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April 1, 2010

I LOVE when the Easter holiday comes early! 
HAPPY PASSOVER/EASTER!  I hope that you use this time with family and friends to remember what you're most thankful for.  And please. as always, celebrate safely.


Thank you all for your patience while I updated my database last week.  If you do still want to unsubscribe, please see the bottom of this email.


This week brings some exciting news and tips for musicians.  I thought that I would pass on this information to you that is part of continuing efforts to help artists understand music industry fundamentals and the new business models that are taking shape.  Check out the audio series called The New Indie, produced by the Canadian Independent Recording Artists' Association (CIRAA), that explores these areas. 

Another week of your entertainment news so have a scroll and a read.   

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS


Geddy Lee Humbled As Rush Joins Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(March 28, 2010) Geddy Lee can afford to affect a little humility.

It is, after all, a big year for
Rush, the Toronto prog-rock trio to which the 57-year-old bassist and singer has devoted most of his life.

Canadian filmmakers Scot McFadyen’s and Sam Dunn’s documentary,
RUSH: Beyond The Lighted Stage, is a premiere feature in this years Hot Docs Festival (April 29 through May 9 at several downtown theatres, see www.hotdocs.ca/festival), billed as a “seamless survey” of the 40-year career of the world’s biggest cult band, whose gold and platinum sales record is bettered only by those of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

With lifelong partners Neil Peart on drums — he’s also Rush’s principal lyricist — and guitarist Alex Lifeson, Lee is in lockdown mode at the moment, writing and recording material for a new album (Rush’s 20th studio opus) and rehearsing for a mini-tour that involves a special diet, daily workouts with a personal trainer, and the kind of intense spiritual and mental exercises only Olympic athletes understand.

But Sunday is especially big for Rush. Along with Quebec legend Robert Charlebois, the band will be inducted into the
Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at the institution’s sixth annual gala at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. While Lee, Peart and Lifeson declined an invitation to perform — “it’s a tradition to have other artists interpret inductees’ work,” Lee said during a recent phone interview — some of the best of Rush’s songs will be featured live at the gala, which will be taped for future TV broadcast.

St. Catharines rockers Alexisonfire will perform “Tom Sawyer”; California bass virtuoso and Geddy Lee protégé Les Claypool will reinvent “The Spirit of Radio”; and Hamilton folk/roots troubadour Jacob Moon — at Rush’s invitation — will perform his solo acoustic version of “Subdivisions,” which has become a YouTube sensation in the past year.

“Anytime your country honours you is important, it’s huge,” said Lee, adding that he feels he and his bandmates have often been overlooked as songwriters.

“Not that winning awards is something we think about or discuss. We just try to keep moving forward ... it’s not very often we get a chance to look back at what we’ve created.

“It’s humbling, frankly, to be joining a group that includes Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and so many other great songwriters.”

Among the vast Rush repertoire, enduring fan favourites “Subdivisions” and “The Spirit of Radio” are closer to his heart, Lee said.

“I’m not sure it was intended, but they seem to have a particularly Canadian perspective. `Subdivisions’ tells a story that could happen in the suburbs of any big North American city, but it has stood the test of time with home audiences because there’s some truth in the song they recognize. The content and the context ring true.

“The same goes for `The Spirit of Radio.’ That’s a story Torontonians know ... about the freedom radio used to provide, before it all became pre-formatted, and the freedom was taken away.”

Of the two established songwriting procedures Rush employs, “words first” is easier, Lee explained.

“When you have a great lyric the music becomes a natural extension of the mood and content. The `music first’ method is more difficult, but often more rewarding. It relies a lot on craftsmanship, and on the magic of musical inspiration and improvisation ... but the words have to match that special quality, and it’s sometimes painstaking work to get that to happen.”

Millions of record sales notwithstanding, Rush’s songwriters have rarely earned income from other artists’ covers of their famous songs. The complexity of the arrangements built into Rush’s work — sudden time, tempo and key changes — are beyond the grasp of less ambitious or practised musicians, and the soaring melodies and vivid narratives are forsaken. British band Catherine Wheel had a respectable U.K. hit with “The Spirit of Radio” some time back, and word is out that Nelly Furtado is considering taking a crack at a popped-up version of Rush’s “Time Stands Still.”

“I understand why no one covers our songs,” Lee said. “They sound daunting. But, as Moon proved in his ‘Subdivisions’ video, most of the songs can be stripped back to their simplest form, and find a new life.

“When we tried to write songs that are simple and uncomplicated, it didn’t work.

“One of our producers used to tell us, `You’d have a lot of hits if only someone else recorded them.’ ”

Lang Lang Has Become A Global Brand Name

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(March 31, 2010) Sometime around his 25th birthday, Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang crossed the threshold to being Lang Lang Inc.

Since his last Toronto concert last summer at Massey Hall with jazz great Herbie Hancock, Lang has been feted by the world’s most influential people in Davos, Switzerland, played at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, organized and performed a benefit concert for victims of the Haiti earthquake with hip hop artist Wyclef Jean at Carnegie Hall, and launched his own line of upright and baby-grand pianos for students, designed by his sponsor, Steinway & Sons.

His website (www.langlang.com) is a case study in 21st century cross-marketing, offering merchandise, music and a variety of social-media connections to anyone who needs pianistic pizzazz in their lives.

Yet, miraculously, the 27-year-old global superstar still finds time to make serious music. He has not forgotten his roots.

On Tuesday, Lang arrives in Toronto for a concert at Roy Thomson Hall with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and its music director, veteran conductor, Christoph Eschenbach.

The maestro and orchestra are credited for giving Lang the lucky break every music student dreams of. One summer’s day in 1999, while Lang was still studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Eschenbach invited the teenager to be a last-minute replacement for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s warhorse Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Ravinia Festival.

In the decade since, Lang has criss-crossed the globe umpteen times, yet has still continued to perform and record with the maestro.

The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, made up of high-calibre musicians under age 28, is a nice fit.

Based near Hamburg, Germany, the orchestra is touring North America with a program in which Lang alternates between a Mozart piano concerto and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Toronto gets the Mozart work, the Piano Concerto No. 17, in G-Major (K. 453), as well as Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

This is the same programme Lang performed at Carnegie Hall on March 21. Steve Smith, reviewing for The New York Times, was impressed:

“Mr. Lang has been criticized for excessive flamboyance and lapses in taste, but in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G he was on his best behaviour...Mr. Lang’s clean, tidy and stylish playing contributed to a successful performance.”

The megastar has no problem sharing the spotlight.

“I had lots of solo recitals in January and February, so it is a joy to work in collaboration so that I can recharge my batteries,” he says from a tour stop in Florida. “Now I can be pretty calm.”

Collaboration has figured prominently in Lang’s recent recordings, including a disc of deeply expressive Russian chamber music with Russian violinist Vadim Repin and cellist Mischa Maisky and an album of little-known vocal and piano works by opera composer Ruggero Leoncavallo with tenor Placido Domingo.

For Lang, working with others boils down to inspiration. “Not only do these artists play well and sing well, but they inspire people to get into their world,” he says. “I’m hoping I will inspire others to become musicians.”

His personal daily challenge is not managing his global musical empire, but trying to translate finger movements on a keyboard into something artistically meaningful.

“No matter what piece you play, you need to use all your imagination and your work,” Lang explains.

Of course, he says, shaping the music’s dynamics and architecture come first. “But how do you fit all those elements into your hand and connect to people’s ears? That needs a lot of thought.”

Lang looks for inspiration outside the practice studio. He talks of visiting museums and just talking to people in sidewalk cafés. “The other arts you experience will influence how you approach the keyboard,” he says.

WHO: Lang Lang, with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra

WHERE: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

WHEN: Apr. 6 @ 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $49.50-$169.50 @ 416-872-4255 highlighting or www.roythomson.com


Important Information for Artists - The New Indie

Note from Dawn:  I thought that I would pass on to you some information that is part of continuing efforts to help artists understand music industry fundamentals and the new business models that are taking shape.  I’d like to bring your attention to an audio series called The New Indie, produced by the Canadian Independent Recording Artists’ Association (CIRAA), that explores these areas. 

The New Indie features interviews with music industry experts providing information, advice and anecdotes about the new realities facing today's independent recording artists. See below for a list of topics and guests featured in their newest episodes.

Episodes are available for
FREE, and I encourage you to visit www.TheNewIndie.com to download the series.

The following new episodes on the topic of “Money” are now available at

1. Accounting - Introduction to basic accounting.  Some of the issues tackled are GST, write-offs, organizing receipts, building a relationship with an accountant and incorporation.

2. Financing - Need money to kick-start your career?  You're not alone.  We brainstorm some interesting ways to get the money flowing.

3. Grants - Listen to an overview of successful strategies to secure grants.  Hear tips, how-to, and what to consider before heading down this road.

4. FACTOR Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Heather Ostertag, President & CEO of FACTOR.

5. OMDC Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Jennifer Blitz, Director of Tax Credits for OMDC, the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

6. SOCAN Foundation Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Rick MacMillan, Manager of the SOCAN Foundation.

7. MuchFACT Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Beverley McKee, Executive Director of MuchFACT (formerly VideoFACT).

8. Ontario Arts Council Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Michael Murray, Popular & World Music and Arts Service Organizations Officer for the Ontario Arts Council

9. Alberta Film & Music Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Al Chapman, Director of Arts Development for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

10. Manitoba Film & Music Spotlight - A one-on-one conversation with Jason Smith, Manager of Music Programs for Manitoba Film & Music

Featured guests in the Money Suite of episodes include:

Joel Plaskett,
Artist ● Heather Ostertag, FACTOR ●  Bob D'Eith, Music BC ● Jimmy Rankin, Artist ● Jonny Stevens, Music Nova Scotia ● Duncan McKie, Canadian Independent Music Association ● Ember Swift, Artist ● Beverley McKee, MuchFACT ● Louis Thomas, Sonic Entertainment Group ● Pavlo, Artist ● Michael Murray, Ontario Arts Council ● Nic Bragg, Zulu Records ● Catharine Bird, Freelance Grant Writer ● Jae Gold, D. Jae Gold Accounting ● Al Chapman, Alberta Foundation for the Arts ● Jason Burns, Artist Manager/Musician ● Paul Irvine, Sanderson Entertainment Law ● Jason Smith, Manitoba Film & Music ● Lorne Sprackman, Sprackman Terrence LLP ● Rick MacMillan, SOCAN Foundation ● D.O., Artist ● Jennifer Blitz, Ontario Media Development Corporation  

The following new episodes in the Promotion Suite will be available as of April 5:
* Marketing & Publicity
* Publicists
* Press Kits

The following new episodes in the Live Suite will be available as of May 3:
* Playing Live Basics
* Booking a Tour
* Tour Tips, Insights & Anecdotes
* Booking Agents
* American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Canada Spotlight



Flights From Toronto To California May Get Cheaper

www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 25, 2010) The competition for airlines in Canada becomes hotter every day, and it could be good news for Toronto consumers.

In the past week or so, it was announced that Virgin America hopes to start daily flights in late June from Toronto to
Los Angeles and San Francisco. There’s also the possibility of a code-share with WestJet, which recently announced its new credit card and frequent flyer/loyalty program.

Air Canada vice-president Global Sales Claude Morin told the website www.openjaw.com that other airlines haven’t made a go of it from Toronto to California because Air Canada is “so well-entrenched.”

The website quoted airline industry consultant and analyst Robert Kokonis as saying that the America flights will help drive down fares.

Meanwhile, WestJet also could be gaining more space at LaGuardia airport in New York under a plan announced in the U.S. this week, a move that might boost access from Toronto or Montreal.

WestJet stopped flying from Toronto to LaGuardia in 2005, but a new proposal in the U.S. would give it several slots at the popular airport.

Porter Airlines continues to boost its coverage out of Billy Bishop/Toronto Island airport. They announced this week they’re adding service to Moncton starting June 25, with two daily round trips to Toronto and Ottawa until Sept. 7.


Carnival, the world's largest cruise operator, reported this week that it has seen an 8 per cent increase in cruise bookings for the next three quarters. Prices, meanwhile, jumped 17 per cent during the last nine-week period.

Many cruise industry watchers say it’s a good time to lock in fares before they go up again.


It will take more than a basket to gather the eggs at the Easter hunt in Boulder Junction, Wis.

Participants need a GPS device.

Organizers will hide 12 large buckets of eggs in Boulder Junction Winter Park in a variation on geocaching, a popular outdoor activity where people use GPS coordinates to hide items and post their locations online. Egg hunters will get GPS coordinates of the stashes to program into their devices.

It’s one of dozens of high-tech Easter egg hunts taking place across the United States.


Ever wonder why Curious George is so curious? Or why the monkey hero of the Curious George children’s books is so fond of travel, so prone to mischief, yet always narrowly escapes disaster?

A new exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum suggests that curious readers need look no further than the real-life adventures of the intrepid husband-and-wife team who created the beloved character.

H.A. and Margret Rey — he changed the name from Reyersbach — were German Jews living in Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion. Two days before the Germans marched into Paris, they fled on bicycles carrying drawings for their picture books, including one about a mischievous monkey then called Fifi.

While the exhibit touches on the harrowing conditions they endured on their four-month flight in 1940 from France to New York, it’s more about the unusually long and fertile artistic collaboration between Hans and Margret.

The exhibition features nearly 80 original drawings and vibrant watercolours for the more than 30 books the couple wrote and illustrated. The exhibit will be on view at The Jewish Museum through Aug. 1 then travel to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, where it will run from Nov. 14 through March 16, 2011.



Bobby McFerrin Finds The Crowd’s Creativity

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 27, 2010) It took a child to ask what the Roy Thomson Hall audience had been wondering ever since Bobby McFerrin took the stage 90 minutes earlier for an a-cappella solo show.

“How do you sing with two voices at the same time?” pressed the cherub during the Q&A that substituted for an encore at the close of Friday’s concert.

“I don’t know,” laughed the New York-born, L.A.-raised, rural Philly-based performer before explaining that his unique technique of singing multiple vocal parts, as well as instruments, only seemed like the result of hidden tricks.

The vocal innovator had started off the set in his usual manner, with two improvised numbers. Clad in jeans and T-shirt, dreadlocks tied back in a bun and seated in a chair, he hummed, scatted and sang his four-octaves from falsetto to deepest baritone, all the while slapping out percussion on his chest and tapping his feet in time, emanating melodies that evolved from an Islamic call to prayer to a sultry blues that name checked Toronto.

Though best known for the 1988 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” the term singer has never suited McFerrin. Lotsa people can sing; evidenced by the audience volunteers who eagerly join him on stage Friday for 30-second collaborations, but his one-man bag of vocal acrobatics — merging jazz, folk, world music, classical, R&B — is impressive.

He had the capacity crowd spellbound with tunes like “Smile” and “Baby,” the sole selection from VOCAbulaires, his first new album in eight years.

Among the highlights that had the audience roaring its approval: “Itsy Bitsy Spider” remixed into an opera, and a condensed version of The Wizard of Oz in which McFerrin voiced all the characters, soundtrack and weather — from munchkins to tornado — with Robin Williams-like schizophrenia.

He also displayed a sense of humour throughout, mimicking a cellphone beep, telling Jews to substitute “Oy Vey Maria” during the “Ave Maria” singalong and cracking wise at the people who left their seats to dance onstage to his accompaniment.

McFerrin, 60, made it look so easy. “I’m a grad of MSU: making stuff up,” he said. But the ten-time Grammy winner, who has conducted the world’s leading orchestras, helms the 12-piece vocal ensemble Voicestra and collaborated with likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Herbie Hancock, also recounted spending six years developing stamina and confidence.

What made the evening most enjoyable was its participatory nature. Whether bringing individuals on stage, or engendering attendees to sing/hum with him in unison, McFerrin showed us the potential of our voices.

Toronto Trusts Its (Billy) Talent

www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(March 28, 2010) You know you have a powerful song when people are willing to eternally etch your lyrics into their skin.

In the case of Mississauga’s
Billy Talent, it’s not the obvious anthems like “Try Honesty,” “Devil in a Midnight Mass” or the 2010 Juno-nominated Single of the Year “Rusted From the Rain” that are prompting people to permanently puncture their flesh; it’s “White Sparrows,” a ballad of lament and longing from the band’s latest album, Billy Talent III, that’s doing the trick.

“I’ve actually met five or six people where that song means so much to them that they have the lyrics tattooed on them,” claims singer Ben Kowalewicz, speaking on behalf of guitarist Ian D’Sa, bass player Jonathan Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk. The band headlines a sold-out 18,000-seat Air Canada Centre tonight with an invigorating punk-powered package that includes St. Catharines’ Alexisonfire, Against Me, from Gainesville, Fla., and our own Cancer Bats.

“It’s nice to be part of people’s lives forever, I guess.”

Kowalewicz — whose act is up for four Juno Awards (Group of the Year, Album and Rock Album of the Year for III and single for “Rusted From the Rain”) on April 18 — says “White Sparrows” stemmed from the loss of a close relative.

He views it as a new pinnacle in the band’s melodically intricate slice-of-life repertoire.

“I was really hoping to use this song as a vessel to tell that story,” he recalled from a recent Winnipeg stop. “I had just lost someone very close to me, but Ian had been through a breakup at the time, and he really wanted to write it from that perspective.

“So the first part of the song sounds like this guy’s all sad because he broke up with his girlfriend. But then you realize that he’s sad because she actually passed away, and he’s asking God why, more or less.

“Ian came up with this beautiful melody, and the song was this perfect storm in how it worked together. Playing it in concert is pretty moving.”

The song — and a spate of losses involving “a bunch of friends and a whole bunch of friends’ parents over the last couple years” — also triggered a change in Kowalewicz’s own perspective.

“I’m just trying to enjoy my life right now,” he admits. “I’m no longer banking on that philosophy of ‘save up and then retire.’

“You’re not guaranteed anything. So enjoy what you’ve got right now, and if you want to do something — and if you’re excited about it — then do it, because you’re not promised that golden carrot at the end of the race.”

Of course, 17 years of unity — first as a screamo punk act Pezz, before the band changed its name to the Hardcore Logo-inspired Billy Talent — has enabled the band to gather a few carrots leading up to tonight’s hometown bash.

The five-time Juno winners have collectively sold more than a million albums here and abroad; spent the last nine months crisscrossing the globe steadily building audiences in Europe, Australia, Japan and Russia; and more tellingly, snagged ubiquitous hotshot producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC) to helm the boards for III.

To say they’re in a good place may be a bit of an understatement, but Kowalewicz and his pals haven’t forgotten the struggle it’s taken to get there.

“It’s a dream come true for us,” he agrees.

“To have put forth a decade of blood, sweat and tears before anything ever happened, and now, to have our wildest dreams blown out of the water and fulfilled to a certain extent, we know how hard it took to get here and we’re not going to let anybody take it away from us,” he vows.

The fact that they’ve played so many gigs around the world puts them in a good position to realize many of their dreams, but Kowalewicz, 34, says moving out of the city isn’t one of them.

“I would never move out of Toronto — ever,” he adds for emphasis.

“I don’t think any of us would ever move out of Toronto, to be honest with you. Having had the chance to have seen a lot of great places in the world, and go to a whole bunch of different cities, Toronto is the best city there is.

“I love it. I absolutely love it. I love the people. I love the way it’s developing. Yes, we have problems, but every major city has problems. But I’m the biggest fan of our city, so I can’t see me leaving ... pending some kind of global catastrophe.”

While there’s no foreseeable catastrophe on the horizon for Billy Talent; there is a new album the band plans to begin writing in the fall, following spring dates in the Pacific Rim and summer festival appearances in Europe and Canada.

Also looming: the Juno Awards in St. John’s, where they’ll perform live — although Kowalewicz says it really isn’t about the hardware, but the invitation to the party.

“It’s a drinking party, is what it is,” chuckles Kowalewicz. “A drinking competition, especially in Newfoundland, oh my goodness.

“Some great performers and great bands are going to be there, and we’re just happy to have our named tossed in with the gang.”

Local Baritone Elliot Madore Ready For The Big Leagues

www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(March 28, 2010) It doesn’t have to be a long way from centre ice to centre stage.

Last December, Maple Leafs fans heard
Elliot Madore sing the national anthem at the Air Canada Centre.

Two weeks ago, a sold-out house at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City heard the same, 22-year-old Toronto baritone sing his way to a $15,000 (U.S.) prize that is opera’s equivalent of winning American Idol.

Madore, a hockey-loving kid from Etobicoke, was one of five aspiring singers chosen from more than 1,500 competitors aged 20 to 30. It’s not the prize money that matters; it’s the almost guaranteed head-start on an international career.

A week later, the singer took home an additional $10,000 (U.S.) cheque as a recipient of a 2010 George London Award, run by a New York City foundation named after the late opera star.

To think that, five years ago, Madore was a hockey-playing teen from the Etobicoke School of the Arts.

“I come from a sports-loving family,” he admits from Philadelphia, where he is finishing up a Master’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music. “I didn’t come to music until I was older. I sang in a couple of choirs but I was really focused on hockey.”

Not that Mom didn’t know her son had talent. After all, Madore sang his first national anthem at a Leafs game when he was 13.

“They were having a cattle-call audition, and my mother decided on a whim that we should go,” the baritone recalls. “I was one of the last people to sing, and they booked me.”

Madore hasn’t kept count, but figures he’s sung at the ACC at least 30 times since. He also had piano and cello lessons while growing up, but admits that “my family and I didn’t know where to go or what to do with my talent.”

The teen wouldn’t even let on about his artsy ambitions on the ice. “I didn’t want the guys on my hockey team to know that I sang,” he says, laughing. “When I sang the anthem at the Leafs game, well, that was kind of okay.”

It took an interested teacher at the Etobicoke School of the Arts to point Madore in the right direction. At this man’s urging, Madore’s mother drove her son out to Cleveland to audition for renowned vocal coach, and Curtis Institute teacher, Marlena Malas.

The rest is about to be history.

The Metropolitan Opera has run its annual National Council Auditions since 1954. The list of winners reads like a who’s who of opera marquees, including retired legends Grace Bumbry, Teresa Stratas, Jessye Norman and Frederica von Stade and current reigning vocal queen, Renée Fleming.

Torontonians have done well before: Tenor Ben Heppner won in the 1980s, while soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian followed a decade later.

In assessing this year’s Met competition results, New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, “Despite shaky vocal moments, it was hard to resist the panache in Mr. Madore’s performance.”

Winning the Met auditions has allowed Madore to sign up for three years with the company’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, which will help him polish the rough edges — and no doubt give him opportunities to sing on the mainstage with the great voices and conductors of our time.

Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef, who was a member of this year’s Met jury, doesn’t rule out the possibility of casting Madore in a Toronto production as soon as his Met obligations are fulfilled.

“Singing for the COC is a dream of mine,” the baritone admits.

In the meantime, he has a Curtis student presentation of The Barber of Seville to get through before he graduates in May, as well as two roles in the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Festival annual opera production to prepare for the summer.

In between, he has to try and find a place to live in New York City.

“My girlfriend and I are trying to figure that out right now,” he says.

One more thing on the to-do list: “I also want to find a hockey league I can play with when I get to New York.”

Barbara Budd leaving CBC's As It Happens

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(March 30, 2010) Barbara Budd, long-time host of CBC Radio One's news magazine As It Happens, is calling it quits.

She announced her departure on air Monday night at the conclusion of the program.

Later she told the Star, "The CBC is always trying to make things better, its programs are always evolving, and after 40 years they want As It Happens to grow.

"I don't fit in with that plan."

Budd, a veteran co-host and host of the program since 1993, admitted in an emotional interview Monday that the decision by CBC Radio management came as a shock.

"I was surprised, but I understand their reasons. I would never have willingly walked away from a show I loved with all my heart, even years before I became a part of it.

"Change is difficult for listeners, viewers and readers, as the media world evolves. But change is inevitable."

The roles of host and co-host on As It Happens have always been part-time positions, Budd added. "I think the feeling is that they could be fleshed out more."

A search for Budd's replacement will be announced soon, she said.

"But As It Happens will still be the show it always was. I'll always have tremendous respect for it. It's bigger than any host."

A former stage actress who also works as a documentary narrator, panel moderator and voice-animator for movies and television, Budd took over Alan Maitland's slot in 1993, sharing on-air duties with Michael Enright until his departure in 1997, then with Mary Lou Finlay till 2005. Finlay retired as host in 2005. Carol Off signed on as co-host in early 2006.

Budd said she hasn't considered her next career step.

"My passion is telling interesting stories, so I hope I can continue doing that. I'd be happy to continue hosting symphony performances, moderating debates and panels ... and I'm working on a non-fiction book.

"I've always had a sense of humour, I enjoy irony and I like challenges. My life is great. But right now ... I just have to think."

On air Monday night Budd surprised listeners across the country with her sudden news.

"I'm announcing I'm leaving As It Happens," she said. "And my final show will be on April 30.

"We all learned something this year: we might not be able to own the podium, but it sure is to thrilling to be given the use of one for 17 years."

Describing her announcement as "something hard to do in hard time" (a radio expression for concise length), Budd invited listeners to send her pictures of themselves or the places in which they usually listen to As It Happens during the next month.

She remarked on meeting listeners in "the oddest places — a tiny convenience store off the beaten trail in Cape Breton, trekking in the middle of the Mojave Desert, in a coffee shop in Washington, and riding a taxi cab in Minneapolis," who have told her how glad they are to finally put a face to the voice.

"I've always replied, 'I'm so glad to be able to finally put a face to the ears.'

"I'll be leaving here with a whole lot of wonderful memories. But I'd like to be able to leave here too being able to put faces to your ears, which you have lent me for so long."

Janet in Control

Source: Kam Williams

(March 26, 2010) Born in Gary , Indiana on May 16, 1966, Janet Damita Jo Jackson entered show business at the tender age of 7 when she appeared onstage with her already famous elder siblings at the MGM in Las Vegas . This debut, was followed by appearances at 9 on her family’s variety show “The Jacksons” which, in turn, led to starring and recurring roles on such hit sitcoms as "Good Times," “Diff’rent Strokes," and "Fame."

At 14, Janet signed her first recording deal. Placing acting on the back burner to focus on her first love, music, she went on to enjoy extraordinary success upon the release of her breakthrough album, Control in 1986. Over the course of her ensuing musical career, she has thus far accumulated five Grammys, multiple MTV Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and Soul Train Music Awards, to name a few. As an artist, Janet excites, enlightens, leads, and embraces her fans with insights into life's meaning while touching their deepest feelings. 

The film Poetic Justice marked this very versatile talent’s first foray into acting in feature films, and that was soon followed by a co-starring role in Nutty Professor II. Janet later received the NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category for her work in Why Did I Get Married. Furthermore, like all of her movies, Why Did I Get Married opened up #1 at the box office.

Privately, Janet continues to focus on speaking out and giving back, raising money for charities such as the Cities in Schools and America 's Promise. She has also supported the Watts Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club of America, the Starlight Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, A Place Called Home in South Central LA, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, S.O.S. Children's Villages in South Africa , Cartier's Love Bracelet Program benefiting OCNA and she sponsored an Airlift of Food and Medical supplies to famine-stricken Rwanda . In addition, Janet established the Rhythm Nation Scholarship with the UNCF and has assisted numerous students striving to meet their educational goals. 

Most recently, Janet honoured her brother Michael's legacy and supported the people of Haiti by joining over 80 artists who collaborated to record "We Are the World 25 for Haiti," the classic 1985 charity anthem re-imagined by Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones to support the earthquake relief efforts. Not surprisingly, Janet has been honoured with countless humanitarian awards in response to her dedication to helping others.

Later this year, Janet plans to publish her autobiography, providing an intimate look at her life.  Here, she talks about reprising the role of Pat in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too, one of those rare sequels which is actually better than the original.

Kam Williams: Thanks so much for the time, Janet. I’m honoured to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Janet Jackson: It’s my pleasure.

KW: First of all, please allow me to express my condolences on the loss of your brother, Michael.

JJ: Thank you.

KW: Watching Why Did I Get Married Too, the first thing I noticed was that it afforded you an opportunity to display a much greater range of emotions. How did you enjoy that?

JJ: I loved it! I absolutely loved it. I was so thankful that Tyler had written such an amazing piece for me to explore. So, I was really excited about it. When he first gave me the script, he warned me, “When you read this, you’re really going to flip out. I think it’s going to be exciting for you.” And it was.

KW: It’s very rare that an entire ensemble cast comes back for a sequel. How was it being reunited with everybody again?

JJ: I loved being with them again. It truly is a family. There’s closeness and connection. After filming the original, when we went our separate ways, I felt like I had a new group of friends. We stayed in touch and tried to see each other whenever we were in town or in between projects. So, the minute we heard there was going to be a sequel, all of us were immediately on board, knowing we would be able to get back together again. And then, for half of it to be shot in The Bahamas made going to work feel like being on vacation with your friends. The crew members were sweethearts, too. 

KW:  What a refreshing difference from those nightmare shoots you sometimes hear about that sound like a clash of egos. 

JJ: I credit Tyler . It’s Tyler ’s vision. He’s created a true family.

KW: What is it about Tyler that makes him special?

JJ: He’s an amazing man. One of the things that I love most about him is that he has this spirituality abut him, and it’s a really big part of who he is. I adore Tyler , and I love that about him.

KW: All your previous films have opened up in the #1 spot at the box office. Do you feel any pressure to keep up the string?

JJ: I don’t feel any pressure at all. You know what? I honestly wouldn’t even have thought about it, if another journalist hadn’t brought it to my attention. Would it be great if it did? Of course. If it doesn’t open at #1, am I going to be bummed out? No, I’ve been so blessed and I’m just thankful to be a part of the project and grateful to Tyler for giving me another opportunity to explore this character.

KW: What do you think the experience will be like for the audience?

JJ: I think more so than anything people are going to enjoy the film and they’ll also walk away learning a lot from it.

KW: By the way, I love “Nothing,” the film’s theme which you sing on the soundtrack. I hope it lands you another Oscar nomination like the song “Again” did for you wit h Poetic Justice.

JJ: Thank you very much. That would be really nice.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and they sent me a lot of questions, so let’s see how many we can get through.

JJ: Okay.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says, “My favourite album of yours is Control which spoke to me because at the time I was working in Paris and I had such a lack of control over so many things in my life. Have you ever related to a song by someone else which intimately spoke to you at a point in your life?”

JJ: Definitely! There are two things that really move me: music and acting. And I’m not talking about my music or watching myself as an actor, but listening to other people’s music and watching other actors. There are so many different songs that have moved me. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in at that moment. Plus, I was raised with a ton of brothers and sisters where, obviously, the music running in and out of the house was very eclectic. So, I had a lot under my belt by the time I grew up. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in, the space that I’m in and what I’m feeling at that moment. But definitely!

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks which do you enjoy doing more, acting or singing?

JJ: I enjoy them both a great deal. I have a passion for both. Maybe acting just a little bit more because it’s more of a challenge for me, while music comes so easily. 

KW: Marcia Evans asks, have you ever considered doing an album of duets? 

JJ: No, I have not, but that’s a very good idea. Maybe someday that’ll actually happen.

KW: Documentary filmmaker Hisani Dubose asks if you plan to produce movies.

JJ: I would love to. A dream of mine is to produce films, as well as to produce content for television.

KW: Hisani also wants to know what movie you’ll be making next.

JJ: For Colored Girls, an adaptation of the play, which I’m sure she’s familiar with. We’ll start shooting that not to long from now.

KW: Laz Lyles wants to know, what's the biggest way you’ve grown as an actress since Poetic Justice, and whether you find that with each role you discover something new about yourself?

JJ: I always knew that I could go deep. How deep? I don’t know. But it always seems that with each character I take on, I’m challenged to go deeper than the last time, and then again deeper than the last time. This is the deepest I’ve ever been asked to dive. And to see how deep I actually went for this, and that I wasn’t afraid to go there in order to give Tyler exactly what he envisioned for the character, which was pretty deep, that’s what I discovered about myself.

KW: Larry Greenberg says, he loved your video for "Miss You Much" which was directed by Dominic Sena. He’s wondering, if there’s any chance of you doing something new with him?

JJ: I haven’t spoken with Dominic in a while, but I would love to. I actually wanted him to work on another video of mine, but he was shooting a movie at the time. Once in a blue moon, we wind up speaking to one another. I think Dominic is incredibly talented and, hopefully, we will work together again. 

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks what gives the greatest meaning to your life?

JJ: It would have to be God.

KW: Varise Cooper asks, what are you doing to make a long-lasting, positive impact on the world?

JJ: I work with a lot of different charities, and by that I don’t mean merely by giving money, but by really getting involved hands-on. I’ve always said that one of the reasons why I was put on this Earth was to help people. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed both here in America and if I have the opportunity when I’m traveling out of the country. For example, I like to visit orphanages to spend time with the children. That’s very important to me.   

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

JJ: That’s the question right there! [Laughs] That’s a good question.

KW: Well, on that note, let me thank you again for the interview, Janet.

JJ: Thank you very much.

Danilo Perez Taking Dizzy’s Lessons To The World

www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 26, 2010) Panamanian American jazz pianist
Danilo Perez has taken a page from the past for his promising new all-star ensemble.

Titled Things to Come: 21st Century Dizzy, the septet, which performs Saturday at Koerner Hall at 8 p.m., was assembled in the spirit of Perez’s mentor, the late Dizzy Gillespie.

When he joined in 1989, Perez was the youngest member of the final edition of the legendary trumpeter’s United Nations Orchestra. The group, which included the likes of Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera, was a melting pot of styles, genres and pan-global collaborations. Perez toured with the band and played on its Grammy-winning disc Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

It is in that vein that the pianist has brought together crack jazz musicians with the ability to draw from their native or ancestral music. They are tenor saxist David Sanchez (Puerto Rico), alto saxist Rudresh Mahanthappa (India), trumpeter Amir ElSaffar (Iraq), percussionist Jamey Haddad (Lebanon), bassist John Patitucci (Italy) and drummer Adam Cruz (Puerto Rico).

They’ll be playing Perez originals as well as such Gillespie standards as “Manteca” and “Salt Peanuts.” The Star spoke with the longstanding member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet by phone from Boston where he is the artistic director of the Berklee College of Music’s newly formed Global Jazz Institute.

Q: What was the impetus for this project?

A: It’s really relevant in this time, the picking up on what I call Dizzy, the global jazz ambassador, and his ideas of we can be united through music and make a better world. It’s so relevant right now because of all the crises in the world, the Middle East. There’s not a more appropriate practice than to use music to heal the wounds that are being created. When I did the apprenticeship with him I saw how Dizzy saw the world through the lens of music. We need to practice global jazz right now.

Q: How did you first meet Diz?

A: Monty Alexander was playing in the United Nations band and I had a call from him. I had played by that time with Paquito, Slide Hampton and Claudio Roditi and I had a big endorsement from them. Dizzy took me in his studio. I was so afraid. I was 22.

Q: What don’t people know about him?

A: Dizzy was a real combination of an entertainer with a serious artist. I think because he was such a great entertainer people sometimes forget how great he was ..... the power of his ideas, how he saw the relevance of the melting pot, from Cuba to Brazil to Africa, and how he reached out to that. And he was a great teacher. He taught me “take your time,” which has been essential for me to keep working; especially in last 10 years with Wayne Shorter, where I see the same lessons, the mystery of sound, the mystery of the childish quality. And he was a bad (as in good) piano player.

Q: You had any number of exceptional musicians to choose from. What qualities did you seek in musicians for this ensemble?

A: People who had had a relationship with Dizzy or a connection with the way I have been interpreting music. I was also looking for people bringing their culture to their sound; somebody who knew about jazz, but also they were experimenting with their home sound. Iraq was key for me, because that’s a wounded place that I know we need to heal. I would like to turn this into a healing band and take it all over the world.

Blues Man Bobby Rush releases New CD ‘Blind Snake’

Source: Greg Preston,

(March 29, 2010) *Jackson, MS — On
Bobby Rush’s new CD Blind Snake (Deep Rush) the bluesman returns to some time-tested themes but once again explores new musical territory.

In addition to several gospel songs he includes a Christmas-oriented take of the title track, which otherwise fits pretty squarely into the Bobby Rush mold.

“The Christmas version of Blind Snake is about a man coming to a house as Santa Claus, bringing a woman whatever she would like,” explains Rush. “He says he’s bringing her something she’s never seen before, but the woman’s been around and what he’s bringing she might have seen yesterday.”

Rush’s take of People Don’t Do, a commentary on modern life, draws from a song originally performed by the gospel group Slim and the Supreme Angels. According to Rush the song, which he follows with a version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, applies equally to the secular world.

“You can see it from a church standpoint, but as a blues singer I also see that it’s a different world now,” says Rush. “I didn’t do a serious gospel song but just put some Bobby Rush in it.”

Rush is on more familiar ground with If You Don’t Treat Me Better and plays in a classic Chicago style on She Alright, She Alright and a cover of Willie Dixon’s Make Love to You. The record also dips into country blues traditions via Bryan Ward’s mandolin and dobro work, and on the autobiographical Chinkapin Huntin’ Rush recalls his earliest years with the blues.

Although wide-ranging, Rush nevertheless sees the record as reflecting his artistic core.

“I can do the full show with the girls, do a trio, or play solo acoustic, but my story is pretty much the same,” says Rush. “I still sing about big women, little women, being in love, and makin’ love.”


Raymond V. Raymond: Usher

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Raymond V. Raymond
(out of four)

(March 29, 2010) Having spent the last few years torn between two women — his wife and mother-manager (both of whom he’s dumped)
Usher Raymond is trying to get his sexy back and this album is a step in the right direction. With hot producers such as Danja and Sean Garrett, the Atlanta-based performer’s sixth disc is a sizzling mix of dance floor bangers and grinding ballads that put the attention back on his warm, elastic tenor and off his personal life.

After the 10-million selling Confessions (2004) which seemed to catalogue his breakup with TLC’s Chili (though co-writer Jermaine Dupri has since said the tunes were about his exploits) Usher went all the way biographical with 2008’s Here I Stand, reflecting the fidelity and fatherhood of his then-married with children status, but sales were lacklustre.

Now single again, he’s back in the club and on the prowl with self-explanatory tunes like “Lil Freak,” “So Many Girls” and “Pro Lover.” Rest assured when the 31-year-old sings “Daddy’s home/ It’s time to play” on “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” he’s not addressing his two young sons.

The best tracks combine ardour and adoration. They include the steamy slow jam “There Goes My Baby” and “Monstar,” with its whispery French backing vocals and funky backbeat that echo producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’s ’90s hits for Janet Jackson.

Now under the management of AEG boss Randy Phillips, Usher and his marketers are savvy enough to include a few controversial, biographical-sounding tunes such as “Papers” which alludes to the conflict between his mom and ex-wife (“I done damn near lost my momma/ I done been through so much trauma”) and “Foolin’ Around” which seems like a Confessions outtake with its infidelity mea culpa.

He might have Justin Bieber in his hip pocket, but Usher need not concede centre stage just yet.

Worst Track: If the title “OMG” doesn’t say everything you need to know about this formulaic, will.i.am-produced techno mess, lyrics like “Honey got a booty like pow pow pow/ Honey got some boobies like wow oh wow” should.  


Janet Jackson Added to Essence Music Fest Line-up

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(March 30, 2010) *
Janet Jackson has been booked as the third and final headliner for the Essence Music Festival this Fourth of July weekend–July 2, 3 and 4–in New Orleans. The actress-singer will make her festival debut on July 2, according to an announcement today from Essence. The event will also mark Jackson’s first full performance since her 2008 concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. The artist, whose latest single “Nothing” is released today on iTunes, joins an Essence Music Fest line-up that includes Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys. “This year’s Essence Music Festival line-up is headed up by three of the most talented and powerful women in music today,” said Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications Inc. “With the return of both Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys, and the first-ever performance from Janet Jackson, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Essence’s 40th anniversary.” The full list of acts confirmed for this year’s weekend-long celebration of music, culture and community–set for July 2, 3 and 4–is as follows: Alicia Keys, Arrested Development, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, DJ Soul Sister, Estelle, Hot 8 Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Irvin Mayfield and NOJO, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, Lalah Hathaway, Leo Jackson and the Melody Clouds, Little Freddie King, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Mary Mary, Mint Condition, Monica, Rebirth Brass Band, Ruben Studdard, Sam & Ruby, Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Trey Songz and WAR.

Jill Scott on the Cover of Essence

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 30, 2010) *Wow, that
Jill Scott is a busy bee and living life to the fullest. She is excited about raising her new son and is staying busy with work.   The woman is doing so much with a new album coming out soon, a dynamic role in Tyler Perry’s movie “Why Did I Get Married too,” doing her ‘thang’ with her HBO series, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and finding out what it means to be a mom.   She tells Essence, “… Ever since I had my son, I feel like there’s a stitch of lava in my spine. I feel like I can do anything… I felt completely overwhelmed by being a mom. I always wanted it, but when I actually got it, it was so much more than I had anticipated…”  Scott is living well and enjoying every moment.

Russell Simmons to Change the Hood

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 30, 2010) *A grassroots movement is garnering support from hip-hop mogul
Russell Simmons in Brooklyn and Queens.   The New York Daily News reports the Peace Keepers Movement is campaigning to stop violence and crime through the presence of positive men in neighbourhoods.   “For me, this is significant because I grew up here. Not too far from here, I sold drugs. I’ve had to change, and I’ve had leaders show me the way,” Simmons said at a rally in Queens  Dennis Muhammad, who started the efforts in Houston, founded peace Keepers. He believes changes have to be made through the leadership of strong, positive men, not through prisons and more police.

LL Cool J Joins Red Cross ‘Celebrity Cabinet’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 29, 2010) *The American Red Cross today announced
LL Cool J as one of eight new members to its National Celebrity Cabinet, a group of famous supporters who promote Red Cross services by donating their time, helping neighbours prepare for emergencies, responding to disasters and lending a helping hand to those in need. Other new members include actor Penn Badgley, Giselle Blondet, Josh Duhamel, Wynonna Judd, Reba McEntire, Alyssa Milano and David Spade. LL Cool J recorded a television public service advertisement (PSA) for the Red Cross in response to the earthquake in Haiti as part of CBS Cares. McEntire has recorded radio PSAs on tornado and hurricane preparedness. Duhamel filmed video messages following devastating floods in his home state in North Dakota and participated in a Youth Run 4 Haiti with the American Red Cross of Santa Monica. Blondet appeared on Univision’s telethon which raised nearly $5 million for Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti. With the addition of the eight new members, the Red Cross now has more than 40 members on its National Celebrity Cabinet. The announcement of the new members of the Celebrity Cabinet comes during Red Cross Month, which has been recognized through a presidential proclamation by President Barack Obama.

Jennifer Lopez Confirms Def Jam Deal?

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 31, 2010) *The Web site Ace Showbiz is reporting that
Jennifer Lopez has confirmed she is signed to Island Def Jam, with an official announcement to follow in the coming days. The singer and actress, who recently parted ways with her longtime label Epic, reportedly confirmed the deal during junket interviews for her upcoming film “The Back-Up Plan.” Details of the finalized deal are still unclear, as is the fate of her shelved album “Love.” It is thought that the label’s boss L.A. Reid will take over the project and shepherd its eventual release this summer. If true, Lopez joins an Island Def Jam roster that includes Rihanna, Kayne West and Justin Bieber.

Pharrell Launches Web Site for Teens

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 31, 2010) *
Pharrell Williams has launched the new Web site Kidult.com, an online destination for youngsters that bills itself as a “reliable news source that speaks directly to teenagers.” The site (http://www.kidult.com/) features edited and user-generated content that encompasses current events, politics, science, the environment, technology, health, sports, gaming, fashion and entertainment. Already live, the portal also features an interview section that ranges from Q&As with popular celebrities (Justin Bieber, Kidz in the Hall, Miranda Cosgrove) to “Cool Job” professionals (the talent coordinator for “The Daily Show”). Supplementing the Kidult.com offerings are blogs, regular political polls and daily video posts (including Kidult-made videos and movie trailers). In addition, the site is promoting the Kidult Youth Leadership Conference, slated for June 26 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers. Among the speakers will be Williams and Mimi Valdes, the site¹s co-founder and also editor in chief of Latina Magazine.


Cinefranco Showcases More Than 30 Films

www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(March 26, 2010) Despite bilingualism, the best of francophone film is often lost on English Canada. It’s a shortcoming that
Cinéfranco, billed as the biggest festival of international French-language cinema, is trying to correct.

Running Friday through next Saturday, this year’s roster offers more than 30 features, most of which are having their Canadian (or at least English-Canadian) premieres. Here are some highlights.

Le Divan du monde (Everybody’s Couch)

Director Dominic Desjardins returns with a heartfelt depiction of a young Acadian woman travelling across Canada and crashing on the couches of acquaintances after a failed relationship. She’s joined by one of her hosts, and as they learn to trust each other English Canada rolls by.

Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas)

A commercially-minded reworking of the hugely popular French books: As millions know, Nicolas is a little boy who likes to overexplain things to readers and always finds a bit of shouting, messing around and nose-punching très amusant. Set in mid-last century, reflecting the era of the original books and lending heaps of nostalgia, Nicolas and friends get caught up in various problems with each other, and psychological battles with teachers. This is a family film (read: A film that’s not shy on deliberate cuteness).

Tribute to Pierre Falardeau

Two films by the controversial, nationalist Quebec filmmaker are being shown: Le Party follows entertainers giving a show in a maximum-security prison, leading to unexpected situations; Octobre is about the crisis of October, 1970, from the point of view of an FLQ terrorist cell.

Complices (Partners)

The festival’s closing-night film, this French-Swiss thriller starts off with a floating corpse and missing girlfriend. But as the mystery unfolds, the film is as much about the relationship between the investigators as the secrets of a deadly love affair.

For screening dates and times, and more information on the Cinefranco line-up, visit www.cinefranco.com.

Academy Award-Winner Mo’Nique in the House!

Source: Kam Williams

(March 26, 2010) Mo’Nique collected a basketful of Supporting Actress accolades over the course of the awards season for her gripping portrayal of Mary Jones, the relentlessly-monstrous mother in Precious. The versatile comedienne/actress/talk show host’s powerful performance not only earned her a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, NAACP Image, Sundance Film Festival, BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award, but was recognized as the best of 2010 by most critics’ guilds as well. Still, the icing on the cake arrived no March 7th when the talented sister won a well-deserved Academy Award.

Here, in the first interview I’ve ever conducted which actually brought me to tears, Mo’Nique reflects upon a variety of subjects, ranging from family to spirituality to surviving incest to what winning the Oscar means to her. And she also talks about “Spread the Love,” the standup comedy victory tour during which she’ll be making stops in 20 cities around the country between now and the end of May.      

Kam Williams: Hey, Mo’Nique. The last thing I said to you, when we spoke back in October, was that the next time we spoke I’d be congratulating you on your Oscar. Well, Congratulations, sister!

Mo’Nique: Thank you, brother, I appreciate that.

KW: It was easy to predict. Listen, I watch over 500 movies a year, and let me say that was not only the best performance of 2010, but in my opinion it would even have won if they gave out an Oscar for the best performance of the decade.

M: Wow! Thank you, brother.

KW: Well, I want to thank you for still making yourself available to me now, because it often becomes impossible to land another interview with an actor or actress after they’ve just landed an Oscar nomination. They don’t even have to win the Oscar to suddenly be unavailable.   

M: And that’s a damn shame, Kam. Me? I appreciate the brothers and sisters who were there before anybody was calling. So, how could I not talk to you?

KW: I certainly appreciate that, especially since I remember how over the years you’ve done a lot of little things for me like arrange to put a couple passes aside if you were doing a comedy show nearby. Speaking of standup, what inspired you to do this “Spread the Love Tour,” when you must already be very busy from hosting your late night TV talk show on BET?   

M: Well, standup is my first love. When I told my husband [Sidney Hicks], “Baby, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to get back out there,” he said, “Okay, then let’s come up with a title. What are you trying to say?” and I said, “Let’s spread the love! Let’s spread the love with jokes, baby, through humour. Let’s laugh out loud, but while we doing it, we’re gonna be loving on each other at the same time.”   

KW: I see that you’re taking DJ Ant on the road with you. What’s up with the music?

M: Oh, Lord, honey! As a comedienne, I always loved when the audience was entertained from the moment the doors opened up ‘till the time they closed. I never understood why people would have to sit patiently waiting in silence for the comedians to come on. I say, “Give ‘em a full show! Let ‘em feel good! Let ‘em party! Let that music move through ‘em, baby. So, by the time we come to the stage, the house is already on fire. The music helps amplify the experience.

KW: And why’d you decide to have two comedians accompanying you on the tour, Rodney Perry and Tone-X?

M: Now, Rodney Perry is my co-host on the talk show. What I love about him is that he’s so brilliantly funny, and he’s fearless. And his act is so full of love. You feel like he’s Uncle Rodney. And it’s the same thing with Tone-X. He’s just fearless, and our whole goal is to make you laugh, but to make you feel good at the same time.

KW: And what type of jokes will you be doing?

M: Adult! You know me, Kam. [Laughs] Adult jokes. But they’re very honest. Whenever people ask, “Who is Mo’Nique?” I always say, “Come to a comedy show, baby. You will find out who she is right there.” 

KW: I guess you’ll have to touch on winning the Oscar, too.

M: Kam, you know I’m a have to touch it, hit it, slap it and rub it down, because it’s been quite a journey, especially after reading some of the articles, and hearing some people’s opinions. After all, I’m a comedienne. So, you know, I got to take that and bring it up on the stage.

KW: I’m not you, yet my eyes are tearing up, when I think of all the criticism levelled at you last fall for not kissing-up to the film industry, as if your performance couldn’t stand on its own. I admired how you stuck to your guns, even though I thought it might hurt you with the voters. That’s why the headline of my article back then was, “Just Give Mo’Nique the Oscar!”

M: It’s all about the performance, baby.

KW: What should anything else have to do with it? But they were like sharks circling you in the water, trying to figure out how to prevent you from getting it. It’s a further tribute to your performance that you won in the face of negative buzz trying to poison the minds of the Academy voters by suggesting that you were thumbing your nose at the Hollywood establishment.

M: I’m a big believer that when you do it right, and you don’t waiver, you win an Oscar. When I say do it right, I mean you stay humble, full of love, and focused on your goal, baby, and that other stuff don’t matter. It ends up rolling right off of your back. And you still got to love those people who done wrote that stuff about you.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

JK: Oh my God! It was about my baby Jonathan, just this morning in the kitchen. He said, “Mommy, do you know what David [his twin brother] did?” because he was getting ready to tell on him. I said, “What?” And he paused for a long time before saying, “Nothin’.” It was the cutest thing. I said, “I’m proud of you! You were getting ready to tell on your brother, then you thought about it.” My kids and my husband, Sidney, make me laugh all the time.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

M: What is my earliest childhood memory? Wow! Wow! I remember coming home on the first day of school, maybe in the second grade, and I told my dad, “My teacher said I’m gonna pass.” But the teacher hadn’t told me that, but I wanted some attention. [LOL] I’ve always been that kid.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

M: Hmm… That my husband and I would be able to meet the next generation of the Hicks family.

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

M: The Shack. Kam, believe me when I tell you that this book is amazing. It’s about this guy whose daughter is molested and brutally-murdered. And he has to go back to where it happened. He meets god, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God is a big, black woman who talks real slick in her mouth. Jesus looks like he’s Iraqi, and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. I tell you, Kam, you can just feel the love coming off of the pages. It is a book that I suggest to you, because I believe your spirit can withstand it. Get it! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0964729245?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0964729245

KW: I definitely will.

M: It’s so amazing, that as you read it, you’ll go “Oh my God!”

KW: The next time we speak, I’ll tell you what I thought of the book.

M: Yes… Yes, yes, yes!

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod? 

M: This morning, I worked out to Barry White.

KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell says, "You go girl" and asks, what keeps you going as an actress: a thought, a personal wish, a subconscious force? 

M: What keeps me going? These are some great questions, Kam! I think what keeps me going is just today. I’m so appreciative of this gift, because I can’t explain it. So, today keeps me going in the hope that I’ll get to tomorrow.

KW: Tommy also asks, what do you think the most important political initiative is for President Obama in his first administration?

M: I think it’s love, and I think he’s doing it. I think the moment that Americans get behind this man is the moment that the world will get behind America.

KW: Barbara Darko noticed that you gave your husband, Sidney, a lot of credit during your Oscar acceptance speech. She asks, how would you describe your relationship?

M: I thank God every day for allowing me to spend this journey with his son.

KW: Rev. Florine Thompson asks, what life experiences prepared you most for your role in Precious?
M: [Pauses, clears her throat] I was molested by my eldest brother, Gerald. So, I knew who Mary Jones was. And when Mr. Daniels [director Lee Daniels] asked me to portray a monster, I was very familiar with that monster. And please let me say this. You know how you might be unable to fully understand something you’re going through at the time that it’s happening? And you might even want to be mad at God?

KW: Yeah.

M: Well, the moment we wrapped that movie, I understood why I had gone  through what I went through as a little girl, which allowed me to stop resenting my brother. It was life-changing for me. 

KW: Reverend Thompson also asks, what would you say to those mothers who sit in silence while their significant other, or perhaps I should say insignificant other, sexually abuses their daughter? 
M: The first thing I would say is, this is the “No Judgment Zone.” We ain’t judging. All we would ask you is that you get some help. And get some help for the family, even for the person who is doing it to your child. Remove the predator from the situation, of course, but get help for everybody involved. And love him when he’s unlovable. 

KW: She was also wondering, whether this movie has empowered you to champion the cause of domestic abuse?
M: Yes... yes… And domestic abuse is such an umbrella. So much fits under that umbrella that what we’re championing and the mission for us is love. Because when you truly got that thing called L-O-V-E, you’re not judging. You simply want to say, “Listen, baby, what you did, you have to pay for under the law, but we’re gonna love you through it.” Maybe that way you can talk to the next person that’s thinking about becoming a molester, that’s telling you the thoughts they’re having. So, you can suggest they get some help before they act on those urges. That’s the whole mission, Kam, it really is. 

KW: The good Rev asks, what do you most thank God for?

M: Today. I’m so thankful for today, that I could wake up to my children who are so full of joy and love, saying “Good morning, mommy!” Man, I’m so thankful for today, because tomorrow, I may not get.

KW: Larry Greenberg says, people might not know that you have been in quite a few action films, like Shadowboxer, Half Past Dead and his favourite, Domino. He wants to know whether there’s any chance of your going back to the action genre.
M: You tell Larry that I am a superhero, and I’m going to be flying in somebody’s film real soon, sugar. So, yes, I can’t wait to put a cape on! [Laughs]

KW: Barbara asks if you plan to bring your daily talk show to mainstream network TV?

M: I get that question often. Would you do me a favour, Kam, and ask Barbara exactly what does she mean by mainstream? Because the stream I’m in right now is my mainstream.

KW: That’s a brilliant analysis. I feel the same way. The New York Times would never consider hiring me or printing any of my articles, so why should I consider that mainstream when I have so many outlets who do appreciate what I do.

M: Kam is my mainstream. People invest so much into that word “mainstream.” What does it mean? And is that supposed to be some sort of validation because you think I should go to mainstream? The stream I’m in right now is my mainstream. If you want to come on over and play with me, come on!

KW: Here’s another one more from Reverend Thompson, how does your spirituality inform you and enable you to play the role of Precious' mother?
M: Wow! You know, when we went into this, we knew we had to be honest, because if we weren’t, we would not be able to change lives, or to serve as the vessels we were supposed to be used as. So, we just wanted to make sure we were dead honest, so that people who watched the film could literally watch themselves.

KW: Well, thanks again, Mo’Nique. This is the first time I’ve ever ended an interview with tears in my eyes. I guess I’m crying because I’ve known you at different stages of your career, and I’m just so moved by what you’ve achieved and touched by the absence of bitterness about what you’ve had to overcome, and I’m honoured by how openly you’ve shared your feelings about it all with me.     

M: Kam, I love you, brother. And for the rest of my career, baby, as long as you’re doing what you’re doing, me and you will keep on talking.

KW: I really appreciate that, and I love you, too, Mo’Nique.

M: God bless you.

To see Mo’Nique’s Golden Globe acceptance speech, visit HERE

To see Mo’Nique’s Academy Awards acceptance speech, visit HERE

Toronto As A Sexy, Self-Involved Femme Fatale

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

Directed by Atom Egoyan

(Possibly the hardest working city in show business, Toronto has played dozens of roles onscreen over the years – Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and the North Pole. Now thanks to Atom Egoyan's new film,
Chloe, Toronto gets its chance for a breakthrough performance by playing itself, posh, edgy and intimidating.

Not that it doesn't have some steamy competition. Its co-stars are Liam Neeson as David, a handsome professor with a wandering eye; Julianne Moore as his jealous gynecologist wife, Catherine; and Amanda Seyfried as Chloe, a young call girl whom Catherine hires to test her husband's fidelity.

The story, adapted from the French film Nathalie has elements of a fable: A test of love, followed by predictable negative consequences.

Yet this fairy land is where Toronto's fast set play, around Bloor and Avenue Road, south to College Street and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Chloe offers a selective view of the city. You don't see the suburbs, strip malls or ethnic neighbourhoods. Instead, we get a partial view, like an erotic photograph that focuses on the subject's nape or earlobes and leaves the rest out. This is a place of minimalist glass-walled houses, like the Drew Mandel-designed Ravine House that serves as the family home.

Glass and mirrors are everywhere; they reflect and aggravate the self-consciousness and fragility of the characters. There's the precariousness of the pencil-like stilts on Will Alsop's Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Cinematographer Paul Sarossy finds a flattering peekaboo angle on Daniel Libeskind's Royal Ontario Museum addition, which makes it look like some strange biomechanical alien ready to pounce.

In this not-so-funhouse mirror, what can we discern about the character of the city? Conventionally, cities are thought of as female. L.A. Is My Lady, sang Frank Sinatra, and Paris is always the Queen of Cities.

Toronto is the femme fatale. Stiletto heels, hair clips, lingerie and mirrors mark a space that's distinctly feminine (though, given Toronto's ingenious film wardrobing, it may be a dude in drag). Specifically, the city's character is reflected in both women.

Julianne Moore's fragile character, defined by her glass house, is accomplished, but aggrieved. It's not too much of a stretch to fit this description of Toronto, which, at 175, isn't quite in its first bloom, but far from old enough to deserve veneration. Our city has endured a long history of paternalistic back-handed compliments, including Brendan Behan's observation that Toronto would be a fine city when it got finished, or travel writer Jan Morris's shot that it was a city that represents the second best of everything.

Chloe, the character who gives the film its title, reflects another side of our city – that we're good at pretending to be what we're not. Chloe sees herself as a canny pro that can disappear into her clients' fantasies.

Toronto has become a world-class city at faking it. As Mr. Egoyan has noted in interviews, the city has a distinct iconography that audiences in other cities feel they recognize but can't quite identify, because they've seen it in the movies: “Toronto is like Chloe, paid to be something else,” Mr. Egoyan says.

There's another quality the city has in common with the two women characters is a desperation to be recognized, noticed and paid attention. Perhaps the movie will finally help satisfy that need. We've always known that Toronto is a hell of a character actor. Now that the city has had its Hollywood close-up, perhaps Toronto can take the leap from actor to star and trust people to like the city for herself.

Eighties Favourites To Hit The Screen Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Glenn Whipp

(March 30, 2010) LOS ANGELES — Clash of the Titans writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are understandably excited about their movie arriving in theatres Friday. But if you really want to get them going, mention the Red Dawn remake coming later this year.

“I love that movie,” Hay says of the 1984 Cold War adventure flick, where Colorado high school students use guerrilla warfare to stave off a Soviet invasion of America. “Everyone from my generation loves Red Dawn. It's really ripe for a remake.”

These days, it seems any movie that came out during the 1980s is ripe for a remake. Clash of the Titans and Red Dawn are but two of a significant number of eighties-related films Hollywood will bring to theatres in coming months.

Joining their ranks are Disney's mega-budget Tron sequel starring Jeff Bridges; reboots of The Karate Kid, Predator and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises; a follow-up to Oliver Stone's Wall Street and the Sylvester Stallone-directed The Expendables; an eighties-style, men-on-a-mission movie teaming Stallone with other action stars of his vintage.

“It's crazy, man,” Bridges says. “You almost want to look around and make sure people still have their cellphones and laptops. It's like going back in time.”

You mean, like stepping into a Hot Tub Time Machine? The nostalgia-infused, gross-out comedy Time Machine, which opened last weekend, uses the eighties as a punch line, taking its heroes back to a decade heavy on the leg warmers, mullets and primary colours.

“Anyone who wants to know why the eighties are a joke need only look at the fashions in our movie,” Hot Tub director Steve Pink says.

But if the eighties are a joke, it's a quip studio executives and filmmakers are now eager to share with moviegoers. Chalk it up to the fact that the people who grew up watching Freddy Krueger and Mr. Miyagi are now in a position to green-light the movies they loved as children.

“Certainly, there's a fondness for that culture for those who come of age with it, and now we want to share it,” says Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad.

In addition to The Karate Kid Belgrad, 44, and Columbia co-president Matt Tolmach, 45, are developing sequels and reboots to such 1980s properties as Ghostbusters, 21 Jump Street and The Smurfs. 20th Century Fox will release a feature film based on the eighties action-adventure TV series The A-Team this summer.

“Grown-ups are always looking for movies they could share with their kids,” Belgrad adds.

With The Karate Kid, he notes, Will Smith took that idea a step further, suggesting remaking one of his favourite childhood movies with his 11-year-old son, Jaden, starring. The new Karate Kid, due in June, shifts the action to Beijing, attempting to add a dash of culture clash to the familiar story.

Other remakes and sequels, like Clash of the Titans and Tron: Legacy, bring modern technology to movies that time has dated.

“[Tron director] Steve Lisberger told me that we've made the movie that people think they remember seeing when they were eight years old,” says Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. “The original pushed the envelope in a way that we can't do. But we can take things that have been simmering in people's minds for 25 years and bring them to life.”

Kosinski shot Tron: Legacy entirely in 3-D. Warner Bros. converted Clash of the Titans to 3-D after the fact, hoping to cash in on the Avatar-fuelled mania for the format.

But Clash writer Manfredi says that what made the original so special — and what he hopes the remake maintains — is a good-hearted sense of adventure.

“What all these eighties movies have in common is a feeling of fun and excitement, a certain genuineness,” Manfredi says. “You don't find that spark as much in movies these days. That's what we're hoping to bring back.”

Others are attempting at stab at modern relevance with their films. Michael Douglas'sGordon Gekko has been refashioned as an anti-hero, warning business leaders of impending doom in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

The Red Dawn remake has the Chinese, not the Soviets, invading America.

And you have to wonder whether the Smurfs will make a passing reference to their blue-hued cousins from Avatar.

Okay — maybe you don't have to wonder or even think about the Smurfs at all.

Hot Tub Time Machine star and eighties icon John Cusackwould be just as happy to consign the whole decade to the attic.

“I remember it being a kind of forced Prozac happy time without the Prozac,” Cusack says. “We were sort of like optimism by martial law. There were jumbotrons of Ronald Reagan everywhere. There were Dr. Pepper people dancing. There was this militant patriotism, nationalism, faux spirituality to it. I look back on it as an intense, dark decade.”

Maybe next time, he could set the hot tub to the sixties.

Associated Press 


Canuck V Star In Sci-Fi Element

www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 29, 2010) It’s hard to stand out in an ensemble piece, but so far things are going pretty well for
V’s David Richmond-Peck. The Oakville-born actor’s character, Georgie Simon, has gotten some pretty good face time on the series’ brief four-episode run so far as the leader of the burgeoning resistance movement against the seemingly peaceful alien Visitors.

“It’s one of the reasons that I really wanted to do the show. His type of the character is what really interested me,” says Richmond-Peck. “There’s a lot of stuff beneath the surface and obviously the stakes involved with knowing that Georgie is one of the only people on the planet that actually knows why the Visitors are here and what that means.

“He has a higher purpose of knowing that he has to go out and fight them, which contrasts with him wanting to have a normal life, which he can’t have.”

The actor now makes his home in Vancouver, where the series is shot, seemingly becoming the it spot for many sci-fi genre show productions.

“I love it. It’s so fantastic to be able to live in this fantastic city, and also be able to work,” he says. He’s also had cameos and guest spots on several other genre shows, including Eureka, Stargate: Atlantis, Sanctuary and Fringe, but V is his first major role on a network series.

Richmond-Peck lived in Toronto for several years before relocating to the West Coast. He was in town last week to appear at Wizard World Comic Con and to talk about Zune Marketplace on Xbox LIVE. Like Apple’s iTunes store, it’s a site where fans can buy the V series if they missed the initial four episodes airing in November. Whether fans will return to the series that took a four-month break is an obvious concern for all involved.

“I think initially what had happened is that I know that ABC had wanted to air it in a pod kind of format, but you do wonder did the fans watch it? Will the people want to watch it find it again?” he says. “Now we’re coming back in our fifth episode and we’ve got a recap episode that just aired that should put people in good shape for us to pick up where we left off.”

The show has not been picked up for a second season yet, so everyone involved is hoping that viewers come back and make it an easy decision for ABC. “We don’t know if it’s going to be picked up. It started off pretty well, but we’ll all see,” Richmond-Peck says.

Secrecy remains high about what’s to come next, according to the actor, who can’t say anything about what to expect on the remaining episodes, beyond scenarios where the characters are beginning to fight for their lives.

Right now, Richmond-Peck is enjoying the ride. During the break in V’s production, he spent time in L.A. talking about other projects, including exploring some film work. So far, he’s not at all worried about being typecast in the sci-fi field.

“As an actor, there’s always a fear about getting typecast, but I have a solid theatre background as my base, it’s pretty easy to slip in and out of very, very different characters,” he says. “Besides, in the last six or seven years, with shows like Lost, we’ve seen sci-fi shows really up the bar. The writing is what’s key, and it’s fantastic on things like V. What you’re seeing is that a lot of actors want to jump in because they’re being presented with a lot of different opportunities and characters, so I’m not too worried about that.”

Big Soul, Big Success And One Big Goal

Source: www.thestar.com - Emily Mathieu

(March 30, 2010) The founder of Big Soul Productions Inc. is on a fairly tight deadline. She has her eye on being named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40 achievers and she only has about 400 days left to accomplish her goal.

"I have to try to get on that boat while I can," jokes
Laura Milliken, who has been running the successful aboriginal-owned and operated production company since she was in her mid-20s.

Big Soul produced the Gemini-nominated television drama Moccasin Flats, the animated series By the Rapids as well as a vast collection of short films, music videos and corporate work.

"We have the capacity to do everything from a $200 job to a multimillion job," she said.

To date, Big Soul has spent more than $12 million on television and film production. This year it has about $75,000 in development commitments, and last year production revenue was about $1.8 million, said Milliken, 38, whose staff fluctuates between eight and 30 people.

Big Soul is working on a project to attract aboriginal youth to business careers, with Financial Industry Partnering for Aboriginal Relationships, a partnership between BMO Financial Group, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and TD BankFinancial Group with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Tuesday and Wednesday, they will be seeking out aboriginal business leaders to interview for the project at the first annual Aboriginal Business Forum at the Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel.

The event is sponsored by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Milliken got her start in production thanks to a gig with the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards at the age of 26.

Two years later, in 1999, she started Big Soul with a partner, partially with a government grant.

"We just hustled really hard to get business and we were good at it ... we took a very slow and methodical approach and I think in some ways lucked into some opportunities," said Milliken who assumed sole ownership in 2005

Since then, competition has become increasingly stiff, said Milliken.

"Our biggest client is the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and they only have so much to go around," she said.

Vice-president James Kinistino said the studio is constantly looking for ways to stay on top of new technology. Last year, a grant allowed it to expand their basement studio and purchase a RED Camera for $50,000.

"We are competing with people on a level that we really couldn't before," he said. "We would have had to rent camera packages to create high-end videos in the past."

The digital camera is used mainly for music videos and short films that require cinematic quality, he said. Similar equipment costs about $1,500 a day to rent.

They have used it for eight music videos and it has already paid for itself.

Hail To The Chefs

www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

(March 26, 2010) Julia Child pioneered food television. Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray popularized it. But as
the genre becomes an ever bigger business – the Food Network recently announced a second channel – it’s the men in TV’s increasingly crowded kitchen who are revolutionizing the cooking-show concept.

A case in point: Tonight’s debut of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC, 8 p.m.; A Channel, 9 p.m.). A primetime network reality show, it’s a far cry from the British chef’s first foray into TV a decade ago with the straightforward instructional series Naked Chef.

And Oliver isn’t not the only chef who has devised a recipe for culinary television that includes new ingredients from genres across the dial.

Good Eats

Recipe: Take a traditional how-to cooking show and then dare to ask the oft-ignored question about cooking methods: Why?

Exotic ingredients: Like a culinary Quirks and Quarks, Good Eats breaks down the science of food and cooking in an easy-to-understand but never condescending manner that speaks to a uniquely male learning process.

How it tastes: Host Alton Brown is the secret ingredient here, mixing goofball humour with his unimpeachable applied science know-how. Also a commentator on Iron Chef America and enough of a geek-pop icon that he guest-starred on Spongebob Squarepants, his work with Good Eats has probably done more than anything to get men into cooking. It richly deserved its 2007 Peabody Award, the same prize Julia Child took home in 1965.

David Rocco's Dolce Vita

Recipe: Toronto expat Rocco cooks, shops and entertains (with wife Nina and a camera crew in tow) in the Tuscan countryside, with side-trips to
Sicily and other Italian culinary hot spots.

Exotic ingredients: More of a lifestyle reality show than a cooking program, the semi-rich and getting-famous Rocco lets viewers live vicariously through his Italian adventures visiting marketplaces, cafés, vineyards, historical sites and, most of all, hosting dinner parties.

How it tastes: While it’s a great way to introduce North Americans to Old World cuisine, it sometimes suffers from too much self-involvement (like many first-person travelogues). But this Food Network Canada show has certainly increased its audience over the seasons and will soon also appear on Food Network USA’s new Cooking Channel.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

Recipe: Iconoclastic punk-loving chef wanders the world happily chowing down on humanity’s weirdest and wildest culinary delights.

Exotic ingredients: Bored of traditional cooking shows, Bourdain created a hybrid travel-food series that offers viewers something new while still hitting the two genres’ sweet spots, including Emmy-winning cinematography.

How it tastes: Bourdain has upped the cool factor of cooking thanks to his sex 'n' drugs-fuelled memoir Kitchen Confidential and beefs with flashier celeb chefs such as Bobby Flay, Emerile Lagasse.

No Reservations certainly offers the genre’s least “appealing” foods – seal eyeballs, warthog rectums, fermented shark. But in the current cooking-show glut, his adventures and coolness go a long way – and past guests include musicians Queens of the Stone Age, author Chuck Palahniuk and Bill Murray.

Food Detectives

Recipe: Ted Allen, the ex-food and wine expert of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (who went on to Top Chef, Iron Chef America and Uncorked: Wine Made Simple) further demystifies food for regular folks.

Exotic Ingredients: Building on the work of pioneering program Good Eats, Allen’s Food Detective is like MythBusters for the foodie set, with the information backed by the staffers of Popular Science magazine.

How it tastes: While the food-science angle isn’t original, there’s room for more than one. Plus, answering specific “burning” questions is a nice new angle. For instance, we now know that it is not, in fact, safe to eat something that only dropped on the floor for five seconds. Alas.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Recipe: Chef-turned-nutritional-philanthropist, Oliver travels to the unhealthiest city in America – Huntington, West Virginia – to teach citizens how to eat better.

Exotic ingredients: Though it involves cooking, Oliver has filmed an activist reality show which borrows tactics from Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock – including a disgusting display of how much fat their children ingest each year – but spends most of his time trying to curry favour rather than shock and eww.

How it tastes: Great and less filling. Food Revolution not only has good intentions – preventing the current generation of kids from having lower life expectancies than their parents – but the cookbook it’s based on does actually contain easy, healthy recipes to help people avoid processed and fast foods.  

Brit TV Is Back From The Dead

Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Doyle

(Just when we thought it was creatively dead, British TV twitches with signs of life.

It’s not like the good old days of innovation and authenticity. Ground-breaking TV drama is not pouring out of the BBC or the other Brit broadcasters on a weekly basis. But there are indications of revival and originality.

The interesting thing about
Misfits (Showcase, 10 p.m.) a new miniseries from Channel 4, is that it’s an original twist on an existing genre. We’ve seen more a few superhero shows in recent years, with NBC’s Heroes being the standout. What happens on Misfits is that we’re presented with characters who have superhero powers but are the least likely to be heroic. They’re juvenile delinquents, teenagers who are annoyingly self-absorbed, shifty and unreliable. They also swear a lot, drink and smoke.

We meet Kelly, Nathan, Curtis, Alisha and Simon, criminals all, as they don orange jumpsuits and start their first day of community service. Lazy and resentful, they can barely be bothered. One thing leads to another, there’s a weird storm and, next thing they know, they have peculiar new powers.

The first to realize this is Kelly (Lauren Socha), who goes home to discover that she can hear others’ thoughts. Even the dog’s inner monologue, when she pets him. The dog’s thoughts are, “I'm going to shag that poodle next door, she's proper dirty.” Right. Very rude, very funny and utterly unexpected. And that’s a strength of what begins as an apparently generic TV drama. Some teenagers get special powers after being hit by a strange lightning storm. Fine, we get that. Then along come moments of absurdist, acid humour.

What’s interesting too is that there is a psychological depth. Kelly is the one who is deeply insecure, and being able to hear what other people think of her only heightens her anxieties. She’s actually been given a solution to her problems if she can use her new power wisely. A similar thing happens with Alisha (Antonia Thomas), a young woman whose entire existence is anchored in her looks. Now, as soon as she touches a man, he begins telling her that he’s in lust with her and is explicit about it. And then there’s Nathan (Robert Sheehan), who doesn’t seem to have any new powers except a heightened version of his already-established gift for blather and sarcasm.

These are sublimely exasperating kids, and now they have magical abilities. Will they use them for good? Or to be even more selfish and irresponsible? The answers are surprising and, in a way, Misfits is a deft social satire because it asks the most interesting question of all – what if those lazy, bragging teenagers had all the power?

If this were an U.S. network endeavour – unlikely because there’s too much cursing, drinking and swearing – the instinct would be to make it a comedy, a satire of shows about superheroes. That would make it a show about TV shows. But this clever British twist is expansive – it’s about a believable world, not about television.

Misfits is the second British show to take a recognizable genre and put a unique spin on it.

If you haven’t seen the teen drama Skins (Tuesdays, Super Channel, 8 p.m.) then you should. The familiar genre is the adolescent soap opera – Gossip Girl, 90210 and all the others. Skins is about a group of 11 teens, in Bristol, England, but the cast clearly do not come from a pool of slickly attractive young actors. They look startlingly real. (In fact, Skins has changed the entire cast several times.) By sticking to utterly plausible adolescent issues, Skins has redefined the adolescent-angst TV genre. It has a glorious freshness and zest to it – it's humorous and poignant.

We have yet to see the most acclaimed British drama of recent years, the Red Riding miniseries based on the novels by David Peace, and fingers-crossed that it arrives soon. But it’s clear from Skins and now Misfits that British TV has begun to revive itself. And that’s largely because conventional categories of TV has been nailed down, examined, rethought and unleashed with an original spin. It’s a start.

Also airing:

Dan for Mayor (CTV, 8:30 p.m.) is presented to us this week as a “Producer’s Pick” episode. Exactly what that means is unclear. But, obviously, somebody involved thinks it’s the bee’s-knees, the cat’s pyjamas of Dan for Mayor episodes. And, yes it is extremely clever and exquisitely droll – in the style of the best episodes of Corner Gas. It flies on whimsy and sometimes absurd wordplay. The official gist is this: “Dan is facing even more challenges in both his campaign and his personal life. He needs to find a financial backer for his campaign and Claire’s old feelings for Dan are starting to resurface.” That doesn’t do it justice. The meetings in which Dan (Fred Ewaniuck) and campaign manager Jeff (Paul Bates) meet a potential financial backer are surreal and priceless.

American Experience: Victory in the Pacific (PBS, 9 p.m.) is a repeat from several years ago but probably being re-aired because of the attention given to HBO’s The Pacific series. It’s a sobering account of the last stages of the Second World War – Japan’s determination to continue even after heavy losses, and the tactics of the United States in the face of that determination.

Check local listings.


Roger Ebert Planning New Movie-Review Show For TV

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 29, 2010) CHICAGO—Roger Ebert says he and his wife are going ahead with plans to produce a new movie review television program with the working title Roger Ebert Pesents At the Movies. The famous movie reviewer wrote Thursday on his Chicago Sun-Times blog that they even know who will host. The Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer writes he would like to make “occasional appearances” on the air. Ebert lost his ability to speak after cancer surgery. Ebert also writes: “the Thumbs will return,” referring to the well-known “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” reviews. Meanwhile, Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced it will cease producing At the Movies, the successor show to the movie-review programs Ebert had with the late Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel, and later Richard Roeper of the Sun-Times. The last show will air the weekend of Aug. 14.

Eriq La Salle Joins ‘24′ for Final Two Episodes

Source: www.eurweb.com 

March 30, 2010) *”ER” veteran Eriq La Salle has signed on for the last two episodes of Fox’s action series “24,” which concludes its 8-year run at the end of this season. According to Entertainment Weekly, the actor-director will portray a charming UN Secretary General. According to EW’s Michael Ausiello, Fox had attached the following advisory to the casting call for the secretary general role before La Salle won the part: “These are the final episodes, so if some of your name people would like to do something on the show, this is the time for them to do it.” In February, 20th Century Fox announced plans to make a feature based on the real-time drama. The film will see Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer facing enemies outside of the US.


Martha Burns Returns To Her Roots

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 26, 2010) Until recently,
Martha Burns hadn’t been on a stage in more than four years, a situation not unlike Alexandre Bilodeau keeping off the slopes for a similar period of time.

“I’m not very good at doing the same things over and over again,” is how she explains herself, but the important thing is that she’s back in the medium where she’s appeared with such distinction for Stratford, Shaw, Soulpepper, Factory and numerous other theatres.

She began her return last month with a virtuoso performance in George F. Walker’s latest entry, And So It Goes, while on Tuesday night, she opens at the Tarragon Extra Space in Theatre Smash’s production of A Boy Called Newfoundland.

“Well who doesn’t want to be in a play with a title like that?” she laughs, a sound like cut crystal being lightly tapped with a silver knife. “It’s a wonderful script by a wonderful young writer about what happens to a family when a dad doesn’t come home. A lovely coming of age story, written in a fresh, non-formulaic way.”

Fresh and non-formulaic would also be good words to describe Burns.

The 52-year-old wife of actor/writer/director/heartthrob Paul Gross and mother of Hannah, 20, and Jack, 16, still manages to look like a rare herb found in some artisanal garden: crisp, bright, appealing and possibly lethal.

Despite her undoubted warmth, one of the great Burns weapons — on stage and screen — is that basilisk stare of hers that could stop anyone dead with a single glance.

No wonder the character she feels closest to in all of literature is Jack Reacher, the fictional drifter created by Lee Child, who moves in his solitary way from crime to crime, somehow always managing to be in the wrong place at the right time.

“He always sits with his back to the wall and he didn’t have a visa until after 9/11,” volunteers Burns. “I admire the sparseness and honesty of his life.”

Sparseness and honesty are two more words useful in trying to paint a portrait of Burns.

Anyone who’s savoured her performance as diabolical diva Ellen Fanshaw in the mock-behind-the-Stratford-scenes epic Slings & Arrows will appreciate the way she manages to indicate excess without ever falling into it and makes even the most theatrical moments seem real.

“To me, acting is about two important things,” she says, draining her cranberry and soda after a late lunch at Globe Earth on Yonge St., “and those things are chemistry and commitment. You have to want to work with a certain group of people and you all have to have a real passion for what you’re doing.”

Burns discovered that passion fairly early in life. She was born in Chicago, while her father was working for Great West Life, but they soon moved to Winnipeg, where she spent her childhood.

“It’s a great city for the arts,” she enthuses. “It always has been. When I was young, I think every kid in Winnipeg went to theatre school. When I was in Grade 4, my friends said, ‘Do you want to go to theatre school with us?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’ even though I had no idea what it meant.”

She soon found out and loved what she discovered. "Later, when her best friend, Kate Wylie had to move to Stratford because her father, Bill, got a job there at the Festival, well that was even better, because Burns spent most of her summers there working around the theatre."

“My very first job was at the Lottario booth,” she recalls proudly. “I was 13 years old. The very first show I ever saw was The Three Musketeers and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I still remember Christopher Newton and Martha Henry as Oberon and Titania, they were so sexy, covered in nothing but foliage.

“And then I’ll always remember Cymbeline. I just knew I wanted to play Imogen and many years later, in 1986 I would, on that very stage.”

She auditioned to study theatre at the University of Alberta, but they turned her down. In a typically spiky Burns-like decision, she determined to go to school there anyway, only to study English. After that, she went on to the Vancouver Playhouse’s Acting School, when the theatre was run by the same Newton she had swooned over on the Stratford stage not that many years before.

After a few years there, she went on to the National Arts Centre, playing the title role in Trafford Tanzi, a play about a woman wrestler, set in an actual wrestling ring.

“That has been a highlight of my career. Sheer theatricality! I had to train, I had to become this incredibly physical creature. My neck actually doubled in size. Thank God it went back to normal in about a year!”

Thank God, indeed, because that was when fate intervened to change her personal life for good.

“I had finished my contract. I was literally standing at the bus station with my suitcase when they realized they didn’t have anybody to play the Indian Princess in Sharon Pollock’s play, Walsh, and so they came running to bring me back.”

And waiting in the rehearsal hall was a young actor named Paul Gross.

It was 27 years ago and they’re still happily together. But it didn’t start as romance.

“No, it was laughter right away. The first week of rehearsal we were just sitting around a table, being bored, so we started passing each other notes to make ourselves laugh. Paul was just this goofy, funny friend.”

But five years later, they were married. A few years later, Gross became a star in Due South and he’s been one of the few bankable Canadian supernovas ever since. He’s also a major crush for many women on both sides of the border.

Burns has no problem with any of it. “We were together for a long time before Due South hit. And when you know someone so well as a regular guy deep down, it doesn’t bother you. You have a different kind of connection.

“When people treat your husband as an object, however, that’s annoying. But luckily this is Canada and it doesn’t happen all that much. Besides, Paul has always been passionate about the work he’s doing, not about being a sexy leading man.”

She does admit that one of her happiest memories is working with him as a couple on Slings & Arrows.

“We’ve been making meals, walking dogs, washing cars for years and we brought all that with us to the set. We were able to find the ease that those two characters had in their discomfort with each other and that makes the comedy work.”

For the last two years, Burns has been reaching out in new directions as the producer of Little Films About Big Moments a series of 10 short movies made by people in the industry who’d never written or directed before.

“I love learning, but I love teaching, too,” says the woman who also spends much of her time working on programs to bring young people into the theatre. “Being introduced to the arts at an early age made a huge difference to my life and I want every kid to have the same chance that I did.”

This Laugh-Filled Mayoral Race Show Gets Our Vote

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Second City for Mayor
Directed by Melody Johnson
Starring Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Adam Cawley, Caitlin Howden, Reid Janisse and Kris Siddiqi
At Second City in Toronto

(March 30, 2010) There are six major contenders for the mayoral crown of this city, but allow me to draft
another candidate: Melody A. Johnson, the delightfully named director of the jazzy new sketch revue currently campaigning on Mercer Street, Second City for Mayor. The votes aren’t all in yet, but early returns show Johnson and her comedy troupe winning in a laugher.

Johnson, some may remember, directed 0% Down, 100% Screwed, the stylish and hilarious 63rd revue from early last year. The production that followed 0% Down later in 2009, Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets, was markedly less satisfying. Johnson was not at the helm for that one. Let’s welcome her back.

The new show began in front of the theatre, where a mock protest took place: so, fake disturbance outside; real-thing laugh riot on the inside.

New ensemble member Kris Siddiqi wasted no time endearing himself to the audience. He was the patronizing Pakistani who was devilishly clever in a turn-about-is-fair-play kind of way, having racial-cliché fun as an immigrant passenger in a cab driven by a white-bread man: “Barenaked Ladies – such mystical music!” and “You people always smell like grilled cheese.”

The sketches based on politics took place in the leaderless City Town, where everybody and their dog – a black Labrador, specifically – was a viable candidate. The general theme was the inevitable disappointment in our elected officials, who, like champions and celebrities – hello Tiger Woods– are all too human. To that end, Adam Cawley was the Blue Falcon, a superhero brought down by sexual misdeeds – not unlike Adam Giambrone, the rising-star TTC overlord recently caught with his pants – not his Pantalones – down. Rob Baker wrote himself an audience-interaction bit as a over-pandering populist politician, but his improv skills weren’t up to the promise of the segment. Baker tends to yell a lot, as if by saying something so loudly and urgently the audience will assume it’s worth laughing at. The other interactive bit, with Reid Janisse as an off-the-cuff songster who found a rhyme for Lichtenstein, was better.

The show has continuity, with sleek design ideas (Camellia Koo) and nicely fitting musical accompaniment (Matthew Reid). I missed former cast member Darryl Hinds, but all the others stepped up. In particular, Janisse, so versatile, was as comfortable as a goofy-voiced African child (in a bit that poked fun at over-earnest adopt-a-child appeals) as he was as an immigrant owner of a muffin shop. Janisse sombrely reacquaints himself with his former torturer, a one-time CIA operative. Second City sketches more often than not thrive on adrenalin, but this thoughtful segment worked wonderfully. It was smartly written, and director Johnson knew just where to place it in the well-conceived production.

Second City for Mayor continues at Second City, 51 Mercer St., 416-343-0011  \

T.O. To Get Broadway Hit Musical

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 31, 2010) In April 2009, after seeing an amazing new musical on Broadway called Next to Normal, which dealt boldly with the subject of bipolar disorder, I wrote that “we deserve to see it soon.”

That time is coming.

The Star has learned that Dancap Productions will bring the national tour of the show to Toronto in July 2011 at a venue still to be determined.

By a nice stroke of synchronicity, David Stone, the lead producer on the project, was able to announce Monday that the show had recouped its $4 million production cost and was now operating in the black.

Next to Normal won three Tony Awards, received rave reviews and had a devoted audience base, but most Broadway insiders predicted its run wouldn't last long.

Why? Although filled with Grade A talent, the cast members weren't box office names and the show's unrelentingly serious subject matter, in which mental illness destroys a seemingly perfect family, didn't make it an automatic favourite for theatre parties and vacationing tourists.

But quality won out and there's actually an edgy musical on Broadway making money. And next year, we'll get to see it here.

Maybe then Torontonians in the theatre business will listen to what Stone told The New York Times on Monday: “It might lead other writers, directors and producers to say: ‘Hey, we can try this. It's not such a crazy idea. Sure, it is an unlikely bet, but we're passionate about this and it might just work.'”

The lovers are set.

The park is blooming. Now all they need is the balcony.

The Star has learned that Jeff Irving and Christine Horne will play the doomed Montague and tragic Capulet in this year's Dream in High Park Romeo and Juliet, starting performances on June 25.

Both are bright, attractive, rising stars. Irving went from his years at the Shaw Festival to The December Man at Canadian Stage, Rolf in The Sound of Music for Mirvish Productions and the title role in Robin Hood, this past December's annual Ross Petty romp. Horne recently appeared onstage in Toronto in The Turn of the Screw but is better known for her TV work as Young Hagar in The Stone Angel and Desdemona in Othello, opposite Carlo Rota. Vikki Anderson directs.

Celebrating a life

As was only fitting, the celebration of the late Goldie Semple's life and career held on the Shaw Festival stage Sunday afternoon was a consummately classy piece of work, seasoned with laughter, leavened with tears.

Fellow artists like Jackie Maxwell, Michael Ball and Nora McLellan all spoke their tributes, with Semple's husband, Lorne Kennedy, proving the wisest and wittiest of them all, especially with his detailed saga of searching the local antique shop for the right vessel to hold his beloved's ashes. (It turned out to be a period salt box.)

The only surprise was that, for a woman who seldom ventured into musical theatre, the two most moving tributes were sung, not spoken. George Masswohl, who was Semple's leading man in the 2008 Shaw production of A Little Night Music, broke everyone's heart with his wounded-bird-in-the-hand rendition of the song Semple delivered to him in the show, “Send in the Clowns.”

But even more powerful was the moment when Semple and Kennedy's daughter, Madeline, joined with her friend, Olivia Hutt, to sing “For Good” from Wicked.


Cost Of E-Books To Rise As Publishers Band Together To Control Price

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(March 31, 2010) TORONTO — If you were thinking about buying an e-book, you may want to do it now.

The prices of most new releases will soon be hiked by as much as 30 to 50 per cent.

A major upheaval in the
e-book world is coming this Thursday, with five of the six biggest publishers in North America implementing a new pricing regime that will do away with discounting and the need for comparison shopping.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster are moving to the so-called agency model, which means they will dictate the price their e-books are sold at and retailers will be forced to follow.

It's expected to result in price increases for new releases, which consumers will definitely notice, said Mike Serbinis, chief executive of Kobo, the online e-book retailer owned 58 per cent by Indigo Books & Music Inc.

The days of new releases usually priced at US$9.99 are numbered and readers can think of $12.99 or $14.99 as the new normal.

“I think what you're going to see is a lack of discounts, so consumers will notice that. So far, they've seen list prices of $29.99 and 60 per cent discounts, with the actual selling prices around 10 bucks — that will go away in general,” he said.

However, there's still one major publisher that hasn't switched over to the new pricing model, Random House, and Serbinis expects its books will be discounted aggressively by retailers.

The launch of Thursday's new pricing regime was a last-minute change imposed by the publishers and retailers are scrambling to adapt by the deadline.

As a result, some titles may disappear temporarily, if all the logistics aren't sorted out in time.

“We're working feverishly, like all the other major players in this space, to get ready for Thursday, the change — I would say like all things in this space right now — has happened very fast,” said Serbinis.

“There's legal stuff to do, there's IT things to do to get the new pricing and the new approach and the new rules in place in time.”

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in a blog post that its new releases generally will be priced between $12.99 and $14.99, although there might be some exceptions. When books go into paperback, the e-book price typically will be reduced to a range of $6.99 to $9.99, he added.


Festival Funding Deserves To Be Permanent

www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(March 29, 2010) Which festivals will be the big winners this year when Ottawa hands out $50 million in stimulus
money via its Marquee Tourism Events Program? All across Canada, people who operate festivals are waiting for an announcement from the minister of tourism and small business. At the same time, they are also apprehensive because this is the second and final year of a short-term program the federal government clearly labelled "stimulus" only.

Translation: Don't get used to it.

But in fact, the program was so successful in 2009 that there is now a strong argument for replacing it with a long-term funding mechanism that would not have that dreaded S word attached to it, and would operate in good times as well as bad.

One of the intriguing points about the Marquee bonanza is that these funds did not flow through the heritage ministry, which is normally responsible for supporting the arts. And the criteria did not involve juries making critical assessments of the cultural worthiness of the applicants.

No, this fund, announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty early last year, was to help long-established festivals with a track record of having a positive impact on tourist traffic. And the eligible festivals were not restricted to the arts. This fund was also open to annual events like the Calgary Stampede, Caribana, Pride, the CNE and even a tulip festival.

In Ontario last year, the major arts winners included the Stratford Festival ($3 million), the Shaw Festival ($2.13 million), the Toronto International Film Festival ($3 million) and Luminato (just under $1.3 million).

Under the rules of the game, Marquee funds could not be used just to beef up an applicant's annual budget. They had to be used to expand activities beyond business-as-usual, and for initiatives designed to increase tourist spending.

TIFF was able to expand and improve its box office, do more out-of-town marketing, offer TTC passes for visitors, and develop free programming in Dundas Square. Luminato was able to pull off a mammoth closing-weekend waterfront extravaganza, highlighted by the presence of Cirque du Soleil. The Shaw Festival entered into partnerships with wineries and travel agents.

The most dramatic success story took place at the Stratford Festival, which doubled its promotional presence in mid-season with the help of the Marquee funds, targeting key markets, including Toronto, Montreal, Michigan and New York. The result was an almost miraculous turnaround; a season that began with alarmingly shaky ticket sales wound up breaking even and filling 509,000 seats.

Not everything went smoothly. Some organizations needed extra support staff to provide answers for the exhaustively detailed accounting required by Ottawa gatekeepers. And TIFF ran into such serious problems that close to $500,000 of its spending was ruled ineligible.

This year, to the surprise of many, TIFF has opted not to apply for Marquee money – thus leaving millions of available government dollars on the table. One reason: the focus of this year's event will be to open its new home, Bell Lightbox. On the positive side, that decision should translate into more money for some other festivals.

From a long-term perspective, the most significant news may not be which festival gets how much Marquee money for 2010, but whether a new group succeeds in persuading the government to replace Marquee with ongoing annual support.

The Canadian Festivals Coalition had its initial gathering last fall in Toronto. In a way, it is a coast-to-coast version of a smaller group that had been operating successfully in Quebec only for the past few years. The stated goal of CFC is to raise awareness of what festivals do for the Canadian economy, and to secure funding that would be sustained long after the end of stimulus initiatives.

There is a strong case to be made. The Stratford Festival alone – which over the past two decades has endured sharply decreased funding from government arts councils and is far too dependent on box office – draws 300,000 annual visitors who spend $72 million. And the festival generates a whopping $37 million in tax revenue for three levels of government.

It's time for all governments to show their appreciation for just how much festivals across this country contribute to our economy as well as our quality of life.


James: Canuck Basketball Stars Have A Ball Down South

Source: www.thestar.com - Royson James

(March 30, 2010) COLUMBUS, Ohio–In the biggest, most prestigious high school basketball game in America, to be contested here Wednesday night, two Toronto-area Canucks are showing they belong with the best.

Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson stole some American kids' dream by snatching two of the 24 coveted spots on the McDonald's All-American high school team, a squad selected from thousands of elite players nominated from high schools in every state.

Then, Joseph, the 18-year-old point guard from Pickering, rained down three-pointers Tuesday night to capture the three-point shooting crown.

"I was nervous my first shot. It went in, I got hot. I caught an early rhythm and went with that," he said.

And on Wednesday, Thompson, 19 and from Brampton, and Joseph both will wear the Canadian flag pasted on their arms as they take on the best in America before an audience of player scouts, parents and basketball aficionados looking for the next class of talent to feed the NBA.

The All-American event is now in its 33rd year. History has shown that at least 16 of the 24 players on the court Wednesday will make it to the NBA.

And each one, including the 24 girls in the female contest, has a list of colleges to choose from.

Which means Thompson and Joseph very likely are on the edge of stardom.

The Canadians' names will go down with the NBA greats who've played in this classic as teenagers – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Chris Paul.

"It means a lot, especially being Canadian," said Thompson, an imposing 6-foot-10, 235 pounds and ranked anywhere from sixth to 20th in polls measuring the abilities of high school players headed for the college ranks.

"It's not every high school player here in America that can become an all-American," he explains. "And for a Canadian to play in the McDonald's All-American game, it's a big thing for us as a country, Canada. It means that our basketball is getting better and better; it shows how much we've grown."

Both players left their GTA high schools to pursue a dream in America. If they were to discover their true potential, they reasoned with parents and friends, they had to go where the competition was fiercest.

Thompson felt he needed to match strength, height, skill and talent with players cut from the similar physical dimensions. Stay in the GTA at St. Marguerite d'Youvill, and he would easily dominate smaller players.

He went to an elite prep school just outside Las Vegas, where Joseph had already touched down. Findlay College Prep is, in effect, a basketball factory financed by a wealthy basketball fan who pays the freight – including coaches' salaries, scholarships, housing for the players and training facilities.

High schools in Canada simply cannot compete with that.

On Tuesday, fresh off the final practice that was as fiercely contested as some games, Joseph and Tristan told the Star this is the moment they've dreamed about.

"This is my moment," Joseph said. "It's a big night for me. I'll play hard and play smart and hopefully it will all fall into place. It's going to be competitive. These are the top 24 players in the country and they don't like to lose. Even practice it is competitive.

"This is serious business."

Thompson, a big man who can score from all over the floor, says all-star games favour the guards so he'll focus on cleaning up any mess left behind.

"Me? I just plan to do the dirty work: grab every rebound, block shots and have fun."