Invisible City, directed by Hubert Davis, was given the $15,000 award for best Canadian feature at the festival, while One Man Village won the $10,000 prize for best international feature.

The special jury prize for an international feature was given to Cooking History (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia), an examination of military cooks, while Waterlife, Gemini Award-winning filmmaker Kevin McMahon's study of the Great Lakes, won the $10,000 special jury prize for a Canadian feature.

Egoyan Seriously Funny

Source: www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere
, Entertainment Reporter

(May 08, 2009) The theme of Atom Egoyan's latest movie Adoration, opening today, is how technology distorts truth, but it's also an apt description of how Scott Speedman and the celebrated Toronto writer-director (of The Sweet Hereafter and Where the Truth Lies) first misperceived each other.

Sitting next to his co-star and (and fellow ex-pat Torontonian) Rachel Blanchard the day following the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, Speedman, 33, smiled as he recollected just how wrong he was about Egoyan.

"I had these visions of Atom at Cannes," he says. "Wearing Hugo Boss suits, very serious. So I was kind of amazed to discover just how warm he is. And even when he's making a really dark movie – and this one's pretty dark – he laughs a lot. And that really helps."

Blanchard, 33, had already worked with Egoyan on 2005's Where the Truth Lies, so she was a little less surprised than Speedman by the director's cheerful, joke-prone demeanour. Not that she took it for granted. But it's not just the fact that Egoyan's a big laugher that counts for the Havergal College alumni and former star of the TV version of Clueless.

"He's very prepared," she says, adding, "I know that sounds like it should be obvious for a director but it's not. I've worked on things where I've thought `Do you even know what you're doing?' And I mean people you think really should know what they're doing. But Atom really does, and he also creates a sense of calm and really trusts his actors.

"For me, that's really important. That and his sense of humour."

Adoration tells the fractured-mirror tale of a teenager (Devon Bostick) who creates an online controversy by posing as the son of a terrorist while coming to terms with the real death of his own parents.

If Blanchard was sought by the director for the role of a woman who only lives in the memory of some of the movie's characters, Speedman had to go the distance to land the role of Tom, the grimly bearded uncle of the orphaned teenager.

The distance being, in this case, from Los Angeles to Toronto.

"He didn't approach me," Speedman says with a grin. "I approached him. I obviously knew who he was and really liked his work, so when I found out there was a character in the movie that he was doing who I knew in essence I could play; I got hold of my Canadian agent and read the script. The problem was, the character as written was about 10 to 15 years older than I am, but I still wanted to do it. So I contacted Atom, flew myself up to Toronto and tried to convince him that I was the right guy to play Tom."

Egoyan, true to his nice-guy rep, was as accommodating as possible. He told the actor he really liked his work and appreciated the approach, but also told him that there was no way he could cast Speedman as Tom.

"He said, `I like you, I think you're great, but you're too young.'"

Perhaps because he was looking to shake his image as a light but supercute leading dude (think the TV show Felicity, or the Underworld movies), or maybe because he felt there was an inner sadness in him that other directors had left unexploited.

"I don't know where that comes from," Speedman muses, "but it's there."

The actor set about convincing Egoyan that he was wrong. Wrong, that is, about the very character Egoyan had created.

That took some nerve, but Speedman was not only convinced he was right, he was certain the Tom he was talking about was a richer character than the one Egoyan had conceived.

"The way I saw it," says Speedman, "the stakes were raised by reducing the character's age. If you knew he'd only been about 20 when he first started raising his nephew, he suddenly seemed like a guy who'd already lived a lifetime. I always thought it was more dramatic that way, and I managed to convince him. Luckily."

For Blanchard, the anecdote is typical of Egoyan's open-armed work ethic, another reason she "loves" working with him.

"He listens to you," she concurs. "He's really collaborative and he gives you a lot of freedom. What I think makes him such a great storyteller is exactly that – that he's passionate about every aspect of life and really interested in people. And it shows."

Pixar Gambles On Up

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

(May 10, 2009) Before he could go Up, Pixar's Pete Docter had to risk going down, in more ways than one.

The director of the levitating love story picked to open the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday – the first animated and 3D film to be so honoured – took a bold gamble in bringing his vision to the screen.

Up won't seem like conventional family fare when it hits theatres May 29, despite its allusions to The Wizard of Oz. The hero of the tale is crabby 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, who attaches thousands of helium balloons to his dilapidated house to finally go on the South American adventure he'd long promised his late wife Ellie.

First blush to final tears between Carl and Ellie is shown through a flashback montage that's so poignant, moviegoers will be choked up before they finish the butter on their popcorn.

Carl's accidental sidekick for the South American sojourn is an annoying tubby kid named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who wants to do a good deed to earn his Wilderness Explorer badge. There's not much snappy dialogue between the two.

Sound like summer fun to you? It's not exactly Toy Story or A Bug's Life or Monster's Inc., previous Disney/Pixar hits that Docter helped write, animate and/or direct, and which were loaded with colourful characters. Carl isn't the least bit likeable, at least not at first, and Up is banking more on the Pixar name than on marquee appeal.

But the tall and lanky Docter, 40, doesn't seem the least bit worried. He's the guy, after all, who co-wrote the story for WALL-E, last summer's unassuming blockbuster about a robot trash compacter marooned on a burned-out Earth. The film won this year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and Docter shared in the accompanying nomination for Best Original Screenplay, his fourth Academy nom.

The Pixar team loves to challenge its audience, and Up takes that attitude to the max. Viewers might think they've wandered into a cartoon based on Clint Eastwood's prickly persona.

"We started on the other end of it," the Minnesota-born Docter said in an interview, during a recent Toronto visit.

"We started with this grouchy guy with balloons – `get out of my yard!' We're attracted to that grouch. We started to think, how did he end up that way? Why is he wanting to shut out the world and escape it? That's the story we came up with."

The making of Up took five long years, complicated by the 3D process (it will also screen in conventional 2D). Each member of the team of 60 animators working under Docter (and co-director Bob Peterson), worked at a pace of four seconds of animation per week.

Their attention to detail was so obsessive, each balloon amongst the many held by Carl was individual animated. There are neat little real-like touches, like the key Carl uses to cut a string when a knife isn't handy.

It sounds tedious, but it's not, Docter insisted.

"It's a lot like music. You could say playing a guitar is tedious, because you sit and have to practise eight a hours a day. But at the end, you get something really cool out of it."

(Docter knows whereof he speaks with that music analogy. He's an accomplished player of several instruments, including guitar, bass and violin.)

"You can write something that's mathematically perfect but kind of looks lacklustre, so we're constantly pushing things from the story-telling standpoint."

This last point leads to the other downside risk for Up that Docter struggled to avoid. Animation has become so skilled in recent years, thanks to advances in computers and software, that characters risk becoming too lifelike for humans to accept. It's a quirk of perception that animators call the "uncanny valley," and it's a hole you don't want to fall into, as Docter explained.

"Start with the simplest representation of a face: a circle, two dots for eyes and a line for the mouth. Then start adding a nose and eyebrows. They've tracked people's responses to these images, and they go up and up and up, the more you add.

"But then you get to almost but not quite real, and there's the uncanny valley: it's real, but something's wrong with it. The appeal for people suddenly drops to below the circle with two dots. People are so keyed in on watching other people, they can recognize when something's wrong. And that's a danger to me."

Though that too-human effect is what led some people to dislike Robert Zemeckis' 2004 film The Polar Express, it's a tough temptation for Docter to resist, since he's part of the team credited with first achieving truly lifelike skin tones in animation, in the 1997 Pixar short Geri's Game.

"We've tried to shy over a little more on the cartoon side of characters, which is the strength of animation anyway."

There was no holding back in the emotional side of the movie, however. The character Carl is based in part on legendary animator Joe Grant, Docter's mentor at the Walt Disney Co., where he worked before joining Pixar. Grant, who created the character of Dumbo and other classic Disney characters, died four years ago this week.

Docter is confident viewers of Up will make their own emotional connections to Carl, even if he is a gnarly old cuss.

"To me, Up is a tribute to all our grandparents who have inspired us to do what we do. There is a tendency, especially in North America, to sort of ignore older people. They get forgotten as the rest of us go on with our busy, hectic lives."


At this year's Oscars, presenter Jack Black explained his financial secret: "Each year I do one DreamWorks project, then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar." The latter's WALL-E won the Best Animated Film prize again, the group's fourth Oscar after Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.

The company is the most respected name in animation by a mile these days; Disney, after all, bought the company and put Pixar's John Lasseter in charge of all of Disney's animation. Financially, though, Pixar is still mostly eating the dust of DreamWorks' Shrek franchise. From boxofficemojo.com, the top-earning animated films of all time:

1 Shrek 2 $441,226,247
2 Finding Nemo $339,714,978
3 The Lion King $328,541,776
4 Shrek the Third $322,719,944
5 Shrek $267,665,011
6 The Incredibles $261,441,092
7 Monsters, Inc. $255,873,250
8 Toy Story 2 $245,852,179
9 Cars $244,082,982
10 WALL-E $223,808,164
Maybe they've taken a lesson from the Shrek sequels' success after all: the next two Pixar projects after Up are Toy Story 3 and Cars 2.
– Star staff

EUR Film Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Kam Williams

(May 13, 2009) *X-Men Origins is an over-plotted prequel devoted to developing the back story of Wolverine, aka James Logan, the short-fused superhero capable of morphing in an instant into a steel-clawed assassin.

Hugh Jackman reprises the role he's played in the popular franchise's prior instalments, and the versatile thespian rises to the demanding challenge of carrying a star vehicle.

Directed by Gavin Hood, this generations-spanning epic opens in 1845 on the Canadian frontier where we find then teenaged James sickly and living in a log cabin.

His life is irreversibly altered the fateful day he fatally-stabs a man (Aaron Jeffery) in the chest in a fit of rage only to learn that he's just slain his own father.

This pivotal piece of the Logan family genealogical puzzle means that James' childhood pal, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), must be his half-brother. He also happens to be a superhuman with an alias, Sabretooth, so the two orphans enter a pact and flee to America. The ensuing cinematic montage shows these seemingly-indestructible siblings serving in the U.S. Army together in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and then in Vietnam. However, they are clearly polar opposites, morally.

Whereas Wolverine takes to the bloody line of work reluctantly, unsavoury Sabretooth seems to delight in every opportunity to pillage and plunder.

Therefore, it is no surprise when the former decides to quit the mercenary business after witnessing atrocities committed by fellow members of an elite squad of mutants being led by Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston).

Fast-forward a half-dozen years and we find Logan kicking back in Canada where he has kept a low profile as a lumberjack and fallen in love with a beautiful local gal, Kayla (Lynn Collins). Just when it looks like the cozy couple is content to live happily-ever-after, Stryker shows up to talk Logan out of retirement to help in tracking down the stalker who's been knocking off members of their old unit one-by-one.

Judging X-Men Origins with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, the picture wastes a lot of time weaving an unnecessarily-complicated premise given that it leads to a fairly simplistic showdown of good versus evil. At least the adventure introduces several cool new mutants who put their extraordinary talents on display, including will.i.am as the teleporting John Wraith, Kevin Durand as the indestructible Blob, Ryan Reynolds as the self-healing Deadpool, Tahyna Tozzi as diamond-skinned Emma Frost, Dominic Monaghan as the electrifying Bolt, Taylor Kitsch as the detonating Gambit and Lynn Collins as the telepathic Silverfox.

Think Fantastic Four as opposed to The Dark Knight and you have a good idea of what to expect of this action-oriented, twist-driven morality play. And be sure to stay for all of the closing credits to catch one of two alternate endings.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and partial nudity. 
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

To see a trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, visit HERE.

Film Made Scorsese Gasp

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(May 13, 2009) NEW YORK - It was almost 40 years ago that he was in the wilds of Australia shooting Outback. But director Ted Kotcheff has never forgotten the brutality of the kangaroo hunt so disturbingly well caught in this hard, vivid gem, which returns to the Cannes spotlight on Friday.

Until recently, Outback seemed to have been lost, but eventually the film was found in the U.S. in a vault marked "for destruction" and then digitally restored. It will be shown on the big screen as part of the Cannes Classics series, 38 years after it was in competition at the festival.

Last week, when I caught up with Kotcheff in New York, just before he wrapped Season 10 of Law & Order: SVU (of which he is exec producer) and flew home to Los Angeles, Kotcheff recalled his Cannes experience.

Sitting behind him was an almost unknown young American filmmaker who kept gasping and asking: "How far is he going to go with this? Oh my God, he's going all the way." His name: Martin Scorsese.

Watching Outback now, I understand exactly why Scorsese was riveted. It was important to Kotcheff that no animal was killed for the sake of making a movie. Nevertheless, the slaughter scene is so nightmarish that one of the producers passed out while it was being filmed.

"Some of the footage was so horrendous, I just couldn't use it," Kotcheff confides.

Based on the novel Wake in Fright, by Kenneth Cook, the movie chronicles the misadventures of a young teacher who gets stuck in the middle of nowhere and can't find a way to escape. He's trapped in a place where the most popular activity is getting drunk and the macho way of life finds its ultimate expression in the kangaroo hunt.

Kotcheff, 78, grew up in Toronto, the child of Bulgarian immigrants, but earned his reputation in England, where he had been directing TV dramas, stage plays and feature films for a decade before Outback (financed by an arm of Westinghouse, which then operated a small U.S. television network) took him to Australia.

When he got there, it reminded him of home.

"Even though it was oppressively hot," Kotcheff recalls, "I found the experience of people in the Australian desert similar to those in the Canadian North, because instead of liberating them, the wide open spaces made them feel trapped and desperate."

When members of the crew asked about Canada, he said it was "like Australia on the rocks."

How, one wonders, did Kotcheff get realistic footage of kangaroos being slaughtered by drunken macho hunters if no animals died for the film?

"Part of it is just camera trickery, where we zoom in on a kangaroo and someone yells `Jump!' and the audience sees something that looks like a bullet but isn't, and the animal moves as if it has been hit."

But for the bloodiest parts, Kotcheff had a different method, creating a mini-documentary within a fictional drama. His camera crew followed a band of professional hunters as they went about their business: massacring creatures to provide pet food and the skin for cuddly toys.

Kotcheff was sickened when one of the hunters explained that if hit in the kidney, a kangaroo drops dead immediately; if hit in the brain, it does a leap before dying. If struck in the heart, it executes four or five amazing jumps while expiring.

Wake in Fright, as it was called in Australia, failed at the box office, where audiences at Aussie cinemas yelled back at the screen: "That's not us!"

But their attitude may be very different today. Noted directors, including Peter Weir and Fred Schepisi, have told Kotcheff this film made them realize it was possible for Australia to have its own movies.

Next month, the Sydney Film Festival will showcase the restored version. Kotcheff will be present, and the film is getting a major re-release throughout Australia.

Let's hope it also returns to Canada, where almost no one saw it the first time around.

Jill Hennessy's Latest Role Is Far From Ms. Perfect, But She's Thrilled With It

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

(May 08, 2009) Mention actor Jill Hennessy to men of a certain age and of the enlightened predisposition to adore smart, formidable ladies, and you'll elicit a kind of sighing swoon. She exemplifies, they will tell you, the woman they always wanted to date in university – the one with the stellar grade-point average, the most expertly tailored and flattering outfits and the kindest smile.

How such gentlemen arrived at this vision of Hennessy is no secret. In the last decade she has starred in two massively popular TV crime procedurals, playing on-top-of-it-all, smart as salt types: cool and clever medical examiner Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh in Crossing Jordan, and the tough but fair public prosecutor Claire Kincaid on the original Law & Order.

Fans of Hennessy's previous incarnations will therefore be excused for finding her latest role, as a beleaguered mother and wife in the 1970s suburban dysfunctional family film Lymelife, to be a marked, even shocking, departure.

Gone are the glamorous business suits, the flawless hair and the professional sheen. Hennessy's Brenda Bartlett, a character married to a philandering husband (wonderfully played by that eternal sexy beast Alec Baldwin) and blessed/cursed with two bafflingly obtuse sons, wanders through Lymelife in a perpetual state of dowdy and uncombed, near-frantic depression – until the film's shocking second half, when Brenda decides to turn the tables on her self-absorbed husband and the brooding brats he has created.

Speaking with Jill Hennessy, I almost expected her to apologize for her bedraggled looks in Lymelife, or her intentionally understated acting (you have to watch closely to see all the little, perfect moments she brings to her character, especially in her scenes with the bigger than life Baldwin). Instead, I met an actor who was thrilled to cast off the tight skirts and Armani blouses and play, as she puts it, “a real woman.”

Lesson learned: Don't judge an actor by her wardrobe assistants.

When will somebody make a film about the quiet joys of suburban life?

Yeah, yeah! Ha! I kind of agree with you – I'd love to see that film. When will they do it? I guess everyone's always looking for conflict and drama, we always end up seeing the dark side of things. You know what, though? Probably we'll see that movie pretty soon, considering the economic environment. People need to be inspired, see a little bit of hope. In the time period the filmmakers of Lymelife chose, the 1970s, there might have been more angst about the suburbs, but now I'm noticing, living here in New York, that a lot of people are moving out to Brooklyn or New Jersey, and they're thrilled about it.

Does setting traumatic events in the past make it easier for audiences to absorb the subject matter? Does nostalgia provide a cozy way into the dark material?

I know that the filmmakers chose that time because they wanted to incorporate some of their upbringing into the film, as opposed to writing it in a contemporary period. But maybe there is a desire on the audience's part to distance themselves from what they are seeing on the screen? A different time period allows us to safely do that, in a bizarre way. As an actor working in that framework, to be honest, I kept forgetting we were playing 1979! It never really entered my mind. I would admire the set decorators and the costumers and the hair and makeup, for doing such a great job of staying in the period, but when you're acting, I think you could really trip yourself up and keep yourself outside of yourself if you're trying to “play a period.” You're always human, no matter what era you live in.

But people did move differently and carried their bodies differently in that era.

Well, when you're wearing a corset, it does change you a lot!

You weren't wearing a corset, were you?

Ha! Noooo. I probably should have, I would have looked a lot better.

Oh, now. You did wear those awful sweater coats, the same ones worn by every French teacher I had in junior high.

Ha! Yes! I think we had the same French teachers! The wardrobe woman was incredible. I walked into the first wardrobe fitting and she said, “I have to apologize, Jill, we're really trying to dowdy you up here.” I said, No, bring it on, man! It is so refreshing to not have to be “beautiful.” They would specifically light me so that I would not look beautiful, because I was supposed to be exhausted. And I shot this three months after giving birth, so it was very easy to play exhausted. It was just very freeing, and now I have this very intense period of my life captured in a little time capsule. It was also a really joyous time. I sort of had the best of all worlds, even though the part scared the crap out of me.

What was scary?

To shoot a film three months after giving birth. I'm sure lack of sleep alone was daunting.

It wasn't anything in the script that scared you?

Oh, no, no. The script – it almost scared me how easy it was to play. We were allowed to improvise whenever we felt comfortable, and to just play. The majority of work I've done in film has been in independent films, and they are more fun to do. But the downside is that most people end up not seeing your film, even though you do have the best experience, because you're working with people who are there strictly based on the strength of the script, and who care about it. You go to work to play. God, I'm so fortunate!

Now, I have to ask. One hears that Alec Baldwin never, never shuts up on set.

Ha! Ha! That is true! When we were shooting he was also releasing a book, so he did talk a lot. Also, he's one of those human beings who has more information packed into his brain than anybody you've ever met, and he lets it out in such a funny, entertaining way. But it was kind of disappointing every time he'd have to get on his BlackBerry to work on his book – I'd be like, [sad voice] ‘Oh, okay Alec, go ahead' – because he was so much fun. He's light and goofy and silly. He could hold my baby and make him laugh. To make a three month old laugh is a bit of a feat.

Lennon : The Mixed-Up Boy Who Would Join Sgt. Pepper's Band

www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(May 08, 2009) London — It's 1957 and 15-year-old Paul McCartney is in a cramped kitchen singing the first song he wrote, I Lost My Little Girl. Lounging in the doorway watching him is John Lennon, struggling to reconcile envy and awe.

Lennon's mother, Julia, listens intently and is moved to tears. “Oh, Paul, beautiful,” she says. “You wrote that for her, didn't you? Your mother.” Paul mumbles a response, an awkward teenage boy. Julia knows that McCartney has lost his mother to illness, how deeply it affected him. “It's awful,” she says. “Taken from you at such an early age.”

Lennon can't let this show of maternal tenderness pass by: He seizes the opportunity to wound the mother who abandoned him, and whom he only recently rediscovered. “She had cancer,” he snarls at Julia. “What's your excuse?”

His mother stiffens, gets up, brushes past him. Lennon blows out a stream of smoke, looking only slightly chastened. It is his birthday party, and in the background boys with towering greased hair and girls in circle skirts dance to Hound Dog, the ferocious, world-changing music from across the ocean. Julia, trying to compensate for the years she's lost with her son, has made John a birthday cake in the shape of a record.

 “Cut!” orders director Sam Taylor-Wood, and
Aaron Johnson's shoulders sag a little. The actor, (who plays Lennon), is only 19, and mainly famous to legions of love-struck teenage girls for his role in last year's hit Irish comedy Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (the screaming girls are something he has in common with Lennon, at least.) The success or failure of this film, Nowhere Boy, is essentially his burden. When he took the part, he couldn't sing or play guitar; he is from a town near London called High Wycombe, which is a very long way, economically and by train, from Liverpool.

Johnson, with lanky body and angular face, has the look of a young Lennon. The chip on the shoulder and ugly glasses from the National Health Service, both so central to the myth, are present but concealed (the teenaged Lennon loathed wearing his glasses). A makeup woman comes over to adjust his architecturally-impressive hair, known as a duck's ass to North American proto-rockers and a duck's arse to the skiffle-mad boys of Lennon's childhood who imported the rockabilly influenced sound.

“Aaron's going to be a star,” says Nowhere Boy's producer, Kevin Loader, watching from the side of the set, echoing producers' pronouncements since the first clapboard clapped shut. It is, to say the least, a challenging role. Loader says, “He's playing someone we all think we know everything about. He's got to have a confidence and sense of destiny, but he's also a mixed-up teenager whose family is throwing him all over the place. Aaron's got an emotional understanding, for his age, that's just mind-blowing. And he does stillness very well.”

At first, the thing Johnson didn't do very well was sing. “We knew we had to get the best actor,” says Loader. “The rest could be learned.”

It helps that the film is set during Lennon's formative years, when he was learning to play guitar and sing. As well, it's less about music than about why he became a musician, the underpinnings of his genius and insecurity.

While Nowhere Boy ends with a romance of sorts – Lennon's budding friendship with McCartney (played by Thomas Sangster) – it's really about a triangle, although one with three fractured sides. The person who turned Lennon on to music, and taught him to play banjo, was his rebellious mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who'd left her five-year-old son to be raised by her sister, Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). Julia died in a traffic accident not long after she and John were reunited, leaving a wound that could never be healed, much as he tried in music (witness the Beatles songs Julia and Mother.)

Back on set, the cast begins rehearsing the party scene, where John's friends from his first band the Quarrymen, including McCartney and George Harrison, are dancing in Julia's living room. “Miming, everyone!” calls the first assistant director, then, more fiercely, “Whispering is not miming!”

Nowhere Boy comes with quite a musical pedigree: The scriptwriter is Matt Greenhalgh, who also wrote the award-winning biopic Control, about short-lived pop hero Ian Curtis of Joy Division. (This script is based on a memoir by Julia Baird, Lennon's half-sister. Recently, Geoffrey Giuliano, who co-wrote an earlier memoir with Baird, has been telling the press that he will launch a lawsuit to get a cut of the movie's profits. “It's nothing to do with us. I haven't heard from anyone's lawyers,” Loader says.) Director Sam Taylor-Wood is making her feature-film debut, although last year she made Love You More, about two teenagers who love the punk band the Buzzcocks. As a visual artist she's headline fodder in her native Britain, for video works like David Beckham Sleeping (the title of which is self-explanatory).

In order to keep costs down, Nowhere Boy was shot in consecutive 10-hour days, with the cast nipping out only for brief meal and cigarette breaks. The scenes inside Julia's house were shot at London's legendary Ealing studios, where Alec Guinness once ran around in a dress to great comic effect in Kind Hearts and Coronets. A couple of weeks before my set visit they were shooting in Liverpool and ten days later they were in a London graveyard. The budget is tight, only $13-million, the scheduler tighter.

Sangster, familiar from his role as the pining adolescent in Love Actually, sits strumming his guitar left-handed, a famous McCartneyism that he had to learn for the film. The real McCartney has read the script, and will see an early version of the finished film, but hasn't been in touch with the producers.

“It must be a very odd thing for him,” says Loader, who as a boy hung around the set where the Beatles were rehearsing Magical Mystery Tour, hoping in vain for a glimpse. “Imagine if someone were making a movie about your teenage years.”

Nowhere Boy begins with Lennon's birth in 1940 during a bombing raid on Liverpool and ends 20 years later, with the Beatles heading for Hamburg. The late 1950s was a seismic moment in Britain for music, when the arrival of American rock and blues records – brought to Liverpool by the “Cunard Yanks” who worked the ocean liners – set fire to young imaginations across the country. Getting those musical details right, from sourcing period guitars, to building a tea chest bass, to teaching the young actors how to play and sing, was the job of music consultant Ben Parker.

Lennon “would have been pretty terrible at this point in his life,” says Parker. “That was on my side. With Aaron, the challenge was not so much to get him to sound like John, but just to find the bit of singer in him. The show-off.” Did he find it? Parker raises his eyebrows, meaningfully. What 19-year-old actor doesn't have an inner Freddie Mercury?

“I know people will say, ‘Wouldn't John have been better?' But the truth was, at this point, he wouldn't. And that's one of the reasons he brought Paul into the band, because he was so much better. It was quite brave of John, to admit a potential rival.”

There's no doubt who is the leader of the band in the next scene. Johnson's all teenage bravado as he jumps on a table in Julia's living room to give a speech. First, an alpha-dog demonstration: He takes a washboard and smashes it over the head of his friend, Pete, who wants to drop out of the Quarrymen. “Apparently washboard players don't get enough chicks,” he says as Pete clutches his head. “And he feels like a pansy wearing his mum's thimbles.”

The traitor dispensed with, he turns to the rest of the band – the ones who will accompany him to Hamburg and beyond, and the ones who will be left behind. “Where we going to, boys?” And they shout back, joyfully, “to the toppity top, Johnny!”

Hot Docs Film Chronicles Tale Of Unusual Artist Who Had Montreal Abuzz

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

(May 09, 2009) When Montreal filmmaker Alan Kohl came up with the idea of making a documentary about the mysterious street artist whose stencilled installations on the city's streets alternatively amused and confused citizens in his hometown from 2001 until his arrest in 2004, he had no idea the controversial perpetrator was someone he knew well.

Roadsworth – the name turned out to be a tribute to British artist Andy Goldsworthy – was a cause celèbre in Montreal for his often provocative, cartoonish embellishments to public spaces, signs and markings: gigantic boot prints as pedestrian crossings, zipper fasteners opening up lane dividers, manhole covers painted out as sink plugs, giant electric switches and lassos in parking lots and other random open spaces.

Unlike your average graffiti tagger's egocentric scribbles, Roadworth's art was engaging, provocative and often outrageously witty.

"He lived in our neighbourhood, and played keyboards in a band with me," Kohl, a professional film editor by day and moonlighting bassist by night, told the Toronto Star in a conversation earlier this week about the focus of his film, Roadsworth: Crossing the Line.

"He never let on that he was the artist who had all of Montreal talking until I started making the film," explained Kohl, who briefly filmed Roadsworth – real name, Peter Gibson – at work, up to the night Montreal police nabbed him.

Gibson was subsequently charged with 51 offences and became the subject of an enormous public debate in the Montreal press and on talk radio that was almost unanimously approving, despite fears some expressed that an acquittal in court would open the floodgates to spray-paint vandals with no artistic merit.

"I like some graffiti, but most of it is very limited and exclusive," Kohl said. "What Roadsworth does is inclusive. ... His purpose is to engage the public imagination. My initial difficulty in making the film was to find people willing to speak out against him. Everyone liked what he was doing, including his lawyer, the police, and, in the end, even the judge.

"But this isn't a movie about graffiti."

Events chronicled in the film, during the couple of years between Gibson's capture and his trial, make the distinction very clear. Almost immediately after his much-publicized arraignment, the young artist – in the film he comes across as modest and self-effacing, unsure that his street cartoons are actually art, but cautiously defensive about his right to express himself in his chosen medium – is commissioned by government-funded arts groups in France, Germany and Britain to "install" his stencil paintings in their public spaces, this time for money.

As Kohl follows Gibson through Europe – in a side-trip to über-tidy Amsterdam the artist encounters his first verbal critic, a young woman who says she hates his renegade tulips on a pedestrian crossing and calls the police on him – he captures on film the gradual development of Roadsworth's more noble and genuinely articulated artistic sensibilities as he anguishes over motivation, inspiration and the quality of the work he's expected to produce under deadline for curators with populist agendas and big ambitions.

By the time he returns to Canada for trial – and its ironic consequences – Gibson knows who he is and why he does what he does.

"Adversity made him an artist," Kohl explained. "He's had no formal training, though his mother was a painter, and it was amusing to him at first to find he had supporters outside Canada. Now he accepts himself."

These days, Gibson is trying to find a balance between his artistic instincts and his new life as a husband and father.

"He received a Canada Council grant that helped him set up his own studio," said Kohl, who's pleased his film and Roadsworth's art have spoken so eloquently to audiences outside Montreal.

"He's tired of painting on asphalt. He's trying to go legit, trying to find a new shtick."

Much like Kohl. The doc-maker has enjoyed travelling the world, screening his film at festivals in foreign cities great and small. But he needs some cool-down time, he said. "I don't know what's next for me. I'm going to 9-to-5 it for a while, editing films for other people while I wait for inspiration."

Roadsworth: Crossing the Line screens tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at the Innis Town Hall and will air on Bravo! on May 24 at 8 p.m. and May 29 at 7 p.m.

Mike Tyson Documentary Reveals Tragic Figure

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

(May 08, 2009) Amidst the hoopla at international screenings, countless interviews and the unexpected mayhem generated by his controversial documentary Tyson, one moment stands out for veteran screenwriter and director James Toback.

"It was at a party, after a big dinner and a huge ovation the film received at the Sundance Festival in January," Toback said earlier this week, following Tyson's Canadian debut at the Hot Docs festival.

"I asked Mike what he was thinking, and he told me that he always used to be confused about why people seemed so scared of him."

"Then he said, `That guy up on the screen – he really scares me.'"

The movie, built around a series of monologues delivered by the former heavyweight champion, his face transfigured by Maori tattoos, opens today.

It's almost impossible to believe anything could throw a scare into Iron Mike. His animal ferocity in the ring was so unrestrained that some kind of outrageous act of public violence seemed inevitable. He was convicted of raping Miss Black America contestant Desirée Washington in 1992, he served three years in prison; five years later he bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear.

Yet fear, Toback believes, is a motivating force in Tyson's life.

"Throughout the film you find constant admissions of fear ... the fear of being bullied at school because he was fat, confessions about not being able to breathe, of being in hospital as a child suffering from chronic asthma and surrounded by his family, thinking he wouldn't survive, and fearful of the next attack.

"That had a deep and lasting effect ... panic is always just beneath the surface."

A long-term fight fan, Toback has known Tyson for more than 20 years. He started focusing on him as a documentary subject when he cast the boxer in his 1999 gang film Black and White.

"He's incapable of saying other than what's on his mind," said Toback, screenwriter for Bugsy, The Gambler and Love and Money.

"There are several voices in his brain, and the one we're hearing is the voice that has the floor at that particular moment. He can't edit or alter himself, which makes him a fascinating study.

The champ who admits on camera he has lost the will to fight and most of the millions he has earned, still lives pretty well, Toback said, in a luxurious home in a gated community in Las Vegas. He has cast himself in the role of "the good father" after a humiliating divorce from model/actor Robin Givens.

"Prison changed him," Toback said. "It was the ultimate humiliation. He went insane. It was a seriously transforming experience. Few people have fallen from such heights to such low depths. The suffering he experienced there made him a more moving character."

But it was never his intention to reconstitute Tyson in the public's eye, Toback said. He lets the man and his record – via old movie footage, fight sequences and still photos, the rights to which took years to acquire – do the talking.

"In the end, his story embraces all the subjects that are central to the American experience in the extreme – sex, fame, money, drugs, race, imprisonment, revenge, retribution and cross-cultural connectedness. He affects everyone in very powerful ways.

"There's no happy ending here. He's a torn and complex character whose life could go in any direction. Nothing would surprise me."


Oh Paul Gross, You Devil!

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 08, 2009) Paul Gross was a hero, now he's a devil. In last year's war epic Passchendaele, Gross played a selfless Canadian soldier who returned to the trenches to protect his girlfriend's brother. Gross also wrote, directed and co-produced the $21 million project. This year, Gross reprises the "horny little devil" Jack Nicholson immortalized in the 1987 movie The Witches of Eastwick. He's been jetting between Toronto and Los Angeles to shoot the TV pilot for Eastwick for ABC, alongside Rebecca Romijn of Ugly Betty. "It's kind of a long commute, but ... I can whip in, do devil-type things and then fly out again," Gross said. He was on Parliament Hill this week as part of a series of events marking the Governor General's Awards for the Performing Arts. He's receiving the special National Arts Centre award for outstanding contribution to the arts over the previous year.

'Titanic' Stars Help Ship's Last Survivor

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 11, 2009) LONDON – Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have pledged to help the last survivor of the sinking of the ocean liner. The stars say they have thrown their support behind a fund that would subsidize Millvina Dean's nursing home fees. Dean was two months old when the Titanic sank beneath the waves on the night of April 14, 1912. She has been living at a nursing home in the English city of Southampton since she broke her hip about three years ago but has struggled to pay the fees. In October she sold several Titanic mementoes to raise cash. DiCaprio and Winslet said in a statement that they hoped Dean could rest easier knowing that her future was secure. The Millvina Fund was launched Monday in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


[Update: Adam Lambert and Chris Allen are in the showdown for American Idol's crown as Danny Gokey gets eliminated.]

American Idol's Idols

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo,
Toronto Star

(May 12, 2009) Kara DioGuardi declared him a "rock god" after last week's performance of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Paula Abdul has likened him to U.S. swimming champ Michael Phelps and Simon Cowell told Oprah he'll likely win.

That's a whole lotta pressure for 27-year-old front-runner
Adam Lambert as American Idol heads into the home stretch. But winning is the least of it. A victory on the reality show doesn't guarantee stardom. Just ask Taylor Hicks. (Some suggest winning could even be a bad thing for Lambert, forcing him to trade his glam rock vibe for Idol pop.) Then there are contestants like Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry who find fame despite losing on Idol.

In that spirit, here are five Idols whose success Lambert can aspire to, win or lose on May 20.


The first American Idol has done the best if you count album sales. Since winning Idol's first season in 2002, Clarkson, a 27-year-old Texan, has sold more than 10 million albums in the U.S. alone. Her sophomore album, 2004's Breakaway, is the only one by an Idol contestant to feature four top 10 hits, including "Since U Been Gone" and "Because of You."

Clarkson has won four American Music Awards and two Grammys, including Best Female Pop Vocal and Best Pop Vocal Album in 2006. It hasn't all been kudos. The 2007 record My December led to a rift with music industry mogul Clive Davis, who reportedly found the album too rock-oriented, and the cancellation of a tour. All appears to be forgiven with Clarkson's latest, All I Ever Wanted, and No. 1 single "My Life Would Suck Without You."


Daughtry, 29, a North Carolina native, came fourth in Season 5, the year Taylor Hicks won, but he's had more success than Hicks. His debut album with band Daughtry sold five million copies worldwide and produced two Top 10 singles. It's the only album by an Idol contestant to climb to No. 1; it debuted at No. 2 in November 2006. The group was nominated for four Grammys in 2008 and has won four American Music Awards, including Favourite Pop/Rock Band in 2008.


Even a non-country music fan can't deny the success of Season 4 Idol victor Carrie Underwood. She has won four Grammys, more than any other Idol contestant, including Best New Artist in 2007. She also has five American Music Awards and eight Academy of Country Music Awards, including Entertainer of the Year, the first woman to win it since 2000. The 26-year-old Oklahoman was also inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. Underwood hasn't yet eclipsed Clarkson's total album sales, but her debut, 2005's Some Hearts, is the biggest-selling American Idol album to date, moving more than six million records in the U.S. alone.


Another North Carolina native, the Season 2 runner-up has sold around five million albums in the U.S., reportedly more than any other male Idol singer. Aiken, 30, won the 2003 American Music Awards Fan Choice prize in 2003, beating the likes of Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé. He's also made his mark outside music, with a role in Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway and TV guest appearances.


Hudson isn't at the top of the heap in album sales, with her self-titled debut moving about 600,000 copies, but she's the only Idol contestant to finish so low (seventh place in Season 3) and sell more than 500,000 albums. And she's the only one with an Oscar. She won it in 2007, along with a Golden Globe, for her supporting role in Dreamgirls. She also scooped up the Grammy for Best R&B Album earlier this year.

Jennifer McGuire Named Editor-In-Chief Of CBC News

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

(May 07, 2009) Jennifer McGuire has been named the new general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News.

McGuire has been interim head of the public broadcaster's English language news service since November, when former CBC news boss John Cruickshank stepped down to become publisher of the Toronto Star.

McGuire's responsibilities include CBC Newsworld, all local and network news and current affairs programming on CBC Television and CBC Radio, including CBC's flagship programs The National and World Report, as well as CBCNews.ca.

The former executive director of CBC Radio, McGuire was responsible for all the broadcaster's radio operations, including CBC Radio One, CBC Radio 2, CBC Radio on Sirius and CBC Radio 3.

"Our job is to provide Canadians with timely, reliable and relevant news and information, whenever and however our various audiences require it," McGuire said in a prepared statement yesterday.

"In an era of changing media habits and evolving competitive landscapes, it's more important than it has ever been. "

McGuire's TV experience includes producing CBC Newsworld's Foreign Assignment with Joe Schlesinger and Ian Hanomansing, CBC Newsworld Today and CBC Newsworld's Sunday Morning Live. She began her CBC career at CBC Radio in Ottawa, where she was a producer on that city's morning program, Ottawa Morning.

"Jennifer is an award-winning journalist and one of the country's best programmers," Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of CBC English services, said.

"She has done a superb job since last fall to position CBC News as a fully integrated, multi-platform service for Canadians."

Nolan Gerard Funk : The B.C. Boy Who Makes The Girls Scream

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Catherine Dawson March

(May 08, 2009) Nolan Gerard Funk. Now that's the kind of name that gets you noticed, which is useful when you're a young Canadian actor looking for work in Los Angeles. Especially when you've been called “the next Zac Efron” and you're being considered for the remake of Footloose.

It's a name that's also been noted in London, even though the 22-year-old from North Delta, B.C., has never worked in Britain. Earlier this year, columnist Caitlin Moran wrote in The Times that Funk was her favourite new celebrity simply because of his name. He ranked No. 2 on her hot list: “It is the effervescently cheering properties of his frankly ludicrous name that [I am] into – a name of such razziness and joy that [I] feel compelled to stand on a chair and clap in the direction of Canada.”

On the phone from Los Angeles, Funk laughs at the compliment (such as it is). If his name helped him land his first lead role in Spectacular!, YTV's rock 'n' roll take on the teen musical genre airing Friday, why complain. It's the name he was born with, he says, maybe even “foreshadowing the path that my life was going to take.”

Funk always knew he would perform, though at first it was as a competitive gymnast, a sport he practised until he was 12. Too many injuries forced him to quit, and he took up competitive diving.

And then he got a toothache. “My dive coach gave me a list of dentists. The one that I called at 7 on a Friday night … said, ‘Our kids are in the business, you should go to this acting school.'“ So he enrolled in the Vancouver classes, and soon landed his first agent.

In junior high, he beavered away at his acting career quietly; his classmates never knew he was auditioning until he turned up on TV. “It meant so much to me that I hated the vulnerability of sharing it with people,” he says.

After high school Funk found it tougher to go after his dream career. “For a while people in my life were supportive of the acting thing, they thought it was cool. But they thought it was ‘the acting thing.' ‘You don't understand,' I'd say, ‘this is the life thing.'” Last year, he went to Los Angeles to visit friends and decided to stay.

But the gamble paid off: He got an agent, landed small TV and movie roles, including the indie horror film Deadgirl that played at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. “There was definitely some mature subject matter involved, it couldn't be more opposite of the trajectory that Spectacular! took me in.”

Funk is lead hunk in the teen TV musical, in which he plays Nikko, a rock star front man who ends up joining a song-and-dance show choir for the money. Funk puts his gymnastics background to good use in the dance scenes and, despite his lack of musical training, sings with a strong set of pipes. Leading man roles, however, do come with new rules of engagement.

“I never thought I'd be in Tiger Beat,” he says with a self-conscious laugh, yet his good looks means he's scream worthy. Spectacular! was made by U.S. tween channel Nickelodeon, and that's put him on all the hot teen red carpets in Los Angeles. While he's had to answer questions about his favourite colour more times than he'd like, he's quite happy to play up his “exotic” command of French for young American fans (he was in French immersion in B.C.). “It's fun,” he insists, “I take my work really seriously, but I don't think I take myself as seriously.”

Spectacular! airs Friday on YTV.

Toronto Rocker Invited As A Regular On Red Eye

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

(May 12, 2009) Pink Eyes on Red Eye?

The infamously unhinged front man for acclaimed Toronto hardcore act F---ed Up, otherwise known as entirely personable new dad
Damian Abraham – don't let all the screaming and bleeding fool you, he's actually pretty cuddly – has been invited to become a regular guest on the Fox News late-night program Red Eye.

This comes after a second recent appearance on the show wherein Abraham surprised host Greg Gutfeld on the air with a "Support Our Canadian Troops" T-shirt he'd picked up at a Royal Canadian Legion hall in Calgary. The gag was an inspired jab at the Fox commentator over his ill-conceived belittling of the Canadian military's contributions to the war effort in Afghanistan last month, which outraged many Canadians and prompted demands for an apology from Minister of Defence Peter MacKay.

"I didn't tell them I was going to do it, so after I gave it to him they cut to where the commercial break will be, and there were looks of terror and confusion and shock on the producers' faces," Abraham says. "Greg took it really well and put on the shirt, which I think, was the best thing for him to do. But I was like, `Is Fox going to call the cops on me? Am I going to be banned from MTV and now Fox News, too?'

"I think he just spoke out of turn and tried to say something completely outlandish and get a laugh out of people, not realizing that in the era of the Internet these things tend to spread like wildfire. And it got really serious. His mom was getting death threats."

In Gutfeld's defence, he did have enough taste to trumpet F---ed Up's album, The Chemistry of Common Life, as his favourite album of 2008, which is how Abraham – who concedes he watches the right-wing Fox News network regularly for sheer entertainment value – came to be on the show in the first place. Red Eye's producers have since been sufficiently charmed by the burly rock 'n' roller's antics that they want him to come back periodically. Even to flaunt his own leftist leanings over the airwaves.

"They keep telling me they want me to talk about politics," he says. "I'm really chomping at the bit to do that because I definitely have the exact opposite political beliefs from them, for the most part. Actually, in all parts."


ABC Developing Aisha Tyler Talk Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2009) *Aisha Tyler will film a talk show pilot for ABC described as a fully "wired" experience, with fans being able to communicate with her via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.  "The Aisha Tyler Show," developed by ABC Media Prods. (formerly Buena Vista TV), is pitched as a hybrid that will incorporate aspects of a traditional talk show with comedic political commentary, produced comedy segments and other elements usually associated with late-night shows, according to Variety.  Word has it that the project might end up in ABC's afternoon block, which airs the soaps "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital." (CBS recently cancelled its long-running soap "Guiding Light" and will replace it with a game or talk show). But ABC sources stressed that "Tyler" is being targeted strictly for syndication or cable, Variety reports.  The pilot, slated to begin production shortly, is being executive produced by ROAR.

Alanis Morissette To Join Cast Of Weeds

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 11, 2009) Alanis Morissette will trade her jagged little pill for a different drug as the Canadian rocker has been cast in the U.S. television show Weeds, according to a report on Entertainment Weekly's website. The website is reporting that Morissette has been cast to play Audra Kitson, the obstetrician for Mary Louise Parker's pregnant main character, Nancy. Morissette will appear in a minimum of seven episodes during the upcoming fifth season, which will air in Canada this fall on Showcase, according to a rep for the network. The 34-year-old Ottawa native could return next season too, according to Entertainment Weekly. The report added that Morissette's role could involve "some tasteful nudity."


The Musical Anne Of Green Gables - Opens In Toronto For The First Time In 18 Years

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(May 06, 2009) After seeing his hit musical performed upwards of 200 times, Don Harron has his share of Anne of Green Gables stories. There's the one about the inaugural dress rehearsal, done with a silent Anne after lead actor Toby Tarnow lost her voice (only to have it miraculously return for the opening the next day). Or the one about the 1990 show, when a storm knocked out the power and the stage hands scrambled to gather enough flashlights to illuminate Marilla in time for her solo.

Harron admits that after 44 years of Anne, even he tires of the show at times. But since his co-creator Norman Campbell died in 2004, he's become the play's guardian, and emerging from yet another rehearsal last week, the 84-year-old says that the latest incarnation - opening in Toronto this week for the first time in 18 years - is "as good as I've seen it." He insists he isn't just saying that: "I have seen some horrific productions."

He then launches into one of his favourite anecdotes: The one about how the musical might not have happened.

"I was at Stratford as an actor and it was the opening night of The Merchant of Venice and I got a phone call. I'm just trying to remember my lines, and this voice said, 'This is Walter Kerr of the Herald Tribune,' " Harron recalls.

Feeling first-night butterflies preparing to play Bassanio opposite the cheeky William Shatner in 1955, Harron smelled a prank.

"I said, 'Oh, screw off Shatner, just learn your own lines instead of blowing them like you do at rehearsals.' "

Turns out the call was real. Kerr was calling to see if Harron would star in his wife Jean's production of King of Hearts in London - alongside Donald Cook and Cloris Leachman. But shortly after that conversation the play was cancelled, which meant he was free when Norman Campbell came by two days later.

He had 90 minutes of empty television time and was looking for ideas about how to use it. Harron said he had been reading a book to his children, then aged 5 and 7, "about a little girl with a wild imagination. I think that wild imagination calls for music."

The two men decided to do something Harron had never tried before: turning a book into a musical for television.

Before long, other forces nearly scuttled the Anne project. When Harron was acting for CBC Radio International in New York, for example, he'd send batches of lyrics through to Campbell using the CBC teletype. After two weeks they had yet to arrive, sending Harron into a panic. The reason: United States senator Joe McCarthy's watchdogs had taken an interest in the "red hair" and "red soil" from the lyrics and were probing the play for Communist connections.

"That's how stupid they were," Harron says.

Other than his children's love for Lucy Maud Montgomery's original story, what drew Harron to Anne was that it had "lots of laughs. And 99 per cent of them are [from] the original author. I knew enough not to interfere with a good script," he said.

Humour and storytelling are inseparable for Harron, who is perhaps equally famous for his dramatic alter-ego, Charlie Farquharson - a bumbling Parry Sound farmer he has played in one-man shows such as Charlie Farquharson's Histry of Canada and Charlie Farquharson and Them Udders.

Over lunch at Toronto's Drake Hotel, he occasionally bursts spontaneously into character, reciting rattling monologues about voting "for the Greens, because my mother always said Greens is good for ya" and Al Gore's "electile dysfunction in Florida."

He remains energetic and enterprising. He's writing a new Farquharson book, trying to get another musical he and Campbell wrote - Private Turvey Goes to War - mounted in Ottawa and swims half a mile at least three times a week at the YMCA.

Harron is also enjoying his latest love with partner Claudette Gareau, whom he met in his seventies (his lack of luck in three previous marriages is well documented). Strolling down Queen Street West, he pauses to pick up a copy of the free paper Eye Weekly: "I have to get my sex advice from Sasha," he deadpans.

As for Anne, although it appeared as a made-for-television film in 1956, it lay largely dormant until 1964, when planning was under way for a variety show to open the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. The organizers had booked acts from Glenn Gould to Lorne Greene - but Harron pointed out the absence of local content. He suggested a number from Anne, which was added to the line-up and well received. The full show was booked for the Charlottetown Festival the following year and has played every summer since.

Cue the next anecdote: The first Anne was a Texan named Jamie Ray, but Harron soon sniffed out another talent. Gracie Finley, home-grown in Charlottetown, had just won acclaim in a play at the local drama festival.

"Do you sing or dance?" Harron asked her one day in 1966. "No, why?" she replied. "Because you look like an orphan," Harron said, before encouraging her to take singing and dancing lessons.

She did, and two years later, took over the title role, which she went on to play for seven seasons. And while he says Chilina Kennedy, who performed in 2000 and 2001, was the best all-around Anne, he gives Amy Wallis, who will lead the Toronto run staged by Dancap Productions, the crown as the best singer.

Harron also credits current director Anne Allan with "rescuing" the show from the many "improvements" made over the years. He still makes summer pilgrimages to the Island to see the show which has given him great satisfaction. He calls it his "blue chip stock" - most of his income last year came from the Japanese adaptation.

Many of Harron's stories about Anne and its legacy are lighthearted, such as when the show's London producers balked at a song called Bosom Friends and he and Campbell wrote the now famous Kindred Spirits to replace it in just 18 minutes. But it's clear that he takes the show very seriously.

"Somebody once asked me what my greatest achievement was in 70 years. I said, 'getting jobs for 10,000 workers [through Anne].' That was 14 years ago. It must be 15,000 [jobs] now."

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical runs May 7-24 at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.

Cirque With A Dancer's Touch

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

(May 07, 2009) MONTREAL–You have to love Cirque du Soleil.

With the mega-successful Canadian organization getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary on June 16, they might be forgiven for wanting to rest on their considerable laurels just a little bit.

But no, judging by their latest show,
Ovo, which opened in Montreal last night, they're always ready for a new challenge.

Cirque's detractors have always been eager to say that "all their shows look the same," and although that's not strictly true, there is a certain wistful, pastel-coloured, sad-clown melancholy that one could find in most of them.

They break away from that mode in their permanent shows like Ka, Love and Zumanity, but the touring vehicles, which is all we usually see in Toronto, do have a certain faded commedia dell'arte grandeur which can grow repetitious.

That's why Ovo is such a refreshing change. Anyone who thinks that Cirque du Soleil can't still surprise them had better think again.

There's been a lot of buzz in advance that this show was going to be different because it marked the first time that a woman – Deborah Colker – had been the director.

Yes, the show is different and Colker is the reason, but to attribute it to her gender is backward thinking. The difference is that Colker is primarily a choreographer and Ovo moves, looks and feels like a piece of modern dance. Its firm placement in the insect world makes for a consistency that is a welcome change from the loosey-goosey format of previous shows.

Except for one stretch in the second act, the tedious old Cirque comedy is gone. There are also no solo gymnastic acts shoehorned in like they would have been on an old episode of The Ed Sullivan Show.

In Colker's world, everything moves smoothly, sleekly and to a purpose. The costumes of Liz Vandal and the lighting of Eric Champoux use colours unseen in Cirque before now. Bold magentas and vivid golds claim a stage which has been held hostage for too many years by pastels.

The music of Berna Ceppas also gets away from the "new age" prison that Cirque has been trapped in, substituting Latin American rhythms that invigorate the action.

In fact, the whole event is quite smashingly entertaining, but if one wanted to be picky, one could notice that there isn't as much "Cirque" as before.

By that, I mean not only just the number of acrobatic acts which have been replaced by dance movement sequences, but to the fact that the overall feeling is a lot slicker and less of a feeling of "street entertainer" than other Cirque shows have managed to maintain.

Yes, there are overproduced moments, like a finale involving green-garbed men, trampolines and a rock-climbing wall that – while impressive – still feels like something Bob Fosse might have phoned in from hell for the Power Ranger.

But all in all, one leaves with a feeling of exhilaration, and the sense that the powers that be at Cirque du Soleil are looking for new solutions to their second quarter century. Let the games continue.

From The Fringe To The Factory, First Hand Woman's Challenges Are All In Sarah Michelle Brown's Head

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Cheryl Nneka U. Hazell

(Sping 2009) Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Depression. Acceptance.

When a love gone awry plays with our emotions, how does one navigate through the madness?
Sarah Michelle Brown's theatrical debut, First Hand Woman, has succeeded since it opened at Montreal's Fringe Festival last summer and to sold-out audiences at Toronto's Factory Theatre in January.

Brown's love/hate relationship with this play was compounded by challenges in creating it since everything was being played out within one woman's mind. A couple of years ago Brown decided to make it more physical and actualized and decided to cast it. Four well-known local actresses were handed the script and were asked which characters they related to the most, which one they were afraid of, and which they were burning to play.

Choosing actresses to actualize the images she had in her head was only the first step. The next one would be to put her creation into the hands of an equally adept visionary. Esther Jun, director and dramaturge, was Brown's ultimate choice after a call was put out for directors. "When I met with Esther, I asked her what would be her vision for this play. Her response to me was in the form of a question: 'Are we talking about the Fringe Festival version or the big-budget version?' I liked that answer because I surely have some big dreams for this play and it showed vision and foresight on her part and her understanding of potential future endeavours with it."

It wasn't only actors who carried the play. Vocalist
Saidah Baba Talibah and percussionist Guiomar Campbell were involved in the musical composition and soundscape, and they worked with the sound designer and art director. Saidah was the "voice" while Guiomar was the "heartbeat."

This artistic collaboration is typical in the realm of theatre and one of many reasons why Brown is drawn to it. "What I love about theatre is that you can use your poetry in language and when you're finished writing it, you're really just starting your journey, especially if you're also producing it."

If you have ever attended a film or play and felt that the characters got you, if you've left feeling inspired enough to go out and create or make a change in your life, then you've lived in an artistic moment. Brown believes that First Hand Woman has had the power to do that.

"Experiencing people coming up to me and thanking me for putting that voice on stage or for making them laugh or cry and putting them through this rollercoaster of a journey, there's nothing like being on the receiving end of people saying that what I did worked."

Ricky Jay: Magic Man

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

(May 09, 2009) With Ricky Jay – as with all great magicians – the hand is quicker than the eye, but in his case, it's the voice that you'll remember long after the meeting.

It's a sound that manages to be raspy and reedy at the same time, as well befits a man who has divided his time over the past 20 years between playing a series of memorable character roles in numerous films, while dazzling live audiences around the world with his feats of legerdemain.

His latest stage show – Ricky Jay: A Rogue's Gallery – opens for a three-night run this Thursday at the Bathurst St. Theatre and anyone who's fond of fine magic and seamless storytelling is well advised to be there.

Because of the tough-guy roles he's played in numerous David Mamet films, it's kind of a shock to discover that the man on the other end of the phone in New York is, well, kind of a pussycat and that he didn't learn his trade in the sin cellars of Las Vegas but at the knee of his maternal grandfather, Max Katz, at a giant seafood restaurant called Lundy's, in the Sheepshead Bay neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

"Unlike other Jewish families," Jay says dryly, "we didn't go out for Chinese food on Sundays, but we spent our time in a world of baking powder biscuits and the best shrimp cocktails that ever were."

It was during the week, away from Lundy's, that young Richard Jay Potash hung around with his zayde, who was "one of the great amateur magicians of his day. His buddies were some of the best sleight-of-hand people in the world."

Then, on the weekend, the eager pupil would show his family what he had learned. After one Sunday's display of multiplying creamers that left everyone dumbstruck, they began to think that this young pisher might have a marketable talent in the world of magic.

As the years went on, Jay honed his skills to a fine edge, working as a bartender who did magic at resorts in the upstate New York community of Lake George.

"In the winters," he recalls with an ironic edge, "I enrolled in the hotel management program at Cornell University. I naively thought that I knew something about sleight-of-hand, entertainment and food, and that would be all I needed. Boy, was I wrong!"

In those crazy times, Jay would often find himself commuting from his college in upstate New York down to Manhattan to make an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, only to turn right around and return to his campus.

"It didn't seem strange to me," Jay laughs.

"It wasn't my career. Magic was just something that I did."

But his life took a decisive turn in 1982 when he was asked to design the magic effects for the New York Shakespeare Public Theatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring William Hurt.

"James Lapine, the director had a quirky imagination," Jay recalls, "and he thought that since I was going to have to hang around to supervise the tricks, I might as well be in the show as well, and so he cast me in my acting debut as Philostrate, master of the revels."

And while he loved performing, what young Jay didn't enjoy was the fact that when he wasn't centre stage, "I had to sit under a tree and do absolutely nothing. That is the hardest exercise I've ever had in my life."

Equally hard was the fact that in those early days, young Jay had to frequently deal with other comedians stealing his material and passing it off as his own.

"Theft annoys me more than anything else, " says the vengeful Old Testament Jay. "The purloining of effects from another magician. Some people think it's massive to steal the secrets of nuclear reactors, but to steal a card move is trivial. They're wrong."

Possibly as a defence against that, his current show is so unique and personal that it would be difficult for any theft to occur.

Jay introduces us to his "rogues' gallery," an assortment of dozens of photographs who either provide direct links to stories about magic, or allow Jay to build a bridge of memory from which he can cross over into a world of wonderment.

"What makes this show different from the other scripted ones I've done in the past," Jay says, "is that the audience actually helps decide the shape the evening is going to take by the images that they choose. It winds up turning it into the most autobiographical show I've ever done."

There is one way, however, in which this show is similar to Jay's other presentations and that's due to the fact that renowned playwright and filmmaker David Mamet has staged it.

Jay unabashedly calls his interaction with Mamet "the most significant artistic one of my life," and considering that Jay has been in eight of Mamet's movies and Mamet has staged three of Jay's stage shows, that's not an exaggeration.

"It gives me great pleasure to work with him," is how Jay describes their relationship. "It would surprise most people to learn how funny David is," he adds, putting new dimensions on the persona of the four-letter-word champion of American theatre.

"I love amazing people," Jay concludes. "I love dazzling them. That's why I think performing magic is one of the greatest things a person can do."

Island Flavour Fills Seats In The Suburbs

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 07, 2009) A good eight months before Bernard Madoff was revealed as a $50 billion fraudster, Jamaica faced a similarly corrupt scheme.

So this past December, as Madoff's Ponzi scheme was unravelling, Jamaicans had sufficiently recovered from the $53 million failure of a popular investment club to mock it.

"Tell them is your money Carlos did use buy Hilton," says lead actor Oliver Samuels in
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing, counselling people who had lost their savings or homes in the racket to move into the Kingston hotel owned by the alleged perpetrator, Carlos Hill. The audience laughed knowingly.

When Sheep in Wolf's Clothing is performed in Toronto this weekend, audiences may find themselves chuckling to a Madoff joke.

"We definitely adjust the topicalities that may not resonate with people living outside of Jamaica," said the play's writer/co-director Patrick Brown by phone from the island.

"When we get there we talk to people and identify the equivalent references. What politician has gotten in trouble over the past five months? Who made off with your guys' money, or do you have your money intact?"

Those are the only alterations by the JamBiz troupe, which kicks off its two-month North American/Caribbean tour here with the production's original cast.

Their plays – a snapshot of the island culture and current political scene – have a strong following.

Caribbean theatre may not play much downtown (due to lack of funding), but on many weekends, auditoriums and community centres around the GTA are packed with West Indian immigrants and their descendants revelling in the productions that reflect the values, proverbs, superstitions, language and music of the author's birthplace.

Brown's works most often feature Samuels, Jamaica's leading comedic actor. A solo bit where he breaks character to interact with the audience is anticipated, although it has made people reluctant to sit in the front rows for fear he'll pick on them, said Brown.

That give-and-take – along with curried goat and fried fish on sale at intermission – separates this from typical Canadian theatre.

Jamaican-born, Toronto-based playwright Devon Haughton stimulates feedback.

"It's amazing to just sit there and hear the audience talking back to the actors," he said. "They will urge the actor on, and if they dislike the character, it's even worse."

That went further than intended during his current touring show, Mi Get Mi Landed, which plays Hamilton this weekend before a Toronto encore on May 18. The plot involves a hardworking nurse who suspects her new husband, recently arrived here from Jamaica, of infidelity.

Ruth (played by Judy Cox) turns to the audience and asks, "Women out there, would you like to know who the matey (other woman) is?"

Usually the response is just a unanimous yes, but at the Jamaican Canadian Association showing, "One lady got up out of the audience and went onstage and high-fived the actress," Haughton said. "The actress gave her back a high-five just to get rid of her."

Much like American writer-director Tyler Perry's nascent work in the American south, these plays often have a didactic, community-specific component.

Samuel's character in Sheep in Wolf's Clothing is a gruff, self-made George Jefferson kind of dad with a beautiful, brainy daughter and socialite social-worker wife who have forced him to take in a thuggish foster son.

Beneath the jokes and over-the-top displays, which include a slo-mo fight scene and Bollywood-style dance number, is a treatise on the conflict between poor and privileged.

"I have a concern about the growing disparity between the classes," explained Brown. "There's a lot of talk about the children going to waste, a whole generation being lost ... and I think the nation has the moral responsibility for all our children."

Marvin Ishmael also uses laughter to enlighten at the Caribbean Dinner Theatre he stages on the last Sunday of every month.

This Sunday's special Mother's Day edition features The Saga of Bobo, about a man who leaves his wife and children in Trinidad to pursue his ambitions, then returns to them when his health fails.

"Our dreams are important, but the relationships that we build and value are even more important," said the actor/writer/director and married father of two who admits that the piece in which he plays the lead has autobiographical elements.

"Although my kids didn't suffer, I sometimes wonder how much of an impact (my pursuits) made in terms of them realizing their own dreams and potential."

While physical comedy and stock characters – gangsta-posturing son, wig-wearing dance-hall queen – make Patrick Brown and Devon Haughton's efforts easy to follow, their mixture of English and Jamaican patois may be challenging for unattuned ears.

The Trinidadian-born Ishmael takes a more inclusive approach.

"I write with a mid-Caribbean accent in mind, so it's not in dialect," he said. "The rhythms are still there, but anyone can understand what we're talking about."

Though he's staged sold-out shows from Hamilton to Oshawa, Haughton would love to have a mainstream following, but he's loath to "compromise the authenticity" of his work and risk alienating his base.

"A lot of people from the Caribbean come because it exemplifies their lives," he said. "They can identify with the characters and the settings, especially Jamaicans whose lives are sometimes portrayed inaccurately."

Jamaican Theatre Glossary

Some Jamaican words and phrases used in Mi Get Mi Landed and Sheep in Wolf's Clothing.
Armshouse: foolishness
Boxside: bum; also an expletive
Dash weh belly: to have an abortion
Ev'ryting cook and curry: everything's cool
Joe Grind: the other man
Khus Khus: a brand of Jamaican perfume
Ongle: only
Red eye: jealous, envious
Sermony: ceremony
Unno: you
You must be drinking mad puss piss: something is making you crazy
Dial 119: the island's equivalent of 911
Ashante Infantry

A Play About A Man Dying, With A Happy Ending

Source: www.globeandmail.com – James Bradshaw

(May 11, 2009)
Tuesdays With Morrie chronicles writer Mitch Albom's touching conversations about life with his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, who was slowly dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. The biographical book has sold more than 14-million copies worldwide and was adapted into an Oprah-backed television film starring Jack Lemmon.

In 2002, the book was also transformed into an off-Broadway play, and now it's being presented by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company in Toronto, directed by Ted Dykstra. The director's edgy and flamboyant reputation suggests audiences could be in for an interesting take on this sentimental favourite.

They may also fill the seats to see Hal Linden as Morrie. Best known as the title character in the sitcom Barney Miller, the actor has an extensive résumé that includes TV appearances on shows from The Golden Girls to The Drew Carey Show. And he is equally accomplished on stage, where he snared a best-actor Tony Award for his role in the musical The Rothschilds.

Though this is Linden's first appearance as Morrie, he sees it as a second chance. The 78-year-old accepted the part once before, for an American touring production, only to cancel shortly before it opened due to an illness in his family. He spoke with The Globe and Mail about why the role attracted him even though he isn't a fan of the book, and why this play may have a special resonance for a Jewish audience.

You're not wild about the book. So why did you get involved in the play?

I thought the book was sentimental, maudlin, and I thought the play would be. But it's not. It's written with humour and from a totally different point of view. So I was anxious to do it.

What's so different about the play's approach?

I thought [the book] was heavy-handed. I thought the wisdom came with a certain amount of self-awareness that I did not want to have in my character. That's one of the things the play sees much more humorously. ... It really is a comedy with a happy ending, but it's about a man dying. If you can pull that off, we've pulled it off. The difference between a play and a book is the difference between show and tell. A book tells, and a play has to show.

So it isn't just a dying man taking his last chance to share his ideas – some might say platitudes – about life?

Exactly. And a lot of [his insights], they are platitudes. There's nothing incredibly wise about it. What's the book about? Live life fully. It's not that great philosophical wisdom that you study in college, you know? But when it comes from a human-behavioural place, then first of all the audience is involved. They have to think, they have to listen, put things together and make their own judgments.

You've worked with some major names: Abe Vigoda, Bea Arthur, Michael Kidd, George Abbott. Tell me about working with director Ted Dykstra and actor Rick Roberts.

It's always difficult because you never know their attitudes – here comes this big television star, so you can feel that I'm getting much less direction than Rick. And eventually I had to go and say, ‘Hey, I need that too.' Now it's a working group, there's no worry about saying anything to anyone else.

The second most oft-asked question of me is: Which do I prefer – television, films or live stage? I used to say, all of the above.

But now I've come to the realization that what I really prefer is rehearsal. That's the most creative place for an actor. That's been, for me, a really terrific time of ideas and thoughts and good creative juices flowing.

How much, in the stage version, is this about Morrie's wisdom, and how much is it about the

relationship between the two men?

The truth, from a dramatic standpoint, is this play's not about Morrie, this play's about Mitch. Mitch is the one who takes the journey. Morrie's very outgoing, not bashful about saying what he thinks, an old radical, almost like an old hippie – there's something exciting about him. But the journey in the play is how this character affected someone who had lost his vision.

Is that why people treasure the book?

I don't think so. I think that's the play. A play has to have a journey, and that's what makes the play valid as a play. If you don't have a journey, you've got nothing to hang anything on. It becomes individual events, fragments.

Morrie is, of course, Jewish, as are you, and part of Harold Green Jewish Theatre's mandate is ‘to illuminate humanity through a Jewish perspective.' What is the Jewish perspective, and do you think this play falls in line with that?

Whoa. If you said Toronto, okay. But humanity? [Laughs.] I'm not even too sure what the Jewish perspective is, other than a shared history all over the world. But we all come from that. We're constantly guests in other people's countries, very often unwanted guests, very often the scapegoat for all the problems in those countries. So how do you cope in a world where you have that history behind you? ... Are you a Jewish-American or an American Jew? Assimilation, at one point, was the desired result. In our days, there was little cultural identity. But if we integrate too much, we forget who we are.

When you were young, you took a stage name, changed your name from Harold Lipshitz. Why did you do that?

Context. In those days, again, we were trying to be part of the society. I was a musician, I wanted to be a band leader. They didn't have names like, ‘Dance to the music of Harold Lipshitz and his orchestra,' you didn't have those names, and everybody did it. It's only recently that ethnic awareness, ethnic pride and cultural differences [are embraced]. I don't envision myself changing my name back – two later generations have that name – but that's a part of the personal battles that we all go through.

Tuesdays with Morrie runs at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre until May 31.

Impresario Still Looking For A Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(May 11, 2009) Last month, the City of Toronto renamed the first block of Duncan St. north of King St. W. Welcome to Ed Mirvish Way – in honour of the deceased Honest One, whose purchase of the Royal Alexandra in the early 1960s led directly to the birth of our Entertainment District.

I wonder whether some day Toronto might have a street named
Aubrey Dan Way. He's the guy with the mega chequebook challenging David Mirvish, Ed's son, the dominant force in commercial theatre.

At the moment, prospects do not seem favourable for the challenger's Dancap Productions. After two seasons of running a subscription series of touring shows while trying to get control of a suitable theatre for presenting them, Dan – show-struck son of pharmaceutical tycoon Leslie Dan – appears to have hit a wall.

It is almost impossible to compete with Mirvish, as Garth Drabinsky discovered 11 years ago when his Livent venture collapsed. Mirvish has 40,000 subscribers and controls four theatres.

But Aubrey Dan is one determined guy, and despite odds, he is not ready to give up. The only solution may be to build his own 2,000-seat theatre downtown. The price tag would be close to $100 million. That might deter anyone except Dan, who has demonstrated an astonishing willingness to spend a fortune to make his showbiz dreams come true.

But first, he has another option to explore. There is only one existing theatre in Toronto with the right location and a large enough auditorium. It's the Sony Centre, now closed and about to be renovated. My spies say Dan is trying to sweet-talk the City of Toronto into turning the place over to him when it is ready to reopen next year.

City hall might be wiser to keep the Sony as a place where a wide variety of shows are presented under the guidance of CEO Dan Brambilla. On the other hand, unloading the Sony could save the city a $1-million-a-year subsidy.

Short of building his own new theatre, gaining control of the Sony is the only card Dan has left to play. His experiment with putting Jersey Boys into the Toronto Centre for the Arts has not paid off. The show is hanging on, but barely, with a lot of empty seats. The arrival of Dan's wizardly new marketing director, Mike Forrester (who worked wonders at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra), should help. But it seems clear that the former Ford Centre in the former North York – the house that Mel Lastman built – is clearly not in a viable location for Broadway musicals.

Last year, Dan had a scheme to gain control of the 2,300-seat Canon Theatre, but after a few rounds of legal skirmishes, it is now firmly in the hands of David Mirvish.

The Elgin Theatre, where several of Dan's subscription shows have played, is not big enough, even if he could secure it from the province of Ontario.

Last week, Anne Of Green Gables, the final show of Dancap's 2008-09 subscription series, opened there. Meanwhile, all plans for next season have been placed on hold. The Grinch had to be called off because the Sony, where Dan wanted to place it for Christmas, will still be under construction.

Two other touring musicals – Legally Blonde and 101 Dalmatians – had been booked by Dancap (though not announced), only to be called off later – leaving tour operators scrambling.

At this point, the curtain is coming down on Act One. I can hardly wait to see what will happen in Act Two.

Martin Knelman's column on the arts appears every other Monday on this page. mknelman@thestar.ca


Artistic Director For Buddies In Bad Times Theatre Resigns

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

(May 10, 2009)
David Oiye, the artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, resigned last week after holding the position for 10 years. In an interview with Xtra.ca, Oiye confirmed his departure, insisting he was doing so because "it's good for a theatre company to shake things up. Buddies had struggled with financial troubles earlier this season and had been forced to cancel two productions (Gay4Pay and You Are Here) although Oiye insists that, after some high-profile fundraising activities, the organization "is on track for the rest of the season."  The search for Oiye's replacement with begin immediately.

We Will Rock You Closing After 2-Year Run

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 13, 2009) They've paid their dues, time after time. Now, the cast of the long-running Toronto production of We Will Rock You is set to take its final bow. Mirvish Productions says the energizing show, based on the music of British rockers Queen, will close for good in the city on June 28, marking a run of over two years and 788 performances. By its last show, it will have drawn in one million audience members, says Mirvish. We Will Rock You, written and directed by Ben Elton, is set in a dystopian future and features 32 Queen hits, including "We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." When it debuted in Toronto with an all-Canadian cast in 2007, it was only scheduled to run for seven weeks but audience demand led to multiple extensions. The original cast included recording artist Suzie McNeil as Oz. The current cast has Valerie Stanois in that role. Also featured is Yvan Pedneault as Galileo, Breanne Arrigo as Scaramouche (Erica Peck returns to the role on May 29), Alana Bridgewater as the Killer Queen and Camilla Scott as Khashoggi. Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor are musical supervisors on the show, now into its seventh year in London. We Will Rock You has also appeared in several other cities around the globe and Mirvish says a production is now being prepared for Milan.


Rick Green : Comic Turns Attention To Disorder

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(May 12, 2009) The klutzy character who runs in all directions and can't express his emotions arose early in Rick Green's comic repertoire.

The character "Bill" grew out of childhood antics at the family cottage in Muskoka, recorded in silent home movies. The persona took different forms over the years, then blossomed in the "Adventures with Bill" routine on the long-running CBC program The Red Green Show, in which the inept, mute outdoorsman found ever-inventive ways to distractedly hurt himself.

"Without me realizing it, Bill exemplified ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)," Green said yesterday as he prepared for a national public-awareness campaign on the condition.

"We're developing a website that uses Bill to demonstrate the various symptoms."

Green is to receive the celebrity Transforming Lives Award tonight from the CAMH Foundation, a branch of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is one of seven winners recognized this year for going public with a personal struggle to promote wider understanding about mental illness and addiction.

For a comic, the good thing about ADHD is that it frees inhibition, Green said. With Bill and other characters, he could outrageously act out childish behaviour.

The problem is lack of control.

"It's like somebody else holding the remote control to your life and the channel keeps changing when you don't want it to – it's exhausting," he said at his Mississauga office.

Intuitively, maybe he always knew he had an attention deficit, he said.

In the late 1970s, he called his first comedy troupe "the Frantics." He became a workaholic, at one point simultaneously writing and hosting Prisoners of Gravity at TVOntario, and co-writing, directing and co-starring in The Red Green Show.

But Green was diagnosed only eight years ago, at age 47, after one of his children was discovered to have the disorder and Green recognized all the symptoms in himself.

"I was angry I wasn't told this sooner," he said. "I could look back on all the stuff I'd messed up on."

Green promotes the idea that ADHD and its sister condition ADD, attention deficit disorder, are genetically determined diseases, treatable with prescription drugs and certain behavioural practices such as meditation.

"ADD is not something you come back from," he says. "It's the way you're built. It's genetic. ... It's like your height."

Others disagree.

"Anything that makes people more aware of the condition is good," Vancouver physician Gabor Maté, author of the bestseller Scattered Minds, said in a phone interview. "Even better would be if people understood that the illness model is untenable and (unnecessarily) pessimistic."

Brain research in the last 20 years shows that attention deficit results from childhood stress, argues Maté. The brain fails to develop properly but it can develop new circuitry in adulthood to recover, he says.

Green said he will air a documentary film this fall, will undertake a national speaking tour, and will soon launch the website TotallyADD.com to educate people about attention deficit.


Mario And Sonic Reunite At Vancouver Games

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(May 09, 2009) Sega hasn't spent the last year lazily rolling around in the piles of cash it has raked in from its previous Olympics-themed video game starring Mario and Sonic.

Instead, they're doing the next logical thing, which is to create a sequel based on the upcoming 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

The game, titled
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, is due out later this year for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS/DSi.

As the name suggests, both games are based on real sports events slated for the 2010 Winter Games, as well as some fantasy matches that pit the Nintendo and Sega mascots against one another.

The Wii version supports both the Remote/Nunchuk combo and Wii Balance Board. For example, in the downhill skiing competition, where you must slalom through a series of gates at breakneck speed, you can use the Nunchuk to steer towards the bottom of the mountain or step on the Balance Board and lean in a given direction.

The bobsleigh event showed off some of the co-operative multiplayer features, as four players can sit in a line in front of the TV and work together to hop into the bobsleigh at the right time and lean left or right while speeding down the icy track. The speed-skating 500-metre race has you holding the Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuk in each hand and while leaning forward and swinging your arms forward and back. You must maintain an even pace to mirror the real-life event.

The Nintendo DS version offers the skeleton race, where you lay stomach-first on a sled. It also features a snowboard cross that combines elements of surfing, skateboarding and skiing.

As with the Summer Olympics game, all the usual suspects will be back, including Luigi, Yoshi, Tails and Knuckles – each with their own set of stats and unique animations.

Spore creations top 100 million

Perhaps gamers just can't resist unleashing their inner creatures.

Electronic Arts has announced that more than 100 million creatures have been uploaded by players of Spore, the popular evolution simulation for the PC.

An in-game tool lets players design unique-looking organisms by manipulating body parts, facial features and skin tones. As of Monday, 100.7 million creatures had been uploaded to the Internet since the Spore Creature Creator software became available last summer, followed by the full Spore game in September. While my wallet gently weeps

Fab Four fans awaiting The Beatles: Rock Band received an extra bit of "good day sunshine" this week: Publisher MTV Games has confirmed replicas of the guitars used by John Lennon and George Harrison will be available in September, along with the rhythm game.

Resembling the Rickenbacker 325 and Gretsch Duo Jet guitars, the wireless controllers will sell for about $100 a piece, and will be compatible with any previously-released Rock Band games.

A game bundle will be available for about $279, which includes peripherals that resemble Paul McCartney's vintage bass guitar and Ringo Starr's sparkly drums.

Once You Hear It, You'll Be Hooked

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

Patapon 2
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)
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Rated E

(May 09, 2009) pata-pata-pata-PON...pata-pata-pata-PON... pon-pon-PATA-pon... (etc...)

All gamers are familiar with the occasional earworm properties of video game music – the way a particularly hooky soundtrack loop can get inside your head and stay there long after you've shut down the console and re-entered the Real World.

Patapon 2, like last year's predecessor, is all earworm; an entire game built around an insistent, repetitive, non-terminating flow of rhythm. I defy anyone to play a Patapon game for more than 15 minutes without the insistent four-four time jungle beat creeping in to mark time to their footsteps, their breathing, their thoughts: pon-pon-PATA-pon ...

A hybrid of rhythm-matching game and real-time military strategy – now with a little RPG style thrown into the mix – the Patapon series puts players in the role of a skins-bashing deity who must lead his little cyclopean legions into battle by beating time on sacred drums (i.e., the PSP face buttons).

One drum pattern gives the forward-march order, another the call to attack, and on up through increasingly complex drum-commands, all of which must be executed seamlessly and with perfect tempo or your hapless little Patapons will lose their fighting spirit and/or lapse into confused inaction.

Keeping a beat to administer a beating, it makes for some sweat-inducing high tension.

Behind the beat is an RTS-style unit upgrade system, enhanced in Patapon 2 to include a "Hero" unit that gains powers and abilities in RPG fashion. These upgrades are obtained through the expenditure of materiel gathered from the field of battle, and because you can replay any level – and reap its rewards – any number of times, it's pretty much a given that you'll be going back over the same scenarios multiple times to build up you war chest.

There are two potential problems with this: One, if you're not down with an RPG-style level grind, you might find it tedious; and two, the ability to take all the time you want to build an unstoppable legion might unbalance the game into a cakewalk.

There's not much to be done about point one; if you're not a grinder Patapon 2 will annoy the hell out of you, and that's all there is to it. On point two, well ... sure, you're going to have to work to get the right units at high enough levels to meet the game's challenges, but beyond that there's just no such thing as an "unstoppable legion."

Any legion can always be stopped, at any time, by one thing – failure on the part of the player to lay down the proper beat with impeccable timing. From the simplest skirmishes to the most epic Boss battles, success in Patapon 2 requires nothing less than perfection from the player. Everything comes down, in the end, to keeping that pata-pata-pata-PON flow going. The mightiest hero and the most pimped-out squad of pata-veterans turn pylon the instant your attention wanders and you drop a beat. In case you're wondering – yes, this is fun.

On the presentation side, Patapon 2 is as Patapon was: a quite lovely example of great art direction.

Its pop atmosphere and silhouette-style sprites are infused with loads of personality. The audio is excellent, too, as you'd expect from a game so completely audio-focused – after spending so much time with my DS lately, I was kind of surprised to be reminded of how great the PSP can sound (*) – but I'd recommend headphones if you don't want to drive everyone around you nuts with the frenetic beat.

Or, conversely, wear them if you don't want to be driven nuts by the slightest outside noise throwing off your timing in that crucial split-second. Pata-pata-pata-PON ...

(*) An added bonus on the aural side: As a download-only game (the box on the shelf has a voucher code inside) Patapon 2 is completely free of the hideous wheezing and grinding of the PSP's UMD drive!

Please, Sony, let this be forever so.


Canada's Comic-Book Hero

www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(May 08, 2009) You wouldn't notice the three-storey house by the railway viaduct unless you were looking for it. Tucked by the elevated tracks just a few blocks from this small city's downtown, its red-brick exterior is unprepossessing. The confusing confluence of roads and car traffic at its front means a driver's attention is likely going to be elsewhere. Accidents happen here, you think. But for the former Gregory Gallant, Inkwell's End — that's the moniker he has etched into the glass on the front door — is a kind of Shangri-la. Or, as this Citizen Kane fan would likely prefer, Xanadu.

Inside, it's surprisingly quiet, faintly hermetic. A train goes by five, maybe six times a day, but the vibrations are gentle, almost comforting, and, in tandem with the drowsy demeanour of Orange and Henry, two fat cats who also call Inkwell's End home, they only serve to emphasize the stillness.

Which is all to the good for the former Gregory Gallant. "I like the sound," he says.

Let's dispense with Gregory Gallant — he hasn't been called that for more than a quarter-century, and he turns 47 in September. To Tania, his wife of seven years, to his friends, his brothers and sisters, even to his 92-year-old dad, a long-retired high-school shop teacher living in Prince Edward Island, he is Seth. Not Seth Gallant, mind you. Just … Seth.

"I changed it simply because I was looking for a pretentious-sounding pseudonym," he explained during an interview at Inkwell's End one recent sunny day.

"In retrospect, I wish I hadn't done it. It's a stupid name." But Seth it is and Seth it shall be, probably even after death hath parted him from Tania and the planet.

His real name, in fact, "sounds fake" to him now, and besides, it's too late for a Mellencamp/Cougar/Cougar-Mellencamp/Mellencamp switcheroo. Because, well, he's Seth, one of the world's most highly regarded and best-loved graphic novelists, illustrators and book designers.

He's the guy who's done three covers for The New Yorker; designed all 25 volumes of The Complete Peanuts; is often spoken of in the same breath as Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman; has just published, with Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly Press, his latest masterpiece, a $29.95 hardcover "picture novella" called George Sprott, 1894-1975 that The New York Times originally commissioned in 2006 as a 25-part weekly serial for its Sunday magazine.

Seth probably looked more like a Seth in the early 1980s. This would have been after he busted loose from the Ontario towns of his childhood (Clinton, Strathroy, Tilbury) to attend art college in Toronto and live as "a punky club kid with a scary pre-Goth look" who liked to drink and drug and "wanted a name to go along with all that." Today, he's a decidedly dapper-looking gent — if, that is, you believe the fashions of 1937 represent the sine qua non of male haberdashery.

With his dark, brilliantined hair and round, horn-rimmed glasses, Seth clearly does. Shorts, T-shirts, jeans — the staples of casual 21st-century masculinity — are nowhere to be found in Seth's Xanadu. But vintage suits, patterned silk ties, fedoras, topcoats, wingtips and crisp white dress shirts? This is the place.

Seth easily admits his current look was entirely contrived at first — the result of "a phasing over from being a punk to being kind of a punk in a suit to being a guy listening to old jazz and then being someone who decided he wanted to completely wrap himself up in the world of pre-1940. I've done this several times in my life, made a switch and decided to force it. This time it was, 'Okay, now I'm going to be an old-fashioned guy.'" After a while, it just became second nature to look like a brown-eyed handsome man heading out to the Zoot Suit riots of 1943.

"I have a hard time believing in things 100 per cent, particularly my own pretensions."

Seth's home is as carefully curated as his personal appearance, as eccentrically stuffed as Charles Foster Kane's Florida estate in Citizen Kane. While we all have treasures from our past, either self-collected or given by relatives, they're usually few in number and, more often than not, discreetly displayed or boxed in the basement. Seth, however, has them immediately at hand — functioning rotary phones like the kind Bogey dialled in The Big Sleep, a Beaver gumball machine, Ookpik dolls, a working Moffat refrigerator from 1956 in the kitchen, a wall covered with cheap Halloween masks from the early sixties, Mountie bobble-head dolls, Reliable plastic coin banks, a barber's chair circa 1945, figurines of Marvel Comics heroes, a complete kid-size RCMP uniform framed behind glass, old high-school trophies refashioned by Seth as honours to himself from a grateful Old Order of the Grand Portage and the National League of the Brides of the Dominion …

Seth characterizes his world as both "grandmotherly, in that it's like this desire to create this cozy 1930s, 1940s kind of environment" and "kind of adolescent because the place has a lot of toys. There's something about the teenage boy, trying to create your perfect teenage room.

"I can't live unless I've got control of the aesthetics," he declares. "If I want a couch, it has to be an old couch — unless it's really successful at pretending to be an old couch."

Luckily, his wife, a 32-year-old men's hairstylist who met Seth while working as a model in a life-drawing class he was taking, doesn't have strong views on decor (although they did "feud" briefly earlier this year over her wish to put a Sylvania colour TV set in the living room). Lucky, too, that Seth has long-since forsaken his once oft-stated wish to have actually lived in 1937. "That now seems patently stupid," he remarks with a laugh. "I mean, I love 1937 — but would I have loved the actual 1937 if I was black or lower-class or unemployed?"

Better to have the simulacrum of 1937 in the cocoon of your own home than the messiness of the real thing.

To Seth devotees, all this whimsy can come as no surprise. Graphic works like It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken and Clyde Fans — Book 1 and Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World are rife with reverential representations of the sorts of artifacts found in Seth's home. His stories are about the ignored, the obscure, the vaguely remembered and how the past persists in the present, be it a rundown old building — "I'm interested in the feelings that buildings put out," he says. "Nothing's more appealing to me than an old storefront with an apartment above it" — a shameful or pleasant memory, a weathered tree, or visiting a used bookstore and having one's curiosity piqued by a cartoon in a 1951 issue of The New Yorker.

George Sprott could almost be called Anatomy of a Has-been, even though its trim size of 35.5 by 30 centimetres seems decidedly heroic, monumental, like a tombstone. It's a documentary of sorts (replete with Citizen Kane-like flashbacks, reminiscences and interviews) of the final hours of a one-time TV celebrity and lecturer in the mythical Ontario city of Dominion, population 300,000. Dominion has been the setting of many Seth yarns, as much a state of mind as a place, although he has built some 50 cardboard models of the buildings he imagines to be (or have been) there, models displayed four years ago at the Art Gallery of Ontario and that are now a touring exhibition.

Sprott was something of a "star" in the Dominion of the early 1950s, when TV was new and the only station in town was desperate to fill airtime. But by 1975, no one cares any more about Sprott's main claim to fame — nine trips to the Canadian Arctic between 1930 and 1940 — which he parlayed into a long-running show (1,132 episodes and counting, as of Oct. 2, 1975) called Northern Hi-Lights.

Melancholic to be sure but, as Seth notes, "it's not tragic." Clearly he has an affection for Sprott's obduracy, "but I'm a bit ambivalent toward him and I want the reader to be, too."

Drawn & Quarterly is putting Seth on the road in support of George Sprott. He's at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend, then off to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other U.S. cities a few weeks later. Of course, as "a very routine-oriented guy" — the kind of guy who, with fedora on head, is at his drafting table in his basement studio each day at 9 a.m., works until 4 p.m., breaks for dinner with his wife, then returns to work until 11 p.m. — he's "dreading it." It will be fine "once it gets going, but I don't really like the experience."

"Who you are really depends on who you're with." - Seth

Still, he doesn't entirely begrudge the attention. Nine or 10 years ago, Seth had pretty much convinced himself that he'd be "broke for the rest of my life." While graphic novels such as Maus, From Hell and The Dark Knight had been critical and commercial triumphs in the eighties and nineties, sales and interest in the genre were flagging, and "it looked like it was all falling apart." Seth was hunkering down in Guelph around this time with his then-girlfriend (they split six months after moving there from Toronto, 100 kilometres to the east). Over coffee with best friend and fellow cartoonist Chester Brown ( Yummy Fur, Louis Riel), he'd mutter darkly about "going back to Xeroxing my art."

Then things started to turn around. Seth doesn't know why exactly. Maybe it was the acclaimed film adaptation in 2001 of Dan Clowes's Ghost World comic. Or the 2002 exhibition that another pal, Chris Ware (of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth fame), had at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art. Whatever the reason, "years of cartoonists doing adult work in obscurity suddenly burst into the mainstream," and Seth was buoyed along with the flow. It's why, just 18 months ago, he and his wife were able to become homeowners for the first time.

Seth claims to be happy. He loves his wife. ("It's easy to say 'I'm sorry' in this relationship.") He likes growing older and the loss of vanity he believes it entails. He says he's mellowed with age, although not to the point of sappiness. ("Youth culture," he snorts at one point, "bores me now. I'd even say it irritates me. … What people talk about at that age, how they relate to each other, it seems like a nightmare.") And the febrile acquisitiveness he once had — that has made his house what it is today, yet also once "disgusted me because it clearly did seem I was trying to fill a void, trying to make myself happy" — has abated. Now that energy is displaced into "a desire to produce things, to be focused on work."

Still, he's not entirely sure the good times are here to stay. Which is why he says he's probably working too much now, dreaming up logos; doing commercial work for clients as varied as Penguin, Microsoft and the Wall Street Journal; helping organize the annual Doug Wright Awards honouring the best in Canadian comics and graphic novels; editing and designing books. "Ideally, I would like to work on my comics 24 hours a day, but I feel like I always want that backup … I want it all, that's the problem." Even in Xanadu.

Seth appears at the 2009 Doug Wright Awards Saturday, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. W., Toronto. He'll be launching the first volume of a planned two-volume set, The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist (1917-1983), which he designed and co-edited with Brad Mackay.

Just Visiting: Manga Artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Source:  www.thestar.com - San Grewal,
Staff Reporter

(May 09, 2009) In the 1950s, while the North American comic scene was still dominated by the youthful appeal of Superman, Barney Google and The Katzenjammer Kids, a Japanese manga artist named Yoshihiro Tatsumi began a comic revolution.

Now 73, the godfather of the
Gekiga (dramatic pictures) movement, which later inspired graphic novels, darker comic books and many of the hugely popular manga titles now sold throughout the world, talked to the Star while in town this weekend for the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Q: What led you away from children's manga to create the darker, more adult-themed Gekiga style back in the mid-'50s?

A: In Japan they weren't really making a lot of films at that time, so I watched a lot of European and American films. I pretty much watched everything from overseas. In American films, the bad guy always gets it in the end and justice wins. It was fun to watch American films, but everything was just so good, though. I thought there weren't very many people that could actually live like that.

In European films, the bad guy wins and justice loses out. That's when I started creating manga, where sometimes the bad wins and the good loses.

Q: What effect did the war with America have on your work?

A: Life wasn't easy, not even 10 years after the war had ended. The citizens were really poor. The majority of Japanese didn't really have proper jobs. Gekiga was an expression of all that, of what it means to be a human being, the joy and the sadness.

Q: How did people in Japan react to your first few Gekiga-style manga books?

A: They definitely had a response. It was unlike any manga up until that period. Back then there was the idea that manga was something that had a good influence on children, so we were condemned by some. Parents were asking what was this that their children brought home. But it was very popular.

Then, until recently, many young people in Japan became more rah-rah, like in America.

But now the mood is darker again. The young, the old, the salary man, most people in Japan don't have a lot of hope for the future.

Q: While in Toronto you will debut the English edition of your 840-page masterwork about your career, A Drifting Life. How do you feel about being commonly referred to as the godfather of adult-styled comics?

A: I don't know about godfather, maybe grandfather. Once it was just father. I don't think I've had that big of an influence. Manga is too big, there are so many choices, genres. Manga has penetrated everything: movies, books, TV, everything.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi appeared last night at a Toronto Comic Arts Festival reception at Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room. He appears over the weekend at festival events at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. For more info, call 416-533-9168 or go to torontocomics.com.


U.K. 'Calendar Girls' Are Back

Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(May 11, 2009) LONDON – A group of English women who posed naked for a calendar 10 years ago to raise money for cancer research are shedding their clothes again. The women – whose first calendar inspired the movie
Calendar Girls, staring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters – have come out with a new 2010 calendar. It was unveiled today and is available online (www.leukaemiashop.com). Like the last time, the women – who range in age from late 50s to mid-70s – are shown engaged in household activities such as gardening, baking and knitting. They maintain their modesty by being partly concealed by items such flowers and knitting yarn. The north England ladies got the idea for the first calendar following the death of one of their husbands from cancer in 1998.


Fine Choreography, Asian Style

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

CanAsian International Dance Festival
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f889201%5fAM0lvs4AARO8SgRikwZoBHYNEg4&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f889201%5fAM0lvs4AARO8SgRikwZoBHYNEg4&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f889201%5fAM0lvs4AARO8SgRikwZoBHYNEg4&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f889201%5fAM0lvs4AARO8SgRikwZoBHYNEg4&pid=1.5&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)
Until tomorrow at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W.

(May 08, 2009) Carefully curated by artistic director Denise Fujiwara, the Eighth CanAsian International Dance Festival features fine work with an Asian connection.

Program A, repeating tonight at the Fleck Dance Theatre, has as its centrepiece a moving and quite astonishing Butoh dance, quick silver, performed by Tokyo-based performer Ko Murobushi.

The dancer-choreographer, founder of two Butoh companies, is considered a direct descendant of Butoh originator Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-86). Murobushi makes a supremely ascetic, black-suited figure, seated, bowed, with his legs hanging over the edge of the stage and only the outlines of his face showing through a silver silk head wrap.

A lit mound in the shape of Mount Fuji, stage-front, is opposed by a mirrored sheet of metal hanging farther back. The dark figure slowly stands and addresses the metal sheet, shaking it so that his reflected form appears as a ghost emerging out of the blackness. He fights it, smashing a dent in the middle of the metal panel. All the while, electronic sound makes a low hum, a sepulchral effect, punctuated with fractured voices.

Naked but for a dance belt, Murobushi returns to the stage after a blackout to address himself to the mound, a pile of sand he throws in flares, into the air. Amid a rising crescendo of sound, like a storm at sea, the dancer hurls his burnished self about the stage, driving himself to the floor, contorting his muscular body into animal shapes. He is at once animal, vegetable, mineral and all too human, crying out, expelling a deep-seated energy.

Korean-born dancer Jung-Ah Chung, who now lives in Victoria, exudes a quiet beauty in Connection, a solo that draws together a ritualistic, traditional Korean aesthetic and contemporary movement. She is seen as a naked back, rising out of voluminous white pantaloons that reach to her calves. Turning forward, her delicate face takes the focus.

Chung plays with a pair of shoes with curled up toes, putting them on her feet to make a weird, four-legged walk from a sitting position. She enters a circle and lies on the paper outline. Pieces of rice paper adhere to her arms and back making a sweet, rustling sound to augment the bird twitters and gurgling water in her soundscape. This dancer brings new force to a form that can look very stilted.

When Todd Robinson made Stone Velvet for Yvonne Ng and Robert Glumbek, he gave them a gift of enduring delight. Dressed in burgundy velvet sarongs and accessories, this physically mismatched pair do a precise, funny, touching and exuberant duet to Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor. Performing it now, after a passage of eight years, the two dancers seem even more animated, more hand-in-glove, than ever before.

CanAsian's Program B features dances by Vancouver's Mira Hunter and Raqib Brian Burke and Seoul's Post Ego Dance Company, plus a remount of Andrea Nann's Ink and is performed tomorrow night.


Perdita Felicien: In Wilbour She Trusts

Source: www.thestar.comRandy Starkman

(May 11, 2009)
Perdita Felicien relies on chiropractor Wilbour Kelsick for more than just his skilled hands.

Kelsick, who is based in Vancouver and has worked with such Olympic greats as wrestling champion Daniel Igali, has become a good friend of Felicien over the years, a trusted confidante and at times a motivational guru.

She recently went to visit and Kelsick and told him how she was worried about competing in the early part of this season because she is not at all in form after missing last year with injury. He set her straight.

“He was like ‘You just got to get out there and take your licks. Who cares who beats you? Who cares if you don’t get the win. This is part of the process.’ Which is true. It’s just part of the steps to getting back and being back,” said Felicien in a recent phone interview.

“And is it hard? Yeah. Before I had the talk with him, my ego, my pride – one of the things I really dislike is being mediocre. I really don’t like being just average, right? That’s part of the pride of being a world class athlete.

“But Wilbour said ‘These girls who are in shape and did well last year are going to help you in the bigger picture. They’re going to help you get faster, help you get stronger. You need to get in there and take your knocks because at this point of the season it’s not that critical.’”

That pep talk had an impact on Felicien’s outlook.

“It’s not hard when I put things in perspective,” she said. “It’s what needs to be done.”

Felicien does hope to be in prime form on June 11 at the Festival of Excellence meet being put on by the University of Toronto at Varsity Stadium. While Jamaican phenom Usain Bolt is the headliner, the featured event on the undercard will be the “Durham Duel,” pitting Felicien, of Pickering, against Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby in the women’s 100-metre hurdles.

“I am really pinching myself that it’s going forward,” said Felicien. “I’ve never raced as a professional in Toronto. I’ve raced plenty of times in Canada at the nationals, but they’ve never been held in Toronto and the nationals are there, too (June 25-28, also at Varsity).  … I’m more hoping this will be a sustained event. It sounds like they’re going all out.”

Information on tickets can be obtained here.

People With Sway - Perdita Felicien

Source: www.swaymag.ca


Felicien rose to global prominence when she won the 100-metre hurdles at the 2003 World Championships, becoming Canada's first female world gold medalist and, subsequently, Canada's Female Athlete of the Year. After suffering from a fall in Athens in the finals of the 2006 Olympics, she rebounded with a silver medal in the 100-metre hurdles at the 2007 World Championships. However, Felicien faced a new challenge, a foot injury that would keep her out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Persevering, dedicated and focussed, she still has her sights on London, England for the 2012 Olympiad.

"I think it still is just the curiosity to know how good I can be. Just to compare myself against the other hurdlers before me and what they've done and try and see how I stack up, when I've done all I can do and walk off the track."

Olympic Hopeful Shows Courage In The Face Of Tragedy

Source: www.swaymag.ca -
BY: Royson James

(Sping 2009)
Say a prayer for Taylor. Hers is the ugly, lonely flip side of Olympic glory. The 14-year-old elite gymnastic prospect lies paralyzed this day at Bloorview Kids Rehab in Toronto, victim of a catastrophic fall on a Seneca College practice mat last month.

Taylor Lindsay-Noel broke her neck attempting a difficult dismount from the uneven bars, that apparatus made famous by the perfect Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci.

If Taylor had managed to perfect the routine introduced by her coach, Brian McVey, her chances of making the Canadian team for the 2012 Olympics in London would be enhanced. No one, it seems, is quite prepared for the consequences of a failed attempt.

Her mom says she hasn't received as much as a phone call from Gymnastics Ontario, though Taylor was Ontario champion at the national open level. Gymnastics Canada is every bit as silent, though Taylor has represented her country.

Visit their websites and there's no sign of the tragedy among the accolades for Olympic success. Web users have been left to speculate on the gymnastic discussion board Gymbrooke.

Such is the nature of our appetite for glory.

These athletes toil in anonymity, risking life and limb to mount the Olympic podium, clothed in heroic red and white. Forgotten are the casualties along the way, as if mere collateral damage.

"This is an experiment that went tragically wrong," says her mom, Rowena Lindsay, scratching the itchy ear of her gorgeous and brilliant daughter. "It's cost her her future, unless there is a miracle ... ."

Mother and daughter have just returned from a pool-side party in Georgetown to welcome home Olympic gymnast Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs from Beijing. Taylor trained with her at Sport Seneca. She was there the day Taylor fell. And if Taylor is at all bitter about her shattered dream, it doesn't show. Taylor is young, strong, positive as any child. And she thinks the future will be "good." What buoys her spirits? "Lots of friends come to visit ... and my mom," Taylor says.

Her mom feeds her, strokes her face, suctions her mouth and tries to cap the awful fears the tragedy has unleashed.

"No child deserves this, but especially not this one. She's a brilliant, brilliant girl with aspirations to pursue sports medicine."

A gymnast for 10 years, she was hand-picked for the national elite program that lands on the team representing Canada.

Elementary school saw a rigorous daily regimen of practice 7 to 10: 30am, school, then practice 4 to 6pm after school; summertime training ran from 4 to 8 at night. Enrolled in the gifted-athletes program at Northview Secondary School in Grade 9 last year, she was an honours student and the top Grade 9 student in math. Then, July 15, she was attempting something she had never done before, on her weakest apparatus. Lights out.

From the ambulance, Taylor told her mom, "I don't want to end up in a wheelchair."

Eight hours of surgery at SickKids and she's rehabbing at Bloorview, that heartbreak of a place where too many kids are wheeled in and too few walk away.

Lawyer Dale Orlando, who is considering a claim of negligence or liability on the part of coaches or the facility, says Taylor is a C-5 paraplegic, having compressed the spinal cord in her neck at the cervical vertebra Number 5. "She's lost all functions below that level ... use of arms and legs, bowel and bladder control."

As the authorities run for cover, questions linger.

Are athletes like Taylor pushed too far to perform skills outside their scope? What safety measures are in place to prevent such disastrous accidents? Are these kids not "spotted" by coaches in case of a failed attempt? Could Taylor's fall have been less damaging, cushioned by a foam pit instead of the regular mat? Who regularly checks on these things? Where is the public discussion on such matters so the public is aware of the dangers and athletic bodies don't bury the consequences?

Friends have established a fund to assist the single mom with medical expenses at
CIBC, transit number 07312, account number 7759185.

It will help. It won't mend Lindsay's broken heart.

"What am I going to do?" she says, losing it a little before composing herself. "It's a journey we're going on, in faith, hoping for the best."

So, say a prayer for Taylor.

Postscript: This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star seven months ago. We not only thought this story was worthy enough to reprint, we recently caught up with Taylor only to find out that she's had some improvement. As she leaves the day school classroom at Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre a smile reveals her courageous spirit. Taylor continues with specialized physical therapy, hoping for the miracle of being able to one day walk again. P.P.S. Since the article was printed, Gymnastics Canada and Gymnastics Ontario did initiate a fundraising campaign for Taylor.

Cito Gaston's Poise Rubs Off On Blue Jays

Source:  www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins

(May 09, 2009) Here's something a baseball general manager said about Cito Gaston, the manager whose 2009 Blue Jays, however improbably, still lead baseball's most difficult division, the American League East.

"He relaxed these guys. He got them going. There was a lot of talent on (the) team, but these guys have to feel they want to express it. He let them express it on the field.''

Express it on the field? You think? Since Gaston, the Jays manager from 1989 through 1997, returned to take over last June from John Gibbons, a likeable baseball lifer who simply couldn't get the team's engine running, the Jays are 71-48 (before last night's game). That record, best in the league over that time, arrives despite a rookie-heavy starting pitching staff that, certainly this season, is about three-fifths smoke and mirrors.

"He came back and resurrected this team,'' said Paul Beeston, Gaston's boss as team president both then and now, but his friend constantly. "I put it down to his presence and to his ability to communicate with the players, to never have them be surprised. As good as he was at communicating back then, I'd say he's even better at it now. I don't know how he does it. I don't think there's anybody who can say a negative word about John Gibbons. To know him is to like him. But Cito somehow gets through.''

That, in a couple of words, is Gaston's ability as a manager. His games are uncluttered by strategic minutiae, but he gets through to people and gets them to play, then lets them play. He both offers and demands respect.

Every manager of the Blue Jays has, or had, his own style, and a newspaper guy spending a quarter-century around the ball club, in varying degrees of closeness, recognized them individually: Jimy Williams was a sharp baseball mind who was too tightly wrapped; Tim Johnson was full of bull----; Carlos Tosca was a devoted family man who liked to talk cigars; Jim Fregosi loved old-time stories and words with Ks in them; Gibbons had a great sense of humour and wanted to hear the good Tiger Woods stories.

Each had his own personality, as does Gaston, whose success with the Jays still never translated into other opportunities; he spend more than 10 years not managing, coming close a couple of times, particularly with the White Sox, before tiring of the endless interview process. Gaston decided that after a point he would fly somewhere for a job but wouldn't get on a plane simply because teams were forced to interview minority candidates.

The most common error people could make in dealing with Gaston is to confuse politeness with weakness. There is plenty of the former, but none of the latter.

Earlier this week, in Gaston's office, a clutch of writers was enacting the ritual of the pre-game BS session – something of which Gaston is more tolerant now than then – and Gaston, usually a pretty good storyteller, launched into one. He remembered the time manager Preston Gomez send him up to pinch-hit for Clay Kirby, who happened to be throwing a no-hitter at the time.

"I was having a good year then. Made the all-star team. And I got booed when I walked out of the dugout,'' he said.

The next layer of the story included a very mild curse and, nodding toward the only woman present, he said "excuse me" and then added it for emphasis. He was raised by a strict father, one to whom he often refers affectionately. Manners and civility clearly were part of his upbringing.

"Absolutely. But you know he's a tough guy when he needs to be,'' Beeston noted. "You don't really know how tough he is, but you sure wouldn't want to take a chance by finding out.''

When number crunchers fume that a young, hot hitter needs to be placed elsewhere in the order or assigned more immediate responsibilities, Gaston resists to the point some would call stubbornness. He believes in adding experience and expectations by pennies and nickels rather than by dimes and quarters – the way, say, Adam Lind was handled last year – and can point to the inconvenient (for his critics) truth that the Jays happen to be leading the league in runs scored with essentially the same crew that couldn't get out of its own way a calendar year ago.

He deflects credit here to Gene Tenace, his long-time hitting coach/sidekick, and that, too, is part of his style: He lets coaches coach and he lets players play and he keeps everyone level, if not level-headed.

Go back nearly 20 years, to a night the ball team was getting out of Cleveland (never a bad idea) and something happened to the airplane. The team was stuck in the airport for 3½ hours on a Sunday evening until, finally, the Cleveland Browns flew in from somewhere and offered up their plane. Now, some ball players will throw a fit if someone keeps them waiting 30 seconds for something. But here was an entire ball team sitting calmly, playing cards, laughing. Not moaning, whining. This paragraph appeared here a day later:

"Look at it this way,'' Gaston mentioned to someone who was thinking of complaining. "This is where you were meant to be at this point in time.''

It was one of the first instances of what we have all seen many times since: A team that reflects, if not outright adopts, its manager's outlook long-term on life and on baseball. These 2009 Jays? Gaston would tell you they might even be where they're supposed to be. He wouldn't mention who deserves much of the credit.

Oh, yeah, that first quote, the one about how Gaston relaxed all those guys? That wasn't J.P. Ricciardi talking two weeks ago. It was Pat Gillick speaking Sept. 30, 1989, the day the Blue Jays, a moribund 12-24 when Gaston took over from Jimy Williams, clinched the AL East title. What's that they say about the more things change?

Jason Portuondo Calls The Plays At Sportsnet

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Zola Reeves

(Sping 2009) To millions of television viewers across Canada,
Jason Portuondo is the most trusted man in sports. Each night, Portuondo recaps the scores and highlights on Rogers Sportsnet Connected, bringing a fresh new vibe to the sports TV landscape. Sway caught up with Portuondo in Toronto.

How did you get started in the industry?

Well, to be honest with you, growing up I had no idea what I wanted to do. I followed the path of post-secondary education and ended up taking commerce at the University of Toronto, but really didn't enjoy the program. While I was at U of T, I had a friend who was in charge of the radio station and she needed someone to co-host a sports show. I decided to give it a chance and that was really my first step towards broadcast journalism. After U of T, I went to college to hone my broadcasting skills and ended up getting a job at 680 News.

As so much of this city's sports coverage is geared toward hockey and other traditionally white sports, what is it like being a black sports journalist in Toronto?

It's interesting. Sometimes I get the feeling that because I am a black journalist people think I should be more geared towards basketball or baseball. I still feel there is somewhat of a stereotype, people thinking "well what could he know about hockey?" In fact, hockey is one of my strongest sports. I've never had any issue when it comes to the athletes; I think it's more of a public perception.

What is it that makes sports so popular for people in countries all around the world?

First of all, sport is an escape. It's not like the general news. I tell people all the time that you could pay me a million dollars and I would not do news. For me, the news is just too depressing. Sport is a release and an escape, for half an hour; I can take people's minds off of the economy, job losses and tragedy of the day. It's entertainment and it gives you a chance to break away from reality.

You've connected with a lot of sports personalities — who is the most memorable?

Not for good reasons, but probably Vince Carter. Vince and I always used to butt heads. Every time he saw me coming he'd turn the other way. I would always dig into him about things he didn't want to talk about, whether it was a potential fight with Sam Mitchell or a player saying that he was not giving his all. I called him out on that. He'd give me dirty looks. Every time we'd buck up on each other it would be like "oh boy, here we go again."

A-Rod Returns To Yankees On Friday

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 07, 2009) NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez will make his season debut for the New York Yankees on Friday night in Baltimore, joining a team that desperately needs some timely hitting.

The Yankees announced that A-Rod would rejoin the team on Thursday, a few hours after the all-star third baseman played in his final rehab game in Florida. He went 0-for-2 with two walks and put in three innings of defence, then took some extra ground balls and batting practice.

"We're all very encouraged that he's doing well and we're all anxious to get him back," said manager Joe Girardi, who learned of the decision shortly before the Yankees wrapped up a two-game series against Tampa Bay. "We would have taken him back five weeks ago, if we could."

Rodriguez had surgery March 9 to repair torn cartilage in his right hip, and has recovered more quickly than expected. The Yankees had initially set a target date for his return of May 15.

"A lot of us had a hard time wrapping our arms around it, that it was actually physically possible, because we hadn't seen a player come back this quick from that kind of surgery," Girardi said. ``But now that we're to this point, it's kind of exciting."

The three-time AL MVP spent much of his rehab assignment facing questions about a biography released this week that suggests he used performance-enhancing drugs in high school and may also have taken them after he became a Yankee in 2004.

Rodriguez hasn't commented about the book. He admitted earlier this year to taking steroids when he was a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-03.

On Thursday, he shook hands and thanked support staff at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa following the intra-squad game.

A-Rod credited Dr. Marc Philippon, who operated on the hip, and Dr. Mark Lindsay, a soft-tissue expert who has worked with him daily in Florida, for the success of his rehab program.

"They have worked (hard) with me," Rodriguez said. "Philippon did a good job with the surgery. I feel blessed."

His return comes at an opportune time for the Yankees, who have struggled to find key hits. They're 4 for 32 with runners in scoring position during a four-game slide, and their 13-14 start after a big off-season spending spree has already put some heat on Girardi and GM Brian Cashman.

"We need some more production on the offensive side and Alex is the guy who could do it," said outfielder Johnny Damon. "I mean, he's definitely one of the best players around.

"Yeah, it would give us some confidence."

Girardi said he hoped A-Rod's presence will allow other players in the line-up to see better pitches, including slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is hitting just .209 with 15 RBIs after signing a US$180 million, eight-year contract in the off-season.

"I'm not expecting Alex to hit a home run every time and get a hit every time he comes up and every time there's a runner on he drives them in, but I know it changes the way a team approaches our line-up," Girardi said. "It makes our line-up deeper. He's a threat every time he walks up to the plate, there's just so many things he can do."

Teixeira said he's been text messaging Rodriguez every few days during his rehab.

"We're all excited, we've been excited to have Alex back since he started his rehab and started playing games in Tampa," Teixeira said. "He's A-Rod, he's going to put up MVP numbers every single year."


The 7 Deadly Workout Sins

By Raphael Calzadilla, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

(February 09, 2009) Exercise is the best thing for your health regardless of your age, level of fitness or goals. However, it can also be dangerous if you don't avoid some common mistakes and take the proper precautions. Engaging in an exercise program with little foresight and planning can lead to burnout, frustration and possible injury.

If you want to maximize your workout and look your best, it's going to take a combination of motivation and the correct information. eDiets will always help provide the motivation you need and all the necessary information to make you the healthiest and fittest you can be.

Let's take a look at my version of the seven deadly workout sins:

1. Skipping the warm-up. Doing too much too quickly will send your heart rate soaring and put unprepared muscles and joints at a high risk for injury. For beginners, rapid increases in heart rates can lead to light-headedness, nausea, dizziness, fainting or even heart attacks and stroke. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands placed on them during exercise. Before hitting the weight room or jumping into your regular cardio workout, you should take a few minutes to gently prepare the body for heavier activity -- walking slowly is one example.

2. Jumping into the sauna or hot tub immediately following a workout. The temperatures of saunas and hot tubs can be detrimental to a body that already has elevated temperatures and blood vessels that are dilated from activity. Your body needs to dissipate heat in order to bring your heart rate back to a resting zone and re-circulate blood back to your organs. High temperatures in hot tubs and saunas will cause light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or worse: heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heart attacks. Instead, try a cool shower or allow your heart rate to return to resting levels before getting into the saunas and tubs.

3. Holding your breath while lifting weights. Breath holding, also known as the valsalva manoeuvre, during weightlifting increases blood pressure significantly, leading to light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, hernia, heart attack or stroke. To avoid creating high internal pressures, inhale and exhale with each exercise phase of a repetition and breathe naturally during cardiovascular activity.

4. Not having a physical prior to beginning an exercise program. You want to have the most benefit with the least amount of risk and it would never be wrong for you to get a complete check-up prior to beginning activity -- especially if you are over 45 or have other risk factors like smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or obesity. If you meet two of the above criteria, you are considered to be at risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. While exercise is the best thing for your condition, beginning a program without the proper guidelines can do you more harm than good.

5. Exercising above your determined heart rate range. Continually pushing your heart rates to the maximal limits during your cardiovascular workouts is overstressing your heart and lungs unnecessarily. When your heart rate is up to maximal loads, there is a greater chance for irregular heart rhythms. You don't need to place such high demands on your heart to see cardiovascular benefits or to burn fat. If you are apparently healthy, the recommended range is 55-85 percent of your maximal heart rate.

6. Using hand or ankle weights while walking or during aerobic classes. Many fitness guidelines indicate that the use of hand weights during the aerobic portion of step training produces little, if any, increase in energy expenditure or muscle strength. The risk of injury to shoulder joints is significantly increased when weights are rapidly moved through a larger range of motion. It's recommended that hand weights be reserved for strength training, where speed of the movement can be controlled.

7. Not listening to your body. Abnormal heart beats, pain, chest pressure, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, prolonged fatigue or insomnia following intensive exercise are signs of an over-trained body that may be at high risk for a heart attack or injury. Take a hint, and slow the down the pace or reduce the number of routines. It would be advisable to have a medical professional assess your condition if you experience any of the major warning signs of cardiac distress during an exercise session. If any symptoms persist during or following an exercise session, have your signs evaluated.


Motivational Note

(May 07, 2009) "You cannot tailor-make the situations in life but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations."

Source: www.eurweb.com Zig Ziglar