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LE NEWSLETTER

May 27, 2010

Ahhh the warmth and smells of summer.  It's a beautiful thing!  Who's inviting me to my first BBQ party?

While our moods are lifted and welcome the new season, how about giving back to the
Hope House Fundraiser which helps to raise funds for 100 girls from the red light district of Calcutta. Special ticket offer - buy one ticket, get ONE FREE.  For the price of a ticket you have an amazing night of entertainment, food and fun, including artists Maestro Fresh Wes (Williams), Ivana Santilliand DJ Rekha.  Did I mention that tickets will include two beverages, catering by Babaluu Supperclub, Cheesecake Lolli's and Couture Cupcakes?  Enter a world inspired by India's magic with Fantasy Lounge, Fortune Tellers and Tarot Card readers, a Maharani's Salon (Henna Beauty Bar & Make-up Artistry), Fashionistas Shopping Haven, Photography Expo, and much more!  Great date night while giving back! 

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

::HOT EVENTS::

Hope House Fundraiser With Academy Award Winners - THURSDAY, MAY 27th

Source:  Hope House

Special offer just announced!  $100 per ticket and BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE (2 tickets for price of one, one drink per person) for this sensational fundraiser! Just put your guest's name in the Box when you purchase your $100 and you will receive an extra ticket at the door. 


Basement Bhangra - Thursday, May 27th

I want to invite you to one of the most anticipated fundraisers and one in which I am personally involved. The
Hope House fundraiser was inspired by the Oscar winning film "Born into Brothels" and we are raising money to build a wonderful project to help 100 girls from the red light district of Calcutta (www.kids-with-cameras.org/school/). 

We have a terrific line-up for the evening including:
 
In Attendance
Join Born into Brothels Academy Award winning
Director Ross Kauffman and Executive Producer Geralyn White Dreyfous in helping to build Hope House and helping girls from the red light district of Calcutta.
 
Entertainment
Exclusive engagement with Hip Hop legend
Maestro Fresh Wes from Los Angeles performing classics and new music (Let your Backbone Slide!).

Rare appearance by Juno nominated singer
Ivana Santilli performing the latest from her upcoming album "Santilli"
 
World renowned
DJ Rekha (as seen on CNN and David Letterman) from New York City with Dhol Circle drummers.
 
Catering by Babaluu Supperclub, Palais Royale, Foodtrends, and Couture Cupcakes.
Includes two drink tickets.

And that's not all!  Enter a world inspired by India's magic with Fantasy Lounge, Fortune Tellers and Tarot Card readers, a Maharani's Salon (Henna Beauty Bar & Make-up Artistry), Fashionistas Shopping Haven, Photography Expo, and much more!
 
Facebook Page 
Join our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=118675501480585&ref=mf
 
VIP Indian Garden Party
Find out more about our VIP Indian Garden Party http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/toronto/ 
 
Pledge
If you would like to make a donation in lieu of attendance, please visit http://torontohopehouse.eventbrite.com/ or complete the attached pledge card.

THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2010
HOPE HOUSE FUNDRAISER
Palais Royale
1601 Lake Shore Boulevard W.
8:30pm – 12:00am
$100/ticket
Dress: Stylish and chic
To buy tickets visit HERE

$100 per ticket and BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE (2 tickets for price of one, one drink per person).

::TOP STORIES::

American Idol Winner Crowned

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(May 26, 2010) He went from a shy ex-paint salesman to the winner of
American Idol.

In something of an upset,
Lee DeWyze, 24, from Chicago won the reality competition over Crystal Bowersox, a 24-year-old musician and mother from Toledo, Ohio.

Bowersox had been an early favourite to win, but DeWyze had started picking up steam after several weeks of breakout performances.

But the pair had to share the glory during the live two-hour
Idol finale Wednesday night.

A certain cranky judge was on everyone’s minds as Simon Cowell made his final appearance on Idol.

The entertainment mogul is leaving the show to executive-produce and be lead judge on his own talent show,
The X Factor, in 2011.

Ex-Doll Takes Dancing With The Stars’ Mirror-Ball

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(May 25, 2010)  Pop star Nicole Scherzinger spent almost the whole season of Dancing With the Stars at the top of the judges' leader board and Tuesday night she made it official: taking home the reality show's mirror-ball trophy.

Though Scherzinger was the technically superior dancer, Las Vegas odds makers had picked figure skater Evan Lysacek as the likely winner.

Scherzinger's professional partner, Derek Hough, noted that Olympians have tended to win the seasons in which they competed, including speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and gymnast Shawn Johnson.

Lysacek, 24, was a gold medallist at the Vancouver Winter Games.

But Scherzinger, a 31-year-old singer and former member of burlesque group the Pussycat Dolls, broke that streak.

The competition was expected to be a close one, with votes seeming evenly split among Twitter fans of the show, according to Associated Press.

Show co-host Tom Bergeron pointed out that Scherzinger and Lysacek, as well as third place finalist Erin Andrews, had each led in viewer votes at various stages of the competition.

The winner was decided by a combination of viewer ballots and judges' scores.

By the time they performed their second routine on Tuesday night — their fourth over two nights — Scherzinger and Hough were leading with 115 points to Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya's 108.

The ex-Pussycat Doll earned perfect 10s for her final routine, an energetic jive to the tune of “Proud Mary.”

“Nicole, let me tell you, there were 12 days of Christmas, there were seven dwarfs, four Beatles; there can only be one winner of Dancing with the Stars and it should be you,” judge Len Goodman told her after the performance.

“This has been the best season of Dancing With the Stars ever,” declared judge Bruno Tonioli. “You two have constantly produced some of the most inventive, exciting, creative, stunning dances I have ever seen. This was the crowning glory of an amazing season.”

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba had already called Scherzinger the best celebrity dancer the show had ever seen.

Still, there was no shortage of praise for Lysacek on Tuesday. The athlete came straight to rehearsals for the show from the Olympics and continued to tour with Stars on Ice while practising his dance routines.

“Nicole and Derek may be wining the scoring right now, but I swear you have won the hearts of not only myself, but I think everyone here,” Inaba told Lysacek after his final routine, a quickstep.

“Evan, you have truly been a joy to watch,” said Goodman. “You bring elegance, style, you've got a charm about you. You have done a fantastic job.”

ESPN sportscaster Andrews and partner Maks Chmerkovskiy had tied Scherzinger and Hough for first place after Monday's performances but came third on Tuesday.

The judges praised Andrews for coming so far in the competition.

“You're in this final on merit, you have danced brilliantly,” Goodman told her.

“Of all the competitors tonight, you had the most spectacular growth,” said Tonioli.

With files from Associated Press

The Siren Call Of The iPhone

Source: www.thestar.com - Antonia Zerbisias

(May 21, 2010) So, you know when you’re on a date, maybe with a guy you’ve met online, or at a club, and you stupidly find yourself all alone with him, feeling creeped out, maybe in a park or a parking garage?

Well, there’s an app for that.

On Friday, YWCA Canada announced its
YWCA Safety Siren app, available free for download at the iTunes store.

The alarm — with a choice of three ear-splitting wails — goes off with either a press of the pink button or a shake, converting an iPhone or iPod Touch into a 21st-century version of the rape whistle.

Not only does the siren sound, but an email is automatically generated while a phone call gets made (if you have an iPhone) to preset emergency contacts. Both can attach a Google map pinpointing your location.

“About a year ago, Apple had come out with their branding, ‘There’s an app for that’ and there really was an app for everything,” explains Corinne Rusch-Drutz, YWCA Canada’s director of communications and membership development. “You could have an app to go shopping, an app to count your calories, and an app to choose the movie you want to watch. And it occurred to me there’s no social service apps. We could be doing something about that.”

There are other safety apps already available, including an “I’m being assaulted’’ app that sends emails. There’s also an “Am I safe?’’ app that rates locations as go or no-go zones.

But neither combines all the features of the YWCA app, which is more than a siren. Hit the “Safe Date’’ button and there’s info on how to avoid trouble before you step out. The Health icon describes healthy ways to hook up. Dating 101 is a guide to guys, good and bad. Finally, the Geolocations tab will pop up a map showing the nearest health and rape crisis centres.

“We do ongoing programming for women and girls, we’re one of the largest service providers for girls’ programming and we’re certainly the largest provider of shelter for women in the country so it just seemed natural to connect young women with violence prevention on their phones because that’s where they live,’’ says Rusch-Drutz.

“For us it was a perfect fit. That’s because they carry it with them wherever they go, and it’s private. And they’re more likely to look up content like the information we’re providing than they would on a personal computer which they may be sharing with somebody else.’’

Reporters Grill Venus about Skin-Coloured Shorts

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2010) * Venus Williams insists she is not trying to titillate male spectators at the French Open with her flesh-coloured undergarments, which make her appear to be playing without underwear.

“That was never the objective,” the tennis star told reporters yesterday, adding that her outfits only generate attention because she has a “very well developed” backside.

“It all started in Australia with the slits, and it was about wearing a dress that looks like you have these slits with bareness (underneath),” said the world number two. “So the design has nothing to do with the rear. It just so happens that I have a very well developed one!

“It’s all genetic. If you look at mom and dad, you’ll see the same thing happening. If you look at my sister (Serena), you’ll see the same thing.”

Venus’s skin-tone underwear has given courtside photographers plenty of ammunition for racy photos and the 29-year-old said she was happy to attract attention.

“It’s really about the illusion. Like you can wear lace, but what’s the point of wearing lace when there’s just black under?” she asked reporters. “The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful. So it’s really not about anything else other than just that skin showing. So I’m glad that it’s gotten good reviews. I mean, it could be worse.”

Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, reached the third round at Roland Garros on Wednesday by beating Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-4. Her next opponent is 26th seed Dominka Cibulkova of Slovakia, a beaten semi-finalist last year, for a place in the last 16.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Anguilla: A Celebrity Hot Spot Priced For Superstars

Source:  www.thestar.com - Reb Stevenson

(May 26, 2010) The Valley, Anguilla—It doesn’t have a single all-inclusive resort, nor has it produced a pop star of Rihanna magnitude.

Most importantly, it did not make the cut in the song “Kokomo.”

So you are forgiven for scrunching your face and bleating “where?” at the mention of Anguilla.

Here’s the cheat sheet: a speck amongst the British West Indies, Anguilla is a short ferry ride from St. Maarten.

The population is just 13,000 — and half of those people seem to have the last name “Gumbs.”

But most tourists have their hearts set on another number: 33. That’s how many serene, white sand beaches fringe the island.

And now we come to another reason you might not have heard of Anguilla: most of the accommodations on these beaches are frightfully expensive. Like, Mariah Carey expensive. Or Brad Pitt-breaking-up-with-Jennifer Aniston expensive (yes, he did it on Anguilla — it’s a very romantic place to dump your significant other).

However, there are other options. Behold, three different styles of accommodation at three separate price points:

Lloyd’s Bed and Breakfast (www.lloyds.ai)

Style: Guest house

Who Should Stay Here? Penny pinchers, mama’s boys, authenticity seekers.

The Lowdown: Who needs a jilted starlet? Lloyd’s Bed and Breakfast earned some celebrity of its own as the first accommodation on the island.

David Lloyd and his wife, Vida, opened this guest house on a hill above The Valley (Anguilla’s capital) in 1959.

It’s been providing cheap hospitality ever since.

The original David and Vida are gone now, but their children — also named David and Vida — carry on their parents’ traditions.

“What we do is a lot of the old, mixed with a little of the new,” says Vida.

Bursting with colour, the rooms give the rainbow a run for its money.

One regular, a woman from Kansas City, loves Lloyd’s so much she has essentially moved in. She now goes home three times a year instead of the other way around.

“When she’s not feeling well, we do chicken soups for her,” says Vida.

The only shortcoming is that it’s not on the water. But it’s only a brief walk down to the beach where the Lloyds have just opened a cheery patio restaurant called DaVida.

Price Range: $99 to $135 (U.S.) per night.

Meads Bay Beach Villas (www.meadsbaybeachvillas.com)

Style: Private Villas

Who Should Stay Here? Families, two couples who are close but not that close, girlfriend getaways.

The Lowdown: A set of four comfortable but low-key villas on a superb beach, Meads Bay Beach Villas is a reasonable choice for anyone travelling in a small group. The two-bedroom villas have individual pools, free calling to North America and complimentary Wi-Fi, but that’s about it in terms of extras.

“It’s more like home than a hotel,” says manager Jim Zogorski.

The kitchen enables you to save a few bucks on eating out. You can try your hand at cooking some local seafood (like crayfish, which sells at the dock for about $10 U.S. per pound), or hire a chef to come in and whip up an Anguillan feast (about $150 U.S. plus groceries).

Price Range: $700 to $900 (U.S.) per night for two bedrooms.

The Viceroy

Style: Hotel and Villas

Who should stay here? Sophisticated urbanites, gods and demigods, children who unknowingly sport designer clothes.

The lowdown: The locals don’t quite know what to make of The Viceroy, which just opened in December. With 166 rooms, it is by far the largest hotel on the island.

It is highly modern and cold-looking, particularly if you’re used to tiki torches and rattan. Neutral tones like beige, bronze and silver dominate.

“At other places, people go there for the beach. Here, they come for the rooms,” explains sales manager Rosina Gumbs.

Each room comes with its own plunge pool.

If you’ve visited other Viceroy properties (in Santa Monica or Miami, for instance), you might have a greater appreciation for the classy brand. There are always playful touches lurking about.

For example, the bellboys sport a uniform that looks a bit like grey day pyjamas topped with a white golf hat. (I asked them if the suit has a name and they all shrugged, so I’m sticking with “day pyjama”.)

Guests are also invited to use the property’s Trek bicycles, including a few three-wheelers.

And, c’mon now — you can’t take an adult on a trike too seriously.

Price range: $495 to$ 1,695 (U.S.) per night for one bedroom.

Reb Stevenson is a Toronto-based writer. She can be contacted through her website at www.rebstevenson.com. Her trip was subsidized by the Anguilla Tourist Board.

::MUSIC NEWS::

U2 Postpones North American Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - Mike Collett-White and Ayhan Uyanik

(May 25, 2010)  LONDON/MUNICH-U2 frontman Bono left hospital in Germany on Tuesday after undergoing emergency surgery on his back, but the injury has forced the Irish band to postpone the entire North American leg of its world tour.

The band was scheduled to play Toronto on July3.

It also means the band will not be appearing at Glastonbury, one of the biggest live music events of the annual pop calendar.

Bono has been told to recuperate for at least eight weeks and band manager Paul McGuinness, speaking to Reuters outside the Munich hospital where the operation was performed on Friday, said the 50-year-old singer “feels awful” about the tour changes, which will affect over a million fans.

“Clearly this is a serious injury and the recuperation time necessary to rehabilitate Bono is a big problem for the U2 tour and has unfortunately necessitated the postponement of 16 shows in North America,” he said.

“Those shows were to occur between June 3 in Salt Lake City and July 19 in Meadowlands Stadium.”

The earliest possible date for Bono’s return, according to the band’s website, would be Aug. 6 in Turin, Italy.

U2 were to have been the headline act on the main stage at Glastonbury on June 25, but that has now been cancelled.

“I’m heartbroken,” Bono said in a statement posted on the festival’s website. “We really wanted to be there to do something really special—we even wrote a song especially for the festival.”

BLOW TO LIVE NATION

As well as the band and fans, the injury will also hit Live Nation, the music concert company which signed a 12-year deal to handle merchandising, digital and branding rights and touring for one of the world’s most successful bands.

“Obviously Bono feels terrible about missing these shows and we are working as fast as we can with Live Nation to reinstate them and reschedule them for next year,” McGuinness said.

“For a performer like him to miss shows is a terrible thing and he feels awful about it. He shouldn’t. The most important thing is for him to get better and return to his full power as a performer.”

Joerg Tonn, the neurosurgeon treating the star, described Bono’s condition as a “sudden onset disease” which caused temporary partial paralysis. The injury happened while the singer was training in preparation for the tour.

“He was already in severe pain with partial paralysis of the lower leg. The ligaments surrounding the disc had an eight millimetre tear and during surgery we discovered fragments of the disc had travelled into the spine canal.

“The surgery was the only cause of treatment for full recovery and to avoid further paralysis. Bono is now much better with complete recovery of his motor-deficit.

“His prognosis is excellent but to obtain a sustainable result he must now enter a period of rehabilitation.” The 2009 part of the tour helped the band earn $109 million last year, according to music journal Billboard. The U2 360 Tour, so-called because fans surround a giant circular platform, was predicted to become the highest-grossing tour in history.

The band, with hits like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Where the Streets Have No Name”, is one of the world’s biggest. They have sold over 150 million records, according to unofficial estimates.

Simon Cowell Says So Long To American Idol

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(May 25, 2010)  When Simon Cowell walks away from American Idol on Wednesday, the show's viewers may be the ones who'll miss him least.

The blunt British judge became the face of the reality series after it began airing in 2002, helping it grow into the most popular show on North American TV with his sarcastic and brutally honest critiques.

Though the Fox network and Idol's producers are keeping stiff upper lips, they must be nervous about letting Cowell go.

Sure, the multi-millionaire (he was the highest paid man in U.S. prime-time TV in 2009) will stay within the Fox family, but as executive producer and top judge on The X Factor, the singing competition he's importing from Britain where the series is a huge hit.

The question becomes whether the network can sustain both talent shows thanks to their differences (there is no age limit for X Factor contestants and judges mentor finalists instead of just critiquing them) or whether Cowell's new show will bleed viewers from Idol.

Some would say that Cowell changed not just Idol but North American TV.

“We had seen nasty people on TV both in fiction and non-fiction. But we had never seen anything quite like him before,” Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, told Reuters.

“It was almost when you put a panel together, you had to have certain types and one of those included the Simon character,” said Thompson, with examples such as Brits Piers Morgan (America's Got Talent), Gordon Ramsay (Hell's Kitchen) and Len Goodman (Dancing With the Stars).

Fox has said finding Cowell's replacement on Idol will be a top priority this summer.

“We have to find a judge to replace Simon who provides both musical credibility and an incredible entertainment value,” Peter Rice, entertainment chairman for the Fox Networks Group, told reporters last week. “Anytime you have a change, it's something you have to do right.”

In the meantime, American Idol fans get one more night of Cowell.

Wednesday's live finale, in which either Chicago's Lee DeWyze or Ohioan Crystal Bowersox will become the Season 9 Idol, will feature a send-off for the favourite judge.

But details have been scarce, beyond an unconfirmed report that ex-Idol judge Paula Abdul will be there to pay tribute to her friend and former table-mate.

(Producers might take comfort from the fact that the popular Abdul left the fold in 2009 without the show imploding, although its ratings did drop 9 per cent this year.)

Cowell did a farewell interview with fellow judge and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday.

Asked if he was sad or happy about leaving, he replied, “Kind of a combination of the two.”

“I'm feeling a bit sad now, because we're nearly there. But at the same time, do you remember the last three weeks when you were leaving school and you kind of couldn't wait to get out? It's a little bit like that. It's kind of exciting.

“The show changed my life, but I just kind of knew that it was time to do something different.”

Cowell told DeGeneres, who replaced Abdul on the judges' panel, that he'd had a blast over the past eight years and he's pleased “the show's remained popular, that we've managed to stay on the air, that we've hopefully retained a sense of humour, that nobody's changed too much (except host Ryan Seacrest, he joked). . . . We've become friends and that's quite rare for people you work with.”

Cowell also had some parting thoughts about the two contestants vying to become this year's American Idol, telling DeGeneres he thinks DeWyze, a 24-year-old former paint salesman, will win.

“If you would have asked me five or six weeks ago, 100 per cent I'd have said Crystal. Now I've changed my mind. I think Lee's going to win,” he said. “There's something about him, the fact that he's worked in a paint shop, he's talented. He hasn't had any real breaks in his life and this has given him a shot. I like that.”

But Cowell added that “the last two years I've got it completely and utterly wrong. I don't think anyone's listening to me any more.”

We'll see if that holds true come 2011.

With files from Star wire services

Slipknot Bassist Paul Gray Dead at 38

Source: - by Jon Wiederhorn

(May 24th 2010)  Slipknot bassist Paul Dedrick Gray was found dead this morning at 10:50 AM CT at the TownePlace Suites in Urbandale, Iowa, police have confirmed. He was 38.

A hotel employee found Gray's body after receiving a call from a concerned family member. "They checked the room and found him deceased inside," officer Dave Disney of the Urbandale Police Department told Noisecreep. Gray was alone in the room and there was no disturbance and no evidence of foul play.

The bassist had checked into the hotel on May 22 and had received no complaints during his stay. "He was a quiet and respectful guest," hotel spokesman Chris Diebel told Noisecreep.

An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow to determine the cause of death.

Gray, who was one of the primary songwriters in the band, planted the seeds of Slipknot in 1992 with drummer Shawn Crahan. After Joey Jordison took over on drums, Crahan moved to percussion, and on Oct. 31, 1995 Slipknot released their first demo 'Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat.' After replacing original vocalist Anders Colsefini with Corey Taylor, the band secured a record deal with Roadrunner and wrote their self-titled album, which was produced by Ross Robinson and released in 1999.

Since then, the band has released three commercially successful albums, including 2008's 'All Hope Is Gone.'

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Gray.

Queen Latifah to Host BET Awards

Source:  www.eurweb.com

 
(May 22, 2010) *BET has announced  that multi-talented rapper, singer, and actress Queen Latifah will be hosting the 2010 BET Awards, set to take place at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 27 at 8 p.m.

“We are thrilled that Queen Latifah is going to host the BET AWARDS ‘10,” commented Stephen Hill, President of Music Programming and Specials, BET Networks. “Her versatility as a performer perfectly matches the dynamism of our show. This will be the perfect 10. Get ready for stirring performances, a surprise that will knock you out and massive quantities of fun; all helmed by ‘The Queen.’”

Queen Latifah is a Grammy Award-winning musician and actress, label president, author and entrepreneur.

As we reported earlier, artists, entertainers, and athletes will be recognized in 19 categories, including best male hip-hop artist, best collaborations, video of the year, and viewer’s choice.

Jay-Z was nominated for best hip-hop artist, while is wife Beyonce was nominated in four categories including viewer’s choice. Alicia Keys is battling Jay-Z’s sweetheart for best female R&B artist. Trey Songz and Melanie Fiona have also won top nominations.

A 106 & Park digital pre-show will get online audiences around the country ready for the evenings happenings with games, polls, and performances.

Last year’s award show grabbed the attention of record audiences with commemorative performances in honour of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson for which the network was roundly criticized for.

BET has teamed up again with Cossette Productions to pull off another show. For more details, visit www.bet.com/betawards.

Itzhak Perlman Gives Meaning To Every Note

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Colin Eatock
 
Itzhak Perlman Plays Mendelssohn
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
At Roy Thomson Hall In Toronto on May 22

(May 19, 2010) It’s nice to see that Felix Mendelssohn has survived his own bicentennial.

In 2009, Mendelssohn hit 200 – and there was a pronounced spike in performances of his music around the world. But big anniversaries sometimes have a boom-and-bust effect, with downturns in public interest following on the heels of celebratory years.

Mendelssohn was spared that fate on May 22 at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, where a packed house gave a standing ovation to an all-Mendelssohn program with veteran violin superstar
Itzhak Perlman. Mind you, there were other reasons for the evening’s appeal, including the presence onstage, for the opening Hebrides overture, of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, guaranteed to bring a throng of proud parents and grandparents in tow.

At 80 players strong (and spiked with a number of Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians), it was too grand a band for Mendelssohn’s slender work – but if the TSYO was short on historical correctness it was long on enthusiasm. Under TSO conductor Peter Oundjian, the young musicians gave a robust performance.

Perlman, of course, was the other big attraction. For an artist of his stature, technical mastery is simply not a issue, but freshness and immediacy can be – especially in a work like the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, which he’s surely played more times than he could count. The question is not merely hypothetical: Last year, Perlman dashed off a Beethoven Violin Concerto with the TSO that was notable for its lack of engagement.

This time, however, things were different. From the outset, Perlman was not just on top of his game, but actively involved with it. In the first movement, his phrases were well balanced and carefully constructed to lend meaning to every note. In the second, Perlman’s sweet, bright tone soared gorgeously above the TSO.

But it was the third movement that was the most remarkable. With the help of some effervescent outbursts from the woodwinds, Perlman made the concerto’s playful finale a sheer delight. Indeed, the 65-year-old musician seemed to go through a kind of transformation on stage – from an accomplished virtuoso with nothing to prove into a youthful musician with everything to prove, and who was proving it beyond all doubt.

If the Violin Concerto belonged to Perlman, then the Mendelssohn’s "Italian" Symphony No. 4 was all Oundjian’s. From the outset his tempos were purposeful, with a clear sense of direction. To my taste, he might have begun the second movement more softly, but his reading was elegant and suave. In the third movement, the TSO’s conductor had some rhythmic fun, and gave his horn section license to shine through. The last movement (the most Italian-sounding of all) was on fire: not a raging inferno but a smouldering controlled burn.

This program was Mendelssohnian in more ways than one. When Mendelssohn led his own orchestra (Liepzig’s Gewandhaus, back in the 1840s), he popularized the overture-plus-concerto-plus-symphony-equals-a-solid-concert model of programming. Nowadays it’s a formula that can be overused by orchestras – but on this occasion it was appropriate and effective.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Janina Fialkowska's Miraculous Return

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(May 25, 2010) London —  When Janina Fialkowska sits down Tuesday to play Chopin at Cadogan Hall in London, it will be a personal triumph for a couple of reasons. For one thing, as a young woman in Montreal, she never thought she could have a career as a concert pianist. For another, when she finally did achieve that dream, it looked like it might all end prematurely when she was diagnosed, in 2002, with cancer in the muscles of her left arm.

“There were moments when I didn’t know if I’d ever play again, but that usually happened during the middle of the night,” says Fialkowska, sitting in a London hotel a few days before her three performances here. “I became pretty good about not listening to those thoughts.”

The Canadian pianist is in the midst of a tour to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, which would be challenging for anyone, let alone some who, several years ago, had no movement in her left arm after surgery to replace the cancerous muscle there.

With the romantic repertoire that I do, all the tune is usually in the right hand. Little did I know how much richness was going on in the left hand.

“I had to relearn everything,” she says. “But I now know how to give orders to this arm.” With her right hand she indicates the left, which has a limited range of movement – just about to the end of keyboard, when she’s seated on her bench. Slowly, after the ground-breaking surgery, she brought her left arm back up to strength and in the meantime played one-handed pieces by Ravel and Prokofiev.

The rare cancer had an odd benefit, forcing her into a more organic way of playing. “It’s made me a better musician,” says Fialkowska, 59, who was born and raised in Montreal, and studied music there and at the Juilliard School in New York. “I was definitely a right-handed pianist before that. With the romantic repertoire that I do, all the tune is usually in the right hand. Little did I know how much richness was going on in the left hand.”

After this year’s gruelling Chopin-a-thon, Fialkowska plans to scale back a bit, although she says she’ll never become bored with the composer she’s most closely associated with. “Lots of people have said, ‘Oh God, we’ve heard so much Chopin this year, stop!’ But I never get bored. I keep finding things that are new.”

Just that morning, Fialkowska said, she’d been practising Chopin’s Concerto No. 1, which she’ll play at Cadogan Hall, and found things she needed to fix, other things she wanted to emphasize. It’s a special piece of music for her, because it’s at the root of her relationship with her early mentor, Arthur Rubinstein. When she was 12, Fialkowska heard the Polish pianist play the Chopin concerto in Montreal and “it was an epiphany, a light-bulb moment.”

While she studied and dreamt of a concert career, Fialkowska thought it was all in vain: “I had never thought I could make a career playing piano. In the 1970s, there weren’t very many North American women who could.”

In 1974, when Fialkowska was on the verge of entering law school in Montreal, Rubinstein entered her life again, and changed it dramatically. She entered a piano competition he sponsored in Jerusalem, and when she won, he told her he wanted to ensure that she had a future on the concert stage. “Suddenly this person comes who’s been your idol your whole life and says, ‘I’m going to help your career.’ And he did.”

This is the first year since her illness that Fialkowska has returned to a full touring schedule and she’s just recorded two Chopin concertos with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. She says she’s recently noticed a change in the world of classical performance, which had been in thrall to young, photogenic musicians, but appears to be rediscovering the pleasure of hearing “more mature” ones. “In the last six months, it seems the business is starting to get tired of young and cute,” she says. “Young and cute deserves a chance, but not that they take over everything.”

Toronto’s Darrelle London Gets A Little Help From Perez Hilton

Source:  www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(May 23, 2010) She’s getting the Perez push.

Before she became involved with gossip blogger Mario Lavandeira, a.k.a. Perez Hilton, a.k.a. the self-described Queen Of All Media, Toronto singer and songwriter
Darrelle London was an artist struggling to get her music heard by the masses.

There was some consistent CBC radio support, but generally London and her piano-driven first album
Edible Word Parade — which she’ll showcase at the Horseshoe on Wednesday — received most of her interest through word of mouth and a couple of small-venue tours of Eastern Canada.

Through her Hilton association, however, London has enjoyed something of a breakthrough: her light-hearted ditty “Understand” was featured on a May 4 episode of
90210 (and the series soundtrack) about the same time Hilton had announced her as the first Canadian signing to his Perezcious Music record label. Hilton also secured her a high-profile opening spot for V.V. Brown at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, placing her on the radar of record company executive hoi polloi.

She’ll turn around next month and crack New York for the first time at Arlene’s Grocery, but not before showcasing her craft at Hilton’s post-MuchMusic Video Awards bash June 20 at a location to be determined.

Clearly, London, 24, is enjoying the benefits of a man whose perezhilton.com blog claims 13.5 million unique visitors per month.

“That’s one of the reasons I signed with him,” says the doe-eyed London, relaxing in a back-corner booth at the Green Room the Saturday afternoon prior to her L.A. trip.

“His website is obviously a huge platform. He has millions of readers. But the other thing is basically his enthusiasm for music — he’s really passionate about it. He finds it important to give a stage to artists who wouldn’t really have one. So that combination made him someone that I wanted to be on my team.”

It was London, born in Toronto but raised on a farm in Acton, Ont., who first reached out to Hilton.

“I’m big on sending out my music to anyone who would possibly listen, even when it’s like a really, really slim shot,” London explains. “So I just emailed some of my music to him through his website.

“He got back to me right away and really responded to my music, said he loved it and wanted to hear more. I didn’t know about his label at that time.”

London, whose light-hearted, quirky pop reminds one of Kate Nash channelling Jill Sobule with a dash of Ben Folds, is used to the cold call approach: it’s how she snagged Brian Allen, the former Toronto guitarist and co-writer of the 1985 Heart smash “What About Love” as album co-producer (with Marc Koecher) back in 2008.

“She found my website and reached me by email — which surprised me, because I had nothing like her musically on my website,” Allen recalls.

“But I like her because she is playful in her approach to melodies and lyrics, and has a little bit of a nudge-nudge-wink sense of humour that I find refreshing.”

Perez Hilton was similarly seduced, and says that although he’s pushing London independently (Hilton’s label has an assortment of deals with major labels and prominent indies), he’s in it for the long haul.

Right now, London’s
Edible Word Parade has been withdrawn from the market and her music will be limited to a digital single release for the time being.

“The goal really is to win over a few fans at a time and just have her grow organically,” says Hilton, who recently released “Understand” to iTunes.

“The great thing about what we’re doing is that there are no rules, and I don’t think like a traditional record company. What’s important to me is that I love music and I love Darrelle’s songs.”

She seems content to follow Hilton’s game plan.

“As an artist, I just want to gain fans that will allow me to keep making music,” she admits. “Working with Perez seemed a great way to reach a whole bunch of people.”

Fired Proud FM Hosts Weigh In As They Pursue A Wrongful Dismissal Suit

Source: www.xtra.ca

(May 21, 2010) "I understand the general public's whiplash feeling," says Shaun Proulx of being abruptly fired — along with fellow hosts Deb Pearce, Mark Wigmore and Patrick Marano — from
Proud FM on May 5. Proulx says he doesn't know why they were fired, but that the pink slips were issued after the group asked for a meeting with station management.

Despite rumours, Wigmore says the meeting wasn't about money.

"We weren't stupid enough to think we could go in as a group and scream 'Unionize' or ask for raises," he says.

With the three-year-old station struggling to become profitable, Marano says everyone was "toeing the company line." But, Pearce says, "Certain things kept creeping up and we wanted more clarity."

Proulx points to April 12, the day the station became Glee FM. In a marketing tie-in with Global TV, Proud FM devoted its entire programming schedule and website content that day to the show.

"The station loves to use the word 'transparency,' but this deal wasn't very transparent," says Proulx. "Hosts were being asked to do some advertorial stuff that we'd never been asked to do before," including using talk time to plug products. "I have a bit of an issue with just being handed something and told to shut up and read it. I have a lot of credibility behind my name. So does Deb, so does Mark, and so does Patrick. Proud FM hired us for our brands, brands that we built."

Wigmore says each host was getting contradictory answers from Proud FM operations manager Bruce Campbell, so the foursome decided a group meeting would clear everything up. But after three requests, Pearce says, they were fired via email.

"It all happened over a grand total of 48 hours," says Wigmore.

Campbell says there were "significant differences between management and the affected individuals as to how the business and administration of the station — both on-air and commercially — should be conducted."

This, says Pearce, is not the case.

"They'll never know what we wanted to meet about because no one ever took the time, respectfully, to meet with us," she says.

Respect, Pearce continues, is at the heart of this story. She says she felt betrayed when station management ignored a two-week deadline to endorse her nomination for honoured dyke at this year's Pride festival.

The station, "that in theory said, 'I support you,' now would not endorse it or do anything publicly," she says.

Campbell pointed out that such firings are commonplace in radio.

"There are stations that have changed entire formats, the entire staff, in one day," he says. But, after a heavy sigh, he concedes that this is actually the third multiple firing in the station's history, following dismissals in 2007 that included popular hosts Maggie Cassella, Lisa Marshall and Richard Ryder.

"What's the choice here?" Campbell says. "Let this thing continue to deteriorate completely or move forward? As difficult as it is, Proud FM will continue to move forward and hopefully be better. The people who remain here today are just as talented as the people who just left."

Proulx says this treatment of his fellow host shows the station owners' lack of respect for the community as a whole.

"You don't come to Church and Wellesley and tell Deb Pearce that there could be a 'problem' with the station supporting her as honoured dyke," he says, his voice louder. "You don't fuck around with a hard-won, 20-year brand like this.... You get the benefit of all she is and all she has become every time she turns that damn microphone on. How dare you call yourself a gay station and treat your gay talent like that?"

When Cassella was fired in 2007, Pearce told Xtra that such firings were common in radio, with Proulx describing it as "a cutthroat business." The station is not getting a similar pass now because, Cassella's then-producer Wigmore says, "Proud FM was just finding its feet.... I think the station now is in a much different place."

"Proud FM became Proud FM," says Pearce, "because of the investment that we had daily, every time we turned on that microphone."

As they continue a wrongful dismissal suit against the station (with management declining to respond for this story), Proulx notes that all four have already moved on to new gigs; more than 1,700 people have signed on to a Facebook protest page.

"The listeners," says Marano, "have given Proud FM what the station never gave us: three strikes."

Swift Panders To Adoring Toronto Audience

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

(May 21, 2010)
Decked out in a nerdy marching band uniform and surrounded by dancing cheerleaders, Taylor Swift drove an arena full of self-identifying girls into a veritable frenzy with her opening song You Belong To Me. Though she was in a silver mini-dress (with cowboy boots, of course) before the number was done, Swift somehow maintained her lonely-girl-on-the-bleachers persona (“I’m Taylor!”) despite her fame, good looks and, y’know, a sold-out crowd singing along with her every word.

Her follow-up, Our Song, couldn’t have been more appropriately titled.

“Is it possible I’ve already fallen in love with you after two songs?” she wondered, repeating a mantra from every stop on the Fearless 2010 tour. “I love you like I love sparkly dresses.” (Screams) “I love you like I love burning ex-boyfriend’s pictures.” (Louder screams) “I love you because you taught me you can start out writing songs on your bedroom floor and, if you’re lucky, you can end up spending Friday night with your best friends in Toronto.”

While clearly skilled at speaking to her generation – or at least the female half, based on the Air Canada Centre crowd – she’s a little less adept at singing. Not that the girls cared a whit, since they were doing their best to obscure her vocals with their own. Swift doesn’t have a bad voice, just not a show-offy one, and she smartly writes songs that don’t push her too hard.

Besides, what matters to her fans (and Grammy voters) is that she writes her own songs about her own life – in one video clip, Swift tells an interviewer, “If guys don’t want me to write bad songs about them, they shouldn’t do bad things” – and that’s why she’s become one music’s biggest superstars in an era when they are increasingly few and far between.

Special to The Globe and Mail

MUSIC TIDBITS

Bono Undergoes Emergency Surgery

Source: www.thestar.com - Roger Moore

(May 21, 2010) CANNES, FRANCE—U2 lead singer
Bono has undergone emergency surgery on his back in a Munich hospital after being injured while preparing for the next leg of the band’s world tour, a spokesperson said on Friday. The 50-year-old from Ireland had been preparing for the North American leg of the “360 Degree” world tour which is due to kick off in Salt Lake City on June 3. “Bono has today undergone emergency back surgery for an injury sustained during tour preparation training,” his spokesperson said. “He was admitted to a specialist neuro surgery unit in a Munich hospital. “Bono will spend the next few days there, before returning home to recuperate. Once his condition has been assessed further, a statement will be made regarding the impact on forthcoming tour dates.” After North America, the tour was scheduled to travel to Turin in Italy on Aug. 6. It was not immediately clear how badly the injury would disrupt the group’s tour. The tour earned around $109 million in 2009, according to music journal Billboard, making it the world’s most lucrative, and the publication also predicted it would end up being the highest-grossing tour in history.

Drake Nominated and Condemned

Source:  www.eurweb.com

 
(May 23, 2010) *Canadian hip-hop sensation,
Drake, leads nominations for the 2010 MuchMusic Video Awards, Canada’s version of MTV’s VMAs.   He was nominated for best hip-hop video with his top charting single, “Successful,” along with two nominations for best international video for his songs “Forever” and “Over.” Drake totalled seven nods in total, one more than Vancouver artist Hedley. Justin Bieber also received four nominations.   Drake recently debuted his video for “Find Your Love,” from the anticipated album, “Thank Me Later.” Filmed in Jamaica, the country’s minister of tourism condemned the artist for portraying violent images of the island in the media.   The album will be in stores June 15. The music awards will air on Sunday, June 20 from Toronto, hosted by Miley Cyrus.

Estelle Is Back On The Scene: She Shares Her Plans

Source:  www.eurweb.com

 
(May 23, 2010) *Just when we all started to wonder where she went,
Estelle showed up this past week, taking home a BMI Pop Award for her popular single, “American Boy.” She is now anticipating her third release, “All of Me.”  Don’t sleep on Estelle because she is talking about catching up with her singing mate, John Legend pretty soon.   “John is producing the project,” the singer told The Boom Box, talking about her upcoming album. “I think he wrote half the album and I wrote half the album. He’s cool. We don’t have any fights. He’s a Capricorn, I’m a Capricorn … we figure it out. It works. It just comes together.”  Estelle is admittedly anxious to make her own mark by giving her listeners a little bit of everything to groove to.   “I got sick of staying in different genres,” she said. “I kind of just went ‘I’m going to do everything.’ [I wanted] to give people a different taste of different genres, different sides of me as an artist, as a person, as a woman. I think people get the connection confused. Like ‘Oh, she’s from London – it’s different.’ It sure as hell isn’t! It’s exactly the same!”  Her new album entitled, “All of Me” is expected to release in September.

Marques Houston to Release ‘Mattress Music’ in July

Source:  www.eurweb.com

 
(May 22, 2010) *Ladies, get ready for the long awaited album, “Mattress Music,”
Marques Houston’s latest love making music creation.  July 27 will be the day babies will be made, at least according to the singer.   His last album, “Mr. Houston,” he says was about finding love. Now that it’s found, it’s time to get those babies made with “a baby making album.”  “At the end of the day, although the lyrical content and titles are very sexual and aggressive, it is good music,” says Houston. “The production is really great. Shout out to Eric, Chris Strokes and myself for producing this entire album. This album is something you can kick back and listen to along with going to the bedroom with it.”

T.I., Lady Gaga Team for New Track

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2010) * *T.I. has revealed that he and Lady Gaga have collaborated on a track for his upcoming album. In an interview with MTV News, the rapper described Gaga as a “phenomenal talent” and said that he is “extremely proud” to have worked with her on the song, which is tentatively titled “Lick It.”  “She’s definitely that good. She knows what she’s doing. She knows exactly what she wants people to think and say. She does everything that she needs to be done to ensure it happens,” he said. “I think she’s an entertainer, in all aspects of the word. She’s a classic, all-round entertainer. A global star.” T.I. said he would love to team up with the singer again in the future. “I think we both have a tendency to shock the world in a lot of different ways,” he said.

:FILM NEWS::

Canadian Director Xavier Dolan Wins The Regards Jeunes At Cannes

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey
 
(May 23, 2010) Twenty-one year old Canadian director
Xavier Dolan won the Regards Jeunes prize at this year’s Cannes international film festival. The prize was given on Saturday afternoon for his film, Heartbeats, which was in the Un Certain Regard sidebar of this year’s Official Selection.

It is the second year in a row that Dolan has won the same prize. At last year’s festival, he took the Regards Jeunes, along with two other prizes for his Directors’ Fortnight entry, J’ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother). The prize is selected by a jury of seven young cinephiles for a director’s first or second film.

In other prizes that were handed out before Sunday night’s Palme d’Or ceremony, Korean director Hang Song-soo’s film, Ha Ha Ha, took the Un Certain Regard Prize.

The jury, led by Belgian director Claire Denis, also gave jury prizes to Peruvian brother directors, Daniel and Diego Vega, for October, a drama about a loan shark who finds himself caring for an infant. In addition, the jury gave a performance prize to three actresses: Adela Sanchez, Eva Bianco and Victoria Raposo, who starred in from Ivan Fund and Santiago Loza’s Los Labios (Lips) about women welfare workers in Argentina.

Director Mathieu Amalric’s On Tour, starring Amalric as a French manager of an American burlesque troupe, took the FIPRESCI prize, awarded by the International Federation of the Cinematographic Press.

The Ecumenical Prize for promoting religious understanding went to French director Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men, the true-life story of a group of Catholic monks working in a mountain village in Algiers the mid-nineties, who were confronted by Islamist militants.  

For Michael Caine, Vengeance Means Big Box Office

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(May 21, 2010) Vigilante films occupy a secure niche in Hollywood’s celluloid archives. Secure because, for the most part, they’ve proven enormously popular and, more importantly, hugely profitable.

The genre has produced Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry (five films), Charles Bronson’s Death Wish (five films), Jodie Foster’s The Brave One, the Wachowski brothers’ V for Vendetta and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. And what is Batman, after all (seven films since 1966, and still counting) but another variation on the vigilantism theme?

The revenge plot line was so compelling that Eastwood recently returned to it with Gran Torino (2008), playing a curmudgeonly war veteran who decides to cleanse his multicultural neighbourhood of its thugs.

Now,
Sir Michael Caine, another colossus of the silver screen, has dressed himself in the stern garments of vigilantism.

In Harry Brown, which opened in cinemas yesterday, Caine is a retired Royal Marine residing in a run-down public housing project south of London. His wife is dying in hospital and Harry visits her regularly, trying to stay out of trouble and enjoy a pint at the nearest local. But again, a gang of drug-dealing yobs is wreaking mayhem on the community. When they murder Caine’s old drinking buddy Leonard (David Bradley), Harry’s slow fuse is finally and irreversibly lit.

The only glimmer of hope is that they’re tearing down those flats and building new ones, with £2-million being spent on it. But the drugs and violence are still there and are being swept under the carpet.

Caine, in Toronto last September for the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, said he didn’t equivocate when he read the script by Gary Young. “I felt very strongly about the whole situation,” he said during a day-long marathon of promotional interviews. “The film is a great warning, because nobody seems to be taking any notice of what’s going on.”

What’s going on, in his judgment, is societal collapse, manifest in part by an explosion of crime and violence committed by drug-addled youths.

“And,” he said, “it seems to be getting worse and worse.”

Even though he’s enormously successful, one of only two actors (the other is Jack Nicholson) who has been nominated for an Academy Award in five consecutive decades, Caine relates personally to the suburban wastelands in which youthful alienation flourishes. The son of a fish market porter, he was born – as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite – in southeast London, not far from the locations used in the film.

“The only glimmer of hope,” he said, “is that they’re tearing down those flats and building new ones, with £2-million being spent on it. But the drugs and violence are still there and are being swept under the carpet.”

In the film, Caine’s character – the eponymous Harry Brown – seeks out a couple of mangy drug dealers in order to buy a gun. They’re holed up a squalid flat that doubles as a cannabis plantation and a porno movie set. “You don’t read about these things in the newspaper,” says Caine, “but they’re there.”

It was London producer Kris Thykier, a former public-relations executive, who hooked Caine into the project on the basis of the script. The 77-year-old actor, with almost 150 films on his résumé, has made it a habit to hand smaller, independent film projects to relatively unknown British directors. He did the same thing here, giving the Caine blessing to Daniel Barber, a director of award-winning TV commercials (for the likes of BMW, Estée Lauder and Sony), and of an Oscar-nominated 35-minute short film, The Tonto Woman (based on an Elmore Leonard short story).

Caine said it was viewing that film, a western, that convinced him Barber had the right stuff to direct Harry Brown – like High Noon on the council estates – “cuz it’s like a western, isn’t it, an urban western?”

Barber said he was intimidated meeting Caine for the first time, over fish and chips at Scott’s in Mayfair. (Caine calls it the best place for seafood in London.) But he was even more nervous when shooting began. “‘My God,’ I thought, ‘this is Sir Michael Caine. What am I doing here? I’m looking at a world icon and in one minute he’s going to finish the scene and ask me what I think?’”

But he discovered that Caine was very easy to direct, “even when I was clearly being a pain in the ass and asking for another take. But you have to be a pain in the ass, because you have to cover yourself and give yourself some choice in the editing room.”

Off the set, Barber noticed how Caine’s life was constantly interrupted by fans wanting autographs or photographs or just to say hello. “So I said to him, “Gosh, doesn’t it drive you mad, people coming up to you at every street corner? And he said, ‘What do you mean? Where would I be without them?’”

Caine already has another film in the can – Inception – a thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page, due out this summer. And he’s hoping to find financing for Cold War Requiem, in which he’d resurrect another screen icon named Harry – enterprising Cold War spy Harry Palmer. “We’ll see if it gets made,” he says. “Money isn’t flowing like it used to.”

In the meantime, living with his wife of 37 years Shakira Baksh in an apartment in London or at their country house in Surrey, he’s enjoying spending time with his two grandchildren and finishing the sequel to his autobiography. And he has a novel in progress.

Still, film scripts don’t land with the same regularity, Caine confesses. It’s not that he’ll ever stop making films. “You don’t retire from the business,” he says. “The business retires you.”

Anger Sir Ben And You’ll Feel The Lash

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(May 21, 2010) I briefly offended a knight of the realm. Talking by phone with
Sir Ben Kingsley earlier this week about his new film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, I called his character, Nizam, “one of those scenery-chewing summer movie villains.” Sir Ben did not appreciate the sobriquet “scenery-chewing.” He fell silent for the exact fraction of a second required to register displeasure.

“Oh,” he said. “You’re a critic.” He enunciated the last “c” beautifully. It sounded in my ear like the lash of a small whip.

I assured him it wasn’t an insult. A snarling villain is one of the pleasures of summer movie-going, and Kingsley’s Nizam can claim his place in the bad-guy class of 2010 alongside Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson’s Ivan and Natasha in Iron Man 2, Mark Strong’s Godfrey in Robin Hood, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Victoria in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and the 3-D piranha in Piranha 3D.

But let’s be honest: Prince of Persia is based on a video game. It’s a mega-budget, effects-heavy tale about a street urchin-turned-prince, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who finds a mysterious dagger that can turn back time. Its producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is a spectacle-meister whose films are not usually lauded for their delicate subtlety. It opens on America’s Memorial Day weekend, a release date that has “popcorn flick” written all over it. And Nizam wears eyeliner, for Pete’s sake, a sure-fire indicator of movie evil. Isn’t playing a character like that similar to playing the villain in a commedia dell’ arte, with clear requirements and parameters: a flicker of cruelty here, a glimpse of scheming there, leading inevitably to an agonized scream when he gets his comeuppance at the end?

Kingsley disagreed. “Actually, in what I do, very little shifts from making a Scorsese classic to a Bruckheimer classic,” he said. (Kingsley was shooting Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island when he first read the script for Prince of Persia.) “I do the same job. The background alters, and where the camera is placed, and the effects around me. But I am doing the same job. I serve Nizam as if Nizam was written by Shakespeare and he was called Richard III.

“Why waste my time trivializing a character or a film?” he continued, now fully engaged, his voice smooth and mellifluous. “If I trivialize it, it’s going to spoil three, four, five months of my life. Instead, I consciously think to myself, ‘Aim high, aim very high with Nizam. If the kids are going to come and watch it, let them see Richard III from Shakespeare. That will make them go, ‘Wow.’ Don’t give them a Punch and Judy show villain.”

Kingsley, who was born in Yorkshire in 1943, now lives in Oxfordshire with his fourth wife, Daniela Barbosa de Carneiro, an actress (they married in 2007). “She’s sitting right here, my beloved,” Kingsley said. I reminded him that we had met once before, at the Toronto International Film Festival, when he was a beaming newlywed. “We’re beaming old farts now,” he said, giggling (his giggle is surprisingly high-pitched and infectious). “No, she’s not old. I’m not old either. Uh-oh, now she’s walking out in a huff.” He giggled again.

Before becoming a film actor, Kingsley spent 15 years on stage, including a stint beginning in 1967 with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he played (among others) Othello, Hamlet, and Brutus in Julius Caesar. That taught him to analyze texts, he said: “I do know how to recognize certain archetypes – archetypes, not stereotypes. I read a character on the page, and I intuitively recognize him – ‘I know what you’re up to, I know your tricks.’ Nizam came to life very quickly for me as that kind of man consumed with envy and regret.”

Then his first major film role – playing the title character in Gandhi (1982), which won him a best actor Oscar – taught him about acting for the camera. His director, Richard Attenborough, would always let Kingsley know what lens they were using, so he could calibrate his performance accordingly. “He didn’t ask me to do anything different,” Kingsley said. “He would just approach me physically on the set, and very gently – very lovingly, actually – say, ‘Darling? Darling, we’re very, very close.’” (Kingsley’s Attenborough impersonation is dead-on.) “That’s my kind of director. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man.”

Gandhi remains one of Kingsley’s favourite roles; others include a doctor who is not what he seems in Shutter Island (2010); a teacher obsessed with a student (Penelope Cruz) in Elegy (2008); an immigrant locked in a bitter battle with his house’s former owner (Jennifer Connelly) in House of Sand and Fog (2003), for which he received an Oscar nomination; an absolutely terrifying gangster in Sexy Beast (2000), for another Oscar nod; and the functionary who keeps Schindler’s List (1993). “Creating them is very, very hard work,” Kingsley said. “But afterwards I can look at them and be happy with them. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been blessed.”

Filming Schindler’s List, “I would stand by the monitor with Steven [Spielberg, the director] and he’d play back a take,” Kingsley said. “And with the joy of a child, he would turn to me and say, ‘That’s in the movie!’ When he says that, as a descendent of European Jews, you know that he means it with his heart and soul: ‘That’ll tell them.’ It was beautiful.” And working with Scorsese, Kingsley said, “is like one long, intelligent embrace. He directs like a lover, completely enthusiastic all the time.”

But eventually, Kingsley admitted it: Bad-guy roles are the most fun to play. “They give the actor a delicious feeling of mischief, all the time,” he said. “One can do the tiniest things to let the audience glimpse the darkness in the soul. There’s a wonderful line in the scene in the tent [in Prince of Persia] where I tell Dastan’s brothers that he tried to kill me. I say to the new king, ‘I’m afraid so, my lord.’ And it’s so full of regret, and it’s utterly hypocritical.” Kingsley giggled madly. “That gives me a delicious buzz, because on the outside I’m so regretful, and on the inside I’m saying, ‘I’m going to screw the whole lot of you.’ Characters need to have secrets, even from the audience and the camera. That’s very empowering for an actor.”

“But that’s our secret,” Kingsley finished, “because producers might stop giving me bad guys if I’m having too much fun.” I wanted to say that producers only stop hiring actors if their films don’t make enough money. But that would have made me the bad guy – again. So instead I nodded, Nizam-like, and cackled inside.

These Boots Were Made For Antonio Banderas

Source: www.thestar.com - Roger Moore

(May 20, 2010)
Antonio Banderas gets it. He knows why people still laugh every time he opens his mouth, as the swashbuckling Puss in Boots in a Shrek movie.

“It must be the contrast,” he purrs in that rioja-and-romance accent we all know and love. “I am providing a voice that doesn’t match that body. People laugh at seeing that little pussy cat with my arrogant, suave Spanish voice.”

He chuckles. He didn’t get this right away. No, the shock of being offered the role back in 2002 was too much. Even now with the release of Shrek Forever After the fourth and final film in the Shrek series, he marvels that it happened at all.

“When I came to this country, I didn’t speak English,” he says. “The fact that they called me for the use of my voice was a surprise from the very beginning. Now, after all these years, it’s become a lot of fun. They prepare funny things to say, and I say them. And they give you the possibility of improvising, adding things to the script that you find funny. It’s quite a fun character and a fun process once you know what you’re doing.”

Plainly, he does. The actor who does the pussy cat’s voice was “sick as a dog” when DreamWorks called and asked him to cut a tune, “one of my wife’s favourites,” for a scene in Forever After. The singing actor (a revival of the musical Nine on Broadway, Evita on the screen) took on Bob Marley’s “One Love” in his home recording studio.

“The version that we did was just me singing and a Spanish guitar, softer even than Bob Marley’s version. I knew the song perfectly, by heart. I grew up on Bob Marley, and my wife (Melanie Griffith) never lets us take a car trip without some of his music in the car.”

He’s in Woody Allen’s new film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (“hardly in it” The Hollywood Reporter complains), and recalled, that first day on the set, wearing “a T-shirt, in Spain in 1985 with Woody’s face on it. I could not believe I finally got the chance to work with one of my heroes.”

And Banderas just announced he’ll celebrate his 50th birthday doing his sixth film with his friend and mentor, Pedro Almodóvar, who made him a star with Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1990).

“I turn 50, and he’s already 60, and so much has happened to us over the years,” Banderas says laughing. In those years, Banderas became a star, a director, married Griffith and became a vintner with vineyards in Barcelona and Ribera del Duero. And Almodóvar became an internationally famous director.

“Maybe we can share our experiences in service to his movie,” Banderas jokes.

Before he returns to Spain, though, Banderas is back in the recording studio for DreamWorks. Shrek may be over with this new film, but Puss in Boots gets his own film, now, due out in the winter of 2011.

FILM TIDBITS

Mario Van Peebles to Direct 50 Cent in Next Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 24, 2010) *Curtis “
50 Cent” Jackson and Ray Liotta team up for director Mario Van Peebles’ upcoming indie drama “Things Fall Apart.” According to Variety, the story follows a star football running back (50 Cent) who faces a personal tragedy as well as his own mortality while in his senior year in college. Liotta plays a doctor. 50 Cent co-wrote the script with Brian Miller and will produce with Randall Emmett for Cheetah Vision Films. Van Peebles also stars in the film, alongside Lynn Whitfield, Mike P and Steve Eastin. Shooting is currently underway in Michigan.

Michael Clarke Duncan in ‘No Man’s Land’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 24, 2010) *
Michael Clarke Duncan has been cast in the 3D indie action-thriller “No Man’s Land” for ChipShot Films, reports Variety. The movie is being described as “The Amazing Race” meets “Deliverance.” The story follows a group of reality show contestants on a globe-trotting race who are traversing a dense Louisiana swamp where a misunderstanding with a group of backwater Cajuns turns into an all-out blood feud. Sharni Vinson, Samm Levine, Christopher McDonald and Zuleikha Robinson (“Lost”) also star. Shooting is scheduled to begin in September.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje Has That ‘Thing’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2010) *He may have been missing from the heavenly reunion scene on “Lost” Sunday, but Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has turned up as the latest cast member to join Universal’s upcoming prequel to “The Thing.” According to ShockTillYouDrop.com, the actor will play the role of Derek in the film, which is already shooting in Canada. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Jonathan Lloyd Walker are also and director Matthijs van Heijningen. Akinnuoye-Agbaje played Heavy Duty in last year’s G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra and is best known for his TV roles as Simon Adebisi on HBO’s “Oz” and Mr. Eko in ABC’s “Lost.”

::TV NEWS::\

Time For Fans To Say Farewell To Lost And 24

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(May 20, 2010) It’s a good thing misery loves company — otherwise we’d all be looking ahead to a very lonely week.

The time has come for addictive fan favourites
Lost and 24 to end their storied runs, and their long-running storylines, both with extended final episodes, two-and-a-half hours for Lost on Sunday starting at 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV, two final hours for 24 Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox and Global.

And then, that’s it for Dr. Jack Shephard and the surviving Oceanic castaways, and for ex-agent Jack Bauer and what’s left of the Counter Terrorist Unit. (At least on TV: Though the Lost team has no plans for a follow-up feature, a 24 movie script has already been written.)

We have been duly warned that neither show is going to end happily ever after, that questions will be left unanswered, outstanding issues unresolved. No doubt both will be argued and analyzed and picked apart for months to come. Which is just as it should be. And always was.

Both shows have an added significance for their radically different approaches to serialized storytelling — different from each other, and different from anything else on TV.

First came 24, with its revolutionary “real-time” format, a digital clock maddeningly ticking away the minutes as we followed the characters’ every move. Lost took almost the opposite approach, flashing back and forth on a weekly basis with absolutely no regard for time, and ultimately even travelling through it.

Both, in their respective writers’ rooms, tended to fly by the seats of their pants, making it up as they went along: Lost out of necessity, unable to really resolve anything until the network agreed to a self-imposed end point; 24 by choice, embracing the kinetic momentum of painting themselves into plot corners and then tap-dancing their way out.

In both cases, that uncertainty resulted in some of the series’ freshest, finest, most shocking and surprising moments. And for both, it also effectively ruined entire seasons, and necessitated acts of creative desperation, with polar bears and cougars suddenly leaping out of the brush.

But then, there was very little about either show that was not equally, entirely unexpected and never anything less than vastly entertaining. How many TV series today can you say that about?

Art Linkletter, TV Host, Dead At 97

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber, — The Associated Press

(May 26, 2010) Los Angeles - Canadian-born Art Linkletter, who became an American TV icon after hosting People Are Funny and House Party in the 1950s and 1960s, has died. He was 97.

His son-in-law Art Hershey says Linkletter died Wednesday at his home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles.

Art Linkletter's House Party, one of television's longest-running variety shows, debuted on radio in 1944 and was seen on CBS-TV from 1952 to 1969.

“On House Party I would talk to you and bring out the fact that you had been letting your boss beat you at golf over a period of months as part of your campaign to get a raise,” Linkletter, who was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., wrote.

“All the while, without your knowledge, your boss would be sitting a few feet away listening, and at the appropriate moment, I would bring you together,” he said. “Now, that's funny, because the laugh arises out of a real situation.”

Though the show had many features, the best known was the daily interviews with schoolchildren.

Linkletter collected sayings from the children into Kids Say The Darndest Things, and it sold in the millions. The book 70 Years of Best Sellers 1895-1965 ranked Kids Say the Darndest Things as the 15th top seller among nonfiction books in that period.

The primetime People Are Funny, which began on radio in 1942 and ran on TV from 1954 to 1961, emphasized slapstick humour and audience participation — things like throwing a pie in the face of a contestant who couldn't tell his Social Security number in five seconds, or asking him to go out and cash a cheque written on the side of a watermelon.

The down-to-earth charm of Linkletter's broadcast persona seemed to be mirrored by his private life with his wife of more than a half-century, Lois. They had five children, whom he wrote about in his books and called the “Links.”

But in 1969, his 20-year-old daughter, Diane, jumped to her death from her sixth-floor Hollywood apartment. He blamed her death on LSD use, but toxicology tests found no LSD in her body after she died.

Still, the tragedy prompted him to become a crusader against drugs. A son, Robert, died in a car accident in 1980. Another son, Jack Linkletter, was 70 when he died of lymphoma in 2007.

Art Linkletter got his first taste of broadcasting with a part-time job while attending San Diego State College in the early 1930s. He graduated in 1934.

“I was studying to be an English professor,” Linkletter once said. “But as they say, life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.”

He held a series of radio and promotion jobs in California and Texas, experimenting with audience participation and remote broadcasts, before forming his own production company in the 1940s and striking it big with People Are Funny and House Party.

Linkletter was born Arthur Gordon Kelly on July 17, 1912, in Moose Jaw. His unwed mother put him up for adoption when he was a baby and when he was about seven, he and his adoptive parents moved to the United States, eventually settling in San Diego.

He recalled his preacher-father forced him to take odd jobs to help the family. So Linkletter left and became a hobo, hopping trains across the West, working where he could. He recalled later that he felt the religious faith instilled by his father had been a great gift.

After leaving daily broadcasting in 1969, Linkletter continued to write, lecture and appear in television commercials.

Among his other books were Old Age is Not for Sissies, How To Be a Supersalesman, Confessions of a Happy Man, Hobo on the Way to Heaven and his autobiography, I Didn't Do It Alone.

A recording Linkletter made with his daughter Diane not long before she died, We Love You, Call Collect, was issued after her death and won a Grammy award for best spoken word recording.

“Life is not fair . . . not easy,” Linkletter said in a 1990 interview with Associated Press. “Outside, peer pressure can wreak havoc with the nicest families. So that's the part that's a gamble.

“But I'm an optimist. Even though I've had tragedies in my life, and I've seen a lot of difficult things, I still am an optimist.”

Linkletter leaves his wife, Lois, whom he married in 1935, and daughters Dawn and Sharon.

More And More Canadians Actors Invading U.S. Fall Programs

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(May 26, 2010)   When the U.S. networks made their 2010-11 season announcements to advertisers last week in New York, there were a startling number of Canadian names on various cast lists.

ABC, in particular, might stand for “Airlift a Bunch of Canadians” after headlining several of their new shows with the likes of William Shatner, Matthew Perry and Elisha Cuthbert.

Montreal-born Shatner has been beamed aboard the Twitter-feed inspired comedy (Bleep) My Dad Says, one of the many sitcoms ordered this season by all the networks. The 79-year-old TV icon, who appeared in the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, plays a dad prone to spouting off on any topic in the most outrageous manner.

Jim Parsons, one of the stars of CBS’s red-hot The Big Bang Theory, got to hug Shatner onstage as part of the CBS launch to advertisers at Carnegie Hall.

“It’s an awkward first meeting with somebody,” Parsons said on the phone from New York. His brainy character, physicist Sheldon Cooper, has a nerd crush on Captain Kirk, hence the hug.

“He’s very game as I think he’s proven,” Parsons says of Shatner, “and made it feel as unawkward as one could possibly do in that circumstance.”

Friends star Perry co-wrote his new ABC mid-season comedy Mr. Sunshine. The Ottawa-raised actor plays a not-so-sunny San Diego sports store owner going through a mid-life crisis. Calgary’s Cuthbert sheds her danger girl image from 24 in Happy Endings, a mid-season ABC comedy about uncoupling couples.

Toronto born Will Arnett (Arrested Development) rejoins executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz on the shot-in-Vancouver ABC comedy Running Wilde. Arnett plays an obnoxious jerk opposite much sweeter Keri Russell (Felicity). Their two characters are locked in a love/hate rage.

Newfoundland-native Shaun Majumder, best known to Canadians as sweaty Raj Binder from 22 Minutes, has landed on the gritty ABC drama Detroit 1-8-7. He’ll play a homicide cop alongside Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos). Montreal-born Caroline Dhavernas, who shone in the short-lived Wonderfalls, returns to U.S. TV in Off the Map, a new medical drama from Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy). Dhavernas plays a dedicated doctor treating patients in a South American rain forest.

Also originally from Montreal, Jennifer Finnigan (Close to Home) stars as one of the sisters in the new ABC Modern Family clone Better Together. Ottawa-native Sarah Chalke, who spent nine seasons on Scrubs, is part of the new CBS high school football midseason comedy Team Spitz.

Toronto-raised Nazneen Contractor literally jumped The Border to find U.S. TV work. She was killed off the CBC drama at the end of Season 2 but now says the move “really catapulted my career.” The Indian-born actress landed a full season role this year on 24 where, she says, she was “surrounded by Canadians and palm trees.”

Now she has a part on a new Curb Your Enthusiasm-like NBC comedy from Mad About You star Paul Reiser.

The end of 24 on Monday after eight seasons was a big blow to Canadians looking for work in L.A. Besides star Kiefer Sutherland, that series featured two dozen Canadian actors over the years. Many were imported through director/executive producer Jon Cassar, who grew up in the Ottawa area and worked in Toronto with 24 co-creator Joel Surnow on La Femme Nikita.

This season, another Canadian director and executive producer, Brad Turner, kept the Canadian connection alive with the likes of Contractor and others.

Other Canadians looking for work now that their series are no more are Vancouver’s Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place), Dartmouth, N.S., native James Tupper (Mercy), Fort Saskatchewan girl Evangeline Lilly (Lost), Kitchener, Ont.’s Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case) and Tyler Labine, who starred in the spring Fox tryout Sons of Tucson.

Brampton native Labine, who seems to show up every spring in Hollywood, may not have far to look for more work. Word is he steals every scene he’s in Mad Love, a possible midseason comedy at CBS.

Other Canadian actors might find work by crossing back across the border but, with networks here complaining about “broken business models,” that seems less likely than ever to happen.

CBC presents its new schedule on Thursday in Toronto, with a couple of new shows being added to the schedule (including the Paul Gross-produced comedy Men With Brooms). Global and Rogers (which owns Citytv) present their new wares to advertisers next Tuesday and CTV follows on Wednesday.

Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton.

Smallville TV Series Winding Down

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman
 
(May 19, 2010) Vancouver - B.C.’s role standing in for
Smallville, Kansas and Metropolis on the long-running television series Smallville is about to come to an end. The series will wrap after one more season.

“I can confirm that the 2010-2011 season will feature the tenth and final season of Smallville,” the CWNetwork’s vice-president, publicity, Paul McGuire told the Globe and Mail on Wednesday. The final season will feature 22 episodes.

The series, which airs on the CW network, offers a modern twist on the Superman concept, featuring Clark Kent (Tom Welling) struggling with villains – and his own identity. It’s shot at a Burnaby studio and on location in various spots around the province, including Cloverdale. It’s been in production since 2001.

The other shoe had to drop some time. — Paul Klassen, IATSE Local 891

“It is a loss,” said B.C. film commissioner Susan Croome. “Ten years is a terrifically long time for a TV series. It’s an outstanding show that has employed many people in the province, and helped to build our expertise and reputation as a production centre.”

Paul Klassen, business representative for IATSE Local 891, which represents close to 200 people who work on the show, said the announcement was not unexpected.

“We had certainly heard that the seventh season might be their last season, as well as the eighth and the ninth, so the other shoe had to drop some time,” he said.

“It was a fantastic run,” Klassen added. “Ten seasons in this kind of climate is almost unheard of, and we were lucky enough to have such a successful show in Vancouver.”

Klassen said Welling confirmed that his new show, Hellcats, has been picked up by CW. The presentation piece (a sort of pilot that doesn’t go to air) was shot in Vancouver, and Klassen says that bodes well for the series being shot in Vancouver as well.
 

Al Jazeera — The World Through A New Lens

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(May 23, 2010) Whose world is it? The Qatari all-news network
Al Jazeera finally made its debut on Canadian TV May 4. Three weeks later, the world is a different place.

In the couple of weeks since its introduction on Canadian cable and satellite rosters, the English-language network of the Qatar-based world news service, Al Jazeera (it means “the peninsula,” as in “Arabian Peninsula”), has had ample time to demonstrate just what makes it different from any other network news North Americans are used to watching, and why it has changed the template, style and methods of what we think of as traditional television news coverage.

The most obvious difference is perspective. Viewers inured to the skewed world view created, out of necessity and with compelling logic, by a business dedicated, long before television, to serving its immediate audience first — local news dominates, followed by regional news, then national news, with overseas news relegated to the outer regions of a faux map — will be stunned, even if they’re prepared for the optics shift, by the dramatic effects of seeing events from all over the world unfold through the eyes of observers for whom the traditional template, with its Western biases and emphasis on money markets, celebrity, power and social well-being, means little or nothing at all.

Sure, Al Jazeera reports world financial news, and it has its share of celebrities. But the business news lede is not the relative value of the American dollar or the state of the first-world’s economies, and its celebrity interview subjects, conducted by dizzyingly busy news mediator and chat show host Riz Khan, one of Al Jazeera’s key operatives, are more along the lines of Indian poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, veteran Cuban jazz singer Omara Portuondo and, yes, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, than with the stars of the latest Hollywood blockbusters or American pop music chart toppers.

The world Al Jazeera sees is clearly not the world North Americans see every night on the preferred networks or all day every day on CNN, CBCNN or the CTV News Channel. And maybe the Qatar-based service’s focus on stories from that vast and under-reported other world — stories about people and nations the West considers disenfranchised, economically handicapped, politically unstable and downright unfriendly — is the reason it took so long to be picked up by Canada’s cable and satellite companies, and why it’s still not being offered by U.S. carriers.

It’s worth noting that the CRTC cleared the Arab-language network for non-basic, discretionary carriage here some six years ago, but it was ignored by signal carriers, unlike dozens of other high-priced specialty channels targeting non-English-speaking communities across the country. The English network, whose North American expansion is now in the hands of Al Jazeera’s managing director, Canadian Tony Burman, an award-winning CBC news veteran, has been up and running since 2006.

Al Jazeera, with its transparently partisan tilt toward dramatic, often grim coverage of events in the Middle East, and a consistent bias favouring stories about opponents of Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in that region, also reports on the state of nations only scantily represented on most Western news services, BBC World aside.

A random sampling in the past two weeks yielded, as the network’s priorities:

stories about the looming, now accomplished, Turkey-Brazil-Iran nuclear swap deal;

reports on the black-market domination in Haiti of donated survival materials (food, tents, clothing, tarpaulins, water) supposedly distributed free under U.N. directives;

vivid reports of nightly news coverage of real-life drug wars in Mexico that have killed off one of that country’s most popular cultural staples — reality TV shows about good-hearted, Robin Hood-like drug barons paid for by the cartels’ own bosses;

accounts of the Thai government’s crackdown on the “red-shirt” protesters in Bangkok, days before it was of interest elsewhere;

a clearly tongue-in-cheek story about thousands of taxpayer-supported ultra-orthodox Jewish men who are paid not to work, but to study the Torah, and the effects on their welfare of looming government cutbacks;

a report from India on the disappearance of a large, centuries-old section of the lower working class — manual clothes washers — attributed to the rising wealth of the middle class and the sudden availability of affordable home appliances;

reports on a fire in the Philippines that left 4,000 homeless, and on strikes in Greece and Spain over tax hikes and austerity measures;

and stories every hour from the Gulf Coast about the BP oil spill, rendered with healthy scepticism about the U.S. government’s and oil company assessments of the severity of the catastrophe.

What’s striking is not that you won’t necessarily see some of these items on the rosters of North American news programs, but the genuine importance Al Jazeera gives them. If there’s an underlying political, moral or ideological bias — and, let’s face it, all news operations have those — this new and truly revolutionary network makes little effort to hide them.

That’s maybe what makes the loud protests from veteran American TV newsman David Marash — he quit Al Jazeera’s English anchor job in 2008 after two years over what he called a lack of objectivity regarding the network’s underdeveloped coverage of flaws in the U.S. economic system — seem so hollow now. It’s apparent within 30 minutes that Al Jazeera is addressing a largely complacent and spoon-fed English-speaking audience on issues that affect the majority of the world’s population.

Mistakes are abundant. Despite attempts to English-up the appearance of the network, with big-set desks in Washington and London – there are also bureaus in Russia, India and Africa — and the presence English speaking reporters in the field all over the world — key home-issue programs such as Inside Iraq, a never-ending screaming match between host Jasim Azawi and his weekly guest panellists over arcane political and ideological issues that are never properly explained, are disorientating, to say the least.

But they do serve to remind us — the too easily comforted, the safe, the well-heeled, the well protected and well educated — that it isn’t our world any more, if it ever was.

Al Jazeera has opened a window on another world, maybe the real world. It’s something we need, a breath of fresh air.

TV TIDBITS

MTV Picking Up 'Teen Wolf'

Source:
www.hollywoodreporter.com

(May 19, 2010) MTV is set to grant a series order to "
Teen Wolf." Based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, the MTV series stars Tyler Posey (ABC Family's "Lincoln Heights") as a high school student who gets superpowers, including the ability to woo girls, after a wolf attack.  The move has the network betting that after a couple hit vampire shows (HBO's "True Blood," The CW's "Vampire Diaries"), and, naturally, "Twilight," supernatural TV fans might be primed for a more furry hero. "Teen Wolf" joins another MTV project, a domestic version of the UK hit "Skins," that recently received a series order at the network. "Teen Wolf" is created by Jeff Davis ("Criminal Minds") and executive produced by Davis, Marty Adelstein and Rene Echevarria. Russell Mulcahy directed the pilot.

Jane Lynch To Help Honour Activists

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(May 25, 2010) New York — Jane Lynch of Glee will cheer on exceptional young activists as part of VH1's “Do Something Awards.”  Lynch plays a surly cheerleading coach on the hit musical show on Fox. She will host the July 19 event being held in Los Angeles and airing live on VH1.  The show honours people 25 and younger who are trying to better their community. Five have already been granted $10,000 from DoSomething.org. One will win a $100,000 grant at the event.  The awards show also will recognize celebrities and organizations that are trying to make a difference.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Evita, Woman Of The Hour

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 23, 2010) Don’t cry for her, Argentina.

After all, how many second-rate actresses wind up having their lives immortalized in song at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival? That’s where
Evita starts previews at the Avon Theatre on Friday

The greatest thing that ever happened to Eva Peron was the fact that Tim Rice happened by chance to hear a BBC radio documentary on her life and thought “That would make a great musical!”

And having just written Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, he certainly knew how a certain kind of celebrity would translate into theatrical success.

“I just knew she would be fascinating to write about,” says Rice on the phone from London. “No two people had the same opinion of her. She was either a saint or a slut. She achieved a great deal and shook the country up.

“She was a real glamour queen who brought Argentina to the front of the world’s consciousness. It’s also a Cinderella story about a girl who went from pretty low down to pretty high up and everyone loves to follow that kind of trajectory.”

Evita came along at a fascinating point in the careers of Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. After their first biblical hits had made them world-famous, Lloyd Webber decided he wanted to make a musical out of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories. Rice disagreed and Lloyd Webber went on to write it with playwright Alan Ayckbourn.

After Jeeves proved to be one of the major theatrical disasters of the 1970s, Lloyd Webber returned to Rice with his tail between his legs and agreed to write the story of Madame Peron. It would prove to be the last musical the team would write together, and many people still feel it’s their best work.

Gary Griffin, the director of this year’s Stratford production, finds it “an absolutely fascinating piece on so many levels. There’s an almost Shakespearean depth in the way Rice brings her character onto the stage with all of her strengths and weaknesses intact.”

Rice admits that his initial fascination with Peron led him into a depth of exploration that he hadn’t initially anticipated. “When I wrote the piece, we weren’t really aware of that many prominent women in politics. Eva was something new. She was working class, she was fighting against heavy odds, she had to be pretty brutal to succeed.”

But soon after their musical conquered the world, Rice watched in amazement as a whole series of strong-willed women made their presence felt.

“There was Margaret Thatcher, of course, although she shares none of Eva’s sexuality,” laughs Rice. “She was basically a good person, I feel, but she had to be tough and ruthless to get where she did.

“Some people also have compared Eva to Imelda Marcos, but she didn’t come from such a grotty background as Eva and she didn’t really accomplish anything, as far as I can tell, except for an amazing collection of shoes.”

Rice also allows for “the amazing concentration of female leaders in the Indian subcontinent, like Gandhi and Bhutto, but they came from a more distinctly political background than Peron.”

When Rice turns to America, however, his comments have a slightly more acidic edge to them.

“You have to understand that for a woman to take over power she has to have a lot of male characteristics which aren’t necessarily nice cones. Being a politician is not a nice profession.

“Hillary Clinton got where she did initially because she was married to a very powerful man. That put her in the frame and she then certainly knew how to exploit her advantage. Sarah Palin? Well, people love to mock her, but she did get to be the governor of Alaska on merit. Let’s see where she goes next.”

Whereas Rice admits that he has always been fascinated by “the politics of celebrity and the celebrity of politics,” he candidly admits that he had no such agenda in mind when he wrote these initial musicals about Joseph, Jesus and Evita.

“Andrew and I were just telling stories,” he insists. “We weren’t trying to make any major points, we just wanted to look at Jesus Christ or Eva Peron and see what kind of people they were.”

Griffin, the director of the Stratford production, is also intrigued by Rice’s decision to have the story narrated by Che Guevara.

“That’s what gives the piece a lot of its inner tension,” Griffin maintains. “The left-wing anarchist telling us the story of the right-wing martinet.”

Rice himself admits that “I was pretty chuffed when I discovered that Che was an Argentine and a young man when Eva was in power.

“I was originally going to make the narrator Eva’s hairdresser, but it acquired so much more power when I realized it could be Guevara.

“Some people claim he became a Communist because he failed totally at business but I like to think it was something more ideological than that.”

One of the other fascinating political issues in Evita is the role of her husband, the military dictator Juan Peron. Was he a gullible dupe, or did he and his wife form the perfect symbiotic dictatorial relationship?

“I don’t think he was a well-meaning man at all,” says Rice. “He was an ambitious army officer who got caught up in politics. He was frankly after power. His methods were not at all admirable. I’m not a fan of his at all, particularly. He wasn’t a good man.”

When asked to weigh in on the moral values of Eva and her mate, Rice is surprisingly cold-blooded.

“I would tend to be more on her side than his. But I wouldn’t hold either of them up as an ideal leader. Yes, she got to the top, she achieved an awful lot of what she aimed to do, but her and Peron didn’t run he country well … they made enemies of everyone who could have helped them.”

Rice enjoys the fact that his portrait of Eva can still generate such contradictory feelings after so many years, but what he finds even more flattering is when his political ideas are echoed in the press.

When President Obama was recently trying to struggle to get his health plan through a hostile congress, one American broadcaster borrowed from the political machinations of Evita to express the situation.

“Dice are rolling. The knives are out,” was the lyric they quoted.

“Absolutely perfect,” said Rice. “Poor Barack!”

Expect The Unexpected At Shaw Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 21, 2010) Ever since Jackie Maxwell has been Artistic Director of the
Shaw Festival, one thing has been clear: expect surprises.

Although the Festival, by its nature, has to operate within a fairly circumscribed artistic framework, Maxwell has seen to it that every year brings its own changes, much like Coco Chanel was able to find a myriad of variations on that basic black dress of hers.

This season is no exception.

The opening week brings us no plays by George Bernard Shaw, one by Oscar Wilde, a Chekhov classic staged by a renegade Irish director, two vintage American comedies and a long-forgotten Broadway musical.

There’s Shaw later on, although not the predictable kind, as well as a recent Canadian work and a stimulating contemporary script by a world-class author.

In other words, something for everyone, but nothing that anyone would expect.

The curtain on the season goes up next Wednesday night with the flagship production. This year, it’s Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, which — while not as famous as some of his other works — is one with a lot to say to us today. Its major concern is what a personal scandal will do to the professional life of a politician and if you don’t think that doesn’t ring a few bells, then your name isn’t Adam Giambrone.

Maxwell is directing this one herself, with a cast headed by Steven Sutcliffe and it’s bound to be an interesting evening.

The next night brings Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, directed by the Irish iconoclast, Jason Byrne. His work in Toronto has included the critically praised production of A Whistle in the Dark and the controversial staging of Festen. How will this take-no-prisoners stager interact with a Chekhov classic and the Shaw’s resident company? At the very least, it will be fascinating to see.

Shaw’s relationship with the musical has changed over the years. From being an antiquated bonbon revived for camp purposes, it’s become a platform for seeing some of the more interesting contemporary works, like Floyd Collins or Sunday in the Park With George.

Yes there have been backpedals to entertainments like High Society and Wonderful Town, but this year is a pleasant mixture of both.

One Touch of Venus was a hit when first staged in 1943, but has seldom been revived. Its score by Kurt Weill (lyrics by Ogden Nash) is wonderfully sophisticated, with the haunting “Speak Low” having long since made its way into the standard repertoire.

But the book by S.J. Perelman, about a statue of Venus that comes to life in 1940s Manhattan and causes great havoc, is also a dryly witty affair and if ever a show seemed ripe for revival, it’s this one. Let’s see what director Eda Holmes and her company find in it.

Saturday of opening week brings a double-barrelled portion of American comedy, from the 1930s and 40s. Mary Chase’s Harvey was once wildly popular, with its portrait of a sweet alcoholic whose blissful view of the world is incomprehensible to everyone around him, except for the imaginary rabbit he sees who gives the play its title.

In a world where rehab is the stuff of daily headlines and we now realize that alcoholism isn’t an amusing foible but a deadly disease, will this vintage comedy still seem as funny or relevant? Time — and this production by Joseph Ziegler — will tell.

And opening week ends on Saturday night with The Women, Clare Booth Luce’s anticipation of Sex and the City. A whole gaggle of wealthy, well-dressed, shallow Manhattan women set about to destroy each other and leave no marriage standing. Despite a recent disastrous film remake, this is still a work with sharp nails, sharper teeth and enough wit to leave anyone chuckling.

So there you have it. There’s a lot more to come later in the season, but an opening week is a good way to check out what a festival has in store. The beginning of Shaw 2010 certainly looks good on paper, but we’ll know in a week if what’s on the stage lives up to what’s on the page.

SHAW SEASON AT A GLANCE

AN IDEAL HUSBAND

By Oscar Wilde

Festival Theatre until Oct. 31

Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell directs and Steven Sutcliffe heads up a cast made up of the Festival’s A-team actors. Wilde’s epigrammatic wit is put to good purpose here in this tale of a politician whose present career is about to ruined by past scandal. Did I hear somebody say Helena Guergis?

THE CHERRY ORCHARD

By Anton Chekhov

Court House Theatre until Oct. 2

One of the world’s greatest plays, this study of human folly, fleeting idealism and the passing of time is always worth seeing. With rule-breaking Irish director Jason Byrne in charge, the need-to-see rating goes up even higher. Benedict Campbell as Lophakin and Jim Mezon as Gayev make this required viewing.

ONE TOUCH OF VENUS

By S.J. Perelman, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash.

Royal George Theatre until Oct. 10

This is one of the great musicals of the 1940s, but it’s languished sadly unrevived on this continent. Shaw has seen fit to put an end to that and Eda Holmes is in charge of bringing to life again this fantasy about a goddess let loose in Manhattan. If I were you, I’d travel down to Niagara-on-the-Lake just to hear Kurt Weill’s haunting “Speak Low”.

HARVEY

By Mary Chase

Royal George Theatre until Oct. 31

Elwood Dowd is an alcoholic whose best friend is an invisible rabbit named Harvey. It was great whimsical fun when written 66 years ago, but do we feel the same way about substance abuse now? Director Joseph Ziegler will undoubtedly find a way to make this fractured fairy tale become whole again.

THE WOMEN

By Clare Boothe Luce

Festival Theatre until Oct. 9

Well, we know that William Schmuck’s costumes for this all-female 1930s marathon cat fight are bound to be sublime, but how will we feel about the play itself? Director Alisa Palmer will be in charge of finding hidden resonances. But asking a cast of festival actresses to play backstabbing bitches is hardly what one would call a stretch.

THE DOCTOR’S DILEMMA

By Bernard Shaw

Festival Theatre, June 10 through Oct. 30.

One of Shaw’s most relevant plays, this look at the power to kill or cure possessed by the medical profession is always worth seeing again. When the inventive team of Morris Panych (director) and Ken MacDonald (designer) are in charge of the proceedings, one knows that it will certainly not be boring.

JOHN BULL’S OTHER ISLAND

By Bernard Shaw

Court House Theatre, June 18 through October 9

Yes, this is one of Shaw’s talkier plays (which is like saying it’s one of Amy Winehouse’s naughtier weekends), but the Festival’s Artistic Director Emeritus, Christopher Newton, is in charge and he can be counted on to make this debate about England vs. Ireland positively shimmer.

HALF AN HOUR

By J.M. Barrie

Royal George Theatre, June 26 through Oct. 9

This year’s lunchtime offering is a piece of Barrie whimsy with a decided edge to it, about choices we make in life and how they effect us. Gina Wilkinson, who made a smashing Shaw debut last year directing Born Yesterday, is in charge of the piece and the intriguing Diana Donnelly is playing the lead. Bring your sandwich and enjoy.

AGE OF AROUSAL

By Linda Griffiths

Court House Theatre, July 23 through Oct. 10

Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths brought her look at fin de siècle feminism to the Toronto stage only three years ago, but Jackie Maxwell thought it worthy of a fairly rapid revival. She’s also directing it herself, which means that she’s doubly sure of her decision.

SERIOUS MONEY

By Caryl Churchill

Studio Theatre, July 31 through September 12

The wildly prophetic Churchill takes a look at the testosterone-fuelled stock market scene of London in the 1980s and allows us to look at a world of greed unmatched in modern times. The recent financial upheavals around the world prove that Churchill’s view was prescient and a new production of this script is incredibly timely.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

So, Was iPad Worth The Iwait?

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(May 26, 2010)  Between its much-hyped January unveiling to record U.S. sales announced last month (a million units in just 28 days), one question is on many a Canadian gadget lover’s mind: Is the iPad really worth it?

If you’ve got the cash (from $549), and understand what the iPad is and isn’t, the answer is a resounding yes. After putting this 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet through its paces for one month — at home and on the road — I can confirm the gadget most definitely lives up to the hype.

A perfect 10? Nope, but pretty darn close.

Think of the iPad as a giant iPhone, ideal for reading downloaded electronic books (e-books) and digital newspapers, surfing the web, reading email, flicking through photos, watching videos and playing games — all via your fingertips instead of with a keyboard and mouse. More accurately, perhaps, the iPad is like an oversized iPod touch, as it doesn’t have a camera or the ability to make phone calls.

Sure, other manufacturers have launched WiFi-enabled tablets in the past but they, more often than not, have proven bulky, slow and limited in software. The iPad, on the other hand, is svelte at less than a kilogram, powered by a 1 GHz processor and right out of the box works well with most of the 200,000 applications (“apps”) already available at Apple’s popular App Store (part of iTunes).

The iPad also works perfectly with existing iTunes media, such as music, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, podcasts and lectures via iTunes U. Sync the iPad to your PC or Mac for the first time and all of your digital media is immediately copied over to the device (or pick and choose what you want to take with you).

This, my friends, is the pièce de résistance. The fact the iPad already plugs into a well-supported ecosystem, including apps and media you’ve already invested in, is one of its greatest strengths.

Oh, and then there’s its stunning screen. Friends who concede they just don’t “get it” change their mind pretty quickly after gawking at (and touching) the high-resolution display. Reading a colourful comic book and want to see how the epic battle plays out? Flick the “page” to glide to the next frame. Flipping through a best-selling novel and don’t understand a specific word? Double tap it for a definition. Getting caught up on news with a downloaded newspaper? Tap the refresh button for breaking stories, photos and videos.

On that note, I thought the backlit and glossy screen might not be as conducive to extended reading compared to the glare-free “e-ink” displays found on many dedicated e-book readers, but it did not prove to be an issue at all.

If you need to get some work done, a handful of iWork apps turn the iPad into a word processor, spreadsheet maker and presentation creator ($9.99 apiece) — ideal for businesses and students alike. The virtual (onscreen) keyboard is much easier to type on compared to the smaller iPod touch or iPhone, plus purists can always pick up an optional $79 docking station connected to a physical QWERTY keyboard when in one place for a while.

A nearly 12-hour battery doesn’t hurt either. The iPad was a welcome companion on a trip from Toronto to Vancouver to Los Angeles, with plenty to play, watch, read and listen to between all those flights and cab rides. On a related note, I wasn’t able to charge up the iPad through a powered USB 2.0 port on my PC (though Apple says it’s possible); therefore I had to plug it into an electrical outlet instead.

There are some other issues with the iPad, too. You’ve probably heard the Safari browser doesn’t support Flash, so there are some limitations on which websites you can visit and what online media can play. There is no slot for a memory card, so you can’t expand the storage beyond what you commit to at purchase (16GB, 32GB or 64GB). The iPad lacks a webcam for video chats. And you can’t multitask like you can on a laptop, though this feature will be added in a software upgrade slated for this summer.

In other words, the iPad isn’t a true computer replacement for most folks as it’s missing some of the functionality — but its touchscreen interface, lightweight design and 12-hour battery means you might reach for this device instead of your computer for many tasks (would you read a book on your laptop?). And the iPad isn’t a smartphone alternative either, as it doesn’t fit in your pocket or make calls, though there is 3G wireless available on some models, from $679, which lets you get online using cellular connectivity.

Shortcomings notwithstanding, the first-generation iPad does prove to be a “magical” device, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs promises. Sceptics should, at the very least, lay their hands on one before passing judgment on the most talked-about tech toy of 2010.

::COMEDY NEWS::

Tina Fey To Be Honoured With Top Humour Prize

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(May 25, 2010) Washington — The woman known for her impression of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live will win the United States’ top humour prize this year from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Tina Fey joins the ranks of Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and others who have won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the centre announced Tuesday. Fey will be the youngest honouree, having just turned 40.

“I am truly thrilled to receive this honour,” Fey said in a written statement. “I assume Betty White was disqualified for steroid use.”

Fey returned to SNL earlier this month when the 88-year-old White drew rave reviews as host of the sketch comedy show.

Some of the biggest names in comedy will honour Fey when the prize is awarded Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. The show will be taped for television broadcast later.

Fey got her start with Chicago's The Second City improv group and became the first woman to be head writer on SNL during nine seasons as a cast member and co-anchor of “Weekend Update.”

Those years set her apart and changed the show, said Mark Krantz, an executive producer of the Mark Twain prize.

“It's that job as a head writer on a show that's been a traditionally male-oriented show,” he said, adding that Fey's work “kind of broke the ceiling for many, many women in comedy, let alone that particular show.”

She created NBC's Emmy-winning comedy series 30 Rock, in which she stars with Alec Baldwin. Fey also has made several hit movies, including her screenplay Mean Girls and the 2008 film Baby Mama with her SNL buddy Amy Poehler. Her film Date Night, with Steve Carell, is playing in theatres.

Fey is currently working on her first book, a humorous memoir due out next year. She lives in New York with her husband, Jeff Richmond, and their daughter.

This isn't the first recognition of her work. Fey was voted The Associated Press' Entertainer of the Year in 2008 by newspaper editors and broadcasters across the country after her Palin impression during the presidential campaign. Palin, of course, was the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

She has more Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards than she can hold in two arms. And she's been one of People magazine's “Most Beautiful People” not once but four times.

“She's politically conscious, she's a writer, she's a filmmaker, she's a producer, she's a performer,” Krantz said. “Her body of work is as inclusive and far-reaching as anyone else's, and she's just funny.”

It's too soon to know who will perform in Fey's honour. The producers will likely invite many familiar faces, including people Fey has worked with, those who influenced her work and those she has influenced.

The prize honours people who have made an impact on society similar to Twain, a satirist, commentator and storyteller. This is the 13th year it's been awarded.

The Kennedy Center board chooses the winner with recommendations from former Twain honourees, the show's producers and others.

Last year, the Kennedy Center honoured Cosby. Past honourees have included the late George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg and SNL creator Lorne Michaels.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Ex-CFL Commish Wright To Head UFC’S ‘Full Court Press’ In Ontario

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(May 25, 2010)  Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White likens the struggle to legalize mixed martial arts in Ontario to a basketball game and says the hiring of former CFL commissioner Tom Wright provides a boost of energy and a shift of strategy for the UFC’s cause.

Wright, who ran the CFL from 2002 to 2006, takes over as the UFC’s director of Canadian operations on Monday, the first and most significant employee of a Canadian office the UFC expects to expand to 15 people.

Establishing an office in Toronto gives the UFC a permanent presence in Canada, the country that, according to UFC officials, generates 17 per cent of the company’s revenue. And hiring Wright signifies that the UFC plans to crank up the pressure on provincial officials in charge of regulating combat sports.

“We’re going to have the full-court press going now,” White said at a Tuesday news conference to announce Wright’s hiring. “It shows how serious we are (about legalizing mixed martial arts in Ontario) and that we’re taking real initiative.”

Mixed martial arts, the almost-no-holds-barred form of fighting that the UFC has made wildly popular, is becoming legal in a growing number of states and provinces but still isn’t regulated in Ontario.

Wright’s arrival is also a strong signal of the continued mainstreaming of mixed martial arts, and an important boost for a sport still striving for legal recognition in Ontario.

Four years ago the UFC made a similar move in the U.S. when it hired Nevada Athletic Commission director Marc Ratner and then put him in charge of legalizing mixed martial arts in athletic commissions across the continent.

Since then major U.S. jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts, have altered state regulations to permit mixed martial arts. On June 12, Vancouver will play host to UFC 115, the first pro mixed martial arts event ever in that province.

But hosting a pro mixed martial arts card in Ontario still is a criminal offence.

Section 83 of the Criminal Code outlaws unsanctioned prize fights, but allows provinces to decide which types of prize fights to sanction. Five provinces, including Quebec and B.C., allow mixed martial events, but Ontario still doesn’t sanction the sport.

The UFC has been lobbying the Ontario government to change the laws governing combat sports but Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters in March at Queen’s Park that changing the legal status of mixed martial arts was “not a priority” for the government.

Rookie Kick Returner Steven Turner Snags Dream Job With Argonauts

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 21, 2010)
Steven Turner has realized a childhood dream.

The speedy kick returner signed with the Toronto Argonauts on Friday after being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 CFL college draft. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Turner grew up a diehard Argos fan in Brampton and dreamed of one day donning the Double Blue.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” Turner said. “It’s a dream come true to get to play for your hometown team. Growing up I always wanted to be with the Argos, so this is a really good opportunity.”

Turner made headlines in March at the CFL evaluation camp when he ran a blistering 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds, shattering the mark of 4.39 set last year by former Bishop’s Gaiters star Jamall Lee. He also posted a vertical leap of 43.5 inches, finishing just a half-inch shy of Lee’s record of 44 inches. And Turner’s time of 4.03 seconds was tops in the shuttle.

Turner, who also played at Bishop’s, was a special teams dynamo last year. He was Canadian university football’s top punt returner, averaging a stellar 20.4 yards while taking two back for touchdowns. Turner also had 11 receptions for 207 yards and one TD. He finished with 2,379 career all-purpose yards at Bishop’s including 37 catches for 516 yards.

After being drafted by Toronto, Turner attended a mini-camp with the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

He will certainly fill a need in Toronto, which is looking for a kick returner with the off-season departure of veteran Dominique Dorsey. But the 23-year-old isn’t taking anything for granted: “I’m going to . . . go out and work hard and see what happens.”

Retiring TFC Draft Choice ‘Just Happy That I Am Alive’

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(May 21, 2010) Teenager
Zac Herold, Toronto FC’s top draft pick just four months ago, will walk down the players’ tunnel and onto the pitch at BMO Field Saturday, where he is sure to be greeted by cheers from a singing, flag-waving sell-out home crowd for the first time.

It will also be for the last time.

Herold, a 17-year-old American defender, abruptly announced his retirement this week, before ever playing a game in Major League Soccer, after he was discovered to have a heart condition which, under strenuous exercise, could prove fatal.

“At first when I was told I can’t play anymore, I was devastated. I cried,” Herold said in a conference call from his Florida home on the eve of being honoured by TFC at a special ceremony just prior to kickoff against the New England Revolution.

But the former member of the United States Under-14, U-15 and U-17 national teams said since the discovery of the condition during pre-season electrocardiogram screening in Toronto he’s “learned to cope” with the news and put things into perspective.

“I’m just happy that I am alive and I do have my entire life ahead of me,” Herold said. “Now, I can be great at something else.”

Herold, who was selected in the second round, 24th overall, in January’s MLS draft, was found to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM. A genetic condition, it causes an abnormal thickening of a part of the heart muscle, which can lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia.

The only way to reduce the risk of the condition, which is found in about one of every 500 people in the general population, is a life-long restriction on exercise.

“I could be dead at any point if I continue to play,” said Herold, adding that he can continue to work out as long as his heart rate stays below 130 beats per minute.

Among the athletes who have died of HCM are Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics in 1993, Cameroon soccer star Marc-Vivien Foe in 2003 and Mickey Renaud of the Windsor Spitfires and former New York Rangers and Russian Kontinental Hockey League star Alexei Cherapanov, both in 2008.

Herold’s mom, Beth Inniss, said it was “very scary” to be in Florida and get the initial word of Zac’s diagnosis and know that he was in Toronto “dealing with this on his own.” Even though TFC flew her and Zac’s dad, Wayne, up within 12 hours, it was emotional.

“He texted me from Toronto and said: ‘Is this it mom? Am I going to die?’” Inniss told reporters. “That was very hard for me because I was down in Florida . . . and I couldn’t put my arms around him and explain everything to him right then.”

After the initial diagnosis, Herold was tested by other cardiologists in both Canada and the U.S. to confirm the condition and conclude retirement was the only option.

“Yes, he did dodge a bullet but he’s here,” said Beth Inniss. “I don’t want to think about what could have happened.”

Herold’s agent, Richard Motzkin, who lauded TFC for its “fantastic” treatment of Herold and his family, said the young man’s post-secondary education will be taken care of by the team, MLS and its Generation Adidas program for top-flight young players.

Herold, who lists his potential career options as a soccer coach or player agent, and perhaps even a cardiologist, said while he’s thankful to have had his condition detected, he’s frustrated that others playing at a high level “fly under the radar” with the condition.

“We see professional athletes die every year from it and I just don’t believe that should be the case,” said Herold, calling for more widespread testing earlier in careers.

“When the doctors told me everyone was shocked at first,” he said. “I’ve been playing at the highest level as long as I can remember and I’ve had no symptoms.”

In 2008, MLS implemented the testing policy that detected Herold’s condition. That initiative was in response to a FIFA program that followed the death of Foe and others.

Herold and his mom admitted they’re nervous about the emotions of this weekend.

“I’ve yet to be up to Toronto since pre-season,” he said. “I think the atmosphere and just being at a professional soccer game, at the team I was supposed to be playing for, could be a lot to deal with.”

But given the way he’s dealt with the medical news, few doubt he’ll be able to handle it.

“This is a positive. I am alive,” Herold said. “And, me being alive is greater than anything else.”

Roger Federer Slinging In The Rain At French Open

Source: www.thestar.com - Steven Wine

(May 26, 2010) PARIS - Roger Federer sat under a courtside umbrella and looked up at the grey sky as rain fell.

Tennis, anyone? With drizzle continuing after a one-hour delay, Federer rose from his chair, removed his warm-up jacket and went back to work.

A change in the weather Wednesday at the French Open barely slowed Federer, who eliminated Alejandro Falla 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4. The No. 1-ranked Federer calmly endured two weather delays to reach the third round.

“This is how this game has been played for decades,” he said. “We’re used to walking on and off the court and being flexible about these kind of things.”

After three days of warm sunshine, conditions were damp and cool for the start of round two. There was a third delay of 90 minutes after Federer finished.

Before the rain, No. 2-seeded Venus Williams used her big serve to beat Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-4. Williams whiffed on a forehand and was often bested in long rallies, but serves at up to 128 mph kept her in control, and she was never broken.

“On the bigger points, especially on my serve, I thought I played those really well,” Williams said. “I think that was key.”

Williams improved to 14-2 on clay in 2010. She’s seeded second behind her younger sister Serena, who scouted while sitting next to their father. The sisters could meet in the final.

Federer lost serve just once against Falla, at 5-all in the opening set, then broke back and hit four winners in the tiebreaker.

“I thought the first set was good, actually, from both sides,” Federer said. “He really pushed me to come up with something special, which I couldn’t do in the first set, really. I definitely got a little bit lucky to get out of that one.”

From there only rain could slow Federer. The match was stopped for 15 minutes in the second set, and again for an hour in the third before play resumed in a drizzle.

He tweaked his game as an adjustment to the weather.

“The texture of the clay changes drastically when there’s no sun,” he said. “Conditions slow down a lot. ... There are advantages and disadvantages, and you’ve got to use them if you can.”

Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam when he won at Roland Garros last year, is seeking his 17th major title.

No. 5-seeded Robin Soderling won 20 of the first 22 points and went on to beat unseeded American Taylor Dent 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Soderling, who upset Rafael Nadal last year and then lost to Federer in the final, has dropped only seven games through two matches.

Other men’s winners included No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic and No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny.

In other women’s play, No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova rallied past American Varvara Lepchenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. Cibulkova, a semi-finalist last year, faces Williams next.

“I’ll continue to try to execute my game and not worry really a ton about what my opponent is doing,” Williams said.

Two-time semi-finalist Nadia Petrova, seeded 19th, beat Agnes Szavay 6-1, 6-2. No. 14 Flavia Pennetta defeated Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-1.

For the day’s opening match on centre court, Williams again wore her lacy corset despite the change in the weather, with temperatures in the 60s. At her postmatch news conference, there were seven questions about her outfit.

“Lace has never been done before in tennis, and I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time,” she said. “The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful.”

Williams sent her flounce flying when she served. She went to deuce six times in her first service game before holding, then pulled away to take the set.

In the second set, both players held until the seventh game. Williams drew Parra Santonja into a moonball rally, then sprinted forward to slam a winner. That gave Williams a 4-3 lead, and she served out the victory, her 28th in 32 matches this year.

In 13 previous French Open appearances, Williams reached the semi-finals only once — in 2002, when she lost to Serena in the final. But at 29 she’s enjoying a career resurgence, and her record this year is the best on the women’s tour.

Dent, a 12th-year pro, won at Roland Garros for the first time in the opening round, but against Soderling his serve deserted him. The American double-faulted eight times and won only 11 points on his first serve.

“That was fun, huh?” Dent said. “I’d be a fool to say that I felt like I was in it at any stage. It would be tough for me to beat the 12-and-under French champion playing that way.”

Soderling remained on course for a Roland Garros rematch against Federer in the quarter-finals.

“I’m feeling good,” Soderling said. “I won two matches pretty easy in straight sets, and I didn’t have to run for many hours on court so far, so I feel fresh.”

Tsonga, France’s best title hope, defeated fellow Frenchman Josselin Ouanna 6-0, 6-1, 6-4. Cilic swept Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2, and Youzhny rallied past Lukas Lacko 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Yzerman New Lightning GM: Report

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(May 25, 2010)  Team Canada boss Steve Yzerman looks set to take over a slightly less talented squad, though he may enjoy the improved workplace weather forecast. Yzerman will be named the new general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported this morning. The report should be made official during a Florida press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. today. This ends Yzerman’s career-long affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings. The 45-year-old Cranbrook, B.C., native broke into the NHL in 1983. He spent the next 22 seasons with the Wings, captaining the team to three Stanley Cup victories. He retired in 2006, and joined the Red Wings executive staff. In 2009, he was named to the Hall of Fame. Yzerman replaces Tampa Bay’s outgoing GM Brian Lawton, who was fired last month. The Lightning finished the 2009-10 campaign with 34 wins, fifth-worst in the NHL.