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LE NEWSLETTER

January 28, 2010

The end of yet another "winter" month.  If it keeps up like this, I could actually endure this season! 

Exciting news!  I have a special offer for you this week ... do you like gospel music?  How about reserved VIP seating, a post-event cast meet and greet and a special souvenir gift?  Well, then you need to answer me this one question which is tucked away in the event listing below.  Who is the powerhouse voice in the male lead in the
Evolution of Gospel Music pictured below?   I have two FREE sets of tickets to give away for next week's gospel celebration so ENTER HERE

Now, after you're all churched up and feeling the spirit of love, perhaps you're ready to feel the need to CELEBRATE LOVE at Andrew Craig's Celebrate Love 2010 concert!  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. 

Black History Month starts next week!  KUUMBA is back at Harbourfront Centre - lots of exciting things to do, hear, see and move to.  For example, ever want to learn the dance moves from the music video Thriller?  Well now's your chance!  Lessons are on Feb. 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m. - go HERE for all details.  An amazing collaboration of the arts celebrating Black History Month. 

Pictures from the Dave "Soulfingaz" Williams tribute concert - an amazing night! - are in my PHOTO GALLERY so check them out!

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   

Celebrate Black History Month at Harbourfront Centre’s 14th Annual Kuumba Festival presented by TD

Two jam-packed weekends celebrating the history and the future of black culture

TORONTO, ON (Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010) . Kuumba, Toronto's longest-running and largest Black History Month festival returns to Harbourfront Centre with two jam-packed weekends commemorating both the history and the future of black culture. The first weekend of Kuumba focuses on ideas surrounding Old School and Power of Soul while the second weekend will explore themes of Black to the Future and One Love. Kuumba. is the Swahili word for creativity and has become synonymous with showcasing the best local and international artists from the African and Caribbean diaspora each February at Harbourfront Centre. Join us Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14, 2010 for dance workshops, film screenings, music, comedy, family activities, food demos and more. All programming is FREE (except the Valentine.s Day Comedy Clash $10, $15 at the door) and runs each day from 1 p.m. into the evening.

Kuumba, presented by TD, runs Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14, 2010. All events take place at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen.s Quay West). For more information and to purchase tickets for the Valentine.s Day Comedy Clash, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

 
 
FESTIVAL DETAILS

MUSIC

SAIDAH BABA TALIBAH

Feb. 6, 8:30-11 p.m.

Saidah Baba Talibah is the daughter of Obie award-winner and Tony- and Grammy-nominated Salome Bey, Canada's Queen of Jazz, Blues and Spirituals, and the niece of Andy Bey, also a Grammy-nominated musician. She offers up a distinct and fluid blend of bluesy rock, deep funk and hot, buttered soul with a voice that can go from a seductive, soft purr to a powerful bellow at the turn of a dime. With special guest DJ L.Oqenz spinning the tunes. DRUM TILL YOU DROP

Feb. 6 & 7, 1:30 p.m.

Learn to play traditional African drums (djembe, sangban, kensedeni, dununba) with Barrington Hibbert! A limited number of drums are available; participants are asked to bring their own drums.


URBAN X-POSURE: SoWhatChuSayin?
Feb. 13, 2-5 p.m.
This event honours consciousness in hip hop and spoken word (active art forms for social change) and features an artist showcase and cash prize contest for the most talented conscious wordsmith and raptivist rhymer! An open "infotainment" forum will be set up, featuring organizations that marry art with commerce and activism, giving youth the tools to get involved. Representatives from non-profit urban art organizations include: Manifesto, Lost Lyrics, Beatz to Da Streetz, Nia, Stolen From Africa, Young Diplomats, Regent Park Focus, Medina Collective, L.I.F.E. Movement and the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Co-produced with UMAC, The Urban Music Association of Canada
 
DJ SKATE NIGHTS
(The Real) Soul on Ice: Feb. 6, 8-11 p.m.
DJs Carl Allen and Kwame Younge spin the best in soul, funk, house & reggae!

SALSA 101 FOR DUMMIES
Feb. 6 & 7, 4-5 p.m.
A live music and dance class with Cuban musician extraordinaire Roberto Linares Brown and dance instructor Vladimir Aranda.

FOOD DEMONSTRATIONS

Enjoy traditional Caribbean cuisine prepared by La-toya Fagon of Twist Catering and Ras Iville & Ikeila Wright from One Love Corn! Patricia J. hosts.

- Stew Chicken with Rice and Peas (Feb. 6, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Jamaica.s National Dish: Ackee & Saltfish with Fried Dumplings (Feb. 7, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Coconut Rice & Peas, Fried Cornmeal Dumplings & Cocoa Tea (Feb. 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Callaloo Soup (Feb. 13, 5-6 p.m.)

FILM SCREENINGS & PANEL DISCUSSIONS

.Soul Power!.
Feb. 6, 6:30-8 p.m. & Feb. 7, 1-3:30 p.m.
In 1974, the most celebrated American R&B acts of the time came together with the most renowned musical groups in Africa for a 12-hour, three-night concert held in Kinshasa, Zaire. Included are performances by James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz and many others.

.Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae.

Feb. 7, 4:30-6 p.m.
The remaining great singers and musicians of Jamaica's Golden Age of music, Rocksteady, come together after 40 years to record an album of their greatest hits, to perform together again at a reunion concert in Kingston, and to tell their story. Features many reggae icons including The Tamlins, Stranger Cole, Dawn Penn, Derrick Morgan, Ernest Ranglin, Judy Mowatt and more.


“Good Hair”
Feb. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (PANEL) & Feb. 14, 1-2:30 p.m. (NO PANEL)

An exposé of comic proportions that only comedian/actor Chris Rock could pull off, “Good Hair” visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships and self esteem in the black community.

POST-SCREENING DISCUSSION PANEL: Featuring black hair experts Ruth Smith (Strictly Roots), Buster Berkley (Amorphous Group), and Asha McLeod (Jazma). “Rastafari Then and Now: A Message From Jamaica”

Feb. 14, 6-7 p.m. (followed by short film preview & panel discussion) Nation Cheong, a Rastafarian community youth worker and African drummer is concerned about youth violence and wonders if the principles and values of Rastafari could benefit today’s youth. He gathers a group of black youth and takes them on a journey of discovery into Toronto’s Rastafarian community. Along the way, he re-connects with some of his elders which eventually leads him to travel to Jamaica, the birthplace of Rastafari, for the very first time.

“In Search of Rastafari: A Soul’s Journey” (special seven-minute preview) Bob Marley, a Rasta Prophet, and music icon of the 20th century, almost singlehandedly spread Rastafari to the rest of the world through his powerful lyrics and music. Now, 27 years after Marley’s untimely death, his granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, 24, embarks on an epic journey of faith and self discovery as both a Rastafarian and a daughter of the Marley dynasty. Along the way she will explore the roots of Rastafari and its links to our cultures.

POST-SCREENING DISCUSSION PANEL: Immediately following these two films, there will be drumming and a discussion panel with Nation Cheong, Doctor Patrick Taylor, and Ras Iville.

COMEDY

VALENTINE’S DAY COMEDY CLASH: One Love (or Diasporic Disharmony?)
**Special Ticketed Event** ($10 in advance / $15 at the door)
Feb. 13, 8:30-11 p.m.

Comedians from the U.S., Jamaica, Africa and Trinidad vie for Afrocentric supremacy and regale us with tales on how (and how not) to love the black man and woman. No subject is off limits to Jay Martin, Marc Trinidad, Dwayne Landry, Arthur Simeon!

DANCE

DANCE WORKSHOPS

Led by some of the city’s finest dance instructors (including Jade “Hollywood” Anderson, and Vladimir Aranda), workshops will include:

- “Thriller” Music Video Choreography (Feb. 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m.)

- Salsa 101 for Dummies (Feb. 6 & 7, 4-5 p.m.)

- Voguing & Old School House Dancing (Feb. 7, 2:30-3:30 p.m.)


NORTHBUCK ENTERTAINMENT KRUMPING PERFORMANCE & WORKSHOP
Feb. 13, 1-2 p.m. & Feb. 14, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Krumping, an expressive and high energy form of hip hop dance, originated in the streets of South Central Los Angeles and has quickly evolved into a global phenomenon. Northbuck is an organization of Toronto krumpers from diverse backgrounds who each faced hardships; krump was their escape. Northbuck's long-term goals are to spread the movement nationwide along with its message of positive, violence-free living.


RISE UP: YOUTH DANCE CREW COMPETITION
Feb. 13, 4-5:30 p.m.

Toronto’s best young dance crews battle for bragging rights and a cash prize of $500.


FAMILY

MICHEZO (“games” in Swahili)
Feb. 6 & 7, 1-5 p.m.

Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison hosts an interactive celebration of the art and genius of traditional African childhood games.


LEGGO MY LEGO®
Feb. 6-7 & 13-14, 1-6 p.m.

Let your imagination run wild in a room full of Lego® blocks!


CREATE YOUR OWN SUPERHEROES OF THE WORLD
Feb. 13 & 14, 1-6 p.m.

Super Heroes Unite is an art project created by two Canadian artists, Mark Williams and Joe Bonsu. It involves the creation of super heroes from around the world, placing each super hero in a different country and emphasizing the importance of unity through diversity in their artwork.

ABOUT HARBOURFRONT CENTRE

Harbourfront Centre is an innovative, non-profit cultural organization which provides internationally renowned programming in the arts, culture, education and recreation, all within a collection of distinctive venues on a 10-acre site in the heart of Toronto's downtown waterfront.

::TOP STORIES::

Junos Return To Toronto In 2011

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(January 25, 2010) After nearly a decade of roaming about the country, the Juno Awards will beat a retreat to their Toronto homeland in 2011.

Although this year's Juno ceremony in St. John's on April 18 is still three months away, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that next year's 40th-anniversary festivities will take place in the city that started it all.

It will be the first time the Junos have taken place in Toronto since 2000 and the first time the awards have played to a hometown crowd since the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, or CARAS, instituted a policy of travelling to a different Canadian city each year with a highly successful (and quite rowdy) trip to St. John's in 2002. Since then, the Juno Awards have grown from a slightly tired and insular music-industry event into a multi-day festival that has welcomed fans in Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver with dozens of simultaneous club shows, rock star meet-and-greets and free outdoor concerts.

"We've never been here in the current configuration, and I think it's important to be back in Toronto because it's our 40th anniversary and it's also our 10th anniversary with our broadcast partner, CTV," said CARAS president and CEO Melanie Berry. "It makes sense to be back to where it all began, back when (
RPM magazine's) Stan Klees and Walt Grealis started it as the Gold Leaf Awards and it was at the St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto.

"We have all these fan events that we didn't have when it was here before – that's the big difference. Our goal is to engage the music fans and to make sure that they know we're coming."

Toronto had grown somewhat blasé about the Junos after their first 30 years, which were mostly spent either here or in Hamilton with the odd trip to Vancouver, Berry concedes, so the big challenge for CARAS will be getting local music fans to view the awards and Junofest as more than just another entry on the city's crowded entertainment calendar.

That, of course, hasn't been a problem in cities like Saskatoon and Halifax, where star-studded functions of this magnitude aren't quite as commonplace.

"I take inspiration from the Grey Cup, the last time it was here. The Grey Cup festival actually did a lot better than it did in past years when it had been here, I think," said Berry. "We need to engage, not just show up and say, 'We're here,' because Toronto is so used to having so many events.

"You'll see a lot more lead-up to the 40th anniversary and a lot more opportunity for people to come out and experience great music. That's the key, to get the music out there ... Toronto can't be shown up. It needs to set the bar right up there."

Maiko Watson : A Soulful Take On Going Solo

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 24, 2010) " Nearly a decade after her first go-round
Maiko Watson is giving the music biz another shot. The Guyana-born, Winnipeg-raised singer was a member of Sugar Jones, the girl group assembled in the 2001 Global TV series, Popstars.

The quintet released one self-titled album – which entered the Canadian charts at No. 2 – before parting ways a year later.

Using $25,000 won in a radio competition, Watson wrote, arranged and produced her 10-song solo debut Sweet Vibration (save "Ready To Be Loved," previously penned with ex-husband Remy Shand). It's a winning collection of soulful grooves showcasing her smouldering voice's range and subtleties.

Whether it's booking gigs or working the album through the independent Labeame label she operates with younger sister Bahia, Watson is getting a ground-up view of the music biz. It's a long way from Sugar Jones' brief heyday, when the girls opened for Destiny's Child and occasionally wore disguises to avoid public recognition. The Star chatted with the singer in advance of her Tuesday show at Bread & Circus (9 p.m., $5).

Q: What did you do after Sugar Jones ended?

A: I got married and toured as a backup singer with my ex-husband's band. Then I began learning how to play different instruments; I can get around on bass, keys, guitar, but I can't actually play and sing at the same time. I did a musical (Smokey Joe's Café) in Winnipeg and did a lot of singing in the jazz circuit there. And I'm always writing songs.

Q: What's the lasting impact of the Sugar Jones experience?

A: I don't really push the Sugar Jones thing, but at the same time I get that it's a reference point for people. A lot of people remember (the lead single) "Days Like That." It was fun, but it was so long ago now that it's funny to me that people really remember it. It was like a crash course in the music industry. I got to see it from the perspective of a major label artist that's getting a lot of attention from the label.

Q: With so many influences – rock, pop, jazz, reggae – on Sweet Vibration, your sound defies categorization.

A: I didn't take that into consideration as I was working on it. It was only afterwards when people were like `Describe your music,' and I'm like `Umm ... okay.' I still struggle with that. I think I was influenced by everything I'd heard up to that point in my life and the sounds I love the most is what came to the surface.

Q: Burton Cummings, Neil Young ... what's nurturing all you songwriters out there in Winnipeg?

A: Everyone says it, but I really think it's because of the winters. There's places to go, but a lot of people hibernate and if you're artistic I think the isolation encourages that.

Q: Do you ever see any of the Sugar Jones girls (Sahara MacDonald, Andrea Henry, Mirella Dell'Aquila, Julie Crochetière)?

A: Sahara sang backup for me at my CD release party. She's working on an EP that she's hoping to put out soon. I'm going to keep on her to make sure.

Jewison's Achievement Won't Stop With Lifetime Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(January 27, 2010) At 83, his beard is salt-and-pepper, but the gait is jaunty and the smile boyish.

Days before receiving the greatest honour of his career – a lifetime achievement award from his peers in the Directors Guild of America –
Norman Jewison arrives at his cramped Santa Monica office attired in a black leather jacket and his trademark Canadian Film Centre baseball cap.

He leans back in his desk chair and smiles when asked how long he plans to keep going.

"Just remember John Ford and Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder and John Huston and Willy Wyler," Jewison replies with a grin. "They all kept making movies after the world considered them obsolete."

Indeed, Huston directed The Dead from an oxygen tent, prompting Pauline Kael to comment that directing movies was literally easier for Huston than breathing.

Jewison recalls visiting Wyler at the beach and asking him how he would know when it was time to stop. Wyler stared at the ocean and answered: "It's all over when your legs give out."

Keeping that in mind, Jewison pays special attention to his legs. He has recently returned from a skiing expedition.

And he is by no means ready to stop making movies. Right now he has a slate of projects in the works.

Topping the list is High Alert, with a script by Rick Mercer, loosely inspired by Jewison's 1966 hit The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. It's a political satire about Canadian performers mistaken for terrorists near Long Island. With a budget of close to $15 million and backing from Telefilm Canada and National Geographic, Jewison hopes to shoot it in Nova Scotia come July, with a cast including Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd and Eugene Levy.

Jewison, who spends most of the year in Ontario but hangs out in L.A. during the winter, has been honoured and feted more often than anyone I've ever met. The honours include the Irving Thalberg award at the Oscars, being the subject of a tribute dinner at the Royal Ontario Museum and another tribute a year ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

But on Saturday, Jewison will get a prize that trumps all others: a lifetime achievement award from his peers in the Directors Guild.

He is the first Canadian ever to get this award and only the 33rd person in history to win it. To get some idea of how prestigious it is, consider this list of the honourees since 1990: Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman, James Ivory, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and Clint Eastwood.

After 60 years in showbiz and half a century of making movies such as The Cincinnati Kid, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, A Soldier's Story and Moonstruck, Jewison still has the gee-whiz enthusiasm of the kid who grew up in the Beach area of Toronto and broke into television during the CBC's formative years in the early 1950s.

As the master of the black-and-white live variety show, he was soon lured to New York and L.A., working with the biggest stars of the era, including Steve Lawrence, Andy Williams, Harry Belafonte, Danny Kaye and Judy Garland.

That was so exciting that when he made the transition to the big screen with 40 Pounds of Trouble, thanks to Tony Curtis, he found the process slow and a little dull.

Last week, torrential rains fell on the day he was to pay tribute to Eugene Levy at the home of Canada's consul-general in Los Angeles. Schools were closed, streets were flooded and many guests did not show up.

But Jewison, who had to drive from Malibu to Hancock Park, was there early. It takes more than a little rain to stop Norman Jewison. He's on high alert.

Blind Skier Makes Olympics History

Source: www.thestar.com -
Daniel Girard

(January 22, 2010) Brian McKeever has made the team – and history.

The 30-year-old cross country skier from Canmore, Alta., who is legally blind, was one of six men and five women named to the Canadian Olympic team Friday, making him the first athlete to compete in both the Winter Games and the Paralympics.

He’ll also be the first Canadian – winter or summer – to do so in the same year.

McKeever, who will race in the 50-kilometre event, won the Canadian trials last month.

A winner of seven medals at the Paralympics in Salt Lake City and Turin, McKeever has about 10 per cent vision, all of it peripheral, due to Stargardt’s disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration that’s also claimed the sight of his father, Bill.

Calling the Paralympics “the Olympic Games for people with disabilities,” McKeever said he hopes his story shows people the gap between the two events isn’t that large.

“Just because somebody has a disability doesn’t mean they are not training hard or are (not) extremely fit,” he said in a statement. “I think the Paralympics is a great product.

“We have something worth watching and I hope my story will bring more attention to that.”

The Olympics begin in Vancouver Feb. 12. The Paralympics start March 12.

McKeever, who competes in the Paralympics guided by his older brother, Robin, a member of the 1998 Canadian Olympic team that went to Nagano, Japan, tries to follow a competitor in able-bodied events, using his peripheral vision to watch their line and turns.

“This is truly one of the most talented Olympic teams Canada has ever assembled, which is not only a testament to the continued strength and growth of the national program but also demonstrates what an incredible athlete Brian is and the enormity of his accomplishment,” said Tom Holland of Cross Country Canada.

McKeever is scheduled to compete in five events at the Paralympics.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Long Island, Bahamas Offers A Trip Into A Charming Past

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(January 26, 2010) LONG ISLAND, BAHAMAS–On a 55-minute flight from Nassau, over the impossibly blue, swirling colours of the Atlantic and Caribbean, small plane pilot Joel Friese is pointing out the sights.

“Over there is a pretty big cay that deserted now,” he says. “It was a big drug-smuggling area in the ‘70s and ‘80s for the Colombian drug cartel.

“Over there are several cays owned by some pretty big names. The guy who owns Louis Vuitton has his own island. So does Johnny Depp and that magician, what’s his name? Yeah, David Copperfield.”

A few hours later, I wander up for dinner at the Stella Maris Resort and Friese has changed out of his shorts and T-shirt and into a pair of jeans and a sleek blackshirt, a large diamond earring in his left lobe. He’s taking orders for dinner.

The next morning, I see him again as he goes from table to table at breakfast.

Long Island is that kind of place. As you drive along the main road you’ll see a sign for Barbie’s boutiques, selling Bibles, bags, clothing and watches. If you stay at the beachfront Cape Santa Maria Resort, you might get hooked up with tour guide Omar Dailey.

Dailey runs regular tours but juggles those with his massage business, which arose out of the gym he operates at the Stella Maris Resort. He also runs Big Brother-like programs to keep local kids interested in body-building or basketball instead of drinking or drugs, and in his spare time also acts as the island’s marine policeman.

Going to Long Island isn’t quite a step back in time. But it’s close.

You can find what looks like an abandoned souvenir store where fisherman Alan Dixon makes just about anything decorated with shells; crabs, intertwined snakes, crawfish.

He’s built a metre-high table lamp encrusted with hundreds of shells, as well as an enormous, wavy standup bar that’s probably three metres long and a metre-and-a-half high.

Farther south, the pastor of a church, Yvonne Johnson, will fashion just about anything you like out of straw. Elephants, turtles, giraffes, airplanes, doll houses, horse and carriage with people inside.

“Literally it’s all in my head,” she says. “It all depends on what you want.”

Is there anything she can’t do?

“What I haven’t made,” she says with a laugh, “I’m about to make. I made a dollhouse that was two stories high. It had a bathroom, a front room, a living room, a dining room and a bedroom upstairs. With people in it.

“Bring me a photo and I’ll make it.”

Johnson also sells bananas, onions, potatoes and candy in a shack by the side of the road with no signs. Her place is located on what’s called the Queen’s Highway but is actually just a two-lane road that runs pretty much the length of the 140-kilometre island.

There are four tiny police stations on the island, one of them a bright pink building about the size of a Jeep Cherokee. Next door is what looks like a dank, old bar with a small wooden sign above two doors that says “Her Majesty’s Prison.”

It’s still in use for short-term stays. Bigger trouble-makers are shipped to Nassau. Dailey also says Long Island got its first bank 20 years ago.

“There used to be a guy came from Nassau twice a week and you had to give him your money or get your money on those days,” he explains.

There are now both a Scotiabank and a Royal Bank of Canada; heady progress.

Long Island might best be known as the home of Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole in the world and a magnet for divers.

Dailey ran an operation for eight years that involved taking visitors on a dive with sharks.

“I did it because it made the tourists happy. I wasn’t so crazy about it,” he says. “But I made sure they were safe; just get them in and get them out. To tell you the truth, I don’t understand why people wanted to do it.”

Another hot spot is Max’s, which cab driver and former politician Shervin Smith says is known “all over the world” for conch salad.

“We call it Max’s Viagra,” Smith explains. “It’s true. When Christopher Columbus came to Long Island he tried conch. When he got home, his wife thought he was a new man.”

Max serves up a wicked mixture of fresh conch with green pepper, hot peppers, tomato, lime juice, onion and blood oranges that’s tangy and sweet and spicy and delicious.

It’s served roadside under a thatched roof that’s filled with stapled dollar bills and licence plates from everywhere from Andorra to Indiana.

There’s a towering white monument to Columbus on the north end of the island, overlooking some magnificent bluffs that tumble into the sea. It should be a real tourist attraction, but the dirt road that leads to it was so bad on a recent visit that cabbies wouldn’t take visitors.

Likewise, the road that leads to the Cape Santa Maria resort is pitted with potholes, at least after a winter rain.

Still, there’s tons of low-key charm to be found on the island.

Karin Kuska, who welcomes people and organizes activities at the Stella Maris Resort, will take you for a ride and show you stunning, empty beaches and explain all sorts of tropical plants.

“Do you know what that one is?” she asks as she approaches one of the beaches on the eastern side of the island, where nature has carved limestone into spirals and whirls and miniature craggy peaks that look like a Gaudi building. “That’s called a seven-day fruit. They say there’s no poison in them every seven days.”

She pauses.

“Nobody wants to test it out, so we ignore them.”

Kuska says the water that Friese pointed out on the way down to Long Island from Nassau is a huge selling point for island resorts.

“People assume we’ve re-coloured the brochures and the photos on our website,” she says with a laugh. “Then they get here and it’s like, ‘Wow, the water is really like you show it.’”

::MUSIC NEWS::

Canadian Entertainers' Haiti Benefit Raises $9-Million

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(January 23, 2010) Toronto —Canadians responded to a star-studded appeal to help the victims of Haiti's devastating earthquake by donating more than $9.4-million Friday night, officials said in the hours that followed a sombre telethon featuring James Cameron, Celine Dion, and Michael J. Fox.

Homegrown celebrities, including an emotional Rachel McAdams, encouraged Canadians to pick up their phones, battle endless busy signals, and contribute to the cause.

McAdams thanked Canadians “for opening their hearts so much” to the impoverished Caribbean nation, which was struck by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.

“Let's not stop, let's keep this amazing momentum going,” the Notebook star said as her voice wavered in a live address aired on CBC, CTV and Global.

The hour-long special aired in tandem with a Hollywood-driven telethon led by George Clooney, which featured entertainment giants Steven Spielberg and Julia Roberts taking calls from donors.

In Canada, officials said matching federal funds elevated Friday night's tally to $18.8-million.

Almost 92,000 donations were made, including one very generous gift of $100,000, which co-host George Stroumboulopoulos announced during the broadcast from CBC headquarters in Toronto.

The celeb-packed show began with Nelly Furtado singing her ballad Try , and included performances by K'Naan, Metric and The Tragically Hip.

Pre-recorded and live requests for donations came from heavyweight directors Jason Reitman and Norman Jewison and TV stars Joshua Jackson and Sandra Oh.

In a taped video message, Fox spoke to Canadians' “tremendous generosity of spirit.”

“It is to that spirit I'm appealing now when I ask you to please give and give as much as you can,” he said. “At the end of the day I can't think of anything more Canadian than that.”

Donations were to be shared by several non-profit groups including the Canadian Red Cross Society, Care Canada, Free the Children, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.

Director Atom Egoyan said before the show that he hoped the spirit of charity would extend well beyond the broadcast.

“This is a unique situation, but it's going to continue to be a unique situation in the months and years to come as Haiti is rebuilding, and we have to keep being able to remember what we felt this evening,” Egoyan said.

“Tonight is just the beginning of a whole gesture. We're going to have to continue to remember that this country is in dire straits and we're going to have to all be part of its regrowth.”

Governor-General Michaëlle Jean spoke from Montreal of the need to support a country in distress, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminded Canadians in a recorded message that the government would match donations made to aid groups.

“Together we can make a difference, so hope can return to Haiti,” Harper said.

In a taped address, an impassioned Dion asked viewers to give whatever they could.

“A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can,” she said. “We have to be hand in hand to help these wonderful people. To start with they didn't have much, they need us, please be generous.”

A French-language benefit, Ensemble pour Haiti, was to air Friday night on TVA Network, Societe Radio-Canada, Tele-Quebec, V Tele, LCN, MusiquePlus and MusiMax, TV5 and Espace Musique.

The English show was co-hosted by Global's Cheryl Hickey and CTV's Ben Mulroney. Others who taped addresses for the Canadian special included film stars Rachelle Lefevre, Eugene Levy, Tom Jackson and Will Arnett; and TV personalities Hugh Dillon, Mike Holmes, Rick Mercer, Alex Trebek, and Pamela Anderson.

Musicians included Geddy Lee, Justin Bieber, Sarah McLachlan, Simple Plan, David Foster, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Raine Maida.

Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman noted it was a massive undertaking to bring so many notable personalities together for the cause.

“A lot of people changed their schedules, a lot of people came from far and wide in order to be here and I think that speaks to our generosity as Canadians,” Brueggergosman said before the broadcast.

The entertainment world has responded with an outpouring of charity – from million-dollar donations to fundraising songs – since Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. Efforts include a planned charity single including the voices of Rod Stewart, Leona Lewis and Canadian Michael Buble. Partly organized by The Sun newspaper in London, the paper says the song will be a cover of R.E.M.'s 1993 ballad Everybody Hurts .

Canadians can donate by visiting canadaforhaiti.com, dialling 1-877-514-2484 or texting AID to 45678.


Canadians Make A Plea For Haiti

Source: www.thestar.com -
Donovan Vincent

(January 22, 2010) Canadian stars presented a unified plea Friday night to help victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

An early estimate suggested $2.5 million was raised during the one-hour Canadian special, which was broadcast live on CBC, CTV and Global Television.

The show began with the song “Try” by Nelly Furtado and also included performances by K’Naan, Metric and The Tragically Hip.

Home renovator, television host and author Mike Holmes was among the Canadian celebrities making a live appearance. Holmes said he is already at ways to help the stricken country in the same way he helped in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“I picked up my phone right away and I said we should start talking about we can do to help.”

On his role as a telethon co-host Ben Mulroney said, “When we talk about being leaders in the world, this is what we mean and this (telethon) is just another way for us to do that. This is a long-term project, it’s going to require countries from around the world and we’re doing more than our part in an attempt to pull people in the same direction. I’m just privileged to play a small role in that.”

Telethon co-host George Stroumboulopoulus said, “The fact that all the networks have come together, man, makes this so much better on a personal level. This actually is altruistic, there is no competition. You rarely get to do that in television, purely altruistic, commercial-free one hour, everybody working together. Lord have mercy, how crazy is that?”

Hip-hop artist K’naan, a performer at the concert, urged fellow Canadians to keep helping the devastated country recover fully from an earthquake.

“I can’t say it’s good to be here,” K’naan said Friday afternoon after a sound check at the CBC headquarters on Front St. in Toronto, where the concert will be broadcast.

“When something like this happens, you can’t really say you feel great being here.” Instead, he called his performance “a necessity. We show the best of ourselves during times of crisis. I’m just here to try to do my little bit.”

The 31-year-old Somali-born singer, who turned to rap to help learn English when his family moved to Toronto, will perform one song. The Tragically Hip is also scheduled to perform amid a glittering line-up of top Canadian talent, including singer Céline Dion and director James Cameron.

The benefit concert is a collaboration among three networks, CBC, CTV and Global Television, which will all air the show at 7 p.m. ET and PT. It will also be streamed live to their websites and broadcast on CBC Radio Two.

From the world of film, the stars include Jason Reitman, Ryan Reynolds, William Shatner, Rachelle Lefevre, Joshua Jackson, Eugene Levy, Norman Jewison, Tom Jackson and Will Arnett.

From TV: Brent Butt, Hugh Dillon, Mike Holmes, Rick Mercer, Alex Trebek, Sandra Oh and Pamela Anderson.

Musicians Justin Bieber, Nelly Furtado, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Simple Plan, David Foster, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Measha Brueggergosman will be part of the broadcast.

Also appearing are humanitarian Craig Kielburger and star athletes Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean will have special messages for Canadians.

“As the relief efforts move from rescue ... to reconstruction, there’s going to be so much more need, and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve all come together,” said Mulroney.

Stroumboulopoulos said it wasn’t hard getting celebrities to give their time to the project.

“One of the things about this country is we have a long history of giving and a long history of trying to come together,” he said. “It’s part of (our) identity.”

Donations collected during the broadcast will go to a number of non-profit organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross Society, Care Canada, Free the Children, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.

All donations will be split evenly among the charities, said World Vision Canada president Dave Toycen, who urged Canadians to give Haitians hope.

“I’ve been involved in disaster work for over 30 years and this is one of the worst I’ve ever (seen),” said Toycen, who just returned after spending six days in Haiti.

One of the lasting experiences he had was meeting a woman who insisted that Toycen take her young son, because she feared he had no chance of a good life in Haiti.

“That’s what this special is about in a way. First, it’s to answer that call to give help, but it’s also to prove to that mother: You don’t have to give your child away in order for your child to have a future,” he said.

“We’ve had a great response. Canadians have given very generously already and yet, I think there’s still people who haven’t given. So I hope tonight’s program will particularly challenge and touch people who haven’t given yet.”

The U.S. benefit “Hope for Haiti Now” will air immediately after the Canadian benefit. The two-hour special — on CBC, CTV, Global, MTV, MuchMusic and National Geographic Channel — will be hosted by George Clooney and include performances by the likes of Beyonce, Madonna, Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay and Taylor Swift.

Keith Urban, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow plan to perform a song together, as will Bono, the Edge, Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Canadians can donate by visiting www.CanadaForHaiti.com, dialling 1-877-51-HAITI, or texting AID to 45678.

With files from The Canadian Press

We Are The World All Over Again, This Time For Haiti

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ben Rayner

(January 22, 2010) The plight of the Haitian people has inspired the benefit song to a hasty comeback, and the timing couldn't be better.

The North American singles market, after all, collapsed almost entirely during the years immediately after "Do They Know It's Christmas," "We are the World" and Canada's own "Tears are Not Enough" raised millions for African famine relief in the 1980s, only to rebound just recently amidst the proliferation of iTunes and other pay-per-song digital-download services.

Now, artists like Rihanna – who had the version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" she performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday for sale on iTunes almost immediately as a charity single for the Haiti Relief Fund – can get in on the do-gooder act in record time, with an entire planet's worth of potential consumers literally just a mouse click away from contributing.

A glut of benefit songs is on the way in the days ahead. Every performance from Friday's MTV-curated Hope For Haiti Now telethon, for instance, will reportedly be made available on iTunes at 99 cents a pop, including a collaboration between Jay-Z, U2's Bono and The Edge, and producer Swizz Beatz.

American Idol figurehead Simon Cowell is rushing to corral singers – Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole and Susan Boyle among them – for a U.K. charity song of his own. And next weekend, Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie are staging an all-star, 25th-anniversary re-recording of "We are the World" timed to the Grammy Awards.

"It's like a perfect market storm," says industry analyst Aram Sinnreich of the media and technology consulting firm Radar Research. "We have a singles market and a quick-and-dirty, ubiquitous payment-and-delivery system – the iTunes Store and its equivalents – and we also have an `attention economy,' where the artist's brand is becoming a much more vital element of music's revenue strategy than the recorded music itself."

Added exposure is a nice bonus for musicians participating in raising money for Haiti, but the efforts to aid relief organizations seem genuine. The rewards to fans who donate are also generous.

Paste magazine's website (www.PasteMagazine.com) is opening a vault of some 250 MP3s, many of them unreleased songs, by the likes of Ludacris, Bruce Cockburn, the Decemberists, Emmylou Harris, Of Montreal and She & Him to people who make donations through the site – or who simply inform Paste that they've made a donation to a relief organization of their choice.

Linkin Park's Music For Relief charity, meanwhile, has whipped together a virtual benefit album, Download to Donate, containing 10 songs by such artists as Alanis Morissette, the Dave Matthews Band and Peter Gabriel. It's accessible to donors whether they give one dollar or $100.

"This project, I feel like it's a game-changing moment in terms of music charity, made possible by the technology of today," member Mike Shinoda told PopEater.com. "Only a few years ago, you wouldn't have been able to get a song done as quickly as these songs can be done now. Only a few years ago, you wouldn't have been able to spread the word about a widget like this, because you wouldn't have had Facebook and Twitter.... "

The only trouble, warns Billboard charts overseer Silvio Pietroluongo, is that all the charity songs will eat into one another's sales and vanish quickly.

"The long-lasting hits that are charity based – I haven't seen them yet. They usually debut and then the sales fall off next week."

Canadian Entertainers' Benefit For Haiti Raises $2.5-Million

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Cassandra Szklarski

(January 22, 2010) Homegrown superstars James Cameron, Celine Dion, Michael J. Fox and Rachel McAdams were among the celebrities who issued a unified plea Friday night to help victims of Haiti's devastating earthquake.

A who's-who of Canadian talent lent their weight to the star-studded “
Canada for Haiti” benefit show, which preceded a Hollywood-driven telethon led by George Clooney.

An early estimate suggested $2.5 million was raised during the one-hour Canadian special, which was broadcast live on CBC, CTV and Global Television.

The show began with the song “Try” by Nelly Furtado and also included performances by K'Naan, Metric and The Tragically Hip.

Pre-recorded and live requests for donations came from A-list actors including Fox, McAdams and Ryan Reynolds, and heavyweight directors Jason Reitman and Norman Jewison.

“As Canadians we come from all walks of life, different backgrounds and different means, but one thing we have in common is our tremendous generosity of spirit,” Fox said in a taped video message.

“It is to that spirit I'm appealing now when I ask you to please give and give as much as you can. At the end of the day I can't think of anything more Canadian than that.”

Celine Dion also appeared in a video message in a call for donations.

“We need to help, we need to get together, do whatever you can,” she said.

“A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can. We have to be hand in hand to help these wonderful people. To start with they didn't have much, they need us, please be generous.”

An emotional McAdams, who was in Toronto for the broadcast, thanked Canadians “for opening their hearts so much.”

“Let's not stop, let's keep this amazing momentum going,” she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminded Canadians in a taped message that the government would match donations made to aid groups.

“Together we can make a difference, so hope can return to Haiti,” Harper said.

Co-host George Stroumboulopoulos repeatedly urged viewers and listeners to keep trying if they got a busy signal and said the telethon was getting four times the calls that was expected.

Applause broke out on set when Stroumboulopoulos announced a caller had made a $100,000 donation.

Director Atom Egoyan said before the show that he hoped the spirit of charity would extend well beyond the broadcast.

“This is a unique situation, but it's going to continue to be a unique situation in the months and years to come as Haiti is rebuilding, and we have to keep being able to remember what we felt this evening,” Egoyan said.

“Tonight is just the beginning of a whole gesture. We're going to have to continue to remember that this country is in dire straits and we're going to have to all be part of its regrowth.”

Earlier in the day, statements trickled in from some celebrities asking for donations on behalf of the impoverished Caribbean nation, which was struck by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.

“The people of Haiti need food, water, medical treatment — that's the short term,” William Shatner said in his videotaped plea, released to media before the show. “The long term is that much of the country needs to be rebuilt, so please give what you can and help the people of Haiti.”

“The earthquake in Haiti is such a horrible tragedy, and such a huge catastrophe, that it can easily make us feel small, weak and powerless in the face of such devastation,” added actor Brent Butt.

“But we have to remember that we are not powerless, and that even if we are small, a few million of us working together can make a big difference and give real help.”

A French-language benefit, “Ensemble pour Haiti,” was to air Friday night on TVA Network, Societe Radio-Canada, Tele-Quebec, V Tele, LCN, MusiquePlus and MusiMax, TV5 and Espace Musique.

The English-Canadian telethon will be followed by the U.S. benefit “Hope For Haiti Now,” a two-hour show from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti featuring performances by superstars Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, U2's Bono and the Edge, Coldplay, Keith Urban, Stevie Wonder and more.

Clooney, who helped put together the telethon, will host its Los Angeles portion, while musician and Haiti-native Wyclef Jean will lead the New York broadcast. CNN's Anderson Cooper will add reports from Haiti, while Rihanna, Beyonce, Jay-Z and other stars will be featured from London.

The Canadian line-up included some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry: film stars Rachelle Lefevre, Eugene Levy, Tom Jackson and Will Arnett; TV personalities Joshua Jackson, Sandra Oh, Hugh Dillon, Mike Holmes, Rick Mercer, Alex Trebek, and Pamela Anderson.

Musicians were to include Geddy Lee, Justin Bieber, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Simple Plan, David Foster, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Measha Brueggergosman.

“Although it took a lot of effort to bring all these wonderful personalities together, everyone who is here, I can confidently say, is thrilled to be here,” Brueggergosman said.

“A lot of people changed their schedules, a lot of people came from far and wide in order to be here and I think that speaks to our generosity as Canadians.”

Also set to appear were star athletes Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean.

Donations will go to several non-profit groups including the Canadian Red Cross Society, Care Canada, Free the Children, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.

The entertainment world has responded with an outpouring of charity — from million-dollar donations to fundraising songs — since Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.

Efforts include a planned charity single including the voices of Rod Stewart, Leona Lewis and Canadian Michael Buble. Partly organized by The Sun newspaper in London, the paper says the song will be a cover of R.E.M.'s 1993 ballad “Everybody Hurts.”

Canadians can donate by visiting canadaforhaiti.com , dialling 1-877-51-HAITI or texting AID to 45678.

Céline Dion To Pay Tribute To King Of Pop At Grammies

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Reuters

(January 22, 2010) Los Angeles — Céline Dion, Carrie Underwood and Usher will take part in a tribute to Michael Jackson at the Grammy awards next week that will also showcase a movie created by Jackson for his hit Earth Song.

Grammy organizers said on Wednesday that Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson would also join in the Jackson tribute, singing along with the voice of the Thriller singer.

The Jan. 31 Grammy ceremony in Los Angeles will also feature the first showing of the 3-D mini movie for Earth Song created by Jackson before his death in June.

The song and the movie, about the future of the planet, were intended to be the centrepiece of Jackson's planned series of 50 This is It comeback concerts in London last summer.

“It was one of the most important portions of the concert tour to Michael and when Michael saw the film for the first time at his last rehearsal, there were tears in his eyes,” Ken Ehrlich, a Grammy producer and longtime Jackson associate, said in a statement.

Organizers said the Grammy ceremony would be broadcast in 3-D for the first time. 3-D glasses will be provided to the audience in Los Angeles and U.S. TV viewers will be able to get free 3-D glasses through a partnership between broadcasters CBS and retail store Target.

Jackson, who won 13 Grammys and whose 1982 album Thriller is the biggest-selling album of all time, is to get a posthumous lifetime-achievement Grammy this year.

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, which awards the Grammys, said the Jackson tribute “promises to be an emotional highlight of this year's show.”

Jackson, 50, died in June of cardiac arrest caused by an overdose of prescription medication and the powerful anesthetic propofol. Los Angeles authorities are still investigating and no one has been charged in the case.

Soul Rebel Finds Success

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(January 21, 2010) It's taken seven albums to land his first Grammy nomination, but you'd never hear singer/songwriter Eric Roberson complain. Plugging away like neo-soul peers Dwele, Musiq Soulchild and Bilal, he's built a loyal audience for his grooving brand of relationship-centric music. A musical theatre grad of Washington D.C.'s Howard University, he attended classes with actress Taraji P. Henson and was lectured by Donnie Hathaway and Roberta Flack's English teacher. Roberson, 36, plays the Mod Club Monday with a six-piece band as part of Urban Music Week. He chatted with the Star by phone while running errands near his suburban New Jersey home.

Q: What do you credit for this Grammy nod (for Best Urban/Alternative Performance)?

A: Consistently staying at my pace. I think the talent has always been there and even maybe the songs, but we had to add the business and the marketing and the campaigning aspects of it to start being recognized on the same scale as a major label artist.

My long-term goal has always been to grow old doing music. I realized a long time ago that didn't necessarily mean being signed to Def Jam or Interscope or having millions of dollars. I can make a living doing what I love to do; I can support my family; I can help people; but yet I can do music the way I envision. I don't like creating music with compromises or many rules.

Q: What marketing initiatives for new album Music Fan First do you think contributed to your nomination?

A: A much bigger online campaign, with Twitter, Facebook aspects. I added five more people to my staff (for a total of nine) and we pushed up the video blogs to a whole `nother level. Seventeen days leading up to album release, we posted a new video debuting each song every day; it drew a lot of traffic. I also hired a radio person. Before, if a DJ played my record on the radio it was because he just enjoyed it. We never sent it to him and said `Hey, for your consideration.' And distribution-wise, we've managed to get into Fye and Best Buy. It's all worked to make people think we're spending more on this album than we're actually spending.

Q: "A Tale of Two" is nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Is that an apt description of your music?

A: Indie.Arie is nominated this year for this category as well ... I feel like Urban Alternative Performance is the rebellious nomination category of the Grammys. It's kind of like a soul music category. I guess our music is urban, I guess our music is alternative.

Q: What does that mean? Non-commercial black music?

A: I would say non-conforming black music. The song we're nominated for is probably my biggest rule-breaking song on this album: it doesn't have a hook; it has a chopped Minnie Riperton sample with live bass and live finger rolls over it, so it's this mixture of live music with hip-hop aspects; and it's a sordid tale with two separate commentary conclusions. If I was on Arista I don't think they would have let me make this record. I've written a million songs, I've written songs for everybody and their mom, I know the rules of songwriting. We didn't go with what's technically correct, we went with what felt right. For it to be nominated that way, I'm more than fine with it.

Just the facts
WHO: Eric Roberson

WHEN: Monday, doors 7 p.m.

WHERE: Mod Club, 722 College St.

TICKETS: $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Available at Play DeRecord, Rotate This, Soundscapes, Ransom

Corinne Bailey Rae's The Sea Awash With Grief

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 25, 2010) The appeal for sensitivity from Corinne Bailey Rae's publicist on the subject of the British singer's late husband, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008, was understandable.

What was surprising is how much grief and loss permeates her new album The Sea, out Tuesday, raising the very questions the songwriter may want to shy away from.

"I think some artists could do that," responded Rae when asked if she tried to prevent real life – or death – from coming out in her art, "but I think with all my stuff it's always personal, it's always real.

"And I also felt with that particular experience and as I'm still experiencing it, it's sort of impossible to get past it in any way to avoid it. It's like this huge, huge mass. It wasn't a conscious thing to write about that. I love music and a lot of the time I'm just playing my guitar and singing anyway, not thinking, `I wonder if I'll write a song.'

"A lot of these songs were just, 'That's the thing that's in me at that time' and turned into songs, because they kept coming back and kept turning up. It was impossible for me to not write about it and I'm sure that I'll explore it more. I find singing the songs useful to me."

Among the tunes recalling her occasional bandmate and husband of seven years, jazz saxophonist Jason Rae, are the sensually wistful "Are You Here?" and plaintive "I Would Like to Call It Beauty" (which opens with the line "So young for death").

However, the title track about the boating death of the maternal grandfather she never knew was penned before Jason's demise.

"It was a family story that I had grown up with and never asked much about," Rae explained, "but I had never realized that my aunt had been there, on the beach, when it happened.

"She could see it unfolding but was powerless to do anything about it. It made me think about how much that grief and sense of powerlessness can shape a person, watching something that's going to change your life forever.

"So really, that song is about how much that grief has affected her. And obviously it's strange to me having lost Jason since then that I was thinking so much about grief."

Though lyrically vulnerable, The Sea is generally more aggressive – in a funky, drum-forward, alt-rock sort of way – than Rae's cheerfully catchy self-titled pop-soul debut.

The 2006 disc spawned the hits "Put Your Records On" and "Like a Star," and landed at No. 4 on Billboard's top albums chart.

Though not entirely sorrowful, The Sea is definitely serious. "I don't want to give you up/I'm tired of the pull and push," Rae laments in "Closer," while "Love's on Its Way" hopes "it won't be too late."

During a Toronto Star interview on a recent promotional swing, the gracious and gamine Rae, 30, was sporting a new free-flowing hairdo but still wearing her wedding bands.

The young widow put the brakes on her sophomore album when tragedy struck.

"I didn't do anything for a year," she told the U.K.'s Guardian in her most in-depth comments – outside of lyrics – about her loss. "I mean, nothing. Everyone was asking, `What have you done?' But I had nothing to show them. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't write anything. I didn't work. I sat at my kitchen table for a whole year, people came and people went, life drifted by. It was just bleak. Bleak."

She eased her way back into music, performing at a weekly Sunday jam session at a small bar near her Leeds home.

"We played Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone, The Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone.... That was good experience for me, because I really like interpreting other people's songs. I love singing; I love writing, even when I'm not doing this part of my outward career. And I love watching other people as well; I'm so fascinated by how everybody does it."

With critical and popular opinions of The Sea pending, the performer won't cop to second-time-around jitters.

"Even if people hated it or something, I really believe in it. I feel weird about this one. I feel quite independent. I really like it."

Voltaic: Björk Concert Film Coming Out Party For New Art House

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jason Anderson

(January 22, 2010) Unfortunately, Björk will not be making a red-carpet appearance in her infamous swan dress at the Toronto premiere of her new concert film Friday.

But the evening will be notable for other reasons, especially in the eyes of local moviegoers worried about the shrinking number of downtown screening spaces and repertory cinemas.

The closing of the Carlton last December was a tough blow but a newly revamped venue may help fill the void. At 186 Spadina Ave. on the southern edge of Chinatown, the Acacia Centre for the Arts plays host to the Images Festival's presentation of Voltaic, a concert documentary shot at recent performances by the Icelandic singer in Paris and Reykjavik.

The screening should be a lively coming-out party for the venue, which has actually been quietly in operation since September, hosting several small film festivals and private functions. The venue will also be familiar to moviegoers who remember any of its past incarnations, including Golden Classics Cinema, an all-Asian repertory cinema that had an all-too-short life in the mid-1990s.

Whereas most of Chinatown's original movie palaces have long since been converted to less glamorous uses, this subterranean cinema space has remained intact despite its many years of inactivity. The centre's new manager is Sedwick Hill, a financial adviser with a background in theatre (he helped bring the South African musical Umoja to Toronto). Alerted to the space's availability in 2008, he and his partners became intrigued by the possibilities it presented.

"I was used to being on the other side, renting our venues from other people and knowing that whether or not I made a profit, they had to be paid!" he says. "I saw this as a unique opportunity to create a space in Toronto, and that doesn't come up very often at this kind of location."

Having equipped the theatre with a new projector and commenced upgrades to the sound system, he says they're ready for film screenings and are looking to start a regular schedule of second-run movies by late February. Beyond that, he plans to turn it into a multi-use facility with a stage for theatrical productions as well as a music recording studio. Hill also hopes to create training opportunities for area youth and already has "five eager young men" serving as volunteer staff.

With just over 700 seats, it'll be a big space to fill. But the location means the Acacia Centre is poised to take advantage of the southward shift that will likely occur in the city's film scene with the opening of the Bell Lightbox later this year.

The Images Festival is the first of Toronto's major film fests to try out the Acacia Centre as a venue. On Feb. 5, they will be back to present another music movie, Joy Division, Grant Gee's documentary on the eponymous British post-punk band.

As for Voltaic, it's an exuberant demonstration of both Björk's talents as a performer and her ever-maverick sartorial sensibility. For the Paris concert, she arrives onstage with a 10-strong troupe of female Icelandic brass players, all wearing rainbow-coloured outfits and big smears of face paint.

The rest of Björk's band – which includes the virtuoso drummer Chris Corsano – may be more casually dressed but they all maintain the same energy levels as they bound through songs from her 2007 album Volta and propulsive renditions of "Army of Me" and "Hyperballad." Laser beams and confetti add to the visual splendour, as do the many shots of madly dancing French fans.

The Reykjavik segment is a rather more subdued affair, with Björk and her brass players presented in civilian attire and performing a gentler suite of songs. Even so, Voltaic's high spirits should stoke the sense of optimism felt by moviegoers who may have found a new haven in the Acacia Centre.

Boyz II Brampton

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 23, 2010) " They haven't had a top 10 single in 13 years, but
Boyz II Men is still a hot ticket.

Seats ($75-$95) went quickly for the group's show at Brampton's Rose Theatre tonight. Now a trio comprised of Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockton and Wanya Morris (after the 2003 departure of Michael McCary due to scoliosis), the top-selling male R&B vocal group of all time will commemorate its 20th anniversary this coming fall with a new recording of original material. The last three discs from the ensemble known for the hits "End of the Road," "I'll Make Love to You" and "One Sweet Day" have been cover albums.

The Star spoke with Wanya Morris by phone from his New Jersey home.

Q: I was beginning to think Boyz II Men had given up on producing new material.

A: Not at all. For the past couple of albums we had a contract with Decca Universal and their forte is to do remake records. Love (2009) is the last of the deal and now we'll be able to do our own music. We're trying to bide our time for the 20th anniversary, so when we do decide to do our own music people will be ready for it.

Q: I assume that after selling 60 million albums you're doing okay financially. Does it matter that you're not still topping music charts?

A: No, it really doesn't, because we reached a certain pinnacle in our careers; we reached the goal of being called the most successful R&B group. You can only either maintain, go all the way down or stay up top; and most likely you don't stay up top. We realize that this is a job at the same time as a responsibility. We have a responsibility to our friends and our fans who love our music to give them exactly what they want. We try to just maintain our integrity. At the same time, being up top is not really where it is at right now. People are up top who can't pay their bills.

Q: What about ego? Your show here is sold out, but it's in the 'burbs. Shouldn't you be playing one of our marquee downtown venues?

A: It's better to pack the house with people that love you than to try to pack the house with people you're trying to get. We sold out with a lot of people who love us.

Q: What would Boyz II Men do differently if they were debuting now?

A: When it became a hip hop-based industry, instead of conforming and changing the way that we sing and the way that we view music, we decided to stay within our lane and do what people love about Boyz II Men and that's love songs. I don't think that we would conform as far as doing that differently, because it's just not in us, but at the same time it's really something that would have to be considered.

Q: How has becoming a trio affected the harmony?

A: Well, we don't have the bottom anymore when we sing live a cappella. It doesn't stop the harmony, but it does change the sonic elements. At the same time we move around so much vocally that you might not miss it.

Q: What are some of your pursuits away from music?

A: I'm involved with television production. Nate scuba dives and does photography. Shawn just did a movie.

Q: Are you all married with children?

A: Some of are and some of us aren't.

Q: Do you want to just speak for yourself then?

A: Some of us are and ... seriously, we try our best to separate our business from our personal lives. None of us have anything to hide, but we realize the majority of our fan base is female and the fantasy behind the type of songs we sing is something that we build our repertoire on. If you were to come to our concert, we would be singing to you as if we were singing to our women. It's about selling, it's about artistry and it's very interpretative, so we try to make sure that we maintain that fantasy, that mystique, so that women will still want to buy our records.

Chrisette Michele Heading Back on Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2010) *R&B artist Chrisette Michele jumps back on the road later this month to support her chart-topping second album, “Epiphany.”The Grammy-winning singer resumes her current outing Jan. 28 in Baton Rouge, LA, with the trek scheduled to run through a March 27 show in San Francisco.  Released in May 2009, “Epiphany,” debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. The set, which boasts production from Chuck Harmony, Claude Kelly, Bei Maejor and Ne-Yo, sold 83,000 copies its first week in stores.

Tour details are below.

January 2010
28 – Baton Rouge, LA – Lyceum
29 – Biloxi, MS – Imperial Palace Casino

February 2010
18 – Buffalo, NY – Trals
19 – New York, NY – BB King’s
20 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Tavern
23, 25 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
28 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre

March 2010
3 – Durham, NC – Carolina THeater
4 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom
5 – Atlanta, GA – The Tabernacle
7 – Tampa, FL – Ferguson Hall
9 – Serrum, VA – Serrum College
10 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
12 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
13 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Hall
16 – Kansas City, MO – The Midland
18 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
19 – Houston, TX – House of Blues
20 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
23 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
26 – West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
27 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency

July 2010
2 – New Orleans, LA – Essence Festival
23 – Louisville, KY – Churchill Downs Infield

Erykah Badu Delays ‘New Amerykah’ Release

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2010) **Erykah Badu fans will have to wait a little longer for the release of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh,” which has been pushed from Feb. 23 to March 30, the singer announced via Twitter Thursday (Jan. 21). “Return of the Ankh,” which will be released through Universal Motown, features production from 9th Wonder, James Poyser, J Dilla and Madlib, among others. Bilal and Lil Wayne appear on the bonus web-only track, “Jump In The Air,” which was removed from the physical tracklist after parts of it leaked on the internet in December.

Also on the 11-track album are the tracks “20 Feet Tall;” “Window Seat;” “Agitation;” “Get Money;” “Out of My Mind Just In Time” Part I and Part II, among others. Below is the full tracklist of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh”: *Erykah Badu fans will have to wait a little longer for the release of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh,” which has been pushed from Feb. 23 to March 30, the singer announced via Twitter Thursday (Jan. 21).   

“Return of the Ankh,” which will be released through Universal Motown, features production from 9th Wonder, James Poyser, J Dilla and Madlib, among others. Bilal and Lil Wayne appear on the bonus web-only track, “Jump In The Air,” which was removed from the physical tracklist after parts of it leaked on the internet in December.

Also on the 11-track album are the tracks “20 Feet Tall;” “Window Seat;” “Agitation;” “Get Money;” “Out of My Mind Just In Time” Part I and Part II, among others.

Below is the full tracklist of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh”:

1. “20 Feet Tall” Produced by Erykah Badu and 9th Wonder.

2. “Window Seat” Produced by Erykah Badu and James Poyser. Featuring Ahmir

3. “?uestove” Thompson (drums), Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner (bass), James Poyser (keys), Kirsten Agnesta (harp). 
4. “Agitation” Produced by Erykah Badu and Shafiq Husayn of SA-RA Creative Partners. 

5. “Get Money” Produced by Erykah Badu and Karieem Riggins (drums), Stephen  “Thundercat” Bruner (bass), James Poyser (keys), Tommy Trajlio (guitar), Mike “Chav” Chavarria (mooger fooger). Contains an interpolation of “Can’t Turn Me Away,” by Sylvia Strippling. 

6. “Don’t Be Long” Produced by Erykah Badu and Taarak. 

7. “Love” Produced by Erykah Badu and J Dilla. 

8. “Umm Hmm” Produced by Erykah Badu and Madlib.

9. “Fall in Love” Produced by Erykah Badu and Karieem Riggins. Contains a sample of “Intimate Friends” by Eddie Kendricks.
10. “Incense” (Instrumental) Produced by Erykah Badu and Madlib featuring Kirsten Agnesta (harp). 

11. “Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 1) (Undercover Over-Lover)” Produced by Erykah Badu featuring James Poyser (keys). 

12. “Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 2)” Produced by Erykah Badu and Georgia Ann Muldrow.

(Bonus Web-Only Track: “Jump In The Air,” featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal, Produced by Erykah Badu, RC Williams and Jahborn. Contains an interpolation of “Hydraulic Pump” by Parliament Funkadelic.) 

*Erykah Badu fans will have to wait a little longer for the release of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh,” which has been pushed from Feb. 23 to March 30, the singer announced via Twitter Thursday (Jan. 21).

“Return of the Ankh,” which will be released through Universal Motown, features production from 9th Wonder, James Poyser, J Dilla and Madlib, among others. Bilal and Lil Wayne appear on the bonus web-only track, “Jump In The Air,” which was removed from the physical tracklist after parts of it leaked on the internet in December.

Also on the 11-track album are the tracks “20 Feet Tall;” “Window Seat;” “Agitation;” “Get Money;” “Out of My Mind Just In Time” Part I and Part II, among others.

Below is the full tracklist of “New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh”:

1. “20 Feet Tall” Produced by Erykah Badu and 9th Wonder.

2. “Window Seat” Produced by Erykah Badu and James Poyser. Featuring Ahmir

3. “?uestove” Thompson (drums), Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner (bass), James Poyser (keys), Kirsten Agnesta (harp). 
4. “Agitation” Produced by Erykah Badu and Shafiq Husayn of SA-RA Creative Partners. 

5. “Get Money” Produced by Erykah Badu and Karieem Riggins (drums), Stephen  “Thundercat” Bruner (bass), James Poyser (keys), Tommy Trajlio (guitar), Mike “Chav” Chavarria (mooger fooger). Contains an interpolation of “Can’t Turn Me Away,” by Sylvia Strippling. 

6. “Don’t Be Long” Produced by Erykah Badu and Taarak. 

7. “Love” Produced by Erykah Badu and J Dilla. 

8. “Umm Hmm” Produced by Erykah Badu and Madlib.

9. “Fall in Love” Produced by Erykah Badu and Karieem Riggins. Contains a sample of “Intimate Friends” by Eddie Kendricks.
10. “Incense” (Instrumental) Produced by Erykah Badu and Madlib featuring Kirsten Agnesta (harp). 

11. “Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 1) (Undercover Over-Lover)” Produced by Erykah Badu featuring James Poyser (keys). 

12. “Out My Mind Just in Time (Part 2)” Produced by Erykah Badu and Georgia Ann Muldrow.

(Bonus Web-Only Track: “Jump In The Air,” featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal, Produced by Erykah Badu, RC Williams and Jahborn. Contains an interpolation of “Hydraulic Pump” by Parliament Funkadelic.)

Hope for Haiti Now tally at $57M US

Source: www.cbc.ca

(January 24, 2010)
More than $57 million US has been raised through the all-star Hope for Haiti Now telethon, according to organizers.

"The public has set a new standard of giving for a relief telethon with Hope for Haiti Now, and the donations continue to come in," Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, said in a statement released Saturday.

Paulsen says the final tally will be higher as the counting continues.

The American number is separate from the Canadian totals raised from Friday night's event. The one-hour Canada for Haiti telethon raised approximately $9.4 million Cdn while a French fundraising concert in Montreal raised an additional $6.65 million Cdn.

Hope for Haiti Now was a two-hour telethon hosted by George Clooney and Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean. It featured performances from Los Angeles, New York City and London, featuring the likes of Madonna, Rihanna, Bono, Sting, Beyonce and Coldplay.

Organizers also said the Hope for Haiti Now album has become the biggest one-day album pre-order in iTunes history and currently sits at No. 1 on iTunes' album chart in 18 countries.

Some of the relief organizations that will benefit from Hope for Haiti Now include the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the UN World Food Program, Oxfam America, the Red Cross, UNICEF and Yele Haiti Foundation.

With files from The Associated Press

We Remember Chi-Lites Singer Robert ‘Squirrel’ Lester

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2010) *EURweb has learned that original Chi-Lites member Robert “Squirrel” Lester has died.

The artist, who sang on such Chi-Lites hits as “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl,” passed away at 12:05 this morning in his hometown of Chicago, according to the group’s lead singer Marshall Thompson.

“Today I am mourning the loss of my dear partner and friend, Robert “Squirrel” Lester,” Thompson wrote in a statement. “He and I have been performing together for the past 50 years and now I am facing the reality that my friend has left me behind. 

“I pray for peace to his family, friends and to each of you. I also ask that you include me in your prayers as I attempt to accept his passing, knowing that after a short illness, he is no longer suffering and has made his final journey. He will remain in my heart and can never be replaced.” 

Lester once sang with The Chanteurs, a band which included Eugene Record and Clarence Johnson. The three men later formed the Hi-Lites with Marshall Thompson and Creadel “Red” Jones. By the mid-’60s, Johnson left the group, and they were renamed the Chi-Lites, in a nod to their hometown.

Funeral arrangements were pending at press time.

Below, the Chi-Lites perform “Oh Girl” on “Soul Train”

Timbaland's No Showman Despite Crack Band

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 24, 2010) It's one thing for a hit-making hip-hop producer to rally famous clients for guest appearances on an album or two in his name, but taking the show on the road without the talent is something else.

Such was the case with
Timbaland's Sound Academy show Friday night. While the likes of Diddy, Lil' Kim and Keri Hilson have popped up on other stops on the Virginia native's 13-city Shock Value II tour, Toronto attendees had to make do with video-screen spotlights and recorded vocals from Timbo collaborators such as Katy Perry, Drake and Shakira.

Consequently, the 90-minute concert seemed an hour too long.

Timbaland, who made his name creating hits for the likes of Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado with a signature blend of hip hop and R&B comprised of twitchy rhythms and complex beats, is entertaining, but in an opening act kind of way.

The tour is named for his current disc which features a diverse array of singers such as Miley Cyrus, Chad Kroeger and Esthero on a blend of Latin, hip-hop, pop and rock.

Clad in jeans and sneakers with enormous silver headphones over his ears, the beefy-armed performer comes off as part DJ, part hype man on the mainstage. He spent much of the set anchored behind a laptop crafting beats, conducting his killing live band and exhorting the fans.

When he did venture forth to rap-sing you often couldn't hear his synthesized vocals over the music. That was fine, because the sonic palette was the best part of the show. The six-piece band, including DJ, created extended, improvised versions of tunes from Shock Value II – including "Timothy Where You Been," "Say Something," "Morning After Dark" – and "The Way I Are" and "Give It to Me" from its 2007 predecessor reaching a jamming Euro-dance apex with "Can You Feel It."

"That's what Timbaland came for: to make you dance," crowed the leader as the half-filled audience grooved along. This would've been an ideal gig for a small club in the Entertainment District with Timbaland as a guest DJ, rather than this concert set-up which carried the unfulfilled expectation of something grand.

The 37-year-old married father lost momentum towards the end with a long, meandering interlude during which he polled the crowed about birthdays and drinking. He inquired of one fan "Are you in your 30s like me?" Didn't catch her answer. I left with much of the audience.

Vandana Vishwas : Using Poetry To Overcome Pain

Source: www.thestar.com - John Goddard

(January 23, 2010) Snow and ice make walking almost impossible for
Vandana Vishwas.

When she was 2 days old in India, a hospital nurse poked her with an unsterilized needle, injuring her left hip socket. It never properly formed.

Trying to negotiate uncleared sidewalks in North York, where she worked as an architect, became so painful last winter that she quit. While recovering, she revived an old interest. She hired musicians, took a crash course in recording and this fall released an album of 16th-century love poetry to the Hindu deity Lord Krishna.

She also performed publicly for the first time in years – in Mississauga and Richmond Hill – attracting interest from programmers at the Small World Music Festival and Harbourfront Centre.

"Those poems demand (musical) composition," she says of the boldly romantic writings of the celebrated Rajasthani figure Meera Bai. "They demand that somebody should sing them."

Vishwas, 39, was born in Lucknow and grew up in central India. From an early age, she displayed vocal talent. At 4, she could sing such complex melodies that her parents enrolled her in a classical music institute. At 16, she earned an Indian classical music degree.

Afterward, she sang on national television and All India Radio, winning attention from Bollywood – a childhood dream – and a chance to work as a playback singer for Bollywood films. "But Bombay was not easy for me," she recalls wistfully, "riding on local trains and jumping off (at the stop). Life was too fast. I was struggling."

In the meantime, Vishwas completed an architecture degree, and met and married another architectural student, Vishwas Thoke. "Architecture balances art and technology – that's why I like this field," she says.

In 1997, to advance their careers, the couple moved to Dubai. In the oil-rich Gulf, they joined the construction frenzy of glamorous hotels, office towers, clubs and villas. "Even the villas were big projects," she says.

But the work left no time for music, and in Dubai every foreigner is a visitor. Settling permanently was not an option. In 2002, they came to Canada. Both joined architecture firms, Vishwas continuing with large construction projects, including such landmark lakefront condominium projects as Waterpark City: Phase 1, on Fleet St., and the Maple Leaf Square twin towers, rising behind the Air Canada Centre.

Of Canada, she says: "Here you don't feel you are in a foreign country. People accept you."

Vishwas titled her CD Meera: the Lover. Her songs tell the story of poet Meera Bai articulating the various phases of her feelings for Lord Krishna, from innocent devotion, to romantic passion, to a state of spiritual trance.

The themes are the outsized Bollywood kind: struggle, resilience, the power of love. But it is Vishwas's vocal technique, and tenderness toward melody and lyric, that bring the songs to life.

"The storytelling is innovative and accessible," Small World Music director Alan Davis says of Vishwas's handling of the material. "We're looking to place her in our (2010) South Asian series."

Harbourfront music programmer Alok Sharma said Vishwas was also on his radar.

Touring remains out of the question, Vishwas says. After the spring, she intends to go back to helping shape Toronto's skyline.

The Zolas Blend Indie Prog-Rock With Home Economics

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(January 25, 2010) Make all the jokes you want about Tom Dobrzanski living in his parents' basement, but he doesn't care – the arrangement is working out very nicely for the Vancouver musician. Dobrzanski, one half of the indie band The Zolas (Zachary Gray is the other half), also works in that basement, in a recording studio he constructed while studying business at the University of British Columbia. It started off as a hobby, but now his company, Vertical Studios, has turned into a full-time gig, with bands such as Hey Ocean! and Said the Whale recording there.

His living/working scheme really came together when the Zolas themselves recorded much of their debut CD at Dobrzanski's home. He could roll out of bed each morning – wakened by Howard Redekopp, who produced the album – and be at work minutes later. Properly clothed, though; Dobrzanski draws the line at crossing the hall and entering the studio in anything he wouldn't wear outside.

The resulting CD, Tic Toc Tic – a smart, complex and infectious indie-prog-rock find – is being released this week.

Gray and Dobrzanski are fully ensconced in the Vancouver music scene. The opening song on Tic Toc Tic references local uber-indie venue The Biltmore (where they will kick off their upcoming tour with a CD release party on Jan. 27). Gray’s roommate is Tyler Bancroft from Said the Whale. The Zolas just opened a gig for Hey Ocean! at The Vogue in Vancouver, and Dan Mangan stopped by the sound check to say hey. Ali Siadat, from the band Mother Mother, played drums on Tic Toc Tic. The album was produced by Redekopp, who has also produced The New Pornographers and Tegan and Sara. You get the idea.

Gray and Dobrzanski, both 27, have so much history together that, hanging out backstage before a gig, they finish each other’s sentences and relate odd facts about each other (Gray claims Dobrzanski can tell the colour of an M&M by taste alone). They have teamed up musically before, starting when they were 14 and their parents car-pooled them together to the B.C. Boys Choir. At one point they formed the band Lotus Child.

But the new band is a much more organic, casual creation, something they started simply because they wanted to have some fun playing music.

“We’ve had a lot more luck with this [project]; this hasn’t had such a serious strategy mentality as other things we’ve been in,” says Dobrzanski. “Before it was like, ‘Who’s going to be [at the show] and who should we make sure comes and sees us? And who do we need to shake hands with after,’ and all that bullshit. The band works really well right now. And maybe that’s the secret: to treat it like you’re not doing it for the money.” Breaking even was the duo’s first goal, jokes Gray, and so far, they’ve accomplished that.

Gray, who moved out of his own parents’ basement last year (located a couple of blocks away from the Dobrzanski household), has a second career, in theatre. After the Zolas tour, he’ll spend a couple of weeks in Saskatoon and later return to Vancouver for a run of the performing in Billy Bishop Goes to War, about the First World War Canadian flying ace. The play was written by John Gray, his father John Gray. “It’s kind of like going into the family business in a way,” Gray jokes.

Coming even more full circle, Gray is performing the show with Ryan Beil, an old friend with whom he first saw Billy Bishop Goes to War – starring Gray’s father and the play’s co creator Eric Peterson – when they were teenagers.

Beil (as Bishop) and Gray (as the accompanying musician) did the show last year and received excellent reviews. But theatre is not where Gray’s ambition lies. “I like the music scene,” he says. “I like the people in music more than I like the people in theatre, I think. I don’t know that many people in theatre. But actors are catty, really catty. As they progress, they become backstabbier and backstabbier.” Gray says the Vancouver indie crowd is tightly knit, nurturing and fun. “We all evolve in our own independent clusters, and then get together and decide, ‘Wait a second – we could be rivals.’ But most of us aren’t going to make a living at this anyway,” he adds, “so why don’t we have a good time while we’re doing this? We’re all friends. The Vancouver music scene is blossoming like crazy because of that feeling. It’s sort of like the story you want to tell when you’re older.”

The Zolas begin their tour of Western Canada at The Biltmore in Vancouver on Jan. 27 (myspace.com/thezolas). Billy Bishop Goes to War is at the Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon from March 3-17 and at The Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage in Vancouver March 25-April 17.

Judge Reduces Damages Award In Music File-Sharing Case

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(January 26, 2010) What is the value of a song?

Exactly $2,250, according to one U.S. judge's ruling in the ongoing legal battle over
file-sharing.

That's the number Judge Hugh Davis came up with in the latest decision in the thorny legal question still being hashed out in the United States. He drastically reduced the damages owed by the first person successfully sued for downloading and distributing music illegally over file-sharing networks.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset, now 32, is a mother of four living in Minnesota, who over two separate trials was found liable for wilful copyright infringement, because she uploaded 24 songs to the Kazaa file-sharing network.

Last June, she was ordered to pay $1.92 million (all figures U.S.) to the suing record companies – a fine that worked out to $80,000 per song. On Friday, Davis called the initial award "outrageous" and "shocking," and reduced it to $54,000, which works out to $2,250 per song.

The practice of downloading music in Canada for free became a non-issue when record companies here backed off suing users several years ago. But it rages on in U.S. courts and at least one expert thinks it could eventually become an issue again in Canada.

Thomas-Rasset's lawyer, Kiwi Camara, said his client is elated by the decision, although she still feels the ruling is excessive.

Reached by Wired magazine, Thomas-Rasset said she doesn't have the money to pay, describing herself as a "very low- to middle-income" earner who works for a Native American tribe.

"It's not like I have a money tree in the backyard," she said.

Camara says Thomas-Rasset plans to appeal the decision on the grounds that the initial judgment remains unconstitutional.

"There's no question that the statutory damages awards don't reflect the value of the work, and you know that, because you can go out and buy the work for $1.29 on iTunes or $15 on a CD," Camara said.

"Even the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America, a party to the suit) admits that these awards are about punishment and deterrent. It's not about compensating them for the value of the work that Jammie Thomas took."

Also complicating matters is that last week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief that tacitly supports a ruling against Joel Tenenbaum, who was also successfully sued by the recording industry and ordered to pay $22,500 per song.

In 2004, the Canadian Recording Industry Association tried to sue 29 alleged file sharers, but the suits never "really got off the ground" due to privacy issues and evidentiary concerns, according to Michael Geist, a copyright expert, law professor at the University of Ottawa and Toronto Star columnist. But he thinks the Thomas-Rasset case could have an effect in Canada.

"There are similarities between Canadian and U.S. laws," Geist said in an interview. "If we were to get a case like this, it's possible that you'd get a court being asked to look at this type of decision and say, `Listen, other courts in the U.S. have looked at it and said there needs to be a bigger connection than actual damages and statutory damages.'

"These kinds of awards are grossly disproportionate to the kind of harm that's taking place."

Could This Be The Year The Grammys Go Young?

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(January 26, 2010) The past two Grammy Awards ceremonies have ended on similar notes.

In 2008, jazz legend Herbie Hancock — then 68 — climbed the stage to collect his 12th career Grammy, besting more buzzed-about competitors Amy Winehouse and Kanye West in the album of the year category.

Last year, it was Alison Krauss and Robert Plant who brought their collective career Grammy count up to 33, beating out such MTV-friendly competition as Lil Wayne (who had the year’s bestselling album), Coldplay and Ne-Yo (along with Radiohead) for album of the year, and amassing a show-high five trophies.

Going into Sunday’s show, Beyonce leads with 10 nominations, followed by eight for 20-year-old crossover country sensation Taylor Swift.

But some expert observers feel that if the Grammys want to skew to a younger audience, they’ll need to do more than just dole out nominations to poppy, teen-friendly acts — those performers will need to take home some trophies, too.

“I think it’s time that the Grammys started appealing to a broader demographic and I think they’re finally realizing that things need to change,” MuchMusic VJ Devon Soltendieck said in a telephone interview.

“Sixteen-year-old kids don’t want to watch Robert Plant win a Grammy. They don’t. Unless he’s with Led Zeppelin, they just don’t.”

“To somebody who’s 16, Eric Clapton feels geriatric. The Grammys’ nominating committee is probably realizing they need to be more diverse, and they really need to appeal to a broader number of people.”

Indeed, while the 64-year-old Clapton did receive two nominations this year, many of the marquee awards at the 52nd Grammys seem to be stacked in favour of a younger generation of artists.

Beyonce, Swift and upstart electro-pop oddball Lady Gaga will duel in each of the show’s three biggest categories (album, record and song of the year). At 28 years old, Beyonce is the senior of the three.

The Black Eyed Peas received six nominations (including nods for album and record of the year), along with Maxwell and Kanye West, and French house producer David Guetta, Jay-Z and Gaga each took five nods.

Performers include Beyonce, Green Day, Gaga, Pink, and Swift — all of whom also took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in September — as well as Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Maxwell and Lady Antebellum.

“To me, that could be an MTV or MMVA show,” John Kampilis, a senior producer for the MuchMusic Video Awards, said of the slate of announced performers.

“Shows like the Grammys and other award shows are realizing what a huge impact younger people have on music. They’re the ones on iTunes and out there buying all the CDs and products. You can’t ignore that.”

Meanwhile, the show will also mark the launch of several new online initiatives meant to get fans involved in the show.

The Recording Academy — which puts on the Grammys — has launched a new website that showcases fan-created content generated on YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, and houses something called the FanBuzz Visualizer, which will supposedly monitor fandom on the web in real time.

In short, the Grammys are trying to engage their viewers with an interactive approach. Here, again, insiders are reminded of other award shows.

“It probably is a page right out of the MMVAs and the MTV Awards,” Kampilis said.

“You can’t ignore any of the sort of social networking that’s going on and how that’s really shaping how we find out about new music.”

And yet some music experts feel that the Grammys have, in fact, ignored not only how music consumption habits are changing, but the range of styles and genres that constitutes the ever-broadening mainstream in the Internet age.

“In the last two years, we’ve had a real explosion of interesting music, amazing alternative music that has really cracked through — radio’s changed, music television’s changed, and absolutely none of that is reflected in the Grammy nominations,” said George Stroumboulopoulos, host of “The Strombo Show” on CBC Radio 2 and “The Hour” on CBC-TV.

“(The Grammys) used to be somewhere you could go if you were a music fan and accidentally stumble across something. It’s harder and harder to do that now. ... It’s about a television event and has nothing to do with music. But that’s not a knock. They’ll be honest with you about that, but that’s what it is.”

Swift, meanwhile, appears to be the popular choice to haul home trophies at the show.

Nominations for this year’s show were announced mere days after the VMAs, when Swift was a popular target of sympathy after West stormed the stage to protest the young starlet’s first-ever MTV award victory.

That outburst might be part of the reason that West failed to receive any of his six nominations in a headlining category, and may have tipped the scales even further for Swift.

But she also had the advantage of a massive crossover hit in her sophomore record, “Fearless,” which has been certified platinum four times in Canada and five times in the United States.

As a result, some say she’s a lock to win an award on Sunday.

“I would put money on it,” Soltendieck said.

“I would be shocked if she didn’t win. ... I think Taylor Swift will probably win a number of awards. Everybody loves her. What’s not to love? She’s young, she’s saccharine sweet, she’s nice, she’s talented, she’s beautiful, she writes her own songs.

“It’s like, what more do you want?”

Stroumboulopoulos, meanwhile, added Gaga’s name into the conversation.

The provocative New Yorker — born Stefani Germanotta — appeared seemingly out of nowhere before shooting up the charts with hits including “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame” and, more recently, “Bad Romance.”

And if her string of head-turning performances on major TV shows and award ceremonies are any indication — her blood-soaked MTV awards melodrama or her performance at the MuchMusic award shows, which ended with sparks streaming from her metallic bustier — she may at least pull off a memorable performance.

“Basically, This is Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga’s place,” Stroumboulopoulos said.

“Even the hipsters will try to tell you they like the Lady Gaga record.”

Of course, there are many other storylines that could play out on Sunday. Beyonce has more nominations than anyone else and 10 previous Grammy wins on her resume. The Black Eyed Peas aren’t critical darlings, but they’ve won three Grammys and their latest, “The E.N.D.” was an undeniable commercial success.

And you can never discount the possibility that the Grammy voters will once again resist the tide in favour of an established favourite.

But while the marquee categories garner headlines, some observers find joy in sifting through the Grammys’ 109 categories to unearth hidden gems.

“Don’t be too quick to write off the Grammys as purely mainstream,” said Grant Lawrence, who hosts a show on CBC Radio 3. “Once you dig under the surface a little, there’s an unbelievable amount of categories and there’s a lot to discover in there.”

But Lawrence also argues that the awards themselves are actually beside the point.

“I think that it’s not about really who wins,” he said. “We remember the nominees, we remember who was there, we remember who played live. People have a real hard time remembering who won any award.

“And I think nominations are worth their weight almost to the degree of winning, because our memories are short. And just getting invited to the party, you’re a winner.”

Neil Young is one musical icon who has never actually won a Grammy. Nominated for two this year, the Toronto-born rock legend will be also honoured as the MusiCares person of the year in a Grammy-organized gala event on Friday.

Walter Ostanek, the polka king from St. Catharines, Ont., who was once a Grammy mainstay, will be absent from this year’s festivities. The Recording Academy scrapped the category for best polka album in June.

Other Canuck nominees at this year’s show include Michael Buble, Melanie Fiona, Nickelback, Beast, Northern Cree, David Foster, Michael J. Fox (the actor is nominated for best spoken word album) and 23-year-old Toronto rapper Drake, whose hit track “Best I Ever Had” is up for best rap song and best rap solo performance.

He’s got Soltendieck in his corner.

“I really hope Drake wins,” he said. “He’s really in uncharted territory. He’s nominated for a Grammy, he doesn’t have an album out, he didn’t have a record deal a year ago, and yet here he is being nominated for a Grammy.

“You talk about wanting to create stories? This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The Grammy Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS and Global.

A Soaring Firebird, Sharp Edges And All

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

L’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
At Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Monday

(January 27, 2010) One great performance can really mess with your expectations of what can be done with the same piece the next time around. Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra visited Toronto two years ago with a couple of Stravinsky ballets, and so far exceeded what I imagined was possible that I left Roy Thomson Hall wondering how I could ever again be satisfied by a lesser performance.

So I was a little apprehensive at the prospect of hearing Kent Nagano and
l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal play one of those same pieces (the complete Firebird ballet) in the same room. Unnecessarily so, because the Montrealers and their American-born music director found a quite different way to make this 100-year-old ballet sound fresh.

Gergiev went at this work like a gambler ready to stake all he has on the next card, several times surprising even the players with a stunning, spontaneous gambit. Nagano’s more analytic direction seemed determined to trace a unifying scheme within the piece’s many shifts in tempo and tone.

Firebird’s recent concert history is all about the benign conspiracy of some conductors to convert this narrative ballet score into a symphonic poem. Just as Gergiev had done, but in a different way, Nagano somehow managed to integrate the piece’s cartoon-like sections (the bits in which Stravinsky directly signals some action on the stage) into a purely orchestral narrative, without filing off their edges.

The Montreal players were ready and willing to keep those edges sharp. There were so many excellent solo performances, so many passages in which an entire section moved as nimbly as a cat. Precision in music can be a weirdly intoxicating thing, especially when it shows you all kinds of details you scarcely knew were there. I sometimes felt like I was hearing the piece the way a sound engineer might, with each component clear and distinct. Yet however brilliant a particular section was, Nagano usually convinced me that it contributed to some deep structural logic that even Stravinsky in 1910 might have been surprised to perceive.

Since he arrived as OSM music director in 2006, Nagano has made a point of renewing the OSM’s familiarity with German Classical repertoire. His performance in Toronto of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Austrian pianist Till Fellner, showed a sober, exploratory spirit and a somewhat inconsistent notion of style. The woodwinds in the first movement almost always played their legato more broadly than the strings, to the point at which repeated melody notes barely registered as separate. The whole orchestral approach was a bit velvety for my taste, and not particularly consistent with Fellner’s dry, rabbitty touch, which sometimes gave his Steinway grand a little of the bare-knuckle quality of a fortepiano.

I found it easier to admire Fellner’s skill than to be excited by what he did with it. His very upright, even ponderous rhythm in the first part of the largo seemed like a triumph of principle over pleasure, though it paid off beautifully as the embellished theme returned with a delicate rubato that, in this context, seemed daring.

The concert opened with Debussy’s Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, a last-minute substitution for Weber’s Overture to Oberon. This rare Debussy item from 1908 offered up a robust kind of exoticism (a little Spanish, a little Arabian) within a form that seemed quite orderly for a rhapsody. André Moisan played the relatively low-profile solo part with tact and taste.

Adam Lambert Works At Getting Beyond 'The Kiss'

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(January 27, 2010) It was David Bowie who first cannily reasoned that if you look and act enough like a rock star, you might actually become a rock star.

The same thinking paid off in spades for last season's American Idol runner-up,
Adam Lambert. He might have lost the final vote to Kris Allen, but his attitude, his charisma and his gift for playing rock 'n' roll dress-up – not to mention a supple voice that can really wrap itself around the high notes – marked him as one of the few true, born entertainers ever to grace the series. He arrived a star. He just needed a venue.

Granted, Lambert's cockiness has since cost him a few fans on the "family values" side of things. Two days shy of the release of his debut album last November, the neo-glam extravaganza For Your Entertainment, he earned the ire of puritanical TV viewers and conservative pundits when he kissed a male keyboardist and shoved a male dancer's face into his crotch during a live performance of the title track on the American Music Awards. One of the most ridiculously overblown epidemics of gay panic this side of Brüno erupted, and America still hasn't completely gotten over it.

"The TV networks have been punishing me for it. They wouldn't let me do any live TV. They still haven't," says Lambert, 27 (until Friday), reclining beneath a painting of Marilyn Monroe in a trendy Ossington Ave. boite. "I'm not bothered by it anymore. It is what it is and I do think it'll blow over. Time heals and people are fickle and all that. But it's even made some other networks nervous about other projects, ones I shouldn't talk about for `political' reasons.

"It's too bad. Especially because, I feel, the media has a responsibility to progress society. It would be really nice if the media tried to open their minds and desensitize certain parts of the U.S. to certain things. I see straight people kissing all the time, so why is two men kissing obscene?"

Lambert – in town this week for a Monday MuchMusic appearance and some interviews before he heads to the Grammy Awards Sunday night as a fashion correspondent for Entertainment Tonight – has earned innumerable cool points by refusing to apologize ever since. Still, there's been some speculation that For Your Entertainment has stalled about 40,000 copies shy of gold status in the States because of lingering homophobia.

For his part, Lambert is just incensed that 1,500 angry letters to the FCC in a nation of 300 million can have such repercussions. Team Lambert, for instance, is still trying to figure out what scale of tour it should mount this year, if any.

Ideally, of course, he'd love to go big and theatrical, with "costumes and video and lighting and explosions: the whole thing."

What he'd prefer not to do in the meantime is become a crusader for gay rights in pop music. "On the one hand, I think it's cool because there isn't a lot of visibility for a young, gay, male musician. But ... I do resent slightly the fact that when I'm presented in the media, it's `openly gay singer and American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert.' ... My occupation is not `openly gay guy.' I'm a singer. My sexuality should be a sidebar, if anything."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Quincy Jones To Remake ‘We Are The World’ For Haiti Relief

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 21, 2010) *Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie will corral as much talent as possible during Grammy weekend to record a remake of their 1985 charity single “We Are The World” to benefit recovery efforts in Haiti. Hollywood Reporter’s Roger Friedman is reporting that Usher, Natalie Cole, and John Legend have been invited to the 25th anniversary re-recording so far, but more names will be added in the coming days, as all Grammy nominees and participants will be asked to stay an extra night after the Grammys to record the single at LA’s Nokia Theater. Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich will produce the event, which will then be turned into a video and single just like it was in 1985, when Ken Kragen, Richie and Michael Jackson organized the original “We Are the World” with Jones to benefit relief in Africa. Friedman says “Plans are still sketchy, but in some way, the song’s co-author Michael Jackson will be invoked. AEG is co-producing this event. They’re also putting together a 3D tribute to Michael for the Grammy show from elements Jackson was going to use for his tour. Jackson recorded “We Are the World” for what became ‘This Is It.’ Surely he’ll be included here as well, which will make the whole project even more poignant.”

Nelly to Interview Athletes for ESPN Magazine

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 21, 2010) *Rapper Nelly has been recruited by ESPN the Magazine to interview jocks at the sixth annual NEXT event next month in Miami. The affair is held to promote the publication’s annual NEXT issue, featuring interviews and listings of the next big stories in sports. Nelly will serve as the magazine’s VIP red carpet interviewer from a 25,000 square foot “tricked out interview tent” that was customized by NEXT sponsor, Samsung, reports allhiphop.com. NEXT takes place at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, Florida on Feb. 5. Keri Hilson and Ne-Yo will serve as headlining acts, while A Tribe Called Quest front man Q-Tip will guest DJ.

Reunited Dru Hill Launching Comeback

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 25, 2010) *Baltimore-based R&B group Dru Hill returns with a new label, new album and a brand new member.  Original members Sisqo, Nokio and Jazz are back with new member Tao, who replaces Woody for the group’s new start at Kedar Entertainment. Their new album, “InDRUpendence Day,” drops on April 13 led by first single, “Love M.D.” (Listen below.)  Later this year, the group will star in the reality TV series, “Sweat’s Platinum House,” produced by labelmate Keith Sweat and airing on Centric. Future projects include solo releases by Sisqo and Nokio’s rock group, Black Angel Down.

Apollo Theatre’s Amateur Night Returns

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 25, 2010) *The Apollo Theatre’s legendary “Amateur Night” talent competition returns on Wednesday Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m., the venue announced. The world’s most famous talent show had been on hiatus since last fall’s production of “Dreamgirls” at the famed Harlem attraction. Comedian Capone will serve as host of its opening re-launch, which will also feature a performance by rap veteran Doug E. Fresh. The first round of contestants include: Abraham Ogunlade, Cavelle-Nell Romeo, Charisa Dowe, Crystalyn Wynter, Khalif Hill, The Michael Jazz Trio, Simplicity, Tricia Douglas and The Professor. Tickets are $17, $22, $27; Student/Senior Rush day-of-performance $10. Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more at (212) 531-5355, the Apollo Theater Box Office or via Ticketmaster at 212-307-7171.

Flavor Unit Rapper Apache Dies

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 25, 2010) *Rapper Apache, an original member of Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit, has died, according to Web site AllHipHop.com. A cause of death has yet to be announced, but the Web site UnKut.com is reporting that Apache was living with a bruised heart and on permanent disability when he died. Best known for his 1992 single “Gangsta B**ch,” which reached No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart, Apache, born Anthony Teaks, worked with a number of his Flavor Unit cohorts, as well as Fat Joe and A Tribe Called Quest. The Newark, New Jersey native followed his 1992 album with 1993’s “Apache Ain’t Sh*t.” DJ Kid Capri said of Apache’s death via Twitter: “That’s my g, r.i.p in peace big homie, you will be missed, shout out to his family naughty by nature, I just did a show with them, god bless.”

   

Tina Turner Considers Another World Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2010) *Following a 2008 world tour that grossed $47 million and was packed with fans expressing gratitude for her return, Tina Turner says she hasn’t ruled out hitting the road again for another jaunt around the globe. “I haven’t made a decision yet,” she told Reuters at the Giorgio Armani Prive fashion show in Paris on Monday. “I didn’t make a plan for a big tour, with big stadiums. I’m not saying I won’t do it, get the girls out and do something, but I haven’t decided.” The 70-year-old pop legend says she certainly felt the love during her last outing. “People wanted to see me, so many were holding signs up saying, Thank You,” she said of her 2008 tour. But if a follow-up is not in the works, disappointed fans may console themselves with the prospect of a new album. “Recording is something that’s always easier than touring. I wouldn’t mind, but nothing’s come my way right now and that’s fine,” Turner said with a smile. “I have dinner parties, I can go to parties, there’s more freedom when you’re not working,” she said. “I’m just enjoying life.”

Video: Lauryn Hill Surfaces at New Zealand Music Festival

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2010) *Reclusive artist Lauryn Hill, who has been off the scene for nearly three years, turned up Saturday (Jan. 23) for a surprise performance at the Raggamuffin music festival in New Zealand. (Watch clip below.) The singer-songwriter sang “Doo Wop (That Thing)” from her Grammy-winning album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” according to a YouTube video of her appearance. In mid-2008, a source at Hill’s label told Billboard that she was “on hiatus” after a string of poor live performances and an onstage meltdown in New Orleans left fans demanding refunds. Hill also scheduled festival appearances in November 2008 and April 2009, but later cancelled for what were said to be “personal reasons.” Joining Hill at the Raggamuffin fest were Sean Kingston, Shaggy and Julian Marley, but not her fellow Fugee member Wyclef Jean, who couldn’t attend due to his relief efforts in Haiti but promised fans he’d be back to perform next year.

:FILM NEWS::

L.A. Loves All-American Canadians

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(January 25, 2010) PASADENA, CALIF.–Canadians are a valued commodity in Hollywood. Just ask the creator and co-producer of Glee, Ian Brennan. When Cory Monteith drove all the way down from Vancouver a year and a half ago to audition for Fox's popular new series, Brennan was as impressed by his good nature as he was by his looks and acting skills. "Of course he's Canadian," Brennan thought to himself. "Otherwise he'd be a complete a--hole."

Most in Hollywood seem in step with the industry adage that, if you're looking for the all-American boy or girl, cast a Canadian.

Canada, as usual, was well represented at the just-concluded winter television critics press tour. Monteith, like Brennan and the rest of the Glee cast, worked the Fox party. He seems the same likable guy who was so star-struck one year earlier at his first press tour event he couldn't bring himself to say hello to Jon Voight.

That was before Glee premiered and went on sell millions in CD, DVD and iTunes sales. Another of Glee's Canadian cast members, Montreal native Jessalyn Gilsig, admits her witchy wife character Terri Schuester "needs to take a break and find herself a bit." Gilsig and co-star Matthew Morrison (Will) shocked this often-fanciful series back to reality with a marital meltdown that will have big implications for Gilsig's character. The good news for Gilsig is that we haven't seen the last of Terri. Details are still sketchy, she says, "but I know they're going to get some space from each other and that it's going to be a good thing."

Another Canuck at the Fox party was Tyler Labine. Raised in Vancouver but originally from Brampton, Ont., Labine has fond memories of his old hometown and still talks wistfully about the giant water slide that used to be in Brampton's Shopper's World.

Labine stars as a surrogate dad to three kids in the Fox midseason comedy Son of Tucson. He loved working on Reaper, his last series, and knows all too well how Hollywood can be a fickle mistress. His first taste of U.S. network exposure came on the 2002 ABC series That Was Then. It lasted two episodes.

"I'd never experienced L.A. before," says Labine. "I came down here and people were blowing smoke up my ass."

He credits his parents with helping him keep things in perspective. "They were very savvy," he says, remembering their advice to concentrate on the work and not the trappings. "It's a very Canadian attribute, I think," he says. "It's all about the work ethic and how you treat other people."

Nina Dobrev, radiant young star of the CTV/CW series The Vampire Diaries, turned 21 during the press tour. Raised in Toronto, the Degrassi grad got a green light from her boss, executive producer Kevin Williamson, to finally go get a beer. "Don't worry, I will," she said. Look for her character Elena to go on "a little bit of an adventure" with flirty fang boy Damon (Ian Somerhalder).

There are no vampires on Happy Town, but there are plenty of Canadians. And why not – the ABC mid-season series was shot in Port Hope, Ont. Sam Neill and Steven Weber star in this spooky, small-town mystery series described as a little like Twin Peaks. But look closely and you'll spot several Canadians, including 22-year-old Toronto native Sarah Gadon in the key role of Georgia, a high school hottie.

Linda Kash (the Philadelphia Cream Cheese angel from all those commercials), Peter Outerbridge and Stephen McHattie are also among the locals.

Other U.S. producers who didn't go to Canada brought Canada to their shows. CBS's How I Met Your Mother loves picking on Cobie Smulders' character Robin and her Canadian roots. Earlier this season, the cast was seen visiting a Tim Hortons. Smulders was home in Vancouver over the holidays and says people there seemed fine with all the slams at the Great White North. "I went to Canada and that's all I heard," Smulders' co-star Alyson Hannigan told critics. "They were like, `We love you guys making fun of us!'"

Many more Canadians made the press tour scene, both before and behind the camera. Erin Karpluk and Michael Riley introduced U.S. critics to Being Erica at ABC's SOAPnet session. Martin Short was live via satellite for the Damages press conference. He plays a no-nonsense lawyer who goes toe to toe with Glenn Close's character when that series returns for a third season to Showcase Jan. 31. Graham Yost (Boomtown), who directs a key episode of HBO's WWII miniseries The Pacific (coming in March), fielded questions about the new FX series he is producing, Justified. That series stars Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) as an avenging, old-style marshal.

One of the biggest stars, Canadian or American, had a hockey story to tell. Kiefer Sutherland has returned for an eighth season as invincible Jack Bauer in 24 where, as the ads say, "New York gets Jacked." Sutherland was more jacked about playing hockey in Boston where he got to lace them up at Fenway Park the day after the NHL outdoor New Year's game.

"They had an all-star fundraiser the next day and I got to play with some great old Bruins like Cam Neely and even Dave Schultz from the Philadelphia Flyers. I remember him as one of the greatest fighters of all time on skates," said Sutherland, who proves once again that you can take the boy out of Canada, but you can't take Canada out of the boy.

Canadians Are Flying Their Freak Flag At Sundance

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 25, 2010) Canadians are freaking out the Sundance Film Festival.

The Canuck reputation for mildness has been shattered and splattered all over the snowy mountains here in visceral movies that pursue the shocks and profits of the horror, sci-fi and thriller genres.

“I think I speak for everyone: my pulse is like 170,” a man in the Library Center Theatre audience told actor Ryan Reynolds early Sunday morning, at a Q&A session following the midnight premiere of Buried, a hostage thriller directed by Rodrigo Cortés.

Another audience member told the Vancouver-born Reynolds that she suffers from claustrophobia and could barely sit through the movie, yet she couldn’t leave because it was so compelling.

Reynolds plays a U.S. trucker in Iraq whose convoy is ambushed by insurgents. He awakes to find himself beneath the desert in a wooden box not much bigger than a coffin.

He is the only person seen in the film as he fights against bombs and dwindling oxygen.

Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights to the thriller Sunday.

The reception was equally gobsmacked Friday night at the midnight showing of the sci-fi horror Splice at the Egyptian Theatre on historic Main St.

Despite a snowfall that had cars and feet slipping everywhere, movie buffs packed the auditorium to see Toronto filmmaker Vincenzo Natali’s strangely romantic shocker about a cloning experiment that goes very wrong.

Toronto’s
Sarah Polley stars in the film with Oscar winner Adrien Brody. They play biochemists whose quest for knowledge crosses ethical lines when they mix human with animal DNA, causing unexpected and unnerving physical and emotional results.

A smiling Polley introduced the film with this warning: “It’s morally indefensible.”

When the lights came up at the end, a voice from the audience told Natali, “Dude, that was the most f---ed up thing I’ve ever seen!” Natali took it as a compliment.

Freudian territories,” he told the Star. “It’s not your daddy’s creature movie.”

With a budget of $30 million, much of it going for advanced CGI and puppet effects, Splice is also not your typical Canadian movie.

It has plenty of Canuck company in dominating the genre market at Sundance 2010.

Two other Canadian shockers playing well in Park City are Daniel Grou’s 7 Days, a torture drama about a Quebec doctor who takes the law into his own bloodied hands after his daughter is raped and murdered; and Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, a horror parody that upends the old psycho hillbilly cliché with hilariously ghastly results.

Then there’s Adam Green’s Frozen, which, like Buried, isn’t a Canadian movie per se, yet has high profile Canuck talent. Toronto actors Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers play two of the three people stranded on a ski lift in this bone crunching thriller, which is set high above a mountain as night and bad weather approach.

These genre films are helping to erase outdated views of Canadian movies as being worthy yet a little stodgy. It turns out blood is thicker than maple syrup, and that’s perfectly all right with federal funder Telefilm Canada.

“I go so far as to say that we were known for depressing dramas and now we are expanding the diversity of genres that we’re investing in,” said Stephanie Azam, the national feature film executive for Telefilm Canada’s Toronto office.

That has been a purposeful move by Telefilm. Canuck horror isn’t a new thing. Toronto’s David Cronenberg has been popping eyeballs and bursting veins for decades.

But filmmakers and Telefilm have lately realized that quality genre films can put more butts in seats.

Canadian filmmakers are even getting to making sequels, the ultimate sign of genre success.

Azam pointed to last year’s smash comedy follow-up Trailer Park Boys 2: Countdown to Liquor Day, and also the in-production Fubar 2, the sequel to the 2002 cult hit about metalhead hosers.

“these films resonate with Canadian audiences,” Azam said.

“They like them and talk about them. And we’re making more movies like that.”

That’s music to the ears of guys like Natali, who has been struggling along with all other independent filmmakers to pursue their own visions in an industry dominated by blockbusters like James Cameron’s Avatar.

Speaking of Avatar, Natali’s Splice attracted so much advance attention, it drew a letter from Cameron’s lawyers. They were making cease-and-desist noises because they wrongly assumed that Splice was stealing from Avatar’s plot, even though Natali said he’s been writing it for 10 years.

But fellow Canuck Cameron told his legal beagles to take off, eh? Said Natali: “James Cameron actually interceded and said, ‘No, no! They’re really not doing anything like we’re doing.’ That spoke well for him.”

Adriana Maggs : She Knows No Boundaries

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(January 24, 2010) It is rare – and downright refreshing – to interview someone with no filter.

Most people in the movie business are loath to share details of their personal lives. Not Newfoundland-born writer/director
Adriana Maggs, who can’t help but dish about her private life – primarily, she figures, because “I have no boundaries.”

Thus, in the first 25 minutes of meeting the 34-year-old brunette, we know that she and her partner (with whom she has a five-year-old son, Billy) just split; that she has another eight-year-old son, Owen, with a different beau; that she was devastated when her debut feature film, Grown Up Movie Star, was turned down by the Toronto International Film Festival; and that all those factors prompted her to get a grip on her life last summer and seek therapy.

“It felt like everything was collapsing at once – the film didn’t get into Toronto, my boyfriend and I were splitting up and I thought my movie was going to end up on a shelf somewhere,” Maggs says. “I had to fix things about my life. So I slowed down, took stock, and things started to kind of go right.”

In November, she was one of the surprise Gemini winners for the short-lived CMT comedy Three Chords from the Truth. In December, she found out that Grown Up Movie Star had been accepted into the world cinema competition at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where its big premiere will be at the Egyptian Theatre Jan. 25. Better yet, the film has five screenings during the 10-day festival, all but one of which are sold out.

“Things have happened this year that have made me believe in God 100 per cent,” Maggs says. Speaking about her film in Toronto, where she moved from St. John’s in 2006, Maggs is dressed in head-to-toe black and sports fishnet stockings under a tight skirt slit up the back to panty level. Ample bosom is also on display, and she readily admits that she has always been a fan of low-cut, well, anything.

“My friend told me recently I was getting to an age where I can’t wear cleavage like that any more,” she says with a giggle. “I choose to ignore her.”

Maggs’s film, starring Newfoundland native Shawn Doyle and Regina’s Tatiana Maslany, is as blunt and honest as its maker. It revolves around Ruby (Maslany), a teenager whose mom has run off and whose father (Doyle) is a flamed-out National Hockey League player beginning to come out of the closet after years in an unhappy marriage.

Tragic and touching, the film uses earthy humour to confront some chilling truths about sexuality, friendship and family. Maggs says the film had to be shot in her home province – it was filmed on a shoestring budget in Flat Rock, Nfld. – because “Newfoundlanders are naturally adept at finding beauty and humour in tragic circumstances.”

“A lot of the film are themes I’ve dealt with in my life,” adds Maggs, who grew up in Corner Brook. “And a lot of the characters are based on real people. But no, my dad is not gay, God love him. The film is simply a fictionalized journey and exploration of real life, as I saw it around me growing up.”

As much as she drew on real life, though, Maggs says her goal wasn’t to “represent” Newfoundland: “Look, George Costanza doesn’t represent all New Yorkers. So why do we put this pressure on our films in Canada – or in Newfoundland – to represent all Newfoundlanders?.”

The way Maggs draws on Newfoundland to get at shared experiences is part of what appealed to her male lead. Born in Wabush, Labrador, Shawn Doyle had been approached many times to return to the region to act in film and television. But he had always resisted – until he read Maggs’s script.

“It had that kind of universality that is similar to Irish films like The Commitments,” he says on the phone from Los Angeles, where he is currently in the HBO series Big Love, before returning to Toronto to play Sir John A. Macdonald in a TV movie for the CBC. “And the reason it had that universality is because it is so specific to an area. It’s not trying to be anywhere else.”

Maggs’s comfort with both where she comes from and her artistic bent can be partly explained by her family. Her dad is a retired English professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and just published a book of poetry. Her brother, David, is a classical pianist who spends part of the year as artistic director of the Gros Morne Summer Music festival. Her sister, Jane, is an actor and playwright.

“I think we all gravitated to the arts because we grew up around a lot of artistic people,” Jane says.

Maggs is also part of a pack of up-and-coming young Newfoundland artists. They include her friend Sherry White, the creator of the film Crackie, and Allan Hawko, who shot his new CBC series Republic of Doyle in Newfoundland.

As for Sundance, late last week Maggs was settling into a chalet with some of the female cast and crew of Grown Up Movie Star while her sister took care of her kids. Reached on her cellphone, she reported that it had started to snow and she was “on the hunt for celebrities.”

Grown Up Movie Star will be released in select Canadian theatres on Jan. 29.

Extraordinary Measures: Life And Death

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

Extraordinary Measures
Starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. Directed by Tom Vaughan. 108 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(January 22, 2010) The wise moviegoer will want to resist Googling the book on which the medical drama Extraordinary Measures is based.

The full title of Geeta Anand's tome serves as a complete one-line summary and spoiler of the movie, not a good thing when you're dealing with an erstwhile thriller that is already short on suspense.

A title card advises us that the film, efficiently directed by Tom Vaughan (Starter For Ten), is "inspired by true events." That's Hollywood code for the many liberties that have been taken with the facts.

For example, Harrison Ford's irascible scientist character, Dr. Robert Stonehill, is based on several irascible scientists. And the real family seeking a medical miracle, headed by determined businessman John Crowley (Brendan Fraser), lives in New Jersey rather than the picturesque Oregon seen in the film.

But these are hardly deal-breakers for a movie that actually works better as an instructional video on the perils of the American medical system than it does as straight melodrama. Few films on this topic so clearly illustrate the competing agendas and cut-throat capitalism of America's for-profit health care.

Crowley is a rising corporate star with a flair for salesmanship. He's happily married to Aileen (Keri Russell). The couple have three children, the two youngest of which have pompe disease, a rare and aggressive form of muscular dystrophy.

Expensive 24-hour private medical care has so far managed to save Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velazquez), but time is fast running out for Megan, age 8. Few pompe sufferers live past age 9.

Crowley does research on the Internet and learns that Nebraska research scientist Dr. Stonehill has made a breakthrough with enzyme treatments that might prolong the lives of pompe sufferers. The catch is that the research is still at the theory stage, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed for further tests and critical trials to develop a drug.

Ever the optimist, Crowley is convinced that he can team with Stonehill to bring the drug to fruition. He will provide the business savvy and Stonehill will bring the science.

But he didn't reckon on Stonehill's many eccentricities.

The doc wears blue jeans, drives a pick-up truck, loves to fish and listens to the Grateful Dead at top volume.

Some kind of weirdo, eh?

More significantly, Stonehill is a loner. He distrusts his fellow scientists, loathes drug companies and he's never actually met a pompe sufferer.

He doesn't particularly like Crowley (the feeling is mutual). But Stonehill is going to have to work with them all if a miracle is to be realized.

Pompe is what bureaucrats unfeelingly refer to as an "orphan disease," one that kills too few people to be worth curing or even treating. Crowley rallies the families of other pompe sufferers to prove that there's potential profit in serving their needs.

The real personalities of Fraser and Ford drive the picture. Fraser, normally a comic actor and genial guy, has packed on a few pounds and also added dramatic heft since his George of the Jungle hijinks. He's completely believable as a middle-aged dad and corporate striver whose entire focus in life is saving his children.

Ford needs no introduction in his depiction of Stonehill as a gruff iconoclast who takes no prisoners. We've seen this side of Ford many times before, which isn't that far removed from the real Harrison Ford. But he adds executive producer to his credits for Extraordinary Measures, which suggests a degree of commitment that hasn't always been in evidence in his films of the past decade or so.

Fraser and Ford clash well together, and also with Dr. Kent Webber (Mad Men's Jared Harris), the drug company droid who is interested only in making a profit, not in saving lives.

"These decisions have to be made objectively, rationally," he insists, as Crowley and Stonehill press him to greenlight the process that could hasten the development of a pompe treatment.

Yet Webber is no moustache-twirling movie villain. You can understand his point, just as you can understand and sympathize with the desires and frustrations of Crowley and Stonehill. And neither Crowley nor Stonehill are exactly saints themselves.

And here's where Extraordinary Measures is something more than just ordinary. It accurately mirrors the dysfunctionality of the U.S. health care system, where charity is blunted and no miracles can happen unless they come with bags of cash.

No less an authority than U.S. President Barack Obama agrees with this dim assessment, which makes this movie right in tune with his current hard efforts to extend medicare benefits to millions of Americans.

If there were more films like Extraordinary Measures, there might be more support for what Obama and others are trying to achieve.

This may not be a great picture, but it has the potential to be an important one.

For Hennessy: Music And Murder, With A Side Of Doughnuts

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle MacDonald

(January 22, 2010) Sitting at a Tim Hortons drive-thru on the rural outskirts of Waterloo, Ont., actress Jill Hennessy is in a quandary as she mulls over her doughnut du jour . Beside her in the car is one of the co-producers of the upcoming, Canadian-made independent film, Small Town Murder Scenes , and the two are bantering about whether to go Dutchie or honey glazed.

“I normally go for a 10-pack of Timbits and mix it up,” says Hennessy, who now lives in New York, but grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, where her parents still reside.

“Oh crap,” she sighs, apparently deciding to change things up a bit. “I guess I'll go for the honey glazed. I love Tim Hortons,” says the one-time star of TV's Law & Order and Crossing Jordan , as she rips the sugary confection out of the bag on her lap.

Hennessy, 41, who has two young sons with actor/husband Paolo Mastropietro, hasn't worked in Canada in a decade. The last time she was here, she starred in the TV series Nuremberg , shot in Montreal, alongside Alec Baldwin and Christopher Plummer. Her absence, she says, has been due in large part to the fact that she has focused much of her time in recent years on playing guitar, performing live, and producing a folk album (which she and her husband are now self-distributing from computers at their kitchen table) called Ghost in my Head.

As for her ongoing screen career, and her work on Small Town Murder Scenes , which will hit the festival circuit this fall, she says, “I jumped at this script because there are a lot of unanswered questions about my character, Rita. And I liked that. She's attracted to very violent men, but she's got this push-pull thing going on, where she also recognizes she needs them out of her life. A lot of my scenes are very volatile, as Rita is heavily reliant on alcohol and drugs,” adds Hennessy, with a throaty chuckle.

“The last few nights we've been shooting in a corn field in Listowel, and Ed [Gass-Donnelly, the film's director] had me out there screaming – and spooking the hell out of the townspeople – until 3 or 4 in the morning. I would have fought to get into this film even if Ed had cast me as a Mennonite background actor.”

Gass-Donnelly's second feature film (his first was This Beautiful City ) is a small-town crime drama, along the lines of Mystic River , in which Swedish actor Peter Stormare ( Fargo , Prison Break ) plays Walter, a small-town cop with a dark past who is thrust into his heavily Mennonite county's first murder investigation in 70 years. Hennessy plays his ex-wife. The film co-stars Canadian Aaron Poole and American actor Martha Plimpton ( I Shot Andy Warhol ).

Originally a Toronto theatre director, Gass-Donnelly says that he cast Stormare and Hennessy because both are actors who bring a brand-new face to each role they take on. “Plus,” he says, “there is a reality that people go see movies because of the profile of the people in them. I felt recognizable actors for Walter and Rita made sense.”

The project has had a quick turnaround. Gass-Donnelly started writing the script last January, after being inspired by an eclectic folk-rock album, from the Canadian indie band Fembots, called Small Town Murder Scenes. (Five of the band's songs will appear on the film's soundtrack.) The five-week shoot wrapped in mid-November.

The director's passion for music is another thing that Hennessy – who used to play guitar on Toronto street corners – was drawn to. “I like having both acting and music as integral parts of my life. In fact, before I started this film, I was in the middle of a tour, playing 1,200-seat venues, with the [folk duo] Indigo Girls,” says Hennessy.

“We played in New York, Philadelphia, Maryland, Los Angeles, basically wherever we could go. Now, I'm focusing on getting some venues in Southern Ontario, and I'd love to get out to the Edmonton Folk Festival. If I can sneak into the Juno Awards [in April], I'd love to do that. I've got my buddies at Nickelback helping me on that.”

Her album, she adds, came out of the need “to deal with a lot of things bouncing in my head that needed to get out. Writing these songs was a way to deal with them. Some of the songs are very autobiographical, some are about people who have moved me or disturbed me.

“Others are about things I remember about my childhood,” says Hennessy, whose twin sister, Jacqueline, a Toronto-based journalist and actor, was cast alongside Jill in David Cronenberg's 1988 thriller about identical twins, Dead Ringers .

Hennessy says she gets back to Canada to visit family and friends about three or four times a year. And she's found making Small Town Murder Scenes oddly nostalgic, thanks to the set's proximity to her teenage stomping grounds.

“Coming back to the area has made me introspective,” she says. “I think of all the people I've encountered as a child, especially teachers – including one Miss Nicholson from high school, who was the first person to give me confidence in myself about music. It's reminded me how important these people were to me.

“I had also forgotten how spectacular the countryside is,” says Hennessy, who adds that has made a plan to hit Tim's again the day after our meeting – in search of an apple fritter. All part of returning to her roots, and loving the experience. “Living in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, you forget how rural simplicity can take your breath away.”

Will Female Directors Break Through The Glass Ceiling?

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(January 24, 2010) "Frankly, I thought Kathryn was gonna get this," James Cameron said of fellow nominee (and his ex-wife)
Kathryn Bigelow as he picked up his Golden Globe for Best Director for Avatar a week ago. "And she richly deserves it."

He likely wasn't alone in his sentiment, especially since Bigelow's work helming the tension-filled Iraq bomb-squad drama The Hurt Locker has received a slew of Best Director nominations and prizes, from the Directors Guild of America to the Critics' Choice Award.

But the bigger issue is this: will Bigelow be the one to crack the glass ceiling in Hollywood and be the first woman in 81 years to take home the gold statue for Best Director on March 7?

Only three women have been nominated – Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties in 1976; Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993; and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003. None of them won.

(Neither has Hollywood opened its arms to African-American filmmakers. Only one, John Singleton, was nominated for Best Director for Boyz n the Hood (1991). He lost to Jonathan Demme for The Silence of the Lambs.)

With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announcing the nominees for the 82nd Oscars Feb. 2, there's little doubt Bigelow will be among those getting a Best Director nod. While Vegas and London bookmakers have her almost neck-and-neck with even-money Cameron (she's at 11/10), historically, the odds are against her winning the prize.

It's a real head-scratcher why Hollywood – a town that wears its liberalism on its sleeve and trumpets equality in so many areas – would be so slow to let women into the filmmaking party.

Part of the reason is the kinds of movies women make – or more specifically, are allowed to make.

It's all about the money and big-budget action films and marquee studio pictures bound for Oscar glory that aren't being directed by women, who instead tend to be attached to romcoms (like Nancy Meyers's It's Complicated or Nora Ephron's Julie&Julia) or small, independent movies where they secure their own funding and distribution deals. Neither type is directorial Oscar fodder.

"One of the biggest barriers to the business to being a filmmaker is personal wealth," said Winnipeg-based director Danishka Esterhazy (Black Field). "It's an incredibly expensive hobby and not a lot of women have access to that."

While Esterhazy says the on-set side of the business "is not an inherently sexist world, like something out of Mad Men," there are still few women in the director's chair.

"There about as many female directors and cinematographers today as there would have been female CEOs in the 1960s," Esterhazy observed. "The numbers are outrageous."

She points to an American study that showed 34 per cent of women in the U.S. Senate are women, while fewer than 12 per cent of directors are female.

Esterhazy added the "the gatekeepers of our film industry – distributors, funders, broadcasters and producers" have to take some heat for the lack of female voices.

"I think they do not treat female directors the same way they treat male directors. There is a failure of imagination on their part. They want their directors to fit a certain image, a stereotype – the boy genius. Everyone wants the next Quentin Tarantino. No one is asking for the next Jane Campion or Sofia Coppola."

But that could change, with producers starting to say they want the next Bigelow for their picture.

"That's one thing I like about The Hurt Locker, is Kathryn Bigelow does a genre film far apart from a romantic comedy," said Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, whose film An Education dominated at Sundance last year and has been heaped with critical praise.

Sherfig spoke with the Star as she was heading to the Palm Springs International Film Festival to screen An Education.

"Whenever a woman does a successful film it's more visible and so it would mean more people would be willing to take on a project with a female director that is a bit more risky," said Scherfig of Bigelow's anticipated Oscar contention.

Scherfig (Italian For Beginners, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself) is also having a good year as a director. An Education is up for 8 Orange British Academy Film Awards (called the BAFTAs), including Best Director.

While Scherfig said she would like to see the numbers of female directors grow, her focus is on quality filmmaking, not the filmmaker's gender. She's not enthusiastic about Swedish legislation that guarantees an extra $200,000 (U.S.) for government-supported films directed by women.

Jane Campion, who is a member of the elite group of Oscar-nominated women directors, had some blunt words on the subject when she spoke to the Star at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. Her 19th-century literary romance, Bright Star, was touted as a possible Best Director repeat for Campion, but has since lost traction.

"I think there's a pretty good reason why there aren't more women film directors and it's obviously because there's a boys' club at the head of the Hollywood system," Campion said.

"It's a boys' club; it's secret," she added. "We don't know why. Guys are deciding and I don't know, it's what happens in a men's club. Even though the game of equality is played right up to the last moment when boys and girls graduate film school, once they leave it changes completely."

"It's a brutal industry at the best of times," pointed out Sadia Zaman, executive director of Women in Film & Television Toronto.

"A lot of it has to do with the faces in the writers' rooms." Zaman added. "Often they don't have that many women and people don't think of having a female director to tell certain stories."

Fewer women in the profession means a lack of role models for fledgling directors, said Zaman, adding WFT-T makes use of mentorship programs to help aspiring directors.

"There are the three Toronto biggies (Deepa Mehta, Ruba Nada and Patricia Rozema) that everybody wants access to in terms of mentorship and all three are incredibly supportive." But they're also busy making films, Zaman added, and she can only ask them to do so much.

Director Leslie Ann Coles, founder of The Female Eye, Ontario's first women's film festival, says female directors can be judged more harshly than their male counterparts.

"You hear this time and again that women have to fight a lot harder," she points out.

They have harder time if they fail, added Scherfig.

"When women do something that does not land on both legs, it's bad for all of us," she said.

Perhaps Sofia Coppola suffered that fate, facing boos at Cannes and a critical drubbing for her Lost in Translation follow-up, Marie Antoinette in 2006. It made only $15 million in the U.S., and cost $40 million to make. Coppola hasn't released a movie since, although she is in production on a feature due out this year, Somewhere, starring Benicio Del Toro. She also wrote the screenplay, as she did with her previous two movies.

"I think the industry is far more forgiving of male directors when they have a film that flops," observed Coles.

"It's hard to know why women have fared so badly in Hollywood in the last few decades, though any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination," wrote New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis last month. "The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines."

"The film industry is very queasy about talking about lack of female representation in filmmaking," concluded Esterhazy, who lists herself as a "minority" when applying for production grants because of her gender.

"Take the image of who is a great director. That image is a stereotype of a powerful man behind the camera with a beret and jodhpurs," Esterhazy laughed.

Inglourious Basterds Wins SAG Film Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber

(January 23, 2010) LOS ANGELES–Jeff Bridges of "Crazy Heart" and Sandra Bullock of "The Blind Side" claimed top acting honours at Saturday's
Screen Actors Guild Awards, building momentum for possible Academy Awards glory for the two stars.

"I love being an actor – pretending to be other people and getting into the shoes of other folks," said Bridges, who plays a hard-luck, hard-living country singer in the drama.

Although respected by his peers, Bridges has largely been bypassed for major awards. Bullock also got a rare chance to bask in the awards spotlight, winning for her portrayal of a tenacious real-life mom, Leigh Anne Tuohy, who helped a youth in need, future NFL player Michael Oher.

Both Bridges and Bullock had picked up Golden Globes trophies for their roles less than a week ago. Backstage, Bullock refused to speculate on her Oscar chances in March.

"Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhh," she said, repeatedly, to a reporter asking the question.

"I would be a hostess or a waitress or a house restorer before I ever considered myself an actor, because I never thought I was good enough," Bullock added.

In another repeat of the Golden Globes, Christoph Waltz was honoured as best supporting actor for his role as an energetically ruthless Nazi in the film "Inglourious Basterds," while Mo'Nique's searing portrayal of an abusive mother in "Precious'' was honoured as best supporting actress.

The cast of "Inglourious Basterds," an off-kilter World War II revenge saga from Quentin Tarantino, won the award for best ensemble performance, a possible sign of the film's Oscar chances for a best-movie nomination and nod for Tarantino.

"It was an honour to be part of it, Quentin," cast member Eli Roth said in accepting the award for the cast.

The cast of AMC's 1960s Madison Avenue saga "Mad Men" won the trophy for best drama series ensemble for the second year in a row, while 19 cast members of Fox TV newcomer "Glee," about misfits in a high school singing club, accepted the award for best comedy series ensemble.

Fox's "Glee" is on a streak: It claimed the best comedy series award at the Golden Globes.

Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey of NBC's "30 Rock" won for best acting in a comedy series, allowing Fey to get in a sly joke about NBC and its bitter late-night battle with Conan O'Brien in her acceptance speech.

"I just wanted to take a moment to say to everyone at NBC, we are very happy with everything, and happy to be there," she said. Both she and Baldwin won the awards last year.

Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall of Showtime's "Dexter,'' wearing a cap because of treatment he's receiving for Hodgkin's lymphoma, won best actor in a drama series. The award for best actress in a drama went to Julianna Margulies of CBS' "The Good Wife.''

Kevin Bacon won as best actor in a movie or miniseries for the war-themed series, "Taking Chance," while Drew Barrymore received best actress honours in the category for "Grey Gardens," about eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Onassis.

Betty White, 88, accepted a lifetime achievement award from Bullock for an enduring career that included "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls" and showed her sharp comedic chops.

When Bullock joked that she finds White annoying, White shot back, "Isn't it heartening to see how far a girl as plain as she is can go.''

"I should be presenting an award to you for the privilege of working in this wonderful business all this time. And you still can't get rid of me," White told the audience.

Actors in a number of critically acclaimed films went home empty-handed, including "Up in the Air" star George Clooney and the film's supporting actresses, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

Clooney, however, was lauded by SAG President Ken Howard for helping organize Friday's telethon to raise money for earthquake-devastated Haiti, a rare reference to the tragedy during the program.

The cast of "The Hurt Locker" also lost out.

Last year, SAG's movie cast award was presented to "Slumdog Millionaire," which went on to win the best picture Oscar. However, this year, one of the season's strongest best picture contenders, "Avatar," was not nominated in any SAG category, all of which are acting, perhaps because "Avatar's" best performances were computer-assisted.

Sundance Honcho Robert Redford Sees Docs Filling News Void

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

(January 22, 2010) PARK CITY, Utah - Somebody must have reloaded the Sundance Kid's six-shooter.

Sundance founder
Robert Redford arrived loaded for bear at Thursday afternoon's press conference opening his annual festival of independent film.

He strolled onto the stage of the Egyptian Theatre on historic Main St. and announced that the 26th edition of the fest would be a return to the promotion of "new ideas and new voices" that was the impetus for the founding of Sundance in 1985.

He made no bones about how he feels the festival has gotten corporate, predictable and stale over the past quarter century, as it has grown from a tiny event for Utah film buffs into a global cultural enterprise and trademark.

"I felt that we were sliding," said Redford, 73, holding the microphone as he settled into a comfy leather chair, flanked by new Sundance director John Cooper.

"I felt that we were beginning to flat line and we needed a fresh new approach. I thought that (the festival) needed to get back to our roots when we first started, when there was a great separation between independent film and the mainstream."

That separation had grown blurry in recent years, as Sundance increasingly attracted Hollywood comedies and dramas with big stars and relatively big budgets. With them came what Redford calls "ambush marketers," who had no real interest in independent film and simply saw the festival as a chance to turn a fast buck.

The economic recession has greatly trimmed the fast-buck herd, leaving mainly filmmakers and their backers who are willing to put up their own money to get their films seen and their ideas discussed.

It was a much more engaged and garrulous Redford who met the press Thursday. He even looked more like the movie star he is, dressed in a green work shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots as if he'd just left the set of a western. (And in a way, he had: Redford's working on a period drama that he says will shed new light on the Lincoln assassination.)

When Redford talked about the festival "sliding," he might have been including himself.

Over the last decade or so, he's perfected what I call his "Professor Bob" routine, wearing horn rims and a serious demeanor as he droned on about the importance of indie film.

He didn't put his glasses on until the latter part of Thursday's presser, when he shifted into Professor Bob mode again.

Prior to that, he was chattier than I'd ever seen, as he talked at length about how he hopes that Sundance's long commitment to documentary film is finally bearing fruit.

He sees docs as potentially taking over the role of reporting and truth-telling that has traditionally been the purview of the mainstream media, which is in decline due to the rise of digital media.

"I think that by expanding the opportunity for documentaries to be seen, you can start to move into areas that are being vacated by the news media with the online development and also the collapse of some print...

"Where are people going to get the truth? It's going to get pretty confusing out there with bloggers and yadda, yadda, yadda ... and I'm thinking that in the future, we might see the public looking more to documentaries to being a version of the truth."

The "renew and rework" theme is more than just a slogan. The festival has expanded its reach this year, despite having less cash to play with (reportedly $2 million less) because there are fewer corporate sponsors.

A new low-budget film program called "Next" was created this year, and Sundance also began an outreach program with concurrent screenings for some festival films on YouTube and in eight art house theatres across the U.S.

There's a great deal of the politician in Redford, who generally avoids making direct statements – although he made quite a few of those Thursday.

You could hear his political side in the way he bent over backwards to avoid criticizing Cooper's predecessor Geoffrey Gilmore, who ran the festival for many years until leaving last year for a new opportunity at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Redford said Gilmore was great for Sundance, but "it was simply time for fresh new blood. I think you have to keep rejuvenating yourself from time to time.

"I have a great fondness for Geoff. He gave so much to this institute for so many years. But it was time for him to move on, and time for us to move on."

Talk about your backhanded compliments. If I were Gilmore, I'd be feeling like a few of the Sundance Kid's bullets had just gone into my hide.

But at least Gilmore can take solace that the festival he loved is in a feisty mood, and that Redford has found renewed purpose to making it stronger than ever.

Travolta Flies In Supplies And Scientology Ministers

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2010) *Actor and pilot John Travolta has flown a jetliner carrying relief supplies into the Haitian capital, along with doctors and ministers from the Church of Scientology, reports the AP.

The 55-year-old piloted his own Boeing 707 from Florida with six tons of ready-to-eat military rations and medical supplies for survivors of Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake late Monday.

Travolta compared the mission to aid efforts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“We were there right away, with this airplane, because you know we have the ability and the means to do this so I think you have responsibility on some level to do that.”

Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, returned to Florida as soon as their supplies and passengers were unloaded.

Wyclef Jean performs at the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon

Meanwhile, organizers for last week’s “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, backed by George Clooney and Haiti-born rapper Wyclef Jean, on Monday raised the estimated amount of money it raised to more than $61 million, to date.

By comparison, Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, lists the September 11 TV telethon, “A Tribute to Heroes,” as raising around $150 million, and the Hurricane Katrina event, “Shelter from the Storm,” collecting around $40 million in charitable giving.

The two-hour “Hope for Haiti Now” drew an average audience of 24 million viewers in the United States, while an estimated 83 million people, according to The Nielsen Co, saw at least a brief part of the fundraiser carried Friday on 33 TV networks. Organizers will continue taking contributions for six months.

Why Avatar Has Become Another Cameron Home Run

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(January 26, 2010) Canadian James Cameron's world box office domination is complete.

Sometime early Monday,
Avatar became the top-grossing movie of all time at the worldwide box office with almost $1.844 billion (U.S.) in ticket sales, pushing the previous record holder, Cameron's Titanic, to No. 2 with $1.843 billion, The Hollywood Reporter said Monday.

Cameron should be hollering "I'm king of the world!" right about now.

He hasn't quite sewed up the North American box office record with Titanic still in the lead by $49 million, but what's $49 million between movie siblings?

Here are five reasons why film-goers welcomed Avatar's global invasion:

1 The Na'vi look real, despite being freakishly tall, whippet-thin and blue. They are helping us forget the dead fish-eye stares of early motion-capture efforts like Polar Express.

2 Cameron has filled the obsession void for the world's nerds and nerdettes. Go to the website www.Naviblue.com, where postings begin with sentences such as "after my fourth viewing today, I noticed a couple of things I didn't see before."

3 Sigourney Weaver (below) keeps the wisecracking, tough yet tender broad we've loved since the screwball comedies of the 1930s (not to mention Aliens) alive and quipping in 2154.

4 Everybody who needed – or wanted to – has already learned Klingon. Now there's a new made-up alien lingo: Na'vi, complete with more than 1,000 words and a grammatical system created by a language prof at Cameron's behest.

Cameron (below) has the power to change geography. The website www.chinadaily.com reported that a mountain peak in China's Hunan province was renamed Hallelujah Mountains, after the floating peaks on Pandora. Photos shot in the real-life mountains during pre-production on Avatar in 2008 inspired several scenes, said Song Zhiguang, director of Yuanjiajie Scenic Spot Administration.

The Killer Inside Me : A Movie So Violent Even The Star Can't Watch It

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 26, 2010) PARK CITY, Utah - Sundance 2010 has its first major controversy following the world premiere of Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, a film that gives new meaning to the term "gratuitous violence" – especially the kind directed at women.

The groans from the Eccles Theatre audience on Monday matched the onscreen moans of stars Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, who are punched and kicked to a bloody pulp by Casey Affleck's psychopathic character Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a small west Texas town. Ford seems to despise everybody, himself included, and he doesn't hesitate to use his fists, knife or gun to stop anybody who crosses him for any reason.

Ford's greatest rage is reserved for women and Winterbottom doesn't hold back in depicting it at its most graphic, even returning in flashback to a couple of beatings.

The British director faced an outraged audience when the lights went up Monday, as reportedly happened at an earlier screening the night before. Males and females assailed him with questions about why he felt it necessary to show such graphic and gratuitous violence, and why so much of it was directed at women.

A clearly rattled Winterbottom spoke at a rapid clip as he attempted to justify his film, which is based on a 1952 pulp novel by Jim Thompson. He argued that since Ford is obviously insane, we shouldn't take his first-person account of what is happening completely literally.

"It's not the real world. It's kind of a parallel version of the real world ... I was taken in by that world," Winterbottom said.

This didn't cut any ice with the audience members, many of whom still felt Winterbottom went too far. At the first screening Sunday night, a woman reportedly demanded to know why Sundance officials let the film into the festival.

"Although there is a lot of violence in it and obviously there's a lot of violence directed toward women, there's also a lot of tenderness," Winterbottom said.

That "tenderness" includes sadistic lovemaking scenes in which Affleck's Ford administers spankings to Alba and Hudson. Alba plays the town prostitute and seems to enjoy the spankings, until things get too rough. Hudson plays Ford's girlfriend, who doesn't like what her man has turned into.

Alba is at Sundance, but she left the Sunday screening of the film midway through and didn't attend Monday's screening. Neither Hudson nor Affleck apparently made the trek to Park City.

The Killer Inside Me is meant to represent the extremes of human nature, Winterbottom said. Everybody has an aspect of Lou Ford in their darker side.

"Obviously, it is shocking, but shocking things happened then as now.... It's not only just about what a killer is like or how a killer behaves. It's also kind of a very dramatic version of how we all are."

Winterbottom's other film at Sundance 2010 is The Shock Doctrine, a documentary based on Naomi Klein's "disaster capitalism" book of the same name.

But that film isn't half as shocking as The Killer Inside Me, which is going to have trouble getting a theatrical release in its current form.

RUNning WITH JOAN: The world premiere of The Runaways at the Eccles on Sunday night received two thumbs up from audience members, some of whom were moved to tears by its fact-based story of early female rockers.

A suddenly grown-up Dakota Fanning and a leathered-up Kristen Stewart play Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, the frontwoman and guitarist respectively of the influential 1970s Los Angeles band The Runaways.

The film by Toronto writer/director Floria Sigismondi doesn't break any new ground in rock 'n' roll filmmaking. There is some mild sex (including a soulful kiss between Fanning and Stewart) and a bit of drug-taking, but it's nothing to excite censors.

The picture emphasizes the struggle of women trying to prove themselves in a male world. Michael Shannon steals every scene he's in as the band's manager-cum-svengali, who commands them to use their sexual charms to sell their act. Natch, they rebel, because the music is what matters.

The story is centred on Fanning's character rather than Stewart's, which may have been a mistake. Stewart's Jett is a far more interesting figure, who made a bigger splash as a solo act after the Runaways split in 1979. And Jett is still into rock, as she displayed Saturday night with a live performance at Harry O's bar on Main St. (It's more than likely that some of the enthusiasm for The Runaways came from Twilight fans who were there because they love Stewart's Bella character in the vampire romance series.)

Currie left The Runaways in 1977 and her solo career wrapped up in the early 1980s. She's still making a noise, however: today she's an artist in California, making creations using a chainsaw.

A STAR IS BORN: Everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame at Sundance, even if they don't want it.

It happened on Monday to Cameron Bailey, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, who is here scouting potential movies for TIFF 2010.

He stopped by my breakfast table to say hello. Before he could get a word out, a woman came up to him with a scrap of paper, requesting an autograph.

She had mistaken him for a star – Samuel Jackson, perhaps?

When she found out that Bailey wasn't of sufficient Hollywood wattage, she turned on her heels and went back to her table. A puzzled but smiling Bailey took it all in stride.

::TV NEWS::

Canadians Switch Off During TV Commercials

Source: www.thestar.com - Dana Flavelle

(January 26, 2010) In a world filled with technological distractions, television remains a universal medium but almost no one is watching the ads, a report by advertising agency Bensimon Byrne warns.

A growing number of Canadians are surfing the web or sending text messages on their cellphones while watching television, the agency said in its quarterly Consumerology report.

As well, many more households own personal video recorders and are using them to skip the ads, according to the report, which was being released Tuesday at Advertising Week 2010 in Toronto.

As a result, only one in five Canadians is giving television commercials their full attention, the study concluded.

“The overall learning from this study is that technology is fragmenting our attention spans dramatically,” Jack Bensimon, president of Bensimon Byrne said in a statement released Tuesday. “Advertisers must accept they no longer have a captive audience. Whatever your product, service or message, it needs to be of high interest or it will not sustain awareness.”

From just 9 per cent of households in 2008, the number with PVRs has risen to 29 per cent today and is projected to grow to 42 per cent by the end of this year, Bensimon said. The 9 per cent figure came from the Television Bureau of Canada.

Just over half of PVR owners use them to record the majority of the shows they watch and eight in 10 report that they fast-forward through the commercials, the study found.

The survey found younger people were earlier adopters of new technology. Some of its other findings:

•  Half of Canadians under age 34 spend two hours a day online. But 83 per cent of respondents of all ages consider the Internet “essential” to their daily lives. And high speed internet access was cited as the single most important home entertainment device.

Just over half of respondents of all ages consider a cellphone “essential.” However, consumers over 55 were more likely to also own a land line, while those under 35 did not.

•  Just over half of Canadians use Facebook, though usage is less likely among consumers over age 55.

•  Only 22 per cent of respondents said they use Twitter and usage is concentrated among people under age 30.

The quarterly study commissioned by Bensimon Byrne and conducted by the Gandalf Group was based on a survey of 1,627 Canadians at two different times, early last September and mid-November.

Vivica A Fox Takes On Gospel, TV, Reality Projects, And More

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 25, 2010) *Actress Vivica A. Fox, who is best known for her roles in late ’90s films “Soul Food” and “Set It Off,” is taking the stage for the 2010 Allstate Gospel Superfest as a co-host for the show, which will be nationally syndicated beginning today, January 25. The star, joined by actor Flex Alexander, taped the event live from Cincinnati, OH earlier this month.

“I’m excited. This is the third time that I’ve hosted the Gospel Superfest. I really enjoy it,” Fox told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful way to start off the year; giving thanks and praise.”

Fox said that this year’s event served as a homecoming of sorts for the show’s founder and executive producer Dr. Bradley Cartwright.

“He started the Gospelfest on the radio and now it’s grown into being on television and being a wonderful evening of praise,” she said. “He reached out to me years ago. I guess it went well and this year I’m the hostess with the mostests.”

Though Fox, and Alexander for that matter, are talented showmen in their own right, Fox said that the duo left the performances to the great gospel performers including The Clark Sisters, Shirley Murdock, Regina Belle, J. Moss, Ricky Dillard and New G, Vickie Winans, Shirley Murdock, Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard, The Williams Brothers, Keith Wonderboy Johnson, Hezekiah Walker & LFC, Jonathan Nelson, and others.

On Saturday, January 9, Proctor and Gamble sponsored the 11th annual Allstate Gospel Superfest in Cincinnati, hosted by Vivica Fox and Flex Alexander. During the event, TV host and entrepreneur B. Smith hosted the Bounty Soul Food Cook-off, a competition between three of America's top gospel choirs.

And while the roster of gospel’s brightest stars will be in the house, there is just a bit of controversy in the gospel community about the sexy star hosting gospel shows, though Fox said that she herself hasn’t heard any complaints.

“I’m a celebrity that’s well known in the African-American community who loves the Lord. I just think they’re happy to bring a little bit of Hollywood to gospel. When I come out, I get a lot of love,” she said.

The 11th Annual Gospel Superfest will air on some Fox affiliates (check local listings).

“When the show started off on the radio, it helped to launch Mary Mary who have crossed over into pop [music]. They started off on the gospel network, on his show.”

A rather busy actress, Fox also just recently released the DVD “Whatever She Wants,” did an alter ego photo shoot with famed photographer Derek Blanks, reunited – in a way – with rapper 50 Cent, has a gig with Nickelodeon and a gig with Cartoon Network, and is making moves – literally.

“[Whatever She Wants] was a play that I produced as well starred in,” she said. “It was on the road for about six months a couple of years ago. I won a Spirit Award for that role. It stars Richard Roundtree, Boris Kodjoe, and comedian Scruncho. It was a wonderful comedy drama play with a lot of singing in it.”

With Derek Blanks, who has done a lot of very famous alter ego photos, Vivica chose a sexy vampire and an angel.

“I loved the drama of creating that character, which was my vision, so I loved seeing it come together,” she said of the experience. “I loved doing everything with the hair, with the eyes, with the makeup. I started off as a model, so I love taking pictures. I love looking different, and I was getting into character.”

(Click here to watch the video of the photo shoot.)

Fox got in front of the camera again, this time with former fling, rap star 50 Cent. She co-starred with the artist for his video for “Do You Think About Me.” In the vid, Viv plays 50’s ex-girlfriend who goes into a tizzy, slashing tires, stabbing voodoo dolls of the G-Unit General and, at the end, bringing C-4 to his door, MTV reports. The music video even uses real photos of the two when they were couple.

“We put our differences behind us,” Fox said of teaming with 50 for the video. “We’ve never worked on camera together. It was so fun and it showed everyone that we’re friends now. I was really surprised to get the call from him to do the video, but it was very pleasant surprise. We had a lot of chemistry – chemistry was never the problem. It just showed that we were able to put our past behind us. It’s good.”

She is also starring on the Nickelodeon show “True Jackson, VP” as the main character, True Jackson’s (played by Keke Palmer) mom and is the voice of Angel Dynamite on “Scooby Doo” on the Cartoon Network, and is shopping her own reality series.

“The reality series will be about Vivica moving to Miami and starting a new chapter of my life and entering the world of journalism, either as a sportscaster, a hard new reporter, or an entertainment reporter,” Fox described. “I’m starting a new chapter in my life on the East Coast, but it’s got to be warm because I do not do cold.”

But does this mean she’ll be leaving acting? Not necessarily.

“I’d like to move to the East Coast because it seems like there’s more opportunities,” she said. “I think Hollywood is a town for … well, I’ve done well being Vivica Fox. I’m just going to give myself a new challenge.”

For more on Vivica Fox and her plans and projects, check out her website at www.vivicafox.com. For information and air times of the Allstate Gospel Superfest, go to www.gospelsuperfest.com.

Tatyana Ali To Star In New Martin Lawrence Sitcom

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(January 21, 2010) *Best known for her role as Ashley Banks on the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” Tatyana Ali, who now appears as a regular on CBS’s “Young and the Restless” as Roxanne, is now starring in a new sitcom “Love That Girl.” On January 19, 2010 the Martin Lawrence sitcom will premier on TV One at 9 p.m. Four episodes, acquired by TV One, will air from January 19th – 21st.

“Love That Girl” was created by Bentley Kyle Evans – responsible for such hits as “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Full House” and “Martin” – and produced by Jeff Franklin (“Full House”). The show is about the trials and tribulations of a newly divorcee (Tatyana) as she moves back to Southern California to work with her father (Phil Morris) in the real estate business. Alphonso McAuley (Fat Albert) co-stars as her unemployed brother and Kendyl Joi (Life) plays her best friend.

Singer/songwriter Raphael Saadiq’s 2008 single “Love That Girl” serves as the show’s theme song. In fact, the sitcom was filmed in Saadiq’s Blakeslee Recording Studios.

“He approached me (Bentley), told me the idea …and I loved the script, loved the character…a coming of age story,” said Tatyana Ali about her involvement in the “independent” series. “It’s very much a family comedy sitcom. Her brother’s out of work…there’s her best friend and the friend next door.”

Bentley Evans also enlisted the help of his sister Stacey Evans Morgan (“The Parkers”) as producer-writer; his nephew Nile Evans (“Wild ‘n Out”) and brother Lamont Evans as writers; his wife Valicia Evans as set designer, and Anastasia Ali as co-producer. Evans, Martin Lawrence, Saadiq and Trenten Gumbs serve as executive producers.

A graduate of Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in Government and African-American Studies Tatyana has two siblings Kimberly and Anastasia – who co-owns NazraH Entertainment which produces the www.BET.com web series “Buppies.”  

Born in Brooklyn, New York on January 24, 1979 Ali obtained her first acting role at the age six on Sesame Street. Then in 1990 she obtained a co-starring role on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

“After high school I didn’t feel like I was finished,” Ali said about the decision to go to college. “It is something no one can take from you. If you have the education you can turn your dreams into reality.”

As a vocalist her first national performance was on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and in 1999 she released her debut CD, “Kiss the Sky,” which went gold. Tatyana is currently working on her sophomore CD which is to be produced by Johnny J (Tupac).

In 1995 Tatyana won an NAACP Image Award for her work on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and recently receive a 2010 NAACP Image Award nomination for her work on “Young and the Restless.”

To learn more about Tatyana or “Love That Girl” log onto www.TatyanaAliOnLine.com or www.myspace.com/TatyAli.

This article was written by Eunice Moseley

Conan O’Brien’s Deal: Who Won And What Now?

Source: www.thestar.com -
Raju Mudhar

(January 21, 2010) The Tonight Show soap opera has officially come to an end. Too bad, really. Does anyone get tired of watching millionaires fight?

Here’s a rundown of what we know and what happens next.

What’s Conan walk away with?

According to reports, Conan O’Brien’s deal to walk away from NBC’s Tonight Show is worth almost $45 million (U.S.), with the host getting $32.5 million and his staff splitting about $12 million. Earlier this week, one agent likened his contract to the Magna Carta because of how many guarantees it had. Supposedly, there are clauses that do not allow him to do interviews for a certain period, and he will not be allowed to start another show of his own until September. There’s also a non-disparagement clause, meaning that he won’t be allowed to further bash NBC, which obviously has been a comedy gold mine over this past week. His final show will be Friday night.

When does Jay return to The Tonight Show?

Jay Leno returns as on March 1, after NBC finishes broadcasting the Vancouver Olympics.

What does NBC get?

A little bit of peace, and a chance to pretend that none of this ever happened. There are some reports that the buyout is a bargain, because the language in Jay Leno’s contract would supposedly require an even larger payday if the company forced him to walk away. NBC also gets to keep the intellectual property created during O’Brien’s 17 years at the network.

So does that mean no more Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Masturbating Bear?

The deal says they will remain with NBC. There may, however, be some ways around that. For instance, David Letterman had the same sort of issue when he left NBC, but tweaked things such as his Top Ten List just enough that he could use it at his then-new CBS home. It remains a staple, so something like the “Self-pleasuring Bear” could possibly hit the air.

What’s next?

NBC’s wall-to-wall Olympics coverage, which starts Feb. 12, should make this late-night fight a memory. Post-Olympics, NBC will return to airing new scripted shows at 10 p.m.: Law & Order returns March 1; Parenthood debuts March 2; Law & Order: SVU returns March 3; and Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref debuts March 4 (critical favourite Friday Night Lights comes back April 30). And the network has already ordered pilots for 17 new series to help beef up its line-up, including new versions of The Rockford Files and The Undercovers, a J.J. Abrams project about a spy couple.

Who won?

There’s nothing like a good fight to energize viewers, and late-night got a good jolt in the arm thanks to this fight. Ratings were up for O’Brien, in particular, so in the short term, all the hosts benefited.

In the long term, though, it’s hard to find a winner.

Jimmy Kimmel upped his profile with his imitation and immaculate beat-down of Leno, and David Letterman got a lot of press over his gleeful attacks on his old nemesis, but potentially both of them will have to go up against both Leno and O’Brien down the road.

Despite the giant pile of money, O’Brien lost his dream gig after only seven months.

While NBC attempts to turn back the clock by reinstalling Leno to his previous top-rated perch, it’s hard to believe that won’t take a personal and ratings hit after all the bashing.

And NBC executives, particularly NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker, were also pilloried in an extremely public manner; it’s hard to believe there won’t be some kind of payback once the dust settles.

Where will O’Brien end up?

Most of the speculation has centred on Fox, but reports have said that while their creative types would go for it, their money guys aren’t as keen on it, and those all-important local affiliates (the same ones who helped push NBC to cancel Leno, thus starting this whole ball rolling) are happy to run syndicated talk-shows at 11:30. Cable is also a distinct possibility, but if happens, O’Brien’s new show would likely be a scaled-down production. He also has to decide if he’s going to stay in L.A. or move back to New York. Stay tuned.

TV TIDBITS

Steve Harvey to Begin Hosting Family Feud

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 21, 2010) *Syndicated radio jock-turned-author Steve Harvey adds yet another gig to his resume. FremantleMedia North America has announced that the comedian will take over as host of its syndicated game show “Family Feud” when the new season launches next fall, the AP reports. The company said Harvey was chosen for his ability to connect with viewers and his “one-of-a-kind” personality. Harvey, whose previous TV credits include “Me and the Boys” and “The Steve Harvey Show,” replaces actor John O’Hurley, who hosted “Family Feud” for four seasons. O’Hurley said in a statement that he decided to focus on his role in the touring production of the musical “Chicago” and a variety of business ventures.

ABC Picks Up Another Shonda Rhimes Project

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 20, 2010) *ABC on Tuesday picked up a third medical drama from “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes. “Off the Map,” executive produced by Rhimes for ABC Studios, revolves around three doctors, each anxious for a fresh start. They leave the comfort of the States to work at an isolated tropical clinic, where they face both exotic and unusual medical challenges as well as personal ones. “Grey’s” co-exec producer Jenna Bans wrote the script and is executive producing with Rhimes and Betsy Beers, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rhimes also created “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” for ABC.

Oprah to Interview Jay Leno in Los Angeles

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2010) *Oprah Winfrey announced today that she will interview the newly-restored host of NBC’s “Tonight Show,” Jay Leno. During today’s “Friday’s Live” broadcast of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the TV host said she was going to Los Angeles for a “one-on-one” interview with Leno that will air on Thursday (Jan. 28). Tonight marks the end of Conan O’Brien’s short tenure hosting “The Tonight Show.” He leaves under a $45 million deal that guarantees the comic more than $33 million, with the rest going in severance pay to his staff of over 200 employees, NBC said. Leno, will return to his previous seat on March 1, following NBC’s Feb. 12-28 broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In other Leno news, the Washington Post is reporting that Leno will be the keynote speaker at the next White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which is scheduled to take place on May 1, 2010.

Tyra Launches Teen Plus-Sized Model Search

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2010) *Tyra Banks today announced her first-ever plus-sized modeling competition for teens, dubbed “Tyra’s Fiercely Real Teen Model Search,” reports People.com. The contest is strictly limited to young ladies age 13-19 and between 5′ 9″ and 6′ 1″. “I’ve always felt it was my mission to expand the narrow perceptions of beauty; through ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ ‘True Beauty’ and ‘The Tyra Show’ I challenge industry and universal standards by featuring and celebrating non-traditional beauty, and stressing that true beauty is both inside and out,” she explains of the decision. “Plus-sized tends to have a negative connotation and I want young girls to realize that what’s considered plus-sized is the average American woman. That woman is healthy, fit and beautiful. “Adolescence is such an impressionable time in a young woman’s life, and I hope this contest helps teen girls discover their own beauty from the inside out.” Visit tyrashow.warnerbros.com to learn how to enter.

Conan O’Brien Lands Pilot Deal With NBC

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(January 27, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y.—NBC says it has a deal with Conan O’Brien to produce a possible series, only days after his rancorous exit as host of the network’s Tonight Show. NBC is picking up a pilot from O’Brien’s production company, Conaco. The drama, as yet untitled, focuses on a Supreme Court justice who leaves the bench to start his own practice. Casting has yet to be announced for the pilot, which is bucking for a series slot on NBC’s fall schedule. Despite O’Brien’s recent split from NBC as an on-camera star, he retains a development deal with the network. Past series produced by Conaco include the comedy Andy Barker, P.I., which featured O’Brien’s long-time talk-show sidekick Andy Richter.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Billy Bishop Goes To War: Not To Be Missed

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

Billy Bishop Goes to War
Written and composed by John Gray with Eric Peterson. Directed by Ted Dykstra. Until Feb. 27 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(January 27, 2010) Yes, you can go home again and sometimes, it's better than ever.

Billy Bishop Goes to War, John Gray and Eric Peterson's brilliant examination of how a born loser from Owen Sound became the greatest of all Allied flying aces during World War I, was revived Tuesday night as the start of the 2010 Soulpepper Theatre season and reasserted its right to be called one of the great works in the Canadian theatre canon.

The show's format is so deceptively simple (with its solo narrator assuming multiple roles while his piano-playing sidekick offers sardonic musical comments) that it's been widely imitated in the 31 years since its creation.

Still, when performed with the rock-solid conviction and heartfelt depth its creators bring to it, you soon realize this is the real McCoy.

Over the years, Peterson and Gray have performed it in productions ranging from the simple to the operatic. The last version, seen at Canadian Stage a decade ago, was dominated by a plane that seemed larger than many of the ones Porter flies out of the downtown Toronto airport now named after Billy Bishop himself. But bigger isn't always better and director Ted Dykstra realizes this.

The stage, as designed by Camellia Koo, is filled with old boxes and trunks, the kind of collection that an old man might accumulate in his lifetime. (They are in fact prop containers and bear the names of many of the theatres where Peterson and Gray have performed the show in the past three decades.)

A stooped, aged man wearing a dressing gown over a pair of floppy pyjamas ambles onto the stage. This is Eric Peterson. No, it's Billy Bishop. Forgive me, but the two are almost impossible to tell apart.

We have a chatty codger here, but still sharp as any bayonet, who's remembering the glory days of his youth. Peterson is just the age the real Bishop was when he died, which gives the show an added layer of resonance as we realize the Grim Reaper that Bishop eluded in the skies for so many years is now waiting just outside the door.

We also get a chance to appreciate Gray's virtuoso piano skills, underscoring the action with an economy and precision that give maximum impact. And the vinegary pathos of Gray's melodies lingers longer this time around. If Kurt Weill had been Canadian, he might have written songs like "In the Sky."

This show is not to be missed. When Gray and Peterson sadly sing, "somehow it didn't seem like war at all, at all, at all ..." one can only think of Canadians dying in Afghanistan and wonder if we've learned anything over the years.

This is an edited version of a review that appeared in the Toronto Star on Aug. 13, 2009.

A Role Ben Vereen Was Born To Play

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 23, 2010) PRINCETON, N.J. - The air is electric backstage at the McCarter Theatre.

It's just hours before the final preview for the world premiere production of
Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about a true moment in 1965 when heavyweight champ Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali) turned to disgraced black movie star Stepin Fetchit for advice.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's artistic director, Des McAnuff, has chosen to mount the show, which automatically ups the ante, but another reason for the excitement is the presence of
Ben Vereen in the cast as Fetchit.

Vereen dazzled Broadway as The Leading Player in Pippin, scorched the small screen with his Chicken George in Roots, and lit up movie theatres as the satanic master of ceremonies in All That Jazz.

But real life hadn't been that kind to him. He lost a daughter in a tragic accident, became seriously addicted to drugs and nearly died when struck by a car in 1992. Now he's 63 and tackling a serious dramatic stage role for the first time in decades. What tricks can the man who once sang "We've got magic to do" in Pippin still have up his sleeve?

The first glance is disheartening. He sits crumpled on a sofa backstage, looking weary, head shaved bald, his skin almost blending in with the grey sweatsuit he's wearing. But once he starts to speak about how he actually met Fetchit, a born fascinator, the once and future supernova comes back to life.

"It was 1975 and I was playing Bert Williams (in the TV variety series Comin' at Ya). You remember him? A light-skinned Negro vaudeville entertainer who had to black up to go onstage. I got a lot of flack about doing that because people didn't want to be reminded of the African American holocaust. That's when Stepin Fetchit sought me out."

Fetchit was one of the most curious stars in motion picture history. An erudite black man of major talent named Lincoln Perry, he rose to prominence playing a series of shuffling, drawling stereotypes in broad comedies. He was the one who would insist "I'se a comin', boss," while his feet moved so slowly he seemed to be standing in place.

For a while, it seemed that Fetchit was having the last laugh, because he became wealthy and successful, the first black millionaire in show business history. But then, the times they were a-changin'.

"Fetchit got caught in a tidal wave of changing societal consciousness when African Americans were trying to move forward in the 1950s," explains Vereen. "The NAACP and other groups singled him out as the kind of stereotype they wanted to fight."

His career ended and his fortune vanished. The thought of that infuriates Vereen, and he suddenly springs up with as much energy as he had when he got his first Tony nomination, playing Judas in the original Broadway production of Jesus Christ, Superstar in 1971.

"Fetchit was putting the hokey-doke on the white man, couldn't they see that? He said, `You want me to shuffle? Well, the less I do, the more you'll pay me.'"

The reason the has-been star sought out Vereen was he wanted him to vindicate his reputation, just like he had with Williams. Vereen agreed, but Fetchit had a stroke and, although he lived for another decade, he wasn't able to communicate and the project died.

"But now, Will Power came through with this play and I knew I had to do it," says a strong and confident Vereen.

It almost seems as though this were the role his whole life has been pointing toward. One of nine children, he was born in Miami in 1946 and his family moved to the ghetto neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn soon after. Young Vereen showed an aptitude for singing early on in church, and soon added dancing as well.

He was admitted to the High School for the Performing Arts, and soon after graduation found himself auditioning for Bob Fosse for Sweet Charity on Broadway.

The legendary choreographer didn't cast Vereen immediately but worked with him to refine and harness what he saw as a great talent. He later cast him in the film of Sweet Charity, where Vereen worked with Sammy Davis Jr., who added him to the touring company of his hit show Golden Boy.

"That's where I was when Dr. King was killed," recalls Vereen of that tragic moment in 1968 when the black leader was assassinated. "I was angry. Oh dear God, I was angry! I walked out onto the street and I wanted to kill any white man I saw." He laughs bitterly.

"Lucky for us I didn't see any. But Sammy was a prince of peace and he kept saying, `Whatever you do, don't make his life a lie, don't make his death a lie. Keep the peace.'"

By 1972, Fosse – then at the peak of his powers – thought Vereen had reached his prime as well and created an entire role for him, The Leading Player in Pippin. Smiling, black-clad, dapper and seductive, he led an innocent down the path to destruction and won a Tony Award in the process.

"But I wasn't the devil! The devil is something man created. I think of the Indian chief who told his son that there were two wolves fighting inside him, the wolf of good and the wolf of bad. `Which one will win, father?' asked the boy. `The one you feed,' said the father. Bob loved the wolf of bad, but he knew we had to make our own choices."

Not all of Vereen's choices over the next 15 years would prove wise, and although he knew great success in Roots and All That Jazz, as well as on the nightclub circuit, he became increasingly hooked on drugs, bottoming out after his daughter died in a 1987 auto accident.

"I turned to God and he saved me," says Vereen simply, affirming that his spiritual beliefs have been vital to him since then.

They came to his rescue once more in 1992, when he was struck by a car driven by Canadian composer David Foster and nearly given up for dead by the physicians.

"People said to my children, `Your daddy's dead,' but God reclaimed my body and let me go onstage again 10 months later. I still try and I still fail, but I keep going through my lessons in life."

Vereen remains optimistic about the future, even though his hero, U.S. President Barack Obama, seems to be running into some tough political waters. "People must understand that Obama is the face of change, he is not change itself. He said, `I will go to the cross for you, but it's up to you if I get crucified or not.'"

That night, Vereen explodes onto the stage of the McCarter Theatre and proves he still has what it takes when his beleaguered Fetchit turns to Ali and shouts out, with the pain accumulated over a lifetime, "I ain't the enemy! Why are you beating up on me? I ain't the one who put you into chains. I took what you gave me and turned it into gold."

FIVE FAVES: BLACK ARTISTS

BILL ROBINSON
“He took chances no other black man would take in show business and made it possible for all of us to go as far as we have.”

BILLIE HOLIDAY
“She was a great, great artist, destroyed by prejudice and drugs. But she could sing her pain like nobody else.”

LOUIS ARMSTRONG
“He had music in his soul and soul in his music.”

SAMMY DAVIS JR.
“He taught me that if you’re black and a star then you have to be a leader as well.”

USHER
“I’m his godfather, but I couldn’t be prouder of him if I was his real father. An enormous talent.”

Brian Dennehy Is Two Sad Old Men

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

Hughie
Written by Eugene O'Neill
Directed by Robert Falls
Starring Brian Dennehy and Joe Grifasi
** 1/2

Krapp's Last Tape
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Jennifer Tarver
Starring Brian Dennehy
****

(January 25, 2010) There's nothing quite as satisfying as returning to a show to find the artistry has developed and deepened over time.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's small-scale studio production of Samuel Beckett's one-man show
Krapp's Last Tape – starring American stage star Brian Dennehy under the direction of Canadian Jennifer Tarver – was a highlight of the festival’s 2008 season.

A version reconfigured for a traditional proscenium theatre opened at Chicago's Goodman Theatre last night (staged with original Canadian costume and lighting designers Patrick Clark and Robert Thomso), and it has expanded in every sense of the word.

Two-time Tony winner Dennehy returns as Krapp, a failed author who has a tradition of recording an audio diary on his reel-to-reel every year on his birthday. On the occasion of his 69th, Krapp, celebrating by slowly drinking himself into a solo stupor in a shabby suit, reminisces and regrets as he listens to an entry from when he was 39.

Dennehy has relaxed into the role and now seems less afraid to clown around as Krapp, aging back into infancy, fiddles with a banana peel and revels in the word "spool."

Tarver, whose precise direction can border on the hermetic, also seems to have taken a deep breath with the material. The result is a production that is much roomier and funnier than it was at Stratford, and more shatteringly human.

As Krapp listens to his younger self's overly enunciated ramblings about a spiritual epiphany, Dennehy's face recoils in disgust and he slaps the fast-forward switch. But when he hears the younger man speaking about "a girl in a shabby green coat on a railway-station platform," his face drops and, under his unwieldy white eyebrows, his eyes go black and watery like two barrels of oil. We hear no details about this woman, but we can tell from this mournful look that losing her left Krapp with an aching space where the recorded words are now echoing painfully.

Krapp's Last Tape is Beckett's most accessible play, and it’s entirely prescient about the effect of recording technologies on memory; anyone who has ever, against his or her better judgment, perused photos of an old flame on Facebook will recognize the emotion that washes over Krapp as he listens to his younger self blithely throw away love. This play puts the lie to the expression that time heals all wounds; in matters of the heart, at least, time wounds all heels. Dennehy's intimate performance is magnificently moving, and I was brought to the brink of tears several times.

As at Stratford, Irish playwright Beckett's miniature masterpiece is paired with another 1958 one-act, a minor piece by Irish-American playwright Eugene O'Neill. Directed by Dennehy's longtime collaborator, Goodman artistic director Robert Falls,
Hughie is a character study of a small-time New York gambler named Erie. He's returning to his shabby hotelroom after an epic bender precipitated by the death of his friend Hughie, who was the night clerk at the hotel.

Erie finds Hughie's replacement – played by the droopy, droll Joe Grifasi – behind the front desk and tries to win him over. As it turns out, Erie's confidence largely came from Hughie's admiration of his exaggerated exploits. In Hughie's absence, Erie only sees the stark reality of his lonely life.

Hughie has also improved since Stratford. There's now more of an obvious arc: We see what is at stake here: Erie's sense of self. But though Dennehy communicates the importance of this late-night interaction by gripping the concierge's counter as if he's holding on for dear life, the meandering monologue – which premiered only after O'Neill's death – still feels a little too much like actually listening to a drunk who just won't go to bed. The material, with its cheerful cop-out ending, pales next to Krapp's.

The double-bill is, as they say, Broadway-bound, but specific dates have yet to be announced – and the transfer will depend, at least a bit, on the critical reaction in Chicago.

At the Goodman Theatre in Chicago until Feb. 28.  

An Intervention Into Native Identity Leads To More Questions

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Harris

The Edward Curtis Project
Written by Marie Clements
Directed by Brenda Leadlay and Marie Clements
Starring Tamara Podemski, Kevin Loring, Stephen E. Miller, and Kathleen Duborg
Three stars

(January 24, 2010) Vancouver branded their Olympic Games “the inclusive Olympics,” and that’s included many nods, gestures, and bows toward aboriginal culture. The Inukshuk is even an Olympic logo, which at once honours and obfuscates, since it’s, in fact, an Inuit symbol and has little to do with B.C.’s First Nations. The trend toward hybridity as a cultural survival strategy is playing out in spades during the Cultural Olympiad. Bruce Ruddell’s Beyond Eden tackles a culture clash that occurred in 1957 when white anthropologists “saved” totem poles from their ancestral homes in Haida Gwaii; for Tundra Songs, the great Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq teams up with the Kronos Quartet to blend classical and Nunavut sounds. Nowhere is that culture clash more apparent than in
The Edward Curtis Project, a combo play-and-art-exhibit that had its world premiere Friday night.

Edward Curtis was well meaning. Between 1900 and 1930, he photographed First Nations people around North America in dreamy, sepia-toned shots that were meant to preserve a dying people.

Funny thing, though: The people didn’t die. And now the acclaimed Métis playwright Marie Clements has devised a latter-day intervention, a sort of theatre/docudrama in which Curtis’s romanticized work can be dissected and juxtaposed against the glare of contemporary understanding.

Angeline is a Métis foreign correspondent and begins to make Curtis’s assumption come true - she’s going to vanish - after being traumatized by the deaths of Inuit children while on assignment. Angeline (in today’s world) and Curtis (a century back) hang out in a kind of historical limbo, comparing notes on the ethics of photography and the value of self-representation. Tamara Podemski (The Rez) plays the lost woman without taking a single misstep herself. And she’s often wry enough in her delivery that Clements’ words take on that delicious edge you’d expect to hear from more ironic aboriginal playwrights like Tomson Highway or Drew Hayden Taylor.

Despite momentary light touches, The Edward Curtis Project is just that, a project. And you can feel the earnest identity politics being worked out as Angeline shouts at her chief boyfriend and too-white sister. Everyone wants their story, their take, to be the one that ends up in history books. Our playwright, for one, teamed up with photojournalist Rita Leistner to retrace the real Curtis’s footsteps, to redo (or undo) the images he made.

Since the play runs at the Presentation House Theatre, there’s a handy onsite gallery to show off Leistner’s photography. They’re diptychs, mainly, with the same figure shot wearing first contemporary and then traditional garb. A kid in skater gear, say, switches into full Haida regalia. It’s culture as drag, as a mutable performance that the camera (old trickster) fixes into a single instant of “truth.”

There, outside the 90-minutes of soul-searching that make up the stage version of The Edward Curtis Project, there’s a quieter assessment possible. Leistner’s photos are as stylized as Curtis’s shots are, though they pretend to be deadpan and journalistic. With Curtis and Leistner, we inhabit an arena where both artists are competing not against each other, but against something far more intimidating - the limits of representation.

Special to The Globe and Mail

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

IPad to Start Shipping In 60 Days But Canadian Data Deal Not Yet Reached

Source: By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

(January 27, 2010) TORONTO - Canadians should get a crack at Apple's new iPad by March but some industry watchers warn that while the tablet computer is priced right, the ongoing cost of using it in Canada may be a major turnoff.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs ended months of rumours, intrigue and speculation Wednesday by lifting the veil on the iPad, a one-button, keyboard-free mobile computing device billed as a cross between a laptop and a smartphone, offering the best of both worlds.

There will be six models available, ranging from US$499 to US$829 depending on storage capacity and whether they have Wi-Fi or 3G wireless connections. The Wi-Fi models will be available internationally in 60 days while the 3G models will be available in 90 days, Jobs said.

The reaction after the launch was somewhat mixed, with many praising the pricing but feeling a let down by the list of features, said Derek Szeto, founder of Redflagdeals.com, an online deal-hunting community with more than 270,000 members.

"I remember the iPhone launch and they showed the screen with no keypad and everyone went, 'Wow!' We didn't get that same level of 'Wow' with this one," he said.

"But, what people really like and the reaction I'm seeing, is it's a lower price than people were expecting so, in that sense, I think it's definitely a positive."

Some Canadian shoppers are sceptical they'll be offered an iPad at the same price and are leery about how much it will cost for a 3G data plan through a Canadian carrier, he added.

South of the border, Apple has teamed up with AT&T to offer no-contract data plans of 250 megabytes a month for US$14.99 and unlimited data transfers for US$29.99.

Jobs said he hopes to secure deals with international mobile carriers by June or July to carry the device and supply data, although he did not specifically mention Canada as a target market.

Jobs also hinted that because the iPad is not locked to any particular carrier, it could potentially work with consumers' existing SIM cards to access data right away.

Don't expect similarly priced deals in Canada, said Tony Olvet, vice-president of research for IDC Canada.

But no-contract data plans may be available here too, since the carriers are not subsidizing the price of the iPad as is typical with mobile phones, Olvet said. The iPad may end up opening the door to more unlocked devices being sold directly to consumers without being tied to a specific carrier, he added.

"This turns the corner a bit in the nature of how mobile devices are sold, there's probably an open-mindedness now that unlocked open devices are coming and it's not such a big scary thing," Olvet said.

"Eventually, the user is going to require data services and that's going to be on a carrier's network and that's extra revenue."

Olvet thinks Apple will probably seek an exclusive agreement with one of the three big mobile companies to offer the iPad.

"I have a feeling that to encourage good marketing Apple will want to negotiate with one carrier in Canada at the outset, but I don't think that would be an exclusive for as long as we saw with the iPhone, maybe it'll be a shorter-term scenario," he said.

Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) refused to answer questions about Apple's announcement.

The most-basic iPad is US$499, for a model that connects to the Internet only through Wi-Fi and has 16 gigabytes of storage. That's a little more than C$530 with today's exchange rate.

A 16-gigabyte model that can access 3G mobile networks sells for US$629. The priciest iPads are US$699 for a 64-gigabyte Wi-Fi model and US$829 for a 64-gigabyte 3G model.

Szeto said some Canadians shoppers will likely cross the border to get their hands on an iPad if availability is limited or introduction delayed.

"For the really early adopters who want to have it first . . . I think they are going to buy it and at $500 it's not an unreasonable impulse buy," he said. "I think they'll see pretty good value at that price point."

Winter Of Game Contentment

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(January 23, 2010) When it came to blockbuster video-game releases, 2009 was a very good year. With the likes of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed II, InFamous, New Super Mario Bros. and the billion-dollar-selling Modern Warfare 2, gamers of all stripes had all sort of things to keep them busy.

What's amazing is that there were plenty of great games that got pushed to 2010 for various reasons: because they weren't ready in time, or over fears they would be overshadowed by a blockbuster release, or simply to open a better marketing window. Whatever the reason, it all means that this year has already yielded a number of high-profile releases: Three that are already out are Bayonetta (reviewed in the Star last week), Darksiders and Dark Void (see review on E4), which started this year off with a bang. Here's a look at some others that are on their way:

Mass Effect 2 (Jan. 24 on the Xbox 360 and PC): Edmonton-based Bioware launched this outer space roleplaying series back in 2007, and plenty of fans are salivating over this new instalment. The original was praised for its well-thought-out story and characters and this sequel's plot involves mysteriously vanishing human colonies.

MAG (Jan. 26, PlayStation 3): Short for "Massive Action Game," this title's demo is already out, and the first-person shooter's draw is that its online massive multiplayer features will allow up to 256 players at once, all of whom are members of private armies fighting each other.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Jan. 26, Wii): The continuing adventures of Travis Touchdown play out in this cult hit for Nintendo's console. Featuring his quest to become the best assassin in town, this sequel will again feature plenty of strange humour, weird gore, and all sorts of looney activities.

BioShock 2 (Feb. 9, Xbox 360, PS3, PC): The original game was hailed as one of the top games of 2007, and the sequel has many fans looking forward to the return of the underwater city of Rapture. Set a decade after the first game, the sequel plays from the point of view of Big Daddy, the diving suit-wearing enemy from the first game.

God of War III (March, PS3): The fifth instalment in this console defining series, the continuing stories of Kratos and his skull busting, mythmaking ways make this game one of the most anticipated Sony titles of the year. The game looks to feature bigger set pieces, innumerable enemies and plenty of massive combat.

Red Steel 2 (March 23, Wii): The original Red Steel sold well, but didn't impress the critics with its ham-fisted swordplay. This time, hopefully with the addition of Wii's MotionPlus technology, the combat will live up to expectations in a new Wild West setting.

Red Dead Redemption (April 27, PS3, Xbox 360): Set in the original shoot-'em-up setting of a Western, this is a sequel to 2004's Red Dead Revolver. Created by Rockstar Games (makers of Grand Theft Auto), the title is set in 1908 and will feature open-sandbox play.

Alan Wake (spring, Xbox 360): In development since 2005, this psychological thriller is one of the most anticipated games in recent memory. Featuring a story with the titular character searching for his mysteriously vanished wife, here's hoping it can live up to the hype.

Crackdown 2 (spring, Xbox 360): The original was initially a superpowered GTA knock-off, but then it became beloved for just being ridiculously fun. It offers a world where you get various powers, and through upgrades can almost leap tall buildings in a single bound. Expect more of the same.

Dark Void: Too Much Junk, Not Enough Jetpack

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Dark Void
(out of 4)
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
$59.99
Rated "Teen"

(January 23, 2010) "Where are our jetpacks? We were promised jetpacks!"

That's the popular geek lament, so common it's a cliché. We now live in the "future," with of all the Space Age wonders promised us by decades of Popular Mechanics and pulp sci-fi book cover art, but it's the lack of personal flight belts that stings us most. We crave jetpacks.

So, when something like
Dark Void comes along, it's "Yes, please. That."

So the good news on Dark Void: the jetpacking's pretty awesome. You strap on that pack, hit the boost for the first time, and you're off and rocketing, zipping around the game's big areas, looping and strafing and dogfighting, pulling wicked barrel rolls to dodge laser blasts, and nasty tight little Immelmann turns to give your bogeys a taste of the ol' pew-pew-kaboom. Pretty much exactly what you wanted; you might even get a bit of a Crimson Skies vibe off it, and that's always good.

Problem is, that's about a quarter of the game, maybe not even that, and Dark Void doesn't even have the sense to get you into it right away. The rest of the game is mostly a wilfully mediocre third-person shooter, where your generic roguish action man (saved from total blandness only by Nolan "Nathan Drake" North's voice) runs around through a bunch of stock crate-laden paintball courses, plinking dirt-dumb enemies with a bunch of boring guns and trying not to get cheap-killed by the spazzy cover mechanic.

Also featured: mushy, glitchy quick-time events (always a treat; thanks for keeping it real, Capcom), and something called "vertical combat" in which the axis of action flips and the game turns into a vertiginous shooting gallery. That's a cool idea and I kind of hope to see something like it again, but – as with so many other aspects of Dark Void – it's underthought, underdeveloped and (worst of all) under-jetpacked.

I don't know what kind of guilt-ridden, hard case boarding-school upbringing some game developers had that they figure the fun stuff (i.e. jetpacking) must be a precious privilege earned through submission to onerous tasks, but I wish they'd all get counselling and make things up to me with Dark Void 2: Only Jetpacks

::COMEDY NEWS::

Just Call Sean Cullen A Good Sport

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(January 27, 2010) Vancouver — Sean Cullen loves his ladies – of the Barenaked variety and the hockey-playing variety.

The Toronto-based stand-up comedian, who also has starred in the stage productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Producers as well as on television shows such as Royal Canadian Air Farce and Slings and Arrows, has joined the Barenaked Ladies on tour before, but they have never tried this: On Jan. 30, as part of the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver, two of the Ladies, Ed Robertson and Tyler Stewart, will host a night of comedy featuring Cullen, Shaun Majumder and Nikki Payne.

Then, during the Olympics, Cullen will host a live comedy variety show at Molson Canadian Hockey House. He will also keep tabs on the Canadian women's hockey team, which he supports through fundraising efforts.

And there is about to be a new lady in his life: a baby girl, due in early March.

The Globe and Mail recently talked hockey – and other stuff – with Cullen.

Are you a sports fan?

I play hockey three or four times a week if I can and I play soccer; I grew up playing soccer. I have season’s tickets for the Toronto Football Club, the Toronto FC. It’s a nice thing to do – sit outside in the summertime; it’s brilliant. But I guess my favourite thing to do is probably watch hockey on TV.

Do you have a favourite team?

Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

How’s that working out for you?

It’s not the greatest, I have to tell you. But you know, you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to stay the course. You’ve got to live and die by your team. We make a lot of mistakes, but that’s part of the agony and the ecstasy. I have patience. I believe.

Do you ever go to the games?

My in-laws have season’s tickets, so sometimes I go, but it’s so expensive. I kind of like watching it on TV. I get to see everything I want to see and I can walk around and cook a meal or something. I find it soothing to listen to the constant barrage of goals scored on us as I scramble an egg.

Do you get into watching the Olympics?

It’s the greatest; I think just because all the stakes are so high, where it’s nation versus nation. It’s always so much more intense.

Are you going to go to any sporting events in Vancouver?

Well, let’s hope so; that’s part of the reason I’m [going to be there]; I like to be close to the action. There’s going to be a lot of history made, I think: a Canadian gold medal on Canadian soil. The first one ever I think will happen this time and being anywhere near it is going to be very exciting. I just hope the world does not explode if we don’t win.

You have a personal interest in the women’s hockey team, doing some fundraising for the Ladies First Hockey Foundation. What does the foundation do?

It raises money to help the [members of the Canadian women’s hockey team] get their families to the games to see them take part and to help them, because they don’t have the $8-million salaries. They’re great hockey players, but that’s not their primary job. And they’ve got to take time out of their lives to go to training camp and hopefully make the team, so we try to make that a little easier if we can with those efforts.

Will you get to attend any other Cultural Olympiad events when you’re in Vancouver?

I hope I have time to go out and see some other things. There’s going to be a lot of culture, a lot of shows going on and a lot of great music and art. Maybe I’ll do some throat singing or maybe I’ll carve a giant whale bone into the shape of the Vancouver Olympic Committee. Who knows?

You’re having a baby in March, but you’re going to be away for much of February.

Yes, it’s a disaster. We didn’t know the baby was coming until after I was hooked up to do the Olympics. But I’ll be on call, so we’ll see what happens.

In this town, there’s a fair bit of concern about the Olympics; people are worried about the disruption to their lives. Any worries about coming out here and being in the middle of the potential chaos?

It’s two weeks of your life. I live in Toronto, in Parkdale, where the Canadian National Exhibition takes place 100 metres from my house and people park on my lawn. And when Caribana’s on, you can’t drive to my house because people are everywhere. The bigger picture is something I like to call the human geography: It’s kind of a great emotional lift for the whole country and for Vancouver, I’m sure. Once the Games get under way, I think people will understand how amazing it is to be part of it. Sure, there’s a huge payout that’s been made and there’s cost overruns, [but] in the long run it’s an amazing lift for human beings to have this kind of emotion poured into Vancouver and for Vancouver to become the epicentre of the world’s attention. I don’t think that could ever be a bad thing.

Majumder/Cullen/Payne: Laugh It Out! takes place on Jan. 30 at Vancouver’s Orpheum at 8 p.m. (vancouver2010.com/cultural-festivals-and-events).

::OTHER NEWS::

New Rules ‘A Big, Big Hit' To Canadian Magazines

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(January 23, 2010) Canadian literary, arts and scholarly magazines are likely going to die while large-circulation periodicals like Chatelaine and Maclean's will have to make significant adjustments to operations as a result of new funding rules announced Tuesday by the Harper government.

While the overall aid-to-publishers budget is roughly the same as last year – $73-million – a single title can now receive only a maximum of $1.5-million a year. The only exception to this cap are agricultural publications such as The Western Producer, Canadian Cattlemen and Grainews.

Moreover, small publications with a total annual paid circulation of 5,000 copies or less are ineligible for any CPF assistance, with exemptions for aboriginal, ethno-cultural and official language publications.

The rules are part of the new Canada Periodical Fund that Heritage Minister James Moore announced last year would be replacing two funding streams; the Canadian Magazine Fund, which supported editorial content and business development, and the Publications Assistance Program, which subsidized the mailing costs. (For instance, it costs Maclean's 80 cents to ship a copy to Newfoundland while for downtown Toronto it's 38 cents.)

The motivation, Moore said, was to create a more streamlined, flexible and balanced system.

Details of the two other components of the CPF, dealing with business innovation and collective initiatives, are to be released later this month.

Canadian Heritage is not functioning like a cultural body. The policy is bums in seats — Malahat Review editor John Barton

Most of the country's literary, arts and scholarly periodicals – they number in the dozens and include The Malahat Review, Grain. Arc Poetry Magazine, BlackFlash and Fiddlehead, and tend to publish bi-annually or quarterly – fall into the “small publications” category. Many joined the Coalition to Keep Federal Support of Literary, Scholarly and Arts Magazines, formed last year, to beat back the 5,000-copy threshold.

Among the magazines most affected by the $1.5-million cap are Chatelaine, a monthly, and Maclean's, a weekly, both published by Toronto-based Rogers Media. Each is now facing what Mark Jamison, executive director of Magazines Canada, calls “a big, big hit” of more than 40 per cent.

Maclean's, for example, with a circulation of more than 350,000, received almost $2.6-million through the PAP in 2008-2009, plus $393,000 in editorial assistance via the CMF. With a circulation of more than 560,000, Chatelaine got just over $2.7-million from the PAP/CMF.

Michael J. Fox, senior vice-president of Rogers Publishing, called the trims “substantial but not unmanageable. ... It makes you look at all the levers of the business more carefully, including circulation levels and everything else [but] all in all, I think we'll be okay.” He believes publishers are “more concerned about the program itself, that it be implemented smoothly and fairly.”

David B. Scott, the well-regarded magazine consultant, said he expected the new funding regime will result in the demise of several small magazines: “How many I can't say.”

The money these publications have been receiving hasn't been much, he says, “but they've had a significant amount of good effect.” In 2008-2009, for example, Victoria's 43-year-old Malahat Review quarterly, which sells about 4,000 copies a year, received $17,297 from the CMF, $1,938 from the PAP, plus (in 2007-2008) $39,100 from the roughly $3-million literary-and-arts magazine fund overseen by the Canada Council for the Arts.

“The one thing I'd say about small literary and cultural publications is that they're enormously resilient,” Scott observed. “Otherwise they wouldn't continue to do what they do.” But “There's no way some of them can meet the new requirements,” Scott said.

He along with Magazines Canada hope the Canada Council can pick up some of the slack to minimize the damage. However, yesterday the council was saying it was on tap to provide about $3.2-million in magazine publishing assistance in 2010-2011 and that said “no additional funds will be transferred from Canadian Heritage to [the council] to replace the former Heritage program.”

Malahat Review editor John Barton is miffed that “circulation is the only criterion” in the new regime. “It's not about cultural policy any more, it seems. Canadian Heritage is not functioning like a cultural body. The policy is bums in seats. How do you grow a culture that way?”

From another perspective, Barton added, Canadian Heritage can be seen as “issuing a challenge to small magazines: Prove you have readers. But how did they come to the number 5,000? And was it done purposely to screen out all these small journals that they find administratively irritating to fund?”

All magazines applying for funding this fiscal year have to show they sold at least 50 per cent of the copies they produced in 2009-2010. The exceptions, at a 25 per cent threshold, are GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual), aboriginal, ethno-cultural and official language minority periodicals.

The new rules give the Heritage Minister overriding discretionary powers to approve or reject applications and to make changes to the application process. The minister's decisions will be deemed final.

Joe’s Fresh Take

Source: John Intini, www.macleans.ca

(Jan 25, 2010) Although it’s just a construction site right now, the southwest corner of Toronto’s Queen Street West and Portland Street holds great promise for fans of fast fashion. That’s because here, on the edge of one of Canada’s busiest shopping strips, and just a few blocks from H&M, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel,
Joe Fresh plans next year to swing open the doors of a shiny new 8,000-sq.-foot store. Loblaws’ cheap ’n’ cheerful clothing line has been in the fashion war for a few years, but this is the first time it has decided to do battle on its competitors’ turf.

For the most part, the brand, which is available across Canada in more than 340 Real Canadian Superstores and Loblaws stores, has gone after a slice of Canada’s $19-billion apparel market from the friendly—and some would say unlikely—confines of suburban grocery stores. And though a Loblaws will occupy the second floor of the future condo tower at Queen and Portland (a Winners will take the third floor), Joe Fresh’s simple yet stylish basics will be responsible for catching the eyes of shoppers at street level. This is, arguably, the biggest test of the brand since it launched in 2006. But retail experts think it’s up for the challenge. “They’re really poised for some explosive growth,” says David Ian Gray, principal of Vancouver-based DIG360 Consulting. “I have clients, in specialty chain retail, that are concerned about them.”

By last summer, Joe Fresh, the brainchild of Joseph Mimran, co-founder of Club Monaco, had already become Canada’s second-largest clothing label, according to market research. And despite the recent downturn, the brand is still aiming to hit its rather ambitious $1-billion all-time sales target. Thanks to low-priced items like $29 skinny jeans and $59 down jackets, the tough times have been a boon for the bottom line. “It’s brought us new customers who may have been more sceptical at the beginning,” says Elizabeth Margles, a vice-president of marketing with Loblaw Companies Ltd. “It gave them a reason to try us. And once they try us, they keep coming back.”

Since its inception, Joe Fresh has been a smash hit with suburban soccer moms. But experts have been a little surprised by how many young urbanites, regulars at Holt Renfrew and other high-priced boutiques, are willing to snap up $29 cable-knit sweaters and $49 skirts without the slightest hint of shame. Many, in fact, openly boast to friends about their great finds. “It’s not so much the quality, it’s more the fit and the style that has really surprised them,” says Gray. “They expected a lot less for what they’re paying.” Or maybe the real appeal is buying clothes at Wal-Mart prices in a store that’s somehow managed to create a trendy image.

Runway shows during Toronto Fashion Week have helped bolster the brand’s appeal with twenty- and thirtysomething professionals. Last October’s show was one of the hottest tickets in town, with many of the city’s biggest names in attendance, including Raptor superstar Chris Bosh and celebrity chef Susur Lee. And there’s nothing down-market about its ad campaigns. In fact, Joe Fresh features Lisa Cant, a Canadian supermodel who has appeared in campaigns for Chanel, D&G and Versace, as the face of its cosmetics line. “We had a built-in barrier originally—‘Oh, will I put lettuce in the same cart that I’m going to put a silk blouse?’ ” says Margles. “In order for us to overcome that right out of the gate we really had to establish ourselves as a fashion brand—we needed to give a reason for people to take that leap of faith with us.”

Though uncommon in North America, the mixing of food and fashion has proven to be a successful retail combination in Europe and the United Kingdom. The competitive advantage of this set-up for the clothing brand, of course, is the built-in foot traffic a grocery store affords. By one estimate, Canadians go to grocery stores 1.8 times a week, but only visit a mall about once a month. Margles says 12 million people walk through a Loblaws every week. And though she refuses to divulge any specifics, she says this “point of differentiation” is paying off. “We’ve done the research,” she says. “We know that we’ve converted customers from other grocery stores because of Joe Fresh.”

So why haven’t there been copycats? For one thing, the food at Loblaws, due largely to the company’s private labels, “is more fashionable” than many of its competitors, says Maureen Atkinson, a senior partner with Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group. This helped make the somewhat odd pairing of food and fashion more palatable. Of course, there’s also the fact there aren’t all that many Joe Mimrans to go around.

As creative director, Mimran doesn’t sketch every blouse and sweater that makes its way onto the rack. He has a team of more than 150 product developers, trend forecasters, managers and designers. But Mimran has “his hand on every design,” says Margles. In the unlikely event he needs a second opinion, he has plenty of fashion sense at home. His wife, Kimberley Newport-Mimran, is the creative genius behind Pink Tartan, the popular high-end women’s label. Meanwhile, his older brother Saul’s company—Mimran Group Inc.—produces Pure, the Alfred Sung-designed clothing line at Zellers. Fashion is in their blood: their mother Esther was a tailor in Morocco. And in the late ’70s, she and Saul opened Ms. Originals, a dressmaking business in Toronto.

Joe’s big splash came in the mid-’80s, when he launched Club Monaco with Saul and Sung. The business had grown to 125 stores and had gone public when, in 1999, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. bought it—as well as Caban, Mimran’s home-furnishing chain—for $79 million. Mimran stayed on as chairman, president and CEO. But about 18 months later, after sales slipped, he was fired.

Following that setback, he started Joseph Mimran & Associates in 2001. He became the creative director of Loblaws’ President’s Choice Home collection and designed a private label for Holt Renfrew. So when the Weston family, which owns Holt Renfrew and a majority stake in Loblaw, was looking for a fashion fix to combat Wal-Mart’s aggressive move into grocery a few years ago, they didn’t need to look very far.

In the last 16 months, to better position itself against the other cheap-chic labels, Joe Fresh has added cosmetics, jewellery, bags and shoes to its line. And just before the holidays, it launched bath products—including body washes and moisturizers. When asked about further expansion plans, Margles says much of the focus in the next year will be expanding existing departments in Loblaws stores. Stand-alone locations in malls, without a link to a Loblaws, are not part of the game plan right now. And Margles dismisses talk of U.S. expansion. The American apparel market is worth nearly US$190 billion and the recession has hit the U.S. harder, making consumers there more likely to give fast fashion a shot. But Loblaws doesn’t have any operations in the U.S. And, she says, there’s still a lot of potential in Canada. In 2009, Joe Fresh was added to 43 stores. And though the line is sold in every Superstore already, this is a company with 1,100 stores in total.

Analysts agree that a stay-at-home strategy is probably best—for now. “Until you exhaust the existing model,” says Atkinson, “you don’t want to get too scattered.” And though Gray thinks the U.S. may provide a good testing ground for stand-alone stores at some point, that time isn’t now. “Historically, Canadian retailers put a tentative foot in the States and get their toes cut off,” says Gray. “When you go into the States, you have to go in a big way. They need a little bit more experience nailing the growth curve they’re on.”

A smaller step, like heading into the highly competitive Queen Street West fashion fray, is more logical. For the company, making Joe Fresh the face of a new Loblaws store has been a question of timing—it believes it has achieved the required brand awareness. And though Wal-Mart was the initial trigger for the brand’s launch, Margles identifies H&M and Zara as two of Joe Fresh’s main competitors. “We always knew,” she says, “that we had the product to go head-to-head with them.” Soon they’ll get to try and prove it.

::DANCE NEWS::

Why Ballet Dancer Jiri Jelinek Came To Canada

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(January 24, 2010) The ruggedly handsome Jiri Jelinek, who has been praised all over the world for his powerful stage presence and strong partnering skills, is the latest coup for National Ballet artistic director Karen Kain as she carefully crafts the company of her dreams. But Kain didn’t go out and recruit the 32-year-old Czech as a principal dancer. It was Jelinek who came calling.

“I first saw Jiri dance [in 2007] in a gala in Stuttgart, where Reid Anderson [Stuttgart Ballet’s artistic director] expressed to me that he felt Jiri was the best Onegin in the world at the time,” Kain says. “I was delighted when Jiri contacted me and asked if I would consider having him join our company as a principal dancer.”

The obvious question is, why the National? He was enjoying a brilliant nine-year run at Stuttgart Ballet, where his rise through the ranks was meteoric, becoming a principal dancer in 2004.

For starters, Jelinek is not a typical dancer whose life is consumed by ballet. “I’ve always had a life outside dance.” Last October, he married his Czech girlfriend, Aneta, and the couple do not see their future in Germany. “We don’t feel comfortable with the lifestyle and mentality,” Jelinek says.

He also points out that, at the age of 32, the time to move was now while he has good dance years left. “We knew we wanted an English-language culture,” he says, “and we felt that Canadians are more down to earth than Americans. We were also worried about the economic crisis in the States.”

Part of Jelinek’s decision had to do with life after dance. To that end, he figures his best bet is the theatre. So Kain promised to help him find good drama and speech teachers in Toronto.

Jelinek was born in Prague in 1977. His parents divorced when he was 7, and his mother struggled with three jobs to raise him and his two older siblings. “I was a troubled boy,” he says, “always getting into fights with the neighbourhood kids. My mother put me in ballet to get rid of excess energy, but it didn’t work. She died when I was 17, so she never saw the dance artist that I became.”

In 1988, Jelinek was accepted into the Prague Conservatory of Dance, where trouble was his companion. “If I felt someone wasn’t treating me well,” he says, “I opened my mouth. At every year end, there’d be an argument between teachers who wanted to kick me out and those who fought to keep me in.”

In his graduating year, Jelinek came to the realization that he was trained to do nothing else but dance, so he had better take it seriously. To beef up his technical skills, he accepted a scholarship to the prestigious Ballet Centre Hamburg - John Neumeier, where he studied with the legendary Anatoly Nisnevitch.

But he didn’t join Hamburg Ballet. “I spent a lot of time on John Neumeier’s carpet being disciplined,” he quips.

Jelinek joined the National Theatre Prague as a soloist in 1997 and was promoted to principal dancer the following year, winning the 1999 award for Best Dancer of the Czech Republic. Uninspired by the artistic team in Prague, Jelinek move to Stuttgart, where he remained until moving to the National this month.

Kain has big hopes for her newest treasure, provided that she can keep the veteran on track and out of the nightclubs. For the past six years, he has been DJing in clubs in Stuttgart and Prague. “Electronica mixing is really creative,” he says. “Maybe I can get the odd stint in Toronto.”

And then there’s Thai boxing. When he was 10, Jelinek started with karate and moved to kung fu before falling in love with this particular form of kick-boxing. “I had to stop doing the sport because the physicality went against ballet and the injuries affected my dancing,” he says. “I’ll take it up again when I finish my dance career.”

Jiri Jelinek’s first role with the National will be Prince Siegfried in James Kudelka’s Swan Lake, which runs March 11 to 21 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Turkoglu Delivers, Kobe Misses In Raptors Surprise Win Over Lakers

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(January 24, 2010) There never was any doubt about who'd have the ball for the Raptors in the dying seconds of a close game, who the guy was they ask to make plays when it's do or die.

Forget that
Hedo Turkoglu's been in a shooting slump and an effort slump and the object of ridicule in some corners.

When it's time to win a game, he's going to be involved and if he didn't entirely redeem himself Sunday night, he took a giant step in that direction

Driving into the middle of a gaggle of big, long defenders, Turkoglu created contact, drew a foul and calmly made two free throws with 1.2 seconds left as the Raptors beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-105 in the most delightful game of the season so far at the Air Canada Centre.

And Turkoglu was about as calm after as he was calm when there were calls for his head with every missed shot or botched defensive assignment.

It was the kind of big fourth quarter play Turkoglu's been known for the past and he wasn't about to let a few bad games make him reticent to go.

"I know I have difficulties throughout the past couple of weeks but I always keep my confidence and put those behind and try to play my game the best way I can and help myself get going and help the team to get some wins," said Turkoglu, who took a hit from Pau Gasol on the game-deciding foul.

"Coaches and teammates they always have confidence in me, as you guys see."

Turkoglu's free throws, only his eighth and ninth points of the night, came on what turned out to be a busted play. The Raptors used Chris Bosh to set a high screen for Turkoglu, had shooters camped around the perimeter and surely expected Turkoglu to make a pass.

But when the Lakers defended the play about as well as it could be defended, switching on the Bosh screen and keeping a man with arm's reach of every other Raptor, it was time for improvisation.

And with the fate of the game in his hands, he calmly made the foul shots and joked a bit about it later.

"I was, a little bit," he laughed when asked if he was nervous at the line before quickly changing his mind

"Nah, never man. I don't want to be too cocky but like I said ... I always have confidence with me. I know I have been struggling lately shooting the ball but I don't let it get to me, I try to put those behind and try to still play my game."

Even with Turkoglu's heroics, the Lakers almost stole one. Kobe Bryant, brilliant in a 27-point, 16-rebound, nine-assist gem, had a last gasp shot from about 40 feet glance off the rim; it was a circus shot and there were those in the crowd who fully expected him to make it.

The Raptors, who have now won nine of their last 10 home games, didn't flinch at anything Bryant threw at them. The Lakers led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and could have closed it out when they were up three with three minutes to go but the Raptor didn't fold.

"We think that we're playing pretty well and we're confident," said coach Jay Triano. "There were a couple of times today when we could have folded, we got down eight, nine points and we never did. Our guys just kept battling, we fought for more stops, we attacked the basket offensively, we weren't intimidated."

And in what might be a first for this season, an opposing coach said the difference in the game was Toronto's defence.

"They played some rabid, tenacious defence from about the middle of the third quarter on," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "They did a good job of turning the ball over and getting run-outs from it."

Colts Rally Past Jets To Reach Super Bowl

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Marot

(January 24, 2010) INDIANAPOLIS–This is perfect for the Indianapolis Colts: They have Peyton Manning and they're back in the Super Bowl.

The four-time MVP threw three touchdown passes and the Colts rallied from an 11-point, first-half deficit to beat the New York Jets 30-17 Sunday in the AFC championship game.

The Colts (16-2) are now headed back to the NFL title game for the second time in four years and their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. Better yet, they're heading back to their lucky city – Miami, where they've played all four of those games and won there twice.

"I thought we just kept our mouths shut and went to work this week," Manning said.

The big-talking Jets, and their equally big-talking coach, Rex Ryan, were all the incentive Indy needed Sunday.

A month ago, when the New Yorkers last came to town, Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters in the third quarter and gave up a chance at a perfect season to focus on a Super Bowl run. Fans booed throughout the fourth quarter and when the Colts left the field, and some spent the past month complaining publicly.

That's over now.

Manning stayed on the field for every Colts play and instead of blowing a lead, the Colts rallied behind their leader.

This time, fans counted down the final seconds while streamers and confetti hung in the air, flash bulbs popped incessantly and when the official announcement was made, roars cascaded from the rafters.

"We talked about being patient against these guys," Manning said. "We knew it would be a four-quarter game."

The Colts will face either New Orleans or Minnesota in two weeks, giving Manning a chance to play in the same venue where he beat Chicago in the rain and won the MVP award three years ago.

Just as special was having the Colts career rushing leader, Edgerrin James, present the team with the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which goes to the AFC champs. He never made it to the Super Bowl with the Colts, though team owner Jim Irsay gave James a ring when the Colts beat the Bears.

Players savoured every precious moment. Receiver Pierre Garcon, who had 11 catches for 153 yards, both career-highs, and the go-ahead score raised a Haitian flag to honour his family and friends who still live there. Garcon and others remained on the field long after the official celebration, mingling family, friends and fans as the Colts redeemed themselves for this season's first loss.

"We've been here before, we had seven comeback wins this year. I think the guys were a little rattled at first, I think we took their best shot, but we came back," linebacker Gary Brackett said. "I think we did a great job of being the hunters and imposing our will today."

Manning finished 26-of-39 for 377 yards. He became the first player in league history with seven 300-yard post-season games. That broke a tie with Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.

The Jets' magical run ended with their first road loss in six games.

New York (11-8) built a 17-6 lead and took advantage of trick plays. But the Jets lost running back Shonn Greene with a rib injury in the second half, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was shut out over the final two quarters.

"Today wasn't our day. There's no question," said Ryan, who declared his Jets the Super Bowl favourites before the playoffs. ``You have to give credit to the Colts. Obviously they're the cream of the crop right now."

Caldwell became only the fifth rookie coach to reach the Super Bowl. Only two others – San Francisco's George Seifert and Don McCafferty, of the Baltimore Colts – have won it.

But Caldwell does have Manning, who drove the Colts right through New York's No. 1 ranked defence with his uncanny precision. He kept dropping passes right over the fingertips of defenders, and the frustrated Jets couldn't stop him.

"You can have great man coverage, but that ball is right where it needs to be," safety Jim Leonhard said.

Garcon was one beneficiary. The other was rookie Austin Collie, who had a career-best seven catches for 123 yards, his first 100-yard day as a pro. And the Jets allowed three TD passes for the first time all season.

After falling behind late in the first half, Manning responded. He took the Colts 80 yards in four plays, hooking up three straight times with Collie, including the 16-yard TD pass that made it 17-13 with 1:13 to go in the half.

Manning was just getting started.

The next time he got the ball, he took the Colts 57 yards in eight plays, connecting with Garcon in the back corner of the end zone to make it 20-17 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.

"The guys have always been a very confident bunch and they do a great job of hanging in there," Caldwell said. "Peyton had just an outstanding game. He's one of those guys that can adjust to different situations. ... A real champion."

Manning still wasn't finished. His 15-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark midway through the fourth quarter made it 27-17 and Kelvin Hayden's late interception ended the Jets' last hope.

It sure didn't look like it would end this way during a scoreless the first quarter.

The Colts uncharacteristically struggled to get first downs, and settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.

New York also changed tactics, creating its big plays through the air.

Sanchez, the fourth rookie quarterback to lead his team to the conference title game and lose, used a beautiful play-action fake to fool rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey. Lacey, who started in place of the injured Jerraud Powers, was burned for an 80-yard TD pass by Braylon Edwards giving the Jets a 7-3 lead.

After the Colts cut it to 7-6, Jets receiver Brad Smith lined up in the TigerCat formation and connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a 45-yard pass to the Colts 12. It was Smith's first career completion out of an offensive formation. Three plays later, Sanchez barely avoided a sack and found Dustin Keller for a nine-yard TD pass to give the Jets a 14-6 lead with 4:53 to go in the half.

The Jets made it 17-6 after Joseph Addai's fumble set up Jay Feely's 48-yard field goal.

That's when Manning and the Colts took over – and closed it out.

"Probably the biggest thing is when he goes up against the best, he takes his game to another level," Caldwell said. "I think that's something we've kind of grown accustomed to around here."

The game was a family affair for the Manning family with Peyton's brother Eli and their father Archie rooting on the Colts.

"I'm pulling for the Colts 100 per cent, it's not even close," Archie Manning said.

NOTES: Sanchez was 17-of-30 for 257 yards with two TDs and a late interception. .... Curtis Martin, the Jets' career rushing leader, was New York's honorary captain. ... The Colts have won both AFC title games played in Indy by coming back from double-digit deficits. The Colts trailed New England by 18 points four years ago at the RCA Dome. ... Referee Tony Corrente mistakenly called the Jets the Giants on the coin toss. ... Cotchery caught five passes for 102 yards, while Edwards finished with two receptions for 100 yards.

Cormier Gets Season Suspension For Vicious Head Hit

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(January 25, 2010) Junior hockey star Patrice Cormier’s hockey season is over.

The New Jersey Devils — the team that owns his NHL rights — say they back the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s decision to suspend the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward for the balance of the season and the playoffs for elbowing
Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts in the head.

The vicious elbow sent Tam into convulsions on the ice, causing him to be taken to hospital with brain trauma and broken teeth.

Devils president Lou Lamoriello said Cormier won’t be invited to join the Devils or its AHL affiliate team this season, an avenue that might have been available to Cormier once the Huskies are eliminated from the playoffs.

“We will honour the league’s suspension, have not considered, and will not explore other avenues for his return this season,” said Lamoriello in a statement.

Cormier, however, would be welcome back for training camp next season.

“This unfortunate incident does not reflect the character of the Patrice Cormier we know,” said Lamoriello. “We trust that Patrice will have learned a valuable lesson that will serve him well when he returns to hockey as a valued player in our organization.”

Cormier and his team have five days to appeal the suspension, laid down Monday morning.

“The act that was committed was dangerous and unacceptable,” said league disciplinarian Raymond Bolduc. “I have decided to suspend Patrice Cormier for the balance of the QMJHL hockey season and the playoffs as well.”

Speaking at a news conference in Boucherville Monday morning, league commissioner Gilles Courteau said hockey players have to play with respect. “Hockey is a fast and physical game, and the conditions necessitate that respect must play as much a part of the game as the rules,” he said.

“They must be held accountable, as do the coaches that lead them.”

The suspension drew praise at the NHL level.

“I don’t disagree with (the suspension),” said Leaf coach Ron Wilson. “Juniors are setting precedents for these kind of hits. I saw that hit. It was pretty vicious. He came off the bench almost predatorily and went for the head with his elbow.

“I think they’re sending a message and hopefully players in our league learn.”

Leaf defenceman Garnet Exelby also praised the suspension.

“The message is clear that that kind of garbage is not allowed in the game,” he said. “There are definitely times where it happens, the nature of the sport, incidental contact. But if you deliberately go off the bench and make that clear cut elbow to another player’s head, I think there should be zero tolerance.”

CHL commissioner David Branch also welcomed the suspension. “These situations are always extremely difficult,” he said. “I support and applaud the decisions of the Quebec league.”

The incident occurred in overtime of a game on Jan. 17. Cormier took to the ice to start his shift, cut through the centre ice area and threw his right elbow up into Tam’s face. Tam then collapsed, his body shaking until he was taken off the ice on a stretcher by medical staff and players.

The hit generated a massive amount of discussion in Canada, drawing the ire of head shot critics from the hockey world.

It’s the second high-profile junior suspension in less than a week. Zack Kassian, who played less than one game after being acquired by the Windsor Spitfires in a blockbuster trade, was suspended 20 games by Branch on Thursday. That was for a hit last week against Barrie Colts forward Matt Kennedy, who left the game with a concussion and needed staples and stitches to close his wounds.

Cormier had served as the captain of Canada’s world junior team.

Under the terms of the suspension, Cormier would not be allowed to play in any leagues under Hockey Canada’s jurisdiction.

Junior player are only allowed to play for their pro teams once their team is eliminated from the playoffs.

AHL commissioner Dave Andrews has the power to review the case and to decide whether Cormier can play in the AHL. In the past, the AHL has upheld player suspensions from other loops.

Technically, Cormier could surface in lower-tier professional league, the way Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas did with the IHL after OHL suspended him for the season and playoffs after he hit Kitchener’s Ben Fanelli from behind on Oct. 30. It’s doubtful the Devils would allow it.

Meanwhile, Tam is now out of hospital but is waiting to hear whether he’ll be able to resume his hockey career in the near future, if at all.

Cormier, a 6-2, 205-pound New Brunswick native, was selected 54th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Reggie Evans Rejoins Raptors On Practice Court

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(January 25, 2010) Reggie Evans, the long-injured Raptors defensive specialist, returned to full-contact practice Monday, banging with his teammates for the first time in more than three months.

“Today was a fun day for me,” said Evans. “I finally got to a good stepping stone ... I’ve got some work to do.”

Evans’s presence on the floor — and the attention he drew from a gaggle of reporters in the workout’s aftermath—earned favourable reviews from teammates. His scrum with the media was interrupted by hooting and hollering from numerous Raptors, among them Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack, the latter of whom repeatedly shouted, “The king is back!”

How did Evans play? He was slow to the ball, his jump shot looked wonky and he appeared out of shape, according to various accounts. And, for a guy who hasn’t played since damaging ligaments in his left foot in an Oct. 14 pre-season game, none of that was unexpected. But he managed to grab a steal, according to the post-scrimmage box score Evans kept in his head, and he played hard, which is his calling card.

“I love playing against Reggie. He only knows how to play one way, and that’s all out,” said Bosh. “I think it’s good to have him back practicing. Once he gets in shape, I think he can really help us.”

Evans has said he hopes to make his regular-season debut for the club on Feb. 17, the first game after the all-star break.

“When that time comes, it’ll be a big day,” he said.

But as much as Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors general manager, has lamented Evans’ absence, Jay Triano, the Raptors coach, put the forward’s impending return in some perspective.

“We’re excited about having him back, but I think a lot of people have been putting some undue expectations on him. I mean, to have him on the floor means we have to take somebody off the floor, and Amir Johnson has been pretty good in his role as an energizer. (Evans) is not going to come back and be a saviour. We’re excited about having him back because he gives us something in the toughness factor and the rebounding factor and the defensive factor that we think we can use to get better.”

::FITNESS::

4 10-Minute Fat Burning Cardio Routines

By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, eDiets Contributor

No time to exercise? Everyone has 10 minutes they can steal. Studies prove several 10 minute bouts of exercise throughout the day are equally beneficial for your health and calorie-burning as one longer continuous session.

If you spend your day at a desk, take 10 minutes out of every two hours to get up, get moving and get closer to a body you can be proud of. You will return to your desk refreshed, with more mental clarity and a renewed sense to continue working knowing you are closer to reaching your fitness goals. Giving your metabolism a boost several times through the day, adds up to more fat burning.

The following four workouts can easily fit into your day, help burn off your meals and, most importantly, you'll have fun getting fit.

Climb Your Way to Fitness -- Start out with two trips up and down a flight of stairs. For your next two trips, pick up the pace going up the stairs, and walk down at a moderate pace. For trips five and six, take giant steps by placing your foot on every other step. Walk down at a moderate pace. The seventh and eighth trip you should vigorously pump your arms (think Rocky) as you climb, then walk down slowly. If necessary, hold on to the railing when descending the steps. Finally for the last two minutes, perform quick steps up and down on the bottom step (like a football drill).

Million Dollar Boxing Body -- Stand up in your office or anywhere you have a few feet of space around you. For the first minute, step side to side with your hands up as if to protect your face. For the second minute, make the side step a little deeper so that you are squatting at the mid point. For minutes three through five, plant your feet and work on repeating 16 of each of the following punches with each arm; cross punch, jab and upper cut.

For minutes six and seven alternate 16 kicks to the front with 16 kicks to the side and 16 kicks to the back. Arms are protecting your face. For minutes eight and nine, shift your weight from side to side and shadow box using any combination of punches that feel good to you. For the tenth minute stagger your legs and shift your weight front and back (alternating feet every couple of seconds) as you throw jabs.

Jump for Fitness -- You can use a rope or pretend. Start out with the standard jump with feet together for one minute. For minute two, jump side to side. Minute three, jump front and back. At minute four, jump on the corners of an imaginary square. At minute five, alternate hopping on the right foot then left. Minute six, jump so that the rope is going to go under your feet twice in one jump (or pretend). Minute seven, hop on the right foot for 10 jumps then the left and continue to alternate. Minute eight, go for speed, jumping as quickly as you are comfortable. Minute nine, spin the rope backward, and finally for the 10th minute, perform jumping jacks with your feet as you spin the rope.

Speed Play -- Begin by walking and after a minute or two, accelerate until you have reached your peak speed, then slow down until you feel recovered. When you are ready, repeat another bout of accelerating. Continue to play with your speed for a total of 10 minutes, getting in three to five exercise bursts. This activity helps you to get in tune with your body and pay attention to how you (and your heart rate) are feeling.

It may take time to work up to performing some of these exercises for the whole 10 minutes. If you can make it for up to four minutes, or even one minute, be pleased you made the effort and try for a little longer next time until you build up to 10 minutes several times a day. You can choose to do all four routines once a day for variety. Or choose routine to be repeated several times a day then switch the routines daily or weekly.

Exercise is one of the very best things you can do for heart health, anti-aging, detoxifying, boosting metabolism and fat burning. Make a conscious effort to plan for several short bursts of exercise throughout the day. Short exercise bursts help to improve heart rate variability which is the greatest predictor of health. Take 10... You are worth it!

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

A leader isbest when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

 

Source:  Lao Tzu