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October 15, 2009

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I took the time to see friends and family and enjoy good eats and some good parties that the great city of Toronto was offering. 

Check out some great
SWAY news below as well as a mini recap of the amazing Kylie Minogue concert (featuring Toronto's Adrian Eccleston).  I honestly had no idea what to expect nor the magnitude of this artist's broad global appeal.  Then there was the closing of Irie with great people, food and music.  The next night was Dave and Kwame's party at Lula Lounge. And I got to meet one of those talented writers/producers that I never thought I'd meet - Nelson George, currently the exec. producer on the Chris Rock movie, Good Hair.  Check out photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.  


SWAY Magazine Available Across the Country in Chapters and Indigos

Hey all you
Sway fans, the Education Issue is out. If you missed picking up a copy, you can also get one at Chapters and Indigo stores across the country. Remember, buying a copy ensures that the Sway message will stay national and not local. It is crucial that this country be made aware of all the incredible contributions this community makes to our economic and cultural landscape.

Or if you prefer having Sway come right to your home or office, you can always go to swaymag.ca/subscribe.

Starting with the Caribana issue, Sway is now available at all Chapters and Indigo stores across the country. It is crucial that you all buy a copy ($4.95, the price of vente latte) as this is the only way to ensure that your community gets the kind of exposure it deserves -- Sway is about the power and the pulse of Canada's black community -- let's make sure that voice stays loud and proud by buying a copy and getting your friends and family to buy copies too. And if they don't carry it, and they should, ask for it. Treat it like a campaign. There is no stopping the snowball now as long as our national distribution is supported by all our loyal Sway readers. Here's to our national voice-finally!


Kylie Minogue's First Visit to Canada

I went to the Kylie Minogue concert on Friday night.  One of my Canadian musician friends, Adrian Eccleston, tours with Kylie playing guitar.  He invited me to the concert and I have to admit that I didn't know too much about her except that she was from Australia and had survived breast cancer.  Little did I know what I was in store for!! What an amazing concert with tons of effects, costume changes and hot dancers.  Kylie knows what the people want and she sure gave it up on her first Canadian visit ever.  Check out photos in my PHOTO GALLERY, along with some (very) amateur video clips I took. 

Minogue Show Out Of This World

Source: By JANE STEVENSON -- Sun Media

(October 10, 2009) TORONTO - Kylie Minogue’s first-ever North American tour touched down at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Friday night for its only Canadian stop. 

And the 41-year-old Australian singer didn’t disappoint when it came to her glamorous, sexy costumes (courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier); flashy, futuristic show design; and clear, high voice; even if her lightweight dance-pop songs aren’t exactly groundbreaking.

Minogue, who has sold 60 million albums worldwide over the last two decades, has never really broken through in North America save for a few hits like a cover of Loco-Motion and her own Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, thus the first road trip over here after all this time.

Still, the blonde bombshell clearly knows how to command a stage, despite the fact that only the floor and lower bowl of the ACC was sold, and has devoted fans who responded wildly to every shake of her shoulder, wiggle of her hips, or flick of her wrist around that gorgeous face.

“Is there something in the drinking water?” she asked towards the end of the evening as the crowd was going nuts. “What’s going on? What a magical night. I feel it.”

Minogue, who successfully battled back from a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005 and whose latest album was 2007’s X, opened the two-hour evening spectacularly, descending from above while perched on top of a glowing red skull while singing Light Years.

Her silver, corsetted outfit, which included a cone-shaped bra, was covered up by a long, flowing shredded shawl that looked like it was made out of the American flag, and suspended planets dangled on her head like a space-age crown.

It was quite a visual as robotic-looking dancers performed below Minogue alongside a six-piece band (which was later joined by a three-man horn section) as the early momentum continued with Speakerboxx, Come Into My World and In Your Eyes.

From there, it was pretty much non-stop action in terms of constant costume changes (I lost count after six); ever-changing, slick-looking video with the emphasis on Minogue’s fetching face and form; and an increasingly scantily-clad dance corps including a scene where her male dancers pretended to wash themselves in a shower and then remove their speedos while wrapped in red towels (turned out they had a second pair of speedos on underneath).

Minogue, who reportedly has been offered a deal as a Vegas performer based on the glowing reviews from North American critics if British tabloid reports are to be believed, is sort of a cross between Madonna and Sarah Brightman.

When she’s in her campy disco diva mode, as she was during such highlights as Like A Drug, Boombox/Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Wow, I Believe In You, a cover of Madonna’s Vogue, and Kids, she was pretty fun to watch, particularly when she performed such feats as doing the splits while her male dancers carried her on their shoulders.

But when she took herself a little too seriously with some musical theatre-like numbers that saw her lounging on couch in a gown between two gold lions and singing ballads like White Diamond and Confide In Me, it veered a little too close for comfort into Brightman territory.


Songwriting Brothers Shooting For The Stars

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 12, 2009) Back in 2006, I interviewed a pair of Canadian songwriting brothers who were still relatively unknown and predicted: "That's going to change as rapidly as the tempo in one of their jazzier tunes."

Three years later, the
Breithaupt brothers (Jeff, words, and Don, music) are enjoying one of those "everything's coming up roses" moments in their career.

Their musical about the world of New York City boxing in the 1930s, Seeing Stars, opened last Wednesday at the New York Musical Theatre Festival to a cheering, standing ovation and a totally sold-out run, both rarities in this cut-throat showcase, which has, in recent years, brought shows such as Altar Boyz and Next to Normal their professional moments in the sun.

Don also won a Daytime Emmy in August for his title song for 6teen on the Cartoon Network and both brothers are looking forward to the release of their first CD later this month.

It's called Toronto Sings the Breithaupt Brothers Songbook and it features an all-star group of local talent, with the likes of Brent Carver, Patricia O'Callaghan, Sarah Slean and Adam Brazier.

The album was recorded last year during the Canwest Cabaret Festival at the Young Centre, and they'll be back again for two shows the last week of October, with all of last year's faves, plus, as Jeff excitedly relates, "Heather Bambrick and Jackie Richardson are joining us this time out and our old high school pal Denzal Sinclaire."

That high school was Applewood Heights Secondary in Mississauga, since these two very Canadian bros were born in the Soo and raised in the Saug. Jeff now lives in Manhattan while Don still favours the True North, strong and free, residing in Bolton.

In fact, the writing of Seeing Stars is a Canadian family affair, with Jeff's wife, Shelley McPherson (born in Aurora, Ont.), providing the book for the musical.

They're especially thrilled about their show selling out all of its performances in advance because, as Jeff points out, "We're in the biggest theatre at the festival with the most seats to sell."

McPherson thinks the show has grabbed the public's imagination because "the audience who shares our taste has found us; 1930s New York is a colourful period. Hell's Kitchen, boxers, reporters, dames, palookas, romance ..."

"Bro-mance," corrects Jeff, referring both to the buddy-buddy plot and his favourite writing partner.

"We set out to write the kind of show we wanted to see," Don explains. "A big, classic-style Broadway musical with 18 songs."

And that's one of the things that's most fascinating about the Breithaupts. They're addicted to the great standard tunes of yesterday and aspire to write like their heroes of that period: Gershwin, Porter, etc.

But they're smart enough to know you can't be a slave to yesterday and so their work is also today enough to attract hip artists to sing it and get audiences in the toughest city in the world to cheer it.

The big question is whether any commercial producers have come sniffing their way and Jeff answers with an admirable mixture of candour and caution.

"As soon as you sell out a run at (the New York Musical Theatre Festival) in advance of the opening ... there's interest!"

The Diva Returns

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 12, 2009) There's one Toronto musician who has a lot to be thankful for this year.

It's only been four months since soprano
Measha Brueggergosman was rushed to hospital with a split aorta on the eve of a solo appearance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. But the dynamic 32-year-old expat Maritimer is already back at the top of her game.

It's remarkable that someone who has had her sternum sawed in two and chest cavity pulled apart for emergency open-heart surgery could pick up a rising international career and hectic social calendar in a matter of weeks.

Look past Brueggergosman's crazy hair, designer gowns, ready smile and hey-girlfriend manner. Here is an artist charged with a steely determination. She isn't about to let anything – not even open-heart surgery – get in her way.

Nine days ago, the sequined diva was onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, facing a boisterous audience of 18,000, singing the "Ode to Joy" in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its red-hot new music director, Gustavo Dudamel.

Tomorrow, Brueggergosman is onstage at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, Sweden, at the behest of tenor Placido Domingo. He asked that she share in a gala concert to mark him receiving the inaugural Birgit Nilsson Prize.

The $1 million award, funded by the estate of Sweden's prima donna assoluta, makes it the richest accolade that any opera singer or conductor can receive.

In August, people on Prince Edward Island heard Brueggergosman at the Indian River Festival (its two co-artistic directors are Torontonians Peter Tiefenbach and Robert Kortgaard). She also sang at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland that month.

She was supposed to be at home, recuperating from surgery.

Despite a teaser appearance at Yonge-Dundas Square to open the Toronto International Film Festival last month, Ontarians have to wait a bit longer to hear Brueggergosman in full flight.

Saturday afternoon, at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, across the street from Roy Thomson Hall, she presents a song recital to benefit the African Medical and Research Foundation.

Neither Brueggergosman nor her German piano accompanist, Andreas Kern, are getting paid for this. But there's no cutting artistic corners. This is vintage concert-hall fare of art songs and spirituals.

"We have a lot of people who have donated a lot so that we can make as much money as we possibly can," says Brueggergosman of the goodwill wrapped up in spurring people in Kenya and Uganda to rebuild lives, skills and communities in the aftermath of political unrest and civil war.

It's hard to imagine where Brueggergosman finds the time and energy to maintain a full concert calendar, keep up with charitable work, pop up in full regalia at the city's hippest parties – and advance in her mastery of Bikram yoga.

Then again, would any other young diva have dub-reggae band Fat Freddy's Drop playing in the background while talking about the emotional merits of a Benjamin Britten chamber cantata and digress on her desire to go see Hollywood flick The Hangover?

"I'm a huge fan of cleansing the palate, figuratively, of doing something that keeps you fresh, that keeps you humble and aware of your power or influence outside of what you do," says the soprano of her eclectic palate. "We can be good at so many things, but we're programmed to focus on one thing. As people, we have the capacity to do so much."

For Brueggergosman, Bikram yoga is the most important of her sidelines. It helped her shed something like 150 pounds three years ago. And it was key to helping her retrain her rib muscles and her breathing in record time over the last few weeks.

There are psychological benefits, too.

"It's rotating tires, or being able to flex a different muscle, and also to find joy and accomplishment in something else so that your esteem doesn't get all wrapped up in what you get paid for, because that's fleeting. Performers have to be wary of that, in particular," says the singer.

In the spring, Brueggergosman begins the next step in her yoga apprenticeship: teacher training. She put it on her to-do list back in 2006.

"It's going to be so hard because you practise twice a day for nine weeks. I've heard over and over again that week six is anger week," she laughs. Fortunately, her management encouraged her to take the time off work.

The singer's charity work gets the same intense attention. She did her research and approached the African Medical and Research Foundation, not the other way around.

"I was looking for someone who was providing sustainable community development solutions," Brueggergosman explains. "They had never had a celebrity endorsement. It had never occurred to them."

She has been to northern Uganda three times now, enough to be able to see progress among the displaced women and children who are learning new life skills. She even has six dresses made for her by women who have learned to sew under one of the foundation's education programs.

"Some of them are better skilled than others," the soprano smiles. "But bringing them back to Africa to ask for repairs to a dress is a great excuse to see how the women are doing."

In the end, Brueggergosman's life – and success – comes down to keeping high standards.

"It's not good enough to be kind of good," she says quietly. "We're the keepers of the kingdom, the guarders of the Grail. You can't fool around with it. I'm not a purist, but I want to be the best. I don't do the best of everything but, in what I choose to do, I want people to come to me and say, `We've heard you're the best at this, tell us more.' That's what I do. When I find out who the best is, I go to them and I say, `Teach me your wily ways,' because I'm a sponge.

"I get that from my dad: Always be teachable, humble yourself."

And be thankful.

Measha Brueggergosman sings at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, King and Simcoe Sts., on Saturday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $60-$175 (50 per cent off for students) at 416-961-6981.

Chris Rock's Sundance Winning Film, 'Good Hair,' Hits Theatres This Week

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(October 8, 2009) *By the brief discussion with Chris Rock on his “Good Hair” film, released to theatres this week, I think there were a lot of things that influenced him to do a documentary film on the concept of “good hair.” He said not only did his brief conversation with his daughter (five at the time) asking  him why she didn't have “good hair,” but his love for Michael Moore's documentaries and the fact that there were no documentary films on “hair” was a driving force as well.

 “When she said it I didn't panic, because if you over-react, they'll see that and they will over-react. So I played it off and said, 'your hair is beautiful, want some ice cream?'” recalled Chris Rock about that day which sparked his interest in “good hair.”.

 “It was oh so hard to sell this,” Rock pointed out. “Even after winning the Sundance Film Festival, we were still looking.”

Well Chris and Kevin O'Donnell (producer), Jeff Stilson (writer/director), and writers Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar found a partner in HBO Films and eventually theatrical release through Liddell Entertainment and Roadside Attractions. There are cameo appearances throughout the documentary by Nia Long, Ice-T, Paul Mooney, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt n Pepa, Eve, Rev. Al Sharpton and Raven Symone all being interviewed by Chris on the subject of “good hair.”

 “I was excited about it... I tried to be honest about my hair,” Raven Symone said about her contribution to the film. “I think people need to stop hiding.”

Raven also admitted that when she was on the Cosby Show that he didn't allow them to do anything with their hair, as far as chemically change it.

 “I think it is still a sensitive subject,” actress Nia Long said about the conversations that the “Good Hair” film is provoking. “My son at nine said, 'Mama you scary when your hair is short!'”

The documentary follows Chris Rock and crew to barbershops to talk to men about their hair issue and in particular their women's hair issues; he goes to beauty salons and gets shocked with how much money women spend on weaves and how it affects their relationships at home; he takes us to the Bronner Brothers Hair Show to be amazed at seeing 100,000 people come together to learn about hair and hair products; he travels to scientific laboratories and learns the shocking reality of the chemicals we use in our hair, and then he travels to Indian Temples to explore where the hair for weaves comes from, all with shocking discoveries that are sure to provoke “hair” discussions across the country.

Of course the film has lots of laughs with Chris Rock as your host, that goes without saying, but it's the education that amazes me and I think will amaze the audience. Before leaving Rock added that he is working on a DVD on the origin of the Jhery Curl.

 “We found six guys that still have their hair in a Jhery Curl!” Chris laughed.

Sounds like good clean fun and I am all for that. The Roadside Attractions film “Good Hair” is released to theatres on October 9, 2009. Log onto www.GoodHairMovie.com for more information.

Drake Hampered By His Bum Knee

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2009) *As Drake continues to mend from a July knee injury, the rapper says he's going a bit stir crazy being confined to his home in Toronto.

Although he is able to walk around, the artist tells Billboard.com that the rehab period has caused his writing to slow down considerably.

"Sitting at home in your apartment and having a doctor come over every day and eating healthy and going to the gym -- there's not much of a rap album to be made off that," he continued. "I have to get my inspiration and start seeing things and going to dinners and meeting people again and just finding stories to tell for this album. I'm trying to make something timeless."

Drake, who suffered a torn ACL in July following a stage accident, said he's planning to head out to Los Angeles on Oct. 11 for more writing and recording on his upcoming album, tentatively titled "Thank Me Later" and due out in February.

The plan is to release the set's first single, "Shut it Down," in the near future, though it might not come out until January. Produced by The-Dream, the track is described by Drake as "an R&B song...It's sexy. It's slow, but there's an energy to it. I rap on it. Me and Dream both sing on it. It's cool."

It also has a "message that's never really been explored by male singers," he says. "This song is sort of like an anthem for women, like pre-the club. It's like an anthem for you to be at your house with your girlfriends getting ready, what you listen to before you get there. It's a song for the non-famous woman to make her feel special and just to let you know that even though I'm up here and have the option to mingle with these 'upper-echelon' women, if you will, that sometimes I'd rather be with the girl from back home or a student or a girl that works at Wal-Mart. They don't have to be a star or rich or anything like that; that's kind of the gist of the song. It's an empowering song for all women."

Captain Lou Albano, 76: Pro Wrestling Icon

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Cristian Salazar

(October 14, 2009) NEW YORK–Captain Lou Albano, who became one of the most recognized professional wrestlers of the 1980s after appearing in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" music video, died Wednesday. He was 76.

Albano, whose real name was Louis Vincent Albano, died in Westchester County in suburban New York, said Dawn Marie, founder of Wrestlers Rescue, an organization that helps raise money for the health care of retired wrestlers. He died of natural causes, Marie said.

World Wrestling Entertainment called him one of the company's ``most popular and charismatic legends."

With his trademark Hawaiian shirts, wily goatee and rubber bands hung like piercings from his cheek, Albano was an outsize personality who, in a career spanning nearly five decades, was known as much for his showmanship as for his talent in the ring.

His fame skyrocketed when he appeared in Lauper's 1983 music video, playing a scruffy, overbearing father in a white tank top who gets shoved against a wall by the singer.

Partly because of the success of Albano's partnership with Lauper, the entity then known as the World Wrestling Federation forged ties with the music industry. That helped bring it to a wider national audience in the mid-1980s, known as the "Rock n' Wrestling" era.

It was a time when wrestlers such as Albano, Hulk Hogan, ``Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Andre the Giant were so popular that they could headline a television cartoon series and appear in movies.

Albano later had a role in the music video for Lauper's 1984 song ``Time After Time," and he appeared in episodes of the TV series Miami Vice and in the 1986 movie Body Slam. He played Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, a live-action animated show, from 1989 to 1991.

His career in the ring began in 1953 in Canada, and he went on to form the "The Sicilians" tag team with Tony Altimore. They were known for wearing fedoras and talking about the Mafia in interviews, according to the book WWE Legends by Brian Solomon.

Albano also coached popular tag teams such as The Wild Samoans, The Executioners and The Moondogs. He retired from the WWE in 1996.

Albano was born on July 29, 1933, in Rome. After moving to the U.S., the family settled in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Survivors include his wife, Geri, four children and 14 grandchildren.


10 Things About Canada I Didn't Know

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(October 10, 2009) In addition to learning that federal Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism) Diane Ablonczy can't deliver a speech to save her life, I picked up a ton of tidbits at a recent conference sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission. Here's a list of highlights:

1. Next year marks the 125th anniversary of the 1885 Northwest Resistance, which they're billing as "Canada's last true west story." There are some 18 sites spread across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.

2. The poet laureate of Edmonton is a hip-hop artist named Roland Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon. It also seems I just missed the Stony Plain Cowboy Poetry Festival and the Accordion Extravaganza. Next year!

3. Shelburne, Nova Scotia is said to have been the fourth-largest town in North America at one point and has the third-largest natural harbour on the continent. I had no idea.

4. Thunder Bay is developing its waterfront much like Toronto. There are new marinas and they're developing a dock for Great Lakes cruises.

5. Despite worries about Olympic crowds, the folks in Whistler say up to 95 per cent of ski runs at Whistler-Blackcomb will be open to the public for January, February and March.

6. They say there's a guy in his 70s named Stevie who wanders from bar to bar on George St. in St. John's most nights and delivers dance performances.

7. Up in Ottawa, the tourism folks are making farmers cool by putting out "trading cards" with their names and information to highlight local producers. Cool.

8. Moncton has free wireless all over downtown and even on city buses, which encourages folks to take public transit. Tourism folks say the Windjammer restaurant at the Delta Beausejour was recently named one of the best hotel restaurants in Canada.

9. Calgary is finding its urban groove. There's a cool tea shop called the Naked Leaf. A new Acclaim Hotel opened in town this year and the city is due to get a Le Germain Hotel pretty soon.

10. Northwest Territories communications coordinator Julie Warnock says the NWT is home to what she calls mercenaries, missionaries and misfits. "One of my first days I was driving around. It was minus-40 and this guy came out of an ice fog wearing a fedora and riding a unicycle; and carrying a suitcase."


Humble Pop God Bublé Values A Personal Touch

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 8, 2009) Michael Bublé's phone rings halfway through an interview at the Pantages Hotel on Wednesday. It's recording engineer Humberto Batica, calling from Rome.

Bublé turns on the speaker.

"Michael, I was thinking about you. I miss you. I'm here with Gianluca, a very talented young tenor. He wants to talk to you."

The next thing we hear is, "Hello, Michael! Michael Bublé! Oh, my Gaaaaaad!" It's half yell, half sob.

Bublé almost blushes. He smiles and exchanges a few pleasantries before hanging up to resume the interview. There is more important business at hand: a new album,
Crazy Love (Warner), coming out Friday. The publicity machine is in overdrive, culminating with a release-day visit on Oprah in Chicago.

Bublé may have sold more than 20 million of his previous two albums, carried home a clutch of Junos, Grammys and other awards, and played in 45 countries, but he is still the boy from Burnaby, B.C. He even found time to invite his parents along to meet Oprah Winfrey.

The rest of the world treats the 34-year-old crooner like a pop god, "but Canadians are a lot more cool about it," Bublé says. "People ask me why I don't move to Los Angeles or New York full-time, but I like it here. It's my country. Canadians are more humble and they have a great, dry sense of humour."

The singer could be describing himself. In person or onstage, he radiates an infectious enthusiasm for what he does and where he is. Bublé values the personal touch. "People pay good money for those tickets way up there. So I pay really close attention to the cameras," he explains of stadium gigs. "Hi, I'm here for you," he adds, staring winsomely at his interviewer.

On Monday night, he recorded an hour-long segment of The Concert Hall for Bravo! (scheduled to air on Jan. 12). Instead of working with an emcee, he hosted the show himself. He bantered with the crowd. He shared the microphone for a few seconds with fellow crooner Matt Dusk.

Bublé even entertained the audience with answers to intimate questions. (One audience member asked the inevitable "briefs or boxers" query. "Neither," was the quick, smiling reply.)

As Bublé explains how Crazy Love came together, he spends a lot of time talking up his fellow musicians, arrangers and producers for making it happen.

Like his previous albums, the new one is a mix of old pop and jazz standards, as well as Bublé's own tunes.

Much of the singer's personal touch comes from connecting with each song on an emotional level first. If the musical chemistry is wrong, he won't sing it.

To help transfer that bond to listeners, Bublé tried recording the 12 tracks in a minimum of takes, with as many musicians in the room as possible. The first track they laid down was "Stardust," and the second run-through sounded best.

Bublé took it home on his Discman that night, and knew that avoiding the usual pop engineering gymnastics was paying off. "The more tiny imperfections that I heard, the more organic it felt to me, the more authentic it felt for me, the more I felt this is what turns me on. This is what made me fall in love with Sinatra and Nat and Basie and Ella and Louis ..."

He just keeps passing that love along.

We Remember Bluesman Freddy Robinson

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2009) *Blues guitarist Abu Talib, who recorded and toured with Ray Charles and Little Walter under his given name, Freddy Robinson, died of cancer Thursday (Oct. 8) at a hospital in Lancaster, Calif, said his daughter Linda Chaplin. He was 70.

Chaplin said her father, born in Memphis, first heard the blues when her grandfather, Otis Robinson, took him along to a "juke joint," the AP reported. Inspired to play music, he fashioned his first instrument out of bailing wire attached to the wall of a barn when he was nine, she said.

His former manager, Vernell Jennings, said he saved his money and ordered his second guitar from the Sears catalogue at age 13.

"He had that guitar his whole life and still played it. It was called Bessie," Jennings said.

Talib could play well by ear, but he went to school to learn how to read music once he moved to Chicago.

 In addition to Charles and Little Walter, Robinson also played with Howlin' Wolf and pianist Monk Higgins and recorded and wrote several songs including "Black Fox," "At the Drive-In," "Bluesology" and the blues instrumental, "After Hours."

Recently, he recorded a jingle for Southwest Airlines, and dressed up in a funky suit for the commercial, said Chaplin. He had seven children with his first wife, Mary Robinson, who died, and one daughter with his second wife, Zakiyyah Talib.

Listen to his work below:

Sheryl Lee Ralph Calls All Divas To The Stage


(October 9, 2009) *For the 19th consecutive year, Sheryl Lee Ralph is hosting the mega-watt, all-star line up of celebrities in the 19th annual Divas Simply Singing! AIDS benefit.

The event is this Saturday, October 10, at 7:30pm at the Saban Theatre Beverly Hills (Formerly Wilshire Theatre), 8440 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

“Nineteen years; that makes us the longest consecutively run musical AIDS benefit in America,” Ralph told EUR's Lee Bailey.

She said others have come and gone and some have even missed a year, so she is enthusiastically pleased about the strong run that Divas Simply Singing! has had.

Ralph says that anyone who missed last year's show with Patti LaBelle kicking off her shoes and bringing the house down, missed a show. But there's plenty in store this year. Ralph has consistently brought great talent to the stage.

“I keep on just doing my best. I keep on just trying to bring the best talent to the stage,” Ralph says.

Her approach has been to bring in “Women who have heart, understand what it is that we're doing, and are willing to commit to helping us with this night.”

“If your attitude is bigger than your hair style we don't have room for you,” she tells the participants.

This year's line up includes three multi-grammy winners as well as supremely talented singers and actresses. Faith Evans, Yolanda Adams, Tamia, Kelly Price, Brenda Russell, Jenifer Lewis, Yo Yo, Barbara Morrison, Frenchie Davis, Gabi Wilson, BET's Sunday Best Jessica Reedy, Althea Rene and Neo Soul Artist N'dambi along with original Dreamgirls Loretta Devine and Ralph herself will light up the stage. Sam Harris and Grammy Winners All-4-One will be the resident divos, paying tribute to the ladies. A real housewife from Atlanta will be making her DIVA debut.

Ralph says the artists have always helped to make the night special, and she is excited to have Faith Evans, who “does not have to sing another day in her life, but decided to come out of seclusion” for the event.

Yolanda Adams' confirmation came in her saying to Ralph, “You have asked me for years and I'm not going to tell you no one more time.”

Ralph's reaction: “Thank you. Hallelujah. And, Amen.”

The enthusiasm and fun have a very serious purpose which is to “raise funds for prevention and awareness and help erase the stigma of AIDS still connected to this disease,” Ralph says.

The epidemic needs serious commentary, and Ralph sites the recent Letterman incident as present proof, the risk factors are still perpetuated.

“Folks like David Letterman coming out on TV and saying yes I had sex with all of them and people not wanting to talk about it in a way that's responsible, considering he had a wife and all of that; I say something is wrong ... we've got to figure out a way to attack some of these underlying issues that help the disease grow,” Ralph says.

The recent successful bone marrow transplant of AIDS a patient in Germany is “definitely encouraging ... but it is not the silver bullet,” Ralph says.

What she does want to do is:

“Encourage people to get involved. I encourage people to get tested. My husband, (PA) State Senator Vincent Hughes and I created 'Test Together' (www.TestTogether.org) where we encourage couples to get tested. We saw the beautiful First Lady, Michelle and our president, Obama get tested together in Kenya a few years ago and we said 'this is incredible, a loving couple getting tested together.'”

Through Test Together, couples can enter their zip code and locate places that test for STDs, STIs, and HIV; several of the locations test for free.

She has remained passionate about the AIDS/HIV crisis. One other topic she is passionate about is the potential for change through the Obama administration.

“During the whole campaign I said out loud several times 'I want you to remember the yes we can feeling ... a few months down the road that's when he's going to need your help,'” Ralph says she told supporters. “Now is when I need people to remember: yes, we can,”

Ralph says, “People fall off when times get tough.”

    “You can not please all of the people all of the time. I never ever thought that Obama was a saviour or a miracle worker; he truly is a human being that believes in the bigger, best picture for all people and that, I believe, is very special and that is not to be taken lightly.”

Ralph compares the long road ahead for Obama to her own experience with the benefit, saying she knows how it feels when some people who can support your cause do not.

Anyone interested in supporting the Divas Simply Singing! event can call or visit the Saban theatre's box office in Los Angeles. With the promo code: DIVA, purchasers can buy one ticket at full price and a second at half price.

For more information contact: www.divassimplysinging.com.

Kanye A No-Show At BET Awards

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2009) *There was no threat of acceptance speech hijacking at the 4th Annual BET Hip Hop Awards, as nine-time nominee Kanye West decided not to show up for the ceremony.

The rapper, who infamously interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, had been expected to attend Saturday evening's taping at the Atlanta Civic Center, but instead opted to skip the entire outing altogether.

Meanwhile, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle accepted the two awards given to her fiancé T.I., who is currently serving a prison sentence in Arkansas on a federal weapons charge. The six-time nominee won the best collaboration award with Rihanna for the track "Live Your Life" and album of the year for "Paper Trail."

Tiny read a letter from T.I., saying: "Although I'm not there with you all, I'm there in spirit. My road to redemption is almost over….thanks for the support."

Ice Cube, winner of the "I am Hip-Hop" icon award, showed graciousness in accepting the career salute.

"When you get recognized by your peers for a life of work, you got to be humbled," the rap veteran said. "I'm honoured by this. I have 20 more years of work left in me. I hope (BET) is ready to give out two of these awards."

Also during the evening, Drake won the "Rookie of the Year" honour and Busta Rhymes presented the award for "DJ of the Year" to the late DJ AM, who died of an accidental drug overdose in August.

Jay-Z, who was honoured with the "MVP of the Year" award, took the stage with Young Jeezy to perform "Real as It Gets" from his latest album "The Blueprint 3." Also, rap group Goodie Mob reunited to perform their 1995 song "Cell Therapy."

The award show will air on Oct. 27.

Martina Sorbara Puts The ‘Ette' In Dragonette

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(October 9, 2009) She slays us: In advance of Dragonette's show Thursday night at the Mod Club, slinky singer Martina Sorbara was quizzed about herself and the electro-popsters' new album, Fixin to Thrill . This is what we learned.


She is the health-conscious band matriarch who sings and dances and steers the otherwise male group away from Taco Bell and McDonald's while on tour.


Asked about Dragonette's current mood, the photogenic singer replied, “We're all staring into the future at a long, intense couple of months of touring a new album of which we're very proud. So, we're pumped and freaked out.”


Her motto is “to have fun till your daddy takes the T-Bird away.”


In the studio, her husband and bandmate Dan Kurt takes care of tracking, music and programming, while she handles lyrics and melody. In the kitchen, he looks after the stovetop and she minds the oven.


Sorbara has tattoos: “I made a few acoustic guitars in my early adulthood. Whatever design I'd inlay into the headstock, I'd get tattooed on me somewhere. I still love my guitars and their respective inlays, but the tattoos, not so much.”


The 31-year-old singer still has her appendix and her tonsils.


Her pet peeves are pop music's rekindled love affair with the vocoder and any highway rest stops which don't feature Tim Hortons.


Her pets are two cats, descriptively named Handsome and Special.


Sorbara's favourite days begin with “dippy eggs and soldiers,” and end with alcohol-enhanced games of Scrabble, canasta or poker.


Currently she's into nineties hip hop. Asked about any different approach involved with the recording of Dragonette's new album as opposed to 2007's Galore , she displayed modesty: “I don't really think any of us has the discipline for something as intentional as “approach.” We start by making noises, beats and sounds, and if we're really lucky, we end up with a song. This miracle happened enough times for us that we now have a whole album!”


And, finally, when questioned as to what Dragonette was fixin' to thrill us with at the Mod Club, Sorbara was succinct: “Fresh new tracks, a clean shave and new haircut.”



Dragonette plays Thursday night, 6:30. $15. Mod Club, 722 College St., 416-870-8000.

Bob Dylan: Hark, The Raspy Angel Sings

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Christmas in the Heart
3 Stars
Bob Dylan

(October 12, 2009) Bob Dylan makes an album of Christmas music? Yeah, right, when reindeers fly.

Oh, but c'mon. Nothing done by the enigmatic icon should surprise us: This dude, born Robert Zimmerman, marches to his own rump-a-pum-pum. And really, Christmas in the Heart , a sincere, if craggily sung, collection of 15 seasonal classics and gems, isn't such a nutty thing – not in these weird times anyway.

The CD arrived in the mail late last week, on a day when the entertainment media was excited by the out-of-the-blue craziness of cartoon character Marge Simpson posing for Playboy, pop star Miley Cyrus quitting her tweeting habit, and the unanticipated revelation that eighties heartthrob Rick Springfield would be baring his rear in an episode of Californication .

In comparison, Dylan isn't even the only Jew releasing a yuletide-themed album: Neil Diamond's A Cherry Cherry Christmas – groan – will also fill stockings this season.

So, Dylan's 47th album is Christmas music. Remember what former Columbia label president Bill Gallagher once said of the man: “If Bob wants a microphone on the ceiling, get the tallest goddamn ladder you can find and start climbing.” Dylan does what he does (going electric at Newport in 1965 or embracing Christianity in the late seventies) and his audience deals with it.

Except for the accordion-romping Must Be Santa and frequent country-music touches, the nostalgic Christmas in the Heart isn't surprising in its song arrangements. The album's superb, tastefully wrought production, credited to Dylan's nom de studio Jack Frost, mostly sticks to friendly Eisenhower-era fashions. The legend's raspy-throated singing, however, is unavoidable. Although it's been said many times in many ways, Mel Tormé and Bob Wells's The Christmas Song has never sounded quite like this. Jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch is elegant and deft Donnie Herron is barely there on steel guitar, but Dylan's vocals are rough. Especially on the opening tracks (the jaunty Here Comes Santa Claus and the sleigh-belled Winter Wonderland ), it's tough to get past Dylan's voice. The croak contrasts starkly to the pre-rock crooning of the mixed-voice background singers, who are heavenly on The First Noel and sweet on Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

How best to describe the lead vocals? Imagine a frog with a Dylan in his throat.

Here's the thing, though: Where many Christmas albums are bland and soothingly familiar background music, Dylan's Marlboro-caked larynx pushes this material to the foreground – some might say for the worse, but there you go. The lyrics, with messages of hope and peace, are enunciated, if gruffly so. The album's title, Christmas in the Heart , refers to compassion; Dylan's royalties are earmarked for Feeding America and other hunger-relief charities.

It's a worthwhile thing the Gotta Serve Somebody singer has done here, once you get past the surprise of the idea and the man's ravaged voice.

So, who's got a big red cherry nose? Dylan's got a big red cherry nose. Who laughs this way, “Ho, ho, ho!” Dylan laughs this way, “Ho, ho, ho!” Must be Dylan, must be Dylan, must be Dylan.

Flicka Bids Fond Farewell To Her Friends

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 12, 2009) The evening was billed as "Frederica von Stade and Friends." And it was clear from the moment the great American diva stepped out on the stage at Koerner Hall on Saturday that the friends included the audience.

The New Jersey-born mezzo-soprano had one of her favourite collaborators, opera composer Jake Heggie, at the piano. Isabel Bayrakdarian came out for a solo as well as Rossini's famous meowing-cat duet.

But von Stade's farewell tour is about honouring her devoted fans.

Stunningly clad in two creations by Toronto designer Rosemarie Umetsu, von Stade radiated 90 minutes of magic. At age 64, she's far from the bel canto and Mozart operas that made her reputation, but her artistry is as powerful as ever.

In other words, von Stade knows how to work it. In the relative intimacy of the new 1,140-seat auditorium, her magic spell must have wafted all the way to the last row.

Koerner Hall's clear, warm acoustics and cozy size make it the ideal venue for this sort of performance.

Further adding to the just-you-and-me feeling of the evening was how the diva introduced every couple of songs with anecdotes from her 40-year career: from childhood through to her Metropolitan Opera auditions in 1970, to the birth of her two girls.

The music that she picked reflected these moments and expanded on them emotionally. The most direct connection came in "A Route to the Sky," from Heggie's song cycle, Paper Wings. It tells the story of a girl who has to be rescued by firemen from her parents' rooftop, only to have her own 8-year-old pull the same stunt many years later.

"This is a true story," she said before launching into song.

The evening's program was an eclectic assortment of American and French art songs, a couple of French opera arias and even Stephen Sondheim's famous "Send in the Clowns."

For each piece, von Stade gently tuned the meaning of every phrase, giving us that extra little bit of emotional input that said, "This one is for you, too."

I've rarely seen an accompanist have as good a time as Heggie, who was ideally attuned to his singer's needs.

"I live my life in primary colours," sang von Stade in one of her accompanist's songs. "I let praise or blame fall where they may/ I hold my soul in equanimity ..."

Sounds like the best way to contemplate retirement.

Flicka Bids Fond Farewell To Her Friends

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 12, 2009) The evening was billed as "Frederica von Stade and Friends." And it was clear from the moment the great American diva stepped out on the stage at Koerner Hall on Saturday that the friends included the audience.

The New Jersey-born mezzo-soprano had one of her favourite collaborators, opera composer Jake Heggie, at the piano. Isabel Bayrakdarian came out for a solo as well as Rossini's famous meowing-cat duet.

But von Stade's farewell tour is about honouring her devoted fans.

Stunningly clad in two creations by Toronto designer Rosemarie Umetsu, von Stade radiated 90 minutes of magic. At age 64, she's far from the bel canto and Mozart operas that made her reputation, but her artistry is as powerful as ever.

In other words, von Stade knows how to work it. In the relative intimacy of the new 1,140-seat auditorium, her magic spell must have wafted all the way to the last row.

Koerner Hall's clear, warm acoustics and cozy size make it the ideal venue for this sort of performance.

Further adding to the just-you-and-me feeling of the evening was how the diva introduced every couple of songs with anecdotes from her 40-year career: from childhood through to her Metropolitan Opera auditions in 1970, to the birth of her two girls.

The music that she picked reflected these moments and expanded on them emotionally. The most direct connection came in "A Route to the Sky," from Heggie's song cycle, Paper Wings. It tells the story of a girl who has to be rescued by firemen from her parents' rooftop, only to have her own 8-year-old pull the same stunt many years later.

"This is a true story," she said before launching into song.

The evening's program was an eclectic assortment of American and French art songs, a couple of French opera arias and even Stephen Sondheim's famous "Send in the Clowns."

For each piece, von Stade gently tuned the meaning of every phrase, giving us that extra little bit of emotional input that said, "This one is for you, too."

I've rarely seen an accompanist have as good a time as Heggie, who was ideally attuned to his singer's needs.

"I live my life in primary colours," sang von Stade in one of her accompanist's songs. "I let praise or blame fall where they may/ I hold my soul in equanimity ..."

Sounds like the best way to contemplate retirement.

Michael Jackson Earns American Music Awards Nod

Source:  www.thestar.com -
David Bauder

(October 13, 2009) NEW YORK–Michael Jackson has a chance to win artist of the year posthumously at the American Music Awards.

The pop superstar, who died on June 25, was among a diverse group of artists nominated Tuesday for the top honour. Country star Taylor Swift, rapper Eminem, breakthrough rockers Kings of Leon and flamboyant pop star Lady Gaga were the other nominees.

Swift topped all artists with six nominations. She drew inadvertent attention at the MTV Video Music Awards last month when rapper Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech to say Beyonce deserved the award instead.

Jackson followed Swift with five nominations and Eminem received four.

Winners are determined by an online vote of fans and will be announced at a Los Angeles ceremony televised by ABC on Nov. 22. The nominees were selected through a measurement combining sales and radio airplay.

Jackson was also nominated as favourite male artist along with Eminem and imprisoned rapper T.I. The late singer's Number Ones album was nominated for favourite album, along with Lady Gaga's Fame and Swift's Fearless.

T.I. was nominated for favourite male rap star, and his Paper Trail disc was nominated for favourite rap album of the year. T.I. won two trophies last weekend at the BET Hip-Hop awards but could not attend the show because he is an Arkansas penitentiary on a federal weapons conviction.

Favourite female artist nominees were Lady Gaga, Swift and Beyonce.

Black Eyed Peas, nominated for best duo or group along with Kings of Leon and Nickelback, will perform on the show. Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez are also scheduled for performances. American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert will use the show to debut songs from his upcoming album.

Swift also has a chance to win best country album, best adult contemporary artist and best female country artist. Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood are also in the running for best female country artist.

Amelia Curran Heeds The Call Of Home

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(October 13, 2009) Amelia Curran is a good dog running halfway home. The gifted songwriter, whose line I just used, recorded her latest album in St. John's. It's a poetic record, styled in country-folk and earthy cabaret music. Curran has lived in Halifax for a decade, but had the urge to return to her birthplace for this album called Hunter, Hunter . “Newfoundlanders are infamous for always wanting to go home,” she explains over the twangy din of her band's sound check at a Toronto club. “I'm no different that way.”

The places she's been, the places she's at, the places she's headed and the places that are gone – these are the things that inform her songs. “Being human is a little ridiculous,” she reckons. “I'm sad a lot of the time, to lose the past and to not know what's going to happen.”

What's happening at the moment is that she's been touring nationally behind her fourth album, the first with the gutsy Toronto independent label Six Shooter Records. The tour ends Friday Oct. 16, when Curran and the rest of the label's stable of sharp singer-songwriters turn Ottawa's Capital Music Hall into a thoughtful hootenanny. Because Curran loves a good metaphor, she uses them deftly, with a magician's sleight of hand – the “good dog running halfway home” line from the poignant Hand on a Grain of Sand could be interpreted as a reference to her decision to make the record in St. John's, but not committing to return there full-time. “It could be,” she says politely. But really it's more general – about trying but not quite fulfilling intentions: “Despite all my efforts, all my love and all my gratitude, I still only make it halfway.”

(The album, by the way, was originally to be titled Good Dog Running , but Curran's father didn't like the sound of it.)

Asked about the riveting chorus-less confessional The Mistress , the earthy, blue-eyed Curran admits to writing from experience. “I don't find the character particularly cool,” she explains. “It's me – it's a much younger me, a more defensive me.” The song, an unembarrassed heart-spilled phone message to a spoken-for lover, has been around for a while. Could an older, wiser Curran write such a song today? “Youth is so powerful, especially when you're an artistic person,” she answers. “The song is a young me, stomping my feet, scrambling over myself trying to prove myself. Eventually you learn you don't have to do that.”

Curran, who moved to Halifax on a whim, is starting to feel guilty about leaving “just a helluva place” – St. John's. “It was far due time to bring my work home and really share it, rather than just give a concert,” says Curran, who raves about the city's musicians and engineers, and recorded parts of the album in an abandoned CBC building, its studio left behind.

She is indeed mulling over the idea of living again in St. John's, and the thinking fits in with her notions of cloudy pasts, presents and futures. Restlessness as a muse and a gift for graceful, intimate lyricism – these qualities serve the songwriter well. “I spend a lot of my life tripping up myself and landing in the places I have room to be creative,” Curran says. “Never quite knowing where you are or what's happening next raises a lot of questions in an inquiring mind.”

Samini Wins MTV Africa Music Award For Best Performer

Source:  www.peacefmonline.com

(October 13, 2009) Ghanaian Hip Life shinning star, MOBO Award winning artist and multiple Ghana Music Awards winner,
Samini real name Emmanuel Amid Samini has won the 2009 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAS) for Best Performer.

Acts from different musical genres and backgrounds drawn from African and other parts of the world came together to light up the stage. The craziest collaboration was between multiplatinum Haitian-American musician and producer Wyclef Jean, Samini from Ghana and Nameless from Kenya.

The International trio paid tribute to late Africa reggae icon Lucky Dube during their performance. The second edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards took place over the weekend on Saturday 10th October 2009 at the Indoor Arena, Moi International Sports Centre, Nairobi, Kenya.

The show, hosted by hip hop legend Wyclef Jean, and which featured performances by Lira, M.I., Samini, Wahu and Wyclef himself, aired to a potential TV audience of 1 billion viewers around the world, via African pay-TV channel MTV base (DStv Channel 322), MTV partner networks around the world and African terrestrial channels including RTGA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), TV3 (Ghana), CTV (Kenya), AIT (Nigeria), STV (Nigeria), TBC 1 (Tanzania), ZNBC (Zambia) and WBS (Uganda.

Wyclef and Akon did a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. In a telephone interview with peacefmonline, Samini expressed delight and joy at winning the award. As the only Ghanaian who was nominated for an award this year, Samini stressed that he “took the award on behalf of all Ghanaians.”

“My special thanks go to all Ghanaians and my fans all over Africa for voting for me to win yet another award,” he added. Samini also disclosed exclusively to peacefmonline that, he will be arriving at the Kotoka International Airport from Nairobi, Kenya, at exactly 12:10pm this afternoon. He urged all his Ghanaian fans to meet him at the airport, where he will unveil the plaque awarded to him and also grant his fans a photo opportunity.

“Let’s meet and celebrate the victory together as Ghanaians and fly the Red, Gold and Green flag high,” he stated. Samini, was nominated for an award in the same category in last year’s maiden edition held in Nigeria, which was won by Jozi, from South Africa. This year’s other contenders for the best performer category were: P-Square (Nigeria), D’Banj (Nigeria), Nameless (Kenya) and Blu3 (Uganda).

Nigeria's D'Banj emerged as Artiste of the Year for the second year running at the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs).

Below is the full list of winners for MAMAs 2009:

Best Male
Nameless (Kenya)

Best New Act
M.I. (Nigeria)

Best Hip Hop
M.I. (Nigeria)

Best Female
Amani (Kenya)

Best Performer
Samini (Ghana)

Best R&B
2Face (Nigeria)

Best Group
P-Square (Nigeria)

Artist of The Year
D’Banj (Nigeria)

]Best Alternative
Zebra & Giraffe (South Africa)

Best Video
HHP – Mpitse (South Africa)

Best Listener’s Choice
Nameless – Sunshine (Kenya)

George Clinton Gets BMI's Coveted Icon Award

www.eurweb.com - By Audrey J. Bernard, Lifestyles/Society Editor

(October 13, 2009) *What happens when you amalgamate one of the most exciting cities in the world with one of the most anticipated annual music award events?  You get New York City being used as a backdrop for the BMI Urban Awards honouring the top R&B, rap and hip-hop songwriters, producers and publishers.

The exhilarating event took place last month, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street, in Columbus Circle.

The star-studded music event was hosted by BMI president & CEO Del Bryant and Catherine Brewton, vice president, writer/publisher relations, Atlanta, with Coca-Cola and Hennessy Black on board as presenting sponsors.

During the award ceremony, supreme rulers of the hip-hop universe, T-Pain and Lil Wayne, shared the prestigious “Songwriter of the Year” prize.  They both contributed six songs to the year’s most-performed list, underscoring the dominance both artists have achieved, occasionally through collaborations with each other.

T-Pain’s award-winning compositions include “Baby Don’t Go,” recorded by Fabolous; Rick Ross’s “The Boss”; “Low,” recorded by Flo Rida and featuring T-Pain; 2 Pistols’ “She Got It”; and “Can’t Believe It” and “Got Money,” which he co-wrote and performed with Lil Wayne.

In addition to “Can’t Believe It” and “Got Money,” Lil Wayne’s most-performed compositions include “A Milli,” “Lollipop” and “Mrs. Officer,” which he co-wrote and recorded; and “Duffle Bag Boy,” recorded by Playaz Circle and featuring Lil Wayne.

Attention-grabbing hip-hop stars Polow Da Don and Kanye West shared “Producer of the Year” titles having individually logged the most producer credits on charting songs over the past year.  The BMI Top Urban Producers list also featured contemporary hit-makers L.O.S. Da Mystro, Jim Jonsin, T-Pain and JR Rotem.

“Song of the Year,” “No Air,” was co-written by Erik “Bluetooth” Griggs and published by 4 X Ample Music, Irving Music and Underdog East Songs.

Recorded by Jordin Sparks and featuring Chris Brown, the tune has already amassed more than 1 million performances in the United States alone, as more than 3.5 million copies have been digitally purchased worldwide.

 In addition to achieving platinum-sales status in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, “No Air” climbed into the top ten of charts over the world.

However, the biggest winner of the evening was George Clinton who was crowned winner of the BMI “Icon Award.”  The King of Punk’s royal musical achievements were celebrated with an all-star musical tribute, featuring regal performances by Cee-Lo Green, who delivered “One Nation Under a Groove”; Nikka Costa and Parliament/Funkadelic’s Bootsy Collins, who performed “Atomic Dog”.

Others adding to the musical salute to punk royalty included: Janelle Monáe and Gym Class Hero’s Travis McCoy, who performed “Flashlight”; Dallas Austin, Big Gipp and Outkast’s Big Boi, whose medley of “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” and “Up for the Down Store.”

Then it was P-Time.  Pandemonium broke out when Clinton – dressed to impress in one of his memorable concocted outfits -- took the stage, accepted his award and then had everyone up on their feet dancing to his beat while pledging allegiance to his groove nation.

Clinton has won numerous awards during his distinguished career but the highest BMI award places him in an elite class of iconic songwriters who have had a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers, including The Jacksons, James Brown, the Bee Gees, Isaac Hayes, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Gloria Estefan, Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Little Richard and Al Green.

As the Pioneer of P-funk, Clinton’s solo work and collaborations with his ace bands Parliament, Funkadelic and the P. Funk All-Stars rank among urban and rock music’s most influential.

From the self-penned “(I Wanna) Testify,” “Atomic Dog,” “One Nation Under a Groove” to “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” and “Aqua Boogie,” his songs have spawned new genres of music, have been sampled in countless hits and have been used in more than 1,000 television programs and films.

In 1997, Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic became members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, claimed a spot on the Hollywood Rock Walk, and garnered the prestigious lifetime achievement award from the NAACP Image Awards.

Universal Music Publishing Group earned its second consecutive BMI Urban “Publisher of the Year” trophy by scoring the highest percentage of copyright ownership in award songs.

The publishing powerhouse placed fifteen hits on the most-performed list, including Mario’s “Crying Out for Me”; David Banner’s “Get Like Me,” featuring Chris Brown; Usher’s “Love In This Club,” featuring Young Jeezy; Alicia Key’s “Teenage Love Affair”; and Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body”; along with Song of the Year “No Air” and compositions from Songwriter of the Year T-Pain.

Additional multiple award-winners included T.I., with three BMI Urban Awards, and Chris Brown, Jim Jonsin, Plies, Polow Da Don, JR Rotem, Kanye West and Young Jeezy, who each contributed two songs to the most-performed list.

The BMI and Coca-Cola #1 Show held prior to the ceremony also recognized the BMI-affiliated writers whose songs reached #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Rap Tracks, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Hot 100 charts during the past year.  (Photos by Kyle J. Cassett/whoshotya)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

Rob Murat's Makin' Waves

Source: Michelle McDevitt, Audible Treats.com, michelle@audibletreats.ccsend.com

(October 13, 2009) *New York-based singer, songwriter, and R&B artist Rob Murat's video for the song "Dilemma Remix 1.0," which features Kidz in the Hall, has been added to MTVu's The Freshman contest for this week.

Every week, MTVu holds a new The Freshman contest which gives five emerging artists a chance to get their video in regular rotation on the MTVu channel, which broadcasts in dorm rooms on college campuses all across the country. Music fans can vote for their favourite artist on the MTVu website: http://www.mtvu.com/category/music/the-freshmen

The song takes listeners through the tortured mind of Rob Murat, who is torn between loving a woman and his freedom.

The video was produced by Rob Murat's own company, Quench Entertainment in conjunction with Red Elephant Films and was directed by Sundance honouree Duane Humeyestewa.

Says Murat:

  "Working with Duane was seamless. His approach and creative instinct really helped bring the story to life in a simple, yet, unique way." Kidz In The Hall also stepped in for the video shoot, an experience Rob says, "Was a blast! Those guys are fools... and we did nothing but act-a-fool while on set! The camera captured a little bit of the fun... but wait until you see the behind the scenes footage!"

  The "Dilemma Remix 1.0" video, which features hip-hop group Kidz in the Hall, has also been recently added to rotation on Music Choice, which is seen in over 30 million homes. It is also in steady rotation on BETJ.

  Fans are invited to vote as many times as they like starting at 11am until the cut-off, which is this Friday at 2pm EST.

Hear it / Buy it here:

The Background:
A Queens-born Ivy-League graduate, Rob Murat, has emerged as a leader within the resurgence of independent artists. With a childhood immersed in a wide array of musical influences, from hip hop, pop, and R&B to Caribbean, jazz and even classical, Rob developed a vigorous passion for music relatively early in life.

Listening to Rob Murat's music is like traveling back to the future. The freshness of his sound is reminiscent of the icons that paved the way before him, yet it pushes forward with a unique flavour that hints at something never quite heard before. Sold out crowds at New York's Joe's Pub, Drom, and S.O.B.'s, Philadelphia's World Café Live, and Boston's Paradise Lounge, have all experienced Rob's captivating execution firsthand.

His sound and style lay a foundation that often flirt with rich tones and live instrumentation, yet at the same time display hip-hop sensibilities that pique the interest of the urban listener. Rob's recent accolades include collaborations with Grammy Award winning producer Devo Springsteen (Kanye West, John Legend) and hip-hop group Kidz in the Hall, appearances on FOX and BET J TV broadcasts, and the Lennon Award in the R&B category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

Under his very own production company, Quench Entertainment Group Inc., Rob has achieved music placements on nationwide Verizon Wireless radio ads, ESPN, and TV One series. His latest recording project, So Much to Say, has earned industry-wide acclaim and boasts appearances by emcee/singer, Amanda Diva (Def Poetry Jam, MTV2), J. Ivy (Def Poetry Jam, Kanye West's College Dropout), and rising hip-hop artist, Blitz the Ambassador.

Watch Rob Murat's 'Dilemma Remix 1.0' Feat. Kidz In The Hall:

Singer Al Martino dies at 82

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Associated Press

(October 14, 2009) Springfield, Pa. — Singer Al Martino, who played the Frank Sinatra-type role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather and recorded hits including Spanish Eyes and the Italian ballad Volare in a 50-year musical career, died Tuesday. He was 82.

Martino died at his childhood home in the Philadelphia suburb of Springfield, in Delaware County, according to publicist Sandy Friedman, of the Rogers & Cowan public relations firm. Friedman didn't cite a cause of death.

Starting in 1952, Martino was known for hit songs including Here in My Heart and Can't Help Falling in Love.

Besides acting in the Marlon Brando classic The Godfather, he sang the 1972 film's title score, The Love Theme From The Godfather. His Fontane character is a singer and occasional actor and the godson of Brando's Mafia boss character, Don Vito Corleone.

The Italian-American crooner, born Alfred Cini, was one of a number of South Philadelphia-born singers, including Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Chubby Checker. He also was a long-time resident of Beverly Hills, Calif.

Philadelphia radio and television personality Jerry Blavat dined with Martino and his wife on Monday night. Blavat told the Philadelphia Daily News that Martino appeared to be in fine shape and that he was shocked when he learned of the singer's death.

“He was the last of the show business legends,” said Blavat, who has played Martino's songs on the radio for years. “There's nobody else. The last of the performers. A magnificent voice.”


Michael Jackson Single To Be Released Online

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(October 10, 2009) New York —The first song from the upcoming Michael Jackson music documentary will make its debut online.  Sony Music says This Is It will have its premiere late Sunday, at midnight, on www.MichaelJackson.com .  The song plays during the closing sequence of Michael Jackson’s This Is It and will be included on a companion two-disc CD set. The unreleased single features backup vocals by Michael’s brothers, The Jacksons.  The documentary opens Oct. 28 for a two-week limited run and was built around rehearsal footage for Jackson’s planned London concerts. He died in Los Angeles on June 25.  The CD features original album masters of some of Jackson’s biggest hits, including Thriller and Billie Jean. They’re in the same sequence as they appear in the film.

Alicia Keys Expanding Business Ventures


(October 8, 2009)  *Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has launched AK Worldwide, a new company that will handle her various projects, particularly those outside of the music business.     "It really explores the ways I can affect the world in a positive way, even outside of music," Keys told the Associated Press Tuesday. "It is really about finding ways to bring forth things into the world that will give you and all the people that encounter them, and myself, inspiration."     The first project for the 28-year-old is The Barber's Daughters, a handcrafted jewellery line engraved with messages of hope and wisdom.     "The words, when you read them, they really do resonate with you. They kind of inspire you to want to find that place in yourself," she said, sporting a silver oval ring that read: "May you find inspiration and meaning soaked in the wonders of the imagination cradled in compassion of the heart and hold a will to make difference."     There are also plans for a new Web site, www.iamasuperwoman.com, devoted to spotlighting inspirational women and causes that will fill a missing gap in the blogosphere, Keys said.     "It really calls out to all those brilliant, amazing, fantastic women every day that are doing their thing and need kind of a community to support each other," she said.     Her fourth studio CD, "The Element of Freedom," is scheduled for release on Dec. 1.

Alicia Keys Readies 'Freedom' Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2009) *Alicia Keys is scheduled to appear today on "Live with Regis and Kelly" to sing "Doesn't Mean Anything," the first single from her fourth studio album "The Element of Freedom."  Due December 1st on MBK/J Records, the set features input from longtime collaborator Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, who co-wrote and produced "Doesn't Mean Anything" with Keys. The song's accompanying music video, directed by P.R. Brown, will premiere on PerezHilton.com on Oct. 16 and will be available on all other music portals the next day. "The music is really strong, and the drums are really aggressive, but my voice is vulnerable and delicate," Keys said in a statement about the album. Keys says she eliminated "all of the boundaries and all the limitations, so that you can feel your freedom and express your freedom in every way you possibly can and that's what I did with this album." In addition to Brothers, the album features production from Jeff Brasker (Kanye West, Keri Hilson), among others.

We Are: Digging Roots

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(Odeimin/Outside Music)
*** (out of 4)

(October 13, 2009) Barrie band
Digging Roots leads the nominations at this year's Aboriginal Music Awards, with nods in six categories including Best Band and Best Album for We Are. Smoothly presented in a fusion of blues, folk, pop and hip-hop, the collection features guest appearances from Métis singer Kinnie Starr, who also produced the disc, and Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq. The core of the collection, though, remains appealing husband-and-wife duo Raben Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish. He lays down the guitar licks, she voices the melodies – sometimes with sweetness, sometimes with anguish. Its solid Toronto fan base will see the band launch the CD tonight at the Mod Club.

Death Row: The Lost Sessions Vol. 1: Snoop Dogg

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

** (out of 4)

(October 13, 2009) If you've ever thought "Man, I wish I could hear more songs from Snoop Dogg's 1992-97 period," this is your lucky day. Thank
WIDEAwake Entertainment, the upstart Toronto company that snatched the controversial Death Row label out of bankruptcy court, for recovering tunes such as "Eat a D--k," "Hoez" and "Put It in Ya Mouth" from the abyss where they landed after the rapper left the label in 1993. Cleverly foul gangster tracks in then-named Snoop Doggy Dogg's lazy, enticing drawl here recall the glory days of West Coast rap. Guests such as George Clinton and Nate Dogg, with an assortment of producers including Dr. Dre. None of these stories is really compelling here though; lots of nice-sounding nonsense like "some of you niggas is so deceptive/Using my style as a contraceptive" ("Eat a D--k"). Nothing he hasn't done better elsewhere. For completists only. Top Track: "Life's Hard" is a stirring Tupac Shakur tribute featuring K-Ci & Jojo that would have been nice to hear in the aftermath of the rapper's 1996 murder.

Taylor Swift scores six AMA nominations

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Caitlin R. King, The Associated Press

(October 14, 2009) Nashville —Taylor Swift says she is “absolutely walking on a cloud.”  She leads the American Music Award nominations with six, topping Michael Jackson, who has five, and Eminem, with four.  Swift says she's never been nominated six times for any award show before.  She considers it “such an honour,” because as she puts it, she lives in Nashville and sings country music. Having audiences outside the genre accept her just makes her “days more sunny.”  She was nominated for artist of the year, favourite female pop and country artist, favourite pop and country album for Fearless , and favourite adult contemporary artist.  AMA winners are determined by online fan voting and will be announced during a ceremony in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, airing on ABC. 

Janet Jackson To Release Greatest Hits CD

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 14, 2009) *Janet Jackson's upcoming greatest hits album, titled "Number Ones," includes her latest release "Make Me," which debuted online in September immediately following her performance on the MTV Video Music Awards.  The two-disc album, due Nov. 17, features 33 classic Jackson tracks spanning the pop star's career – from her 1986 debut, "Control," to last year's "Discipline."  Jackson's last greatest hits album was released in 1995. The 43-year-old singer is also working on an autobiography and a new studio album set for release next year.

If you haven't heard 'Make Me,' listen to it below:

Bill Cosby Ready To Drop Hip Hop Album


(October 14, 2009) *Bill Cosby's long-discussed rap album is finally here.  Titled “Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency," the set features the comedian as executive producer in charge of developing the concepts for each track.  William “Spaceman” Patterson and Ultramagnetic MC veteran Ced-Gee served as the album's producers, mixing elements of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, pop, rock, and funk to power such songs as “Where’s the Parade,” honouring black women; “Dad Behind the Glass,” about absent fathers; and “Get on Your Job,” detailing self-responsibility.      "I don't like referring to the music as clean,” Cosby said in a statement. “What I like is what you're not going to do. You're not going to curse. You're not going to put women down. You're not going to put the glory of the gun somewhere. And you're not going to put a whole lot of violence up front like that's the thing that will cleanse you and make you feel better." The album will be available for digital and physical release on Nov. 24, including Cosby’s social media network site www.billcosby.com. Cosby and the Cosnarati Band will perform on Oct. 19 via a virtual town hall meeting in New York City. The presentation is courtesy of Ustream and begins at 7 p.m. Additionally, the concert will be available on www.billcosby.com and www.facebook.com/billcosby.


Canadian Acting Legend Receives Honour

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(October 9, 2009) PETERSON TO PINSENT

ERIC PETERSON I have always wished I had a deeper voice, could sing and speak French. Do you have any shortcomings that you feel have stood between you and utter happiness as an actor?

GORDON PINSENT Gee, Eric, if I had time I would love to teach you to sing, speak French and talk with a deeper voice. As to the other part of your question, good God, no.

PETERSON What are the moments of accomplishment and transcendent joy for you as an actor?

PINSENT I think it's friendship of the public. Knowing I can go across the country and have friends everywhere. I got into this business for friendship and I found it in Canadian audiences.

PETERSON I have heard it said, “To get old you have to be a tough s.o.b.” I've also heard it said, “To be an actor you have to be a tough s.o.b.” We have both become old actors and now have to be tough times two – so my question to you, O wise and excellent man – are we both nuts?

PINSENT Oh no! Because we can both become children again.


PINSENT Your performance in Festen last fall was rather intense. What was your artistic preparation?

PETERSON Jason Byrne who directed Festen had a wonderful, and for me, revolutionary approach to the process of rehearsal. We never analyzed, no sitting around talking about what it all meant. From the very first moments of the rehearsal we were on our feet acting the play, and over the weeks coming to know it through our bodies and not our heads – wonderful and awful things happened, nothing was saved or polished, every time it started out of nothing but the present specific moment. The artistic preparation was not to be prepared but just to “be there” and trust that all the information of the rehearsal period would come into play as the performance unfolded on any given night.

PINSENT What is your dream role, besides your playing Juliet to my Romeo?

PETERSON I've never had a dream role in mind until this moment. My God, you're inspired. You as Romeo and me as Juliet – Shakespeare meets La Cage aux Folles . He was from Newfoundland and he was from Saskatchewan, a star-crossed love story, crossed-dressed, crossed-bordered on a cross-Canada tour. Give us a chance to work on my voice and singing in French.

PINSENT Do you believe that we have to continue to learn this craft or does it automatically happen as we age?

PETERSON As I age, nothing seems to be automatic any more. My memory for example, once a pristine automated system of recall, has been replaced by a shuffling old man rummaging for information in dusty file cabinets taking forever to come up with names or dates or why I've walked into the kitchen. I'm more interested in learning this craft than I've ever been, which can be hard on the nerves at times, but it's also a source of tremendous pleasure and satisfaction.

Eric Peterson receives the Gordon Pinsent Award of Excellence on Oct. 8.

How The Fonz Learned To Love Burk's Falls, Ont.

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle MacDonald

(October 9, 2009) In the 1970s, the Fonz was the coolest guy on television. He with the Brylcreem and comb, who ruled the roost from the men's room at Arnold's, worked the jukebox with a bang of his fist, and jumped a shark on water skis in his trademark leather jacket.

Twenty-five years after
Henry Winkler stripped off his tight jeans and gave Milwaukee a double-thumbs-up goodbye, the 64-year-old actor was recently found strolling the main street of Burk's Falls, Ont., heading back to his room (the Getaway Suite) at the Village Manor, the best bed-and-breakfast in town.

“ The woman who runs it, Louisa, is wonderful. She takes care of her grandchildren. She takes care of your bathroom. She takes care of the boiler. And she makes you breakfast.”

Having a star the size of Fonzie in town is hardly an everyday occurrence for the good folks of Burk's Falls (population something somewhere under 1,000), just north of Huntsville. And the gregarious actor – who was there for a week shooting an independent Canadian comedy called Running Mates – says the locals welcomed him with open arms, treating him like the regular guy he is.

How regular? “He'd clear the dishes before I could get to the table,” says Louisa Moffit, the Village Manor's proprietor. “He'd greet other guests at the front door, and help carry their luggage. Henry is just a really normal, considerate gentleman.”

“Let me say, if you're going to stay somewhere – up there – that's the place,” Winkler said in an interview, after wrapping the film a week ago. “The woman who runs it, Louisa, is wonderful.

“She takes care of her grandchildren. She takes care of your bathroom. She takes care of the boiler. And she makes you breakfast,” added Winkler, excitedly rhyming off the items of a Village Manor breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, yogurt, bacon.

“She treats everybody like that. She opened her kitchen up to Graham Greene [who co-stars in the film], a five-star chef who travels with his own knives. Graham and his wife, Hilary, made a rack of lamb, I swear, that is as good as you'd get at any restaurant you've ever been in.

“Do you know how friendly, how inclusive, how open, and how gorgeous it is [up there]?” he continues. “The leaves are changing! We don't get that in L.A.”

Co-written by Canadian actors Thomas Michael and Paolo Mancini (creators of Hank and Mike and Greg & Gentillon ), Running Mates is a comedy in the vein of a Christopher Guest film, a mock documentary about two small-town pals running against each other for mayor. Winkler donned Hawaiian shirts to play the incumbent leader of fictional small-town Shoulder.

He accepted the role after getting a phone call from Michael, who also directs the film. “I'm so happy I was smart enough to say yes,” says Winkler. “I had read the script and then had a wonderful conversation with Thomas. My father always told me, ‘The tone makes the music,' and I knew after talking to this young man that I'd be in good hands.

“This film is a labour of love for both Thomas and Paolo, who have known each other since the fourth grade. They wrote this together. They're acting together, and they've collected an unbelievably eclectic cast,” says Winkler, referring to fellow American DJ Qualls ( Hustle & Flow , Road Trip ), Jane McLean ( The Time Traveler's Wife ), Linda Kash and Mike Beaver.

“Thomas is a genuine first-class leader. This kid could be my son,” adds Winkler, whose third child, Max (with long-time wife, Stacey), is also an aspiring film director. “And here I am being yelled at, reprimanded, by a guy who was just really clear about what he wanted – how he saw it – which is precisely what an actor needs.”

Since Happy Days finished its 10-year run in 1984, Winkler's been less high-profile than in those heady Fonzie days – but consistently busy nonetheless. He has continued to act in movies ( The Waterboy , Click ), on Broadway (Neil Simon's The Dinner Party ), on television ( The Practice , Arrested Development ), and has also produced ( MacGyve r) and directed ( Sabrina, the Teenage Witch ).

In his spare time, he has written a series of 17 children's novels, with Lin Oliver, called Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever , about a fourth-grader who is inquisitive and bright, but dyslexic – a kid modelled after Winkler, who didn't figure out dyslexia was the root of his struggles until he was 31. “I guess my parents never had me diagnosed because, when I was growing up, no one knew there was such a thing as a learning challenge,” says Winkler, whose Jewish parents emigrated from Germany before the start of the Second World War and subsequently ran a lumber company in New York.

He characterizes himself as growing up with “a high level of low self-esteem.” Despite that, Winkler went on to earn a degree from Emerson College in Boston and a master of fine arts from the Yale School of Drama.

ABC's Happy Days , he recounts, was his first big break. Originally cast in a bit part, audiences lapped up the grease monkey from the wrong side of the tracks who befriended the wholesome Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard. His role grew, and Winkler ended up an unlikely seventies icon, starring in 255 episodes.

“It was a fabulous experience,” says Winkler. “We were a very tight family, who are friends to this day. I talk to Ron all the time. He's like my younger brother. I sometimes just leave him a message that I love him. He's a personally powerful, very talented, understated man.”

If he hadn't become an actor, Winkler figures he would have become a child psychologist. “Because I grew up with my self-image down around my ankles, and was told I'd never achieve … I've come to truly believe self-image is the beginning and the end of living. It's mandatory for children to understand – no matter how they learn – that they have greatness inside of them. I say that to kids ad nauseam. I'll stop them on the street and tell them they're great, until they go screaming to their parents that there's this weird guy talking to them.”

Winkler knows the importance of living every moment – a philosophy cemented six years ago when his friend of more than two decades, John Ritter, died suddenly on the set of 8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter . Winkler was there, doing a cameo, and was one of the last people to see the actor alive. “He said, ‘Listen to me. I'm going to get some water because I'm sweaty,'” Winkler remembers. “And that was the last I ever saw of him.

“I loved John,” says Winkler, who had known Ritter for 25 years. “We just connected, you know? I have very few acting partners that were as powerful as Ron and John.”

As the conversation concludes, Winkler pauses for a moment. “Hold on. Don't go away,” he shouts into the phone. “I'm giving a hug.”

To whom, pray tell? “Steve, who drove me from the airport.” Of course – who else?

The Coen Brothers: Benevolent Gods

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Liam Lacey

(October 10, 2009) A word of advice: Don't try to get too serious with Joel and Ethan Coen or you'll risk looking stupid.

After watching their new film,
A Serious Man , I suggested to them that the film initially seemed emotionally devastating, but after a while, the tone seemed more ironic.

“You mean at first you found it devastating, until you realized it was a piece of crap?” suggests Joel.

Press interviews are always a less-than-sombre occasion with the Coens. Joel, 54, and Ethan, 52, are known in Hollywood as “the director with two heads” because of their seamless working method, creating such modern American classics as Blood Simple , Fargo , The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men . These may be movies that say a great deal about American greed, violence and the legacy of rugged individualism, but just don't ask them to generalize about those subjects outside of their films. As a former producer once explained, “Joel and Ethan talk about tone, not topic.”

A Serious Man would seem to cry out for explanations. The story reflects their own upbringing in St. Louis Park, the largely Jewish suburb of Minneapolis. The film, set in the late 1960s, is about a math and physics professor, Larry Gopnik (played by Broadway actor Michael Stuhlbarg), who, like a modern-day Job, is beset with afflictions. His children are insolent, his brother is mentally ill, and his wife is about to leave him for a pompous widower she considers more “serious” than Larry.

In a recent New York Times article, Rabbi Dan Skar – who worked as a consultant on A Serious Man – says the film is about an attempt to reconcile the absurd and the mystical. It's also about Larry's “hubris of humility,” in short, the foolish conceit that God gives a flying knish about our day-to-day miseries.

Not that the Coens would put it that exactly way. As Joel has said: “The fun was in inventing new ways to torment Larry.”

Joel, it turns out, is doing most of the talking. He's cordial but his tone always seems to suggest: “Don't get carried away – it's just a movie.” Ethan listens, and sometimes laughs and adds a qualifying comment.

Did they conceive of Larry as a Job figure?

Joel leans back on his chair and stretches his neck while he thinks about it. “That came up with someone else we were talking to,” he says. “We weren't thinking about it that way.”

Ethan adds: “When it came up, I was thinking, ‘I can kind of see that,' but then, no, Job is about a guy who's faith is being tested. I'm not quite sure what Larry is, but he's not a servant of God who's faith is being tested.”

Actor Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays Larry, says that he understood that A Serious Man was largely autobiographical, that the characters are composites of people the Coen brothers knew when they were growing up. The Coens say nothing in the story was that specific.

 “Some are,” says Joel. “Our parents were academics and we set the story partially in an academic world.”

“Composites would be overstating it,” says Ethan. “Some characters bear some resemblance to people we knew.”

Nor do they put much stock in the idea that they grew up with any particular sense of being socially ostracized. The community where they grew up was large and they lived in a cosmopolitan university town. “We weren't isolated Midwestern Jews in a sea of gentiles,” says Ethan.

Joel mentions that the basis of A Serious Man was a short film he and Ethan planned to make years ago. It was about a charismatic rabbi they knew. They had the idea for a film about how, after their bar mitzvahs, some boys go to see the rabbi in his office expecting words of wisdom from him.

“It was a Wizard of Oz kind of thing,” says Joel. “We forgot about it for years, but it kind of worked its way back into the story.”

Didn't they use The Wizard of Oz as a source in O Brother, Where Aren't Thou?

“We have The Wizard of Oz in every movie we do,” says Joel, “but O Brother was a full-blown Wizard of Oz movie.”

Ethan giggles: “That one was a remake. I'm surprised we weren't sued.”

The story of A Serious Man was written between 2006 and 2008, while the Coens were shooting No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading . Though all the scripts deal with characters who feel they've been given a raw deal, the three films are demonstrative of the brothers' pure versatility. Typically, they write the scenes to their movies in order, but without a specific outline, and A Serious Man was no exception.

“At one point,” says Joel, “ I think we kinda thought: ‘Let's have three rabbis as a kind of stretcher to hang the story on.' And then, but honestly I don't remember, Larry's dream sequences sort of evolved as lead-ins to accompany the rabbi scenes.”

After finishing the script, lining up mostly local actors and giving Stuhlbarg the role just six weeks before shooting, their main concern was finding a Minnesota suburb that looked as though it were in the late sixties. The problem was trees, planted post-War, that are now 40 years older and bigger than they were then. They were helped by finding a suburb where many of the trees had been blown over by a bad storm, but Joel says they also “erased a lot of trees with the computer.”

The idea of erasing trees suggests the parallel between a film director and God, which is how actor Michael Stuhlbarg thought about the Coens: Rather than identifying with Larry, he thinks the Coens identify with the capricious Creator. They're the “unseen hand” in the story – but they're benevolent gods who give their actors lots of freedom.

“Sure,” says Joel. “We have enough work to do. We tell them, ‘You go ahead and figure it out.'”

Then Ethan giggles again. “We're not all that busy,” he says. “A few movies ago, we had a journalist on the set and he couldn't figure out what we did. An actor does something good in a take and we laugh. We're like Roger's friends (cinematographer Roger Deakins) who have conversations with him occasionally. Occasionally, we'll look through the viewfinder – well, the monitor nowadays. It's getting worse.”

“What Ethan's saying is true,” says Joel. “Because Roger also is the cinematographer and operates the camera, we pretty much trust him completely. The truth is, we barely need to be there.”

Paranormal Activity: Your Stomach Will Be Terrified

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

2.5 stars (out of four)
Starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and Michael Bayouth. Written and directed by Oren Peli. At AMC Yonge-Dundas. (14A)

(October 09, 2009) Is Paranormal Activity the scariest movie of all time, as the clever marketers at Paramount Pictures want us to believe?

Not by a long shot. This poltergeist tale is frightening, though, and it may be the best homage to (or ripoff of) The Blair Witch Project since that shaky-cam shocker set the bar for low-budget horror a decade ago. Your stomach may be the final judge whether that's a good or bad thing.

I'm writing this in a darkened and silent house at 3 a.m. Friday, having attended the film's midnight Toronto premiere at the AMC Yonge-Dundas, where witching-hour screenings will be the rule all through the Thanksgiving weekend (perhaps expanding to more sensible hours after that).

I'm not feeling the least bit spooked or haunted, as Steven Spielberg apparently was after he had a look at writer/director Oren Peli's lo-fi pulse-raiser, which was made for a reported $15,000 (U.S.) and which has been stalking the festival circuit for the past two years.

I do, however, have a headache and a slightly nauseous stomach, nothing that Alka-Seltzer won't fix. I blame this on the relentlessly awful camera work in Paranormal Activity, which is intended to look deliberately amateurish and which I judge to be worse than in Blair Witch, Cloverfield and similar shaky-cam efforts. Results may vary in your personal lab experiment, but consider this a serious warning to those with timorous tummies.

Paranormal Activity apes the found-footage conceit of Blair Witch so much, it even copies that film's stark title cards suggesting it's not really a movie, but rather some kind of forensic police investigation into a terrible event.

Without explanation, we are plunged immediately into the haunting, which on-screen dates indicate occurred in the fall of 2006.

An unmarried San Diego couple named Micah and Katie (played by Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston) are talking about the camera Micah has just purchased to document unexplained events and noises in their new home.

The slightly arrogant Micah is being manly by pooh-poohing the disturbances, which could just be the work of a noisy refrigerator or pesky neighbour's kids. A bit of a techno-geek, and well paid as a day trader (this is pre-crash), Micah is convinced that technology will provide answers.

Katie tolerates the intrusion of the camera because she fears the strange occurrences are more than just figments of her imagination or mundane household noises.

At night, they station the camera on a tripod in their bedroom. It maintains silent sentry, marked by a time code, of all things that do or don't go bump in the night.

At first, not much happens. Slowly, however, things start to pick up. A door moves by itself, and then other things start to move. Each time, there's a sound like the distant rumble of a subway train.

The couple contacts a psychic (Michael Bayouth) who immediately feels the negative vibes. He tells them that the eerie presence is real and that resistance is futile: "You cannot run from this. It will find you."

We learn more about Katie and Micah and also some speculation as to why this is happening.

I'll let your mind wander as to where all this leads, but the action remains confined to the house and its grounds. If you're a horror fan, you probably won't be astonished.

On the other hand, the film is frequently chilling. I heard more than a few "omigods!" in the theatre audience, and people jumped at a few scenes.

It's clever stuff, but as I wrote about Cloverfield a couple of years back, it would seem a lot more clever if this were 1999 and Blair Witch hadn't already happened. Savvy studio marketers have pushed Paranormal Activity into a word-of-mouth hit, backed by an innovative Internet balloting campaign that has goosed its gotta-see quotient.

The people most scared by Paranormal Activity may be the makers of high-priced special effects, who will have to explain to studio bosses how a kid with $15,000 and one or two cameras can create such effective terror.

Michael Sheen On Playing The Legendary Brian Clough

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(October 12, 2009) While he's played both former British prime minister Tony Blair and British TV fixture David Frost, actor Michael Sheen suddenly realized a new role he was taking on cut far closer to the core of Britain's psyche than either of them.

“When I was in the back of a black cab in London, the taxi driver would go, ‘You're doing that film about Cloughie, aren't you?'” Sheen says, his eyes shifting as he recalls his trepidation. “And then they'd say their favourite stories about Brian Clough. And I'm thinking, Oh my God, this is a real responsibility, much more than anything else I've done.”

In playing the role of British football manager Clough on the big screen, Sheen was taking on the weight of a nation – worse, the weight of a nation of football fans. With his cock-of-the-North curly pomp perched on his forehead, smart-aleck talk and glimmer in his eye, Clough was one of British football's greatest managers in the era before big money and transnational players. It's the era rendered in minute period detail in the new film The Damned United , which opens Friday, about the rise of Clough, when gangly but tough players would sip a cuppa in the locker room before taking to the pitch.

Cloughie had confidence to spare and an embarrassment of great quotes. To wit: “I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one.” Or, “When I go, God's going to have to give up his favourite chair.”

But along with his success steering Derby County into the top ranks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and his charmed tenure with Nottingham Forest from the mid-seventies to late eighties, Clough spent a spectacularly disastrous 44 days managing champions Leeds United, and it's this period that's the focus of The Damned United.

In the film, the sport is really just a staging ground for human tension writ large on the playing field, in the Leeds United boardroom and in Britain's consciousness. Clough was summarily sacked by the team's board of directors. He was even challenged to explain himself by the previous Leeds manager and nemesis incarnate Don Revie in a now-classic interview on Yorkshire Television. A dramatization of the interview is a central scene in the film.

So for Sheen, the challenge of properly capturing all that real-life drama, just like with Tony Blair in The Queen and David Frost in Frost/Nixon , is a risky one – call it high-wire acting.

Sheen smiled his big toothy grin when I described it to him that way.

“Yeah, it is a bit like that. I have come to enjoy that,” he says. “It's not like I go looking for these real-life people to play. The reason why I've played all these ones is that they've all been written by the same man [screenwriter Peter Morgan] and they were just brilliant scripts.”

He adds: “It's not just because I want to play Tony Blair or David Frost. That is part of it obviously. But the main thing is whether the script is really strong, and whether the part is challenging to me.

“When I read it, not only do I have to feel like that's a really great character and that I want to be a part of it, I also have to be a little bit frightened of taking it on. Because then I feel like I'm going to get something out of this; it's going to stretch me and test me. It's got to have an element of risk about it. And so in playing these real-life people obviously, there's a built-in risk. People won't just accept you as a character.”

Sheen isn't sure about being pigeon-holed as a character actor, however. Aren't all roles those of characters, he asks rhetorically? Yet these real-life roles suit him because he thrives on research. “I want to give myself as many options as possible when we come to film. I don't want to be filming [and] thinking about how he would react to this, how would he do this? I have to be able to just spontaneously react in the moment as I would if I was playing a fictional character.”

The football aspects of the film came naturally. When Sheen was 12, he was offered an apprenticeship with London-based Arsenal and a spot on the youth team. By chance, he was having a kick-about while on vacation with his family at a holiday camp. The future star defenceman Tony Adams and his dad, who was a scout for Arsenal, also happened to be there. The scout noticed Sheen, organized some matches to test him out and tried to recruit him. But Sheen declined. His family lived in a small town in Wales and taking the spot would have meant moving to London, with only a slim chance of ever making the A-team.

It was the briefest taste of what a life in football might be like. But the older, insular era of the sport – if not Britain's old insularity in general – is “a lost world,” Sheen says. And that's what's so fascinating about the knot of intrigue, the personalities, the clothes – helped by the fact that much of the film was shot in Leeds – the way they provide a vivid glimpse of a vanished era.

The film is also loosely based on David Peace's The Damned Utd. , a novelization of Clough's tumultuous time managing Leeds, written as a first-person monologue inside Clough's mind. “[The novel is] very, very dark and possessive, angry and bitter,” Sheen says. “And we felt that when we were making the film, that inevitably once you're not inside the man's head, it lightens up. That's a very particular place [inside one's deepest thoughts]. I wouldn't like anyone to be able to listen inside my head for a couple of weeks. That wouldn't be a particularly good thing.

“As soon as you broaden it out, we started to try to introduce things about Clough's life and his personality that weren't necessarily reflected in the book. I think [the film is] a more true-to-life picture.”

The novel was widely praised, but also sharply criticized by some of Clough's family and players for what they called a negative portrayal (Clough died in 2004). This criticism added another dimension of pressure for the film version. “When it got announced that we were doing the film, everywhere I went it became clear that people were going, ‘I'm really looking forward to that film!' It felt like people wanted a really good film about Brian Clough,” Sheen says.

The millions of fans who accepted Cloughie into their lives no doubt want more than just a good sports film. They ultimately want a good, true portrayal of a part of themselves.

Comfort In The Silver Screen

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Lisa Paul

(October 14, 2009) Although the excitement of the year's Toronto International Film Festival ended last month, the people behind TIFF continue to bring the magic of movies to a select audience. In the Acute Care Unit in the Department of Psychiatry at Toronto General Hospital, patients are getting help and inspiration from weekly movie screenings.

They are taking part in a program called
Reel Comfort, jointly run by TIFF and the department. “What we really want to do with clients is find any way to ease their burden, to give them some distraction from whatever it is they're struggling with, whether that's hallucinations, depression, whatever,” says Jennifer Gibbins-Muir, a registered social worker in the Department of Psychiatry.

Now in its third year, Reel Comfort evolved out of a chance discussion between one of TIFF's programmers and Dr. Anna Skorzewska, head of the department's Acute Care Unit. As they talked about what they did for a living, there was a light-bulb moment when both realized that film, already used as means for encouraging dialogue on mental illness, could also be a powerful tool for helping patients struggling with mental illness to develop creative expression.

“Film is one of the most accessible art forms. It appeals to so many cultures and ages,” says Emily Scheer, manager of special projects and outreach, TIFF. “It's a portal, an easy way to bring up topics, explore an issue, relate to an experience.”

Before each week's screening, playbills announcing the film line the hallways of the 32-bed unit. Then, just before 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, patients interested in catching a matinee migrate to a screening room, where popcorn and drinks are served.

“We try to set it up as much like a theatre as possible,” says Ms. Gibbins-Muir.

There are more than fifty titles in Reel Comfort's movie library, and the number is increasing. “We worked with the hospital staff to come up with a list of appropriate titles,” Ms. Scheer says. “Favourite themes are the underdog, films that are uplifting, anything that makes them feel positive.”

Recent screenings have included Touching Wild Horses, Akeelah and the Bee, Breakfast with Scot and the popular classic Sound of Music, which is high in demand despite a nearly three-hour run time.

The program's goals are consistent: to provide simple, fun entertainment, and to act as a launching pad for discussion and personal development.

“They feel like they're being recognized, and their confidence builds when they ask questions in that environment. It can be a step forward, a touch point for staff when doing one-on-one later, by bringing up moments in the film,” Ms. Scheer notes.

“I think some of most valuable feedback we've gotten after showing a film was when we showed Juno,” says Ms. Gibbins-Muir. “One of our patients had had similar experience, so she could identify with becoming pregnant at a very young age and then having to make that very difficult decision. She said it was hard to go back to that, but at same time she was able to find the humour in the story and she said, ‘You know, I wish I'd had the support the protagonist did, and had I had that support, the acceptance, maybe my situation might have been different.' That was one of the powerful outcomes. And just yesterday, during the same film, one of our patients said, ‘This is the first time I've laughed in weeks, and laughed with joy.' ”

Once a month, TIFF also brings in a guest speaker – an actor, a director or a screenwriter – connected to the movie on the playbill. A TIFF moderator, often Ms. Scheer, and hospital staff are on hand for the event, which features a Q&A following the film. Past guests have included directors Laurie Lynd and Mike McGowan.

“My role is to facilitate discussion between the patients and the guest, and work through anything that goes on in that process – whether it's that nobody's talking or someone's talking too much,” Ms. Gibbins-Muir says

Also once a month, TIFF runs a workshop during which film-industry professionals provide hands-on training for claymation or flip-art films, or demo special effects such as make-up or sound effects.

Myra Maroto, an occupational therapist in Toronto General's Department of Psychiatry, assists patients to get the most out of Reel Comfort's workshops.

“There was one woman who had quite an extensive history of trauma – she had a hard time expressing herself to other members of the team. She came to one of our workshops, which was doing an actual short film involving claymation. And she did some work which, in an artistic, creative way, expressed the struggle she had gone through. In the end she found it very therapeutic.”

The program has been well received and TIFF is in the process of developing a similar pilot program for St. Michael's Hospital.

“Everyone saw the reason for it, but we didn't realize it would be as successful as it is,” says Ms. Scheer. “Patients are so appreciative of TIFF doing this for them – they're one of most disenfranchised groups. And to be invited to participate in something like this can be such a mix of excitement and anticipation, and also a feeling of disbelief – like, in mental health, why is this opportunity available to me?” says Ms. Gibbins-Muir.


Samuel L. In A 'Different' Direction


(October 8, 2009)  *Samuel L. Jackson has agreed to topline the upcoming indie film "Same Kind of Different as Me," based a nonfiction bestseller that has been adapted by screenwriters Roderick and Bruce Taylor ("The Brave One").      Jackson will play Denver Moore, an ex-con drifter who develops an unlikely friendship with a wealthy Dallas art dealer named Ron Hall. The book, written by Hall, Moore and Lynn Vincent, was optioned by Veralux Media in 2008, reports Variety.      With Jackson in the picture, the script is now being shopped for production financing.      Meanwhile, Jackson is currently filming the Adam McKay-directed Columbia Pictures comedy "The Other Guys" and recently wrapped an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy play "Sunset Limited" for HBO, co-starring Michael Sheen. 

York University To Honour Woody Harrelson

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 13, 2009) Actor Woody Harrelson will be one of five recipients of honorary degrees from York University this week. The American actor and environmental activist will receive an honorary doctor of laws from the Toronto university on Saturday. York notes Harrelson has used his celebrity and led by example in promoting environmental causes. The other honorary degree recipients are: Timothy Price, chairman of Brookfield Funds at Brookfield Asset Management Inc.; Rev. Brent Hawkes, a prominent gay rights activist; Alvin Curling, a former Ontario cabinet minister and envoy to the Dominican Republic; and Shelagh Wilkinson, a scholar and activist for improved access to higher education and health and political rights for women.


The Birth Of Modern Art Music

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 10, 2009) When 8-year-old Sergei Prokofiev's mother asked him to start keeping a daily journal, little did she know it would turn into a window on the birth of modern art music.

That's what Toronto-based filmmaker
Yosif Feyginberg discovered when he read the 1,700 pages of diaries that the Russian composer and pianist – he was born in 1891 and died on the same day as Josef Stalin, March 5, 1953 – kept during his young, nomadic years.

Feyginberg was soon hard at work on a documentary on this fascinating intersection of personal and cultural histories. The result,
Prokofiev: The Unfinished Diary, airs at 8 p.m. tomorrow on Bravo!

Of Prokofiev's diaries, which have been translated but not yet published in English, the most significant start in 1918, when the composer fled the Russian Revolution for fame and fortune in France and the United States. Along the way, he crossed paths with many significant musical figures of the early 20th century, such as Stravinsky and Koussevitzky.

These records take us straight into the mind that would create the famous ballet score for Romeo and Juliet, numerous operas and a wealth of instrumental music. Pianist Yefim Bronfman, one of the most accomplished interpreters of Prokofiev's work, calls him "the most influential composer of 20th century piano music."

Thanks to a journalist friend in Paris, who put him in touch with Prokofiev's grandson, Serge Jr., Feyginberg had full access to the family archives, including never-before-published photographs.

Because the diaries were not made public until 2003 – when they were published in a limited run in Paris, by the Prokofiev estate – they inform the period least chronicled by his American and Russian biographers. On arriving in San Francisco in 1918, Prokofiev writes, "Now that I'm here, I have to conquer America."

But we quickly discover that America would not roll over for his brand of forward-thinking composition. He had to play the piano to earn money. At one point, down to a few cents in his pocket, he was lucky to get a gig recording player-piano rolls. The opera in Chicago commissioned him to write what became The Love of Three Oranges, but even that job faced roadblocks, then drew much criticism for its crazy music and surreal plot.

Back in Paris, where Prokofiev wrote scores for ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, the composer and his family kept getting forced out of apartments because the neighbours objected to the piano noise.

In one of the film's eye-popping moments, we see a reconstruction of Prokofiev's little-known 1925 ballet, The Steel Step. It is a Machine Age-meets-Dada stylistic marvel.

Once France had recognized the new Soviet Union in 1924, Prokofiev was able to get a Soviet passport. He and Diaghilev decided to go on tour there in 1927, with this new "Soviet" ballet in his arsenal.

"I was satisfied that no one could interpret it as either pro-Bolshevik or anti-Bolshevik, and that's exactly what we required," Prokofiev wrote.

Russia, in the throes of what would turn out to be a short-lived cultural renaissance after the Revolution, was wildly enthusiastic about Prokofiev's return. He was greeted with wild cheers wherever he went. To someone who had craved public approval from an early age, this was Nirvana.

The diaries stop upon his permanent return to the Soviet Union in 1933. The voyage of self-discovery has ended – although the story did not continue as happily as Prokofiev would have liked. Stalinist repression took the place of public adulation, and Prokofiev spent the rest of his career worried about running afoul of the capricious dictator.

Feyginberg, who was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Canada with his wife in 1979, says the idea of making a film about one of Russia's 20th century greats has been with him for a while.

Reading the diaries galvanized the filmmaker into action. "As a literary source for film, you can't dream of anything better than that," he says.

Feyginberg has added valuable photos and footage, including the only known recording of the composer singing, as the voice of the emperor in the film Lieutenant Kijé.

We hear clips from Prokofiev's piano rolls, and see live performances of his compositions by Yefim Bronfman and Canadian pianist André Laplante, among others.

Alanis On Weeds: Growing Up For A Part

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(October 11, 2009) Alanis Morissette makes her Weeds debut tonight in the first of seven episodes where she portrays Audra Kitson, obstetrician to lead character Nancy Botwin (played by Mary-Louise Parker) and love interest of Botwin's brother-in-law Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk). The very Zen-sounding singer-songwriter took a break from marathon training and working on a book of "philosophy and humour and anecdotes and photographs and essays" to speak with The Star by phone from her L.A. home.

What drew you to Weeds?

I'd watched the show pretty religiously at the back of my bus during my last tour. I was going through a cleanse of sorts, different styles of food eating, etc., and it was very helpful to get lost in that show. I initiated a meeting with (show creator) Jenji Kohan and said `My sense is that I would be happy to offer, if it's of any service, the idea of a woman being very compassionate and very warm and supportive toward the Nancy character.' She was going through so much on her own ... Every part of my maternal instinct watching that show was being pulled toward wanting to support her.

Had you ever done that before: call up a show and say `I'm available if you want me?'

I did it with Sex in the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Have you had much dramatic training?

No. I've always felt acting was portraying aspects of humanity that either I'm familiar with, or that I'm not familiar with. There are aspects of this particular character that really inspire me: she's someone who is somewhat more grounded and a little bit more mature than I am. I felt like I had to be a real grownup to portray her.

Where does acting rank in your career?

I think of it as one tentacle in a multi-tentacled form of expression pie for me. I will always write records and I have a couple of ideas in my back pocket right now. I'll likely start writing the record as soon as the book is finished.

Do you think people will find the roles you take on as intellectually fulfilling as your music purports to be?

Yeah, I do. I think what's exciting about well-written television is people get to define themselves in accordance. I've never had better conversations with the gentleman I was dating than when we watched Six Feet Under together. Every time an episode ended, we had a follow-up 45-minute conversation.

Were there technical things you had to get up to speed on to play a gynecologist?

I was oriented on the spot. My first scene with Mary-Louise was her gynecological exam. It was very much baptism by awkwardness. And yeah, there was a gynecologist on set who was telling me `You can't really feel for the baby and find it in her throat, Alanis. You actually have to go a little lower.'

Is TV an escape during tours?

I'm extremely sensitive and there's a lot of stimuli on the road: the travel and packing and unpacking and repacking that goes on everyday; then the shows themselves; and there's a lot of people and a lot of interacting. So, when I get a moment to just be alone at the back of the bus, it's a very blissful moment to get lost in someone else's world.

This Headline's Name Is Colbert

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Scott Collins

(October 13, 2009) Consider, if you will, the humble diving beetle. It's not a particularly glamorous creature, with its six legs and hard exoskeleton. A living being further removed from the distractions of show business could not be found, or so you might think until you run across the name of one recently discovered species: Agaporomorphus colberti.

Stephen Colbert, the endlessly mocking and jibing host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, has a water beetle named after him.

And that's just the start of it. Colbert has had his name slapped across all manner of random objects that have no obvious connection to him or his popular nightly show. Earlier this year, math geeks named the five remaining numbers of the Sierpinski Problem – apparently an issue of great import to math geeks – in his honour. A mascot for Michigan's Saginaw Spirit hockey team is called Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle.

Earlier this year, Colbert won a naming contest for a NASA space module, even though the agency later backtracked and named a treadmill on the International Space Station after him instead. Last year, Colbert petitioned successfully to have his portrait hung in Washington's National Portrait Gallery (near the bathrooms, but still). At the corporate level, Ben & Jerry saluted Colbert with a new ice cream flavour. Virgin America named an A320 jet "Air Colbert."

What does a celebrity have to do to get stuff named after himself these days? Just ask, it seems.

"I guess there is one episode (of his show) where he was talking about wanting things named after him," said Quentin Wheeler, a professor at Arizona State University and director of the International Institute of Species Exploration, who with a co-author named the beetle after Colbert. "And why not? He has a popular following, obviously."

Actually, professor, to call it a "popular following" might be underselling the point. When Colbert speaks, his fans are called to action, as if canvassing for a political campaign. Members of the "Colbert Nation" write letters. They vote. They do whatever their smarmy hero tells them to do, no matter how firmly his tongue is planted inside his cheek.

"What makes the show entertaining is that Stephen has essentially made it interactive, where it's not just us sitting and watching the show," said DB Ferguson, a Dallas-based Colbert fan who runs the biggest fan site, www.nofactzone.net. "Stephen will say, `I want this named after me – go, Nation!' And inevitably, the fans will pick that up. It's interactivity that makes the fans so passionate."

But one interesting by-product of the relationship is the philosophical question it raises: Are fans doing all this in the name of Colbert the real man or Colbert the character?

Colbert the man is the 45-year-old bespectacled, fastidiously groomed former improv comic and Daily Show correspondent. Colbert the character is a put-on, a caricature of a self-righteous right-wing blowhard à la Bill O'Reilly (whom Colbert calls "Papa Bear"). Stretching partisanship past the point of ridiculousness is a major part of The Colbert Report's appeal, hence such Colbert queries as, "George W. Bush – great president, or greatest president?"

But to Colbert the character, politics is almost beside the point, because no issue could possibly matter as much as he does. It really is all about him. This is why after he introduces a guest, he bolts from behind his anchor desk and jogs out to bask in the applause of the crowd, unable to let someone else enjoy so much as a few seconds of token appreciation.

"It's taking the absurdity of the host-viewer relationship to its illogical level, just as the show itself does in all other facets," John Rash, an analyst for Minneapolis-based ad agency Campbell Mithun, said of the name game.

What does Colbert think of all this? We asked for an interview, but his publicist declined the request without providing a reason.

Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless, however, agreed to talk and she pointed out that the blurring between the real man and the fake character is one of the things fans like best about the show. "Stephen has created in a sense a lot of games for his fans to play."

Games, for instance, such as naming an obscure insect species after a fake talk-show host.

Wheeler, the professor and beetle expert, said he's a political conservative who isn't a devoted follower of Colbert Report, although he does enjoy it when he tunes in.

His real goal is to promote science and a greater awareness of biodiversity. Colbert happened to be a convenient means to that end, he said.

Noting Colbert's Latinized name on the species classification, Wheeler added: "Two hundred years from now, people will have to deal with this and they'll say, `Who the hell was that?'"

Tyra Banks Decides To Be Rich And Thin

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux

(October 14, 2009) The proof is in the photos: Tyra Banks skinny and svelte, back down to her size 8, supermodel self.

The America's Next Top Model host dropped a reported 30 pounds and shrunk four dress sizes over the summer. Two years ago, when her weight gain was being targeted in the tabloids, the onetime Victoria's Secret hottie angrily told critics to "kiss my fat ass." At 5-foot-10, she seemed more than comfortable at her new playing weight. As she said on the air on her daytime talk show at the time, "If I had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now."

Did those taunts of "America's Next Top Waddle" finally get to her? The 35-year-old remains defiant. "When I told the world to kiss my fat ass, I remained that size for two years," she told London's Daily Mail. "I maintained it with my ice cream and my salad with ranch dressing and croutons and bacon bits."

Banks says she still felt hot being "curvy," but – like a lot of us – was discouraged when jeans no longer fit due to her "muffin top" belly fat. Off came the weight and now she says, "I sleep better, I snore less, I have more endurance when I work out, my arms look better."

Still, wasn't this the crusading TV host who once donned a fat suit to tackle prejudice and body image issues? Has she abandoned the ordinary people who embraced her for daring to expose a few extra pounds? Are they as likely to stand behind her and shout, "You go – back to the gym – girl"?

Banks' slim fast figure has been unveiled just as we learn of her swelling bank account. The influential business magazine Forbes just put her at the top of its annual list of Prime-Time TV's Top 10 Earning Women. Banks – who, besides Top Model, hosts and produces her own daytime talk show, is well paid for several endorsements and recently guested on Gossip Girl – earned $30 million (all figures U.S.) between June of 2008 and 2009.

She's not the highest-paid overall celebrity; that would be Oprah Winfrey, who Forbes estimates earned a whopping $275 million between June 2008 and 2009. Winfrey has topped this list, through thick and thin, for over a decade. And while she might wish she could still squeeze into a size 8, her fans love her no matter what her weight.

Winfrey's latest protégé, Dr. Mehmet Oz, told critics in L.A. this summer that trying and failing to keep her weight down is actually part of Winfrey's universal appeal. In short, she's like the rest of us. "She talks very openly about the issues that perplex her," says Oz. "Not everyone's going to lose 150 pounds and look like a model when they're done. That's okay. At the end of the day we're just mess-ups, and we're just here to support each other."

As America struggles with the health care debate, Oz and others have tried to shift the dialogue on television away from style and body image and toward health. God forbid Winfrey should suffer a heart attack, but if she did, her televised recovery might do more to slim down America than any fashion trend.

Three of the highest-paid male entertainers in America – Jay Leno, Kelsey Grammer and Robin Williams – all lost weight in the past year after health scares in their 50s. For Williams it was a life-altering heart ailment that led to emergency surgery and a valve replacement. And while iron man Leno dismisses his two-day hospital stint toward the end of his Tonight Show run as an unnecessary nuisance (reports at the time suggested it was a high fever), he started running four miles a day and shed a dozen pounds before becoming NBC's main man at 10 p.m. this fall.

Banks is the latest TV celebrity to embrace her skinny self. Ghost Whisperer Jennifer Love Hewitt's love handles have disappeared after unflattering before and after pictures started to haunt her last season. The View's Sherri Shepherd shed 41 pounds and gave viewers a view of her new bod in a bathing suit in August.

TV viewers looking for a new ally in the battle of the bulge may find it in an unlikely actress this fall: Courteney Cox Arquette. The former Friends star had the guts to put herself out there – literally – in the pilot for her new comedy Cougar Town (Wednesdays on ABC and Citytv). That really was Cox Arquette's tummy, arms and other "problem areas" in an opening scene where her 41-year-old single mom character is examining herself in front of a mirror. "God may strike me dead, that is Courteney Cox every single shot in the shower scene," executive producer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) revealed at the most recent network press tour.

Lawrence says Cox Arquette has always been very candid about how she works at her appearance and what he calls "the smoke and mirrors of Hollywood." Still, easy to be modest when, as Lawrence said and critics observed, she's "possibly the most beautiful 40-year-old woman in the world." Especially when she's really 45.


"NCIS: LA" Gets Full Season Pickup


(October 9, 2009)  *CBS has given a full-season pickup to "NCIS: Los Angeles," the LL Cool J-led freshman drama that also carries the title of most-watched new show of the fall season.     The "NCIS" spinoff that focuses on undercover work in Los Angeles is currently averaging 17.5 million viewers, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and has won its time slot among viewers and adults 25-54 over the last three weeks.       The network has also committed to a full season of "The Good Wife," the second most-watched freshman series, pulling 13.7 million viewers.

ABC Books Jennifer Hudson Christmas Special


(October 8, 2009)  *Oscar and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson has secured her own primetime Christmas special to air in December on ABC.     "Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas" will feature the singer-actress reliving her childhood holidays with musical performances filmed at various locations around her hometown of Chicago.      The chosen venues will be specific to her youth; they include her church and the music academy she attended, according to the Hollywood Reporter.    I can't wait to hear her take on Christmas classics as we discover what she loves about her hometown of Chicago," said Vicki Dummer, senior vp alternative series, specials and late-night at ABC Entertainment Group.   

Tyson Opens Up About Daughter's Death

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2009) *On today's "Oprah," Mike Tyson says he has no intention of ever finding out the specific details surrounding the death of his 4-year-old daughter Exodus in May.  "Because if I know, then there might be a blame for it," Tyson, 43, explains to Winfrey. "And if there's somebody to blame for it, there will be a problem."  Exodus was found unconscious by her 7-year-old brother, Miguel. She was entangled in a cord, dangling from an exercise treadmill, and subsequently died of her injuries.  Tyson says he is able to keep from reacting in anger by focusing on his family. "I was so happy that I had the tools in life, you know, to not go in that direction because I've been that direction," Tyson told Winfrey. "My family – that's my biggest asset."  After he refers to his daughter as "a little angel," Winfrey replies that she believes that's what Exodus has become.  "I don't know, Oprah," says Tyson. "I'd like to believe that, and that sounds great."


Daryl Cloran: Putting Canadian History Through The Mill

Source: www.globeandmail.com
- Michael Posner

(October 10, 2009) Canadian playwrights have long been tempted to dip their pens in the inkwells of domestic history – from John Coulter's Riel to Rick Salutin's 1837 to Michael Hollingsworth's on-going VideoCabaret series.

Daryl Cloran, artistic director of Toronto's Theatrefront company, had a slightly different idea – to create a historical series of plays constructed around the same fictional place.

The result is
The Mill , the 10-year-old collective's most ambitious project to date: four plays, by four different writers, all set on the same piece of Southern Ontario land and spanning a period of more than 300 years.

The first two instalments of the series –Matthew MacFadzean's Now We Are Brody (directed by Cloran) and Hannah Moscovitch's The Huron Bride ( directed by Christian Barry) – run from Oct. 10-24 at Tankhouse in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Part three, The Woods by Tara Beagan, and four, Ash by Damien Atkins, will run in the spring and fall of 2010 respectively.

Ironically, it was a couple of trips abroad – to the former Yugoslavia for Return ( The Sarajevo Project) and to South Africa for Ubuntu (The Cape Town Project) – that inspired Cloran and MacFadzean to begin mulling a piece of theatre that might successfully tap the vein of Canadian history.

Travelling abroad, Cloran explained over a morning coffee this week, “it was easy to be swept up by the cultural richness of those worlds. You want to soak up everything they tell you and immediately put it on a stage.” But then, almost inevitably, comes the afterthought: Could one do the same thing in Canada and what would that be like?

“Matt and I started talking about this project five years ago. And the more we worked internationally, the more we thought about what is Canada? And what exactly is our historical and cultural identity?”

More tactically, Cloran says the company wanted to “create something that would encourage people to keep coming back to the theatre, not just to see the plays unfold, but to see the same actors challenged by a series of different styles. If he has his way, they will eventually get to see them all on the same day. “I think there's an audience that would enjoy that eight-hour marathon experience.”

The four-part, Mill-based structure was there from the beginning. Since no historical series, they knew, could fail to take account of Canada's aboriginal peoples, Tara Beagan ( Thy Neighbour's Wife ), of mixed Nlaka'pamux and Irish Canadian heritage, was invited to join the group of four playwrights.

Now We Are Brody , the first play in the series, is set in 1854 and concerns a woman who arrives from abroad to claim ownership of the town mill, which has been closed for 20 years. The Moscovitch play takes place 20 years earlier.

Although the playwrights worked independently, Cloran staged several workshops, seeking different ways to connect each piece thematically to the next. There's even one ghost-like character that somehow contrives to appear in all four plays.

Born and raised in Sarnia, Ont., Cloran, 35, is married to actor Holly Lewis, who appears in The Mill project as well. Cloran started producing plays in high school and later studied theatre at Queens University. He earned a teacher's degree – “something to fall back on” – but has never formally put it to use. With several of his college chums, he established the 16-member, highly collaborative Theatrefront ensemble a decade ago. It is, he says, “a place to call home,” although everyone connected with it works elsewhere as well, including the Shaw and Stratford festivals.

Cloran himself will direct David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole at Halifax's Neptune Theatre next March, and also return to Stratford to assist dramaturge Robert Blacker with the festival's new play development. He's already had two stints there working with Des McAnuff as an assistant director on Caesar and Cleopatra in 2008 and this year on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Given the demands on McAnuff's time, Cloran notes, being his assistant actually involved some heavy lifting. “Des gives a very clear sense of what he wants, but he's also very good at empowering his people.” When the Forum 's lead actor Bruce Dow had to withdraw from the show this summer because of illness, it was Cloran who stepped in to help direct his replacement, Sean Cullen.

Cloran, winner of a Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for outstanding emerging theatre directors, is also the director of Drum!, a Maritime song-and-dance show that combines elements of Stomp and Riverdance. Now on tour, the show will be part of the 2010 Olympic Games cultural program next February.

Walworth Farce: It'll Sock You In The Gut

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

3.5 Stars
The Walworth Farce
Written by Enda Walsh
Directed by Mikel Murfi
A Druid Theatre production
At the Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto

(October 9, 2009) Family history repeats itself, first as farce, then as tragedy in Irish playwright Enda Walsh's devastatingly funny and ultimately devastating play, The Walworth Farce.

Dinny (Michael Glenn Murphy) and his sons, Sean (Tadhg Murphy) and Blake (Raymond Scannell), live a reclusive life in a tiny apartment on the 15th floor of a council estate in London.

In this three-room purgatory, they perform a dark semi-autobiographical farce that Dinny has written and continually revises, based on the violent circumstances that led the family to leave Cork for England years ago. Like the three dead lovers in Samuel Beckett's Play , Dinny, Sean and Blake seem both doomed and compelled to repeat this tale over and over forever.

Today, however, their decades-long dramatic marathon is interrupted when a well-meaning cashier, Hayley (Mercy Ojelade), shows up with a bag of food Sean mistakenly left at the Tesco counter. Her arrival brings the monstrous truth behind Dinny's farce into the open.

The Walworth Farce works on a number of levels. On the surface, there is the show-within-a-show performance of their own Walworth Farce , a ridiculous affair involving poisoned chickens, impaled dogs and a coffin full of cash (an element either Dinny or Walsh has lifted from Joe Orton's Loot ). The three men play a dozen characters, which requires them to juggle props, switch wigs and change costumes at a dizzying speed.

While that ritual is going on, we are also watching it come apart. Sean and Blake attempt to get up the courage to leave this hermetically sealed world, but are bullied or guilted into staying. Fake violence and real violence intermingle. It's like a nightmare version of Noises Off.

While most directors focus the audience's attention at one spot onstage at a time, Mikel Murfi takes full advantage of the theatre's underused capacity to let each spectator choose his own adventure. The stage is filled with so much motion and activity that you often have to select which character to follow.

Along with the manic tone and style, this takes some time to adjust to – I only fully wrapped my brain around what was going on by the end of the first act. At the play's end, I wanted to immediately re-enter the theatre and watch the show again to see what I had missed.

What is truly astonishing about this production from Galway's Druid Theatre, the opening show of the World Stage season at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, is how effectively it zooms in and out from comedy to tragedy. The stylized, clownish performances are surprisingly believable. The ending truly socked me in the gut.

The only aspect that doesn't quite click is Sabine Dargent's marvellously dingy set, or at least the way Murfi uses it. The walls are stripped down to their beams so the audience can see between them, but it is uncertain whether the walls are solid for the characters. Sometimes, Dinny seems able to spy on his son through them, but at other times Sean and Blake can plot in privacy behind them.

Though written well before Josef Fritzl and Jaycee Lee Dugard were household names, The Walworth Farce 's world of enforced fantasy has gained a frightening plausibility from those real-life horror stories.

On a less-terrifying front, the play seems a satire aimed at the Irish expat tendency toward self-mythologizing – though that, in fact, is a universal sin: We all try to understand and explain our lives with dubious narratives.

When Dinny finally falls apart, he is shattered. “What are we if we are not our stories?” he asks. When you really think about it, that's a very frightening question.

The Walworth Farce ends its run at Toronto's Fleck Dance Theatre on Saturday.

Canadian Lead Actor In Phantom Sequel In London

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 8, 2009) LONDON–Dreams do come true. Ask Ramin Karimloo.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is expected to announce Thursday that the 31-year-old Canadian will be playing the Phantom in
Love Never Dies, the sequel to the worldwide hit, The Phantom of the Opera, which begins performances in London next February.

If this were a movie, we'd suddenly have a flashback to nearly 20 years before.

It's Dec.12, 1990 and a 12-year-old Iranian-born kid is grudgingly going on a school trip to see The Phantom of the Opera at Toronto's Pantages Theatre.

"I thought, `I'm not going to sit through this.' I mean, I had never seen a stage show in my life," Karimloo grumbles.

But the power of Colm Wilkinson's voice and the magic of the show wove their spell on the young man. "By the end, I started welling up, I was embarrassed," he recalls in an interview. "And when Colm took his bow, I suddenly thought, `I would like to do that.'

"Yeah," he repeats. "I would like to do that a lot."

Flash-forward to 2009, on a steamy Saturday afternoon when we're sitting in an espresso bar just down the street from Her Majesty's Theatre.

The boyishly handsome Karimloo has just finished a matinee performance in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera, which he's been playing for three years now.

But that's getting ahead of our story.

It begins in Tehran, on Sept.19, 1978, when Karimloo was born at the height of Iran's civil unrest that would lead to the deposing of the Shah.

"All I was ever told is that we had to get out of there to save our lives. I'm only learning the story now of what happened. When we were growing up, we just accepted it without questions.

"But now, so many years later, my father can begin to talk about it. Man, I can't believe the hardships he and my mother had to go through to start a new life."

The Karimloo family spent three years in Italy before finally emigrating to Ontario, where they first settled in Peterborough.

"What a great place to grow up! I want more of that in my life again. The simplicity, the sitting around the backyard..."

The family finally moved to Richmond Hill and Karimloo was being pressured "like any Iranian kid" to be a doctor or a lawyer. "But I wanted to be a hockey player, I was sure of it."

Until he saw The Phantom of the Opera, which truly changed Karimloo's life.

"I still have the poster from the day I saw it, saying `Now In Its Second Year.' I saved that. I've got it framed. I also have a letter from Colm. I've got that framed too."

Then, on Dec.1, 1994, the Toronto Star printed a story about a "Grade 11 student from Alexander Mackenzie High School who has seen The Phantom of the Opera 10 times" and went backstage at the Pantages as part of his school's job shadowing program.

But you don't get to play the Phantom as a teenager, so Karimloo recalled Wilkinson's advice to him: "Just sing with rock bands. That will teach you how to do it."

So he dove into it. "I had long hair. My idol was Gordon Downie from The Tragically Hip. I used to wear the same double denim outfit he did, you know, The Canadian Tuxedo. I studied him, every gesture, every move, how he tipped his cap, how he sang each lyric. I treated it like my first acting assignment."

Still, there wasn't a big market for Tragically Hip tribute bands, so Karimloo auditioned for a cruise ship line, lying about his age (he was 17), and spent two years singing on the seven seas while studying Stanislavski and Strasberg in his cabin at night.

By the age of 20, he was understudying The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance at London's famous outdoor Regent Park Theatre and that led to his briefly taking over the role of Joe Gillis in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Sunset Boulevard at the age of 21.

After that, he spent several years in the ensemble of Les Miserables, but the ambitious young Karimloo was growing discontent.

"I told everyone if I didn't have a leading role in the West End by the time I was 25, I'd quit and become a cop."

Two weeks before that birthday, he was cast as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera.

But he had his eye on the title role, which he told producer Cameron Macintosh, who raised an eyebrow and said, "You're a little young, aren't you?"

Still, he got an audition and, as he likes to recall, "12 years to the day from when that article about me appeared in the Star, I was playing the Phantom in London."

He still seems like a stage-struck kid as he shakes his head. "It's not a paycheque. It's a dream."

Then one day, Lloyd Webber suddenly summoned him and handed Karimloo some music he had never seen before.

"I started singing it and thought it was the most beautiful stuff I'd ever heard. Then suddenly I realized it was from the sequel to the Phantom. I asked Andrew if this was an audition and he said, `Don't ask questions, just sing it.'"

That's just what Karimloo did and as Lloyd Webber will be announcing to the world, he got the part.

Is he nervous about stepping into the world spotlight in such a big way?

"I feel like I'm ready for this challenge," he insists calmly. "I'm not putting any limitations on myself."

There's just one more thing he needs to make his dream complete.

"I hope and pray that the show comes to Toronto and that I'm playing in it."

Sony Centre Finally Ready To Renovate

Source: www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman

(October 9, 2009) After a year's delay, the Sony Centre is finally set to begin its $28 million restoration and renovation project.

The city-owned theatre's complex deal with Castlepoint Realty Partners for a condo tower on the site closed late Thursday. "Until now, we had plans," says Dan Brambilla, CEO of the Sony. "Now we also have $28 million to execute those plans."

The Sony – which opened in 1960 at Front and Yonge Sts. as the O'Keefe Centre and became the Hummingbird Centre in the 1990s before Sony got involved – will reopen in fall 2010, Brambilla says.

But Castlepoint's 49-storey condo tower, slated to be built on the centre's east side, will not be ready until late 2011.

The agreement ensures that the theatre can operate without interference and noise, despite construction throughout 2011.

Canada's largest theatre of its kind has been closed since June 2008. At that time, the renovation was expected to start a few months later, with a reopening target date of late 2009.

But the recession and the credit crunch meant the tower was stalled, and a planned but unfunded Arts and Heritage Awareness centre in the base – along with a distinctive "L" shape – was scrapped in favour of a public plaza last year. The Sony could not move forward with its project until it had a signed deal and a cheque from its development partner.

Among the improvements planned: new lobbies, new washrooms, upgraded seats and floor, and improved mechanical facilities.

The original marquee canopy will be restored, and York Wilson's lobby mural The Seven Lively Arts will be showcased. Wood, brass and marble details will be restored.

Brambilla is planning to add a fountain plaza – in effect, a public park.

"It's one of the most complex deals Toronto has ever had," says Brambilla, clearly pleased to have defied predictions that the shovel would never go into the ground.

Samantha Bee: A Bee-autiful Life

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 10, 2009) I can't resist saying it: these days, Samantha is one busy Bee.

It's not enough that the 39-year-old Toronto-born performer is still working as a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as well as juggling marriage and two young children, but she's also appearing in the first genuine smash hit of the new off-Broadway season,
Love, Loss and What I Wore.

And for someone who hasn't appeared on the stage since her Toronto alternative theatre days, she's in some pretty heady company, starring opposite the likes of Rosie O'Donnell and Tyne Daly in a piece co-authored by Nora Ephron.

"I'm a great admirer of all those women, so I said `yes' without even thinking about it," says Bee from her Daily Show office in Manhattan. "Then I thought about it and got scared. And then I thought, `What better reason to get involved than being scared?'"

The show is a collection of monologues for women about their lifelong relationship with what they wear. Ephron has called it "The Vagina Monologues without all the vaginas," although as Bee hastens to add, "There's a lot of them on stage!"

An obviously happy Bee declares that "everything in my life is converging in a very positive way," but just before you start to reach for the insulin, she's the first one to volunteer what a mess she was during her first 20 years on this planet.

Bee's parents split up soon after her birth in Toronto in 1969, and she was initially raised by her grandmother, living on Roncesvalles Ave. during her childhood. Then she divided her high school career between Humberside Collegiate and York Memorial Collegiate, but her behaviour was the same at both schools.

"I lived in a tremendous amount of chaos. I was anarchic, verbally snarky, just plain awful. No, I was not into drugs. That would have been a blessing for my parents because it would have helped explain my nasty, horrible behaviour."

Bee tries to recall the low point of her adolescence, and it comes to her quickly. "It was my 16th birthday. I had been so horrible to everyone that they finally went out to dinner for Chinese food without me. After that I started to change a bit. I got tired of disappointing people. It's hard work being that disappointing. You walk around with stomach cramps all the time."

When the time came for university, Bee headed to McGill and picked her courses with a unique brand of logic.

"Up until then I had only studied the humanities," she explains. "I thought I had abandoned science and math, so this would be the time to give them the old college try. I got terrible grades and found out I was not interested in them at all, so I was glad to be able to rule them out for the rest of my life."

Bee also gets a bit depressed recalling the way she lived that freshman year at McGill."You know how everybody in Montreal always gets these fabulous old apartments really cheap? Well, I had the only bad one in the city. It cost a fortune and all the windows froze ... on the inside."

After a year, Bee fled to the University of Ottawa. "Why did I go there? Well, my mother lived there. Being in the same city with her was ... er ... intriguing."

After a while there, she literally "drifted into theatre. I just auditioned for a part in a play, a Brecht play, Schweik in the Second World War, and I got the part."

But Bee's total unfamiliarity with theatre came to haunt her. "I never even read the whole play. Just my part. When I watched the dress rehearsal and I saw it all for the first time, I said, `This is good,' and everybody looked at me like, `What planet is she from?'"

Still, Bee had found something she felt comfortable with, and she moved back to Toronto and enrolled in the George Brown Theatre School, working alongside Canadian theatre stars of today such as Adam Brazier and Evan Buliung.

She enjoyed it, but still left halfway through the program. "And I became a waitress. Oh, golly gumdrops. I started at the Golden Griddle on Front and Jarvis. I mean, I thought, 'How difficult can it be at a place that's open 24 hours a day? How many pancakes can one person serve?'"

But she got the odd theatre job and at one of them – a live Sailor Moon show she performed during the CNE – she met her future husband, Jason Jones, who now also works on The Daily Show.

"It was not love at first sight," she hastens to communicate. "In fact, I thought he was a bit of a cad. Well, he certainly looked like one." But despite that, they married in 2001 and now have two children, Piper, 3, and Fletcher, 1.

A stint with the all-female comedy troupe The Atomic Fireballs eventually led to an audition for The Daily Show, which resulted in her moving to New York to be a cast member of the wildly popular program in 2003.

"I'm now the commentator with the most seniority," she claims in her tough-guy voice. "All you have to do is be hard-as-nails."

But she's actually not kidding. "It's really a difficult job. Being a satirical news interviewer is not something that people innately know how to do, but they just sent me off to South Dakota on my first assignment and said, `Do it!' They put faith in me and told me to figure it out for myself. Learn it on my own. So I did."

Bee thinks she's got the hang of it after six years, but she still feels that "the stakes are so much higher than ordinary acting. You're not playing opposite another actor who's also playing a part. You're listening to someone who's got a serious story to tell, who's putting their life out there to you and you have to find a way to make it funny."

Although Bee is open to any and all offers, she still finds doing The Daily Show fulfilling. "The truth is that I love doing it. Every day you get some sort of unexpected thrill. That doesn't happen on every job.

"I don't know what the future holds for me. I'm just excited to find out."

Stratford Casts Some Heavy Lifters

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 13, 2009) Clap your hands if you believe in clever casting.

When first announced, it may have seemed like Peter Pan was just a kiddie surprise tossed into the picnic basket of the
2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival season.

But now that some of the actors involved are coming to light, it takes on a weightier feeling.

Before the Stratford swans are put away for the winter, my own favourite informant, Deep Swan, had many choice bits of news to convey.

Chief among them was that the dashing Tom McCamus would play Captain Hook. If anyone can combine charm and villainy, it's McCamus. (The new president of his fan club is Patricia Clarkson, who recently told me that working with him on Cairo Time was "just incredible, because he's so dreamy and such a good actor.")

We also hear that ingénue extraordinaire, Sarah Topham, fresh from another triumph as Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest, will play Wendy, a nice sign that director Tim Carroll is looking for some heavy lifting in the acting department.

But what of the eponymous Pan himself, the "boy who won't grow up"? Our most covert spies report that Michael Therriault slipped into town last week to read for the part. He told me in New York recently that "the happiest years of my life were (at Stratford) and I definitely want to be a part of it again one day."

JUAN IN A MILLION: It also looks like 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year for Juan Chioran. We previously reported here that he would play the leading male role of Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate and now we've been told that the suavely malevolent actor will also portray Juan Peron in Evita.

It's another astute piece of casting and it will certainly make rehearsals easy for him. Any time someone calls "Juan," he won't have to think twice; he'll know it's for him.

But who will tackle the diva-licious assignment of his wife, Eva, a.k.a. Evita?

Deep Swan tells me that it's been a close contest between a lady who has played leads in musicals at Stratford in the past and one who came to prominence there just recently.

The odds now are on the newcomer, but watch this space for a final decision.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: This is also an interesting time of year to notice who is and who isn't going to be lining up for drinks at Foster's, Bentley's or Down the Street next summer.

We've heard that the dynamic duo of Ben Carlson and Mike Shara will both be back, but it's doubtful that they'll be allowed onstage at the same time, as they were in The Importance of Being Earnest. Too much charm in one place.

Also from Earnest, the word on the street is that Andrea Runge, who played Cecily in that hit, will tackle the star-making role of Rosalind in As You Like It, directed by Des McAnuff, with Brent Carver appearing as Jaques.

Not on the voyage next year will be the great Brian Bedford, not out of pique or discontent, but simply to take a year off and do some serious homework about taking The Importance of Being Earnest to Broadway in the fall of 2010.

And, disappointingly, we also hear that Jonathan Goad won't be coming back because, to date, he hasn't been happy with the roles he's been offered.

That's a shame. Let's hope he and the festival kiss and make up before the winter comes.

George Pothitos: Not Afraid To Take Theatrical Chances

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(October 13, 2009) First impressions count – and so artistic directors are always careful about choosing how they begin their tenure.

Max Reimer immediately made his mark at the Vancouver Playhouse last year with the first post-Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone , while Des McAnuff set the tone for his time at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with a colour-blind and flashy Romeo and Juliet .

So what does it mean that George Pothitos, the new, soft-spoken artistic director of Neptune Theatre in Halifax, has chosen to open his first season at the regional theatre with The Game of Love and Chance , a 1730 French comedy by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux?

Given that most of Canada's regional theatres seem to have an allergy to classics not penned by William Shakespeare, kicking things off with an elegant farce by the Mozart of playwrights is a rather strong statement – but Pothitos simply thinks the play is a good fit.

“Neptune has such a long history of classical work in its repertoire and it's one of my favourite things as well,” he says, on the telephone from his office in Halifax. “ The Game of Love and Chance is so accessible and delightful; for me, it makes perfect sense to begin a season with a very joyful production.”

Born in Buenos Ares and raised in Ottawa, Pothitos has spent the last nine years as the much-loved artistic director of the Sudbury Theatre Centre.

There he erased the theatre's long-standing deficit, revived its tradition of youth theatre, and, yes, indulged in his love of the classics. (His final season there began with Molière's The Miser .) Before applying to run Neptune, Pothitos had only been to Halifax once – as an actor, playing Handel with the symphony. But Atlantic Canada's premier playhouse (which just announced its ninth consecutive operating surplus) had been on his radar since one of his professors at Queen's University put it to him this way: Neptune and the Vancouver Playhouse are the two pillars holding up the proscenium arch of the country.

Upon arrival, Pothitos felt a “natural” connection to Halifax – though the friendliness of the people initially confused him. “The first week I was here, people would smile at me and I would smile back,” he says. “I thought I must have met them before.”

Does that mean that Sudburians don't smile? “Oh yes, they do,” says Pothitos. “It's just that I actually did know everyone in Sudbury. When I met someone at Costco, they'd tell me what they thought of the last show they saw.”

Pothitos has programmed an ambitious inaugural season at the Neptune, with over 50 per cent of the plays written by Canadians.

Atlantic Canadian work is represented by A Beautiful View , by Sydney, N.S.-born Siminovitch winner Daniel MacIvor, and No Great Mischief , David S. Young's adaptation of Alistair MacLeod's book of the same name. Other Cancon in the season: Doug Curtis's Mesa ; Rick Miller's Bigger than Jesus ; and Michele Riml's Sexy Laundry , a sex comedy Pothitos hopes will brighten up the dark winter months.

The 2009-10 slate of plays also includes the Pultizer Prize-winning drama Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, as well as family fare A Christmas Carol: The Musical and J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan .

But to kick it all off, Pothitos chose Stephen Wadsworth's translation of Marivaux's celebrated The Game of Love and Chance . In the Commedia-dell-arte-influenced comedy, Silvia has been set up in an arranged marriage with Dorante – but before their first meeting, she switches places with her servant in order to observe her betrothed from a distance. The only problem with the plan: Dorante has had the same bright idea.

The Game of Love and Chance has been subject to many adaptations over the years, but Pothitos is sticking with the original setting. “There's no heavy concept on it,” he says. “I don't feel I have to find the audience parallels to anything else. It has a very contemporary feel.”

That is a rather refreshing thing to hear from a director, but how do you sell Marivaux to those who don't know him? At his inaugural press conference, with 400 people in attendance, Pothitos simply told his audiences to give him a try. “I said, ‘You just come see it and I bet you'll have a wonderful time,” he says. “They've given me a chance, which is great.”

The Game of Love and Chance continues at Neptune Theatre in Halifax until Sunday.


Sony's Portable Gran Slam

Source: www.thestar.com -
Darren Zenko

Gran Turismo
Rated E

(October 10, 2009) Along with gunplay and sports, driving simulators have been a cornerstone of interactive entertainment since the pre-video days of electromechanical arcade games, and since its 1997 PlayStation debut, Sony's Gran Turismo series has been the genre's standard-bearer. Renowned for its consistent cutting-edge visuals, vast garages of lovingly modelled supercars, and uncompromising simulation of the physics and mechanics of auto racing, GT has set the bar by which other driving games, for better or worse, have been measured ... and now, for the first time, we've got it in portable form.

One of the first things you'll notice when you fire up the PSP Gran Turismo is that the series' heritage of pushing its platform's graphics capabilities to its full effect remains true. Just as that first Gran Turismo game popped eyes with a glossy liquid sheen that reset what we figured the PlayStation was capable, so does this portable edition restate the potential of Sony's sleek hand-held. It's flat-out gorgeous, pushing a constant stream through the PSP's screen in what amounts to automotive pornography: ultra-high-end exotics and beloved classics arcing through turns, dappled by shadow and reflection, all ticking along at a positively silken frame rate.

In other ways, though, GT PSP steps back from other things we've come to expect. I'm no hardcore connoisseur of driving simulators – I'm horrible at finding the racing line, and my lead-footed arcade instincts have me grinding the barricades more often than not – but even I could feel the unfamiliar hint of forgiveness that's crept in here. It's still a long, long way from anything you'd call an "arcade racer" but it seems that in the interest of portable play Sony has eased up a bit on the drive-perfectly-or-fail aspect of Gran Turismo 's simulation.

An even bigger change is rather than the work-for-it grind of moving up through the racing circuits, gaining ranks and unlocking precious rides, building your garage through hours of sweat and track-learning, this Gran Turismo is focused on quick play: pick a track, pick a car, and race. Unlocking new vehicles is now more a matter of chance, with a handful of manufacturer's dealerships – and a handful of their lines – "open for business" on any given racing day. I guess this is supposed to provide the motivation to keep playing – you won't see the next day's random selection of cars unless you race – but there's something unsatisfying about the Lucky Dip approach to accessing the game's 800 rides.

But, as they say, your mileage may differ. Maybe you just want something in your pocket that'll allow you to play race-driver while your bus idles in traffic. That's cool, too, and Gran Turismo will gladly provide that, in high style.


President Obama Responds To Winning Nobel Peace Prize


(October 9, 2009) *As reported earlier, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. The selection of Obama has met quite a bit of mixed reaction from the world community.

But what about the President himself? What does he have to say about winning the prestigious award? Does he think he's worthy of it? Here are his thoughts:

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honoured by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honour specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honoured to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

In other Obama/Nobel Peace Prize news ...

*Mr. Obama will donate the approximately $1.4 million award from the 2009 Novel Peace Prize to charity, says White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton. The prize money on December 10 in Oslo, Norway.


Earlier, we reported:

Obama Lands Nobel Peace Prize: Reaction To His Win Is Mixed.

*President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world "hope for a better future" and striving for nuclear disarmament, in a surprise award that drew both warm praise and sharp criticism.

The decision to bestow one of the world's top accolades on a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, was greeted with gasps of astonishment from journalists at the announcement in Oslo.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." But critics -- especially in parts of the Arab and Muslim world -- called its decision premature.

Obama's press secretary woke him with the news before dawn and the president felt "humbled" by the award, a senior administration official said.

When told in an email from Reuters that many people around the world were stunned by the announcement, Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, responded: "As are we."

The first African-American to hold his country's highest office, Obama, 48, has called for disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.

"Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said in a citation.

While the decision won praise from statesmen like Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, both former Nobel laureates, it was also attacked in some quarters as hasty and undeserved.

For MORE of this Reuters story by Wojciech, click HERE.

Marge Simpson Bares Soul, Beehive In Playboy Exclusive

Source: www.thestar.com -
Don Babwin

(October 10, 2009) CHICAGO–Ay Carumba! Marge Simpson has done something that Homer might not approve: She has posed for Playboy magazine.

After more than a half century featuring women like Marilyn Monroe, Cindy Crawford and the Girls of Hooters on its cover, Playboy has for the first time given the spot to a cartoon character.

And the magazine is giving the star of The Simpsons the star treatment, complete with a data sheet, an interview and a two-page centrefold.

The magazine's editorial director, James Jellinek, won't say exactly how much of Marge will show in the November edition, which hits newsstands on Oct. 16 – or whether she lets down that big pile of blue hair. But, he said, "It's very, very racy.''

He stressed that the mother of three – the youngest a baby, by the way – has a lot to be proud of.

"She is a stunning example of the cartoon form," he said on Friday at the magazine's headquarters in Chicago, appearing both pleased and surprised at the words coming out of his mouth.

For Playboy, which has seen its circulation slip from 3.15 million to 2.6 million since 2006, putting Marge on the cover was designed to attract younger readers to a magazine for which the median age of readers is 35, while not alienating older readers.

"We knew that this would really appeal to the 20-something crowd," said Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey.

The magazine also hopes to turn the November issue into a collectors' item by featuring Marge, sitting on a chair in the shape of the iconic Playboy bunny, on the cover of copies sold only on newsstands. Subscribers get a more traditional model on the cover.

"It's so rare in today's digital age where you have the opportunity to send people to the newsstand to pick something up,'' Jellinek said.

Playboy even convinced 7-Eleven to carry the magazine in its 1,200 corporate-owned stores, something the company has done only once before in more than 20 years.

"We love Marge," said 7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris.

Nfld. Author Gets Redemption With GG Award Nod

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Vit Wagner

(October 14, 2009) The publishing industry insiders assembled Wednesday morning at Ben McNally Books for the announcement of the finalists for Governor General's Literary Awards largely obeyed the instruction not to applaud until all of the nominees in each of the 14 categories were read out.

No one cheered or applauded when Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness was revealed one of the five finalists for the English language fiction prize. Ditto for Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean, the only book this year to run the table by making the shortlist for the GGs, the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The lone exception was the applause that greeted the announcement of Michael Crummey's Galore as a fiction finalist. Some of the cheerleaders, no doubt, were partisans of Crummey's publisher, the Random House subsidiary Doubleday. But the break in decorum also reflected the widespread belief that some measure of justice – or whatever passes for justice in the world of book prizes – had ultimately been served.

Crummey's ambitious and critically-lauded multi-generational novel set in the author's native Newfoundland was left off the previous two lists – even failing to make the Giller's dozen-book longlist. It was an omission widely regarded as an oversight, at the very least, by many in the book world.

"These are subjective decisions, but it's fair to say that a lot of people felt that it had been overlooked," said Stuart Woods, editor of the national book trade monthly Quill & Quire. "I can tell you that having spoken to a number booksellers across the country, this is a book that people are behind."

Rounding out the list of finalists for the $25,000 English fiction prize were Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of Nothing, which also made the Writers' Trust cut, and Deborah Willis' Vanishing and Other Stories. The winners will be announced Nov. 17 in Montreal.

Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, which missed out on the GGs and is not in the running for any of this year's top prizes, has to count as the highest-profile snub.

Lyon's The Golden Mean is the third book in as many years to be nominated for all three prizes. The two previous titles to earn that distinction, M.G. Vassanji's The Assassin's Song in 2007 and Rawi Hage's Cockroach in 2008, both came up empty-handed.

It is widely assumed that Munro likely would have been in the running for all three awards, had she not withdrawn from Giller contention. The Giller, which is televised, has the highest profile of the three awards. Munro reportedly hoped that pulling out of the competition would increase the likelihood that the publicity bestowed on the winner would go to a younger writer.

It has not been confirmed whether Munro will attend the readings for either the GGs or the Writers' Trust prizes at this year's International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre. The celebrated author is already scheduled to launch the event by participating in an onstage conversation with U.K. publishing legend Diana Athill Wednesday as part of the annual PEN Canada benefit.

Vassanji, a two-time winner of the Giller as a novelist, is one of the five nominees for this year's non-fiction GG for his memoir, A Place Within: Rediscovering India. The field also includes Trevor Herriot's Grass, Sky, Song: Promises and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds, and Eric Siblin's The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, both of which are up for an equivalent Writer's Trust prize, along with Eric S. Margolis' American Raj: Liberation of Domination? and Randall Hansen's Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-45.


Kerry Joseph Goes Back To Scene Of His Prime

Source: www.thestar.com -
Chris Zelkovich

(October 10, 2009) REGINA–The cold Prairie wind whipping across a snow-covered Mosaic Stadium wasn't enough to temper the warmth that Kerry Joseph felt Friday morning.

Not long after the
Argonauts arrived here, head coach Bart Andrus told Joseph he would be starting Saturday night's game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, ending seven games of exile on the bench.

"It was frustrating, so it's going to be good to get back out there," said Joseph, who hasn't started since the Argo offence hit rock bottom Aug. 7 in a 25-0 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.

Andrus, who drew criticism from Joseph earlier this week for holding off on naming a starter, said he selected the veteran over Cody Pickett because of the weather conditions. The forecast for Saturday night calls for below-freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow, and Joseph's two seasons in Regina might have taught him a thing or two about beating the elements.

"It's one that after evaluating all the factors that are going to be going into this game, we felt that Kerry gives us the best opportunity to be successful," Andrus said.

"In games we've played both of them, neither one of them has really outshone the other. That way it was a dead heat."

Andrus stressed that doesn't mean Joseph, who appeared to be the permanent backup a few games ago, is now the uncontested No.1 quarterback.

"Nothing is permanent at this level," he said. ``To make it permanent, you've got to perform, and that's the thing. It's a performance-based industry.

"You'd like to think he'll take this opportunity and run with it. But who's to say?

"Do I have the confidence he can and will? Yeah, I do. I think that he will."

After coming off the bench the past two games with mixed results, Joseph doesn't believe there's any extra pressure on him, or that he has anything to prove.

"I'm just going to play football, play the game the way I know how to play it," he said "We've got to score points and whatever it takes, that's what I plan on doing."

Joseph said sitting on the sidelines for seven games was painful.

"It was frustrating," he said. "Your competitive nature, you want to be out there playing, helping the guys.

"But being there, all I can do is be the best backup I can be and to help Cody in every way. You don't let your frustrations overwhelm you because you have to be that team guy.

"It's not about me, it's about winning."

Winning is something the Argos haven't done much lately, with only one victory in their last nine starts. The main culprit has been a balky offence, currently rated worst in the CFL.

The weather probably won't be conducive to high scoring, which means the Argos may have to rely on their rock-solid defence again.

Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller said Friday that he'd like to see his team do a little more running, which might play into the Argos' strength. The Argos are ranked second against the run.

A windy night could force the Argos to run more, which might be an advantage seeing that the Riders have had trouble containing opposing running backs.

Patrick Chan: Ice Prince

Source: www.thestar.com -
Randy Starkman

(October 10, 2009) If there's any doubt Toronto figure skater Patrick Chan is the goofy teenager he professes to be, it melts away the second he starts answering the kind of off-beat questions that athletes get in an Olympic season.

His dream date?

"Jessica Alba. Definitely. I wouldn't even talk the whole date. I'd just look at her with my jaw dropped."

The person he'd most like to get stuck in an elevator with is Wayne Gretzky.

"I think we'd have an amazing conversation and we'd be tight like forever."

And, yes, he'd like to get a tattoo of the Olympic rings after the Vancouver Games.

"Hopefully, Mom doesn't see this," said Chan, in a light-hearted interview, "because I think she would kill me."

The kid is a charmer. The world championship silver medallist says what he thinks without worrying how it might be perceived, not because he doesn't care but because in his mind there's no malice intended.

His guilelessness is an anomaly in a cutthroat sport where treachery is as common as Axels and Lutzes. But it does make one wonder how he'll fare in the crucible of Olympic pressure. Not only is it a home Games, it will also be his first.

"It's tremendous pressure for an 18-year-old, it's a daunting task, but you have to believe having watched what he's been able to do that there's every reason he will handle it," said Tracy Wilson, a commentator for CBC and NBC who won bronze at the 1988 Calgary Games.

This is a young man who loves to compete, but hates the fear that permeates the atmosphere just before skaters step on to the ice.

"Everyone seems to hold back and kind of go in their own corner," said Chan. "I think I'm the type of person who's really outgoing and always really friendly.

"But it's really scary. I'm scared to smile because I'm scared the next guy's going to think I'm laughing at him or something. They're just so into what they're doing."

Not that Chan isn't, he just doesn't want to be so serious about it. As he puts it, he skates "because it's fun and it's not because it's a job."

He doesn't live and breathe the sport. He won't be doing skating shows when he's in his 30s or 40s – or maybe even his 20s, for that matter. Chan said he can't imagine right now pursuing figure skating past the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"To me, there's so much to life than just skating. I plan to go to school and move on and do something else other than just sports. Or maybe do another sport. I don't like being one of those people that just hang around for a long time in one sport.

"This is not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life and it's not something I want to be dependent on for paying the bills."

In the meantime, he's focused on Olympic gold.

He established himself as a contender when he captured a silver medal behind American Evan Lysacek at the world championships last March in Los Angeles.

Chan showed he had the jam on and off the ice. First, he created a stir when he blasted Brian Joubert for his complaints that not enough skaters were trying the quad. Then, he outdueled the Frenchman, relegating his rival to bronze.

What was more important than the medal, though, was the feeling Chan had on the ice. Shutting his mind off before he competes has always been a struggle. He has a tendency to be distracted by everything around him and to be paranoid about falling.

But that time, he got his mind out of the way, let his body take over and experienced for the first time what athletes describe as "the zone."

"I always heard people talk about being in the zone, where you're really focused," said Chan. "I didn't know what they were talking about. I was like, `What are they? They're freaks.' Now, I understand what they meant.

"It was really cool, it was like an out-of-body experience. I skated the first minute on my long and I didn't even know what I was doing. I kind of woke up halfway through and thought, `What am I doing now?' It was really, really cool. And it really helped a lot. I didn't have to think about anything. I was just, like, riding the wave."

It's a wave he would like to ride through next February's Olympics, but he knows it won't be that easy. For one thing, he's not sure how he got himself into that optimal competitive state in L.A.

There are probably eight or nine skaters with a chance at the podium in Vancouver, if you include former Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia and former world titlist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, both of whom have come out of retirement.

The pressure has been on Chan to get the quad into his arsenal and while there have been some signs of progress, most in the skating world expect him to still be a factor even without it. For his part, Chan is looking at the big picture, preparing for Vancouver and not focusing on results at his upcoming competitions, including the Cup of Russia Oct. 22-25 and Skate Canada in Kitchener on Nov. 19-22.

"I think this whole year is wrapped around the Olympics. I've wrapped myself around it," Chan said. "Not that I don't want to be perfect. If I'm perfect, I'm perfect. I'm really sure it's unlikely. But I won't criticize myself terribly, say, if I don't come home with a medal or if I don't medal, even though I did last year, because it's all about walking up the stairs and getting to the top slowly.

"So, hopefully in February, I'll be at the top of my performance."

Raptors Get First Look At Bigger, Meaner Chris Bosh

Source: www.thestar.com -
Doug Smith

(October 10, 2009) MINNEAPOLIS–It's mentioned to Chris Bosh that the concern among fans may be that, because he's bigger and heavier now than he's ever been, some of the trademark quickness that's helped him become an NBA all-star might have evaporated in a summer of sweating in a gym.

After all, in common thinking, more bulk means less explosiveness.

A laugh tumbles out of him as he sits in the Raptors locker room at the Target Center here, and he shakes his head.

"I'm quicker," he said, laughing still. "And I can jump higher."

Bosh made his much-anticipated pre-season debut with the Raptors here in their 112-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After sitting out practices and games for a couple of weeks with a strained hamstring, he was limited in what he was asked to do, scoring nine points with seven rebounds in 10 minutes, all in the first half.

The Raptors had originally wanted to see if they could get 12 minutes out of Bosh but he wore out more quickly than he'd expected.

"Yeah earlier than six minutes but it's a start and Sunday (against Washington) will be a really good measuring stick to see how fast my body's going to react," he said. "Maybe I'll be able to go five minutes without getting tired."

But Bosh's offence isn't what the team is really worried about; they know the perpetual 20-10 veteran will be able to score. They want to see what he does on the defensive end of the floor.

"He's going to have to be our anchor at the defensive end," said coach Jay Triano, whose team was led by 21 points from Andrea Bargnani and 11 each from DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, Sonny Weems and Reggie Evans. "He's our most agile player, we've seen when he played with the United States Olympic team how good a defender he can be. ... He's changed his body and he's got a little bit more of a physical presence so we don't think he'll have a problem doing it.

"If we're going to be a good team, though, he's going to have to be a better force for us at the defensive of the floor and be the guy who sets the tone."

Bosh was more aggressive than expected in his limited debut. Two of his rebounds were on the offensive end, one ended up with a nice putback basket over Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, and he was fouled by Ryan Hollins on the other.

After that hard foul by Hollins, Bosh turned and had words with the Minnesota rookie, not something he's been known to do.

"That's really a point of emphasis that I want to concentrate on this year, to stay inside and get more rebounds, get more second chance opportunities," said Bosh. "That kills teams when you do that. And I want to get more rebounds, plain and simple."

The whole "body-change" that Bosh undertook this summer gave him about 15 extra pounds on his now 250-pound frame and a noticeably larger upper body. But not at the expense of agility.

"We tackled all those issues," he said. "These were our goals: We want to gain `x' amount of pounds but we want to have an intensity to the workouts and we're going to work on different elements to make sure you don't slow down, that you actually speed up. It was hard work."

Aside from Bosh's pre-season debut, the game was about seeing if there'd be improvement in the team's defensive coverages from the first game.

In the search for good signs, Triano can point to the Raptors holding Minnesota to just 40 per cent shooting from the floor and a more aggressive overall defence than in their first two pre-season games.

Weir Fades, Tiger Powers U.S. surge at Presidents Cup

Source: www.thestar.com -
Dave Perkins

(October 10, 2009) SAN FRANCISCO – Mike Weir and Tim Clark had the most unlikely point of the Presidents Cup right in their hands this morning, and dropped it.

Tiger Woods helped dislodge it, too, which is never a surprise. Weir and Clark spent most of a cool, overcast morning taming the unbeaten — some would say unbeatable — combination of Woods and Steve Stricker before the Americans rallied in spectacular fashion to win the final two holes and steal a 1-up win. A very promising morning session of foursomes for the Internationals collapsed into a 3½-1½ defeat, leaving the U.S. with a commanding 10-7 lead entering the afternoon's five four-ball matches.

Woods, as he has for a decade, made the most sensational shots. Down a hole at the 17th, he drove into the greenfront bunker and watched Stricker leave his sand shot 20 feet short of the hole. With Weir looking at a six-foot downhill putt for birdie, Woods calmly rolled his putt into the hole for birdie, the ball settling ever so briefly on the lip before tumbling in as Woods fist-pumped and the galleries at Harding Park turned up the volume.

"Didn't have a choice,'' Woods said of his putt. "If we miss, they make, it's over. Just crawled in, but it fell in.''

Weir never came close on his putt and after both Stricker and Clark laced long drives into the 18th fairway, Weir hooked a 3-wood from 238 yards into deep greenside rough. Woods, from 229 yards, made no such mistake, carving a beautiful 3-iron shot right past the flag about 15 feet. When Clark, facing a bird's-nest lie, gunned his pitch 35 feet past the hole, the International collapse was all but complete. Weir never threatened the hole with his birdie putt and the eagle and the point were conceded.

Weir, looking crushed and upset, left quickly to try to regroup for his afternoon four-ball match with Ernie Els against Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard.

"To walk out of here with a win — he was calling it the whole way,'' Stricker said of Woods. "He kept telling me, we are going to win this match, turn this thing and get the crowd on our side. Believing is one thing, you know, and he pulled some great shots off at the end.''

Woods and Stricker hadn't even seen the 16th hole, winning their earlier matches 6 and 4 and 5 and 3. They jumped in front immediately at the first hole, Stricker making birdie from nine feet and Clark horseshoeing out from just inside him, but the lead was short-lived and never returned until the 18th hole.

Woods scuffed a bunker shot at the second to drop to level and at the fifth, Weir feathered in a wedge inside three feet to go ahead. When Stricker couldn't match the birdie from 18 feet, Woods and Stricker were behind for the first time in the Cup.

Stricker immediately centre-cut a downhill 21-footer to get back even, but the U.S. team made consecutive bogeys, Stricker missing from eight feet and Woods from five, to drop 2-down. When Woods pulled an approach into deep rough at the 10th and they couldn't save par, Weir had a 12-footer to pull three ahead, but it sat on the right lip.

"There were times we could have gone 3-up, but they managed to get the ball up and down and stay within range,'' Clark said. "I think that was key for them. Had they lost another hole, it would have been a different a story.''

But they didn't lose another hole and got within one when Stricker wedged to four feet and Woods converted at the 13th, while Weir was unable to match from 12 feet.

Up ahead, Phil Mickelson and Sean O'Hair destroyed Camilo Villegas and Retief Goosen, 5 and 3, and Jim Furyk combined with Justin Leonard to take out Els and Adam Scott, 4 and 2. Stewart Cink and Hunter Mahan rallied to win the last hole and earn half-point from Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby.

The Asian rookie tandem of Ryo Ishikawa and Y.E. Yang were in total control in beating Kenny Perry and Johnson, 3 and 2.

Geoff Ogilvy, the top-ranked International and the only member of Greg Norman's team rated in the world's top 10 — compared to five Americans — sat out the morning session. It was a gutsy but correct call by Norman; Ogilvy, whose swing is all about timing, has been struggling trying to regain his touch.


Canadian Freestyle Skier St. Pierre To Skip Olympics

Source:  www.thestar.com

(October 14, 2009) VANCOUVER – Freestyle skier Stephanie St-Pierre has opted to sit out this season and the 2010 Olympics because of a series of knee injuries. The 24-year-old from Victoriaville, Que., has suffered three anterior cruciate ligament tears – two to the left knee and last season's tear to the right – during her seven-year World Cup career. "Taking the season off is the only solution possible in my condition," St-Pierre said in a statement. "My body needs a break from surgeries and impact and I need to listen to it, otherwise the consequences could be much worse than they are now." St-Pierre was a bronze medallist at the 2003 world championships and has eight World Cup podium finishes and 30 top-10 finishes to her credit. She also competed at the 2006 Games in Turin. A final decision about her skiing future will be made next June. In the meantime, she plans to continue her university studies in communications. "This was an incredibly difficult decision for Stephanie," said Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association. "However, long-term health far outweighs short-term sport objectives. Steph is a young woman who has accomplished much in our sport. It is clear to anyone who knows her that she will accomplish many great things wherever her life takes her next."


Best Shape of Your Life: 3-Step Plan

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

How long are you going to live a sedentary life? How long are you going to make excuses about not exercising? Is this really the way you want to live your life?

It's time to shake things up so you can shape things up.

I've devised a three-step plan to help get you closer to being in the best shape of your life. The plan is comprised of strength training, cardiovascular and nutrition guidelines. And just so you're not left stranded, I've also designed a simple workout, complete with animations, that you can perform three days a week.

Step 1 -- Nutrition
This is the step where you screw up, isn't it? You go on a crash diet, have no idea how many calories you're consuming, plug along for a few days and then boom! Cravings become mentally and physically insurmountable.

The biggest mistake people make is reducing calories as much as possible. After two days of this insane approach, they're back to eating more junk than ever because the approach isn't realistic. The key is to reduce enough calories to lose fat but keep enough to sustain your energy. The correct amount of calories can actually stimulate the metabolism to burn fat.

You'll need to control blood sugar levels in order to lose body fat. This is accomplished by consuming four to six small meals a day. Don't mistake the definition of a meal for a six-course smorgasbord. A meal could be an egg white omelette with low-fat cheese and oatmeal with some blueberries in it; a chocolate protein shake with peanut butter; cottage cheese with fruit and some almonds; or maybe a very lean burger and large spinach salad with oil and vinegar.

 Each of the meals is comprised of protein, fibrous and nonfibrous carbohydrates and a little bit of fat. In some cases, the fat is built into the protein. In other cases, it's added to the meal. You don't have to be perfect on a nutrition program, just consistent. A small cheat meal now and then won't hurt you, but consistency is the way to progress.

If you join eDiets, we can take all the planning out of your hands and provide a comprehensive and easy to follow a meal plan with foods you enjoy. Let us do the work for you.

Step 2 -- Cardiovascular Exercise
It's time to move it and shake it. Perform three days a week of brisk cardiovascular exercise for approximately 30 minutes. On two of the days, you can exercise at a higher intensity level to accelerate fat loss. If you're a beginner, remember to increase gradually.

The key to cardiovascular exercise is finding an activity that you enjoy. Don't get caught in a programming rut and think you have to run every day. There are many options such as cardio tapes, tennis, belly-dancing classes, kick-boxing workouts, working out with friends, etc.

I guarantee that you can find an activity you'll enjoy if you think about what you want to try.

Step 3 -- Weight Training
Dieting places a lot of stress on the body and forces the body to lose fat weight and muscle weight. If you do nothing but cardio and never lift weights, you will lose muscle.

Many women think that if they just look at a weight, they'll immediately begin to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Never happen -- no way, no how. Women just don't have enough testosterone to build huge amounts of muscle. Unless you're on steroids, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, the more fat you lose and the more muscle you gain, the leaner you'll look.

In a study conducted by renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Wayne Westcott, 72 people followed an exact diet and exercised for 30 minutes three times a week for eight weeks. They were divided into two groups. Both groups exercised for 30 minutes -- one group did only aerobic exercise; another group did aerobic exercise and weight machines combination.

At the end of eight weeks, the 30 minutes of the cardio-only group lost 3 pounds of fat and half a pound of muscle. On the other hand, the combination cardio/weight-training group lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 2 pounds of muscle. Both groups exercised 30 minutes, but the difference in results was quite profound and proves how effective weight training is.

Now let's get to the workout.

I want you to perform the weight training workout in circuit fashion on two to three alternate days of the week. After completing the first exercise, immediately go to the second exercise, the third, etc. Once you complete all the exercises, wait 30 seconds and repeat the circuit one more time. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions of all exercises. Strive for a quick, efficient and brisk workout.

On two to three other days of the week, perform cardiovascular exercise for 30 sustained minutes. Remember, the weight-training workout is a circuit program so it will also make inroads into your cardiovascular system. This allows me to limit the amount of traditional cardio to two to three alternate days a week.

1. Chest: Chest Press

Starting Position:

·  Lie on a flat bench or flat on the floor with your spine in a neutral position.

·  Hold a dumbbell or cans in each hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.


·  Contracting the chest muscles, press both arms upward above the chest until the arms are almost fully extended with a slight bend in the elbows.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weights.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

 2. Legs: Dumbbell Squat

Starting Position:

·  Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another.

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


·  Lower your body by bending from your hips and knees stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale while lowering your body.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Butt -- Lying Gluteus Lift

Starting Position:

·  Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.

·  Place your arms at your sides for support.


·  Contracting the glutes, project your hips toward the ceiling as you lift your buttocks off the floor.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your buttocks touching the floor.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your buttocks.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

 4. Shoulders: Dumbbell Two-Arm Lateral Raise

Starting Position:

·  Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides and palms facing your legs.


·  Contracting the middle shoulder muscles, raise both arms out to the sides stopping when your arms are slightly higher than shoulder level.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the weights touching your body.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weights.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  You may also perform this exercise from a seated position.

5. Back -- Dumbbell Reverse Lat Row

Starting Position:

·  Sit on a bench with your feet close together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another.

·  Bend your upper body so it is parallel with the floor.


·  Contracting the mid to lower back muscles, draw both arms toward your body and turn your wrists so that your palms are facing the ceiling. Keep your elbows tight against the body and stop when your arms are at chest level.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weight.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

 6. TRICEPS -- Triceps Extension

Starting Position:

·  Stand with a dumbbell in your right hand and your left hand on your hip.

·  Press the weight over your head until your right arm is almost straight with a slight bend in the elbow at the top position.

·  Do not allow the weight to touch your head or neck area.


·  Slowly bend your elbow, lowering the weight until your arm forms a 90-degree angle behind your head stopping before the weight touches your back.

·  Contracting the triceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale while lowering the weight.

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

·  This exercise is not to be performed with large dumbbells. The technique is more important than the weight.

·  You can also perform this exercise while seated on a bench.

7. Biceps -- Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curl

Starting Position:

·  Sit upright in a chair with your legs bent, feet forward and your head a natural extension of your spine.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with the arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing your body.

·  Keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise.


·  Contracting the bicep muscles, bend your right arm at the elbow while turning your wrist until your palm is facing the ceiling stopping when the weight is just short of touching your shoulder.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the elbow fully extending.

Key Points:

·  Exhale as you lift the weight.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The upper arm should remain stationary throughout the exercise.

 8. Abs -- Double Crunch

Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor face up.

·  Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor.

·  Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor.

·  Place both hands behind your head.


·  Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while rising up.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

·  Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Source:  www.eurweb.com   — Leonardo da Vinci

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself."