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September 2, 2010

Welcome to September! Temperatures changing, kids back at school, sharpened pencils, leaves changing, film festival ... yup - all signs of Fall fast approaching. The GREAT news is that this is a loooong weekend. Please enjoy safely.

Now this week brings us one of the most special music videos I've seen in awhile -
Saidah Baba Talibah's, Place Called Grace. The video is directed by the mega-talented Sarah Michelle Brown and is so visually and musically appealing - think Idlewild meets Ella Fitzgerald but with full Canadian content!! Congratulations to the full team of contributors ... I couldn't wait to feature this video, which many of you have already seen.

Topping this week's news ... Did you see the BET special this week on women in hip hop? Really good and really took me back and they even mentioned
Eternia (Toronto's own!) in their list of upcoming and outstanding MCs. See article below under TOP STORIES. Will Smith gets on board with the fight against cancer and hopefully Hollywood can bring attention to finally beating this disease. Also up front is the results of this year's Emmys. Steve Harvey brings us an award for do-gooders ... from the famous to the average Joe, in the Hoodie Awards.

On the cusp of TIFF, I hope to have some exciting pictures for you this year. If you stay tuned to my PHOTO GALLERY, you can look for updates.


Saidah Baba Talibah’s “Place Called Grace” Makes US Debut As AOL Spinner Video of the Day

Source: Theresa Micallef, tenfourcommunications@yahoo.ca

TORONTO, ON – Following the world premiere of Toronto rock soul songstress Saidah Baba Talibah’sPlace Called Grace” video on Exclaim.ca, Saidah is excited to announce the official US premiere of “Place Called Grace” - the first video off her scintillating The Phone Demos EP - on AOL Spinner’s Video of the Day!

Today is also the official US release of the What’s Inside Her Head mixtape. Presented by DJ L’Oquenz and hosted by Saidah, the mixtape is a soulful, funky ride inside the head of Saidah Baba Talibah featuring tracks from Janelle Monae, Chaka Khan, Raphael Saadiq, N.E.R.D., Aloe Blacc and more, as well as two tracks from Saidah’s Phone Demos EP.

True to the essence of the song, the “Place Called Grace” video is set in a 1920’s speakeasy and emanates a raw and authentic feel, while using decidedly twenty-first century techniques that give the video its polished, classy look that is stripped down and gritty. The video features gorgeous, eye-catching costumes and clean and sexy choreography by Lisa Auguste (So You Think You Can Dance) and was directed by Canadian short film director Sarah Michelle Brown.

“Place Called Grace” video

"The Phone Demos were a beautiful accident. Donna Grantis (my guitarist) and I were trying to remember our ideas so decided to record them on a cellphone voice notes, and when we listened back and shared them with other people, they caught the essence of the raw emotion that we were trying to capture in the songs. The beauty of the video is that it captures the raw simplicity of the song and brings the feeling of era that the lo-fi sound capture from a cellphone," tells Saidah.

What is The Phone Demos? (in Saidah’s words)

The lo-fi, gritty, raw quality of the phone demos came about by accident while Saidah Baba Talibah was in a writing session. With no studio or tape recorder to record the songs created, the only device available to document the songs in progress was a cell phone. The reactions to the sound of the recordings were described as reminiscent of old blues recordings (eg. Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith). Inspired by countless reactions, releasing the phone demos is a way to include people in on an entire journey—starting with the raw beginnings of the songs --just voice, guitar and a cell phone.

With a solid foundation from her mother, Blues and Jazz singer & actress Salome Bey, and years singing back up for the likes of k-os, Maestro Fresh Wes, Johnny Reid and Jully Black and on Canadian Idol, Saidah is not only an incredibly talented singer, dancer and actress, who’s been described as Living Color-meets-Erykah Badu and has received nothing but high praise from the likes of NOW, AOL Spinner and Exclaim; she’s also following the cues of innovators like Radiohead and Public Enemy and has taken an unorthodox approach to funding her upcoming album S(cream) due out later this year, letting fans pre-invest in it via a campaign called Make Me Wanna S(cream), where fans are rewarded with anything from an autographed Saidah album to a raw vegan meal prepared by Saidah and a private dinner performance complete with burlesque dancers, depending on the level of investment. Find out more about Saidah's Make Me Wanna Scream "Choose Your Own Adventure" campaign here.



‘Stand Up to Cancer’ Adds Will Smith, Denzel Washington

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Al-Lateef Farmer

(September 1, 2010) *
Will Smith and Denzel Washington have been added to the line-up of the telethon “Stand Up to Cancer,” airing Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. across multiple networks.

George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Renee Zellweger will also appear on the fundraiser, which will be preceded by an online pre-show hosted by Cat Deeley of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Other additions to the line-up include: Elizabeth Banks, Kathy Bates, Emily Deschanel, Bill Hader, Dorothy Hamill, Anne Heche, Cheryl Hines, Rob Lowe, Marlee Matlin and Olivia Munn.

Musical guests include Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Neil Diamond, The Edge, Herbie Hancock, Kris Kristofferson, Lady Antebellum and Leona Lewis.

Stand Up to Cancer will be simulcast commercial-free on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Bio, Current TV, Discovery Health, E!, G4, HBO, HBO Latino, MLB Network, mun2, Showtime, Smithsonian Channel, The Style Network, TV One and VH1. Network news anchors Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams will host the event.

The broadcast will air in 195 countries, as well as on the Armed Forces Network.

SU2C co-founder Laura Ziskin, the broadcast’s executive producer and a cancer survivor herself, urged viewers in a statement “to see your favourite stars, who’ll ask, ‘Will you stand up with us?’Person by person, saying ‘yes’ moves us toward a goal completely within our grasp: a world without cancer. A donation of any size brings scientists one step closer to a cure.”

The Deeley-hosted pre-show will kick off the evening as the celebrity phone bank opens a half-hour before airtime.

Also online, and following the show: a 30-minute jam session featuring musical guests Fitz and the Tantrums, Orianthi, Natasha Bedingfield and Heart.

Emmy Winners Are Spot On

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(August 29, 2010) Either I’m getting better at picking Emmy winners, or the Academy is. I’m guessing it’s them.

Actually, my official pre-show prediction ratio was way, way off – I have become so accustomed to anticipating the worst and for the most part getting it, the last thing I expected was for them to get so much of it so right.

Starting right off the bat with the Comedy awards and the anticipated Glee sweep, which didn’t quite happen, but rather split the gold up equitably with the almost-as-nominated Modern Family on writing and directing awards and supporting actor and actress – and the best possible choice for each of the latter, respectively, Eric Stonestreet and Jane Lynch.

And then, the last award of the night . . . Modern Family as Best Comedy!!! There is a God. And he watches sitcoms.

Jim Parsons! A lovely, heartfelt speech, and apparently his awesome memory is equally
adept with names as it is physics techno gabble. Edie Falco! Absolutely gob-smacked, and now joining Carroll O’Connor and Ed Asner in the exclusive club of actors who have won Emmys for both Comedy and Drama.

Actually, the pleasant surprises started even earlier, when the Glee-inspired “Born to Run” all-star opening production number totally rocked the house. (Note to self: Yet another reason to resent Jon Hamm, who can apparently sing and dance, in addition to being funny and handsome.)

First-time host Jimmy Fallon generally acquitted himself admirably, sticking with his strengths – the musical spoofs – and got in his single shot in at NBC and the whole Conan deal only seven minutes in. Modern Family’s Steve Levitan got in the first and only Steve MacPherson joke 14 minutes later.

Best shot of the night though: Ricky Gervais, who gets a full ten points for his cheeky Mel
Gibson slag, and a bonus ten for buying the front row of the audience beer (apparently non-alcoholic) with his Office syndication money.

The first wrong note of the evening: Thirteen people get up to accept a reality award for Top Chef, but then immediately thereafter, Mad Men writer/creator Matt Weiner gets cut off. What is up with that?

Weiner got his chance to finish when Mad Men later won Best Drama for the third time in a row.

And speaking of the Drama categories, Aaron Paul shared acting honours with his hat-tricking Breaking Bad co-star Bryan Cranston, and most deservedly so – as good as Cranston and the entire Bad ensemble is, this was Paul’s year.

Good Wife’s Archie Punjabi (the future Mrs. Salem) emerged from a very strong female support field, which included co-star Christine Baranski.

And then, a little more than half-way through, I finally experienced my first jaw-dropping moment, when Kyra Sedgwick aced out Juliana Margolies for best actress. It’s okay Julia, maybe next year. Or maybe after you’ve lost (as did she) four years in a row. And you did get to present George Clooney’s very popular humanitarian award, and were one of the best-dressed women on the carpet . . . unlike, say, January Jones, who looked like she’d driven through a car wash with the roof down on the way to the Staples Center.

Note to Julia Ormond: It’s “Catherine O’Hara”! I mean, seriously, you were both nominated for
the same freakin’ movie (Temple Grandin) – as I recall, you played sisters. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

But nice to see the movie itself, director Mick Jackson and star Clare Danes also win . . . and even better to see the real Temple Grandin (it was her birthday too) working the crowd like a pro.

Al Pacino’s second Emmy win is for playing Jack Kevorkian. His first was for Roy Cohn. Controversial much?

Finally, major kudos to Canadian carrier CTV, which top-loaded their commercial breaks with slick, sizzling, quick-cut promos – particularly the incredible So You Think You Can Dance Canada spot – plugging their entire prime-time line-up.

The 2010 Hoodie Awards Wrap Up

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 30, 2010) *Saturday night, multimedia personality
Steve Harvey brought his tremendous brilliant power-filled 8th Annual Hoodie Awards to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and turned the super-sized area out with a sold-out audience, heart-tugging musical performances and alarming nods to accustomed people, according to BV’s Karu Daniels.

For eight after years, the King of Comedy and his agents have honoured community businesses and leaders, in 12 categories, for the everyday efforts and strides that the stars of our neighbourhoods accomplish in their cities and towns.

“I believe that we’re all created equal and it’s not fame or fortune that makes an ordinary person extraordinary, but it’s the things they do to help others and to uplift their communities that makes them special,” the best-selling author and new ‘Family Feud’ host said.

Legendary soul singers, The O’Jays, opened the night with a 30 minute set of their hits, including ‘She Used to Be My Girl,’ ‘Backstabbers’ and ‘Love Train.’

Fantasia Barrino, the 2004 ‘American Idol’ winner, who has been the subject of abundant boilerplate media absorption after her arguable activity with a married man and father of two was unveiled, got the crowd going in a rousing performance of new and old songs. The 26-year-old ‘Bittersweet’ singer – who recently attempted suicide with a canteen of aspirin – brought the audience (of 17,000) to their feet during her set.

The awards ceremony is the centerpiece of a three-day event packed with activities, which included financial seminars and cooking demonstrations, a plus-sized jeans fashion show, a comedy showcase, a beach party and a fundraising golf tournament.


Party Under a Full Moon

www.thestar.com - Mischa Bartkow

(August 27, 2010) ZANZIBAR—My generation of travellers grew up on stories of Thailand’s Full Moon Parties.

In throngs we set out to the island of Koh Phangan to discover the “party of a lifetime”. Ready to let loose with fire dancers and other creative travellers, I was shocked to find the opposite waiting for me. A Red Bull and booze fest reminiscent of Spring Break throbbed on the beach, drunks peeing in the water, en masse.

I was too late. The authentic experience I was hoping for was already spoiled, and I left disappointed and unsatisfied.

Now, four years later, on a flight to the East African country of Tanzania, my interest was sparked when I heard full moon parties had been brewing on its tropical island of Zanzibar. According to a local Dutch expat, the parties at Zanzibar’s Kendwa Beach were small fire raves under the stars, with people partying and sleeping on powder white sand. I decided I’d make the trek to the northern shore of Zanzibar to find my full moon party.

A whisk away from the airport, through a city full of cement, rebar and indifferent faces, I was stepping into the cramped Dar Es Salaam port. Swarmed by aggressive touts, who seemed to sense my lack of planning, I pushed forward to the ticket counter. Trusting fate, I bought passage to the island I had only heard of in stories.

Thankful for the peaceful bobbing of the horizon, but parched by the bright sun, I was excitedly sailing into the unknown. Three hours later my noticeably slow ‘speed’ ferry pulled into the mysterious island of Zanzibar. With endless stretches of white sand beaches, spice farms and an ancient Arabic flair, this far flung island has often called out to intrigued explorers. I was in the dusty and curious capital city of Stonetown, with its almost unnavigable winding streets.

The moon was nearly full. With little time to explore, I had to find my way up to the northern coast. I climbed into an open aired Dalla-Dalla truck. Our two hour journey took us along the coastal highway, past small fishing villages and roadside stalls. At the road’s end, we were dropped in the town of Nungwi, the next bay over from the Full Moon Party. I wandered along its long white beach, stepping over piles of bright green seaweed and catching curious glances of men repairing the massive triangular sails of their dhows. Dr. Dre, a smiling Rastafarian, helped me hire a motorboat to travel over to Kendwa. We slowly motored along the shore past a never-ending horizon of blinding white sand and tropical turquoise water.

On Kendwa beach, I jumped out of the boat into the warm water, struggling to keep my cameras and backpack dry above my head. Making friends with scattered groups of sunbathing foreigners, I heard that Kendwa Rocks, a local backpackers palm frond hut resort, was hosting the party. They were in the process of raising a 30 foot straw man, to be set on fire at midnight. My heart beat faster.

Waiting for the party to start was about lying on the beach, drinking Kilimanjaro beer, snorkelling and finding new friends. I talked to Andrew, a traveling Masai warrior. His red patterned cloth and long braids blew in the wind. I asked him if he was excited for the party.

“It’s not a big deal…there’s too much English music and not enough Swahili…they put up fences, so we can’t get in”, he said with subtle disdain.

He was right. As the sun set, fences were hoisted and all visiting tourists were issued wristbands, to keep the “riffraff” out. Poverty is everywhere in Tanzania, but I started feeling uncomfortable with the idea that this party was only for certain privileged people, not locals.

As the moon rose in the cool African night, crowds started to emerge, but unfortunately so did speakers thumping Top 40 American tunes. It was Thailand all over again, smaller in scale, but still full of teenagers getting wasted to music I could hear at home. The vibe reminded me more of Daytona than Africa. Yuck. After an hour of hoping my mood would change, needing to find something new, I followed my instincts and wandered down the beach toward a bonfire about 500 meters away.

I found a friendly group of Estonian backpackers, some local Rastas and some American ladies. We sat around the small fire as waves tickled the shore. A guitar strumming Bob Marley, backed up by a small bongo drum, carried us through the night. We sang along, bathed by an astonishingly bright full moon. In the distance, we could see the impressive 30 foot burning man. It was hardly as welcoming as our small moonlit bonfire. We stayed put.

As our singalong dwindled, Tanya, one of the Americans, surprised us by unveiling a hand carved Native American wooden pipe. She was a travelling pipe-carrier from a first nation tribe of North Dakota. She had learned the customs of pipe ceremonies from her grandmother and now travels sharing her heritage with friends she makes along the way. Tanya stood silhouetted by the full moon as our group of strangers sat and watched. She opened her prayers with a chant to her ancestors and then she sang for our safe and fulfilling journeys.

She welcomed us to smoke the pipe or just hold it for a moment, all of us part of that circle. This was the authentic experience I had been searching for, craving. I had finally found my full moon party.

As Tanya finished her song, a small wave surged and gently swallowed our fire.

Tips for Traveling to Zanzibar, Tanzania

•Carry a mix of US Dollars and Tanzanian Shillings, exchange rates are inconsistent. Switching between the two can save you a lot of money. All other currencies are useless.

•Zanzibar is a conservative Muslim island, to avoid conflict dress conservatively when not on the beach

•Flying to Zanzibar is only a bit more expensive than the ferry and way less nauseating.

•Malaria is often present on Zanzibar. Pharmacies are difficult to find, get all your medication before you arrive.

•Bottled water is accessible, affordable and essential.

•There’s a $50 U.S., cash-only visa fee when you arrive in Tanzania.

•Zanzibar is a three hour ferry from Dar Es Salaam, or a quick flight. Direct flights from Kilimanjaro and Kenya also are available.

Mischa Bartkow is a freelance writer/photographer based in Vancouver.


Tips for Traveling to Zanzibar, Tanzania

•Carry a mix of US Dollars and Tanzanian Shillings, exchange rates are inconsistent. Switching between the two can save you a lot of money. All other currencies are useless.

•Zanzibar is a conservative Muslim island, to avoid conflict dress conservatively when not on the beach

•Flying to Zanzibar is only a bit more expensive than the ferry and way less nauseating.

•Malaria is often present on Zanzibar. Pharmacies are difficult to find, get all your medication before you arrive.

•Bottled water is accessible, affordable and essential.

•There’s a $50 U.S., cash-only visa fee when you arrive in Tanzania.

•Zanzibar is a three hour ferry from Dar Es Salaam, or a quick flight. Direct flights from Kilimanjaro and Kenya also are available.


Drake Channels Sinatra for MTV’s VMAs

www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(August 28, 2010) *For the promotional video for the 2010 MTV VMAs, Drake left his sneaks, stylish jackets, and jeans at home. Instead, he threw on a suave suit. The video starts with the rapper in the dressing room preparing for a live performance. It then follows him arriving at the venue in style, dodging the paparazzi, on his way backstage, then making a dramatic entrance under the bright light and finally grabbing the mic. “I get to channel my inner [Frank] Sinatra,” he said. “In the acting world, you gotta have reference points. I like to get into characters.” Also, he looks Denzel Washington for inspiration. ”

‘Mo’ Better Blues’ is like one of my favourite movies of all time. This reminds me of Denzel, who played a character [called] Bleek Gilliam,” he shared. “I’m trying to channel that today.” The VMAs will air from Nokia Theater in lovely Los Angeles on Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Other guests and presenters include: Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone, Ne-Yo, Penn Badgley, Trey Songz, Ke$ha, Ashley Greene, and several others. Check out the video:

Detroit Rap City: Blockbuster Concert Of The Summer

Source:  www.thestar.com - Brian McCollum

(September 01, 2010) DETROIT—You can finally accuse Eminem of understatement.

“We’ve done things together,” the Detroit rapper told interviewers when announcing his upcoming shows with
Jay-Z. “But I’m not sure we’ve ever done anything this big.”

With the superstar duo set to stage a massive home-and-home series — a pair of shows at Detroit’s Comerica Park this Thursday and Friday followed by two at New York’s Yankee Stadium (Sept. 13 and 14) — the superlatives are coming thick and fast from those close to the event.

The biggest North American concerts this year, says one Comerica Park executive. The heaviest ticket demand one Live Nation honcho has ever experienced. A “once-in-a-lifetime production” for an industry veteran who has staged Super Bowl halftime shows.

There’s historical significance too. The sold-out dates aren’t just testament to the enduring power of Em and Jay-Z, two of the world’s biggest music acts — they also mark a milestone for hip-hop itself.

“They’re putting hip-hop on the same playing field as anything else,” says L.A. hip-hop journalist Scott Sterling, citing rock’s storied history of concert spectacle. “If I’m a 15-year-old who’s getting into this music, it makes anything possible.”

Turning Detroit into the centre of the music world for two days has been months in the making.

“Marshall and Jay had the idea,” says Live Nation’s Rick Franks, “and from there they ran with it.”

Plans were shepherded via Jay-Z’s relationship with Live Nation — the pioneering “360 deal” that gives the company a stake in his tours, recordings and publishing.

First on the list: nailing down a window that fit the baseball schedule, while accommodating the show’s unique needs as a one-off event rather than a full-length tour.

“The production is very, very complicated, a lot of moving parts, because it’s only the four shows,” says production director Dan Parise.

Work began several weeks before the May announcement. World-renowned lighting and scene designers were enlisted, and at Live Nation’s New York office, specialists dove into 15-hour days, crafting stage renderings and configuring logistics.

Eminem and Jay-Z were hands-on through the entire process, says Parise.

“This is their vision,” he says. “My job was to make it reality. But the concept, the idea, the messages they’re trying to get across — it’s all theirs.”

Parise won’t divulge many details. But like others involved with the show, he describes it as a massive set heavy on video elements and special effects. Parise, a 22-year industry veteran, says the two artists were “intent on creating something you don’t see every day.”

Fifty-plus semitrailers will haul the production from Detroit to New York — more than the typical continental tour by the Rolling Stones or U2.

“Put it this way,” he says. “It would be difficult to tour this show, and I think that tells you everything.”

Over six days at Comerica Park, which hosted an Eminem show in 2005, a crew of about 300 has been erecting the stage, building light and audio structures, and laying protective covering atop the playing field.

About 40,000 people will fill the ballpark for each show, including fans from Europe and Asia.

“We probably could have done four dates (at Comerica Park), but the schedule just didn’t work out,” says Dana Warg, president of Olympia Entertainment, which operates Comerica Park. “The way we announced it nationally on ESPN and Fox, with the artists in town, certainly helped the exposure. We have them coming from all around for this show, and I think it will have a huge economic impact in Detroit.”

It’s expected that Eminem will follow Jay-Z for the Detroit shows, and vice versa in New York. And Eminem’s performance will come with a new twist: He’ll be backed by a live band.

Luis Resto — Em’s collaborator on hits such as “Lose Yourself”— is one of two keyboardists in the six-piece ensemble that has accompanied the rapper onstage since last October.

“It’s definitely bringing the energy of the album tracks up to a whole different place,” says Resto. “I really think Marshall is enjoying it.”

Balkan Beat Box: The Lady Gaga Of Folk Revivalism

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Li Robbins

(August 30, 2010) If any band could convert Lady Gaga fans to the sharp swagger of Balkan brass band music, it’d be Balkan Beat Box. The “little monsters,” as Gaga calls her acolytes, were impatiently waiting her arrival at this summer’s Lollapalooza festival when Balkan Beat Box took to the stage with their funked-up beats. The connection didn’t take long.

“Oh yeah, the Gaga fans were there with black tape on their nipples, silver pants, and they were all dancing, shaking their asses, they loved it,” says Ori Kaplan, sax player and Balkan Beat Box co-founder, speaking from Tel Aviv.

Of course, this is not your grandmother’s Balkan music – Balkan Beat Box are to folk revivalism what Lady Gaga is to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. But Kaplan is quick to point out that some of their gigs do actually have audiences spanning “three generations.” So, who knows, your grandma might relate, providing she has an exceptionally adventurous spirit (and possibly a good set of concert earplugs). Balkan Beat Box are loud, and proud of their music, which “unabashedly drives in so many directions.”

And what of those many directions? Since the band first emerged in 2004, writers have whipped themselves into word frenzies trying to accurately describe the band’s style. For their Ashkenaz festival debut they are described, on the venue’s website, as “Balkan, Cross-cultural, Dance, Funk, Hip-Hop, Middle-Eastern, Reggae, Sephardic.”

Knowing the antecedents helps – Kaplan, who has a jazz background, played with the self-described “gypsy punk” band Gogol Bordello. Co-founder Tamir Muskat was the drummer for the global indie collective Firewater. The band’s stage-diving vocalist/rapper, Tomer Yosef, got his start as a stand-up comedian and D.J. All three are originally from Israel, and converged in New York City.

“Balkan Beat Box is the personal experience of three people who found each other, who are kindred spirits,” explains Kaplan. “It’s our language.”

Their language is in the dialect of Balkan music though, which Kaplan says comes out of a “fanatic love of Balkan and Roma brass,” and an “obsession with some of the musicians who come from there.” Their latest album, Blue Eyed Black Boy, was recorded in part in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, and features local musicians from renowned Roma ensembles. But calling the music “Balkan” is not, says Kaplan, geographical, instead “it symbolizes something.”

What it seems to symbolize is the most is a freewheeling, capacious attitude towards culture, or, as the band’s bumph would have it: “The members of Balkan Beat Box do not believe in flags, nationalities or borders.” They do believe in New York City, though.

“It’s a very New York philosophy,” says Kaplan. “New York is a melting pot, where we recognize where we come from but also our neighbouring cultures, everything, Kurdish, Pakistani, Iranian, and Balkan, of course. In New York we realized pretty quickly that all of our musical training can be shared, and what makes us different is what makes us stand out.”

No fears about not standing out. Even in New York’s fierce “gypsy” music scene, Balkan Beat Box are skyscrapers. They’re also increasingly political, although their messages aren’t necessarily as sophisticated as the music, with anti-war and anti-racism songs painted with broad-brush-stroke lyrics. But Kaplan believes that “through dancing feet a lot of messages can come out that don’t always come through speeches.” Since Balkan Beat Box regularly play to madly dancing crowds of up to ten thousand, he might be right.

Balkan Beat Box perform at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto on Sept. 5.

Ashkenaz highlights

Keeping the Ladino flame alight: Octogenarian Flory Jagoda deserves her nickname, “Keeper of the Flame,” with six decades devoted to Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) musical traditions.

Phantasmagorical Yiddish drama, 21st-century style: I. L. Peretz’s 1907 play, A Night in the Old Marketplace, reinvented by klezmer star Frank London as multimedia, avant-garde opera (Canadian premiere).

Mongrels, but not down in the mouth: Montreal’s Les Bâtards du Bouche (“Mouth Mongrels”) create new Jewish harmonica quartet music (world premiere).

The power of music: Songs of the Lodz Ghetto, David Kaufman’s documentary about Poland’s infamous ghetto; music by klezmer greats Brave Old World (world premiere)

Special to The Globe and Mail  

Big Boi on Tour


(August 29, 2010) *After starting the summer off with a bang, Big Boi is doing it big again with a “Son of Chico Dusty” tour to support his debut solo album, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty.”

The tour began in his hometown Atlanta on Aug. 26 and will make 19 stops around the country, including the Epicenter 2010 festival in Fontana, Calif. He’ll be on stage with Eminem, Kiss, and Blink-182.

He only has one solo album, so he is bound to reintroduce the classic tracks of Outkast.

Here are the dates and location of the tour:

9/02: Iowa City, Iowa, University of Iowa
9/04: Atlanta, Ga, Heineken Red Star Soul
9/05: Atlantic City, N.J., Casbah
9/06: New York, N.Y., Brooklyn Bowl
9/17: Chicago, Ill., Congress Theater
9/18: Providence, R.I., Brown University
9/22: Arcata, Calif., Arcata Community Center
9/24: Las Vegas, Nev., The Palms Casino
9/25: Fontana, Calif., Epicenter
9/28: Atlanta, Ga., The Tabernacle
10/01: Bloomington, Ind., Indiana University
10/08: Columbia, S.C., University of South Carolina
10/15: San Diego, Calif., UC of San Diego
10/23: Seattle, Wash., Showbox Sodo
10/28: Charleston, S.C., Charleston Visitors Center
10/29: Asheville, N.C., Asheville Civic Center (Moogfest)
10/30: Houston, Texas, Tom Bass Park Amphitheater
11/12: Chattanooga, Tenn., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
11/18: Sydney, Australia, Fox Studios

NSFW Video: Cee Lo Defends F-Bomb Filled Song as ‘Art’

Source: www. eurweb.com

(August 30, 2010) *
Cee Lo’s expletive-laden song “F*** You” has received a lot of criticism for its use of 16 F-bombs over a soulful 3 1/2-minute throwback groove. (Not to mention some S-words and N-words.) But the singer/rapper says the tune is actually a work of art.

“What I’ve tried to accomplish, like, is making art products … so I still believe that (the song) can be classified as art because it’s an original piece and the edge and alternative is there, and the integrity is intact,” he said in an interview last week.

The song, about a gold-digging ex, features a video that includes a colourful stream of the song’s lyrics and its been viewed more than 3.7 million times in the last 11 days on the singer’s YouTube page. [
Watch below.] An official video will be released this week and the song will appear on Cee Lo’s album “The Lady Killer,” out on Dec. 7.

Though the song has gotten rave reviews, critics have been quick to speak out. Dan Isett, the director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, said in a statement that the song “is just the latest example of an entertainment industry bent on racing to the bottom of the barrel.”

But Cee Lo said he was trying to elevate music with the song, and it’s something that the music industry does not do enough.

“The system does not, you know, advocate art so to speak, but it does package and promote products and product placement and there’s a definitive difference between the two, art and product,” he said. “I have yet to sit down and try to write something for the sake of radio. I just never done it, not consciously.”

A radio-friendly version of the viral hit, re-titled “Forget You,” will hit airwaves soon, though Cee Lo says that wasn’t the initial plan.

“It wasn’t like we were looking for it to be a radio hit of some sort. It was only until a short time after that we considered doing a clean version just in case,” he said.

In October, Cee Lo will host Fuse TV’s “Lay It Down,” an interview and performance-based show he calls “more intimate (and) off the record.”

Warning: Video is NSFW

I Still Believe in Lyfe Jennings

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Al-Lateef Farmer

(September 1, 2010) *I am a
Lyfe Jennings fan; I own his albums, have seen him numerous times in concert, follow him on Twitter, all of that. So when he announced that I Still Believe (in stores and available for download today) was his last album, I was really shocked that he decided to make his exit from recording so soon.

I quickly put his “retirement” in the same category with other artists that claim retirement but can’t stay away and make an album within two years of hanging up the mic. That was until I heard his reason; he wanted to spend more time being a father, watching his babies grow and teaching them life, I figured he may be for real.

My anticipation for the final album after the teaser single “Busy” was released, but when the official first single “Statistics” hit the internet, like most men I asked what the hell was Lyfe doing? But what else should I expect? He has exposed so much of himself on record and provided so much social commentary; I’m surprised it took this long for a song like “Statistics” to be made. Hopefully his data is wrong, but the message is right on for women and men playing the dating game.

The tone for the album was set, so I just needed to hear what was sandwiched around “Statistics” and “Busy”. The result, a suite built around love. The passion, the pain, the seduction, the heartache, the regret, the hope, the communal responsibility, all love. Songs like “Mama” finds Lyfe perfectly paired with Anthony Hamilton for a soulful telling of stories heard all too often in our community. While “It Coulda Been Worse”, with its gospel roots serves as a reminder that for each pitfall and wrong turn, there are deeper stories than yours, so be thankful for your blessings, big and small. “I Still Believe” is an ode to old school traditions, thought to be long gone but evident through lyrics such as, “I still believe in church on Sunday and praying before you go to sleep/I still believe in teaching by example, cuz kids mimic what they see.” These songs serve as a reminder that love is at the root of it all.

The remainder of the CD is dedicated to the type of love that we’re used to dealing hearing about. “Spotlight” is reminiscent of Usher’s “Love in this Club”, but celebrates the sexiness and seductive beauty of a woman on the dance floor. “Love” is a warning shot to all the fellas that are taking their women for granted. To sum it up, Lyfe is saying, “Do right by her…or I will.” Lyfe cleverly uses comic book heroes to prove how nothing compares to the qualities and strength of his super woman on “Hero”.

My favourite track is “Whatever She Wants”, an emotion that nearly every man can relate to. It speaks to that feeling you get when you think you’ve found “the one”. He’s consumed by her, totally into her; how many fellas have felt something like this “Sometimes when I’m with you I feel like I’m in slow motion/The smell of your perfume, the scent of your lotion/Floating/Through the air/You gotta take me there”. Come on now, stop frontin’, don’t be a statistic. It is the emotions in this song that makes Lyfe the vulnerable man moved by passion and leads into a trio of songs that deal specifically with the outcome one too many of us have become familiar with when it comes to relationship…the pain.

“Learn from This”, “Done Crying”, and “If I Knew Then, What I Know Now” seem to be autobiographical tales ripped from the headlines of his life and turned into song. “Learn” is a cautionary tale of what life is like after the judge has told you how to show your love monetarily, while “Done Crying” has that aha moment of when your ex is really over you and “If I Knew Then…” proves that hindsight is indeed 20/20. Jennings appears to be reaching into his soul to warn his listeners of what the pain of foolishness looks like.

The climatic finale to the album is “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, a song in the vein of “Cry” and “Goodbye” of earlier releases, finds Lyfe pouring his heart and soul out to his loved ones. It is at this moment that you realize this may be the end for life. What more can he say, what else can he write about? Plenty. He’s excelled at documenting his surroundings and turning his experiences into lyrics, so I hope that he returns to the studio within a few short years. But if tomorrow never comes…pick up I Still Believe, and then catch him when he comes to your city.

Lyfe Jennings Discusses His Last Studio Album

www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(August 28, 2010) *We’ve heard this before, but singer Lyfe Jennings is said to be readying his “final” studio album.

Jennings says the project, called “I Still Believe,” is a reflection of his “greatness.” And like others, he’s had to endure life’s ups and downs.

“I keep a lot going on. It’s tragic; I think I have a horribly charmed life,” he says. “But I think God puts me through stuff and keeps me there, so I can talk about it.”

He told ballerstatus.com that he carries these experiences into the album.

“[The album] is about all kinds of relationships,” Lyfe explains. “How we try to hold on sometimes for the sake of holding on. But, in reality, no matter how many breakups turn into make-ups, sooner or later we realize that this person is who they are and we need to let go. No grudges, no regrets. Just realization. Just acceptance. Just life.”

In support of his final release, the singer will embark on a national tour this fall for one last hurrah with his fans.

“I Still Believe” is due out Tuesday, August 31.

Tour dates:

9/11 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
9/12 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
9/15 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
9/17 – Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
9/18 – West Hollywood, CA @ Key Club (two shows)
9/19 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
9/21 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
9/24 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line
9/27 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
9/28 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
10/1 – New York, NY @ BB King’s Blues Club
10/5 – Charlotte, NC @ Amos’ Southend
10/6 – Charleston, SC @ The Music Farm
10/8 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
10/9 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
10/10 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz Ybor
10/13 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage

Regarding his decision to step-away from recording, Lyfe says he’s grateful for all the support over the years, but doesn’t reveal what he calls his “next journey.”

“To my fans/friends, we’ve had a hell of a ride,” he says. “Some of us will reach our destinations faster than others, but I thank you for traveling with me, supporting my every step. We are only human and human is only temporary. Thank you for seeing my spirit. Pray for my next journey guys, it’s been great.”

Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew Gets Anniversary-Package Treatment

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

(August 30, 2010)
Last year, as the 50th anniversary of “jazz’s greatest year” was celebrated, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue was put forth as the ne plus ultra of improvisation, and perhaps the greatest jazz album in history.

This year, Davis’s 40-year-old jazz fusion classic Bitches Brew is getting the anniversary treatment, reissued in a “legacy edition” Tuesday that includes bonus tracks and a DVD. But despite essays calling it groundbreaking, earthshaking and history-making, it’s hard to shake the sense that the jazz sensibility has changed drastically since Bitches Brew debuted in April, 1970.

At the time, it was a stunning success, selling 70,000 copies in its first month. It climbed to No. 39 on Billboard, the only one of Davis’s albums to crack the Top 40. (Kind of Blue, by contrast, didn’t even chart.) By 1976, Brew had sold over half a million, something Kind of Blue didn’t match until 1993.

But by the 1980s, the jazz landscape was different. With the rise of jazz neo-cons such as Wynton Marsalis, fusion was seen as a god that failed, a musical dead end. Kind of Blue was in ascendance, Bitches Brew in decline.

Now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back. Jazz groups from Dave Douglas’s Keystone to Chris Potter’s Underground and Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar have taken Bitches Brew as both an inspiration and a point of departure. Perhaps it’s time to give the album a fresh hearing, track by track.

Pharaoh’s Dance

A Joe Zawinul composition, this is one of the most carefully layered arrangements on the album, performed with a delicacy that belies the instrumental duplication (three keyboards, two basses, two drummers, etc.). Bennie Maupin’s doleful, prodding bass clarinet sets the mood, but it’s the rich palette of electric piano that carries the piece, from Chick Corea’s skittering lines to Zawinul’s percussive, colouristic fills. They put the Fender Rhodes piano in a class by itself: No wonder so many pianists today are eager to revive that vintage sound.

Bitches Brew

This was originally conceived as a five-part suite, but was ultimately edited into a single 27-minute performance, although part of the original was split off and titled John McLaughlin. A masterpiece of texture and mood, the final product owes as much to producer Teo Macero as to Davis. Not only did Macero cut and paste the performance into shape (and in those pre-computer days, he did so with a razor blade), he rearranged the instruments into a stunningly spacious soundscape, something rock polymath Brian Eno later described as “extremely modern, something you can only do on records.”

Spanish Key

Davis, who solos first, artfully but decisively redefines his playing style. Instead of long, flowing phrases, he keeps things short and punchy, so there’s space between his lines for the rhythm section to shine through. At one point, he holds a note and “lips” it up a semitone, bending it the way a blues guitarist might. Yet even though there’s a prevailing blues feel to what he plays, he mostly avoids the standard blues vocabulary, a tack cannily redeployed today by players like saxophonist Chris Potter.

John McLaughlin

Davis picked up McLaughlin from drummer Tony Williams’ band Lifetime, and the English guitarist would later lay the foundation for fusion shred through various incarnations of his Mahavishnu Orchestra. But what characterizes his playing here is its soulfulness. As Zawinul said later, “[Black critics] used to attack [Miles] for using John McLaughlin. I talked to him about that and he said: ‘Okay, man, I’d hire one of them brothers if he can play as good as John McLaughlin – I’d hire them both!’ ”

Miles Runs the Voodoo Down

Davis was 43 when Bitches Brew was recorded, and his wife, the former Betty Mabry, was a 23-year-old ex-model and aspiring soul singer. Wayne Shorter, his long-time saxophonist, said later that this tune was derived from a demo Miles had produced for his wife. Certainly, the funky, New Orleans-style bass line supports that, but what Davis and his sidemen lay down over that goes well beyond R&B.


Shorter wrote this tune, which was regularly performed by Davis’s “lost quintet” (which included Shorter, Corea, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette). But this dramatically arranged rendition goes well beyond what that band did live, using electronics to bring a near-symphonic majesty to the achingly beautiful tune.

Bonus Tracks

In addition to previously unreleased alternate takes of Spanish Key and John McLaughlin that will leave collectors wondering about how complete The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions box set really was, we also get four tracks Columbia released as singles, which are more amusing than enlightening.

The Video

A stunning, occasionally baffling set by Davis’s “lost quintet” recorded for Danish television. The Bitches Brew material isn’t as funky as on the album, but neither are the album’s improvisations as free as these sometimes get.

Peelander-Z: Power Rangers Of Punk Return

www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack

(August 28, 2010) It’s not every day that you get to speak to a member of an extraterrestrial garage band. In broken English and calling from New York, Peelander Yellow, lead vocalist and guitarist from anime punk outfit Peelander-Z, assures me that he comes in peace.

“I want to say that I am kind of a kindergarten teacher,” says Yellow. “If people want to go back to kindergarten with me, it’s so happy.

“I need everyone to smile because we are not human beings, our food is smiles. I want to eat your smiles.”

A bombastic three-piece garage band who sound like Melt Banana voiced by The Ramones, Peelander-Z, made up of guitarist Peelander Yellow (Kengo Hioki), bassist Peelander Red (Kotaro Tsukada) and drummer Peelander Green (Akihiko “Cherry” Naruse), stick to their story. Their colourful Power Rangers-esque costumes, they insist, are not clothing, but their actual skin. Get close look at one of their two shows in Toronto this week — Wednesday at Velvet Underground and Thursday at the Silver Dollar — and you may find out for yourself.

They may have been playing New York since 1998, boasting a six-album catalogue, but actually hail from the Z area on the distant planet Peelander. And a 2008 line-up change — a touchy subject for any band — in which drummer Peelander Blue (Kazuki Yamamoto) was replaced by Peelander Green, was not due to artistic differences but a change in vocation.

“We had Blue before, but he went back to the kingdom of the Peelander planet,” says Yellow. “He’s king there now, but if you wanted to interview him, you could speak to our manager.”

The live show of the self-proclaimed “Japanese action comic punk band” — rising thanks to appearances at Bonnaroo, CMJ and SXSW — is as alien as the band. Based on intense audience participation, tracks like “S-T-E-A-K” and “Let’s Go! Karaoke Party!” follow limbo dancing, karaoke competitions and human bowling, where band members are hurled at oversized pins set up onstage.

Yellow admits that after a gruelling European tour, audiences might be at first confused by Peelander-Z’s smile-hungry intentions.

“The first time we play, we try, try and try, all over the stage. That’s what makes a touring band.”

Famed local promoter Dan Burke has booked the band for a “Highway 401” tour that will take Peelander-Z to Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, London and Montreal. He first brought the band into town a decade back, having found they tapped into a rich vein of Japanese acts (Guitar Wolf, The 5,6,7,8s, The Zoobombs) who boasted high-octane imitations of American garage.

“Like many of the Japanese acts, they were right out of left field: exciting, theatrical, really exotic,” says Burke. “Not many people came to their show. Since then, however, they’ve built an impressive international reputation and I figured it was time to bring them back.”

After touring and releasing their seventh album, children’s CD/DVD compilation
P-TV-Z this Sept. 20 (Yo! Gabba! Gabba! producers take note), Yellow says his ultimate goal is to turn Peelander-Z into a circus act, featuring a big top, a wrestling ring and a sushi chef. The musician admits that an adolescence glued to video games and ’80s American wrestling might have to do with the genesis of his alien identity.

“I grew up in the fast generation of Japanese culture, where it was Power Rangers and ’80s American wrestling and of course anime and manga comics . . .

“When I was a kid, my dream was to be a superhero. Now I say if I want to be something, I can do it onstage. The stage is my future dream, it’s my hope, it’s everything. It all happens on the stage.”

Ron Isley Talks Prison, Taxes, R. Kelly, New Collabos, more

Source: www. eurweb.com

(August 30, 2010) *
Ron Isley sat down with Vibe magazine to discuss his 37-month federal prison sentence for tax evasion, plans for a new album featuring the likes of Lauryn Hill, T.I. and Aretha Franklin, his relationship with R. Kelly and more…

VIBE: How’d you bide your time while you were incarcerated?

Ron Isley: My job was to work in the chapel. I sang for them every Monday and I was watching all kinds of spiritual movies and singing for the guys. I had high respect for anyone there.

Was it a recognition thing?

Yeah. When I came there, what Johnny Cash meant to the authorities is what I meant to [the inmates]. But it was a camp. It wasn’t a prison with a wall around it or nothing. You could get in your car, drive off and go home [but] you would get in a lot of trouble for leaving without permission. They had other rules where you couldn’t have a cell phone but everybody did.

So despite being held there by law, it was a breeze considering where you could have been?

Oh yeah.

Word on the street is that your fly young wife was coming to visit a lot.

Oh yeah. She was there four times a week with my baby. It was regular visits from 9am to 3pm and on all the holidays – Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My daughter and my brother came to visit too. That made it go real fast for me.

A lot of black artists went to jail in the 60s, did you ever get locked up then?

Nah, never. This is the first time where, it wasn’t jail but it was the first time I ever been locked up somewhere where couldn’t come home.

How, after all these years, did you fall behind on tax payments?

I had a case against the government so they had a case against me. They wanted me to drop my case and I didn’t drop it and they won. They won because I couldn’t take the stand. I had gotten sick and I don’t want to say they won because of that. They win because they can win. Everything was stacked against me but that’s over with now.

Elaborate on the case they had against you?

case was with me and my brother—we overpaid money to the government and they owed us money, then they owed us the interest on the money and it started off that they owed us five million dollars and then interest on that for 20 years. They didn’t want to hear about that and they wanted us to drop the case. We wanted to carry it through and they wanted me to say I was guilty on some smaller stuff and so that was basically it.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in all of this?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is I never thought I would… At the time, no one had been locked up for something that they locked me up for. If I had signed certain papers, which I was told not to do, it wouldn’t have been any problem whatsoever so I took it for granted and I said that this well never happen because I didn’t do anything. But a picture was painted that I did—like I never paid taxes in my life and that’s a lie. We paid over 25 million dollars in taxes. I paid them 5 million more than I was supposed to but they didn’t talk about that.

Now you’re over the hump and you have an eight album record deal. Talk about your next album and the subsequent music.

My album will be out in September and then I’m going to do a gospel album and who knows what else, I don’t know yet. This album I have coming out in September is finally finished. My business has always been competitive—trying to out do what you did before and I feel that this album proves everything I want to prove. R&B singing can be—some people have said that R&B has went to this side or is like hip-hop now. Although my album has some hip-hop and everything on it, I’m one of the ones who have been able to escape that when it came to that with albums and I’m thankful for that. But this album proves everything that I want it to prove.

Elaborate on what you’re trying to prove.

That I’m the best. I’m gonna prove that I’m one of the best [Laughs].


How’d you end up getting Lauryn Hill?

John McClain [executive producer] was very instrumental in that happening but the duet that we did together – people say it’s the best duet they ever heard [and] I’m very proud of that.

But she’s been so inconsistent with music.

It wasn’t hard for me to get her, but it was hard for everybody else. I’m grateful and thankful.

Ah, so your Mr. Biggs side made her an offer she couldn’t refuse? [Laughs]

Yeah, something like that… And I also did something with Aretha Franklin who is my best friend
. We talked about recording something together ever since the beginning, when we first met each other, which was 1962 when she was just getting started.

And what about T.I.?

I wrote a song with Greg Curtis and John Neville, “Put Your Money on Me,” and we talked about the only person who would be able to do this is T.I. and so we reached out and he did a fabulous job.

Talk about some of the album’s production, did R. Kelly hook it up too?

Not on this album. I did 15 songs and we chose 11. I worked with Tricky Stewart, I did two songs with him. I did a song with Tank, which was incredible. When you hear the song I did with him, it’s gonna shock a lot of people.

Why so?

I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a Mr. Biggs thing. A lot of people will wonder, “Wow, how did y’all come up with that?” It’s one of them kind of songs.

Your music has been sampled ridiculously in hip-hop. What are some of your favourites?

“In Between the Sheets” with Biggie [“Big Poppa”] that’s one of my favourites. And Ice Cube did one of my favourites with “It’s a Good Day,” he sampled “Footsteps in the Dark.” One other song was with Tupac – ”For the Love of You,” he sampled that. All our catalogue has been sampled like crazy.

How did that help you when you needed to make a comeback in the 90s?

It helped in a way. That’s the appreciation that we’ve gotten. That’s where Mr. Biggs comes from. They call me “Mr. I” too. All the young people – they know more than a lot of people think that they know and they chose our catalogue. I’m grateful.

So, who officially named you “Mr. Biggs?”

It was basically all the in crowd. R. Kelly and all of that.

Talk about your relationship with R. Kelly.

He’s like a son to me. He’s very talented and he’s working on a couple albums now. He spent quite a bit of time in Africa. We talked about doing some things together but I didn’t get do anything with him this time. We’ll give it a rest for a second or so and then we’ll get back at it.

Was it that your schedules didn’t match?

Yeah. And like I said, he was in Africa and I was knee deep in doing the album here in The States.

Click here to read the rest of Vibe’s article on Ron Isley.

Richard Thompson Is Still Alive And Kicking On New Disc

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Dream Attic
Richard Thompson (Beeswing/ Shout! Factory)

(August 20, 2010) “I love kittens and little babies.” Those are the first sung lines of the new
Richard Thompson album. My response to the singer? Who are you, and what have done with our man Thompson, the biting lyricist who would never be so warm and fuzzy.

But then the song, a burly number with a purposeful saxophone riff and backbeat stride, continues on. It’s all about stock-market shenanigans and the swindlers who initially appear trustable – with kittens and babies, say – only to be quite oily. “If you’ll just bend over a little,” the thickly throated Thompson encourages, “I think you’ll feel my financial muscle.”

On his latest album, a compelling live recording of all new material, we feel the British folk-rock legend’s might. Taped during a series of West Coast dates – the performances used came mostly from the tour’s final three shows, at San Francisco’s gorgeous Great American Music Hall – the disc captures Thompson and his spot-on four-piece band in moods that are sometimes sombre, sometimes romping. There’s an up-tempo murder ballad (Sidney Wells) and a bluesy Celtic dance tune (Demons in her Dancing Shoes). Lyrics are by turn elegiac, satirical, poetic and ...

Funny – blindingly funny on Here Comes Geordie, a flute-fluttering Celtic ditty that savages one Gordon (Sting) Sumner, a mirror-gazer who surely must recognize the cut-to-the-bone caricature. Sample lines: “Here comes Geordie in his private plane, got to save the planet once again/ Good old Geordie, righteous as can be, cut down the forest just to save a tree.”

If der Stingster doesn’t call the police for this defamation – definition?he should at least unleash a lawyer toward the chuckling Thompson.

It’s not just Thompson’s pen that is wicked: On the depressive Crimescene and especially the album-closing If Love Whispers Your Name, a reflective ballad in 3/4 time that breaks into While My Guitar Gently Weeps-level majesty, he unfurls distinctive solos that excite and further their respective songs. Manyof the bursts are fairly brief, though the work on If Love Whispers Your Name is quite a beaut. It’s as if Thompson, one of Rolling Stonemagazine’s top 20 guitarists, is inventing an elegantly wild signature solo on the spot. Memo to Fender: Send this guy a case of Stratocasters, just to keep him on your side.

There’s not much happening on Bad Again, a retro-casting Eddie Cochran knock-off. But A Brother Slips Away, as soulful a lament ever written by Thompson, is highly stirring, with gospel harmonies and a downcast fiddle for texture.

On Haul Me Up, a roots-rocker with the good-time chug of Eric Clapton’s Lay Down Sally, the 61-year-old icon is frustrated – trapped in a game, no longer knowing its rules. “I’m kicking so hard,” he worries, “but I’m still falling.”

He’s got it half right: Thompson isn’t falling, but he does still kick – hard, and with alarming accuracy.  

Hey Rude Boys And Girls, Let’s Party Like It’s 1979!

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Alan Niester

The Specials
At The Sound Academy in Toronto on Saturday

(August 29, 2010)  “Are you ready to start dancing?” a dapper Lynval Golding asked the roiling
crowd wedged up against the stage at Toronto’s Sound Academy late Saturday night. The query seemed odd, given that it came mid-set and that most of the surprisingly large collection of latter-day rude boys and girls had been in full bop mode since the opening number, Do The Dog.

At the risk of sounding facile, Saturday night was indeed something special for fans of the pioneering late-seventies English ska band
the Specials. The seven-piece hit-makers (whose hits were more consistently Top of the Pops than Billboard) have almost fully reunited for the first time since their 1981 dissolution, and their live appearances, both in North America and Britain, have been wildly embraced both by middle-aged fans and a significant and surprising number who weren’t even alive during the band’s heyday.

The original ska movement was an interesting, though short-lived, chapter in recent pop-music history. It appeared at the end of the late-seventies punk movement, but grew more as an antidote to punk than a vestige of it. Based in Jamaican pop, but with elements of R&B and British northern soul mixed in, it was a politically motivated but dance-happy alternative to the nihilism fostered by the punk movement.

Ska burned brightly on the British charts for about three years, spawning bands such as
Madness, the Selecter and the Beat. The Specials, based in recession-weary Coventry, were pioneers and leading lights in the movement, mixing damning lyrics on the state of post-postwar Britain (they targeted such societal issues as youth unemploymentand racism) with a funky Caribbean groove that was impossible not to dance to. Hits included such pointed reflections as Concrete Jungle, Doesn’t Make It Alright and Ghost Town.

This current string of live appearances started last year in Britain with a well-received number of concert dates, and has carried on in North America. The reunion has not been without controversy, as the line-up does not include petulant songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers. But with lead singer Terry Hall still in the mix, and five other original Specials still providing a resilient groove, Dammers is not particularly missed.

This show burned from the outset. And while the rude boys of old have morphed into dapper fashion plates (Hall looking timeless in his shirt and jacket, half the band still sporting the trademark porkpie hats) the groove was as strong as ever. Lead guitarist Roddy Byers seamlessly mixed rock and ska leads on Rat Race andToo Much, Too Young. Horace Panter’s melodic bass line brought a reggae feel. And drummer John Bradbury, still looking aloof and dangerous, underpinned the whole affair with the crack ska rhythms that defined the band’s sound as much as any other member.

Performing in front of a huge band logo that dwarfed the stage, Hall and the band (padded out by a small horn section, one of whom occasionally added extra percussion) delivered the songs as if totally convinced that the societal issues plaguing Britain in 1979 still matter today. “This song kills fascists,” Panter announced as a prelude to the hand-clappy but ominous lyrics of Concrete Jungle unspooled.

While it’s doubtful that Britain’s white-supremacist National Front party is still a threat, maybe “the knife” and “the mates” still are a necessity. Maybe there still are reasons for urban paranoia to fester (Blank Expression). Maybe there are still a large number of British kids “drinking [their] age in pints” and wasting away (Stereotype). And certainly teenaged pregnancy never goes away (Too Much, Too Young).

Or maybe these problems have been superseded by others: matters of homegrown terrorism, for example, that Hall and company don’t address because those problems are not of their time.

So yes, there was a kind of dated feel to this performance, like a 30-year-old British time capsule being opened and all of Britain’s end-of-the-century problems being re-examined with grooves and backbeats. But for most of this audience, raised on the rhythms of ska revivalists such as No Doubt and Rancid, the lyrics didn’t matter as much as the infectious grooves that the band still provides. This was one band reunion with absolutely no rust.

Special To The Globe and Mail  

Tom Petty Gets His Mojo On

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
With Crosby, Stills and Nash
At the Air Canada Centre
in Toronto on Wednesday

(August 26, 2010) It is known: Anyone venturing into the bayou had better take a mojo offering
with them. So, Thomas Earl Petty, who sometimes looks to the great wide open and the liberation of free-falling but other times takes to the swamps, overjoyed a full mass of humdrum-world escapists at the Air Canada Centre. With an air of ease and ripened poise, Petty and his long-time band the Heartbreakers dominated the arena, offering classic-FM singalong rock and murky backwater Florida fare to a crowd who knew the drill. There was rarely a dull moment; often it was superb.

And did Petty bring to the party Mojo, his recent album of southeastern jam-blues? Oh my my, to borrow one of his lines, oh hell yes.

Petty, a 59-year-old artist of significance, presented himself initially as a dignified, hippified southern gentleman of some weird Confederate era: His defiantly blond hair was worn long and parted straight down the scalp, his flattering beard was darker, and a long, funky blue overcoat suited him fine.

His sleepy nasal voice was low in the mix for the jangly Listen to Her Heart, and much of the early-set songs were marked by the overmuscle of a thudding kick drum. “We’ve got a list of songs to fit in,” Petty said, after his glad-to-be-here spiel. “So we’re gonna get right into it.”

In a recent interview, Petty said he had no interest in playing the role of a jukebox. Possibly he meant he would continue to record new music, or perhaps he referred to the adding of wrinkles to old favourites. Such as I Won’t Back Down, which came with an attractive synthy keyboard sheen, adding a distinctly eighties feel to the solo hit single from ’89. The excellent guitarist Mike Campbell, who would be introduced later by Petty as the band’s “co-captain,” pitched in with a winding slide solo. Breakdown was hazier and sprawled languorously, with a call-and-response component stretching things even further.

If Petty comes by his blues naturally, his influences wouldn’t seem to stretch back to the Son Houses or Muddy Waters of the genre. The rugged psychedelic blues Oh Well covered Fleetwood Mac. Jefferson Jericho Blues, from the new album, had a shuffled Allman-esque groove, complete with a double-lead guitar bit by Campbell and Petty. I Should Have Known It unabashedly (and not unsuccessfully) saluted Led Zeppelin.

Petty brought his mojo and his blues, but his tunes as well. The evening, which began with the sagging spectacle of Crosby, Stills and Nash embarrassing their legacy with unbecoming harmonies, ended with a chugging, dynamic rendering of You Wreck Me. “Tonight we ride, right or wrong/ Tonight we sail, on a radio song.” And that’s exactly what had happened.  

With New CD, Luke Doucet Is Off And Running

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(September 1, 2010) There are no flies on
Luke Doucet. After a long day of media interviews and appearances promoting his just-released album (Steel City Trawler), the songwriting singer, producer and fancy-fingered guitarist was relaxing in Toronto on a beer-parlour patio when he rose from his seat, announcing that he should get back to his Hamilton home. His young publicist agreed, suggesting that he rest up for the next day’s flight to Winnipeg.

“Actually,” he told her, “I need to go for a run.”

For Doucet, an insomniac and fledgling marathon runner, there aren’t enough hours in the day and too many of them during the night.

The Album: Steel City Trawler, credited to Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, is a departure of sorts for Doucet, the former hired-gun guitarist for Sarah McLachlan. It’s an assured, well-written record, but he has made those before, most notably the Juno-nominated, darkly styled Broken (And Other Rogue States) from 2005.

And Steel City Trawler, partly inspired by the current home of football’s Tiger-Cats, is a rock record. Of course, Doucet previously has made those, including the Nick Hornby-approved Blood’s Too Rich from 2008. The different approach this time is due to the helming of Andrew Scott, the Sloan drummer who produced the album.

“What I was hoping to get out of this record was not something necessarily that I’m the best person to do,” explains Doucet, who self-produced his previous works. The result is, well, a Sloan-y sound – a bit bright, a bit bouncy. “I find the sound of the bass and drums on the Sloan records really compelling,” Doucet says, “and Andrew played almost all the bass and drums on this album.”

The Sleeplessness: The album’s Tom Petty-ish You Gotta Get It includes the line “Sleeping is a luxury that makes me sweat.” Explains Doucet: “I’ve been an insomniac since the age of 11. I remembering doing exercises in bed, trying to tire myself out so I could sleep.”

These days, the boyish 37-year-old gets his workouts on running paths and roads, training for his first marathon. “I like to run,” he says. “It’s good for my head and it puts me in the good mood – it’s not just for my insomnia.”

His first road race will happen in October, in Devon, England, site of the Dartmoor Vale races. Doucet’s weekends are booked up for the next few months, but he’ll be touring Britain with Blue Rodeo in the fall, with one lone Sunday – race day – off.

Lightfoot Ya Better Take Care: If Doucet is worried over the sleepless hours that sundown brings, Sundown the song is another matter. The Lightfoot classic is reimagined on Steel City Trawler as a rougher, louder rocker. “I always heard that song in my head as a Crazy Horse song,” Doucet says, referring to Neil Young’s ragged grunge posse. What will Lightfoot think of the twang-and-roll version? “I doubt he’ll like it,” Doucet guesses. “But that’s okay – it’s not really for him.”

The Wife: Doucet is married to Melissa McClelland, the delightful singer-songwriter. The pair are collaborators in the studio – Doucet has produced three McClelland albums – and on tour. “We find ourselves waking up in a quaint B&B in Cape Town on a day off,” Doucet says, “and I think to myself, ‘This is a day in our life, a regular Tuesday.’ I really feel like I’m getting away with murder.”

McClelland’s career is thriving, soon necessitating some time apart from her husband. She’ll tour as one of the principals of the upcoming McLachlan and Friends series of concerts. “It’s a very generous gesture by Sarah,” says Doucet, who years ago joined McLachlan’s band as a 19-year-old hot shot. “It terrifies me that Melissa won’t be able to tour with me, but it’s absolutely the right thing for her to be doing, for her own career.”

Rogers Media Partners With Warner Music Canada: Launching Innovative Video Advertising Initiatives

Source:  Rogers Communications

(September 1, 2010) CNW/ - Rogers Media, one of Canada's leading media companies, and Warner Music Canada, a division of Warner Music Group, today announced a multi-year partnership to sell advertising inventory around Warner Music Canada's premium music video content in Canada.  Rogers Media's digital distribution arm, Rogers Digital Media, will exclusively represent Warner Music Canada's music video content across a variety of digital properties including Warner Music Canada's online video distribution channels.  In addition, Rogers will develop custom programs, sponsorships and artist-focused opportunities to expand Warner Music Canada's artist-centric video strategy.    

"Along with our other investments in premium digital video content, this partnership with Warner Music Canada will enable Rogers Digital Media to offer even more premium video content to advertisers," said Claude Galipeau, SVP & GM, Rogers Digital Media.

"Warner Music Canada is committed to building our artists' careers using all avenues available. There is abundant value in the content our artists create, and the relationship with Rogers Digital Media now allows us to connect advertisers with music fans as they engage with their favourite artists and videos online," commented Steve Kane, President, Warner Music Canada

This partnership continues to position Rogers Digital Media as the premium digital video content provider in Canada. Rogers Digital Media offers premium brand media sales expertise second to none in Canada and a strong reputation for creating innovative custom solutions leveraging its suite of premium brand sites across its Radio, Broadcast and Publishing brands. "Our sales efforts have always been centered on premium brands; the partnership with Warner Music Canada is a natural extension to our expertise in brand solutions," said Jennifer Sage, Senior Director, Sales at Rogers Digital Media.

About Warner Music Group
Warner Music Group became the only stand-alone music company to be publicly traded in the United States in May 2005. With its broad roster of new stars and legendary artists, Warner Music Group is home to a collection of the best-known record labels in the music industry including Asylum, Atlantic, Cordless, East West, Elektra, Nonesuch, Reprise, Rhino, Roadrunner, Rykodisc, Sire, Warner Bros. and Word. Warner Music International, a leading company in national and international repertoire, operates through numerous international affiliates and licensees in more than 50 countries. Warner Music Group also includes Warner/Chappell Music, one of the world's leading music publishers, with a catalogue of more than one million copyrights worldwide.

About Rogers Media Inc.
Rogers Media Inc., a division of Rogers Communications Inc., (TSX: RCI; NYSE: RCI), operates Rogers Broadcasting and Rogers Publishing. Rogers Broadcasting has 53 AM and FM radio stations across Canada. Television properties include 5 Citytv stations as well as five OMNI multicultural television stations, Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE, and the Shopping Channel, a televised and Internet shopping service. Rogers Publishing produces many well-known consumer magazines such as Maclean's, Chatelaine, Flare, L'actualité and Canadian Business, and is the leading publisher of a number of industry, medical and financial publications. All media properties are integrated with their own popular web sites. Rogers Media also owns The Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club and Rogers Centre, a year-round sports and entertainment facility.


Hip-Hop to Stop the Violence in NY

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 24, 2010) *
Russell Simmons and company will be teaming up to put on an anti-violence demonstration for urban neighbourhoods. Jim Jones, Fat Joe, Juelz Santana, and Maino will work with the hip-hop mogul to send a message through the streets to stop the violence and put down firearms. The rally, dubbed ‘Tsunami of Peace: Ride, Walk & Rally Against Violence,’ will be staged as a funeral procession through New York. It will assemble on Guy R. Brewer and Baisley Boulevard in Queens; at Thomas Boyland and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn; Jersey Street in Staten Island; 156th Street and Morris Avenue in the Bronx and 125th and 12th Avenue in Manhattan. The event is to support the Peace Keepers Movement.

Video: R. Kelly’s New Single ‘When A Woman Loves’

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Al-Lateef Farmer

(September 1, 2010) *We all know that
R. Kelly is one certified freaky dude, but like the late, great Marvin Gaye, he’s also been gifted with an introspective spiritual side. Who else could write “Feelin’ On Yo’ Booty” and turn around create the beautiful and uplifting “I Believe I Can Fly?” Well, we think he’s done it again with his new single “When A Woman Loves.” No, maybe it’s not a lofty as “I Believe I Can Fly,” but it sure feels good and he sounds terrific. It’s like he’s channelling his inner Percy Sledge. Yes, we still have mucho reservations about the messenger, but we love the message.


Callum Keith Rennie: A Man Of Many Faces

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(August 27, 2010) Callum Keith Rennie’s first big break came in 1996, when he was cast in the Mountie drama Due South, playing the intense, near-sighted detective Stanley Raymond Kowalski.

Fourteen years on, the Vancouver-based actor is once again back in the murky world of TV homicide. This time, as the unpredictable Detective Ben Sullivan on Global’s new drama,
Shattered – where Rennie plays a cop who just happens to juggle multiple personalities.

“It’s not easy, this role,” says the 49-year-old actor, who has more than 100 TV and film credits to his name. “Because you’re trapped within a construct of not being discovered. That meant I couldn’t be too outrageous [when I switch personalities] and suddenly start spouting German.”

To prepare, Rennie teamed up with a coach in
Los Angeleswho helped him discern the individual characteristics of each personality as they pop up. (Sullivan, whose disease has been triggered by some unknown childhood trauma, never knows what will trigger the switch.)

“We worked on establishing the very basic setups for defining each of them so that each had a different MO, a different IQ, a different way of being in the world physically,” says Rennie. “To be honest, it was something of a discovery for all of us in terms of how you film that. It was quite a tricky path.”

Shot over seven months in Vancouver, Shattered also stars Camille Sullivan (as his partner Detective Amy Lynch) and Molly Parker (as his wife). The first episode, which premieres this Wednesday, was directed by Kari Skogland, whose films include Fifty Dead Men Walking and The Stone Angel.

“A lot of the things we did, we discovered as we were shooting,” adds Rennie, . “Kari is a genius at allowing things to play, and finding it as we go.”

Too often, Rennie says people with multiple personality disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID) spend their lives unsure what exactly is wrong with them.

“It’s misdiagnosed all the time,” asserts Rennie, who was recently seen on TV as record producer Lew Ashby in the Showtime series Californication. “They’re told they are bipolar. Or schizophrenic. But that’s often not the case. Or they might be all of the above. With DID, you speak in distinct and numerous voices. And you can’t remember what’s happening.

“There are no hard and fast rules. And some people go through their lives without anyone knowing. I was especially intrigued by that element of the script, because we’re all different people in different places. We can be bold and brash in one situation. Other times, quiet and reserved. It’s really an exploration of that side of human nature.”

Rennie also says he enjoyed reuniting with a bunch of familiar faces on Shattered, including Sullivan (who co-starred with him in Carl Bessai’s Normal) and Parker (with whom he’s appeared in a half dozen projects, including Lynne Stopkewich’s Suspicious River).

“This was a different, difficult project, and to have faces that I knew was helpful. There’s a shorthand if you’ve worked with someone a number of times,” he says. “You don’t have to work to get the relationship part. You can just work on the scenes and hopefully get them right.”

Rennie also had a reunion this summer with Don McKellar (who directed him in his Genie-winning role in Last Night) and director Bruce McDonald. One of Rennie’s most prominent early roles was that of guitar player Billy Tallent in McDonald’s 1996 Hard Core Logo; this year he and McKellar appeared in the sequel, Trigger, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie is a tribute to the recently deceased Tracy Wright, who was married to McKellar.

“I’m a producer on that film, and an actor with a very small part,” Rennie says of the indie feature, which features Wright and Parker as two rock and rollers who rediscover their shattered friendship. “But it was a labour of love. The moment Bruce found out Tracy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he pushed very quickly forward to have this movie made.

“Everyone threw in their time, their money and their energy to have this come together. We found out on a Sunday that Tracy was sick, and we started shooting the next Saturday,” adds Rennie. “It was great to come out and help. It was great to see Tracy.

“And it was an honourable thing for Bruce to have done – to have this wonderfully talented actress going out doing what she did best.”

The Truth About Pat Tillman

www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

The Tillman Story
(out of 4)
A documentary about American pro football player-turned soldier Pat Tillman. Directed by Amir Bar-Lev. 94 minutes. At the Cumberland. 14A

(August 26, 2010) Towards the end of Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary
The Tillman Story, a bronze statue of the former NFL football great who died while serving with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan six years ago is awkwardly lowered onto metal footings outside the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The statue (a crassly unattractive likeness of a man who was so arrestingly handsome) seems to repeatedly balk at attempts to slide in into the slot prepared for it. Which seems fitting for Tillman, who in life, and death, did the same thing.

Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) explores the life and death of Tillman, with narration by Josh Brolin adding a note of rough-edged gravtias, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who gave up a lucrative pro contract to join the Army, dying by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

The events leading to the death of “the most famous enlisted man in the military” was first covered up and then massaged by the U.S. government in a slick campaign of patriotism and public relations, eventually blaming the fog of war instead of the cloak of bull when the Army finally came clean on how Tillman died.

The military wanted its hero at any cost. It needed one to shore up public opinion and maintain support for the war after the promised weapons of mass destruction had failed to materialize, someone they could use as a shining example of a soldier who gave his life for his country in an act of post-9/11 bravery. And who better than a football star? If the facts didn’t match the fiction — to this day Tillman’s reasons for enlisting have never been made public — well, that could be fixed.

TV news reports of the day show emotional reporters detailing how Tillman “took the fight to the enemy” and charged up a hill to save his comrades under sniper fire before being shot by Taliban. The soldiers who were there knew it wasn’t the truth. Tillman was in fact killed by fellow troops who fired even as he lobbed a smoke grenade to identify himself as a “friendly” and stood there roaring: “I’m Pat f------ Tillman!”

They were told to keep their mouths shut. Tillman’s brother, Kevin, who was serving nearby, was kept in the dark, even as a member of Tillman’s unit accompanied Pat’s body and his grieving brother home to the States. At his funeral, John McCain delivered his eulogy and the army awarding Tillman the Silver Star for bravery, a decoration that cannot be given for dying under friendly fire.

An interview Tillman gave in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks about duty to country was released as his reason for enlisting. TV news footage of Army brass visiting Tillman’s widow is explained to viewers as the military being “there for her,” when in fact, they were trying to bully her into a military funeral. Tillman, suspecting this would be the case if he died while serving, had made it clear it was the last thing he wanted.

What the military didn’t count on was Pat’s mother, Dannie Tillman, a plain-speaking woman who is able to project an air of calm despite pain and frustration.

“You have to set the record straight,” she says evenly. And what she couldn’t live with was the cover-up that followed Pat’s death once she learned how he had died.

Through interviews with family and friends, a portrait of Tillman emerges that shows a devoted and highly principled family man who read Norm Chomsky and was an atheist. He wasn’t the God-Fearing-Bless-America type. He questioned the war and America’s role in Afghanistan.

What was exposed by Dannie after years of research and hammering at the military for action was a cover-up that reached about as far up the military ranks as one can go, including the involvement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was recently forced to resign as U.S. commander in Afghanistan for criticizing President Barack Obama in a Rolling Stone interview.

Army brass knew how and why Tillman died; they just chose to tell a different version to the American public. The Tillman Story stands as a truthful and emotional eulogy to a fallen solider and one that would never have been told without Dannie Tillman’s determination. 

Wading Into Winnie Mandela’s World

www.globeandmail.com - Clare F. Byrne, Johannesburg

(August 28, 2010) On the east side of Johannesburg, a pivotal scene in the history of South Africa is playing out. About 60 people are lined up on either side of a prison gate, singing and dancing. As the winter sun squints through the trees lining the drive, Nelson and Winnie Mandela appear, walking hand-in-hand toward the exit, their free hands raised in a clenched-fist wave.

Sibatshelile wema helelema, uyeza umkhonto wesizwe,” the euphoric crowd chants. “We told them the spear of the nation is coming.”

But the celebrations are short-lived. Just as Nelson Mandela has been sprung from 27 years behind bars, he and his wife are ordered back inside.

“Okay, let's do it again. And this time, can the women ululate when they go through the gate?” requests Darrell Roodt. The South African director is calling the shots at a former dynamite factory (standing in for Victor Verster Prison) for the film Winnie, currently shooting across South Africa.

The biopic, slated for release later this year or early next, has plenty of Hollywood power behind it: The principles are played by Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and Terence Howard (Hustle & Flow).

But it took a Canadian company to make the first major film about the controversial first lady of the anti-apartheid struggle. Without money from Montreal’s Equinoxe Films, co-producer along with South Africa's Ma-Afrika films, Roodt says, “it would have been extremely difficult to make.” Winnie has a budget of more than $14-million.

Equinoxe’s involvement has less to with any special link between Canada and South Africa than with good old-fashioned networking. Michael Mosca, who owns Equinoxe and has produced such films as A Sunday in Kigali and Mommy is at the Hairdresser's, was approached by way of a friend who knew the biopic was looking for financing. “It's very difficult to put together a movie that's over $12-million, $13-million independently without having two or three countries involved,” he notes.

It was the screenplay that sold him on the project. “I loved the script because I found it quite educational. On this side of the Earth, sometimes we don't know what's going on the other side,” he says. This film “was very interesting because it's controversial. There's a love story there that's amazing. You're looking at a couple, the Mandelas, that had to sustain a love [while] not seeing each other for almost 27 years on and off.”

Mosca, in turn, approached his own long-time friend, Toronto actor Wendy Crewson, to play the part of Mary Botha, a social worker and activist who befriends the Mandelas and accompanies them through their many trials, both literal and figurative. A composite character, Botha contains elements of all the famous white women (including recently deceased parliamentarian Helen Suzman) who broke ranks with the apartheid establishment and agitated for democracy.

“When I read the script, I thought, ‘This has to be done,’ ” said the 54-year-old actress, in between sips on a latte, during a break from shooting. Based on an unauthorized biography by South African journalist Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob, Winnie reverses the “short shrift” Mandela’s famous partner has been given, says Crewson, who feels Winnie Mandela was “shunted aside” as soon as it was uncomfortable to have her around.

That discomfort related mainly to the Stompie Moeketsi affair: In 1991, the year after Nelson Mandela's release, Winnie was convicted of kidnapping the 14-year-old activist. Cajoled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu into appearing at the 1996-98 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Winnie grudgingly admitted “things went horribly wrong.” Her six-year sentence was reduced on appeal and she paid a fine.

Crewson admits she had a very different view of Winnie before working on Winnie – “as a sort of evil, conniving, power-hungry person.” Now, she holds the African National
Congresschiefly responsible for Winnie’s transgressions. “She allowed [Mandela] to stay above the fray, but she got sucked down into it,” she says. “I think she should have been better protected – by the cause, by everybody.”

Clad in a loose white shirt, baggy black trousers and dark-rimmed glasses, Crewson cuts a bohemian figure among the ornate balconies and fountains of Johannesburg’s Michelangelo Hotel. It's certainly a far cry from the impoverished townships where much of the action in the movie takes place – among the many signs of inequality that in turn drive high crime rates in South Africa.

When her friends heard she was heading to Johannesburg, Crewson says they were alarmed. “Oh no,” they told her, “it’s really dangerous.”

For her part, the actress – who has worked on more than 100 TV and film projects, including her famous turn as the jolly man’s ex-wife in the Santa Clause films with Tim Allen – was more alarmed at the level of security for those taking part in the shoot. “You're given a driver – and you're expected to use him,” she says.

Crewson, the mother of a 20-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son, was most shocked by the condition of kids in Kliptown, a shantytown in Soweto, where some of the film is set. “There were children running barefoot among broken bottles and trash, and untreated sewage flowing in the street. And you could barely see – there was so much smoke [from wood fires] in the air. I bet you all the kids have asthma.”

Still, Crewson adds that there have been many pleasant experiences while filming in South Africa – including the
World Cup. “It was just great,” she says, even if the blaring of vuvuzelas made it feel “like your head was being invaded by a swarm of bees.”

Between shoots on Winnie, she also found plenty of time to explore. Her son, Jack, joined her for a safari near the border with Botswana. They also took a trip to the Cape Town area, where they spotted whales and sharks off the coastline.

Of course, there's some irony to be found in the fact that a film that sets out to buff Winnie's memory is being made with Canadian money. When Winnie Mandela applied for a visa to travel to Canada in 2007 to attend the opening of an opera documenting her life, Ottawa turned her down because of her criminal record. “Maybe the officials will be able to look at [the film] and rethink it,” says Crewson.

In the meantime, Madikizela-Mandela, as she has called herself since her divorce from Nelson Mandela in 1996, will have to take solace in a sympathetic portrayal. Roodt, who was nominated for a best foreign-language-film Oscar for his 2004 film Yesterday, about an HIV-positive mother, says the film is “a tale all about forgiveness and redemption.

“I think ultimately I'd be very surprised if Winnie saw this film and didn't cry.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

a report from Guy Dixon

French Director Alain Corneau Dies At 67

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 30, 2010) PARIS — Alain Corneau, the French filmmaker who leapt to international notice with the 1991 hit Tous les Matins du Monde, has died, his talent agency said Monday. He was 67.

Artmedia agency said Corneau had been suffering from cancer and died overnight Sunday to Monday.

Throughout a career lasting more than 35 years, Corneau directed many legends of French cinema, including Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

Depardieu starred alongside his son Guillaume in Tous les Matins du Monde (“All the Mornings of the World”). The film, the story of a 17th-century musician, won considerable critical acclaim at home and abroad. It garnered seven Cesar awards, the French equivalent of the Academy Awards, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign film.

The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Corneau as a “courageous man” and a “great director.”

Through his films, “Corneau pursued an unceasing investigation into what makes humans human,” said Sarkozy's office in a statement.

Born on Aug. 7, 1943, Corneau dabbled in music before making his start in cinema as an assistant for Greek-born filmmaker Costa-Gavras. Early on in his career, he made a series of thrillers, including Choice of Arms, a 1981 gangster flick starring Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu and Yves Montand.

An avid follower of literature, Corneau adapted seven of his 16 films from novels. His latest movie, Love Crime, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, opened in France in mid-August.

Ally Sheedy Plays The Girl With The Jihad Tattoo

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(August 27, 2010) Settled on a suede sofa at Toronto’s Intercontinental Hotel bar, Ally Sheedy is rooting through her purse. “I have to ask you if I can do the rudest thing,” she says meekly, at last extracting and chomping on a piece of nicotine gum. “Obama chews it. That means it’s okay.”

Now in her late 40s, Sheedy has a face that shows a few faint smoker’s lines. She is bubbly and frank, nothing like the reclusive, oddball Allison she played in the 1985 cult classic The Breakfast Club. As we talk, the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival is winding down and the one-time Brat Pack actress is offering up what seems a refreshingly unrehearsed take on her latest film,
Life During Wartime.

A darkly comic and awkward look into some rather twisted suburban lives, the film is what director Todd Solondz describes as “part sequel, part variation” on his successful and controversial 1998 film Happiness, which portrayed a pedophile somewhat sympathetically. Continuity has been thrown out the window – some characters have vanished; some are the wrong ages; one is even of a different skin colour – but there is no mistaking that Life During Wartime picks up where Happiness left off.

Not that Sheedy knew that. “I didn’t realize that Todd was revisiting a world that he kept looking at, to be perfectly honest. I’m not going to call myself the dumbest person in the world, but I didn’t get that when I first read the script,” she says. “I wasn’t doing the Todd film festival at home and trying to pick up threads on anything. It didn’t go that way. It was a clean slate.”

Sheedy had auditioned before for Solondz, the quirky indie director from New Jersey, though she didn’t get that earlier part. But in 2006, she read for him again, for the role she would eventually win in Life During Wartime: the deeply neurotic and unstable Helen. “Then, I didn’t hear from him for a few years, during which time I thought he must have lost the money, or he hated me,” she says.

There finally came a call from the director asking Sheedy to get on a plane to Puerto Rico “in the next 24 hours” to shoot Life During Wartime. That made impossible any research on the film’s links to Happiness.

Solondz’s new film is in part an exploration of how far the notion of “forgive and forget” can apply in the lives of a cast of suburban Americans who are desperately chasing “normalcy” in a world of terrorism and fear, a world that seems both far removed from the neighbourhood’s cookie-cutter streets and yet uncomfortably close at hand.

Helen is the sister of Joy (Shirley Henderson) and Trish (Allison Janney). The latter is divorced from a convicted pedophile who has just been paroled. Helen seems at every moment about to topple over an emotional precipice; and like most of Solondz’s characters, she is neither wholly despicable nor particularly sympathetic. Raised a privileged Jewish girl, she feels misunderstood and displaced by her family and has consequently (and somewhat absurdly) decided she sympathizes with the Palestinian cause.

She even has “JIHAD” tattooed down one arm. “It’s just so horrible. It so defies logic, it’s so lost in translation, that at a certain point you have to laugh at it, because it’s so disgusting. But not for her. For her, she’s tormented,” Sheedy says.

It was Solondz’s writing of the characters, particularly Helen’s, that first attracted Sheedy to the script; she has long had a passion for writing. At 12, she published a children’s book under her full name, Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy, about a mouse who travels back in time to the court of Elizabeth I. She Was Nice to Mice became a bestseller and helped launch Sheedy toward fame.

Since then, she has mostly kept her writing to herself, and more recently to a Los Angeles-based writing class she kept up by correspondence from her home in New York. Writing is a passion, but a solitary one for the time being: Sheedy has no plans to publish, unless it could be under a pseudonym. “I don’t know that I would have the confidence to write something and publish under my own name, because I feel like it would be asking for trouble, really,” she says.

Instead, her film career keeps her in the semi-spotlight, most recently with a role in David Garrett’s Ten Stories Tall, which has begun making the festival rounds. She is determined to return, eventually, to one of Solondz’s sets.

“If he does not cast me again, I will hunt him down and kill him,” she says, laughing. “He knows. … New York is a small town.”

Life During Wartime opens Aug. 27 in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Shia Labeouf Gives Best Bang For The Buck

Source: www. thestar.com

(August 31, 2010) For the second straight year, Transformers star Shia LaBeouf topped a Forbes.com list of Hollywood’s Best Actors for the Buck, with women claiming five of the top 10 spots compared with zero last year.

Based on the financial news site’s own calculations, for every $1 the studios spent on LaBeouf, his films return about $81 (U.S.) of profit. Those movies included Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($836 million worldwide box office) and the fourth Indiana Jones film ($787 million).

Anne Hathaway took the No. 2 spot, earning the studios $64 off of her films for every dollar they spent for her to star in Alice in Wonderland ($1 billion global box office) and Bride Wars, among others.

Hathaway’s emergence bumped last year’s runner-up, Wanted actor James McAvoy, completely off the top 10 list.

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe was No. 3 this year, while Iron Man’s Robert Downey Jr. nabbed fourth.

Cate Blanchett came in fifth and Meryl Streep and Jennifer Aniston were tied in sixth place.

Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker round out the top 10.

The full list can be found at www.forbes.com.

Forbes.com looked at the top 36 earners in Hollywood, and each had to have starred in at least three movies in five years that opened in more than 500 theatres. Movies that opened after June 1, 2010, were not counted, nor were animated films.


The American: A Hunter On The Run, With A Femme Fatale In His Sights

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

The American
(out of 4)
Starring George Clooney, Violante Placido, Paolo Bonacelli and Johan Leysen. Directed by Anton Corbijn. At theatres through the GTA. 14A

(August 31, 2010) The hunter becomes the hunted in
The American, a Euro-style romantic suspense movie by Anton Corbijn (Control) that suggests what would happen if James Bond took his eye off the ball.

George Clooney is that 007 doppelgänger, a still-formidable secret assassin whose heart now rules his head.

“You’ve lost your edge, Jack,” a mysterious operative scolds him.

Jack’s appetite for spy work may have dulled, but not his abilities. He’s still a crack shot and also a master craftsman, able to build a gun out of little more than scrap material.

He has also apparently gained the ability to love. This is potentially fatal for a man in his line of work, as a prologue in Sweden demonstrates with bloody dispatch.

Jack hightails it to Italy, seeking cover in a small town in the mountainous Abruzzo region, where only the local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and a golden-hearted prostitute (Violante Placido) seem curious about his visit.

He is approached by a dark-shaded woman (Thekla Reuten) who wants him to outfit her for an assassination plot that hints of international consequences.

Jack reluctantly agrees, intending it as his swan song for the spy business. Time was when he would have known better, especially with the Swedish business still unsettled.

Alfred Hitchcock defined suspense as the bomb beneath the breakfast table that gives no hint of its lethal timing. This certainly applies to The American, which Corbijn and screenwriter Rowan Joffe (Brighton Rock) allow to smoulder with the longest of fuses.

They follow the European clock, not the Hollywood one. Clooney is the only star in it who is known to North Americans. It’s like a James Bond movie, in many respects, but it’s more art house than blockbuster.

The film’s many pleasures are in its slow reveals, the dangerously enchanting scenery being among them. There is much of Roman Polanski’s cold eye for beauty in Corbijn’s work.

We get tantalizing few background details on Jack, who is also known as Edward, reason unknown. He’s one of Clooney’s better characters and he invests him with a hooded menace, alert to danger.

Yet Jack is inclined to recklessness — perhaps he has a death wish?

He makes friends with the locals, despite a warning not to do so, and he often sits in cafés with his back to the window, even when shifty characters are about. Doesn’t he know The Godfather maxim that a man must always have his back to the wall?

Still, who could blame him for losing control over Placido, surely one of the most sensual women Clooney has ever been paired with. Maybe that’s why the sex — more graphic than usual for Clooney — seems real.

We get almost nothing of Jack’s past, and little more about his future intentions, apart from a desire to start a new life. He claims not to believe in higher realms of existence, but the priest contradicts him.

“You cannot deny the existence of hell,” he says. “You live in it.” 


Tupac Biopic Gets Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters

www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(August 27, 2010) *Two Oscar-nominated screenwriters have been hired to write director
Antoine Fuqua’s biopic on Tupac Shakur. Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson, both of whom were involved in the writing of 2001′s “Ali,” have come on board the project that is set to begin shooting in mid-November for a 2011 release, reports New York Magazine’s Vulture blog. The film has yet to cast a lead actor for the role of Tupac. Rivele told Vulture he knew little about the rapper – who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996 – until he began to research. “I knew nothing about Shakur. But it became clear he was essentially a 19th century romantic poet who found himself in the 21st century,” Rivele said. “He was obviously very angry, and had been subjected to a great deal of violence in the home, in the streets and in prison. But he was just beginning to shed that anger and look for a purer voice.” Wilkinson confirmed the script would focus on the last day of his life, with flashbacks to his final four years.

Bollywood Comes To Holy Land For Film About Jesus

Source: www. globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 31, 2010) JERUSALEM — Indian filmmakers say they're in the Holy Land to shoot the first Bollywood movie on the early life of Jesus. Director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao says his production will have an all-Indian cast of child actors, featuring seven devotional songs. Producer Konda Krishnam Raju said at a news conference Tuesday that the film focuses on the childhood of Jesus, a contrast with other movies that depict his later years. “This is the first presentation of this type in Bollywood history,” he added. At $30 million, the filmmakers say, it's one of India's highest budget movies. An average Indian movie costs about $500,000. Aditya Productions plans to release the movie next year. Christians in India number 24 million, or about 2.3 per cent of the population.

::TV NEWS::\

William Shatner Tackles The Weird And Inexplicable In Weird Or What?

Source: www.thestar.com -
Cassandra Szklarski

(August 30, 2010)
We all know William Shatner is weird, and clearly he does, too.

Why else would he have been tapped to host a show called William Shatner’s Weird or What? quips the Star Trek icon-turned-Priceline pitchman.

“Some people think that I — as a performer — am weird or what,” the amiable Shatner said in a recent conference call from Los Angeles.

“Unbelievable. What's the explanation for that?”

The Canadian screen legend has no qualms about poking fun at himself and his cornball reputation, even embracing it as host of the History Television series with his own tongue-in-cheek take on real-life mystifying events.

Debuting on Wednesday (History Televison at 10 p.m.), each episode of William Shatner's Weird or What? attempts to explain the seemingly inexplicable. Stories range from paranormal phenomena to puzzling natural disasters.

In the first episode, a whimsical Shatner reveals that a nine-kilogram chunk of ice one day crashed through the roof of a woman's house, landing on her kitchen floor.

“Oh no, this ice was not nice,” Shatner intones as he dons oven mitts to pick up a frozen, bowling ball-sized lump for the camera.

Another episode profiles a woman who was shot in the chest but survived because she had breast implants, said producer Charles Tremayne, joining the conference call from New York.

Shatner deadpanned: “We're recommending for policemen to have breast implants for protection.”

The 79-year-old Montreal native is clearly enjoying himself, and just happens to be embarking on one of the busiest periods of his lengthy career.

In addition to serving as host and executive producer of William Shatner's Weird or What? He’s gearing up for a return to network prime-time as the star of the upcoming CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says. Then there’s his upcoming behind-the-headlines series, Aftermath with William Shatner, and his ongoing celebrity-interview series, Shatner's Raw Nerve.

All that is in addition to producing and writing the documentary The Captains for his own production company and running a horse farm.

“Shows like Weird or What? keep me busy. But I like it that way, I'm really enjoying it,” he said.

Shatner says he doesn't have to look far to find something bewildering and wondrous in the world.

“Almost everything that takes place is weird, whether it's a social transaction or a physical event. Anything that we perceive is, in its final analysis, kind of weird because there are ramifications that we don’t even know. The possibilities that are suggested in quantum physics tell us that everything that we’re looking at may not be in fact there, so the underlying nature of being is weird.”

Tremayne says Shatner displays a genuine fascination for everyday things that most people take for granted, recalling a conversation in which the former Capt. Kirk marvelled at a drinking glass.

“Just think about being able to see through material,” Shatner interjected, later admitting to believing in extraterrestrial life and experiencing eerie coincidences he found inexplicable.

“You can see through glass! We’ve long since lost our amazement. It’s silica and other things, but it’s solid material and we can see through it. How is that possible? Actually, how is it possible?

“To bring that amazement to the audience, to bring back that sense of awe and wonder with fun was what we were attempting to do.”

The Big C Brings Laughs To A Serious Matter

Source: www. globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(August 31, 2010) Sometimes laughter isn't just the best medicine. For those living on borrowed time, it's the only option remaining.

Unseemly as it sounds, the laughs come freely in the new cable series
The Big C (Wednesday, Super Channel, at 10 p.m.), which stars film actress Laura Linney as a suburban wife and mother handed a terminal cancer diagnosis. Yes, it’s a comedy.

“Obviously the premise is on the dark side, but presented with great care and affection,” said Linney at the recent TV critics’ tour. “Of course cancer is a very serious matter, but most people facing the inevitable are usually able to find the grim humour of their situation.”

Clearly, The Big C is relatable. Likely every person on the planet has lost a friend or family member to cancer at some point. “It's one of life’s grand ironies that most of us realize too late that it’s a privilege to grow old,” Linney said.

The Big C’s debut in the U.S. last month garnered record ratings for the cable channel Showtime, which has previously scored hits with shows centred on a pot-dealing soccer mom (Weeds), a housewife with associative identity disorder (United States of Tara) and a drug-addicted nurse (Nurse Jackie).

The offbeat premise casts Linney as Cathy Jamison, a Minneapolis schoolteacher, wife and mother whose life changes immeasurably when diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. Given roughly a year to live, she’s shocked into a condensed life-affirmation program.

“This is Cathy’s opportunity to find out who she really is,” said Linney, a three-time Emmy winner and multiple Oscar nominee. “She has a huge growth spurt.”

Cathy’s first response is denial, naturally. Then she gets mad. Or perhaps even?

Newly energized, she first torches the plain but sensible living room sofa she’s always loathed. Then she throws her oafish husband Paul (Oliver Platt), out of the house, albeit temporarily. She viciously pranks her spoiled teenage son Adam (Gabriel Brasso), and stands up to her most demanding student, a petulant, plus-sized teen played by Oscar-nominated newcomer Gabourey Sidibe.

“Cathy realizes her first chance to take on these sorts of challenges is also probably her last chance,” Linney said. “Although it’s completely against her nature, she actually begins to enjoy her new fearlessness.”

And all those acts of bravery transpire in the very first episode. In future chapters of The Big C, Cathy disrupts a cancer-support group, has a wild fling with a handsome black man (played by The Wire’s Idris Elba) and, for the first time in her life, has the unique experience of a full bikini-waxing.

Much of The Big C’s realism stems from the involvement of former Sex and the City writer-producer Jenny Bicks, who had a similar reaction when diagnosed with breast cancerseveral years ago.

“I bought a Porsche,” said Bicks, who serves as executive producer on the series. “I did many things I wouldn't have normally done because I figured, what the hell? Why am I waiting?”

The first season of The Big C is booked for a 13-episode run and Linney is painfully aware she’s playing a role with a time limit. All comedic scenarios aside, the show’s producers insist the storyline will follow her character’s progress through the later stages of cancer. Then again, miracles can happen.

“Sort of weirdly, right after we started shooting the show, research came out about this new treatment for melanoma,” said an optimistic Linney. “I don't know what's going to happen, but for now I find the fullness of the time that she has left so wonderful. As long as it's honest, I'm game for whatever happens.”

Flashpoint Leads With 15 Gemini Nominations

Source: www. thestar.com - Michael Oliveira

(August 31, 2010) CTV cop drama Flashpoint once again snared the most Gemini Award attention as nominations for the best in Canadian TV were announced Tuesday.

Last year, Flashpoint led with a record 19 nominations and went on to win six Geminis, including Best Drama, Direction and Actor, for Enrico Colantoni. Colantoni picked up another nomination this year but for a guest spot on Cra$h & Burn, which got six nominations.

Other top-nominated shows include coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics with 13 nods, and nine each for the CBC miniseries Guns and The Summit, HBO Canada's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, and the Space drama Stargate Universe.

The most comedy nominations went to HBO's Less Than Kind with eight, including Best Comedy, Director, Writing and three nods for individual performances.

HBO's Durham County picked up seven, including Best Drama and Best Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role.

The other contenders in the Best Drama category are Flashpoint, Stargate Universe, and CBC's The Tudors and Republic of Doyle.

Republic of Doyle also picked up nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. Three-time nominee Lynda Boyd admitted she'd love to finally take home a trophy.

“You always say it doesn't matter, (it's an honour) just to be nominated and that is true — but I’d like to win it,” she said with a laugh.

“It's just a real nice acknowledgment that what we were doing there in Newfoundland last year . . . has become this hit, and it's really lovely to be part of it.”

Liana Balaban was nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Drama or Miniseries for the CBC TV movie Abroad, which picked up three nominations. It was Balaban's first Gemini nomination and she said she was genuinely excited to have her name called out on Tuesday.

“I'm thrilled,” she said. “It's really nice to be recognized by my colleagues. It means someone was watching and someone cared and someone wanted you to be recognized.”

Other notable nominations include Christopher Plummer's nod for Best Actor in a Miniseries, for The Summit, and Michael Bublé for Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program, for At The Concert Hall.

In a couple weeks, the Geminis will host a website asking TV fans to vote on their favourite Canadian show of the last quarter-century. The results will be counted down on the Gemini award broadcast, which airs Nov. 13.

See a selected list of nominations at www.thestar.com/entertainment. The complete list is at www.geminiawards.ca/gemini25/

Gemini Nominations

Best Animated Program or Series: Glenn Martin, DDS; Adam Shaheen; Guess With Jess; Johnny Test; Kid Vs. Kat; Wapos Bay

Best Children's or Youth Fiction Program or Series: Degrassi: The Next Generation; Overruled!; Pillars of Freedom; That's So Weird!; Total Drama Action

Best Children's or Youth Non-Fiction Program or Series: A World of Wonders; Canada's Super Speller; Survive This; TVOKIDS: Mark's Moments

Best Comedy Program or Series: Dan for Mayor; Less Than Kind; Little Mosque on the Prairie; Pure Pwnage; Rick Mercer Report

Best Documentary Series: Aftermath; Down the Mighty River; Licence to Drill; The View From Here; Word Travels

Best Dramatic Miniseries: Alice; The Phantom; The Summit

Best Dramatic Series: Durham County; Flashpoint; Republic of Doyle; Stargate Universe; The Tudors

Best History Documentary Program: Dive Detectives: Edmund Fitzgerald; Manson; Paris 1919; Passage

Best Live Sporting Event: 2009 Grey Cup; 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Gold Medal Game; Hockey Night In Canada, Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7; Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Best Music, Variety Program or Series: 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards; The 2010 Juno Awards; Battle of the Blades; Canadian Country Music Awards 2009; So You Think You Can Dance Canada

Best Performing Arts Program or Series or Arts Documentary Program or Series: Capturing Reality; Fire Jammers; Live At . . .; Nureyev; Star Portraits

Best Preschool Program or Series: Dino Dan; Kids' Canada; The Ocean Room; Peep and the Big Wide World; Wibbly Pig

Best Reality Program or Series: Canada's Next Top Model; The Cupcake Girls; Dragons’ Den; Love It or List It

Best Talk Series: The After Show; The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos; MTV Live; Spectacle: Elvis Costello With. . .

Best TV Movie: Abroad; Deadliest Sea; The Good Times Are Killing Me; She Drives Me Crazy

Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program: A Dream For Kabul; Broke.; Reel Injun; Up Against the Wall; Water on the Table

Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series: Kenny Vs. Spenny; 22 Minutes; 18 to Life

Best Individual Performance in a Comedy Program or Series: Benjamin Arthur, Less Than Kind; Lisa Durupt, Less Than Kind; Wendel Meldrum, Less Than Kind; Rick Mercer, Rick Mercer Report; Pete Zedlacher, Just For Laughs Gala Series 2009

Best News Anchor: Ian Hanomansing, CBC News Vancouver; Peter Mansbridge, CBC News: The National; Diana Swain, CBC News: Toronto at 6:00

Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role: Robert Carlyle, Stargate Universe; Louis Ferreira, Stargate Universe; Allan Hawco, Republic of Doyle; Luke Kirby, Cra$h & Burn; Michael Riley, Being Erica

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: CLE Bennett, Guns; Greg Byrk, Deadliest Sea; Colm Feore, Guns; Matt Frewer, Alice; Christopher Plummer, The Summit; Vincent Walsh, The Good Times Are Killing Me

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series: CLE Bennett, The Line; Sergio Di Zio, Flashpoint; Genadijs Dolganovs, The Bridge; Sebastian Pigott, Being Erica; Mark Taylor, Flashpoint

Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series: Enrico Colantoni, Cra$h & Burn; Christopher Heyerdahl, Sanctuary; Michael Riley, Flashpoint; Hugh Thompson, Flashpoint; Kristopher Turner, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: K.C. Collins, Guns; Bruce Greenwood, The Summit; Jared Keeso, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story; Andrew Lee Potts, Alice; Peter Outerbridge, Deadliest Sea

Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role: Lynda Boyd, Republic of Doyle; Caroline Cave, Cra$h & Burn; Hélène Joy, Durham County; Grace Park, The Border; Victoria Snow, Paradise Falls

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: Wendy Crewson, The Summit; Sarah Manninen, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story; Debra Lynne McCabe, Guns

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series: Catherine Disher, The Border; Eve Harlow, The Guard; Reagan Pasternak, Being Erica; Jessica Steen, Flashpoint; Rachel Wilson, Republic of Doyle

Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series: ONA Grauer, Flashpoint; Laurence Leboeuf, Flashpoint; Tatiana Maslany, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures; Debra Lynne McCabe, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures; Anastasia Phillips, Murdoch Mysteries

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: Liane Balaban, Abroad; Sun Li, Iron Road; Caterina Scorsone, Alice

Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series: Charlotte Arnold, Degrassi: The Next Generation; Landon Liboiron, Degrassi: The Next Generation; Kayla Lorette, That's So Weird!; Melinda Shankar, How to Be Indie; Jamie Watson, Peep and the Big Wide World

Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series (Individual or Ensemble): Nico Archambault, Nureyev; Louise Pitre, Hot Toxic Love: The Making of The Toxic Avenger Musical; Evan Alexander Smith, Hot Toxic Love: The Making of The Toxic Avenger Musical

Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series (Individual or Ensemble): Classified, The 2010 Juno Awards; K'naan, The 2010 Juno Awards; Kurt Browning, Battle Of The Blades; Michael Bublé, At the Concert Hall; Leah Miller, So You Think You Can Dance Canada

Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series: Jim Allodi, Little Mosque on the Prairie; James Dunnison, Less Than Kind; Michael Kennedy, Little Mosque on the Prairie; Ian MacDonald, Pure Pwnage; Henry Sarwer-Foner, Rick Mercer Report

Best Direction in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: Nick Copus, The Summit; T.J. Scott, Deadliest Sea; Sudz Sutherland, Guns; Jeff Woolnough, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story; David Wu, Iron Road

Best Direction in a Dramatic Series: David Frazee, Flashpoint; Andy Mikita, Stargate Universe; Adrienne Mitchell, Durham County; Jeremy Podeswa, The Tudors; Stephen Surjik, Flashpoint

Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Program or Series: Jarett Cale, Geoff Lapaire, Pure Pwnage; Jenn Engels, Less Than Kind; Rick Green, Duncan McKenzie, History Bites — The Filthy Stinking Rich; Marvin Gaye, Chris Sheasgreen, Less Than Kind; Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town

Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries: Tim Cherry, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story; Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland, Guns; John Krizanc, The Summit; Leah McLaren, Abroad; Moze Mossanen, Nureyev; Nick Willing, Alice

Best Writing in a Dramatic Series: Philip Bedard, Larry Lalonde, Murdoch Mysteries; Jeremy Boxen, Cra$h & Burn; Mark Haroun, Heartland; Alex Levine, The Border; Ian Weir, Flashpoint

Best Writing in a Documentary Program or Series: Eric Bednarski, Barry Cowling, The Strangest Dream; Scott Harper, Philanthropy Inc.; Vladimir Kabelik, So Far From Home; Susan Teskey, Love, Hate and Propaganda; John Walker, Passage

Jim Parsons: Canada's Favourite Geek Enters TV Pantheon

www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(August 29, 2010) When Jim Parsons was a kid growing up in Houston, he loved television. Sitcoms in particular; he'd spend hours in front of the set soaking up everything from Three's Company to Family Ties.

So he's in orbit to be part of the sitcom tradition with The Big Bang Theory and feels doubly blessed to be singled out with an Emmy nomination for best lead actor in a comedy.

Parsons says he's overwhelmed just to be mentioned among the other nominees. It is a highly competitive field, with the first-time nominee up against Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Matthew Morrison (Glee), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office) and Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).

The stars were mobbed for the third year in a row this summer at the San Diego Comic-Con, an experience Parsons likens to an annual pep rally. Parsons calls their fan base “the sweetest, least psychotic bunch of people I've ever met.”

His character's fan-boy fascination with all things Star Trek was lampooned this spring when Parsons was chosen to walk on stage at CBS's “upfront” to advertisers at Carnegie Hall — and hug William Shatner (starring in the new CBS comedy S#*! My Dad Says).

“That was harrowing,” says Parsons, interviewed on the phone from New York and later at the recent TV critics press tour in Los Angeles. “It was an extremely surreal way to meet William Shatner.”

Parsons says Shatner — who he describes as “very game, as I think he's proven” — made the encounter feel “as un-awkward as one could possibly do in that circumstance.”

The 37-year-old speaks in his character's halting cadence but there's a genuine warmth and social ease you never see in his character, theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper. His answers are almost disarmingly precise, and free of any sound-bite sameness.

The Big Bang Theory is at the centre of the riskiest programming move of the fall, with CBS sliding it from Mondays to Thursdays. (It returns Sept. 23.) Parsons says he was very surprised when he heard the news, but “the more it sinks in, the more I feel good about it.”

Parsons and his show may have momentum on their side. He was singled out by TV critics for comedy acting at the 2009 TCA Awards. His series is up for five Emmys and, heading into a fourth season, has never been higher in the ratings. That's especially true in Canada, where it soared near the three million viewers a week mark last spring when it moved from A to CTV.

The new season will feature more of Mayim Bialik, introduced at the end of last season as a potential love interest for Cooper after his name was entered in a computer dating service. Basic human biology seems beyond Parsons' too-blunt physicist.

“I never thought we'd even stumble upon a female that he communicated with,” he says. Executive producer Chuck Lorre will only say it will be a “unique relationship.”

Parsons was in Tofino, B.C., earlier this year shooting scenes for the upcoming feature comedy The Big Year with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. As he flirts with a film career, the show heads into a fourth season, with a huge syndication deal already in place for the following year — so Parsons and the show could be at that oh-uh point.

This is where ensemble casts — here including Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar — start counting lines, showing up late and demanding more money, where critics start turning on a show they once loved. Lorre might be less hands-on now that he has three series on the go — this, Two and a Half Men and the new comedy Mike & Molly.

“That was my big concern too,” says Parsons, who considers Lorre a TV comedy genius. “There's something that he does that attracts a broader audience than a lot of things and yet remains specific and genuine and honest. Maybe the secret is creating extremely relatable characters.”

Lorre says he'll still be in charge this season, although he admits he doesn't know how. As for the cast getting big heads, there was no evidence of that on a visit to the set this year. But Parsons' career virtually exploded with Big Bang. Previously he'd only shot a few episodes of Judging Amy and Ed; now kids wear Sheldon Cooper T-shirts. When asked for some perspective on his success, he ponders it a bit.

After a long, reflective pause, he offers, “There is something odd about a lot of the parts of this career, but it is all related to the day-to-day work of getting a part and being there on the job. The big thing, the joyous thing, the lucky, lucky thing, is that I'm currently in a position where I get to do that regularly.

“I guess what I'm saying is, and I hope it's not unhealthy, it's hard to have any perspective at all — the only perspective is the doing.

“Wow,” says Parsons, sounding for all the world like Sheldon Cooper. “This just turned into a real therapy session.”

Are Three New Law Dramas Over The Legal Limit?

Source: www. thestar.com - Rob Salem

(August 31, 2010) There oughta be a law . . . oh wait, there is.

Wednesday nights won’t stray far from the courtroom this season, with
three new legal dramas converging — all at the same time. (This does not include former L.A. Law-yer Jimmy Smits’ new one, Outlaw, which fortunately airs on Fridays.)

I wish I could tell you which one to watch, but I like them all. Well, the two that I’ve seen. No one has yet seen a foot of film from the much-anticipated new Law & Order: Los Angeles, which, like the others, debuts Sept. 22 at 10 p.m., on NBC and CTV.

But really, the L&O franchise and format are now 20 years old. Beyond location and cast, it isn’t going to change.

In terms of the latter, the new rotating prosecutors are being played by Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard. And Skeet Ulrich has been cast as the primary cop, a by-the-books second-generation detective who is, intriguingly, married to his former partner.

“I can’t really tell you what it’s going to be in its entirety, because I have one script at the moment,” Ulrich allowed at the July TV critics tour, before production had even started.

In lieu of a preview, executive producer Dick Wolf took the opportunity to reach out to fans of the cancelled Law & Order “mother ship.”

“That’s business,” he shrugged. “That’s life. We had one of the greatest runs in the history of the business. Everything on television is born under a death sentence. They just don’t tell you the date of execution.

“Obviously, René (co-producer Balcer) and I and the hundreds of people that have been associated with Law & Order over the past 20 years in New York were extremely disappointed that the show didn’t come back. (But) we have had an enormous opportunity, out of the disappointment, to bring over many of the people who have been part of Law & Order for lo these many years, including René and the bulk of the writing staff.”

And there is one thing that will never change, the special sound that signals scene changes in the series. “The ‘ching-chings,’ or ‘dong dongs,’ are going to be there,” assures Wolf.

“You can’t do Law & Order without the ching-chings,” confirms co-producer Blake Masters.

Where the Law & Orders divide their narrative between prosecutors and police, the inventive new time-slot challenger, The Whole Truth (Sept. 22, ABC at 10), pits the prosecution against the defence and then both against, well, the truth.

Each gets a third of the drama’s hour, with each side assembling its evidence and testimony and setting up its case, and then the final third revealing what actually happened.

The approach is both novel and familiar, since this is the way most of us watch most courtroom procedurals.

“There’s a real natural build to it,” says co-producer Jonathan Littman, “especially the way we’re telling the story by going back in time, having two acts take place over the exact same period of time from two different perspectives, and then building and building, building through the trial.

“Hopefully we can keep that up.”

I can also make a case for our third new Wednesday-night lawyer show, The Defenders — named not for the old ’60s series, but rather a recent documentary about Las Vegas law partners — which airs early at 8 on CTV, before its home-network broadcast on CBS at 10.

I did not expect to like it at all. I have had about as much of Vegas locations as any TV viewer could. Abrasive personal encounters and the inexplicable longevity of his sitcom According to Jim had turned me right off Jim Belushi. I always considered Jerry O’Connell something of a lightweight.

But together in this project, something magical has clicked. I had forgotten, over the years, that Belushi is an accomplished and effective character actor. And O’Connell, of all things, actually comes to the show fresh out of real-life law school.

“I did one year of night school,” he qualifies, “so it was not full-time, thank goodness.

“It’s been invaluable, having gone to law school and then getting onto this project.

“Of course, there was no way I could do both. It’s not possible. I could barely do law school on its own. It was a lot of work. It was more reading than I think anyone should ever have to do. It was really difficult. But it was a great experience.”

The semi-Rashomon split perspective also works in a couples context for the first of our four new non-legal Wednesday-night shows, Better with You (Sept. 22, ABC at 8:30).

The new comedy offering from Friends co-producer Shana Goldberg-Meehan takes a kind of Modern Family approach to romance, contrasting the diverse relationships of two very different sisters (Jennifer Finnigan and Joanna Garcia) and their parents (Kurt Fuller and ’70s Show mom Debra Jo Rupp).

Unconventional coupling is also the focus of J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers (Sept. 22, NBC and City at 8), a Nick & Nora/Mr. & Mrs. Smith-style spy thriller, heavy on the patter, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe as married ex-agents pressed back into service. Gerald McRaney is beyond hilarious as their humourless CIA liaison.

I wrote about Global’s new cop drama Shattered (Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.) at some length on the weekend, though it bears repeating that this is the first time any one show has been able to fully exploit the vast character range of Callum Keith Rennie . . . by casting him as a cop with multiple personalities. Sounds dumb, I know. But it really isn’t.

One more new show to go . . . Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a cheerleader!

When Tom Welling hangs up his Superman cape — immediately after he first puts it on, as he expected to do in the final episodes of Smallville — he will be stepping behind the camera as the producer of Hellcats (Sept. 8, CW and A at 9), a kind of Bring It On, The Series about competitive cheerleading, starring Disney chicks Alyson Michalka and Ashley Tisdale. Again, not nearly as dopey as it sounds. Call it “the anti-Glee.”

TOMORROW: Nikita, the girl with the phoenix tattoo. rsalem@thestar.ca


Rescue Me: Sept. 1, Showcase at 10

America’s Next Top Model: Sept. 8, CW and A at 8

Survivor: Nicaragua: Sept. 14, CBS and Global at 8

Dragons’ Den: Sept. 22, CBC at 8

The Tudors: Sept. 22, CBC at 9

Hell’s Kitchen: Sept. 22, Fox at 9; Sept. 24 on City at 8

Criminal Minds: Sept. 22, CBS at 9

The Middle: Sept. 22, ABC at 8; CTV at 9

Modern Family: Sept. 22, ABC and City at 9

Cougar Town: Sept. 22, ABC and City at 9:30

Lie to Me: Nov. 10, Fox at 8, Global at 10

Fall TV Preview: Sunday, bloody Sunday

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(August 29, 2010) Once upon a time, Sunday nights were ruled by Ed Sullivan and Dinah Shore.

Now it’s bootlegging gangsters, a seductive succubus, a sleazy used car salesman and the return of the world’s most popular serial killer.

Welcome to the Fall TV Season, 2010.

The big news of the night, and indeed the whole season, is the A-list cable drama
Boardwalk Empire (premiering Sept. 19, 9 p.m. on HBO Canada), starring Steve Buscemi and co-produced by Martin Scorsese and Sopranos scribe Terence Winter.

The Sopranos depicted the decline of American organized crime, Boardwalk Empire takes us back to its beginnings, set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, and featuring such notorious real-life underworld figures as Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano.

It therefore essentially bridges the gap between Scorsese’s
Gangs of New York and the flashback segments of Coppola’s second Godfather.

But there’s a lot more going on here than machineguns, speakeasies and bathtub gin — though there is of course plenty of that stuff too.

“I was always interested in the 1920s,” says series creator Winter. “It’s an era that hasn’t really been depicted often in cinema, and almost never in television.

“And with the massive changes going on — Prohibition, the women’s vote, broadcast radio coming in, World War I just having ended, the ’20s about to boom . . . it’s just this incredible palette from which to draw stories and characters. It was just irresistible.

“There’s so much material there, and I think that the world we’ve created, and the characters and how they relate and interact with each other, hopefully lends itself to a really long narrative.

“And, God willing, we’ll have the opportunity to do that.”

Debuting the same night on HBO Canada, one hour earlier at 8, is the new homegrown comedy
Call Me Fitz, starring prodigal, B.C.-bred Jason Priestly as an immoral used car salesman suddenly confronted by the living incarnation of his conscience (Thornhill-born Ernie Grunwald).

Very much in the redemptive vein of
Californication and Living in Your Car — I’m calling it Car-nifornication.

Fitz is shooting in Nova Scotia, another new Canadian-crafted series, Lost Girl (Sept. 12, 9 p.m. on Showcase), is filming right here on the streets of Toronto — though really more the back alleys, abandoned factories and sewers.

The lost girl of the title, played by episodic veteran Anna Silk, is an unwitting “succubus,” a sub-sect of a covert clan of supernatural superhumans, who is able to absorb the life force of mortals . . . literally the kiss of death, ravenously sucking face like a drunken teenager after the prom.

It’s more
Underworld than Twilight, with maybe a bit of Buffy in the mix, though with a lot more funky urban grit. It definitely bears watching — though maybe with the lights on.

Our final Sunday-night debut is CBC’s new, as-yet unpreviewed
Debbie Travis Show (Sept. 26 at 9 p.m.), which will apparently travel across the country to showcase and celebrate local heroes.


Weeds: Sept. 5, 10 p.m. on Showcase

America’s Funniest Home Videos: Sept. 26, 7 p.m. on ABC

60 Minutes: Sept. 26, 7 p.m. on CBS

The Amazing Race: Sept. 26, 8 p.m. on CBS and CTV

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: Sept. 26, 8 p.m. on ABC and City

The Simpsons: Sept. 26, 8 p.m. on Fox and Global

Battle of the Blades (performance): Sept. 26, 8 p.m. on CBC

The Cleveland Show: Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m. on Fox and Global

Family Guy: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. on Fox and Global

Desperate Housewives: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV

American Dad: Sept. 26, 9:30 p.m. on Fox and Global

Undercover Boss: Sept. 26, 7 p.m. on CTV; 9 p.m. on CBS

Brothers & Sisters: Sept. 26, 10 p.m. on ABC and Global

Dexter: Sept. 26, 10 p.m. on TMN

CSI: Miami: Oct. 3, 10 p.m. on CBS and CTV

Surfing, Sweeping, Overeating

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(August 29, 2010) All you really need — or probably even want — to know about the new Hawaii Five-O (premiering Sept. 20, 10 p.m. on CBS and Global) is what they’ve done with that iconic theme.

You can relax, Danno. They haven’t changed a thing. Though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“It had been suggested at one point that we get a really popular rock star to come in and redo the theme with an electric guitar,” confesses producer Alex Kurtzman. “And we thought, ‘Okay, let’s explore it. Let’s see how that goes.’

“When you look at something like that anew, you say, ‘Okay, I have to play with it . . . I have to figure out what am I going to keep and what am I going to reinvent.’”

Which they quickly decided not to do, and re-recorded the original opening essentially unchanged, if slightly pared down to accommodate today’s shorter title sequences.

“You cannot change the original theme,” Kurtzman affirms. “There are few themes that are as good as the Five-O theme. To not have it would a huge disservice to the identity of Five-O.

“We had to be utterly respectful, to the point that we found the original musicians who did the first, the original theme, and brought them back in to re-record it. At the end of the day, why mess with something that’s perfect?”

The update otherwise completely abandons the stoic, Dragnet-style approach to policing as personified by stone-faced Jack Lord, one of the few actors in television history to be upstaged by his own hair. Standout here is Scott Caan’s fully realized Danno, a cop reluctantly relocated from New Jersey, a fish out of water who can’t stand fish. Also two welcome additions — actual women! — Jean Smart and the Vancouver-raised Grace Park.

Another remake of sorts, and about as quintessentially CanCon as it gets, is the series version of Paul Gross’s 2002 curling comedy Men with Brooms, with an all-new young cast, and producer Gross alone returning as voiceover narrator and occasional guest star.

Have not yet seen even a promo ad but, even without Leslie Nielsen, I have especially high hopes. We’ll all find out Sept. 20 at 8:30 on CBC.

The second-best new American sitcom of the year — eclipsed only by Matthew Perry’s mid-season Mr. Sunshine — is the irresistible Mike & Molly, the latest offering from comedy hit machine Chuck Lorre, taking the place of his Big Bang Theory, now moved to Thursdays, as Monday night’s 9:30 follow-up to Two and a Half Men, which he also produces. Both return Sept. 20 to CBS and A.

Mike & Molly’s refreshingly simple premise depicts a budding romance between a shy, sunny schoolteacher, played by Gilmore Girls’ adorable Melissa McCarthy, and an affable, self-deprecating cop, played by comedian Billy Gardell, a larger, funnier Kevin James.

They meet cute at Overeaters Anonymous, but it so is not about their weight. You will fall in love with these people even as they fall in love with each other.

We’re going in more-or-less descending order here, so next up is Chase (Sept. 20, NBC and City at 10 p.m.), a federal-marshals fugitive-pursuit procedural that has producer Jerry Bruckheimer written all over it, a man whose unprecedented run of action movies in the ’80s and ’90s (Top Gun, the Beverly Hills Cops, the Bad Boys, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon) may soon be eclipsed by his growing list of like-minded TV hits (notably the CSIs).

I don’t know what to tell you about the show that immediately precedes it, The Event (Sept. 20, NBC and City at 9). I’ve seen the pilot — twice now — and that doesn’t help, since they play things so maddeningly close to the vest it comes very close to being a non-Event.

A lesson has been learned from the mysterioso serials that have preceded it, notably Lost, which so fervently pumped out revelations and plot twists it very quickly ran creatively dry. It also smacks a little of V and Alien Nation, but it’s still early on and they could easily go an entirely different way.

Frankly, I’ll be happy if they go anywhere at all.

Whereas I’d like Lone Star to just go away. I have no problem with a con-artist antihero, a la Remington Steele (and White Collar, and The Riches, and Hustle, and Leverage . . .). But the best of these invariably revolves around the “caper.” This one seems more interested in the emotional turmoil of a charming (not really) grifter played by unknown Jimmy Wolk, a kind of poor man’s Paul Rudd.

This sort of thing requires a degree of charm, which Wolk does not possess, and is therefore increasingly unlikeable as a guilt-plagued scammer emotionally involved with two unsuspecting women.

And here is when and where you will find all your returning favourites:

Gossip Girl: Sept. 13, MuchMusic at 8 p.m.; CW at 9

House: Sept. 20, Fox and Global at 8 p.m.

Chuck: Sept. 20, NBC and CHCH at 8 p.m.

How I Met Your Mother: Sept. 20, CBS and City at 8 p.m.

Dancing with the Stars (performance): Sept. 20, ABC and CTV at 8 p.m.

Rules of Engagement: Sept. 20, CBS and City at 8:30 p.m.

Two and a Half Men: Sept. 20, CBS and A at 9 p.m.

Just for Laughs: Sept. 20, CBC at 9 p.m.

Castle: Sept. 20, ABC and CTV at 10 p.m.

Battle of the Blades (results): Oct. 3, CBC at 8 p.m.


Conan O'Brien Names His New Show ‘Conan’

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 31, 2010) NEW YORK —There's Madonna, Oprah and now ... “
Conan.”  Conan O'Brien took the simple approach Wednesday in announcing the name of his new talk show on TBS.  Conan will kick off Nov. 8.  He posted a YouTubevideo announcing the show's name to his fans. He scrawled the name on a white sheet of paper using a black marking pen.  O'Brien has finished a comedy concert tour. He was nominated for an EmmyAward for his short-lived stint as NBC Tonight show host that ended amid much drama in January, but lost to Jon Stewart and Comedy Central's The Daily Show.


Doc: The Gut-Wrenching Story Of A Workaholic’s Wife

www.thestar.com - Robert Crew

(out of 4)
By Sharon Pollock. Directed by Diana Leblanc. Until Sept. 18 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(August 27, 2010) Sharon Pollock has contributed several impressive plays to the canon of
Canadian theatre but none, in my book, as powerful and gut-wrenching as Doc.

First produced in 1984, Doc has been revived by Soulpepper at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For any student of this country's theatre or indeed anyone who appreciates a well-crafted play performed and directed with sensitivity and élan this is a must-see.

The story is a fairly simple one and, as Pollock acknowledges, highly autobiographical. Catherine is a writer who is paying a rare visit home to see her father Ev, a respected local doctor, who is about to have a hospital named after him. The two have issues, a relationship that is blocked by unresolved issues.

Ev is a workaholic whose patients have always taken priority over his family. He is a local god, and works tirelessly at his practice, saving lives and bringing comfort to the needy.

But he appears to be blind to the fact that his family has needs as well. When we first meet his wife-to-be, known as Bob, she is a strong, intelligent, hip-swinging nurse who wants to continue on in her profession. But Ev won't let her, arguing that it's not right for a doctor's wife to be working at his same hospital or even assisting his colleagues.

So Bob stays at home and brings up their two children. Condemned to a life of bridge and IODE meetings, she gradually seeks numbness in alcohol and pills, and the downward spiral accelerates after an operation.

The fights, Bob's desperate struggle to be noticed by her husband and the sympathetic love and support that Bob receives from Ev's best friend Oscar, are all seen through the incredulous eyes of their young daughter.

What's clever about the play is that the character of the daughter has been divided between two actresses, one playing young Katie, the other her older self Catherine. It's a device that works, although strangely, Catherine/Katie still remains somewhat shadowy, perhaps because her journey is not the one that is fully explored.

But this production has three, remarkable performances at its core. R.H. Thomson plays the title role with quiet passion and brilliant technique. Ev is irritable and cantankerous, with (as the play says) his eyes fixed on the horizon while he tramples on those at his feet. Driven by the greater good, those near and dear to him are left to suffer.

Jane Spidell's Bob is a heartbreaker, a vivacious and capable woman who slides into drunkenness and despair. There is one devastating moment when Ev hugs her briefly, then disengages. She grasps his jacket, only to have him pry her fingers apart.

Then there's Derek Boyes as Ev's indolent best friend, Oscar, who cares for both of them, offering Bob a little solace and affection amid the ruin of her life. This understated, graceful performance is Boyes at his best.

Hannah Gross, daughter of two stars in the Canadian acting firmament — Paul Gross and Martha Burns — does well, very well, in her professional debut, bringing freshness and a very pleasing simplicity to a difficult role as Katie.

If Carmen Grant doesn't blaze quite as brightly as Catherine, it may be that the role itself is somewhat underwritten. She leaves a somewhat bland impression.

Astrid Janson's unorthodox plexiglass set and Kevin Lamotte's ever-excellent lighting contribute powerfully to the overall effect.

This, in short, is one doctor's appointment that you simply have to keep. 

A Day In The Life Of A Theatre

www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara, Ashante Infantry, and Raju Mudhar

(August 27, 2010) Looking forward to an enchanted evening at the theatre? Easy, right? Just buy a ticket.

Then, leave the rest to scores of people behind the scenes and at the front of house whose jobs are to make something so maddeningly complex seem so seamlessly carefree. In addition to the actors (and understudies) and musicians on stage for the
Royal Alexandra’s latest show, Rock of Ages, toss in the musical director, the production stage manager, the stage manager and staff, including dressers who perform rapid-fire costume changes during the performance backstage, the sound and lighting crews, the fellow who operates the confetti machine, the head of wardrobe, the wigs mistress and the props master. That’s just the backstage contingent.

At the front of house, throw in the box office staff, the manager, her assistant, 40 bartenders and ushers, the cleaning staff and the maintenance team. Add in the suppliers of beer, ice, and other supplies, from confetti to toilet paper.

Then, all it takes is a daylong series of carefully choreographed moves to ensure everything unfolds like clockwork, from the early morning cleanup to the evening’s closing curtain and turning out the marquee lights at 11 p.m. The Star recently sent in a team of reporters to find out just how it all comes together.

8:20 a.m. Inside the main theatre, all is eerily quiet as members of the cleaning staff go about their work, recycling programs, picking up litter, finding things like discarded ear plugs, which, for a show like Rock of Ages, a musical comedy featuring hair-metal tunes from the 1980s, may be a must for some guests.

“It takes about six hours to clean up the theatre,” says cleaning supervisor Jason Barros. “Beyond just the main theatre cleanup, we have to do a lot of special things just because of the age of the building, like polishing all of the brass.”

Though the work can seem like drudgery, Barros is content. “I love this place. It’s amazing to work in a building with such history. You can see it everywhere and feel it all around you.”

8:45 a.m. A clanking from behind the darkened stage announces the arrival of Patrick Campbell of Nitrogen Services. Wearing gloves and ear plugs, he’s transporting a gas-filled canister on a dolly to refill the carbon dioxide tank backstage for the evening show. The CO2 fuels the smoke machines used during the performance to enhance the lighting.

9:15 a.m. Theatre manager Ron Jacobsen (who is responsible for all Mirvish Productions properties) sits in his office, just off the main lobby, with all-purpose maintenance guys Tony Lopez and Barry Andrews as they prepare the required weekly fire test. Andrews leaves to set off one of the “pull stations” and Jacobsen and Lopez monitor the main panel in the lobby of the theatre to ensure the alarm is detected.

“Since 1963, we have never had to evacuate the theatre due to a fire emergency,” Jacobsen says. “We have cancelled some performances midway due to power outages.”

9:45 a.m. An envelope arrives with metal name tags for Adrienne Merrell, a new addition to the cast in the role of Regina, a hippie who wants to save the endangered rock ’n’ roll Bourbon Room nightclub. She is set to begin performances the following week, and Actors Equity union rules requires the names of all performers to posted in the main lobby.

10:15 a.m. Andrews is using a putty knife to plaster a hole in the wall by the stage door.

“The maintenance . . . is constant. This building has to be beautiful, but the trick is finding the time. For smaller repairs, we just go and do them, but for bigger jobs, it requires scheduling, like the week off between shows.”

After two years on the job, Andrews — unlike some of his colleagues — still feels the magic of the theatre.

“These guys are all jaded. To them, it’s just another show. I actually still like to go and actually watch (the performance),” Andrews says.

But “you’ve got to play it real cool,” he adds with a laugh. “In this show, sometimes the girls are backstage and are practically naked. I mean, there’s a scene where they play hookers, so us guys are walking by . . . and it’s like you have to be, ‘Nothing to see here, all in day’s work.’

10:30 a.m.
The Beer Store delivery truck arrives for pickup and delivery. A six-metre-long corridor is stacked high with cases of empty beer bottles as the new stocks are brought in.

“This show is for beer drinkers. It’s at least 100 cases a week,” Andrews says.

11:30 a.m. The marquee lights are turned on and rock tunes begin playing on the speakers outside the theatre. Box office manager George King is getting ready to open up. The office is small, so space is tight for the staff of four as they prepare tickets and get ready to serve the diminishing number of “walk-up” customers in the age of Internet sales.

12 p.m. “The theatre really starts to wake up around noon,” notes John Gray, the production stage manager. The box office is officially open and tech crews are on stage, checking microphones, cables and other equipment. Gray has opened the cast dressing rooms and spoken with the sound crew in preparation for a full technical rehearsal because of the addition of Merrell to the cast. Understudies will play the main roles during the rehearsal with Merrell, the only cast member in full costume.

12:10 p.m. Guy Gualteri prepares the confetti machine. (See sidebar.)

12:15 p.m. Sound checks begin in earnest, with musicians playing brief snatches to ensure the audio system and sound boards are working.

“This is considered a roadhouse. Every show has to bring in their own sound and lights,” says Henry Zmijak, head of the theatre’s sound crew.

A few minutes later, Zmijak pronounces, “So far, so good.”

12:30 p.m. Merrell is in her dressing room, hair tied up and applying makeup when Helen Gregor, the head of wigs, arrives with a headdress of long, red curls, similar to Merrell’s natural colour.

Gregor is responsible for 17 wigs. Earlier in the day, she had washed and sized Merrell’s hairpiece. As she fits it, she warns Merrell it might still be a little wet. She makes a few additional adjustments before pinning it.

“Does that feel secure?” Gregor asked. Merrell nods her approval.

12:45 p.m. Cast members begin to arrive at the theatre for the technical rehearsal. There’s a buzz of conversation in the dressing room area as actors chat with one another. Cody Scott Lancaster, who plays Franz, the son of an anti-rock German developer, is sending an email in his dressing room, which looks a bit like a high school locker, walls covered with personalizing pictures and notes.

“We all have to sign in on the board by the backstage door when we arrive,” Lancaster says. “I like to get in a bit early and just relax and prepare. We’re doing a rehearsal today, and then we’ll break for dinner, and again, we have to sign in before tonight’s performance.”

The sign-in sheet is the master list that ensures all the actors have arrived.

12:55 p.m. Cast members mill about on stage, waiting for the rehearsal to begin. Dance captain Valerie Stanois, who also understudies a few roles, sings “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” while she does the splits.

1 p.m. Gray works with Merrell on blocking two scenes.

1:20 p.m. Gray calls the full company on stage and begins to go through instructions before introducing Merrell to the company.

“Here is our new Regina,” Gray says as the cast and crew applaud.

“This is what we call a ‘put-in,’ ” explains David R. Keeley. “We are literally putting in a new cast member. We’ve been doing this show for months, so at this stage, we normally wouldn’t do a full stage rehearsal, but today, really it’s for her (Merrell) so she can do with the show with all the tech, lights and the full band.”

Gray offers Merrell some words of encouragement: “Have fun along the way. Bless your heart. We’ll see you at the end.”

1:30 p.m. The lights go down and the technical rehearsal begins to an audience of eight. Gray has a seat about five rows back and takes notes during the performance.

“I’m watching everything (Merrell’s) doing,” he says. “I’m also watching the understudies. I’m quality control.”

1:45 p.m. Musical director Bob Foster is sitting in the second row. (He plays keyboards during the evening performance). He’s also taking notes.

“I’ll probably have 10 pages of notes by the time the show is over. But of course, half the stuff, the audience wouldn’t catch at all.”

2:35 p.m. The first act is complete, and there’s a 20-minute break for cast and crew. Many goes downstairs in the diner-themed Green Room to grab a snack and relax before returning to rehearse the second act.

3:23 p.m. Gray gets to his feet as Carson Nattrass steps forward to sing a solo. Nattrass, an understudy, will play Lonny tonight for only the second time, in lieu of Aaron Walpole, who has lost his voice.

Gray is checking Nattrass’s position on the stage to see that his feet are where they’re supposed to be. “These rehearsals can be valuable for members of company to explore, ‘What if you do something totally different? What do your instincts tell you to try?’ ” Gray says.

4:30 p.m. Rehearsal is over.

4:37 p.m. Gray stops by Merrell’s dressing room to compliment her on her performance, then pops in to see Helen Gregor to praise her for the wig Merrell wears as Regina.

Gregor’s fourth-floor office looks like the back room of a hair salon — wigs of various shapes and sizes, a hairdresser sink stained with dye, and hairpins, curlers and brushes everywhere.

4:50 p.m. Elizabeth Morales, the front-of-house manager, arrives, followed a minute later by head bartender Ari Leponiemi.

5 p.m. It’s the dinner break for cast and crew, until 6:30.

5:01 p.m. Solana Cain, who is on popcorn duty, pops into work.

5:59 p.m. Security guard Louis Rebela, a 16-year veteran, greets the cast and crew as they trickle in. His duties include dealing with fans and autograph seekers outside the stage door.

“Sometimes they get very aggressive after the show,” Rebela says of the enthusiasts. “They’re not allowed too close to the door. We have one fan who has seen this show 22 times already. She saw We Will Rock You 100 times.”

A monitor in his office is focused on the main entrance as customers begin to line up for the rush seats, 22 of which are offered through a lottery at a discount for each performance.

6:17 p.m. Lisa McGregor and her 7-year-old son Conor are hoping for rush tickets for tonight’s performance. Conor has seen the show before but his mother hasn’t. “If we don’t get in, we’re going to the CN Tower,” she says.

6:30 p.m. Adrianne Briere and Brian Boggs arrive and join the rush line. At 7:20 p.m., their names are drawn and called out. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Briere, who is coming for the second time. “I’m a child of the 80s.”

6:31 p.m. Zmijak begins to check the sound from each of the more than 100 speaker in the theatre, while his crew puts freshly charged batteries in all the cast microphones. Sound effects are also tested. Head electrician John Still tests the lights.

Propmaster Rick Asby lays out all the items he’s responsible for — liquor bottles, cigarettes and dollar bills — where they belong.

“(Actors) have enough to do with their lines and where to be,” says Asby, a 45-year veteran at the Royal Alex. “Once I learn all my cues, it’s fun for me.”

7:04 p.m. Assistant head of wardrobe Stephen Hupman is doing laundry, on the speed-wash setting.

Costumes are all laundered in-house, because some actors are sensitive to chemicals and the theatre can’t take the risk that a commercial dry cleaner might destroy or lose a crucial item.

T-shirts, socks and underwear go in the dryer; everything else is air-dried. After ironing and sorting, Hupman distributes the clothes to the actors’ dressing rooms.

7:30 p.m. The front doors open. Ticket holders can go straight to their seats or dawdle over a refreshment in the lobby, in the side rooms on the main floor or in the basement lounge.

Behind the curtain, stage manager Chris Porter turns off the lights and uses a paging mike to warn the ushers to get ready to receive the audience: “The house is open! The house is open!”

Up in his third-floor dressing room, actor Peter Deiwick is applying five fake tattoos, listening to music and eating a sandwich. Makeup and wig department staff flit among the dressing rooms, making final adjustments.

7:45 p.m. Backstage, the 15-minute call goes out. Assistant stage manager Kathleen Harrison collects wallets, iPods and other valuables from the cast and locks them safely away until after the show.

“It seems archaic, but it’s a good opportunity to check in with people, to see how they’re feeling,” Gray says.

Dressers, all wearing black so the audience can’t see them in the wings, assemble backstage to help with costume changes. Many of the dressers wear miner’s lights strapped to their heads, to keep their hands free to work in the dark.

7:55 p.m. The five-minute bell tolls.

7:57 p.m. The three-minute bell.

7:59 p.m. The one-minute bell.

8:02 p.m. As the performance is set to begin, actors are warming up, creating a dull roar backstage that is muted by batting and by music playing in the theatre.

8:03 p.m. The band begins.

8:05 p.m. The curtain opens and the performance starts.

8:11 p.m. Latecomers, bunched in the lobby, are allowed in, escorted to their seats by ushers. Bianca Galati, 16, and five friends are among them. “Traffic. It was a little crazy getting down here,” says Galati, whose dad bought the tickets.

9:12 p.m. Intermission for 20 minutes. It’s the busiest time for bar staff.

Kim and Paul Murray of Newcastle are among the crowd in the downstairs lounge. “We just came down for a night out,” Kim says.

Tim Young from Milton is holding drinks in both hands. He and his wife came with three other couples. “We went for dinner and we’re enjoying the show. We know all of the songs.”

Bartender Phil Hynes, who has been working in the downstairs lounge for 2½ years, says serving in a theatre is “an easier, dumbed-down version” of working in a pub.

“Very simple drinks, very simple beer orders, nothing really too complex. The rushes are not that big of a deal because they’re only 20 minutes or so, whereas you can be in big rushes for close to half an hour or 45 minutes if you’re at a busy pub.”

Morgan Naismith’s job is a little more challenging: he provides seat service throughout the performance, a job that keeps him hopping.

“Friday’s always crazy,” Naismith says. “Fridays and Saturdays. People are here, they’re ready to party. It all goes kinda pretty quickly.”

10:35 p.m. All bartenders and staff are expected to have their workstations cleaned up and cleared, to turn over cash floats to the front-of-house manager and to cash out.

That includes Cain, who serves popcorn and beer from a concession stand in the main lobby.

“People came hungry for popcorn. I ran a little low at one point and had to pop and pour beer at the same time. I burned my hand on the popper. When you get a little close, it burns. There was a woman who wanted to taste it (popcorn) before she bought, and put her hand right in and had some,” Cain says.

“It was a pretty decent night, no 911 calls that we had to deal with,” says Leponiemi, the head bartender.

10:35 p.m. The show ends and, for the next 25 minutes, the cast and crew change and depart. Lead performer Yvan Pedneault is greeted outside by fans seeking autographs.

11:02 p.m. Morales locks the front doors and turns out the lights. The Royal Alex is closed.

The science of confetti

Confetti is one of those simple things that becomes more complicated when its used in the theatre.

First off, for Rock of Ages, it’s not the multi-coloured holes punched from regular paper that one expects. “It’s has be fireproof,” explains Tony Lopez, a member of the theatre’s maintenance crew. “So it’s made out of nylon or Mylar.”

Each piece is a quarter-inch wide, which they’ve learned works better than bigger pieces. “In We Will Rock You, they used half-inch pieces, and it burned out two vacuum cleaners during the show’s run.”

Guy Gualteri is in charge of loading the makeshift confetti gun, which is a long, straight tube with a pressurized carbon dioxide canister attached. He puts the canister at the bottom end of the tube so it acts like a stopper, then loads up the ammunition — the confetti — through the top.

“You’ve got to kind of dance with it,” he says, swirling the tube around while holding it between his thumb and forefinger, trying to pack as many of the paper bits into the tube as he can.

After he’s done, he walks up to the side second-floor balcony, where the gun is used in the show. That’s where actor David R. Keeley finds it every night, and lets loose on the audience.

“It’s easy as pie. I just grab it, pop the CO2 and let her rip. I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with the mess afterward,” he says with a laugh.

3 Shaw Plays Planned For 2011 Festival

Source: www. thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(August 30, 2010) What’s playing at Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Thanks to my
Shaw Festival mole, Agent Fudge, I’ve been gradually leaking the 2011 Shaw season, which the management has been slow to reveal.

So far, we’ve shone the spotlight on My Fair Lady, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Admirable Crichton and Maria Severa.

Fudge is now confidently telling me he knows all the rest of the playbill and I have to take him at his word, bearing in mind that things can change at the last minute.

relieved to hear there will indeed be plays by Bernard Shaw at the festival bearing his name — three of them in fact. First is the charming, comfortable Candida, the second is possibly his greatest work, the troubling Heartbreak House, and the last is one of his final comedies, On the Rocks.

It also wouldn’t be a Jackie Maxwell season without an Irish play, and next year it’s going to be Lennox Robinson’s Drama at Inish, which, despite its name, is a light-hearted farce about a troupe of travelling actors.

As I suggested earlier, the 2008 hit The President will be returning as the lunchtime show and there are also two more contemporary offerings. When the Rain Stops Falling is a 2008 Australian play spanning four generations from 1959 to 2039 and, most surprisingly, Topdog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks’s 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning play, set in a sideshow that features Abraham Lincoln.

A provocative season — if it is indeed the final version — and one worth waiting for.

TWO COMPANIES’ BEST: Even on a vacation, I can’t keep away from the theatre. On a recent night in Portland, Ore., I was taken to see the Artists Repertory Theatre’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.

The major attraction, as far as the Oregonians were concerned, was the presence of movie star William Hurt as James Tyrone. Hurt has strong roots in the area, having played Edmund in the same play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production some 34 years ago and he’s been a guest star at ART on two other occasions, including a 2004 production of Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy.

But what fascinated me was that this was a true co-production between ART and the Sydney Theatre Company from Australia. It was staged by Andrew Upton, who shares the job of artistic director of the company with his wife, Cate Blanchett. It starred two of the STC’s leading members, Robyn Nevin and Luke Mullins, with Hurt and ART actor Todd Van Voris representing the Oregonian side.

The show enjoyed a successful run in Sydney before transferring to Portland, where it is packing the houses and has been held over until Sept. 5.

My question is this: why hasn’t anyone in Canada thought of doing something like this? The closest we ever came was in 2007 with the National Arts Centre/Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Penelopiad, but that was a bit too big and expectation-laden for total success.

The best of one company from elsewhere mixing it up with the best of a company from here at home. I find it an exciting prospect. Couldn’t one of our artistic directors such as Des McAnuff, Matthew Jocelyn or Albert Schultz make this happen?

BILLY BISHOP GOES TO CBC: It was a strange but wonderful thing to wander into the CBC Broadcast Centre on Monday and encounter Eric Peterson and John Gray filming a new version of Billy Bishop Goes to War for broadcast on the network under the direction of the sublimely skilled Barbara Willis Sweete.

It was actually recorded before by the BBC in 1982 in a version Peterson now derides as “show-offy” while Gray grumbles about how “the camera was on Eric all the time.”

The two old friends and colleagues were in fine form, even when a mirror ball crashed onto the set.

“You jinxed us, Ouzounian!” shouted Gray. “You said in your review you didn’t like the mirror ball, we left it in and now it falls down the day you come to the studio.”

For the final result, watch CBC-TV on Nov. 10.

Mirvish Offers A Home To Theatre Museum

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(August 30, 2010) Monday was the loveliest night of the year for theatre boosters basking in the hilltop garden of philanthropist Nona Macdonald Heaslip.

The hostess is one of the key supporters of the long homeless
Canadian Theatre Museum.

An advertised special guest and decades-long friend from their old Montreal days, Christopher Plummer, was detained in Stratford. But theatre tycoon David Mirvish did show up, and he delivered the greatest news this organization has had since it was formed almost 30 years ago.

Mirvish is offering the theatre museum a permanent home in a prime location — which promises to end the group’s long history of wandering in the wilderness.

“The theatre museum is close to my heart, and we are going to provide 9,675 square feet in a great location,” he told a starry crowd gathered in a lush courtyard setting.

It could take five years before the new digs are ready to be occupied by the theatre museum.

The site: The historic former Westinghouse building on the south side of King St. W., in the same neighbourhood as TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Princess of Wales Theatre (which Mirvish built in 1993).

Back story: In the early 1990s, Mirvish was being challenged, in a campaign led by his archrival Garth Drabinsky, to provide parking for his new theatre. Before eventually deciding to build underground parking beneath the new theatre, Mirvish purchased the Westinghouse building in case he needed off-site parking.

Since then, the building has been rented.

His new plan: Gut the inside of the building, and put up a new retail-and-residential tower on the parking lot adjacent to it.

One helpful detail: The current head of the museum board is veteran producer Marlene Smith, a longtime associate of Mirvish.

Another: Councillor Adam Vaughan did a great deal to enable the project to pass its first hurdle at City Hall.

Next challenge: Mirvish must find the right development partner.

Among those working on the project: Architects Bruce Kuwabara and Shirley Blumberg of KPMB.

We can look forward to visiting the museum in 2015.


Can the iPad save Spider-Man?

www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

(August 28, 2010) This weekend, nerd nation descends on Toronto for FanExpo. This is where hardcore gamers in Atari Ts mingle with ladies in their skimpiest animé outfits and toddlers dressed as ewoks. And where fanboys and girls line up for autographs from cult heroes ranging from Batman’s Adam West to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters.

What tends to get overshadowed in all the hubbub is the reason FanExpo exists in the first place – comic books. It began as a comic convention in 1995. But despite pop-culture’s biggest geek triumphs starting on the page (think Iron Man and Scott Pilgrim), comics have taken a back seat to other media.

This year, however, the digital revolution has finally reached comics thanks to the
iPad.  Could it finally bring a struggling industry back from the brink? Or is the revenge on the nerds this time around?

“Comic books used to be mainstream,” says 87-year-old legend Stan Lee, the creator of much of Marvel’s stable of flawed superheroes and FanExpo’s star attraction. “There were candy stores on every corner with a little soda fountain and the comic books were always right there with all the other magazines … It’s not as easy to buy comic books as it used to be.”

That’s reflected in sales: Single issues regularly topped a million in sales during the Depression; last year, the top 300 comics sold in
the United Statescombined added up to less than 75 million copies. Hard-core collectors may still flock to dedicated comic shops, but even the comic-book movie craze hasn’t drawn mainstream fans to the oft-impenetrably serialized monthlies. And while more sophisticated, complex graphic novels have charged into bookstores, it still can’t compare to the widespread accessibility comics enjoyed during their old newsstand days.

Iconic Iron Man artist Bob Layton certainly sees the potential of the iPad to act as a sort of digital “candy store,” especially for publishers not named Marvel or DC. His company Future Comics attempted to crack the market in the early 2000s, but the indie imprint soon went under. Now he’s not only converting old titles to digital-friendly formats, but considering new digital-only issues. “On iPad, where you have no paper costs and no distribution costs, it becomes viable. It will create a more level playing field for independent creators.”

Brian Azzarello, creator of the award-winning crime comic 100 Bullets, also thinks the iPad could help non-spandexed comics reach a mass-market audience who have never been to comic shops (or even read one since they were kids). “If you go to Europe [or Japan], you’ll find the stories are very diverse,” he says. “They’re not all superheroes – there’s detective fiction, there’s westerns, there’s romance. Stuff created to hit different interests and tastes that expand the culture more so than ‘Ooh, here's another guy in tights.’”

As for creative tinkering? Apps do offer “guided view” panel-by-panel readers and easy impulse purchasing, but they’re still essentially selling a scanned copy of a comic book rather than exploiting the new technology.

“They have to make it a different reading experience, because it’s not a comic book,” says Toronto artist Francis Manapul, a 30-year-old Filipino-Canadian who learned English reading comics and currently works on DC’s Flash. “It almost could be a whole new medium in itself. It wouldn't make sense not to – if you had a 1080P HDTV, you're not going to watch standard television.”

And if major players like Marvel and DC now have their own iPad apps, with others hawking indie comics, there’s also a wariness about bankrupting the current brick-and-mortar comic shops, which have been the backbone of the business for decades. “Comics is a smaller industry than music ever was,” points out Peter Birkemoe, co-owner of Toronto’s indie-centric comic store The Beguiling. “When certain blocks get pulled out, the Jenga tower is much closer to falling over.”

So prices are almost on par with physical comics, available issues are largely back catalogue and apps use the built-in GPS to locate the closest comic shops. “The jury’s still out on how to balance the [core] business with attracting new readers,” says Manapul.

Still, unlike CDs or DVDs which are mere content-delivery discs, hard-copy comics are works of art in and of themselves – which some pros insist will continue to have value no matter how popular their digital doppelgangers become.

“People like to feel a comic book in their hand,” notes Stan Lee, “and they like to put it on the shelf, and put the next issue next to it and feel like they have a collection. That’s hard to replace. I think the lowly comic book will always be here, to some degree.”

Special to The Globe and Mail 

Katy Perry Gets Her Revenge

www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(August 27, 2010) Whether you’re a “California Gurl” or simply “One of the Boys,” fans of pop queen Katy Perry can now interact with her music in Katy Perry Revenge, the latest in the Tap Tap Revenge franchise from Tapulous (now owned by Disney Mobile).

This $5 iPhone/iPod touch/iPad game features 10 Katy Perry songs in total, including hits “California Gurls,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “One of the Boys,” “Waking Up In Vegas” and “Hot N Cold.”

While gamers aim to tap on the coloured orbs at the right time (think Guitar Hero or Rock Band), Katy Perry-related graphics (photos, album art) appear in the background.

Fans of the 25-year-old singer can also tap into a news feed, which provides biography details, exclusive photos, artist announcements and four chat rooms that are only accessible from within the game and Facebook Connect.

Wii like to draw

In other news, THQ has just unveiled the uDraw GameTablet, an upcoming $70 accessory for the Nintendo Wii console that lets gamers draw and play on their television screens.

The white, 9-by-7-inch peripheral houses the Wii Remote on the left, with a doodle pad and tethered stylus on the right.

The accessory ships with the uDraw Studio painting program, which lets you create a drawing — using a number of brush sizes, stamps, colours and filters — and then you can save your creations to a SD card (sold separately) for a computer, printer or other compatible devices. This is the first time Nintendo is allowing data to be saved to the Wii’s removable memory, says THQ.

Games will also be available on the tablet when it ships on Nov. 21. Titles will include a TV version of Pictionary, in which you’re given a word and you must sketch it so that others can guess the word based on your drawing. There are a number of game modes to choose from.

Less impressive is Dood’s Big Adventure, a side-scrolling “platformer” game that has you draw items in the game world. The tablet also has some buttons to control the action.

Both games will sell for $30 apiece, plus THQ says more software for the uDraw will launch every couple of months.

New Centennial College Course Covers The ‘Wild West’ World Of Producing Webisodes

www.thestar.com - Paul Dalby

(August 26, 2010) In the raging battle for our affections between conventional TV and the Internet, it appears the Internet has taken the lead.

Earlier this year, a survey of 24,000 adults in 23 countries including Canada found that 58 per cent of adults with access to the Internet spend more time online than watching television.

That will be music to the ears of comedy scriptwriter Kyle Muir, who is launching a new program at
Centennial College teaching people how to make their own webisodes — those mini TV shows that have stormed the Web and garnered huge audiences. Webisodes can be watched online or downloaded to your computer.

“It’s a great way to showcase your story-telling abilities to an audience, potentially, of millions of viewers on the Internet,” Muir explains. “It’s a pretty wide-open world out there. It’s kinda like the Wild West; you’re never sure who’s going to blow into town.”

As a successful writer who walks on both sides of the TV street, Muir knows what he’s talking about.

He has written for traditional network shows, such as Call Me Fitz (Showcase this fall), The Strip (Showcase), Sugar Sammy pilot, Producing Parker, starring Kim Cattrall, and Billable Hours.

And many of these series now use webisodes to help promote the full-length program on the network. For example, check out the
Billable Minutes webisodes at showcase.ca.

“My intention with this program is more along the lines of DIY filmmaking and a limited budget, which really tests peoples’ creative abilities, especially when you’re first starting out,” Muir says.

“It’s a relatively new form of storytelling. I looked around the landscape and there weren’t a lot of other institutions offering this sort of course,” he adds. “Webisodes are a great way to get yourself noticed without spending a lot of money.”

Muir points to the amazing success of the
Pure Pwnage web-based series, which became an Internet phenomenon with millions of fans around the world. “It’s a great example of a Canadian web series that blew up, and the creators landed their own TV series (on Showcase).”

Centennial’s webisodes program will be broken out into four courses, each lasting 42 hours over 14 weeks:

Story pre-production: creating an idea and learning about script formatting, structure and storytelling techniques.

Shooting: the basics of shooting, lighting, sound recording, editing and how to work with a small production crew.

Writing: how to format a webisodes series, market it on the Internet and produce a series of two-minute vignettes for a complete 10-minute series.

Post-production: Editing the series through post-production stages until it is polished and ready to post on the Web. However, it’s unclear whether the finished productions will be posted online.

“You would need your own website to post the webisodes,” explains Muir. “These days, it costs practically nothing to set up your own website. But we’re still hoping each student will be able to post their series on the school’s website.”

Muir says the key to success with webisodes is their low budgets. “This is not a $10-million movie, but it will be a real test for students,” he says. “The type of equipment will be the new HD cameras and Final Cut Pro, so it will all be done on a computer.”

According to Muir, the real advantage of webisodes is artistic freedom. “There’s no network to answer to, no notes coming in, you’re on your own,” he points out.

“The goal for you when you’re starting out should always be to put a portfolio together to showcase your work and get it out there,” he adds. “People don’t want to listen when you’re first starting out.

“Webisodes help you build a reputation as a creative person that has built a series on the Internet. Then you get yourself an agent and the agent can show your webisodes to help get you work on a TV show. It can fast-track you, if you’re lucky.”

This program is no joke

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said ‘Parking Fine’.”

This joke, delivered with an infectious giggle by the late English stand-up comic Tommy Cooper, a big man in a tiny fez, is proof positive that it’s not always the joke that brings in the laughs, but how you tell it.

That could be the unwritten premise of a new continuing education program being offered this fall at Centennial College.

Designed by seasoned script writer Kyle Muir, the Comedy program will include four courses: writing for film comedy, writing for TV comedy, stand-up comedy and sketch comedy.

“In a nutshell, this course will help you find your act, help you find your shtick, with a professional Canadian comedian giving you tips on your stage presence,” says Muir. “It’s all about honing your skills as a stand-up, and there’ll be a little bit of theory in it as well, although it’s not a course with a lot of paperwork.”

“It’s no secret that Canada has a long history of producing comedic talents, especially the new generation like Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel,” he says.

Muir expects the course will attract a wide range of students with a well-developed funny bone, mostly amateurs, as well as some people with a bit of experience, who want to be mentored by a professional comedian (no names yet).

But the proof will be in the pudding, according to Muir. “I’m hoping, and still planning, that at the end of this course, they’ll be thrown right into the fire and perform in front of a live audience, sink or swim,” he says. “It’s not an easy job being a stand-up comic.”

Nor a funny one.


Microsoft raising price of Xbox Live Gold

Source: www. thestar.com - Star staff and Associated Press

(August 31, 2010) Microsoft Corp. is raising subscription prices for its popular Xbox Live Gold online gaming service in Canada to $10 a month from $9, starting Nov. 1. Xbox owners mainly use the service to play multiplayer games such as Call of Duty online. Larry Hryb, the director of programming at Xbox Live who is better known in gaming circles as Major Nelson, said Microsoft has added more content and services to Xbox Live since its 2002 launch. Until now, the prices have been the same.


Novel Direction For Ken Finkleman

www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner

(August 28, 2010) Ken Finkleman, the Toronto writer, director and actor best known as the mastermind behind the classic CBC TV series The Newsroom, freely admits his debut novel Noah’s Turn is more than a little indebted to Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But he insists at the same time that any resemblance to Martin Amis’s The Information is purely coincidental.

Noah’s Turn resembles the Amis novel to the extent that its protagonist is a writer driven to soul-destroying distraction by his envy of a more successful acquaintance. Like Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, however, Finkleman’s Noah kills and must live with the consequences.

“Had I known about the Martin Amis book it would have stopped me in my tracks,” Finkleman says. “The only reasons I thought I had licence to write it is that Crime and Punishment is so old.

“When I lived in Los Angeles, I stopped reading the trade papers,” continues Finkleman, who spent much of the ’80s working as a screenwriter on such Hollywood fare as Grease 2, Airplane II: The Sequel and the Madonna vehicle Who’s That Girl. “The reason was everything was in development. You would have an idea and then you’d read that some guy had a similar idea, so you’d drop it.”

Finkleman is somewhat sketchy on his motivations for trying a novel, although he credits How Fiction Works by New Yorker literary critic James Wood for showing the way.

“It’s a terrific book,” he says, during a recent interview at a Harbord St. café. “I started to think that the idea of writing prose was interesting to me.

“I wrote a couple of pages and I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty good.’ So I just kept writing. Honestly, I don’t really remember the process. I don’t remember how long it took. ... It kept me off the streets.”

In the early stages, Finkleman received encouragement from his ex-wife, Marion Cohen. And Jennifer Lambert, his editor at HarperCollins, helped whip the final product — on sale now — into shape.

“She was just superb and so helpful,” Finkleman says. “When you write trashy things like I did in Hollywood for years, the studio notes you get are so stupid and hackneyed: ‘Who are we rooting for here? What’s the character’s arc?’

“By the end, I remember screaming at them, ‘When was the last time you saw a person go through an arc?’ Freud was right. By the age of 4 our personalities are formed. It’s over.”

While Finkleman doesn’t rule out writing another novel, he has an idea for a small, four-character movie set in Newfoundland. He’s now finishing the TV series Good Dog, in which the 64-year-old Finkleman plays “a guy who hooks up with a 30-year-old ex-model.”

Much of the series (13 half-hour episodes airing next year) was shot in Toronto this summer. Finkleman expresses relief to have reached the editing phase.

“Shooting anything, whether it’s for film or television, is the stupidest, most horrible job anyone can have,” he says. “I’ve hated it from the very first second I ever did it.

“The first thing I did in L.A. was shoot Airplane II. And I was suicidal every second that I spent on that Paramount set. The bathrooms were in an area off the soundstage. And every time I went to the bathroom, I wanted to just keep walking.

“But editing is fun. And I don’t mind writing. You can drink and sleep in the afternoon when you write.”

Archie And The Gang Welcome First Gay Character

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Dave McGinn

(August 20, 2010) Riverdale hasn’t seen anything like this before.

In an issue of
Veronica, a spinoff of Archie comics hitting stands on Wednesday, Archie and the gang will welcome the first openly gay character in the series’ 69-year history.

“It shows that Riverdale is in the 21st century,” says Veronica writer and artist Dan Parent.

While a number of openly gay characters have appeared in mainstream comic books in the past two decades, adding Kevin Keller to the wholesome world of Archie marks something of a milestone.

“In the way that we’ve always been considered a kids’ comic, a family-friendly comic, in that way it’s groundbreaking,” Parent says.

The introduction of the character is being welcomed by gay rights groups.

“It’s thrilling to see Riverdale High welcome its first openly gay student, and give readers a window into the lives of gay youth today,” said Jarrett Barrios, president of the U.S.-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “As images of gay and transgender people become more frequent on TV and in film, people are embracing and expect to see images of our community across media platforms, including comic books.”

Ever since Marvel Comics’s Canadian superhero Northstar came out of the closet in 1992,
comic books have struggled with putting forward gay characters without at the same time promoting stereotypes.

Some have succeeded, such as when DC Comics reintroduced Batwoman as a lesbian in 2006. The character’s sexual orientation is merely a side note to her status as a high-profile crime fighter.

As well, both Marvel and DC – the powerhouse publishers in the world of superhero comics – have introduced gay couples in the past decade.

Some gay characters, however, seem to be the product of crude stereotypes.

Take, for instance, Bloke, a mutant in the Marvel Universe who first appeared in a tongue-in-cheek series released in 2001. The character hailed from San Francisco, was originally known as Rainbow, and turned pink when he went into fighting mode.

Then there’s the Rawhide Kid, a Marvel character from the 1950s who was resurrected as a gay cowboy with a penchant for leather in an adults-only series in 2003.

In the upcoming issue of Veronica, Kevin Keller’s sexuality is revealed matter-of-factly. Eating a hamburger at Pop’s, Keller tells Jughead why he’s not interested in dating Veronica.

“It’s nothing against her! I’m gay!” he says. “I guess I should just be up front!”

That is the kind of disclosure that would have been impossible under the Comics Code Authority. Established in 1954 as a response to public concern over depictions of violence and sexual innuendo in comics, the code banned references to homosexuality. Only in 1989 was the ban repealed to allow for non-stereotypical depictions of gays and lesbians.

But as times have changed, so have comics.

“I see comics publishers today definitely trying to be more reflective of the world we live in today, not just in terms of gay characters but in terms of minority characters and alternative lifestyles of any sort,” says Jonah Weiland of the magazine Comic Book Resources.

In the years since Northstar outed himself, “gay depictions in mainstream comics have been far more nuanced and have far more depth,” he adds. And by introducing a gay character, Archie Comics is proving its more relevant.

Bringing Kevin to Riverdale High simply reflects the world teenagers live in, Parent says.

“We still like our traditional stories and stuff, but at the same time we do have to be on top of what’s going on in the world, because they are teenagers,” he says. “We have to stay current.”  

Jonathan Franzen On Fiction, Fame And Freedom

www.globeandmail.com - John Barber

(August 27, 2010) In the realm of what he calls “the digital junk stream,” American writer Jonathan Franzen, 51, is still best known for dissing Oprah Winfrey’s book club almost a decade ago, leading the great tastemaker to cancel a planned television appearance in which Franzen had hoped to promote his third novel, The Corrections. Despite that, the novel went on to sell almost three million copies around the world and to establish its author as a major literary voice.

These days, there is virtually no resistance being offered to
Freedom, Franzen’s follow-up novel, to be published in Canada on Sept. 4. Another hilarious, heartbreaking family saga, Freedom chronicles the bumpy career of a picture-perfect Midwestern family as it descends from its wholesome middle-class existence into a maelstrom of confusion. The novel is populated by a Rabelaisian cast of characters, including shady defence contractors, billionaire coal miners, a has-been rock star and a slew of ungrateful children.

Greeted by rapturous reviews south of the border, Freedom instantly became the must-read novel of the year when Time magazine put Franzen on its cover this week, describing him simply as “Great American Novelist.”

The Globe’s John Barber interviewed Franzen, who also keeps a place on New York’s Upper East Side, by telephone from the author’s home in Santa Cruz, Calif.

I’ve never interviewed anyone the week they’re on the cover of Time magazine.

Well, I’ll try to make it as easy as possible.

How does it feel?

It feels all right. It doesn’t feel as good as even a minor breakthrough in the work. Everyone says, ‘It must be so exciting.’ To begin with, I don’t know where ‘exciting’ got a positive connotation. Beyond that, to the extent it means people are out there enjoying the book, it’s very gratifying.

A lot of novelists don’t expect to have readers. Now, you have the world at your feet. Does that change anything for you?

It’s always an uphill struggle to get a book written, and to have a motive force behind me – in the form of the expectation of readers to get another book that they’ll enjoy – means a lot on many mornings. There’s a pressure that comes with that and pushes in the other direction and can shut you down. But on balance, it’s a good thing.

What’s different about Freedom?

I feel I’m offering something more directly from my life. I’m offering an exposure of things inside me in the hope they might correspond to things inside other people. There were plenty of risks like that taken in The Corrections, but I was more defended. I was more defended by anger and a certain kind of aggressive comedy, and it became necessary to let go of those things to get this book written.

This book is comedy. It even has a happy ending. I think in classical comedy, no principals can die. So to that extent it’s not a comedy. But I believe in laughter. There’s so much to be upset about in the world, I feel an obligation from time to time to have the final note in a book not be a despairing one. Or an ironic one. To actually maintain the possibility of some kind of hope.

So have you exorcised your old misanthropic ghosts in writing this?

I don’t think I’ve exorcised anything – perhaps exercised something. Like many people who have a particular sympathy for the environment and for other species we share the planet with, I do have my days of raging misanthropy. They don’t go away. That streak is still in me, but it’s not the whole me. Some people say you’re an elitist, whereas others accuse you of being populist because you write readable novels. Does that strike you as dissonant?

I try not to read things about myself, but word gets back nonetheless. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I would feel I’m doing something wrong if I weren’t getting contrary responses. I’m a Midwesterner, I come from the middle – and rather uncomfortably so, I might add.

But part of my understanding of the Midwest I grew out of was that the door was open to everybody. In college, I got a taste for pretty hard-core literature, so that’s a door I want to keep open. But as a casual reader, I don’t like unnecessary difficulty. I think it’s unfriendly to readers who have spent money and bought the book to torture them unnecessarily.

You said recently that nobody who has an Internet connection in their workplace could ever possibly write a good novel.

Every good writer I know needs to go into some deep, quiet place to do work that is fully imagined. And what the Internet brings is lots of vulgar data. It is the antithesis of the imagination. It leaves nothing to the imagination.

You have said it takes you four to seven years of writing before a novel really gets going. Is the difficulty finding a plot?

No, I can construct a plot in an afternoon. It’s all about connecting with characters. When the characters have to be invented from scratch, it takes all the longer. And if the character’s not invented from scratch then it’s harder to access the stuff that really needs to come out.

People talk about the revival of the social novel. Is that your sense of what you’re trying to do?

I have that sense less than some commentators seem to. In the same way that I can plot a novel in an afternoon – but so what? – I can sketch out a book that connects with a dozen different aspects of contemporary society in a couple of days. But again, so what? The people I’m writing for don’t need me to tell them what the news is. They have other access to the news.

I’m not repudiating the social novel, I’m pointing toward its obsolescence as a news-bringing vehicle. I would say 98 per cent of the work I did on Freedom had to do with psychoanalyzing myself and developing characters, and 2 per cent of it finally went into direct attention to my social milieu.

D.H. Lawrence said writers write novels to change the world. Don’t you have that opportunity?

If there’s something in the world I’m really upset about, I’m going to do journalism about it. I don’t want to burden the novel with excess fact. More importantly, it would distract me from doing what a novel really ought to be doing, which is forge a connection between writer and reader at a much deeper level.

Nevertheless, to give you an example, I think adulthood has become seriously undervalued in recent years. I’m not morally blaming anyone for wanting to prolong childhood into his or her 30s. It seems like a natural response to the sense that the world is too complicated to do anything about, so I have sympathy for the position. Yet I do feel very specifically that Freedom was an attempt to celebrate something other than youth culture.

That’s not an ambition to change the world, maybe. It’s more an ambition to shore up certain parts of the culture that seem to be slipping, and provide company and support for other people who feel the same way.

A lot of novels I’m reading are about escaping the boundaries of the biological family and finding the freedom to choose one’s identity. But you’re saying that’s impossible.

In a culture of radical consumer choice, constraints of any kind become interesting to the writer. You can choose your friends, you can choose your clothes, you can choose all your products, but you can’t choose who your parents and your siblings are. That’s a fact. You can deal with it by running away. But in fact most people don’t finally run away. They find some way to deal with it. That’s a critical restriction on the somewhat phony kind of freedom that’s peddled by our political economy.

The whole enterprise is to try to get below the surface. If you want surfaces, they’re streaming at you 24 hours a day in our culture. The novelist’s domain has always been and nowadays even more critically remains the deep interior. So I find myself drawn to the things that are inescapable, because I’m trying to create situations that force people to deal with what’s inside rather than escape from it.

You said this novel was more personal. Does that mean you are dealing with characters you have more personal experience with?

Not in any direct way, no. That’s one reason it took so long to get the book going. I had to find analogues to my own experiences that I could find no way to write about directly.

Certainly I was interested in my parents’ marriage, but I didn’t want to tell a story about something that began in 1943. I wanted to set it in a world I recognized and could move around in freely without a ton of research. I’m very opposed to research. I do the minimum, or possibly less than the minimum.


It distracts from the real problem, and the real problem is always character. Also, if I have too many facts, I start to feel responsible to them. Does the term “literary novel” have any meaning to you?

You need some word to account for the difference between Philip Roth and John Grisham. There are many striking differences, and this is with all respect to John Grisham. One of the striking things about so-called literary fiction is that it tends to be not morally simplistic. You don’t have heroically good people and diabolically evil people. In other words, it’s realistic. It’s realistic about the actual nature of morality.

You have written famously of your doubts about the power of the novel to reach and to move people in the digital world. Has your subsequent success put such doubts in the past?

Oh no, that’s ongoing. The terms of the struggle have changed a little bit. I think my sense of the possible audience for serious work has changed. It turns out there are more people who are hungry for some alternative to the digital junk stream than I might have guessed in my depressed years in the early nineties.

Back then, it seemed enough to perform a rearguard action for a small number of people – to not care whether anybody reads the work, but just to do it, make the sentences that are resistant, and hope to find a few kindred spirits who are grateful for it.

Nowadays, with the book industry in decline and people’s discretionary time ever more fragmented, I’m inclined to reach out even more to the non-hard-core audience, to try to deliver something that would be fun to read and a reminder of why we still need books, a reminder of the things that only novels can give you.

Are you surprised by the popularity of your work?

Certainly it occasions sustained questioning of my anger and depression about the state of literature. And to go back to your question about misanthropy, it’s a check against that to get reader mail from all different kinds of people, and from margins of society that I might otherwise write off or even be angry at. And indeed, one of my journalistic projects in the last decade has been to go and meet exactly those people who are making me angry.

You do that in the novel quite a bit, don’t you? You have sympathy for some of your least attractive characters.

That’s increasingly the project. If one of the definitions of a literary writer involves feeling keenly that the world is complex, that people are complex, that the moral story isn’t simple, then that gives that kind of writer a role to venture into the places that make him the angriest.

What are you working on now?

I don’t know. I’m working on getting up in the morning and dealing with the e-mail and doing interviews and writing little odds and ends. It’s going to be months and months before they let me loose to struggle with a book again.

Is that good or bad?

It feels bad, because a day in which I get some writing done is by definition a good day, and a day in which I don’t can never be that good a day. But realistically I know that so soon after finishing a large novel there’s no way I’d be doing any good work on a new one. So I might as well spend the time trying to be an ambassador for Freedom. [Heavy sigh.]

This interview has been condensed and edited.


Argos Cough Up A Furball Against Ticats

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(August 20, 2010) The Toronto Argonauts have prided themselves on avoiding mistakes in their return to respectability this season.

After Friday night’s showdown against the rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats, they may have to go back to the drawing board.

The Argos made plenty of mistakes, including a whopper by head coach Jim Barker, in losing 16-12 to the Ticats before an announced crowd of 24,493 at the Rogers Centre.

The loss ended a two-game Argo winning streak and dropped them into second place in the Canadian Football League East Division with a 5-3 record. Hamilton won its third straight to move to 4-4.

The Argos started out as if they were performing a tribute to their bumbling teams of the past two seasons.

After the Argos stopped Hamilton on its first possession, Chad Owens returned Eric Wilbur’s punt 78 yards for a touchdown. At least, it would have been a touchdown had Jeff Johnson not been ticketed for holding.

So the Argos lined up at their own 30 and Andre Durie took a pitch from Lemon and streaked down the sidelines for 61 yards. At least, it would have been 61 yards had receiver Jeffery Webb not been called for holding.

That’s 140 yards of offence and a touchdown negated by holding penalties in the first 1:12 of the game, if you’re scoring at home.

Sadly, the Argos never matched that kind of offensive excitement for the rest of the game, settling for a safety, three Grant Shaw field goals and a single off a missed 29-yarder.

They in no way resembled the team that put up 37 points against the Montreal Alouettes last week.

There was some pretty good defence on both sides, as well as some pretty poor offence.

Both sides laid on some hard hits, the nastiest being Argo defensive back Lin-J Shell’s levelling of Arland Bruce III on an overthrown pass in the second quarter.

There were some big plays, too.

Argo safety Willie Pile sacked Hamilton quarterback Quinton Porter for an eight-yard loss on a third-and-two gamble at the Argo 22.

Shell added an interception while Argo defensive tackle Kevin Huntley was a one-man wrecking crew.

Things started looking up on the first series of the second half.

With a first down at the Hamilton 44, the Argos pulled off one of the razzle-dazzle plays that is quickly becoming their trademark this season. Quarterback Cleo Lemon pitched the ball to Ryan Christian, who swept left and pitched back to Chad Owens.

Owens then hit Christian deep down the left side at the Hamilton seven.

But in keeping with the flow of the evening, the Argos had to settle for yet another field goal because they couldn’t move the ball with any consistency.

That was a portent of strange things to come. Leading 12-3 the Argos appeared on their way to another score when Barker challenged the spot on second down at Hamilton’s 31.

But the officials ruled that only third-down plays can be reviewed and charged the Argos with a 10-yard penalty. Shaw’s 48-yard field goal attempt on the next play was blocked, setting the stage for a 10-play Hamilton drive that ended in, you guessed it, a field goal.

But that seemed to turn the tide.

On the ensuing kickoff, former Argo Jason Shivers stripped the ball from Christian’s grasp and Will Heyward recovered at the Argo 22. Three plays later, DeAndra’ Cobb ran in from the six for the game’s first touchdown and a 16-12 Hamilton lead.

As if that wasn’t enough, Shell was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct on the convert, allowing Hamilton to kick off from the Argo 50.

The Argos staged a promising-looking comeback drive in the final two minutes, but were done in by two dropped passes that pretty much fit in with the rest of their evening’s work.

Canada Looks To Future After Elimination At Basketball Worlds

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(September 01, 2010) Canada's Joel Anthony, left back, leaps to the net as New Zealand's Mika Vukona, left, scores next to teammate Thomas Abercrombie during a preliminary round match between Canada and New Zealand at the
FIBA World Basketball Championships in Izmir, Turkey, Sept. 1, 2010. Canada was eliminated with the loss.


IZMIR, TURKEY – There was ample bitterness as Canada bowed out of the world basketball championships with a fourth straight loss here Wednesday, a result well-earned given the circumstances of the roster and the calibre of the competition.

And no amount of recalling the dark days of the program or the promise of things to come could soothe the most veteran presence on the team.

Joel Anthony may one day grow into the eminence grisé of the national team and knows of its humble beginnings.

Wednesday, he was just disappointed.

“I’ve been through the highs and the lows,” said the 28-year-old centre, the oldest player on the roster. “I remember playing when we weren’t playing for anything, we were just playing in a couple of games and there were no tournaments or anything, just a couple of friendly matches.

“To actually qualify and to play in a world tournament, to see the progression the program has made, has been big but it’s still a little frustrating and disappointing not being able to advance, which was our expectation.”

But those expectations may, in hindsight, have been inflated after Canada suffered its fourth straight loss, this one a 71-61 decision to New Zealand that officially eliminated Canada from the playoff round.

A young team trying to get its feet wet back in substantial international waters, denied its best shooter and floor leader because of injury, was in fact not as good as the four teams that will advance out of Group D.

It is not a shock – it is a disappointment – but it is a fact that the future is much more important than the present and the lessons learned here will be invaluable in four or six or even eight years.

“It’s a different game, you have to keep fighting no matter what the situation is,” said Jevohn Shepherd, who had 15 points to lead Canada against New Zealand

“We won a couple of exhibition games and we thought we were good and you find out … there’s lots of improvement to make and a lot of adjustments.”

Those adjustments aren’t necessarily physical, although Canada was among the youngest teams in the tournament. Something like the worlds, with five games in six days against high-calibre competition regardless of the name of the country, is a tough slog.

And Canada finally gave way to it Wednesday.

“I think the last few games we’ve played have taken their toll a little bit,” said coach Leo Rautins. “I felt like we were running in quicksand today, nothing seemed to get going. Shots wouldn’t fall, it just seemed that we were slow the whole game.”

Canada was also hamstrung by the absence of guard Andy Rautins, the team’s top shooter and a leader on the floor. And while there has been much talk about the team’s depth, it was not good enough to overcome that absence against more veteran teams.

“Nobody’s defence is an issue right now, it’s us,” said coach Rautins. “We’re playing with what we have so the ball’s not moving the same, the shots aren’t the same. The reality is we’re not good enough yet to compensate. Period.

“Hopefully we can continue to develop and expand our pool so that when injuries do come or players can’t make it, we have enough to compensate, but you can see where we are.”

But it’s not as if the future is bleak with no hope of improvement. Shepherd and Rautins are just 24, Kelly Olynyk’s only 19 and Robert Sacre a mere 21; those players, if they remain with the program and grow, will look back on this tournament as a valuable lesson in years to come.

“If you look at Jevohn where he came from a year ago to now, it’s huge,” said coach Rautins. “He’s really gotten better and he’s a sponge. I love the way he way he attacks the basket, I love the way he goes to the rime, he’s just got to now start figuring out time, situation and that’s part of his growth as a player.

“For these guys to go through this … they have to go through this.”

Canada Remains Winless At Basketball Worlds

Source: www. globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(August 31, 2010) IZMIR, Turkey — The Canadians lost 68-63 to France on Tuesday to fall to 0
-3, diminishing their ever-dwindling chances of advancing to the second round.

Nicolas Batum led France with 24 points and seven rebounds.

Levon Kendall of Vancouver had 15 points and three assists, while Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony of Montreal grabbed five boards for the Canadians.

Canada led France 48-46 heading into the fourth quarter but were undone by poor shooting down the stretch.

“We tried to mix things up, a little man and little zone,” Canada coach Leo Rautins said. “They found some holes here and there, as good teams do.”

The Canadians played without starting point guard Andy Rautins, who was on the bench nursing a knee injury.

Canada went into the game needing to win two of its three final games.

Canada faces New Zealand on Wednesday and defending world champion Spain on Thursday.

The Canadians suffered losses to Lebanon and Lithuania earlier in the tournament.

France improved to 3-0, putting itself in a position to win the six-team Group D when it plays Lithuania on Wednesday.

“We knew they needed this game,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “And they gave everything to win it.”

St-Pierre to defend UFC title against Koscheck Dec. 11

Source: www. thestar.com - Neil Davidson

(August 31, 2010) Georges St-Pierre will defend his UFC welterweight title against American Josh Koscheck on Dec. 11 in his hometown of Montreal.

UFC president Dana White confirmed the news to The Canadian Press.

The mixed martial arts card will be the second in Montreal this year, following UFC 113 on May 8 at the Bell Centre. The UFC also made its debut in Vancouver in 2010 with UFC 115 in June.

The December card, expected to be UFC 124, will mark the second UFC title fight for GSP in Montreal. He won his 170-pound championship back from Matt (The Terror) Serra at UFC 83 in April 2008 when the UFC first came to Canada.

St-Pierre (20-2) beat Koscheck at UFC 74 in a non-title defeat in April 2007. That fight followed GSP’s loss in his first title defence against Serra at UFC 69.

The 29-year-old from Montreal has won seven straight since that defeat. His last four wins have come in title defences against Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves and Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy.

St-Pierre and Koscheck recently completed filming as rival coaches on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show. The TV series debuts Wednesday, Sept. 15, and will lead into the live card in December.

Koscheck (17-4) has won his last three fights against Frank Trigg, Anthony (Rumble) Johnson and Paul (Semtex) Daley.

The California-based fighter, who relishes playing the villain, has been talking up the GSP fight on Twitter.

“Shock time is coming!!!!!” read one tweet.

“We got a frenchy’s ass to kick,” read another.

St-Pierre was unimpressed.

“He’s not the only guy who has said stupid stuff like this to me, I’m used to it,” he said Aug. 12 on a visit to Toronto. “And I’m smart enough to fight him smart and not fight him with emotion and make a mistake.

“But when it’s time to punch him, just the little extra motivation I’m going to have at the end of the punch to twist my knuckle into the head, it will be good thing. It will give me an extra power edge.”

St-Pierre is currently training in New York.

Scotty Pippen is Getting a Statue


(August 27, 2010) *Perhaps it’s been a long time coming for him, but an NBA legend is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

The Chicago Bulls have plans to unveil a bronze statue of Hall of Famer
Scottie Pippen that will be displayed permanently in the United Center at some point towards the end of the 2010-11 season.

“Not only is Scottie Pippen one of the greatest players to ever wear a Bulls uniform, but he’s among the best players in history of the league to play the game,” said Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. “He had a tremendous impact in bringing six world championships to Chicago and there is no better way to pay tribute to him than with a permanent statue that honours his inspirational career.”

The two who also sculpted Michael Jordan’s statue, Omri and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany of Highland Park, Ill, will also be sculpting Pippen’s replica.

“Words really can’t express my feelings,” Pippen told Bulls.com. “It’s an unbelievable honour and truly amazing. It’s something you dream of as a kid growing up, but you can never foresee those childhood fantasies becoming reality. You see statues of individuals who have done great things and made their mark on history, but as a basketball player, you never really think about arriving at this point. It’s an amazing honour for the Chicago Bulls to do this for me.”

Read the full story


Hamilton Changes Course On Pan Am Stadium Project

Source: www. thestar.com - Donovan Vincent

(August 31, 2010) Despite voting earlier this month to build a new Pan Am stadium in the West Harbour, Hamilton council reversed course Tuesday and passed a motion calling for the city to look into building at the Longwood and Aberdeen location. The vote officially clears an impasse between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the city over the proposed site for the 2015 Pan Am stadium, which would be turned over to the football team after the Games end. Staff at Hamilton city hall will sit down with the team for an intensive evaluation of the west end site, which is owned by McMaster University, Hamilton councillor Bob Bratina said in a telephone interview. He said the site was supposed to be used to house firms involved in innovation, but that hasn’t really happened. “Innovation Park hasn’t been fulfilling its mandate … so they’re probably just as happy to look at alternatives to the (prescribed) land use,” Bratina added. City staff was told by council to come back with a report on the site, or any other viable properties, by Sept. 15. Council’s change in direction came after Pan Am representatives met last week with city officials to tell them that without a legacy tenant taking over the city’s West Harbour site, Pan Am organizers would only fund a stadium of about 5,000 seats.  On Monday, Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young released a statement saying the Aberdeen/Longwood site presents “essential sports stadium requirements’’ such as its proximity to Highway 403.

Cancer In Remission, Mandi Set For Treatment

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(September 01, 2010)
Mandi Schwartz of Wilcox, Sask., played for the Yale Bulldogs until her college career was interrupted by cancer. NEW HAVEN, CONN.—Canadian hockey player Mandi Schwartz is scheduled to receive a stem cell transplant after learning that her cancer is in remission. The 22-year-old Regina native received the news Tuesday from doctors, according to a release from Yale University. Schwartz is a senior at the school and played centre on the women’s hockey team. It’s the third time she’s gone into remission since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2008. She will receive the stem cell transplant — essentially, a new blood and immune system — as soon as possible. “We are relieved to hear that Mandi is back in remission,” her father Rick Schwartz said in a release. “The support we have received during this difficult time has been inspiring. We thank everyone who has kept Mandi in their thoughts and prayers.” Schwartz was originally scheduled to have a stem cell transplant on Aug. 26, but that was delayed when it was discovered the cancer had returned. She then went through another round of chemotherapy at a Seattle hospital. Mandi’s brother is Jaden Schwartz, who was selected 14th overall by the St. Louis Blues in June. Her other brother Rylan plays for Colorado College.

Canadian Stuns No. 30 at U.S. Open

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(August 31, 2010) NEW YORK—Canada’s
Peter Polansky earned the first Grand Slam main draw victory of his career Tuesday, knocking off No. 30 seed Juan Monaco at the U.S. Open. The Thornhill native defeated the Argentinian 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the opening round in front of about 1,000 fans at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “I started to serve really well near the end,” said Polansky. “I knew if I played well and focused that I could do it. This means a lot, especially beating two top-35 guys in the past two weeks. That’s huge for me.” Polansky is having a strong finish to the summer hard-court season, including a win over world No. 15 Jergen Melzer in the opening round of Rogers Cup in Toronto, and won three times to qualify for the final Grand Slam of the season. In the second round, Canada’s top-ranked male singles player will face American James Blake or Kristof Vliegen of Belgium on Thursday. After trailing 2-5 in the second-set tiebreak against Monaco, Polansky reeled off five straight points. The 2006 U.S. Open junior finalist converted three of five break point chances in the final set, and six of nine in the match. On the first break point opportunity of the third set, he returned a Monaco kick serve around the net post and in for a winner. Polansky then calmly served out at love to take a 3-1 lead. Later, the Canadian broke Monaco again to close out the match. In other Canadian action, Rebecca Marino of Vancouver will play third-seeded Venus Williams on Wednesday.