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LE NEWSLETTER

December 1, 2011

December is upon us and that means that holidays are coming our way. In this week's edition, there are a few gift ideas and ways to survive the holiday season in good form.

I'm trying harder to focus more on
Canadian content so hopefully you will enjoy this shift and feel free to give me any feedback.

I have two news flashes on some newly released music.  The first is
Mary J. Blige's My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1). Want to hear a track? Do you also want to win a copy of the CD?  If you can tell me the date that this CD was released, then you could be a winner!  Look for the answer under SCOOP and enter the concert HERE.  Leave your full name and mailing address.

Next is another favourite artist of mine -
Robin Thicke, with his new release Love After War.  Sexy and sultry as ever! Check out the newsletter next week for some giveaways! Check out a video under SCOOP!

The dates for the best in Christian pop rock music 
Peter Furler and Special Guests Canadian Christmas Tour in support of World Vision Canada is in the GTA!  Get the details under HOT EVENTS!

This week's news features the scoop on the new radio station
G98.7FM; a special message to a Toronto school from Lady Gaga; the B.C. Lions win the Grey Cup; some aforementioned survival tips for New Years Eve, and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.
OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles.  

::SCOOP::

Audio: Blige on Lessons Learned Between ‘My Life’ 1 and 2

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 28, 2011) *New material from
Mary J. Blige is finally in stores.

Her 10th studio album, “My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1),” is a sequel to her second album “My Life,” which spawned six hit singles since its Nov. 28, 1994 debut ["Mary Jane (All Night Long),” “You Bring Me Joy,” “My Life,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “I Love You” and “Be Happy”] and served as an unflinching, soul-bearing portrait of Blige’s tortured state of mind at the time.

When the singer recorded “My Life” in the fall of 93, she was dealing with clinical depression, battling both drugs and alcohol, and was deep into an abusive relationship with singer K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci.

The pain in her voice and her lyrics – backed by beats executive-produced by Diddy – resonated with an entire generation of fans and went on to stay atop Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart for eight consecutive weeks. It eventually became the most successful R&B album on the Billboard Year-End chart for 1995.

Mary says her current sequel,
released on Nov. 21, is crafted to sound more like her first two albums than any of her recent material. “It’s more like a ‘What’s the 411?’ of 2012,” she said of “My Life II,” which features production from a variety of talents, including Danja, The Underdogs, Jim Jonsin and Darkchild.

Blige is no longer in the muddled, substance-fueled confusion that defined her first “My Life” album, but as the title declares, “the journey continues.”

Below, Blige reveals the single biggest lesson she’s learned in the 17 years between “My Life” I and II.

VIDEO: Robin Thicke’s Love After War

Source:  Universal Music Canada

Born in Los Angeles,
Robin Thicke taught himself to play piano at the age of 12 and by 16 was writing and producing songs for artists like Brandy, Color Me Badd, and Brian McKnight. By the age of 21, he had written and produced songs on over 20 gold and platinum albums including Michael Jackson, Marc Anthony, Pink, Christina Aguilera and others.
 
Robin began writing soul- searching, gut-wrenching songs about faith, hope and love. These songs became his breakthrough second release, 2006’s The Evolution Of Robin Thicke.  In December of 2009 Robin released Sex Therapy, an album that created a fantasy world of eroticism, while still dealing with the honest struggle a man has with seduction, loneliness and betrayal. The title song, “Sex Therapy,” was hailed by critics as “the sexiest song of the year” and went on to be #1 on the R&B/ Hip Hop charts and also won an ASCAP Rhythm and Soul Award.
 
Robin’s fifth studio album, 
Love After War is set to release in December. This is Thicke at his most raw and honest condition yet. This was an album born out of a desire to be the uncompromising, idealistic artist he was as a boy, married with the weight of being a man with responsibilities and the scars of the past.  Love After War and songs you'll discover within it, like "An Angel on Each Arm",  "I'm An Animal", "Never Give Up", "Cloud 9",  "Pretty Lil' Heart" and "Tears On My Tuxedo" need no explanation: they speak for themselves. Robin believes a song can be whatever the listener wants it to be. The reasons and decisions that lead him to write his songs are not important; what matters most is how they make the listener feel.

Robin is as faithful to his fans as they are to him. His ultimate desire is to entertain the listener… to move them… to inspire them… to make them love more.

::TOP STORIES::

Will New Black-Music Station Go With The Flow?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Nov 25, 2011) Listeners to Toronto’s newest radio station, which formally debuts Monday, are already thrilling to its flow. But their experience with that other Flow that has left them wary, too.

With its soft launch Oct. 3,
G98.7 FM became Toronto’s second-ever black-owned and -operated commercial station, and the only one left, since Flow 93.5 FM’s sale to CTV earlier this year. That frequency had already alienated supporters of the decade-long, politically charged campaign which brought it to the air in 2001, because of its hits-oriented devolution and dearth of talk programming.

Now, after its own nine-year quest, including three licence applications, 98.7 FM — billed as “urban adult contemporary” — represents a second chance at a forum for the black community’s ails and aspirations, as well as for aficionados of black-oriented music.

Online comments have already been celebrating the playlist of classic R&B, reggae and soca showcased alongside Madonna, Beyoncé and Lil Wayne during two months of all-music tweaking.

“Listening to Jill Scott on the RADIO! That never happens in Toronto,” enthused Jenna Burke on Twitter. “Finally, an on-air station that embraces neo-soul and indie artists as well!!!!” gushed Dwan Branton on Facebook, where Tamara DeLeon added: “It is so good to hear a mix that truly reflects the diversity of our community.”

If Flow comparisons weren’t already inevitable, several former high-profile employees of that outlet have joined G, including, djs Spex, Dr. Jay and Jester, program director Wayne Williams and the reunited morning team of Jemini & Mark Strong (who were, awkwardly enough, shouted out by rapper Drake during his recent Flow appearance).

“It’s actually a sharp move on their part,” posited black Toronto pop culture critic Dalton Higgins.

“Mark Strong, Jemini, those were some of the things that had resonance in our community and once they were let go, those kinds of moves turned off the community; they fired the heart and soul of the station.

“Now, if they were to add some of the other (unfavourable) elements — Top 20 format, cookie-cutter playlist — that’s where the community might be up in arms. But looking at their early lineup, I’m excited.”

So, reservedly, is Ikeila Wright who has the channel playing in her One Love Vegetarian eatery.

“It sounds really hopeful, but I’m not going to sign on 100 per cent until I see what’s going on,” said the Bathurst Street proprietress.

“A lot of us signed petitions in the past for radio stations that will remain unnamed that were supposed to be black-focused, and we felt punked; we felt bamboozled; our emcees, our DJs were fired; so I’m a bit timid.”

The difference is that since the cultural imperative is part of the licence G98.7 founder Fitzroy Gordon got from Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, this station — unlike Flow — can’t easily veer from its out-the-gate musical fusion, chat shows, news and sports coverage.

Jamaican native Gordon, a former medical technologist who covered sports for FAN 590 and the Toronto Sun, and helmed the nightly Dr. Love show on CHIN-FM 100.7 FM for seven years has a simple message for the skeptics: “Support the station by advertising your businesses and services on the station; listen to the station; support the advertisers; that is key to the survival of the station.

“Don’t give us any opportunity to talk about ‘We may have to do something else, because we’re not getting the community support.’ ”

Flow operators have said they were forced to abandon current affairs programming and embrace a more Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) format, which accrued modest profits, after an inability to attract blue chip advertisers wrought losses of a million dollars their first year.

It’s admirable to be predominately black in ownership, management and staff, in a city where most mainstream media outlets have few, if any, blacks in those roles, but can a commercial radio station targeting a 25-54 demographic with a focus on black and Caribbean emanating music and issues grab a big enough market share to satisfy advertisers?

“If it is not accessible to a sufficiently broad audience, Fitzroy is going to have a very difficult time being financially viable,” said local radio analyst David Bray noting the challenges of jazz and classical music programmers.

“It’s lovely from an artistic standpoint … If he keeps his costs way down, then perhaps he can make it all viable, but it is a tremendous struggle.”

Bray’s suggestion — that G relegate the bulk of its specialty programming to off-peak and weekends hours — would be an anathema to listeners already monitoring the playlist, like Pickering’s Klive Walker.

“While I’m thoroughly enjoying the R&B and the funk that they’re playing, music that I grew up with, I’m also thinking it’s a small percent of reggae and calypso, and I haven’t heard any African or Latin, so that positive feedback has to be tempered in some way,” said the reggae historian who’ll be dismayed if smooth jazz, “bad reggae covers of pop tunes” and superficial, non-inclusive news coverage become de rigueur.

“If they’re going to join the kind of bland, tepid music that some stations play, then I don’t really see the point,” he said. “And I would like to see them bring in people from different minority communities to talk about their issues in a very serious and compelling way . . . There’s a lot of responsibility that they’re carrying and they’re going to get way less wiggle room than Flow did.”

G’s president, CEO and station manager Fitzroy Gordon seems to thrive on challenge. At last month’s ribbon-cutting, he joked about the “sleepless nights” wrought by the station’s birth, as well as the son his wife delivered just weeks later, but exuded the faith and doggedness that steered his Intercity Broadcasting Network Inc.’s struggle to air.

“G stands for good, godly, glory — and Gordon,” teased the new radio boss as stood before a freshly painted wall, etched with an Aristotle quote, addressing the gathering at the station’s expansive 7,000-sq.-ft. studio and offices near Don Mills Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E.

(CBC, which tried to block G’s application declaring concerns about the signal interfering with their Peterborough frequency, is now wreaking havoc on the station’s signal in Scarborough, Pickering, and Oshawa. Gordon plans to ask the public broadcaster to limit the Peterborough channel — a duplicate of 99.1 FM — in the GTA.)

Gordon helms a staff of 40, including a seven-person advertising sales team which has already made inroads with local restaurants, promoters and retailers. “Even before we went on air, we were getting calls for advertising,” said Gordon.

“We’ve sold out our (nightclub) live-to-airs for the entire year. If this is any indication, we’re going to have a very good time.”

He’s also co-hosting a Sunday chat segment on G which boasts Canada’s first African music program on commercial radio, and a gospel show with Carvin Winans of the legendary American singing family.

The station promises to fill a void, said restaurant owner Wright.

“Black music of all genres means the world to me,” she explained.

“I had a group of youths in here from the Africentric school and a Louis Armstrong CD was on and I said ‘Okay, music trivia, guys: who is this playing?’ No clue. And it hurt me.”

Lady Gaga Sends Toronto School A Personal Message Of Tolerance

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Nov 25, 2011) When an auditorium of Toronto high-school students sat down for an assembly Friday morning, the last thing they were expecting was Lady Gaga.

But there was the flamboyant superstar on a pre-recorded video message, speaking personally to the students at the Etobicoke School of the Arts on the subject of anti-bullying and sexual equality.

"It is important that we push the boundaries of love and acceptance," said the singer, a strong advocate for gay rights.

"It is important that we spread tolerance and equality for all students," she added, wearing a relatively demure, frosty green jacket, pillbox hat and veil.

Known as a school with a highly tolerant atmosphere, Etobicoke School of the Arts is nevertheless running a campaign this year against bullying and for equality.

The video was Jacques St. Pierre's idea. The 17-year-old senior and student council president had written to a number of entertainers, including Ellen DeGeneres and Katy Perry, to get them to send a video in support of the anti-bullying campaign.

"I basically sent hand-written letters to them, and I found all of these addresses from a website," St. Pierre said. "But I don't know if it was a reputable source. So I don't know if they all got them, or maybe they haven't read them yet. Her [Lady Gaga's] address happened to be right."

He wrote to the singer in August; in early October, he was with three friends when he noticed an e-mail from the singer on his phone. He downloaded the one-minute video message and told the student council and a teacher. It was kept a secret from the rest of the school until Friday's assembly.

St. Pierre admits he's a big Lady Gaga fan. "Huge! I have her posters in my basement, I sing her songs in the shower. I love Lady Gaga." He sang her hit Born This Way to a school assembly when he running for student council president.

On Friday, news of the video quickly spread outside the school after the assembly, although St. Pierre believes Lady Gaga meant it more as a personal message to the school's 1,000 students.

"Since the video is directed to me and the school as well, I don't think she expected to get such a large audience, like we're getting now, from all the media. I think she just thought she'd be talking to 1,000 kids at a high school in Canada, and that getting that message to those kids could hopefully impact them," St. Pierre said.

He added that he was taunted by bullies in elementary school. It wasn't severe, he said, but it has had a lasting impact. "And it always will," he said.

"At that school, whenever I wanted to audition for a school play or musical, people would say 'That's so gay' or 'You're such a fag.' It got to the point where I would be teased about it in the playground. One of my best friends joined in with the bullies, and so I lost him as a friend."

Even with his school's comparative tolerance, St. Pierre says that bullying and prejudices persist, as it does with any high school.

"I had one student come up to me last year, after I had won the [student council] election, and he told me that he thought this whole idea of equality and anti-bullying that I was preaching would make the school seem too gay," he said. "It's smaller things like that, that happen here, which still affect people."

St. Pierre said he would like to major in musical theatre in college; New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, which Lady Gaga briefly attended, is his top choice.

Lions Roar To Grey Cup Win

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Allan Maki

(Nov 23, 2011) Forty-five minutes before kickoff, Wally Buono walked
across the field to where his daughter Christie was standing, hugged her and took the note she had written him.

For more than a decade, Christie Buono has penned her dad inspirational messages, words to lead by. She did it Sunday for perhaps the last time. The note said many things, most importantly, "You have written the perfect script."

In what might have been his last game as a CFL head coach, Buono guided his
B.C. Lions to a 34-23 championship showing over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Considering how it all played out - from the 0-5 start to the regular season to becoming the first team since the 1994 Lions to win a Grey Cup at home - Buono kept his team together, stoked its confidence then turned it loose on the rest of the league.

If indeed he relinquishes his coaching duties to work solely as general manager next season, this season, the 99th Grey Cup game, was what his daughter had written: the perfect script for a great career.

"It was the players who did it," Buono said Sunday night on a B.C. Place stadium turf field littered with celebratory confetti. "This is about them. I'll decide (his situation) later."

The Lions who won the Grey Cup were a far cry from the team that lost to Winnipeg and sat 1-6 in mid-August. In this game, they were tough and resilient, patient and poised. Backed by their coach, they rode the legs of running back Andrew Harris (voted the game's top Canadian) and the arm of quarterback Travis Lulay (the game's most outstanding player) to a dominant showing that was more one-sided than the final score indicated.

"There was no sense of panic," Lulaly said when asked how the Lions felt early on after misfiring on offence and scoring field goals instead of touchdowns. "This is a combination of hard work, dedication and a lot of desire. We wouldn't have done this without a belief system."

The Lions' players spoke about how they feed off Buono's belief in them. Centre Angus Reid recalled how Buono would assure them they were a good team so just go out and play like one. They did enough of that in a game that, heading in, was billed as a showdown between the two best defensive units in the league.

The play that broke the Bombers' heart came in the final seconds of the third quarter. Ahead 17-9, Lulay threw a deep pass to receiver Kierrie Johnson, who broke free behind Winnipeg's Jonathan Hefney and ran untouched into the end zone. It was 66-yard completion that increased the Lions' lead to 15 points and signaled the Lions ability to push back when challenged.

"I could feel their DB at my heels so I just took off," said Johnson. "To score my first touchdown in the CFL in the Grey Cup, it's so special."

The Lions got special efforts from a number of players: Arland Bruce had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown; Harris rushed for 67 yards and touchdown; Lulay passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns and earned his teammate's lasting respect.

"He's not just a great quarterback," said Reid. "He's a great leader."

The game opened along expected lines with the vast majority of 54,313 fans cheering for the Lions. B.C. scored first, moving 45 yards on five plays when Harris rushed 19 yards through the middle of the Bombers' defence to put his side ahead 7-0. Paul McCallum's kicking points boosted the lead to 14-0.

To their credit, the Blue Bombers kept coming. Quarterback Buck Pierce passed for 250 yards and touchdowns to Greg Carr and Terence Edwards. It was, in the end, little more than window dressing.

"They're a good team," B.C. defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell said of Winnipeg. "But we're the champions. We proved that with how we played all season, not just today."

That they stuck together after their shaky start can be traced to the coach who has recorded the most career wins in league history and who learned that to teach faith you have to show it.

"There's a lot of honesty, I believe, within the organization, addressing the issues and trying to move forward," Buono said. "It wasn't like we put our heads in the stands. We knew the issues ... The players came back strong. It shows their unity was respect."

It shows, too, they're the Grey Cup winners, perhaps the last team Buono ever coaches.

5 New Year’s Eve Survival Tips

Source: www.thestar.com - By Adrienne Brown

(Nov 30, 2011) You’ve been looking forward to New Year’s Eve for weeks, maybe even more so than Christmas. It’s the biggest party night of the year — and it takes a little extra thought to survive it.

Before you head out the door to ring in 2012, take a few pre-party survival precautions to make sure your night lives up to all the hype.

1. Mark the end of 2011 with a siesta

You’re going to be up really late, so take it easy during the day on December 31. It’s a Saturday, so as long as you don’t have to work, it’s the perfect day to laze around in your PJs, enjoying whatever you got for Christmas. Take a guilt-free, pre-party nap partway through the day so you’re refreshed and ready to hit the town.

2. Stash extra cash for a taxi, even if you have a DD

No matter what anyone says, a few New Year’s Eve drinks can be quite tempting. Even if you have a friend promising to be your Designated Driver, set aside enough cash to be able to take a taxi home if you need to, or have a backup plan — someone you can call in an emergency.

3. Don’t wear a coat you care about

You know what it’s like at the end of the night. Anyone who came with a jacket will reach into a closet or a pile of coats and slip into the first one that most closely resembles the one they came with — even if it’s not theirs.

Black coat with big black buttons? Must be mine. Leave that brand new coat you splurged on in a Boxing Day sale safe at home and take a coat that isn’t quite so special.

4. Ladies: pack a pair of flats for the walk home

Sure, your new heels look hot. But your feet probably won’t feel so great by the time midnight rolls around, let alone by the end of the night when it’s time to head home. Pick up a pair of small, foldable flats you can tuck in your purse. Come 2 a.m., you’ll be glad you did.

5. Start hydrating early

The number one rule of New Year’s Eve: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The number two rule: eat something.

In your quest to take it easy before you head out for the night, be sure to guzzle water all day. Then, when you get to your party, try to drink a few glasses of water between all those flutes of champagne. Similarly, it’s important to eat more than canapés for supper.

If you’re properly planning ahead, you’ll also set a big glass of water by your bedside for when you get home. You’ll thank yourself at about 9 a.m. on January 1.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Three Hours And Still A Fresh Prince

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

Prince
Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday

(Nov 27, 2011) Let's go crazy. Let's party like it's 1999. Let's spend
three hours with Prince, and afterward try to think of anyone else who could give a concert spanning three decades of hits and nearly 30 albums without ever getting lost on memory lane.

After a few days of technical rehearsals at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum, Prince's oddly-named Welcome 2 Canada tour - welcome 2 U 2, Prince! - set up at Air Canada Centre for two nights of recombinant funk-flavoured music by the 53-year-old star and his New Power Generation band. From the start, it was clear that Prince would have nothing to do with anything so banal as a living jukebox recreation of a song as recorded.

No, if there was a governing form to this show, it was that of the medley - a slack vehicle for some, but not for Prince. His sprawling 30-minute song-suites pulled familiar tunes into startling new shapes and contexts.

Musicology, the base for one early long jam, actually seemed to change its state, from a linear song to an all-absorbing rhythmic environment. It was like hearing the hypertext version, with some links clicked on and others merely noted, maybe for future exploration. There was so much in there, I began to think that Prince could probably sustain a concert with just one song, laid out as an armature into which all manner of jams, interpolations and harmonic puns could be placed.

The stage, set in the middle of the stadium, took the shape of the unpronounceable love symbol Prince used for a while as a name. The fluid curves and central axis of this device, realized as so much runway footage, gave Prince and his three backup singers plenty of room to address the crowd from all angles.

He sang in his raspy midrange and piping falsetto, danced with liquid ease, and played ornate moody guitar solos as though thinking aloud through the instrument. He played the audience too, catching us up with countless false endings, before driving on with yet another twist on the song at hand. He read the response to everything he did, like a despot who was also a pure democrat, in total control at all times yet eager to claim every last vote in the room.

His band, a super-tight ensemble whose jazz chops flashed by in a bebop break near the top, included saxophonist Maceo Parker, who seemed to function partly as a living link with James Brown. Whenever Parker stepped up for a solo, it seemed as if Prince were deferring to the wisdom of the elders, and acknowledging the source of the funk ethos that defined much of the show.

The set included a slew of old favourites made new, including Cream, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Take Me With U and Raspberry Beret, performed as a watercolour animation streaked across the overhead screens. The covers were all cleverly curated, especially Yesterday, sung by one of Prince's singers as a mind-blowing preface to a recontextualized Nothing Compares 2 U.

Prince went into encore mode after Purple Rain, though at that point, two hours on, he had yet to touch the piano-shaped keyboard console parked at one side of the stage. We had to make him do that, call him back with applause, give him new life like Tinkerbell. Seduction is always a big element in any Prince performance, and it always goes both ways.

Prince plays 18 more shows in nine cities across Canada through Dec. 17, starting at Halifax's Metro Centre on Nov. 30.

Jay-Z And Kanye West: We Own The Throne, We Still Want It

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(Nov 24, 2011) It’s hard to believe, after bearing the full, two-and-a-half hour brunt of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour stop at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night, that there was a time when hip-hop shows were almost presupposed to suck.

The headliner would show up a couple of hours late (if he showed up at all), drop a few distracted verses from truncated versions of the hits over a crappy P.A. and then wander offstage after 20 or 30 minutes to appreciative, if mildly dissatisfied, applause because, well, everybody was just happy that the performer they’d paid to see on the night had indeed made it out to the gig.

Jigga and Kanye showed up a bit late to the first of their two consecutive ACC dates on Wednesday, taking the stage – or stages, rather, since they both first appeared to the strains of the combative duet “H*A*M” at opposite ends of the arena bowl rising atop a pair of LED-lit cubes emblazoned (of course) with video images of snarling rottweilers and predatory sharks – just enough behind schedule to ensure that the dense Watch the Throne program would be blowing through the venue’s typical 11 p.m. curfew by at least an hour.

Return Of A Hip-Hop Killah

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Morris

(Nov 25, 2011) Ghostface Killah's description of ending his banishment from Canada is appropriately dark.

"It's like comin' home after doing 17 years or whatever," the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder says on the phone from New York, comparing his absence to a prison term. In fact, the last time he performed north of the border was 1996. "So to go back and embrace the fans that love me and the ones that I love..." He pauses. "It's gonna be real nice, yo."

Ghostface was blocked from re-entering Canada because of his criminal record - including a four-month prison stint in 1999 for attempted robbery (he told MTV the jail time made him a "better man"). Now that he's settled the Canada Customs and Immigration rehabilitation paperwork, Ghostface will finally follow up his last Canadian appearance with a timely tour. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the group's first single, Protect Ya Neck, the beginning of a movement that would change the music business forever.

The nine-member rap collective blew a W-shaped hole in popular culture with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), released in 1993, and followed it with a barrage of million-selling solo albums, movies and video games. Crews were common in hip-hop, but none had ever branded both their music and their merchandise as though they were a blockbuster movie franchise.

The group's line of Wu-Wear was a particularly innovative strategy, expanding the business of selling a few T-shirts at shows into a clothing empire distributed at major retail outlets like Macy's - success that spurred Jay-Z and Diddy to create their own fashion brands. Those rappers also created their own crews and marketed them along similar lines; Diddy's Bad Boy stable, including Notorious B.I.G. and Mase, went on to rule the charts in the late '90s, all while sporting his Sean John apparel in their videos.

To this day, Ghostface is still killing - with microphones, that is. "We out there. We got brothers out there in the trenches, still doin' it. It's sort of like being an old gunslinger, nah mean? He go pull his gun out, the lesson's about to be on. Twenty years down the line, that same gun still work."

Ghostface's verses are uncannily detailed, like the one in The Heart Gently Weeps, where he depicts an ambush in a pharmacy, complete with vivid images of bullets flying through Clorox bottles. The Wu-Tang nurture a mystique around their past misadventures, but Ghostface happily talks about his early days in the notorious Stapleton housing projects on Staten Island. Born Dennis Coles in 1970, Ghostface met Divine - the Wu-Tang's eventual co-manager - during a teenage prison stint for robbery. Divine's brother RZA became the mastermind behind the group's era-defining beats and business strategy.

"RZA was livin' in Park Hill, five minutes away from my project; then he moved down to Stapleton," the rapper explains. "He had an apartment, yo, so we were just chillin'. We was up late nights writing rhymes - boom, boom, boom - so we were sleepin' on the couch. Next day, do the same thing, just crashing. We just tried to start walking dogs [getting ahead]. We had to do it for ourselves, and RZA made it happen."

Though the Wu's output has been uneven, a new spirit was injected into their bloodstream with the success of 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, fellow co-founder Raekwon's sequel to his 1995 magnum opus (Ghostface was heavily involved on both discs). Cuban Linx II was hailed as a cinematic experience; on Ghostface's next solo album (one of his three upcoming releases, including collaborations with rap legends D-Block and Doom), he'll focus on the Wu's famously rich between-song dialogue. The skits on the original Cuban Linx album popularized impenetrable drug slang like "flipping cake" (selling crack) and having a "connect" (drug supplier) and made both organized-crime stories, and album-length narratives, a staple of the genre.

"The hardest thing is getting the skits together, because the skits are like the decoration to me, you can make it feel a certain kind of way," Ghostface says. "The songs are the songs, nah mean? I don't got a problem with choosing the right beats. It's just, to me, it's the skits that came alive when you heard [the first] Cuban Linx. The music I'm not worried about."

Labels may yet be a hurdle. Ghostface's recent releases have been poorly marketed; 2010's Apollo Kids was intended as a mixtape but became an album to finish his contract with Def Jam. "I don't really like the Internet, but if the label ain't doin' it, you gotta do it yourself. Hopefully your fan base sticks by you.

"I believe that 2012 is going to be a very good year," he says. "Hopefully we got the promotion and people so we can stand firm on it. I'm tired of bearing fruit without squeezing it, you know? I could drop an album but it's like, once you squeeze it, the world's gotta taste it."

Whatever happens, the 20th anniversary of the Wu will be a party that no eighties baby dares miss.

"Oh, we ain't even talk about that yet," he murmurs, savouring the idea. "That's gonna be crazy."

Ghostface Killah with Killah Priest, Sheek Louch and Peter Jackson plays Club Soda in Montreal on Nov. 27, Toronto on Dec. 2, and 14 other Canadian cities through Dec. 13. See www.peterjacksonmusic.ca for full schedule.

Business lessons from the Wu

Wu-Tang Clan

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

The group's first album was a platinum-selling hip-hop classic, making stars out of the marquee rappers and, more importantly, serving as a powerful asset in negotiating their solo record deals.

Ghostface Killah

Ironman (1996)

Ghostface and other band members bucked industry practice by signing with different record labels, creating the diversified model that groups like Odd Future would later profit from. Ironman went platinum, as did Method Man's disc Tical; three other Wu debuts went gold.

Raekwon

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II (2009)

After floundering commercially, Wu members picked up a trick from Hollywood: the art of the sequel. Raekwon's Cuban Linx... Pt. II sold 68,000 copies in its first week alone, debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

Kravitz To Bring A Touch Of Soul To Toronto Hotel Bisha

Source: www.thestar.com - By Tony Wong

(Nov 28, 2011) When Lenny Kravitz isn’t touring the globe, filling stadiums and living the life of a pampered rock star, he’d rather be shopping for furniture.

Or looking at wallpaper. Or checking out carpet. Seriously.

The 47-year old, seven-time Grammy Award-winning rocker has been commissioned for his first Canadian assignment: Designing a 10,000 square foot floor at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel and Residences in the city’s entertainment district.

“It’s going to be plush and lush and comfortable and inspiring,” says the musician in a phone interview from Croatia, where he is on a European tour. “It’s going to be warm, it’s going to be soulful. It has to be elegant and sexy the moment you get off that elevator.”

Kravitz known for his ’70s esthetic — think Badass Serpico with an extra helping of Shaft — admits that he’s not at the top of mind when people think of interior designers. Visions of shag carpeting that you could take a lawn mower to, and Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch as a muse come to mind.

But Kravitz says that’s not him.


“That’s a stereotype that needs to be broken,” says Kravitz. “People still think I wear boas, but I haven’t worn that stuff forever. But you can get stuck with an image. Rock and roll can also be very elegant and sophisticated. It’s an attitude. It’s Mick Jagger in the back of a Bentley in a three-piece suit with Bianca.”

Kravitz says he was obsessed with design when, as a child, he would constantly rearrange his room in the Upper East Side Manhattan apartment of his mother Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis in the ’70s sitcom The Jeffersons, and Sy Kravitz, an NBC Television news producer.

“It’s been happening all my life. When I was eight to my early teens, I was always particular about how my room was done. I would move things around, organize things that would make me feel good,” says Kravitz. “If your environment is inspiring to you, if it makes you feel good, you’re able to be more creative.”

Kravitz founded his interior design firm in 2003, and since then he’s gone to fashion the interiors of the Delano Hotel in South Beach, with his speakeasy Florida room. He has designed a recording studio for the Setai Resort & Residences in Miami Beach. He has even designed wallpaper for Flavor Paper. His largest project to date is a 47-storey tower in downtown Miami.

In Toronto he teams up with Lifetime Developments and INK Entertainment at their $150 million Bisha project at 56 Blue Jays Way, a former home of the Second City comedy troupe.

It was INK’s CEO, club king Charles Khabouth (Guvernment, La Societe) who sought out Kravitz after being referred by a friend.

“We quickly realized we had a lot of the same tastes in furniture, designers and clothing,” says Kravitz, who met with Khabouth in New York. “He’s very smart and knows what he wants and he took a bold step and took a meeting with me. He understands we’re very serious about this and we’re going to blow it out for him.”

Khabouth says after meeting Kravitz, he flew to Paris to see the musician’s elegant Paris apartment, which most famously includes his signature Lucite piano. That sealed the deal.

“They practically had to throw me out. The place was spectacular,” says Khabouth.

The club king has long married high-end design to his Toronto restaurants and clubs. He was among the first to use now internationally renowned firm Yabu Pushelberg to design his clubs in the entertainment district.

“We were looking for some firepower and Lenny fit the bill. It will be rock and roll inspired, but still be elegant,” says Khabouth.

Kravitz hasn’t decided what his vision for Toronto will be just as yet. He intends to take a tour of the city before determining a direction.

“I love Toronto, it’s a beautiful city. I’m going to make special trip. I’ve never gone there just to hang. Only when I have gig and I stay a few days, so I need to stay a week and see everything.”

One thing he does know is that the rooms will have to be functional.

“People tend to design stuff that looks good in a photo shoot. But when you live in it, it’s not comfortable. The place must work. I live in hotels for a living. You want to create a space you want to be in all day.”

Meanwhile, if the rock star thing got old, Kravitz says he’d be happy designing interiors all day.

“It’s the same sort of creative release as music. When you’re making a song, you’re creating something out of nothing. With music, you go to a studio, you put the track down and you have something new. With interior design you’re seeing something in your head and you go through the design process and you see it in front of you. You get incredible satisfaction.”

Marsalis And TSO Play It Hot, And Straight

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

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Branford Marsalis, saxophone
Andrey Boreyko, conductor
At Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Wednesday

(Nov 24, 2011)
The last wind instrument to become a permanent part of the standard orchestra was the clarinet, in the mid-1700s. Membership in the club had closed by the time the saxophone showed up a century later.

Various composers, impressed by the sax's wide compass and range of tone, have brought it into the orchestra as a guest, often an exotic one. Just about every major composer working during the 1930s had a fling with the saxophone, which by then had developed a racy career as a jazz instrument.

On Wednesday, the
TSO played two short alto sax concertos from that period, one with strings and relatively straight, the other with winds and flavoured with ragtime. The soloist was Branford Marsalis, a much celebrated jazz musician who over the past decade has built up his repertoire of sax concertos with orchestra.

He dressed for the occasion in tails, sporting a smooth, narrow vibrato you won't hear on his recordings with the Branford Marsalis Quartet. He opened with the straight piece: Alexander Glazunov's Concerto in E-flat major (1934), a solidly built work that began with a broad folk tune, ran through many well-tested strategies for working its themes, and generally made a case - which still seemed necessary back then - for the sax to be seen as a well-bred member of the musical community. Marsalis played it with a sweet pliable tone, understated virtuosity, and a sense of rhythm that wasn't just freer than that of the strings, but subtly and fundamentally different.

Erwin Schulhoff's Hot Sonate, originally for sax and piano, came out in the Richard Rodney Bennett arrangement with winds, double bass (played by Jeffrey Beecher) and drum-kit (Brian Barlow). This was as fresh a period piece as you can imagine, a bit of Weimar hedonism brought to life on Thomson Hall's ascetic stage. Schulhoff's raffish take on ragtime rhythms and blues were vividly heightened by Bennett's crafty contrasts of colour and texture, and (of course) Marsalis's fluent, tactful performance.

I was ready to hear the piece again immediately, but "encore" these days always means "more," not "again," so Marsalis ended with a tasty jazz version of Kurt Weill's Mack the Knife. He graciously traded solos with Barlow (a veteran of the Boss Brass), and left room for a nimble turn by Beecher (TSO principal bass and member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble).

The concert opened with a bright and refreshingly serious reading of Leonard Bernstein's frisky Overture to Candide. The closer was Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor ("From the New World"), an old standard that revealed new aspects of itself from the opening chords. The TSO knows this piece very well, yet these fine players sounded like a different orchestra with Boreyko, who coaxed from them a depth of sound and a lyrical persistence that really liberated the Slavic melos running through this great work. His attention to detail showed me things I'd never heard in this piece before, such as the laconic eloquence hidden in the two lean bass chords that ended the slow movement. What a wonderful frame for solos by English horn player Cary Ebli and, elsewhere, by clarinetist Joaquin Valdepenas.

It's a pity that Boreyko's Canadian career with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (as music director from 2001 to 2006) coincided with a period of deep financial uncertainty there. He's a compelling conductor, and a smart programmer too. Fortunately, TSO audiences get a second week to check him out, during next week's performances (with Canadian-born violinist Leila Josefowicz) of works by Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Anatol Liadov.

Soul Train Awards 2011: Stars Step Out In Style (PHOTOS)

Source: Huffington Post - Julee Wilson

(Nov 28, 2011) The Soul Train Awards aired last night [Nov 27] on
BET with tons of celebs and star-studded tributes. The show, which taped on November 17 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, brought out the best and brightest in the music industry and Hollywood.

Sadly some of the nights biggest winners like Beyonce, Rihanna, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj did not attend the event--leaving not only their
seats empty, but also some much needed style inspiration. Though there were a few red carpet standouts (Melanie Fiona, Shaunie O'Neal, Melissa DeSousa and Common), there were also plenty of misses (we'll let you pick those out).

Although Minaj wasn't on hand for the awards, she continued to dominate her male rapper counterparts as she did at the American Music Awards. The eccentric superstar beat out Chris Brown, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lupe Fiasco in the "Best Hip Hop Song" category with her hit "Moment For Life."

The night's other winners included Cee-Lo Green (Best Male R&B and
Soul), Mary Mary (Best Gospel Performance), Kelly Rowland (Song of the Year), Miguel (Best New Artist) and Marsha Ambrosius (Record of the Year). And Doug E Fresh, Goodie Mob, Naughty By Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Kurtis Blow and others paid tribute to late rapper Heavy D.

Also honoured with tribute performances were Gladys Knight and the group Earth, Wind & Fire-- both were presented with the Legend Awards.

Here's a look at the star-studded evening. Who do you think looks best?

Play It Again, Oscar Peterson

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Goddard

(Nov 27, 2011) CD box sets repackage music history. Zenph Sound Innovations goes much further by improving music history.

Zenph’s just released Unmistakable CD offers
Oscar Peterson performances captured originally on video tape filmed years before the Toronto pianist’s death in 2007 at age 82. The new compilation is not a re-release however. Each note of the CD’s 16 tunes was digitally recreated in 2010 in London’s Abbey Road studios — yes, the Beatles’ studio — and significantly upgraded to meet today’s sound standards.

Other Zenph “re-performances” feature Glenn Gould, jazz pianist Art Tatum, fiddler Joshua Bell, soprano Angela Gheorghiu with the late soprano Maria Callas and Sergei Rachmaninoff the imposing Russian pianist composer who died an American citizen in 1943. The lush Zenph recreation of a 1921 Rachmaninoff solo performance — otherwise barely listenable on an original scratchy disc or cylinder — gives full value to the pianist’s legendary lyricism that’s otherwise unimaginable to a contemporary audience.

Zenph also points the way to the future for an under-performing record industry desperately recycling its past in box sets while simultaneously banking on downloads. “The sound quality on a Zenph CD” is superior to anything downloaded, says company president John Q. Walker although Zenph’s roster is also available on iTunes. The North Carolina acoustic technology firm recently added arranger/producer Quincy Jones to its board.

The Zenph process is not another form of “re-mastering” where imperfections on an original recording are erased leaving a “cleaner” version of the original. Zenph digitally samples everything musical on a recording — the pianist’s pedalling and subtle playing along with the notes themselves — but not the surface imperfections. The data is then used to generate another performance on piano specifically built for the purpose

Zenph piano concerts feature an audience facing a stage where a fabulously expensive concert grand piano is thundering out a superb performance without any need for a live performer at the keyboard. It’s the vintage player piano reborn. Glenn Gould would have approved.

Oscar Peterson did approve. Zenph officials met with the pianist in his Mississauga house in spring 2007 (he died in December of that year). To interest them in their process — and knowing that Peterson loved technology — the executives played him their re-performed work from Art Tatum, once Peterson’s idol. Peterson was soon in tears, and signed on.

“We plan to do an Oscar Peterson concert show in Toronto with the original video synched to some of the music from the album,” says Walker. “No exact date is set yet. We’ll have some Art Tatum too. There’ll be Art playing “The Man I Love” and then Oscar playing the same tune.”

Leon Redbone Just Keeps Doing What He's Doing

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Nov 29, 2011) The enigmatic and dry-witted Leon Redbone brings parlour-blues panache and classic American jazz and pop styles to Kingston's Chalmers United Church on Nov. 29, Ottawa's Shenkman Arts Centre on Dec. 1 and to Hugh's Room in Toronto on Dec. 2. The antique singer-guitarist, a former Toronto resident back in the 1960s and '70s, spoke to us by phone from parts unknown.

How are you, Leon Redbone?

Not too bad.

Actually, given your mysterious persona, I should ask "who are you," rather than "how are you."

Well, I've been trying to avoid that for all these years. I'm still working at it. There's nothing dark in my past - I'm just not a very compliant person. My main objective is to promote the music I like, and hope people find it and are encouraged to listen to it.

We reviewed a concert of yours at the El Mocambo in 1981. The writer closed his review by saying that it's nice to think that 30 years in the future someone would still be singing a classic such as Sugar Sugar, and that likely as not, that someone would be you. Thirty years later, it appears that you're meeting your objective.

If I wanted to think of it in that way, I would have to give the credit to the audience for having interest in something other than what's being played everywhere else.

But you have a role in this, don't you?

Hopefully they're listening to the music because they think an old song has a well-constructed melody with a sentiment expressed rather than something dependent on a lot of volume and someone singing at the edge of their vocal range. If I had to dissect it, I suppose that would be it.

What do you listen to yourself?

Not very much. Music now is so trivial to everybody. If you wanted to hear someone like Lonnie Johnson you can turn on the Internet and probably find a few recordings, if not a hundred of them. Who knows what they have. I'm afraid that this way of downloading is too easy - people find it, and forget about it the next day.

You're talking about music being ephemeral. Is that what you meant when you titled your 1988 album Whistling in the Wind?

A song is a song. It's sung, it travels through sound waves and it disperses and that's the end of it. So, what you have is just the moment. The expression is either appreciated or it isn't.

We can apply that sort of thought to things other than music, right?

It's life in general. If you think of a person's life from start to end, the only thing people know about other people is that they built a bridge or were president or were a mass murderer. There are certain things that resonate with people. Everything else just goes in the wind.

What will people remember about you?

I have no idea. It's not for me to say. All I do is what I do. Whatever floats away belongs to somebody else. I try and do the songs I can best put across. That's the connection between the material and the audience.

You're a bridge builder, then?

You do the best you can. If you have a sincere interest in something and if you think you might have the talent to express that same sentiment that exists in a lot of the old tunes I perform, you do it in a genuine way. There are people who people who really do like the music of the past, without being archivists. They're simply people who hear something that sounds good to them. After all, that's the way it should be.

Michael Jackson’s Doctor To Serve Only Half Of Four-Year Sentence, Officials Say

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Nov 29, 2011) Sheriff's officials say the doctor sentenced to four years in jail for causing Michael Jackson's death will serve a little less than two years behind bars.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida says
Dr. Conrad Murray will be housed in a one-man cell and kept away from other prisoners.

She says the doctor's involuntary manslaughter sentence is automatically being cut in half due to state laws.

Earlier on Tuesday, Dr. Murray sat stoically with his hands crossed as Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor repeatedly chastised him for what he called a “horrific violation of trust” while caring for Jackson.

The judge was relentless in his bashing of Dr. Murray, saying he lied repeatedly and had not shown remorse for his actions in the treatment of Mr. Jackson. Judge Pastor also said Dr. Murray's heavy use of the powerful anesthetic propofol to help Jackson battle insomnia violated his sworn obligation.

“It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated, and Mr. Jackson was an experiment,” Judge Pastor said. “Dr. Murray was intrigued by the prospect and he engaged in this money for medicine madness that is simply not going to be tolerated by me.”

Judge Pastor also said Dr. Murray “has absolutely no sense of remorse, absolutely no sense of fault, and is and remains dangerous” to the community.

The judge said.one of the most disturbing aspects of Murray's case was a slurred recording of Mr. Jackson recovered from the doctor's cellphone.

“That tape recording was Dr. Murray's insurance policy,” Judge Pastor said. “It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient's most vulnerable point.”

Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said after the sentencing that he was surprised the judge focused on the recording. The lawyer also contended that nothing said during the hearing would have changed the judge's mind about the sentence.

Michael Jackson's family told Pastor in a statement read earlier that they were not seeking revenge but wanted Dr. Murray to receive a stiff sentence that served as a warning to opportunistic doctors.

It included elements from Mr. Jackson's parents, siblings and his three children.

“As his brothers and sisters, we will never be able to hold, laugh or perform again with our brother Michael,” the statement said. “And as his children, we will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad.”

The family told The Associated Press after the sentencing that they were pleased with the results.

“We're going to be a family. We're going to move forward. We're going to tour, play the music and miss him,” brother Jermaine Jackson said.

Dr. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a six-week trial that presented the most detailed account yet of Mr. Jackson's final hours but left many questions about Murray's treatment of the superstar with propofol.

Before sentencing, lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff highlighted the accomplishments of Murray.

“I do wonder though to what extent the court considers the entirety of a man's book of life, as opposed to one chapter,” he told the judge.

Mr. Chernoff also attacked Michael Jackson, as he and his team frequently did during the doctor's trial.

“Michael Jackson was a drug seeker,” Mr. Chernoff said.

Dr. Murray did not directly address the court. After sentencing, he mouthed the words “I love you” to his mother and girlfriend in the courtroom.

Mr. Jackson's death in June 2009 stunned the world, as did the ensuing investigation that led to Murray being charged in February 2010.

Dr. Murray told detectives he had been giving the singer nightly doses of propofol to help him sleep as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts. Propofol is supposed to be used in hospital settings and has never been approved for sleep treatments, yet Dr. Murray acknowledged giving it to Jackson then leaving the room on the day the singer died.

Dr. Murray declined to testify during his trial but did opt to participate in a documentary in which he said he didn't consider himself guilty of any crime and blamed Jackson for entrapping him into administering the propofol doses. His attorneys contended throughout the case that Jackson must have given himself the fatal dose when Dr. Murray left the singer's bedside.

In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited Dr. Murray's statements to advocate for the maximum term. They also want him to pay restitution to the singer's three children — Prince, Paris and Blanket.

The exact amount Murray has to pay will be determined at a hearing in January.

“Anything over a couple of dollars, he's not going to be able to pay anyway,” Flanagan said.

Dr. Murray was deeply in debt when he agreed to serve as Mr. Jackson's personal physician for $150,000 a month, and the singer died before Murray received any money.

Prosecutors said the relationship of Mr. Jackson and Dr. Murray was corrupted by greed. Dr. Murray left his practices to serve as Mr. Jackson's doctor and look out for his well-being, but instead acted as an employee catering to the singer's desire to receive propofol to put him to sleep, prosecutors said.

Dr. Murray's attorneys relied largely on 34 letters from relatives, friends and former patients to portray Dr. Murray in a softer light and win a lighter sentence. The letters and defense filings described Dr. Murray's compassion as a doctor, including accepting lower payments from his mostly poor patients.

“There is no question that the death of his patient, Mr. Jackson, was unintentional and an enormous tragedy for everyone affected,” defense attorneys wrote in their sentencing memo.

Audio: Austra's Stunning Version Of "Crying"

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Nov 29, 2011) Just in time for you to beg for it at her concert Thursday at the Phoenix, comes Austra's cover of the Roy Orbison classic.  It's part of the deluxe version of Feel It Break, on sale at iTunes today; it's one of nine new songs there, including a remix of "Beat and the Pulse." 

Katie Stelmanis has the pipes for "Crying," which is heavy praise indeed. Whether you prefer her take to the original is up to you; it's certainly fresher than k.d. lang's overexposed, unsubtle version. But if cover tunes are an interest, U.S. arty rock band Okkervil River has just released a new EP of other people's songs. Golden Opportunities 2, a sequel to a previous batch, is five obscure songs by obscure writers; the band describes it as "a series of conceptually-related covers, this time by lesser-known musicians’ musicians such as Motown session player Ted Lucas, the 1980's Australian band the Triffids, and the mysterious L.A. singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan, who vanished in the New Mexico desert in 1975." 

Not calculated for mass appeal, then, but you know what they say on the Internet: what the heck, it's free. Download it here

Kate Bush’s Strange, Sensual Beasts

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

KATE BUSH
50 Words for Snow (EMI)

(Nov 28, 2011) Sex with a snowman? Lust for a Yeti? Songs sung by a
snowflake? “Mountain sob”? Boomerangablanca”? Why, is it Kate Bush season already?

Bush was reigning Queen of the British Art-pop Loonies long before the likes of P.J. Harvey and Florence Welch came within grabbing distance of her crown, so it’s rather reassuring to hear the beloved 53-year-old oddball’s eccentricities still stirring in the long, dark, frigid night of 50 Words for Snow.

Not the Christmas album it might be mistaken for from the cover painting of the singer sharing a snog with a Frosty lookalike, Bush’s second record of 2011 and first of all-new material since 2005’s Aerial is a low-key, minimally adorned song cycle about loneliness, longing and, eventually, finding love in the bleak midwinter.

A snowflake played by Bush’s son freefalls to earth over spare piano, burbling synthesizer and Steve Gadd’s expressive percussion on the opener, “Snowflake,” while Kate whispers “The world is so loud/ Keep falling, I’ll find you.” A ghost rises from beneath the ice to explore a lakeside home scarred by tragedy in “Lake Tahoe,” with a spooky tenor/counter-tenor arrangement acting as a sort of Greek chorus periodically. “Misty” brings a late-night, cocktail-lounge vibe to a huskily voiced yarn about a randy snowman who throws open an underage girl’s window in the middle of the night, ravages her and melts into the sheets leaving little but a puddle and “bits of twisted branches.” “Wild Man,” 50 Words for Snow’s most upbeat track, finds Bush sizing up the Abominable Snowman: “You’re neither ape nor monkey/ Nor a big brown bear/ You’re the wild man.”

Daft? Yes, some of it. Particularly the title track, where actor Stephen Fry reads a list of 50 increasingly nonsensical words for the white stuff — including the aforementioned “mountain sob” and “boomerangablanca,” as well as “hunter’s dream” and “spangladasha” — while Bush coos count in the background. But the stately arrangements, which stretch out an average of 10 minutes apiece on little but piano and Bush’s mature, expressive voice, really do convey the chill and the slight scariness of being alone in a winter landscape, and the slower numbers are genuinely riveting despite their sedate pace.

The only bum note, really, is struck during “Snowed in at Wheeler St.,” wherein Bush and guest Elton John overdo the desperation of lines “Come with me, I’ll find some rope/ I’ll tie us together!” to a mildly comic degree. Brrrr.

Top track: “Snowflake.” Yep, it’s like falling snow.

Adele May Be Rolling Deep With Grammy Nods

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(Nov 30, 2011) She likely won’t get 21, but Adele is poised to take the biggest bulk of nods when the Grammy nominations are announced Wednesday night.

The British singer-songwriter has had a great year, thanks to her sophomore album, 21. The mournful album about a failed relationship is the year’s bestselling disc with over 4.5 million copies sold. It has resulted in two smash singles, Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You.

The Recording Academy will likely add to Adele’s achievements. She is a strong contender to get bids for album of the year and for song and/or record of the year for the searing groove Rolling in the Deep.

But she’s not the only favourite for top nominations. Taylor Swift’s multi-platinum Speak Now is a possible contender for album of the year, as is Tony Bennett’s Duets II, which marked the 85-year-old’s first album to debut at No. 1, making him the oldest artist to achieve that feat.

Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, which had the year’s biggest debut with 1.1 million albums sold in its first week, could become her third straight disc to be nominated for album of the year. She was cited for The Fame Monster this year and for her debut, The Fame, in 2010.

Then there’s Kanye West. His My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the most highly regarded albums of 2010, and is eligible for a nomination for album of the year. So is his collaboration with Jay-Z for Watch the Throne, another contender in the category.

A handful of the nominations are scheduled to be revealed during the fourth annual Grammy nominations concert special, to air live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. EST. Lady Gaga is slated to open and close the show.

Other performers include Katy Perry, who could get a record of the year nomination for her hit Firework; Rihanna, who could snag a few nominations, including album of the year for Loud; and The Band Perry, the country sibling trio likely to be up for best new artist. (Another strong contender for that category, Nicki Minaj, is scheduled to be a presenter on the special.)

The Band Perry, at rehearsals Tuesday night, were hopeful about getting a nomination.

“Our fingers are crossed. We kinda don’t like to think too much about that kind of stuff on nights before nominations. We don’t want to be a bad luck charm. I’ll tell you what, it would be the cherry on top of a really wonderful year,” said Kimberly Perry. “We actually just today got the news that we’ve been certified platinum. We’ve been high-fiving and celebrating all day. If we were honoured to be nominated for best new artist, we would definitely be celebrating two days in a row.”

This year’s nominations will mark the newly trimmed Grammys. Earlier this year, amid some protests, the academy cut the number of categories from 109 to 78. Some of the more niche categories, like best Zydeco or Cajun music album, were eliminated. In addition, men and women will now compete together in vocal categories for pop, R&B and country, instead of having separate categories for each sex.

Even with the reductions, there is an avalanche of categories, as noted by Neil Portnow, the Academy’s CEO and president.

“We’ve got 78 categories now. It would certainly be impossible to do all of them on any of our shows,” he said Tuesday.

The 54th annual Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 12 in Los Angeles, and will be telecast live on CBS.

VIDEOS: Our Pop Future: Mantler

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(Nov 30, 2011) Who is he? The white tuxedo-jacketed alter ego of Chris Cummings, who has been an assistant manager of the Toronto International Film Festival and an avid cinemateque goer for over 20 years. A devotee of Motown music and Burt Bacharach, Cummings started making music in the mid-'90s when his funkafied pop was still an anomaly. He released his first album Doin' It All in 2000 and kept going, producing 2002's Sadisfaction, 2004's Landau and 2010's Monody.
While Mantler began his career as a solo musician, performing on a multi-tracked Wurlitzer that he found on the street, he's since evolved into an impressive artist. He's collaborated with musicians like Owen Pallett (who arranged the strings for Monody-cut "Childman") and Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, and has inspired a whole new class of Toronto musicians. (Diamond Rings considers him an icon.) Unafraid to blend his love of music and film, he hosted an event at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this year where he performed an original soundtrack to a program of rare Norman McLaren animations. 

What does he sound like?
Sweetly solipsistic, tracks like "Crying At The Movies" and the Hitchcock-influenced "Marnie" dig into the cinematic soundtracks of Broadway musicals and Fellini film scores to bring out the jams. Mantler's melancholy voice and intriguing production studs his piano ballads with brass arrangements and violin strings, which acts as a beautiful contrast to his deeply contemplative lyrics. Unafraid to long for things, the gorgeous quarter-life crisis track "Childman" for instance, depicts a dude paralyzed by adulthood. (Sings Mantler, "And the powers of the bad, they did what they could, to make you do only the things that felt good.")
But he's also not afraid to get funky, as the irresistible "Fresh and Fair" proves, thanks to a squiggly electronic bass line. With Mantler you really do get it all - tuxedo jams for the broken-hearted and good-natured ballads about how difficult it is to play along. 

When can I see him live?
Mantler plays The Holy Oak (1241 Bloor St. W.) this Friday, Dec. 2. The performance celebrates the reissue of his 11-year-old debut album Doin' It All, which will be played in full with Jay Anderson and Matt McLaren of Steamboat. The show is $5 at the door and begins 9 p.m.

Eve Egoyan And Friend Made Beautiful Music Together

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Nov 30, 2011) Pianist Eve Egoyan and composer Ann Southam were fast friends who shared laughter, lunches and the love of new concert music.

In spite of the almost 30-year difference in their ages, they became very close after being first introduced in 1996 by David Jaegger, new music producer at CBC Radio. “He thought we’d be a good match and he was correct,” reminisces Egoyan, 47, sitting in a coffee shop across from Trinity Bellwoods Park where the two often strolled.

“She was such a kind and generous person, full of life, radiant, personable and warm-hearted.”

On Dec. 2 at the Glenn Gould Studio, Egoyan will perform works recorded on her new CD
Returnings — a world première recording of music for solo piano composed by Southam being released that day.

Southam died of cancer at age 73 last November, and Egoyan has been working since then to create the CD of music written specifically for her. Southam had been in the habit of continuing to tinker with her compositions after hearing Egoyan play, the pianist says, adding that it was sad this time to put out a disc without the involvement of the composer at her side.

“Sometimes she wouldn’t like something and change it, even in the studio. I was open to changes from her on the fly. Why should creation stop if it makes a better piece?

“I miss her very much,” says Egoyan, “I am fortunate that I continue a connection with her through the playing of her music.”

But they had more than music in common, says Egoyan, “We had a love of nature and beauty.”

Frequent walks in the park often ended with lunch or sometimes they would listen to music together.

When Southam required palliative care at home, a raft of friends would bring meals and visit. Egoyan’s food contributions were tapioca pudding, macaroni and cheese and ham, apple and cheese sandwiches.

Through it all, Egoyan continued to push Southam to compose saying, “you write, I’ll play.”

Although Southam knew these compositions would be her last, Egoyan says, “They are extremely hopeful. The music is rich and warm and not sad at all.”

When she died, there were notes on her piano as she wrestled with a new composition, working until the end.

Southam left another legacy, donating $14 million to the Canadian Women’s Foundation which assists women in poverty and helps women and girls facing violence. Her gifts will double the foundation’s work.

Egoyan was as surprised as anyone at the size of the gift because Southam lived her life so modestly. Her usual attire was a sweat shirt and track pants and she was likely to carry her papers and notes in a plastic bag, says Egoyan. The art lining the walls of her home were the only possessions that were of any interest to her, adds Egoyan.

“She was antimaterialistic,” says Egoyan, who has often had older artistic women as friends. “I was receptive to her wisdom.”

One day, Southam gave Egoyan’s 7-year-old daughter, Viva, a kaleidoscope which spun coloured glass in ever-changing patterns. She thinks that’s how Southam viewed “the creative world, in its infinite variety.”

The renowned composer blazed a trail for other women in the world of composition, she moved from instrumental music to electronic music in the ’60s and had a long association with modern dance companies before returning to concert music. She helped found the association of Canadian Women Composers in 1980 and served as its first president.

Egoyan, who is the sister of filmmaker Atom Egoyan, says she often has to explain the Atom and Eve naming in her family. Their artist parents named Atom (the basic unit of matter) because of their interest in the advances of science. Eve was slated to be called Molecule (a grouping of atoms) until her mother intervened.

She says she wants to share Southam’s compositions with the world. “I want this music to be played by tons of people. I am fulfilling her wishes with this document (CD). The purpose is to keep it out there.”

And she looks forward to hearing others’ interpretations of the pieces. “It’s more important for me to see it moving forward, not just a thing of the past. It’s important for it to stay contemporary.”

MUSIC TIDBITS

Video: Rihanna Goes Home in Jay-Z Narrated Family Values

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 25, 2011) Rihanna in the promo clip "Family Values" *Rihanna has released private footage of herself catching up with family in a new promotional video for her album “Talk That Talk.” Narrated by her mentor Jay-Z, the clip – titled “Family Values” –  is billed as a Thanksgiving gift to her fans and was revealed yesterday via her “Rihanna: Unlocked” Facebook app. The 23-year-old’s new album was released earlier this week and is currently on course to battle for the No. 1 spot against Michael Buble. Watch Rihanna’s “Family Values” video narrated by Jay-Z below:

 

Michael Buble To Co-Host ‘Live! With Kelly’ And Appear On SNL In December

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 30, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Canadian crooner Michael Buble will be all over the dial in December. A news release says the charismatic Burnaby, B.C., native will be the guest co-host on Live! With Kelly on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. Then on Dec. 17 he’ll be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. That’s in addition to his previously announced appearance in Thursday’s special A Russell Peters Christmas on CTV and his profile on 60 Minutes on CBS on Sunday. Next Tuesday the three-time Grammy winner will also host his own Christmas special, which will air on NBC and CTV. Buble recently released the hit holiday album Christmas as well as the book Onstage Offstage.

Radio’s Gary Slaight To Receive Award At 2012 Junos

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Nov 30, 2011) Broadcast guru Gary Slaight is set to receive a special award at the 2102 Juno Awards in Ottawa. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has announced Slaight as the recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, given to those who have made an impact in Canadian music. The academy, which puts on the Junos, says Slaight’s “remarkable intuition” in business and in the Canuck music industry is rare. He’s set to receive the award at a ceremony to be held March 31, a day before the televised Juno gala. Slaight is president of Slaight Communications, and founder of Slaight Music. He created the National Songwriting Contest and the Canadian Radio Music Awards. Previously, he served as general manager of rock station Q107 and in 2000 took over the helm of Standard Broadcasting Corporation, the radio empire of his father, Allan Slaight. He ultimately sold Standard’s 52 radio stations to Astral Media for more than $1 billion. Slaight was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2005.

::FILM NEWS::    

Could Whistler Film Fest Be The New Sundance?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Nov 29, 2011) A powerful Hollywood voice is championing the Whistler Film Festival, and the high-profile push could see WFF evolve into an important stop on the festival circuit. The executive editor of the entertainment-industry publication Variety says the festival has two major things going for it: location and timing.

"What would happen if you created an awards-season strand of programming and appearances [at WFF] in this critical week? What would happen for the films? What would happen for this festival, which has this proximity to Hollywood that's very tantalizing?" said Steven Gaydos on the line from Los Angeles, where Variety is based.

The answer he envisions: "A really healthy exchange of ideas and business cards between Hollywood and Canada taking place each year in Whistler."

Gaydos was struck by the possibilities of the Whistler Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, when he visited it last year as screenwriter of Road to Nowhere, noted U.S. director Monte Hellman's latest film. "Day 1 in Whistler, I had kind of a duh moment: Like, look at this place. Look how close it is to L.A., look how beautiful it is, look at all the cool people here, look at what a good film festival they have," says Gaydos. "And then the topper was the festival takes place the first week in December, when everyone in Hollywood is very, very intent on their involvement in the awards season."

The event is a golden opportunity, he says, to put filmmakers and stars from award-focused films in front of Academy members, who would welcome an easy same-time-zone jaunt up to a beautiful ski resort; Hollywood types who probably don't know the festival - or even the village - exists.

"I don't think the key has been turned in terms of opening the door to Hollywood consciousness," he says. "And I think once the door to Hollywood consciousness is opened on Whistler, I think some marvellous things can happen for Whistler."

Over the past year, Gaydos and Whistler Film Festival executive director and co-founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw have solidified a partnership that will see Variety establish a prominent presence at this year's festival, and Whistler become one of about 30 festivals that Variety partners with.

"It puts the Whistler Film Festival on the map internationally, along with the other festivals that Variety has connected with," says Hardy Mishaw, citing examples such as Toronto, Cannes and Sundance. "We're now in that circle. We got invited in."

Inspired by the partnership, the Whistler festival has hired an L.A. publicity firm this year (a first) and has been running ads in Variety (also a first). Variety, meanwhile, has been writing about the festival.

"Variety's presence means people who are wondering: 'If I go up to Whistler, will I be on anyone's radar?' [will] know they'll be on Variety's radar," says Gaydos.

Gaydos made introductions for the festival to a key player at Paramount, and that's how Whistler managed to land for its gala opening a special advance screening of Young Adult, Jason Reitman's hotly anticipated follow-up to Up in the Air and a film that sees him reunite as director with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody.

The film's co-star, Patton Oswalt, will come to Whistler to receive a festival Spotlight Award for Supporting Performance of the Year. Oswalt, already generating Oscar buzz (there have been other pop-up advance screenings in advance of Young Adult's Dec. 16 opening), can "absolutely" benefit, says Gaydos, from the Whistler platform.

Attracting the film - and Oswalt - is a coup for Whistler, for sure, but it also means the festival, for the first time in its 11-year history, will open with a film that isn't Canadian. (Although over all, Canadian content is up slightly, at 56 per cent compared with 51 per cent last year.)

Variety's presence has attracted some other names as it hosts tributes or hands out awards to actor Andy Serkis (he will appear via Skype from the set of The Hobbit), Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Canadian actor/screenwriter Jay Baruchel (Almost Famous), who is also about to be named to Variety's annual 10 Screenwriters to Watch list.

Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), currently in Vancouver filming Man of Steel, will also be honoured at WFF's annual Spotlight Tribute and Gala.

"These are events that have definitely taken us up a notch," says Hardy Mishaw, who notes the festival is still trying to raise money to renovate a local movie theatre into a permanent venue.

But that doesn't mean she wants the festival to expand in size.

"We will always be a boutique festival," she says. "That will always be my hope as the founder, that our vision would remain intact. I think that's the thing that makes Whistler such a great festival. But our hope would be to increase the calibre of attendees."

As perfectly positioned as the festival now is to generate buzz in the run-up to awards season, Gaydos says Whistler could become even more important if the Oscars, as rumoured, are moved to an earlier date yet again.

The festival is also getting set to make another major announcement this week: a new program to establish the Whistler film fest as a developer of film industry co-productions and funding between China and Canada. The details are to be announced on Sunday, but with bits of information leaking out, the initiative has already caught some high-level attention, sparking, for instance, an inquiry from the Weinstein Company.

"We're on their radar now because they're hearing about us because we're in Variety. ... They're like: 'What is going on up there?' " says Hardy Mishaw.

The Whistler Film Festival runs today through Sunday. For more information, visit whistlerfilmfestival.com.

FIVE FILMS TO CATCH AT WHISTLER

Young Adult
Jason Reitman (USA)

A novelist (Charlize Theron) returns to her hometown to win back her high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). Special advance screening, opening gala, Wednesday, 9 p.m., Whistler Conference Centre.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
Constance Marks, Philip Shane (USA)

This documentary introduces viewers to Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind that giggling furry red monster, Elmo.
Thursday, 4 p.m., Village 8 Cinema; Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Whistler Conference Centre.

Kivalina v. Exxon
Ben Addelman (Canada)

A tiny village in northwestern Alaska takes on Big Oil in this world-premiere documentary. Friday, 7 p.m., Millennium Place.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake
Tony Ching Siu Tung (China)

A young herbalist (Raymond Lam) encounters two demon spirits (Eva Hunag, Charlene Choi) who are half woman/half snake. Jet Li stars as the sorcerer who does battle with the snake demons. Friday, 9:30 p.m., Village 8 Cinema.

Marilyn
Christopher Petry (Canada)

Based on a story written in prison by Paddy Mitchell, a member of the infamous Stopwatch Gang, this world premiere follows a bank robber on the lam (Ryan Robbins) who takes a young runaway (Allison Mack) under his wing. Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Millennium Place.

My Week With Marilyn: The Seven-Day Itch

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

My Week with Marilyn
Starring Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Redmayne. Directed by Simon Curtis. 101 minutes. Opens Nov. 25 at major theatres. 14A

(Nov 24, 2011) There is Oscar buzz surrounding Michelle Williams’
conjuring of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, but a medal of bravery might be more appropriate.

Could there be a more impossible person to portray? Monroe has been dead for nearly 50 years, yet she remains a cultural fascination beyond compare or definition, the blond version of the Mona Lisa.

Williams couldn’t hope to match Monroe’s uncanny alchemy of innocence and seduction — and she doesn’t, missing the sizzle of the situation.

Yet it is fascinating to watch this very fine actress make the attempt, in the process redeeming a movie of such trivial effect, it might have worked better as dinner-theatre farce.

Based on the memoirs of the late filmmaker Colin Clark, whose recall of incident and dialogue was apparently supernatural, My Week with Marilyn concerns events in the summer and autumn of 1956, when Monroe travelled to England to make a movie at London’s Pinewood Studios.

Hollywood’s brightest star was paired with Blighty’s most regal actor, Laurence Olivier (the “Sir” came later), for a comedy called The Prince and the Showgirl, the title literally telling all. The film’s trailer would later proclaim it to be “a spicy adventure,” but the dearth of chemistry between the two self-absorbed leads made it one bland dish.

Yet My Week with Marilyn doesn’t really concern the making of the film, which proceeds almost by happenstance in the background. It’s a youthful reverie by Clark: about the time 55 years ago when, as a single youth of 23, he fancied himself as a love interest for Monroe, who was then a married woman of 30. The story’s conceit is that we’ll share this reverie with him.

Clark was competing for Monroe’s attentions not just with her author husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) but also with the short-tempered Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker) and various production Svengalis, most ably represented here by characters played by Dominic Cooper and Toby Jones.

The undistinguished Eddie Redmayne is appropriately bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as Clark, who had the title of third director on The Prince and the Showgirl but whose real job was as a combination fetcher and fixer for his many bosses, Monroe among them.

Clark talked his way into the position, which in his dreamscape narration he likens to running away to join the circus.

Alas, if only these animals were uncaged. TV-honed director Simon Curtis occasionally takes his characters out of Pinewood, but they’re never really set free, either in physical or emotional terms.

Branagh does an impressive approximation of Olivier’s reported hissy fits on The Prince and the Showgirl set, as the meticulous actor slammed up against Monroe’s chronic tardiness and moody manipulations of the Method. It’s difficult to bring humour or empathy to a monocle-wearing snob who seems more like a Bond villain than a majestic monarch, but Branagh nimbly supplies both.

There’s another nice turn by Judi Dench, playing the actress Sybil Thorndike, who amusingly plays mother hen on Monroe’s behalf, recognizing the scared little girl within the demanding Hollywood starlet.

Not so well served, either by Curtis or by screenwriter Adrian Hodges, are Julia Ormond’s Vivian Leigh (the Gone with the Wind actress) and Emma Watson’s set assistant Lucy, women of different generations who both find themselves eclipsed by Monroe’s glow. Neither is given a chance to explore their barely concealed rage.

But seriously, My Week with Marilyn is little more than a vehicle for Michelle Williams to display her considerable talents, which she surely does.

Her resemblance to Monroe isn’t strong — she’s broader of face and shoulders than the icon — but she astutely essays her girlish moves, breathy speech and fragile demeanour.

She intuits how the star was able to turn on the million-megawatt charm when occasion demanded. You see this in a scene where Monroe, out for an illicit afternoon idyll with Clark, is suddenly surrounded by admiring fans.

“Shall I be her?” she says, striking a signature pose.

The performance would be even better if Williams had been able to summon Monroe’s sexual heat, which glows eternally behind those Bambi eyes. Williams is pretty but she’s not sexy, making it hard to believe the astonished comments by characters in My Week with Marilyn that she’s literally burning up the screen.

Such pronouncements remain the stuff of boyish fantasies, which is, after all, what My Week with Marilyn is all about.

Grown-Up Tatiana Maslany Still Has Some Growing Up To Do

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 24, 2011) Tatiana Maslany is just 26, an age when many young Canadians are still finding their feet. But for this talented actress, the sound of the clock ticking is becoming relentless.

“Yeah, I guess there’s totally that pressure,” said Maslany on a recent chilly fall morning as she sat in front of a brightly lit makeup mirror in a makeshift dressing room in the basement of a west-end housing co-op. “It needs to happen now, or it’s never going to happen — whatever ‘happening’ means.”

As she did with her breakout, award-winning performance in last year’s Grown Up Movie Star, where she did a remarkable job playing a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Maslany again takes on a younger role for her latest film. This time she’s 18-year-old Claire in Picture Day.

We talk on the second-last day of filming, a 16-day shoot done on more than 25 Toronto locations with two small digital cameras. Picture Day is written and directed by Kate Melville. Mexican-born cinematography pioneer Celiana Cardenas is director of photography on the Telefilm Canada-funded project, about teenage Claire and her affair with Jim (Steven McCarthy), the 33-year-old lead singer of the band (and real-life Toronto group) Elastocitizens. Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Spencer Van Wyck also stars.

Melville and her co-producers plan to take Picture Day to various film festivals, where Melville hopes it will pick up a distributor that will get it into movie theatres ahead of its run on TMN.

Regina-born Maslany has been enjoying the kind of critical acclaim and regular work that often eludes young actors. Although you may recognize her as a familiar face in the grocery store, her name likely won’t come easily. But Maslany has been working since she was a teen, with smaller parts leading to regular roles on CBC shows Heartland and Being Erica. She’s just wrapped features Certain Prey with Mark Harmon and Sean Garrity’s Blood Pressure.

A jury at the Sundance Film Festival last year acknowledged her talent, giving Maslany a breakout role award at the festival for Grown Up Movie Star. She’s now in Budapest returning to work on a miniseries based on the Ken Follett novel World Without End with a star-studded international cast.

“I’ve been really lucky to just be acting,” says Maslany, who has never had to do outside jobs like waiting tables to pay the bills. She was even able to buy a condo at Front St. and Spadina Ave. last year.

“I’m very fortunate. It’s a weird job because you get paid whatever the pay is and it’s not normal because it’s so infrequent. I was unemployed for the first four months of the year and suddenly I had three projects on top of each other.”

Maslany says she gets her professional satisfaction not from celebrity but from being able to pick the kind of roles she wants to do.

“For me, doing a movie like (Picture Day) — maybe I’m ignorant or something — this is infinitely more interesting to me than doing something that’s a huge big-budget kind of thing, though that would be great,” she said. “This is the kind of thing where you get to stretch yourself and you remember why you do this and I love acting for these amazing projects; low budget but so character driven.”

Character-driven roles means nobody is focusing on “what you look like or whatever,” she added.

It’s another layer of pressure that Maslany is subjected to by the industry and nowhere is it more apparent than when she heads to Los Angeles each February for “pilot season,” a three-month period where actors try out for the coming season’s TV shows, miniseries and movies. She wryly admits, “It’s not my favourite environment,” but she tries to seek out “pockets of people who are there because they want to act and they love acting.”

“I had some good meetings,” Maslany said of last year’s trip to L.A., “and I got a good idea of what the industry is like down there because obviously, the competition is huge and you really have to be on your game. There are 500 other people who can do the job just as well or better than you (at each audition). It’s an entirely different beast. But it’s really worth going down for it.”

Worth going even if she is subjected to relentless scrutiny. Casting agents may think her Canadian accent is too pronounced and she is often pigeonholed.

“I went to one audition and they said, ‘I think you’re the quirky friend. Can you be quirky? How quirky can you be?’ You only have 20 seconds and boom, they have decided who you are.”

Maslany’s professional goal is to have “an international career.” She loved shooting the British miniseries The Nativity last year for the BBC in Morroco (she played Mary) and was thrilled to be working in Hungary on World Without End among classically trained British actors including Miranda Richardson and Peter Firth. Fellow Canadians Megan Follows and Sarah Gadon also star.

“It’s not only a great opportunity to travel and do a big co-production, but also to work with talented people who have been working for decades,” Maslany said.

But there’s no doubt she’s Canadian: Maslany immediately displays the national traits of humility and insecurity when she talks about her work.

“To walk in there and be like, ‘God, I’m this actor from Canada and here I am in Budapest and I’m so appreciative of this amazing experience.”

Trio Of Canadian Docs To Premiere At Sundance

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 30, 2011) A trio of Canadian documentaries about wrestling, gamers and that old devil, debt, will have world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.

The festival, founded by actor-director Robert Redford, runs Jan, 19-29 in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Institute revealed a partial slate of 110 dramatic and documentary films from 31 countries programmed for the fest on Wednesday, with more announcements to come.

The Canadian offerings are:

China Heavyweight (Director: Yung Chang): Set in central China, where a boxing coach recruits poor rural teens and schools them in the way of the sweet science. But do they continue to go to the matt for their own glory or serve the state? World Premiere

Indie Game: The Movie (Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky): The Winnipeg filmmakers say this is the first film on indie video game design to make it to the big leagues. Based on stories from developers all over North America, it follows the dramatic journeys of indie developers as they create games and release them to the world. World Premiere

Payback (Director: Jennifer Baichwal): Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book, this NFB-produced doc traces the links between debtor and creditor across centuries and cultures. World Premiere.

Sundance will continue its new tradition, established last year, screening several films from the various competitions, instead of just one opening-night gala.

Among the films announced Wednesday that will have people talking are: The Ambassador: a white European who buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations; Smashed: a drama about young marrieds whose bond is built on a shared love of the bottle, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer and Megan Mullally and The Surrogate: the story of a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung who decides it’s time he lost his virginity, starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

Stars John Krasinski, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Danny Glover and rap star Common also have movies heading to the festival.

Films announced Wednesday that will compete for prizes at next month's independent-film showcase include dramas dealing with family crises, such as director Ry Russo-Young's Nobody Walks, with The Office co-star Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby; The End of Love, starring Cera, Seyfried, Shannyn Sossamon and writer-director Mark Webber; and Sheldon Candis' Luv, featuring Glover and Common.

They're among 16 films in Sundance's competition for U.S. dramas, whose past winners included eventual Academy Awards nominees Winter's Bone, Precious and Frozen River.

Sundance also announced 16 films competing in each of three other categories: U.S. documentaries, world dramas and world documentaries.

Festival director John Cooper said the lineup had gone a bit mainstream and populist some years but that the roster this time has veered squarely back toward the edgy terrain for which lower-budgeted indie films are known. That could have something to do with the uncertain state of the economy, he said.

“I like the eclectic nature of the storytelling,” Cooper said. “Filmmakers, for some reason or other, they're not conforming to Hollywood stereotypes, not that independent filmmakers ever did. But I think even less than they did a couple of years ago. They're being bolder, taking risks, telling the stories they want to tell.

“In challenging economic times, artists maybe tend to get a little freer in what they do, and sometimes, maybe even a little better.”

The U.S. dramatic competition also includes directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos' Filly Brown, a hip-hop saga with Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos and relative newcomer Gina Rodriguez in the title role; and So Yong Kim's For Ellen, starring Paul Dano, Jena Malone and Jon Heder, whose career was launched at Sundance with his title role in Napoleon Dynamite.

Though Hollywood A-listers at Sundance get most of the attention, Redford tries to keep the focus on fresh talent from the indie world.

“We are, and always have been, a festival about the filmmakers,” Redford said. “So what are they doing? What are they saying? They are making statements about the changing world we are living in. Some are straightforward, some novel and some offbeat but always interesting. One can never predict. We know only at the end, and I love that.”

The Sundance opening night schedule features one title from each of the four competitions: director Todd Louiso's U.S. drama entry Hello I Must Be Going, a divorce comedy with Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner; Australian filmmaker Kieran Darcy-Smith's world drama contender Wish You Were Here, starring Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer in the story of a vacation gone terribly wrong; Lauren Greenfield's U.S. documentary The Queen of Versailles, about a couple who go bust while building a palatial 90,000-square-foot home; and Malik Bendjelloul's world documentary Searching for Sugar Man, a British-Danish film tracing the life of a 1970s rock performer who vanished into oblivion.

Sundance once was known almost exclusively as a showcase for rising U.S. filmmakers, but organizers added the international competitions a few years back to raise the festival's profile for overseas films. The result has been an international lineup that included such breakout hits as An Education, Animal Kingdom and Once.

“Internationally is where I see a real spike in the calibre of films we had submitted to us,” said Trevor Groth, Sundance's programming director. “There are world-class films submitted to us on par with any festival in the world right now. I think international filmmakers are now looking at Sundance as a premier place to launch films. It's not just Cannes or Berlin anymore.”

For a complete list of Sundance films go to sundance.org

With files from the Associated Press

FILM TIDBITS

Star Trek Sequel Opens May 2013

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 24, 2011) Nikki Finke's Deadline: Hollywood reports there's been a few choice moves on the Hollywood chess board to allow J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sequel - in 3D - to open May 17, 2013. It may seem like far in the future, but it's just a quick trip in the Transporter for the as-yet untitled flick. Chris Pine, Zach Quinto and Zoe Saldana are all on board for the new voyage.

Disney Movies Now Available To Rent On Youtube

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Graham

(Nov 24, 2011) For the first time, Disney animated classics and feature-length films are available to rent on YouTube. The first sampling of films available include Alice in Wonderland ($3.49), starring Johnny Depp, Disney-Pixar’s Cars and Cars 2 ($3.99 each), and all four of DreamworksPirates of the Caribbean films ($3.99 each). Renters are given 30 days to access the film and 48 hours of viewing time. A Disney executive has stated that hundreds of more titles will follow. This is only the beginning of the Disney-YouTube.com partnership. The companies reached a deal earlier this month to create a Disney channel on the website that would air original content and shows from the Disney Channel.

Tatyana Ali Cast in Canadian Indie ‘Home Again’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 25, 2011) *Tatyana Ali has been chosen to topline “Home Again,” a Canadian indie film about three adults raised as outsiders from childhood and deported from Canada, the U.S. and London to Jamaica, where they were born, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The three deportees find they have to fight for survival in a Jamaica where family support, friends and shelter is elusive, but where ultimately hope and the human spirit emerges. The Canadian theatrical feature will shoot on location in Trinidad and Jamaica for six weeks, starting in January 2012. Ali, who rose to fame alongside Will Smith on NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” currently stars on TV One’s “Love That Girl!”

How To Make Fairy Tales For Adults

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Soraya Roberts

(Nov 29, 2011) As successful remakes have proven, the key to rejuvenating the classics is to tap into their original audiences and seduce a new generation at the same time.  And, judging by the recent crop of Hollywood offerings, fairy tales are a good place to start. With their timeless formulas, they are perennially attractive to children, and witty revamps such as Tangled, Puss in Boots and Shrek have given parents further reason to keep their kids well versed in the classics. The trick is to keep those tots interested once their hormones kick in.  In the past decade, studios have tried to tempt the much-coveted teen demographic with MTV-style reboots such as Sydney White, A Cinderella Story and Beastly.  But it was not until last year that they discovered the secret to casting a spell over mature audiences.  Forget poison apples, spinning wheels or rabbit holes, the new adult-friendly fairy tales beguile with sex, violence and unadulterated action.

Forest Whitaker, Common Set for Indie Film ‘Pawn’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 29, 2011) *Forest Whitaker is teaming up with his former “The Shield” co-star Michael Chiklis, rapper Common and Ray Liotta for “Pawn,” an independent crime film centered on a hostage situation that has gone terribly wrong, reports Deadline.com. Jay Anthony White wrote the script, in which an ex-con becomes entangled in a manipulative chess game between the Feds, local police and the mob. The film marks David A. Armstrong’s directorial debut, and the feature debut for Chiklis’ production company Extravaganza Films. Chiklis will produce with The Story Department’s Brad Luff, Most Films’ Jeff Most and Imprint Entertainment’s Michael Becker.

::TV NEWS::     

Marci Ien Is New Co-Host Of Canada AM

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Graham

(Nov 24, 2011) News anchor Marci Ien will take over for Seamus O’Regan as the new co-host of Canada AM.

CTV says Ien will join Beverly Thomson as host of the national morning show Jan. 9.

The announcement was made on-air as O’Regan marked his last day on Canada AM.

Earlier this month, O’Regan was named the new correspondent for CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme. He joins the flagship evening newscast Nov. 28.

Ien has been Canada AM’s news anchor for the past eight years, interviewing newsmakers ranging from Desmond Tutu to Deepak Chopra to Jamie Foxx.

The 42-year-old broadcaster is currently on maternity leave with her second child.

Ien brings a solid news background to Canada AM. She has covered six federal elections and has served as Canada AM anchor during this year’s Japanese earthquake. She’s also anchored U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration special and the July 2005 London underground terror attacks.

Ien has been in television for more than three decades. Her first television job was on the Canadian children’s television series Circle Square when she was just 10 years old.

Ien says she’s expecting the shift to the morning show format to be relatively seamless because she’s been filling in for other hosts for almost seven years, acting as a backup host for Thomson and O’Regan.

“I like the show because it has such a strong connection with Canadians,” she says. “It always hit the right note.”

She’s looking forward to covering a range of subjects from politics and fashion to movies and lifestyle trends. As well, Ien says she’s drawn to the prospect of longer, broader more in-depth interviews, a change from fast-paced news clips.

“It’s incredible the number of women working at CTV,” she says, “Sandy Rinaldo, Lisa LaFlamme and Bev. We’re family women and career women.”

Canada AM reaches an average of 3.5 million weekly viewers nationally, reports CTV. In the morning shows war, the ratings show that AM has been lagging behind Breakfast Television and CP24’s Breakfast. Sources close to the Star cited recent BBM Canada overnight ratings that showed, for example, last Thursday AM drew 32,000 viewers in the GTA between 6 and 9 a.m., BT had 125,000 and Breakfast’s tally was 60,000

Ien says she’d like to pursue more education and lifestyle stories. “That’s where my heart is,” she says.

And she’s particularly excited to co-host Canada AM with Thomson.

“To start with, we’re friends,” Ien says. “Let’s face it: So many news channels are following the same headlines, so what audiences look for is chemistry. You can’t buy it. You can’t bottle it.”

Ien insists she can tell when two hosts don’t get along.

“You can always tell,” she says.

With files from the Canadian Press

The TV Gift That Keeps On Giving

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux

(Nov 24, 2011) Why do three Christmas specials from the 1960s still shine brightest today?

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) and, to a lesser extent, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (1964) will all draw their usual high ratings when they return over the next few weeks (see the holiday specials list below). Why, with all the advances in digital, 3-D animation, are they still a Christmas tradition 45 years after they premiered?

The simple answer is that, like Mary Poppins, The Beatles and other hits from the mid-’60s, they still rock. These specials all feature characters as cherished by the children of this millennium as they were by their boomer parents and grandparents.

As for any technical issues, the specials may be simple and even crude by today’s standards, but in some ways the handmade qualities of Rudolph and Charlie Brown make them even more endearing today. Those audio and animation glitches in the Peanuts special in particular never bothered anybody but the original producers.

Also, in a creative decision that has paid decades of dividends, there is no laugh track to lock them in a ’60s vault. (CBS wanted one on Charlie Brown and even prepared a never-seen version with laughter on it.)

Most importantly — and this is the key to everything on TV today — they are cheap. Networks can draw more viewers by rerunning these chestnuts than if they spent millions commissioning new ones every year.

Beyond the obvious, there are other reasons these three specials are as essential to Christmas as putting up the tree. They have become mid-century classics, among the finest pieces of American art from the Mad Men era. Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, Grinch animator Chuck Jones and Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel are as much masters of 20th-century American art as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Far from faddish, the specials are proof that great art stands the test of time.

They also were “message” specials and more than a bit subversive. Who hasn’t winced at Christmas decorations being hung in stores the day after Halloween? With Christmas now triggered by a “Black Friday” shopping tsunami, these three specials stand out for not being conceived as glorified ads or infomercials. New holiday specials featuring characters from Shrek or Ice Age often seem like little more than half-hour movie trailers.

While Charlie Brown and The Grinch were based on a comic strip and a popular children’s book — and certainly there were plenty of Snoopy dolls on toy shelves back in the mid-’60s — these shows weren’t marketing ploys. They were just made to entertain. The videotape, DVD and countless other spinoff sales all came later.

The network that commissioned them, CBS, wasn’t all that convinced they would draw an audience. Advertisers were even more suspicious. The miracle of The Grinch is that it was originally sponsored by the Foundation of Commercial Banks, despite the special’s ultimate message that “Christmas doesn’t come from a store.” The Charlie Brown special, which was originally sponsored by Coca-Cola, is all about the over-commercializing of Christmas: a message more relevant in 2011 than it was in 1965.

Their enduring appeal might also be seen as an act of God. That these simple cartoons dared to invoke the Bible seems daring and edgy today. The producers behind the Peanuts special, Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, feared that the key scene where Linus quotes the story of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke would be a turnoff for some viewers. Schulz insisted it stay, basically arguing, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” It remains one of the most profound and moving touchstones of religious belief on television.

The convergence of talent available to make these specials is also key. The collapse of theatrical animation spelled the end of Jones’s days at Warner Bros in 1962. After 25 years as the most creative spark behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, it was TV or bust for Jones and his exceptional animation unit, including the great production designer Maurice Noble.

Jones and Geisel together were like Lennon and McCartney. Add the great horror film star Boris Karloff, who narrates and speaks for the Grinch, with memorable music by Albert Hague and you have a classic. Unbilled contributions from voice artist June Foray (Cindy Lou Who) and Tony the Tiger pitchman Thurl Ravenscroft (who boomed “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch . . . ”) just raised the bar that much higher.

CBS hated Charlie Brown’s jazz score when they first heard it. It’s hard to imagine Charlie Brown today without hearing the Vince Guaraldi Trio in your head.

Finally, most impressively, all this talent and imagination and luck and energy was directed toward one end: to appeal directly to children. That these specials continue to speak to the child in all of us today is what Christmas is really all about, Charlie Brown.

The Sanctuary Singalong: 'A Scary Exorcist Dark Rock Opera'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Nov 23, 2011) On the set of the made-in-B.C. series
Sanctuary, the cast is doing something out of character. Prop guns and lab equipment set aside - at least temporarily - they're trying out a new weapon in their fight: music. In a radical departure for the series, song meets science fiction in a musical episode that airs Friday.

"It wasn't like we wrote an episode as an excuse to do music," said series creator Damian Kindler on the Burnaby, B.C., set during a break in shooting a key scene earlier this year. "We wrote an episode that if you pulled the music out, it would still be a good episode."

Now in its fourth season, Sanctuary chronicles the efforts of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), her right-hand man Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) and others to protect non-human intelligent creatures, so-called Abnormals (think monsters), study them, and, when necessary, contain them. Airing in 170 countries (Space in Canada and Syfy in the United States), Sanctuary has a devoted fan base that Kindler believed, from the beginning, would respond positively to his out-there idea.

"I felt this was a good Sanctuary story and there were many really strong character moments," he said. "In fact, it's a very heartfelt episode and the music only augments that. It's just meant to literally kind of put these emotional moments on steroids. It's not meant to go 'check this out: We can sing and dance.' It's the anti-Glee."

Indeed the episode was informed not by a Glee-type high-school lightness, but by the darker, big-screen inspirations of The King's Speech and The Exorcist.

"It's like a scary Exorcist dark rock opera," said Kindler, a self-confessed "failed wannabe musician" who played in a funk band back in high school in Toronto.

The episode, called Fugue, is indeed dark. FBI agent Abby (Pascale Hutton, who has training in opera and musical theatre) has been working with Will on an investigation when she becomes the human host for a demonic being. Possessed (there's the Exorcist part), she communicates through music: singing her words and only able to understand others when they sing. Will, who has fallen for Abby, is desperate to save her from the monster overtaking her.

"I was determined to write a really good Sanctuary story and music wasn't incidental, but supported it," Kindler said. "The music had to have some kind of organic reason to be there, as opposed to just a gimmick."

If Glee (or Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs or Buffy the Vampire Slayer - all of which have aired musical episodes) wasn't on Kindler's mind as he wrote the episode, a major inspiration was the scene in The King's Speech where speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) notes that when Bertie (Colin Firth), the future King of Great Britain, sings, he doesn't stammer. Bertie responds - stutter-free - with words sung to the melody of Camptown Races.

"I thought, 'That's amazing: That when you sing, something unlocks in the brain,'" said Kindler.

Like many of the cast and crew, Kindler is a Stargate alumnus who created Sanctuary first as a series of webisodes. An executive producer and writer, he directs this episode, which also marks a career first for him: He wrote the songs, along with show composer Andrew Lockington.

Together, they worked fast - writing songs over a long weekend in Toronto, where Lockington is based. Back in British Columbia, Kindler laid down the tracks in a temporary studio he built in his West Vancouver home. "I wanted the actors to be very relaxed," he says. "I didn't want them going into a billion-dollar studio."

Two weeks later, the cast were lip-synching to their recorded tracks on-set. And everyone, it seems, was singing along.

"What's really cool," said Tapping, "is you see suddenly a grip walk past with a stand or something and they're all singing: 'Well I'm coming up behind you; I have a grip stand'" she sings.

Tapping, who is also an executive producer on the series, is probably best known for her role as Samantha Carter on the Stargate franchise. Born in England, she grew up in Toronto and it was there that she had her tiny bit of musical-theatre experience: playing Oliver in Grade 6 at her Toronto school "because I had an English accent and no boobs," she said with a laugh.

"So when Damian said we were going to do a musical, I panicked."

Tapping talks about this from the makeup chair, explaining how nerve-wracking the first rehearsal was, especially given her lack of formal musical training. But as rehearsals, recording and shooting continued, she was able to relax. Somewhat.

"There is a mix of excitement and trepidation in equal measure," she said, after working through a complicated scene where she liaises with her counterparts all over the world. "Every day is humbling."

Vancouver blues icon Jim Byrnes guest stars as Magnus's father. When he appears in the library and sings an old lullaby to his daughter (a soulful version of Byrnes's Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid that had Tapping tearing up on-set), she figures out a solution to Abby's problem.

"That addresses the theme of the deepness of memory and of that part of your brain that music and a certain sound touches," said Byrnes, after wrapping the scene. "And the thing that it brings back, the memories it evokes, and the way it makes you do work, makes you want to do better."

Kindler is aware that doing a musical episode may elicit some jump-the-shark commentary (he even shot some behind-the-scenes video footage during the home-studio recording session involving his shark oven mitt), and he has made jokes about his future career at Starbucks, but it's clear he and his colleagues really believe in Fugue.

"I don't think this is a one-off for us somehow," said Tapping. "I think we might have to do something like this again. Find another musical creature to subdue."

Fugue airs on Space Friday at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET (and repeats in the West at 10:30 p.m. PT).

TV Fashion: To Tune Is To Buy In

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(Nov 28, 2011) Ever wonder why there are so few stylish people
traipsing the streets these days? I do.

There's a dismaying uniformity. Often it seems to me everybody is trying to look like some celebrity. And, all too often, the result is a
fashion disaster. Ill-fitting and unsuitable clothes are worn by people who really don't look the slightest bit like some movie or TV star.

The issue doesn't keep me up at night. But I do ponder it. Recently, while watching the excellent documentary Bill Cunningham New York (it's airing regularly on SuperChannel this month) I was struck by the reason for Cunningham's fame as a photographer for The New York Times. He does impromptu photos of people walking the streets - people who look strikingly dressed. Cunningham doesn't photograph celebrities. As he points out, celebrities are dressed by stylists. What they wear is not an expression of their own personality.

This is all too true and yet vast attention is paid to some actress who was told what to wear by somebody who has a deal with a designer. It's getting worse, too. Let me tell you a story.

Actress Sheila Kelley is on Monday's episode of Gossip Girl (The CW, 8 p.m.). She plays "Serena van der Woodsen's mischievous Aunt Carol Rhodes." Certain shenanigans have required Kelley's character to visit the Upper East Side for damage control.

Now, I'd normally be oblivious to the antics of Serena van der Woodsen and her aunt. But I received an alert from a PR company about Kelley's return to Gossip Girl. The point was not to get some press coverage for the appearance. It was to promote Sheila Kelley's S Factor, a fitness technique that "incorporates fluid feminine movement and pole dancing." For a limited time, Gossip Girl fans can win Kelley's Soulfully Sexy DVDs. I now know that S Factor, which has studios in several U.S. cities, and sells DVDs and stuff, is recognized as "the first and only pole dancing and striptease workout in the world." If your kids are watching Gossip Girl (the core demographic is teenage girls), there's something right there you can put under the Christmas tree.

I draw this matter to your attention because, at regular intervals I also get bulletins from the CW, with the subject heading, "Fashion to Talk About." These press releases inform me and other people who cover TV, about the fashionable items worn on the show. What they are and where to buy them. Gossip Girl and the new Hart of Dixie are the two shows that relentlessly flog the schmatte worn by the characters in a major manner.

The most recent bulletin about Hart of Dixie, which stars Rachel Bilson as a doctor in the Deep South, doing her doctoring and meeting cute guys, gave info on her outfits. Bilson isn't wearing very much in the photo of a key scene, which is not unusual, I gather. A teensy dress and some shoes. The dress is by Herve Leger and the shoes are by Christian Louboutin. What they cost was unknown to me until I Googled "Herve Leger dress Hart of Dixie" and discovered, instantly, it costs $2,200 (U.S.). It looks very nice on the tiny Bilson.

In the matter of what they wear on Gossip Girl, I can tell you that an outfit worn by the social climber Jenny (Taylor Momsen) comprised earrings by Diana Warner, necklace by Courtney Udelson, coat by Zero + Mario Cornejo and sweater by Alexander Wang. At that point I stopped. I know the coat costs $1000.

Granted, some of the clothes are pretty, though few would be considered truly stylish - they're expensive but ordinary and obviously chosen by stylists working for the show. Also, call me crazy but some clothes are chosen so that the result is a surge in sales for the designer or manufacturer.

This is one way that television generates revenue these days. Not only are there ads during the commercial breaks, but the stuff you are seeing worn by actors is being peddled too. The result, I put it to you, is an unreasonable amount of peddling expensive clothes, and streets teeming with fashion victims.

Ricky Martin To Guest Star On ‘Glee’?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Nov 29, 2011) Ricky Martin is being lined up for a guest-starring role on Glee.

The She Bangs hitmaker is reportedly in negotiations with producers about playing a substitute teacher in the musical comedy, with the episodes set to air in January 2012.

A source told TVLine.com: “Ricky will play the hottest Spanish teacher ever in the history of Ohio”.

Gwyneth Paltrow has previously guest starred in Glee while Anne Hathaway recently met with creator Ryan Murphy to discuss a part in the show.

Murphy said: “We’re not going to do guest stars at all the first half of the season, but I would love to work with Anne and she supposedly has the whole thing mapped out. I’m curious as to what she wants to do. I love her. I think she’s great.”

Hathaway has previously spoken of her desire to appear on Glee, revealing she even has specific song ideas in mind for her character, which she would like to be the lesbian aunt of gay student Kurt Hummel, played by Chris Colfer.

She said last year: “I would love to be on Glee. Can I make a confession? In my head I’ve written a part for myself! It’s so arrogant and obnoxious, it’s like, ‘Ryan Murphy no one else wants to be on your show.’ But in my head I’ve cast myself and I know which song I’d sing. I would want to play Kurt’s long-lost aunt, his mother’s sister who is also gay, who comes back to help him deal with his sexuality and I would sing No One Is Alone from Stephen Sondheim’s epic show Into the Woods.”

TV TIDBITS

Plans To Revive Doomed Soaps Online Scrapped

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Graham

(Nov 23, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Plans have been scrapped to give a pair of doomed ABC soaps new life on the Internet. Prospect Park, a media company that licensed One Life to Live and All My Children for online distribution, says it’s abandoning the mission to revive them. The company said in a statement Wednesday that it was unable to secure necessary financial backing and clear other hurdles. The two programs had originally been set to anchor a new online network. All My Children disappeared from ABC’s daytime schedule in September, and One Life to Live will end its run on Jan. 13. Both had been on the air for more than four decades. They are the latest soaps to be cancelled as the longtime TV genre suffers dwindling audiences and mounting costs.

Pan Am Actress Says Series Cancelled

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Nov 29, 2011) The fate of Pan Am, the low-rated ’60s-set stewardess series, is very much up in the air, sources say. Different sources, different stories. If you believe the recent tweet from Quebec-born co-star Karine Vanasse, a fan favourite as the coquettish Colette Valois, it’s all over immediately after Christmas, when the show signs off on its 14th episode. And indeed, ABC has already handed over its Sunday-night slot to the renamed G.C.B. (in an earlier, braver incarnation, Good Christian Bitches). But the network insists it is not the end of the runway for Vanasse and her primly pill-boxed posse. They say the decision whether or not to risk a second Pan Am season will not be made till May. At which point I’m betting that they’ll still find a way not to have to use the word “cancelled.”

Steve Harvey Makes Big Announcement

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 30, 2011) *Comedian Steve Harvey recently surprised listeners of  his “Steve Harvey Morning Show” with some startling news. The “Family Feud” host said that he plans to retire from doing stand-up—and that his last stand-up routine will be performed next year at the 2012 Hoodie Awards. Harvey disclosed the news after reading an email on the air from a listener who had heard rumors that Harvey was quitting his syndicated radio show. “This is my Jamaican background,” Harvey joked.  “I don’t quit no job. No, sir. That’s not me.” No doubt the Hoodies will be packed when Harvey performs his stand-up routine for the last time.

BET Announces Jan. Premiere Date for ‘The Game’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 30, 2011) *BET has set a return date for The Game. The record breaking sitcom will launch its fifth season on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 at 10 p.m., the cable network announced late Tuesday. Tia Mowry Hardrict leads the cast playing the wife of a professional football player (Pooch Hall). “The Game” debuted on its new home for its fourth season with huge numbers for BET in January, drawing 7.7 million viewers. This makes it the best showing for the series on cable and broadcast ever, and BET’s most-watched telecast. The comedy, created by Mara Brock Akil, was canceled by the CW after three seasons in May 2009, when it was averaging 2 million viewers. BET picked it up in 2010.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Second City Ho, Ho, Hopes For A Happy Holiday

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
By Brad Wheeler

(Nov 27, 2011) I find it kind of funny and I find it kind of sad that the song Mad World was the British Christmas No. 1 single in 2003. It's musically poignant, but its lyrics are decidedly Donnie Darko-depressing.

A piano motif from the song pops up more than once during
The Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue, a lighthearted look at December distress. Knowing that not everyone's holly is jolly, the national touring branch of the Second City troupe finds merriment in the madness, mirth in the Christmas mire.

Oh, now, let's be clear. The six-member cast isn't exactly roasting a reindeer on a spit down on Mercer Street. The production is actually upbeat - a sparky satire on the flipside of fa-la-la. For example, the Mad World melody is used splendidly in a slow-motion and strikingly violent snowball fight. And the show's main theme song - the effervescent one that opens and closes the affair - is actually optimistic, all about things hopefully being different this year.

A brave face, then, in the season full of cheer, sometimes genuine but often fake. Like the parents whose daughter took off with her fiancé to see her future in-laws in Hawaii instead of visiting them. A zippy scene has ma and pa heroically and hilariously videotaping a yuletide greeting.

Some don't even bother faking it. Take troupe member Kevin Matviw: His suicidal crooner - the rattiest of retired Rat Packers - would rather sing about razor blades during this, the calendar's supposed most wonderful time of the year. The off-putting, sweater-wearing character is Saturday Night Live-worthy.

Christmas is colourful - maybe too colourful. "Halloween threw up into December" is how it's described in a sketch about holiday ritual. And isn't it funny how we'll laugh at the "broom of justice," but think nothing, as Second City points out, of placing our children on the laps of fake-bearded alcoholics at the department store.

Are carollers one slammed door away from going zombie? There's something not quite right with those snowy singers. Mull that over with your cider.

And who hasn't felt the pressure of charity? A woman is shamed relentlessly into sponsoring a child, even though she just lost her job and can't afford the far-away dependent. But think of "little Jaheeb." A giraffe stepped on his mother's neck, his father's elbows unfortunately bend backward, he has to fight off monkeys for his breakfast and he lets grown men punch him for rupees!

Give until it hurts. Mistletoe the line. Deck the halls, but not your relatives or co-workers. It's a mad world, this month more than ever. The Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue isn't up to the level of the company's current mainstage production, Dreams Really Do Come True! (and other lies), but it's a tradition worth keeping - a respite from the season's forced good cheer.

The Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue runs until Jan. 2.

The Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue

Written and performed by The Second City's National Touring Company: Craig Brown, Kevin Matviw, Stacey McGunnigle, Alice Moran, Allison Price and Connor Thompson

Directed by Kerry Griffin

At Second City in Toronto


 
You’d Be Wise To Catch This Follies

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Nov 25, 2011) NEW YORK — If you care about the past, present, or future of the musical theatre, you owe it to yourself to see the revival of Follies, which is running at the Marquis Theatre through January 22, 2012.

This eternally fascinating show by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman has certainly held my imagination in thrall since I first saw the original production in 1971 and although this current revival isn’t perfect, it realizes much more of the show’s true potential than any other one I’ve seen in all the intervening years.

Why has this one musical been the cause of so much interest in the past four decades? Because Sondheim and Goldman tapped into a brilliant idea: using the very form of musical theatre as a metaphor for both the decline of the American Dream and the road to death we’re all irrevocably heading down.

We’re on the stage of the Weissman (i.e. Ziegfeld) Theatre, once the home of the greatest live theatrical entertainment that the 20th century ever knew, The Weissman Follies. But now the shows are dead and the theatre is a desolate ruin about to become a parking lot.

So they have one last reunion. And out come the aging chorus girls and their once dashing beaux to relive the past.

Most of it is harmless nostalgia, but at the heart of it all are two diabolically mismatched couples. Ben & Phyllis and Buddy & Sally were all best friends years ago, but they went their separate ways.

Now Ben is a Clintonesque ex-politico, Phyllis his sleek and brittle wife, Buddy a philandering travelling salesman, and Sally a depressive housewife who still loves Ben.

In bitter, biting dialogue, Goldman hurls these unhappy marriages into our faces as the quartet go round and round in ever-tightening circles of self-hatred.

And Sondheim illustrates their pain with acid songs whose very titles tell you their pain: “The Road You Didn’t Take”, “Could I Leave You?”, “Too Many Mornings”.

Don’t worry, there’s a lot of humour as well, from the other follies alumni, who trot out their old specialty numbers, like “Broadway Baby”, belted with great panache by Jayne Houdyshell.

And Elaine Paige, for my money, does an awesome job with “I’m Still Here,” which is probably the heart and soul of Follies, a number about how the one thing you have to do in life is survive it.

Of course, an evening of 50-plus actors bleeding from the eyes on a ruined stage doesn’t necessarily make for a rounded evening, so Sondheim and Goldman have a brilliant final 25 per cent of the show.

When all the inner emotions are about to explode, we suddenly morph into a fantasy version of the kind of show that Weissman used to produce, all pink taffeta and glamorous costumes, full of wonderful energy.

But if you look at all these numbers closely, they’re even darker than the ones that came before, with ironic titles like “Losing My Mind” and “Live, Laugh, Love.”

The staging by choreographer Warren Carlyle is brilliant and the costumes of Gregg Barnes dazzle at every turn.

It’s also where our four leads come into their own as well. Danny Burstein, solid throughout as Buddy, erupts in “The ‘God, Why Don’t You Love Me?’ Blues” laying the duplicity of his life on the line, while Jan Maxwell, sharper than any exacto-knife and twice as sexy, tells us the saga of “Lucy and Jessie,” two dysfunctional women who add up to make her character, Phyllis.

Ron Raines as the dashing Ben, crumbles before our eyes in white tie and tails, forgetting the words to his lie even as he sings them and Bernadette Peters triumphs, as you knew she would, by turning into a gorgeous butterfly after playing the mousy caterpillar all night, but showing us the price she pays in a torch song about her own self-imposed insanity.

There’s a glorious orchestra of 28 and a talented cast of 41: the kind of numbers you don’t see on Broadway (or hardly anywhere) anymore. That alone warrants a trip to Follies.

And inside it, if you have the courage to look unflinchingly, you’ll find a “how-to” manual about living an honest life and doing it all with a Sondheim song.

There are far worse ways to face reality.

Vegas Casino Pulls Plug On Cirque's Elvis Show

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Nov 27, 2011) Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas production of Viva Elvis has been cut short after relatively low attendance.

Aria Resort and Casino has decided to pull the plug on the Cirque's acrobatic and dancing tribute to Elvis Presley at the end of 2012, the first time a Las Vegas venue has curtailed a Cirque production.

"All of us at Cirque du Soleil are saddened that we may have to bring Viva Elvis to the end of its journey. However, we respect the decision of our partner as ticket sales have not met expectations," said Cirque president and chief executive Daniel Lamarre in an internal memo to the cast and crew of the show.

Viva Elvis's lack of success is relative, though. Since the show began in December, 2009, it has been seen by one million people over nearly 900 performances. However, Cirque's dominance in Las Vegas is so strong that Aria Resort was hoping for a packed house every show. Cirque currently has seven shows in production throughout the Nevada city - eight if you include Cirque's 33-show run of The Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, to begin Saturday.

Aria's theatre was 60-per-cent full on average for Viva Elvis. This compares to 99-per-cent occupancy for Cirque du Soleil's water-themed show O and its Beatles-musical tribute Love. Those shows have been running 13 years at the Bellagio casino and five years at The Mirage, respectively.

And the 19-year-old production of Mystère still fills 82 per cent or more at Las Vegas's Treasure Island Resort, according Cirque du Soleil's senior director of public relations Renée-Claude Menard.

Viva Elvis has received mixed reviews, although Lamarre characterized the cancellation by Aria as "simply a business decision." An extended break had been planned early next year to revamp the production. Instead, the show will be only halted briefly between Feb. 4-11, and a new acrobatic act will be added. Lamarre said the company will try to move many of the artists and crew to other productions after the show ends late next year.

This summer, Cirque also announced the cancellation of its production of ZED at the Tokyo Disney Resort due to damage and ongoing problems there from Japan's March earthquake and tsunami.

Comedian Patrice O’Neal Dies At 41 Following Complications From Stroke

Source: www.thestar.com - By Karen Matthews

(Nov 29, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Veteran standup comic Patrice O’Neal, who gained a wider following through TV and radio and helped roast Charlie Sheen, died Tuesday from complications of a stroke he suffered last month. He was 41.

O’Neal’s manager, Jonathan Brandstein, said he died in a New York-area hospital.

“Many of us have lost a close and loved friend; all of us have lost a true comic genius,” Brandstein said in a statement.

O’Neal appeared on Conan O’Brien’s and David Letterman’s TV shows and was a frequent guest on the Opie & Anthony radio show on Sirius XM. His performance was a highlight of the Comedy Central roast of Sheen, who had been fired from the hit CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, in September.

Sheen said in a tweet Tuesday, “The entertainment world as well as the world at large lost a brilliant man.”

He added, “Patrice had that rare ‘light’ around him and inside of him. I only knew him for the few days leading up the Roast. Yet I will forever be inspired by his nobility, his grace and his epic talent. My tears today are for the tremendous loss to his true friends and loving family.”

Other entertainers also mourned O’Neal on Twitter.

“RIP Patrice O’Neal. You made us laugh til we cried,” comedian Sarah Silverman said.

Actor Jay Mohr said, “Just heard. Goodnight brother. Damn. Just ridiculous. Terrible. Beyond sad.”

O’Neal had half-hour specials on Showtime and HBO and was the host of Web Junk 20 on VH1. He appeared in numerous television shows including Arrested Development, Chappelle’s Show and The Office.

O’Neal suffered a stroke on Oct. 19 after battling diabetes. He is survived by his wife, Vondecarlo, his stepdaughter, Aymilyon, his sister, Zinder, and his mother, Georgia.

Brandstein, his manager, said the family wished to thank “all of the fans and friends who have expressed an outpouring of love and support for Patrice these past weeks.”

In Defence Of Canadian Stage: Matthew Jocelyn Finds His Groove

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(Nov 25, 2011) The rumours of the death of Canadian Stage have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, from my perspective, the Toronto theatre company is truly alive for the first time in many years.

With John Logan's Red now open, it's not at all difficult to pick which of the city's not-for-profit theatres has had the strongest autumn artistically. That would be Matthew Jocelyn's Canadian Stage, hands down.

Now, naturally, Factory Theatre, Tarragon and Theatre Passe Muraille mostly focus on new plays, so they take on an extra risk and are more likely to stumble.

And yet, Canadian Stage - in its second season selected by new artistic and general director Jocelyn - has embraced "risky" programming and has still had a remarkable run of critical acclaim. There was the rejigged return of Volcano's Another Africa; the beautiful and poignant I Send You This Cadmium Red, another double-bill; the orgiastic dance-theatre anarchy of Marie Chouinard's Orpheus and Eurydice (which played to 90% capacity); and Company Theatre's English-language premiere of German play The Test. (Yes, I wasn't particularly won over by The Test personally, but I'm not so egotistical that I can ignore the raves it received elsewhere.)

That's why it's frustrating to read Toronto Star critic Richard Ouzounian, in his review of Siminovitch-winning director Kim Collier's production of Red, still railing against Jocelyn's vision for Canadian Stage [http://www.toronto.com/article/705359-red-no-marriage-made-in-heaven], even as it has found a definite groove. He calls it "a regime that seems to feel that being different is the answer to everything."

That sounds like a compliment disguised as an insult to me. What is the alternative to "being different", after all, but "being the same"?

That's what Canadian Stage was for an awfully long time - and I, for one, am relieved to see those days are over.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and it should be a theatre hot-spot internationally, and yet for many years its biggest and best-funded not-for-profit theatre company was producing the safest work in town.

Forget the chimera that what this city most needs is a commercial saviour in the model of the defunct and discredited Livent to be the birthplace of great theatre. In places like London, Chicago and New York, almost all the exciting work that goes on to worldwide and, yes, even commercial, success, is born through R&D in the not-for-profit sector.

Particularly on its difficult-to-fill main stage, however, Canadian Stage has had a reputation for staging plays that you could see at any regional theatre in any of the smaller cities across the country or in the United States in ways that were, for the most part, pretty unoriginal.

Whether or not these productions pleased or displeased audiences, the theatre company was definitely a follower, not a leader, frequently taking what had had commercial success in New York or London and aiming to recreate that here in Toronto in a not-for-profit setting (and, too often, failing at it).

Though Canadian Stage's audience was aging and in decline (or defecting to Soulpepper), many did not see the old vision - which was really a non-vision dictated by the anxiety of filling the Broadway-sized Bluma Appel theatre - as a problem, just something that needed to be tinkered with.

Many still don't. "Sometimes being good is all we ask," writes Ouzounian at the end of his Red review, wishing for a production that was more like the one he saw in New York.

Had I been reading that review in a newspaper rather than my laptop, this is the point where I would have balled it up and thrown it violently against the wall.

"Being good" is not all we ask of art, theatre or otherwise - and it's ironic that this should be argued in a review of a play where the main character, abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, goes off on a passionate rant about "living under the tyranny of 'fine.'"

"I am here to stop your heart, you understand that!" Rothko yells at his young assistant in the play. "I am here to make you think! I am not here to make pretty pictures!"

Rothko has it right. All that I ask for from a night at the theatre is originality, brilliance, innovation, for my mind to be blown, for my gut to be wrenched, for my heart to be stopped. I don't expect it to happen always or even often, but I want to see theatre artists reaching for it.

I would always, always, always rather see a daring failure by an artist with a vision and passion of his or her own than a "good" production of a play that's been programmed due to box-office projections.

That's why I thought Jocelyn's first season (2010 - 2011) was actually quite vivifying, even if it didn't succeed so unequivocally as this season has so far. I would much rather see Peter Hinton make a beautiful mess of Michel Tremblay's Saint Carmen of the Main any day than see a so-so production of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt a few months after the movie version has come out. The former was at least something to talk about; the latter was irrelevant.

It's unfortunate, I think, that certain prominent media voices - and I've singled out Ouzounian because he's been the loudest, but there have been others - were prematurely dismissive of Jocelyn's reign at Canadian Stage and even now continue to dismiss it as a whole when it's starting to work out rather well on its own terms.

Indeed, thanks to articles like the one that appeared in Toronto Life this fall (headline: "Stage Fright: Matthew Jocelyn wanted to revive Canadian Stage. Instead, he's scaring audiences away"), many people in town have the erroneous impression [http://www.torontolife.com/daily/hype/print-edition/2011/09/26/how-matthew-jocelyn-tried-to-revive-canadian-stage-but-ended-up-scaring-audiences-away] that the company is going down the toilet.

Allow me to provide a little context. Attendance did drop last year at Canadian Stage - house capacity (percentage of seats filled) went down from approximately 70 per cent to 60 per cent. No one's denying this drop, but, in fact, most of it was expected. How could attendance not fall when a theatre company significantly changes its direction?

Just take a look at three Canadian companies for comparison. When the Stratford Shakespeare Festival changed guard in 2008, the three-AD experiment ended up with a season with an operating deficit of $2.6-million. When Jackie Maxwell took over the Shaw Festival, her ambitious first season landed $3-million in the red. Over at the National Arts Centre, Hinton's first season as artistic director of the English theatre saw attendance drop from 82 per cent to 68 per cent.

Knowing this, Canadian Stage planned for a drop, though it emerged from last season with an unspecified "small operating deficit," according to Ashley Ballantyne, associate director of communications for the theatre.

Attendance indicators are quite encouraging going forward, however - there appears to be a sustainable audience, some old, some new, building for the work Canadian Stage is now doing.

The company's subscription renewal rate from last season to the current one has not declined at all - indeed, this season is "tracking virtually identically" with last year's renewal figures, according to Ballantyne. (There was a 6-per-cent decrease in subscriptions between 2009-2010, the last season programmed by former artistic producer Martin Bragg, and the end of 2010 -2011.)

That doesn't mean that some audience members haven't been "scared away," but that new subscribers are replacing them. "We have twice as many new subscribers on this date in 2011 as we did on this date in 2010 (a year-to-date comparison)," Ballantyne e-mailed me early in November. "By the end of the 2011-2012 season, we anticipate that 1/3 of Canadian Stage subscribers will be new to the company."

What's important from a financial perspective is that Canadian Stage attracts enough spectators to cover its costs, otherwise it will run into problems in the long term. What's important from an artistic perspective is that Canadian Stage exist as an entity with a mission beyond "being good" and filling seats with shows that worked elsewhere, presented in largely the same way.

"Make something new," Rothko says, as his assistant Ken departs at the end of the play to start his own life as a painter. That's what Canadian Stage is doing, and getting better at doing. The company is beginning to lead and I, for one, am enjoying following.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

What To Buy That Techy Kid? Ask The Globe's Gift Guide Experts

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Lynn Greiner

(Nov 22, 2011) Not sure what to buy for the gadget geek on your list? Don't know the hottest video game of the season?

Never fear! Every week the Tech Gift Guide's team of gadget reviewers will answer your questions.

We just concluded our first live online gift guide discussion, check it out below:

Click here for a mobile-friendly version.

Talk to our tech gift guide experts HERE.

Don't forget to visit the Globe's Tech Gift Guide [http://ecestudio1.colo.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/2011-tech-gift-guide], where we'll be publishing more stories, galleries and videos featuring our carefully critiqued collection of goodies for every member of your tech-savvy circle over the next four weeks.

Sneaky Malware Just Needs A Few Clicks To Take Control

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Lynn Greiner

(Nov 8, 2011) Criminals are getting sneakier. These days, computer viruses, Trojans, rootkits and other unfriendly software (collectively known as malware) can be foisted on our systems without our even noticing.

In the early days of
malware, the idea was simply to show people that their systems had been compromised; a virus was sometimes nothing more than a thumbing of the perpetrator’s nose at his victims (what else would explain a virus that just made the letters you typed tumble to the bottom of the screen?). But as time went on, malware went from mischievous to malicious, and destruction became the name of the game.

Today’s malware authors aim for secrecy. Their goal is often to hide on your system and steal as much information as possible – banking passwords, credit card numbers, confidential files, and anything else of value. Or they may want to use your computer to launch attacks on others.

It’s embarrassingly easy to become a pawn in the bad guys’ games, as security vendor McAfee shows us in a little exercise known as the Malware Experience.

The Malware Experience is a class that can be anything from a few hours to a couple of days long. It is designed to give people the opportunity to experience malware in comfort and safety, says current custodian Jon Carpenter, an anti-malware competitive review manager at McAfee Labs. Mr. Carpenter has been working with the Malware Experience for almost a decade, and has been building new versions of it, to reflect the current malware universe, for the last five or six years.

At McAfee's recent Focus 2011 conference, Mr. Carpenter and Labs colleague Toralv Dirro presented a truncated version of the Experience to members of the media.

During the class, you become both a bad guy and his victim. You work on a laptop that is carefully isolated from any available networks and with external storage disabled (you are, after all, working with live malware, and don’t want it to escape). It contains three virtual machines (VMs): the victim's computer, a compromised web server, and the attacker's PC.

Then you unleash your inner hacker. Working from a script, you first construct the trap, configuring the web server with a Trojan horse – a program that performs a benign or useful function while sneakily installing malware on the victim’s machine in the background. It is housed on a website crafted to resemble a known site – in this case, an anti-virus vendor's site. So far, so good.

Next, you bait the hook by composing an e-mail to the victim, in the guise of a promotion for a free anti-malware tool. This will persuade the user to download the Trojan.

Then the scenario flips, and you become the victim.

Being a trusting soul, you open the e-mail on the victim VM and see the link to what you think is your anti-malware vendor’s website. A sharp-eyed person might notice, while hovering the cursor over the link, that the URL is slightly different from the legitimate vendor URL, but hackers usually count on the fact that the message looks convincing enough that a large percentage of recipients will click through.

That starts the download of your Trojan, which has been given the same name as the real anti-virus program.

Since you, as victim, have willingly downloaded the fake anti-virus program, you then run it (your system is virus-free, it says – how nice – a total lie, since it just installed the attacker’s malware), and the hackers immediately have another computer under their control.

Yes, it really is that easy.

Now that the victim’s computer is your slave, you as hacker can have some fun. You can pop back to the attacker machine and explore the command and control console for your malware to discover what mischief it can perform. For example, there’s a keylogger to capture every keystroke your victim types (very handy for grabbing passwords and credit card numbers). The next item in the script is even more insidious: you’re going to silently install another piece of malware, the Zeus Trojan, on your victim’s machine.

This time the victim has to do nothing. All the attacker needs to do is set up the configuration script for your malware, then instruct the first Trojan to install it on the target system. In a few minutes, the malware will report whether it was correctly installed and you’re ready to wreak more havoc.

Let’s say you want to steal the victim’s Facebook credentials. On the attacker machine, it’s a matter of entering the URL you want monitored, letting the malware synch with the victim’s machine, then sitting back and waiting.

Soon, everything you need to know if you wanted to hijack the victim’s account is now at your fingertips, and the victim is none the wiser.

The Malware Experience includes a few more tricks as well, such as redirecting the victim’s surfing to a malicious website.

“We want to make people aware of what’s possible, but not to encourage them to try it,” explains Mr. Carpenter. “It’s all about raising awareness.”

And raise awareness he has, by presenting the class to members of the media, university students, police forces, and even the British House of Lords, to demonstrate how easy it is for computers to become infected.

Mr. Carpenter then points out ways to stay infection-free, such as not clicking on links in unsolicited e-mails, and examining links to ensure the site name is spelled correctly (slight misspellings are easy to miss, and can lead to malicious sites).

“I’m a firm believer in finding the weakest link,” he says. “It’s important that users are aware of the risks. The [anti-malware] industry tries hard to make users aware.”

Violent Video Games Alter Young Men's Brains: Study

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Nov 30, 2011) A new study says that young men who play violent video games for as little as one week show some changes in images of their brain.

The study’s findings could be good news for some parents who’ve worried that exposure, however minimal, to violent video games could be harmful to their child. Perhaps now they’ll have an easier time convincing their son to put down the controller.

Researchers at the annual Radiological Society of North America conference presented the findings of their study, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs) tests on a group of 22 young men over a two-week period.

Presented by Dr. Yang Wang from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, the study split the young men, aged 18-29, with little exposure to violent games into two groups. One group was told to play a violent shooter game for 10 hours one week and refrain from playing it the next. The second group was told not to play violent video games for the same two-week period.

All of the subjects had fMRIs taken at the beginning of the study, after one week and after the two weeks. During the scans, the study’s participants completed the task of pressing buttons according to the colour of visually presented words. Some words indicated violent actions. They were also given a counting task.

The analysis of the scans showed that the player group showed less activity in parts of their brains during the tasks compared to their baseline results and the results of the control group after one week. After the second week without game play, the changes to the regions of the brain also diminished.

The results lead the researchers to conclude that violent games do have a neurological effect on player’s brains.

“These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” said Wang in a released statement.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

St. Maarten’s Extreme Airport: A Caribbean Paradise for Thrill Seekers, Aviation Enthusiasts

Source: www.abcnews.com - By Ryan Owens

(Nov 22, 2011) After the long flight to a Caribbean paradise, most tourists can’t wait to get away from the airport — except on the island of
St. Maarten, where the airport is the main attraction.

No place in the world can people get so close to planes that they can almost touch the fuselage as the planes fly over the beach and come in for a landing at the Princess Juliana International Airport — a thin, two-lane highway separates the beach from the runway. Thrill seekers and aviation enthusiasts flock to the tiny half-Dutch/half-French island to sunbath in the shadow of a jumbo jet.

Near the end of the runway, the Sunset Bar and Grill is packed with people. Each morning, they write the flight schedule on a surf board and broadcast air traffic control instead of music. All day, the planes land and crowds rush to the beach, beer in one hand, camera in the other.

But that’s only half the thrill. Every flight that lands, takes off, and that’s a real danger. The massive jet engines can easily produce winds of more than 100 mph, blowing people and sand into the water.

The “Jet Blast” is celebrated with its own shot at the Sunset Bar, and some of the folks who get behind the engines seem to have had a few. It’s the one Caribbean island where the most exhilarating part of the trip happens before you leave the airport.

Watch ABC’s Ryan Owens’ full “Nightline” report here:

 
Should I Feel Guilty About Flying Out Of Buffalo Instead Of Toronto?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Karan Smith

(Nov 11, 2011) The Question: I just booked a flight out of Buffalo, N.Y., as it cost me half the price of flying out of Toronto, and I'm overwhelmed with guilt.

So, you've discovered the allure of the cross-border airport.

“Canadians are realizing more and more that border airports can save fliers a lot – sometimes hundreds of dollars – on airfare,” says Lauren Sullivan, the site editor for Cheapflights.ca. “Oftentimes, U.S. airports offer lower airfares thanks to heavy competition and lower taxes than Canadian hubs. Also, low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue are really taking off – literally – in the States, offering fliers from both countries great deals.”

The travel-deal site recently compiled a Top 20 “airport affordability” list, comparing ticket prices for Canadians from popular Canadian and U.S. border airports to the most searched destinations. Washington State's Bellingham International was the top contender for less expensive flights, followed by the airports in Detroit and Burlington, Vt. Kelowna, B.C., Quebec City and Regina ranked fourth, fifth and sixth, and Buffalo, N.Y., rated as the seventh most affordable. (Toronto's Pearson ranked 18th.)

You're not alone in sneaking across the border in pursuit of a cheap date with an American high flier. In fact, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada estimates that a whopping 21 per cent of Canadian fliers departed out of U.S.-based airports last year.

Of course, border hubs aren't always the least expensive – prices rise during peak seasons and weekends just like everywhere, Sullivan says – but they're a pretty good bet, especially as our loonie remains strong.

And truth be told, Canadian airports are saddled with myriad costs – airport ground rents, security charges, traffic control services, municipal taxes and so on – that contribute to the price of flying from home.

“You have some of the most expensive airports in North America for airlines to operate at,” says Brett Snyder, who runs the popular blog The Cranky Flier (crankyflier.com). “[Pearson International] has been at the top of the charts for years when it comes to charges. Passengers don't pay this directly, but it just means the airlines need higher fares to cover their costs there.”

As for your patriotism, that's a personal matter. For me, travel planning is always about cost versus convenience. Is the hassle of driving across the border worth the savings? If so, assuage your guilt about spending your travel dollars outside Canada with a Canadiana road mix: K'naan, Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Drake, Stompin' Tom, Ron Sexsmith, Michael Bublé, Blue Rodeo, Joel Plaskett, Jill Barber and – why not? – Justin Bieber!

And if you really want to feel patriotic, sing O Canada as you wait in your car at the border crossing.

Send your travel question to concierge@globeandmail.com.

::SPORTS NEWS::

With Raptors Returning, Interest In Toronto Sports Simmers Once Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Macleod

(Nov 29, 2011) Believe it or not the Toronto Raptors have a heartbeat.

Although it might take an MD to detect the pulse, it is there, however faint, beating within the chests of Canada's only National Basketball Association franchise.

Granted, the interest level in the Raps has fallen practically off the map, even in Toronto where the bar has been set especially low with the antics this past season of the Argos, the local Canadian Football League outfit.

Coming off a dismal 6-12 CFL regular-season fiasco, at the very least the Argos have the 2012 Grey Cup being staged in their own backyard as a prop to inject some interest into next year.

And don't forget the pending coronation, expected later this week, of Montreal assistant and offensive whiz Scott Milanovich as the new Toronto head coach.

That will free up Jim Barker to concentrate solely on his general manager duties. Maybe he will even be able to find a quarterback with all his freed-up spare time.

Then there's the Leafs, enjoying their status as one of the top NHL teams through the first third of the season.

If this keeps up the head honchos at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will be able to hike up the cost of the already outrageously priced draft beer that is dispensed at the Air Canada Centre - and nobody will care.

As for the Blue Jays, they appear headed in the right direction and Major League Baseball did them a big favor by announcing an additional wild card team for the playoffs. Who says you have to spend money to get ahead?

So where does that leave the Raptors and their star-bereft lineup now that the NBA has finally got its house in order with a new collective bargaining agreement with the players that has salvaged the 2011-12 season?

The Raptors will undoubtedly be crappy this season so it's to their benefit that the regular season has been pared back to 66-games from 82 because of the labour strife. The schedule is expected to begin on Christmas day.

The team is still in major rebuilding mode so don't expect president and general manager Bryan Colangelo to add any high-priced free agents - at least not for this season.

If the Raptors were content to bite the bullet last season after Chris Bosh flew the coop to Miami and let the "kids" develop through extensive playing time, it makes no sense to now alter that blueprint for a team that won just 22 times.

"The plan is to acquire the right pieces, the correct pieces, to keep adding to this nucleus that we have," Colangelo said last month when the team added some executive muscle with the hiring of Ed Stafanski as the executive vice-president of basketball operations.

And what better way to rebuild than to once again swim with the bottom feeders to snag another top pick at the draft in June.

History has shown that Toronto has more than its fair share of basketball fans. Many of them are fair-weather, choosing to emerge from the closet in support of the team once there's something in place to support.

The Raptors won just 22 times last year and saw attendance fall to 16,566 from 17,897 the previous season.

In 2007-08, the last time they made the playoffs, average attendance soared to 19,435.

Once the product improves the Raptors will once again be a factor on the city's sporting landscape.

NBA Will Play 66-Game Season After Lockout

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Nov 27, 2011) The
NBA regular season would run through April 26 and require teams to play at least one set of back-to-back-to-back games if a new labour deal is ratified in time to start on Christmas.

The league posted an outline of what the schedule would look like on its Twitter pages Sunday. The plan is a 66-game regular season, ending about 10 days later than usual. The last possible day of the NBA finals would be June 26, two weeks later than the championship series ended last season.

Teams would play 48 games within their conference and 18 non-conference games. No team would play on three straight nights more than three times.

Back-to-backs might also be played during the second round of the post-season.

After A Career Winds Up, The Injuries Remain

Source: www.thestar.com - Christopher Botta

(Nov 28, 2011) Almost four years after suffering severe head injuries
and having his nose severed by a skate during an NHL game, former linesman Pat Dapuzzo is working as a scout for the Maple Leafs. The move, although an important step on the road to physical and emotional recovery, follows a decision he made this year whose implications could extend well beyond his personal healing.

While working on a fundraiser for the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, Dapuzzo, 52, made a commitment to donate his brain and spinal cord to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. One of the hockey stars Dapuzzo had lined up for the charity event was Keith Primeau, who retired from the NHL in 2007 because of lingering symptoms from multiple concussions suffered over a 15-year career. Several months earlier, Primeau had agreed to donate his brain to BU’s researchers.

Primeau agreed to help Dapuzzo, but he had one condition.

“Keith said, ‘I’ll do your event if you donate your brain to BU,’” Dapuzzo said. “I told Keith, ‘It’s a deal, and you’re getting the short end of it.’” Turning serious, Dapuzzo added, “I’m sure the doctors will be able to learn a lot from what I’ve been through.”

After jumping to avoid a collision when New York Rangers defenceman Fedor Tyutin threw a violent hip check at Flyers winger Steve Downie during a game in Philadelphia on Feb. 9, 2008, Dapuzzo was struck in the face by Downie’s skate blade, which severed his nose.

He dropped to his knees while his blood formed a large puddle on the ice. He then rose and attempted to play peacemaker while three fights broke out simultaneously. Kelly Sutherland, a referee, intercepted him. Rangers trainer Jim Ramsey covered Dapuzzo’s face with a towel and led him off to be treated by the medical staffs of both teams.

“The doctors sewed my nose back on,” Dapuzzo said. “It took more than 40 stitches. My left eye drooped, and that really was an alarm for the doctors. I told them I wanted to go back and finish the game. The doctors said I had multiple facial fractures. One told me, ‘If you go back on the ice, you are going to die.’ Honestly, it wasn’t until then that I had any idea how serious this was.”

In addition to the severed nose, Dapuzzo suffered a concussion and 10 fractures to his face. His right cheekbone was shattered. He lost his teeth. He later developed sleep apnea. Bone fragments in his right ear caused debilitating earaches. He fell into depression.

Post-concussion symptoms caused Dapuzzo the greatest agony. At his lowest point, the depression it caused was so severe that he would not answer the door at his Rutherford, N.J., home when his fellow officials would stop by to see him before Devils games.

Dapuzzo said he had had depression before, in the mid-1990s, but did not know the cause. Six months after the incident, however, he underwent a series of tests conducted by Dr. Wilfred van Gorp, the director of neuropsychology at Columbia’s medical school, that revealed earlier concussions.

“All of a sudden, it started to make sense,” Dapuzzo said. “I had a bad collision with Slava Fetisov in a game in New Jersey. Fetisov went to the locker room. I threw up in the penalty box and worked the rest of the game, even though it felt like the Meadowlands Arena was spinning around me. There was another game — I’m sorry, I don’t remember when — where two hits I took sent me flying over the boards and into the team benches. In one game, I made two of ESPN’s top-10 plays of the day. I thought that was cool at the time, but obviously, these hits were taking a toll.”

For 24 years, Dapuzzo was one of the league’s most respected linesmen. He worked just short of 2,000 NHL games as well as the 1991 Canada Cup final between the U.S. and Canada. In 1994, he worked Game 6 of the conference finals, when Mark Messier’s three goals beat the Devils and put the Rangers on the path to the Stanley Cup. He also worked Wayne Gretzky’s last game in 1999.

“Dap was a great one,” said former NHL centre Pat LaFontaine, whose career, like Primeau’s, was cut short by concussions. “The players really respected him because he was a strong communicator. If you had a problem with a call, he took the time to explain it.”

After working four straight conference finals from 1991 to 1994, Dapuzzo missed the next season to be treated for depression. He returned for the 1995-96 season wearing a helmet for the first time, but he never worked a playoff game again.

After leaving the ice, Dapuzzo, who says he still has bouts of depression, coached youth hockey, advised Division I players from New Jersey and was a consultant for the East Coast Athletic Conference. He says he believes his job offer from Leafs president and GM Brian Burke is attributable at least in part to the untimely deaths during the summer of the enforcers Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien.

“My friends around the league knew what I was battling, and they were worried after we lost those three great kids,” Dapuzzo said. “A lot of people were looking after me. I can be honest about it. I just didn’t want to be anybody’s charity case.”

Dapuzzo said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, made sure he received disability and family medical insurance from the time of the incident until early August.

“Most people probably thought I was retired,” Dapuzzo said, “but I needed a job and couldn’t lean on the league office any longer.”

Daly calls Dapuzzo “one of the good guys in hockey.”

“His return to the game doesn’t just benefit himself; the Leafs and the entire NHL community are better for it,” Daly said.

Dapuzzo accepted the job with the Leafs because Burke offered a defined role and some tough love.

Burkie knows New Jersey has become a pipeline for top hockey talent,” Dapuzzo said. “He knows I know this area and these players as well as anyone in the state. But Burkie also said to me, ‘You’re my friend, Dap, but if you don’t do your job, I will fire you.’”

Dapuzzo needed to hear those words.

“When Brian made the offer, it was like getting a blood transfusion,” he said. “My spirit, my purpose, my entire life was rejuvenated.”

Burke wrote in an email that he believed Dapuzzo would be an asset to the organization.

“Pat is a quality guy and a good friend with a sound knowledge of the New Jersey hockey scene,” he said.

Still, even with a vote of confidence from Burke, Dapuzzo knows his recovery is far from complete.

“I’m not out of the woods yet, and my family and my employers know it,” said Dapuzzo, who a year ago would not even watch his son play high school baseball because the only place he felt comfortable was in his home.

“I didn’t want to communicate with anyone,” he said. “People mean well, but when you’re in that darkness, the last thing you want is to be asked all the time, ‘How are you doing’?

“The honest answer is that I don’t know if I’m going to be okay. But with this job, this responsibility Burkie has given me, I feel for the first time in years like I have a chance.”

Milanovich Agrees On Deal To Be New Argos Head Coach

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rachel Brady

(Nov 28, 2011) The Toronto Argonauts have verbally agreed on a deal
with a new head coach for the 2012 season, according to a TSN report.

Montreal Alouettes offensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach
Scott Milanovich has reportedly settled on the terms of a contract with the Argos, although a deal is not done nor has the team made any announcement.

Jim Barker is presently the general manager and head coach of the Argos but said after his team's 6-12 season that he would be open to the idea of handing over one of his jobs if that was deemed to be in the best interest of the franchise.

Jamie Elizondo was the Argonauts' offensive co-ordinator this past season. Elizondo's offence was the CFL's second lowest in total scoring this season with 397 points.

Milanovich has also been rumoured as a candidate for the Saskatchewan Roughriders' head-coaching position. He joined the Als in 2007 and has co-ordinated the Montreal offence the last four seasons.

Chester McGlockton Dies At 42

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Nov 30, 2011) STANFORD, Calif.— Chester McGlockton, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who emerged as a talented assistant coach and mentor at Stanford, died Wednesday. He was 42.

McGlockton also spent time helping the San Francisco 49ers and former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh — his former racquetball partner — during training camp this summer as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship.

Harbaugh expressed sadness and shock upon hearing of McGlockton's death. Stanford said the school's defensive assistant died overnight.

“Chester's been a very close and dear friend over the last four years,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “It was a shock. Just sad, sad today with the news of his passing. Chester was a great guy, good man, doing the right things. ... He was helping a lot of people. We're really going to miss him. To say he was coming into his own as a coach would be understating it. He had already blossomed. He was so positive with the players and with the other coaches. He always had coaching advice or spiritual advice, a smile for you.”

The cause of death was not immediately announced.

“Everyone in the Stanford Football family is deeply saddened by the passing of Chester McGlockton,” Stanford coach David Shaw said in a statement. “For the past two seasons, Chester has been a valuable member of our football staff and a wonderful friend to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chester's wife Zina and their two children.”

A native of Whiteville, N.C., McGlockton starred at Clemson before being selected 16th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. He played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and New York Jets. He made all four of his Pro Bowl appearances while with the Raiders from 1994-1997.

“I had the privilege to coach Chester with both the Raiders and the Chiefs and he was a quality person and a consummate pro — everything you could ever want in a football player,” Detroit Lions defensive co-ordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “I will forever cherish the opportunity to have coached him.”

McGlockton's best season came in 1994, when he had a career-high 9 1 / 2sacks with three forced fumbles and 48 tackles.

“The thoughts and prayers of the Raider Nation are with the McGlockton family during this difficult time,” Raiders CEO Amy Trask said.

Denver Broncos coach John Fox, who coached McGlockton when he was with the Raiders in the mid-1990s, also was stunned by the news.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” Fox said. “Chester was a great player, a Pro Bowl player. I had him while I was with the Oakland Raiders. Like I said, I'm still a little bit in shock, but he was a tremendous player. ”

After his playing career, McGlockton returned to school and earned his undergraduate degree from Tennessee-Martin in 2010. He had lived in San Ramon, Calif., with his wife and two children while serving as a Stanford defensive assistant the last two seasons.

Big Chet, as he was known by many, was around 335 pounds during his career. But he had lost weight in recent years after undergoing laparoscopic weight-loss surgery and improving his workout and eating habits.

“We had done walks together, we played racquetball together quite a bit the last year, he was in very good shape for being a big man,” said Steve Wisniewski, a friend and former teammate.

“I spoke to Chester yesterday, as a matter of fact,” Wisniewski said. “He had a great day with his girls and was looking forward to kind of a few slow weeks as Stanford prepares for a bowl (game), so he could have some more family time. Anybody who knows Chester, he loved his wife and girls to the moon.

“Again, I just can't express how tragic it is losing someone like that at 42.”

McGlockton was remembered as a fierce competitor until the end.

Harbaugh said when playing McGlockton in racquetball, he'd always remember to wear his goggles. McGlockton had attended three 49ers games this season and regularly checked in with Harbaugh and other San Francisco coaches via text message, providing words of encouragement.

“You were fighting for survival inside the racquetball court,” Harbaugh said. “Just a positive, huge presence on the football team at Stanford. Dear friend, loved him.”

Funeral arrangements were pending.