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June 10, 2010

I'm LOVING our summer so far!  Wonderful warm and breezy summer weather.  Passersby have that twinkle in their eye in firm appreciation of the shift of temperatures. 

I can barely believe we have another Canadian icon in the hospital due to a motorcycle accident. 
Note from Dawn:  I heard from a family friend of Mr. Lanois that he will be just fine!  Prayers answered!


Then there's the passings of Marvin Isley and Rue McClanahan - it seems like a never-ending cycle of loss these past few months. 

And the underdog wins the
Stanley Cup - Chicago Blackhawks - see recap under SPORTS!

Lots of excitement and anticipation in the city ...
World Cup and G20 Summit both start soon ... both will affect how we move within the city.  Be sure to stay tuned to your local news channels for restrictions. 

WOW!  Tons of news this week ... scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

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


Daniel Lanois In Hospital After Serious Accident

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

Note from Dawn:  I heard from a family friend of Mr. Lanois that he will be just fine!  Prayers answered!]  (June 08, 2010) Internationally renowned guitarist and music producer Daniel Lanois has had to cancel a number of upcoming concerts after suffering a serious motorcycle accident in Los Angeles Saturday.

Lanois was riding in the hilly Silverdale section of L.A. when he fell. He reportedly suffered multiple injuries but is expected to be released from intensive care soon, according to a statement from Jive Records. He will be recuperating for the next two months.

Veteran music journalist Larry LeBlanc, a long-time friend of Lanois, spoke to the musician on Lanois’s cellphone Tuesday. The musician said he had many broken bones and indicated he was in pain, but spoke lucidly and did not seem noticeably under heavy sedation.

“He just said, Look, I got a lot of broken bones,” LeBlanc said. “He’s always an ‘up’ person anyways.”

Lanois lives in L.A. but the cellphone was a Toronto mobile number, LeBlanc noted. Originally from Hull, Quebec, Danois maintains close ties to Toronto and is said to split his time between Toronto and L.A.

Lanois was due to tour his latest project, the Black Dub Collective, in Europe next month. Those dates have been cancelled, along with a stop in Montreal on July 2.

With his new group, Lanois has been moving his mellow, atmospheric sound in a somewhat more pop direction, reminiscent of the chiming guitars and pulsing bass of his career-defining production work with Brian Eno on a number of U2 albums, including The Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree.

Among his long CV of production credits, he also famously produced Bob Dylan’s critically acclaimed album Oh Mercy, which helped lift Dylan from the critical trough he had fallen into during a string of less successful albums in the mid 1980s.

News of Lanois’s accident was a surprise to many. Even some people close to Lanois, who is known as a private person, were said to have been unaware of his injuries. 


FIFA World Cup 2010 Kickoff Event!

Source: http://knaanmusic.com

This Thursday, June 10 it is estimated that over 2 Billion people will see K'NAAN LIVE on stage, performing on the
FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert in Johannesburg, South Africa. Broadcast in 192 Countries, this is the biggest sporting event in the world and possibly the most watched LIVE concert broadcast in history. Don't miss it! Check your local listings on ABC, ESPN2, or closer to home, to find out where to watch and who else will be on stage!

Click to see how far K'NAAN's come: Already #1 in 11 Countries, sung in over 20 languages, Wavin' Flag is The PEOPLES' ANTHEM!

And to keep up with K'NAAN during the World Cup, check out our brand new site for all things K'NAAN. Go to: http://knaanmusic.com.

Drake Visits Lil Wayne in Jail; Hosts CD Listening Party

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 03, 2010) Within days of his full album leaking online,
Drake held a listening session in New York City yesterday (June 2) for his much-anticipated debut, “Thank Me Later.”

Reporters joined some of the rapper’s famous friends — including Chris Brown, Jay Sean, Bow Wow, Baby and Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone — in a Manhattan recording studio for the event, according to Billboard.

Missing from the crowd was Drake’s label head Lil Wayne, who is serving his jail sentence in New York’s Rikers Island. But Drake let everyone know that before the gathering, he went to visit his friend and mentor in prison.

“I’m driven and influenced by things that me and Oliver sit around and discuss, one of which was [rapper] Nasir Jones,” Drake said from a studio separated by a glass wall from the crowd. “I studied his patterns, lyrics and stories and I try to channel it in my music. Jimi Hendrix as well, I pay attention to his performance and his demeanour. And then other than that, my family, women, money — the things that control my life.”

Per Billboard:

The album starts with “Fireworks” featuring Alicia Keys — which leaked last week — on which Drake reflects on his relationship with Lil Wayne, Rihanna and his parents over bass thumps and an extended piano.

“Karaoke” is next, and was inspired by a “girl I been in love with since I was like 14,” said Drake. “She always told me, ‘I could never be with you because I don’t like the spotlight.’ So I made this record to set the record straight.”

“I know they say the first love is the sweetest, But the first cut is the deepest / I try to keep us together, You were busy keeping secrets / Secrets you were telling everybody but me, Don’t be fooled by the money, I’m still just young and unlucky / I’m surprised you couldn’t tell, I was only trying to get ahead / but the spotlight makes you nervous, and you’re looking for a purpose,” he raps and sings on the track atop drums.

“The Resistance” deals with the “question of when people tell you you’re changing,” Drake said about the next track. “Are you really changing? Or are people just not adapting to your situation?” “Still here with who I started with, the game needed life, I put my heart in it / I blew myself up, I’m on some martar shit / carry the weight for my city like a cargo ship,” Drake rhymes over hollow drums and a slinky piano.

First single “Over,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, follows, then the uptempo “Show Me A Good Time,” in which Drake playfully spits, “How did I end up right here with you? I’ve done all the things that I can do / Spend money those days, we try to forget about it / take a shot and let it out, lets get right, now that I’m here baby / show me a good time,” on the chorus.

“Up All Night” features Nicki Minaj, and it’s one of the stand-out tracks on the album. The song finds both Drake and Nicki paying homage to their Young Money team, with Drake rapping, “I’m about whatever, man, fuck what they talking about / they opinion doesn’t count, we the only thing that matters / so we do it how we do it, all up in your face, man, I hate to put you through it / I be up all night, whole crew’s in here, cause I don’t really know who Imma lose this year / Man, I love my team, man I love my team, I would die for them n****s,” over a looping beat on the hook. “This record came later in the process, but I’m proud of it,” Drake said of the track.

“Fancy” featuring T.I. and Swizz Beatz — the latter also being the producer — is about women beautifying themselves as is the next track, “Shut It Down,” which Drake says is one of his favourites on the album. The Young Jeezy-assisted “Unforgettable” samples Aaliyah’s “Let Me Know,” who Drake said he has a borderline obsession with, followed by “Light Up,” featuring Jay-Z, which also leaked last week.

“Miss Me,” with Lil Wayne, has already proven to be a fan favorite after leaking a few weeks ago. On it, he professes his love for another famous lady, rapping, “and I love Nicki Minaj, I told her I’d admit it / I hope one day we get married just to say we fucking did it / and girl I’m fucking serious, I’m with it if you’re with it / cause your verses turn me on and your pants are mighty fitted.” An accompanying video for it will be released soon and will feature Wayne.

The second single, “Find Your Love,” comes next, then the outro, appropriately titled “Thank Me Now.” “You could thank me now, go ahead, thank me later / yeah, I know what I said, but later doesn’t always come / so instead, ok, you could thank me now,” Drake rhymes over a slow production with thumps and a simple piano.

Where To Find Free Stuff

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Angela Self

(Mar. 17, 2010) It's one of my favourite words:
free. Parents with kids on March Break, students, retirees, prettyF much anyone who is tight on cash, will agree. So this week I looked for freebies in some of the most common areas we tend to spend money on.

Any savings opportunity – big or small – can boost your bottom line. And make no mistake, there are significant savings to be found in the land of free offers, some with the simple click of a button. Consider how some of these could work for you:

If you’re a parent, then “free for kids” sounds pretty good. If you’re planning a dinner out with the kids, consider restaurants where your kids eat free. For example, kids are not charged on Mondays at East Side Mario’s, Tuesday’s at Pizza Hut, Wednesday’s at Applebee’s, and any day of the week, with an adult purchase of $10 or more, at Boston Pizza. You might want to place a quick call before heading out to make sure the restaurants participate.

Or, you might want to consider becoming a secret critic and dining for no charge. You’ll have the chance to visit participating restaurants but you will be required to rate your overall experience in detail.

If you’re not using Skype, get on it. Calls and video calls are free if the person or business you would like to chat with is also signed up with Skype. Free video calls allowed me to stay in touch and to ‘see’ my family when I lived across the country. Another option is www.Talkster.com With this site, you enter the details of the person you wish to call and it creates a unique local number that is sent via text or email to you. Then, you use that number to call the person – wherever they may be in the world. You’re using your minutes, however you’re not charged international rates.

Also, if you’re looking for information, instead of dialling 411 and paying up to $2.50 per call, dial 1.800.Goog-411. You’ll get the same information - and you won't pay a penny.

To get the occasional free ride, consider car pooling. Sites like www.carpool.ca and www.erideshare.com connect you with others who are looking to reduce their commuting costs and take turns giving free rides. Considering the average commuter spends approximately $7,500 per year or $15 a day to operate their car, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, it could prove to be a significant savings.

You could have free accommodations, if you’re willing to swap houses. Sites like www.homeexchange.com and www.ihen.com will help you get started. These sites let you search through thousands of locations and get to know other homeowners before discussing details of a swap. For most sites, you’ll likely have to purchase a membership, but considering a night at a hotel could easily cost you more than $250, a small upfront fee for a free stay is a smart investment.

Yes, the library is the number one way for getting books for free. But, if you have books collecting dust and want to trade them for your next book club selection, check out www.bookmooch.com or www.titletrader.com - online communities for exchanging used books. The books are free, but there are minimal costs for shipping. Also, check out www.craigslist.ca for book swap meets in your area.

If you’re placing an order online www.freeshipping.ca is the first spot to visit. The site will provide you with information on whether or not your desired order comes with free shipping, and if so, what minimum amount you’ll need to make in order to get free shipping. If you shop regularly at Amazon, for example, you’ll know that free shipping comes with purchases over $39. If you’re pretty close to the spending minimum but not quite there, visit www.filleritem.com. If you’re short, say, $2.25, this site will search for all items at Amazon equalling exactly that amount to add to your cart.

Some companies will let you test out their products for free before you commit to purchasing them. You can sign up for email alerts on free products and offerings at sites like www.freesamples.ca. If you’re a parent, you might like www.freeparentstuff.ca. The site claims to find the best free samples from companies who will reward you with samples, discounts, coupons and sweepstakes entries. You may want to create a different email account for all sites offering coupons and discounts, so you can check them at your leisure.

For some of the items above, you’ve got to spend a little to save a little. Even better - spend a little to save a lot. But if you were planning to spend anyway, why not explore free or less costly alternatives. Instead of paying to take your kids out for dinner, why not opt for a restaurant where they can eat for free? Or, if you’re ordering online, why not order from a site with free shipping?

Getting something for free feels good. Plus, saving a few dollars on your next dinner out, or a few hundred on your next vacation, simply leaves more money in your pocket.

Marvin Isley of the Isley Brothers Dies at 56

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) Marvin Isley, the bass backbone of his sibling band The Isley Brothers, died Monday in Chicago at age 56.

The cause of death has not yet been announced, though Isley suffered from diabetes severe enough to have caused him to leave the band in 1997. His condition led to the eventual amputation of both legs.

Isley’s distinguished bass is a standout on the Isley Bros hits “Fight The Power,” and was also memorable in “Who’s That Lady” [
scroll down to watch performance], “For The Love Of You” and “Harvest For The World.” Isley, who grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, wasn’t old enough to join the first incarnation of the Isley Brothers, who have a history snaking back to the mid-’50s and who scored hits in the ’60s like 1966’s “This Old Heart Of Mine” and the funky, 1969 track “It’s Your Thing.”

By the late ’60s, while still of high school age, Isley formed a trio with older brother Ernie and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. By the dawn of the ’70s, those three pacted with the other members of the group to create the classic “3+3″ album, which went Top Ten in 1973.

In 1984, the Isleys fractured again. The original group continued to perform under their brand name while Marvin, Ernie, and Chris became Isley-Jasper-Isley. With that group, Marvin scored a No. 1 R&B single with “Caravan of Love.”

For the ’90s, Marvin once again became an Isley Brother. But by ’97s, his illness forced him to quit. In 1992, he was inducted, along with the other key Isley Brothers, into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Two early members of the group have also died: O’Kelly Isley Jr. in 1996 at age 48 and Vernon Isley, who died in 1955, at the age of just 13, after being hit by a car on his bicycle.

The group’s two best known members – singer Ron Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley – continue to perform under the group’s name.

Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies At 76

Source: www.thestar.com - David Bauder

(June 03, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Rue McClanahan, the Emmy-winning actress who brought the sexually liberated Southern belle Blanche Devereaux to life on the hit TV series The Golden Girls, has died. She was 76.

Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said McClanahan died Thursday at 1 a.m. of a brain hemorrhage.

She had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997 and later lectured to cancer support groups on “aging gracefully.” In 2009, she had heart bypass surgery.

McClanahan had an active career in off-Broadway and regional stages in the 1960s before she was tapped for TV in the 1970s for the key best-friend character on the hit series Maude, starring Beatrice Arthur. After that series ended in 1978, McClanahan landed the role as Aunt Fran on Mama’s Family in 1983.

But her most loved role came in 1985 when she co-starred with Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty in The Golden Girls, a runaway hit that broke the sitcom mould by focusing on the foibles of four aging — and frequently eccentric — women living together in Miami.

Golden Girls aimed to show “that when people mature, they add layers,” McClanahan told The New York Times in 1985. “They don’t turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent and your young woman living in us.”

Blanche, who called her father “Big Daddy,” was a frequent target of roommates Dorothy, Rose and the outspoken Sophia (Getty), who would fire off zingers at Blanche such as, “Your life’s an open blouse.”

Betty White, the last surviving Golden Girl, called McClanahan a close and dear friend.

“I treasured our relationship,” said White, who was working on the set of her TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland on Thursday. “It hurts more than I even thought it would, if that’s even possible.”

McClanahan snagged an Emmy for her work on the show in 1987. In an Associated Press interview that year, McClanahan said Blanche was unlike any other role she had ever played.

“Probably the closest I’ve ever done was Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Pasadena Playhouse,” she said. “I think, too, that’s where the name came from, although my character is not a drinker and not crazy.”

Her Blanche Devereaux, she said, “is in love with life and she loves men. I think she has an attitude toward women that’s competitive. She is friends with Dorothy and Rose, but if she has enough provocation she becomes competitive with them. I think basically she’s insecure. It’s the other side of the Don Juan syndrome.”

After The Golden Girls was cancelled in 1992, McClanahan, White and Getty reprised their roles in a short-lived spinoff, Golden Palace.

McClanahan continued working in television, onstage and in film, appearing in the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau vehicle Out to Sea and as the biology teacher in Starship Troopers.

She stepped in to portray Madame Morrible, the crafty headmistress, for a time in Wicked, Broadway’s long-running Wizard of Oz prequel.

In 2008, McClanahan appeared in the Logo comedy Sordid Lives: The Series, playing the slightly addled, elderly mother of an institutionalized drag queen.

During production, McClanahan was recovering from 2007 surgery on her knee. It didn’t stop her from filming a sex scene in which the bed broke, forcing her to hang on to a windowsill to avoid tumbling off.

McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Okla., to building contractor William McClanahan and his wife, Dreda Rheua-Nell, a beautician. She graduated with honours from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German and theatre arts.

McClanahan’s acting career began on the stage. According to a 1985 Los Angeles Times profile, she appeared at the Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse, studied in New York with Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman, and worked in soaps and on the stage.

She won an Obie — the off-Broadway version of the Tony — in 1970 for Who’s Happy Now, playing the “other woman” in a family drama written by Oliver Hailey. She reprised the role in a 1975 television version; in a review, The New York Times described her character as “an irrepressible belle given to frequent bouts of ‘wooziness’ and occasional bursts of shrewdness.”

She had appeared only sporadically on television until producer Norman Lear tapped her for a guest role on All in the Family in 1971.

She went from there to a regular role in the All in the Family spinoff Maude, playing Vivian, the neighbour and best friend to Arthur in the starring role.

When Arthur died in April 2009, McClanahan recalled that she had felt constrained by Golden Girls during the later years of its run. “Bea liked to be the star of the show. She didn’t really like to do that ensemble playing,” McClanahan said.

McClanahan was married six times: Tom Bish, with whom she had a son, Mark Bish; actor Norman Hartweg; Peter D’Maio; Gus Fisher and Tom Keel. She married husband Morrow Wilson on Christmas Day in 1997.

She called her 2007 memoir My First Five Husbands . . . And the Ones Who Got Away.

McClanahan’s Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur died in 2009, a year after Estelle Getty.

Betty White, now enjoying a wave of renewed popularity, is the sole survivor of the original four.


Bargains in Bardados

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Patrick Dineen

(June 08, 2010)
Barbados is one of the more upscale Caribbean destinations, and the number of Canadians it attracts tends to ebb and flow with the strength of our dollar. Now is an excellent time to go as the loonie is strong and the tourist board is promoting a Spring to Barbados package to draw visitors in the off-season. If you book a Barbados vacation now through June 15 for travel by Aug. 30 using a travel agent with a Canadian tour operator (such as Air Canada Vacations, WestJet Vacations, Holiday House, Intair, Fun Sun, Merit, Alio, Total Vacations and Ultimate Golf), you receive a credit of up to $300 per booking, depending on the hotel chosen.

You'll also get free breakfast daily at participating hotels, free one-day car rental (on minimum three-day rental), and one Barbados Gourmet Dining Card per booking that gives 20 per cent off at participating restaurants. For a list of participating hotels, restaurants and attractions, visit visitbarbados.org or call 1-800-221-9831.


Sarah McLachlan Takes On Love, Loss And 'Self-Loathing'

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 05, 2010) VANCOUVER—Sarah McLachlan, the child-woman who was the heroine for an entire generation of Canadian music, is 42 years old now, with her marriage a thing of the past, two daughters to raise in the present and her future still uncertain.

“But I don’t think about that,” she insisted in a recent conversation. “I live in the moment. Today is a good day and I’m happy to be here and talking to you, but a few days ago, I spoke to someone else who asked me what my favourite part of myself was and I couldn’t answer.

“That day, I didn’t have a favourite part of me. I couldn’t think of anything about me that I cherished. Nothing.”

June 15 will see the release of her first studio album of new material in seven years, called
Laws of Illusion, but she made it clear that she had only one law while making it: no illusions.

“In the past two years, I went through the hardest time of my adult life. The bottom just sort of fell out. But with that bottom falling out, there was a whole lot of reckoning to do.

“What have I bought into all these years? Who am I, anymore? What’s real in me? What’s false in me? All of these illusions I’ve been living with. It’s time to strip them all away.”

It’s strange to hear such heavy words being spoken by McLachlan with the same sweet, otherworldly voice that’s beguiled millions over the 22 years since she shot to prominence with her first album,
Touch and later went on to Grammy-winning fame and supernova status as the Earth Mother behind the wildly successful series of concerts known as Lilith Fair.

“If there’s going to be any hope and growth in your life, then you have to fight the fear and the uncertainty.”

If McLachlan should feel safe and comfortable anywhere, it’s here, in West Vancouver, with the forest rising up behind her and the sea beyond. She’s just stepped out of a rehearsal in the home studio where she’s recorded some of her greatest hits and she’s doing the work she loves, getting ready to promote an album into which she poured her soul over the past 18 months.

Ask her how she’d describe her latest work and she ponders. “Is it a sad album? I’m not sure ‘sad’ is the right word for it as a whole, but yes, there’s a lot of sadness in it.”

And she’s right.
Laws of Illusion is filled with exquisite songs, as good as any McLachlan has ever written, while her voice sounds clear and true, but there’s still a sense of malaise in the air. Even the happier cuts, like “Loving You Is Easy” have a slightly bitter aftertaste that lingers long after the initial sweetness has faded.

Although it’s written in a style that’s unmistakable McLachlan, it bears an overall tonal resemblance to Joni Mitchell’s classic
Blue. That’s not surprising, considering it’s one of McLachlan’s personal favourites and when asked at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in 1996 to select a single song to perform to honour Mitchell, she picked “River” from that very album.

And the same melancholia that lurks in the background of
Blue is there in Laws of Illusion, the aching tooth you can’t help caressing with your tongue, because the pain is so sweet.

McLachlan serves notice in the opening song, “Awakenings” about where things are headed, when she zeroes in on “The feeling we are going nowhere fast” which drowns out any magic that “shooting stars and hopeful hearts” might have felt in the past.

Unlike many artists who act coy about what inspired their work, McLachlan is almost savagely honest about what lies behind that song and most of the album.

“A big part of it was the relationship with my husband,” she says, talking about Ashwin Sood, who was her drummer when she married him in 1997. They had two daughters, India Ann Sushil and Taja Summer, but the marriage broke up and they separated in 2008.

“I blame a lot of it on the relationship. All those walls and things that you build up over the years to hold the chaos at bay, they finally start to close in on you and you have to tear them down.

“I went through so much loss. The loss of a husband, the loss of a life partner, the father of my kids and the loss of myself in all of that.”

McLachlan makes it clear that the world of music superstardom had nothing to do with her troubles. This was purely personal.

“I went through my mid-life celebrity crisis 10 years ago,” she says. “This was about trying to find out who I really am. People have all sorts of images built up of who or what they think I am or ought to be. And they all have a bit of truth of them, but none of them ever see the whole picture.”

And though clues to what makes up the complete Sarah McLachlan are scattered throughout her songs, they’re never stated as bluntly in her lyrics as she suddenly does now, out of the blue.

“I’ve got a healthy dose of self-loathing inside of myself. It’s a big problem for me. I often think if I could just get a bit of perspective, pull up to look down on the whole picture instead of getting tangled in the details, I might have a chance.”

And at this difficult point in her life, McLachlan is finding her greatest trials and her greatest joys both lie with her two daughters.

“It’s tricky, it’s the hardest job in the world, parenting. I like to think I can manage anything, put it in a box, get it under control. But I can’t that do that with my daughters, especially the older one.

“She is the biggest challenge of my life. She will make me discover things about myself I never wanted to know. She holds up this mirror every day, saying ‘Here’s all your insecurities and shortcomings,’ and shoves it in my face. She’s teaching me patience.”

But there is balance in everything, including McLachlan’s children.

“The younger one is so easy, such a pleaser,” she says with a laugh. “She sees a man, walks up to him, puts her arms around him, smiles and he melts.

“I guess I’m like both of them, in a way.”

Having been through the dark night of the soul she catalogues in
Laws of Illusion, it’s surprising to hear her discuss her current relationship with Sood.

“We get along really well now. He’s a wonderful man, a decent guy and a good father. We just weren’t meant to be together any more.”

And despite the personal feelings that fill her recent songs, McLachlan also wants to make it clear that it’s not to be read as a point-by-point autobiography.

“Fiction is way more interesting than truth and sometimes you say something to make a point, or create a rhyme, or finish off a thought. Two of my friends went through the same journey I did at roughly the same time and some of their story is in these songs as well. It becomes a universal journey.”

She’s also recommencing another journey, by reviving Lilith Fair, which has remained a glorious memory since 1999.

“I wanted to be a part of it again,” she affirms. “I missed the sense of community that was created. The society we’re in now has everyone texting and twittering and the world is too fast-paced. We don’t have time to connect on a personal level.

“I love getting large groups of people together. Rituals are all dissolving. People don’t go to church any more, the family unit is falling apart. It’s so important to get people together and connect on a visceral level.”

I think back to the first time I ever met McLachlan, in 1986 in Halifax, when she was our weekly babysitter for 18 months for our infant daughter Kat, now 24. I ask her how she remembers herself back then, just before she left for Vancouver to begin her career.

“I was desperate to be liked and to please people,” she says, after a pause. “I had a lot of insecurities.

“It sounds pretty much like I still am today.”

Singer Charice Is Well-Positioned For Pop Stardom

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 03, 2010) With Oprah’s imprimatur, David Foster’s expertise and Madonna’s publicist,
Charice is well-positioned to jockey for pop stardom. It also helps that the cute songstress has a meaty, mellifluous voice.

Born Charice Pempengco in the Philippines, she began competing in singing contests at age 7. Since making her first TV appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2007, the teen has sung with Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli, garnered more than 13 million YouTube views and made four appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show where the talk show maven dubbed her “the most talented girl in the world.”

Now she’s hard at work hawking her Foster-produced self-titled debut, which opened at No. 8 on Billboard’s 200 album chart last month but has fallen to No. 55 in three weeks. After grabbing just a few hours of sleep on an L.A. flight that landed at 5:30 a.m. Thursday, the performer set off on a whirlwind two days of Toronto promotion, capped by a free show and CD signing at the Eaton Centre (Albert’s Way) at 6 p.m. on Friday.

The Star tore the up-and-comer away from her iPad at a downtown hotel for a few words.

Q Your voice could be applied to many styles of music, how did you choose this direction?

A Me and David Foster decided for me to record R&B/pop stuff, because I’ve been singing Whitney Houston and Céline Dion songs and all that, but as an 18-year-old singer I really want to connect with the same age. I really want to experience them singing my songs, because I know that they can’t really relate to the (Houston) Bodyguard songs.

Q David Foster is well-respected, but why him as your executive producer instead of someone maybe younger and hipper?

A David Foster is really different from other songwriters and producers. He’s really special. He’s not going to make you feel like you have to be scared. He makes you feel comfortable, that you can do it. He’s a really nice funny guy and so fatherly. Sometimes, I’m kind of shy to tell him my ideas, but he knows them. He’s always asking me, ‘Do you want this? Do you like this song? If no, then it’s out.’ I’m always telling him, ‘You know the best, you’re the master. What you like, I like it, too.’

Q What were you looking for in the songs you selected?

A Words are really important for me, then beat, melody. I really want people to connect to the song. Love songs were on top of the list.

Q Aren’t you kind of young to be singing about love with such passion?

A I’m not in love yet, but every time I sing — even sad songs or ballads — I always adapt myself to a song: ‘What if these words were going to happen to me, what am I going to feel?’ Sometimes, after singing a certain song, people ask me, ‘Are you depressed? No, I’m just really into the song.’

Q What impact has the Oprah appearances had on your career?

A It really changes your life. After my first time on her show, she was like ‘I want to help you, tell me your story.’ I told her my story: my mom is a single mom and I started at a very young age to sing, because I really wanted to help her, but I was losing hope. She said ‘No, don’t lose hope, I promise you something big will happen.’ Then she called David Foster.

Teens Tent Out For MuchMusic Video Awards

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Kate Allen

(June 09, 2010)
A full three nights before the MuchMusic Video Awards wristband giveaway, a teenaged army was already camped out at the station’s headquarters at Queen and John Streets, stocked with not much more than air mattresses, tarps, snack food, and one "honk 4 Justin Bieber" sign.

The MMVAs, a pop bonanza featuring performances from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Drake, Hedley, and yes, Justin Bieber, airs live from the downtown intersection on Sunday evening. Wristbands will be handed out starting Saturday morning at 8 a.m., but MuchMusic won’t confirm how many are on hand.

Last year's line-up numbered 5,000 and organizers expect the crowd this year to match it, security guard Shawn Element said. “It’s still tame ...we're expecting tomorrow to be pretty crazy. They're still coming in little packs right now.” Fans who don’t get a wristband can watch the show from the street or on television.

Three Grade 11 girls staked out first in line said they rearranged their final assignment schedules so they could be there, after telling administrators at Delta Secondary School in Hamilton that they needed to leave town for “a secret.” “We’re hardcore fans,” especially of Miley Cyrus, said Kristina Proctor, 18. The trio were also the first in line last year, when the Jonas Brothers and Lady Gaga were the main draw.

Their parents supplied them with a tent, inflatable sofa, generator, heater, laptop, and a stockpile of water and snacks. “It's really important to stay hydrated and eat well when you're out here for this long,” said Charlie-Anne Aucoin, 16. The girls said their parents planned to travel from Hamilton to give them food and make sure they were safe.

Others came less well-equipped. Jesse Shaw of Newmarket had nothing but a backpack and had already spent one rainy night on the sidewalk before the line-up officially began. “I don't want to be one of those unfortunates at the very end of the line who end up waiting the whole time and not getting one,” he explained. Shaw, 18, said he was most excited to see Canadian rappers Drake and Classified.

Environment Canada is predicting thunderstorms and lows down to 11 C over the next three days.

Versatile Singer Brings Charisma To Dark Star Requiem Premiere

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(June 09, 2010) Even in music, it is people who help us connect with art. And it’s hard to imagine a more charismatic collection of performers than the one
Tapestry New Opera Works has assembled for the world premiere of Dark Star Requiem on Friday and Saturday at Koerner Hall.

Laid out like a sacred funeral mass, but focused on the secular world, this new oratorio by Torontonians — composer Andrew Staniland and librettist Jill Battson — zeroes in on the disjunction between science and nature, as seen through the worldwide spread of HIV.

Although director Tom Diamond has been in charge of giving the concert-like oratorio form a bit of stage movement, the focus is on the performers themselves.

Backed up by the Elmer Iseler Singers and a small orchestra (that includes the Gryphon Trio and percussionist Ryan Scott) is a power quartet of soloists: soprano Neema Bickersteth, fresh from a Theatre Centre remount of the chamber opera
Stitch, mezzo Krisztina Szabó, who has just completed a remarkable turn as Idamante in the Canadian Opera Company’s season-ending production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, baritone Peter McGillivray and bass-baritone Marcus Nance.

The two performances are led by Tapestry music director Wayne Strongman.

Of all the people on stage, Nance has had the most diverse career. He came to the attention of local opera audiences at the same time as soprano Measha Brueggergosman, when they were both cast in the premiere of James Rolfe and George Elliott Clarke’s
Beatrice Chancy, in 1999.

But Nance’s Toronto stage début had taken place six years earlier, in Livent’s production of

He was a master’s student at the University of Illinois at the time. He dropped out of school, flew to Toronto, and hasn’t looked back since in a career that has been equal parts opera, Broadway and cabaret.

Right after the
Dark Star Requiem run, Nance is off to Sarnia for the second annual Starbright Summer Festival. He’s singing in two cabaret-type shows at the venerable Imperial Theatre, one of them aptly titled Broadway Baritones.

Over breakfast near his Leslieveille home, Nance explains that his choice of profession came as a surprise.

He grew up on the idyllic suburban hillside of Pacific Grove, in Monterey, Calif. His father was a Baptist minister, so Nance and his three siblings sang in church. But there was more.

“My dad was this country boy from North Carolina who had these big ideas for his family,” Nance recalls. “One of the things that he wanted was his children to be involved in music. Three of the four of us are music majors.”

The future singer went to California State University in Fresno to get his bachelor’s degree — as a clarinet major. Nance describes how he played principal clarinet in the orchestra as well as in the college’s woodwind quintet, with which he toured Europe and Asia. He saw a future in a symphony orchestra.

At the same time, he’d been taking voice lessons for fun and because his teachers encouraged him. “I sang in church and wanted to be a better singer for that.” Nance had a bit of a crisis inside the woodwind quartet and, at that moment, decided that he might be happier as a singer.

Not wanting to take any chances, he sold his clarinets. “I wanted something to tangible to show for it, so I spent all the money on opera CDs,” Nance smiles. “I have an incredible opera library.”

The opera training he pursued from then on gave him a solid technical and theoretical foundation to do any kind of music. His voice, a deep, flexible instrument that can rumble in his chest or soar above an audience, literally speaks for itself. And it seems to adapt as easily to an opera house, as to a microphone.

“I don’t know how to describe myself anymore,” the baritone says, laughing. “I just do what I’m asked to do and accept each contract as they come and see if I want to do it or not.”

Nance has worked with Tapestry New Opera Works before, and they have asked him several times to come back and sing with them. But his busy career has stood in the way until
Dark Star Requiem.

That’s a lucky break for the Luminato festival, as well as Toronto opera lovers.

WHAT: Dark Star Requiem, by Andrew Staniland and Jill Battson

WHERE: Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.

WHEN: Fri. & sat. @ 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $30-$50 at www.ticketmaster.ca or 416-872-1111. More info at www.luminato.com

VIDEO: Singer Wants to be Known for Her Music and Not Her Hair!

Source: www.eurweb.com - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(June 08, 2010) *She has toured as the opening act for The Black Eyed Peas and Macy Gray. She sang duet posthumously with the incomparable Ray Charles on his album, “Genius and Friends” and collaborated with some of the music’s most prolific producers in Wyclef Jean, Raphael Saadiq and Kanye West.

However, on this day, Los Angeles reared singer,
Leela James is finding it hard to feign any enthusiasm at all.

Speaking with EUR’s Lee Bailey over the telephone, she says she is not feeling well and has taken meds in order to heal in time for an upcoming performance.

Bailey empathizes, offers to postpone to another day and, after getting the go-ahead asks the singer how she handles illness when performances have been scheduled.

“I just pray” she responds. Her voice is barely audible.

The name Leela James may not be a household one just yet, but her soulful voice, first introduced to us in 2005 with her debut record, “Change Is Gonna Come” offers a welcomed throwback to some of music’s greatest soul and R&B singers. Think: Betty Wright (“Clean Up Woman”), Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”), Aretha Franklin (“Do Right Woman – Do Right Man”), Gladys Knight (“If I Were Your Woman”) and even Angie Stone – the newest artist of the aforementioned group; and James’ label-mate on Stax Records. Yet not unlike each of these great vocalists, who successfully carved out their individual niche, James’ voice houses its own soulful styling; an authentic approach to the experiences of life and love, and the ability to convey a story with the depth and wisdom of an elder.

Surprising, since she is only 27. There is something “familiar” about her. Her speaking voice – at least on this day – more closely matches her age; and there is something about not feeling well that even prayer cannot dismiss: The frustration a Black woman feels when someone has the nerve to ask if her hair is “100% hers” – which Mr. Bailey did.

“It’s 100-percent mine. It’s on my head so its mine!” she offers quite matter-of-factly.

Enough said on that, as Bailey goes on to identify her “old-fashioned” sound.

“I wasn’t really aware of it being old fashioned. I guess to me, I sound Ol’ Skool, and people don’t necessarily hear that today–that sound– as much as it used to be heard,” James explains when Bailey asks why she chose this particular genre or style of singing. “I call it the type of singing [where] people actually…sing. You don’t hear a lot of REAL singing…real voices, you know? Not to discredit some of the other stuff but the reality is that people don’t sang…anymore [sic]. They might sing and play around and sound cute…make something decent enough to be played on the radio. You go into some of these churches, that’s when you hear real singing. I’m not moved by ‘tiny’ voices, if you will. I like real solid voices. I love Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight. I love those voices because they just have meat in them and stuff you can feel… I think that unfortunately radio doesn’t play that music all the time. You just hear the other stuff and people start thinking it doesn’t exist anymore.”

James admits that the lack of support from radio for her soulful genre of music can be disheartening.

“I feel like there is so much music out there, all kinds of music… people can have different options instead of the same old sounding stuff that tends to be played in heavy rotation. Then you start feeling like …somebody is an ‘Ol Skool Singer’…They are not Ol’ Skool, they’re just…real singers. It’s just like when you’ve been eating something bad for so long, when you get something good you don’t even know that it’s good ’cause you’ve been used to eating bad…if you’ve never had a real home-cooked meal, you think you’re getting something special just because you go to Boston Market.” (Laughs).

James, who says there has been an “over-saturation of cookie-cutter music,” went further to demonstrate how a generations’ lack of exposure to authentic music is both detrimental and frustrating. She recalled a recent experience. “I did a show about a month ago in San Francisco and the day before Mavis Staples was there…We were all so excited, trying to get in and catch her performance. One of the young people was like (with attitude) ‘Well, who is that,’ and we’re like OMG! It’s like, they didn’t understand. They were like, ‘Ugh, she sounds so scratchy’. That sounds good to me (laughs)! There are some [young people] that are into it, but there are others that if you don’t sound real studio-mixed, it’s not happening.”

A lack of heavy radio rotation doesn’t appear to have stopped audiences from singing James’ praises. On “Let’s Do It Again,” her second album, she demonstrated the versatility of her rich vocals via a series of covers originated by the likes of Al Green, Betty Wright, Bootsy Collins and The Staples Singers. Soultracks.com – a respected website for all things Soul, R&B and Gospel, responded to an online poll and awarded the singer their 2009 Reader’s Choice Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. James also received recognition with a nomination for Outstanding New Artist from the NAACP Image Awards and a Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist in 2008 by the Soul Train Music Awards. She spent four years between the release of her first and second records on tour; performing for festival audiences in the Netherlands, Switzerland and South Africa.

“After my first two records I knew I had to find a way to have more control over what was happening with my career,” says James, who will release her third, most personal record, “My Soul” on May 25. “When I was younger, I was just excited to be making records, and I wasn’t aware of some of the fine print that is part of the business. I had to learn how to take charge of where my music was going and how to get there.”

The first single off the album, “Tell Me You Love Me”, was produced by rap and hip-hop producer Gerard Baker (Toni Braxton, Masta Ace, Billy Crawford) and co-written by James, Andrea Martin and Gordon Williams. Leela says this is one of her favorite songs, as it talks about someone really trying to make love work. Listeners may find themselves thinking, “What is it about this song, this voice, this style that seems so familiar?” The answer may be Randy Crawford.

There is a cadence and vibrato in James’ voice, in this particular song, reminiscent of Crawford. Just close their eyes and you can practically hear Crawford singing “Street Life” or something. “This song is dealing with the reality that a lot of people get caught up in,” she explains to Lee Bailey.

“They just want to be held…patted on the back and told ‘you’re doing a good job and I love you.’ Everybody needs to hear that sometimes.” James insists she is not singing the song to anyone in particular. (Scroll down to watch/listen as James performs “Tell Me You Love Me.”)

Another favorite is the song, “I Want It All.”

“It’s semi political. I basically put …out there exactly what I want. Its one of those records I really like because, for one, I did it freestyle.” I went into the studio and as the music was playing, I started blurting out things…it came together and everybody was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a song!’” James is undoubtedly very excited about this project and while she doesn’t shy away from her concerns about radio support; she’s not holding her breath, telling Bailey she knows that her fans will seek her out and find her regardless, and this, she says, “makes me happy.”

Fans can also see Leela James as one of the co-hosts on the 2nd season of BET’s hit show on fashion and beauty called “My Black is Beautiful.” The debut of season two celebrated iconic women from television and movies; and James portrayed actor BernNadette Stanis, “Thelma Evans from the 1970s show ‘Good Times’. The singer, who wore a jean jumpsuit and mimicked a ‘back-in-the-day’ dance move following her introduction by host, actor Tasha Smith, was caught off-guard and couldn’t contain her joy when Stanis actually showed up as a guest later on the show.

Lee Bailey closes out the interview by asking the singer to share anything more she wants her audience to know about her. Without hesitation, obviously recalling Bailey’s opening question she says, unapologetically, “I want people to know that I’m very excited about this album. I want them to know that my music is what I want to be known for, and not my hair.”

You got that, Mr. Bailey? Good!

DeBorah B. Pryor is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist. She is the president of The Art of Communication, and provides group and individual consultation for those needing assistance with public speaking. Visit www.dpryorpresents.com or email deborah@dpryorpresents.com for more information.

Check out Leela James performing “Tell me You Love Me”:

The Self-Explanatory Gord Downie

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(June 07, 2010) It’s gone out of fashion to admit it, perhaps, but fashion be damned: Gord Downie is still one of the coolest customers in Canadian music, right up there with Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.

He’s a superb rock ’n’ roll frontman, as the singer and lyricist for The Tragically Hip, the public face of one of the biggest bands in this country’s history. His solo soul-searching, though, has been equally if not more compelling; resulting in the poetic obscurantism of 2001’s Coke Machine Glow and 2003’s endearingly rough-hewn Battle of the Nudes, an album recorded with a handful of underdog friends dubbed the Country of Miracles. Had it not been associated with the name Gord Downie, it could have easily passed for the work of one of the many younger acts contributing at the time to a post-millennial boom in homegrown indie-rock.

And while its commercial heyday is behind it and old-guard fans grumble — as they’ve grumbled since, oh, 1994’s Day for Night — that The Tragically Hip no longer sounds like The Tragically Hip, even that particular CanCon institution has been on a creative upswing of late. Indeed, its last record, 2009’s Bob Rock-produced We Are the Same, often sounded like the work of an entirely different band, no small achievement for an act in operation for more than 25 years.

Tuesday, Downie and the Country of Miracles officially unveil their newest offering, The Grand Bounce. Eclectic, upbeat and suffused with Downie’s literate pride of place in being a father and family man and a Canadian citizen, it sounds like the work of an artist still driven to advance his art. Moreover, it sounds like the work of an artist having fun.

“Bob Rock taught me a lot. His friendship has taught me a lot about what you should expect from a recording session and, more importantly, how you shouldn’t expect anything less than absolute joyousness,” says Downie, 46, sipping a coffee after a brisk morning bike ride to a Distillery District patio. “You should feel great. You should feel 14 to be doing it. It’s true and it’s rare . . .

“We’re not building a nuclear reactor here. We’re not drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean with no plan in case something goes wrong. This is making music, this is melodious air and people can hear what goes into it. When someone says ‘I feel good,’ you say: ‘I know, it shows.’ You want it to feel good so it’ll show.”

Downie already knew that making music with the Country of Miracles — an on-again, off-again ensemble that includes Julie Doiron, Skydiggers’ Josh Finlayson, and Dale Morningstar and Dave Clark of The Dinner is Ruined — gave him a good feeling.

Thus, when a meeting with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist and producer-at-large Chris Walla at the Pemberton Festival in 2008 left him with similarly positive vibes, he figured that it might be time to start thinking about making another solo record.

“He sought me out backstage. I guess as a kid growing up in Seattle, he and his buddies had listened to the Hip coming across the border,” Downie recalls. “We talked very amiably and easily for a couple of hours, and I just came away from it thinking: ‘I want to see that guy again. I want to talk to him some more. I want to hang out.’ And that got me thinking about how I would do that.

“It just got some hunches rolling, really. I thought he’d really get along with these guys in the Country of Miracles. And I thought initially his sonic sense, with less to go on, would really mesh well with their sense of spirit. And in the end he brought so much more than just a sonic sense; he brought a sense of spirit. They all got along famously, so it was a hunch that worked out.”

Walla visited Downie last summer. The two went through the songs Downie had in hand. He doesn’t distinguish between material for the Hip and the material he releases under his own name, Downie says (“I generally use it up, as Raymond Carver would say, and don’t save a thing for later.”)

Walla offered up suggestions on where to take the material. “East Wind,” he thought, should open with “a thousand acoustic guitars off the top,” for instance, while “Drowning Machine” should sonically reference P.J. Harvey.

Downie was happy to surrender to another’s instincts, as was the Country of Miracles, so the whole troupe convened at the Hip’s lakeside Bathhouse studio near Kingston and whacked the whole album out over two weeks last August.

The entire session was “driven by camaraderie and friendship and spirit,” says Downie, who actually emerged with a more Hip-like and listener-friendly album than his previous solo fare. Nevertheless, he’s philosophical about the fact that some longtime fans might not know what to make of The Grand Bounce.

“I guess I want people to see me and to try to explain myself, and you don’t always get the chance,” he says. “Sometimes you don’t get the chance and maybe no one ever gets the chance to really explain themselves, to have people see them. But I guess I’m doing that or I’m in the process of doing that. What you’re hearing now is a guy in the process of trying to explain himself.”

Arika Kane is #1 Independent Urban AC Artist for 6th Consecutive Week

Source: Aly M. Cleary, Hype-PR

(June 06, 2010) *For the sixth consecutive week,
Arika Kane is the top Independent Urban Adult Contemporary Artist according to Mediabase. Arika’s sophomore single “4 The Lovers” is currently No. 27 on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay Chart and recently was No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B Single Sales chart.

Much like the similarly named soap opera character, Arika Kane has loved, lost and lived to tell about – all of which is reflected in her music. Some of Arika’s musical career highlights have been opening for such notable artists as Frankie Beverly, Maze and Babyface as well as performing at the Ashford & Simpson’s legendary Sugar Bar in New York City.

Frequency Magazine has described Arika Kane’s music as “authentic soul” and her self-titled debut album on BSE Recordings is swiftly garnering praise. Hip Hop Weekly said, “Arika’s debut album delivers a complete composition that will really resonate with true music fans.” CD Baby named Arika Kane as one of the “hottest new up-and-coming artists to hit the music scene.”

With the song “4 The Lovers” Arika Kane is putting a fresh face on the often-misconstrued Adult R&B genre. “‘4 The Lovers’ is a soulful, rhythmic ballad that shoots an arrow right at the heart of being in love,” remarks Arika. “This song has a classic smooth vibe and will bring you right to that moment of having butterflies in your stomach for only that one special person.”

In reflecting on her recent chart success, Arika stated, “Moving up on any music chart as an independent artist is a very exciting thing for me. However being the top Independent Urban AC artist in the country on Mediabase is something I am extremely proud of and very grateful for.”

More information on Arika Kane may be found at her official website, www.arikakane.com, as well as her online media kit at http://bit.ly/arikakane. For more information on BSE Recordings, please visit www.BSERecordings.com.

Competitions Launch Careers On The Right Note

Source: www.thestar.com - William Littler

(June 05, 2010) MONTREAL - With the fading of its gala concert’s final notes from the stage of the Maisonneuve Theatre last night, the Ninth Montreal International Musical Competition came to a close and several new career doors simultaneously opened.

Winning a major competition continues to be one of the best ways to launch a career in music and the Montreal event, which alternates between violin (this year), piano and voice, continues to be Canada’s most important annual music competition.

Indeed, according to the British violinist Rodney Friend, one of this year’s panel of seven judges, “this competition has the reputation of being one of the main ones and I believe it compares with any other competition in the world.”

Friend should know. One of the most distinguished concertmasters of his generation (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic), he travels the world now, listening to aspiring violinists of a younger generation with dreams of Carnegie Hall dancing like sugar plums in their heads.

Realistic dreams? By no means always. “A competition will only tell you if you have potential,” he says. “And many factors can affect the way you play on a given day. I have experienced many competitions in which my choice did not win.”

Fellow juror Martin Beaver heartily concurs. One of the most successful Canadian string players of his generation, currently first violinist of the great Tokyo String Quartet, he admits to never having actually won one of the big competitions.

“In hindsight,” he suggests, “that was beside the point. Competitions are useful as a launching pad but that experience is not unique to the first prize winner. I had great exposure to a wide audience through competitions and I have had concert presenters come up and say they are interested in me regardless of who wins.”

The Montreal competition obviously recognizes the subjectivity involved in judging talent at such a high level by offering prizes to all six finalists, including engagements with two dozen orchestras and concert presenters from across the country, with the potential employer free to choose from among any of the finalists.

As someone who has sat on international juries on four continents, I sympathized with my counterparts in Montreal. The standard achieved by the two dozen selected candidates, aged 14 to 27, from 10 countries, was already high in the quarter finals. By the time of the concerto finals earlier this week, deciding who should walk away with $30,000 and who should walk away with $2,000 was largely a matter of taste and temperament.

Not everyone thrives on the competition experience. Canada’s greatest pianist, Glenn Gould, avoided it altogether. Rodney Friend nevertheless suggests that it offers the chance for potential artists to measure themselves against their colleagues from other countries and assess where they stand.

Conservatories and music schools, he argues, do not always offer that opportunity. “We accept too many youngsters who are not going to make it. And that is simply wrong. If you wanted to study medicine you wouldn’t get in if there were no job for you.”

Not that competitions offer job guarantees, either. “Music is a calling. It is not a vehicle,” says Martin Beaver. “And we live in an age in which it is difficult to talk of the long term. Competitions such as Montreal’s don’t just award cash prizes and concert engagements now. They recognize that career development takes time.”

A $20,000 career development program and an Analekta recording have become part of the winner’s prize in Montreal. The program includes workshops with managers, producers and communications professionals, even consultations with a fashion designer.

Yes, appearances do matter. Despite all those years of practising, preparing them to compete in Montreal, some of the candidates walked out on stage as if their physical appearance were irrelevant. It isn’t. As psychologists tell us, what we see affects the way we hear.

The Montreal International Music Competition wisely allows competitors considerable latitude in repertoire choice. It also wisely incorporates a compulsory piece specially commissioned from a Canadian composer, this year ``One for Solitude’’ by Ottawa-based Kelly-Marie Murphy. Taking responsibility for the music of our time should be part of any aspiring artist’s self-definition.

Taking responsibility for the musical development of the audience should be another part. Some of the most interesting musicians to be heard in Montreal were those who took the poet Robert Frost’s “path less travelled by” in their choice of music. And as in Frost’s poem, that, for the listener, made “all the difference.”

Shad: The Rapper-Next-Door

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 06, 2010)  Even for a rapper,
Shad’s got plenty to say.

Rose Garden,” the opening track on his new disc
TSOL, is a tune about perseverance so stacked with witty references — from biblical fables, to pop superstars, comic book heroes and TV characters (Gandhi and Hitler even share a verse) — that it takes at least three spins to absorb every word.

That’s the case with most of the disc’s tunes. But the one thing you’ll never hear — or miss — on a Shad song is profanity.

“I don’t really curse too much just in regular life, so I figure it would be disingenuous to just put that in my music,” the wordsmith explained by phone from a Vancouver tour stop. “And also, who says that that has to be the vocabulary of the music? Hip hop’s always been about doing your own thing and you don’t need to curse to engage people; especially given what we do, we should be pretty good at it.”

Neither do other de rigueur hip-hopisms like the n-word, bitches or ho appear in the 27-year-old’s rhymes. “It’s just not how I talk,” he said “I wouldn’t call my girlfriend that. My gig is called Shad. My friends call me Shad and my parents call me Shad. (My rap persona) is not exactly the person that I am day to day, but its pretty closely connected to that person. So for me to suddenly transform on record wouldn’t be right.”

That low-key, real-dude non-affect is responsible for the ascendancy of the Kenya-born (of Rwandan parents), London, Ont.-raised Shadrach Kabango, said Dalton Higgins, author of
Hip Hop World.

“Shad’s appeal lies in his regular, guy-next-door persona,” said Higgins. “No flash or dash; stylistically he could be any layperson you see on the TTC on your way to work. Intentional or not, this works.

“We can relate to his views on everything from trying to earn a living doing what you do, black culture, to the present state of hip hop. He’s completely understated . . . he’s the Tim Duncan of Canadian rap,” said Higgins, referring to the undersung San Antonio Spurs centre who’s won four NBA championships.

“What you see is what you get,” echoed FLOW 93.5 music programmer Justin Dumont of Shad, who plays the Opera House on Saturday. “His style is below the radar, but he’s an incredible, funny lyricist.”

Music was a hobby for Shad, the middle of three children of a machinist dad and lab-tech mom, until he enrolled in business studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“Around second year I started to write stuff that was a little bit more personal, or that I felt was unique to me. I was putting stuff down that I felt like ‘I don’t know if anyone else is really saying this, or saying this the way I’m saying it.’ That made me think that maybe what I’m doing is worth putting out. Before that it was just like freestyling for fun.”

After completing his degree and with no specific career in mind, Shad began pursuing music. His second album, 2007’s
The Old Prince, garnered a Juno nomination and made the Polaris Music Prize short list. He also won props from Kanye West and an opening act slot for Common.

Meanwhile, he’s still on the academic path: one semester away from completing a master’s in liberal arts at Simon Fraser University. And
TSOL which features fellow indie favs Broken Social Scene’s Lisa Lobsinger, Classified and Justin Nozuka, has been garnering quite the buzz.

“The success comes after you’ve made the album and less in the response to it,” explained Shad. “When I feel like I’ve been responsible with the opportunity I’ve been given to make music, which is something I’m really grateful for every single day, and I feel like I worked hard and put my all into it and tried to do something that’s meaningful and worthwhile and positive for people, then I can be happy with that.

“Because you never really know how people are going to take to it; and that’s entirely within people’s rights to like it or not like it. And I think it’s important to know that success is something outside of that.

“The biggest difference for me was this was the first time I was making music knowing that other people were kind of interested in hearing it. How can I make something that is just another positive listening experience was the main thing, where with my first two albums I didn’t know if anyone was paying attention, so a lot of it was my own personal interest in writing, or creating — this bored young angsty, whatever the cliché is, mindset.”

TSOL is not much of a departure from his penchant for witty verses about heartfelt subjects, from the dearth of female rappers (“Keep Shining”) to “A Good Name” about the history of his birthname.

“At a time when too many local rappers’ songs make me want to hit the fast forward or skip option, this guy is storytelling in the tradition of a Maestro (the former Maestro Fresh Wes),” said Higgins. “I say Maestro because Shad has a profound song on his last disc called ‘Brother’ that works much like Maestro’s ‘Nothing At All’ song did: laying out bare what it’s like to be young, black and male, and navigating Canada’s racial, cultural and creative waters.”

Though various meanings and acronyms have been attached to the album’s title (for one thing, it’s “lost” backwards), Shad prefers to keep it mystic.

“I put a lot of thought into the words on the album, but less into the album title,” he explains. “For me it represents an idea, it represents the idea of words being insufficient to express some of the thoughts and the feelings that we have — that’s why we have music. When I think of
TSOL — it’s the last words I say on the album — it’s somebody making up a word to express a sort of feeling that there’s no word for, like when your heart feels humbled by good or bad circumstances.”

Macy Gray hits 40

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) *It’s been 10 years since the world was introduced to the raspy wild style of
Macy Gray and she recently celebrated her 40th birthday. The Grammy Award winning singer answered some interesting questions about age and discrimination in the industry with the Huffington Post.

“‘I don’t know how to get a 40-year-old woman on the radio. If she was 20, 25 then this record would be incredible.’ This quote comes from a powerful record label executive, just before she said no to signing me for my fifth album. And who would fault her? Everybody knows that a 40-year-old female recording artist is ‘geriatric.’ While a 46-year-old president is the ‘new kid on the block,’ a singer over 30 is just a few songs away from the nursing home of music.”

“The obvious remedies: Age defying crème, botox, face lifts, brow lifts, hair dye, Perricone Promises, super foods and denial. Lying about our age was once a quick fix, but Wikipedia has ruined that for everybody. Cosmetic touch-ups and diet discipline may take ten years off, but how do you go ten years back? How do you sing songs that are relevant to teenagers and who are you fooling if you try?”

“The truth is that as a mother of three teenagers, I can tell you that the music industry drastically underestimates the souls of the young. And that there are over 40 million women, in the United States alone, in their 30s, 40s and beyond, that are starving to be musically inspired and lyrically represented. While the fans miss out on great music because of age discrimination, there is still BEAUTY IN THE WORLD.”

Photos/Video: Rihanna Spotlighted On and In Elle

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) *
Rihanna’s not only on an international tour, but she’s on a roll overall. Her latest high profile conquest is capturing the cover of the July issue of Elle. It goes on sale June 15.

Inside, it looks appears that leopard is the theme that was captured for the layout from her favourite designers Lanvin, Cartier, Cavalli and Phillip Lim.

Scroll down for the pics and behind the scenes video

As far as what she had to say, the pop star  dishes on everything from fashion and music to her ex and current boyfriend(s). For instance …

On the album art for her “Rated R” CD cover:

“I wanted pictures that represented strength and fearlessness but still femininity-a strong woman who can be vulnerable. Every woman is made up of vulnerability and strength; no matter what race you are, no matter what you’ve been through in your life. Every woman has that strength that is undeniable, but we also have really big hearts. It’s just us.”

On her new boo (Matt Kemp):

“I have a boyfriend. I’m so happy. I feel really comfortable, and it’s so easy. I have such a chaotic life, but at the end of the day, that is just my peace. It keeps me sane, really, talking to him and talking to my family.”

On the past year (and Chris Brown):

“A year ago, I was very confused. Because he was my best friend. All of a sudden, one night changed our whole lives-not only our friendship, but our lives. I wanted to wake up one day and just not have that pain anymore. I wanted to be with him again or get over him-it was either-or. I just didn’t want to feel the pain, the confusion.”

On turning her dream of pop stardom into reality:

“If I were in Barbados still, I would be dreaming about this. I asked for it, and I love it, so why am I complaining? My first day on tour, I remember saying ‘I’m so tired-this is so much.’ Then I thought, What the f*ck? You asked for this-you prayed to God to tour like Madonna.”

On designers she admires:

“It’s clear there are definitely fewer black women in the high-fashion industry. One of the things I respected most about Gucci was that they did a print campaign with me. I’m a black girl on a fashion spread for Gucci-that was a big deal. I respect designers who aren’t afraid to go outside the box. I went to a Jean Paul Gaultier show, and I saw girls who are thicker than me, beautiful and voluptuous and different ethnicities. That made me so excited. I thought, Okay, I can work that, for sure.”

Canuck Songstress Alanis Morissette Marries Rapper Souleye

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(June 07, 2010) Here’s something you oughta know: Canadian pop star Alanis Morissette is off the market.

A representative for the Ottawa native told The Canadian Press on Monday that Morissette has married singer and rapper
Souleye, whose real name is Mario Treadway.

The couple tied the knot May 22 at their Los Angeles home, a little more than a week before her 36th birthday. It’s the first marriage for both.

Morissette later confirmed the news on Facebook.

“So happy to share with you that my man Souleye and I got married,” she wrote. “We’re very excited to embark on this journey with each other.”

Morissette was previously engaged to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds.

She also once dated “Full House” star Dave Coulier, and it’s long been rumoured that the dissolution of the relationship was the inspiration behind her incendiary 1995 screed “You Oughta Know,” the first single from her massively successful album, “Jagged Little Pill.”

Treadway was born and raised in Massachusetts. He launched his career after winning a spot on the nautical music festival Jam Cruise in 2005, where he was bill alongside Les Claypool, Digable Planets and Michael Franti.

The unsigned 30-year-old underground rapper most recently released the seven-song compilation “Balance in Babylon” on 1320 Records in December. A percentage of proceeds were to be donated to a charity that supports American Indian reservations.

Photos of Morissette and Treadway canoodling during a shopping trip in Santa Monica, Calif., circulated through the blogosphere in November.

Morissette appeared at the red-carpet premiere of “Prince of Persia” on May 18, just days before the wedding (she performed the song’s theme song, “I Remain”).

Speaking to USA Today, she said she planned on writing another album this summer and releasing a book that would be equal parts “philosophy, art, Q&A, spiritual and philosophy.”

Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” remains the highest-selling debut album worldwide, with 30 million units moved globally. Her last record, 2008’s “Flavors of Entanglement,” hit No. 3 on the Canadian album chart.

She’s sold more than 60 million albums and has won seven Grammy Awards and 12 Junos.

Morissette has also recently pursued an acting career, with a recurring role on “Weeds” adding to a resume that also includes the star-studded Kevin Smith film “Dogma,” the popular HBO series “Sex and the City” and a three-episode arc on “Nip/Tuck.”

She also took the stage at the splashy closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics in February for a performance of her fluttering tune “Wunderkind.”


Hundreds Walk Out on Whitney in Denmark

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 04, 2010) *Pregnancy rumours aside, Whitney Houston’s singing woes continue to plague her world tour, as hundreds of disappointed fans reportedly walked out of her show last night in Denmark. According to the Copenhagen Post, critics from “all of the major media outlets” in the country slammed the concert, insisting her vocals were too weak and out of tune. [Listen to YouTube clips from the show below.] Critic Thomas Soie Hansen, of the Berlingske Tidende newspaper, writes: “She looked and sounded like a person who doesn’t have many years left to live. At the end of the show she looked like she was ready to explode.” The singer’s highly-anticipated comeback trek has been blighted by poor reviews and criticism that her vocals are not strong enough to carry the show. She ended up cancelling a string of European concerts in April after she was hospitalized with nose and throat problems. Now she is facing renewed concerns for her health after hordes of fans in Copenhagen left her show midway through, complaining about her poor performance. She then reportedly turned on a section of the audience when some fans began booing as she made a speech paying tribute to Michael Jackson.

Tank and Sex, ah Yes

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 04, 2010) *The quiet R&B love artist is planning to come back with a sexy music line up with Atlantic Records.   He announced his long awaited return on June 2 and told his fans, those who remained, on Twitter, “I need everybody to call their radio stations on June 8th and request my new single! ‘Sex Music’ I promised now I deliver!”   That’s right, “Sex Music” is the name of his upcoming single. OOOHHH YYYEESSSS.  In addition to the single, he reportedly signed on with Atlantic Records and will soon be releasing his album entitled “Now or Never.” How exciting. Look out for Tank’s single June 8 and keep an ear out for the full album in the future.

Dre Reigns Supreme!!!

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 03, 2010) *VIBE is still giving out awards, even after being closed down last year. Perplexing. But that’s not the news to report.
Dr. Dre was voted the Greatest Producer of All Time (Applause). The former NWA producer/rapper won 62 percent of votes and went up against DJ Premier. No competition, right? A total of 189,425 votes were cast in four rounds in six categories: Homegrown Sound, Soul Sample, Mass Appeal, and Boom Bap. Dre stomped out the competition, sending Atlanta producer DJ Toomp packing in the Homegrown category in the first round, DJ Quik in the second, and De La Soul’s Prince Paul in the third. He also pushed out Bomb Squad and Kanye West. In the meantime in the Boom Bap category, Premier was the favoured player of the game, easily sweeping newcomer Bangladesh in the first round, Mobb Deep’s Havoc, Rick Rubin, and RZA in the semi-finals. Hip-hop heads and critics predicted the outcome before the races began, however. Dre was happy and seemed a bit surprised by the win. “I just found out that I got voted VIBE’s best producer of all time. That sh*t is incredible,” the victor commented to the publication. “I’m a humble person and I would’ve never expected that, seriously. I just go in the studio. I try to do my thing to the best of my ability.” Whether you disagree or can experience the West Coast pride, Dre is the winner and will reign as the best producer of all time, period!

Monica to Sing Anthem at Game 3 of NBA Finals

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) *Monica has been recruited to perform the national anthem at Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night in Boston, the league announced. The R&B singer will belt the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Boston Garden before the hometown Celtics take on the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams are tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series. Monica released her fifth CD, the gold-selling “Still Standing,” in March. The lead single “Everything to Me,” which taps Chad Ochocinco for the video [watch below], was No. 1 on the R&B charts for seven weeks.


Video: Snoop, Ciara Visit Star Wars Cantina In Adidas Ad

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) *A new “Star Wars”-themed Adidas promo for the World Cup debuted over the weekend featuring a host of music artists integrated into a re-imagination of the famous cantina scene from “Episode IV.” In addition to Daft Punk, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown of Stone Roses fame, R&B star Ciara is shown standing at the bar, and Snoop Dogg – who is trying to buy a drink – ends up having to pull out his lightsaber and throw down with a few creatures. Snoop’s homie David Beckham and actor Jay Baruchel all make cameos in the spot. Watch below.


Lauryn Hill Joins Rock the Bells Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) *It’s now official – former Fugees member
Lauryn Hill has joined the line-up of the 2010 Rock The Bells Festival. As previously reported, there had been rumours that the reclusive singer/rapper would participate this year alongside confirmed acts Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest and DJ Premiere. Organizers made the official announcement on Tuesday (June 8). Each artist on the 2010 Rock The Bells bill will perform one of their classic albums in its entirety. Hill will rock “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Snoop will deliver “Doggystyle,” A Tribe Called Quest will perform “Midnight Marauders” and DJ Premier will pay homage to Gang Starr member Guru, who died of cancer in April of 2010. Previously-announced acts include Wu-Tang Clan, KRS-One, Slick Rick, Rakim, Murs, Immortal Technique, 9th Wonder, Clipse, Wiz Khalifa and others. The Rock The Bells Tour will visit San Bernardino (August 21), San Francisco (August 22), Governors Island (New York) and Washington, DC (August 29).


Adrien Brody Drawn To Trouble

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(June 03, 2010) The tougher the story and the more difficult the character, the more Adrien Brody is interested.

It’s always been that way for the Oscar-winning actor, 37, whom we rarely see in conventional roles, either as a hero or a villain. Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert astutely said of Brody’s performance in the 2005 King Kong remake that the New York-born actor was “not precisely hero material.”

In his 22-year film career, to list just a few roles, Brody has played both dedicated soldier and embattled civilian in World War II movies (The Thin Red Line and The Pianist). Spanning artistic types, he’s been the humble performer (Dummy), the frenzied writer (King Kong) and the ambitious producer (Cadillac Records).

He gave voice to a field mouse named Rickity in last year’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, but next month he’ll be all he-man, as a mercenary ex-soldier in the creature feature

“I’m attracted to playing characters that are flawed and make errors in judgment and have to deal with those repercussions,” said Brody, who does all that and more opposite Sarah Polley in Splice, a hybrid horror by Toronto’s Vincenzo Natali, opening Friday.

“Because playing a character who doesn’t possess those characteristics would be terribly boring, I think.”

He has a fan in Natali, who chose Brody as Sarah Polley’s Splice co-star because he thought he’d make a great “brilliant geneticist” and also work well with Polley.

“Adrien not only exudes intelligence, he is tremendously charming and sympathetic. So even when his character, Clive, does some very morally questionable things, the audience never loses their emotional connection to him,” Natali said from L.A., where he was attending Wednesday’s Hollywood premiere of Splice.

“I intuitively felt that he would make a great match with Sarah. Opposites, as they say, attract and the two of them just seemed to complement each other in an odd but harmonious way. I think they make a charmingly geeky couple.”

That they do. While on a promotional visit to Toronto last week, Brody offered a few of his thoughts on working with Polley and Natali:

Q: Had you crossed paths with Sarah before?

A: You would think so, but we hadn’t. She’s been doing this as long as I have. Obviously we knew each other’s work and knew of each other, but we never got to work together. I love working with her. She’s so fun and with a great sense of humour. I saw her in Dawn of the Dead. She goes for it.

Q: Were you familiar with Vincenzo’s previous work?

A: I saw Cube and Paris je t’aime. We spoke, and we had a discussion and meetings. You can’t just base it off what you’ve seen. It’s helpful to see some of his work, but it’s the current material you’re discussing and the way that you guys converse has a lot to feel that process will be currently. He’s a great guy; he’s super smart, very soft spoken and very focused.

Q: Did you have any trepidation about working with a relatively unknown? A Canadian director?

A: Why would I have trepidation because he’s Canadian? I’ve shot across the world with directors from all over the world. I could never judge someone for their nationality. That wouldn’t even register.

Q: What did you think of the moral aspects of Splice?

A: (Laughs) You mean the lack thereof? We’re making a movie, there’s a freedom in film and in art that you don’t have in real life and mistakes can be made that can be a cautionary tale or not. They show you the mistakes that human beings are capable of making. I also feel of seeing films, that you’re watching characters go through things and hardships and scenarios, and there’s insight to be gained through that. I think people see certain things and they’re very thankful that it’s not their predicament.

There’s something truthful about it as well. It’s fascinating to explore the truths of life that are less pleasant. You can also find humorous elements in such things. The more complex it is, the more interesting the process will be.

‘Shrek Forever After’ Hauls In $25.3 Million

Source: www.thestar.com - David Germain

(June 06, 2010)  LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Hollywood is in a June swoon as a rush of new movies fails to grab audiences.

DreamWorks Animation’s “
Shrek Forever After” remained the No. 1 movie for a third-straight weekend with $25.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. It raised its three-week domestic total to $183 million.

“It appears that the family audience is dominating the box office right now, and families clearly want to see ‘Shrek,’” said Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks Animation.

The overall box office tumbled, coming in at $125 million, down 24 per cent compared to the same weekend last year, when “The Hangover” opened with $45 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

The best of the newcomers was Universal’s rock ‘n’ roll comedy “Get Him to the Greek,” which debuted at No. 2 with $17.4 million. The movie stars Jonah Hill as a record executive escorting an unruly rocker (Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles for a concert.

Opening at No. 3 with $16.1 million was Lionsgate’s action comedy “Killers,” starring Katherine Heigl as a woman who marries her dream man (Ashton Kutcher) only to learn he’s an international assassin.

Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, said the studio is happy with the results for “Get Him to the Greek” but that slumping revenues for Hollywood in general are a concern.

“Everybody is talking to me about that, and I don’t have an answer,” Rocco said.

The weekend after Memorial Day a year ago, the blockbuster “Up” premiered with $68.1 million. That was more than the combined $52.3 million total for “Get Him to the Greek,” “Killers” and anemic openings for this weekend’s two other new wide releases — 20th Century Fox’s family comedy “Marmaduke” at $11.3 million and the Warner Bros. horror tale “Splice” at $7.5 million.

“The films a year ago were generating a ton of excitement, and this year’s just kind of falling flat. You had four new wide releases, and a three-week-old movie is still No. 1,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “I don’t know if they’re bored or if ticket prices are too high or if they just have other things to do.”

The quiet weekend follows a sluggish May that ended with the slowest Memorial Day holiday in 17 years in terms of movie attendance. Two big Memorial Day weekend releases, the Warner Bros. sequel “Sex and the City 2” and Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” failed to light up the box office, and both fell off sharply in their second weekends.

“Prince of Persia” was No. 4 with $13.9 million, down 54 per cent from opening weekend and raising its domestic total to $59.5 million. “Sex and the City 2” finished at No. 5 with $12.7 million, down 59 per cent and lifting its haul to $73.4 million.

For the year, Hollywood revenues are at $4.47 billion, up 3.7 per cent over the record pace last year. But factoring in higher ticket prices, attendance now has slipped 2.7 per cent behind last year’s, according to Hollywood.com.

The box office can turn on a dime, though, so Hollywood could regain its momentum with just a few big hits.

“I’m still confident when you take a look at some of the films coming up in the summer, that audiences will start coming out in droves,” said David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate. “There’s a lot of big titles, including next weekend.”

This Friday brings a 1980s flashback with a remake of “The Karate Kid” starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, the son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a big-screen adaptation of the TV action series “The A-Team,” featuring Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel and “The Hangover” co-star Bradley Cooper.

Still to come are “Toy Story 3,” reuniting voice stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen; Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s action comedy “Knight and Day”; “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third instalment in the vampire-romance franchise; and Leonardo DiCaprio’s science-fiction thriller “Inception,” from “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. “Shrek Forever After,” $25.3 million.

2. “Get Him to the Greek,” $17.4 million.

3. “Killers,” $16.1 million.

4. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” $13.9 million.

5. “Sex and the City 2,” $12.7 million.

6. “Marmaduke,” $11.3 million.

7. “Iron Man 2,” $7.8 million.

8. “Splice,” $7.5 million.

9. “Robin Hood,” $5.1 million.

10. “Letters to Juliet,” $3 million.

Twilight and Bullock rule at MTV Movie Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(June 07, 2010) The undead and someone with a new lease on life were the main attractions at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night.

That and lots of swear words and same-sex kissing.

It shouldn't have been a surprise that the biggest haul in the fan-voted awards went to the Twilight saga.

What might have been a surprise, at least to the censors, is that the f-word came across loud and clear as actor Peter Facinelli accepted the Best Movie award on behalf of The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

“This is pretty f--king cool,” he said. He also thanked Chris Weitz, “our brilliant f--king director . . . Who am I forgetting? Who am I f--king forgetting?”

Twilight beat out Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Alice in Wonderland and The Hangover for the Best Movie prize.

Star Robert Pattinson, who plays vampire Edward Cullen, won Best Male Performance plus a new category voted on by fans around the world: Global Superstar.

His co-star Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, won Best Female Performance. And she and Pattinson combined to win Best Kiss for the second year running.

But the vampire/werewolf saga had to cede a bit of the limelight to Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, making her first TV appearances on the weekend since her marriage imploded shortly after her Academy Award win.

Bullock, who has filed for divorce from husband Jesse James, made a surprise appearance at Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards on Saturday to accept an Entertainer of the Year trophy and joked about her troubles. “Did I win this for being Entertainer of the Year, or did I win this because of the spectacular IED (improvised explosive device) explosion that became my personal life?” she asked.

At the MTV shindig, where she accepted the Generation Award for her career so far, references to her personal situation were more oblique.

“No matter what you've seen or heard or read lately, I love what I do and I'm not going anywhere,” Bullock said.

She also said she wanted to clear up a couple of things.

“No. 1: I'm not dead. No. 2: everybody has cellulite not just me . . . I've never gone 14 days without showering while chain-smoking and crying on the shoulder of my . . . Aunt Luddy.”

At the end of her speech, Bullock kissed actress Scarlett Johansson on the lips. Johansson had been onstage while Bradley Cooper and Betty White presented Bullock's award but for an apparent reason.

Same-sex attraction seemed to be a recurring theme at the awards, promoted as a cooler alternative to traditional movie prizes.

Besides Bullock's and Johansson's lip lock, comedian Russell Brand and actor Jonah Hill shared a passionate smooch in the audience after a “kissing cam” was turned on them, and Brand and Hill also feigned devotion to Twilight stars Pattinson and Taylor Lautner during a comedy routine with Sean “Diddy” Combs, their co-star in Get Me to the Greek.

Producers also threw in a cameo appearance by it boy Justin Bieber, host Aziz Ansari playing the Gabourey Sidibe role in a take-off on the movie Precious and singing an ode to Avatar, and — in some of the show's funniest moments — Tom Cruise reprising his Les Grossman character originally seen in Tropic Thunder.

Cruise, as Grossman, had scenes with Pattinson and Lautner, did karate with Jaden Smith while dad Will looked on, and performed a booty-shaking hip-hop number with Jennifer Lopez, while wife Katie Holmes cheered from the audience.

Other winners on Sunday included Amanda Seyfried for Best Scared as S--t Moment in Jennifer’s Body; Zach Galifianakis for Best Comedic Performance for The Hangover; Tom Felton of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for Best Villian; Ninja Assassin star Rain for Biggest Badass Star; and Anna Kendrick, taking Best Breakthrough Performance for Up in the Air.

“I am not cool enough to win an MTV Movie Award so I'm not going to mess it up by taking any more time than I should,” said Kendrick.

“This is the coolest moment ever. This is going on my coffee table. Thank you so much.”

Stewart gave the most awkward acceptance speech.

“Thank you so much, this is awesome. I guess Twilight is really awesome and I agree,” she said in accepting Best Female Performance.

She and Pattinson, believed to be a couple in real life, did an awkward job of trying to get out of kissing while accepting Best Kiss, eventually ending the charade with just a quick peck.

The most touching speech came from Ken Jeong, who won the WTF Award for The Hangover.

He thanked his wife, who had been getting treatment for breast cancer when the movie was being made.

“Life is short, don't be afraid to take chances,” he said, adding that his wife has been cancer free for two years.

With files from Associated Press

Naked Ambition Drew Sarah Polley To Role

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(June 04, 2010) PARK CITY, UTAH—Toronto’s Sarah Polley says she wanted to play a risk-taking geneticist in Splice because she was attracted to the “naked ambition” of her character, Elsa.

She smiled as she warned the Egyptian Theatre audience at the January premiere of the movie at the Sundance Film Festival that the movie was “morally indefensible” but also highly compelling and thoughtful.

When Polley received the script from her fellow Torontonian Vincenzo Natali, who directed and co-wrote the film, she turned the pages expecting the story to follow certain sci-fi and horror conventions. She discovered to her delight that it took much stranger paths.

“I felt like every time there’s some kind creepy subtext where I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be so great if that happened, but that won’t happen,’ — (there would be) things that a few scenes later happened.”

The biggest attraction to Polley was the personality of her character, a brilliant geneticist who teams with her husband Clive (Adrien Brody) to create new forms of life. Elsa takes risks that Clive is afraid to.

“I was just amazed by how great it was that I’d never seen a female character like this before,” Polley said. “She’s so nakedly ambitious and uncompromising and manipulative. But she also had this kind of vision and drive.

“I just thought it was an incredible character. The script I just found to be so much fun. I never had so much fun reading a script.”

She didn’t need much persuasion to join the Splice cast. “I really wanted to be a part of it. I was a really big fan of Vincenzo’s early work.”

Thandie Newton Replaces Mariah in Tyler Perry Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) *Tyler Perry says he was on vacation and just days away from starting production on an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf when one of his leading ladies, Mariah Carey, called to tell him she was dropping out.

“I said, ‘What? You’re kidding me?,’” Perry writes light-heartedly in his latest letter to fans. “It’s five days before she has to go to work; nobody does that. We have a deal.”

Cutting his vacation short, Perry flew back to Atlanta where the movie is filming and selected
Thandie Newton to fill Carey’s role.

As for the pregnancy rumours surrounding Carey’s sudden departure, Perry would only say that the singer-actress had to leave the project on doctor’s orders.

“I was told that we got a call, saying that even though our deal was done, she had been advised by her doctor not to do the film,” Perry writes. “I said, ‘What? You know I want a doctor’s note, don’t you? LOL.”

“All I know,” he writes, “is that I’m waiting just like the rest of the world to find out what happened.”

In the end, he doesn’t hold Carey’s decision against her.

“What I do know of [Carey] is that she is a professional and wouldn’t back out of a deal unless it was a major issue,” Perry writes. “So, whatever is going on, I wish her and Nick [Cannon] the best and she has all my love, prayers and support.

“I just wish I could have finished my Mai Tai before I had to get back and re-cast this role!”

Newton, meanwhile, will join a stellar “Colored Girl” cast that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington and Janet Jackson.


Thomas Carter to Direct Teen Film ‘Dream On’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 03, 2010) *Mandate Pictures announced today that
Thomas Carter (“Save the Last Dance,” “Swing Kids”) will direct the film “Dream On,” which is being described as “a high-octane teen dance movie.” The story follows the life of Nicole Phillips, whose entire 17 years has been leading up to this one moment — the chance to become an Olympic gymnast. When an injury threatens her gold-medal dreams, she discovers the electricity, beat, and passion of the underground hip-hop scene in downtown Atlanta. Mandate has the project on the fast track for a late 2010 production. Lionsgate is handling international sales. Carter will also produce, along with Laurence Mark (“Julie & Julia,” “Dreamgirls,” “Center Stage”). David Blackman, Rachel Miller, and Mandate president Nathan Kahane will serve as executive producers. Tamara Chestna and Mary Lee will co-produce.

Mekhi Phifer Caught in ‘Flypaper’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) *Mekhi Phifer has joined the colossal ensemble cast of “Flypaper,” a crime caper about a man caught in the middle of two simultaneous robberies as he tries to protect the teller with whom he’s secretly in love. Matt Ryan, Greg Germann, Octavia Spencer, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Jeffrey Tambor have also been cast in the project from director Rob Minkoff (“Stuart Little”). They join Patrick Dempsey, Ashley Judd and Tim Blake Nelson. The feature, which began filming Monday in Louisiana, was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“The Hangover”). John Ventimiglia, Adrian Martinez, Rob Huebel and Curtis Armstrong have also been cast in the project. Meanwhile, Foresight is in postproduction on the thriller “The Ledge,” which stars Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler, Charlie Hunnam and Patrick Wilson.

Fuqua Eyes Bardem, Del Toro for ‘Escobar’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 07, 2010) *Antoine Fuqua is hoping to land two Hollywood heavyweights in his upcoming biopic of notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Speaking to Digital Spy, the “Training Day” director said that Javier Bardem and Benicio del Toro are his first choices to play Pablo and Roberto Escobar, respectively. “That’s who I would like, I would like Javier. I’d like Javier and Benicio [del Toro] to play brothers,” he said. Fuqua also confirmed that he has received a new version of the script for the Oliver Stone-produced project and insisted that he is determined not to “get [the film] wrong.” “I think it’s an important story of what was happening at that time and with him,” he explained. “We want to get it right, or as close as we can.” Regarding the time span of the film, Fuqua revealed: “It focuses on his whole life, from when he was 12. [It starts with] him and his brother walking home from school.”

Idris Elba Cast in Showtime’s ‘The Big C’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) *Actor
Idris Elba, best known for his role on HBO’s “The Wire,” has signed on as a guest star in the upcoming Showtime series “The Big C.” Elba will appear in four episodes as a painter who forms a relationship with series star Laura Linney, who plays a suburban teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer. Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe also stars in the series as one of Linney’s students. “The Big C” is scheduled to premiere on Aug. 16.

Will and Jada to Present at Tony Awards

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010)
*Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been announced as presenters for the 64th Annual Tony Awards. Hosted by Sean Hayes, the 2010 ceremony will air live Sunday from Radio City Music Hall on CBS at 8 p.m. EDT. Other presenters announced Wednesday include Paula Abdul, Katie Holmes, Daniel Radcliffe, Angela Lansbury, Mark Sanchez and Stanley Tucci. The Tonys are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. The musicals “Fela!” and “La Cage aux Folles” dominate the nominations.


::TV NEWS::\

The Many Shades of Jada, from TV Nurse to Karate Kid’s Mom

Source: Kam Williams

(June 0, 2010) Besides playing the title character on the TNT series
HawthoRNe, which is starting its secondseason, Jada Pinkett Smith executive-produces the show through her production company, 100% Womon. With her husband, Will Smith, she is serving as producer of The Karate Kid, starring their son, Jaden, and also of Fela!, the Broadway musical nominated for 11 Tony Awards. Jada’s recent film credits include Madagascar : Escape 2 Africa, as the voice of Gloria, and director Diane English’s remake of The Women.

In the past, she’s teamed up with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle in Reign Over Me, and enjoyed a pivotal role opposite Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann’s Collateral. However, she perhaps remains best known as the take-charge Niobe of Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions fame.

Here, Jada reflects on the challenge of balancing career and family when each member is a showbiz celebrity in his or her own right.

Kam Williams: Thanks for the time, Jada. It’s nice to have an opportunity to speak with you again.

Jada Pinkett Smith: Oh, thank you!

KW: Well, first of all, let me say congratulations! You’re blossoming on every front. Let’s see, HawthoRNe ’s starting its second season, you’re going t be on the cover of the July issue of Essence magazine, your Broadway musical has been nominated for 11 Tonys, and Jaden is starring in The Karate Kid, a picture you and Will produced. How does it feel?

JPS: It feels good. These are the moments that you keep in your back pocket to remember, “All of those were good times!” [Laughs]

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and I think they often come up with better questions than I do. So why don’t I start right of with some of them. Lester Chisholm says, “Thank you for the production of Fela,” and asks, “What would suggest as a lifestyle to keep young entertainers focused?”

JPS: Wow… Whew! Man, that’s a hard one, because part of the challenge of being young is finding what to be focused on. It’s a time of exploration when you have to discover who you’re not, in order to know who you are. I would say being deeply involved in the art world would help keep a young artist on track. Doing what you love, so that your focus is your artistry.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson and filmmaker Hisani Dubose had the same question: What is the key to balancing motherhood, marriage and such a successful career?

JPS: Staying true to yourself, and being able to prioritize. It’s very important to prioritize. I know, for me, my family comes first. That makes every decision very easy.  

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls Are there any arenas left for you to conquer?

JPS: [LOL] Definitely! And I’m always looking for them. But as I’ve gotten older, and now that my kids are starting to do what they do, I am now really focusing on sharing my knowledge and insights with them to help guide them on their journeys.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman observes that you and Will come across as down-to-earth and very family-centric. She wants to know, how you keep your family values intact with the children becoming stars themselves? Do they have chores and an allowance?

JPS: [Laughs] They definitely have chores, and they get an allowance from money they make, believe it or not. I think that critical to keeping them balanced is giving them purpose, and part of giving them purpose is allowing them to do things that they love to do, which is being part of this industry. And as wacky as that might seem, it allows them to contribute to the family, and it allows them to develop their own self-worth. And I feel that when a child has self-worth and purpose, that’s what keeps them grounded.

KW: Cinema Professor Mia Mask asks, do you think the roles for women of color -- black women in particular -- have improved?

JPS: I’d say they’ve improved, but there still aren’t enough. And I’d say that’s the case, not only for African-American women, but for all women in the Hollywood game. It’s just slim pickings, and a very challenging time for us. I think that’s why more of us need to work our way behind the camera in order to create roles that really illuminate who women are. We still have room for growth in that area, without a doubt. 

KW: Marcia Evans says that she’s a true fan of yours because she really respects the mature manner in which you approach being a wife and mother. She wants to know whatever happened to your TV sitcom "Good News." 

JPS: I never had a show by that name, but I did have one called “M.I.L.F. and Cookies,” that got picked up and was set to air until the network and I had a disagreement at the last minute. They wanted to change the concept a bit in a way I wasn’t in agreement with, so we had to go our separate ways.

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

JPS: I’m sure there is, but I really can’t think of one right now.

KW: Larry Greenberg says Richmond, Virginia is a beautiful and unique choice for the setting of Hawthorne . Were you involved in that decision?

JPS: We felt like Richmond was an area that’s growing, but hasn’t really been explored on television at all, in the way that New York , Los Angeles and Chicago have. So, we decided it would make a great location.

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

JPS: Yes.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

JPS: I am happy. I have my moments when I’m not, but I am. I’m very happy.

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

JPS: Oh, I’m listening to so much right now. I looooove Alicia Keys’ new song, “Unthinkable.” I’m blasting that all over the place, but I’m also listening to Sade’s new album, and I always have my Heavy Metal, Mastodon. [LOL]

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

JPS: I’m reading a book right now by John Dewey called “Art as Experience.”


That has been a very interesting read for me. And I’m also reading one called The Heart of Sufism, which is about a more esoteric approach to Islam.


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

JPS: Oh, man, when I look in the mirror, I see about a thousand different Jadas... Yeah…

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JPS: I don’t really cook much. I’m more of a baker. My favorite things to bake that everybody loves, and I can only keep in the house for about ten minutes, are 7-Up cake and Pineapple Upside-Down cake.

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

JPS: Oh, I laugh hard every day. I mean, my husband is Will Smith! [Shrieks] I’m telling you, that’s one of the joys of being married to him. My life full of laughter. Thank God I have him. My life is full of laughter because of that man.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

JPS: I don’t know yet. I have no idea.

KW: Well, thanks for another great interview, Jada, and best of luck in all your endeavours.

JPS: Thank you, Kam.

 To get a sneak peek at HawthoRNe Season 2 which premieres on TNT on June 22nd at 9 PM, visit  HERE

'Glee' Star Matthew Morrison Recording Solo Album This Month

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber

(June 07, 2010) LOS ANGELES—
Matthew Morrison is taking a summer break from Glee but not from music.

Morrison, who stars as earnest, upbeat glee-club coach Will Schuester on the hit Fox series, planned to spend part of June in London working on his first solo CD.

"I'm writing all the music for it. It's me and a big orchestra behind me," Morrison said of the work in progress.

He described his style on the album as a "dance heavy" cross between Michael Bublé and Justin Timberlake.

Glee wraps the season with Tuesday's finale (9 p.m. EDT), in which Schuester's New Directions club faces off against heavyweight rival Vocal Adrenaline at the long-awaited regional competition. Olivia Newton-John, Josh Groban, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff guest star.

So far, Morrison's hot record sales have been part of the Glee phenomenon, which has seen fans rush to download cast songs and snap up soundtracks. But the 31-year-old California native is used to individual success.

A graduate of a public high school for the arts in Orange County, Calif., Morrison dropped out of New York University to pursue a stage career.

At age 19, after his third audition, he made his Broadway debut in Footloose and gained notice with a bigger role in Hairspray. ("I'm a dancer before everything else," he says.)

At 25, he received a Tony Award nomination for the musical The Light in the Piazza. He proved his acting chops sans music in A Naked Girl on the Appian Way and moved toward movies and TV with bit parts.

Glee has given Morrison the kind of celebrity quotient that even a star turn on Broadway can't deliver. His chiselled looks (and abs, as demonstrated in a Vogue shoot) and talent draw varied admirers.

"This woman came up to me and said, 'I'm not old enough to be a cougar, but I'm a puma.' I get a lot of that. I get a lot of gay guys. I think Glee is one of the gayest shows on TV," Morrison said of the series that revels in theatricality.

He recalls Glee creator Ryan Murphy saying, "You get the gays, everyone else follows."

Morrison's character has been through the mill, enduring his wife's faux pregnancy, a divorce and a rocky budding romance with adorable, repressed guidance counsellor Emma (Jayma Mays). The actor said he's glad that Schuester has become less of a nebbish and more interesting.

"He's stepped up and he's just being a man. . . . It's a new guy. What I love about him now is he's not perfect anymore. Now we're seeing his faults and he's making some bad choices here and there," the actor said.

He's equally pleased with the show's heart and its direction.

"At the end of the day, 'Glee' is about inspiring kids and how the arts matter,” Morrison said. “The last episode is so touching and so emotional.”


Patrick Stewart Gets A Promotion

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(June 05, 2010) London — Patrick Stewart has been upgraded from captain — to knight.  The actor — famous for playing Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation — officially became Sir Patrick Stewart when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.  While Star Trek introduced him to a different group of fans, Stewart is also a widely respected stage actor.  The 69-year-old actor discovered the theatre as a child, and said “my heroes were Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Alec Guinness.” Being “in that company is the grandest thing that has professionally happened to me.”  Stewart joined Britain's storied Royal Shakespeare Company in his 20s, and in 2008 was nominated for a Tony award for the leading role in Macbeth.

Anatomy’s Jesse Williams Upgraded to Series Regular

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) ”Grey’s Anatomy” hottie
Jesse Williams is now in stable condition at Seattle Grace due to the recently-announced promotion of his character from recurring to series regular. The actor, who plays Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC series, says he can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that he has steady employment for at least another season. “Last year was so week-to-week,” he told E! Online. “I didn’t know what was going to happen or if I was going to have a job next week, and to now have all the signs pointing to that I’ll be there, so I just want to know what’s in the future.” Williams says he has no idea what will happen to his character in future episodes. “I’ll find out around July 10 or July 12 when we go back to work, but maybe I can sneak by the office and take a peek at something,” he joked. “Otherwise it’s a total mystery… but who am I kidding? I wanna know.” He added: “But they always do such an amazing job. I really couldn’t be in better hands.”


Three Angles On Africa

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(June 07, 2010) For a project generated by a company as small as Volcano Theatre, everything about The Africa Trilogy is awfully big.

The three hour-long plays were penned by revered artists from Germany, Kenya and the United States. Their three directors hail from Canada, Great Britain, and South Africa, but the latter two now work from Sweden and the U.S. respectively. And the nearly 60 other contributors to the production have roots in another eight countries spread over three continents.

Then there’s the budget, which, thanks to a commission from the presenting Luminato festival and a slew of large private donations, is nearly $1-million even though the project’s big names are mostly working on the cheap.

“Our normal year [costs] less than half that,” says Ross Manson, the artistic director of the Toronto-based Volcano and the creative mind behind this trilogy. “We’re two people on part-time salaries. Thankfully we’re both workaholics.”

But the biggest thing about the project, which debuts Thursday in Toronto, may be the question that started it all, and unifies what are essentially disparate plays: What is the relationship between the West and Africa?

As sometimes happens, this ambitious attempt to illuminate an impossibly large question began in the simplest way. It was early 2006 and Manson was vacuuming his dining room.

What’s dangerous is the single story, and the West has a single story about Africa — Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Above the din, he heard his radio broadcasting one of Stephen Lewis’s Massey Lectures, a humanitarian plea for the international community to do better for Africa, delivered under the title Race Against Time. The vacuuming was put on hold.

“I thought, here’s a story I know nothing about and that is being wilfully ignored in the Western media, and also by my peers in the Western theatre,” Manson says. He was particularly struck by Lewis’s assertion that 5,000 people in Africa were dying each day of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a figure that dwarfed the death tolls from Iraq dominating the headlines.

Manson was acutely aware that “a Canadian independent theatre company run by a white guy” might not be the ideal candidate to shake up this debate. So he needed partners, and he needed to attract them from far and wide. Employing what he calls the “Canadian diplomatic model,” he began a haphazard search for the international coalition that now surrounds him.

He found Kansas-born Christina Anderson, a 30-year-old playwright, Yale student and rising theatre star, through contacts in New York, and met her there with a pitch. She leaped on board.

Josette Bushell-Mingo, the Swedish-based Brit who directs Anderson’s play GLO, made her Canadian reputation and connections when she helmed the stage production of Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad in Canada and the UK in 2007.

Manson already knew Roland Schimmelpfennig, whom he calls Germany’s most produced living playwright.

Manson also sought the advice of Binyavanga Wainaina, the Kenyan fiction writer, editor and author of the well-known satirical essay “How To Write About Africa.” The outspoken Wainaina admits he was “not much interested” in the trilogy’s premise, but the global scope of the team and Volcano’s strong reputation convinced him to suggest himself as the third playwright, even though he had never written a play in his life.

As for Liesl Tommy, the brash 30-something director who left South Africa and apartheid behind for America in the 1980s. She was scouted in the most rudimentary way: “I believe Ross Googled ‘African director’ in a fit of desperation,” she says, only half-jokingly. .

After Manson took part of the team on a fact-finding mission to Rwanda and Uganda, the group began three years of countless e-mails and small, intense workshops. In an effort to explain the project’s impetus, Manson paraphrases Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “What’s dangerous is the single story, and the West has a single story about Africa.”

As such, the three plays tell markedly different stories, connected only by the barest threads and subtexts. Bushell-Mingo, whose rhythmic manner of speech can sound downright poetic, describes Schimmelpfennig’s writing style as “like whiplash”; Anderson’s “like needles under your skin”; and Wainaina’s “wild and flowing.”

Bushell-Mingo gravitated to Anderson’s GLO, which focuses on a suddenly popular writer from Kenya and divides the action between luxurious Manhattan settings and Nairobi’s Kibera slum, renowned for being literally built on garbage.

Manson teamed up with Wainaina on Shine Your Eye, which is set in a Nigerian scam office and explores a woman’s difficult decision between two very different paths on two continents.

Meanwhile, Tommy set to work on Schimmelpfennig’s Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, which boldly features only white actors in an entirely Western setting. Four doctors have a disastrous dinner party together; two have travelled to Africa for six years of work, while the other two stayed in the West, had lucrative careers and started a family.

Everyone on the creative team had to constantly “check each other’s biases and assumptions,” says Tommy, who hasn’t been shy in trying to ensure the trilogy doesn’t tiptoe around the thornier issues of race and international relations.

“For the average polite Canadian, there’s been a lot to navigate,” she says, adding that her colleagues have found her manner “excruciatingly blunt” at times. “What’s ironic is that that politeness is part of the problem we have politically.”

Indeed, one of Anderson’s comments on her affection for the title of the trilogy – “it’s just very black and white” – betrays how hard it can be to escape using loaded language in such discussions.

In GLO, Anderson has tried to frame Manson’s question within the ongoing globalization debate, but she also seeks to “go against the grain” of audience expectations by having characters in Kibera say and do things one wouldn’t expect of slum-dwellers. Bushell-Mingo points out that many of Kibera’s real-life inhabitants leave the slums each morning looking almost impossibly presentable and pristine to “hold down a job,” looking indistinguishable from their wealthier neighbours nearby.

“What they don’t have is running water. What they don’t have is walls,” she says in disbelief.

Reached by telephone in Nairobi, Wainaina offers a more upbeat example of the vibrant, young, flexible and transnational community of Africans he hopes to introduce through Shine Your Eye.

“I was in Kibera. These three guys come up to me and they’re like: ‘I’ve been poking you on Facebook when you were in California and you refused to respond.’ That was my Kibera experience,” he says.

The notion that North America, Europe and Africa are culturally closer than most imagine is embodied in Muoi Nene, an actor in two of the plays and a Canadian who came from Kenya to study at age 21, married an Ethiopian woman and settled in Toronto.

“It’s really about geography. It’s not about anything else,” he says. At first he is referring only to Kibera’s relationship to the rest of Nairobi, but he soon admits the same may be true on a much larger scale. “We live in a global market now. I’ve been consuming Hollywood products since I was born,” he says.

So what is the West’s relationship to Africa? The trilogy isn’t about to tell you.

“If you want that, you need to go somewhere else,” Bushell-Mingo snaps. “The trilogy is not trying to set itself up as the answer. The trilogy is setting itself up as the bridge. Cross it.”

African Trilogy opens Thursday June 10 and runs through June 20Ö as part of the Luminato festival (www.luminato.com).

Brent Carver's Stages Of Life

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 04, 2010) STRATFORD – “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”

On Monday night, at the opening of
As You Like It, Brent Carver will stand on the Festival Stage and begin that most famous of all Shakespeare’s speeches.

Right now he’s sitting quietly over a dinner in a downtown restaurant and reflecting on how, as the Bard observed, “one man in his time plays many parts, the acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in his mother’s arms.”

Carver doesn’t recall that far back, but pretty close. He was born in Cranbrook, B.C., on Nov. 17, 1951. When asked for his first memory, he stretches out his arms and sings a note.

“That was it. I sang before I talked. I made that noise and I remember thinking it seemed so joyful to me.”

Joy was a commodity in short supply in the Carver household back then.

“Just before my parents had me, my brother died,” Carver recalls. “He was almost 2. My mom turned her back for a minute, he walked around the corner of the house, fell into a ditch filled with water and drowned. His name was Danny.

“And the first song I ever learned to sing? ‘Danny Boy.’ To this day, of course, every time I hear it, I think of the brother I never knew.”

Carver grew up, knowing even then that the stage was to be his destiny. He left for the University of British Columbia when he was 17.

“I’d never been on a plane before, never really been outside of Cranbrook before, and as soon as I landed in Vancouver, it felt like freedom. It felt like I could begin to find out who I really was.”

Unlike Shakespeare’s schoolboy, “creeping like snail unwillingly to school,” Carver eagerly leapt right in.

He became part of a drama program that included Eric Peterson, Goldie Semple, Lorne Kennedy, John Gray and many of the other people who would shape the course of theatre in this country.

“We all needed to be in the theatre, needed to express ourselves, needed to be with each other. When you saw these people you loved and respected working together, you just had to be a part of it.”

He left after three years and went to work for the children’s touring company of the Vancouver Playhouse, hired by Don Shipley. Then he became one of the swings in the long-running production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, another show Carver is performing at Stratford this summer.

“I still remember my 21st birthday. I did two shows for Holiday during the day and then two performances of Brel at night.”

His career moved with dazzling speed. A year later, John Neville, then in first season at The Citadel in Edmonton, phoned Carver three days before rehearsals started to replace his Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing, as the original actor had defected to a TV series.

“I had one suitcase and a box tied with string and I went straight from the airport into the theatre, where they were staging the opening scene. I didn’t have a chance to be nervous.”

During all these heady career years, Carver was slighting another of Shakespeare’s ages, “the lover, sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad.”

Carver has always been tight-lipped about his personal life.

“I always felt that if I said anything, it would just be a label they would put on me. I also felt it was nobody’s business. I still feel that now. As Hamlet says, ‘You would pluck out the heart of my mystery.’ ”

He admits that what he calls his “emotional guardedness” has given him regrets.

“It’s always been so important to me to be an actor that in my life, I’ve often made that more important than other things.” His blue eyes fill with tears. “And perhaps I’ve been a fool in that regard.

“Yes, there have relationships in my life — the few that I’ve been lucky enough to have — and I have known, yes, this was love. But you turn around one day and the love isn’t there any more and you turn around another day and the lover is gone, too.”

What about Shakespeare’s soldier, “seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon’s mouth”?

Although one of Carver’s most memorable appearances was in Robin Phillips’ 1983 film of Timothy Findley’s The Wars, Carver is the first to admit, “I played a soldier, I wasn’t a soldier. Oh, as a kid, I was in Army Cadets for three years. I had a strong voice, so they made me Sergeant Major, but I was petrified the whole time.

“What I knew of war, I learned from my father. He spent five years on the Italian campaign in World War II.”

Carver shakes his head. “I just thought of something. There’s a song in Jacques Brel about losing someone in Belgium during the war ‘entre les tours de Bruges et Ghent,’ and my father was in Ghent on the day the war ended.

“It all fits together, doesn’t it? And maybe the Forest of Arden in As You Like It is really the Forest of Ardennes in Belgium. I believe in that kind of synchronicity.”

Shakespeare moves on to “the Justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined.” Carver advanced into his glory days as well, winning a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical on Broadway in 1993 for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Nothing about that experience was predictable. Carver only got the role of Molina after Richard Thomas withdrew. He rehearsed and performed under the weight of the tragic death of his friend, actress Susan Wright, who died in a fire at Carver’s own home late in 1991. Three months after winning the award, Carver left the show.

“My contract was up, that’s why I took off,” Carver insists at first. When prodded, he admits “I can’t play any role for too long, I start to say ‘no, no, no more!’ But I wasn’t running away from fame and the New York experience. I’ve been back since. It’s just another place I go to work.”

The sixth age, to Shakespeare, “shifts into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon.” Carver, despite his still youthful appearance at 58, has tackled some older roles lately, including Gandalf in the highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing musical version of The Lord of the Rings.

“It took so much strength to try and make that damn part work,” he rages quietly. “When I first heard the music, I thought it could be amazing, but then I got on stage and they gave me a first scene where I had to cram in all this exposition. What could I do? I sat forward in my chair and simply told the story.

“I learned something from the experience. Don’t ever work in damn platform boots like that again. Stay close to the earth, but reach up to the sky.”

When Carver looks up into that sky, what does he see?

“I feel that no one has a patent on God, on morality, on what’s right and wrong, but I sense — no, I believe — that there must be something divine that has helped to put this world and the people in it together.”

That gives Carver his own particular views on Shakespeare’s final age of man: “mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

“Oblivion? I can’t believe it!” says Carver, his voice rising. “It might be sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, but it can’t be sans everything! I think of all the people who have passed through my life. It can’t be just the suffering and the pain. There has to be something beyond that.

“That’s the journey.”


HAMLET (in Hamlet): “I never felt I captured the whole role, but there were scenes that I always enjoyed doing. He’s such a complicated character you could play him all of your life.”


TEVYE (in Fiddler on the Roof): “When they first asked me to play the role, I said no, but once I agreed, I was in absolute terror. How was I going to play a father? How was I going to play a Russian peasant?”


MOLINA (in Kiss of the Spider Woman): “My favorite part of the role was singing ‘She’s a Woman.’ Such a perfect Kander and Ebb song! When I got to ‘How lucky can you be?’ I felt like Liza Minnelli.”


JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS: “All of life is in his songs, the happiness, the sadness, the hope, the despair. And you get to experience all of it in one night.”


ROBERT ROSS (in The Wars): “Working with Robin (Phillips) and Martha (Henry) and Bill (Hutt) was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. We became so very close.”

Dear Diary: Rock Of Ages Star Shares Daily Journal

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 03, 2010) There really isn’t such a thing as overnight stardom. For everyone who suddenly seems to zoom into the spotlight, years of work have led up to that moment.

But one of the closest examples I can think of took place on the night of May 11, when the hit Broadway 1980s musical
Rock of Ages opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

Audiences leafing through their programs would recognize the names of Elicia MacKenzie from The Sound of Music and Yvan Pedneault from We Will Rock You but they probably skipped right past the name of
Cody Scott Lancaster, playing the role of Franz.

Once he stepped on stage, however, they opened those programs again to find out who he was.

The boyishly handsome 22-year-old from Pickering drew instant laughs with his portrayal of a metrosexual young German. But when he performed a turbo-charged strip-tease in Act II and broke into a sizzling rendition of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” the show stopped cold in deafening applause. His reviews from the press have been unanimous raves.

Lancaster was just one year out of the musical theatre program at Sheridan College (where they expelled him after his first term, only to have him charm his way back in) and had only a single professional show to his credit (The Boys in the Photograph last fall; blink and you missed him) when he was cast in Rock of Ages.

He somehow sensed this would be a defining experience and kept a journal of the whole proceedings. Here’s a look behind the scenes with the latest star of Toronto’s musical theatre scene:

March 15: It’s the first day of rehearsal and I’m nervous and excited in equal portions. This is my first professional leading role and I’m working the whole New York creative team. I know I have to be on the top of my game every minute. But everybody is so friendly and the cast are all so awesome that I just jumped right in, and once everyone started laughing in the right places, I felt I was going to be fine.

April 5: Some of the press come to watch us do a “media preview” of 30 minutes of songs from the show. Surprisingly, none of us are nervous, because we love what we’re doing, we’ve been well rehearsed and we know we rock. The best part has been that the folks from NY aren’t cookie-cuttering us, making us act like the Broadway version. We’re being allowed our own creative input and that makes us feel even better.

April 8: Our first day in the Royal Alex. I love this theatre. I always have, ever since I came here as a kid to see shows. It’s just the perfect place to do Rock of Ages. The audience seems so close, even in the balcony. Hard to believe it holds 1,500 people. I can’t wait until the whole building starts rocking!

April 13: Yesterday, we ran through “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” for the first time in costume with the rip-away suit. I needed it to go off without a hitch. And it did! 6-7-8-RIP! and the ENTIRE number felt different. There’s something about a bedazzled skin-tight blue wrestling singlet that really gets you into character. I think my favourite part of the reveal was the reaction of Victor Young [who plays his father]. I specifically didn’t show him, so that the first time I ripped it off, his reaction would be authentic, and he didn’t let me down.

April 16: Today, I had my hair dyed blond for the role! Walked in with my old mousy brown locks and walked out looking like, well, like Franz! When Kristin our director saw me, she broke into a big smile and I knew that it was just right. You know what? I really feel like the character now as well.

April 21: Last night, was our first paid preview and my 22nd birthday. Yeah, I’m like the youngest one in the whole cast. The entire show was a riot. The audience was with us from the very first strum of the guitar and the show went about 5 minutes longer than the previous night because of all the laughter! Then I got to my big number, and it felt like thunder in the theatre. I couldn’t believe that I got that reaction. Me! What? I have the best job in the world.

May 11: Opening night. Unbelievable. The noise, the cheering, the love from the audience. When they all stood up and started singing and dancing during “Don’t Stop Believing” it was just amazing. I’m so, so happy to be a part of this show and I hope that everyone who comes to see it loves it as much as I do.

Theatre in town

Jersey Boys
: About to enter its third year in Toronto, this story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is still a real crowd-pleaser, with songs to cheer and scenes to make you laugh as well as cry. (Toronto Center for the Arts)

Jitters: Soulpepper Theatre Company has a way with the work of Canadian David French and this comedy about the backstage goings on as a small theatre presents a new play with hilarious results. (Young Centre for the Performing Arts, June 24-July 24)

Legally Blonde
: Remember how beguiling Reese Witherspoon was in this film about a sorority girl turned lawyer? Well this is the musical version, with all the fun of the film, plus a lot of singing and dancing as well. (Princess of Wales Theatre, July 7-Aug. 8)

Romeo and Juliet
: Spend a magical evening outdoors in High Park with the Canadian Stage annual Shakespeare presentation. This year, it's those star-crossed lovers, given what is sure to be an inventive production by Vikki Anderson. Bring a blanket, sit on the grass and enjoy! (Grenadier Pond, June 25-Sept. 5)

The Toronto Fringe Festival
: 150 productions scattered all over the city. A great way to see Toronto and sample what might be the next Broadway hit. After all, The Drowsy Chaperone did start here. (Various locations, June 30-July 11).

Revenge Of The Cool Kids

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 05, 2010) This year’s Dora Awards are going to be a Mirvish-free zone.

No, it doesn’t mean that the major producer of theatre in this city is going to boycott the annual theatre ceremony on June 28, but it means that — for the first time in recent history — there isn’t much of a chance of it winning one.

Despite all the numerous shows in various categories (Dramatic and Musical, Touring and Original) that the Mirvish organization brought to Toronto last year, it received one lonely little nomination: for Best Choreography in Rock of Ages.

What happened to the popular hit My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding? Or the critically acclaimed Cloud 9? Or the rest of the talented crew behind Rock of Ages?

Puzzling, isn’t it?

There were some choices to make people smile (the kudos for Parfumerie, Assassins and Courageous), but otherwise the year was filled with many head-scratchers.

Why did two of this country’s best playwrights, Daniel MacIvor and George F. Walker, get shut out, while frankly inferior works by other authors made it into the Best New Play Category?

Why did the admittedly excellent Trish Lindström and Eric Peterson get nominated twice in the same category? (Outstanding Female Performer in a Musical for her and Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for him.)

Why were the categories of Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Director of a Musical compressed into one?

And why did the already laughably overcrowded Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role have to expand to also include Ensemble awards?

I asked Jacoba Knappen, the executive director of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, which presents the awards, to explain some of these oddities and was told: “It allowed us to redistribute the awards so that it more accurately reflected the work that is being generated and produced by the TAPA membership.”

Come again? Isn’t theatre (and opera and dance) primarily about the performers? Toronto is the only city in North America that gives out awards but doesn’t allow for distinguishing between featured male and featured female, or whether they’re in a drama or a musical. One category fits all.

If the concern is stirring up more interest among the public, don’t you think they’d care to see some of the people they know on the stage getting honoured?

But even if the Doras succeeded in fixing their categorical troubles (which they haven’t despite protests from many fronts every year), there’s still the issue of the jurors.

Before you start to put too much credence in these awards, I have to remind everyone that — unlike the Tonys, Oscars, Emmys, etc. — the general membership does not vote on the Doras. The same handful of people who make the nominations vote on the winners.

Cosy, eh?

There are supposed to be 10 jurors in each division, but this year, due to various forms of attrition, there were only seven in the General Theatre/Musical Theatre/Opera division, which deals with roughly 90 per cent of the shows that most Torontonians ever see.

I’ll be frank with you, when I looked at the list, I had to Google three of the names to find out who they were.

You could say “Well, Ouzounian, that proves you’re not sufficiently familiar with the cutting-edge independent-theatre crowd,” which I’m perfectly willing to admit, but what are those people doing judging General Theatre, Musical Theatre and Opera?

You don’t send a vegan to review The Keg.

And of the four remaining names I knew, two of them were resolutely from the world of alternative theatre.

Do you think anybody from the Establishment ever had a chance?

It gets worse when you realize that the Doras still use the hated system of “weighted ballots,” which the Tony Awards threw out nearly 20 years ago after a scandal was revealed in which several jurors deliberately skewed the entire nominating process to keep out people they didn’t think should win.

Because, when voting secretly on a scale of 1 to 5, you can not only support the shows you love, but really shaft the ones you hate and — even more diabolically — give support to mediocre shows that can displace those not in your favour.

Did that happen this year? I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible to notice patterns in the nominations that could have reflected biases against certain individuals and organizations.

And all it takes is one or two jurors to skew the results.

Until the Doras wake up and overhaul their entire nominating and voting process, they will always be the entertainment industry’s equivalent of a high school clique in which the self-styled “cool kids” get to decide who’s in and who’s out.

And their annual awards night will remain the theatre world’s Senior Prom, an insider event where the election of the King and Queen is, unfortunately, something that will only interest those in that particular Grade 12 class.


Gretzky Returning To The Ice This Fall

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(June 04, 2010) The Great One is about to lace up his skates once again — this time inside a video game — tohelp promote NHL Slapshot, EA Canada’s first hockey game designed specifically for the Nintendo Wii console.

Due out this fall, Wayne Gretzky will be the cover athlete for the video game, plus he’ll serve as a playable character and coach in one of its modes.

“Not only is Gretzky one of the greatest hockey players of all time, but his name is synonymous with quality hockey and community — so we thought he’d be perfect for the game” said Burnaby, B.C.-based producer Joe Nickolls, in a telephone interview with the Star on Tuesday. “Plus, many know of Gretzky’s history, as he worked his way up from Pee Wee to the NHL, and you can mirror this rise to stardom in our game,” Nickolls added.

Along with a quick pickup game — as or against your favourite NHL team — a lengthy career mode has you start playing Pee Wee, three-on-three, in a backyard rink, progressing through the Bantams and CHL leagues and eventually getting drafted into the NHL.

While the game doesn’t offer an online mode, players can update their rosters with a free download. And up to four players can compete in front of the same TV.

Motion-sensing is the name of the game in NHL Slapshot, which comes with a 21-inch hockey stick peripheral the player snaps together. With it, players can shoot, pass and stickhandle in front of their televisions as if they were on the ice.

“This is hockey, so wiggling a remote around just won’t cut it,” says Nickolls. “With our stick, the game really feels right — when you shoot you’re doing a shooting motion, and when you check, it just feels natural — so I think sceptics will realize it’s not a gimmick when they get their hands on it.”

NHL Slapshot for Nintendo Wii will launch September 7, the same day as EA Sports’ NHL 11 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Hand-held gaming waning?

An annual U.S. survey commissioned by market research firm NPD Group found video gaming is on the rise, with respondents saying they play an average of 13 hours a week — up from 12.3 hours a week in the same report a year ago.

But the same report found the time spent on hand-held gaming on hardware such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable is down 16 per cent.

On the flip-side, console gaming is up 9 per cent over the year prior, while time spent on PCs rose 6 per cent.

Another finding from this online survey, which garnered nearly 19,000 responses, found the average age of a gamer in the U.S. is now 32 years old, up from 31 last year. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a Canadian gamer is 36 years.

Alpha Protocol: Great RPG Gameflow Saves The Day

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Alpha Protocol
(out of 4)
Rated M

(June 05, 2010) Have to give developer Obsidian Entertainment credit: They took a really big bite with
Alpha Protocol, a blend of third-person stealth shooter, international espionage techno-thriller and conversational role-playing game. The question is, did they manage to chew it? I’m going to cancel this metaphor before it gets really gross and just say “mostly.”

Alpha Protocol is one of those games I found myself quite enjoying, despite its flaws. The core infiltration action is a solid seen-it-before shooter that ranges from adequate to excellent when its not being rendered completely infuriating by hiccups in the cover system and moments when the hidden dice-rolling of the role-playing game mechanism decrees a perfectly lined-up shot to be a miss. The plot is almost a parody of the globetrotting, triple-crossing modern spy genre, and the half-decent script is too often roughed up by voice talent that come across as either under-directed, miscast or flat-out terrible. Strange little glitches abound.

That said, I had a great time! Couldn’t put it down! This is because I am—and have been since childhood—a stone sucker for the RPG gameflow, which Alpha Protocol serves hot and fresh and in an exciting new package. So-called “role-playing elements” are now common to every game genre—everything from skateboarding games to pony simulators has you monkeying with stats and levels and whatnot—but AP is the real thing, right down to the obsessive tossing of every nook and cranny for unattended gold pieces. I love it. Pinned down by armed guards in a Taipei hotel? Do not even think of taking the direct route out! Check that broom closet first; there’s probably a duffle bag of Triad cash in there, and that sweet assault rifle I’ve got my eye on isn’t going to buy itself.

We all know that money-scrounging and nerdish obsessing over gear and stats are the real heart of role-playing games, but the public face is, you know, the playing of a role. This is Alpha Protocol’s centrepiece, an organically flowing conversational system that relies on players choosing and overall “stance”—aggressive, professional, flirty, etc.—rather than explicit dialogue selections. It works really well, and generates a lot of tension. Unlike in some RPGs—even the sainted Mass Effect games, which AP very much resembles—the talking in AP maintains the feeling that you’re actually playing a game, that you’re one wrong word from doom, that there’s no unsaying the wrong thing. Best of all, your conversational successes and failures have immediate and tangible results, not just upon the flow of the plot but on your character’s in-game abilities and resources.

The only area where AP’s conversations fall short—in fact, the only area of the game I flat-out hated—is in Josh Gilman’s performance as your guy, Mike Thorton; whether you choose suavity or sadism, Thorton almost always comes across as a petulant, flippant twerp reading from a script rather than an international man of danger. It’s almost a game-wrecker. Cringe-inducing voice acting has always been one of games’ embarrassing problems, and it’s becoming less excusable with every week’s releases. Forget about all this talk about how video games needs its Citizen Kane; video games needs its Lee Strasberg, and quick. 


Ballet Triple Bill: West Side Story Is Icing On A Tasty Cake

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

Pur ti Miro, Opus19/The Dreamer and West Side Story Suite
(out of 4)
National Ballet of Canada. Choreography by Jorma Elo and Jerome Robbins. Until June 13 at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W; 416-345-9595 or www.national.ballet.ca

(June 07, 2010)  “We came to see
West Side Story,” commented a faintly disappointed first-time ballet-goer during intermission at Friday night’s National Ballet of Canada opening. His confusion and disappointment are understandable.

A huge poster outside the Four Seasons Centre features National Ballet principal Piotr Stanczyk in a dazzling move from American choreographer Jerome Robbins’ iconic 1957 Broadway musical. The dance Robbins extracted from the Leonard Bernstein-scored show and staged for New York City Ballet 15 years ago as West Side Story Suite is, however, only the attention-grabbing closer in NBC’s current triple bill.

In a less market-driven world, the focus would have been on Puri ti Mori, the first work made for the National Ballet by Finnish-born Jorma Elo. Yet, while Elo is considered a hot property on the international choreographic circuit, he’s hardly a household name — and try selling a title like Pur ti Miro!

Elo’s ballet is named for the sublime closing duet of The Coronation of Poppea, an opera largely attributed — though not without musicological wrangling — to Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. Beethoven, somewhat jarringly in terms of style, is deployed for the opening and closing sections.

The duet itself, beautifully sung by Kathleen Brett and Teiya Kasahara, provides the music for a central and compellingly quirky pas de deux for the ballet’s lead couple, Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie. Given the shimmering cloaks in which American designer Holly Hynes introduces them, we can loosely assume a relationship to the opera’s lovers, Nero and Poppea. But the connection should not be overly depended on.

Elo’s ballet, with its mix of flamboyant virtuosity and quirky gesture, is not so much a story as a meditation — if the word can be applied to such a high-octane work — on formal courtship and marriage within an essentially aristocratic context, again reflected in the traditional classical ballet look of Hynes’ costumes.

The thematic content is nevertheless largely submerged beneath the ballet’s coruscating surface as Elo drives his admirable five-couple cast to prodigies of speed, technical intricacy and rapidly shifting dynamics. By any standards it’s impressive and earned an understandably boisterous ovation at the Friday premiere. Whether Pur ti Miro has the depth of feeling to become a keeper is another matter.

Although the program’s middle ballet, Opus19/The Dreamer — also by Robbins but in his classical mode — may seem understated and elusive in comparison, this subtle and mysteriously moody work reveals more with each performance. The lead male, danced with riveting intensity and intimate emotional depth by first soloist Keiichi Hirano in his Saturday matinee role debut, leads us into a world of his own imagining, fraught with longing and poignancy.

As for West Side Story Suite, one hopes that young, first-time patron felt it was worth the wait and learned a thing or two about ballet along the way. The National Ballet’s dancers may not be gritty Broadway triple-threat hoofers, but they still dance up a storm. And Stanczyk, as Sharks leader Bernardo, more than lives up to his poster image. 


ELLE Canada Editor Helps Restore Sight To Thousands In Bolivia

Source: www.samaritanmag.com - Mary Dickie

(May 31, 2010) It’s a long way from the offices of a high-profile fashion magazine in Toronto to a medical charity’s temporary optical clinic in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, but the contrast between those two very different worlds is exactly what
Noreen Flanagan is after. Flanagan is the editor in chief of ELLE Canada magazine, and while her job often requires travelling to glamorous locales, there’s a kind of satisfaction she only gets from donating a week or two of her time to Medical Mission International (MMI), a charity that provides medical services for people in developing countries.

Full story HERE

Video: Underwood Wants You to Read His New ‘Vook’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 04, 2010) *Actor and author Blair Underwood has several books under his belt, but hopes to expand the reading experience with his next literary project via a new technology called Vook – which combines digital reading with high-quality video and illustrations.

“When you read a Vook, you periodically come across an icon. You push play, and that video comes to life for a minute or two,” Underwood explained to the Associated Press. It’s like a cross between a novella and a short film.

His Vook debut is in “Blair Underwood Presents: From Cape Town with Love,” the latest instalment in the book series by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, where he plays the recurring character Tennyson Hardwick.

[Watch trailer below.]

The technology transforms reading the novel into a multimedia experience by abridging the text and supplementing video to move the story along. Instead of the hard copy’s 350 pages, the electronic version requires only 85 pages. But thanks to key scenes — ranging from two to five minutes — at the end of some chapters, the reader comes away with a full experience.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, so a two-minute scene can fill the void,” Underwood said.

While he hopes that traditional books don’t go away, Underwood realizes the world is changing. “The reality being that more people are reading books more online and Kindle.”

Capitalizing on the change of habit, he bought the rights to the book and two others in the series. His production company, Intrepid, shot scenes for the Vook with the same approach as if it were a feature film. Besides acting in each scene, Underwood directed them too.

“What I bring to the table is the cinematic expression of this story,” Underwood said. “I want the reader or the viewer to seem as though they have taken a glimpse inside the motion picture … the high production values make it feel like a big budget film.”

Vook launched its unique read-and-watch technology in October. Users can download books directly to their PC or through the Apple iTunes store for iPhone and iPad. The cost of the download ranges from $1.99 to $6.99, which is substantially less than Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook from Barnes and Noble.

Underwood compares the revolutionary technology to the advent of television.

“This Vook is the new frontier,” he said.

Mowat, Polley Among 7 To Join Canada’s Walk Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(June 08, 2010) Seven new inductees to
Canada’s Walk of Fame include two singers, one author, two actors, an athlete and a posthumous award for a magician.

The latest crop is as usual an eclectic mix of young and old, including author Farley Mowat, 89, and actress, director and screenwriter Sarah Polley, 31.

They’ll be inducted at the 13th annual ceremony at the Canon Theatre in Toronto on Oct. 16, joining 124 previous honourees.

Mowat, the author of more than 40 fiction and non-fiction books, has sold millions of copies of his work worldwide, translated into more than 50 languages.

The multi-talented Polley, who has been acting since the age of 4, is the youngest nominee. Polley, who made her directorial debut with Away From Her, a film for which she also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay, is set to direct her second film in Toronto in July, entitled Take This Waltz, and has also written the screenplay.

The other inductees:

• Eric McCormack, who grew up in Scarborough, will be honoured for an acting career spanning almost three decades, including his starring role in the NBC series Will & Grace, for which he received an Emmy award.

• Nelly Furtado, a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and producer, is an international star with sales of more than 50 million albums.

• Clara Hughes is only the second woman in history to win medals in both Summer and Winter Olympics, first in cycling and then as a speed skater. With a total of six medals, she is tied with Cindy Klassen as the most decorated Canadian Olympian ever.

• David Clayton-Thomas, who was born in Surrey, England, but grew up in Toronto, is best known as lead singer of Blood, Sweat and Tears. In 2004, Clayton-Thomas, who still lives in Toronto, formed a new 10-piece band.

• Doug Henning was considered one of the world’s most popular stage magicians. He died in 2000 at the age of 52.

David Pecaut Left A Legacy Of Dreams

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(June 08, 2010) Three months before his death last year, Luminato co-founder
David Pecaut sent a startling email to a friend, filmmaker Atom Egoyan.

“One of the funny things about my situation is how I wake up,” Pecaut remarked. “Most mornings I wake up very happy and feeling good.”

His first thoughts were like the ones he would have had before realizing he had terminal cancer, situated in his marvellous life in the past.

These dreams seemed like a movie — and that gave him an idea.

As his widow, Helen Burstyn, explained in a revealing chat the other day, turning those dreams into a work of art became Pecaut's own special and highly personal way of programming Luminato 2010, even though he would not live to attend the fourth edition of the arts festival he co-founded for his adopted city.

“David was always very prescriptive,” noted Burstyn in what could be considered a wild understatement. “He was always planning and always in a hurry.”

Upshot: the unveiling Thursday evening of an art installation, commissioned as a posthumous tribute to Pecaut, but carefully orchestrated by Pecaut himself and literally based on his very intimate dreams.

And when Luminato opens officially on Friday, the question lurking in the atmosphere will be: Can this festival continue to thrive without the behind-the-scenes quarterbacking, effusive cheerleading and non-stop brainstorming of this cockeyed optimist from Iowa who moved here in the 1980s and fell hopelessly in love with Toronto? The ultimate expression of that for him was Luminato, which he hoped would become an emblem to the world of what Toronto is all about.

“As I gradually gain consciousness, I begin to become aware of my situation and the illness and how much things have changed,” Pecaut explained in his email to Egoyan on Sept. 16. Each morning, the transition from happy dreams to the reality of impending death came as a surprise.

Then came the kicker, with Pecaut's insight into this recurring dream-reality transition: “It seems like a cinematic experience.”

It is typical of Pecaut's personality and world view that he chose to share this experience. Even more quintessentially Pecautesque is that his immediate impulse was to turn this observation of his own consciousness into a cultural phenomenon he could share.

“There is always this strange sense of why I wake in a state from the past. And why I have forgotten,” Pecaut told Egoyan. “Perhaps we always wake like this, but we go through it too quickly and so miss the forgetting part and sense of the past.”

Fast forward to June 2010. Luminato features a new two-part art installation, curated by Egoyan as a tribute to Pecaut, which will be unveiled Thursday at Brookfield Place, the eve of the opening day of the fourth edition of the annual festival of arts and creativity Pecaut co-founded with Tony Gagliano. The first look will be for a small invited group of family and friends (many flying in from the U.S.).

A larger invited group will see the installation on Sunday evening at a reception hosted by RBC. And the work will be on view to the public throughout Luminato.

One half of the installation is Michael Snow's 2002 work Solar Breath, a 62-minute loop of fluttering curtains that conceal and reveal an idyllic Newfoundland landscape. The second half, Light Air, is a response to Snow's work by a young Toronto artist, Mani Mazinani.

This is bound to be a bittersweet occasion, because it focuses on what once seemed unimaginable: a Luminato opening without the sparkling and effusive presence of Pecaut himself.

During the final months of Pecaut's life, Burstyn recalls having conversations with other Luminato insiders on the question of how his legacy might be honoured with an annual event at future festivals.

“David really wanted that conversation to happen and he enjoyed being part of it,” she says.

The idea of an annual prize was considered and discarded, as was the idea of an annual dinner. Pecaut did not want an evening about himself. Instead he argued for something to celebrate creativity and embody his dream of bringing art into the streets of Toronto and the lives of its citizens.

The answer: a commissioned art installation.

And the first one would focus on that transition from dreams to reality described in his email to Egoyan.

“That experience was personal and intimate, but he saw it as cinematic and he wanted to share it,” Burstyn says. “The question was how it could be captured in art. David chose Atom as curator without a moment's hesitation.”

Beyond the art installation looms the perplexing question: How will Luminato be different from now on because of Pecaut's conspicuous absence?

Janice Price, CEO of Luminato, says: “There have been so many times in the planning for this year's festival we found ourselves saying, ‘Oh David would have loved that' or ‘That's what David would have wanted us to do.'

“Sometimes I still can't believe I'm not getting his midnight phone calls and hearing him ask, ‘Do you have two quick minutes?' and knowing that really meant an hour.”

Gagliano adds: “If David were here this week I'd be talking to him two or three times a day. I know I'll miss him terribly. But David's fingerprints will always be all over Luminato.”

“Luminato without David?” asks Burstyn. “That is not possible. Luminato is infused with David. He'll still be there this year and always — but in a different way.”


AGO To Close During G20 Summit

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(June 07, 2010) The Art Gallery of Ontario will close its doors during the G20 summit. Citing road closures, traffic concerns and other potential disruptions, the gallery will close early at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 25 and remain closed on the weekend of June 26 and 27.  “Positive visitor experience is paramount for the AGO,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Director and CEO in a statement. “We simply do not want to put unnecessary stress on our public, staff or volunteers trying to navigate in and out of the downtown core that weekend.” The AGO is located just north of the restricted zone, and is not far from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where much of the summit will be held. The gallery will reopen on Tuesday, June 29. The news comes on the heels of last week’s announcements that the local Mirvish musical productions of Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages will also be suspended from June 21 to 27 due to the concerns about the summit.


Brampton Boxer Troy Ross Suffers The Unkindest Cut

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(June 05, 2010) Brampton boxer Troy Ross is planning to file a protest after a controversial stoppage led to aTKO loss Saturday in his challenge for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title.

Ross’s bout with American Steve (U.S.S.) Cunningham was stopped following the fourth round after Ross suffered a severe cut to his right eyelid. The referee ruled the cut was caused by a punch and awarded the fight to Cunningham.

But Ross’s camp maintains that the cut — so severe it sent the 34-year-old to hospital — was caused by an accidental but illegal blow from Cunningham’s thumb.

Either way, the cut cost Ross the title he had pursued since turning pro in 2001.

“It’s really bad because he was looking good,” said Yvon Michel, Ross’s promoter. “That guy Cunningham cannot say he’s the best cruiserweight in the world.”

Even though Ross is Canadian and Cunningham is American, the title fight took place in Germany, where Cunningham’s promoter is based. When he returns to Canada, Michel plans to petition the IBF to either rule the fight a technical draw and order a rematch, or declare a winner based on the judges’ scorecards.

If the latter happens, Michel has no doubt Ross would triumph.

The taller, leaner Cunningham spent the opening moments of the bout stalking as the compact, powerful Ross circled, darted and tagged Cunningham with heavy blows.

In the fourth round, Ross landed a well-timed counterpunch, a straight left to the head that sent Cunningham to the canvas for the first time in his career.

But as Ross moved in for the kill, Cunningham caught him with the awkward shot that caused the gash and ended the fight. Slow-motion replays appeared to show Cunningham’s thumb hitting Ross’s left eye.

Referee Bill Clancy allowed the fighters to answer the bell for the fifth round before calling time out, consulting the ring doctor and stopping the fight.

“I’d let you fight if I could,” Clancy told Ross, “but I’m not going to risk your vision.”

Michel won’t say the fight was stopped in order to salvage a title for Cunningham’s German promoter. Instead of a crooked decision, he just sees a mistake that needs correcting.

“I can’t blame anyone, but the fact is he was thumbed,” Michel said.

Ross has played boxers in several feature films, including Cinderella Man and Resurrecting the Champ, but his career in the ring has seen as much frustration as triumph. Between contract disputes and cancelled fights, Ross has endured layoffs of 20 and 22 months, finally breaking through last February when he outlasted 15 other cruiserweights to win the reality show tournament The Contender.

Chicago Blackhawks - Stanley Cup Victory 'Surreal'

Source: CBC Sports

(June 10, 2010) A goal at 4:06 of overtime by
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane Wednesday night might have been the most bizarre Cup-clinching moment in memory.

The young and brash Blackhawks delivered Chicago a Stanley Cup Wednesday night, ending a 49-year drought by beating the Flyers 4-3 in overtime at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center on Patrick Kane's goal at 4:06.

It might have been the most bizarre Cup-clinching moment in memory.

Kane's goal surprised everyone in the building except for Kane, who saw the puck slip through goalie Michael Leighton and lodge in the back padding.

While Kane knew it was in, it took a few moments for even his teammates to react, setting off a wild celebration on the ice.

"What a weird moment," Marian Hossa said. "Kaner saw it going in, but I had to ask the referee because I wanted to make sure. He told me it was in and that's when I started celebrating."

Kane flipped off his gloves and went looking for teammates to hug.

"I don't think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 per cent sure," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "It was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do."

Said Kane: "I beat my man off the wall and took a shot at the net. It was kind of like the Olympic goal [by Sidney Crosby]. It went right through his legs and stuck to the pad. I think I was the only guy who knew it was in.

"This is something I'll never forget. I don't think it's really sunk in yet. This is just unbelievable. I mean, we just won the Stanley Cup."

Many of the Hawks shared Kane's disbelief at the accomplishment.

"This is surreal," Patrick Sharp said.

"I don't even know how to explain this," Duncan Keith said. "It gives me chills thinking about it."

"I think the party in Chicago is going to be all-world," coach Joel Quenneville said.
Conn Smythe to Toews

Jonathan Toews was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP capping an incredible first three seasons for himself and Patrick Kane, who have gone from top prospects to NHL superstars.

"Jonathan Toews is a special human being," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "He had one of those years. Big player in the Olympics. Big player for us in the playoffs. His competitiveness of wanting to be the best he can be every time he hits the ice is noticed."
Finally for Hossa

Marian Hossa finally won a Stanley Cup in his third try in as many seasons with his third team. Hossa was the first guy Jonathan Toews gave the Cup to after he hoisted it first.

"I was hoping to win this one day. What a feeling," Hossa said.

"We talked about it very briefly this morning because we didn't want to get overexcited or think about it too much," Toews said. "We mentioned it to him this morning to be ready, that if we did happen to hoist it tonight than Duncan [Keith] and Patrick [Sharp] both agreed that he should be the first guy after myself to grab it.

"It's special for him. I can't imagine being a part of three long seasons like that and to win one finally."
Tough to recover

The Hawks took a 3-2 lead to the third period and were within four minutes of winning the Cup when the Flyers' Scott Hartnell scored with 3:59 left in regulation.

"You're three minutes away from winning the Cup and all of a sudden they score," Joel Quenneville said. "The guys just had a great approach in the locker room after the third. We very diligently went about our business in overtime."

"We just said someone has to be the hero," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It didn't matter who got the goal."

Patrick Kane was only happy to step up.

"Our bench deflated pretty good there after their goal," Kane said. "We had to pick it up in the locker room."

Kane's goal was the first in overtime to decide a Stanley Cup since Jason Arnott did it for New Jersey in 2000 against Dallas.

Rafael Nadal Wins French Open

Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(June 06, 2010) PARIS - Rafael Nadal won his fifth French Open title Sunday, beating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Chasing down shots all over the court, the relentless Spaniard also avenged his lone Roland Garros defeat.

Nadal improved to 38-1 at the French Open, with the only loss to Soderling in the fourth round a year ago.

Seeded No. 2, Nadal won seven consecutive games midway through the match and held every serve, saving all eight break points he faced. He became the second man to win the French Open at least five times, and next year he'll have a chance to match Bjorn Borg's record of six titles.

Soderling finished as the runner-up for the second year in a row. In 2009 he lost in the final to Roger Federer.

With the victory, Nadal will move to the top of the rankings Monday, replacing Federer.

The weather was mild and mostly cloudy — a nice day to go running, and Nadal did plenty of it. Playing farther behind the baseline than in their match last year, he skidded across the clay and lunged to dig shots out of the corners, repeatedly extending points until Soderling finally misfired.

The big-swinging Soderling tried to win points quickly and sometimes did, but most of the long rallies went Nadal's way. Before the first set ended, the Swede was panting between points.

To compound Soderling's woes, he had an off day with his serve, his biggest weapon. He totalled only seven aces, the same number as his opponent.

Nadal's persistence paid off early in the second set. Facing a break point, he retrieved shots from both corners and punched back a slam from Soderling, then charged forward and hit a deft drop volley for a winner. Fans roared and Nadal threw an uppercut accompanied by a leg kick.

Another eye-popping sequence came three games later. Nadal slid into the corner beyond the doubles service line to hit a forehand winner that left Soderling shaking his head. On the next point, Nadal raced to the other side and yanked a lunging backhand cross-court for another winner.

Those points helped Nadal break at love for a 3-2 lead, during the run that allowed him to take firm control. He managed three consecutive service breaks, and by the time Soderling finally held to stop the skid, he trailed 2-1 in the final set.

Even the points Nadal lost took a toll on his opponent, who was coming off a gruelling five-set win over Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. The Swede, who was seeded fifth and upset Federer in the quarter-finals, again came up short in his 26th Grand Slam tournament.

Nadal improved to 22-0 this year on clay and now switches to grass, where he'll seek a second Wimbledon title after missing last year's tournament because of knee trouble.

For the second time in three years, Nadal won all 21 sets en route to the Roland Garros title. Only two other men in the Open era have won the title without losing a set, Borg and Ilie Nastase.

Video: 2010 NBA Finals: Fisher Leads Lakers Over Celtics

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 09, 2010) *The Lakers can thank
Derek Fisher for last night’s win in Boston. The savvy veteran point guard rallied his teammates with a motivational speech on the bench during the break before the fourth quarter.

Then he went out and showed them how it’s done.

“Derek, he’s our vocal leader. He’s the guy that pulls everybody together and is always giving positive reinforcement,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said after Fisher made five baskets in the final period to lead Los Angeles to a 91-84 victory Tuesday night over the Boston Celtics and a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals.

“That’s what he does. That’s what he’s been doing extremely well. He has a knack for saying the right thing at the right time.”

Bryant scored 29 points and Fisher had 16, including 11 in the fourth quarter after Boston cut a 17-point first-half lead to one point.

Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston, and a Lakers victory would put them within one win of avenging the loss to their long-time rivals in the 2008 finals – not to mention the eight other times the Celtics have won an NBA title at the Lakers’ expense.

Watch highlights of game 3:

Sprinter Caster Semenya To Discuss ‘Outcomes’ Of Gender Dispute

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(June 09, 2010) JOHANNESBURG—
Caster Semenya’s future could become clearer Thursday when she holds a news conference to discuss the “outcomes” of the gender dispute involving the 800-metre world champion.

Semenya’s public relations advisers said Wednesday the 19-year-old runner would appear at a news conference in Johannesburg hosted by South Africa’s minister of sport, Makhenkesi Stofile.

Semenya’s lawyers will also attend, along with mediator Brian Currin, a South African civil and human rights lawyer.

The statement said the news conference would be “relating to the outcomes of the Caster Semenya Dispute.”

Semenya has not run competitively since winning the 800-metre title at last August’s world championships in Berlin. Her dramatic improvement in times and muscular build led the International Association of Athletics Federations to order gender verification tests on the athlete, who was 18 at the time.

IAAF president Lamine Diack said last month a solution to the controversy would be found “not later than the end of June.”

“This girl is in a difficult situation and it’s difficult for everyone,” Diack said then.

The athletics body has repeatedly said it would not comment publicly on the case until what it called Semenya’s “medical process” was complete.

Semenya had planned to return to competition in Zaragoza, Spain, on June 24 — but the meet was cancelled for financial reasons.

In March, Semenya was prevented from competing at an event near Cape Town by Athletics South Africa, which was acting on the advice of the IAAF.

Semenya and her lawyers then threatened to take ASA to court.

The world champion told Associated Press in an interview two weeks ago in Ivory Coast that she did not care about anyone else’s decision and would decide her own future.

“I’m the one who decides in the end if I’m going to run,” Semenya said.

Her coach, Michael Seme, told the AP the IAAF was taking too long to end the investigation.

“They’re doing their job,” Seme said, “but they’re wasting Caster’s time.”

Semenya was welcomed as a national hero in South Africa last year following her stunning debut at the world championships.

The subsequent gender tests and Australian media reports saying Semenya had both male and female sex organs caused outrage in her home country.

Semenya’s case also entangled ASA president Leonard Chuene, the man in charge of South African athletics. Last September Chuene admitted he lied about his knowledge of gender tests performed on Semenya in South Africa before the world championships. He has been suspended.

Franklin A Bigger Challenge Than Tito: Liddell

Source: Kenai Andrews, MMA Crossfire, Canada.com

Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell
was supposed to battle Tito Ortiz as The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 coaches.

But Ortiz had to pull out with a serious neck injury that required surgery. The script had to be flipped.

Enter Rich "Ace" Franklin, a former UFC middleweight champion, and math teacher to boot, as the replacement.

The two have never met inside the octagon but share a mutual respect for the other's accomplishments. Both have enduring legacies as former champions. More importantly, Franklin should prove an ideal indicator whether Liddell really is back in the mix for another title run.

Welcome back to
The Crossfire.

Many MMA fans still feel the Iceman should have long retired.  The last image we have of Liddell is a knockout loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Montreal last year. But even he's lost four of his last five fights -  three in knockout fashion -  Liddell (21-7-0)  feels he can still compete in the cage.

"I’m in great shape," he said at the UFC 115 media conference call. "I came in to camp in shape. We kind of did a minicamp during the show, got in good shape, stayed in shape when  I took some time off you know right after the show before I started camp, but still was working out the whole time and stayed in shape.

"Coming into camp in shape was made it a lot easier starting out in shape in the camps at April 1st, so we’ve been going for a long time and I’m feeling great."

Liddell hasn't been in the octagon since April of 2009 and there has to be some ring rust, as we saw with Rampage in his fight with Evans at UFC 114. He didn't consider it a big concern, basically shrugging it off.

"My timing’s on. I’m in great shape, I’m ready to go. I’ll let you know after the fight if I have ring rust, I don’t know. I mean I don’t see it being a problem," he said. "I think that’s something psychological for some guys. I love being in the ring so hopefully that’s going to let me avoid having any quote unquote ring rust, whatever it is."

Being a little longer in the tooth, he's has taken some new approaches to his training.

"I’d get out of shape in the off-season and come back and spend most of my camp getting in shape. This time I showed up in camp, got in shape also doing different kind of - you know some static lifting type stuff I’ve added to it.," he explained.

"Doing some other things different, but for the most part I think it’s the consistency of training, I’ve been working since November and kind of working straight through pretty much to here, so I’ve been staying in shape and getting ready.

"My diet’s changed.  I usually go on my diet during the training camp but now it’s been kind of year around now so I’ve been keeping it - keeping my weight down.  I think I’ve done it since - kept my weight down - and watched my diet since you know September when I won that bet against Dana [White], I bet Dana about getting my weight down to 215 and I’ve kind of stayed between 215 and 225 for you know since September."

Another different thing is bringing boxing Olympic gold medallist Howard Davis into the fold.

"What he’s helped with is the same reason (John) brought him in. I mean, he’s good at defence and getting in and getting out; moving. We’re known for power, so it’s kind of like a yin and yang kind of thing. He’s kind of helping us. I’m offensive, my best defence is good offense kind of thing and he’s been working my defence, so I’ll help him work on that a little bit more."

The stakes are higher now that Franklin (27-5-0, 1 NC) has stepped in. He’s a former UFC middleweight champion and has outsmarted similar sluggers like Wanderlai Silva in the past.

Plus, he's a classy guy. There's an adjustment  to be made there for sure, but Liddell made no bones that even though he respects Franklin, it will be all business inside the octagon.

"I respect Rich and I think he’s a bigger challenge than Tito for sure," he said. "So that motivates you more to get in the gym and I’ve got to be prepared for him because he’s going to show up in shape. He’s going to be there to fight, so I better show up ready to go or I’m going to pay for it.

"He’s a great opponent. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. We’re both going to go out there and punch each other so people tend to like those types of fights so they’ll like it."

But will he ever fight Ortiz again?

"I don’t know, you’d have to talk to him about that if he comes back, he said. "I’ve made my case clear to Dana, I think if he comes back he should have to fight me to get back in, but we’ll see."