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LE NEWSLETTER

February 4, 2010

February is here and so is the wacky weather ... all good though.  Now, on the brink of Ontario's newest holiday, Family Day, held on February 15th, also is the upcoming Chocolate Festival, oh, I mean,
Valentine's Day.  In a couple or not, tell someone you love them, if not this specific day then another.

Here's one scenario: You've made all the plans for the perfect Valentine's Day. You've reserved your favourite table at your favourite restaurant. Once you arrive at the restaurant, everything is perfect: the ambience, the food, the wine, the conversation. You decide to top off a sumptuous meal with a decadent dessert and coffee.  It's not yet 8:00 p.m. Now what?  It's too early to retire to the bedroom, and yet you don't want the magic to end. What to do?  It's time to
CELEBRATE LOVE at Andrew Craig's Celebrate Love 2010 concert!  Due to popular demand, Celebrate Love comes to us for two nights: Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14.

CELEBRATE LOVE is a night of excellence on every level - in the artists, the music selections and venue.  You MUST check it out - take someone you love but get those tickets.  This is historically a very successful concert. 

Do you like gospel music?  Well, then you need to check out the
Evolution of Gospel Music pictured below!  Some superb talent and great theatre all in one place this weekend! Get your tickets now.  EGM was conceived and directed by the powerhouse team of Juno award-winning Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) director Karen Burke, gospel music producer Corey Butler, and singer/actor/producer Aadin Church (The Lion King, Miss Saigon).

TONS of hot news below so get on to it!

To make sure you continue to receive your Langfield Entertainment e-mail in your inbox (and that it is not sent to bulk or junk folders), please add langfieldent@rogers.com to your address book.

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

::HOT EVENTS::

The Evolution of Gospel Music Returns on February 5th and 6th!

Source:  Karen Burke

(January 18, 2010) Toronto - On
February 5th and 6th at 7 p.m. the spectacular musical production The Evolution of Gospel Music (EGM) returns to relive the tale of a people thrust into a new land and stripped of everything but their music. The EGM showcases five eras of gospel using live music, drama and dance. It dynamically charts a triumphant legacy that spans the early days of Negro spirituals through the turmoil of the 60’s, to the influence of gospel in today’s contemporary urban music landscape. The production, which opened in 2009 to crowds of over 1,200 people, aired on CBC Radio and is available online on CBC’s Concerts on Demand.

EGM was conceived and directed by the powerhouse team of Juno award-winning Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) director Karen Burke, gospel music producer Corey Butler, and singer/actor/producer
Aadin Church (The Lion King, Miss Saigon). The show will be lead by Burke, a Professor of Music at York University, and Butler will lead the professional rhythm section.

A phenomenal cast representing some of the best Canadian gospel musicians, actors and dancers will re-enact the voyage through the golden age of gospel, celebrating the music of Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and other iconic artists. Powerful vocalists have also been assembled for the front-line singers, including Marlene O’Neill, Amoy Levy and Peter Moncrieffe. Guest artist Aadin Church will lead the journey, as a character called ‘The Traveler’, along with onstage partner Karen Jules.

Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) will present The Evolution of Gospel Music at Global Kingdom Ministries as a main feature of Black History Month and tickets can be purchased online at www.evolutionofgospelmusic.com. To meet a goal of positively impacting the local community they have partnered with UrbanPromise Toronto, who believe “children and young adults have the potential to achieve success, and with support they can reach their God-given potential.” A portion of the proceeds will be donated to this cause. TMC is also working with other local organizations to bring groups of youth to a special matinee to provide an educational and uplifting experience for them.

About the Toronto Mass Choir

The Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) is a not-for-profit 35-member choir who have been pioneers within the industry for more then 20 years, while paving the way for some of the best gospel talent in Canada. They have performed at countless award shows and venues, including The Ottawa Bluesfest, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Canadian National Exhibition, Roy Thompson Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and at the Gospel Music Workshop of America conventions in Washington, DC, Atlanta and Detroit. TMC has released six albums with their soulful style of calypso, ska and new sounds, with the fusion of jazz and reggae, and have won multiple awards, including a Juno Award, two Gospel Music Association Canada (GMAC) Covenant Awards, a Vibe Award, An Urban Music Association of Canada Award and a Shai Award.

About UrbanPromise

UrbanPromise Toronto began in 1998 with the vision to see change in government-housing neighbourhoods. Beginning with one small after-school program for children UrbanPromise has grown into an organization that reaches hundreds of children, youth and families in four communities across the city.

For information or interviews please contact Karen Burke at (905) 794-1139.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5 and SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6
THE EVOLUTION OF GOSPEL MUSIC

Global Kingdom Ministries
1250 Markham Road
Scarborough, ON
Doors: 6:00 pm; Start: 7:00 pm
Advance tix: $25; Door: $30
Tix purchased at:  www.evolutionofgospelmusic.com

See video at http://www.evolutionofgospelmusic.com/youtube.php


Audio clip, please go to www.cbc.ca HERE

Andrew Craig’s Celebrate Love 2010 :: Sunday, February 14 at The Al Green Theatre

Source:  Andrew Craig

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs!
 
On Sunday, February 14, Canada’s first lady of jazz
Molly Johnson once again headlines a stellar cast of singers, including Gary Beals, Toya Alexis, Wade O. Brown, Suba Sankaran, and more.

Producer, CBC broadcaster and impresario
Andrew Craig co-hosts and musical directs the band, complemented by Lush, the fabulous all-female cello quartet!

Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine's Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Celebrate Love moves to Toronto’s Al Green Theatre for 2010! Originally conceived and produced in 2004, and again in 2008, Celebrate Love is well on its way to becoming a Toronto institution.

Click
here to purchase tickets to Celebrate Love - Toronto’s premier Valentine’s Day event!

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2010
ANDREW CRAIG’S CELEBRATE LOVE 2010
Al Green Theatre
Miles Nadal JCC
750 Spadina Avenue (southwest corner of Spadina & Bloor)
$45 adults, $40 seniors; $80 per adult couple; $75 per senior couple
8:00 PM

www.celebratelove.ca   

::TOP STORIES::

Jewison Gets Lifetime Directing Honour

Source: www.thestar.com - CBC News

(January 30, 2010) Filmmaker Norman Jewison became the first Canadian ever to get a lifetime achievement prize from the Director's Guild of America.

The guild honoured the best in film at a gala in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

With the honour, the 83-year-old Jewison joined the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, who have all been granted the accolade.

In the guild’s 73-year history, only 32 directors have been recognized with the accolade.

Jewison, who maintains an office in Santa Monica, Calif., while also living near Toronto on a farm, got his start as a children's show script writer at the BBC before joining CBC Television as an assistant director for musicals, comedy-variety shows, dramas and specials in the early 1950s.

CBS in New York City recruited him in 1958; there he directed variety shows such as Your Hit Parade.

In 1962, Jewison directed his first film, Forty Pounds of Trouble, a comedy starring Tony Curtis . He never looked back.

He followed that up with a few lighter movies and then moved onto drama with 1965's The Cincinnati Kid, starring Steve McQueen.

Jewison really hit the big time in 1966 with the cold war comedy The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, which resulted in four Academy Award nominations, including for best picture.

Not ready to retire

Among his many acclaimed films are In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Soldier's Story and Moonstruck.

The director says although the award is appreciated, it doesn't signal his retirement, either.

"Just remember John Ford and Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder and John Huston and Willy Wyler," Jewison told The Toronto Star. "They all kept making movies after the world considered them obsolete."

Back in 1992, Jewison was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and in 1999, he was given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In 2004, Jewison was appointed chancellor of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, a position he continues to hold today.

He is also the founder of the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, which provides professional development for filmmakers, actors and producers in Canada.


Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/story/2010/01/30/jewison-dga-honour.html#ixzz0eVgz2TSD 

Canadian Melanie Fiona Receives Grammy Nod After Years Of Struggle

Source: www.thestar.com -
By Nick Patch (CP)

(January 28, 2010) TORONTO — Five years ago, Melanie Fiona flew to Los Angeles, determined to make her music dreams come true.

The Toronto native had the right sound - great range and a distinctive voice, equally adept at expressing vulnerability and strength - and the right look. All she needed to do was change everything.

"I met a lot of labels, executives and producers," Fiona told The Canadian Press.

"They'd say: 'We love the way she looks, we love the way she sings.' But I knew that the minute I worked with them or would have signed with them, they would have tried to change me into someone else completely different.

"That was something that I didn't want to do."

As it turns out, her stubbornness paid off. The past year has brought the 26-year-old the sort of chart success and industry respect she was willing to wait for, culminating in a nomination at Sunday's 52nd Grammy Awards.

She's up for best female R&B vocal performance for her heart-rending torch song, "It Kills Me."

The Grammy nod was vindication, to say the least.

"It's like the best news I've ever received," Fiona says, her voice cracking with enthusiasm.

"Oh my gosh, I instantly had flashbacks of just singing as a little girl into my hairbrush in front of the mirror. I went directly there. Could I even have imagined singing around my house and loving to sing would have me in this position now, one day?

"It's just unbelievable."

It certainly would've seemed that way at many points during the past few years, as time tested Fiona's resolve.

Fiona was born Melanie Hallim, the daughter of Guyanese immigrants. She had been active in the industry since 2002, when she was briefly involved with Toronto R&B girl group X-Quisite (she left before their first album was released, though she earned songwriting credits).

Her original southern sojourn came amid worries her career would atrophy if she stayed north of the border. But she didn't exactly move to L.A., either - in fact, Fiona says she hasn't really lived anywhere the past five years.

How does she manage that?

"It entails crashing on people's couches, hotels, living out of your suitcase," she said. "Just kind of being wherever you have to be, from recording to touring. You have to be visible, you have to be where there's a demand for you. ... I love travelling, I've seen and been to so many places I've dreamed of going, which was the best part.

"And then of course I was tired of being all over the place and living from the suitcase. That's hard on the clothes, and I hate travelling through airports, and lugging bags around the world, but you know, it's a part of what I gotta do."

Fiona forged ahead, dabbling in songwriting (she co-penned "Dem Haters" for Rihanna and wrote for Kardinal Offishall) while continuing to seek out her big break. She had opportunities, but nothing felt quite right.

"I recorded songs where I was like: 'I'm gonna do this to experiment, but this is not who I am, it's not what I want to do,"' she explained.

"It was singing about things in music that I didn't really feel or relate to, just to conform with what other people were singing about. I don't really sing about superficial things or money, cars, and clothes.

"I didn't want people to focus on my appearance just so they would focus on my music. I didn't want people to focus on my sexuality, or how sexy I can be and sell sex just so they could pay attention to my music.

"I didn't want to have people dictate who I had to be."

Ultimately, she didn't have to.

In 2007, Fiona was discovered by Steve Rifkind - the hip-hop impresario associated with acts including Wu Tang Clan, Akon and Big Pun - and soon, her fortunes began to change. And it happened fast.

In the fall of 2008, Kanye West handpicked Fiona to open his European tour ("the best performing experience of my life," she says of the tour). She also made friends with Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation group now manages Fiona, and Roots drummer Questlove, who issued a mixtape with her last summer.

In February, she released her first single, "Give it to Me Right," a feisty empowerment anthem that doubles as an aggressive come-on. Far more confrontational than coy, the song married a brassy vocal performance from Fiona with the classic backbeat of the Zombies' 1968 psychedelic single "Time of the Season."

The song was written by Andrea Martin (no, not the SCTV actress but a songwriter and producer who has penned tunes for Toni Braxton, Nelly and Leona Lewis).

Martin said she was immediately taken by Fiona's talent.

"Finally a voice that's not only soulful, but ear-friendly," Martin wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.

"Melanie is a definite addition to the world, she's truly a light that brings life to every song she sings."

Martin produced and co-wrote much of Fiona's first album, "The Bridge," which dropped in the summer.

Fiona recalls seeing the disc on a store shelf for the first time at an HMV in downtown Montreal.

"I totally freaked out," she recalled. "I couldn't believe it. I was jumping up and down. I was screaming. I was completely making a fool of myself in the store.

"But I've been working for this my whole life, so now's not the time to be cool, you know what I mean?"

Indeed, it was Fiona's work ethic that stood out to her collaborators.

"(Our sessions) ended up being really intense, for whatever reason," said Darren Lewis, one-half of U.K. production team Future Cut, who handled three tracks on Fiona's album.

"I don't know how she did it. They had three or four studios set up, she'd come to us and write, go somewhere else and write. She was doing 20-hour days in that one week. She'd finish at 4, 5, 6 in the morning. It was incredible.

"And she was always the one there keeping the energy up. The two of us were suffering jet lag and kind of falling asleep on the mixing desk. She was still singing."

Lewis wasn't the only one who was impressed by Fiona. The New York Times said "The Bridge" was "one of this year's best R&B albums, and also one of the year's most promising debuts."

But major chart success still eluded Fiona - until the Grammy nomination came in December.

Since then, "It Kills Me" - which Fiona calls gut-wrenching, "one of those records that kind of grabs you by the throat and makes you pay attention" - has rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart in the United States.

Fiona says that she's particularly pleased that the Grammy nomination is specifically for vocal performance, and not for songwriting or anything external to her.

Others, meanwhile, aren't surprised.

"She's just got a real, old-school, killer R&B voice," Lewis said.

"There's elements ... of her contemporaries, her idols, there's a flavour of Mary J. Blige, there's a hint of Aretha (Franklin), but I think actually what was good about (Fiona) was that she wasn't just a carbon copy of people she loved. She took inspiration, which the best people do, but it's about making it your own."

And Fiona says she isn't worried about winning on Grammy night.

"In my mind, it's already a victory," Fiona said.

"Being a part of history, of the 2010 Grammys, it's such an amazing feeling. At this point, it's just about being there and hearing my name called and seeing my face on the screen and being in the company of the amazing artists.

"It's just an amazing feeling."

Neil Young, Michael J. Fox, Michael Bublé: Grammy Honours Canadians

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(February 01, 2010) Rock legend Neil Young, Family Ties actor Michael J. Fox and crooner Michael Bublé were the Canadian winners at this year's Grammy Awards.

Young claimed a trophy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition package for the first elaborately designed volume of his Archive collection. It was the Toronto-born singer's first ever Grammy.

Fox, who was raised in Burnaby, B.C., picked up the prize for Best Spoken Word Album for his reading of Always Looking Up, a memoir about his battle with Parkinson's disease. Bublé won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his concert disc Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden. The prizes were given out during the non-televised portion of the Grammy Awards.

Young was feted on Friday night as the MusiCares Person of the Year, which recognizes an artist's philanthropy.

Nominated Canadians who came up empty-handed included Toronto rapper Drake, and rockers Nickelback and Beast.

Clara Hughes' Untold Story: Wild Teen To Olympic Champ

Source: www.thestar.com -
Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(January 29, 2010) Clara Hughes was in charge of buying the beer.

Just 13, she was the ringleader of a group of hardscrabble kids who partied in the stairwells of parking garages in the dead of Winnipeg winter. Already 5-foot-9, she wore a lot of makeup and didn't even have to use fake ID to purchase a couple of two-fours from a local beer vendor.

Extra Old Stock. It was their beer of choice because of the higher alcohol content, certainly not for the taste. But it didn't stop there. Hughes also experimented with drugs, regularly skipped school and ran away from home several times. The downward spiral began after her parents split when she was 9.

The woman who will be unveiled Friday as the flag-bearer to lead the Canadian team into B.C. Place Stadium for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics on Feb. 12 didn't get there via the yellow brick road. She has forged gold out of sheer guts, willpower and with some timely guidance along the way.

Her early days certainly didn't foreshadow a speed skater who would donate $10,000 out of her own bank account to the humanitarian group Right To Play after winning gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

"I look at that period of my life, I have friends from that time who are severe alcoholics and have major social problems and life problems," said Hughes. "I know a girl whose boyfriend killed her and then killed himself.

"When I see kids that are like that now, I think, `You don't know where this can lead you. You're just wasting your life.' I was wasting my life. I'm not proud of who I was. But at the time, I didn't care about anything. I think I didn't have a value system because I came from a dysfunctional family. My mom did the best she could with my sister and I, but we basically went wild after my parents separated.

"Sport is definitely something that provided a value system for me, also just a moral base that I didn't have. I didn't have a strong sense of right and wrong. I just had a very strong sense of whatever I wanted to do at the time. I didn't have respect for anyone or myself."

There would be an intervention, albeit not of the typical variety.

As a 16-year-old, Hughes was sitting in her mother's living room doing some channel surfing and came across the broadcast of the 1988 Calgary Olympics. There was a feature on legendary speed skater Gaetan Boucher, winner of two gold and a bronze at the '84 Sarajevo Games, who was about to take his last shot at the podium in the men's 1,500 metres.

Hughes was mesmerized. To her, it looked like Boucher was floating on the ice.

"I was just, `Omigod, I want to do that. That's what I'm going to do. That's what I'm going to be. I'm going to be that one day,'" recalled Hughes.

"At the time, I smoked a pack a day. I wasn't into really hard drugs, but I was doing a fair amount of soft drugs and just partying a lot. I would run away from home for the weekend. I just wouldn't come home. My mom would be so worried about me. And I just didn't care. Then I'd show up when I wanted to show up.

"And so there I was, this undisciplined, pseudo-amoral girl, young adolescent, and this thing happened inside of me. I was like `I'm going to do that.' I just knew. I KNEW."

The next day her mom was driving her to a friend's house and Hughes blurted out that she wanted to go to the Olympics and be a speed skater. Her mother called the Winnipeg Speed Skating Club and found out there was a spring training camp.

Hughes was inspired, but initially still regressed into her old bad habits. Eventually, the desire to be a great speed skater outstripped anything else. She went from failing school to becoming a straight-A student.

Hughes would also have the good fortune of encountering coaches who would become her guides on an incredible journey that has seen her become the first Canadian to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

"I've been really lucky to fall in the hands of these incredible teachers pretty much exactly at the time I needed their personality and what they had to offer in my life," she said.

Her speed skating dream took a detour when she was recruited by Mirek Mazur, a cycling coach in Hamilton known for his uncompromising approach. His no-nonsense methods, which included Hughes logging 23,000 kilometres per year, would give her discipline and a conditioning base that pays dividends to this day. She also won two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"I was so lucky that tough bastard came into my life when he did because he challenged me," said Hughes. "He changed my life. He really did.

"He was just a drill sergeant and he was just, `Do it. Don't ask questions. Don't think too much.' I went through a pretty long phase of that unconscious competence with him where I didn't really think that much about what I was doing, I was just a machine and I performed."

But she would eventually burn out and after a series of injuries quit cycling briefly, only to revive her career under coach Eric Van Den Eynde in Quebec, where she would settle in the Eastern Townships.

Van Den Eynde would help her develop a competitor's head and soul. He taught her how to train herself, giving her the tools to understand how much she needed to push herself and when it was enough.

"Eric makes you believe," said Hughes. "He lets you believe in the possibilities and never limit yourself to one way. Eric really kind of let me grow up and that was so crucial for me after having been told what to do for so long."

But the lure of speed skating always remained for Hughes and she decided to return to her first love after the Sydney Olympics. It was then she found her next teacher, Xiuli Wang, a former Chinese speed skater who guides her to this day.

"She's like this old soul," said Hughes. "She has so much wisdom to pass on and she just passes it on in such a subtle way and that's what makes it so beautiful. Sometimes she drives me crazy because she demands so much and sometimes I can't handle that. And so we're human and we butt heads, but that's just part of the whole process of appreciating her and learning from her."

But her greatest teacher, Hughes says, is her husband Peter Guzman. They met through a mutual friend in 1996. The American-born Guzman, who became a Canadian citizen last year, is a gentle soul, an adventurer who goes on epic journeys on his bike, in a kayak and on foot. He's the kind of guy who will spend a whole conversation asking you questions about yourself, never talking about himself unless asked.

"Peter has introduced me to so many things," she said. "He's helped me develop and grow as a human being and just been there as my support and the love of my life and just my best friend. The most inspiring person I know is my husband."

Her competitive spirit is hers alone, though, and will be one of the qualities that should serve Canada well in its new flag-bearer. She's tough as nails, has an incredible pain threshold and refuses to accept anything less than the best from herself.

"It's frustrating to never be satisfied ... but it's good fuel for the fire," said Hughes. "It makes me realize I will be competitive until my grave. And I kind of like that. I'm not doing this because, `Well, I'm good enough to go.' It's not good enough to be good enough. It's only good enough to be the best that I can be and better than I ever have been. It's exciting."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Hawaii : Land of Lava

Source: www.thestar.com - Claudia Capos

(December 07, 2009) VOLCANO,
Hawaii–Daylight fades as we descend into the abyss of Kilauea Iki crater. The rugged trail zigzags through dense Hawaiian jungle of snaking vines and unfurling palm fronds. It is cloyingly humid. Our eyes and lungs burn from the sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases, or "vog," that envelope most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

After 40 minutes of hiking, we reach the crater floor, and the jungle parts to reveal a landscape right out of Star Wars.

The hardened lava floor is jet black and broken into massive shards. Our feet crunch and slide on lava gravel as we leap from one perch to another. Smoke and steam rise eerily from crevices, much like incense burning on unseen altars to appease the fiery volcano goddess Pele.

Here and there, green sprouts of grass and delicate flowering bushes lend floral accents to the desolate landscape.

A half century ago, Kilauea Iki exploded and left behind the 120-metre-deep lava lake. The collapsed crater is adjacent to the massive kilometre-wide Kilauea caldera, one of two active volcanoes on the Big Island.

Today, it's among the dramatic natural features that draw thousands of visitors to this captivating land of lava each year.

Lava seems to be ubiquitous on the island and comes as a surprise to first-time visitors who expect to see mostly palm trees. The ancient Hawaiians used the hardened rock to build temples honouring the gods. Their contemporaries have turned the black lava flats along Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway on the Kona coast into a vast canvas for writing their names and posting personal greetings in white rocks.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, is the best place on the Big Island to get close to the lava. About 50 kilometres southwest of Hilo, the 135,000-hectare wilderness area is also home to native plants and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.

"One of my favourite parts was going down through the forest," says Charity Dennington of Little Rock, Ark., who made the trek into Kilauae Iki with her husband, Gary Schroeder.

"We saw an `io,' which is an endangered Hawaiian hawk, while we were descending from the upper part of the crater," Schroeder adds. "It swooped right down on us."

At the Kilauea Visitors Center, park rangers provide eruption updates and safety information. A 20-minute video film and detailed exhibits tell the story of Hawaii's volcanic origins and its lava-land terrain.

Geologists theorize that the Hawaiian Islands were formed one by one as plumes of magma (molten lava) rose from a hot spot deep within the Earth.

Over time, each successive volcanic eruption formed an island that was slowly carried away from the hot spot by the Pacific plate, which acted like a conveyor belt. Today, Kilauea and Mauna Loa continue the island-building process on the Big Island, the "youngest" in the Hawaiian island chain.

But they are not the last. To the southeast, Lo'ihi seamount, an active submarine volcano, is rising from the ocean floor, just off the coast of Hilo. In time, it too may become another Hawaiian island.

During our week-long stay on the Big Island, we spend two days exploring the park and experiencing its lava legacy. Our quest takes us to the Thurston lava tube, an enormous, nearly circular conduit created long ago by a raging underground river of molten lava.

We descend on concrete steps into the dark, dank passageway, which measures roughly four metres high by five metres wide.

Small, dim lanterns light the way beneath wispy roots dangling from the ceiling. Dripping water spatters our heads and creates shallow puddles beneath our feet. Around us, black lava walls glisten with moisture and echo with shouts of passing children.

To witness the devastating natural power of lava, we leave Crater Rim Drive and head down Chain of Craters Rd. The narrow roadway provides glimpses of past lava flows and defunct craters as it twists and turns on its 1,100-metre descent to the Pacific coast.

The road dead-ends at a lava flow, just past the Holei sea arch. Along the way, we come to appreciate the distinctive characteristics of the island's two different types of lava. "Pahoehoe" lava appears smooth and ropelike, while "a'a" lava looks chunky and more like large, jagged boulders. The Kealakomo overlook, midway to the coast, offers a great view for a picnic lunch.

To see lava flowing in real time, however, we leave Hawaii Volcanoes National Park several hours before sunset and retrace our steps along Highway 11 to the town of Kea'au.

From there, we take Highway 130 south toward Kalapana, or what's left of it. The historic seaside town was destroyed after being buried under molten lava in 1990. From a distance, we spot huge plumes of steam rising high above the tree line.

When the highway ends, we continue driving along a bumpy blacktop road posted with signs warning of dangerous fumes and admonishing visitors to travel at their own risk.

Around us, a thick black carpet of lava blankets the ground in all directions. The only indications of life are a few rough-hewn houses and trailers that have been erected on the devastated area.

After reaching a makeshift parking area, we make our way on foot along a roughly demarcated path over the uneven lava flat to a roped-in viewing area.

A quarter mile away, steam bellows up as lava escaping from a vent on Kilauea streams down into the sea. Visitors are no longer allowed to walk directly on the hot lava rock. One park ranger told us that the soles of people's athletic shoes often melted and had to be scraped off the rock using pancake turners.

The lava sound and light show doesn't shift into high gear until the evening sky darkens into nightfall. Only then is the red-hot molten lava visible as it explodes inside the steam clouds and bursts out into the rushing waves.

The crowd of lava-gazers erupts in "oohs" and "aahs" with each exhalation of this fire-breathing dragon.

At the end of the viewing period, we join the procession that files unsteadily out of the lava field, their bobbing flashlights resembling a sort of nighttime vigil.

The spell is broken momentarily at the parking area where local artisans and vendors have erected stands selling "Go with the Flow" T-shirts, colour photos of spectacular lava bursts and lava-tube marbles – fitting mementos of the evening's remarkable adventure.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Grammys Forgo Taste For Spectacle

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(February 01, 2010) You'd think the past few, dire years would have taught the music industry a sense of modesty.

No, though, for Sunday night's
Grammy Awards telecast, the theme seemed to be "go big beyond all reason." Beyond all shame and good taste, too. But we kind of expect that from the Grammys.

Blame Lady Gaga for the ludicrously garish spectacle, maybe. Whoever was responsible for this 3 1/2-hour ear- and eyesore was obviously inspired to extremes by the unstoppably hitmaking pop tart's oversized persona, as he or she dreamed up an opener where Gaga came out (under)dressed like a superhero, got thrown in a pit of fire and then emerged from beneath the stage with Elton John astride a double-sided grand piano decorated with severed arms to duet on "Your Song."

By the looks of things, that person got drunk on power once that performance was greenlighted and went
totally Cirque du Soleil hogwild for the rest of the thing. Seriously, did you see them dunk a nearly nude Pink in water and dangle her dripping over the crowd during that Sapphic dance-pack assault on "Glitter in the Air"? Oh, and they managed to exploit Michael Jackson's children again along the way, too.

Sigh. At least they finally gave Neil Young a Grammy. But given the riot of ill-conceived ideas spilling all over the stage last night – Beyoncé dropping an utterly incongruous verse from Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" into "If I Were A Boy," anyone? Jamie Foxx and T-Pain pretending to be opera singers? Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige bludgeoning all subtlety from "Bridge Over Troubled Water"? – it's probably a good thing he didn't show up for the broadcast.

Young's was about as high-profile a Canadian win as we got this year. The Great White North was all but
shut out, no doubt particularly disappointing to hometown fans of Toronto rapper Drake, who lost in two rap categories.

Drake, a.k.a. Aubrey Drake Graham, did get to strut his stuff, though, and even got props (rightful, just bizarre) from noted hip-hop authority Quentin Tarantino for scoring two Grammy nods despite not yet having an album out.

The Grammy producers pulled out all the stops for the Toronto MC's performance, too, matching him up onstage with hip-hop superstars Lil' Wayne and Eminem, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and a full orchestra for a rather epic medley of tunes that concluded with a much-cheered rendition of the posse cut "Forever." Drake he took the stage to massive cheers and he's clearly got the industry behind him.

Oh, well, Canada, at least Seal mentioned Leonard Cohen in passing. And you had a Céline Dion sighting.
In 3-D, no less. She turned up with Usher, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson and a recording of Michael Jackson's "Earth Song" to give the late singer a drippy salute. It concluded with yet another awkward appearance by two of the children he fought so hard to keep from the spotlight before his death. Probably a good thing Michael didn't make it to the show, either.

CBS Defends Muting Lil Wayne, Em and Drake at Grammys

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 3, 2010) *CBS has defended its decision to mute the mess out of
Lil Wayne, Drake and Eminem’s rap performance at the end of Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast, even though witnesses say the artists were doing a good job of censoring themselves.

“We have great respect for artists’ creative freedom, but there are certain things you can’t say, or sing, on television,” CBS spokesman Chris Ender told the Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Times counted “at least 10 times” that the mute button was pushed during their performances of “Drop the World” and “Forever”* with Travis Barker and rock guitarists.

Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich told the newspaper that he himself played no part in hitting the button. The network, he said, has “a responsibility to standards and we have a responsibility to represent music of the moment … and we can’t do a show that represents everything that is out there without this being part of it.”

On its “Vulture” blog, New York magazine commented “It’s all kind of bizarre Why were whole lines being cut to avoid one profanity? Why was the music cut out along with the [singers]? Did the bleep button keep getting stuck in the on position or something?”

The magazine then proceeded to print the censored lyrics. Click here to view: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/02/eminem_lil_wayne_and_drake_get.html

With Jann Arden, The Jokes Are As Good As The Songs

Source: www.thestar.com -
Nick Krewen

(January 28, 2010) Celebrity bitch-fight, eh Jann?

It was during the Q&A portion of her opening four-night residency at Massey Hall when someone in the audience asked Alberta songbird
Jann Arden if she would be appearing on this year's revival of Lilith Fair, the all-female concert tour founded by Sarah McLachlan.

"Not that I'm aware of," replied the hostess, "I'm in the middle of a bitch-fight with McLachlan."

Arden then proceeded to picture herself as a bitch-right foe against a "celebrity Canadian chanteuse line-up" consisting of McLachlan, Shania Twain, Céline Dion and Anne Murray.

" I could take Sarah," she deadpanned, "And I could kick Shania's ass. And Céline hasn't eaten since March."

However, Anne Murray was a different story, Arden conceded.

"Anne Murray would kick my ass!" she said, as gales of laughter from the willingly partisan crowd ricocheted throughout the building.

The improvised monologue might have felt awkward or out of place with another performer, but when you're in for an evening with Jann Arden, you're not just getting a talented singer and songwriter who is satisfied with parading her proven hits: you're getting a raconteur, a hilarious comedienne and an earthy gal pal that you would feel privileged to hang out with.

Of course, there's also the music, and the eight-time Juno winner (she should be awarded a ninth just for being able to keep her balance in those knee-high stiletto boots) delivered on well-chosen selections from 10 albums worth of material that offered few surprises, much to the delight of her extended family.

Fronting a six-piece band that included Bryan Adams' right-hand guitarist Keith Scott, respected bass player Maury LaFoy and violinist singer Alison Cornell, Arden bounced between intimate acoustic renditions of "Insensitive" and "I Would Die for You" to spirited peaks like "A Million Miles Away" and "Where No One Knows Me."

The ballad-heavy set also included the usual mixture of love and lament from a woman who knows how to deliver melancholy mellowness when it comes to matters of the heart, although the occasions in which she punched it up with unexpected power and passion proved to be some of the most rewarding moments of the two-hour-and-15-minute set.

Unfortunately, there were also too many pitch-challenged wavers, that usually occurred during the show's softer moments, particularly noticeable during Arden's tender cover of Janis Ian's "At Seventeen."

Not that anyone particularly cared or noticed: they were just happy to be sharing the same space with the side-splitting lass.

Just don't bring Céline if you know what's good for you.

Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, Wyclef Jean and Superstar Artists Re-record ‘We Are The World’ to Benefit Haitian Earthquake Relief Effort

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 2, 2010) *LOS ANGELES, — Producer
Quincy Jones and singer/songwriter Lionel Richie, the producer and co-writer of the iconic 1985 philanthropic anthem We Are The World, have confirmed that they have teamed with producer/musician Wyclef Jean and Grammy-winning producer RedOne and producer/musical director Ricky Minor in association with Randy Phillips, President & CEO, AEG Live to record a contemporary version of the song to benefit the Haitian earthquake relief efforts on Monday, February 1, 2010.

The world premiere of We Are The World – 25 For Haiti will air during NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Friday, February 12. Following the world premiere on NBC, it will air on other networks throughout the world. This project was made possible through a contribution from Visa.

Twenty five years after the original recording at Henson Recording Studios (formerly A&M Recording Studios) in Hollywood, Jones, Richie, Jean, RedOne, Minor and Phillips will bring together a diverse group of contemporary superstar artists in the very same recording studio to record the world renowned song originally written by Richie and Michael Jackson.

In addition to recording the landmark song, Academy Award-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) whose own personal efforts as well as those of Artists for Peace and Justice have already saved countless lives in Haiti, filmed the session to create an accompanying video. Both the contemporary version of We Are The World and the accompanying video will be available for purchase through a consortium of on-line and retail partners with all proceeds going directly to them earthquake relief efforts in the country of Haiti through the We Are The World Foundation, a newly created not-for-profit organization made up of board members Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, Wyclef Jean, Paul Haggis, Randy Phillips and Ambassador Louis Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Commented Jones, “25 years ago, the entertainment industry showed the power of community to help our fellow man when we recorded ‘We Are The World’ to bring relief to those suffering from famine in Ethiopia. And while the need to assistant Africa continues, today the country of Haiti is suffering immeasurably from the destruction due to the recent earthquake and is in immediate need of relief that will last long after the television cameras have left. As artists, we have joined together on this 25th anniversary and in the spirit of ‘We Are The World’ to help meet that
need.”

“What an unbelievable group of people who have come together to give their voices, for a cause to start the healing of a people who have experienced devastation of such magnitude,” said Richie. “We believe ‘We Are The World – 25 for Haiti’ can be the start of the healing process.”

“On January 12th, the people of Haiti were faced with a tragedy unlike anything the country has ever experienced,” said Wyclef Jean, songwriter and cofounder of the We Are The World Foundation. “Today, I am proud to be joined by so many members of the artistic community that want to support the region and have donated their time and talents to providing an effective way for the global community to get involved with helping the Haitian population.”

“I’m thrilled Quincy, Lionel and Randy invited me to be a part of something so wonderful in which we are standing side by side with Haitian artists and community to help them rebuild their broken nation,” commented Paul Haggis.

Upon its original release, We Are the World quickly became the fastest selling single in history and in the years that have followed, USA forn Africa has raised and distributed more than $63 million in revenue from the sales of more than 7 million units of the album, single and cassettes, plus nearly 2 million digital sales and related merchandise. Just over half the total was spent on emergency relief (food, medicine, and refugee services) and the balance was used to support more than 500 different relief, rehabilitation and development projects in 18 different countries in
sub-Saharan Africa.

“When first approached about re-recording ‘We Are The World’, it didn’t seem like a great idea since the original version was so iconic,” said Randy Phillips, President & CEO, AEG Live. “Then Haiti happened and that changed everything. Quincy and Lionel decided that ‘We Are the World’ was created just for emergencies like this. This recording will have a life of its own and keep Haiti in the public eye at the same time raising much needed funds to continue the healing, reconstruction and rebirth of this country,” Phillips added.

“In the 25 years that have passed since ‘We Are The World’ was first released, technology has provided the means to make it a movement,” said Peter Tortorici, CEO, GroupM Entertainment WW who will oversee all distribution and broadcast opportunities while also serving as an executive producer on the project. “We are honoured to provide our support to make ‘We Are the World – 25 For Haiti’ a powerful global platform that show what the power of community can accomplish.”

This project was made possible through a contribution from Visa. The 25th Anniversary recording will help further the spirit of activism around the 25th Anniversary of We Are the World that was at the heart of the original song and movement.

“We Are The World” – 25th Anniversary Recording For Haitian Earthquake Relief Artists Roster:

Teen Idol Justin Bieber's Secret? A Little Prayer

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(January 29, 2010) For the benefit of millions of screaming young fans, not to mention their ecstatic moms, let’s cut to the chase: What’s Justin Bieber really like?

The Stratford, Ont.-raised teen idol, with his meticulously forward-combed hair, is on the telephone from Atlanta. With the rasp of a typical 15-year-old, he is as polite as in his myriad TV appearances on everything from MuchMusic to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. There’s a constant rustle in the background; others in the room are distracting him. He apologizes and moves closer to the speakerphone.

Bieber is clearly still in the eager-to-please phase of his young career. If he has hit the wall of teen cynicism, it doesn’t show. There seems to be no brewing hubris, despite the fact that his debut album of tween-targeted pop, My World, recorded under the wing of his mentor and business partner, R&B singer Usher, has already gone platinum in the United States (a million copies sold) and Canada (100,000 copies) since its November release.

“Being famous was never in my mind,” he says. “Also, like, Stratford, Ontario … a little town of 30,000 in the middle of nowhere? It was something I didn’t think was possible. I owe everything to my fans and YouTube.”

He seems like merely an older version of the 12-year-old boy who belted out R&B tunes on homemade YouTube videos, which wound up attracting millions of viewers and ultimately got him his record deal. (To access those early videos, search YouTube under “Justin singing.” Searching with the words “Justin Bieber” will get you his more recent professional videos and TV spots.)

His single mom, Pattie Mallette, has said that she prayed for her son’s success. One YouTube clip shows Bieber and his mother in an early appearance on Full Circle, a weekly segment of the Christian TV program 100 Huntley Street.

Atlanta-based manager Scooter Braun had scouted Bieber after seeing his YouTube clips, and flew him down to meet Usher in 2008. Bieber auditioned for Usher, but also, as the teenager puts it, he simply hung out with the superstar to see how they gelled. “When I first met him, I had to sing for him, so that he knew what I was about,” Bieber says. “But we just talked. He got to know me a little bit. I got to know him. We watched a little bit of basketball. It was really low-key. It was fun.”

Justin Timberlakewas also interested in Bieber and also met with him, but the young singer decided to sign with the man Billboard named last decade’s No. 1 Hot 100s Artist.

Bieber recalls this quickly, as if he has gone over it many times already. Our conversation falls in the middle of two hours of back-to-back phone interviews, which are in turn sandwiched between a doctor’s appointment and a rehearsal with Beiber’s full band and dancers. The next day he will fly off to Los Angeles to prepare for tomorrow’s Grammy Awards, where he’ll be a presenter.

That’s Bieber’s life now. When we talk, he has just returned from a publicity trip to Britain, where he was accompanied by his dad and a team of handlers. His parents are divorced, but Bieber is still close to his father, who lives in Winnipeg.

Since returning to Atlanta, the fledgling star has been sequestered in the studio, under orders (as one publicist put it) to work on My World Part II. That follow-up disc is due in late March, a mere five months after his debut album, following a time-honoured tactic from the dawn of pop music and teen acts: Get the merchandise out quickly.

But Bieber sees it in more contemporary terms. “A lot of people nowadays, with the Internet, they get really bored. … So putting two albums out, back to back, keeps them wanting more. …It’s really important to keep these kids satisfied, you know what I mean?”

It’s hard to put his success into perspective, he says. Imagine sudden fame at 15 – and, a month after cutting your first album, performing at a charity Christmas concert in Washington, with U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, looking on. “Things are definitely hard to describe,” he says. “But everything has just been fun. My family is really supportive. My mom and my dad are very supportive.”

His mother lives with him in a condominium community in Atlanta. She had been working as a website designer before her son’s career took off. She now calls herself “studio mom” on her Twitter page, but her son describes her differently. “She’s definitely not a studio mom. She definitely cares about my well-being, and me just being a good person more than a good artist,” he says.

“We have a lot of fun together on the road. We definitely get into arguments, ’cause I’m with my mom more than regular 15-year-old boys are. But we have a really close relationship.”

As for Usher, says Bieber, “he teaches me to stay humble through this whole process, because it can get shady, the business. You just gotta be humble. You’ve got to be grounded.” When pressed, he doesn’t go into detail about what kind of questionable characters he might have come across, insisting he has managed to stay away from them, whoever they are.

Bieber has a five-album contract. The third disc of songs likely won’t appear as quickly, he says, and may be an album of Christmas songs late in the year. And what of the inevitable lure of branching out beyond music – to, say, even something as low-key as Avril Lavigne’s ads for Canon cameras? “We’re working on different opportunities right now,” he says. “There’s going to be stuff like commercials and movie stuff coming out, but we’re just working out all the deals right now.”

That’s all Bieber will divulge. And given how quickly his career is moving, that could conceivably be all he and his handlers know with any certainty. “Have a blessed day,” he says as our conversation winds up. An atypical goodbye from a young performer marketed as just a regular, if highly gifted, kid.

Michael Bublé's Olympic Gig

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By
Kerry Gold

(February 1, 2010) Vancouver singer
Michael Bublé's international success has translated into a role as ambassador for several foreign TV networks during the Olympics.

The 34-year-old, who last night won a Grammy, will appear in a one-hour special called Michael Bublé's Canada on Australia's Foxtel network. He'll also appear in Australian promotional clips for the Games, and in short vignettes with Olympic athletes, in which he'll explain sports like curling. He's also appearing on a German network, a Japanese network and in a segment for the Today Show in the U.S.

His most challenging gig at the Olympics would be providing colour commentary for one of the hockey games on Australia's Foxtel. As a minority owner of the Vancouver Giants, his love of hockey is widely known in his hometown. He even took a shot as guest radio commentator for a Canucks game last year.

Q: So what exactly do you do in Michael Bublé's Canada?

A: I've gone with a co-host and taken Australians through every province and introduced them to the provinces and what makes them different and special, and what you should see and do. I've taken them on a tour of Canada. When the Olympics come, I'll go around Vancouver and take them around the city and take them out to events and around to restaurants, parties, whatever.

Q: I'm surprised countries like Australia would have a big interest in hockey.

A: I think come Olympics time, the stakes are so high people tune in when they otherwise wouldn't. I think they have an interest and they are probably curious, too, about things like curling.

Q: How about your interest in hockey? What does it mean to you?

A: Well hockey is one of the things I live for. I put it up there with music and food and family. It makes it even better when national pride is on the line.

Q: Did you play much as a kid?

A: Yep, and I still play, and I love every aspect of the sport. I love how fast it is, how beautiful it is. It's a wonderful team sport but with individual greatness attached to it.

Q: As a commentator, what are the challenges? Is it hard?

A: [When doing the Canucks game] I began the game telling people on the radio that I was just a fan, that I wasn't a professional. And while I got to do the greatest thing in the world and sit in that booth and do colour, it also gave me a brand new respect for ... how fast the game moves.

Q: But you're pretty quick with a retort on stage.

A: I tried to do play-by-play for two minutes, and I just sounded like I had been drinking.

Leonard Cohen Offers Thanks To Canada

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Nick Patch, The Canadian Press

(January 29, 2010) Los Angeles — With the Grammy Awards about to honour Leonard Cohen, the 75-year-old Montreal legend decided to pay respect to his home country during a party at the Canadian consul general's residence on Thursday.

Cohen, clad in a dark suit with his trademark fedora shading his eyes, climbed onstage alongside a group of other artists at the gathering – held annually in honour of Canadian Grammy nominees – before making a brief speech to the cheers of a grateful crowd.

“My great grandfather, Lazarus Cohen, came to Canada in 1869, to the county of Glengarry, a little town in Maberly,” Cohen said.

“It's customary to thank people for the help and aid they've given. On this occasion, because of the great hospitality that was accorded my ancestor who came here over 140 years ago, I want to thank this country, Canada, for allowing us to live and work and flourish in a place that was different from all other places in the world.

“So I thank Canada for the opportunity that was given me to work and play and flourish. ... Thank you, friends.”

While Cohen made only a brief appearance at the party, his presence carried weight with the other attendees.

“It's nice to be up there with an icon,” said Steve Wood of Alberta powwow dance group Northern Cree, nominated for a fifth time for best native American album, who stood next to Cohen onstage.

Cohen will be honoured on Saturday with a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys.

The celebrated musician and poet, oddly, has only ever won one Grammy and it wasn't for one of his own albums. He earned a trophy for contributing vocals to Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, which won album of the year in 2008.

The group of Canadian Grammy hopefuls who attended the poolside party on Thursday could then potentially match Cohen's tally at Sunday's 51st Grammy Awards (Global, 8 p.m. ET).

Nominees in attendance included Montreal trip-rock band Beast and producer David Foster, whose brief visit was long enough to brighten fellow nominee Melanie Fiona's night.

“I was very excited to meet David Foster,” said the beaming Toronto singer, who's up for best female R&B vocal performance.

“I got to meet him as soon as I came through the door.”

The showcase featured performances from Toronto hip-hop artist K'naan, St. John's indie-rockers Hey Rosetta and Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan.

While Cohen might have been considered the guest of honour, it was producer Daniel Lanois who was the life of the party.

Clad in a black leather jacket and snug jeans with a pair of sunglasses obscuring his eyes, a smiling Lanois arrived toward the beginning of the party, happily chatting with anyone who approached him. When asked by a reporter if there were any stars he was hoping to meet at Sunday's gala, he shrugged and said “Satan?” before laughing and clarifying that he was only joking.

Later, he hopped onstage unexpectedly for an impromptu after-show bonus performance with his guests, country legend Emmylou Harris and singer Trixie Whitley. It was one of the only moments during which a chatty crowd composed of musicians, Grammy organizers, industry folk and journalists actually fell silent.

And for Lanois's finale, he rode into the balmy night atop a motorcycle, pausing to wave to a cluster of valets and party-goers who were lingering around the driveway.

Lanois has won seven Grammys. He isn't directly nominated this year, but he produced and co-wrote several tracks on U2's No Line on the Horizon, which is up for three awards.

He says he thinks the Grammys are moving in the right direction.

“I think they're catching people on the rise rather than waiting for people to get to the top,” he said.

“Because when we're on our way up, that's when we need the most help. So it's nice when you can get someone complimenting you and encouraging you as you're building your career.”

Meanwhile, Pierre Cossette wasn't far from the minds of many attending the party. The Valleyfield, Que., native – considered by most to be the father of the Grammy Awards – died in September.

A collage of photographs of Cossette stood next to the stage, along with a TV screen looping a slide show of Cossette pictured with stars including Celine Dion and Will Smith.

Cossette's wife, Mary, spoke in his honour.

“My very deepest gratitude and thanks for honouring my husband, Pierre Cossette, who spent his life loving music and encouraging music of all kinds to be written and recorded and produced and thereby making the world a happier place,” she said.

“His greatest pride was his Canadian heritage.”

Neil Young: Musical Enigma Has Many Faces

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(January 30, 2010)
Neil Young finally has his first Grammy Award, but it's not for his music.

Not overtly, anyway. Obviously, the man's storied singing and songwriting career, now encroaching on its 50th year, has something to do with it. Still, while Young will compete with his peers in a couple of Grammy categories – in "best solo rock vocal performance" for the title track to last year's
Fork In The Road album, and "best boxed or special limited edition package" for his gargantuan Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972 set – at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles tomorrow night, the one trophy he'll have going in is for a side of his life he keeps quiet about: his philanthropy.

Young was officially minted as the Recording Academy's "MusiCares Person of the Year" Friday night at a gala dinner in L.A., an event that no doubt had him squirming uncomfortably in his seat. Especially when such fellow musicians as Elton John, John Mellencamp, k.d. lang, Sheryl Crow, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wilco and his old pals Crosby, Stills and Nash got up and started serenading him with his own songs.

He deserves the MusiCares honour, though. His quiet humanitarianism goes way back. He's been a
crusader for environmental issues forever, and active with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation since his first son, Zeke, and then his second son, Ben, a quadriplegic, were diagnosed with the disease. He's a frequent donor to the Epilepsy Foundation, too, since both he and his daughter, Sarah, have the illness. He co-founded Farm Aid with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp in 1985 to help save humble American family farms facing foreclosure, and still sits on its board of directors. He's also one of the founders of the Bay Area's Bridge School, an organization that assists and educates children with severe physical and/or speech impairments, and stages a famed annual, all-star benefit concert in support of the facility.

Young, of course, doesn't trumpet any of this. But the 64-year-old Toronto and Winnipeg expat doesn't trumpet much of anything about himself. Neil Young, the philanthropist, is just one of the many faces of a genuine rock `n' roll enigma.

Those faces are why so many of us find Young such a compelling figure. So, as a salute to Canada's most fondly regarded musical export, we present a few more:

ICONIC FOLKIE

With his long hair, flannel shirts and acoustic guitar, the sensitive, socially conscious Neil Young who drifted in and out of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY during the late `60s and early `70s was the perfect poster child for hippie-era folk.

His songs, however, really were
folk music in another sense, notes author Bob Mersereau, whose 2007 book Top 100 Canadian Albums was "dominated" by Young and topped by 1972's Harvest.

"His music is so understandable," says Mersereau. "You can immediately start your own music life by playing Neil Young songs around the campfire and everybody will love you for it. It's all Bs and As and Ds – it's really easy to play Neil Young songs. "

Adds Nicholas Jennings, author of the Can-rock history
Before the Goldrush: "He launched a million Neil wannabes. On every street corner in every major Canadian city in the early `70s, there was a kid in a flannel shirt playing sad songs from Harvest and After the Goldrush. I was one of them. He struck a chord with a generation then, but the difference is he's continued to do that with successive generations."

Calgary rocker Chad VanGaalen, often compared to Young, sums up the appeal: learning a Neil Young song is "a good way to learn rock 'n' roll etiquette."

GUITAR GOD

As we all know, Quiet Neil begat Loud Neil, the rancorous electric noisemaker and Crazy Horse bandleader who answered punk with the seething
Rust Never Sleeps in 1979 and foreshadowed `90s grunge with Freedom and Ragged Glory.

It's this Neil, he of the roaring feedback, 20-minute grind-downs and brain-boggling one-note solos, who's enchanted thousands of other guitarists with his intuitive, almost subconscious, playing style.

"Everything sounds broken down, like its going to fall apart any second," says Mike Boyd of local roots `n' roll outfit the Hunting Horns. "Nothing is ever precise, but it sounds perfect. That's exactly how I've always wanted my playing to sound."

Indie guitarist Luke Doucet echoes the sentiment. "I spent thousands of hours learning how to play `well.' I learned how to play slide in any key, how to play 16th-note quadruplets at lightening speed, how to hear a slippery country lick and immediately replicate it, how to play the pedal steel. I learned to cop solos, verbatim and up to speed, by Mark Knopfler, Brian Setzer, Mark Ribot, Chet Atkins and many others. All of these things so I could communicate transparently and passionately through the guitar.

"Neil can do none of the above and yet his musicality and the flow of expression, unobstructed and unaided, communicate so transparently and so passionately as to defy reason. He has managed to clear all of the impediments from his mind, like a master yogi. The man must meditate like Buddha."

TECHNOPHILE

Contrary to his homespun sound and image, Young has historically exhibited a keen interest in new gadgets, technology and cool inventions in general.

He's been an early adopter of everything from eight-track recorders to modern digital studio gear. He loves model trains enough to own part of the Lionel company. The robotic Vocoder voices on
Trans grew out of his experiments in electronic communication with his paralyzed son. He helped develop an entire interactive, multimedia software platform – dubbed the "Shakey Platform," after his filmmaking alias, Bernard Shakey – so the Archives series would work the way he wanted, allowing his fans online access to a vast, ever-expanding collection of photos, videos, audio interviews and printed documents offered to complement the music as one listens to the box sets. His environmentally themed Greendale tour in 2004 was powered entirely by biodiesel.

Lately, Young's inventing obsession has turned to creating the perfect, zero-emissions vehicle – one that's still sized large enough to satisfy the demand for, as he puts it, "a big, American car." To this end, he's started the LincVolt project, which thus far has seen him and a team of researchers convert his beloved 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible into a hybrid vehicle that will, they hope, eventually require no fuel or oil at all.

CRANK

To love Neil Young is to occasionally be baffled, even angered, by Neil Young.

It's hard to think of a musician of his stature who has as consistently refused to play to expectations. He followed up the smash success of
Harvest with three of his darkest records ever – Time Fades Away, On the Beach and Tonight's the Night – dubbed the "Ditch" trilogy because at the time Young said he'd rather "drive for the ditch" than stay in the "middle of the road" where Harvest had taken him. His random '80s experiments in rockabilly, country, synth-pop, blues and other styles resulted in albums so unsuccessful that he was sued by Geffen Records for not sounding like himself.

On the
Greendale tour, he and Crazy Horse played a bare minimum of hits while members of Young's family and crew acted out a bizarre environmental pantomime onstage. In 2006, disgusted that no younger musicians were publicly coming out against the Iraq war, he rushed out a Bush-bashing screed called Living With War highlighted by the tune "Let's Impeach the President." Then he joined CSNY on the road for the Freedom of Speech tour, playing virtually nothing but protest songs and sparking near-riots in some cities.

"It's an absolute refusal to bend," says Mersereau. "You cannot move this man. He will do whatever he wants. He'll be politically charged when he feels, he'll go against the flow when he feels. He's the ultimate rock 'n' roll symbol for defiance and attitude, and for artistic pursuits."

ROLE MODEL

Not surprisingly, Young's unwavering commitment to whatever whim he's feeling in the here and now, and his willingness to sometimes screw up in public, has made him a best-case scenario for artists looking to build musical careers of their own in his wake. Jennings even goes so far as to call him a "moral compass" for idealistic artists coming up behind him.

He's certainly the ideal model, agrees writer Jason Schneider, author of
Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music from Hank Snow to the Band.

"I think for Canadians especially, he's always embodied everything musicians here want: the best of both worlds," says Schneider. "He conquered America, more or less on his own terms, and was able to preserve his formative years there through his ranch, his toy trains, and every other wild idea he's ever had. I think that's basically what everyone wants, to be able to indulge any creative impulse we get and have people admire us for it."

Exactly, says VanGaalen: "He's gone about his musical career in the way he wanted to. For better or worse, he seems to have done it in his own way. He got away with what he got away with, with very little compromise. Whether playing with a band or working solo he always seems to have had a vision. There is no compulsion to attach him to any particular label. He's always just been Neil Young."

Lil Wayne's Crossover Attempt: Gross And Hideous To The Senses

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Rebirth
Lil Wayne
Cash Money/Universal

(February 01, 2010) Strange happenings at Wayne Manor.  The early reviews for
Lil Wayne's “rock album” are in, and they are unanimously (and justifiably) damning. The multi-platinum rapper's land grab into foreign territory has gone horribly wrong, and not since Germany's belligerent rush into Poland has a crossover attempt been so poorly received.

It's true the former Dwayne Michael Carter has made a loud, gross record: Rebirth is hideous to the senses. The rap-metal of Lil Wayne's seventh album is a turgid, riff-laden travesty – something like Limp Bizkit, but updated with the annoyance of Auto-Tune abuse. Imagine Apple developing a new, unusable PC platform, complete with Virus 3.0.

However, listening to the long-delayed album's first track, American Star, you have to wonder what the prolific hip hopper is up to. Opening with snarling, metallic guitar shreds – possibly played by Wayne himself, as the cover art depicts the lounging dreadlocked one with an electric six-string on his lap – our New Orleans-raised star paints an autobiographical picture of a Deep South success story, about a “nigga with glory” who rose from “piss poor” humbleness all the way up to his current high living.

Now, the “dope boy with a guitar” peddles bad, popular music back to the masses like it's the worst possible crack cocaine. Prom Queen is sappy high-school rock and Get a Life is snotty, bouncy pop punk. Is this just poor imitation, or is it a sardonic comment on what silly white people like?

With its glaring keyboards and vocal sampling from the Scarface gangster movie, On Fire revisits the worst styles of the 1980s. More than once, the croaky, poor-singing Wayne adopts a British accent.

Drop the World, the album's lone elite track, features hubris-crazed rap, an intense guest spot from Eminem and no Auto-Tune misuse. “I'm gonna pick the world up and drop it on your fuckin' head,” vows the swaggering Wayne, whose walls are closing in and whose rebirth involves leaving Earth while on top.

Lil Wayne is supposed to enter prison soon on a weapons charge. Before he goes away, the usually shrewd song-maker has dropped a dark, often ridiculous bleep-you of an album on our heads. And I'm not sure I know the reason why.

Christopher ‘Deep’ Henderson: ‘Blame It’ On the Collabo

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

(February 1, 2010) *Producer
Christopher “Deep” Henderson has something to smile about today. The songwriter’s collaboration with singer Jamie Foxx, “Blame It” took home the Grammy for Best R&B by a duo or group last night during the 52nd Grammy Awards.

The music man, who got his nickname “Deep” because his lyrics were so often described that way, talked to EUR’s Lee Bailey about the track and his willingness to create with a crew.

The track for “Blame It” was actually laid in 2007, just as Henderson made Atlanta his home. The song itself was a bit of patchwork from an unknown rapper, Henderson, and later rapper/producer T-Pain.

“There was a period for me where I wondered about the whole production thing,” Henderson said thinking back at the beginnings of the track. “I’d actually stopped doing tracks when I moved to Atlanta and just stuck to writing. I’d almost got a track on Jamie Foxx’s album back then, “Unpredictable,” just for writing, but the producers messed that up. That’s why I got back to producing.”

Henderson explained that as he made his way in Atlanta, he refrained from revealing that he was also a producer, as well as a songwriter, so that he didn’t appear as a threat to the production teams he was meeting with.

“I figured I was in a new area, so if I stick with the production flag now with limited power, limited resources, limited new hits, then the ‘clickish’ nature of that city wouldn’t allow me to gain a lot of resources and take advantage of that city. I’d be new competition,” he said.

So, he let songwriting take the lead and along the way he learned what these popular production teams were doing. He said that under that guise, most of ‘07 was creating a new sound.

“It was the first year that I didn’t have any placements,” he said referring to actually selling a song, but he continued that he was able to take that time off, and when he returned to the production scene, he came with one for rapper Nelly, a hit with Jamie Foxx, and another one with Trey Songz.

“All of those were done in that period – ‘07. The songs are out now, but none of these are ‘09-10 tracks. But the reason they can be so significant now is that when I did them, I wasn’t following the radio. I was taking what the radio was and adding my older school sensibilities of chord progressions,” Henderson said.

“If you think about ‘Blame It,’ it’s one of those records that, now as it’s imitated, sounds like it has the basic club beat, but the beauty of the track is that in the middle of the club beat and those hard drums comes this change that nobody saw,” he described. “And then the harmonies in the background are me. It was really a lot of older school arranging behind a ‘clubish’ record that went over well. Even though I did it in ‘07 it sounded new.”

In explaining his employment of his “older school” sensibilities, Henderson referred to the playlist he’s created from downloads.

“I made a collection of my favourite songs and have them grouped into these playlists. I could take a song like ‘Groove Line’ from Heatwave or ‘Living for the Love of You’ by the Isley Brothers and figure out what I it is I loved about those songs,” he said.

As it turns out, it was the chords changes of “Groove Line,” which the songwriter said made him “feel good,” the lead keyboard of “Living for the Love of You,” and the sliding keyboard of DeVante Swing/Jodeci are what inspired the hit song “Blame It.”

“Something from the ’70s, something from the ’80s, something from the ’90s and stuck it behind that snap cadence everybody seems to be digging, and that was the track,” he said.

A completed track in 2007, Henderson said that he really believed in it and really wanted the right song for it. He’d passed the beat to other songwriters and attempted to lay down his own lyrics with it, too, but to no avail.

“Then one day I was collaborating with this kid that’s a rapper. He played some of his stuff for me and he had this one song that was … well, was going to stay in his basement,” Henderson said modestly. “But his hook said, ‘Blame it on the Goose, gotcha feeling loose; blame it on the ‘Tron, gotcha in the zone, blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol. It was a different cadence, it was different melody, a different tempo and everything [from 'Blame It], but whenever someone plays something for me I tell them what to work on rather than what is bad. I said, ‘That’s a hit hook.’”

Just a couple of weeks later, Henderson was in another writing session, looking for words for the track, but he just didn’t like where it was going.       

“I said, ‘You guys should do something that it has a stutter with it like a-a-a-a-a-ah.’ And then I said, ‘Wait! I know this song.’”

Henderson contacted the young rapper with the hit hook, had him take a listen to the proposed collabo.

“He heard it; it met his approval,” Henderson said. “I said, ‘Hooks are worth 20% and you’re a co-writer on this song, but I said, ‘You don’t have to stop at 20, you can go ahead and write the rest of the song.’ He sat there frozen.”

As it turns out, Henderson sat with the young man attempting to squeeze out more lyrics for the magical hook. He even tried to motivate him by coming up with the first verses and even started laying down some harmonies, but the rapper couldn’t really take it much further, so Henderson, wisely left the second verse open and shopped the demo as is.

“Artists are very guarded. I (leave) the second verse open of a song for a Trey Songz or an R. Kelly to want to finish the song. So it was actually a marketing tactic,” Henderson said.

He also revealed that the auto-tune on (‘Blame It’) wasn’t necessarily a choice. Because neither he nor the rapper were particularly good singers, they used the vocal tool to stay in tune. The auto-tune sound was actually the reason R. Kelly passed on the track before it came to Foxx who wanted to sound just like the demo. Apparently another man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

T-Pain got on the remix session for the song and laid down his verse.

“When I heard T Pain’s voice, it almost made me want to go in and write another voice. I almost wanted to outdo him then,” Henderson said. But now the song was complete, packaged, and released.

The song topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for 14 consecutive weeks making it the second longest running number 1 song on that chart and  “Blame It” has sold over one million downloads, and helped send Foxx’s third studio album, “Intuition,” into platinum status.

From the song, Henderson said that he’s become a very strategic, but unselfish producer. After all, “Blame It” was a quite positive production of patchwork.

“I didn’t just do the record my way or the highway. It was such a big traveling collaboration of a record. I learned that I do what’s good for the song,” he said. “I’ve written songs that I haven’t done tracks to; I’ve done tracks to songs I haven’t written; and I’ve written and produced songs in their entirety. I don’t have anything to prove to myself as a songwriter. I just want a great song. If you give me that magic word, you’ll be in the parentheses with me. I’m not selfish about the parentheses.”

More on Chris “Deep” Henderson in Part 2. You can also get more info on Christopher Henderson via his MySpace page.

This story waqs written by Kenya M. Yarbrough

How Gordon Lightfoot Wrote 'If You Could Read My Mind'

Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn

(February 02, 2010) An empty house, a broken marriage and a summer afternoon served as the creative
spark for Gordon Lightfoot as he penned what would become one of his most iconic tunes.

The illustrious singer-songwriter says the words to "If You Could Read My Mind," released 40 years ago, came to him in a couple of hours in a vacant Toronto home that was up for sale at a time when he was experiencing marital problems.

"I was of course going through some emotional trauma leading up to a separation, so that of course manifested itself in that particular song on that particular afternoon," Lightfoot, 71, said by phone from his Toronto home.

"I'll never forget the afternoon."

Lightfoot is recalling that day as he prepares to play a sold-out show at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Thursday, part of a concert series that's named after the time-honoured track.

"If You Could Read My Mind," the series, is organized by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, of which Lightfoot is a long-time member.

"I'm shy about accepting awards and honours, but I really appreciate the fact that they're using my songs as a theme for their show," he said. "I'm really happy about that."

The legendary troubadour from Orillia, Ont., will play in the series' inaugural show, as will Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip (which has covered Lightfoot's tunes), at the Toronto Centre of the Arts. Catherine MacLellan, daughter of the late singer-songwriter Gene MacLellan, will also be featured.

Lightfoot and Downie will sit down with CBC Radio's Laurie Brown during the show to chat about their songwriting methods.

The idea for the series' title "came from almost the continuation of that lyric, `What a tale my thoughts could tell,'" said Dominic Denny, executive director of the hall of fame.

"What we wanted to do was to conjure up the image of what is going on in a songwriter's mind, what is it that they draw inspiration from, what are the metaphors that they use, what are their experiences that drive these songs?"

The story behind the making of "If You Could Read My Mind" – a song that's been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Don McLean – was a typical one for Lightfoot as he emerged from Toronto's Yorkville coffee-house folk scene in the 1960s.

That empty home in the Forest Hill neighbourhood where he wrote the tune was one of several that he'd scouted at the time so he could find lyrical inspiration, he said.

"I would go in there with a chair and a table. I have a Quebec table here that fits in the trunk of my car that I take with me – just the chair and the table and the pad and the manuscript."

Lightfoot has said that his 2004 album Harmony will likely be his last.

Lightfoot suffered a ruptured artery in his stomach in 2002 and now has an "inner abdominal binder" made up of muscle fibre from his leg.

He also wears a girdle-type device around his abdomen.

Nneka Is All Heart And No Fluff On Stateside Debut Album

Source: By Melanie Sims, The Associated Press

Nneka, "Concrete Jungle"
(Decon/Epic)


Nigerian-born rapper and singer
Nneka's U.S. debut, "Concrete Jungle" unfolds like a 12-track wake-up call - an unrelenting mishmash of horns, trumpets and, sometimes, steel drums.

"God is knocking at the door could you let him in?" the 28-year-old asks on accordion-driven "Showin' Love." She summons "Jezebels, Judases, bangers, bastards, prophets, men of God, prostitutes, popes, teachers, lawyers, all you scholars, rulers, chosen few ..." to take a hard look at what matters in life.

It's a challenge Nneka issues track after track. Even when her honeyed vocals are poured over the swinging horns of "Uncomfortable Truth," Nneka's message doesn't lose its bite. "Your system is a joke, no heart in it, it's choking us to death," she sings.

She orders listeners to reflect on their addictions and worldly temptations on the raucous, rock-inspired "Focus." And she seeks strength from a higher power on "God of Mercy."

With a sure tone and steady intensity on the reggae-influenced "Kangpe," Nneka gives a revolutionary tinge even to the old spiritual axiom "God won't give you more than you can handle."

She delivers her messages unabashedly, perhaps, most strikingly on the mellow-sounding "Africa." "Lied to us, blind us, they slaved us, misplaced us, strengthened us, hardened us, then they replaced us. Now we got to learn from pain. Now it's up to us to gain some recognition. If we stop blaming we could get a better condition," she sings.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Nneka's call for self-reflection is unrelenting, and "Mind vs. Heart" is no exception to that mission. "What is the mind without the heart? What am I without my shadow?" she asks over a haunting beat.

The Bloom Is Off This Rose

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Guns N' Roses
At the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Thursday

(January 29, 2010)  ‘Sorry about the delay,” said Axl Rose, a late riser.
Guns N' Roses, on the Toronto date of its Canadian tour, took the stage at 11:24 p.m. Salvos of flames, starburst fountains and ear-bombing firecrackers accompanied Chinese Democracy, a chugging, iron-riffed rocker with the line “all we've got is precious time.” Later in the 180-minute, got-better-as-it-went-along concert, Rose noted a local DJ had predicted that GNR would hit the stage sometime around 2 a.m. “So,” Rose rationalized, “I'm early.”

Welcome to Guns N' Roses, they've still got fun and games.

In 1988, Rose, singing affectingly about wanting to get it right, asked for “just a little patience.” His fans gave it, and the volatile enigma has been testing it ever since. The album Chinese Democracy, released late in 2008, was nearly a decade and a half in the making – whole empires rose and fell, and mystifying cornrows appeared and disappeared on Rose's head in the meantime.

At Air Canada Centre, the 47-year-old front man was fiddle-fit and seemingly fine of mind. I have no idea why he ran off stage during every 12-bar guitar solo, but he always did come back. Rose had the Kid Rock/Mickey Rourke thing working for him, especially with the handlebar moustache, shades and dark leather trilby.

Inconsistent would be the word to describe Rose's shrill scowling vocals. He was weak of throat on Welcome to the Jungle and Live and Let Die, and his band of B-actors – Rose is the sole remaining member of the original Los Angeles crew – seemed to play to the level of their leader.

There were no riots, nor were there spaghetti incidents. Rose, who feuds with iconic former guitarist Slash, was chatty: we learned that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page is a fan of Trailer Park Boys, and that Mike Smith, the actor who plays Bubbles, regularly sends Rose texts.

Rose's voice improved as the show moved along. On the wistful November Rain, the reclusive rock star sang “everybody needs some time all alone.” The band picked up steam on the cowbell KISS knockoff Nightrain, and a four-song encoreended with the satisfied crowd taken back to Paradise City.

The common complaint after the show was the surprising omission of one graceful, sweeping beauty. At two o'clock in the morning, Axl Rose, a man never in a hurry, had no time for Patience.

Guns N' Roses continues its tour in Ottawa tomorrow, Feb. 1 in Quebec City, Feb. 3 in Moncton and Feb. 4 in Halifax.

'Simple Storyteller' Mounts Verdi Jewel

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(January 30, 2010) "Blingtastic," is how one critic described the 15-month-old Welsh National Opera production of Otello that makes its Canadian Opera Company debut on Feb. 3.

Its massive, colour-saturated, period-inspired sets and costumes are meant to put the "grand" in Grand Opera.

But don't let the eye candy mislead you about director
Paul Curran, who is anything but grand.

"To actually take an opera like
Otello and do it in period clothes is actually a brave step because my attempt at this is to make it seem real, to make the characters seem real," Curran says.

"I'm just a very simple storyteller. What I don't ever want to do is add so many layers on top of the piece that you have to fight through six layers of my crap until you get to what Shakespeare wrote."

The director mentions a German production that made him crazy. "It was such a maze that I forgot the music and I forgot the text. That's not the experience I go for. I think opera is visceral. I think opera is the whole thing. It's about the experience."

In short, Curran has no use for anyone who tries to be clever.

"I don't need to prove my intellect to anybody," he says. "I don't give a s--- what they think."

Curran's plain-spoken style is pure, working-class Glasgow, where he grew up in social housing. He was 15 when he saw his first opera, Alban Berg's tragic
Wozzeck. He went back several more times.

"Nobody told me it was a difficult opera," Curran says.

"Nobody mentioned that you're not going to like this, or you're going to need to study this and this so that I would know what I should be looking for.

"If you like it, you like it; if you don't like it, you don't like it."

Curran's parents kicked him out the next year, when they found out he was gay.

In a moment straight out of
Billy Elliot, he landed on his feet as a dance student in London.

To help pay the bills, the aspiring dancer worked at English National Opera.

He was an usher during some of its most inspired days in the early 1980s, under the influence of George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood.

"I saw every performance for four years, every night, including rehearsals. It was the best apprenticeship I could ever have."

When the time came to consider his future after dance, Curran turned to studying theatre in Australia. His classmates included Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette.

"I was in a class with simply extraordinary people. We sort of knew we were a little bit different at the time but now, 15 years later, we realize that it was just outrageous."

After graduating, Baz "
Moulin Rouge" Luhrmann hired Curran as his assistant director.

"It has been a very lucky, `right thing at the right time' journey," says Curran, who is in steady demand in both Europe and North America.

His most recent collaborations with the Canadian Opera Company have been
Tosca, in 2008, and a powerful Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk the season before.

Last year, he became artistic director of Norwegian Opera in Oslo.

Curran has seasoned international vocal and musical talents to work with in
Otello.

The title role is being sung by British heroic tenor Clifton Forbis. Soprano Tiziana Caruso is Desdemona. American baritone Scott Hendricks is the malevolent Iago.

The conductor is Italian Verdi specialist Paolo Olmi – last here for the COC's fall, 2007 production of
Don Carlos.

This should make for a satisfying production of Giuseppe Verdi and librettist Arrigo Boito's powerful, 1887 adaptation of William Shakespeare's great tragedy of jealousy and vengeance.

It might even be "blingtastic."

Just the facts
WHAT: Otello, by Giuseppe Verdi

WHEN: Feb. 3 to 28

WHERE: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Queen St. W. & University Ave.

TICKETS: $31-$292 @ 416-363-8231 or www.coc.ca.

A Miracle For Martha And The Muffins

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(January 31, 2010)
When it’s suggested to Mark Gane that “checkered” may be the best word to describe the career of Martha and the Muffins, the band he and long-time collaborator, now-wife Martha Johnson formed more than 30 years ago, Gane shakes his head and laughs. “Well,” he says, “that’s the polite way of putting it.”

Certainly the Toronto ensemble has had its ups and downs, side trips and stalemates since a guitar-driven slice of sax-spiced, organ-flavoured Nuevo Wuevo by Gane called Echo Beach lifted it to prominence in 1980.

Yet for all the caroming and careening − through media indifference and their own ambivalence, bad management and no management, shady record deals and no deals, genre shifts and personnel changes (in its early years there were two Marthas, Johnson and Ladly, and as many as four or five Muffins, including Gane’s brother Tim on drums) − Gane and Johnson have persisted. In their consistently inconsistent way, they’ve created an estimable body of brainy pop-craft that for all its stylistic tips o’ the hat (to Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Chic, David Bowie and the Beatles) remains distinctively Muffins-esque.

Tomorrow, the duo releases its eighth album, a 12-track, self-produced effort called Delicate − the first full-length, all-originals Martha and the Muffins disc in 18 years.

That Delicate exists at all is something of a miracle. The group’s penultimate recording, Modern Lullaby, while artistically satisfying, was a commercial disaster that resulted in a crisis of confidence and a failure of nerve. Of course, the Martha and the Muffins saga has been about flirting with failure and playing improbable odds virtually from the get-go.

As Gane observed recently in the comfortable three-storey semi-detached home/recording studio/ rehearsal space he shares with Johnson and daughter Eve, 17, “nobody in 1978 or ’79 thought it was going to last. It was all supposed to be over in a couple of years
if that.”

Even the name, a riposte to the in-your-face monikers favoured by punk and New Wave acts of the era (remember Nazi Dog and the Viletones?), was deemed a place-holder until someone dreamed up something better.

Gane (pale, wispy, short) and Johnson (bigger, solid, responsible-looking) are fiftysomethings now. Back then they were twentysomething “musical primitivists with interesting ideas,” she a medical receptionist, he a painting student at the Ontario College of Art, both on the prowl on Queen Street West.

As for Echo Beach, “well, it was the third song I’d ever written in my life,” Gane noted with another laugh, “and the chorus only happens at the end. How weird is that?”

Weirdly wonderful, it seems, since its three-minute, 32-second evocation of the dreams and wishes of a bored office clerk/“romantic fool” wowed and wooed listeners everywhere. Or as everywhere as you can get without including the United States.

Gane and Johnson have written more and, frankly, better songs since. In 1984, Black Stations/White Stations took M + M (as they renamed themselves, briefly and to much confusion) to No. 2 on Billboard’s dance chart.

But 29 years after winning single-of-the-year honours at the Junos, it’s Echo Beach that continues to (yes) echo across the universe
in cover versions, samples and eighties hits compilations. Five years ago, CBC Radio ranked it the 35th greatest song in Canadian pop history, just behind Hank Snow’s I’m Movin’ On and ahead of Safety Dance by Men without Hats. Two years ago, it was the name of a soap opera on Britain’s ITV, complete with a re-recorded version of the song as title theme. There’s even an iris called Echo Beach. And an Irish racehorse.

As the song’s 30th anniversary looms, Gane and Johnson are planning a commemoration, its form as yet undetermined. A new interpretation? A limited-edition something-or-other? A quirky documentary? More immediately pressing, though, is the release of Delicate and two live Toronto dates
their first in five years in support of the CD, which has been in the works, on and off, since 2005. At least one of its songs, Even in the Rain, can trace its origin to the mid-1980s

“A lot of stuff made it a very difficult album to make in some respects,” Gane noted, including the death of his mother and the loss of a close family friend. “Also, there were some health issues that we can’t really talk about right now.” Yet through it all, “the music kept the project going.”

The omens seem good. They now have a manager (Graham Stairs of Popguru Sound and Vision) and a publicist (Vancouver’s Killbeat Music) whom they like, and they’re slowly but steadily releasing their back catalogue, to much acclaim. The booklet for the new CD includes the admonitions “Stop Remembering” and “Start Forgetting” which, for Johnson, represent a call to both the band and listeners to “turn another page. ... Judge us on what we’re doing now, not on what we did or didn’t do before.”

Gane admitted “there does seem to be momentum building.” But he’s careful not to set his hopes too high. “Either it’ll go or it won’t.” Besides, as Johnson remarked, “it’s always been about creativity and songwriting, not fame or adulation.” Whatever happens, Gane observed with a chuckle, “we’re gonna rock till we die."

Martha and the Muffins play Toronto’s Music Gallery, 197 John St., Feb. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Prosecutors To Charge Jackson Doctor: Report

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Linda Deutsch and Thomas Watkins, The Associated Press

(February 02, 2010) Los Angeles —A law enforcement official says prosecutors plan to charge Michael Jackson's doctor with manslaughter rather than take the case to a grand jury. The official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that prosecutors will file a criminal complaint against
Dr. Conrad Murray in court rather than go through a secret grand jury. The person is not authorized to speak publicly about the case and only spoke on condition of anonymity. The complaint would be the prelude to a public hearing in which a judge would weigh testimony from witnesses to decide if there is probable cause to try him on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Jackson died June 25 from an anesthetic overdose. Murray maintains nothing he gave Jackson should have killed him.

Shaggy Taps Sean Paul, Others for Song to Benefit Haiti

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(January 2, 2010) *Reggae rapper Shaggy and a group of Caribbean artists havet recorded a single to raise money for earthquake survivors in Haiti. Titled “Rise Again,” the tune features Sean Paul, Haitian musician Belo and soca singers Alison Hinds of Barbados and Destra Garcia from Trinidad and Tobago. (Listen below.) Shaggy said Tuesday the song, which he also penned, lets Haitians know that “we are here for them.” It is part of a relief fund established by mobile phone company Digicel. The 7.0-magnitude quake on Jan. 12 killed an estimated 200,000 people in the island nation.



Gay Groups Target Grammys Over Buju Banton Nomination

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 29, 2010) *Gay activist groups, upset over a Grammy nomination for jailed
Jamaican reggae artist Buju Banton, are protesting the ceremony for its recognition of an artist they said had “promoted the murder of gay people throughout his career.” Banton, 36, is up for a best reggae album award for his “Rasta Got Soul” CD. He’s currently sitting in a Florida jail awaiting trial on a cocaine charge and will not be attending the awards show on Sunday. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center took out a full page ad in Hollywood show business paper Daily Variety, urging Grammy organizers to use Sunday’s televised ceremony to denounce music “that promotes or celebrates violence against any group of people.” Friday’s ad, in the form of a letter signed by more than 20 gay, civil rights and anti-violence groups, said that honouring “an artist such as Buju Banton, honours his extraordinary hateful work.” The lyrics of Banton’s most controversial song “Boom, Bye Bye” in 1988, call for the murder of gay men by shooting or burning.  [Listen below.]  Banton was quoted late last year as saying he saw “no end to the war” between himself and gay men. The Recording Academy has said that the Grammy Awards honour musical achievement “regardless of politics” and that artists from many different political and cultural perspectives have been nominated over the years.

Erykah Badu Teases Video for ‘Amerykah II’

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 29, 2010) *
Erykah Badu is releasing a promo video for the March 30 release of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh,” her new album featuring production from 9th Wonder, James Poyser, J Dilla and Madlib, among others. “At 3:33 pm Tomorrow . Friday . The official leak … erykahbadu.com,” read a Twitter post from Badu sent Thursday. Although Badu is based in Atlanta, the tweet wasn’t clear on the time zone. According to Billboard, the teaser on her official Web site will feature clips of the video for the album’s bonus track, “Jump In The Air,” featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal. Last month, Badu announced that Universal Motown pushed the release date of “New Amerykah” to March 20 from Feb. 23.

Milli Vanilli Biopic In The Works

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 2, 2010) *A planned biopic on disgraced pop group
Milli Vanilli is moving forward with full blessings and assistance from surviving group member Fabrice “Fab” Morvan. However – the lip-syncher, who, along with late group member Rob Pilatus, fronted the Germany-based dance-pop outfit – is still bitter about the whole Grammy debacle. In 1990, the group won a best new artist award for their album “Girl You Know It’s True,” which went six-times platinum and spawned three No. 1 hits: “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “I’m Gonna Miss You” and “Blame It on the Rain.” But soon after winning the Grammy, Morvan and Pilatus were spotted lip-synching in concert. Producer Frank Farian later revealed that the album’s lead vocals, credited to the duo, were those of other singers. The resulting firestorm led the Recording Academy to revoke the award and Davis to delete the master recordings from Arista’s catalogue. Their Grammy for best new artist was promptly revoked — the only take-back in Recording Academy history. In an article in USA Today, Morvan called the whole scandal a misunderstanding. “We wanted to give the Grammy back,” he said. “We felt in our hearts that it would be a good gesture to do that. But they made it look as though (the academy) wanted it back. They could have come to my house and gotten it.” Read the full USA Today article here.

Ugandan Artist Shot after Opening for R. Kelly

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 3, 2010) *A Ugandan reggae artist who was shot in the legs by local police following an
R. Kelly concert has decided to take legal action, reports Uganda’s Daily Monitor. Bebe Cool, whose real name is Moses Ssali, was one of the opening acts at Kelly’s “I Believe” concert held last Friday (Jan. 29) at the Lugogo Cricket Oval in the country’s capital of Kampala. According to reports from eyewitnesses, police entered the parking lot of a 24-hour shopping mall where an unidentified couple was found having sex in a car. Witnesses say that a scuffle broke out between police and individuals in the parking lot, which left Bebe Cool with gunshot wounds in his thighs. Bebe remained in critical condition over the weekend and the singer said he plans to press charges against police officials. “Of course I’m taking legal action,” he told the newspaper. “I’ve already talked to my lawyers and they are processing necessary documents to see to it that the Uganda police are held responsible.” Below, Bebe Cool performs with 9Ice at the Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Concert in South Africa.

:FILM NEWS::

After Lengthy Career, Plummer Finally Gets Oscar Nod

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(February 3, 2010) After an exhaustive film career spanning more than 100 movies over 55 years, the
veteran Canadian actor Christopher Plummer  was in bed, just waking up in his Florida vacation home, when he learned he had been honoured with his first Academy Award nomination, for best supporting actor.

“I guess the Academy figures they'd better do it now, before he croaks,” Mr. Plummer joked in an interview Tuesday from Palm Springs. He was nominated for his role as Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.

The stalwart of film and stage, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Quebec, does not expect to take home the award next month. But the idea of leaving Hollywood's Kodak Theatre empty-handed doesn't faze him.

“I don't think I'm going to win, and it doesn't matter,” Mr. Plummer said. “To me, the honour is just being nominated.”

“I was in my bed, just getting up, when I found out the news,” said Mr. Plummer, who is getting over a nasty head cold. “I am very pleased indeed. Pleased for both Helen [Mirren, nominated for best leading actress] and myself. After all, every little bit helps the movie.”

He added that he usually “avoid awards ceremonies like the plague. Unless you're really nominated, I don't see the point in hanging around at them.”

But the Emmy- and Tony-winning actor will be there, among a number of Canadians who are in Oscar contention at the 82nd gala on March 7. Others include Kapuskasing, Ont.-born director James Cameron(whose Avatar has nine nominations), Jason Reitman (his Up in the Air has six), Vancouver couple Neil Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (in the running for best adapted screenplay for the science-fiction film District 9), Toronto set decorator Gordon Sim (part of a team up for best art direction for Nine), and Vancouver costume designer Monique Prudhomme (nominated for The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus).

Mr. Rietman, who co-wrote and directed Up in the Air, told QMI Agency Tuesday that he is thrilled with his film's six Oscar nominations, but is most happy because his father, producer Ivan Reitman, as co-producer of the movie, shares in the best picture nomination, the first Academy Award nod of his 42-year career.

"Look, what makes this super special is my dad, sharing this with him,” the 32-year-old Montreal native said.

Mr. Plummer, who is perhaps best known as Baron Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, said he was approached to play the part of Tolstoy two years ago. He jumped at it “because it's [a subject] that's hardly ever been done, certainly never done as a feature film. ... I love playing rich and extraordinary characters.

“And the fact that Helen was part of it made it more enticing. We had such fun. It's so easy when you work with really talented people because they make it look so easy,” said Mr. Plummer, whose other notable films include Murder by Decree, The Silent Partner, The Insider and A Beautiful Mind.

He is up against Matt Damon in Invictus, Woody Harrelson in The Messenger, Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones, and Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds.

Mr. Plummer, who will return to Stratford, Ont., this summer to play Prospero in The Tempest , added that he has no intention of resting on his laurels.

“In fact, I'm busier than I've been in years,” said the great-grandson of former Canadian prime minister Sir John Abbott.

In Vancouver, Ms. Tatchell drank to her best adapted screenplay nomination and the other nods for District 9 – best picture, visual effects and film editing – sipping a little Baileys Irish Cream with her coffee.

“I'm pretty much bouncing off the walls and the ceiling and everything else today,” she said from her home near English Bay.

Other Canadians nominated included Dan Kaufman and Peter Muyzers, Bob Habros share a nomination for best visual effects for District 9.

With a report from Marsha Lederman  

Canadian Actress Picks Up Prize For 'Breakout Performance' At Sundance Festival

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 31, 2010) Canada's newest movie star,
Tatiana Maslany, is amongst the cavalcade of prizewinners at the close of the 26th Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The Regina-born actress, 24, won a special jury prize for Breakout Performance in World Cinema as a sexually rebellious 14-year-old in Adriana Maggs' Grown Up Movie Star, which premiered at Robert Redford's 10-day fest. The awards were announced Saturday night.

It was the first major onscreen role for Maslany, hailed as a major talent by festival director John Cooper and industry journal Variety. She's best known to Canadians from her cowgirl character Kit Bailey on CBC-TV's Heartland.

Other highlights of the Sundance awards included:

• Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Documentary: Restrepo, an Afghanistan war drama directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington.

• Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Dramatic: Winter's Bone, a coming-of-age drama directed by Debra Granik.

• World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary: The Red Chapel, a comic tour of North Korea by Danish mischief makers.

• World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic: Animal Kingdom, a drama of the Melbourne underworld.

• Audience Award, U.S. Documentary: Waiting for Superman, an investigation of the U.S. educational crisis.

• Audience Award, U.S. Dramatic: happythankyoumoreplease, an ensemble New York relationship comedy.

• World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic: Contracorriente (Undertow), a ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside.

• World Cinema Audience Award, Documentary: Wasteland, about artistic garbage pickers in Rio.

The complete list can be seen at www.sundance.org/festival.

Canadians did very well at the rival Slamdance Film Festival, which ran concurrently with Sundance on the other side of Park City.

Snow and Ashes by Quebec's Charles-Olivier Michaud, a mystery about a war correspondence who awakens from a coma in Eastern Europe, took the prize for Best Narrative Film.


Canadian Screen Rebel Creates Buzz At Sundance

Source: www.thestar.com -
Linda Barnard

(January 29, 2010) Entertainment industry paper Variety dubbed her a "major talent" and Sundance director John Cooper has said she reminds him of another young Canadian who found stardom at the Park City fest – Ellen Page.

To this, Regina-born
Tatiana Maslany responds: "It's insane. I don't believe it, really."

The 24-year-old has her first major onscreen role in Newfoundland native Adriana Maggs' often-disturbing
Grown Up Movie Star. She plays 14-year-old Ruby, a wisecracking small-town girl from The Rock eager to explore the power of her sexuality in the midst of a family crisis. (The review is on page E3.)

The movie is screening in competition at the Sundance fest and thanks to her performance, Maslany is garnering plenty of praise for the role she calls "a gift."

She spoke to the Star on her cellphone as she trudged up Park City's Main St. with the rest of the cast after a day of meeting with American press, the falling snow adding to the "surreal" atmosphere for the young actress best known to Canadians as cowgirl barrel racer Kit Bailey on Heartland.

Nobody could be farther from that character than the rebellious Ruby. Nor could she be farther from who Maslany was at that age.

"I was super-nerdy and dressed like a boy and my brother and I would spend summers making films in our backyard," Maslany laughed. "I had friends who were like Ruby, but I was intimidated by them. Kissing boys was so scary."

Ruby isn't scared of anything related to boys in Grown Up Movie Star – or so she thinks. And Maslany is completely convincing as a girl 10 years her junior. Did she know she could pull it off?

"I've played younger than myself since I started acting, but this age difference was huge," she said.

But this was different. Ruby was younger in years, but far older in spirit and Maslany had to find a way to portray both aspects of this wild child – while looking the part.

"I auditioned her, and it was like, `Oh, she can act young.' And she just got younger and younger looking," writer/director Maggs told the Star last week.

"She's such a talented actress that she played the part in a way a younger girl may not have been able to do. She took that character over. I just backed off and let her do whatever she wanted to do."

Maslany insists otherwise, that Ruby was there waiting for her.

"Honestly the script is there, there's no denying the character. She's right there on the page," she said

She played on Ruby's "brashness and a boldness," to get inside the girl, Maslany added.

"She's incredibly intelligent and she lives in action, observing and manipulating. Myself, growing up, I rebelled in some ways but nothing like Ruby. She was so unbelievably daunting."

Unlike the impetuous Ruby, Maslany is laying some groundwork for her career.

"These are the kinds of films I love to watch. This is the kind of film I want to make – character stories that are so intimidate and small and personal," she explained.

Maslany said some audition opportunities have come out of Sundance – she doesn't want to say more. And she is about to head to L.A. on a previously planned trip to test the waters there and see what develops.

"This film has changed things for me and what I want to do with my career," she said.

Cameron And Ex-Wife Bigelow In Best Picture Oscar Duel

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 02, 2010) Avatar and The Hurt Locker lead nominations for the
82nd Academy Awards with nine nods apiece, setting up an epic battle of the multiplex vs. the arthouse at the March 7 Oscars.

James Cameron's sci-fi adventure Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow's bomb-squad drama The Hurt Locker both received Best Picture nominations amongst the kudos announced Tuesday morning from Los Angeles.

The other eight Best Picture nominees, among an expanded field of 10, are A Serious Man, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, Up and Up in the Air.

If Oscar history is any indication, The Hurt Locker has the advantage, with nods in the acting and screenplay categories that often point to glory. Avatar's record-breaking $2 billion global box office, however, indicates much broader appeal than does The Hurt Locker's impoverished $16 million take.

There are no real surprises in the Best Picture list — apart from the apparent snub for Clint Eastwood's respected but coolly received Invictus — but the expansion from five to 10 nominees for the first time since 1943 definitely invited more mainstream contenders than usual.

It's the first time since 1997, when Cameron's Titanic led the awards with 14 nominations that two Canadians have squared off for Best Director: Ontario-born Cameron and Quebec-born Jason Reitman. (The other Canadian in the running in 1997 was Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter.) But the more interesting contest in that category is marital: Cameron vs. ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, who is expected to become the first woman to win helming honours at the Oscars.

Adding to the strong Canadian contingent is writer/director Neil Blomkamp; the South African-born Vancouverite earned an adapted screenplay nod for District 9, which is also up for Best Picture.

And the Canadian nominations weren’t limited to acting, directing and writing. Toronto set decorator Gordon Sim is part of a team up for Best Art Direction for Nine.

In the acting races, Maggie Gyllenhaal was a surprise Best Supporting Actress nomination for Crazy Heart. As expected, Sandra Bullock was nominated for The Blind Side. And the entire leading cast of Up in the Air — George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were also nominated.

Jeff Bridges garnered his fifth Oscar nod — he has yet to win — this time for playing a broken-down country singer in Crazy Heart.

Otherwise, there were no real shockers amongst the other leading categories:

BEST DIRECTING:
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker).
James Cameron (Avatar).
Lee Daniels (Precious).
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air).
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds).

BEST ACTOR:
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).
George Clooney (Up in the Air).
Colin Firth (Single Man).
Morgan Freeman (Invictus).
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).

BEST ACTRESS:
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side).
Helen Mirren (The Last Station).
Carey Mulligan (An Education).
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Matt Damon (Invictus).
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station).
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones).
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Penélope Cruz (Nine).
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air).
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart).
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air).
Mo'Nique (Precious).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal).
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino).
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, Alessandro Camon).
A Serious Man (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen).
Up (Bob Peterson, Pete Docter).

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell).
An Education (Nick Hornby).
In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche).
Precious (Geoffrey Fletcher).
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner).

With files from Linda Barnard

The Hangover Could Join Oscar Party

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 01, 2010) Oscar will be making friends and on his way to making history when nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards are announced Tuesday morning.

For the first time since 1943, when Casablanca took the top prize, there will be 10 nods for Best Picture instead of the usual five.

The little golden guy will have a far greater reach, embracing film genres historically snubbed by the academy because they haven't been deemed sufficiently arty or weighty. Expect Oscar love for the animated Up, the feel-good The Blind Side and quite possibly the ribald The Hangover.

There should be a payoff in eyeballs for the March 7 Academy Awards telecast, which is likely to attract more viewers than in recent years.

But these Oscars will be about far more than numbers. For the first time, a woman is the odds-on favourite to win for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow, helmer of The Hurt Locker, is certain to get a nod, making her only the fourth woman in academy history to receive a Best Director nomination.

She's now also most likely to win, having taken the Directors Guild of America trophy over the weekend. Bigelow was the first woman in the guild's 62-year history to win its top honours, beating her ex-husband James Cameron (Avatar) in the process. Watch for a repeat at the Oscars, since the guild and Best Director winners rarely differ.

The guild victor also historically points to Oscar's Best Picture winner, which would make bomb-squad drama The Hurt Locker the logical box to tick on your office pool ballot. But the Directors Guild has been less of an influence lately on the nearly 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and sci-fi spectacle Avatar is just too big to overlook.

In the past week, Avatar surged past Cameron's Titanic (the 1997 Best Picture champ) to become the most successful movie in history, and it will be well past the $2 billion mark in global box-office receipts come Oscar night.

The academy loves a winner and loves making history, and thus will likely give Avatar Best Picture while bestowing Best Director on Bigelow.

Oscar is also a sucker for sentiment, which is why you'll see nominations – and likely eventual wins –for Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart and Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, both beneficiaries of a late surge in support.

Respected by their brethren and beloved by the public, there's a general feeling that the gold rush is long overdue for these journeymen actors. This is bad news for early favourites George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), but Clooney and Streep have won before, and they'll at least have the honour of nominations.

Based on the above, plus a few other variables, here are my fearless predictions for Oscar nominations scheduled to be announced Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., Toronto time. They are listed in order of likelihood of winning:

How 10 Best-Picture Nominees Change Everything

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Rick Groen


(February 02, 2010) C’mon, The Blind Side – a compendium of gooey clichés posing as a movie – is actually in the running for the top cinematic achievement of the entire annum? Of course, that was the populist intention when Oscar decided to stretch its short list to novella length – not just five but 10 best pictures to choose from. The charitably (okay, commercially) minded will proudly insist that such expansion widens the talent pool. The less sanguine will fret that the pool is in danger of being diluted, and the downright cantankerous, the slot occupied by many card-carrying critics, will liken the whole thing to watering down near-beer.

Turns out they’re all right.

To understand why, let’s ponder the list and do some quick culling. Judging from the trophies handed out at previous, non-
Oscar schmoozefests, it’s easy to zero in on the core quintet of nominees, the flicks that would have been included had the short list remained short. And they are: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Precious and Inglourious Basterds. Nor is it any coincidence that the directors of these entries – respectively, James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Jason Reitman, Lee Daniels and Quentin Tarantino – all earned themselves nods in the best helmsman (and helmswoman) category.

Now you can have a healthy debate about the relative worth of this fivesome – all have merits, all have flaws – and, such as it is, that’s the traditional fun to be had in every Oscar ritual. In this case, the obvious David-and-Goliath contest pits Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, an accomplished independent taking us on a white-knuckle tour of Iraq, against Cameron’s Avatar, a techno-rich blockbuster already amassing gazillions at the turnstiles. Even better, the fracas enjoys some extra-curricular frisson from our knowing that Ms. David and Mr. Goliath were once wedded in unholy matrimony.

Of the remaining five, the widening-the-pool crowd can look with justifiable enthusiasm at an exemplary trio. Up might otherwise have languished in the animated ghetto, and eminently deserves its promotion, further proof of our topsy-turvy era, where adult films are awfully childish while kids flicks are acting all grown-up. And both A Serious Man, a seriously black comedy from the Coen brothers, and An Education, a nuanced coming-of-age tale from a Nick Hornby script, deserve recognition in this or any year.

Much iffier is District 9. The dilution-theorists will point to it, a merely entertaining aliens pic with allegorical pretensions, as a primary exhibit in their decline-and-fall scenario. The box-office zealots will maintain that there’s a measure of intelligence in this yarn, sufficient that the film has earned the right to wear its “Oscar-nominated” label through the rest of its pecuniary life. That’s at least arguable.

What isn’t is the inclusion of The Blind Side, one of those supremely false true stories wherein a white Southern woman adopts a big homeless black kid and soon transforms his refrigerator bulk into a football prodigy. Here, the defence is only and purely commercial: This thing has made money and a popular movie is by definition a good movie. How can it not be, when lots of people want to see it, when it so obviously fuses the show and the business to satisfy criteria as important as anything simply aesthetic?

To be sure, if the “best” in Best Picture is to retain any artistic meaning, The Blind Side has no place in this parade. But, in truth, the dichotomy it underlines, between art and commerce, is itself too easy and somewhat false. For example, to return to David and Goliath, there’s a definite dose of art in Avatar (Cameron is a knowledgeable thief of resonant archetypes) and there’s a strong injection of commerce in The Hurt Locker (Bigelow repeatedly and shrewdly mines the old ticking-time-bomb plot for ready suspense). Even, especially, in great pictures, these lines are judiciously blurred, and, despite the complaints from the cantankerous, maybe Oscar’s expanded list allows us to better appreciate that long-standing tension.

Finally, a parting word about the cultural implications of these 10 selections, what they say about how we live now. On the surface, war is a recurring trope (Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, District 9), as are the Obamaesque themes of hope and inspiration (Precious, Up, The Blind Side). Interestingly, though, by far the darkest messages are embedded in the ostensible comedies. A Serious Man is near-nihilistic in its ending and Up in the Air is a rom-com whose failed hero is left to continue his successful executions – axing workers from their once-gainful employment.

Ironic, isn’t it? For escapism, go to the war zones – to Cameron’s bellicose future, to District 9’s apartheid Africa, to Tarantino’s bombastic take on the Nazis. But for relevance, for a real downer, travel the comic high road and find tragedy in the laughs.  

Edge Of Darkness: Mel Gibson Returns With Edgy Role

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

Edge of Darkness
Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone and Shawn Roberts. Directed by Martin Campbell. 126 minutes.
At major theatres. R

(January 29, 2010) It's been eight years since we've seen Mel Gibson in front of the camera in a major starring role instead of behind of it as director/producer.

In the interim, Gibson's public image has taken a seismic battering over drunken anti-Semitic slurs and the very public desertion of his long-time spouse for a much younger woman.

So, whether he likes it or not, Gibson comes into his latest film,
Edge of Darkness, with a lot of baggage and facing the real prospect of antipathy from once-adoring fans and jaded film critics.

The vehicle in which Gibson has chosen to return to acting has the kind of tired, formulaic premise – a rogue father bent on revenge – which only adds to the high-risk gambit for a major box office name whose star has been so badly tarnished by personal missteps and misdeeds.

But Edge of Darkness has a couple of things going for it that contribute towards Gibson's redemption, at least on the silver screen.

First, Gibson demonstrates once again that he really can act, as he demonstrates in his portrayal of Thomas Craven, a veteran cop and widower with little left to lose following his only daughter's brutal murder.

No longer quite so movie star handsome, Gibson's deeply lined features and thinning mane complement a performance that is finely tuned and textured – mournful, cunning, determined and explosive with rage.

The second factor is the script itself, a darkly taut and intricate political thriller by screenwriter William Monahan.

Revised from a six-part BBC miniseries of the same title of more than 20 years past, Monahan has thoroughly modernized the story, setting it in post-911 America, where the shadowy world of high-level intrigue and betrayal he creates evokes such an air of plausibility, it's sure to unleash a deep sense of unease and paranoia.

Martin Campbell, who directed the original BBC miniseries, draws solid and intense performances throughout from the supporting cast. The versatile British actor Ray Winstone is particularly fine as a veteran spook and fixer brought in to help orchestrate a massive cover-up, a worldly, literate man whose lifetime of moral ambiguity is put to a final test.

Despite its nearly two-hour running time, Edge of Darkness never feels padded or drawn out, thanks to Campbell's breakneck pace, a surfeit of nasty villains and a plot filled with plenty of unforeseen twists and turns.

With minimal sentimentality, it's a dark, harrowing and satisfying journey.

Interview: Shawn Roberts

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

(January 29, 2010) For some impressionable youngsters, early exposure to the Lethal Weapon movies instilled an unfortunate appreciation for the mullet hairstyle. But for Shawn Roberts, there were other reasons to admire Mel Gibson.

"He was one of my childhood idols growing up," says the 25-year-old Canadian actor, who plays opposite Gibson in Edge of Darkness. "I learned how to fight watching him – `Ah ... that's how you throw a punch!' It's hard to say exactly how much of an effect guys like Mel had on my development as an actor or a person, but of course you sit there, watching action movies with your dad, thinking, `That's crazy!' So to be part of it now is incredible."

In the new thriller, Gibson plays a homicide cop who learns his daughter's seemingly accidental death may be the result of a sinister conspiracy. Since Edge of Darkness features Gibson's first leading role in eight years, it's a big movie for the star. It's also a big one for Roberts, whose performance as the daughter's boyfriend follows more than a decade of film and TV parts on both sides of the border.

Roberts began acting while growing up in Stratford, Ont., where he was born in 1985. He got noticed in a school play by a friend's dad, a TV writer who wondered if the young thespian was interested in trying out for a new series.

"I was 12 years old," says Roberts, "so auditioning for a TV show was something I didn't even think really happened. The next thing you know, I ended up booking the gig and I did four seasons on Emily of New Moon. I got to learn on the job and kept going from there."

Stints on Canadian shows like Goosebumps, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Falcon Beach followed. But it was horror fans who first embraced Roberts due to his intense performance in 2007's Diary of the Dead, a movie that gave him the chance to work with another childhood hero, zombie king George A. Romero. (He also had a brief appearance in Romero's Land of the Dead.)

Playing a bullying jock in last year's teen-movie flop I Love You, Beth Cooper didn't prove to be Roberts' ticket to stardom but meaty roles in Edge of Darkness and the fourth instalment of the Resident Evil franchise could make this a breakthrough year. Understandably, he can't contain his gratitude for Edge of Darkness' director Martin Campbell, as well as its star.

"A week before we went to camera, I got to sit down with just Martin and Mel," says Roberts. "We had two or three hours to talk about all the material. Not only did I feel like this was going to be a great piece of work but I'd be able to work with great guys, too. I had nothing to worry about. It got rid of those butterflies for me so I could focus on the seven pages of intense dialogue I had to do ... face to face with Mel!"

He admits that working on a movie like Edge of Darkness demands a certain level of testosterone. "You can't show up and be half-assed," he jokes. "You have to be on."

Nevertheless, he was impressed by the confidence and professionalism of the alpha dogs on set. "I've worked with people at different stages of their careers and different success levels," he says, "and one thing I've noticed about the guys at the top is they're so relaxed and calm – it's about not having anything to prove except doing good work."

Perhaps Roberts will someday attain the same degree of calm assurance if his latest projects pan out. The next test comes when he takes over the role of Arthur Wesker, nemesis to Milla Jovovich's indefatigable heroine in Resident Evil: Afterlife – he shot the film last fall while back in Ontario. (Roberts splits most of his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles.)

"I basically get to play the ruler of the world," says Roberts, laughing. "It was great to come onto a franchise that's done so well for so long and to be a character that's so liked by all the fans – so liked but so hated! And to be working with those people and fighting hand-to-hand combat with Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter – that's another dream come true right there."

Ludacris: The ‘Gamer’ Interview with Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(January 30, 2010) *Christopher Brian Bridges was born on September 11, 1977 in Champaign, Illinois where he began rapping at the age of 9 and formed his first musical group a few years later.

While in his teens, his family moved to Atlanta where he attended Banneker High School before majoring in music management at Georgia State University.

He later worked at a local radio station as DJ Chris Lova Lova until adopting the alias
Ludacris to perform on Timbaland’s track “Phat Rabbit.”

He subsequently launched his own career in 2000 with the release of the album “Back for the First time,” following that up a year later with “Word of Mouf,” and the rest is history.     

The six-time Grammy-winner is not only a hip-hop icon, but also an entrepreneur, philanthropist, restaurateur, pitchman, columnist, and of course a gifted actor. He parlayed appearances on the NBC drama “Law and Order SVU” into major motion pictures roles in such hits as the Academy Award Best Picture-winning Crash and the critically-acclaimed Hustle & Flow.

As partners with Chef Chris Yeo in Straits Restaurant, Ludacris offers Thai/Singaporean cuisine in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Plus, he has a couple of online ventures: WeMix.com, a social networking site aimed at showcasing and developing artists, and Myghetto.com, which serves as a MySpace for the hood.

Keenly aware of the less fortunate, Luda established the Ludacris Foundation which is already in its seventh year of operation. Thus far, the non-profit organization has donated over a million dollars to organizations that assist underprivileged children. The Foundation’s aim is to help kids help themselves by using music and the arts to inspire them to develop goals and then work to achieve them.

Here, Ludacris discusses all of the above, as well as his new film Gamer, a sci-fi adventure co-starring Gerard Butler, Kyra Sedgwick, Terry Crews and Amber Valletta.

Ludacris: What up, Kam?

Kam Williams: Hey, Luda, thanks so much for the time.

L: No doubt, man.

KW: So, what interested you in Gamer?

L: Man, in picking movies, I always look at all the elements before making a choice, from reading the script to seeing who else is in it to who produced it to who’s directing. The opportunity to work with Gerard Butler was definitely a plus. I’ve been a fan of his especially because of the movie 300. And I also wanted to work with the guys who wrote and were directing it, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.    

KW: Yeah, they made Crank which was quite impressive, a non-stop, adrenaline-fuelled, roller coaster ride.

L: Exactly. I made my decision based on that. In addition, I loved the role they had for me, because I never want to be typecast. I love playing all sorts of different roles.

KW: How would you describe your character, Humanz Brother?

L: I play the leader of a resistance group that’s totally against putting computer chips in human beings’ brains because I think that’ll lead to the taking over of mankind, period. So, I’m all about trying to get rid of this technology, so we can live peacefully.  

KW: Do you think a scenario like this has a chance of becoming a reality someday?

L: Man, you never know. The possibilities are definitely limitless when it comes to technology like this. We all embrace technology, but sometimes you have to be careful.

KW: How’d you get along with the other members of the cast?  

L: I loved working with this cast, especially with Gerard Butler. That’s how I study and try to become a better actor. He’s extremely serious and focused.

KW: How do you divide your time between making music and making movies?

L: It’s hard, man, but you just gotta focus on one thing at a time. I give whichever I’m doing 100% of my attention.

KW: Is there any truth to the rumour that comedian Katt Williams is your cousin?

L: [Laughs] No, but that is my homey, though. Katt Williams is one thug. That’s like my brother.

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

L: Man, over the past ten years, I believe I’ve been asked every question you could possibly ask. So, off the top of my head I can’t think of anything that hasn’t been asked.

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

L: I’m sure we’re all fearful of something. I’m afraid of God. You have to be fearful of Him.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

L: [Chuckles] I am definitely happy, man. Of course, I wouldn’t say I’m always happy. I don’t think anyone is. But for the most part, I’m living out my dream. I’m doing what I have to do. My family’s taken care of. I’m financially straight. So, damn right, I’m extremely happy.

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

L: Hey man, my fans already help me by supporting the things I do, and just by understanding my changing and continued growth. So, the true fans are already helping me out there.  

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

L: I’m actually reading a book right now, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671027034?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0671027034]  

KW: The Dale Carnegie classic. Music maven Heather Covington asks: What music are you listening to right now?  

L: A lot of different music. I have a Battle of the Sexes album coming out soon, so I have to listen to all these unreleased tracks so that we make sure we pick from the best of them to give to the true fans who support us.

KW: What’s the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in life?

L: All the people who told me I couldn’t make it, and individuals who were trying to step in the way of my becoming who I am.

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

L: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Mr. Barack Obama.

KW: How did you feel a year ago when President Obama said he was listening to you on his iPod?

L: I really appreciated that.

KW: Have you spoken to him since he became President?

L: That’s confidential information.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

L: Tacos. That’s about the only thing I know how to cook.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

L: By realizing that I’m extremely blessed and extremely fortunate and that it can’t be that damn bad.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

L: I see a multifaceted Negro, an entrepre-Negro.

KW: One of your biggest fans, Hajar from Queens asks: Is it true you like big women? She says she hopes so.

L: I don’t discriminate: big, small, skinny, tall, short, it doesn’t matter.  

KW: Hajar also wants to know when your next album is coming out.

L: It should be out towards the end of the year. If not, it’s coming out on Valentine’s Day of 2010.

KW: Leon Marquis wants to know if it’s true that you’re going to star in The Richard Pryor Story.

L: I wouldn’t say that it’s untrue, but nothing is confirmed yet.

KW: Lester Chisholm asks, how can hip-hop artists assist young and old transcend obstacles on whatever path they are on?

L: By embracing the new, by not being stubborn, and by being open to new artists.

KW: Loony Larry Greenberg asks: What do you think of the Amish?

L: [LOL] Oh man, like I said, I don’t discriminate. I love ‘em. I respect everybody’s faith and culture.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

L: As a multifaceted individual and as an entrepre-Negro.

KW: Film director Hisani Dubose was really blown away by your acting skills. She wonders whether you’ve been studying your craft?

L: I always study my craft. I’m passionate about what I do, so you have to study.

KW: Tony Noel asks, what images and roles do you see for yourself in the future?

L: As far as movies are concerned, I would have to say a diversity. But only time will tell.

KW: Marcia Evans asks whether you’re still involved with AIDS awareness?

L: Yes, we’re still doing things through the Ludacris Foundation.

KW: She was also wondering how you’re enjoying your joint venture as co-owner of Straits Restaurant?

L: I’m loving it, man. Coincidentally, we have a private dinner there tonight as we speak. We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary, so I’m feeling good.

KW: Marcia asks whether you’ve mended fences with Oprah?   

L: Oprah called me when my dad passed, and offered her condolences, so I would say we are on good terms.

KW: Hey, brother, let me say I’m sorry about you losing your father.

L: Thank you, man.

KW: Marcia points out that you were doing charity work in South Africa. Are you planning to do anything musically over there?

L: Yeah, when I was there we did a couple of things with some African artists. And we’re still looking into trying to build a label over there and putting out some music. So, I’m definitely involved somewhat.  

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Luda, and best of luck with Gamer and your many other ventures.

L: I greatly appreciate it, my friend. Thank you very much.  

Ron Galella Goes From Hated Paparazzo To Pop-Culture Idol

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 30, 2010) PARK CITY, Utah - Paparazzo Ron Galella wants to make one thing perfectly clear: he's no bushwhacker, no matter what Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used to claim.

"She said I jumped out of bushes, which was wrong," Galella says, his hands waving wildly. "I jump into bushes to get the off-guard picture."

Actually, there are a lot of things the garrulous Galella wants to make perfectly clear. It's his moment, here at the Sundance Film Festival, where Leon Gast's documentary Smash His Camera is marking Galella's transformation from social pariah into, at age 79, a beloved pop-culture idol.

"The only people who resent me now are people who are jealous," says a smiling Galella, sitting alongside Gast for an interview in the sunny window of Gallery Mar, a Main St. art gallery.

Galella is the original American paparazzo, back from a time when you actually needed skill to invade people's privacy, before cellphones, Flip cameras and TMZ.com made everybody a celebrity stalker. He shot with film, maximum 36 frames per roll, often having to change flash bulbs on the fly.

Galella's fast-grab and non-sanctioned photos of everybody from Jackie O to Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley have grown in stature over his 50-year career. They're now valuable cultural artefacts, the evidence of which is all around Galella in Gallery Mar.

Dozens of framed prints of his work are on the walls behind him, priced at between $1,400 and $2,700. He's made a good enough living from being a paparazzo to afford a New Jersey mansion that someone in the film describes as "looking like Tony Soprano's house." Galella lives – make that presides – there with his wife of 30 years, Betty Burke Galella.

Life wasn't always so easy for Galella. His relentless pursuit of Jackie O and her children in the 1960s and 1970s prompted her to sue him twice, resulting in a judicial order that he keep a 75-yard distance from her. It almost put him out of business.

Marlon Brando, another of Galella's pursuits, took a more direct path: he sucker-punched Galella outside a restaurant in New York's Chinatown in June, 1973, resulting in five lost teeth and a broken jaw for the camera man. Galella sued, receiving a $40,000 out-of-court settlement from Brando.

He has also had to endure taunts that he's "a leper," "a creep" and "a monster," some of which are still being hurled at him. Gast has both the pro and the con in his documentary.

The Oscar-winner filmmaker admits he was amongst the people who disliked Galella when he first considered him as a documentary candidate.

"My view of him at first was totally negative, only because he had been portrayed in the newspapers that he was the villain," says Gast, who previously aimed his lens at Muhammad Ali for When We Were Kings, which won the 1996 Oscar for Best Feature Documentary.

Yet Galella has also been praised by the late Andy Warhol as an expert at showing "a famous person doing something unfamous." Magazine mavens Grayson Carter and Bonnie Fuller also gush over Galella, arguing that he gives the public what it really wants: "I think we truly are born with a gossip gene," Fuller says in the film.

Dick Cavett said Galella was better than run-of-the-mill paparazzi because he has a passion for his subject. He actually cares about the people he's photographing, even if many of them are intensely annoyed by his presence.

Galella heartily agrees with that assessment. "Oh yes, passion!" he exults. "I have a lot of drive and what drives me is curiosity. You want to see these subjects, and how beautiful they are and how could you make a beautiful picture of them. The challenge is there and you observe and shoot."

He demonstrates in the film his methods for catch the famous off-guard, techniques he has honed since he was an Air Force photographer during the Korean War, snapping celebrity visitors for a military newspaper. Chief among them is his shooting style: he uses a wide-angled lens so he doesn't have to look through the viewfinder. It allows him to maintain eye contact with his subject, and also to watch for flying fists.

He's still working, chasing the famous – Angelina Jolie and Taylor Swift are his new favourites – but it's harder for him to keep up these days. He walks with a noticeable limp.

Galella is not happy about how things have changed in the digital age, where everybody has some kind of a camera and wants in on his action. "It's terrible," he laments. "It's a sad scene now, all this gangbanging. It's not good conditions to get great pictures. You need space. Photojournalists have to move, be free to compose, get a good angle."

Still, he makes a darned good living. And many of his former enemies have become his friends, or at least no longer his enemies. Sundance founder Robert Redford told a long and affectionate anecdote last week about his efforts to evade Galella's probing lens in the 1970s. Now Galella's film is world premiering at Redford's festival.

Galella appreciates the love from Redford, but huffs about whom he'd rather chase now. "I'd rather shoot Angelina Jolie than Redford."

Galella was best known for chasing Jackie O, who died in 1994. But the film reveals that he took far more pictures of Elizabeth Taylor, simply because "she got out more."

But Jackie O was by far Galella's favourite prey, and the subject of his favourite photo, the one he calls "Windblown Jackie." It was taken in 1971 from the window of the taxi he was using to follow her as she went for a walk on an NYC street. "I don't think she knew it was me," Galella says of the photo. "That's why she smiled a little."

Jackie O never willingly smiled at Galella – she barely ever spoke to him – but the lack of affection was very one-sided. Galella admits in the film that he stalked her because he had no girlfriend at the time and "she was my girlfriend, in a way."

That's the kind of creepy talk that can get a guy in big trouble. But Galella keeps snapping away, having found his place within a society that has grown a lot more tolerant of people like him.

"I love myself!" Galella says, roaring with laughter. "Everybody should love themselves, not falsely, that's conceit. But we have to love ourselves as individuals, accept ourselves as God made us. We're all born a great talent. It's too bad most people die with it, they don't develop it."

Kevin Smith's Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com

(January 31, 2010) Bloor Cinema Aside from being an amazing venue to see offbeat fare, my sentimental-favourite movie theatre on the planet also acted as de facto therapist couch for me during a mini Me-film-fest last year.

Roy Thomson Hall My all-time favourite place in T-Dot, where I "lay the podium down" via an ongoing conversation I've been engaged in with the locals for years now. And just as Toronto's welcoming to every out-of-town fat kid who rolls down Queen, the kind folks of Southern Ontario have always seen fit to sell out these "shows." It's not an overstatement to say this place probably saved my life last February, when I bombed into town feeling completely irrelevant and over. I was born again on this stage and I'd like to die on this stage (attention psychos: of natural causes).

Malcolm Ingram's Apartment (Church and Wellesley) Malcolm is Toronto to me (even though he hails from Oakville). I met him when Clerks was invited to the 1994 film festival, and we've been besties ever since. If that sounds gay, no worries: Malcolm's as gay as the day as long. His apartment is located "on the corner of c--k & gay" according to him. Then, if you're a dude, he might try to kiss you. Gotta be a thin dude, apparently, as Malcolm's never tried to kiss me. *sigh*

The Hockey Hall of Fame I like to roam the halls of the Hall, weeping. It's a really moving experience. Took (actor/pal Jason) Mewes and Malcolm once, and couldn't get past the relief mural outside without crying. M&M were like, "Kev? You might be smoking too much weed ..."

Gretzky's Restaurant This is like a mini, all-99 version of the HHOF for me. My kinda eats in a Gretz-centric environment. Every time I'm there, I try to pry the front door handles loose to take home. Instead, I settle for Pierogies.

Silver Snail I own a comic book store, so I can't plug a competitor – even if the store is a country away. So I'll just say this: Silver Snail is the best comic book store in the world. There: now I've set them up for failure with impossible expectations. Who's f--kin' next?!?

Degrassi-Land (Epitome Pictures compound, near Eglinton and Victoria Park) This is a world within a world. In Degrassi-Land, I dispense aged, bearded wisdom to lesbian lasses and troubled teens, and I can play hockey with Caitlin Ryan ... tonsil hockey, that is! In Degrassi-Land, I can be a god; a god who never gets served divorce papers from his wife, because it's all just make-pretend.

Brantford Hometown of the Gretzkys. Also home of one of the top-10 moments of my life: my surprisingly limber performance in goal, after a 15-year absence, at the Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament. I will return here every June until I'm dead. Eliot's Bookshop (Yonge and Wellesley) Been there once, but it was during a trip when I was expressly in town to look for old hockey books. This place was like one-stop shopping with the library-like selection.

Eaton Centre I've been here lots, but the most memorable time would've been when Malcolm and I got really stoned, listened to "Chloe Dancer" a hundred times, ate at Morton's Steak House, then wandered around Eaton Centre, stoner-shopping. Never has one man made so many separate Peanut Glosette purchases over the course of an hour.

Richtree Market Restaurant (Yonge and Wellington – R.I.P.)

Very near HHOF. It was like a school cafeteria with fresh, good food. And you could have 12 different styles of meal in one sitting. Thirty-six if you digested there, then restarted. I've heard.

Southern Accents (in the Mirvish Village) Excellent eats, always a seat. One week, I ate there four nights straight. With two lunches.

Brass Rail As much as I love Canada, it stands to reason that affection would extend to Canadian ladies. Especially when they're naked. And they always liked me for me. I'm certain of it. I once dumped hundreds of bucks on lap-dances there. Oddly, it was for my wife.

Avatar Crosses $2-Billion Mark Worldwide

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

(February 1, 2010) New York -
Avatar is on the cusp of toppling the domestic box-office record after leading all movies for a seventh-straight week.

James Cameron's 3-D epic earned $30-million (U.S.) over the weekend, and its domestic total reached $594.5-million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That puts the film only about $6-million behind the domestic record set by Cameron's Titanic in 1998 with $600.8-million.

Earlier this week, the 20th Century Fox blockbuster passed Titanic for the worldwide box-office record. It has now crossed the $2-billion worldwide mark with $2.039-billion, easily beating the $1.8-billion made by Titanic .

“You have to do a double take when you see these numbers,” said Paul, Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, marvelling that Avatar decreased only 14 per cent from the previous weekend. “James Cameron is the king of the box office hold.”

So close to the domestic box-office record, Avatar could pass Titanic , interestingly enough, on Tuesday – when Oscar nominationsare announced. The film is expected to be nominated for best picture, as well as numerous other categories.

Those nominations could mean an Oscar bump for Avatar , further propelling its gross.

Whereas the sustained box-office performance of Titanic has typically been attributed to teenage girls seeing the film repeatedly, the demographics for Avatar are less clear. One draw for repeat business is surely the 3-D visual effects.

“It's everybody going repeatedly,” said Dergarabedian. “At first it was more of a fanboy experience, and then the word got out.”

Analysts believe the lengthy run from Avatar is likely hurting the business of other films.

Mel Gibson's revenge-thriller Edge of Darkness , debuted this weekend with $17.1-million for Warner Bros., a respectable if slightly low total. Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros., called it a “solid opening.”

“On a normal weekend, we probably would have had the number one film,” said Fellman, shrugging at the out-of-this-world competition from Avatar .

Edge of Darkness had been widely seen as a test to whether Gibson can return to headlining a film, after eight years and damage to his image. The last movie he starred in was Signs in 2002. Four years later, he made anti-Semitic remarks during a drunken-driving arrest.

But Darkness has received mostly good reviews. Fellman said the studio's data showed approximately 70 per cent of those seeing the film said they came to see Gibson.

“It certainly marks an interesting return for Mel Gibson,” said Fellman. “When this film plays out, I think his star will shine a little brighter.”

Also in its first weekend of release was When in Rome , the Walt Disney romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell. It took in $12.1-million.

Many films will hope for a box-office boost from the Academy Awards after nominations are announced Tuesday morning. The Oscar effect, though, may be slightly different this year, since the academy has expanded best picture nominees from five to ten.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. Avatar , $30-million.

2. Edge of Darkness , $17.1-million.

3. When in Rome , $12.1-million.

4. The Tooth Fairy , $10-million.

5. The Book of Eli , $8.8-million.

6. Legion , $6.8-million.

7. The Lovely Bones , $4.7-million.

8. Sherlock Holmes , $4.5-million.

9. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel , $4-million.

10. It's Complicated , $3.7-million. 

FILM TIDBITS

Saldana & Elba Star In ‘The Losers’: In Theatres On April 9

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(January 29, 2010) **An explosive tale of double cross and revenge, “The Losers” centers upon the members of an elite U.S. Special Forces unit sent into the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. The group makes plans to even the score when they are joined by the mysterious Aisha, a beautiful operative with her own agenda. Working together, they must remain deep undercover while tracking the heavily-guarded Max, a ruthless man bent on embroiling the world in a new high-tech global war. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany, Oscar Jaenada, and Jason Patric.

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network Hooks Up First Film: ‘Family Affair’

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 31, 2010) *OWN: The
Oprah Winfrey Network acquired the rights to “Family Affair,” an independent feature length documentary film written and produced by Chico David Colvard.   “Family Affair,” said to be an intensely personal documentary that examines Colvard’s compelling family history, garnered great attention at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it had its world premiere.)  According to a press release from OWN, the film is autobiographical in nature. When filmmaker Colvard was ten years old boy, he shot his sister in the leg. The act shattered his family. Some 30 years later, delving into the past, he returns to visit his relatives and try to put the pieces back together.  “Affair” is the first film to join OWN’s recently announced Documentary Film Club. The Doc Club was created to spotlight cinematic documentaries that can inspire and entertain, and encourage emerging creative voices to bring their stories to a mainstream television audience on OWN.  “OWN is about real life stories of self-discovery, inspiration and transformation,” said Chief Executive Officer Christina Norman. “Family Affair” is exactly that – a multi-layered, raw and provocative family story. I applaud Chico Colvard for his bravery in creating a deeply personal film that shares with us his pain, his anger and ultimately his transformation.”

Precious Star Noticed By Oscar But Not Vanity Fair

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Linda Barnard

(February 02, 2010) Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe graces the cover of the March issue of Ebony, but
she wasn’t included in Vanity Fair’s annual list of up-and-comers known as “The Hollywood issue.” The full-figured African-American actress wasn’t included as a talent to watch for, nor were any other non-white actors. Inclusion in the annual photo is a coveted slot for young Hollywood and seen as a step up. But critics are complaining the future looks all white, slender and decidedly preppy, judging from the VF photo, which included only women this year. “Nine fresh, pale faces of Hollywood,” is how Entertainment Weekly’s website EW.com described it. The cover features, from left to right, Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Anna Kendrick, Emma Stone, and Evan Rachel Wood. Only Cornish, Stewart and the Oscar-nominated Mulligan fit on the cover proper; the other six are inside the folded page.

Lee Daniels ‘Stoked’ Over Oscar Love

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 2, 2010) *This morning’s six Oscar nominations for “Precious” has the film’s director
Lee Daniels feeling pretty precious himself. “I am stoked,” the best director nominee told the Hollywood Reporter. “I haven’t moved. I’m in bed feeling like a stuffed pig, I’m just so overwhelmed with joy and so full with excitement.” The filmmaker is looking forward to extending the camaraderie he formed with the other directors he has been sharing panels with through awards season. “["Up in the Air" director] Jason Reitman texted me last night, ‘Are you going to sleep OK?’ ” Daniels said. “I’m like, ‘Yes, shut up, dude. I’m trying to sleep.’” Daniels becomes the second black filmmaker to earn a directing Oscar nom after John Singleton broke the racial barrier in 1992 with “Boyz N the Hood.” “It doesn’t even register,” Daniels said. “When it’s down to a black person, it’s always a first of something. Like, Jiminy Crickets! How many firsts are there?” “What it does is it makes me think that it’s not just for little black kids hoping to dream, but for all kids hoping to dream because what happens is they all see that anything is possible — everything is possible,” Daniels said. As reported earlier, “Precious” also received Academy Award nominations for best picture, best actress (Gaborey Sidibe), best supporting actress (Mo’Nique), adapted screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher) and editing (Joe Klotz).

Video: Black History Month Spotlight: Harlem Globetrotters

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 2, 2010) *What do you know about the team they call “The Team That Changed the World?”  Did you know that they not only were magicians of the basketball court, but they, arguably, were the reason why the NBA has any black players today. Growing up, all we knew of the
Harlem Globetrotters is that they were phenomenal entertainers on the basketball court.  We never thought any team would be crazy enough to actually try to play them because every time they did, they would make a fool out of them. But, one instrumental game that opened up the basketball association was the Minneapolis Lakers vs. the Harlem Globetrotters. (more…)

   

Chris Rock, Keenan, Harvey, Katt in Showtime’s ‘Why We Laugh’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 3, 2010) *“
Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy,” a film examining the history and cultural influence of American black comedy, premiere’s tomorrow (Feb. 4) on Showtime at 8 p.m. Directed by actor-producer-director Robert Townsend, the documentary, which screened last year at Sundance, features interviews with prominent scholars, politicians, cultural critics, and a host of notable comics, including Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Steve Harvey, and Katt Williams. [Watch clip below.] “Why We Laugh” tracks the evolution of black comedy from the character of Stepin Fetchit and minstrels in blackface to the politically tinged humour of Dick Gregory, and from the television success of “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons” to the big-screen accomplishments of stars such as Eddie Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg. The film, executive produced by Codeblack Entertainment, also turns a perceptive eye on the controversial career decision of Dave Chappelle and the implications of corporate efforts to capitalize on the massive success of Russell Simmons’s “Def Comedy Jam” and Spike Lee’s “The Original Kings of Comedy.” “’Why We Laugh’ is a major historical contribution to American culture,” said Codeblack executive vice-president Quincy Newell. “This film is a tribute to the way one courageous person with a microphone can change history.” • Codeblack Entertainment also produces the All Star Comedy Jam franchise. The DVD of “Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam – Live from South Beach” is available now, and a third instalment of the franchise will be filmed at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas with an airdate on Showtime later in the year.

::TV NEWS::

New Series Happy Town Has Canuck Flavour

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux

(January 28, 2010) PASADENA, Calif.–There is a lot of happy talk about Canadian actors from the producers of the new ABC mid-season series Happy Town.

That's because Happy Town was shot in Port Hope, Ont., and while big international TV names like Sam Neill and Steven Weber are among the headliners, there are plenty of Canadians in the cast.

The series, which will premiere in March or April, is billed as coming from the same network that brought you Twin Peaks. That early '90s series, from producer David Lynch, was one weird and spooky mystery tour, although a series of baffling clues quickly left viewers confused.

"That was sort of the gold standard for spooky, small-town shows," says executive producer Scott Rosenberg, who admits "there is a lot of Twin Peaks DNA in Happy Town."

Happy Town is supposed to be somewhere in northern Minnesota, but the producers needed a location with a deeper production and talent base.

"A lot of TV shows shoot in Vancouver," executive producer Josh Appelbaum told critics, but after "a bunch of concerns we ended up going to Toronto. It's really, in its own weird way, untapped."

Appelbaum says many films are shot in Toronto, but too often as a stand-in for big U.S. urban centres like New York.

"We were really able to explore the outer regions of Toronto, like Port Hope," he says. "These are just places that no one's seen on television before."

Even more important, says Rosenberg, was the opportunity to draw upon Toronto's deep pool of acting talent. Beyond the nine series regulars cast out of New York and Los Angeles (including New Zealander Neill), the producers had to fill 35 recurring roles with locals.

Appelbaum singled out Sarah Gadon as an example. The 22-year-old Toronto native plays the key role of high school love interest Georgia Bravin.

"We never thought we'd be able to cast her," says Appelbaum, who was looking for an actress who could walk a fine line between spooky and seductive.

The pilot for the series was shot last March, a chilly time to be on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, recalls Neill. Like the others, he stayed in Toronto during production and made the daily hour-and-a-half commute to Port Hope.

Neill gained a reputation as quite a cook, whipping up meals for cast members.

Lost: The Beginning Of The End

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(February 03, 2010) Abandon hope to all who enter – or at least continue reading – there will be plenty of
spoilers ahead, as we pontificate pointlessly about what we learned from last night’s season premiere of the final season of Lost. What follows is what my very random thoughts and reactions from this long awaited show, including what I think are the three most important things said on last night’s show.

As we begin, I’d like to start with a sum up by absolutely butchering Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in the jungle. I took both, and that has made all the indifference.”

The long awaited post-hydrogen bomb reveal happens, and Jack and co. are back on the plane. Oh no, not again. And not again was right, as the real news is that this season’s gimmick is the flash-sideways or flash-parallel, which looks to explore what happened if the plane landed in L.A. and our lovable castaways all went on with their “sad…pathetic existences” as one seemingly, exceedingly key character described it.

Which brings us to the first important utterance: “It worked,” which was said by Miles, but came straight from a dead and buried Juliet. Of course, how would she know? Oh, people, let’s not get bogged down by details or, you know, clarity. It is Lost, after all.

Before we get to some of the specifics of the episode, let’s talks ramifications. By showing the parallel lives of the characters, it really lowers the stakes moving forward. The rest of the year will likely show emotional payoffs for the main players, and gives the writers two different realities to let people have their moments. My wife likened it to Sliding Doors, a Gwyneth Paltrow movie I can happily say I have never seen, but what it reminds me of – and I’ve been saying this for years – is several episodes of Star Trek. And my long standing joke amongst friends is what Star Trek can do with an episode, Lost can drag out things for years. Which is kind of impressive, in a way.

I’m not willing to say that it’s a complete copout yet, but I do think it’s a little bit too convenient for the creators, and even more confirms to me that there’s no way they had this planned from the beginning. I subscribe to the “they threw stuff up on the wall and see what stuck theory and then needed to figure a plausible way out.” That’s what it felt like to me, but bless ‘em, if there was one thing we can count on, they stuck to their long established pattern of answering one question, but opening up a kettle of new ones that still leave us groping.

So what else? Let’s see, we got to see plenty of our old – and some long dead friends – Charlie, Boone, Rose and Bernard, the FBI dude after Kate all on the plane. Claire showed up in a cab in the closing moments. Jack got to play Doctor guy, Sayid got to kick down a door – even Arzt (!) from the memorable got blown up real good dynamite scene from years ago – got a moment with Hurley. It was all pretty much set up for their ongoing storylines, which other than Kate’s high stakes getaway does look like we’re moving into full-on real life mundane soap opera category. The larger implication though is that it’s not really about the story, it’s all about the characters.

Obviously, the key thing here was the interaction between Locke and Jack, when the second most important statement from the episode: “Nothing is irreversible.” This could be the point of the whole side story. Who knows if what lies down the road is a reset of the reset? Jack was speaking about giving a consult to Locke, in the chance of attempting trying to operate on him, but the other thing that this might explore, is that if the universe will work to bring these people together on the mainland. That their connections are something bigger, and perhaps they can undo some of the damages that they inflicted on each other while on the Island.

Of course, back on the Island was where there was plenty of other stuff. Kate waking up in tree. Jack and crew realizing they time shifted and that the Hatch still exists. Sawyer digging out Juliet. Hurley getting a visit from Jacob, and giving him instructions. Meanwhile, Ben realized he was played by the other Locke.

And of course, the biggest reveal of the episode, that the Man in Black Locke (shall we now refer to him as the Man in Blocke?) is really the black smoke monster, and that he wants to get off the island. He wore black, so obviously, he’s the real big bad around here, but more theorizing on that in a second.

As the Jack and crew take Sayid to the temple in the hopes of healing the man, Lost went back into the frustration zone. We get to meet a bunch of new characters, who we can assume are The Others – the flare that Richard Alpert understood implies that they are connected – but come on, at this stage of the game, do we really need a new pack of characters to add to the Island’s jumble?

I think the key here was the water that Oriental guy who doesn’t like the taste of English of his tongue (oh come on, do we really need it to be that obtuse?) sticks his cut hand into. I assume he was expected it to heal and when it didn’t, something was up. Either way, they still felt it was a good idea to go to submerge an almost dead Sayid into – just to make sure we could get rid of the almost, part. Despite all the badness that he wrought over the years, he was one of my favourites, so I was bummed when I thought he finally kicked the bucket.

Which brings us to the third most important statement: “What happened?” said a newly resurrected Mr. Jarrah, who as Soundgarden might put it, really was put into his best “Jesus Christ Pose”.

And the answer is: I have no idea. But my probably wrong theory is that Sayid is the resurrection of Jacob. And to get even wackier, if the Man in Blocke is the airborne smoke monster, perhaps Jacob’s other incarnation is as a water-based spirit whose job it is to keep ol’ Smokey on the Island.

Obviously, there’s a whole lot more that happened – Desmond on the plane! Charlie saying “I should have died,” - with plenty of new questions, like, what do the Others want to discuss with Jack? Is the Man in Blocke going to kill everybody? Why didn’t he just start with Sun and Frank and other folks standing around? Here’s hoping we get some answers.

Oh, and lastly, just how many commercials did the networks cram into those two hours? I was out, so I got to watch it on my PVR, but it was obvious that they were trying to cram in as many as possible. But then, it really was must-see TV, and while I’m still not sure about plenty of things that happened and how I’ll feel in the long run, I have to say it was really nice to have the Losties back.

Young Artists Thriving With Online Talk Shows

Source:  www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte

(January 31, 2010) In the late hours of Wednesday evening at Show & Tell gallery on Dundas Street West, the five members of
Team Macho – Chris Buchan, Jacob Whibley, Lauchie Reid, Nick Aoki and Stephen Appleby-Barr, for those without a program – were cuddled up tight on a weathered black leather couch.

Klieg lights blazed, cameras rolled, a cracked porcelain leopard sat on the floor in front of them, and a standing-room-only crowd stared on as the five-man team that has become nothing less than a superhero to the local independent culture scene did its best to defy its terribly manly name.

For those who know them, Team Macho, a Toronto art collective/works-on-paper-comedy-act, was doing what it was brought here to do – good TV: A slathering of the ridiculous, a smidgen of the serious, and some honest insight into their collaborative practice ("What we really try to do," Reid says, "is take the preciousness out of art-making").

At Show & Tell, though, the occasion was reason for pause. Team Macho was among the guests of Late Night in the Bedroom, a local online talk show devoted to independent art and culture.

It is, as these things always are, the product of collective goodwill, borrowed equipment and a spirited do-it-yourself sense that permits independent cultural scenes simply to exist, if not flourish.

And it would be notable all on its own, if not for the fact that it's one of at least two local online shows about art; the other, Artstars*, is a gonzo skewering of sanctified art pretense by its ever-game host Nadja Sayej

They are, if anything, polar opposites – Late Night is achingly earnest whereas Artstars* is brazenly satirical – but both help to embody a burgeoning new reality: In art world's closed circuit, where youth and enthusiasm are very often disadvantages to career advancement, a growing community of do-it-yourself artists is not only finding a voice and a community online, but broadcasting it to the world.

Joshua Brandt, 24, squirms a little when identified as Late Night's producer. "Really, there are so many people that make it work," he says. When he came home to Toronto after studying fine arts in Montreal, he was struck by the dearth of places young artists could access. "We existed in a community where the only place we could show was in small cafés," Brandt says.

Five years ago, he helped launch Whippersnapper Gallery on College St. The mandate was non-commercial, and next-generation focused: The space was only available to artists under 30. It satisfied a pent-up hunger almost immediately. "It's pretty exciting when you think there's a need for something, you create it, and 700 people show up," Brandt says.

Five years later, Whippersnapper has shown more than 1,000 young artists. With Late Night, they're pushing to the next step. "It's one thing to have an exhibit; it's another to have one that has an impact on your career," Brandt says. "The idea now is to focus on those things that we think deserve attention, and create our own media around it."

Of course, young artists have always banded together, fuelled on the vapours of mutual back-scratching and collective goodwill. Their reasons range from the benefits of creative cross-fertilization to the practicalities of shared rent. A small handful have embedded in the culture – gleeful subversives like the Dadaists, Surrealists and Fluxus, or Canada's own Automatistes, have left an indelible stamp – but for every one of those, hundreds, if not thousands, fade away into the shadows, as though they never were.

In the past, independent publishing has given artists a small voice. In the '70s, Toronto's own General Idea produced FILE magazine, which became a forum for artists continentwide. But for a generation raised on online communities, social networking and ready-made self-promotion tools such as YouTube, there's an active push to shift power from art's gatekeepers – dealers and institutions – to its makers. And unlike the past, the audience is virtual, and limitless.

"There's always been DIY," says Reid, 28. "People have always said `I guess I'll be a painter, I guess I'll be a sculptor,' but now, you can say `I guess I'll do a talk show,' because with the technology being what it is, you actually can."

The result, Reid says, is a rapid democratizing of the art world where silos have always reigned. Tom Wolfe, in his contentious book on art, The Painted Word, described a global art community that numbered in the mere thousands; the rest of us watched their exclusive happenings from a distance.

No longer, says Reid. "Because of technology, people's attention to art has changed so dramatically. "It's not just something you see in a museum or a gallery, where you have to put up with the snooty gallery assistant and feel intimidated. You can see whatever you want, whenever you want."

It also builds community in the most unlikely places "When we first put up our site, we were getting hits from Vanuatu – places I didn't even know had the Internet," Reid says.

For Lana Mauro, this is exactly the point. Mauro, 29, moved to Toronto from New York three years ago. She opened 107 Shaw, a tiny gallery at that address – her home – with a similar focus on young artists who would never get a chance at more established places. "I just thought, `what will help this community thrive?'" she said. Along with holding shows in the space Mauro and her partner, Danny Fazio, started building a virtual presence. Now, they work with like-minded artists in Berlin, Los Angeles and San Francisco, to name a few.

"Our community is so far-reaching, there's really no such thing as borders anymore," she says. "It sounds cliché, but a young scene is so much more exposed to art and culture around the world, that that's where they find their community. And they're realizing: `Hey, we don't need to go to New York. We can do that, too – right here.'"

Back at Show & Tell, host Carey Wass tries to wedge in a question while Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol, the frantic Toronto duo that star in the culty online hit show Nirvana: The Band, The Show, bicker frantically for the camera's benefit like an old married couple on amphetamines.

The show, which is loosely about the pair's vain attempts to have their original musical about Nirvana (the band) staged at the Rivoli (the show), is a charming train wreck of fecklessness that Matt and Jay do their best to duplicate ("Jay plays himself, I play a role," says Johnson. "Basically, I assault him until he becomes his actual self").

All around, the packed crowd is riveted – laughter filling the room, almost on cue. The show ends with a performance by local electro-pop band Everything All the Time, and the room shifts quickly from talk show to dance party.

The show was a hit, the scene nothing short of culture-making, a community not only gathered, but broadcast to the world Out There. Borrowed cameras safely packed away, an effusive Brandt considered the possibilities. "Part of what we do is a process of collective energizing," he says. "We're always trying to connect with other communities, and expanding. There are so many people working really hard to support the arts on our level. Who knows where it can go?"

TV TIDBITS

'Boston Legal' Star Justin Mentell Killed In A Car Accident

Source: National Post

(February 03, 2010) 27-year-old
Justin Mentell, best known to the public for his role in television show Boston Legal, has been killed in a car accident in Hollandale, Wisconsin.  According to the BBC, police stated that the actor "had not been wearing a seatbelt and was killed when his car hit two trees on an embankment".  Prior to acting, Mentell was an accomplished speed skater, and a member of the US National Junior team. Aside from his role in Boston Legal, Mentell also appeared in Disney's 2009 animated film G-Force.

Wayne Newton Appeals For Official Recognition Of His Indian Tribe

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(February 03, 2010) RICHMOND, VA. – "Mr. Las Vegas"
Wayne Newton is asking legislators in his home state of Virginia to grant state recognition to his Indian tribe. The entertainer appealed Tuesday to the House Rules Committee to officially recognize the Patawomeck, or Potomac, tribe, of which he is a member. Committee members voted unanimously in favour of the recognition, which has been given to eight Virginia tribes. The recognition allows the group to be known as a tribe but does not grant sovereignty. Newton and Patawomeck Chief Robert Green said it would validate their identity and help them protect sacred burial grounds. Outside the meeting, women lined up to get autographs and kisses from Newton, who began performing as a child in Virginia before becoming a fixture in Las Vegas.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Sex, Politics And Thesps On Wild Stage Romp

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

Cloud Nine
Written by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Alisa Palmer
Starring Ben Carlson, Yanna McIntosh, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Megan Follows At the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto

(January 28, 2010) Need a reminder that Canada harbours many of the best stage actors on the planet? Go see Mirvish Productions revival of Caryl Churchill's
Cloud Nine.

It's a parade of pleasurable performances, with some of the greatest thesps from Ontario theatre's sensational Triple S – Stratford, Shaw and Soulpepper – playing, and playing around, in roles you'd never expect.

In the first act alone, we get to see Ben Carlson, Stratford's recent triumphant Hamlet, don an afro and trade races to play an African Uncle Tom; Evan Buliung put on a dress to play a gentle Victorian housewife who dreams of adventure; and Ann-Marie MacDonald conjure up a cross between Mickey Mouse and Popeye to play an effeminate nine-year-old boy.

Then, in the second half, there's the Shaw Festival's David Jansen as one of the biggest, most rambunctious five-year-old girls you've ever seen.

They're all marvels, as are Megan Follows alternating between a lesbian nanny and a wicked widow; Yanna McIntosh at her imperious best as a Victorian matriarch, and Blair Williams as a pair of comically confused men stuck in the wrong era.

But while Cloud Nine bursts with highly entertaining high-calibre performances, director Alisa Palmer's production doesn't entirely rain success.

Created with Britain's Joint Stock collective in 1979, Churchill's unorthodox comedy examines sexual mores in two different eras. The first act, played as farce, takes place around 1880 in British Africa, where colonial administrator Clive (Jansen) struggles to impose moral order both outside and inside his home. The natives are restless: His wife Betty – that's Buliung, unstintingly sweet, but undeniably big-boned – wants manly adventure, while his son Edward (MacDonald) secretly plays with dolls and his daughter Victoria actually is one.

Clive's explorer friend Harry (Williams) is gay and in the closet, while Edward's governess Ellen (Follows) is a lesbian who doesn't know what that is; Harry's transgressive sexuality is a scandal that must be covered up, while Ellen's hides in plain sight since no one has the words to describe it.

In the second act, history jumps forward 100 years, but the characters only age 25. Betty – now played by MacDonald – has left Clive and is discovering self-reliance and self-pleasure. Edward – now played by Buliung – is a gardener living with his rough-and-tumble lover Gerry (Carlson, sublime), while Victoria (McIntosh) has grown into a woman who reads feminist texts, but is nonetheless stuck in a constraining marriage with sensitive new-age guy Martin (Williams, a stand-out among stand-outs).

Added into the mix are a self-described man-hating lesbian named Lin (Follows) and her five-year-old daughter, Cathy, played with an exquisite lack of grace by Jansen. This cast of characters now struggles to define themselves in an age where the sexual empire has fallen and new rules have yet to arise.

Palmer's production could use a little more order imposed upon it. It suffers from a looseness and inconsistency in style in the first act, where the acting is all over the map from the subtle sadness of Buliung's Betty and Carlson's Joshua to the virtuoso clowning of Williams and MacDonald.

Then there's Jansen, who plays Clive as too much of a caricature and never fully inhabits him. This is unfortunate because he needs to be the anchor in this satirical Victorian world, the baseline others react against; in his absence, Betty's mother Maud, played with imposing reserve by McIntosh, steps up to staunchly defend her society. (“Young women are never happy,” she says dismissively of her daughter's complaints. “Then when they're older they look back and see that comparatively speaking they were ecstatic.”) While the first-half eventually becomes tiresome, the second act, which like the world it portrays is more loosely structured, is quite wonderful with only MacDonald's exuberantly unfettered Betty not entirely meshing. Palmer stages the musical moments particularly well, and Churchill's songs have excellent new settings from Paul Sportelli.

Thirty-odd years down the line, however, Churchill's sexual and gender politics feel almost as distant as the Victorian ones she satirizes in the first act. The connections she draws between sexual repression and political oppression, patriarchy and imperialism, seem particularly simplistic today, when the British military allows homosexual recruits to march in uniform in Gay Pride parades and cites the defence of women's rights as part of the justification for missions to Afghanistan and Iraq.

And what to think about the blurred line between male homosexuality and pedophilia in the first act, and sexual liberation and incest in the second?

To her credit, Palmer doesn't steer her production away from the problems of the play, which remains theatrically thought-provoking. Cloud Nine now seems to be about the impossibility of ever imposing a coherent order on the crazy bodily functions and mixed-up emotions within us. Can we ever fully understand sexuality?

Know sex? Please, we're human.

Cloud Nine runs until Feb. 21.

26 Years Later, Melissa Gilbert Back On The Prairie In New Musical

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

(January 28, 2010) Melissa Gilbert is back on the prairie, only this time she's singing.

Gilbert, best remembered as Laura, the middle daughter of Charles and Caroline Ingalls on the television series,
Little House on the Prairie, which premiered in 1974, is starring in the musical adaptation of the beloved books created by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Three years ago, Gilbert was approached through her manager about starring in the musical version to play the role of Ma by the musical's creators. She nearly turned it down.

"I immediately screamed, `You're out of your mind, I'm not doing it, I can't sing, I've never sung before ... this is a disaster waiting to happen.' That seriously was my initial reaction," Gilbert says.

"My manager, Mark, who has represented me for 20 years at this point and knows me as well as he knows anybody in the world, said, `Okay, breathe, we're going to send you the music and I want you to read the script and then see how you feel about it.' And he was right. I was so moved by the music and so stunned by the book and how beautifully written it was and how the creative team was able to compress ...the (original) books into two hours to create this extraordinary musical," she recalls.

The thought of singing onstage "scared the crap out of me," Gilbert says. "I had never sung before now. Even the youngest child in the cast has been singing longer than I have."

But Gilbert said she saw an opportunity at a time in her career when, like many female actors her age, "opportunities are drying up left and right."

"So for me to have a chance to do something new and create a new facet to my career at 45 is a blessing I just couldn't ignore," Gilbert says.

Gilbert acknowledges that the musical's creative team chose her as the "most-recognizable" cast members of the original series.

"I bring not only the legacy of the television show but because of that, I bring the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, having been the first person to play her," Gilbert says.

The two-hour musical will be familiar to fans of the series and the original series of books, including Little House on the Prairie, published in 1935 and based on the Ingalls family's adventures on the frontier in the 1870s and 1880s.

"All the significant moments that happened in the television series and in the books – Mary's blindness, Laura and Almanzo falling in love, Nellie's blond curls – are in the musical," Gilbert says.

Touring is a dramatic change for Gilbert, whose only previous experience with travelling on the road was with her father, stand-up comic Michael Gilbert, as a child.

Her career after the decade-long series included a stint as president of the U.S. Screen Actors Guild and starring in close to 50 television movies, most of them shot in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

Gilbert began rehearsals last July and has been touring across the U.S. since October with her youngest son, Michael, and the family dog in tow. Michael plays three roles in the show, including little brat Willie Oleson.

The week is divided among travel, media interviews and multiple performances. Thursdays are typically spent working on a local Habitat for Humanity project – she's building in Scarborough at a 16-home site on Hainford Ave. Feb. 4 – followed by a show.

"In the meantime, I walk the dog, I feed the kid, I make sure he gets his homework done, I wash his underwear and my underwear – you know, standard mom stuff," she says.

Just the facts
WHAT: Little House on the Prairie

WHERE: Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St.

WHEN: Now until Feb. 28

TICKETS: $50-$99 at mirvish.com

Music Man Mitchell Marcus Plays Savvy Tune

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 30, 2010) "Business before pleasure" isn't just a catchphrase for Mitchell Marcus. It's wound up becoming a way of life.

As the founder and artistic director of
Acting Up Stage Theatre Company, which is currently presenting the Canadian premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza, Marcus discovered that the best way to indulge in the greatest pleasure of his life, musical theatre, was by working up a strong business case to support it.

This is the sixth successful year for his company, which has produced such winning shows as Elegies and A New Brain, but this year's entry is the biggest and – Marcus hopes – the best yet.

The personable 27-year-old was a professional actor while still in his teens, which meant, as he puts it, "I grew up to be your typical arrogant 18-year-old who said, `I've got a career already, why should I go to theatre school?' while my wonderful Jewish parents were asking, `What are you going to do with your life, anyway?'"

Marcus began by taking the Fine Arts/Cultural Studies program at York University, and one course in Arts Administration "set my brain spinning ... You had to create a fictitious arts organization you felt would benefit Toronto."

It didn't take a young man who felt "that I had already done Anne of Green Gables too many times" to realize that what he thought this city needed "was a place where people could see the smaller, more alternative, cutting-edge musicals that the other theatres weren't producing."

He became so obsessed with this idea that, when he switched the next year to the University of Toronto's Schulich School of Business, "I had my case study to work on all ready!"

For the next few years, Marcus brought business acumen to his artistic dreams and graduated not just with a career, but with a ready-made theatre company, christened Acting Up Stage Theatre.

From the beginning, Marcus showed skill in connecting with the community, cultivating donors and working on alternative means of contacting audiences. And although, on the surface, it looks like a success story, Marcus is the first to admit that "it's been a tough slog."

But he kept expanding, always presenting worthy, non-commercial shows with ever-increasing casts. The only thing he really couldn't afford was a decent level of physical production and the thrift-shop clothing, muslin scenery and makeshift props were starting to hold him back from running a first-rate theatre. "But we recently were very fortuitously awarded a three-year strategic grant from the Metcalf Foundation, which we're using to raise our production standards."

The presence of ace veteran designer Phillip Silver on this year's show is a sure sign of how Marcus is moving ahead. "It's an uphill battle and I'm still trying to wrap my head around where we go next, " he says, but he's smiling as he says it.

The Light in the Piazza runs tonight through Feb. 21 at Berkeley St. Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. For tickets, call 416-368-3110 or go to www.lightinthepiazza.ca

The Light In The Piazza: Fall In Love With Love Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Mark Selby

The Light in the Piazza
(out of 4)
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Book by Craig Lucas. Directed by Robert McQueen. Until Feb. 21 at Berkeley St. Theatre Downstairs. 26 Berkeley St. 416-368-3110 or lightinthepiazza.ca.

(February 02, 2010) There's a bright light shining down on Berkeley St.

For the open-minded and adventurous theatregoer, or for anyone who wants to get caught up in a show
that celebrates the universality of romance – in particular, the sensation and sentiment of first love – The Light in the Piazza, Acting Up Stage's most recent presentation of contemporary musical theatre, is worth a visit, especially with Valentine's Day just around the corner.

First, the music. Adam Guettel (grandson of Richard Rodgers, and composer of Myths and Hymns and Floyd Collins) has composed a sweeping two-act rhapsody; never has the innocence and discovery of first love been communicated so exquisitely as the touching Act 1 finale, "Say It Somehow." It's an ambitious but melodic score, drizzling with romanticism, that musical director Jonathan Munro treats like the jewel that it is, leading the five-piece chamber ensemble and the cast in glorious, unamplified beauty.

In the play, based on the novel and film of the same name, Margaret Johnson takes her developmentally challenged daughter, Clara, out of their sheltered American home on a sightseeing tour of Italy, where Clara discovers first love and Margaret, through her interactions and asides to the audience, must carefully evaluate Clara's happiness versus what she thought was best for her child.

Piazza challenges its audience to remain engrossed in a small, tender, poignant story, even when Guettel's lyrics and Craig Lucas's libretto use Italian liberally. However, Robert McQueen's direction ensures that you'll comprehend everything even if you can't understand it.

Structurally, the show falters from a few unfulfilled moments, and the Act 2 opening, while comical, seems a bit of a cop out when one character breaks the fourth wall.

As an ensemble, the cast as a whole is marvellous. Individually, though, there seems to be a hint of restraint that prevents the show from reaching its full potential.

Jacquelyn French is the impressionable Clara, radiant but seemingly holding back from the burgeoning feelings inside. Jeff Lillico, as Fabrizio, the boy smitten with Clara, is charismatically bashful, and together, the young couple will make you fall in love with love all over again.

Patty Jamieson is Margaret, conflicted and confused but maybe a bit too calm as Clara's and her own world change in the span of a few days. Meanwhile, inadvertently stealing every scene he's in with masterful comic timing in either language, is Juan Chioran as Fabrizio's father.

A flawed yet glorious achievement in style and class, treat yourself and your significant other on a date to Italy without leaving downtown Toronto this February. 

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

For A Gamer, Ipad Exceeds Expectations

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(January 30, 2010) SAN FRANCISCO–Books, shmooks. Music? Meh. All I could think about while sitting in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday was how games will look, feel and play on the Apple iPad.

When I finally found out, I was more than satisfied.

First, let's take a step back. In case you haven't heard the news, the geniuses behind the iPod and iPhone have just unveiled a brand-new device, the iPad, a nearly-10-inch touch-screen tablet designed to download and read electronic books and digital newspapers, surf the web, view photos and videos, play music, read email, and more.

Think of this über-thin gadget as a giant iPod touch, as your fingertips do all the navigating, along with tilting the device around to take advantage of its built-in "accelerometer" sensors.

After spending a giddy 20 minutes with the iPad following Steve Jobs' presentation, here's why I think it will be great for gamers:

Size matters: 9.7 inches is better than 3.5 inches. The great games already available at the App Store look that much better on a bigger screen. Granted, those designed for the iPad will offer better-looking graphics – such as the modified ATV Offroad racing sim from 2XL – but even older titles such as PopCap's Bejeweled 2 look detailed and colourful on the iPad. With iPhone games, you can choose to keep the original screen size with black around the window or have the iPad double the pixels artificially (the latter is recommended). Gameloft's N.O.V.A., a stunning sci-fi shooter, was a blast to play on Wednesday and it took a crowbar to pry me away from it.

App Store support: Right out of the box, the iPad works with most of the 140,000-plus downloadable applications from the App Store, of which nearly 30,000 are games. This selection is far greater than offered by the two other portable gaming devices put together, and the games cost a fraction of the price of Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable titles (most games at the App Store are less than $2). It might not be quite as portable as the DS or PSP but, if you're facing a long flight or a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch, I know which device I would grab. Control freak friendly: Understandably, many gamers prefer real buttons over virtual ones – and if you've played the new Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the iPhone, you know it can be a tad tricky to control – but because the iPad is big enough to place on your lap, it doesn't require you to hold the device and play at the same time, as is the case with the iPhone and iPod touch. Also, you have more screen real estate to place the virtual buttons where you like (as demonstrated in Electronic Arts' Need for Speed: Shift demo for iPad). The "umph" factor: While it's not a full-blown computer, the iPad does have a powerful 1 gigahertz microprocessor, fast 3D graphics capabilities, plenty of Flash memory, integrated Wi-Fi (and, in some models, 3G connectivity) and 10 hours of battery life.

The iPad is slated for a late March launch, starting at $499 (U.S.). Stay tuned to this column for Canadian pricing, games and accessories available at launch, and other details.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories - Additions Mess With The Mood

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
PlayStation Portable reviewed
(also available: Wii, PlayStation 2)
$29.99
Rated "Mature"


(January 30, 2010) It's been spooky nights out here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains lately, eerie ice fog hanging low over snowy pastures, the visibility on the highway more or less approximating the draw distance of a PlayStation horror game circa 1999 ... so I was already in the right mindset when I crawled under the covers with my PSP and
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, primed by winter's chill for the series' trademark atmospheric psycho-terror.

Things start out in classic
Silent Hill fashion, car trouble necessitating an excursion into the titular demon-haunted town. Here, writer Harry Mason skids his station wagon off the icy road, through a chain-link fence and into a junkyard, coming back to consciousness to find his young daughter disappeared. Armed only with a flashlight and a smartphone more connected to the spirit world than the cellular network, Harry sets off to search for young Cheryl in the snowbound city ... and in the howling depths of his own psyche.

So far, so
SH. Your first clue that something new is happening with Shattered Memories is when the game switches away from Harry's disturbing adventure to the couch of a Scotch-sipping psychologist. Here, in a first-person, conversational perspective, the line between "Harry" and the player is blurred, the shrink asking questions, presenting questionnaires, assigning tests, feeling out the player's matrix of moral/sexual/psychological inclinations and inhibitions, all of which gets folded back into the game itself to create a personalized hell for Harry/the player.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, the changes players' responses in therapy create in the game are largely cosmetic. That's not necessarily a bad thing; this is atmospheric horror, after all, and what is atmosphere but applied cosmetics? It certainly is an interesting angle, one I'd like to see explored more deeply in future games, but the "therapy session" mechanism is a little bit on-the-nose. If this is going to be a feature of the
Silent Hill series going forward, I'd rather have the psych testing more closely integrated in the player's interactions with the town and townsfolk – constantly cutting away to the couch strains the creepy Silent Hill mood.

The mood is further strained by
Shattered Memories' other new-for-2010 element, the nightmare chase sequences. Running away from monsters is Survival-Horror 101, but Shattered Memories breaks the fleeing out into its own discrete segments, almost a kind of minigame. At fixed points in the game, the creepy music swells, the scenery warps, freezes and frosts over, and you know it's runnin' time: a panicked obstacle-course sprint with fleshy hug-monsters (their appearance modulated by your psych profile) squealing at your heels.

It's pretty terrifying, in an adrenalin-pounding way, but the fact that the chase segments are completely discrete works to kill the mood in the rest of the game. As you/Harry explore
Silent Hill, you know there's no danger anywhere unless the music and the ice kick in; there's none of the "what's behind this door?" trepidation that powers the horror experience, just a bunch of creepy set pieces. With the arc of horror constantly subverted and the pressure constantly deflated, they only gave me run-of-the-mill nightmares rather than the Silent Hill-grade nightmares I'd been hoping to savour.  

::COMEDY NEWS::

Wright’s Stand-Up Delivers On Deadpan One-Liners

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(January 31, 2010) There’s the perception that
Steven Wright, like a supermarket cashier, works one line at a time. That not entirely accurate, though. At Toronto’s Convocation Hall on Saturday evening (the first of two nights) the surrealist stand-up comic at times delivered his offbeat observations in the form of acoustic songs and fanciful anecdotes (often involving flabbergasted police officers) in addition to his deadpan standalone mind-zappers.

But it is his one-liners for which the U.S. comedic legend is celebrated. The following are a sample of the best we heard at Convocation Hall, where his routine used much of the same material captured on his DVD Steven Wright: When The Leaves Blow Away, recorded at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre in 2006.

Questions
What did Jesus do for Santa Claus, on his birthday?
What’s the youngest you can die of old age?
Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it that song?

A propos of nothing
Next week I’m going to have an MRI to find out if I have claustrophobia.
The universe is expanding. It should help ease the traffic.
A friend of mine has a trophy wife, but apparently it wasn't for first place.

Think about it
If heat rises, then heaven might be hotter than hell.
You never see any Indian midgets.
Hermits have no peer pressure.

Just plain funny
A friend of mine tried voodoo acupuncture. You don’t have to go to him. You’re just walking down the street, and you’re like “Oh, that’s much better.”
One Christmas, my grandfather gave me a box of broken glass. He gave my brother a box of Band-Aids. Then he said to us, "Now, you two share."
I like to confuse strangers. When they ask me what time it is, I say “No, I’m not from around here.”

Arresting humour
I was once arrested for resisting arrest. “You’re under arrest.” “No I’m not.” “You’re under arrest.”
I was arrested for scalping low numbers at the deli.
One time a cop pulled me over for running a stop sign. He said, "Didn't you see the stop sign?" I said, "Yeah, but I don't believe everything I read.”

Imagine that
Imagine what cell phones would look like if our ears weren’t so close to our mouth.
Imagine the reading of God’s will. “And the oceans go to Phil.”

Exit lines
I just remembered, my mother told me never to talk to strangers. [Leaves stage.]
[Upon returning] I’m insane. You think it’s a show.

::OTHER NEWS::

WinterCity Offers Many Ways To Beat The Winter Blahs

Source: www.thestar.com -
Shauna Rempel

(January 28, 2010) It's year seven for the WinterCity Festival, an annual two-week celebration presented by RBC and the City of Toronto, usually held when T.O. is in the deep-freeze doldrums.

As the city points out, WinterCity is actually three festivals for the price of one (which, considering many activities are free, makes it one heck of a bargain). There's the Winterlicious festival, featuring a prix fixe menu offer at 150 participating restaurants and several other culinary events. The WOW! performances and parties at Nathan Phillips Square count as Fest No. 2. And indoor Warm Up! activities at various venues round out the trio.

This year's three-in-one festival is Jan. 29-Feb. 11. Full details at www.wintercity.ca. Here are some of the highlights starting Friday:

The Flaming Lotus Girls will set Nathan Phillips Square aglow nightly with dramatic, interactive fire and steel installations.

European theatrical troupe Compagnie Les Passagers creates massive performances with scaffolding, pyramids, cables, ropes and nets. High above the audience's heads, the actors will perform Time Is ... , inspired by traditional and contemporary Chinese culture (Friday at 8) and Cosmogonia, which recounts the Book of Genesis (Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7).

Tim Horton's Ice Breakers Skating Parties have a different theme each night, starting with Friday's Chinese Lantern Festival at Nathan Phillips Square.

David Buchbinder and friends are Tumbling Into Light (see photo) with a multimedia concert that invites the audience to enter a magical sound and light world at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts. (Sunday at 3 and 7:30 p.m., $20-$30 at 416-866-8666.)

Dance those winter blues away with the Bunch dance party for kids and their parents at the Guvernment/Kool Haus complex. (Saturday, 2-5 p.m., $10-$12 in advance at 647-430-5599)

Catcher In The Rye Author J.D. Salinger Dies

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Hilel Itale, The Associated Press

(January 30, 2010) New York — J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose The Catcher in the Rye shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author's son said in a statement from Salinger's literary representative. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

The Catcher in the Rye, with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made Catcher a featured selection, advised that for “anyone who has ever brought up a son” the novel will be “a source of wonder and delight — and concern.”

Enraged by all the “phonies” who make “me so depressed I go crazy,” Holden soon became American literature's most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn. The novel's sales are astonishing — more than 60 million copies worldwide — and its impact incalculable. Decades after publication, the book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams — to never grow up.

Salinger was writing for adults, but teenagers from all over identified with the novel's themes of alienation, innocence and fantasy, not to mention the luck of having the last word. Catcher presents the world as an ever-so-unfair struggle between the goodness of young people and the corruption of elders, a message that only intensified with the oncoming generation gap.

Novels from Evan Hunter's The Blackboard Jungle to Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, movies from Rebel Without a Cause to The Breakfast Club, and countless rock 'n' roll songs echoed Salinger's message of kids under siege. One of the great anti-heroes of the 1960s, Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate, was but a blander version of Salinger's narrator.

The cult of Catcher turned tragic in 1980 when crazed Beatles fan Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, citing Salinger's novel as an inspiration and stating that “this extraordinary book holds many answers.”

By the 21st century, Holden himself seemed relatively mild, but Salinger's book remained a standard in school curriculums and was discussed on countless Web sites and a fan page on Facebook.

On the Web Thursday, there was an outpouring of sadness for the loss of Salinger, as many flocked together on social networks to relate their memories of Catcher in the Rye. Topics such as Salinger and Holden Caufield were among the most popular on Twitter. CNN’s Larry King tweeted that Catcher is his favourite book. Humorist John Hodgman wrote: “I prefer to think JD Salinger has just decided to become extra reclusive.”

Salinger's other books don't equal the influence or sales of Catcher, but they are still read, again and again, with great affection and intensity. Critics, at least briefly, rated Salinger as a more accomplished and daring short story writer than John Cheever.

The collection Nine Stories features the classic A Perfect Day for Bananafish, the deadpan account of a suicidal Army veteran and the little girl he hopes, in vain, will save him. The novel Franny and Zooey, like Catcher, is a youthful, obsessively articulated quest for redemption, featuring a memorable argument between Zooey and his mother as he attempts to read in the bathtub.

Catcher, narrated from a mental facility, begins with Holden recalling his expulsion from a Pennsylvania boarding school for failing four classes and for general apathy.

He returns home to Manhattan, where his wanderings take him everywhere from a Times Square hotel to a rainy carousel ride with his kid sister, Phoebe, in Central Park. He decides he wants to escape to a cabin out West, but scorns questions about his future as just so much phoniness.

“I mean how do you know what you're going to do till you do it?” he reasons. “The answer is, you don't. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it's a stupid question.”

The Catcher in the Rye became both required and restricted reading, periodically banned by a school board or challenged by parents worried by its frank language and the irresistible chip on Holden's shoulder.

“I'm aware that a number of my friends will be saddened, or shocked, or shocked-saddened, over some of the chapters of ‘The Catcher in the Rye.' Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all of my best friends are children,” Salinger wrote in 1955, in a short note for 20th Century Authors .

“It's almost unbearable to me to realize that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach,” he added.

Salinger also wrote the novellas Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour — An Introduction, both featuring the neurotic, fictional Glass family which appeared in much of his work.

His last published story, Hapworth 16, 1928, ran in The New Yorker in 1965. By then he was increasingly viewed like a precocious child whose manner had soured from cute to insufferable. “Salinger was the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school,” Norman Mailer once commented.

In 1997, it was announced that Hapworth would be reissued as a book — prompting a (negative) New York Times review. The book, in typical Salinger style, didn't appear. In 1999, New Hampshire neighbour Jerry Burt said the author had told him years earlier that he had written at least 15 unpublished books kept locked in a safe at his home.

“I love to write and I assure you I write regularly,” Salinger said in a brief interview with the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate in 1980. “But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.”

Jerome David Salinger was born Jan. 1, 1919, in New York City. His father was a wealthy importer of cheeses and meat and the family lived for years on Park Avenue.

Like Holden, Salinger was an indifferent student with a history of trouble in various schools. He was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy at age 15, where he wrote at night by flashlight beneath the covers and eventually earned his only diploma. In 1940, he published his first fiction, The Young Folks, in Story magazine.

He served in the Army from 1942 to 1946, carrying a typewriter with him most of the time, writing “whenever I can find the time and an unoccupied foxhole,” he told a friend.

Returning to New York, the lean, dark-haired Salinger pursued an intense study of Zen Buddhism but also cut a gregarious figure in the bars of Greenwich Village, where he astonished acquaintances with his proficiency in rounding up dates. One drinking buddy, author A.E. Hotchner, would remember Salinger as the proud owner of an “ego of cast iron,” contemptuous of writers and writing schools, convinced that he was the best thing to happen to American letters since Herman Melville.

Holden first appeared as a character in the story Last Day of the Last Furlough, published in 1944 in the Saturday Evening Post. Salinger's stories ran in several magazines, especially The New Yorker, where excerpts from Catcher were published.

The finished novel quickly became a best seller and early reviews were blueprints for the praise and condemnation to come. The New York Times found the book “an unusually brilliant first novel” and observed that Holden's “delinquencies seem minor indeed when contrasted with the adult delinquencies with which he is confronted.”

But the Christian Science Monitor was not charmed. “He is alive, human, preposterous, profane and pathetic beyond belief,” critic T. Morris Longstreth wrote of Holden.

“Fortunately, there cannot be many of him yet. But one fears that a book like this given wide circulation may multiply his kind - as too easily happens when immortality and perversion are recounted by writers of talent whose work is countenanced in the name of art or good intention.”

From Inside The City, Giving Voice To An Outsider

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner

(February 02, 2010) As a child in his native Trinidad, Rabindranath (Robin) Maharaj sometimes imagined how life on the Caribbean island might be perceived by outsiders. Years later, he came to see those flights of fancy as early indication of his eventual vocation.

"I had no real idea I was going to become a writer," he says. "It was just a game for me. I just liked pretending, daydreaming and imagining. I grew up in a family where at one point there were 14 people living in one big, old house, so this kind of fantasizing was one way of removing myself from the commotion."

Now, 18 years after first coming to Canada to study creative writing at the University of New Brunswick, the established Ajax-based author has published The Amazing Absorbing Boy, a novel that describes how life in Toronto is perceived by a disoriented young immigrant from Trinidad.

"I couldn't have written this book 10 years ago," says the 55-year-old in an interview. "If I had written it then, the setting would have had the aspect of any great city. I wouldn't have understood Toronto as well."

Maharaj ranks among an accomplished contingent of Trinidadian/Canadian writers, including Neil Bissoondath, Andre Alexis, Shani Mootoo and Toronto poet laureate Dionne Brand. The Amazing Absorbing Boy is his fourth novel and first since 2005's much lauded A Perfect Pledge, nominated for both the Rogers Writers' Trust and Commonwealth Writers prizes.

To this point, Maharaj's work, including three short story collections, has focused mainly on his native, rather than adopted, land. The new book reverses that emphasis. It tells the story of a comic book-loving, 17-year-old Trinidadian boy, Samuel, who moves to Toronto after his mother's death to live with his estranged, unwelcoming father.

The novel was partly inspired by the author's tenure as a writer in residence at the Toronto Reference Library. "Immigrants use the library often. A lot of them don't have access to books and Internet at home. They seem so disconnected to the city. They walk around in a daze, without making eye contact. It's almost as if they are travelling in their own little bubble," he says.

With no help from his emotionally detached father, Samuel struggles to make sense of his new world. He carries both a stranger's befuddlement and the fresh insights of the engaged, active intellect of an outsider. "Part of Samuel's skill or virtue is that he is able to change," Maharaj says. "If there is a theme to the novel, it is that you can't adapt to a new place without absorbing all of the little things – the good things and the bad things, too – that surround you."

::DANCE NEWS::

Former Bad Boy Now A Prince

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(January 30, 2010) Jiri Jelinek was a bad-ass kid from a broken home. Ballet, unexpectedly, turned out to be his salvation.

The Prague-born Jelinek, 32, arrived in Toronto this month to become a principal with the National Ballet of Canada. He makes his debut with the company in March, partnering ballerina Xiao Nan Yu in Swan Lake. But he'd never have reached this point if his single mom, who died when he was 17, hadn't put him in ballet school to keep him off the streets.

Jelinek initially remained unconvinced that ballet was such a great idea. He got into plenty of fights at the Prague Conservatory and was repeatedly threatened with expulsion. And ballet certainly wasn't enough to absorb all his surplus energy. On the side, Jelinek started taking karate, "flirted briefly" with aikido and moved on to kung fu before putting on boxing gloves.

He only reluctantly abandoned this bruising pastime a decade later when boxing injuries threatened his professional dance career.

Fortunately, Jelinek always had a few teachers pulling for him, and by his late teens he realized it was time to get serious. He moved on from Prague to the school of the Hamburg Ballet for a final year of intensive training – and was again hauled on the carpet for bad behaviour by its boss, John Neumeier.

Jelinek began his career with the less-than-illustrious state ballet company in Dresden before being hired a few months later by the National Theatre in Prague.

By age 21, in his second season there, Jelinek was promoted to principal. It was a rapid ascent the tall, muscular dancer modestly attributes to the fact that he was the only one able to partner the company's biggest ballerina.

Jelinek, however, saw that if he stayed he risked becoming, as he puts it, "the one-eyed king among the blind." If he wanted to dance in the major leagues, he'd have to move on.

Jelinek's Prague colleagues thought he was crazy to take an entry-level corps position in 2001 with Germany's Stuttgart Ballet, but he had a smart plan. Stuttgart may not be a glamorous city, but its ballet company is among Europe's most acclaimed. Canadian-born Reid Anderson, the troupe's artistic director, soon gave Jelinek featured roles, and within three years promoted him to principal.

Christian Spuck, resident choreographer in Stuttgart, is among several who have created roles in their work for Jelinek. "I'll miss him," says Spuck. "The National Ballet can feel very happy to have such a strong dancer in the company."

By any objective standard, a move to Toronto might at best seem lateral, perhaps even a step down from Stuttgart. The National Ballet of Canada certainly dances at a high international standard, but nowadays rarely tours. Compared with Stuttgart, a busy, much-travelled and hyper-creative company, there are fewer opportunities at the National Ballet for Jelinek to get onstage. So why did he do it?

As he approached 30, Jelinek explains, he began to survey the future and decided neither Germany nor Stuttgart were places he and his then Prague-based girlfriend – he and Aneta married last October – wanted to settle permanently.

Although he has yet to see the National Ballet perform, Jelinek had heard good accounts of the company. He also has acting aspirations, so wants to work where he can perfect his functional yet accented English.

So Jelinek cast his line in the National Ballet's direction, sending off a prospecting package to artistic director Karen Kain. As it turns out, Kain had attended a gala in Stuttgart and seen Jelinek dance.

"I circled his name in the program," recalls Kain, "thinking ahead to ask Reid if I could invite Jiri to guest here when we performed (the celebrated John Cranko ballet) Onegin." Then Jelinek's application arrived on her desk.

Another of Stuttgart's leading men, Canadian Jason Reilly, was looking to return home. Kain was happy to accept two tall, strong, versatile dancers, both noted for exceptional partnering abilities.

Such an exodus, however, would have left too large a hole in Stuttgart's senior male ranks, so it was negotiated Reilly would join the National Ballet last July but Jelinek would remain until the end of last year.

As it happened, Reilly changed his mind and chose to remain in Stuttgart, but Jelinek got to accompany the troupe on a fall tour to China.

Now, as Jelinek prepares for his local debut, he and his wife are settling into their Queens Quay apartment and familiarizing themselves with Toronto's attractions.

Jelinek is also a huge music fan and an active DJ. "Bono is God," he declares.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Big Hockey News Day

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 3, 2010) Stunning news on two NHL fronts.

First, the
Columbus Blue Jackets have in the last few hours fired head coach Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with assistant coach Claude Noel. After making the playoffs last season, the Jackets are 14th in the Western Conference, and Hitchcock's status has been in question for weeks.

Still, it's a shocker, particularly with Hitchcock set to be one of Team Canada's coaches at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics under head coach Mike Babcock. Amazingly, it's the second time this has happened to Hitchcock in an Olympic year when he was set to coach for Canada. The Dallas Stars fired him in late January, 2002, and he went on to win a gold medal as an assistant under Pat Quinn.

Meanwhile, reports from RDS and TSN today confirm Atlanta GM Don Waddell has told star winger
Ilya Kovalchuk to expect a trade, sooner as opposed to later.

Let the auction begin.

If the price for Phil Kessel was two firsts and a second, what could it be for Kovalchuk, a 26-year-old forward with 328 career goals in eight seasons?

The difference is, of course, that Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent in July, so this could just be a rental situation, with the KHL possibly looming in the background with — allegedly — a $15 million-a-year bid.

Kovalchuk's never had much team success in Atlanta, but he did score the gold medal winning goal for Russian the Quebec City world championships, and he's a proven, money-in-the-bank 40- to 50-goal man, and a big power forward to boot.

The Leafs, in case you're wondering, won't be in this one. Don't have the goods to make a deal even if they wanted to.

Boston, L.A., Chicago and Philly, among others, are all lining up with a bid, but the price will be absolutely fascinating. Calgary, meanwhile, could be in the mix, and a hard pitch for Kovalchuk would make the emphasis on quantity over quality in two recent deals by Darryl Sutter make sense.

The best fit? Probably L.A., where the Kings have the players and the payroll flexibility. But is this the right time for that team to make this move when they probably can neither win the Cup nor guarantee Kovalchuk will play for them beyond this season.

What about the Hawks? Might they be worried enough about Patrick Kane's maturity to do a Kane-for-Kovalchuk swap just as the Thrashers and Senators once combined on a Dany Heatley-for-Marian Hossa deal?

This story is going to heat up in a hurry.

Raptors’ Chris Bosh Headed To NBA All-Star Game

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux

(January 28, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh is headed back to the NBA all-star game.

Bosh and Utah’s Deron Williams, both Dallas natives, will take part in the showcase event in their hometown, which will include seven first-time selections.

Bosh was named to the all-star game for the fifth straight season, tying Vince Carter for the most appearances in Raptors history.

“Just to be able to be an all-star year in and year out, that’s a special feeling, but the fact that it’s in Dallas is kind of a bittersweet thing,” Bosh said before the Raptors faced the New York Knicks. “Sweet because I get to play in front of my home crowd and it’s bitter because everybody wants tickets.”

The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks each had two players picked as reserves Thursday for the Feb. 14 game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were chosen from the Celtics, while the Hawks are sending Joe Johnson and Al Horford.

Rondo and Horford will both make their first all-star appearances, as will Oklahoma City swingman Kevin Durant, Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace, Memphis forward Zach Randolph, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Williams, who played at The Colony High School near Dallas.

Among those missing out were New York’s David Lee and Clippers centre Chris Kaman.

Bosh, Pierce and Johnson are the only reserves on the Eastern Conference roster with all-star game experience.

“There’s going to come a day that they don’t pick me,” Pierce said in Orlando, where the Celtics are facing the Magic. “So every time I get a chance to make it, it’s definitely an honour.”

The remainder of the Western Conference reserves were guards Chris Paul of New Orleans and Brandon Roy of Portland, Lakers forward Pau Gasol and Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was picked for the ninth time and will represent the home team.

“It is an honour to represent the Mavericks in my new hometown of Dallas,” Nowitzki said. “I am always thankful for the opportunity to play in the all-star game. We hope to put on a good show for our fans.”

The reserves were chosen by the head coaches from each conference, who weren’t allowed to vote for their own players. They had to select two guards, two forwards, one centre and two players regardless of position.

They leaned toward winning in the East, where the Celtics and Hawks have the second- and third-best records behind Cleveland. That certainly helped Rondo, who has been as important to Boston as any of its Big Three this season.

“I always thought I was (an all-star),” Rondo said. “For the coaches to think so, it’s an honour. I try to play with the spirit and that tenacity every night.”

Horford likely edged out Lee, who is averaging 19.4 points and 11.4 rebounds for a Knicks team far below .500. Horford is averaging 13.6 points and 9.8 boards.

“It’s out of my control and Coach (Mike D’Antoni) always tells me to try to control the things I can control and I think the overall message was that nobody was taken off a team with a sub-.500 record,” Lee said. “So that means one thing: We’ve got to get some more victories, and that’s what we’ll go after right now.”

Also left out was a second Cleveland player behind LeBron James.The Cavs felt point guard Mo Williams should have been selected — though he is injured, anyway.

“Mo has (played well) for us as our second-leading scorer and we’re not going to be represented by anybody except for LeBron. It’s tough but it’s out of our control,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “We have the best record in the league but there is nothing we can do about that. I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

Rose and Wallace both have helped their teams surge to .500 records after terrible starts, and Wallace was rewarded with the first All-Star selection in Bobcats history.

“It’s truly an honour to be named to the All-Star team,” Wallace said. “This is an amazing moment for me and for the Bobcats franchise, and I’m excited to be the first player to represent this team in the All-Star game. I want to thank all the fans who voted for me and the coaches who selected me to play in the game.”

Voted to start by the fans in the East were James, Boston’s Kevin Garnett, Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson. The West starters are the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Victoria guard Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan.

If any players are injured, commissioner David Stern would choose the replacement.

AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Orlando, Fla., and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

CFL Asks Fans To Weigh In On Overtime Format

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(January 28, 2010) Once again, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon is asking for input from Canadian football fans.

Last year, Cohon invited fans to chime in on potential rule changes. Now, the CFL commissioner is petitioning fans for their input regarding the league’s overtime format.

Presently, if a game is tied after regulation time each team gets to scrimmage from the opposition’s 35-yard line until it scores or loses possession. Should the score remain tied, the procedure is repeated at the other end of the field.

If the score remains tied after both teams have had two possessions, the game goes down as a tie in the regular season. During the playoffs or a championship game, the procedure would continue until a winner is declared.

“Some of our most exciting games last season, including one of our playoff games, were decided in overtime, and that prompted some discussion among fans about our format,” Cohon said in a statement. “We have tremendous respect for the knowledge of our fans, and their dedication to the tradition and future of our league, so we’d like to turn that informal overtime discussion into specific ideas that our league can consider as it looks towards the 2010 season.”

Fans can send their ideas via email torules@cfl.ca by Feb. 15.

Serena Williams Ends Justine Henin's Comeback To Win Aussie Open

Source: www.thestar.com - Dennis Passa

(January 30, 2010) MELBOURNE–Serena Williams loves a good underdog story and understood that most of the crowd was behind Justine Henin.

All that sentiment was put aside once she heard an insult from the stands, a crack that went right to the heart of all athletes. Williams surged to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory in the Australian Open final Saturday, closing this chapter on Henin’s remarkable comeback from retirement.

"I think everyone was for Justine tonight," Williams said. "But you know what really helped me out? This one guy was like, 'You can beat her Justine, she's not that good.'

"I looked at that guy and I was like, you don't know me," Williams added, wagging her finger. "I think I won all the games after that because that's totally rude."

Williams plopped on her back at Rod Laver Arena after capturing her fifth Australian Open title, breaking her sequence of victories in this major in each odd-numbered year since 2003. It also gave her more Australian titles than any woman in the Open era and allowed her to match Billie Jean King’s career total of 12 majors in singles.

Henin, in her first Grand Slam and only second tournament since she quit suddenly in May 2008, had gone on a stunning run to win 20 of 22 points to even the final at one set apiece and take a lead in the third.

With her right thigh and left knee heavily taped and hampered by a litany of aches and pains, Williams had her backers in the crowd, sister Venus among them.

But the knocks gave her the most motivation.

"That is a part of being me. Like hearing things like that inspires me to work harder, do better," Williams said. "I feel like I have things to prove."

Henin, unranked, fell one win short of emulating fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' amazing Grand Slam comeback at the U.S. Open last September. Clijsters beat Williams in the semi-finals before taking the title at Flushing Meadows in only her third tournament back from two years in retirement.

"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me," said Henin, a 27-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam singles winner. "I thought it would never happen again. It's been almost perfect. Just the last step, I couldn't make it."”

Henin slipped to 8-6 in her head-to-heads with Williams. But this was the first time they'd met in the Grand Slam final. In the even-numbered years between Serena's triumphs in Australia, Henin won the 2004 title, had to quit during the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo and lost in the 2008 quarter-finals to eventual champion Maria Sharapova. That was her last major.

Serena has now won three majors in 12 months, including Wimbledon and the Australian in 2009. Her conversion rate in Grand Slam finals is 12 of 15, second only to Margaret Court.

Serena teamed with Venus to successfully defend their Australian Open doubles title Friday, their 11th Grand Slam doubles championship, and planned some family celebrations Saturday night.

Another set of American siblings won the men's doubles. Twins Bob and Mike Bryan combined for their fourth Australian Open title, a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Daniel Nestor of Toronto and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic.

Roger Federer and Andy Murray were to play for the men’s championship Sunday night. Murray is hoping to end a 74-year drought for British men at the majors. Federer, who has the record at 15 career majors, cracked that he thought the drought had lasted 150,000 years.

Still the 22-year-old Scot has already achieved something no British man has done in the Open era just by reaching two Grand Slam finals. His first ended in a straight-sets loss to Federer at the 2008 U.S. Open. Murray is more confident this time.

"I just feel physically more mature, mentally more mature," Murray said. "Just a lot more experience in these sort of situations now."

He'll need every bit of that.

Federer is playing in his 22nd Grand Slam final and has won three of the four he's reached at Melbourne Park.

Murray conceded that Federer is "probably the best tennis player ever." But he wasn't indestructible, as shown by Rafael Nadal's five-set win in the last Australian Open final and Juan Martin del Potro’s victory at the U.S. Open last September.

"If I play my best, I think I’ve got a good chance against anyone," Murray said.

Williams said she'd tried matching Federer's numbers in the majors, but it became too hard because the target keeps moving.

She was happy to join King in sixth place on the career list of women's major champions, and doubts she'll get to Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who have 18 majors each.

King was at the stadium Saturday to take part in a ceremony honouring the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court's season Grand Slam in 1970.

"Billie, we are tied," Williams said. "So I've reached my goal."

Williams said she’d like to get to 13 by winning at the French Open because her one title in Paris is the only one without a "twin."

In the meantime, she's trying to focus on the other achievements of King, who has been active in equal rights for women in sports and all walks of life.

"To tie Billie Jean King is cool. But honestly, my whole thing is to do what she did off the court," Williams said. "When I think of Billie Jean King, I don't even think about tennis. I think about all the amazing things that she's done. And that's what I want to do, with every aspect of my life."

King is complimentary about Williams and her impact on women's sports. She points to the 28-year-old player's greater maturity, mindful of Williams' U.S. Open tirade that cost her a record fine of US$82,500.

Since then, Williams has set up a charity to raise money for her school in Africa, with contributions to the Haiti relief fund and elsewhere.

"At the end of the day, I've moved on," Williams said. "One moment doesn't make one person's career. It's all about the moments that you put together. For the most part, that's it"

Harlem Globetrotters to Hoop On Ice

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(February 3, 2010) *The world famous
Harlem Globetrotters will take their act to the ice next week as the first professional basketball team in history to play a basketball game on frozen water.

Their showdown against long-time nemesis, the Washington Generals, will take place at Lasker Rink in New York City’s Central Park on Tuesday, February 9 at 12 p.m.

Five players from the Globetrotters, five players from the Generals, and one referee will use custom made “ice cleats” for traction during the historic game. Lasker Rink will set up two basketball hoops on both ends of the ice, and the game will also include an official Globetrotters public address announcer and scorekeeper.

The matchup is a precursor to the six shows the Globetrotters will play in the New York City area from Feb. 12 through 15, with games scheduled for New York’s Madison Square Garden, Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum and New Jersey’s IZOD Center and Prudential Center.

The Globetrotters game on ice will add to a long history of playing in unique settings around the world. The trendsetters of basketball played a game on the roof of the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 2009, in addition to games on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, in front of 75,000 fans at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, on beaches, on a tennis court in Bermuda, on the floor of dusty bullrings, at the bottom of empty swimming pools, and at the Vatican in Rome, among other locations, since the team was founded in 1926.

The Globetrotters are inviting local youth hockey players and schools to attend the game as a reward for their hard work in the classroom and on the ice. Admission to the “ice game” is by invitation only for local youth groups and schools in the NYC area; interested program directors can email info@harlemglobetrotters.com for more information.

• Fans can see the Globetrotters return to the basketball court—the traditional hardwood version—at Madison Square Garden (Friday, February 12 at 7 p.m.), IZOD Center (Saturday, February 13 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, February 14 at 1 p.m.), Prudential Center (Saturday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m.), and Nassau Coliseum (Monday, February 15 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

• Tickets for all NYC games (excluding the ice game) are now available online at www.ticketmaster.com or the respective arena box offices. Individual ticket information can also be found on the Harlem Globetrotters’ official Web site: www.harlemglobetrotters.com, as well as info on group and scout tickets.