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August 19, 2010

August - do you notice the sun hanging lower and the days getting shorter?  Yeah, but I'm still loving our great summer. 

While everyone seems to be slowing down a bit in August in the bustle of the King/Bay world, I'm busier than ever.  Last

week, Wes "Maestro" Williams killed his performances at his book launch last week and what a night -  Canadian talent showed up in throngs!  Check out the photos from the launch HERE.  If you wanna peep him performing his first big hit, Drop The Needle, go to my YOUTUBE Channel HERE(mediocre quality but I'm learning!) (See related article below). 

Honey Jam was also this past Sunday with extraordinary talent this year - see pics in my PHOTO GALLERY, although I didn't catch the entire show so not all artists are represented here.  For the full line-up of talented female artists, please go to www.phemphat.com.  Congratulations to Ebonnie Roweand her team for giving us 15 years of Canadian female talent!

Now you can look forward to another very special interview next week with
Mark "Kurupt" Stoddart - my next interview which seems to be part of an unintentional series on those people who are giving back and leaving their positive imprints on the planet.    Now, you may find the newsletter a little lighter this week - what can I say?  I'm trying to take weekends off this summer but I'm sure you'll still find lots to read below. 


MMA Coming To Ontario And TV Set To Cash In

Source:  www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(August 15, 2010) There was a fair bit of rejoicing over the weekend from those who find the sight of sweaty guys in short shorts clutching each other while attempting to apply knees to each other’s groin.

Here’s an example from Rogers Sportsnet mixed martial arts commentator
Joe Ferraro, who could barely contain himself on the channel’s website:

“As I write this article, I am experiencing a heightened sensation that sees my eyesight as blurry and my veins pumping with adrenaline while I smile from ear to ear. I knew this day would come but I never anticipated the emotional rush.”

What had Ferraro’s heart all aflutter and keyboard aflame was the Ontario government’s announcement that it had changed its mind — imagine that — and decided to embrace the sport of
mixed martial arts.

That means events that were barred from crossing the Ontario border will now be greeted with open arms.

While the rest of the television world’s reaction wasn’t quite as emotive as Ferraro’s, there is good reason to believe that the decision will be a good one for TV — at least for those networks that have been home to the sport once described as “human cockfighting.”

“It really changes the landscape,” said Chad Midgley, head of programming and production at The Fight Network. “It’s a game-changer for the sport and it should have a trickle-down effect for channels like ours.”

The big benefit will be felt by those who peddle pay-per-view events. In the case of MMA, that’s Rogers.

With events presumably to be held in Toronto, there’ll be an increase in publicity and profile that should produce more sales.

The sport is already the top PPV draw in Canada, at about $50 a crack.

As Midgley points out, since all the sports networks are located in Toronto it follows that they’ll be giving the events more coverage, too. That should mean better ratings for MMA programming.

But it won’t automatically mean more live event coverage for those who turn to Sportsnet, The Fight Network and The Score for their fill of forearm smashes. With outfits like UFC concentrating on pay outlets, regular TV usually has to settle for scraps.

But that could change if MMA’s profile grows enough here.

While some broadcasters have shied away from it, the fact is that the sport produces a highly desirable audience: young men – and this may shock you – a growing number of young women.

Those are the people advertisers love to reach and since most of the big ad agencies are in Ontario, it’s only a matter of time before they start noticing once big events are staged in the province.

With enough ad dollars at stake, UFC will see the advantage in staging more top events on television.


THE GOOD: CBS analyst Nick Faldo didn’t gild the lily after a series of disastrous shots during Sunday coverage of the PGA Championship: “It seems like a lot of guys bought a ticket for the train wreck today.”

THE BAD: Imagine how CBS would have covered Tiger Woods at the PGA if he had been leading. Oh yeah, it’s the same blanket coverage he got when he was out of it from the start as he was Sunday. . . . What was TSN/CBC tennis analysts Peter Burwash thinking when he called Novak Djokovic’s racquet-smashing tantrum a good thing during Rogers Cup coverage?

THE UGLY: The complexities of cable and satellite carriage negotiations are beyond the understanding of most, but one thing is indisputable: By airing Blue Jays games on Rogers Sportsnet One without securing deals across the country, Rogers left tens of thousands of baseball fans in the dark over the weekend.

Still Keeping It Fresh

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Olivia Stren

(August 16, 2010) When we meet, Wes Williams settles into a time-beaten leather armchair – and claps, as if offering me a celebratory welcome, like I'm a guest star in today's instalment of the Maestro show.

“Okay, I'm ready to get started,” he says, knees bouncing. Then, a few minutes later: “I'd just like to thank McClelland & Stewart for publishing my book,” he tells me, referring to his new self-help memoir, Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be.

It's 10 a.m. and we're in the lobby of Toronto's swanky Suites at One King West, where Mr. Williams is staying for a few days.

“And I'd also like to thank my co-writer, Tamara Hendricks-Williams,” he says, acknowledging his wife.

August 11/2010 -- Wesley Williams, better known as Maestro and formerly Maestro Fresh-Wes, is a Canadian rapper, record producer, and actor.

Mr. Williams, wearing a long-sleeve cotton T-shirt as blindingly white as popping flashbulbs, is still best known as Maestro Fresh-Wes, the godfather of Canadian hip hop, and, most particularly, for his 1989 single Let Your Backbone Slide (the first hip hop single to go gold in Canada) which appeared on his first album, Symphony in Effect.

Mr. Williams, 42, is now also an actor (he was nominated for a Gemini for his 2009 performance in The Line) and a public speaker.

“Yeah, the Toronto District School Board gave me some love!” he says of his inaugural TDSB engagement, at
which he shared the stage with Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. About his various careers: “It's just expansion and diversifying and keeping it moving,” he says.

“But I never got up on a podium and said, ‘I want to be an actor or a motivational speaker,'” he explains, with arms outstretched, as if he were standing behind, well, a podium. “I just do it. Props to Nike, man! Just do it.”

In his book, named for his 1998 hit single, Stick to Your Vision, Mr. Williams shares his motivating philosophies, as well as tales of racial, cultural and professional adversity.

He writes about windows of complacency and mediocrity, the importance of humility and perseverance, of risk-taking and expectation-defying and mantra-making, anchoring his beliefs with quotes from Beyoncé, Gandhi, Kanye Westand Albert Schweitzer.

Among his first serious struggles were those he experienced as a kid growing up in Scarborough, where he was raised by Guyanese immigrant parents, and often felt, he writes, like “a pepper grain in a salt factory.”

“Nobody looked like me in Toronto in the 1970s. I was the only black kid in my first grade class,” he recalls.

When he was 6, a little girl who lived next door asked him, “Wes, when are you going to turn white?” Thinking his skin might change, since his height was changing, he directed the question to his dad.

“My dad just said, ‘I'm still waiting, boy!'” Mr. Williams says, laughing. He remembers the first time he saw Muhammad Ali. “I said, ‘Mommy, can I jump into the screen?' He looked like me. I just wanted to get in there and kick it with him.”

Then, at 12, he heard Rapper's Delight by The Sugarhill Gang: “It just took me over, man. That's what I wanted to do,” he says. “And when I started putting words together and rhyming, girls liked it. It was nice! But at the same time, there was doubt and an energy of adversity hovering around me. Being a black rapper in Canada at that time was a novelty.”

If the cultural landscape had once proved hostile to Mr. Williams's success as a rapper, it turned out to be precisely the success of Backbone that proved challenging.

“There was a lot of pressure coming out of the gate – to duplicate that success was going to be challenging.” As it turns out, duplicating that first success has so far proved impossible.

In 1992, Mr. Williams moved to the United States, staying five years before returning to Toronto: “There were a lot of disappointments at that time. I didn't get much label support. The style of hip hop had changed. The whole game had changed.”

But Mr. Williams prefers to dwell on silver linings. “Prayer helped. And staying positive. And you have to stick to your vision and be flexible at the same time. I'm here to grow,” he says.

“Vision is a forward-moving motivating action,” he tells me with slow precision. “If you stay still, your vision dies.” (His current vision is to have the principle tenets of Stick to Your Vision implemented in high-school curricula.)

He takes breaks from talking to me to chat with a variety of strangers, as though everybody here were an extra or an audience member. “Hey miss, how you doin'?” he asks a vaguely mystified waitress. To a man across the lobby whose infant daughter has just tossed her bowl of Cheerios onto the floor: “Hey, I know how you feel, man! I have a son,” he says, referring to his toddler, Chancellor.

A few minutes later, he's chatting with a couple of strangers: “Hey, What's up! What are you guys up to tomorrow night? Do you have plans?” Then they're exchanging cards, and Mr. Williams has invited them to his book launch. Mr. Williams believes in opportunity-making and networking (see chapters 13 and 14).

“Okay, back to the book!” he announces, like we're just returned from commercial break, “If you position yourself as a pawn, you'll remain a pawn, because everybody's gonna move up that chessboard, man. You gotta do you!” he says.

“My favourite quote is by this dude, Walt Whitman. ‘Re-examine all that you have been told in school or in church or in any book. Dismiss whatever insults your soul.'” He takes a deep breath and shakes his head: “This quote hits me real hard. It's about dismissing people's preconceived notions of you. It's so dope!”  

Wyclef Jean In Hiding As Haiti Election Panel Delays Candidate Ruling

Source: www.thestar.com - Tamara Lush

(August 18, 2010) PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI—Haiti’s electoral commission said late Tuesday that it was postponing its ruling on who will be allowed to run for president in November elections, leaving hip hop artist Wyclef Jean’s candidacy in limbo.

A statement from the commission, known as the CEP, said it would postpone the announcement until Friday.

The delay was the latest bizarre turn in the fledgling presidential race in this earthquake-torn country. Jean — one of dozens of candidates vying for the office — said he was in hiding Tuesday after receiving death threats.

The musician disclosed the threats in a series of emails to The Associated Press, revealing few details. Jean said he received a phone call telling him to get out of Haiti and that he was in hiding in a secret location in the Caribbean country.

The Haitian-born Jean said he did not know whether the commission would approve his candidacy, but there have been questions about whether he meets the residency requirements to run.

“We await the CEP decision but the laws of the Haitian Constitution must be respected,” he said in one of a flurry of emails.

Later in the evening, Jean sent the AP a one-word email: “Hope!”

The CEP’s decisions — or lack thereof — sparked small protests throughout Port-au-Prince. During one peaceful march near the CEP office Tuesday afternoon, several dozen young men marched and sang in the rain.

Later in the evening, a main road in and out of the city was blocked by burning tires.

Haiti’s Constitution requires candidates to have lived in the country for the five consecutive years before the election. Jean knew his U.S. upbringing could be a roadblock to his candidacy, but has said his appointment as a roving ambassador by President Rene Preval in 2007 exempts him from the residency requirement.

Lawyers for the musician were at the CEP headquarters seeking to argue his case, he said.

More than 30 people had filed to run for president of a country still struggling to recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake, which destroyed thousands of buildings and killed an estimated 300,000 people. The candidacies of some 20 people were contested, the CEP announced; in order to properly decide on their eligibility, the group said it needed more time to investigate.

The CEP had been expected to publish the list of candidates earlier Tuesday but spokesman Richardson Dumel said the eligibility requirements of a number of candidates were still under review.

Haiti’s president will preside over the spending of billions in foreign reconstruction aid in a country with a long history of political turmoil. Preval is not permitted to run for re-election.

Rapper Fights To Make It From Lagos Tip To The Top

Source: www.thestar.com

(August 16, 2010) LONDON (AFP) - Nigerian rapper Vocal Slender rose to fame as a Lagos rubbish tip scavenger featured in a BBC documentary, but has found reaching the top of the heap in the music business equally as tough.

The 28-year-old singer, real name Eric Obuh, was due to kick-start his international bid for stardom in May as the main act at a show in London's prestigious 2,350-capacity IndigO2 Arena, but pulled out in disputed circumstances.

Nigerian newspaper PM News reported that amidst a conflict between promoters, Obuh's passport mysteriously disappeared before he set off for London then turned up -- but too late for him to make the Indig02 show.

The charismatic vocalist did not confirm the reports in an interview with AFP during his six-week tour here, but said his next step is finding a manager.

"Life has changed, I no longer work on the dump but I did a tour in London which ended up in a little bit of a disagreement over the percentage," Obuh told AFP.

With a new gig set for London in September, he wants someone to help him pursue his dream without exploiting his poor background and lack of industry knowledge.

"Now I need a manager. What I need is someone who is positive and has flair, someone who has love, humanity and love for humanity.

"I need a record deal, I cannot be saying 'sir, sir' to a management company.

"I need someone who doesn't want to take advantage of me as a scavenger from the slum. A lot of people are trying to take advantage of me because they know I'm a little bit talented and they know I've not been to London before.

"There was a little bit of a misunderstanding but it is God's way of telling me to push further," said Obuh, now back in Nigeria.

Obuh's soulful spunk and business acumen came to the world's attention when the BBC first aired the TV documentary in April. Called "Welcome to Lagos", it followed him searching for scrap on the huge Olusosun dump in order to fund time in a recording studio.

Viewers saw Obuh develop his Caribbean dancehall-influenced brand of rap and by the end of the show they saw Slender finally secure enough money to record his song "Owo Yapa" in a studio in Lagos's Ajegunle area, a simmering neighbourhood at the centre of Nigeria's burgeoning hip-hop scene.

As life mirrors art, the song is about someone making lots of money and is now an Internet hit.

"The environment that you grew up in convinces you to be someone in life," Obuh said. "In every human being there is talent and in Ajegunle we decide to look inside ourselves for that part."

The young Obuh grew up with relatives, and his early exposure to music came from listening to Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and Michael Jackson, while hustling on the streets to scrape together enough money to survive.

His focus and disadvantaged start in life put many of his American rap contemporaries' claims of hardship into perspective.

"With the American artists, the government are doing some positive things for their lives -- not like in Africa. They may be poor financially but they have a very conducive environment to work with.

"In Africa we have no light, no good power supply, no good water supply, no good roads. You can't go to the studio."

Despite his desire to improve life in Nigeria, Obuh dismissed the idea of following Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean into politics.

"For now I don't think I'm going into politics, although I could be an adviser. I don't like to go into it because it is more deadly and it takes your freedom away.

"I don't want a police escort," he said. "If I want to have a drink I can go to a bar and buy my own drink. If I want my own beef I can go to the market and buy my own beef."

Obuh embarks on his next bid for British chart success when he performs as a guest of comedian Eddie Kadi at London's 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in September, and sent a message to international fans who have been inspired by his story.

"My message to everybody trying to survive in life is to stay positive," he said. "Have you ever seen them give an award to the most negative man in the world? No!

"Try! The almighty God will always come by your side but don't take advantage of the less privileged, even if you have the opportunity to."


Bali Tourism Bounce Expected From Eat Pray Love

Source:  www.thestar.com - Natalie Meisler

(August 18, 2010)
BALI, Indonesia – The backdrop in the movie trailer looked vaguely familiar: Somebody pedaling a cruiser bike down a narrow alley; the magnificently contoured terraces of the rice field.

 Wait, that’s Bali – and it hit me that I was leaving for the Indonesian paradise the next day.

 One of three travel areas in “Eat Pray Love” – the newly released Julia Roberts movie – the island is probably about to be overrun. It’s likely that the flick will do for Bali what “The DaVinci Code” did for Paris: cram it with more tourists.

 A movie trailer – and I suspect the film – is unlikely to capture Bali’s unique essence. A trace of incense permeates the equatorial humidity, part of the ceremonial offerings that line every nook and cranny on every street. At night (and far away from the capital city of Denpasar), the chirping wildlife takes on a surround-sound quality. By day, the traditional gamelan music ensembles of percussion and xylophone-type chimes fill the air.

 Welcome to Bali, one of the great destination recovery stories of the past decade. What with the post-9/11 jitters, global economic downturn and the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, tourism had dwindled by mid-decade. The first hint of the rebound came when many places were booked a month in advance this spring.

 “With or without the movie, this high season (dry season) is looking to be the highest on record ... the movie will only increase the expected arrivals,” said American expatriate Scott O’Dowd.

 Bali’s appeal lies in its diverse attractions. It is at once a destination trip for the adventure-minded – with surfing, volcanic mountain hiking and river rafting – or a sedentary getaway for spa pampering.

 For others, Bali is a side trip from other destinations in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

 Still more visitors discover Bali as the gateway to Indonesia’s “Coral Triangle” diving in Wakatobi, Lembeh Straits and Raja Ampat.

 My first visit to Bali was on a dive trip in 2006 to Wakatobi, a remote slice of diving heaven a 2 1/2-hour charter flight from Bali. I returned two years later to photograph the unique critters in Lembeh Straits. With my dive days probably drawing to a close, I had to make one final trip to Bali and Wakatobi.

 Each time I regretted not seeing more of Bali.

 One dive friend, Colorado resident Anita Langdon, passed up the diving on a subsequent trip to spend the entire trip in Bali. Langdon told me she left in the middle of the night for the trek up Gunung Batur in the central mountains. A guide with a miner’s flashlight lit the way. The reward was sunrise with mountaintop views of a lake and the Indian Ocean.

 “It was magical,” Langdon said.

 “Magical” and “mystical” are the words most often associated with Bali. With a land area of only 2,174 square miles, it sits in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago.

 Despite its small size, the island has great diversity among the beaches on the circumference, the inland artistic/cultural center in Ubud, the northern volcanic chain, as well as the beach development around the airport and the one major city of Denpasar. All three of my trips were based out of Ubud, with a final day at the beach.

 In her book “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote of Ubud: “The town is sort of like a small Pacific version of Santa Fe, only with monkeys walking around and Balinese families in traditional dress all over the place.”

 Also like Santa Fe, there are many tourist-oriented art outlets. Unlike Santa Fe (except for handicraft sellers in Santa Fe Plaza), bargaining is the accepted way of business. Merchants are eager to sell, but remember that this isn’t your neighborhood Saturday garage sale. The locals are trying to make a living and probably need the extra few dollars more than you do.

 Any tour company will probably take you to crafts outlets/factories specializing in batiks, wood-carving and jewelry. The groups I’ve gone with show less and less interest each time, preferring the bargains on Monkey Forest Road.

 One entire small section of Ubud is dedicated to mask-makers. Some are ceremonial dance masks, some strictly artistic.

 No trip to Ubud is complete without seeing one of the Balinese cultural dances put on by members of the local Hindu temples. All involve the retelling of folklore deeply rooted in the Balinese Hindu tradition.

 The performers gather in the midday heat, applying make-up and wearing what must be sweltering multiperson costumes.

 A must-see is the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It’s not a zoo: Monkeys and people mingle without barriers. Buy the “official monkey forest bananas” or the monkeys will pilfer your snacks and water bottles. Sit down to check the results on your camera, and a monkey will grab anything not tied down or jump on your shoulders.

 One major tour draw I skipped with mixed feelings was the Elephant Safari Park, which rescues endangered Sumatran elephants. I envied others in the group who showed off their photo ops with baby elephants. I was just about to call the tour guide number when I read the elephants also perform circus tricks.

 In my mind, that’s akin to forcing dogs to do tricks to get adopted at the Dumb Friends League.

 The group left for Wakatobi the next day. The way back is beach time, as if a week at a premier dive resort wasn’t enough time in the water. I remembered the Aston Hotel in a row of upper midlevel properties. The schedule this time: more time on the beach. Unlike the mostly deserted area two years ago, there were enough motorized water toys to resemble the coastline in Cancun or Grand Cayman.

 Just wait until everyone sees the movie.


We Remember: Jazz Singer Abbey Lincoln Dies at 80

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(August 14, 2010) *Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln, whose career spanned six decades and included acting, composing and participation in the U.S. civil rights movement, died of unknown causes on Saturday at age 80. Her death was first reported by the New York Times.

More info on Abbey Lincoln (via Wikipedia):

She was one of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday. She had a very long and productive career and continued to perform until the time of her death. She often could be found at the Blue Note in New York City.[1]

With Ivan Dixon, she co-starred in Nothing But a Man (1964), an independent film written and directed by Michael Roemer. She also co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in 1968′s For Love of Ivy[2], and received a 1969 Golden Globe nomination for her appearance in the film.

Abbey Lincoln also appeared in the 1956 film The Girl Can’t Help It, for which she famously wore a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and interpreted the theme song, working with Benny Carter.[2]

She sang on the 60′s landmark jazz civil rights recording, We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite (1960) by jazz musician Max Roach and was married to him from 1962 to 1970.[3] Especially since this album, Abbey Lincoln was connected to the political fight against racism in the United States.

She worked with other jazz musicians like Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Coleman Hawkins, Jackie McLean, Clark Terry, Stanley Turrentine, Wynton Kelly, Cedar Walton, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, Ron Carter, Miles Davis and made albums with Stan Getz, Mal Waldron and Archie Shepp.

In 1990 she played the role of young Bleek Gilliams’ mother in the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues[4] who was very insistent that Bleek, played as an adult by Denzel Washington, come inside their house and practice his trumpet instead of playing outside with his friends.

In 2003, she received the National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Lincoln died from unknown causes. For more, go HERE.

We Remember: Robert Wilson (of the Gap Band) Dead at 53

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(August 15, 2010) *Another influential music artist has passed. On Saturday we reported the death of actress and jazz great
Abbey Lincoln.

Now, the Tulsa World is reporting that Robert Wilson of the Gap Band has died. He was 53.

Wilson, a native of Tulsa (OK), and his brothers, Charlie and Ronnie, started the Gap Band in the early 70s before moving to Los Angeles and finding fame as one of the premiere funk bands of the era.

Known as the “Godfather of Bass Guitar,” Wilson died from a massive heart attack in his home, his publicist and manager, Don Jackson said. His family became concerned about him when they didn’t receive their regular phone calls from him throughout the day. His adult son found Wilson’s body on Sunday afternoon in Palmdale, Calif.

Funeral details will be disseminated as they become available, confirmed his publicist.

Ironically Wilson gave what is most likely his last public interview to the Tulsa World last week to promote a show he was scheduled to do on August 28. The news outlet said he expressed joy about returning to his boyhood home of Tulsa and an upcoming festival headlining show and following tour.

The Aug 28 show will go on as planned, but will now be a memorial to Wilson.

Get MORE of this story HERE. Here, Robert, Charlie and Ronnie Wilson (The Gap Band)  perform two of their biggest hits:

Markham Jazz Festival: A Little Fest With Big Ideas

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(August 16, 2010) Traditionally, one of the unspoken rules on the jazz festival scene has been that big festivals think big, and small festivals think, well, small.

Guitarist Michael Occhipinti never quite bought into that logic. “Because I play a lot at different festivals, I see how some small festivals work, and think about what I would change about them,” he says. So when he wound up interviewing for the job of Artistic Director at the
Markham Jazz Festival, one of the ideas he pitched was that being small didn’t have to mean thinking small.

“The Guelph Jazz Festival was one festival I kept referring to,” he says. “They started out as a small festival, and compared to Montreal, they still are small. But they’re a smart small festival, and that’s what I hoped we could do in Markham.”

This weekend, Occhipinti’s idea comes to fruition as what may be the best overlooked jazz festival in Canada opens Friday. It starts with a gala at the Markham Theatre featuring guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli, as well as the Cameron Brown group, with singer Sheila Jordan and clarinettist/saxophonist Don Byron, and over the weekend will host performances by pianist Hilario Duran, the raga-schooled jazz band Tasa, and jazz singer Yvette Tollar, among others.

In a particularly inspired move, Byron – the festival’s Artist in Residence – will also appear on Saturday and Sunday, each time with a different band playing a different kind of music.

On Saturday, he’ll be playing Unionville’s Central United Church with his New Gospel Quintet, a group devoted mainly to the music of gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey, the author of Take My Hand, Precious Lord and countless other classic spirituals. “He invented a lot of the harmonic moves that say ‘gospel’ to us,” Byron says, by phone. “He was the person who really established that the highest level of blues singing would somehow be the sign of religious devotion, as opposed to being the devil’s music.”

Then, on Sunday, Byron will sit in with Occhipinti’s band, Triodes, which also includes the guitarist’s bass-playing brother, Roberto. That show will emphasize an approach reminiscent of such acts as the Headhunters, the Meters and the Skatalites. “It all comes from life experience,” Michael says of Triode. “We all play a lot of different kinds of music, and we all listen to a lot of different kinds of music.

“I suppose that’s why I like Don Byron. Listening to him play [years ago] with Bill Frisell, it was like – Wow, these guys are doing everything from Bob Dylan to Aaron Copland. It was like being given permission to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Over the course of his career, Byron has played and recorded in an incredible variety of styles, including klezmer, traditional New Orleans jazz, avant-garde, the “bug music” of Raymond Scott, and the R&B of Junior Walker. But it wasn’t an easy path, and he had to deal with a good bit of genre snobbery, even within jazz circles.

“When I came to New York, if you were to play straight-ahead music, the avant-garde guys didn’t like you,” he says. “If you played avant-garde stuff, the straight-ahead guys didn’t like you.”

Apart from Byron, Pizzarelli, and Cameron Brown’s group, most of the Markham Fest’s artists are, as Occhipinti puts it, “people who don’t have to travel very far to get there.”

But again, the festival thinks smart with those. “You know, in America, if they had a Grammy nominee or a Grammy award winner on the program, it would be a big part of how they promote that artist. But in Canada, we sometimes don’t want to do that,” he says.

“So I thought, why don’t we get some of the Juno award winners? That’s why I booked [drummer] Terry Clarke, who won for the traditional jazz category, and [singer/guitarist] Jack DeKeyzer, who won for blues, and [singer/guitarist] Dominic Mancuso, who won for world music. Why not celebrate the fact that they won this prize?”

The Markham Jazz Festival runs August 20-22 in Markham, Ont. For further information, go to www.markhamjazzfestival.com.

The Sound Of A Fast-Rising River - And Marimba

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

The Thing
Minotaurs / Static Cling

(August 16, 2010) Whether it's floating in a cloud or rushing against a levee, water is something you have to respect. It can wipe away your village, drown your children, or spread a few billion barrels of oil across a vast coastline.

By design or timely accident, the latest disc from Ontario indie supergroup
Minotaurs is full of water imagery, and it's not comforting. In these songs, written by Nathan Lawr, the mother of all life is a sneaky invasive force, just waiting to turn a leak into a flood. "Water rising higher," Lawr sings in the title track. "There's no bridge," he laments in Runaway Lane. "Everything we built is now waterlogged," he concludes in Nothing New.

Such calamities used to be acts of God or sovereign Nature, but global warming and the oil economy have given us a causal role in both of this summer's great water disasters. When Lawr sings, "this world, it stands on hollow legs" (in Lazy Eye) it's hard not to think of spindly pipelines stretching to the bottom of the sea.

But this album isn't just about thinking. Its bumpy Afrobeat rhythms are built to make us move. Even the most desperate-seeming numbers roll on with an easy vitality.

Minotaurs is a big shaggy dance band that often diverges from a charted route into a delta of melodic possibilities. In all these songs, there's space for the band to mull through the feelings within Lawr's lyrics and often bluesy harmonies.

Get Down rides a muscular reggae beat, while Lawr urges us to "get down and cover your head/ we are in the wrong place" (sounds like the streets of Toronto during the G20). The Thing opens with a pungent guitar and marimba figure that sounds like a sixties secret-agent theme, settling later into an densely patterned groove with horns and solo trumpet. Runaway Lane sneaks an Appalachian-style tune into the Afrobeat stew, and the dirty blues of Crystal Cave could plausibly take a cameo verse from Tom Waits.

There's a lot to take in, whether or not you respond to Lawr's political concerns. Water in motion is also a potent metaphor for more personal things, including passion and the refusal of life to stay where we want to put it. Even if we can't do much to change or control those things, Lawr seems to say, it's important to take their measure, not as a bystander but as a witness.

Minotaurs plays The Piston in Toronto on Aug. 28.

Obituary: Tenor Ted Kowalski Sang With The Diamonds

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(August 16, 2010) Ted Kowalski, original tenor of the Canadian 1950s vocal quartet The Diamonds, has died after a battle with heart disease. He was 79.

The Whitby native received three gold records with The Diamonds, for “Little Darlin’,” “Silhouettes” and “The Stroll.” The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 1984 Juno Awards.

Formed in Toronto in 1953, The Diamonds had a series of hits in the late ’50s and early ’60s, many of which were covers of songs originally sung by black R&B artists.

Their first hit was “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” in 1956, a traditional doo-wop version of the Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers song that reached No. 12 on the U.S. charts.

In 1957, the group scored its biggest hit with “Little Darlin’,” a cover of a tune by the Gladiolas. The Diamonds’ version reached No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Though Kowalski left the group after five years in 1958 to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Toronto, he didn't stop singing.

He went on to perform with the Toronto-based outfit The Generations and more recently, he was a member of the Whitby Seniors’ Centre Jubilee Choir.

Kowalski leaves his wife Valare Bromley and children Marianne and John Kowalski.

A celebration of Kowalski's life will be held at the Whitby Senior Centre on Aug. 21 at 2 p.m.

Richie Hayward Saved His Best Feat For His Last Performance

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(August 16, 2010) Richie Hayward wore a red fleece sweater with a hood. Sitting just offstage, he shivered beneath a blanket.

He huddled near a sound board, as though the heat it generated was a camp fire.

It was summer, but the sun had gone down and a wind had come up.

Mr. Hayward was sick. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer almost exactly a year earlier. He had played a final show in Montana with Little Feat, the band for which he had been the drummer for four decades, before leaving the tour to recuperate at home in Courtenay.

A year before the diagnosis, he had married Shauna Drayson, a Comox Valley woman who can be found on weekends serving food to the homeless. Her business involves providing companion services for seniors. Now, her compassion and her skills were needed at home.

She stood beside her husband as Little Feat performed as the final, headlining act at Vancouver Island MusicFest last month.

The plan was for the drummer to join in for a few songs.

No one was certain if he would have the strength.

Little Feat is one of those bands musicians appreciate, whose songs appear on lists of best-driving tunes, whose fans wax rhapsodically about a never-ending rock, soul, blues, funk groove.

Critics love ’em and the English hail them as original American geniuses.

Mr. Hayward was born in 1946 in Clear Lake, Iowa, a resort town later to be infamous for a plane wreck. The great Buddy Holly, as well as Ritchie Valens and deejay the Big Bopper, died after performing at the Surf Ballroom, as their plane crashed into a snowy cornfield three days before Hayward’s 13th birthday.

In 1966, Mr. Hayward answered an advertisement in a Los Angeles underground newspaper: “Drummer wanted – must be freaky.” He eventually formed a band with Lowell George that came to be Little Feat, an outfit that took all the musical ingredients America had to offer before mixing it through a New Orleans blender. Mr. Hayward’s rhythm became a Little Feat signature.

The band split up after Mr. George died of a heart attack in 1979, before re-forming several years later. Meanwhile, the drummer became a much-in-demand session player, as well as performer. His credits read like a who’s-who list from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – from Bob Dylan to Warren Zevon, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton.

If you’ve listened to rock music some time in the past 40 years, you’ve likely tapped your toe and bobbed your head to Richie Hayward.

More recently, you could find him attending jam sessions at Comox Valley pubs, grooving to the music and, on occasion, taking a turn on the drum stool. He hung out with Pacific Disturbance, a local five-piece rocking blues band.

It was his misfortune to be an American without health insurance, and, though married to a Canadian and living in Canada, not yet qualified for our system.

His musician friends held a fundraiser in Courtenay last September that raised $53,439.63 for his medical bills.

Others made contributions through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

Friends who called themselves the North Pole Allstars recorded a “funky labour of love” called Santa Gotta Get Some, proceeds from the exclusive download going to his fund.

When the drummer’s wife let it be known that his children and stepchildren had not seen him perform, Little Feat were enlisted for a concert on Vancouver Island.

They had performed the night before at a beer festival at Chico, Calif. They drove several hours to San Francisco airport, flew to Vancouver, then boarded a charter flight to Comox Valley Airport. It was a long haul and a quick turnaround in 24 hours and not all their equipment made the trip.

No one was certain if he would have the strength to perform.

At last, he joined the band onstage to sing along to Don’t Bogart That Joint (the Jamaican national anthem, his wife quipped online) before settling behind the drum kit onto a stool that bore his name.

“He went from freezing on the side of the stage and looking very fragile before turning into this monster drummer,” said Doug Cox, the festival’s artistic director.

He played three songs – Spanish Moon, Skin it Back and Fat Man in the Bathtub.

Said Mr. Cox: “It was a naked, beautiful, private performance moment that was shared between guys who had made music together for 40 years – and an audience of 8,000 people.”

The moment was recorded by producer Derek Bird of CBC Radio. The corporation’s staff has a special connection to MusicFest, where one of the stages is named for the late David Grierson, an on-air host and festival emcee who died suddenly six years ago.

After his performance, Mr. Hayward exited stage left.

A cellphone photograph captured the moment as Mr. Hayward reached for his wife. Mr. Hayward’s eyes were closed, his mouth open in a smile. The look on his face can only be described as joyous.

“Richie was beaming,” his wife later wrote.

It was his final performance.

The drummer died of complications from pneumonia on Thursday morning at a hospital in Victoria. His wife held him as he passed. He was 64.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Please Report For Duty, Brian Wilson

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Mark Lepage

(August 13, 2010) You only need glance at Brian Wilson’s official website to see what reclusive genius looks like. The well-groomed, grey-hair gent posed in front of the grand piano looks uncertain, even furtive. So what was going to happen this past week when this timid Beach Boy legend faced an audience of music critics and journalists in mid-town Manhattan for a “listening party” for his new album? Would he enter the room in a Popemobile to protect him from his inquisitors?

Wilson, though, goes unnoticed at first as he walks in and is led to the dais at front of the room, with its fully stocked bar and piano.

Jason Fine of Rolling Stoneadvances to the mike and tells a reverential story about a night backstage in New Jersey, when he watched Wilson, alone at the piano, in a eureka moment: picking out a melody on the keys, fusing the themes that would become his new album. The word “genius” floats in the air as wine is poured and the songs come pouring from speakers that cost more than everything you own.

And then, unexpectedly, Wilson is led to a piano bench, where he sits to greet the crowd one-on-one and have photos taken. Business is business, and in pop music you’re only a recluse until you have an album to promote.

Wilson’s disappearance and dissolution after delivering a head-full of some of the most transporting melodies of the latter half of the last century, culminating in Pet Sounds, widely seen as one of the most influential pop albums ever, is well known, along with his decades of psychotherapy and the long journey back from the sandbox.

But at 68, after dozens of tribute concerts, a 2005 Grammy for Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (from the 37-years-late release of his Smile album in 2004), a Kennedy Centre Honor in 2007, Wilson is unmistakably back.

“Fell asleep in the band room, woke up in history,” Wilson sang on his 2008 release That Lucky Old Sun, and in 2010, he’s done that in literal terms.

The release this coming Tuesday of Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is being handled as a Major Event by Walt Disney Records. The Gershwin estate had come calling, inviting Wilson not only to re-record a dozen signature pieces by George and Ira Gershwin, but to troll through the vaults and, in a first, complete two unfinished songs by the brothers – The Like in I Love You and Nothing But Love.

So why Gershwin, I ask him in a telephone interview arranged along with the New York event.

“Well my mother used to play Rhapsody in Blue when I was a child, so it’s like I remember it, but unconsciously,” he says.

How old were you? “Four.”

“He’s my main hero. I learned a lot from him. I learned harmony, I learned melody and I learned lyrics.”

He says he was thrilled and amazed to be walking through “all that history, that incredible music.” Did he feel like George was with him? “Yeah, I did I felt like he was there with me. But he wasn’t,” he says, laughing. “It’s two of the greatest musical talents in the 20th century working together. That’s fantastic!” He briefly describes culling through 104 Gershwin demos with co-writer Scott Bennett, unfinished pieces, to find two that could be completed, brought to life, “using the harmonies to inspire a melody.”

He’d described it elsewhere as “the most spiritual project I've ever worked on.” Is he a spiritual person? “I believe in God, yeah, but not religious, no.” Music is the religion? “Yeah, music.”

We’ve ventured onto personal terrain here, and he becomes audibly distracted. “Well, I wonder if people will like it. But I have no way of knowing …”

Questions about the New York-L.A. dichotomy, about his specific goals or targets, about a possible tour, draw yes-no answers. The label had banned some questions, but suddenly, asking him for reflections on his personal life seems unimaginable anyway, like trespassing. Wilson has done the talking he’s going to do.

At the listening party, I try again for answers. Wary and pot-bellied, Wilson has sat, uncomfortable but game, as the album is played. It’s received rapturously, and on that galactic HiFi, the bossa of Gershwin’s ‘S Wonderful is room and history-filling.

The Like in I Love You is unlikely, but his emphatically naif delivery is a pop singularity. And yes, that is a Wouldn't it Be Nice coda in his giddy version of They Can't Take That Away From Me, a sunny cascade that is the perfect genetic synthesis of the two worlds. It’s the lost sunbeam. Cue the standing ovation.

As the queue of questioners thins, I ask him how he is able to fuse such disparate sounds, psyches and aesthetics – the Brooklyn-Jewish composer and the Cali beach kid – into a unified whole for a 2010 audience? How could he align that apparent paradox?

“Well, I loved George and Ira since I was a kid, so what I did was combine my background musical ability with their melodic ability.” Will he tour with the album? “No. Thank you.”

After the interviews dwindle, Wilson doesn’t budge, blinking, apparently affectless throughout, as guests gush and the official photographer clicks away.

The sight of him, enduring rather than participating or enjoying, crystallizes a subversive reading of Brian Wilson, oeuvre and life.

For all its championed bliss, there is a paradoxical exquisite anguish to those architectural, hymnal Beach Boys choruses. Whether Wilson is aware of it or could acknowledge it, it’s there. Your mental image is of a young man who could only process whatever pain was inside the sunshine by alchemizing it into songs that have come to represent the very opposite for the global audience: summertime ease. You don’t need to ask anything more. If you listen closely enough, he’s really said all he could say.

Special to the Globe and Mail

The new album streams starting at noon PST at www.brianwilson.com and then Wilson takes questions from fans on his Facebook page at 12:45 PST.)  

Mr. Costner’s Keeping Busy, Thanks

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(August 17, 2010)  VANCOUVER — Like just about everyone else, it seems, Kevin Costner has seen that infamous interview with Billy Bob Thornton that aired last year on CBC’s Q where Thornton bristled when asked about his acting career; he wanted to talk about his band. Like Thornton, Costner is a Hollywood star-turned-musician; his roots-country-rock band Kevin Costner & Modern West is playing a number of Canadian dates this summer.

Costner, however, is keenly aware that the ticket and CD sales and interview requests aren’t pouring in solely because of the music, but because of his movie career. And that’s okay with him. He says the two are inextricably linked anyway; he does a lot of his songwriting on set and sometimes plays clips from his films before a performance. Costner has his hand in many projects – he’s also developed a machine to clean up oil spills, currently being employed in the Gulf of Mexico– and he’s not grumpy when asked about any of them.

You’ve been spending a lot of time in the Gulf since the oil spill. How involved were you in developing the oil separation device?

I was the author of it, I was the financier of it, I was the producer of it. I wasn’t the scientist. I’m not that smart. I invested over $24-million [U.S.] 15 years ago to combat this problem. Starting 12 years ago, I could have been on any oil spill around the world and tried to be, but you’re talking about a very tough industry and you’re talking about government who didn’t really think they had a problem. My company [Ocean Therapy Solutions] has offered up a comprehensive plan now, how to respond to oil spills in the future, and I hope that it will be replicated up and down the coast of Canada into Alaska and to the Arctic. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I can anticipate that things can get worse.

What was it like to see the devastation in the Gulf firsthand?

I was pretty gratified that my equipment 15 years later finally made it out onto where it was intended. I’m sick about the reason, but I was grateful that for once we can start to fight oil spills the way they should be fought in this 21st century. But I’ve spent a lot of time there and I’ve seen people struggling; they’re not going to make their mortgages. I just wrote a song about it called The Gulf of Mexico.

Did you always want to be a musician? Even before the acting career?

I always loved performing. I was brought up in the Baptist church where there was a lot of singing, and I played the piano, but I was trained classically and my parents did not allow me to drift off into rock and roll. I was in travelling choirs and I loved when it was my time for a solo. I kind of always enjoyed the pressure of performing.

How does it differ from the pressure of performing on a film set?

On a film set, you can take the time to make things perfect. People talk about crossover performers; they say: “Oh, I guess musicians are better actors than actors are musicians.” I’ve had musicians come on my sets, including Whitney Houston [in The Bodyguard]. I can give them multiple takes; I can literally coach them through mistakes, through nuances, through anything, and take that very best part of it, even just a small part of it, and enter it into a scene and [it] can be massaged into what you’d call an acceptable or great performance. You turn around and go on stage [as a musician], there’s no wriggle room. You can be rejected in your first eight seconds into a song, let alone a set of an hour and a half.

What’s it like for you to be on stage with no second takes or second chances?

There’s a drama in it, for sure. Let’s face it: There’s a curiosity to begin with. Then there’s the drama of what’s going to happen. If someone thinks it’s easy to go play an hour or more of original music that no one’s ever heard and still hold an audience, go try it.

Even if you’re Kevin Costner?

Even if you’re me. Go try it. It’s not an easy situation.

Your name may bring people into the show, but you have to hold them there.

You have to. I look out in the audience and I see a lot of the guys, specifically, with their arms across their chest going: ‘Okay, what’s this about? How did I end up here?’ And I get that. So the first song into it, I have to go after it. And I do.

Does it bother you at all that people are coming to your shows, probably a lot of them, because you’re a movie star?

It doesn’t bother me; I understand it. I can’t change the world. I’m more interested in how they leave than why they come.

What did you think of that Billy Bob Thornton interview?

I don’t know what frame of mind he was in; I know there’s a level of frustration that comes from the same question. I saw it. It was an uncomfortable moment for everybody, but I have a lot of empathy for people that live in the press on a daily basis. I wish it had a happier ending. But it’s part of legend, part of lore now. We all got to see it, given what news is these days, multiple times.

You were back at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta two weeks ago. How did that feel after what happened last year? [A sudden, violent storm kicked up just as Modern West was about to take the stage; one person was killed and several people were injured, including Costner’s tour manager.] Was it emotional?

I didn’t think that it would be, and then when I got there I started walking around with the guys; I actually had my oldest son with me and I spotted where I was when it happened and where I was when I fell under the stage. Then it started to hit me that there’s no guarantees in life and it really hit us and we all started talking about where we were at when it happened. Our band specifically suffered a lot, but we didn’t talk about it much during the course of the year. There’s always a big pull for me to go on shows like Entertainment Tonight and talk about what happened, because we’re a very news-starved world. But I didn’t feel like talking about it. Almost to the day, a year later, we put an eight-minute documentary about it on our website, for the people who really care – and not just for a news bite.

You talk about a news-starved world. Certainly over the course of your career, things have changed so much in terms of tabloid coverage of celebrities’ lives. Is it hard for you to not get caught up in that?

I don’t get caught up in it, but I am a certain piece of commerce where it’s concerned. You can be flattered by it; you can also be devastated by it. I ignore it for the most part, but I have never gotten to the point where it’s just water off a duck’s back.

Kevin Costner & Modern West play a free show at the PNE in Vancouver on Saturday August 21 at 8 pm (pne.ca). 

Eliades Ochoa: A One-Man Social Club

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(August 18, 2010) Eliades Ochoa thinks locally but acts globally. Indelibly wedded to the culture of his small, rural piece of Cuba, he has also become one of its best-known globetrotting musical ambassadors.

The Buena Vista Social Club album (and subsequent documentary) turned Ochoa into a star when it was released 13 years ago, opening doors to him and his fellow artists around the world. Now, at age 64, he takes on three or four major tours a year that include Europe, Africa and the Americas. But, sitting in the lobby of his modest Toronto hotel earlier this week, his appearance doesn’t betray a single clue to his star status.

Wearing a trademark black cowboy hat and boots, Ochoa makes no apologies about his deep and enduring roots in the hills near Santiago de Cuba.

The advocate of Cuban roots music (often called guajira) is increasingly collaborating with musicians from the country’s newer traditions, but has no interest whatsoever in leaving behind his birthplace. He doesn’t even like going to Havana.

Fortunately for us, Ochoa doesn’t mind Toronto, with its growing audience for all types of Cuban music. He has performed at Harbourfront and at Massey Hall. This time, he’s back for an intimate one-night concert at Lula Lounge on Friday, with a clutch of favourite collaborators in tow.

The foundation of Ochoa’s art is trova — purveyed by itinerant singer-guitarists for nearly two centuries. As in any folk tradition, some songs are as old as the hills, while others are inspired by lives and loves only one or two generations old. The stories and melodies of trova are passed on and tweaked from one generation to the next. It’s a long historical line that Ochoa says is part of the Cuban soul.

Through a translator, he reveals that young musicians from as far away as Havana make unannounced pilgrimages to his house in Santiago de Cuba, at the other side of the island, all the time, looking for instruction, inspiration or simply an experienced opinion.

Ochoa has also attracted attention from farther away, especially Africa. His most recent recording projects include a disc with a group of players from Cameroon, as well as a blend of Afro-Cuban and hip-hop music with younger artists from Havana.

“I have to keep saying no to people,” Ochoa says of his personal embarrassment of musical riches.

He came by his vocation via both parents, who both played the tres, which is a Cuban instrument that looks like a guitar with three pairs of double strings — except that it is used as a percussion instrument as well as a melodic one. The double-duty makes it the ideal companion for a lone singer on the move.

Ochoa had just reached school age when his parents sent him out into the street. “I had six brothers, and we all had to earn money,” he recalls. He worked as a shoeshine boy, but quickly discovered he could make more as a singer, accompanying himself on a tres.

“I drew a lot of attention and it would help a lot economically. You see, the guitar and me were the same size,” the musician chuckles.

“I never went to a music school, and I’m glad,” he adds with a big smile.


WHO: Eliades Ochoa and friends

WHERE: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.

WHEN: Friday @ 9 p.m. (doors @ 7 p.m.)

TICKETS: $47 adv @ 416-588-0307; $50 @ door


50 Cent Could Be a Hero and So Can You

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(August 14, 2010) *He has a hard outer shell but he’s more like a soft teddy bear on the inside. Tough guy rapper, 50 Cent recently signed up to be a bone marrow donor when he heard that young “Lion King” actress was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Eleven-year-old Shannon Tavarez had a co-starring role as young Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Her diagnosis made the rapper think of his own son. “My son is just a couple years older than Shannon and I can’t imagine if his life was needlessly cut short when there is someone out there that could save him,” the rap star said in a statement. “Shannon’s chances of finding a matching donor are slim because she’s African American and Dominican and minorities are underrepresented in the national registry,” he added. “Everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity deserves a fair chance at life. Registering to become a bone marrow donor starts with a cheek swab but it’s more than that. It’s a commitment to save a life.” Both 50 and fellow G-Unit member Tony Yayo registered with DKMS, the largest bone marrow registry in the world.

Video: T.I. Performs with Mary J., Hilson, Cam’Ron in NYC

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 18, 2010)  The rapper performed his first full live show since his release from prison with guests Mary J. Blige, Cam’ron, Keri Hilson, B.o.B. and Swizz Beatz, among others. . Flanked by a five-piece backing band, T.I. exploded onstage in a dark-blue hoodie near 11 p.m. and rocked furious renditions of “I’m Back,” “Top Back” and “Rubberband Man.” “I don’t care where you’re from — North, South, East, West. You gotta be real if you wanna ride with me,” T.I. snarled before running through “Ride Wit Me.” As the music died down for a few minutes during his two-hour set, T.I. thanked the fans in the New York area who wrote him letters while he was serving a prison sentence for gun charges last year. “I appreciate all the love y’all showed me,” said T.I., “but there’s still people behind that wall, with the same struggles every day. Give it up one time for my n***a Lil Wayne.” Sporting his second different polo T-shirt of the night, T.I. finished the show by tackling his two Hot 100 chart-toppers, “Whatever U Like” and “Live Your Life.” Although he reminded the crowd that his crime drama “Takers” will be released Aug. 27, T.I. only vaguely alluded to his much-anticipated seventh album, saying that “King Uncaged” was simply “coming soon.” T.I.’s next scheduled performance is at Baltimore’s Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2010 on Sept. 25.


Usher, Chris Brown to Tour Together?

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 18, 2010)  *Just weeks ago, they were facing off in a friendly dance battle at Jamaica’s Sumfest. Today, Billboard is reporting that Usher and Chris Brown may head out together on tour. Producer Bryan Michael Cox broke the news in a video posted on YouTube yesterday (Aug. 17). “Usher and the boy Chris Brown are going on tour, y’all know that, right?” Cox asked viewers in the clip. “They might don’t know that,” says Jermaine Dupri, who is filming, to which Cox replies, “I might’ve just gave y’all some exclusive s**t.” Though it hasn’t been confirmed by their reps, Brown and Usher took to Twitter to hint at the possible trek. “What would you guys say if me and usher went on tour?” Chris Brown asked while Usher tweeted, “If you could see Usher perform live with anyone — who would it be?” The tour would come on the heels of the release of Chris Brown’s “Graffiti” and Usher’s “Raymond v Raymond,” and on the eve of latter’s “Versus” EP, due Aug. 24.


Eat, Pray, Love - Divorcee Embarks on Spiritual Sojourn in Pat Adaptation of Best-Selling Memoir

Source: by Kam Williams

Whenever possible, I studiously avoid reading any book upon which an upcoming movie is being based. This practice has added immeasurably to my enjoyment of screen adaptations, for it frees me to judge a film merely on its own merits instead of having to compare it to its invariably-superior source material. Thus, this positive assessment of
Eat, Pray, Love comes from a critic who entered the theatre blissfully-unaware of the contents of Elizabeth Gilbert’s globetrotting memoir.

I did know, however, that Ms. Gilbert was a successful writer whose GQ article about her brief stint as a bar dancer at Coyote Ugly, a freewheeling saloon in NYC, had provided the inspiration for the motion picture of the same name. And I was also a little sceptical about the supposedly-spiritual sojourn recounted in her runaway best-seller given that she had landed a six-figure advance from her publisher prior to departing.

Capably directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee), Eat, Pray, Love, the film, unfolds in fairly-formulaic fashion, all its pretentious New Agey notions notwithstanding. Just think of it as another makeover movie where a female protagonist undergoes a major transformation before riding off into the sunset with Mr. Right.

Julia Roberts turns in an engaging, if less than endearing, performance in the lead role of Liz, a terminally-introspective playwright/journalist stuck in an unhappy marriage. Her hubby, Stephen (Billy Crudup) is a nice-enough guy. The problem is that the couple has simply grown apart. Their big difference is that she has an insatiable wanderlust to visit exotic places, while he’s an underachieving stick-in-the-mud who’s considering going back to law school.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! What to do? What to do? Crying on the shoulder of her best friend (Viola Davis) doesn’t help. Nor does a temporarily-therapeutic fling with the hunk (James Franco) starring in “Permeable Membrane,” her latest Off-Broadway production. So, Liz uncaringly files for divorce, crushing her befuddled husband’s heart in the process.

Awkwardly consulting God for advice for the first time in her life (“I’m a big fan of Your work.”), she is blessed with the Divine inspiration to embark on a year-long, world-around sojourn in search of self-fulfillment. Like a woman on a mission, Liz starts with Italy where to “eat” sumptuous feasts and soak in the sights. After a four-month stay, she’s off to India for a little of the opposite, namely, to “pray” and deny herself sensory delights. Finally, she heads to Indonesia where, if everything goes according to plan, who knows, she might find true “love.”

Along the way, Liz conveniently bonds with a buddy at each port of call: a sweet Swedish tourist (Tuva Novotny) in Naples , a troubled Texan (Richard Jenkins) at an ashram outside Delhi , and a tall, dark and handsome, Brazilian multi-millionaire (Javier Bardem) with a boat in Bali . In the end, perhaps the pat plot sounds more like a fairytale than an earnest, feminist quest for enlightenment, but that’s probably about the best you can expect from a 21st Century Cinderella with a book deal who had probably already optioned the rights to turn her story into a Hollywood bio-pic.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity, sexual references and male rear nudity.
In German and Italian with subtitles.
Running time: 133 Minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
To see a trailer for Eat, Pray, Love, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crNaJjfY57g

Movie About Joaquin Phoenix's Hip-Hop Career To Screen At TIFF

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(August 17, 2010) TORONTO — Casey Affleck's controversial movie about
Joaquin Phoenix's attempt to launch a hip-hop career will screen at next month's Toronto International Film Festival.

I'm Still Here marks the directorial debut of Affleck, whose acting credits include 2007's Gone Baby Gone, which was helmed by his brother Ben.

Phoenix caused a sensation last year when he declared his intention to quit acting in favour of music.

A series of bizarre appearances followed, including a memorable guest spot on Late Show with David Letterman, during which Phoenix – sporting a shaggy beard and sunglasses – was mostly incomprehensible.

The incident prompted many to wonder if Phoenix's music career was an elaborate put-on in service of Affleck's film project.

The festival also announced that it will feature the latest from Danny Boyle. Based on a true story, 127 Hours stars James Franco as a mountain climber trapped in a Utah canyon.

Boyle was the toast of Toronto two years ago, winning the audience choice award for Slumdog Millionaire, which went on to nab the Academy Award for best picture.

Also announced today:

Hereafter, “the story of three people haunted by mortality in different ways,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon;

Everything Must Go, about a motivational speaker who is abruptly fired, directed by Dan Rush and starring Will Ferrell;

Let Me In, about a series of killings that appear to have been committed by a young vampire, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass);

What's Wrong with Virginia, about a mentally ill mother and her illegitimate son, directed by Dustin Lance Black and starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris;

Last Night, about a woman who encounters a past love while her husband is away on business with a colleague he is attracted to, directed by Massy Tadjedin and starring Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes;

Deep in the Woods, by French director Benoit Jacquot;

Mothers, directed by Milcho Manchevski;

The Poll Diaries, directed by Chris Kraus.

This year's Toronto International Film Festival runs from Sept. 9 to 19.

Clint Eastwood Picks Toronto To Roll Out His Latest Movie, Hereafter

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

(August 17, 2010)
Clint Eastwood wants to make Toronto’s day: his spooky new film Hereafter will have its world premiere at TIFF next month.

The actor-turned-director chose the Toronto International Film Festival over New York’s rival fest to launch his latest work.

Hereafter is a drama of supernatural connections, starring Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard and Belgian actress Cécile De France. The screenplay is by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon).

It’s the first time in 20 years that gunslinger Eastwood, who turned 80 in May, has chosen Toronto as a festival venue. He was last at TIFF in 1990, the year he brought White Hunter Black Heart to town.

He is expected to accompany his film to Toronto, which will screen in the Special Presentations program, but the visit hasn’t yet been confirmed.

In recent years, Eastwood has chosen the Cannes and New York festivals to premiere his work. But Hereafter wasn’t ready for Cannes and New York will have to make do with getting it after Toronto. The film will screen in New York as that fest’s closing attraction on Oct. 10, just ahead of its Oct. 20 theatrical release.

TIFF has also announced its own closing night gala: Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night, a romantic drama that will likely see stars Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes and Sam Worthington (Avatar) walk the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall.

Other Special Presentations announced Tuesday by TIFF, all of them world, international or North American premieres, are:

127 Hours (Danny Boyle): The fact-based story of mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), who had to take extreme measures to save himself after a fallen boulder crushed his arm in a remote Utah canyon.

Everything Must Go (Dan Rush): Will Ferrell stars as a motivational speaker whose life abruptly changes when his survival strategies kick in.

I’m Still Here (Casey Affleck): Everybody wanted to know last year whether actor Joaquin Phoenix really had become a crazy bearded rapper, or whether he was just making a movie with his friend Affleck. Here’s the answer.

Let Me In (Matt Reeves): A remake of the Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In, about a preteen bloodsucker and her trusting new friend. It stars Kick-Ass hellion Chloe Moretz and The Road discovery Kodi Smit-McPhee.

What’s Wrong With Virginia (Dustin Lance Black): Drama by Oscar-winning Milk scribe Black stars Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Emma Roberts in the tale of a mentally ill mother striving to protect her illegitimate son.

Deep in the Woods (Benoît Jacquot): Set in rural France of 1865, it’s a drama of young and reckless attraction, starring Jérôme Kircher and Isild Le Besco.

Mothers (Milcho Manchevski): Docudrama about a film crew that sets out to find the truth about a sexual incident in a small town, where hard facts prove elusive.

The Poll Diaries (Chris Kraus): World War I-era film about a young German girl who returns to her home on the Baltic coast, where relations are strained between the local Germans, Russians and Estonians.

TIFF also announced Tuesday the choice of this year’s focus for its City to City program: Istanbul, Turkey. TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey, who is responsible for City to City, said planning for this year’s choice began immediately after last year’s festival, in which Tel Aviv was the controversial inaugural choice, sparking protests from some Middle Eastern factions.

“We were mindful of what happened last year and we made sure that we chose a city where we think people can focus on the filmmaking, as opposed to other issues,” he told the Star.

Bailey said five cities were in the running: Berlin, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, Istanbul and Manila. In February, the list was narrowed to Istanbul and Manila, with Istanbul being picked as the final choice in May.

The process this year included consultations with “communities in Toronto with a stake in an Istanbul decision,” Bailey said via Twitter.

The fest also announced the details of its Midnight Madness, TIFF for Free, Sprockets Family Zone and Future Projections programs.

Colin Geddes, programmer for the popular after-hours Midnight Madness cult series, said he’s particularly proud of landing these three films for his slate of 10 bloodshot attractions:

The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman (Wu Ershan): “This is my first ever pick from mainland China. It’s a wild and brash tale of martial arts and food preparation that will be sure to have the audience heading to Chinatown at 2 a.m. for a snack and a pot of cold tea.”

Super (James Gunn): “The anti-Kick-Ass! Imagine if Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver donned a homemade latex suit and went onto the streets armed with a monkey wrench to enforce his version of justice.”

Stake Land (Jim Mickle): “It's like The Road, but with vampires. And we are not talking about those sparkly saps that have been dominating the box office, but nasty feral bloodsuckers.”

TIFF for Free is a no-charge series of classics films, screening at the new Bell Lightbox, in honour of the fest’s 35th anniversary. The films all played at TIFF over the years. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The films are Outrageous! (Sept. 14, 7 p.m.); American Beauty (Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m.); Roadkill (Sept. 16, 10 p.m.); Water (Sept. 17, 10 p.m.); Away From Her (Sept. 18, 7 p.m.); Crash (Sept. 18, 9 p.m.); The Big Chill (Sept. 19, 7 p.m.); and The Princess Bride (Sept. 19, 10 p.m.).

For more information and tickets, go to www.tiff.net.

Christopher Plummer vs. Helen Mirren In A Cinematic Battle Of The Tempests?

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(August 17, 2010) His revels at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival are not quite ended, but there are virtually no tickets available for the final weeks of Christopher Plummer’s star turn as Prospero in The Tempest, which closes on Sept. 12.

That’s the bad news, but there is also good news for those who have missed their chance to see this legendary actor in a signature role on the Stratford stage.

Now it’s time to focus on the afterlife of this show — likely coming to a large screen near you before the first snowfall.

Indeed, it’s entirely possible that Stratford’s Tempest will reach your local Cineplex weeks before the Dec. 10 theatrical opening of Disney’s much-ballyhooed and vastly more expensive Tempest starring
Helen Mirren and directed by Julie Taymor.

On stage at Stratford, Plummer’s Prospero has indeed created a perfect tempest at the box office since its official opening on June 25. That kind of pandemonium is the stuff that dreams are made of for general director Antoni Cimolino and artistic director Des McAnuff.

But the screen version, filmed last month and currently in post-production, will reach a larger audience, and could be an even bigger crowd-pleaser.

“Both Des McAnuff and Christopher Plummer deliver an edge of your seat cinematic experience,” promises Barry Avrich, who produced the film, and has been spent hours in the editing room. “I believe the live theatre aspect has definitively been captured in a raw and stunning production.”

Avrich scored a major success two years ago with the film version of Stratford’s Caesar and Cleopatra — another McAnuff production starring Plummer.

Filmed in HD during live performance, the screen version could move beyond the single-occasion HD presentation and be given a limited theatrical release not only in Canada but also in key U.S. cities under the terms of a deal currently being discussed.

And if Stratford’s Tempest finds its way into movie theatres in Los Angeles and New York for one week prior to the end of 2010, it will qualify for awards. That could mean competition for Taymor’s version, which has turned the main character into a woman, played by Mirren.

The Taymor/Mirren Tempest will have its world premiere on closing night of the Venice Film Festival next month, and its North American premiere on Oct. 2 at the New York Film Festival. For the Toronto International Film Festival, it belongs in the file of Movies That Got Away.

Wouldn’t it be intriguing if both Plummer and Mirren were nominated for their performances? Presumably they would be in two different categories — best actor and best actress.

When I mentioned this potential screen duel to McAnuff, he quipped: “They are both great actors but for this role, given the choice, I’d go with Chris.”

Executive producers for the film version of McAnuff’s production are Avrich, entertainment lawyer Michael Levine and Patrice Theroux, head of Entertainment One Films.

Eventually the film will reach TV viewers on Bravo!

At Stratford, the demand for Tempest tickets has resulted in a boost for the other 11 productions on the festival’s program as well — making this one of the festival’s most successful seasons ever, in terms of both ticket sales and cultural prestige. Though it’s too early to tally attendance numbers, insiders say the numbers are running about 10 per cent better than those of 2009.

Until last week, some were clinging to hopes of two or three extra performances of The Tempest, if not an extension. But the combination of festival logistics and Plummer’s schedule have ruled that out.

Still, it’s entirely likely McAnuff and Plummer will eventually bring their Tempest back to the stage. At the moment, though, no one can say where or when.

Tilda Swinton Captivates As A Man And A Woman In Orlando

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Warren Clements

(August 17, 2010) Writer-director Sally Potter wanted to film Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando for two reasons. She liked the way it tackled what it is to be a woman or a man. Orlando, born into the English aristocracy, not only drifts from 1600 to the late 1900s without aging a day, but begins as a callow, inarticulate man and, around 1750, for no particular reason, wakes up as a woman. “Same person,” he (now she) says directly to the camera. “No difference at all. Just a different sex.”

The film glides through politics, social niceties and England’s colonialist assumptions with ironic detachment. At a literary salon, Jonathan Swift airily intones that “women have no desires, only affectations.” Bailiffs declare Orlando to be legally dead and officially a woman, “which amounts to the same thing” when it comes to owning property.

But the best argument for dropping everything and watching Orlando (1992), out next Tuesday as a “special edition” DVD, is the second reason Potter gave for choosing the material: the images. The film is beautiful. A torchlight paradedimly illuminates the canal as Queen Elizabeth I’s barge arrives. A coffin is born by black-clad figures through a snowy forest. Orlando washes her face from a bowl in what could pass as a painting by Vermeer. The costumes are so fine and the settings so arresting that it’s easy to miss incidental details, such as topiary in the shape of giant teacups.

The strongest image is Orlando him/herself, played by
Tilda Swinton, whose beauty – flaming red hair, pale skin, intense eyes, slim build – has an androgynous quality that works for the time she spends as a man. Aside from body language and clothing, Swinton uses no tricks to help her pass as male: no moustache, no sideburns, no deep voice. After all, in a film that expects the viewer to accept that centuries fly by and the hero’s sex changes overnight, suspension of disbelief is job number one anyway. “There can be no doubt about his sex,” the narrator says when Orlando first appears, “despite the feminine appearance that every young man of the time aspires to.”

The dislocation is underscored by the use of falsetto in songs by countertenor Andrew Watts and former Bronski Beat vocalist Jimmy Somerville, who has a memorable cameo as an angel sporting a golden gown and wings. “And this is just to go shopping in Tesco’s,” he says in the extras. “You should see what I wear when I go for dinner.”

Producer Christopher Sheppard originally wanted to shoot the whole movie in the Soviet Union, spending $2-million for a look that would have cost $10-million in Britain. In the end, the winter scenes were shot in Russia and the desert scenes in Uzbekistan (for Orlando’s stint as a clueless ambassador ), but the stately homes of England were filmed in, yes, England. The final cost was $4-million.

The cast is well chosen, even if Billy Zane, visually perfect as a hunky 1850 love interest straight out of Wuthering Heights, strains the illusion with a flat vocal delivery. But the truly sublime casting is that of Quentin Crisp, author of The Naked Civil Servant, as Queen Elizabeth, whose later portraits Potter says Crisp resembled. His droll intonations sell the few lines he is given. “All that is mine is here for your pleasure,” Orlando’s father proclaims when Elizabeth visits his country house. “All you call yours is mine already,” the Queen responds. 


Little-Known Rooney Mara Lands Coveted ‘Tattoo’ Film Role

Source:  www.thestar.com - David Bauder

(August 16, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Rooney Mara will be working alongside James Bond star Daniel Craig in the Hollywood remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Sony Pictures announced Monday that Mara will play Lisbeth Salander, a fearless genius tormented by a terrible childhood, in the crime thriller based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling series. Mara, 25, joins Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who teams up with Lisbeth to delve into a string of decades-old murders. Dragon Tattoo is directed by David Fincher, who cast Mara in The Social Network, a drama about the founders of Facebook due in theatres Oct. 1. The English-language adaptation of Dragon Tattoo begins shooting next month in Sweden and is due out Dec. 21, 2011.

Cronenberg, Rosselini Among Confirmed Speakers At Bell Lightbox

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(August 16, 2010) The Toronto International Film Festival’s new home, the Bell Lightbox, will play host to a showcase of films and special guests, including Canadian filmmakers David Cronenberg and Michael Snow, from Sept. 23 to Nov. 24. Actor/director Isabella Rossellini, cult filmmaker John Waters and director Peter Bogdanovich are among the veterans slated to appear as part of the festival’s Essential Cinema series. TIFF will also offer chances to see some of the hottest new films, including Cannes 2010 Palme D’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives; young Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s latest, Les Amours imaginaires; Bruce McDonald’s Trigger and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl, about the life of beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Classic films include a newly restored print of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). The festival will also offer four weekends of special programming, including during Nuit Blanche on Oct. 2 and on Halloween.

::TV NEWS::\

The Blind Leading The Sighted

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(August 17, 2010)  There’s a lot more to portraying a blind person than walking with a white cane.

That’s what actor
Christopher Gorham found out when he reached out to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for tips on playing sightless CIA agent Auggie Anderson on the USA Network show Covert Affairs, which is filmed in Toronto.

“Right before I came up to shoot the pilot (in 2009) I was working on a film in Michigan and I wasn’t going to have a lot of time — about three days — in between; I needed to do some research,” said California-born Gorham of the Google search that yielded the CNIB.

“Unlike a film, the prep time for a TV show is not nearly as long; the producers, they did their own research in writing the part, but the portrayal was up to me.”

The non-profit CNIB, which aims to help people with vision loss maintain independence, enjoy a good quality of life and succeed in the workplace, paired the entertainer with Lesley MacDonald from the agency team that helps clients with mobility and accessible design.

On the Covert Affairs set and at the CNIB’s Bayview and Eglinton Aves. centre, she taught Gorham basics such as how to be guided by a sighted person, how to locate items on a table, how to fold and identify money and, of course, the proper technique for using a cane. She also coached the production crew on accessible set design, appropriate technology and devices, and guided other cast members on how to interact with a blind person.

Gorham said the CNIB instruction was invaluable in “learning how to play the physicality of that disability as honestly as possible.”

“I did some proactive research when I found out we were going to start seeing Auggie’s apartment,” he said. “I set up a lesson to learn how to handle things in the kitchen, for instance, which ended up coming in really handy, because then Auggie was able to pour himself a hot cup of coffee in the morning, in the middle of a scene, without making a big deal about it. If I hadn’t gone through the training, that kind of real-life detail I wouldn’t be able to do.”

This was MacDonald’s third theatrical assignment. Among her typical clients are lawyers, psychologists, computer operators, teachers and receptionists. CNIB services — indoor and outdoor travel training, a specialized library, courses on how to use adaptive devices for computers, etc. — are free to regular folks.

Productions such as Covert Affairs are charged “a nominal fee,” which is directed “towards funding CNIB services for clients,” MacDonald said.

Gorham, known for playing Ugly Betty’s boyfriend, was also allowed to observe CNIB regulars.

“That was one of the interesting things: going through the process and learning how they teach it and then spending time with people who are living with it, and seeing how they have taken that teaching and made it their own.”

So appreciative was Gorham of the CNIB training that he arranged a special screening, with descriptive video, of a Covert Affairs episode at the organization’s Toronto centre Wednesday. The program has not yet aired in Canada.

“Oftentimes, you’re playing a part that’s really close to yourself and there’s not a lot of extra research to go and do, but with something very specific like this it was a necessity.

“I would never attempt to just wing it. It’s too important and there are too few characters like this on television. I can’t think of another leading man in TV or film right now that has a disability that’s similar to this; so I feel a real responsibility to do my best to get it right.”

Flamboyant quitter Steven Slater offered reality TV series

Source:  www.thestar.com

(August 16, 2010) Angry former airline employee (and slide enthusiast) Steven Slater may soon get his own reality TV show.

Slater has been approached by a U.S. producer to begin hosting a show in which “disgruntled workers quit their jobs in extravagant ways,” according to TMZ.

The offer is said to have come from Stone and Company Entertainment, the reality show heavyweights behind such reality hits as Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style and Top Design, the website reported, citing industry insiders.

Slater became an overnight Internet folk hero after he got on the intercom of a packed JetBlue plane and cursed out an unruly passenger before quitting and allegedly grabbing two beers, deploying the emergency slide and sliding off the plane.

But recent accounts from other passengers and the airline seem to contradict Slater’s beleaguered worker image.

TMZ speculates that if it turns out Slater is less a victim than an angry guy who just lost his temper — or worse, even provoked the incident — the offer might be revoked as quickly as it was offered.

Star staff

Age Of Broadcast TV Audience Rising Rapidly

Source:  www.thestar.com - David Bauder

(August 16, 2010) NEW YORK—For years, executives at ABC, Fox and NBC essentially stopped caring about television viewers once they had reached 50 years old.

You don’t hear that much any more.

The median age for viewers at those networks and CBS is now 51. The broadcasters’ audience has aged at twice the rate of the general population during the past two decades, according to a new report. It’s a quiet trend with a real impact on the way they do business.

“It should be a concern, but it doesn’t seem to be a concern at the moment,” said Steve Sternberg, who wrote the report for Baseline Inc., an information source for the film and TV industries that is owned by The New York Times Co. “You don’t want to have CBS, ABC and NBC all having median ages in their mid-50s.”

The risk in having a rapidly aging audience is the networks becoming less relevant to advertisers, the backbone of their business. Increasingly, that’s a way of thinking that itself is getting old.

Sternberg first started studying median age data using Nielsen Co. statistics in 1991 when he was at the Bozell ad agency. At the time, ABC’s median age — the point at which half its audience was younger and half older — was 37. NBC’s was 42 and Fox’s was 29. CBS, which has traditionally had the oldest audience, was 45.

For years, these networks (except for CBS) have sold advertising based on how many people were watching in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Both CBS (55) and ABC (51) had median ages above that range last season, according to the report. NBC’s median age was 49 and Fox’s was 44.

Much of the aging isn’t unique to TV: The median age for the American population as a whole increased from 33 in 1990 to 38 last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“You hear people saying, ‘Your audiences are older now and you don’t have the young people you used to have in the 1980s,’” said David Poltrack, chief research executive at CBS. “I say, ‘Yeah, the U.S. auto companies aren’t controlling 80 per cent of the market any more, either.’ ”

Economics play a part in the aging audience. A generation ago, the networks were more quick to cast off shows in favour of something newer and hipper but are more reluctant now to get rid of something that’s showing success. Most new shows fail, so the financial risk is too great if it isn’t really necessary.

With the show aging and star Charlie Sheen in legal trouble, Two and a Half Men might have been a ripe candidate for cancellation in another era. Instead, CBS made Sheen the highest paid comedy actor on TV and kept the sitcom on the air. The show’s median age is 50.

Dancing With the Stars, with a median audience age of 60, is the most popular series on ABC’s schedule. Its youngest-skewing show, Lost, just went off the air.

Shows such as 24 and House broadened Fox’s audience beyond its youth-oriented roots. The median age of the American Idol audience has jumped from 36 to 44 over the past seven seasons, the report said. Young people who left when Friends went off the air are the most conspicuous of all the viewers who fled NBC.

A young audience has always been the Holy Grail for networks, but that’s changing, said Alan Wurtzel, research chief at NBC. Not only are more older viewers available, advertisers are starting to recognize that they spend money and are receptive to their messages.

“If you try to young down your median age, you’re going to be going against gravity,” he said.

There’s an effort with NBC’s new fall schedule to appeal to a broader age group than was evident in the recent past, he said. The Law & Order: Los Angeles spinoff and the legal series Outlaw, with Jimmy Smits, both procedural dramas that wrap up a story each week, are two examples, he said.

There were five such procedurals on broadcast network schedules in 1999. Last season, there were 20, Sternberg said. Networks are also showing less comedy, a format that tends to skew young.

“The networks need to start thinking about how they can get a little younger,” Sternberg said. “The only way to do that is through programming. There’s no law that says they can’t get any younger.”

Advertisers looking for younger potential customers have more options, including the Internet and smaller cable networks. MTV (median age 23), Comedy Central (31), E! Entertainment (34), FX (38) and the U.S. Bravo (42) are among the networks that have siphoned younger viewers away from broadcasters.

Among broadcasters, the small CW network specifically targets young women and has a median age of 33. Univision, the largest Spanish-language network and one with significant growth potential, has a median age of 36, the report said.

“The buying community has quietly and slowly shifted its focus away from 18-to-49 (years old) and toward 25-to-54 (years old) in terms of network television,” said Jack Myers, editor and publisher of the industry news source jackmyers.com.

Despite the seemingly dismal demographic story, the broadcast networks’ ability to consistently attract large, general audiences in an entertainment world where audiences are increasingly fragmented has kept them afloat. There are also advertising sectors geared to plus-50s that either didn’t exist or had a much smaller profile two decades ago: prescription drugs, financial services and travel, for example.

“Don’t discount people who are in their 50s and 60s. They buy iPads,” Wurtzel said. “They’re online. The reality is these are the people who have the money.”


Neil Patrick Harris And Partner Announce Twins

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 16, 2010) NEW YORK — Neil Patrick Harris and his partner, David Burtka, will become parents of twins this fall. A representative for Harris confirmed in an email Monday that Harris made the announcement in a posting on Twitter. The 37-year-old actor says he and Burtka are “super excited/nervous/thrilled.” He did not say whether they were adopting or using a surrogate. Harris posted the message on Saturday. He stars in the CBSsitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Mad Men, Episode 4

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(August 15, 2010) Season Four of AMC's hit series is under way, and things aren't all smooth at the new Madison Avenue agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – or in the personal lives of the people working there.  Don Draper, already struggling with a messy divorce, has gotten some unsettling news from a friend in California.  Joan Harris is worried about her husband getting shipped out to Vietnam.  Lane Pryce's indiscretions may impose further stress on his marriage, already strained by a transatlantic separation.

Video: Ellen DeGeneres and Twitch on SYTYCD Finale

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(August 13, 2010) *Although news broke early of Ellen DeGeneres being a surprise guest on Thursday’s finale of “So You Think You Can Dance,” the talk show host still managed to raise some eyebrows with her performance of the season’s most popular routine. The comedian replaced injured contestant Alex Wong opposite All-Star tWitch to perform a hip hop number to “Outta Your Mind” by Lil’ Jon and LMFAO. According to reports, Ellen and tWitch spent the past month secretly rehearsing the choreography, which was amended a little – okay a lot – to accommodate Ellen’s limited ability. But the crowd loved it anyway and the judges gave her a standing ovation. When Alex hobbled out on crutches to congratulate her, Ellen said: “I have had so much fun and it broke my heart when I saw the injury. As a joke, I said it’d be fun to do [the routine] and it became a reality.” The season 7 crown went to 18-year-old Lauren Froderman, with 18-year-old Kent Boyd in second place and Robert Roldan, 19, in third. Below: Ellen’s version of the routine, followed by the original performance with ballet-trained dancer Alex Wong before his injury.


Betty White Has Two-Book Deal

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Associated Press

(August 17, 2010)  NEW YORK — The next stage in
Betty White's ever-rising career: books. The 88-year-old actress has a two-book deal with G.P. Putnam's Sons, starting in 2011 with Listen Up! The publisher said Wednesday that the book will include what White has learned over “her incredibly varied, decades-long career in Hollywood.” Subjects will include life, love, sex and celebrity. White, known for such sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, this year became the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live. She's starring in the new TV Land original sitcom, Hot in Cleveland.

Michael Ealy’s New USA Network Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 18, 2010) *Yes he is everywhere lately, with his latest role in “Takers,”
Michael Ealy landed a recurring role in new police drama “Common Law” on USA Network. He will play the role of a LAPD officer Travis Marks. The character is a carefree, charismatic guy who was an abandoned baby raised by the system. He lives in a motel and is satisfied with his lifestyle. Along with some notable qualities, Marks is also a womanizing kind of a guy. The other lead role is yet to be determined.


Margot Kidder On Sex, Death And Boomers

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(August 15, 2010) Margot Kidder just can't get juiced.

She bursts into the lobby of the Panasonic Theatre, on her way to a rehearsal of
Love, Loss and What I Wore (in which she's currently appearing until Sept. 4), full of energy, but annoyed at the failure of a recent shopping trip.

“There I am in Canadian Tire and all I wanted was an electric juicer. The guy looks at me and says, ‘We don't have them. How about a handheld?’ I turn to him and say, ‘Look, buddy, I’m 61 and I’ve got arthritis. I need electricity.’ ”

Five minutes in her presence and you’d be willing to debate that statement, because while the actress best known for her role as Lois Lane in the Superman films may now be well on the way to her so-called golden years, she still radiates enough energy to light up a room.

“I have to tell you it's great to be on stage again, because that’s where I started.” And she’s telling the truth. The files of the Musical Theatre Society at UBC still proudly display pictures of a 16-year-old Kidder starring in its production of Take Me Along.

“When I was 11, my mommy took me to New York to visit some aunts and we went to see Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway. That was it. I knew that's what I wanted to do. I remember I got Dick Van Dyke's autograph that day and later on I sold my house in Malibu to him.”

She laughs loudly at the crazy comedy of the situation, which is something she does frequently during our conversation, because, “If you don’t laugh at the world, honey, then it makes you cry and I’ve done enough of that in my lifetime.”

Born in Yellowknife in 1948, she grew up in what she calls “a fiercely political household. It didn’t matter what side you took, but you had to be up on every issue and prepared to defend what you believed in.

“My grandfather was the chief justice of the Supreme Court of B.C. so I grew up with a very strong sense of right and wrong.”

No wonder that her younger sister, Annie, is the hardworking executive director of People for Education or that Margot herself devoted much of her time in recent years getting Barack Obama elected.

But she just as passionately admits she regrets her efforts.

“I feel bitterly disappointed in what Obama's done, or rather hasn't done, and I feel he sold out the day he got the nomination. Frankly he's proven himself to be a prostitute. He's been bought by every major corporation there is.

“This is not the man I worked so hard to get elected.”

It's a theme that runs through Kidder's life: deep passions, total commitment and then a frequent sense of betrayal.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when she discusses her star-crossed first marriage to writer Thomas McGuane.

“I fell in love with (him) in the ’70s and after we got married, we moved to Montana and he expected me to turn into a submissive ranch wife and serve the great writer.” She snorts. “That kind of put an expiration date on that particular project.

“We did the Taylor-Burton thing for a few years and were either madly in love or madly in hate, but we did make a beautiful daughter. I knew it wasn't working, but I was so addicted to him, deeply in love with him, that I didn't have the courage to leave him.”

She chuckles ruefully. “Then I told him I'd been asked to do Superman and it was going to mean I had to live in London for six months. He looked at me kind of funny, asked me if I was going to do it and when I said yes, I woke up the next morning and he'd packed all my things and moved them outside . . .

“Years later, my daughter told me she was going to marry a writer and follow him to Montana just like I'd done. I said nothing. But I screamed inside.”

However, it brought Kidder back to Montana, where she now lives, and it’s a place she loves with more constancy or passion than any of her three former husbands (actor John Heard and director Philippe de Broca round out the list).

“Montana is heaven. It's full of painters because of the light and writers because it’s cheap to live there. You wake up, look at the mountains, walk down to the river and bump into 800 friends along the way.”

Kidder pauses reflectively.

“You know, I haven’t had a community I felt I belonged to like that since I moved to Hollywood in the late '60s. I got a lead in a big movie at 19 and I thought that was the way I was supposed to be. I look back now and wonder, ‘Jesus Christ, what was I thinking?’

“We never expected our parents to take care of us. We thought we ran the world and we did . . . and we still do. That’s why the Obama generation are all so bitter.”

Kidder's life has been an eventful one by anyone’s standards, including stardom, dating Pierre Trudeau in the early '80s and a successful battle with bipolar disorder that earned her a lot of unwanted headlines in 1996 when she melted down publicly. “That’s 15 years ago,” she says quietly. “Let's give it a rest.”

But the show she’s in (by Nora and Delia Ephron) is called Love, Loss and What I Wore, so those topics have to be dealt with. “Love? When I was young I fell in love every five minutes. Damn, I must’ve had half of North America. After I hit menopause, I realized that I had ruined my entire life because of my hormones. I'm totally relieved to be free of it.

“I have two grandkids, three dogs and hundreds of friends. That’s enough.”

What about loss? She sighs.

“One of the things when you pass 60 is that your life gets to be about a series of losses that mount like a funeral pyre. You develop a hyper-awareness that you’re in the last stretch. It’s very liberating and very empowering in some ways, but it’s also bittersweet. It's a very Buddhist place you have to get into if you're going to cope with all of it.”

She makes the link to “what I wore” all on her own.

“A couple of weeks ago, I went into a vintage clothing store in Tuscon and I saw this great outfit, black skirt and top. I looked at it and said, ‘Margot, you better buy this, because you've got nothing to go to a funeral in.’

“So I bought it. And the next week, my dear friend (screenwriter) Tom Mankiewicz died suddenly. And first all I felt was the pain and then I thought, ‘Well, I'm at least glad I bought that outfit.’ ”

Love, loss and what she wore all at once.

South Pacific Soars Again

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

South Pacific
(out of 4)
By Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Until Sept. 5 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W. 416-644-3665

(August 15, 2010) It’s one hell of an enchanted evening.  The touring production of
South Pacific, which Dancap Productions opened at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts last night, captures every bit of the power, beauty, romance and melodic splendour of the magnificent Tony Award-winning Broadway revival.

I must confess I was worried about that happening. After I first saw the highly acclaimed version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2008, I wondered how any other company could recreate that magic.

Not only did the cast seem like a once-in-a-lifetime affair, but the thrust theatre (not unlike our Stratford Festival stage) made a variety of unique staging opportunities possible.

I’m happy to report that director Bartlett Sher and his entire creative team have risen to the challenge, and while sheer architectural differences mean that certain lovely moments have been lost, Sher has replaced them with new ones, in which scenes flow into each other with a wondrously cinematic effect.

But when you face this story of two couples whose lives and romances are ripped apart by racial prejudice in the closing months of the Pacific theatre in World War II, there are other questions you have to ask: how well is the show acted and how well is it sung?

Unlike many musicals, both of those issues are terribly important in
South Pacific, because not only did Rodgers and Hammerstein write one of the greatest scores in the musical theatre canon, but Hammerstein and Logan penned a book of rare dramatic force as well.

From the first note of the overture, with conductor Lawrence Goldberg leading a superb 26-piece orchestra (largely local), it’s obvious this is a production that will sound as beautiful as it ought to. And once you hear the rich voices of the three principles (Jason Howard, Carmen Cusack and Anderson Davies), you can rest assured that all is well.

But as the scenes play out, under Sher’s carefully rethought direction, you also appreciate the acting of everyone involved. No one is allowed to fall back on empty clichés. Even such potentially tiresome comic characters as Billis acquires a kind of satanically sensual edge from Matthew Saldivar, while Jodi Kimura is not being afraid to play up the evil inside of Bloody Mary.

Once again, Michael Yeargan’s sets and Donald Holder’s lighting present a constantly changing view of the South Pacific horizon, taking the show from the brightest day to the darkest night with invisible skill.

With all of that accomplished, the leading players can move in for the kill. Toronto-born Jason Howard is, quite frankly, a perfect Emile de Becque. He has the right age, the right weight, the right charm. He knows how to dispense both elegant sophistication and uncensored emotion with equal ease.

And his voice — the aural equivalent of a finely polished piece of mahogany — adds incredible depth and texture to those heartfelt Rodgers tunes like “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly Was Mine.”

He’s contrasted brilliantly by Carmen Cusack’s Nellie Forbush, the “cockeyed optimist” who thinks that everything in the world is just ducky, except the thought of marrying a man who has two black children from his first wife.

She bounces and bubbles and excavates all the comedy there is in the role, while managing to prove that perky and sexy are not mutually exclusive terms. And she can trill lightly or belt resonantly as the occasion warrants.

What’s truly touching, however, is how she shows us the growth in Nellie as the evening passes and makes us care for this woman deeply.

An unexpected bonus in the show is the resonance and stature that Anderson Davis brings to Joe Cable, the Ivy League lieutenant who falls hopelessly in love with a young Tonkinese girl, but can’t face bringing her back to the prejudice in America.

Of all the show’s characters, Cable is the most tragic, but he’s usually played by a nice-looking guy with a solid voice. Davis is certainly both of those things, but he also brings a world of depth onto the stage, turning “Younger Than Springtime” into the stuff of sheer heartbreak and “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” into the double-edged razor blade of a message the show waits till near its very end to deliver.

In case there’s any doubt left in your mind, let me paraphrase Forbush: I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love with a wonderful show.

Note: This review was based on a Sunday matinee preview performance. 

Dangerously Irresistible

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

Dangerous Liaisons
Written by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Ethan McSweeny
Starring Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna
At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.

(August 16, 2010) Stratford’s satisfying 2010 season comes to a carnal close with
Dangerous Liaisons.

Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s controversial 1782 novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses, is about two aristocratic libertines who treat sex like an extreme sport.

As the play opens, the Marquise de Merteuil (Seana McKenna) is seeking revenge on a recent beau who has unceremoniously dumped her before she had a chance to dump him. She has summoned her friend and ex-lover the Vicomte de Valmont (Tom McCamus) to suggest he do her a favour and deflower her betrayer’s young fiancée, Cécile (Bethany Jillard), before their wedding night.

Valmont is not, at first, terribly interested in the mission – he’s on his debased quest to compromise the notoriously noble Mme. de Tourvel (Sara Topham).

“I want her to believe in God and virtue and the sanctity of marriage, and still not be able to stop herself,” Valmont says. “I want the excitement of watching her betray everything that’s most important to her.”

Greedy gubbins that he is, Valmont also wants a valedictory lap in the sack with Merteuil – which she eventually promises to permit, but only once he brings her written proof of his seduction of Tourvel.

In an impressive Stratford debut, director Ethan McSweeny stages these wicked games on a chessboard set designed by Santo Loquasto. In between the scenes, he’s choreographed what seems like a whole second shadow play between the various maids and servants who roll the sets on and off. It shows who’s really in charge – soon, it’ll be the ancien régime’s heads they’ll be rolling off.

The scene changes take place to a soundtrack of harpsichord mixed with squealing electric guitar and are lit by Robert Thomson like a rock concert, linking this sexually licentious world to the decadence of more recent decades. (I overheard one audience member talking about how the play was getting the “Sofia Coppola treatment,” but it’s not quite that.)

What McSweeny’s production doesn’t do all that well is make the serious stakes of all this seduction clear from the start. At first, the action seems all a bit Place du Melrose, but in this strict society – superficially, at least – there are lives at risk.

It’s only on the arrival of Topham’s sweet, yet succulent Tourvel that the period’s mainstream morals are clearly conjured. As the tightly wound Tourvel, Topham loosens her corseted conscience only inch by inch – and the slow seduction only makes it all the hotter. It’s indeed impressive that she stays upright as long as she does, because she and McCamus have some truly sensational chemistry.

For his part, McCamus, low-voiced and louche, is delightfully depraved. Which makes the sudden appearance of his conscience that much more surprising, and his battle between that moral centre and his pride very powerful to watch.

Another prime performance comes from Michael Therriault as Cécile’s young suitor, Danceny, as whom he gets his second and substantially less sexually repressed sword fight with McCamus this season. (Over at the Avon, they’re Peter Pan and Captain Hook.) Therriault’s knack for physical comedy is fantastic – his attempt to blend into a woman’s bosom like a chameleon when caught with his pants down gets one of the biggest laughs of the night.

Another comes from Martha Henry as Valmont’s eccentric aunt, who shares her hairdo and a communion wafer with her lapdog. McKenna – after, perhaps, an overly insouciant start – becomes a compelling Merteuil once she loses control and her carefully calibrated worlds, inner and outer, begin to crumble. Jillard, for her part, makes a fine festival debut as Cécile, who takes rather quickly to the new hobby – but her part is undeniably problematic as she must react enthusiastically to what can only be described as rape.


Jeffrey Wright, Mos Def Reteam for ‘A Free Man of Color’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 18, 2010)  Former theatre co-stars Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def will reunite onstage this fall in the Lincoln Center Theater’s production of John Guare’s play A Free Man of Color. Wright stars as Jacques Cornet, a wealthy man in New Orleans, just before the historic Louisiana Purchase in 1804. When American rule comes to New Orleans, Cornet and all that he represents is challenged. George C. Wolfe will direct A Free Man of Color in his Lincoln Center Theatre debut. The play will also star Peter Bartlett, Nicole Beharie, Veanne Cox, Teyonah Parris, David Emerson Toney and others. Previews are slated to begin Oct. 21, while opening night is scheduled for Nov. 18 at the Lincoln Center’s Beaumont Theatre. Wright starred with Mos in the Tony Award winning 2002 play “Topdog/Underdog.” The actors also appeared in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records.”


City Hall Moves To Raise Arts Spending

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(August 16, 2010) Toronto’s sparkling but woefully underfunded arts organizations got a boost at City Hall on Monday.

After a series of presentations by many of the city’s top performers and major cultural organizations, council’s executive committee voted to recommend the city stay the course on its long-term strategy of raising funding levels to $25 per capita by 2013.

That and several other arts-friendly recommendations will go to the full city council later this month before voters go to the polls to choose a new mayor and slate of councillors.

Chances are, the full council will pass these resolutions. That does not guarantee more funds will flow to the arts, because so far this is merely a target.

Two mayoral candidates — Rocco Rossi and Joe Pantalone — have platforms that call for increased spending on the arts. But there’s little hope that Rob Ford, currently ahead in the polls, would favour such a policy.

Still, Monday’s exercise represents an encouraging vote of confidence.

Leading the parade of arts advocates was Karen Kain, artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada.

According to Kain, all the most successful cities in the world — not just in terms of their economies but also their quality of life and wealth of shared experience — have strong cultural institutions and traditions. “Those are the cities where people want to be,” she said.

Others pleading the case included actors Eric Peterson and R.H. Thomson; Cameron Bailey, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival; and Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Council.

Seven years ago, thanks to the missionary work of Rita Davies, the city’s veteran executive director of culture, council approved a 10-year plan designed to foster and protect Toronto’s reputation as a culture centre. Among the key goals was to raise the city’s annual per-capita spending on the arts from $13 to $25.

In 2003, San Francisco — a competitor city comparable to Toronto in many ways — was spending $86 per capita on the arts.

In the seven years since then, Toronto has managed to raise its investment in culture to $18 per capita — a significant improvement but still far from what’s needed. Montreal spends $33 per capita on culture.

Davies, the city’s longtime cultural guru, was upbeat after the vote.

“There has been tremendous support for investment in culture,” she said. “It pays such great dividends, and puts Toronto in the right position on the world stage.”

Bringing Art Into Kenya’s Schools

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(August 17, 2010) A group of enterprising young Canadians is Kenya-bound in January, trying to help bring back what they fear the country has sorely lacked in recent years: arts education.

Their project is the first for a new volunteer-driven initiative called
Artbound, which was publicly launched Tuesday. It’s committed to putting arts back into global curricula by building dedicated arts schools that piggyback on the existing educational networks being built by Canadian charity Free The Children, run by Craig and Marc Kielburger.

Already, those driving it are describing it as a potential Doctors Without Borders for arts education, with a made-in-Canada tag.

In January, about three quarters of the 20-member Artbound committee will travel to Kenya’s southwestern Maasai Mara region and roll up their sleeves to actually build the school, to be housed in a separate building on the campus of an all-girls boarding secondary school that Free the Children is currently building. It’s that dirt-under-the-fingernails approach that co-founder Jason Dehni, a 37-year-old VP at Scotiabank Group, is thinking of with pride when he labels the project “active philanthropy.”

“We wanted to be part of something that engages us beyond just simply holding a fundraiser, just simply attending a gala or cutting a cheque,” Dehni says. “We all felt there’s something missing in our community involvement.”

Artbound is Dehni’s idea, since backed by co-founders Amanda Alvaro, Katie Telford and Marcello Cabezas. They have since been joined by a crew of high-flying thirtysomethings (plus a few in their early 40s) who have a history of community engagement and believe in the arts as a way to spur creativity and ennoble young minds, but also seed commercial opportunities. CTV’s Seamus O’Regan has joined up as honorary chair, while activist and former supermodel Dayle Haddon has lent her support as the project’s global ambassador, lending the outfit their star power.

The Kenyan project, at a cost of $150,000, will build, stock and operate the arts school for two years, after which Free The Children will take over. But the committee is aiming to overshoot that fundraising target in order to begin work on future builds tentatively earmarked for Haiti, India and China.

So far, the Kenyan initiative has attracted corporate sponsorship from Scotiabank, Horizons ETF and CTV, and Artbound will hold a large-scale fundraising party in September. The private Toronto all-girls academy St. Clement’s School has also joined up as an educational partner.

In 2003, arts education suffered a major setback in Kenya even as the Kenyan government took a major step forward for education. The government made primary education mandatory and free – but cut arts programs as non-priorities. And while Free the Children has built some 650 schools worldwide, 70 of them in Kenya, none provide targeted arts education.

“These are some of the brightest kids who wouldn’t otherwise have had access to high school, let alone an arts education,” says Alvaro, 32, a founder of Narrative Advocacy Media.

Artbound seeks to give the students an outlet to perform and to sell their works, both locally and online, with proceeds poured back into community programs that provide necessities such as clean water and health care. There will also be scholarships and support for students after graduation if they choose to pursue the arts.

Dehni is adamant that Artbound will not export Canadian cultural values, but instead install a locally inspired curriculum. Whatever the tradition, he feels arts schools are unequivocally important.

“The arts serve another purpose beyond entertaining us and enriching us: They serve a social good,” Dehni says. “The arts have the power to equip those who are underprivileged to actually make a living.”  

B.C. Arts Groups Applaud Council Chair’s Resignation

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(August 17, 2010)  VANCOUVER — As arts organizations around British Columbialearn of another round of devastating provincial funding cuts, the now former chair of the B.C. Arts Council (BCAC) is being applauded by the arts community for her surprise decision to resign. Jane Danzo says she stepped down in order to freely express her concerns about arts funding in the province.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Danzo called her term as chair “extremely difficult” as the BCAC was forced to deal with funding cuts, while the council’s recommendation to restore funding was rejected.

“I wanted to bring to the government’s attention that these are serious concerns that I had and the only way that I could really make a statement was by stepping down,” Danzo said from Victoria, where she lives.

Danzo, 69, stepped down last week, about 11 months after being named chair (she was appointed to the council four years ago). In her letter of resignation, she highlighted the government’s decision to disregard a BCAC recommendation – echoed by the bipartisan Standing Committee on Finance – to restore Arts Council funding to 2008-09 levels ($19.5-million) in the budget last March. Instead, funding to the BCAC was cut to $7.9-million.

Danzo called the process of figuring out how to distribute the diminished funds “devastating” and “extremely stressful” for the BCAC, and noted in her letter that “the devastating impact of that decision is now being felt by artists and arts organizations throughout the province as they receive notification of substantial cuts to their core funding.”

Indeed, Ballet Victoria has recently learned that it has lost all of its provincial funding. Victoria Symphony’s provincial operating grant has been cut by just over 70 per cent. The Vancouver Fringe Festival reported a 60 per cent cut in arts council funding this year. The Cultch in Vancouver has lost almost 50 per cent of its BCAC funding – $51,000. “It’s huge. It’s massive,” said Cultch executive director Heather Redfern. “It’s terrifying.”

Others, such as the Victoria Fringe Festival, have lost all of their gaming grants (operated by a separate ministry). The Community Arts Council of Richmond has closed its Artisans Galleria, citing funding cuts.

In the March budget, the government also announced a $30-million Arts Legacy Fund - a surprise to the BCAC, which learned of it on budget day and for months had to remain “awkwardly silent,” Danzo wrote, until the government released more information.

Danzo was “extremely disappointed,” by the announcements, and says the new fund was the kind of initiative she should have been aware of ahead of time. “I would have expected that somehow or other the board would have been given a heads up.”

It has recently emerged that the legacy money will fund BC Spirit Festivals, to be held for three years to mark the Olympic anniversary.

Danzo feels the money could have been better spent.

“I would have perhaps suggested that that money be directed to sustaining the work of the artists and organizations that made [the Cultural Olympiad] possible. ... That to me would be a legacy.”

She added: “I felt I had to step down in order to speak out about the failure of the government to follow through with a consultative process that would have been expected.”

In her letter, Danzo also expressed concern about the lack of an arms-length relationship between the government and the BCAC, which does not have its own staff or funding. That makes it difficult, Danzo said, for the BCAC to perform its advocacy role properly.

“It’s a conflict,” she said.

“I really feel inspired by what Jane has done. I think she’s demonstrating a great deal of courage and integrity,” said Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.

“The whole arts community will be incredibly grateful to her for doing this,” added Lindsay Brown, who runs the Stop BC Arts Cuts website. Brown predicted more resignations will follow.

Brown’s group is again calling for the resignation of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger. Krueger was not available for comment on Wednesday.  


Toronto’s Newest Dance Fest A One-Man Show

Source: www.thestar.com -
Michael Crabb

(August 17, 2010)
Sion Irwin-Childs could write the book on multi-tasking. With an ambition verging on audacity he’s set out to fill a hole in Toronto’s summer dance calendar by producing a new festival called Dance 2 Danse.

Most of the work — from putting up posters to stage-managing the performances — has fallen on Irwin-Childs’ shoulders. “I’m an army of one,” he says. “It’s the way I like it.”

The hole in question was all that remained after the 2006 collapse of Toronto’s long-running and once thriving fFIDA (Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists). Launched in 1991, fFIDA was a freewheeling, no-holds-barred showcase of dance creativity: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Irwin-Childs himself presented at fFIDA in its early years but is not eager to have it compared with his new D2D festival. “I’m not recreating fFIDA,” he insists. “I’m not interested in that at all.”

Still, comparisons will inevitably be made. Like the original fFIDA, D2D’s main venue is the 130-seat Winchester Street Theatre. Each program runs little more than an hour, comprises short works in an assortment of styles and, at $15 a ticket, is priced to be as accessible as possible.

In fringe festival tradition, participants also compete for available performance slots through a lottery, although some of D2D’s series — five in all — have been wholly or “gently” curated, meaning Irwin-Childs has decided who gets to dance. Unlike fFIDA, which in theory at least was restricted to independent artists, D2D includes actual companies such as Ballet Jörgen.

British-born Irwin-Childs became interested in dance while taking a bachelor’s degree in English at York University. His previous physical activities had largely been restricted to rugby, skiing and riding, the latter a passion Irwin-Childs developed during his childhood in the Ottawa Valley after the family emigrated when he was 7. Dance jived nicely with another of his passions, sculpture. However, after discovering in dance class that he was dyslexic, Irwin-Childs decided to focus on choreography.

After graduation in 1994, he turned his talents in many directions and nowadays assembles a living diversely, teaching composition in the dance program at Ballet Jörgen, stable management at the Riding Academy at the Horse Palace on the CNE grounds and, since 1997, as a sessional instructor at OCAD.

After getting a choreography-focused master's degree at York, Irwin-Childs launched Eros, Thanatos & the Avant-Garde ~ The Cabaret Series in 2005, a six-times-yearly event at the Rivoli on Queen St. W. primarily for emerging dance artists.

D2D is in many respects an extension of his desire to create opportunities for artists and connect them with new audiences.

“The community should be applauding Sion for his initiative,” says Susan Kendal, managing editor of The Dance Current.

Ticket sales have so far been encouraging, but the dance “community” has not exactly been jumping.

Irwin-Childs has had trouble filling slots in two innovative “Dance Duels” programs in which the audience gets to vote on who proceeds to a final round.

And the Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils both turned down his grant applications.

Even so, he and his two hired helpers, are committed to making D2D a success and an ongoing project. If ticket revenues meet their target of roughly $21,000, all his commitments should be met, except, as Irwin-Childs admits with a grin, “I’ll have to see if there’s anything left to pay myself.”

The Dance 2 Danse Festival runs Aug. 18 to 22 at Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester St. Tickets, $15, at www.totix.ca; full schedule at www.d2dfestival.ca


Oakville Teen Wins Swim Gold At Youth Olympics

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Beacon

(August 18, 2010) SINGAPORE—Canada has won another gold medal in the pool at the Youth Olympic Games.

 Tera Van Beilen of Oakville captured the women’s 100-metre breaststroke crown Wednesday.

 Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., added a bronze in the race as Canadian swimmers continued their medal haul.

 Nicol won a gold in the 50 breaststroke earlier in the week. The swim has won a total of five medals so far in the competition.

 Lindsay Delmar of Calgary was fifth in the women’s 50 butterfly Wednesday.

 The Youth Olympics are for athletes 14-18 and have attracted more than 3,000 athletes in the same sports program that is set for the 2012 London Games.

 Russia has nine golds and 19 medals overall, while China has nine golds and 15 medals overall. Azerbaijan is third with five golds, while Italy has four. Canada has a total of eight medals so far, including three gold.

 In the women’s 100 breaststroke, Van Beilen nailed her second length to emerge with the gold in one minute 8.95 seconds. Emily Selig of Australia was second in 1:09.06 and Nicol, first at the turn, followed in third in 1:09.18.

 “It feels amazing to win gold,” said the 17-year-old Van Beilen. “I came into this meet wanting to win a medal, and after the prelims and semis I felt I had a shot at the gold. I didn’t realize I was second at the turn, but I saw Rachel beside me and my strength in this race has always been my second half.”

 Nicol was at a personal best pace on the first length Wednesday.

 “I had never gone out that fast before,” Nicol said. “On the second length I got a bit tired and my stroke shortened a bit. Still I’m not disappointed especially that Tera also got on the podium. It was a really close race and exciting for all of us.”

 Meanwhile, Britain’s David Bolarinwa and Jamaica’s Odane Skeen won their qualifying heats in the 100 metres, setting up a much anticipated final between two sprinters touted as the next Usain Bolt.

 Bolarinwa blew away the field in his heat, finishing in 10.62 seconds. Skeen got out slowly but surged to run 10.63 seconds to beat Thailand’s Jirapong Meenapra.

 The 17-year-old Bolarinwa has the fastest time this year among 16- and 17-year-olds — a 10.39 in London this month. Skeen, a 16-year-old whose lanky style has some likening him to his compatriot Bolt, ran a 10.46 in Jamaica.

 “I thought let me go there, go hard and see if anyone can go faster,” Bolarinwa said. “It was a good performance overall.”

 Skeen was less thrilled with his performance, blaming his slower time on two false starts by other competitors. But he said come Saturday’s final, he would win.

 Bolarinwa and Skeen will face each other for the first time and are still sizing one another up. Skeen, for example, was surprised to hear that it was Bolarinwa and not himself who has run the fastest 100 this year. Marvin Bracy of the United States ran the second fastest but is not at the Games.

 Organizers of the first Youth Olympics have emphasized participation rather than winning, but that was lost on Bolarinwa and Skeen, who both predicted they would win Saturday.

 “It’s a big showdown,” Bolarinwa said. “He’s not really a quick starter. We know that already,” Bolarinwa said. “His pick up is fantastic and so is mine. If I get a good start, he’ll have to take me.”

 Bolarinwa’s coach John Powell chimed in later: “Bring it on.”

 Both boys seemed to relish the comparison to Bolt and their budding rivalry to that of Bolt and Tyson Gay. Told he has been compared to a miniature Bolt, Skeen just smiled and said he one day dreams of surpassing his idol.

 “I want to be better than Bolt,” said Skeen, whose goal it is to win gold at the 2012 Olympics in London. “I want to be much more faster.”

 Bolarinwa enjoyed being likened to the two sprinting greats, but wants to surpass them.

 “These guys are fantastic. You look at what they have done. You want to be better than them,” Bolarinwa said. “But it’s good to have them in the back your mind to look up to.”

 Watching Skeen’s heat, Powell said he saw some of Bolt in Skeen. But he was quick to point out that a lot can change with an athlete by the time they reach adulthood. He noted that Bolt, for example, started out running 200- and 400-metre before exploding on the stage in the 100.

 “You don’t know how they will develop, this is the thing,” Powell said of Skeen. “He’s about 16 and that is two or three years of formative years as an athlete. He could broaden out. He obviously has a good stride. If I looked at him — not that you can stereotype athletes these days — I’d say he is a typical 200-metre runner.”

 In other action Wednesday, Lithuania rower Rolandas Mascinskas upset Germany’s two-time world junior champion German Felix Bach to win the junior men’s single sculls gold.

 In the women’s single sculls, Judith Sievers of Germany beat Nataliia Kovalova of Ukraine. Britain beat out Australia for the women’s pair final to claim its second gold in two days and Slovenia edged Greece in the men’s final.

 In men’s 77-kilogram weightlifting, Russia’s Artem Okulov took gold ahead of Thailand’s Chatuphum Chinnawong and Russian lifters won another gold and a silver Wednesday.

 With files from The Associated Press

Safina Beats Petrova In High-Intensity Marathon At Rogers Cup

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Beacon

(August 18, 2010) MONTREAL—Dinara Safina hopes the good memories of her last visit to Uniprix Stadium two years ago will help her move back a little closer to the top of the women's tennis world.

 ''I guess the crowd still remembers that I won,'' Safina said Wednesday after outlasting 18th seeded Nadia Petrova for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 second-round victory at the $2 million (U.S.)
Rogers Cup. ''That is the nicest thing when you step on the court — the crowd is there and they are cheering for you.

 ''Then you start to get this adrenaline and you want to play better and better.''

 Everything was moving upward for Safina when she claimed the winner's trophy in Montreal in 2008. Following a win in Los Angeles, it marked the first back-to-back tournament victories of her career. By the following April, she had reached No. 1 in world rankings.

 But back problems and a sudden drop in confidence saw the Russian plummet in the rankings. She was at No. 70 when she arrived for the Rogers Cup this week.

 Wins over Andrea Petkovic and Petrova this week marked the first time she has won twice at the same tournament since she injured her back during a fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January.

 When asked what she liked best about winning her high-intensity, two-hour, 15-minute marathon with Petrova, which including erasing an early 4-1 deficit, Safina was quick to say ''winning a three-set match.”

 ''It's the first time in a long time I could play the three-set match against a top player and physically I could feel fine. This was a nice test for me, for my back, for everything.''

 In the third round on Thursday, Safina will face sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion who edged Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2. Safina holds a 3-2 edge against the Italian, but this will be their first meeting on a hardcourt.

 Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark got her tournament going with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder and fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva got past Klara Zakopalova of the Chech Republic 6-2, 6-4.

 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, seeded seventh, downed American qualifier Vania King 6-0, 6-3 and 15th seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy beat Russian Alisa Kleybanova 6-3, 6-3.

 When Safina returned from her injury in April, she started a string of six consecutive first round defeats, including two to 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm. It ended when she finally beat Alona Bondareknko in San Diego last month, only to lose again in the second round.

 Last week in Cincinnati, she won another match, but then was ousted by world No. 4 Kim Clijsters.

 Now, the intensive work on her lower back looks like it may be paying off, although she's left herself a long climb back to the tennis elite.

 ''How tough it is to climb and how easy it is to go down,'' she mused, and added: ''Honestly, I love this game.

 ''There is nothing else but tennis, so I guess I am a little different from my brother (Marat Safin, a former No. 1 in men's tennis). I enjoy this sport and I will give 100 per cent of myself. And when I finish my career, I will know I did everything to be honest with myself.''

 Wozniacki improved her career record over 31-year-old Schnyder to 4-1 as she advanced to a third-round meeting with Pennetta.

 The Dane was a winner two weeks ago in her home town of Copenhagen and passed Jelena Jankovic for the No. 2 spot in world rankings behind Serena Williams, who is sidelined with an injury.

 Marion Bartoli of France, the 17th seed, advanced on a walkover when Date Krumm withdrew with a strained left thigh muscle. She will face qualifier Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic in the third round.

 Date Krumm returned to the WTA Tour in 2008 after a 12-year retirement. She won last year's Korea Open to become the second oldest player after Billie Jean King to win an official event.

 She reached the Rogers Cup main draw as the ''lucky loser'' from the qualifying tournament and defeated Monica Niculescu of Romania in three sets in the first round.

Federer Moves Up To No. 2

Source: www.montrealgazette.com

(August 17, 2010) Former No. 1
Roger Federer, beaten by Britain's Andy Murray in Sunday's final of the Toronto Masters, moved back to second behind Rafael Nadal in the rankings released Monday.

 Federer, who was No. 3 last week, jumped ahead of Serbia's Novak Djokovic, with Murray staying fourth.

 Nadal improved to 10,925 points, while Federer increased his tally to 7,215 and Djokovic up to 7,085.

The top 10 as of Aug. 16 (previous ranking in parentheses):

 1. (1) Rafael Nadal, Spain, 10,925 pts.

 2. (3) Roger Federer, Switz., 7,215

 3. (2) Novak Djokovic, Serb., 7,085

 4. (4) Andy Murray, Britain, 5,305

(5) Robin Soderling, Swe., 4,830

(6) Nikolay Davydenko, Rus., 4,195

(7) Tomas Berdych, Czech, 3,950

(9) Fernando Verdasco, Spain, 3,430

(8) Juan Martin del Potro, Arg., 3,170

 10. (10) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France, 3,095


USA Looks For World Hoops Culture

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 18, 2010) MADRID — Coach Mike Krzyzewski sees the world championships as more than a chance for the United States to win a title. He wants to build a culture to ensure the NBA's best players take part in future tournaments.

 The U.S. will be looking to end a 16-year drought at the Aug. 28-Sept. 12 worlds in Turkey without a single player from the Olympic gold-medal-winning team two years ago.

 With a roster that includes five 21-year-olds, Krzyzewski believes building up the importance of the tournament to his young roster is part of the key to future success.

 “We're not going to get the same guys over and over, like the guys who were on the Olympic team — and we think a lot of those guys will come back for London, a number of them but not all of them. So we're trying to develop a culture,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of these guys have played on our select teams, or in our youth program, but it's not the veteran team like we had in Beijing.”

 The Americans have won only three of the 15 worlds played so far, with a bronze medal showing in 2006.

 But they remain among the favourites in Turkey even though their roster does not include names like LeBron James or Dwight Howard. Thirty-three-year-old Chauncey Billups has international experience at the top level, but that's about it.

 “The youth of our team is probably the biggest concern,” Krzyzewski said, “and how well we can rebound because we are not a bulky team.”

 Tyson Chandler is the only player over 7-feet on the roster.

 “This team is younger but very athletic,” forward Lamar Odom said. “We've got so many athletes — nobody in this tournament jumps higher that Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant or Tyson Chandler. Rebounding is will and know-how.”

 Krzyzewski said he had already decided on his starting five for Saturday's game against Lithuania: Billups and Rajon Rondo at guard behind Durant, Iguodala and Chandler.

 Stephen Curry should be available despite spraining his left ankle during the workout in the Spanish capital, where the team is spending six days and also plays defending champion Spain as part of its worlds preparations.

 “He'll be fine,” Krzyzewski said of Curry, who is vying for the final spot on the 12-man roster.

 Krzyzewski will make a final decision on the last player he has to drop in Athens next week, where the U.S. will play Greece in its final exhibition game.