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February 10, 2011

You probably know what I'm going to say - it's not only Black History Month and the newly acclaimed (again) Bob Marley Day (see the story below), but it's also the month that celebrates Valentines Day.  So grab your loved one (or some chocolate), send a love note (or write a note to someone you've been neglecting and enclose some chocolate), make a new date (or step out to buy some chocolate), or simply close your eyes and wait for February 15th.  I digress ... however you choose to celebrate it ... love yourself first.  The best gift we could ever give or get. 

 And thanks to my friends at 49st, here's something for those of you Gentlemen who are last minute planners, we've developed a
Valentine's Day Guide to help give you ideas for that special someone!

Hey and don't forget to check out the
TIDBITS sections - tons of good stuff in there.  Just because it's a tidbit of news doesn't mean there's not a lot of important and interesting news in there.  Check them out this week and you'll see what I mean. 

I wanted to run this piece again this week on Mark "Kurupt" Stoddart.  Read it if you ever had a dream or goal.  I'm telling you - it's inspiring!  My small way of giving back to a man who selflessly gives of himself to others most of the time, inspiring us along the way ALL the time.  READ IT!

 Now, take a scroll and a read of your weekly entertainment news.

 This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members! 


Toronto's Mark "Kurupt" Stoddart Meets His Idol, Spike Lee

Source:  Visual artist, Mark Stoddart (edited by Dawn Langfield)

It is a familiar saying: “A people with no history, have no future.”  This single truth has inspired and motivated each brushstroke I have swept across a canvas. While the immediate subject changes, the purpose behind my art remains the same: educate, empower and unite.

So, here’s my story in celebration of Black History Month. 

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shelton Jackson Lee aka
Spike Lee.
For me, Spike is a realist, humanitarian and a man who embraces his people using passion as his compass.  An accomplished writer, director, producer, actor and author, Spike has revolutionized both the landscape of independent cinema and the role of Black talent in film.  Spike Lee is widely regarded as a premiere filmmaker and a forerunner in the 'do it yourself' school of filmmaking. His work will go down in history as powerful coupled with a unique style of storytelling.
Personally, I've always felt a special connection with Spike.  He is constantly involved with the three things that
have inspired me the most: sports, music and activism. Whether it was his early movie appearances as Mars Blackmon in She’s Gotta Have It, as Mookie in Do the Right Thing, or Shorty in Malcolm X, Spike has always managed to send a message through his work and has shaped my consciousness to become the visionary that I am today.

Upon arriving at Cineplex's Varsity Theatre, I found out that Spike was doing a book signing at the adjoining bookstore Indigo.  I saw the organizers getting ready to shut it down, yelling “That’s it! No more people!”  I glanced behind me and realized that I was the last person allowed entry.  As I inched closer in the line, the excitement mounted as I anticipated meeting Spike Lee for the first time.  I felt like a fan meeting their favourite athlete or their favourite artist.  I was speechless yet energized. The legendary Spike Lee, a man who I looked up to for close to two decades, was about to sign my book!
Pulling myself together, I introduced myself to Spike and managed to utter quickly under the frenzied organizers'
eye, that he was a mentor and role model to me since a young age. I caught my breath and went on.  I explained that while in college (1992), I had painted a portrait of him (pic to right) and hoped one day to present it to him personally. I presented him with a copy of my print and stammered that it was a token of my appreciation for inspiring me to do what I do. He graciously accepted. 
Spike signed my book and personalized it by writing, “Thank you for the art ~ Spike Lee”

Looking back after the giddy feeling left my being, I realized that while meeting Spike Lee and presenting him with a piece of my work, will always be an important victory in my life, something else was also marinating within.  Something very poignant.  16 years ago I created a visionary board comprised of several things I wanted to accomplish. As ridiculous and unobtainable as some may have seemed, I honestly believed in the realization of them. Not everything on my visionary board has manifested the way it was portrayed, but almost everything has manifested.  Spike Lee appears on that board (pic to right).
No goal or wish is unobtainable. I always knew one day I was going to meet Spike Lee because I was brave enough
to claim it, giving life to my dream. I can now finally share this experience with my friends and family, and you, the reader.  Always aim for the stars because one day you might be blessed to hang WITH one!  The pics are the proof.
The point I'd like to make for anyone reading this short story, is that you should never feel ashamed or discouraged to set goals and envision yourself having and accomplishing them. Whatever we envision, we can ‘will’ our dreams to unfold.  In so doing, we allow them to be set in motion, to eventually manifest - coupled with persistence and hard work. 

**Note from Mark:  I use art as a means of sharing the rich history and beauty of the motherland – Africa.  By creating a positive and authentic image of Africa, we can begin to embrace the land, the history, and ourselves – its descendants. It is important to look closer to home during this month of reflection and celebration to honour the achievements of our parents, siblings, friends and community members. Often times, we forget to appreciate the people who have inspired us or taught us important lessons through their life experiences. This relates not only to those whom we admire, but also to those whom we are quick to judge. In observing and learning from others, you make your own road a little easier to travel. I try to learn something from everyone in my life because I know that every person is my teacher.

For Dawn's interview with Mark Stoddart, go HERE.

Mark "Kurupt" Stoddart:


Toronto Marks Bob Marley Day With Events, Concerts

Source: www.ctvtoronto.ca  

(February 6, 2011) The City of Toronto marks Bob Marley Day on Saturday, the 66th anniversary of the day the legendary reggae singer was born in 1945.

Mayor Rob Ford made an official proclamation on the event on Thursday, marking the 20th year a Toronto mayor has done so.

Events celebrating the Jamaican singer's music will be held throughout the city all weekend.

The Diversity Business Network uses the event as a chance to hand out awards to people who have played a leadership role in building bridges between the city's communities. Among this year's recipients are Ian Troop, the CEO of Toronto's 2015 Pan Am Games, radio host John Tory and Dr. Wendy Cukier, the founder of the Diversity Institute.

Bob Marley Day tradition began under former mayor Art Eggleton, who led City Hall between 1980 and 1991.

Green Bay Stays ‘Classy’ While Celebrating Super Bowl Win

Source: www.thestar.com - Katie Daubs

(February 07, 2011) When Aaron Rodgers held the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head, the old-timers in Green Bay wept.

“It was just one of those feelings,” Ray Dufano, 75, said from the Bay Motel and Family Restaurant on Monday morning. “I’m old enough to be fortunate to see the TV on the first two
Super Bowls, and Super Bowl XXXI, and now this one.”

Dufano, who drives a school bus, is a member of Martha’s Coffee Club, a group that has met for coffee and Packer talk every morning since 1947. The gang was mostly there Monday, aside from a few who had celebrated a little too hard and others who were on vacation.

In the bustling restaurant, green and yellow was the dress code after the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 on Sunday in a very close game.

While watching the game at home, Dufano couldn’t sit still. He paced the room and stood behind his chair. He
listened to the radio for the commentary, watched the television for the visuals.

“We just knew there was no way that we weren’t going to win that game,” he said.

As Dufano stood on his front porch after the victory, fireworks lit up the sprawling industrial city. A friend called from Chicago to offer congratulations and thought somebody was being shot.

But controlled celebration is a point of pride in Green Bay.

“We didn’t have anybody burning cars, nobody breaking into windows. We know how to celebrate . . . we do it in a classy manner,” said Dufano.

As Monday morning dawned, Dufano’s school bus wasn’t very full. One school board gave children Monday
afternoon off so they could attend the Packers’ homecoming. The other school board is giving students a half-day on Tuesday so they can attend the official celebration at Lambeau Field. All told, there will be a lot of children celebrating the return of the championship trophy to the city of just over 100,000 where legendary coach Vince Lombardi made his name.

“This is something special. This is a community-owned organization. This is a big, big deal,” said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt a few hours after his red-eye flight from Dallas. “To be the champion of all of football is worth celebrating. Now, I know some people aren’t crazy about that decision (to give kids the afternoon off), but kids need to celebrate.

“Kids need to learn how important community is.”

The Packers are the only community-owned team in the NFL, and they do things a little differently in the Wisconsin city. On Sunday — one of the biggest pizza days of the year — Sammy’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant was closed so the employees could watch the game. On Monday, the team offered Green Bay residents $8 an hour to clear snow off the bench seats at Lambeau Field in preparation for Tuesday’s celebration.

“There have been people there all morning trying to shovel out,” said Bernadine Crispigna, owner of Sammy’s Pizza. “But you know what? We’re probably going to get two to four inches of snow tonight.”

His voice hoarse from cheering, Mayor Schmitt was running on adrenalin Monday.

“Even this morning when I got there (the office), we talked from an economic development standpoint about how to leverage this,” he said.

Schmitt watched the game at Cowboys Stadium with his family, but found some time to hobnob.

“I was invited up to (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones’ box, (former U.S.) president (George W.) Bush was there and Michael Douglas, Jesse Jackson and Ashton Kutcher. It was great waving to my kids from that box,” he said.

The mayor had only a few minutes to speak before he left to greet the Packers at the airport.

“This convoy is for them, they deserve all the attention,” Schmitt said, adding that his role is to help facilitate community celebrations.

“It’s a good time to be mayor,” he said.

Details For UFC’s Biggest And Richest Event Revealed

www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(February 8, 2011) For months the UFC has trumpeted that their Toronto debut in April will attract more spectators and more gate revenue than any mixed martial arts event in North America.

On Monday afternoon, they revealed just how they would do it, confirming the on-sale date (Feb. 12 at 10 a.m.) and price range ($50 to $800) for tickets to UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre April 30.

A UFC news release issued Monday said the Rogers Centre would be configured to hold roughly 40,000 spectators, but in a news conference at Rogers Centre, UFC president Dana White said that number could expand with demand.

“Hopefully we can come in and sell more tickets,” he said. “We can make it bigger if we have to.”

While the general public has to wait until Saturday to buy tickets, members of UFC’s “Fight Club” can purchase them Thursday.

But the UFC gave local fans a chance to spend cash even sooner.

In the Rogers Centre concourse, display cases that normally hold Blue Jays merchandise we retrofitted with UFC gear for sale — everything from action figures to $400 replicas of UFC championship belts.

White was one of several UFC stars in Toronto Monday to hype the event with a news conference that started at 1 p.m. and a fan meet-and-greet slated at 4 p.m.

Montreal’s Georges St-Pierre was on hand and the UFC welterweight champion says he’s not looking past Jake Shields, his opponent at UFC 129, and a potential super-fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

Silva did his part to set the stage for the Toronto showdown by knocking out Vitor Belfort last Saturday at UFC 126 in Las Vegas.

With a file from Canadian Press

Wake Forest Coach Donates Kidney To One Of His Players


(February 8, 2011) WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter donated a kidney to one his players, a freshman outfielder who suffers from a disease that can lead to kidney failure.

Both Walter and outfielder
Kevin Jordan were recovering Tuesday in an Atlanta hospital one day after the transplant was performed.

“For us, it’s almost like it’s been divine intervention,” Jordan’s father Keith told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday from Atlanta.

Dr. Kenneth Newell, the lead surgeon on the team that removed Walter’s kidney, said in a statement issued Tuesday by Wake Forest that he expects Walter and Jordan to recover fully.

The school says the recovery time for both the 42-year-old Walter and Jordan is expected to be several months. Walter said it will be two months before he is back to normal. Keith Jordan says his son could swing a bat again in 6-8 weeks, and he expects Kevin to enroll in summer school in June and prepare for the fall semester.

For now, though, he said the priority for his son is the early stage of recovery, which includes taking short walks in the hospital Tuesday and making sure his incision doesn’t become infected.

“I think he’s feeling great, outside of he’s still got a couple of tubes hanging out of him,” Keith Jordan said.

Keith Jordan said he isn’t worrying about when his son, a 19th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees last June, may return to the field.

“One of the things we do know for Kevin is, he’s going to want to go do stuff right away,” Keith Jordan said. “He’s going to have to take care of himself. ... His intention is to get back on the field, so I’m sure he’s going to do whatever it takes to do that.”

Walter said the “best-case scenario is that Kevin and I just lead a normal life” but added that the great story will come when Jordan “makes it back to the playing field.”

Jordan had trouble shaking the flu last winter as a high school senior in Columbus, Ga., and lost 20 pounds. Doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta discovered his kidney was functioning at only 15 to 20 per cent.

He was diagnosed last April with ANCA vasculitis, a type of autoimmune swelling disorder caused by abnormal antibodies. When those abnormalities show up in the kidneys, they can cause blood and protein to leak into the urine and could result in kidney failure.

He wound up on dialysis — three days a week at first, and then daily. Family members were tested to see if any were a possible match for a transplant, and Walter was tested in December after it was determined that his relatives weren’t compatible.

Walter found out Jan. 28, during the team’s first practice of the spring semester, that he was a match. He told the team three days later, and said the players greeted the news with “stunned silence followed by a round of applause.”

“A lot of things had to come together for it to happen,” Keith Jordan said. “Everybody wants a feel-good story wherever they can get it.”


Grammys Honour 102-Year-Old Canadian Gospel Singer

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(February 07, 2011) In 1966, George Beverly Shea claimed his first — and what he figured would be his last — Grammy Award. After all, he was happily settling into what he naturally assumed would be the twilight of his long, illustrious career.

He was 57 years old then, when the eighth annual instalment of the Grammys was conducted concurrently in Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago and New York.

Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's patriotic ode "Ballad of the Green Berets" was atop the charts in the U.S. at the time, while the Vietnam War raged halfway around the world.

Shea always felt out of place in Hollywood and this night was no exception. He liked to refer to himself as "just a psalm singer" from the small town of Winchester, Ont., about 30 kilometres south of Ottawa.

He watched as the event's big awards were scooped up by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Herb Alpert, Tom Jones (who, believe it or not, won for best new artist), and a 23-year-old Barbra Streisand.

Shea shared the honour for best gospel or other religious recording with Anita Kerr. The award was presented to the duo by the master of ceremonies, comedian Jerry Lewis.

Back then the Grammys weren't televised live, but Shea didn't need video evidence of the incident to crystallize it in his mind. He savoured every detail. After all, he knew he wouldn't be back.

"Oh my, never," he said now, reached via telephone from his home in North Carolina.

"It was a privilege to be there once. You know, that's the way we looked at it."

But he was wrong. He will be back. At 102, George Beverly Shea is going to be recognized by the Grammys again.

The gospel singing legend will be honoured with a lifetime achievement award at a ceremony on Saturday, the evening before the 53rd Grammy Awards.

Shea will be feted alongside Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, the Juilliard String Quartet, the Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, and the Ramones.

"You consider all those famous people in that category, it makes me think of the farmer that wanted to put his mule in the Kentucky Derby race — they said, 'Well, you know, he'll lose.' And the farmer said, 'Well, yeah, but look at the company he's keeping!' " Shea said with a chuckle.

"That's the way I feel a little bit, you know."

That's not exactly fair, given Shea's own achievements, and the way his rich bass-baritone voice has enabled him to explore every corner of the world, to become acquainted with generations of famous singers and to maintain a career for more than 70 years.

But he still prefers to look back on his achievements with a modesty instilled at an early age by his father, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Shea was born Feb. 1, 1909, in Winchester, a small community in Eastern Ontario. The fourth of eight children, Shea's family moved around several times, including a stay in the United States, but Shea mostly grew up around Ottawa.

He played violin, piano and organ, but his vocal talent emerged early, and he became a fixture in the choir at his father's church.

Later, when Shea attended Houghton College in Western New York, he sang with the glee club.

It was back in 1940 when Shea's hobby began to become something more. He was 31, working as a radio announcer at a small station in Chicago. There, he met an ambitious 21-year-old college student and pastor at a local church who hosted a show called "Songs in the Night."

The student's name was Billy Graham. Shea liked him, so he helped him with his show.

When Graham became involved with the religious movement Youth for Christ International, he decided Shea's sonorous voice would be the perfect accompaniment to his sermons. But Shea wasn't so sure.

"I said: 'The only gospel singers I know would sing a couple verses and then stop and talk a while — would I have to do that?'" said the notoriously shy Shea. "And (Graham) chuckled, and he said: 'I hope not.'

"We didn't know it would last all these years."

As Graham steadily grew his following, Shea was always there, his booming solos setting the table for Graham's crusades around the world, from New York's Madison Square Garden to London's Wembley Stadium to a gathering of more than a million people in Seoul.

Now, Graham and Shea live about a couple kilometres apart in Montreat, N.C.

"It's a great privilege to work with him," Shea said of his longtime colleague. "He's a wonderful man. He's so unselfish. And when he was well and strong, he was the kind of man who would be first to the door to open it for you — you know, that kind of a man."

"I (still) talk to him. He sent me a letter just the other day. But it's hard to read his writing," he adds, chuckling.

During his work with Graham, Shea quietly assembled an impressive catalogue of original gospel music, including several songs that have, over the years, become well-known: "I'd Rather Have Jesus," "The Wonder of it All" and "I Love Thy Presence, Lord." His rendition of "How Great Thou Art" is widely considered the gold standard.

"To write hymns that stand the test of time, or sing hymns that you introduce and make standards, that is a tremendous achievement of longevity," said Paul Davis, the U.K. author of the authorized biography, George Beverly Shea: Tell Me the Story, in a telephone interview.

"It's a legacy, isn't it?"

Indeed. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Shea has cumulatively sung for 220 million people over the course of his lifetime — a record, of course.

Shea seems satisfied by the distinction, though he's quick to brush it aside.

"You know, they didn't come to hear me," he said. "They were a captive audience who had to listen to me sing a couple verses of a song.

"But that was kind of nice that somebody wrote that up."

Aside from his consistent humility, what stands out immediately about Shea is his sense of humour.

Knowing that this journalist was ringing from Canada, Shea answered the phone and immediately launched into a booming rendition of "O Canada." He and his wife of 25 years, Karlene, call their home the "Sheasonian" — because, of course, it houses valuable relics.

After discussing his 102nd birthday celebration (his wife made a "great big cake"), he morbidly added, "I don't know if I'll make the 103rd one!" Then he chuckled to himself.

And at one point, Shea — whose friends call him Bev — pointed out that there were three boys in his hometown who shared the name Beverly.

"That's a girl's name, isn't it?" he asked mischievously. He then relayed a story about a time in the 1950s when, after landing a singing gig on ABC, he needed to join a union.

"I got a letter from them saying: 'Ms. Beverly Shea, a couple of ladies from the union are getting together. Bring your bathing suit,'" he recalled. "I should have done it!"

Yet he speaks with a more serious reverence when discussing Canada, though it hasn't been his home for more than 70 years.

He still brings his grandchildren to his cottage near Ottawa every summer. While nothing ever came of his applying to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a teenager, he still displays an RCMP hat and pin given to him years ago in his home (he notes that guests like to try the hat on).

"We just have a marvellous attachment to Canada," he said. "We can hardly wait to get back there again."

He plans to be in L.A. for the presentation of his award this weekend.

Given that he's the type to thank a reporter profusely just for taking an interest in him, it's no surprise when he says he can't quite get his head around the fact that the Grammys even remembered who he was at all.

Though he once accumulated 10 Grammy nominations, all that happened a lifetime ago — well, a lifetime for most people, anyway.

"It's just kind of surprising," he said. "I never had an agent — most people had agents, you know. ... What a surprise to see the call from the president of the Grammy Awards, you know? 'Cause I didn't think anything like that would ever come up again."

"But they say that this kind of an award is not given because of the number of recordings you've sold. It's just something else.

"I guess, well, it's just your whole lifetime."

Robbie Robertson To Be Inducted Into Songwriters Hall Of Fame

www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

(February 8, 2011) Robbie Robertson and Luc Plamondon are among this year's Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees.

They'll be honoured at an awards gala in Toronto on April 2, along with Pierre Letourneau, Jack Scott, Romeo Beaudry and John Stromberg.

For the first time, the hall will be honouring an entire body of work by a songwriter rather than an individual song.

Robertson, guitarist and songwriter for the Band, is known for songs such as "The Weight," "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" and "Broken Arrow."

Plamondon, one of Quebec's most celebrated songwriters, has penned tunes for the likes of Celine Dion and Robert Charlebois.

Folk music archivist and historian Edith Fowke and folklorist Helen Creighton will receive the Frank Davies Legacy Award. Music impresario Yvan Dufresne is this year's Canadian Music Publishers Association Legacy Award winner.

The hall is also honouring a number of Canadian songs including: "Votre avion va-t-il au paradis?" by Beaudry, "Squid Jiggin' Ground" by Arthur Scammell, "La chanson des pissenlits" by Letourneau, "My Heart Cries for You" by Percy Faith/Carl Sigman, "Je suis cool" by Gilles Valiquette, "Pas besoin de frapper pour entrer" by Jacques Michel, "Oh What a Feeling" by Kelly Jay/Roly Greenway, "When I Die" by Willie Smith/Steve Kennedy, and "Wildflower" by Doug Edwards/Dave Richardson.

Daniel Lanois And Black Dub Are All Jam And No Glam

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
By Marsha Lederman

Black Dub
At The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on Wednesday

(February 03, 2011)
Daniel Lanois promised to "raise the roof of the old Commodore" on Wednesday night, and while the infrastructure of the Vancouver institution appeared to be intact once Lanois's band Black Dub wrapped up at midnight, the crowd had experienced a soul-raising encounter with raw musical greatness; witness to a thrilling collaboration that translates even better live than in the studio - and that's saying something, given the quality of the band's self-titled debut release.

Lanois, born in Hull and raised in Quebec and Hamilton, Ont., is best known for producing the albums of superstars such as U2, Bob Dylan and, most recently, Neil Young, and has also released several solo albums, including Acadie and Shine. He created Black Dub with long-time collaborators Brian Blade and Daryl Johnson based largely on the vocal strength of Trixie Whitley, daughter of legendary blues musician Chris Whitley, with whom Lanois worked years ago, before Whitley's death.

Black Dub, Lanois has said, is steeped in the Jamaican culture of dub (Lanois has a home in Negril, Jamaica). Some of the band's music is more reggae-inspired (I Believe in You), some soul (Silverado), some gospel (Sing) and some tracks feature guitar riffs and production strongly reminiscent of the Lanois-produced U2 in their prime (Love Lives, Ring The Alarm).

Live, Lanois's exceptional guitar skills and easy onstage presence coupled with Whitley's extraordinary voice make for an exquisite partnership. Add Brian Blade's proficiency on the drums and Jim Wilson on bass (subbing on tour for Johnson), and the sold-out crowd got their money's worth and then some (kudos also to opener Rocco DeLuca for a steamy, intense set). This was a show that offered lots of jam and no glam - despite Whitley's impossibly easy good looks.

Lanois, 59, is clearly the band's leader; he does all the talking (and almost all of the writing) - save for one quick "thank you" from Whitley toward the end of the 105-minute set. If there are any lasting effects from a serious motorcycle crash that sidelined Lanois for weeks last year, they were not apparent. He played masterfully and with vigour. And he looked like he was having a blast.

In zipped-up black leather jacket, woolly black tuque and greying beard, Lanois appeared, frankly, a bit fatherly next to Whitley, 23 - all willowy and blonde in a grey blazer that wouldn't be out of place at a job interview.

Onstage, the relationship plays out that way somewhat as well. In between songs, Whitley appears slightly ill at ease, playing with her hair and looking anywhere but at the audience. Then the music starts and there she is with those God-given pipes, belting out Lanois's lyrics with soulful confidence that belies her age.

When the song ends, she looks almost astonished at what she has produced, flashing a sort of shy can-you-believe-this-is-happening smile toward her bandmates. Whitley takes turns at the drums, keyboards and guitar, but she's not in the band for her prowess with any instrument.

At the end of Ring The Alarm, when Whitley mistakenly added one too many "whoas" as the rest of the band was wrapping up, she looked somewhat mortified, head in hands and appearing to offer an apology. This wasn't the only mistake, or near-mistake, of the night. But it was precisely moments like these that made for an authentic - and exciting - experience. Who needs slick when you've got this kind of talent together on one stage?

Among the many highlights of the night were Sing ("a song about congregation," Lanois said, playing on the musically religious experience to which he was ministering); the slow, sultry Surely - a song Lanois reported they had heard at 6 that morning when they hit Starbucks for a coffee. And of course that song he promised would blow off the roof, Ring The Alarm (extra "whoa" or not).

It was great to hear Lanois perform some of his solo stuff, too, including Fire and The Maker, and the all-instrumental mid-show jam was spectacular, even if it was the bathroom break moment of choice for many in the beer-swilling crowd.

Lanois has indicated the band will tour extensively for much of this year and then get together to write and record a second album. We can only hope this materializes and that Black Dub is not a one-off for the prolific and musically promiscuous Lanois. This is one May-December partnership to believe in.

Avant’s ‘The Letter’ Has a Special Delivery

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Darlene Donloe / ddonloe@aol.com

(February 5, 2011) *Today, R&B singer Avant is in a good mood. And, why not?  His latest CD, “The Letter,” which hit the streets back in December, debuted at #2 on iTunes R&B chart.

The CD contains 11 songs and is gaining strength behind its favourable reviews.

Avant couldn’t help but have a hit CD with producers on the project that include, The Pentagon, whose members Damon Thomas, Eric Dawkins and Antonio Dixon have worked with Mary J. Blige, Fantasia, Babyface and Usher. Also on board was Mike City, who worked with Usher, Jamie Foxx, Brandy and Carl Thomas. Then there is Marshall Leathers (formerly of the Architects), who has worked with India.Arie and Missy Elliott. Kajun, who worked with  Ludacris featuring Trey Songz, was also onboard.

Avant, who recently performed at the Susan G. Komen For The Cure L.A. County new music series, “Voices for the Cure”, fundraiser for cancer research, will soon embark on a tour in support of the CD.

I recently sat down with Avant, 32, to discuss his life, career and his latest work.

Darlene Donloe: Your bio has a quote where you say – “I’m always fighting to go further. Once you hit a plateau, it’s time to create another. I’m just getting started.” What does that mean?

AVANT: There are a lot of things to do. Everything is a launching pad. When I started I didn’t’ know how to put an album together, but I did it. Then I did a for “Barbershop 2.” I also had a small role. Used to do stage show in the Cleveland School of the Arts. I did “Love in the Nick of Time” with Morris Chestnut – that was launching pad.

DD: I got a chance to listen to “The Letter.” Tell me about the process.

AVANT: My process, well, more than anything I try to write about today. I try to stay relevant to what’s happening today. In “The Letter” it’s something I heard or something I’ve seen. I try to keep it current. That’s what I do with my music.

DD: Your bio also says – Avant can now be hailed as the “new voice of modern soul.” What is modern soul?

AVANT: Modern soul is what’s happening now. What’s going on right now.

DD: What do you like to write and sing about?

AVANT: Well, you know, I like to write about a lot of things. A lot of situations. I’m that dude in the song, ‘That Dude.’  If you met me in the club don’t think you can change me just because we got intimate. I’m still the same guy. Women come in and try to change you. Women and men think differently. Don’t try to change me.

DD: Is ‘The Letter’ written to your fans? If so, why did you want to share what you’re going through with your fans?

AVANT: A letter is what you write to people to tell them what’s going on in your life. This album is a letter from me to my fans about what’s going on in my life, what’s going through my head and my struggles as a man.  I think in general today fans want to know what you’re going through. Most of the relationships aren’t mine in ‘The Letter.’

DD: Your song ‘Kiss Goodbye’ is serious. Lyrics include: “See you done got a lot of passes/Sick of waiting on you to change. “You won’t know it, it’s a perfect disguise/She won’t show it, but lips don’t lie …/It’s OK if she said she was out with her girls and you know it’s a lie/But if she kissed him, that’s your kiss goodbye.”  Are you singing from experience?

AVANT: That’s about reality. If a woman decides to kiss someone else – they are kissing your relationship goodbye. Women don’t play the field – if they kiss someone it means you have pushed them away. She is weaning herself away from you. She’s pulling away. If she decides to kiss him – you’re through. People don’t understand how intimate a kiss is. A prostitute will have sex with you, but she won’t kiss you.

DD: How did you become love smart?

AVANT: I have three brothers and three sisters. I’m the second to the youngest, the youngest boy. I was able to see my sisters, mother and brothers go through pain. I kept mental notes. I see everyone’s pain. I don’t have a blueprint, it’s just my perception.

DD: Are you in a relationship now?

AVANT:  Actually I’m not. I have a beautiful baby mother that takes care of my baby. I’m not looking for one right now. Relationships aren’t easy to come by. Why spend my time in something that’s not going to work?

DD: How do you know or decide which producers to use on any given project?

AVANT: Oh, man! It’s about having great relationships. The Pentagon I worked with on the first three albums. I like the chemistry between us. Kajun is very talented. My lawyer turned me on to him. Marshall is also talented. I try to build relationships. Everyone I worked with brought something fresh, solid and unique to the table.

Nigerians At Home Get First Glimpse Of The Fela! Musical

Source: www.thestar.com - Yinka Ibukun

(February 06, 2011) LAGOS, NIGERIA—To a whiff of marijuana smoke and a bit of dancing, Nigerians again met Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on Sunday, more than 13 years after his death.

About 400 people crowded into the
New Afrika Shrine for Nigerians’ first glimpse of the award-winning musical Fela!. The venue, now the home of performance by Fela’s sons, Afrobeat performers Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti, stood electrified as a large-screen television showed a pre-recorded performance by the National Theatre in London.

“It was a no-brainer that it would be nice to show this in Lagos, and in the Shrine, so the (National Theatre) provided a high-quality recording for us to show,” said David Higgs, country director of the British Council, which organized the event.

The Fela! musical is set in the original Shrine, which was destroyed while Fela was serving one of his many jail sentences. It was later replaced by the New Afrika Shrine. Run by his daughter Yeni Kuti, it serves as the new mecca of fans of Fela and Afrobeat, the musical genre he invented, a politically charged mix of Yoruba-language music and highlife cross-pollinated with funk and jazz.

Organizers acknowledged holding the event with diplomats in the Shrine remained a bit of a risqué proposal, as youths openly smoked loosely rolled marijuana cigarettes during the event. A fight also broke out between a local photographer and a woman watching the performance.

“You can see that we don’t eat people here,” Yeni Kuti said in her welcome address. “So when you leave this place today, please spread the positive word.”

Fela’s daughter was echoed by Ngaujah Sahr, the actor who channelled the late Afrobeat star for his performance in London.

“Welcome at the Shrine,” the actor shouts sarcastically at the beginning of the musical. “It’s so good to see so many of you here . . . considering how dangerous this neighbourhood is. And how dangerous we are.”

Fela performed regularly at the original Shrine with his band Egypt 80, surrounded by female dancers who wound their hips at neck-breaking speeds. As Sahr and the rest of the cast were scrutinized by the Shrine audience, two dancers climbed into two cages in front of the screen, a bit of live action for the screened performance.

“Seeing them dance makes me so happy,” said Olayinka Anjorin, who rhythmically shook inside a yellow tracksuit to the crowd’s delight. “I didn’t expect this kind of thing from them. I love them!”

Having studied in the U.K. and lived in the U.S. during the Black Power movement, Fela created a commune in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, where he lived with his 27 wives, most of whom were dancers as well. Eccentric as he was, Fela was beloved because he captured people’s anger toward rudderless military leadership. He highlighted the ordinary man’s grievances in songs like “Everything Scatter,” which was banned by the Nigerian government.

“This is just a copy of the original, but we are excited about it,” said Olayiwola Adeniji, a communications professional who raised his two fists at the screen to respond to Sahr. It was the same way that Adeniji used to respond to Fela when he used to frequent the Shrine in the ’90s.

The applause got a bit more earnest as the play continued, as the characters became more real to the fixated audience. However, others remained focused on a flat-screen television airing a high-profile English soccer game between Chelsea and Liverpool.

Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra Developing Its Own Sound

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

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
At Massey Hall in Toronto on Tuesday

(February 2, 2011) Since its inception in 1987, the
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has had a lot going for it. It has the backing of one of New York’s most powerful cultural institutions, a certifiable star – trumpeter Wynton Marsalis – as its director, and ranks that include some of the most capable young jazz musicians in the United States.

What it didn’t have was a sound of its own. It was aces at evoking the glories of Duke Ellington, but seemed lost when it came to delivering something fresh and new.

Happily, that wasn’t the case on Tuesday, when Marsalis and company brought their current show to Massey Hall in Toronto. Although the band’s touchstones – dazzling virtuosity, traditionalist improvisation and a devotion to swing – remained in place, a number of distinctive features stood out. And they weren’t all named Marsalis, either.

Let’s look at the highlights:

The trombones

Midway through the first set, as Marsalis was introducing Jason y Jasone from his Vitoria Suite, he teased that the trombone section had improved to the point that “they think they’re better than the trumpets now.”

But as the evening progressed, it became clear that this was no joke. For all its strengths, the JLCO trumpet section – with a soloist in every seat and capable of playing the most demanding chart with ease – is no different than what bands such as Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra have delivered.

JLCO’s trombones, on the other hand, had a strong, singular sound that balanced the clarity of classical playing with the bite of New Orleans brass bands. Nor did it hurt that first chair Vincent Gardner could handle anything from Vic Dickenson gutbucket growls to J.J. Johnson-style bop.

The writing

No matter how much Marsalis might write for the JLCO, the orchestra is not his voice; most of Tuesday’s program was devoted to pieces written and arranged by others. But as he and his bandmates learn to exploit the strengths of the band, an identifiable Lincoln Center sound is beginning to emerge.

Trombonist Chris Crenshaw’s Bearden, The Block used its episodic structure to underscore the breadth of the band’s instrumental palette and to show off its ability to evoke a wide range of moods. Saxophonist Ted Nash’s setting of Thelonious Monk’s notoriously knotty tune Skippy exploited the band’s stop-on-a-dime precision to turn the tune into a sort of sonic roller coaster.

And while bassist Carlos Henriquez’s Two-Three’s Adventure showed off the band’s versatility by bouncing from rhumba to son, it managed to keep saxophonist Victor Goines’s tenor solo comfortably grounded in swing.

The rhythm

Stan Kenton to the contrary, a big band lives or dies by its rhythm section, and the LCJO is no exception. What makes its current incarnation interesting is how its groove benefits from having such diverse players.

Pianist Dan Nimmer may have the chops of a classical soloist but he helped the soloists shine by playing with Basie-like economy. Drummer Ali Jackson, for his part, is a master of understated swing, but he kept many an arrangement together by emphasizing the colouristic aspects of his kit.

Meanwhile, the foot on the pedal clearly belonged to Henriquez, who both kept the band on course through a variety of Latin rhythms and ensured that the straight-ahead tunes swung, and swung hard. So not only could the band handle the churning complexity of Chick Corea’s Matrix, but they turned the Count Basie blues dirge I Left My Baby into a joyously swinging affair.

Hip-Hop Crowd Responds To Kool Herc’s Tough Break

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Richards

(February 05, 2011) The expression “hip-hop community” gets thrown around a lot, but the outpouring of support for ailing DJ Kool Herc proves that one really exists.

On Thursday night, a solid roster of Toronto’s top DJs, including Starting From Scratch, L’Oqenz and Paul E. Lopes, will assemble at Wrongbar to play “Herculoids Unite! A Benefit for DJ Kool Herc,” who is often called “the father of hip hop.”

The event was put together swiftly after last week’s news that the legendary DJ is unable to pay some $10,000 he has incurred in medical bills. According to his publicist, Kool Herc is suffering from kidney stone-related health problems and in need of surgery. Similar fundraisers have already been organized in San Francisco, New York City and London.

The 55-year-old DJ expressed his frustration over the U.S. health care system to MTV News: “There shouldn’t be anyone fighting for health care! This has been going on too damn long! We fought for 1520 Sedgwick to get landmark status and in 2007 New York State officially recognized it as the ‘Birthplace of Hip Hop.’ Now we are fighting for health care, not just for me, but for everyone,” his statement read.

The Bronx address to which he refers is where he first debuted a new DJ technique at his sister Cindy’s birthday party in 1973. By using two turntables to alternate between the drum break sections of records, Kool Herc invented the musical basis for rapping and breakdancing. As a tribute to that tradition, everyone playing the benefit will only use vinyl records, as opposed to the laptops and MP3s that are now a club-DJ standard.

The irony that a main originator of hip hop’s multibillion-dollar culture (Forbes estimates Jay-Z’s net worth alone at $450 million) can’t afford to pay his hospital bills is not lost on Skratch Bastid, a.k.a. Paul Murphy, who is also spinning at the event.

“It’s funny because we’re an industry that boasts about having money,” he says. “But hip hop in general has this issue where a lot of our forefathers or whatever you want to call them don’t have a lot of cash, and a guy like Kool Herc wasn’t actually a recording artist, so he doesn’t get any royalties or revenue like that.

“He’s a cultural figure, strictly on an iconic basis, which in hip hop doesn’t really get you that far.”

Murphy says that the money raised at Herculoids Unite! will go directly to Kool Herc’s management. “There’s no one in between,” he says. But he does express some concern over the funds raised at various benefits for the DJ.

“I hope there’s going to be some final accounting for this stuff, that it’s all going to go to the right place,” he says. “With everyone coming together, I hope that Herc doesn’t make away with half a million dollars.”

Murphy recalls DJing alongside Kool Herc, at Montreal’s Under Pressure hip-hop festival, in 2006.

“He’s definitely like a pretty old guy, but a really cool dude,” he says. “He’s been around for everything that’s happened in hip-hop, but seeing him, he was still soaking it all in like a sponge. It must be an interesting thing to see the culture evolve from like 1973 ’til now. I’m sure that’s quite an experience.”

Just the Facts

WHO: DJs Skratch Bastid, Paul E. Lopes, Starting from Scratch and more

WHEN: Feb. 10. Doors 9 p.m.

WHERE: Wrongbar, 1279 Queen St. W.

TICKETS: $10 at door only

Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pink Friday’ Reaches No. 1 on Billboard

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 09, 2011) *
Nicki Minaj tops the Billboard 200 albums chart for the first time, as her “Pink Friday” set moves 3-1 in its 11th week on the list, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“Pink” also pushes past the 1 million total sales mark this week — 1,035,000 total since its Nov. 22, 2010 release, reports Billboard.com.

“Pink Friday” initially debuted at No. 2 and has since spent its entire chart life in the top 10.

Billboard reports…

Minaj’s patient wait for her turn at No. 1 is a rare sight. For the most part, an album is only No. 1 because it debuted there. It’s unusual for a set to climb to the top. Case in point: in 2010, there were 30 albums that hit No. 1, but just one — Lil Wayne’s “I Am Not A Human Being” — actually rose to the top. Wayne debuted at No. 2 off of just downloads, then fell to No. 16 the next week, only to reach No. 1 the next once the CD version of the album dropped.

Before “Friday’s” ascent to the top, the last album to take longer to rise to No. 1 was way back on the chart dated March 5, 2005, when Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company” finally hit No. 1 in its 25th week. It zoomed 15-1 with 224,000 (up 202%) following its Grammy win for album of the year.

Minaj’s 18% sales gain could be attributed to sustained impact from her “Saturday Night Live” guest turn on Jan. 30, in addition to some surprising viral love from confessed fans Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. The latter ladies can be found — separately — on YouTube rapping to the “Pink Friday” cut “Super Bass.” The two most popular clips have racked up more than 2 million views in the five days they’ve been online.

Heart: Barracudas In The Age Of Auto-Tune

Source: www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff

(February 09, 2011) There was a moment in 2008 when
Heart — the classic rock sister act credited with breaking the mould for women in rock — felt their legacy nipping at their heels in a way they didn’t expect.

It was the eve of the U.S. election and the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin — asserting herself as a take-no-prisoners upstart — had taken to playing the band’s 1977 hit “Barracuda” as a rallying call for her hardcore, right-wing values.

“You lying so low in the weeds,” went the song, conceived as a scathing indictment of the male-dominated record industry. “Bet you gonna ambush me.”

Needless to say, the liberal-minded Wilson sisters were not amused.

“We were pissed off,” says guitarist Nancy, who issued a statement with vocalist Ann blasting Palin’s unauthorized usage.

“We’re not extreme politically. We’re not far-leftie leftists — we’re really centrists and moderates — but we lean left. And she’s so not representative of us, and we had to kick up a fuss, and I said the F-word in print.”

She laughs. “We got a lot of flack for it, but also a lot of attention . . . (weary sigh) . . . and of course she used the song again, but it was good to bring people’s attention to that.”

If nothing else, it reminded a public burned out on Auto-Tuned pop acts parading around in their underpants that the female answer to Led Zeppelin still existed, still had principles they believed in and weren’t afraid to put their money where their mouths were.

“It’s interesting how it’s changed,” notes Nancy, now 56, of the evolution of female rockers since Heart’s mid-’70s formation.

“There are more girls out there, getting more equal pay, being confident, figuring out how to survive the road life and not just being a ‘nesting’ person.

“But overall, in the big picture, I don’t see that it’s changed enough. You see pop music — it’s basically, you’ve gotta be a pole dancer. Sex appeal is still such a huge part of the equation to make it big these days; otherwise you’re underground.”

It’s a far cry from Heart’s commercial heyday when hits like “Magic Man,” “Straight On” and their bid for rock anthem immortality — “Crazy on You” — propelled them from their humble Vancouver origins to worldwide fame as a female-dominated rock band that, even today, is far from the norm.

“I think coming out from the late ’60s, it was still really a novelty for girls to be fronting a rock band instead of just an ornament, or just the lead singer,” notes Wilson, whose success paved the way for Heart successors like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Pretenders and The Go-Go’s.

“But we were leaders, we were writers, front people, we sort of broke the mould a bit.”

And then came the ’80s, which saw the band transform from a female Led Zeppelin to more of a female Aerosmith, reinventing itself as a big hair act and scoring the biggest hits of their career with bombastic power ballads like “Alone” and “What About Love?”

It’s also an era Nancy — now a mother of 11-year-old twin boys — looks back on with a barely concealed shudder.

“Just think of bands like Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and . . . (she hesitates) . . . Heart,” she says, noting the compromises forced by the arrival of image-obsessed MTV and “pole-dancing” Madonna.

“Big hair, big ballads, big videos, big fashion, big money. It was way over the top — like a wild costume party that happened for 10 years.”

When it imploded with the arrival of grunge in the early 1990s, no one was happier than the Wilson sisters.

“Because we were from Seattle,” says Nancy, noting Heart formed in Vancouver because “no big American label would have us.”

“And we were less of a glam band than a real rock band, so we were relieved to be taken off that hook.”

From here it was a gradual return-to-basics until last year’s Red Velvet Car — the band’s first Top 10 album in 20 years — brought them full circle with the melodic hard rock/acoustic sound that kick-started their career.

“There’s no pop about it, it’s really rock,” notes Nancy, who attributes the band’s longevity to the military work ethic inherited from their marine corps father. “It’s just a performance happening in a room, so it’s very live. It sounds more like a vinyl record than your average digital sound.”

The obvious question, given their past success, is why a band that could get away with regurgitating old jukebox hits would bother recording new work in an era of diminishing profits and record industry chaos.

Nancy laughs. “It is way easier to make money and just go out and play the same hits on and on just for the summer,” she concedes.

“But we’re just a little too — I don’t know — scared that we’ll lose our soul connection to music and why we were ever excited about doing it in the first place.

“Because we’re fans first, and we know our fans will totally know if we’re on autopilot, so out of respect to our own musical integrity, we have to keep ourselves current.”

Another laugh. “Or else we die!”

Joel Rubinoff writes for the Waterloo Region Record


WHAT: Heart, with Carmen Townsend

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 11, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

TICKETS: $65 to $115 at 416-872-4255 or www.masseyhall.com

Rez Abbasi: Top-Level Jazz With A South Asian Influence

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

(February 09, 2011) There are a couple of ways to look at
Rez Abbasi’s development as a jazz guitarist and composer.

One is to see him as a typical California rock kid who got exposed to jazz in his teens and never looked back. A fellow rocker got interested in jazz and took Abbasi to see jazz guitar virtuoso Joe Pass at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. “Here I was, 16, seeing Joe Pass,” Abbasi recalls. “He wasn’t like Van Halen, with hair down to his butt, and he was playing circles around anybody I’d seen.

“That was when I quit my rock band,” he adds. “Everybody thought I was a nerd because I started playing that kind of jazz and stayed home to practise a lot.”

Alternatively, you could see Abbasi as a part of the growing South Asian jazz movement. He works frequently with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, both in the IndoPak Coalition and the cross-cultural septet Kinsmen. Mahanthappa also plays in Abbasi’s own quintet, along with award-winning Indo-American pianist Vijay Iyer.

Abbasi also serves as musical director and guitarist for his wife, Juno-winning Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia.

But if you really want to understand Abbasi as a creative musician, it’s best not to look at one side or the other, but to focus at the whole. Abbasi, like Mahanthappa and Iyer, is a trained jazz musician and thoroughly versed in its traditions. At the same time, he says, “all three of us grew up in South Asian households, and we all married Indian women. So how could this not influence the music?

“Jazz is not separate from your life,” he adds. “As you grow older, you try to bring these things together, your experiences plus what we call jazz.”

Make no mistake: The music these three play is jazz at the highest level. As the three close in on 40, they have become some of the music’s most acclaimed performers.

Mahanthappa’s latest album, a collaboration with saxophonist Bunky Green called
Apex, topped numerous critics’ polls and put the two on the current cover of Downbeat. Iyer, whose 2009 release Historicity dominated that year’s jazz polls, was recently named Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Meanwhile, Abbasi’s 2009 album Things to Come, which features both Mahanthappa and Iyer, was listed by Downbeat as one of the best albums of the decade.

Of course, it’s worth noting that jazz musicians have been interested in South Asian music for decades. Indian classical music depends heavily on improvisation, and offers a degree of rhythmic complexity that would dazzle any jazz drummer.

Not surprisingly, a host of jazz musicians tried to incorporate elements of South Asian music in their own work, particularly in the sixties and early seventies. John Coltrane studied classical Indian
ragas to expand his use of scalar improvisation, while guitarist Gabor Szabo released an album called Jazz Raga. Miles Davis included a number of Indian traditional musicians, most notably percussionist Badal Roy, in his early-seventies electric bands.

But, as Abbasi puts it, “that’s very surface-level stuff.” Usually, when a
raga is incorporated into a tune by jazz musicians, they treat it as a scale to improvise on. But in Indian music, the notes of a raga are prioritized, with specific rules on how things are to be played.

“That’s where the essence of a particular
rag comes out,” he explains. “The scale might be the same scale as in 20 other rags, but there’s a different way of approaching the phraseology, and you can’t touch this note before you play that note. It’s a huge school of thought, and something I’ve only touched upon.”

Abbasi recently cut a second album with Invocation, the group that recorded
Things to Come, which should be out this year. A version of that group, including Mahanthappa but with pianist Matt Mitchell in for Iyer, is on tour, and plays Toronto’s Rex hotel for two nights this week. “It’s going to be on fire,” Abassi says of the band.

And while the South Asian influence definitely informs Abbasi’s writing, don’t expect the music to carry a sort of overt “ethnic flavour.”

“The way I approach it is sort of like a reduction in cooking – like a red wine reduction,” Abbasi says. “I’m looking for the essence of stuff. I think that’s where the freshness comes from. That’s why I don’t sound like a sitar player when I play my Indian guitar kind of sound. I’d rather not emulate a sarod or sitar. I’d rather feel what they’re coming from, take the essence of that, and apply it to my own thing.”

Rez Abbasi’s Invocation, with Rudresh Mahanthappa, performs at The Rex hotel in Toronto on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 10-11).

Saxophonist Lee Konitz Keeps It Fresh By Not Being Prepared

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

(February 09, 2011) At 83, saxophonist
Lee Konitz doesn’t seem like a particularly edgy guy.

When performing, he projects an aura of almost professorial concentration, of someone intensely but dispassionately focused on the possibilities posed by the song before him. Likewise in conversation, there’s a self-effacing gentleness to his manner that makes even his strongest opinions seem un contentious, if not agreeable.

Yet Konitz has spent most of his 67-year career on the cutting edge of jazz improvisation. From the first, his sound and his approach to improvisation made him stand out, not only among Charlie Parker-imitating beboppers, but also among fellow students of pianist and pedagogue Lennie Tristano. Over the decades, he has performed and recorded with most of jazz’s greatest innovators, among them Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Stan Kenton, Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton and Kenny Wheeler.

But if you ask Konitz how he has managed to stay so fresh for so long, the answer he gives is so mild it almost seems evasive. “Well, you know, I basically have been doing the same [songs] –
All the Things You Are and Body and Soul – all these years, just realizing that you can rearrange those notes each time to some degree,” he says over the phone from his home in New York. “It’s not like a total new voice or anything, but … trying to be surprised.”

Funny thing is, Konitz’s best playing is exactly like that. Pick up his recent live album with the trio Minsarah,
Live at the Village Vanguard, and you’ll find that the track listing is packed with familiar titles, from such standards as Cherokee and Polka Dots and Moonbeams to Konitz originals such as Kary’s Trance. But the playing is remarkably fresh, washing away decades of cliché with solo after solo of melodic insight.

Konitz is particularly happy to be working with Minsarah, which includes “a German pianist, Florian Weber, a Palestinian drummer, Ziv Ravitz, and an American bass player, Jeff Denson.”

“It’s a group that really enjoys improvising, and we’re able to do it differently each time we play, to our joy and satisfaction,” he says. “I feel very contemporary with these guys, who are in their 30s, and it really is a nice kind of feeling.”

Although he considers the quartet to be “one of the first times” in his career that he has had a regular working band, Konitz remains happy to do one-off performances with a wide range of players. On Friday, for example, he will be in Toronto performing with pianist Brian Dickinson and his trio. “I was invited by Brian a few years ago [to play] a duo concert at Glenn Gould,” he says. “The concert was recorded, and subsequently released on CD.

“I remember enjoying it,” he says. “I suggested that we do some other things. I didn’t hear from him for a time, and then someone called me about doing this [concert] as a quartet. I don’t know his trio, but I’ll get to know them that evening.”

Getting to know musicians on the spot may seem a chancy way of performing, but it has always worked well for Konitz. Indeed, if he has a motto, it’s probably the one that appears on the first page of his book,
Conversations on the Improviser’s Art: “That’s my way of preparation – to not be prepared. And that takes a lot of preparation!”

Picking up on that theme, he explains, “I play every day here – I was playing just now when the phone rang – and that keeps me in touch. And then having the great fortune of being able to play publicly, that’s like the last step in the process, so to speak.”

He mentions a live album that he recorded in New York in December with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian.

“I suggested a same routine I like to do, just taking turns starting tunes without talking about it,” he says. “So Brad would start a tune sometimes and Charlie would just put his bass down and walk off the stand, while we were recording, because he didn’t really want to play that tune.” He laughs. “But look for that record, because Brad is really inspired on it, and there’s some nice group playing.”

Lee Konitz performs with the Brian Dickinson Trio at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on Friday (Feb. 11) at 8 p.m.


Kem Takes El DeBarge and Ledisi on His ‘Intimacy’ Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(February 6, 2011) *It’s going to be a great concert tour with
Kem, El DeBarge, and Ledisi on their first ever “Intimacy” tour. The trip across the East Coast is inspired by Kem’s latest, “Intimacy: Album III” and comes just after he spent nearly the whole 2010 on tour. Check out the dates below.

Current Intimacy Tour Dates:
February 18, 2011 Verizon Theater Dallas/Grand Prairie, TX
February 19, 2011 UNO Lakefront Arena New Orleans, LA
February 20, 2011 BJCC Concert Hall Birmingham, AL
February 24, 2011 Theater at MSG New York, NY
February 25, 2011 Tower Theater Philadelphia, PA
February 26, 2011 Crown Arena Fayetteville, NC
February 27, 2011 Landmark Theater Richmond, VA
March 3, 2011 Schuster PAC: Mead TH. Dayton, OH
March 4, 2011 TPAC Nashville, TN
March 5, 2011 FOX Theater St. Louis, MO
March 6, 2011 Orpheum Theater Memphis, TN
March 10, 2011 Moran Theater Jacksonville, FL
March 11, 2011 Fox Theater Atlanta, GA
March 12, 2011 Township Theater Columbia, SC
March 13, 2011 PAC Theater Charleston, SC
March 17, 2011 State Theater Cleveland, OH
March 18, 2011 Constitution Hall Washington, D.C.
March 19, 2011 Constitution Hall Washington, D.C.
March 20, 2011 Meyerhoff Sym. Hall (no El) Baltimore, MD
March 24, 2011 Dow Events Theater Saginaw, MI
March 25, 2011 Fox Theater Detroit, MI
March 26, 2011 Auditorium Theater Chicago, IL
March 27, 2011 Palace Theater Louisville, KY
March 31, 2011 Chrysler Hall Norfolk, VA
April 1, 2011 Ovens Auditorium Charlotte, NC
April 2, 2011 Bell Auditorium Augusta, GA
April 3, 2011 Festival C.A.A. Tampa/St. Pete

Common Touring the Country for Black History Month

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 6, 2011) *Rapper
Common is one who never forgets his roots, and in honour of his past and those who have come before him, he is taking a Black History Month speaking tour across the country. For 28 days, beginning tomorrow, February 7, on an AT&T sponsored series, he will make stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City, among others. On the tour he will be speaking with congressional candidate Kevin Powell, Tai Beauchamp and FUBU founder Daymond John. The tour will wrap up in Oakland, Calif. on the 28th. Jennifer Jones, vice president of Diverse Markets for AT&T Mobility, issued a statement explaining the vision behind the Black History Month speaker series: “This year, AT&T wants consumers to look at today’s history makers and innovators, who are changing the world we live in and truly speak to the core of ‘Rethink Possible,” Jones said. “We are committed to pushing the limits of what’s achievable everyday through innovation and investments in programs that educate and empower our diverse consumers.”

Elton John, Bette Midler To Induct New Hall Of Fame Members

www.thestar.com - Randy Lewis

(February 8, 2011) LOS ANGELES—What do Rob Zombie, Neil Young, Bette Midler, John Legend and Elton John have in common? They’ll all be onstage in New York in March, along with Paul Simon, Lloyd Price and the Doors’ John Densmore, welcoming the latest class of inductees into the Rock and Roll of Fame, hall officials will announce Tuesday. Zombie has been tapped to welcome in one of his musical forebears, shock-rock pioneer Alice Cooper; Young will induct fellow iconoclast Tom Waits; John will bring in his friend and recent collaborator Leon Russell; and Simon will deliver remarks on Neil Diamond. Legend inducts Dr. John, Midler will handle Darlene Love and Densmore gets Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, who signed the Doors and launched their recording career. The ceremony is scheduled for March 14 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Streisand To Perform At Grammys

www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

(February 8, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Another legend is going to be appearing at this Sunday’s Grammy awards — this time, it’s Barbra Streisand. Streisand is a nominee for best traditional pop vocal album for Love Is The Answer, and she’ll be performing on the live telecast. She’ll be introduced by another music legend, her co-star in A Star Is Born, Kris Kristofferson. Streisand is also being honoured on Friday by MusiCares, the Grammy’s charitable foundation. Last week, it was announced that Mick Jagger would be performing. It marks the first time Jagger has appeared on the Grammy stage. Other performers include Eminem, Cee Lo Green, Gwyneth Paltrow, Arcade Fire and Justin Bieber. The awards are set to air live on CBS from Los Angeles.

Keri Hilson, Bruno Mars Tapped for NBA All-Star Pre-Game


(February 8, 2011) *Singers
Bruno Mars and Keri Hilson are booked to perform at an event leading up to the Feb. 20 NBA All-Star game. The league announced today that Nick Cannon will host the festivities, to be aired live on TNT ahead of the 7 p.m. tipoff featuring NBA’s Eastern and Western conference all-stars. Mars and Hilson will perform on the T-Mobile-sponsored magenta carpet at the players showcase in Los Angeles.

Sade Brings John Legend Along for the (American) Ride


(February 8, 2011) *John Legend and Sade are about to take the country by storm, and Sade will take the rest of the world without him. The two will be touring together this coming June throughout the nation, while the smooth voiced British native will keep it going on a 50 date campaign across the globe. Legend will start in Baltimore on June 16 alongside his new music companion. He’s also expected to win a Grammy at the 53rd Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 for his collaboration with the Roots on “Wake Up!” He has also been nominated in several other categories. Check the tour dates below:

6/16: Baltimore, Md., 1st Mariner Arena
6/19: Philadelphia, Penn., Wells Fargo Center
6/21: Uniondale, N.Y., Nassau Coliseum
6/24: East Rutherford, N.J., Izod Center
6/28: Toronto, Ont., Air Canada Centre
6/30: Montreal, Qc., Bell Centre
7/6: Boston, Mass., TD Garden
7/15: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., BankAtlantic Center
7/17: Orlando, Fla., Amway Center
8/5: Chicago, Ill., United Center
8/6: Chicago, Ill., United Center
8/13: Vancouver, B.C., Rogers Arena
8/19: Los Angeles, Calif., Staples Center
8/20: Los Angeles, Calif., Staples Center
8/25: San Jose, Calif., HP Pavilion
8/27: Oakland, Calif., Oracle Arena

Carl Thomas Ready for Album Number 4

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 09, 2011) *Look out R&B lovers because a new
Carl Thomas album is headed your way. The veteran singer recently signed a new deal with Verve Music Group to release his fourth album, which is currently untitled. New music will begin flowing from the Chicago native beginning in March and there will be more to come soon thereafter, according to singersroom.com. As a bit of a preview, Thomas will drop a mixtape tentatively titled “Featured Hit Man.” It’s a collection of hooks and features to half written songs. A nice teaser until the real deal comes along.


Canadian Oscar Winner Haggis Opens Up About Scientology

www.thestar.com - Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(February 8, 2011) Oscar-winning Canadian writer Paul Haggis has detailed his 34 years in what he calls the “cult” of Scientology for the first time since his very public break with the controversial group.

“What I did was a treasonous act,” Haggis says about his denunciation of Scientology over its “public sponsorship of
Proposition 8,” the California legislation against gay marriage.

“These people have long memories. My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.”

Lawrence Wright’s profile of Haggis and Scientology, titled “The Apostate,” is published in the Feb. 14 issue of The New Yorker.

It’s a prelude to Wright’s book on the group founded in 1952 by
L. Ron Hubbard and Haggis’s role as one of its shining celebrity trophies.

Haggis, who grew up in London, Ont., won two Oscars in 2006 for best picture and best original screenplay for Crash. He was nominated in 2005 for best adapted screenplay for Million Dollar Baby.

Handed a paperback copy of Hubbard’s book Dianetics in 1975, when he was 22, Haggis embraced the philosophy after years of being “a bad kid.”

When he broke away, he was an Operating Thetan VII, the highest level short of studying at sea, and had spent $100,000 on courses and “auditing,” plus $300,000 on Scientology initiatives, he told Wright.

Haggis admitted Scientology connections, starting with many of the actors he met through the
Beverly Hills Playhouse, gave him Hollywood breaks. Actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta are its most visible celebrity champions.

The Church of Scientology lists 8,500 churches, missions and groups in 165 countries, including most major Canadian cities.

An FBI investigation into allegations by Scientology defectors of beatings straddled Haggis’s own research into the group that preceded his explosive August 2009, split. The investigation continues, Wright reported, led by agents whose specialty is human trafficking.

“I had such a lack of curiosity when I was inside,” Haggis told Wright. “I always felt false.”

Haggis found stories on the Internet of children who join at age 10 or 12 and spent years without an education, doing manual labour. To get out, they have to pay “freeloader tabs,” sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, for courses and counselling.

“It horrified me,” he said. “I would gladly take down the church for that one thing.”

The Church of Scientology told Wright it follows “all child labor laws” and freeloader tabs are “an ecclesiastical matter.”

Wright carefully noted Scientology’s denial of allegations — and there were thousands of them. Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, whose own Hollywood connections include his mother, actress Anne Archer, produced four dozen binders of documents for Wright.

But, the article concluded, they don’t hold up. No genuine military documents support Hubbard’s account of his miraculous cure from crippling, blinding war wounds, Wright said.

Davis contended anti-gay slurs were slipped into Dianetics by a non-Hubbard renegade, but they are still there, on page 125, Wright wrote.

Reports in January had contended that Haggis was collaborating with Wright on the book. A spokesman said recently, “Haggis asserts that he has absolutely no involvement in the book” although he is cooperating with Wright.

Pop Stardom - Hallie Switzer

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 09, 2011)
Hallie Switzer expects to serve up some double takes with bags of popcorn at the Royal Cinema on College St. W. this weekend. After all, who would expect to see the young woman who just asked if they wanted extra butter up on the screen as the star of the movie?

Switzer, 18, stars in
Modra, a movie written and directed by her mother, Toronto actress and filmmaker Ingrid Veninger. The gentle film about love and the search for self and family was chosen one of Canada’s Top 10 features of 2010.

Veninger requested the movie play at the family’s beloved local indie cinema, a place where Switzer has worked at the concession stand and ticket window since she finished high school in June. She’s off to university in the fall to study general arts and has no aspirations to be an actress.

“My initial reaction was no,” Switzer said of the idea of playing Lina, a 17-year-old girl who impulsively asks a male classmate, also 17, to join her on a summer holiday to visit family in the small Slovakian town of Modra after her boyfriend dumps her.

“My mother has been through (acting) and I had seen what it was all about. But I trusted my mom, but I had no reason to believe I could pull it off. In no way, shape or form do I consider myself an actor,” says Switzer.

She may want to change her evaluation. Her charming and very believable turn as determined yet confused Lina has impressed critics. But Switzer insists her younger brother Jacob, who starred in her mother’s 2008 tween romance, Only, is the true acting talent in the family.

Veninger disagrees and says she knew her daughter was right for the part. A talented singer (Switzer performs a lovely, haunting jazz song in the movie), she was used to performing from age 3.

“Hallie had this ease being onstage, maybe because film and music production was around her whole life,” explains Veninger. “She understands the mechanics and she has this ease transitioning. I wanted her to be in this film and for personal reasons, I wanted her to have this experience of creating something with her before she went off into her adult life . . . I really adore that she gave her all in this part and accepted the pressure of carrying this film.”

Making Modra is a true homecoming for Veninger, who fled her native Bratislava, Slovakia with her family at the age of 2 when Russian tanks rolled into the city to stop the unsuccessful attempt to end the Communist regime. She didn’t see her Slovak family, who live about 30 minutes away in the small town of Modra, again until she was 17.

Switzer’s co-star is also a newcomer to acting. University of Western Ontario student Alexander Gammal, 18, plays Leco, Lina’s accidental love interest.

Modra was made on a shoestring, with only one camera operator and Switzer’s dad, John Switzer, handling sound recording. The actors are all members of Veninger’s extended family, with the exception of Gammal.

“Before I went to Slovakia we had a lot of meetings with my mom and Alexander, just my own way of having an understanding of my character as best I could,” Switzer says.

By the time they got to Modra, Veninger was in director mode, Switzer says and she was treated like any actor on a set. While that challenged her to do well, it was occasionally difficult, like when her mother would scrap a scene they’d worked hard on, or when homesickness set in.

“Not only was I trying to get into the frame of mind with my character but I was also dealing with emotions just as myself,” Switzer allows. “I was feeling a lot of pressure I was putting myself under. I understood if I didn’t pull it off, the film didn’t work.”

Tears of frustration or insecurity when she felt Lina’s character slipping away led her to stronger performances and a better understanding of “the chaos Lina was feeling,” Switzer says.

“I’d been feeling really overwhelmed and I was exhausted and one time I even started crying and (mom) said, ‘This is great and that emotion is great. We’re shooting a scene tonight and I want you to hold onto that emotion.’ And I’m like, ‘Mom! Stop talking. I just want you to be my mom.’ ”

Modra has gone on to play at film festivals from Bratislava (where Modra residents packed the theatre) to Vancouver and São Paulo. Switzer is heartened when people tell her Lina’s story is familiar to them, no matter what country they’re in.

And if the alternating joy and misery of teen romance is familiar to moviegoers, Switzer has found her face isn’t — yet. A natural beauty with long strawberry blond curls, freckled face and distinctive nose ring, she makes an impression on the screen that should stay with those who see her. But so far Modra has only played briefly at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, twice at the Bell Lightbox as part of Canada’s Top 10 and in trailers at the Royal last week.

“People haven’t done any double takes but I can totally understand people thinking, ‘Oh, she looks kind of similar to the girl in the movie, but what are the odds the girl selling concessions is the same girl on the screen?’ ”

Birdwatchers Dramatizes Racial Injustice - Maybe Too Much

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
By Rick Groen

(February 04, 2011) Wherever there are indigenous people, living on the margins of a land once their own, the
story is sadly familiar. Set in the denuded forests of Brazil, among the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe, Birdwatchers tells that story well enough to find the global tragedy in their particular plight. The region here is unique but, alas, the poverty and the depression and the anger and the bigotry are not.

The superb opening sequence is almost a mini-movie onto itself, a short that doubles as a self-contained parable and a doorway into everything that follows. The first frame sees a wide boat floating down a remote river. The boat is packed with white tourists aiming their cameras at the shoreline where, among the foliage, a band of aboriginals stares back - the women naked from the waist up, the men toting their longbows, all watching the craft with a mixture of curiosity and menace.

When the boat passes, the natives walk to a nearby road, gather around a pickup truck, accept from the driver their payment in coins, then retrieve their clothes and re-don shirts, blouses and pants.

Parable over, the meaning is clear: It was all a staged performance, with the natives reduced to playing their assigned roles in a drama that has lost any meaning. Clear too is an attendant irony. Director Marco Bechis has hired these very people - the indigenous casting is exclusively neo-realist - to play their assigned roles in his drama, one that strives for meaning by being sympathetic to their modern dilemma. Well, they do prove themselves worthy actors here.

Quickly, the script establishes the twin nemeses of a people deprived of their past and stripped of a future: alcoholism and teen suicide. The first afflicts Nadio (Ambrosio Vilhalva), the stout leader of the band and a formidable figure when sober, a pitiful drunk when not.

The second provides the stimulus for the plot. Two girls are found hanging from the same tree, as the macaws screech from adjoining branches. Suddenly, the title takes an ominous turn, and Nadio makes a decision - to quit the "Native Reserve Protection Area," leading 10 of his followers to set up a camp near an ancient burial site that's now part of a vast private farm.

Of course, the rest documents the escalating tension between this small indigenous "movement" and the rich white landowner whose property has been "invaded." To his credit, Bechis is unafraid to explore the near-comic absurdities on both sides: the band asserting their hunting rights by firing arrows at a domestic cow; the farmer's befuddled lawyer struggling to hack through the legal thickets; Nadio's women gleefully hurling sexual insults at the pistol-packing farmhands. Quite deliberately, it's all made to appear like another empty ritual, just more play-acting.

Later, though, when the narrative cranks up the dramatic volume, the result often seems a forced attempt at gravitas - like the unlikely romance that blooms between Osvaldo the handsome shaman (Abrisio Da Silva Pedro) and Maria the farmer's bikini-clad daughter; or the climactic violence that too conveniently erupts to put the stamp on villainy and an exclamation point on victimhood. Ultimately, the action just gets in the way of the sociology - after all, homicide and bellicose engagement are a whole lot easier to dramatize than suicide and cruel neglect.

In the end, then, the fiction trumps the facts and, despite the compelling work of the native actors, they're still participants in a white guy's gesture of liberal sympathy, a ritual not their own. Somehow, we're left to feel uncomfortably like those tourists on the boat.


Directed by Marco Bechis

Written by Marco Bechis and Luiz Bolognesi

Starring Ambrosio Vilhalva and Abrisio Da Silva Pedro

Classification: 14A

In Biutiful, Javier Bardem Sees Dead People And Lots Of Denial

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(February 04, 2011) Javier Bardem doesn’t flirt. Given the playfulness of his performances, I thought he might banter. But no. He doesn’t twinkle. He doesn’t smile ingratiatingly. For most of our interview, he doesn’t even make eye contact. He quizzes me to make sure I’d seen his movie. Then he answers questions – tersely if he doesn’t like them, thoughtfully if he does. He was tolerating the process. He made sure I understood that. He’s a serious man.

He certainly looks serious. He’s six feet tall, practically fat-free. He grew skeletal for his Oscar-nominated role in the drama Biutiful, which opens in Canada on Friday. (“How much weight did you lose?” I asked. “A lot,” he answered.) His voice, deep and bearish, sounds like he’s swallowing raw beef and washing it down with gravel. And then there’s the considerable matter of his head. From certain angles, his features are as prepossessing as a Roman bust; from others, they look blunt, chipped out of concrete. Picasso would have been crazy for him.

Though Hollywood hankers for him to do more romantic roles like his last one, Eat Pray Love, Bardem, 41, shimmers with darker stuff. Amid the froth of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, he and co-star Penelope Cruz dived into some serious waters. (The two wed at a friend’s house in the Bahamas last July, and had a son on Jan. 22.) He took a symbolic angel of death in No Country for Old Men and made him mortally scary, winning a best-supporting-actor Oscar. And he communicated a wealth of pain, loss, nobility and vulnerability in both Before Night Falls (2000), where he played a persecuted writer dying of AIDS, and The Sea Inside (2004), as a paralyzed man yearning for death. The former earned him an Oscar nod; the latter should have, too.

So if Biutiful is Bardem’s bleakest film yet, that’s really saying something. He plays Uxbal, a modern-day Job in the back streets of Barcelona. Dying of inoperable cancer, he’s racing to secure a future for his two children, whose mother is unreliable, alcoholic and probably bipolar. Oh, and his job is to oversee illegal immigrants whose lives are even more desperate than his own. And P.S.: He can communicate with the dead.

I asked Bardem why sorrow is his stock-in-trade. “I think we all share the same needs and dreams, hopes and failures,” he answered in English, with zippy Spanish cadences. “I like movies that speak about those things. I don’t like movies that represent people who are not real. One-dimensional. I don’t care about people who fly and have extra powers. I can’t relate to that. I think Uxbal is a hero. I want to see what people do in a hard situation in order to become a better person. You can’t find compassion if you don’t have a struggle. I like movies that have that resonance.”

Biutiful was directed and co-written by Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose previous films, including Babel and 21 Grams, are hardly light-hearted romps. Set up in an interview room next to Bardem, Inarritu looked like a movie star himself, all flashing eyes and tumbling locks, lounging in his armchair as if it were a throne. After room service delivered a special-ordered tray – Spanish-style antipasti with slices of ham, cheese, avocado and olives – he spent the interview throwing food into his mouth (Piece of ham – snap! Chunk of avocado – snap!) like a trainer and his tiger in one.

Innaritu wrote Biutiful with Bardem in mind. “I wanted to create a classic tragedy, like Medea or Shakespeare, [where] destiny is against the character at every level, and he is trying to keep his verticality and his dignity,” he said. “I was completely sure Javier was the only one [to do it]. He’s invested in his character. He does extreme notes. And he’s a very meticulous, obsessive perfectionist. We share that. The set was radioactive.”

They fought? “No, it was just very tense, very charged,” Inarritu explained. “Javier came always with something beautiful and honest. That’s what he really brings, honesty.”

“When I read something, if I have an emotional, intimate response to it, then I know I’m in a good bath,” Bardem said. “From there, I start to imagine and create. But you have to be able to detach yourself from what you’re doing, too. Otherwise it’s too crazy, especially in a movie like this, where you’re in that skin for five, six days a week for five months. Because getting lost [in a character] is no way to make your performance better. You’re actually going to block your creativity that way.”

Born in Spain into a family of filmmakers, Bardem began acting at age 6, but he also painted (“I was always focused on human shapes – faces, bodies,” he said) and played rugby on the Spanish national junior team. “You don’t see violence on any rugby field,” he said. “The values are team values. There are no heroes, no great figures. You really need each other; otherwise you will be in real trouble. I like that. I always recommend kids to play rugby. Maybe it’s not good for the bones, but it’s good for the head.”

Now he’s drawn to roles that shine light into corners that others prefer to overlook. “This movie, for example, deals with our denial,” Bardem said. “Denial of what’s happening in every city in the world – Barcelona, London, Rome, wherever – where our great way of life is based on immigrants’ misery. I’m interested in knowing the people behind the numbers. I think it’s important.

“Also denial of our own end,” he continued, meaning death. “In some cultures, the lack of that denial makes people happier, whereas we [in the West], our grandparents now want to dress like our nephews. I prefer to be present, to be aware what the world is.”

It’s about empathy, Bardem said: “That’s the most powerful thing that we have to learn. And we are able to. But it’s the most difficult to overcome when it doesn’t happen. We carry that weight our whole life. That’s why I became an actor – I have to speak about that.” No matter how difficult that can be.

Johnny Depp: In A Flock Of Sparrows

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 04, 2011) LONDON—Shiver me timbers and blast that scurvy grog!

Is this three
Johnny Depps I see before me? Or maybe four?

It's last Oct. 15. I am walking around Pinewood Studios, west of central London, during a journalists' set visit for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth instalment of the Disney ride turned movie franchise. (The film doesn't drop anchor until May 20, but a big promotional trailer will during Sunday's Super Bowl.)

All around me, it seems, are men dressed as Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow, the pirate as rock star, moving freely amidst the bustle of a major motion picture production.

They wear his distinctive tricorne leather hat, red bandana, silk frock coat and dreads adorned with various objets d'art. Which one's the real Depp — the guy in the canteen, savouring an apple crumble bathed in vanilla custard? Or the bloke walking with an entourage off in the distance? Or the dude slyly handing out invites to a weekend club gig by his rock band Earth Prayer?

The latter fellow is named Scott Sener, and he does indeed look a lot like Depp, although with a broader face. He's worked with Depp since 2002, and considers him a friend. “It's not like we send each other Christmas cards, but he likes to have me around,” Sener says, grinning.

He takes pains to make a distinction between what he does and what the other Depp lookalikes do. Sener is considered a stand-in, because he closely resembles the actor. The others are stuntmen, who don't do close-ups.

“I don't take punches. I jump out of windows. I've jumped into the ocean a few times.” He pauses for effect and adds: “It takes a flock to make the Sparrow fly!”

Sener is suddenly interrupted by the real Depp, decked out in as Capt. Jack right down to the eyeliner. That bloke off in the distance was him, after all.

All eyes turn toward Depp as he walks into the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage, the Pinewood colossus humbly billed as the World's Most Famous Stage. At 59,000 square feet, it's also the largest stage in Europe. Most Bond movies did some filming here.

“Hello, hello!” Depp says.

We had been told at the outset of the tour that it would be unlikely that Depp would talk to the press, due to scheduling pressures. This is the first time a Pirates of the Caribbean movie has been partially shot in the Britain (Hawaii hosted most of the filming) and time is tight, for budgetary and other reasons.

But Depp seems in no hurry. He's happy to chat about a role that he clearly loves, so much so he has to be coaxed out of his Capt. Jack attire when the camera is switched off. Of all the characters the 47-year-old Depp has played in his 26-year career — from Edward Scissorhands to the Mad Hatter — Jack Sparrow is by far his favourite.

“Jack is good and fun,” says Depp, one of the most easygoing of Hollywood A-listers. “There's always more to explore in him. It's nice to be as irreverent as possible and get paid for it.”

Someone asks Depp about a surprise visit he recent paid to a local elementary school in his costume. All it took was a letter from a young female student asking him to pop in.

“Ah, the kids!” Depp says, doing that offhanded Keith Richards wave he adapted for his Sparrow character.

“You know, that was weird because it was just so simple. The letter got to me. I read it, and I thought it was the most adorable thing I'd seen. And the school's about 300 yards away, so we thought, ‘Well, let's make a surprise visit. We won't tell anybody. We'll just do it.'”

It really was a surprise, especially to the school's principal and teachers.

“We gave them very little notice that we were coming and there wasn't a press thing or anything. Literally, it was just to go and put on a 15-minute show for the kiddies. And to meet that little girl.

“And then suddenly it just turned into this juggernaut — this kind of global thing. But the kid was absolutely adorable. She was so sweet and so chuffed that we were there.”

As Depp talks, members of the Pirate crew and cast also listen in. The latter includes Geoffrey Rush, who once again is playing the semi-evil pirate Hector Barbossa, a Sparrow nemesis in powdered wig and peg leg who been in all the previous films. He has a larger role this time in saga, which involves a hunt for the fabled Fountain of Youth.

Rush plays a privateer working in the employ of England's King George II (Richard Griffiths). It has not escaped his attention that this is the second King George he's worked for in a year, the first being his Oscar-nominated role as speech therapist to Colin Firth's King George VI in The King's Speech.

“That's all I do now, is mentor royalty!” Rush jokes.

On Stranger Tides represents many firsts for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It's the first of the four to be filmed in 3-D. It's the first directed by someone other than Gore Verbinski — the man in the catbird seat this time is Rob Marshall (Chicago).

This is also the first of the films to not feature Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in their roles of Will and Elizabeth, squabbling lovers who get pulled into Sparrow's nest. Bloom and Knightley decided to end their participation with At World's End in 2007.

On Stranger Tides takes Capt. Jack to new adventures, and new castmates, including Penelope Cruz as the love interest, plus fresh faces Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Sam Claflin in roles to be disclosed later.

There seems to be some slight anxiety on the part of both Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer as to whether they can continue the Pirates magic that has fuelled the franchise for nearly a decade.

After all, how many films with a “IV” in their title, literally or figuratively, achieve acclaim, especially one missing key franchise players? It may explain why Disney and Bruckheimer have invited journalists from around the world to watch a day's shooting at Pinewood.

Just because it's the fourth time around for Depp and many off the crew members, doesn't mean making a Pirates film is a slam-dunk, Bruckheimer says.

“I wish it was that easy. Just like when you're writing a story — obviously real easy, right?” Bruckheimer laughs, then turns serious.

“Of course, with a new director, a new team, new actors . . . it's always a challenge.”

Depp is intrigued by how much the technology has changed this time. “It's my first time shooting in 3-D, although Alice in Wonderland was rendered into 3-D” after the fact, he says.

“When they reload, normally, for the last 25 years, it's been this giant magazine that they clip onto the back of the camera, and now the reload is a chip — a computer chip, that kind of thing. It's fascinating, though, because your relationship to the lens becomes different.”

We watch on a monitor as Depp rehearses, over and over, a scene in which he confronts King George and his guards in an ornate dining room and then makes a daring escape. It's a scene that Depp swears he'll never see himself.

“I don't watch myself ever on screen,” he says.

“I mustn't!” he adds, laughing.

He is, however, watching the images of the Keith Richards documentary he's also currently working on. The Rolling Stones guitarist is his friend, his inspiration for Capt. Jack (Richards also has a small role in the series) and just an all-round cool guy.

“Well, we're still in the process of shooting it, you know? We've shot a couple of episodes, let's say, you know — bits and pieces — and there's a ton of editing to do, so we'll probably shoot a few more sort of bits. In my opinion, it should be released in a feature sort of format. Keith deserves it, you know?”

Everyone seems so comfortable making On Stranger Tides that it seems natural that a Pirates V and VII will follow. That's certainly the feeling put out by Depp, Bruckheimer and Terry Rossio, the series co-writer (with Ted Elliott), who also joins the tour.

There's just one thing that couldn't be removed from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Rossio says. The star.

“I think the Jack Sparrow character — the huge interest people have in Johnny Depp but, in particular, I think, Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow — when he goes out to do events or even when he's coming back and forth to the set, the amount of interest from that character, that's what lets us do something on such a grand scale,” Rossio says.

“You could do a pirate movie (without Depp). It wouldn't be like Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It would have to be much less than what people have come to expect.”

That's a lot to put on one man's shoulders, but the agreeable Depp sees it the other way around. He seems genuinely grateful to have such an enduring role, especially after years in the 1990s when it seemed his star might have dimmed. Is he really that glad to be playing Capt. Jack again?

“Good God, yes — thanks for sticking with me! Depp says, laughing.

“Thanks for keeping me employed!”

Original Screen Star Gets A Stage Closeup

Source: www.thestar.com - Alison Broverman

(February 05, 2011) If you’re one of those people who thinks Oscar season just isn’t as glamorous as it used to be (TEN movies up for Best Picture? Please!), then you can take a nostalgic dive way (way, way) back into Hollywood history at Spadina Museum this month, where actress and singer Denise Norman is portraying Canada’s own Mary Pickford — North America’s first film heartthrob — in Sweetheart, a one-woman chamber musical about Pickford’s life.

In the show, written by composer Dean Burry, Norman plays Pickford over the course of her life from child actress (Pickford appeared in her first stage play at age five) to the world’s first modern celebrity, to the only female founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Oscar winner. Burry’s music is inspired by the Ragtime and Tin Pan Alley flavours of Pickford’s day.

And 2011 seems to be the year for Mary Pickford’s (posthumous) comeback in Toronto: an exhibit about her career in Hollywood opened at the TIFF Lightbox last month and is running until June.

Among Pickford’s more memorable silent era screen gems were Daddy-Long-Legs (1919), Little Lord Fauntleroy, (1921) and Sparrows (1926).

According to Burry, the timing of his show is coincidental, if fortuitous. He starting writing Sweetheart 12 years ago, while working in the box office at the Canadian Opera Company (he has since written several shows for their educational program).

“I found a reference to her in a biography I was reading about Irving Berlin,” he says. “I vaguely knew who she was, but that tweaked my interest, and I started researching her instead.”

After one workshop of the show, Burry got distracted with other work, and Sweetheart got shelved. But the show was always at the back of his mind. “Last summer I started thinking more seriously about producing it,” he says. The venue practically fell into his lap.

“In July I received a magazine in the mail that I have never seen before or since, and there was a feature on the 1920s restoration of Spadina Museum.” Since Sweetheart is such a small-scale show, he figured a period alternative to a traditional theatre space would be a perfect fit.

Indeed, the reopening of Spadina Museum was perfect, especially since the new restoration reflects life in the 1920s and a musical about Mary Pickford was the exact kind of thing they were looking for.

“There’s something about just being in the space that takes you right back to that era,” says Burry. “As Denise is performing, there’s a 100-year-old gaslit chandelier dangling over her head! It’s amazing!”

Spadina Museum doesn’t have an actual theatre space, so Sweetheart will be performed in the house’s drawing room, and musical accompaniment provided on the house’s antique grand piano. The show also incorporates classic footage of Pickford’s movies projected above the room’s marble mantle.

As for the renewed interest in Pickford and her career, Burry believes that’s just as it should be. “She was a little girl from Toronto who became one of the most influential people in Hollywood,” says Burry. “She was the first real movie star.”

But as the play explores, in a lot of ways Pickford was trapped by her own success and pigeonholed as the girl with the curls. Despite being one of the cofounders of United Artists Pictures and the first film actor to negotiate a million dollar contract, Pickford was trapped by her own image.

“She was this cute silent film star, but she was also an incredible entrepreneur,” says Burry. And just the first in a long line of underestimated women in Hollywood.

Just the facts

What: Sweetheart: The Mary Pickford Story

When: February 10 – February 27 (8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2)

Where: Spadina Museum (285 Spadina Rd., next to Casa Loma)

Tickets: $20 adults, $17 students/seniors at 416-392-6910.

Canadian Film Faces Bizarre Oscar Rules

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(February 03, 2011) LOS ANGELES - If there were an award for the most problematic and scandal-plagued category in the annual Oscar race, then here is what the presenter would say on Feb. 27 after opening the envelope: “The winner is the category of Best Foreign Language Film.”

“Carpers” is the word used by Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, referring to members of the academy who complain every year about the preposterously complicated procedure for choosing foreign nominees and winners.

It’s a controversy of special interest in Canada this year because the Quebec movie Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is among five pictures in the running. That’s cause for national pride, but once you comprehend the rules of the game, you’ll realize why it is virtually impossible to predict the outcome.

According to Davis, the big problem is that the name is misleading, since it suggests the Academy has considered the world’s entire output of films made in a foreign language. That would be a ludicrous claim, since there would thousands of eligible movies. Instead, the Academy opts for an Olympics-style international diplomatic event. Every country that makes movies in a foreign language is invited to submit one as its official entry.

“What we need,” Davis confesses, “is a less misleading name, but it is not easy to come up with one.”

It would be more accurate, he quips, to call it The Tourney of Non-English-speaking Nations, except for Countries Like Canada, Most of Whose Citizens Speak English But Which Also Produces Movies in Languages Other Than English. Unfortunately, Davis concludes, that wording “lacks snap.”

Incendies qualifies for the “foreign-language” award because it’s in French. It’s the third time in the past decade that Canada has earned a foreign nomination. Denys Arcand’s Barbarian Invasions won the Oscar in 2004, and Deepa Mehta’s Water (in which the foreign language was not French but Hindi) was one of the five finalists in 2007.

For years, the list of movies officially submitted by their countries was whittled down to five nominees by committees of Academy members who volunteered to look at many of the contenders.

That led to chronic complaints because most of those volunteers who had the time to do this work were elderly and retired, with timid, ultra-conservative taste. In recent years, this category has been taken over and reinvented by Mark Johnson, a movie producer and a member of the Academy’s board — stirring up even more controversy.

Here’s the way it works under his regime. Those old volunteer committees choose six of nine movies on a long list, and the other three are selected by Johnson’s own hand-picked executive committee. Then even more committees enter the scene and reduce that list of nine to the final five nominees.

This is how something like the wildly provocative Greek movie Dogtooth, disliked by most members of the volunteer committee, managed to snare a nomination.

Other nominees are Denmark’s In a Better World (which took the Golden Globe), Mexico’s Biutiful and Algeria’s Outside the Law.

Now comes the trickiest part. In most categories, all Academy members can vote. But when it comes to the Foreign-Language category, only those who can prove they have seen all five nominees, and seen them in a theatre rather than on DVD, are eligible to vote.

The result: Who gets this Oscar depends on a small minority of the Academy’s 6,000 members. If one of the nominated pictures has been seen by a small number of Academy members, then those few will choose the winner (assuming they have also seen the other four movies in contention). That could give Incendies a chance to upset the betting favourite, Biutiful.

If the Academy’s top executive actually believes the carping will end if only if it can come with a less misleading name for the category, then I’d say he is afflicted with a serious case of missing the point

May we have the envelope please?


Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher


(February 8, 2011) Here's the first picture from the production of The Iron Lady, the biopic of Margaret Thatcher. The resemblance is spooky. From The Guardian: "The film, written by Abi Morgan (Sex Traffic, Brick Lane), started shooting at the end of January. Jim Broadbent plays Denis Thatcher, with Olivia Coleman as their daughter, Carol, and Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd as the couple in younger days. Anthony Head  is Geoffrey Howe, Richard E Grant plays Michael Heseltine, Julian Wadham is Francis Pym and Michael Pennington Labour leader Michael Foot. Roger Allam rounds off the cast as television journalist-turned-political strategist Gordon Reece. The film is billed as the story of "a woman who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. The story concerns power and the price that is paid for power, and is a surprising and intimate portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman."

Fantasia to Play Mahalia Jackson in New Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 09, 2011) *R&B singer and American Idol winner,
Fantasia Barrino has been chosen to play the role of Mahalia Jackson in the Queen of Gospel’s biopic. The feature film will be based on the 1993 book “Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel” which covers the life of the singer, and the role she played in the Civil Rights Movement. Her story will begin from Jackson’s journey from poverty in New Orleans to her rise to fame and celebrity as a gospel figure. She tragically died in 1972 at the young age of 60 due to heart failure and diabetes. Filming will begin in April in Pittsburgh and Chicago for a December release.

::TV NEWS::\

Matthew Perry Basking In Sunshine

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 06, 2011) PASADENA, CALIF. - Matthew Perry, as star and executive producer, puts the “Mr.” in Mr. Sunshine, but it’s Allison Janney who adds the shine.

The delightfully dark new single-camera sitcom debuts Monday night at 8 on CTV, and Wednesday at 9:30 on originating ABC — where it temporarily takes the time slot of the on-hiatus Cougar Town, which stars Perry’s former TV spouse, Courteney Cox. (In addition, the new show’s romantic interest, Andrea Anders, served the same function opposite fellow former Friend Matt LeBlanc on the ill-fated Joey.)

Mr. Sunshine is something of a West Wing reunion, bringing temp player Perry and series regular Janney back together as, respectively, the beleaguered just-turned-40 manager of a San Diego sports arena and its wealthy, eccentric, serenely self-medicated owner.

Janney’s breakout portrayal of the crazed Crystal Cohen is perhaps the perfect match of character to actress. Producer Perry certainly thought so, though he never thought he could get her. In retrospect, Janney herself can’t imagine why.

“(West Wing director/producer) Tommy Schlamme worked on the pilot,” she says, “and I think Matthew said to him, ‘Let’s get someone like an Allison Janney.’ And Tommy said, ‘Why don’t we just get Allison Janney?’”

“It’s one of the few examples,” acknowledges Perry, “of writing something for someone and actually getting them. We wrote the part of Crystal with her in mind — we never had any casting sessions or anything — and I, you know, was just hoping she would say yes, because it would be such a pleasure to write some things that she would say, because she is so good.

“As an actor, that was probably a mistake, because she is so much better than I am. It’s like, ‘Oh, you’re working on a whole other plane of existence.’ But, as a producer, it’s fantastic. She just, she’s excited to play this kind of role, because it’s so different than anything she’s done in the past, and you can see that excitement, which is great.

“She’ll probably get bored in a couple of years, if we’re still doing it. But for now, she’s very excited.”

“I wanted to do it the minute I read the first line,” insists Janney. “I think even before I read it.

“I love Matthew Perry. I loved working with him on West Wing. He’s so funny . . . I love just hanging out with him in my trailer. He’s just one of those people who always has something funny to say. You’re just always laughing around him.”

To hear Janney tell it, they do little else but laugh on set. “I have the best time doing it,” she enthuses. “Everyone in that cast is extraordinarily funny. And genuinely nice people. Matthew has put together an amazing group of actors. And he encourages us all to be funny, which I love. He doesn’t want to be the only funny one on the show. He wants everybody to shine, and everybody to have their funny moments . . . It’s one of the best times I’ve ever had.”

Perry, at the time we talked, seven months ago, had only just finished shooting the Mr. Sunshine pilot, but was already pretty much convinced he had a hit. A valuable lesson was learned, he said, when he and Rescue Me writer/producer pitched — unsuccessfully — another comedy pilot, The End of Steve, in which he played an obnoxious talk-show host on a reluctant road to redemption.

“That was unbelievably dark,” he concedes, “just me being terrible to everybody. And people were like, ‘What?! Why? Why is he doing that? Why is he being such a prick?’ They didn’t get it.”

Perry realized that network executives and potential viewers wanted something a little closer to Chandler Bing, his more affable and sympathetic Friends character. “We could not do a show where I was just a selfish jerk. No one would watch that.

“The hope is that I bring, you know, some likeability, I suppose . . . you can sort of get away with more that way. I’d think you can get away with a little bit more if people are sort of familiar with you.”

That being said, his Mr. Sunshine persona, Ben Donovan, is closer to Matt Albie, the recovering addict comedy writer he played on the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, though perhaps a bit more dour and humourless, and let’s be honest, also older and puffier.

And, as in the unsold Steve, he is at least a little anti-social and unpleasant, but is resolved, in the throes of mid-life crisis, to become a better person.

“I think it’s a relatable thing, that he’s changing, and I think that as long as we are making people laugh and you’re seeing Ben’s effort to be a better guy, you can get away with the occasional lapse.”

The character is perhaps a little closer to himself than he’d care to admit.

“I haven’t had a mid-life crisis, really,” he hedges. “(But) it’s a journey that I’m familiar with, being very selfish and trying to not be anymore, trying to be a better guy. Some of the stuff is just private for me, but I, you know, certainly did have moments of, ‘Oh, it’s not really working this way.’

“I’ve felt selfish in the past . . . I don’t know if there was a real epiphany, but it’s a fascinating thing, if you’re a selfish person, the medicine for that is to go out and to ask people how they are and actually care and listen to the answer.

“That’s a novel thought, but, like, he has to understand, if he wants to be happier, he has to be nice to people. And it’s that battle that will be hopefully really funny.”

The show’s funniest battle, however, is the ongoing war of will being waged between Perry’s Ben and Janney’s Crystal — a hilariously flaky millionaire divorcee constantly, blithely capable of the most outrageous, politically incorrect and even heinous acts.

“They just keep giving me more,” she enthuses. “She’s a former skater, and I get to skate, which I haven’t done since I was 17. And they cast James Taylor as my ex-husband. I get to sing a duet with James Taylor. I mean, who gets to do that?”

But these, she admits, are Crystal’s more innocuous activities. In the pilot, for example, “I had to carry a small boy and throw him at some clowns as a defensive weapon. I mean, I read that and I was just, ‘Are you kidding me? Is the network letting us do this? Isn’t anyone going to try and stop us?’

“After that, it was, ‘Okay. I guess anything goes with Crystal.’ And Allison Janney will do anything too. I want them to make me do horrible things.

“I just said to Matthew, ‘Keep it coming!’ I’m just having the best time. I get to do the silliest stuff. I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next.”

Keith Olbermann Heads To Al Gore’s Network

www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(February 8, 2011) New York — Less than a month after leaving MSNBC, liberal lightning rod Keith Olbermann said Tuesday he's headed to Current TV, the public affairs channel launched six years ago by former Vice President Al Gore.

Olbermann will start this spring with a prime-time talk show on Current. He was also named chief news officer at Current, which is available in 60 million homes in the U.S., a little more than half the nation's homes with television.

Financial terms were not divulged, although Current said Olbermann will get an equity stake in the company.

Olbermann's hiring was the biggest moment in the history of Current, which began as a network geared primarily toward young people featuring viewer-generated short videos and is now evolving into a more traditional network. Its showcase is the investigative documentary series Vanguard.

“We now live in a world with fewer and fewer opportunities to hear truly unique, truly unfettered voices on television,” Gore said. “Keith is one of those rare voices.”

Olbermann's sudden departure from MSNBC, announced simultaneously by himself and the network on a Friday night, was never really explained. He'd been an occasional headache for his bosses, and was briefly suspended last year for making campaign contributions in violation of NBC News policy.

Yet his nightly Countdown show was MSNBC's most popular, and the network built a left-leaning prime-time schedule from Olbermann's template and with his proteges. Conservatives sputter at the mention of his name, but he's a hero to liberals.

“Nothing is more vital to America than a free media,” Olbermann said, “and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independent of corporate interference.”

Olbermann, whose MSNBC show took on an entirely new persona when he began delivering blistering commentaries on President George W. Bush's administration, said “none of this should be considered directed toward any of my nine full-time previous employers.”

His new show doesn't have a name or a time slot yet, nor is it clear how Current will fill out the rest of its prime-time lineup around him.

“I'm always trying to do more or a better version of what I've done previously,” he said. “I wanted my career and my involvement in news to move forward.”

Olbermann, 52, began hosting Countdown in 2003.

He said he never considered a move back to sports, where his work on ESPN's Sportscenter in the 1990s pushed him to national prominence.

His way to more mainstream news networks was blocked. Olbermann has made Fox News Channel a frequent target for criticism and ridicule. Ken Jautz, chief executive of CNN's U.S. network, said this week that CNN had no interest in Olbermann.

MSNBC, which presumably has keen interest in another network trying to become known for its liberal leanings, would have no comment on Olbermann's move, spokesman Jeremy Gaines said.

Current said that as chief news officer, Olbermann would “provide editorial guidance for all of our political news, commentary and current events programming.” That's a switch for a network that has always stressed its independence from the politics of a former Democratic vice president.

At his new network, Olbermann won't be barred from making political donations, as long as he publicly discloses them, Gore said.

There Are Actors You Avoid, And Then There's Alison Brie

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(February 04, 2011) Alison Brie is talking to another reporter. Doing interviews at a luxury hotel in Pasadena, Calif., she's kneeling on a chair, like a kid, facing the guy. She's wearing a striking layered-leather miniskirt (Diane von Furstenberg) and seriously high heels. She looks fabulous. And like an enthusiastic youngster, her hands going this way and that to make a point.

In this racket - meeting actors at the TV Critics Press Tour - there are some people you like and some you avoid. You avoid the brittle ones, those existing in imagined grandeur. Those you like are the rare ones, the confident, funny and self-assured. Ms. Brie is one those.

A petite brunette with enormous eyes, she's 27 years old, articulate, mischievous and, like most good actors, not at all what one expects. She plays Annie on NBC's Community and Trudy Campbell on Mad Men. I've met her before, in the summer of 2009, before Community began airing on NBC. When it's my turn with her, I ask what's changed since then.

"What do you mean, changed for me?" she replies with mock incredulity. "Nothing. I still live in the same place, I still drive the same car. The show is a hit and it's really good. Is something supposed to change?"

Here we go with the mischief. When I first me her, I'd never heard of her. Then I discovered that Brie had won an award for her stage performance as Ophelia in Hamlet, played the lead in the notorious Web-only comedy series called Hot Sluts and was playing Peter Campbell's wife on Mad Men. Also, she was born and raised in Pasadena and she still lives here. I'd never talked with somebody who actually lived here and, well, Hot Sluts seemed an odd career choice. I liked her sense of humour instantly.

Her character Annie on Community (NBC, CITY-TV, Thursdays at 8 p.m.) is described as "a high-strung perfectionist." Community is a clever comedy, about a group of misfits at a community college. And the show is as odd as its characters - it spoofs TV and movies and from one episode to the next it can veer from deadpan to outright farce. The one established star is Chevy Chase, excellent as Pierce, an older man who bores everyone with his alleged wisdom. It's an ensemble, though, and each character gets the spotlight regularly. Annie is the quiet one who might explode with frustration at any minute. Rather like the tightly wound, suffering wife she plays on Mad Men. Thus I have to ask: Is Brie just instantly drawn to tightly wound female characters?

She laughs. "I couldn't be more different than those characters - I'm very laid-back, famous for it with my friends, I think," she says. "Maybe that's the acting challenge. When I play women who are tightly wound, I have to get away from my relaxed self. Annie gets plenty of time to go berserk. That's the part that's more like me. And it's very funny."

Okay then, the young lady is relaxed. So, Hot Sluts? The online series, made for Comedy Central, is a hilarious spoof of old movies about Hollywood dreams. Brie is Amber, who arrives in Hollywood on a bus and wants to be a dancer. She ends up working at a nightclub, part of the salacious dance troupe called the Hot Sluts. The official synopsis for the show is this: "Endless cleavage, bitchy girl fights and an 800-pound disco ball. All in one slutty nightclub."

Brie burst out laughing when I ask about it. "Oh it was such fun," she says. "Then, when my dad found out about it, that was a different story. But anyone who sees it knows it's a spoof, a satire. We had almost no money to make it. All the episodes were shot in two long days. That show is the goofier side of me, which is truer to my personality."

What? Cleavage and bitchy girl fights? She's smiling now, pointing a finger at me and my notebook to make sure I write this: "Look, I like singing and dancing and comedy, even when it terrifies me. You have to be fearless."

That's a fairly standard actor's declaration. But I've got a feeling that Alison Brie really means it. "In college, I played the ingénue," she says. "I wanted to be the leading lady. Now I realize that I'm a character actress, not the lead. Everybody wants to be the leading lady, but there are more roles and more challenges if you're the character actress."

Asked where this change in her sense of herself as actor came from, she cites Glasgow, Scotland. She did theatre-training there. "Nobody knew me there, I was a student. It was no-car, no-cellphone for six months," she says. "And the weather was a shock. I think I wore a wool coat every day for six months. But the theatre we did was cutting-edge, very demanding. It taught me to be fearless. Here, I think if you're a young actor, you get bogged down in going for TV and movie auditions and you're always doing the same thing. Glasgow opened up my eyes."

Those same eyes open wide when I ask her if she became interested in soccer, Glasgow being one of the great soccer capitals of the world. "They don't call it soccer!" she says, feigning sternness and smacking me on the shoulder. "It's football. And yes, I saw Glasgow Celtic play Glasgow Rangers. It was an unforgettable experience." I then confirm that she is now a committed Glasgow Celtic supporter.

And then there's Mad Men. Last season Trudy became a mother, and deprived Pete of money to save the new advertising firm. Whither the Campbell marriage? Brie says she doesn't know much, but she does say this: "Being on Mad Men is very intimidating at first. The level of acting performance is very high. Matt Weiner [the creator and producer] has very high standards and it's a great compliment when he doesn't have to give you very, very specific directions, when he trusts you. The challenge on Mad Men, for an actor, is that you have to hold so much in. It's what the show is about in a way. You have to walk differently, dress differently, talk differently. You suppress a lot. It signifies the difference between the early 1960s and now. But it also creates this extraordinary dramatic tension. Even dressing for Mad Men is an experience for an actor. You have to learn the posture, the movements that the clothes demand of the character."

Our time runs out. Her publicist paces. I ask her if she actually still lives here in Pasadena. "Oh yes, I like it and I know it here," she says. Then she delivers a zinger: "I worked here at this hotel when I was a student. At the pool bar. Maybe I brought you drinks. I remember the actors coming through, and the journalists. The first time I saw a famous actor, someone I really admired, I got frazzled. I had to cool it."

Now she is one of those admired actors. And cool about it. That's why she's one of the people you like.

Coach Sylvester Likes The Matchup

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(February 05, 2011) Tonight, in case you missed all the hype, a super-sized, big-budget episode of Glee follows the Super Bowl. (At least it does on Fox; CTV viewers will have to flip over to Global).

As Jane Lynch, the actress who plays
Sue Sylvester C's it, the episode is “Glee on steroids.”

Among the highlights: the Glee kids take the field as zombies in a musical mash-up salute to Michael Jackson's “Thriller” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' “Heads Will Roll.” Six minutes have been added to the episode so that the Cheerios can salute Katy Perry and Sylvester can shoot somebody out of a cannon.

Good thing Glee's been off the air for two months. The episode took weeks to shoot, with hours of zombie makeup for cast members like Canadian Cory Monteith (Finn). “It's huge, massive, larger than life,” Monteith said at the recent network press tour in Los Angeles. “Our biggest yet.”

Winning the coveted post-Super Bowl slot might be seen as the Heisman Trophy of network TV; an honour and a mighty launching pad. But Glee? The high-school musical, which has bullying jocks throw a slushy in the face of a gleek each week, is more Broadway than Budweiser. As Jimmy Kimmel cracked, airing it right after the Super Bowl could set a Guinness World Record for most drunken guys saying, “What the (bleep) is that?”

Lynch, who spoke on a Fox conference call Thursday, agrees Glee is stepping onto some pretty masculine turf. She sees football as a metaphor for war, but feels there's room for everybody at the after party. “You've got these light in the loafers' guys — I'm talking even about the straight guys, singing and dancing,” she says of the Glee effect.

“I think it's a terrific world we live in and I love seeing these two things coming together.”

The Emmy- and recent Golden Globe Award-winner has long been a strong advocate of gay rights. Openly lesbian, she married partner Dr. Lara Embry last May in Massachusetts and says she's proud to be on a show that champions diversity and stands up to bullying.

She's also really grateful to have a guaranteed job for three whole seasons (Glee is already renewed for 2011-12), something that eluded her through short stints on Party Down and The L Word. “I'm very aware of the fact that I'm breathing rarefied air,” she says.

A recent round of speaking tours started her thinking about writing her life down. The result is Happy Accidents, an autobiography due out in September.

One surprising detail in the book — her first crush, “in my head,” she says, was Ron Howard.

The book will deal with some dark points in her life, including bouts with depression and alcoholism. The 50-year-old Illinois native, who first came to prominence in the 2000 film comedy Best in Show (and has gone on to do two other films with improv auteur Christopher Guest), says she had a happy upbringing, but looking back feels she was often too hard on herself. Her big lesson going forward, Lynch says, is “don't sweat it, don't try to control things and just let your life happen.”

It's a lesson Sylvester learns the hard way later this season. Lynch says the devious Cheerios coach goes on “the warpath” after losing a tourney title, wrecking offices and lurching into depression. Believe it or not, she joins the glee club for a while in an attempt to lift her spirits.

She's grateful to play such an outrageous and memorable TV character. Sue Sylvester constantly torments her nice-guy nemesis, Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison), gave Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) the monkey flu just to steal his job and in one episode even married herself, performing her own ceremony.

“Every script I read I go, ‘You gotta be kidding,' ” she says. It's ridiculous the mean things Sue gets away with each week, she agrees. That's why she loves it and is glad she's not writing the scripts. “I would have made it more realistic and I would have given her altruistic motivation,” she says.

Speaking of hostilities, in the game Lynch picks Green Bay but only because she's from the Midwest. “Really I don't care. I hope somebody wins.”

Another ’80s Icon Becomes A City’s Top Cop

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 06, 2011) There is much that is familiar about The Chicago Code, the new police drama debuting Monday night at 9 on Fox and Global.

For one thing, Chicago, also the setting for both The Good Wife and Shameless. Then there is its star,
Jennifer Beals — like Tom Selleck in Blue Bloods, a former ’80s icon now playing the top cop of a major American urban centre (see sidebar).

There’s also an accent issue in both, otherwise excellent shows: Blue Bloods’ Donnie Wahlberg makes little effort to disguise his Boston townie roots as a supposedly New York born-and-raised detective; Chicago Code co-star Jason Clarke, who’s Australian, puts perhaps a little too much effort into sounding authentically Chicagoan, as he did his Rhode Island politician in the underrated cable drama, Brotherhood.

And, though you wouldn’t know it, Chicago Code evolved from a somewhat different premise — under its original title, Ride-Along, it was going to be literally that, telling much of its story reality-style, in faux verité. Virtually the same initial format was also abandoned by the already-airing Detroit 1-8-7.

“The original concept was to try to do a police show in Chicago that kind of made the viewer feel as if they were in the police car with the cops,” series creator Shawn Ryan confirmed at the recent TV press tour.

“That was my original, original concept. And it evolved greatly over time. It became much, much more than I originally intended. It became a show that I realized I wanted to be about a lot more than just police officers. So police officers are who we use to look at the city and look at the intersection of politics and its citizenry.”

And he literally does use police officers, courtesy of Chicago P.D. technical advisor John Folino.

“I’ve been personally able to provide 114 real Chicago police officers as extras into the show,” he says, “some of them featured and also some with speaking roles. And that, I feel, is really different than other shows, and was very beneficial to myself and the cast, working very closely with the police.”

They did so clearly without any interference — the series depicts a city government and police force riddled with an alarming degree of overt corruption. Not unlike producer Ryan’s previous, California-set police drama, The Shield.

The difference, insists Ryan, is the Beals character, a controversial, crusading, freshly promoted superintendant determined to sweep the department clean.

“I didn’t want to repeat myself,” he says. “This was a character that didn’t exist on that show. And I like the idea of approaching crime from the top. I liked the idea of approaching it from the perspective of a female character. There would obviously be some curiosity and resistance to a female superintendent being the boss of 10,000 cops. I liked the intersection and the friction of that.”

Needless to say, so did Beals. “For me,” she says, “what was so interesting about the part was not only her strength, but her fragility in her position.

“It’s a very tenuous position to be a woman with that kind of responsibility, and especially to have been in the police force such a short, comparatively, amount of time as a lot of prior superintendents.

“In the Chicago Police Department there’s only . . . I think 25 percent are women. (So there’s) that balance that you have to strike between what is feminine leadership and what is masculine leadership. How do you get 10,000 men to follow you? What does that leadership look like? And I think that we were constantly playing with that.

“Is she a transformational leader? Or is she more of a . . . I don’t know. I don’t want to say ball-buster. But I am going to say ball-buster.”



The more obvious differences are, well, obvious. But they also have a surprising amount in common, starting with their shared impact on pop culture-driven 1980s fashion: Tom Selleck, with his Hawaiian shirt and hedge-thick moustache as TV’s macho Magnum P.I., Beals in leg-warmers and artfully shredded sweats as the working-class club dancer who yearns for more in the era-defining flick Flashdance.

And now both are in uniform blue, Selleck in Blue Bloods, already well into a successful first season, and Beals now in The Chicago Code, making its mid-season debut this week. A comparative study:

Name and Rank

SELLECK, 66, as New York Police Commissioner Francis Reagan in Blue Bloods. The burly, big-shouldered 6-foot-3½-inch career cop sure fills out a dress uniform, and exudes the kind of quiet, considered gravitas that commands the respect of the men who serve under him.

BEALS, 47, as Chicago Police Superintendent Teresa Colvin in The Chicago Code. The youngest ever to hold the post, and the first woman, after a meteoric career of crime-fighting and community service. However, she sometimes looks like a little girl playing dress-up, and is resented and mistrusted by the old-boy rank and file.

The Enforcer

When rules need to be bent or broken, and you’re the boss, you need a go-to guy out on the street whose hands aren’t tied by red tape and is willing to occasionally get them dirty.

SELLECK has Donnie Wahlberg (Band of Brothers) as Detective Danny Reagan, the Commissioner’s eldest, tough but fair, volatile yet compassionate, resolutely ethical with a particular reputation for extreme interrogation. New partner: Jennifer Esposito as streetwise Jackie Curatola.

BEALS has Jason Clarke (Brotherhood) as Detective Jarek Wysocki, her one-time partner, cocky, impulsive; suspicious of authority and impatient with procedure. He has considerable street cred and connections and has, until now, the grudging respect of his peers. New Partner: Matt Lauria (Friday Night Lights) as nascent supercop Caleb Evers.

The Protégé

The earnest young rookie relative following in their footsteps.

SELLECK has Will Estes (7th Heaven) as his youngest son, Jamie, a Harvard Law grad who decided instead to go into the family business.

BEALS has Wysocki’s niece, Vonda, played by Devin Kelley, the street-cop daughter of his dead cop brother.

Death in the family

The lingering tragedy that gives perspective and makes the job personal.

SELLECK has his late son, killed in the line of duty, but possibly involved in something more sinister.

BEALS has Wysocki’s brother, also killed in the line of duty, whom Wysocki has solemnly sworn to avenge.

Political nemesis

Along with great power . . . comes someone with even greater power who’s plotting against you.

SELLECK must contend almost daily with the self-serving machinations of the city’s camera-happy mayor, played by Bruce Altman (Law & Order).

BEALS has mounted a secret campaign to bring down corrupt, mobbed-up city alderman Patrick Gibbons, played with stylish, steely authority by Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty).

Simon Promises His Old Self And A $5 Million Prize On X Factor

Source: www.thestar.com - Yinka Ibukun

(February 07, 2011) Good news for those who’ve been missing Simon Cowell’s bite on American Idol: the British music and TV mogul won’t be changing his tune when his new talent show debuts in the fall.

“People know what to expect when I am on the judging panels, so I don't think things are going to change,” Cowell told the media in a conference call on Monday to discuss
The X Factor.

The show, already a hit for Cowell in the United Kingdom, will air in the fall on Fox and CTV with Cowell heading the judges’ panel. He’s best known in North America for his nine years as a judge on Idol, where he didn’t suffer fools or tone-deaf singers gladly.

The two people who’ll join Cowell at the judges’ table have yet to be announced.

Cowell said Monday he’s a “massive fan” of his old Idol seatmate Paula Abdul, although he’s still deciding who’ll join him on his new show.

Abdul is currently under contract to CBS, where her new dance competition show Live to Dance goes up against Idol on Wednesday nights and has been averaging less than five million U.S. viewers.

Idol, meanwhile, has seen its U.S. ratings drop slightly without Cowell around but grow weekly in Canada since its 10th season debuted in January. It’s still the No. 1 TV show in America.

It was also announced Monday that the X Factor winner will get a $5 million (U.S.) recording contract with Syco, Cowell’s joint venture with Sony Music. It’s believed to be the biggest guaranteed prize in TV history.

“This is a guaranteed $5 million, payable to the winner. It will be paid $1 million each year for five years,” Cowell said.

“It is a massive, massive risk, but it is also an incredible incentive. It puts everybody under an enormous amount of pressure. With pressure, you have got to find a star, but I believe I can find a star.”

Auditions begin March 27 in the Los Angeles for singers 12 and up, individual or by group, moving on to Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, New Jersey and Seattle.

Cowell said it was impossible to predict whether the show would be as big a success in the U.S. as it has been in Britain and the 15 other nations where it gets No. 1 ratings.

“All you can do is to give it a 110 per cent effort and do everything to make it the best show you possibly can,” he said.

He said he was encouraged by the continuing success — even without him — of top-rated Idol, along with other series like America's Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars.

“People, thank God, still like these shows and that gives me more confidence when we launch ours,” he said.

The biggest difference in the format of The X Factor is that the judges personally mentor contestants each week on song choice, arrangements, personal style and performance. This pits the judges against each other, as well as the contestants.

“It really does become incredibly competitive among the judges once the competition starts. . . . I have to put people on this panel who I genuinely think can be better than me,” he quipped.

X Factor has a craziness about it, an unpredictability. It is more raw. It is more competitive.

“If we can't, with what is on offer, find a global star, then I would say we have failed. There is that person or that group sitting in America waiting to be discovered.”


Pam Grier in Cast of RZA’s ‘Iron Fists’

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(February 07, 2011) *Fresh from last week’s appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” screen legend Pam Grier has announced that she is among the cast of kung fu flick “The Man with the Iron Fists,” a $20 million project from Wu Tang Clan’s RZA and director Eli Roth, reports Twitchhfilm. Grier broke the news on her Twitter account, stating she has already finished filming her scenes and has just returned from the set in Shanghai. Grier joins Lucy Liu, wrestler Dave Bautista, MMA fighter Cung Le and Oscar winner Russell Crowe in the story of a blacksmith (RZA) in feudal China who makes weapons for a small village which is forced to defend itself. Grier appeared on  Oprah’s “Whatever Happened To…” episode last week, which also featured MC Hammer and Bo Derek.

Michelle Obama Booked for ‘Regis and Kelly’

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(February 07, 2011) *Michelle Obama is paying her first visit to “Live! With Regis and Kelly.” The show announced today that the first lady will be a guest of Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on Feb. 9, reports the Associated Press. Mrs. Obama will be in New York to mark the first anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.

The Glee Summer Tour Is Coming To Toronto


(February 8, 2011) Ryan Seacrest says so, so it must be true. They'll be at the ACC June 11. Is it awful that I kinda want to go?  "Following the massive success of their five-city, sold out 2010 concert tour, the cast of Fox’s smash hit show “Glee” is hitting the road again, this time coming to 16 cities in North America. Ryan Seacrest exclusively revealed the news Tuesday on his radio show during an interview with stars Amber Riley and Harry Shum Jr., who were hearing the news for the first time. “Glee Live! In Concert!” will kick off on May 21 in Las Vegas, and will be visiting more arenas like the Staples Center and the Nassau Coliseum rather than theaters. Newer cast members Darren Criss and Chord Overstreet will join the tour. “The cast and I were so moved by the love and enthusiasm of our fans at last year’s concerts  that we knew we had to do it again,” said the show’s co-creator Ryan Murphy. “There is something magical about thousands of ‘Gleeks’ coming together to share a special night with our cast, and this tour is one way we can thank them for their unbelievable support from the beginning.” Like last year, the show will feature the most memorable musical numbers from seasons one and two including “Empire State of Mind,” “Toxic,”  ”My Life Would Suck Without You,” “It’s My Life,” and of course, the show’s anthem,  “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Tickets will go on sale Saturday, February 19 to the general public, but American Express cardmembers get the first chance at tickets this Friday, February 11."

Gwyneth Paltrow to Cover Prince’s ‘Kiss’ on ‘Glee’


(February 8, 2011) *After making headlines with her rendition of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” on “Glee,” actress Gwyneth Paltrow will return to the Fox series to perform a classic song from pop icon Prince. In an episode airing March 8, Paltrow’s substitute teacher character Holly Holiday will fill in for a sex ed teacher where she and Mr. Schuster (Matthew Morrison) will cover Prince’s ’80s hit “Kiss,” TV Line reports. The duet will reportedly involve a real kiss between the two characters.

Comedy Central Picks Up Norm Macdonald Series

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(February 09, 2011)
Norm Macdonald is returning to the news, specifically sports news. The former Saturday Night Live comedian and “Weekend Update” anchor will star in Sports Show with Norm Macdonald. Comedy Central announced Wednesday that it's picking up the series and ordering eight episodes. The network said the show will feature the Canadian-born Macdonald's “comedic take on the most topical and controversial stories from the sports world.” The show will be taped in front of a live studio audience. It's set to premiere in April.


Dancing In A Parallel Universe

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(February 07, 2011) James Kudelka and Paul-André Fortier, two Canadian dance luminaries, have been friends ever since they met three decades ago in Montreal. This week, by a timing coincidence neither planned, these veteran choreographic lions have shows playing back-to-back at Harbourfront Centre.

Fortier, in the midst of a cross-Canada tour of his multi-disciplinary work,
Cabane, will arrive in time to see Kudelka make a rare return to the stage on Thursday night.

Toronto’s Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, where Kudelka has been resident choreographer since 2008, presents an unusual evening of his work entitled AllOneWord comprising six discrete dances, three of them premieres.

Each is different yet linked musically by arrangements of the “Guardian Angel” passacaglia that concludes 17th-century composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern’s iconic Mystery Sonatas.

Kudelka first encountered Biber 20 years ago while searching for solo violin music to use in a commission from contemporary company Montréal Danse. It has haunted him ever since and become the musical foundation for further choreographies that have come to be known as the “See Series.”

He’s made eight so far and is aiming for “an even dozen.” The works have been choreographed for both ballet and modern dancers in numbers ranging from solos to large ensembles.

Kudelka admits the prospect of an evening of roughly 10-minute dances to the same music might seem daunting. It’s not uncommon for choreographers to rework the same score at different phases of their career but rarely has any presented the results on the same program.

Kudelka, however, is one of Canada’s most versatile and continually inventive choreographers. For the Biber-scored dances he’s embraced the challenge of not repeating himself and of making a different movement vocabulary for each, thus complementing the musical shifts of colour and tempo in John Oswald’s Biber arrangements.

Although Kudelka, 55, was a technically dazzling ballet soloist, it is many years since he performed regularly, instead devoting himself to choreography and, from 1996-2005, directing the National Ballet. He modestly refers to the solo he will dance on Thursday as “performing” rather than dancing.

Fortier, 62, has performed throughout his career, mostly his own choreography. Modern dance has plentiful examples of dancer/choreographers who’ve continued to perform into middle age and beyond, but few at Fortier’s level of physical exertion.

Apart from touring Cabane internationally, Fortier still performs a gruelling outdoor – rain or shine – “site specific” work called 30x30. Each day for 30 consecutive days, at the same appointed time, he performs a 30-minute solo.

“I still push myself physically in quite an extravagant way,” says Fortier. “But I do prepare and I do train.” He says that performing his own work also makes a difference. “I know my body and what it can do. You dance with your maturity and your experience — intellectual, emotional and physical.”

The still very avant garde Fortier has a long history of collaborating with distinguished artists. In Cabane he shares the stage with acclaimed Quebec artistic polymath Rober Racine, the visual effects of filmmaker/video artist Robert Morin and John Munro’s razor sharp lighting in a surreal work he says “meanders between installation (art), theatre and dance.”

Fortier says choreographing authentic movement for Racine, an untrained dancer, was a particular challenge but adds that the physical contrasts between them are part of Cabane’s appeal.


WHAT: Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie: AllOneWord

WHEN: Feb 10-12

WHERE: Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West

WHAT: Fortier Danse-Création: Cabane

WHEN: Feb 11-12

WHERE: Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West

TICKETS: For both events; 416-973-4000 or http://tickets.harbourfrontcentre.com

The Enduring Appeal Of Michel Tremblay

www.globeandmail.com - by J. Kelly Nestruck

(February 8, 2011) Many people fear aging, but Michel Tremblay - once the enfant terrible of Quebec theatre, now its elder statesman - is more worried about his plays getting old.

"Every playwright is afraid that their plays will not age well," says Tremblay, over the phone from his snowbird home in Key West, Fla., where he has done the majority of his writing for the past 20 years.

"You write anything - novels or plays or whatever - for specific reasons. And sometimes, 30 or 40 years later, these reasons are not there any more."

At age 68, Tremblay continues to pen a new play or novel almost every year. But his older works also regularly get pulled off the shelf and put back into performance, allowing us to see all their wrinkles under the spotlight.

At the moment, audiences in Toronto are getting a chance to inspect two of Tremblay's most significant works of the 1970s.

Forever Yours, Marie-Lou - which turns 40 this year - is currently on stage at the Théâtre Français de Toronto in a production directed by Diana Leblanc (performances with English surtitles on selected nights).

And on Thursday, Saint Carmen of the Main - a 1976 sequel of sorts to Marie-Lou - opens in English at Toronto's Canadian Stage Company, in a big, main-stage co-production with the National Arts Centre directed by its English-theatre artistic director, Peter Hinton.

Both plays are parables of Quebec during and after the Quiet Revolution that centre on the character of Carmen (Mélanie Beauchamp and Laara Sadiq, respectively), who has escaped from her unhappy, working-class family to become a country and western singer.

In Marie-Lou, Carmen returns home 10 years after the death of her parents in a car crash to confront her introverted and religious sister, Manon.

Then, in Saint Carmen, she makes another homecoming - this time returning from a stint in Nashville to her home away from home, the red-light district near Montreal's rue St-Laurent.

In the latter play, which is structured like a Greek tragedy, Carmen has begun to question her adopted persona and American repertoire - and begins tentatively to write her own words and her own songs, an act here depicted as potentially threatening to the established order.

"All in the seventies, I talked a lot about disguising yourself - wanting to be somebody, but not having the courage to be what or who you are," says Tremblay, whose most famous play on that theme, Hosanna, is being revived at Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season.

In Tremblay's mind, both Marie-Lou and Saint Carmen are inextricably linked to the tumultuous period of rising nationalism they were written in - the first just after the October Crisis, the second right before the election of the Parti Québécois.

"For me, they were political plays," Tremblay says. "But I know that this layer of politics is gone now, so if the characters are not strong enough, the plays will not age well."

In an odd way, Tremblay's early plays have an easier go of it transcending their times in English than in their original French - specifically, joual, the working-class French of Montreal.

While Carmen is locked into the same words for time immemorial in French-language productions, her lines can be rewritten anew in English for every generation; as with Chekhov, Tremblay can always be our contemporary.

That's more than just theory now: Tremblay's plays are, impressively and uniquely in the Canadian canon, now getting second or even third translations. And they may be getting better as that tricky art form evolves.

Linda Gaboriau, the go-to translator of Tremblay's works in recent years, has created a new version of Saint Carmen for the Canadian Stage/NAC co-production that is livelier than the original done by John Van Burek for the Tarragon Theatre in 1978.

"Linda lives in Montreal and she's been living in Montreal for 40 years and she's very near the language and she lives in French," says Tremblay, though he's not knocking his original translators Van Burek and the late Bill Glassco, who first introduced him to English Canada.

As for his older plays getting reinvigorated in Quebec, there is the stunning success of the recent musical version of his first important play, Les Belles-Soeurs, which will certainly spawn more Tremblay reinvestigations.

"Oh, it's so good!" says Tremblay of the show with music by Daniel Bélanger and lyrics by René Richard Cyr, currently being translated into English by, of course, Gaboriau. "When I first heard the songs, I just fell off my chair."

Tremblay was ready to see some Botox injected into that groundbreaking play. "Because Belles-Soeurs is my oldest play, 45 years old this year, I was a bit sick of it," he confesses. "I saw so many productions of it, I'd say, 'Not again, Les Belles-Soeurs!' "

That's not what audiences say about Tremblay revivals, however, judging by their proliferation across the country. They like the pleasure of seeing them again and say: Encore une fois, si vous permettez.

Saint Carmen of the Main runs at Toronto's Bluma Appel Theatre from Feb. 10 to March 5; Forever Yours, Marie-Lou continues at Toronto's Berkeley Street Theatre until Feb. 19.

Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Embraces New Business Model

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By J. Kelly Nestruck

(February 04, 2011) What's the biggest economic problem with the way non-profit theatres operate in North America? The inflexibility of inventory.

Soulpepper Theatre Company [http://http://www.soulpepper.ca] artistic director Albert Schultz thinks he has the fix, however.

Over the past 12 years, Schultz and his colleagues have built the classical company up from a two-play summer season to a year-round operation with its own Toronto venue. For its 2011 season it's upping its productions to a whopping 17 from last year's 12.

But Schultz expects its production costs will only increase by about 14 per cent.

How is that possible? According to Schultz, it's because the company is no longer using the North American model to manage its inventory.

The North American model

Imagine if an auto maker released 10 models a year, each in the same number, and each for one month only. That's essentially how almost every non-profit theatre company in Canada is run, from the Vancouver Playhouse to Halifax's Neptune Theatre.

Plays are programmed for a set number of weeks - and whether they're hits or they're flops, they have about the same number of performances. There's very little relationship between supply and demand.

"You take a bath on a third of your shows, and then you have shows like Christopher Plummer's Tempest, where two months before the show closes, you can't get a ticket," notes Schultz.

While short extensions are sometimes a possibility, others productions are invariably booked into the venue and actors have other contracts to fill. Often, the best solution is a remount a year down the line, by which time interest may have dwindled.

"No other business in the world operates this way and it just makes no sense," says Schultz.

The European model

Last year, Schultz spent a "working hiatus" at the Vigszinhaz - the Comedy Theatre of Budapest - the home theatre of Laszlo Marton, who's returning as a visiting director at Soulpepper this year.

Like many European theatres, the Vigszinhaz hires actors on contracts of a year or more and shuffles them between multiple productions.

While North American theatre schedules are planned more than a year in advance, the Vigszinhaz announces its lineups in 90-day increments. This allows artistic directors to be nimble in response to the box office and bring back popular productions for as long as is warranted.

This month, for example, Yazmina Reza's recent Broadway hit The God of Carnage will be brought back for nine more performances, while Othello and Tracy Letts's August: Osage County will each return for a single performance.

Productions stick around as long as there is an audience for at least one performance once in a while - some in the Vigszinhaz's repertoire date all the way back to the 1980s.

The hybrid model

For its 2011 season, Soulpepper has broken the year into two chunks and hired most of its actors on six-month, multi-show contracts, instead of most theatre companies' usual single-show deal.

For instance, Krystin Pellerin (of CBC's Republic of Doyle) will be in The Fantasticks as well as remounts of past hits, Our Town and The Time of Your Life.

At a certain point, those three shows will be running in rotation along with others in the two theatres Soulpepper uses at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

That's not all that different from the way things work at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival or Shaw Festival; what is unique in Canada is that the frequency of each show's performance schedule will be determined mostly by demand.

Large swaths of Soulpepper's calendar are empty right now, notably June and November, but the company will eventually slot in productions to run in each of its two spaces every night, depending on which shows are most popular.

But Schultz says Soulpepper will never turn into Our Town, all the time - new plays will continue to be added to the repertoire; with less financial risk, the potential is there to take more artistic risks in programming. (This year, 12 productions are new to Soulpepper.) Getting this system to work does involve some complicated spread-sheeting, and the slotting in of one-person shows so that actors can have nights off.

And while Schultz expects it could take three years to bring the new system fully on line, he's excited about the possible benefits: Productions would have a longer time to build an audience through word of mouth; potential revenue increases by 35 per cent due to a decrease in nights where the theatres are empty; and actors would have more employment stability.

Certainly other Canadian theatres will be watching closely. The ultimate goal, after all, is to - in Schultz's phrase - "keep the best work alive."

Wayne McGregor Fascinates With His Dance-Technology Fusion

www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Wayne McGregor|Random Dance
At the Grand Theatre in Kingston on Saturday

(February 8, 2011) Britain’s
Wayne McGregor produces works of immense depth, and his fusion of dance and technology has made him one of Europe’s hottest choreographers. McGregor’s intriguing full-length piece Entity (2008) is currently on a three-city Canadian tour, and contemporary dance doesn’t get more sophisticated than this.

Entity is a quintessential example of McGregor’s intellectual and artistic inquiry. He’s fascinated by dance as science, or how the mind and body work together to produce movement. And this cold experimentation goes hand in hand with images of stunning beauty.

McGregor sets his thesis right at the start with a grainy movie of a running dog, which looks like an experiment from the work of motion picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge. The dog is an entity, a body viewed in the abstract, and so are the bodies of the 10 dancers that follow. Through a series of solos, duets and ensembles, they are entities moving through space. The way McGregor works the body, and combinations of bodies, is a fascinating process.

Entity is not just cool science. Abstract though his movement is, little stories seem to be happening to individuals, to couples and to larger groups of dancers. The humanity of the entities cannot be suppressed. The movement is also living sculpture, beautiful in its conception and striking in its visual impact.

The choreographer’s signature is a body that seems to have no rigid interior structure. In the Q&A that followed the performance, words such as double-jointed, boneless and extreme were used in an attempt to describe McGregor’s physical calling card.

The basic McGregor body, with a nod to Bob Fosse, has the shoulders back, the chest and pelvis thrust forward, with the deep concave arch of the spine raising the buttocks to almost impossible heights. The limbs pivot through the sockets at unbelievable angles. Movement travels through the body as fluid waves. No matter how distorted the position, the body is always supple. Nothing jars the lyrical flow.

In terms of partnering, bodies combine in such convoluted ways that one often can’t discern which limbs belong to which dancer. In trios and larger groupings, the individual actions of the dancers become almost impenetrable. The quicksilver physical changes are a kaleidoscope that moves too quickly for the eye to rest on one detail for any length of time.

Hand in hand with the movement are the visuals. The digital video of Ravi Deepres is projected on a curved mesh screen designed by Patrick Burnier. Burnier’s costumes begin as unisex white T-shirts and black briefs. In the latter stages of the dance, the men are bare-chested while the women wear black halters. This increased exposure of flesh becomes the landscape for Lucy Carter’s arresting lighting.

The mostly black-and-white video images are fleeting algebra equations, bar codes, DNA spirals and microscopic cells. Numbers hurtle by at dizzying speed. Mathematical calculations and laboratory specimens are superimposed on one another to blur the focus. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of body parts. The tools of hard science have been rendered into video art that is beautiful in and of itself.

The original music by Joby Talbot and Jon Hopkins is very dramatic, more cinematic soundscape than dance accompaniment. Whether edgy electronica, melancholy strings, lyrical pastorals or nerve-wracking scratchings, the score is always atmospheric and evocative.

In the finale, the image of the running dog returns, but this time we look at the entity differently because of McGregor’s choreography. We can isolate its rippling muscles, see the gorgeous symmetry of the legs in motion, and be aware of the effortless beauty of a body pushed to the extreme.

Wayne McGregor|Random Dance appears at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre on Feb. 8 and Montreal's Place des Arts from Feb. 10 to 12.


These Gaming Devices All Want To Be Held By You

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(February 04, 2011) With last week’s revelation of the worst kept secret in gaming — Sony’s Next Generation Portable — we know that the real action this year is going to be on the mobile gaming front. Last week, Nintendo announced pricing and availability of the 3DS, but really, both of Japan’s gaming giants have to deal with a gaming world that has been totally disrupted by Apple’s IOs platform.

There are still a lot of questions about what the
mobile gaming wars hold, but here’s what we know with some instant analysis.

Sony’s NGP:

What we know: Colloquially referred prelaunch as the PSP2, Sony’s latest gadget is being touted as the most powerful hand-held gaming device ever made. Targeted at the hardcore gamer, it has some features that many have long been asking for – namely dual joysticks, similar to the consoles controllers. It will feature two touch screens – one of front, one on the back – but no Universal Media Disc, instead it will use memory sticks or downloads and has two cameras. It will be able to a number of things, including augmented reality games, social gaming and purportedly will be as powerful as a PS3. There no confirmed release date, but the company is saying it should be out for this year’s holiday season.

Big Questions: Right now, how much is it going to cost? Sony charged too much for the PS3 at launch, which really slowed the adoption out of the gate. As well, despite many iterations of the PSP, and a few standout games, the lineup wasn’t that impressive and often seemed like an afterthought compared to the company’s various other priorities. The company makes great technology, no question, but can it follow through? The other big question is how much longer gamers will desire a stand alone gaming device, and whether the appetite for full-fledge games exists after being trained to pay almost nothing for game apps. Lastly, the PlayStation Phone has also been rumoured and depending on what that can do, will Sony be competing with itself and confusing consumers?


What we know: The 3DS is coming out on March 27 with a list price of $249, and promises glasses free 3D, with universally hailed effects so far. This fits with the company’s philosophy of a different offering, as opposed to competing simply on hardware terms. It also has a number of social features, can take 3D pictures, play augmented reality games and will be backwards compatible with existing games (although won’t play old games in 3D). The company is also working on 3D video content deals, showcasing movies like Disney’s Tangled at launch events.

Big Questions: The DS in all of its iterations was a monstrous success, so there’s no doubt the 3DS is going to be huge out of the gate. While the launch lineup is okay, the larger implications of this device go beyond gaming, and really are about acceptance of 3D. Sales of TV’s with the new tech did nowhere near as anticipated this holiday season, and the lack of content remains troubling. This should be the first in-home 3D game-changer, and the entire tech industry should be hoping this will be the hit everybody expects.


What we know: It’s been just over a year since Apple launched The iPad, and while we won’t call it magical, it has kicked off the tablet computing revolution. Apple doesn’t make games, but its IOs platform is definitely reshaping the mobile gaming market, with the ubiquity of its phones, and the number of games available on the device. As well, people are now trained to pay a few dollars for games – often balking when some try to charge $10 for a game, which would be considered a deal in the old portable world. Well known studios are making games for it, and many games are coming with a IOs tie-in games. Sure, the games for the most part are one-note mechanics, but many are quite addictive. The graphics of many new games are quite impressive, but game play still needs some work.

Big Questions: Since the company does an at least yearly refresh of product, the question is what we’ll get in The iPad 2 (rumoured for an April launch) and the iPhone 5. In terms of gaming, some kind of universal control scheme might not be a bad idea, although third party companies have jumped in, like the Fling, which is a thumb stick controller accessory for the iPad. Other than that, the question is what is the next Angry Birds? Also, the question is whether someone can create a deeper experience that takes hold of the masses.

Windows 7 & Android:

What we know: In the U.S., Android phones have been selling more than iPhones for the past few months, although, that’s partly because the number of different phones available. The Android app store has been growing incredibly, but really, it remains in a catch-up state to the iPhone, although many popular games should be ported over by the end of the year.

As for Windows Phone 7, the series of phones has a pretty good launch at the end of November, and for serious gamers, the Xbox Live integration is a nice thing, although it could be take more advantage of.

Big Questions: With Android, the question is whether any developer will take the lead and develop for the platform first, and whether it can create its own gaming hit. One very interesting development this week was the Sony announced a PlayStation Suite of tools for Android, making it possible for older PS1 and PS2 games to be ported over to the phone.

As for Windows 7, Microsoft has entered the market, and the company talked about the phone to be the central hub of their entire tech in the future, which is a good idea, but so far, hard to see happening. It should also continue to push developers to create interesting game experience for the device. One of the launch titles, Harvest, is a massive game for phones, so they’ve proved they can do it. They just need more.


Power Plant Director Resigns

www.globeandmail.com - By James Adams

(February 8, 2011) Gregory Burke, director of the Power Plant, one of the country's most important not-for-profit contemporary art galleries, has announced his resignation, effective the end of May.

No reason for his departure was cited in a media release issued by the Toronto gallery on Tuesday, nor was there any indication where Burke would be taking his talents next. In a brief interview, he said he had been "thinking about [resigning] for a while. The major part of it is that on March 9 we'll will be launching the most significant capital development in the Power Plant since it opened" - a reference to the gallery's new lobby, reception area and store, designed by the award-winning Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects.

"And since it was coming to the end of a five-year strategic plan that I put in place, it seemed like a good time to think of another chapter in my career." As for that next chapter, Burke said: "There's nothing I'm in a position to announce at this point."

Sources indicate that no one incident precipitated Burke's resignation, which was presented to the Power Plant board on Monday afternoon before being put in a release on Tuesday.

The directorship of the Power Plant has been regarded as "a very tough job," in the words of one Toronto art insider, ever since the gallery opened in mid-1987 in a converted generating station on the shore of Lake Ontario. Not only must the director report to a board, the gallery operates as a division of Harbourfront Centre, an umbrella organization that runs a potpourri of Toronto waterfront activities and cultural programs, including an authors festival, a craft studio, an outdoor skating rink and a dance theatre.

While the Power Plant job has attracted several stellar names over the years - for instance, Marc Mayer, current head of the National Gallery of Canada, served as director from 1997 to 2001 - the gallery has experienced several bouts of financial distress, curatorial power struggles and staff turnovers.

Burke was named director of the Power Plant in June, 2005, succeeding Wayne Baerwaldt (now at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary), and assumed the job in the fall of that year. By the time his stint ends, he will have been the longest-serving of the six men who have helmed the gallery since its opening.

A native of New Zealand, Burke came to Canada from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, where he was director for seven years. During his time in New Zealand, he earned a reputation as one of the country's premier liaisons with the international art scene. He was curator for New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and commissioner of the country's pavilion at the 2005 Venice biennale.

As part of his five-year plan for the Power Plant, Burke launched the All Summer, All Free program in 2006, providing free admission and dramatically increased attendance. He commissioned major new international projects from artists such as Berlin's Candice Breitz, New York's Lawrence Weiner, Vancouver's Ian Wallace and Berlin's Simon Starling and brought in numerous speakers, including New York art critic Jerry Saltz, art historian Thomas Crow and Iwona Blazwick, curator of London's famous Whitechapel Gallery. Among the exhibitions he curated were Recent Snow: Projected Works by Michael Snow, Francesco Vezzoli: A True Hollywood Story! and Simon Goldin + Jakob Senneby: Headless.

Burke is married to Canadian artist Christine Davis and they have a son. So "the family obviously is a priority in my life," he observed. "But that doesn't mean to say we won't move at some point. ... Obviously the opportunities for someone in my position are more plentiful if you look around the world."

Diary Of A Mad Gypsy Wife

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 07, 2011) Emma Forrest knows “the question” is coming.

It does in every interview for her newly released memoir,
Your Voice in My Head (Random House $29.95). In fact, she invites the topic — and suddenly the coolly confident, well-spoken British writer turns girlish, grins and ducks her head.

Is the man she calls G.H. — “gypsy husband,” to her “gypsy wife” in Your Voice in My Head — the footloose and famous actor who has baby-making on his mind then suddenly breaks her heart, yanking her back to the brink of previously stilled madness, Irish heartthrob Colin Farrell?

“With the assumption that the lover in the book is him, that’s fair enough. People have every right to think it’s whoever they want,” Forrest says, despite the evidence: photos of her and Farrell snapped during their six-month affair in 2008 that were splashed all over the tabloids and still survive on the Internet.

“That seems either coy or wanting it two ways and it’s just because every single thing I am comfortable saying is there,” Forrest admits, nodding at the copy of her book in the middle of a boardroom table at her Toronto publisher’s office.

Forrest is as used to doing the interviewing as being the subject. She has written for Brit newspapers and magazines since she was a teenager and published her first novel, Namedropper, in 1998. She’s now working on screenplays, including soon one for Your Voice in My Head. Ruby Films (Tamara Drewe, Jane Eyre) has the rights, while Variety has named Forrest one of the “Top 10 screenwriters to watch” for her romantic comedy script Liars (A-E). It had been picked up my Miramax but now seems to be in limbo.

Meanwhile, Forrest imagines Kat Dennings playing the character she calls “her” and Julian Schnabel directing Your Voice in My Head.

If it frustrates the 33-year-old Forrest — who has been writing for a living since she landed a music column for the Sunday Times in London at age 15 — that there isn’t as much immediate curiosity about the other revelations in Your Voice in My Head, she doesn’t show it. Her memoir is also a very personal look at what Forrest dubs her “breakdown and madness,” a struggle in her early 20s with self-harm, bulimia, suicide and dark depression after she moved from London to New York to further her writing career.

Not long out of hospital after a suicide attempt, we follow Forrest as she cries her way across lower Manhattan, occasionally bumping into the famous and infamous, including Monica Lewinsky. Much of the book focuses on Forrest’s sessions with her psychiatrist, Dr. R., who brought her back post-suicide attempt and whose sudden death from lung cancer leaves her once again adrift. She frequently inserts quotes from a chat room made up of Dr. R.’s mourning patients into Your Voice in My Head.

In her movie version of the book, Forrest will take the emphasis off her character and place it on Dr. R.; “a sort of Good Will Hunting,” is how she sees the film. George Clooney or Jeff Bridges would be ideal for the part of her nurturing shrink, she says.

“It is the interesting intersection of medicine and faith, and what got them (patients) through is he (Dr. R.) had absolute faith in them when they didn’t have faith in themselves,” Forrest explains.

Forrest’s faith is secure these days. She is happy in a year-long relationship with a very private man who “supports me and doesn’t want anything to do with the book.”

The memoir is “vindication that I am a real writer,” says Forrest, who glibly points out she has faced a lifetime of incorrect assumption that she slept her way into various jobs.

“My life would have been easier if I didn’t write about my life,” she says, her voice trailing off. But she hopes her story will not seduce young readers with the romance of madness but rather the hopeful ending she has achieved in spite of it.

“I have worried that people may be inspired by it, but if you read the book there’s nothing I could have made out of this if I wasn’t alive.”

And as for Ophelia, Hamlet’s suicidal paramour who was something of a tragic heroine to the troubled Forrest and whose portrait in death by John Everett Millais is on the book’s cover she’s left her behind, too.

“Ophelia? Disinterested. Over, done with.”


Spa-tacular in the Caribbean

Source: http://jaxfaxcaribbeannews.blogspot.com

(February 4, 2011) Whether it’s rejuvenation for your soul or a massage for your soles, a day in a Caribbean spa is a must-have guilty pleasure. From an apricot pit scrub to a mineral mud bath, welcome to the world of unbridled relaxation where the wise and the weary soak, scour and soothe their way to feeling good.

There’s plenty of sensual healing in the Blue Spa at the swank Carlisle Bay in Antigua. With views of the rainforest, the glass walls are covered with louvered shutters to ensure peace and quiet in the six treatment rooms, plunge pools and sauna. “Guests occasionally find it hard to relax on a vacation, “said Bruce Lawrence, spa manager, “however, after a hot stone or deep tissue massage, relaxation is instant.”  Stand-out treatments include the ‘Citrus Drench” which hydrates the skin with Shea butter, honey and orange extract.  Visit http://www.carlisle-bay.com/

At the pair of Ocean Club Resorts in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, Spa Tropique delights with unmistakable island calm. Friendly front desk staff at both resorts, Ocean Club and Ocean Club West , will arrange a myriad of massages either en suite or inside the aptly named spa  with its warm colors, aromatic scents and a jazzy soundtrack that is never too loud. “Foot massages are popular with folks coming from cold cities,” smiles Patricia Amor De la Rosa, masseuse, “because walking on the beach in comfort is a priority.” Massages worth the splurge include the “Turks Island Salt Glow” using sea salts from the flats of Salt Cay and a gentle “Eye Candy” treatment that softens winter weary lines around the eyes.  Visit http://www.spatropique.com/

In St. Lucia, La Mer Spa at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort in Rodney Bay is a tranquil haven for rejuvenation offering sports massages, body scrubs and full-body rubdowns for couples. “Feeling relaxed and gorgeous should be easy, “said managing director Joyce Destang, “we bring a full-service spa experience to a convenient setting on our hotel premises.”  Visit www.baygardensresorts.com

Soaks in tubs filled with water from the Diamond Mineral Baths where Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Josephine
reportedly “took the cure” is the quintessential St. Lucian experience at the chic Ladera Resort. Visit www.ladera.com

The “Body Oasis “at Janissa’s Spa at the Spice Island Beach Resort is Grenada’s ode to well-being.  The all-day package - $610.00- includes treatments that utilize the fragrance of nutmeg, restorative powers of coconut and the calm of ocean seaweed. Visit http://www.spiceislandbeachresort.com/.

Get in touch with your inner hedonist at the Wellness Center at Cap Juluca in Anguilla where a “Green Tea and Ginger Sea Enzyme Wrap” relaxes to the tune of $205.00 for eighty minutes. Visit http://www.capjuluca.com/

Across the sea in St. Maarten, an hour flies by under a steam dome as warm honey is rubbed all over the body at the Good Life Spa in the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort.  The “Salt and Honey Glow” joins other regal treatments like the “Four Hand massage” where a pair of therapists performs a choreography of moves that will remind clients why they booked a vacation in the first place.   http://www.thegoodlifespa.com/

Everything about it is exclusive from the marble floors to the bathrobes embossed with the Dior signature.  The first and only Christian Dior spa in the Caribbean, The Dior Spa at The Cliff in Cupecoy Beach, excels with a power soak in a hydrotherapy tub where sea water, seaweed and more than two hundred jets melt tension into oblivion. Visit http://cliffsxm.com/spa.

Pampering is paramount in Jamaica with a vast array of the crème de la crème of tropical spas. Setting the gold standard in Montego Bay, relaxation at the Ritz-Carlton Resort is de rigueur with eleven treatment rooms, fitness center and saunas. With fine finesse and nimble fingers, the “Gentlemen’s Retreat “ - 130 minutes / $349.00-  is for the boys in the crowd and includes a massage, facial and  round of golf on the 18-hole White Witch course. Visit http://www.ritzcarlton.com/.

The scent of lemongrass permeates the air at the Red Lane Spas in Sandals Resorts region-wide. Hot and cold plunge pools, eucalyptus saunas and perfumed garden sanctuaries compliment a menu that includes a  no-nonsense facial that uses vitamin-rich red oranges, grapefruit oil and seaweed and massages like the ‘Wake up and Smell the Coffee’ that exfoliates the skin with coffee grounds but won’t keep you up at night.  Visit http://www.sandals.com/

Life is laced with languor at the open-air KiYara Spa at the Jamaica Inn in the cliffs of Cutlass Bay, outside Ocho Rios. Translating to ‘sacred place of the earth spirits’ in the language of the Taino Indians, treatments harness river-smoothed stones in the “Hot Stone Energy Balancing Massage “and  organic cocoa for a  “Chocolate Indulgence’” rub that is good enough to eat and too good to miss. Visit http://www.jamaicainn.com/.

Centuries-old healing traditions are alive and well at the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay. From a massage with heated sea shells and a sugar and allspice body exfoliation to a “Jamaican Bush Bath” steeped in the local healing herb known as “cerasee”, the spa on the sandy crescent dotted with fragrant gardens is relaxation par excellence. Visit http://www.halfmoon.com/.

And for mommies-to-be, Breezes Resorts in Jamaica and Curaçao are selling a “Blue Mahoe Maternity” spa package for women in their second and third trimesters. The package includes a massage, facial and pedicure and unlimited pickles and ice cream at the resorts buffet tables. Visit http://www.breezes.com/.

Spa 101 – The Glossary

Acupuncture: The ancient Chinese healing system that uses fine needles to open up blockages to balance the flow of energy.

Body Polish: Skin exfoliation using botanical, fruit or marine extracts.

Chakras: Seven energy centers located between the base of the spine and the top of the skull.

Couples Massage: Side-by-side therapeutic massage for two - one therapist for each person.

Eco-Spa: Facilities that limit the use of plastic packaging bleached paper and chlorinated water.

Exfoliation: The removal of dead skin cells by loofah rub or body brush.

Hot Stone Massage:  Hot and cold stones used for relief of sore muscles.

Reflexology: An ancient system of applying pressure to reflex points on the feet.

Salt Glow:  Hydrating treatment using salt and fragrant oils.

Vichy Shower:  Multiple showerheads spraying warm water while you recline on a wet table.


Expect More Moves, Burke Says After Beauchemin Trade

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(February 09, 2011) It was a busy Wednesday for Leafs GM
Brian Burke: He added some top-six scoring in forward Joffrey Lupul, added a defensive prospect in Jake Gardiner, grabbed a mid-round 2013 draft pick and said he'd call up Keith Aulie at 12:01 p.m. Thursday.

And that was all because he traded
Francois Beauchemin.

And he's not done.

“We're excited about today. We think it's a good day. It fits with our program, getting younger, slightly younger, in this case,” said Burke.

“You can expect more moves. We're not done. We continue to be active. We have a nothing imminent, but that of course can change with a phone call.” The next thing that will happen will be determining the future of centre John Mitchell. He was placed on waivers. Another NHL team will either claim him, or he will be sent to the Marlies. Either way, once that roster spot opens up, the Leafs will call up Aulie to take over Beauchemin's spot on the blue line.

“In moving Francois Beauchemin out, we're punching a hole here for a younger defenceman,” said Burke.

“We don't have a roster spot, we have nothing to announce today, but as soon as we get a roster spot, we're calling up Keith Aulie. We expect him to be here for a while.

“That's where the youth movement will become clear.”

The trade comes just as the Leafs are on a 4-0-1 spot and joining the conversation about a playoff spot.

“People are going to ask if this is a concession on a playoff spot. It's not at all,” said Burke.

“In our view, our scoring has been bunched to a handful of people, we're adding an asset (Lupul) that can basically diversify our scoring a little bit, give us some dimension on power plays.

“We think the big man (Aulie) can step in and play on defence. He's a young kid, we don't want to put too much pressure on him, he'll make mistakes, but we expect him to come up and be here for a while.”

Leaf coach Ron Wilson has some advice for Lupul.

“He better get himself a good night's sleep,” said Wilson.

“We're going to play him a lot.”

Lupul, a gifted goal scorer with a latent series of health issues, will find himself most likely on a line with Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur, a former teammate with the Medicine Hat Tigers, as the Leafs believe themselves to have found a top-six forward.

“We should get some balance,” said Wilson.

“We should have three lines that have the potential to score every time they're on the ice.

“He's got a great shot. He's just a goal scorer, as simple as that.”

Lupul said he's worked hard to come back from a back injury and is happy to get a chance with Toronto because he felt he didn't fit in to Anaheim's plans.

“For a while there it was a tough situation,” Lupul said of his injury.

“I didn't know what the future had in store for me. I worked really hard to come back. I'm starting to feel better and better and more comfortable every night.

“There's a lot I can bring to the team. Since I came back, I didn't really have a place on their team. I can’t say I'm completely shocked. I'm going to get an opportunity here after coming back from injury. ... From a hockey standpoint I'm definitely happy to be moving on.”

The deal was pure Brian Burke, the Leafs GM who likes to deal well in advance of the trade deadline. He did so in acquiring Dion Phaneuf and J-S Giguere last year and did it again with Lupul.

“In my history, I've always tried to beat the trade deadline,” said Burke. “When you get to the trade deadline, it's like a stampede. There's lots of milling around, and lots of confusion, and I think it’s much more difficult to act with clarity and purpose at the deadline.

“It's almost like a party with a pinata, everyone is going for one player everyone is swinging at it, it's hard to focus.

“You can set your price. If you don't get your price, you can always wait.”

The Leafs also got highly regarded puck-moving defenceman in Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 entry draft for Beauchemin. The condition on the pick is the length of time Lupul is on the roster. The longer Lupul stays, the lower the pick becomes.

Beauchemin has another year left in his contract at about $3.55 million. Lupul has two years left at $4.25 million.

Burke had said he wanted help now and prospects in any trade and delivered.

In Gardiner, the Leafs get a first rounder from 2008 (17th) overall that Burke drafted. He has seven goals and 23 assists in 30 games and was a member of the 2010 Team USA that won gold at the world junior championships.

“He's a real good skater, we project him as a top four defenceman,” Burke said of Gardiner.

Beauchemin, 30, has two goals and 10 assists in 54 games with the Leafs, returns to the Ducks, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

“It's tough to see him leave,” said Leaf goalie J-S Giguere, who was on that 07 Ducks team. “But at the same time, it's part of hockey.

“I talked to him before he left, and for sure he's in a bit of shock, but at the same time he's going to a place that's familiar to him and his family and that's reassuring to him.”

Beauchemin, who had a limited no-trade contract, said Anaheim was on his list because he'd played there before. He said he loved playing in Toronto and did not ask for a trade.

“I loved it here, it's a great city to play, a great group of guys,” said Beauchemin.

“We're out of a playoff spot and that’s not where you want to be at this time of year. I wish we could have been better.

“I was kind of expecting something to happen with all the rumours out there.”

The key ‘for now’ for the Leafs is Lupul, a 27-year-old with five goals and eight assists in 26 games.

His best year was his rookie year in Anaheim, with 28 goals. He's also had seasons of 20 and 25 with Philadelphia but has had injury issues.

He returned to the Ducks line-up on Dec. 5 vs. Phoenix after missing nearly a full year with a back injury and subsequent blood infection.

“We need to score more goals and giving Lupul an opportunity, he should be able to help us offensively,” said Wilson.

“We have to be patient with him. He hasn't played much in the last two years. In the past he's shown he can score and score in big situations.”

The Leafs, meanwhile, have won four of their last five despite a prolonged scoring slump by Phil Kessel. They're eight points out of a playoff spot.

“We've been trying to look for goal scoring, both inside (the organization) and outside, and an opportunity to pick up Joffrey Lupul presented itself,” said Wilson.

“We think we're deep enough as an organization to give up a player like Beauchemin, who has played well for us, who was a leader on and off the ice. It's going to be hard to replace his minutes, but we think we've got another key to the offensive puzzle.”

Tim Brent was Lupul's teammate in 04-05 with Cincinnati of the AHL.

“He's a solid guy and he's going to bring a lot to our team,” said Brent.

“He's got one of the best shots I've seen, very quick release.”

Raptors Break 13-Game Losing Streak

www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(February 4, 2011) With just under five minutes left, Jose Calderon stood at midcourt at the Air Canada Centre waving his arms, exhorting the fans — and his teammates to finish a game strongly.

With just over two minutes left, after feeding Amir Johnson for a dunk that sealed the game, Calderon rushed back to the huddle for a timeout screaming in delight.

It was the kind of emotion the
Raptors hadn't shown in almost a month, the kind of emotion that comes from a victory, the kind of relief that punctuates the snapping of a mentally draining losing streak.

With Calderon tying a career and franchise record for assists, and with Johnson playing a game that coach Jay Triano lauded as “almost perfect,” the Raptors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-100, breaking off a 13-game losing streak.

Now, it's not like they beat the Spurs or Celtics — Minnesota is now 11-39 and 2-23 on the road — but a win is a win is a win and the Raptors are just glad to have one.

“It feels good,” admitted coach Jay Triano. “Again, our focus has been not on what's happened in the past, it's been on the game at hand.

“I read all the stuff that different people say and talk about our guys being down a lot, I'd rather have them be down when you're losing rather than be joking around.

“These guys care and they work hard every day in practice and like I've been saying all along, I want to get a win to reward them for all the work that they've done and hopefully they feel good about tonight.”

They should because as iffy as the competition was, the Raptors played a solid game at both ends and were full measure for the win.

Calderon, who privately seethed as the losses mounted, dished out 19 assists, tying a franchise record he shares with Damon Stoudamire, while Johnson had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots.

“I thought Amir was unbelievable,” said Triano. “Six assists for him? His line is almost perfect basketball for a power forward and the number of deflections he had and the steals? He was great.”

Without backup point guard Jerryd Bayless (knee) and with Leandro Barbosa once again out with a strained hamstring, the Raptors needed to get major production out of a starting unit that's been piling up the minutes for the past three weeks.

And they got something from everyone as Andrea Bargnani had 30 points, DeMar DeRozan 20 and Sonny Weems 16.

“We've been saying, if we're going to be successful, we have to have more than one or two guys play well and tonight we did,” said Triano.

The unsung hero award has to go to Trey Johnson, who had to fill in as the backup point guard and contributed 10 important points off the bench.

Johnson's 10-day contract expires Saturday and there's no guarantee he'll be back, but if that was his swan song it was a good one.

“We knew going in, especially with Bayless out, that we were going to have to mix and match a little bit and Trey Johnson was going to have to probably play a little bit out of position for him as a backup point guard but I thought he handled it well,” said the coach.

“They, of course, tried to trap him a little bit but his teammates came back (to the ball) and they helped him. They helped him move the basketball and I think we weathered that.”

The ugliness of the losing streak would have been exponentially worse had Toronto not won Friday night.

With a road game in Milwaukee on Tuesday and home games with San Antonio, Portland, the Clippers and Miami before the all-star break, it was hard to find a game the team could conceivably win.

It may still be true, but the validation of what they've been doing will be a huge psychological boost to a young team that might have been starting to doubt itself.


Sanders, Faulk and 5 Others Elected to NFL Hall of Fame

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(February 6, 2011) *Two first-year-eligible nominees — Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk — were among the seven players elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. The other five chosen by the 44-member committee were defensive end Richard Dent, tight end Shannon Sharpe, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, and linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter. To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum vote of 80 percent. Read MORE of this story at NFL.com.


I feel that an individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune that one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace - anxiety, doubt, disappointment - these are definitely less.


Source:  Dalai Lama