20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                     (416) 677-5883


February 17, 2011

Still so many things going on for Black History Month!  This past weekend I attended the ROM's (Royal Ontario Museum) world debut of the work of El Anatsui "When I Last Wrote to You About Africa" with Toronto's Michael Chambers as speaker.  Check out some photos on my Facebook HERE. Join Michael Chamber's Facebook photography page HEREor check him out at www.michaelchambers.ca.

Ever wonder what the deal is with all those anti-aging treatments?  Well, I have a special offer for those of us who need a little refreshed look during this season of harshness on our skin.  My friend, Norma, of
RefreshMedSpa by Normais offering a great special on all injectables, which efficiently reduce lines, folds and wrinkles, creates fuller lips, contours and creates volume and improves skin structure.  Now who needs a boost?  Give Norma a call and book a consultation before the offer expires!

The Grammys were on this past Sunday ... with some questionable performances and underdog wins - not to mention Canadian content.  Check out the news under GRAMMY COVERAGE below. 

 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! 


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UFC 129 Tickets Sell Out Within Minutes On Friday

Source: www.thestar.com - Neil Davidson

(February 11, 2011) Demand continued to far outstrip supply for Toronto UFC tickets Friday as the limited number available on a second day of a pre-sale for UFC 129 disappeared within minutes.

On the plus side, good seats are still available for the April 30 show at the Rogers Centre — if a few extra zeros don’t bother you.

On Friday, ticket reseller Stubhub offered seats from $104.99 (500 level, Row 20, corner upper tier) to $39,999 (ringside cage, Row 1).

Tickets originally ranged in price from $50 to $800.

If you are feeling particularly flush, there are four of those $39,999 cageside seats available.

But for those who can’t afford their own private jet, Stubhub had field-level seats going from $767 to $25,999.

The UFC sold out its original block of 42,000 tickets Thursday, prompting it to release more so there would still be some available Friday in a second pre-sale and Saturday to the general public.

Friday’s pre-sale was for those who subscribe to the UFC newsletter.

“The traffic was significant and I think there were all gone within four minutes,” said Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of Canadian operations.

UFC 129, slated for April 30 at the Rogers Centre, has already shattered the North American attendance record for a mixed martial arts show.

The previous record was UFC 124 in Montreal, which drew 23,152 to the Bell Centre in December.

“There’ll be a limited number of tickets available. They will be across all price points,” Wright said of what was left for Saturday’s shoppers.

Thursday’s tickets went to members of the UFC Fight Club or fans willing to pay the near $90 premium to join the fan club.

Searching for tickets at 10 a.m. ET when the Friday pre-sale window opened produced a lot of “Sorry, no exact matches were found, but other tickets may still be available” messages on Ticketmaster.

Some frantic typing over an hour produced two single tickets: one at $75 and the other at $800.

Wright said he expected to know by Monday at the latest the exact number of tickets sold for the Toronto show. There is a chance some additional tickets may come up, depending on final setup of the arena.

“We really won’t know that until literally two or three days before the event.”

Could this week’s sales have gone any better?

“We were managing our own expectations and other people’s expectations,” Wright answered. “And we were excited about what happened and we’re pleased with what happened.

“I think that’s Step 1 of making sure that this is an event that the city of Toronto and UFC fans across Ontario, Canada and the world will never forget.”

The Rogers Centre card will be the UFC’s sixth in Canada. Montreal has hosted UFC 83, 97, 113 and 124 while Vancouver hosted UFC 115.

VIDEOS: Surprise Grammy Winner Is Young Lioness

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(February 14, 2011) To mainstream music lovers — and Justin Bieber fans — it may seem as if Esperanza Spalding came out of nowhere to land the Best New Artist Grammy, but the jazz bassist-vocalist is an established hot property who counts Prince and President Barack Obama among her fans.

In a genre where female instrumentalists are scarce, and where ’90s mavericks like Joshua Redman and Roy Hargrove were dubbed Young Lions, Spalding, 26, is a Young Lioness.

The Oregon native, who released her self-titled major label debut in 2008, is a skilled player, arranger and composer with intriguing, crazy-haired panache that has garnered Banana Republic ads, a
New Yorker feature and appearances on all the late-night talk shows.

Normally playing upright bass and scatting or singing in English, Spanish or Portuguese, Spalding’s music blends jazz and R&B with Latin and African rhythms. Her second album,
Chamber Music Society, additionally draws on her classical training.

Becoming the first jazz artist to win the Best New Artist award — beating out Canadians Bieber and Drake, and Brits Florence and the Machine, and Mumford & Sons — “is going to take her up another level in her career,” said Pat Taylor, executive producer of the Toronto Jazz Festival, who tried unsuccessfully to book Spalding for the last two editions of his annual event.

It has also earned the ire of Bieber fans, who sabotaged her Wikipedia page and flooded Twitter with messages skewering Spalding (for example, “Did you sell out 86 shows in 2 days? Were any of your albums on the top of Billboard 200? No. Sit the f—k down”).

“We were first introduced to her in New York in 2007 and really thought she was a good young up-and-comer; she wasn’t singing so much then,” Taylor said.

Spalding could well be on the path of top sellers Diana Krall and Norah Jones, both gifted pianists who gained wider audiences — and the rancour of purists — when vocals and glossy photos shoots took prominence in their art.

The difference may be that Spalding, who played in a rock band in her teens and has collaborated with jazz legends as diverse as McCoy Tyner and Pat Metheny, started off showcasing an eclectic musical style and flamboyant aesthetic.

The biracial performer grew up in challenging financial circumstances in Portland with her mother and older brother. Largely home-schooled, she landed a scholarship to Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music where she now fits teaching around her 100-plus annual concert gigs worldwide.

Spalding fulfilled Obama’s request to perform at his Nobel Prize ceremony in 2009, but Toronto audiences are still waiting.

Scheduling conflicts have foiled attempts to get her to the Toronto Jazz Fest and may again this summer, said Taylor, though organizers have been trying to confirm a date since November.

“She has a recording commitment in late June and with the Grammy she’s going to be even harder to get,” he explained.

But if the festival’s “50-50 chance” doesn’t work out, Taylor aims to book her for a concert series in the fall.

Whenever she comes, Spalding now warrants a bigger venue than originally conceived, but with an agreement already drafted at least Taylor doesn’t have to worry about the Grammy effect boosting her performance fee.

“We have an offer that was acceptable if the dates worked out, so the amount should remain the same,” he said. “It’s a different story if someone new is talking to her (agents) today. And I bet their phones are ringing non-stop.”

CKLN Granted Stay of CRTC Decision

Source: www. ckln.com

(February 11, 2011) – TORONTO, ON. Campus-based community radio station CKLN88.1FM is heartened and encouraged by the decision of Her Honour Madam Justice Layden-Stevenson to grant the station a stay of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (the CRTC’s) Decision 2011-56, released January 28th, 2011. This decision revoked CKLN’s broadcast license and would have seen Toronto’s oldest campus-based community radio station go off-air February 12th, 2011. The stay of the decision will allow the station to continue to broadcast until the Federal Court of Appeal considers CKLN’s request for leave to appeal from the CRTC’s decision, under Canada’s Broadcasting Act, s.31 (2).

CKLN supports CRTC Commissioner Louise Poirier’s dissent which is part of Decision 2011-56 and is available on the CRTC website. This Commissioner criticized the decision as “unwarranted” and “inconsistent.” She cited, among other considerations, the Principle of Gradation, under which the Commission should institute lesser measures before issuing a full revocation. Madame Poirier also stated that “the regulatory measure that has been adopted is disproportionate to the fault” and later that “the decision to revoke the licence at this time is premature, disproportionate and inequitable.”

CKLN has honoured all commitments given to the CRTC at the Public Hearing before the CRTC. Also as committed to by CKLN, it will be hiring a new Station Manager by February 28, 2011 to oversee the the station’s day-to-day operations. These initiatives follow on the heels of the adoption on December 15, 2011 of new by-laws compliant with Industry Canada’s model by-laws for non-profit organizations.

CKLN offers music that no commercial radio station will play; multi-lingual programming to diverse communities; spoken word programming for the benefit of an incredible array of cultures, political viewpoints, and diverse social and pansexual mores and philosophies. CKLN has been a community radio station since 1983, giving voice to assorted opinions, music, and issues that are under-represented in mainstream media. Ryerson Radio and Television Arts student and CKLN programmer Amiga Taylor says “we as students have had an incomparable opportunity to express ourselves on the radio because of CKLN.”

Staff Representative and Frequency Feminisms programmer, Joeita Gupta, says “CKLN’s history, role and mandate are crucial to this city’s non-mainstream artists, journalists and to several different communities. “ CKLN invites you to tune in, turn on and speak out against the idea that alternative media should be silenced as an example to other volunteer-driven community media outlets.

The public can help CKLN by going to www.ckln.fm  and:

CTV Acquires Flow 93.5

Source: www.swaymag.ca - By Dayo Kefentse

(February 14, 2011) What? No more Soca Therapy? Spexx? What about OTA Live’s Unauthorized Biography? Just how will I get my fix?

Even though many of us saw it coming, the news still hit many people in the gut:
CTV has bought FLOW 93.5. A station that I and countless others once fought for and became a landmark as the first black-owned radio station in the city, was bought for a cool $27 million in a corporate takeover.

It’s been a hot topic of conversation on Facebook, and phones lines crackled with heated discussion. Those who wanted FLOW to stay as it was feel betrayed. Complaints abound.

The passion surrounding FLOW’s switch doesn’t surprise me, as the dream of a black radio station in Toronto was one that I and many others in the city took to heart.

Early rumblings of a commercial black radio station, a first in Toronto, caught my attention as a teenager in the early 1990s. An avid radio listener, I was taking in Tom Rivers and Mike Cooper on 680 CFTR. Cool station, but not known for its urban content. Certainly not the tunes I could pick up by using my foil-topped antennae pointing straight at Buffalo.

So this new station, then called Milestone radio, was an exciting prospect! Hip hop and R&B static-free!

Frustrated with feeling musically sidelined, I and other young people in the city took action. We punched numbers on our land-line phones, leafed through community newspapers and hiked on buses to talk strategy.

During my high-school winter break, I took pen to paper in protest. Finding a 40-cent stamp in my Mom’s purse, I slipped my letter to the editor of the Toronto Star into the nearest mailbox. It was published in January 1992.

Finally, when FLOW 93.5 hit the airwaves, it felt like a victory — a home that blended the music we knew, loved and grooved to. Many in my generation were proud to know that this commercial radio station, owned by a former Caribbean immigrant much like many of our parents, would offer career opportunities in our hometown for those of us who wanted to get into the industry. As a reporter on CBC Radio, I interviewed three of FLOW’s inaugural DJs. To say they were excited to launch their careers was an understatement. It felt like the whole city was happy for them.

But in what feels like just weeks, a quick 10 years have passed.

No longer limited to one radio station and archaic antennas, we now all have instant access to music from around the world through online streaming. Everything from zouk, to R&B, to hip hop and calypso can be found at our fingertips, in seconds. Ghetto blasters have been replaced by iPods.

A lot in life has changed. So why wouldn’t we expect FLOW to change too?

Since 2001, urban music has melded into pop culture. FLOW, once identified as an urban contemporary station, eventually swayed to more of a dance and pop beat.

Rather than feeling hurt about what FLOW 93.5 has become, let’s turn the complaints into creativity. Why not choose to celebrate what FLOW has done for Toronto’s history?

FLOW’s prominence pushed other Toronto radio stations to seriously consider urban music in their formats. It created an industry and careers for young people who didn’t think it was possible in this town.

And it helped build an example and legacy for the next generation. CARN, the call letters for another new Toronto radio venture, is now pledging to fill the musical gap left by FLOW, and will certainly learn from its predecessor’s lessons. And who knows how technology will eventually influence little people like my goddaughter Laila to write a fresh page in Toronto’s media history?

As Black History Month is celebrated across the city, I will mark it by remembering what FLOW 93.5 did for me: it helped me see the power of limitless possibilities, what can happen when you have a dream and go for it.

Whether you listened and liked FLOW 93.5 or even agreed with the decision to sell it, the history books will still show it existed as a black-owned radio station for 10 years when many didn’t think such a thing was possible.

Now if that’s not a milestone worth celebrating, I’m not sure what is.

Dayo Kefentse is a communications manager, writer and broadcaster.


Arcade Fire Wins The Big One At Grammy Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(February 14, 2011) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—It was a night of surprises by Canadians at the Grammys.

Neil Young finally won a Grammy Award for his music and Michael Bublé picked up his third piece of hardware, but Toronto rapper Drake and Stratford, Ont., teen idol Justin Bieber were shut out.

It looked like the same fate would befall Montreal band Arcade Fire, as it lost its first two categories to the Black Keys.

Then the inconceivable happened: the band won the key Album of the Year award, beating heavy hitters Lady Gaga, Eminem, Lady Antebellum and Katy Perry.

“What the hell,” exclaimed band leader Win Butler as the shocked group made its way to the stage.

“Merci to Montreal for giving us a home, a place to be in a band,” he said.

“Thank you everyone, thank you Grammys, we’re so happy.”

Earlier in the evening, it was a shock of a different kind when Drake and Bieber lost the Best New Artist category to jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, who was considered a long shot.

Bieber also lost his first nomination, Best Pop Vocal Album, to Lady Gaga’s
The Fame Monster.

Drake, meanwhile, was bested by Eminem and Jay-Z respectively in his first two categories. He also lost his other two nominations in the evening gala, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, which went to Eminem..

Arcade Fire’s early shutout proved a shock to Grammy insiders.

Since the band was up for the evening’s top prize — Album of the Year — many assumed their other two nominations were virtual locks. But they lost out to the Black Keys for both Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Young, 65, claimed the award for Best Rock Song for “Angry World” at a pre-telecast ceremony. He lost Best Rock Album to British group Muse during the televised part of the awards.

Young never won a Grammy during his 1960s and ‘70s heyday but in recent years claimed an award for the packaging of his
Archives set.

He was also honoured by MusiCares last year for his charity work.

“I appreciate this very much,” he said Sunday. “This is my first Grammy for music. It’s appreciated greatly.

“I’d like to thank my lovely wife, Pegi — she’s been with me for 33 and a third years of marriage, keeping me rocking.”

The most awards went to country group Lady Antebellum with five, including the coveted Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Lady Gaga, who performed her new single “Born This Way” during the telecast, was close behind with three.

Vancouver crooner Bublé claimed his third Grammy, winning the award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. He was not on hand to pick up the trophy.

The resurgent pop outfit Train won the first award of the broadcast portion of the show, taking the trophy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for their hit “Hey Soul Sister.”

“Wow, I’m freaking out — thanks Justin Bieber for not being a duo or group,” Patrick Monahan cracked.

Bieber was also the target of a David Letterman Grammy-related Top 10, in which the first item was a joke about Bieber wearing a hairpiece.

The singer took the stage about an hour into the show sporting a slightly more grown-up look: no purple anywhere to be found, he instead wore black head-to-toe, with a leather jacket, a long chain around his neck and shiny boots.

Bieber began his segment strumming an acoustic guitar while Usher watched a few feet away, exactly mimicking a 2007 archival clip shown overhead, in which a 13-year-old Bieber (proudly clad in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater) serenaded Usher with his own song, “U Got It Bad.”

Bieber then strutted through a performance of his “Never Say Never” (also the title of his new 3-D documentary, which hauled in millions upon millions of bucks at the box office on the weekend), joined by
Karate Kid star Jaden Smith, before Usher took over with his stomping hit “OMG.”

Bieber wasn’t done. He joined his hero for the climax of the tune, with the pair showing off some coordinated dance moves before posing together for the finish.

Leading nominee Eminem — who entered the day competing for 10 prizes — won only one in the first portion of the gala, but he later picked up the Best Rap Album for

A total of 98 awards were handed out during the afternoon gala, with another 10 to be decided at an evening broadcast ceremony at the Staples Center.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney won his first solo Grammy in 39 years Sunday for a live recording of “Helter Skelter.”

McCartney took home the Solo Rock Vocal Performance statuette for the 42-year-old Beatles tune, which he dusted off for his 2009 live album
Good Evening New York City.

It marked his 14th Grammy, of which 10 were Beatle-related, spanning 1965 to a reissue project in 1997.

Cee Lo Green snatched up a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for his profane single, “F--- You.” He couldn’t accept the award because he was busy preparing for his scheduled performance of the song with Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow.

New Artist: Esperanza Spalding

Song of the Year: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

Pop Vocal Album: Lady Gaga,
The Fame Monster

Rock Album: Muse,
The Resistance

Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Paul McCartney, “Helter Skelter”

Pop Performance Duo or Group: Train, “Hey Soul Sister”

Female Pop Vocal Performance: Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

Male Pop Vocal Performance: Bruno Mars, “Just The Way You Are”

Rock Song: Neil Young, “Angry World”

R&B Album: John Legend & The Roots,
Wake up!

R&B Song: John Legend & The Roots, “Shine”

Rap Solo Performance: Eminem, “Not Afraid”

Rap Song: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”

Country Album: Lady Antebellum,
Need You Now

Male Country Vocal Performance: Keith Urban,

“’Til Summer Comes Around”

Female Country Vocal Performance: Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”

Country Performance by a Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

Urban/Alternative Performance: Cee Lo Green, “F--- You”

Latin Pop Album: Alejandro Sanz,
Paraiso Express

Contemporary Jazz Album: The Stanley Clarke Band,
The Stanley Clarke Band

Classical Album: Riccardo Muti, conductor,

Verdi: Requiem

Traditional Gospel Album: Patty Griffin,
Downtown Church

Dance Recording: Rihanna, “Only Girl (in the World)”

Electronic Dance Album: La Roux,
La Roux

Alternative Music Album: The Black Keys,

Spoken Word Album: Jon Stewart,
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook)

Nothing spelled that more than jazz bassist longshot Esperanza Spaulding beating out the likes of Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & the Machine and Mumford & Sons for Best New Artist.

The show did a good job of mixing vintage artists with contemporary acts across all genres, from tasty country singer Miranda Lambert to British rockers Muse.

Among the night’s top performances was an exciting retro set by newcomers Bruno Mars, B.O.B and Janelle Monae which deserved to open the show instead of the Aretha Franklin segment.

We all love the Queen of Soul, but she has denied suffering from pancreatic cancer and appeared hearty, if slimmer, in her video thanks. Better the honour gone to someone recently lost, like Teena Marie, than the 18-Grammy winning Franklin who promised to attend the awards next year. That said the all-girls tribute gave Christina Aguilera a chance to bounce back from her Superbowl debacle alongside Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, Florence West and Jennifer Hudson.

Our own Justin Beiber was central to a couple of the Grammy’s iffier choices. It was cute when the Stratford native with a 3D film currently in theatres performed after a video clip of him auditioning for mentor Usher four years ago. The performance that followed showed how far he’d come in a spectacular set laden with pyrotechnics and dancing ninjas. But he sounded flat and the appearance of better-actor-than rapper Jaden Smith – with parents Will and Jada beaming on – left Usher to show him up with a show ‘em how its done display of his hit “OMG.”

Then Grammy organizers cheekily put purported Bieber girlfriend Selena Gomez in the position of presenting him the award for best pop vocal album. That left her co-presenter Donnie Walberg smirking while Gomez and Bieber played dumb.

But the moment passed when Lady Gaga took the prize in a relatively tame outfit.

That tongue in cheek tack worked better earlier when the recently openly gay Ricky Martin introduced Gaga performing her new song “Born This Way” which includes the lyrics “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.”

Canadians Beyond Bieber In Hunt For A Grammy

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(February 11, 2011) Alex Cuba

Album: Alex Cuba (Caracol)

Nominated for: Best Latin Pop Album

How unlikely is this: 20-something Cuban singer-songwriter relocates to Smithers, B.C. — a mere 15 hours north of Vancouver by car — and manages to grow an international career anyway. Now in his 30s, Cuba boasts two Junos and last year's Latin Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Cuba's latest, self-titled, solo album is his entrée into the big time, deftly mixing his Cuban són roots with good, old-fashioned 1970s pop and light rock. Some tracks are in English, some in Spanish, blurring the linguistic barriers as effectively as sonic ones.

Northern Cree

Album: Temptations (Canyon)

Nominated for: Best Native American Music Album

It's been 29 years and 28 albums since Steve Wood corralled his brothers Randy and Earl into founding the Northern Cree Singers. The dozen-strong band of Alberta-based singers and drummers are long-standing stars of the powwow competition circuit, and filmmaker Richard Attenborough recognized their talent by using their music in the making of Grey Owl. This album of round dance songs has already picked up the award for Best Hand Drum album at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

Marc-André Hamelin

Album: Études (Hyperion)

Nominated for: Best Instrumental Soloist Performance, Classical

Once upon a time, long ago, the great classical pianists wrote and played their own material. Montreal-born Marc-André Hamelin, now considered one of the world's great pianists, went from admiring these composer-performers to writing and performing his own pianistic fireworks, collected here as a set of 12 études, a pretty little nocturne and two suites. This is virtuosic fun and engaging listening. Hamelin deserves to win for the verve of his playing, for the quality of these pieces and, above all, for being brave enough to put this music forward in a sea of bestselling Beethoven, Liszt and Rachmaninov.

Noel Edison and the Elora Festival Singers

Album: Eric Whitacre, Choral Music (Naxos)

Nominated for: Best Small Ensemble Performance

Noel Edison was a kid when he dreamed up the Elora Festival and its resident vocal ensemble, the Elora Festival Singers, in 1980. He quickly turned the group into a highly polished chamber choir, championing new and Canadian music, and releasing a dozen albums. This effort embraces 11 pieces by YouTube-friendly American composer Eric Whitacre, rendering the music with delicate precision. Whitacre and other young composers are trying to make choral music hip again, and the Elora singers and their leader have helped.

Matt Haimovitz

Album: Meeting of the Spirits (Oxingale)

Nominated for: Best Classical Crossover Album

The tracks conjure up the ghosts of jazz legends like Charlie Mingus, Miles Davis and Billy Strayhorn, but the sound is something completely new as McGill University professor Matt Haimovitz and friends turn the cello into a big-band warrior (with the help of guitar, percussion and keyboards). Haimovitz has been breaking down genre barriers since his days of stunning New Yorkers with out-there solo performances at the legendary CBGB bar. This disc celebrates his swashbuckling ways on a much bigger scale.

Grammy Awards: Pop’s Northern Exposure

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(February 11, 2011) This year’s Grammy Awards look suspiciously like the Juno Awards, at least where some of the “marquee” names are concerned.

The major contenders at this year’s Junos?
Drake, Justin Bieber and the Arcade Fire — all of whom will be among the frontrunners for Grammy hardware when the Recording Industry Association of America starts handing out trophies at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this Sunday night.

A Canadian presence at the Grammys isn’t really news anymore, of course, as we’ve been regularly sending at least a high-profile emissary or two — Céline Dion, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Michael Bublé et al. — each year since the mid-’90s. There are a lot of Canucks duking it out for Grammy statues in 2011, and not just in the major categories; you’ll find the likes of soprano Measha Brueggergosman, Toronto singers Alex Cuba and Melanie Fiona, classical musician Mark-Andre Hamelin and the Elora Festival Singer for the sorts of awards that don’t make the big TV broadcast, but which still mean major bragging rights for whoever’s in contention.

Still, all eyes this year are on Drake, Bieber and the Arcade Fire — and to a lesser extent, double nominees Bublé and Neil Young — all of whom are competing for some of the biggest awards the Grammys have to offer.

Bieber and Drake are both nominated in the best new artist category, while Bieber also has a shot at best pop vocal performance and Drake has a crack at best rap album, best rap solo performance and best rap performance by a group or duo. Both artists will perform on the Grammy show.

The Arcade Fire, meanwhile, is a bit of a long shot for album of the year, given that it’s critically acclaimed international hit The Suburbs is in competition with Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Katy Perry and Eminem — 2010’s biggest-selling artist — but it stands a good shot at alternative album of the year and best rock performance (for the song “Ready to Start”).

So how did we get here again? How does this little nation with a population 1/10th the size of the United States’ continually produce pop stars of this magnitude? We present a few theories, not all of them complimentary.


The World Wide Web doesn’t really explain where the Neils and the Celines and the Shanias came from before, but it certainly explains how acts like Drake, Bieber and the Arcade Fire got so big, so fast.

Bieber was famously “discovered” singing Usher and Chris Brown tunes on YouTube, while Drake’s first brush with Grammy-dom last year could be traced to free “mix tapes” circulated online long before major labels got wind and started a bidding war. The Arcade Fire, too, can thank the “blogosphere” for circulating word of its epic tunes and even more epic live shows sufficiently fast that it was already being name-dropped by the likes of Bono and David Bowie when its first album, Funeral, surfaced.

The Internet, says author, critic and Radio Free Canuckistan blogger Michael Barclay — who co-wrote the about-to-be-re-released Can-rock history Have Not Been The Same — is “the great leveller,” the instrument that broke the “Anglo-American stranglehold” on mainstream popular music and allowed artists from previously ignored countries such as Canada “a place at the table” when it comes to events like the Grammys.

“Justin Bieber owes absolutely everything to the Internet. He was a nobody in a small town and YouTube just made him this viral sensation,” observes Barclay. “The Arcade Fire is a great band that has worked very hard and has a great live show — all the classic elements to make someone successful — but no Canadian band (before) became that popular, that big, coming from nothing without the Internet, coming from playing the Rivoli a couple of months before — playing to absolutely no one at Call the Office in London, where even the soundman left. And then a couple of months later, boom!

“I’ll qualify that by saying that would not be sustained were they not a great band. Nobody is listening to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! today.”


Not to burst anyone’s nationalist bubble, but neither Drake’s Thank Me Later nor Bieber’s My World would have come into existence without nurturing by American interests and American labels.

Bieber was plucked from Stratford, Ont., after all, by an Atlanta management company connected to R&B singer Usher after he was spotted singing American soul tunes on YouTube. Drake, who cut his teeth on the Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, was mentored by massively successful American rapper Lil Wayne and his starmaking Cash Money empire.

The Arcade Fire, for its part, might be borne of Montreal’s thriving indie scene, but it’s signed to Austin, Tex.-based label Merge Records and contains two Texas-born members, frontman Win Butler and his multi-instrumentalist brother, Will.

Michael Bublé came up through the U.S. label system, too, and Neil Young famously had to drive an ancient hearse south to California before he broke through in the late ‘60s. So how Canadian are these success stories?

“We didn’t produce Drake or Bieber. We didn’t produce those guys in any way, shape or form,” offers Zack Warner, head of the record label and management company Venus Records and a former judge on Canadian Idol.

“Bieber was a little kid that, I don’t think, any record company in Canada would have given the time of day to . . . Drake might have had the benefit of Canadian Telefilm dollars to have his confidence and his skill set nurtured on Degrassi, but his entire thing is an American shtick and there’s no Canadian-ism in that at all. I’m not so gung-ho on the accident of birth. I don’t know that I can say Bieber’s sound was in any way influenced by our ‘mosaic’ culture.

“In this crop, none of these people were developed by Canadians in any way, shape or form — neither their music nor their careers. Their careers are guided by Americans and their music is completely influenced and developed by Americans and it would have never happened out of the Canadian music industry that I’m a part of because we don’t do it.”

The same could be said of the Shanias and Alanises and Avrils and Bublés of the world. Indeed, as Warner points out, the artists we produce who are “uniquely Canadian and wonderful” — Blue Rodeo or the Tragically Hip, for instance — tend to succeed “only at a limited level” south of the border. We’ve certainly never seen them at the Grammys.


Through programs like FACTOR and the Canada Council and the Radio Starmaker Fund, there really is a lot of money out there for musicians who know how to work the grant system and who can deliver a return on the generous investments offered by the Canadian government and private-sector partners in the domestic broadcasting industry.

The current boom in successful Canadian indie acts who are recognized and critically hailed worldwide was certainly helped along by institutional support. Just look at how often your Metric or Karkwa records “gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canadian government and Canada’s private radio broadcasters” or the like in the liner notes.

“It all starts there, in a way,” says Duncan McKie, newly appointed president of FACTOR after a few years running the Canadian Independent Music Association. “Over the past 10 years, the production of new musical works in Canada hasn’t declined significantly, even though throughout the world the market for works has substantially declined. If we were strictly market based we’d have a lot fewer people working in the business.”

At the very least, the grant system and efforts by organizations such as CIMA to export Canadian talent abroad through touring and movie, TV and commercial licensing has helped reaffirm that “place at the table” we now enjoy. Toronto and Montreal now rank with New York, London and Los Angeles as go-to cities for hot new music, which gives Canadian artists “a leg up over people who don’t have a brand.”


Time will tell if Drake or Justin Bieber are merely industry-created flashes in the pan, but the route to sustained international success remains the same: be good at what you do. And love ’em or hate ’em, the Canadian artists who’ve been our most stable ambassadors over the years — from love-’em-or-hate-’em types like Bryan Adams and Céline Dion and Michael Bublé on through more “respectable” names such as Neil Young and now the Arcade Fire — have only reached that level and stayed there by making music that a lot of people love. Plain and simple.

Where the Grammys are concerned, it helps that Canadian culture isn’t totally alien to Americans, says Steve Jordan, founder of the Polaris Music Prize, but now that the Internet and prolonged exposure have given Canadian artists a foot in the door with our neighbours to the south, it’s kind of hard for them to ignore the talent up here. And it’s no longer just the Canadian sounds tailored to American tastes — your Loverboys and Honeymoon Suites and Bryan Adamses — causing a blip on the U.S. radar, it’s stuff like the Arcade Fire that’s simply content to be itself.

“We’re a very artistic country. I think in northern-based countries — Britain, Scandinavia — where there’s a lot of winter months to stay in your basements and create things, there’s a larger proportion of artistic production,” opines Jordan. “It’s not that we’ve ever lacked for excellent artists. It’s just that they have more access to the world now.

“We always have been world class musically, but now we’re not the joke.”

Aretha Franklin: ‘I LOVED Grammy Tribute’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2011) *Aretha Franklin says she “loved” the tribute performance to her which opened the Grammy Awards on Sunday night.

The legendary soul singer – who was not present at last night’s ceremony due to illness, said she enjoyed watching a medley of her hits performed by Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, Florence Welch and Martina McBride.

She wrote on her Facebook page: “I LOVED it! The ladies all sounded so wonderful and they looked fabulous!

“All of them were dressed to the nines! I enjoyed each and every performance, especially Yolanda Adams doing ‘Spirit In The Dark’ and Christina Aguilera’s rendition of ‘Ain’t No Way’, Loved them all!

“They all looked beautiful, I really liked Jennifer Hudson’s outfit, those epaulettes on her shoulder pads were too sharp! Bravo ladies!!! (sic).”

As previously reported, Aretha made her first public appearance of the year this weekend, watching a basketball game in her home state of Michigan with friend Jesse Jackson on Friday night.

Asked how she was feeling since undergoing surgery in December, Aretha said she was “feeling really great”.

The Motor City legend has also revealed she will return to the stage in May, performing at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The performance will be part of “a network special with a lot of artists coming in to do a tribute for me,” and she will return to full concert duties in June, playing three dates at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Aurora Producers’ Grammy Connection

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 14, 2011) A husband-and-wife team of music producers based in Aurora is still buzzing with excitement after an album they worked on earned a Grammy, while another didn't win but still received valuable industry recognition.

Norbert and Bonnie Kraft produced Ligeti String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 by
Parker Quartet, which won in the Best Chamber Music Performance category, and Eric Whitacre: Choral Music by the Elora Festival Singers, which was up for the Best Small Ensemble Performance Grammy.

The couple watched an online video stream as the Grammys were awarded on Sunday afternoon, before the prime-time broadcast, and was elated to hear Parker Quartet — which formed out of Boston's New England Conservatory — thank them for their work.

The album was recorded at St. Anne's Anglican Church on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto.

“We're still very excited,” Bonnie Kraft said Monday during a telephone interview.

“(The Elora Festival Singers) didn't win but still the nomination was just phenomenal. We were just so delighted and especially happy for the Parker Quartet.”

While the categories were not highlighted on television and didn't get much press, getting honoured is still very big for the careers of the nominated acts and the winners in particular, she said.

“You cannot imagine how important this is for their careers, it's just an incredible boost, it really, really helps,” she said.

“Sometimes it allows a young artist to move up in management, be able to get an international manager, which translates into more concerts, more CDs, better venues, and just vaults them into another level, an international level.”

It's very satisfying to win in the smaller categories because there's no talk of favouritism or voting based on mainstream popularity, it's entirely about merit, she added.

“They would've had to listen very critically to the CDs and make their decisions and I'm really quite impressed with the judging,” she said, in reference to the Best Chamber Music Performance category.

“This isn't popular music, and as a matter of fact, this particular CD is rather, I could say, esoteric in some ways.”


Buster Keaton, All Scratched Up

Source: www.thestar.com - Eric Veillette

(February 16, 2011) On Family Day, Bell Lightbox is offering a full line-up of free events, among them Sherlock
Jr. In Concert, where Buster Keaton’s classic silent film will screen with live accompaniment by Toronto-based experimental turntablist duo Insideamind.

Although new to the world of silents, Insideamind’s debut album, Scatterpopia, released in 2008, is a woven soundscape of fused-on beats that pairs easily with visual imagery — especially the surrealist slapstick offered in Sherlock Jr., where Keaton jumps into a movie-within-a-movie and becomes the world’s greatest detective. We talked to the duo about preparing for their silent-film soundtrack debut.

There seems to be a Vaudeville element to this performance. Will you engage with the audience?

Cheldon Paterson: We’ll be in costume and we’ll have a Vaudeville lead-in before the film, to guide them and show them this isn’t your average silent film.

Erik Laar: It’s tricky with live stage performance. Besides the sound, you’re dealing with two visual elements. We’ll definitely be animated, but we don’t necessarily want to take anything away from the film while we’re performing.

Musically, what should the audience expect?

EL: We made an effort to sample sounds from the 1920s — instruments and old jazz recordings — yet always balancing it with a nice electronic and beat element.

CP: We’re known for taking any kind of sound, mashing it up, adding things and then building onto that. We always work with vinyl but this allows us to bring an antiquated sound to our style.

Vinyl has a ghostly quality. The same can be said about silent film; it’s more or less a dead art.

EL: But the performance gives it new life. If films had sound from the very beginning, there would be no room for interpretation and we wouldn’t be sitting here talking today. We’re dealing with two separate artistic entities but it’s very much the music that guides the film.

It’s a dialogue.

CP: It is. The beauty is that we’re adding music to a film that’s amazingly done and so visually stimulating. The palette is clear, musically speaking. We want the music to flow with it, not distract it.

Not to mention that upstaging Keaton is no easy feat. What were your impressions of the film?

EL: Buster Keaton is so amazingly awkward yet animated at the same time. Even without all the special effects, his movements offer you so much. Every time I see it I find something new to laugh at.

CP: His movements are great. It’s like a dance. Although (it was) so long ago, the choreography is what really amazes me. The length (45 minutes) is nice and punchy — the length of an album — so it’s comfortable for us. And the kids will love it.

Just the Facts

WHAT: Sherlock Jr. in Concert

WHEN: Monday, Feb. 21, 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W

ADMISSION: Free; See tiff.net for full listing of Family Day activities at Bell Lightbox.

Yesterday’s Pop Stars Teach Business Realities To Today’s Young Musicians

Source: www.thestar.com - John Rogers

(February 10, 2011) They may fall off the pop charts, some might even lose the muse. But these days old rock stars need not worry about fading away, not when there’s a college classroom nearby.

Rock’s gangster of love himself, Steve Miller, created some buzz recently when he became an artist-in-residence at the prestigious University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. But it turns out the guy who famously proclaimed, “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker” wasn’t the first guitar-slinger to move from the stage to the classroom.

Mark Volman, who co-founded The Turtles and later played with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, runs the entertainment studies department at Nashville’s Belmont University these days when he isn’t out on the road singing “Happy Together.” Lamont Dozier, one-third of the legendary songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, which created hits for everyone from Phil Collins to The Supremes, lectures on his craft at USC. Across the continent, everyone from punk rockers to doo-wop harmonizers are holding down teaching positions at big-name universities.

“It brings the subject matter to life for the students in a way that a professor, no matter how well intentioned, just can’t do,” Chris Sampson, dean of USC’s music school, says of turning the classroom over to people like Miller. “It makes all the learning go beyond just theory.”

Indeed, sometimes the learning even goes beyond music — way beyond music — though the musicians will tell you there’s still a connection.

Greg Graffin, who has a PhD in science, for example, has taught evolution and paleontology at UCLA in recent
years when he wasn’t on the road with the seminal punk rock band Bad Religion.

“I know it sounds crazy, but from my perspective the goal is the same,” he says of playing music and teaching science. “The thing about the band is we’ve always been about asking questions and provoking people to think. We never maintain that we have the answers, and that’s very consistent with a scientific pursuit.”

Meanwhile, Rob Leonard, whose over-the-top version of “Teen Angel” with Sha Na Na at Woodstock can still be found on YouTube, runs the forensic linguistics department at New York’s Hofstra University. He reunited with the group last year for a concert at Hofstra marking the university’s 75th year.

“I like to say I’m one of the very few people in the world who have worked with the FBI and the Grateful Dead,” quips Leonard, who has trained FBI agents in how to analyze language for clues in solving crimes.

The musician, who also has a PhD, says he really got interested in linguistics after he asked his record label where all the money from one of Sha Na Na’s tours had gone — because it hadn’t gone to the group.

“They said, ‘Read the contract,’ ” he laughed.

That’s the message Volman, who began teaching full-time 14 years ago, says he tries to drive home to starry-eyed students every school year. There’s more to succeeding in the music business, he says, than just being a great musician.

“People come in with this television idea that everybody is going to be the next Carrie Underwood,” he says. “They don’t understand how many nights you’re not going to get paid what they said you would and how many nights you’re not going to have a room to sleep in because the promoter didn’t get it in the rider you signed.”

And for those who may think the music business has evolved too much in recent years for a ’60s- or ’70s-era pop star to have any relevant advice for students, Volman notes “Happy Together” was downloaded approximately 90,000 times last year.

“And I make 79 cents out of the 99-cent download,” he tells the students in his music business class. “It’s a lot different than the artist who doesn’t own his own music getting 9 cents. I tell them that and they say, ‘I want to own my own music, too.’ ”

Music publishing is also one of the areas Miller, who lectures at USC part-time as an adjunct professor because of music commitments, has focused on during his time there.

Volman, although he teaches and runs his department, also still finds time to go out on the road about 50 times a year with The Turtles. It’s something that gives him stories to tell the students, as well as ideas for projects to assign involving booking tours.

He’d also like to see more veteran music pros cross over to the classroom, agreeing they bring more to the table in terms of real-life experience. The biggest thing holding most back from teaching full-time, he says, is the advanced degrees required by most universities. He didn’t earn a master’s degree himself until he was in his 50s.

But once those bridges are crossed, say the musicians who have done it, the rest of the transition isn’t that hard.

“I don’t feel a lot different between being up on stage at a punk concert and being at the podium in a lecture hall,” Graffin says.

Gaga Sings About God, Gays And Straights On New Single

Source: www.thestar.com - Sarah Millar

(February 11, 2011) Fear not, little monsters. It’s finally here.

Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born this Way, was released online early Friday morning.

The song was supposed to have its debut on Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. Then Gaga announced on Twitter she couldn’t wait any longer and would release it Friday.

Perhaps she decided to debut the song sooner because of the “performance” of it by Justin Bieber, James Blunt and Ellen DeGeneres on Ellen’s talk show Wednesday.

The song is reminiscent of Madonna’s Express Yourself.

Click here to listen the song; the lyrics are below.

The video is also set to make its debut online sometime Friday. Gaga will still perform the song at Sunday’s Grammy awards.

Use our commenting tool to have your say.

“Born this Way

It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H-i-m
Just put your paws up
’Cause you were born this way, baby
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir.
“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “’Cause he made you perfect, babe.
“So hold your head up, girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”
I’m beautiful in my way
’Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t be a drag — just be queen
Don’t be a drag — just be queen
Don’t be a drag — just be queen
Don’t be a drag — just be queen
Don’t be!
Give yourself prudence
And love your friend
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-i-m (hey hey hey)
I love my life, I love this record and
My amore vole fey a (Love needs faith)
I’m beautiful in my way
’Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Ooo, there ain't no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Baby, I was born this way
Ooo, there ain't other way
Baby, I was born
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Don't be!
Don't be drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're Lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’Cause baby, you were born this way
No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave
I'm beautiful in my way,
’Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
I was born this way, hey!
I was born this way, hey!
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way, hey!
I was born this way, hey!
I was born this way, hey!
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way, hey!

Jazz Great George Shearing Dies At 91

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 14, 2011) NEW YORK—Sir George Shearing, the ebullient jazz pianist who wrote the standard “Lullaby of Birdland” and had a string of hits both with and without his quintet, has died. He was 91.

Shearing, blind since birth, died early Monday morning in Manhattan of congestive heart failure, his longtime manager Dale Sheets said.

“He was a totally one-of-a-kind performer,” said Sheets. “It was something wonderful to see, to watch him work.”

Shearing had been a superstar of the jazz world since a couple of years after he arrived in the United States in 1947 from his native England, where he was already hugely popular. The George Shearing Quintet's first big hit came in 1949 with a version of songwriter Harry Warren's “September in the Rain.”

He remained active well into his 80s, releasing a CD called “Lullabies of Birdland” as well as a memoir, “Lullaby of Birdland,” in early 2004. In March of that year, though, he was hospitalized after suffering a fall at his home. It took him months to recover, and he largely retired from public appearances after that.

Sheets said that while Shearing ceased working, he never stop playing piano.

“He was getting better periodically and doing quite well up into about a month ago,” said Sheets.

In a 1987 Associated Press interview, Shearing said the ingredients for a great performance were “a good audience, a good piano, and a good physical feeling, which is not available to every soul, every day of everyone's life.

“Your intent, then, is to speak to your audience in a language you know, to try to communicate in a way that will bring to them as good a feeling as you have yourself,” he said.

In 2007, Shearing was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to music. When the honour was announced, he said it was “amazing to receive an honour for something I absolutely love doing.”

Shearing's bebop-influenced sound became identified with a quintet — piano, vibes, guitar, bass and drums — which he put together in 1949. More recently, he played mostly solo or with only a bassist. He excelled in the “locked hands” technique, in which the pianist plays parallel melodies with the two hands, creating a distinctly full sound.

Among the luminaries with whom Shearing worked over the years: Tito Puente, Nancy Wilson, Nat “King” Cole, Mel Torme, Marian McPartland, the Boston Pops, Peggy Lee, Billy Taylor, Don Thompson, Stephane Grappelli and Sarah Vaughan, whom Shearing called “the best contralto in pop.”

When Torme won Grammys two years in a row in 1983-84, for “An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Torme” and “Top Drawer,” he blasted the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences for failing to nominate his partner, Shearing, either time.

“It's hard to image a more compatible musical partner,” Shearing said after Torme died in 1999. “I humbly put forth that Mel and I had the best musical marriage in many a year. We literally breathed together during our countless performances.” And he told Down Beat magazine: “Mel was one of the few people that I played with whom I felt I worked with and not for.”

Shearing wrote “Lullaby of Birdland” in 1952; it's named for the famous New York jazz club. He acknowledged composing it in just 10 minutes. “But I always tell people, it took me 10 minutes and 35 years in the business,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1980. “Just in case anybody thinks there are any totally free rides left, there are none!”

At an 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall in 1999, Shearing introduced “Lullaby” by joking: “I have been credited with writing 300 songs. Two hundred ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here is the other one.”

Among other songs recorded by the George Shearing Quintet: “I'll Never Smile Again,” ''Mambo Inn,” ''Conception,” ''Let's Call the Whole Thing Off” and “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon).”

The landmark albums he and the quintet made include “The Swingin's Mutual,” backing up vocalist Wilson, and “Nat King Cole Sings/George Shearing Plays.”

But Shearing laid the quintet to rest in 1978, except for occasional revivals.

“I needed a breath of fresh air and a chance to grow individually,” he told the AP. “What I find as a soloist or working with a bassist, is that I can address myself more to the proposition of being a complete pianist; I find a lot more pianistic freedom.”

He was already working at his memoir in 1987, saying he was using a Braille word processor. “I think there are a lot of things to be told from my view — the world of sound and feel,” he said. Years earlier, in a 1953 AP interview, he had said he referred to his blindness as little as possible because, “I want to get by as a human being, not as a blind person.”

As he grew older, he spoke frankly of aging.

“I'm not sure that technique and improvisational abilities improve with age,” the pianist said. “I think what improves is your sense of judgment, of maturity. I think you become a much better editor of your own material.”

Shearing was born Aug. 13, 1919, to a working-class family and grew up in the Battersea district of London.

A prodigy despite his inability to see printed music, he studied classical music for several years before deciding to “test the water on my own” instead of pursuing additional studies at a university. Shearing began his career at a London pub when he was 16.

During World War II, the young pianist teamed with Grappelli, the French jazz violinist, who spent the war years in London. Grappelli recalled to writer Leonard Feather in 1976 that he and Shearing would “play during air raids. Was not very amusing.”

Shearing had a daughter, Wendy, with his first wife, the former Trixie Bayes, whom he married in 1941. The marriage ended in divorce in 1973 and two years later he married singer Ellie Geffert.

The popularity of the Shearing quartet's records a half-century ago had some writers suggesting he didn't take his jazz seriously enough. In a 2002 New York Times piece, critic Terry Teachout said such talk was beside the point.

“The time has come,” Teachout wrote, “for George Shearing to be acknowledged not as a commercial purveyor of bop-and-water, but as an exceptionally versatile artist who has given pleasure to countless listeners for whom such critical hairsplitting is irrelevant.”

Shearing is survived by his wife, Geffert.

Radiohead To Release New Album This Saturday

Source: www.thestar.com - Sarah Millar

(February 14, 2011) It began with a single tweet.

“Thank you for waiting,” Radiohead tweeted early Monday, with a link that went to the band’s new website for
their forthcoming album, The King of Limbs.

It was a Valentine’s Day gift for Radiohead fans everywhere — the news that the group’s latest album is available now for pre-order.

“It’s really exciting news,” Jesse Taylor, a student at York University, said about the news. Taylor, who’s been a Radiohead fan since their 2000 album Kid A, heard about the release on Twitter.

There are two versions of Radiohead’s latest, available for preorder The album will be available for download on Saturday; a limited-edition physical album package will ship on May 9. (Regular CD and vinyl versions will be available in music stores from March 29.)

The latter is what the band is calling the “world’s first newspaper album”. Limbs, which retails for $48 for an MP3 version and $53 for a WAV version (both prices include shipping costs) includes:

 • Two 10-inch vinyl records


“Many” large sheets of artwork, 625 pieces of tiny artwork

A digital download version of the album (which will be available Saturday)

The chance to win an autographed two-track 12-inch vinyl

The digital version comes in MP3 ($9) or WAV ($14) versions, and each downloader gets the chance to win an autographed two-track 12-inch vinyl.

Taylor decided to pre-order the digital version, but says the “newspaper album” did intrigue him.

This is not the first time Radiohead has used the Web to bring attention to its music. The band’s 2007 album, In Rainbows, was available as a download for which fans could pay what they wanted for it (even if that amount was nothing).

Taylor says he doesn’t mind having to pay a set price for this Radiohead album.

In Rainbows is one of my favourite albums of all time, and to have it at any price was a real treat,” Taylor said.

“Radiohead is such an established band, and I think their devoted fans (me included) won’t have a problem with paying for this one.”

With Additional Charges, Buju Banton Retrial Underway in Florida

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2011) *Who knew embattled reggae star
Buju Banton was up for and won a Grammy on Sunday? Yep, he won the Best Reggae Album Grammy for “Before the Dawn.” While we’re sure he’s grateful for that bit of good news, he’s also got the super serious issue of being tried of drug trafficking charges to deal with.

Actually, beginning yesterday, jury selection for Banton’s new trial began in Tampa, Fla., the state where Buju was arrested for allegedly possessing and attempting to distribute over 5 kilos of cocaine.

The selection process took two hours, during which time 14 jurors were selected to sit on the panel for the retrial, according to boombox.com. Though the jury is largely white, the jurors have sworn in court that race will not play a factor in the case, nor will Banton’s celebrity status have an impact on their decision.

“Buju is optimistic and hopeful,” said his attorney, David Markus. “He is in good spirits. He is a rock. No one realizes how hard it is to fight the federal government in one trial, let alone two.”

In the retrial, the reggae star faces additional charges of attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense.

“The prosecution is trying the oldest trick in the book: They are throwing everything against the wall hoping that something sticks and it’s not going to work,” said Markus.

The retrial is expected to last a week or two. If convicted, Banton could face 20 years in prison.


Usher plays the Air Canada Centre May 14

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 11, 2011) R&B superstar Usher has announced his OMG Tour will take him to Toronto and the Air Canada Centre on May 14, with Akon in tow. Tickets go on sale Feb. 17 via Ticketmaster but no indication was given what the prices will be. The five-time Grammy Award winner’s latest album Raymond Vs. Raymond and its subsequent EP Versus gave usher two top 10 hits in the last year: “OMG,” featuring will.i.am, and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” featuring Pitbull.  Meanwhile, Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars has also announced a Toronto date: May 5 at Kool Haus. Tickets ($30) on sale Feb. 18 via Livenation, Ticketmaster, Rotate This and Soundscapes.

Blige, Songz, Kanye among Headliners for 2011 Essence Fest

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2011) *Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz, Jill Scott and rapper Kanye West are among the headlines
scheduled to take the stage at this year’s Essence Music Festival. The 17th annual New Orleans festival, celebrating the roots of rhythm and blues, will take place July 1-3 at the Louisiana Superdome. Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., says the line-up will also include Charlie Wilson, Fantasia, Boyz II Men, Stephanie Mills, Macy Gray, Dwele, Alexander O’Neal & Cherrelle, Mint Condition, Kelly Price, M.C. Lyte and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. A number of local stars, including Irma Thomas, Kourtney Heart, the Charmaine Neville Band and Rebirth Brass Band also are scheduled to perform.

El DeBarge off Tour and Back to Rehab

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2011) *Dang, this is a real bummer to have to report. And it’s something quite frankly we were
afraid would or could happen and it did happen. After crafting a dynamic comeback album called “Second Chance,” El DeBarge has fallen off the sobriety wagon. The singer, whose history with substance abuse has long been documented, has voluntarily checked himself back into a rehabilitation facility to seek treatment for an assumed relapse. “I hate to disappoint my fans but it is necessary for me to take the time to work on me so that I may continue to share my music and my story with everyone,” said the singer in a statement. “I thank everyone in advance for their prayers and well wishes and hope that you will respect my privacy during this time.” The 49-year-old has been battling drug abuse for the past decade. In 2001, he was arrested for cocaine possession, and was again detained in 2006 for possession of a controlled substance. Sadly DeBarge was set to tour with headlining act KEM and opener Ledisi  starting this Thursday, but was replaced by Musiq (Soulchild) on Monday. “Second Chance” was released to critical acclaim last November.

Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars Announce Joint Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2011) *Following their old-school throwback Grammy performance,
Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae are teaming for a North American co-headlining tour. Dubbed Hooligans in Wondaland, the trek will take place in May and June, with British singer/rapper Plan B set to open on select dates, according to Billboard. Before they embark on the joint road trip, both artists will launch their own European runs in the coming weeks — Mars’ will begin in Berlin, Germany on Mar. 3, while Monae will start her run in Brussels, Belgium on Feb. 20. Tour dates and venues for the Wondaland tour have yet to be announced. Mars, Monae, and Atlanta rapper B.o.B earned a standing ovation for their Grammy performance, in which Mars played a doo-wop riff on his former Hot 100 chart-topper “Grenade” and Monae crowd-surfed while singing “Cold War.” Mars also walked away with the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance trophy for “Just the Way You Are,” the first single from his debut album “Doo-Wops and Hooligans.” Mars is currently in Los Angeles shooting a video for his next “Doo-Wops” single, “The Lazy Song,” and will stay in the city for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, where he’ll perform at the Pregame Show on Sunday (Feb. 20).


Justin Bieber’s Christian Roots

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(February 11, 2011) Don’t expect teen heartthrob Justin Bieber to describe himself as “bigger than Jesus.”

That famous quote about the Fab Four by the late John Lennon decades ago stirred up much Christian ire. But Bieber, the 16-year-old pop phenom from Stratford, Ont., appears to put Jesus first.

His spiritual side is in evidence in his movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, in which he is filmed praying before concerts.

“People will walk away (from the film) knowing faith is very important to him,” Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, one of the movie’s producers, told USA Today.

Bieber has not been shy about professing his faith.

“Always put God first because without Him, we wouldn’t be here,” Bieber said in a November interview on British talent show The X Factor.

The same month, Bieber told Billboard magazine: “I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. He’s the reason that I’m here.”

In a recent profile of the teen pop star in Vanity Fair, Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette, talked about her faith, said she has met with God and said her son is a “gift from God.”

USA Today also reported that a number of Christian organizations were given advance screenings of the documentary. Paramount Pictures has refused to name them or to offer further comment.

Diane Winston, a University of Southern California scholar in media and religion, said Paramount can use Bieber’s overt faith to remind parents that the films “is a wholesome product they can take a child to see.”

Casting Underway for Antoine Fuqua’s Tupac Biopic

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 11, 2011) *Antoine Fuqua’s forthcoming biopic on Tupac Shakur will begin shooting in late spring/early summer, according to an announcement Thursday from Morgan Creek Productions.

The picture will follow “the life and legacy of Tupac Shakur, including his rise to superstardom as a hip hop artist and actor, as well as his imprisonment and prolific, controversial time at Death Row Records, where he was steeped in the East coast/West coast rap war.”

Last year it was revealed that the script would follow Tupac on his final days while flashing back to the final four years of his life.

Pac’s mother Afeni Shakur-Davis stated, “I am confident that Morgan Creek will stay true to the common goal we share of depicting Tupac’s life in a way that will allow the world to see the authenticity of his artistry, his hopes, and his life goals.“

No word yet on who will play the iconic rapper, but casting is currently underway, and Fuqua has previously stated he would be looking for an unknown to play the lead.

The film will be shot on location in Los Angeles, New York, Georgia and Las Vegas.

The screenplay is by Steve Bagatourian (“American Gun”) and Stephen J Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson (“Ali”), and filming in LA, New York, Georgia and Las Vegas is scheduled for early summer.

Ingrid Veninger: The DIY Queen Of Canadian Filmmaking

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Liam Lacey

(February 12, 2011) The film Modra is a simple story of self-discovery that follows a 17-year-old Toronto girl (Hallie Switzer) on a summer trip to the Slovakian town where her extended family lives. She's accompanied by a male classmate (Alexander Gammal), and their teen awkwardness is a large part of the story's charm.

Getting to that level of simplicity takes a great deal of experience. The filmmaker,
Ingrid Veninger (whose daughter Hallie stars in the film) is a multi-threat actress, writer, producer and director, who, at 44, has emerged as the DIY queen of Canadian filmmaking. She's the co-writer and producer of the multi-Genie-nominated Nurse.Fighter.Boy. Two of her other recent films, Only (co-directed with Simon Reynolds) and Modra are models of quality on a budget.

"I tend to think the worst in a good way," says Veninger of her self-reliant approach. "I never expect anyone to give me money. I never expect to get into a film festival. And if I can't put myself on the front line, financially and every other way, I can't expect anyone else to go with me."

But over the years, she has managed to build up a lot of what she calls "personal capital" in the film business. At 11, she landed a job in a Bell Telephone commercial along with future Anne of Green Gables star Megan Follows. Many acting jobs followed - close to 100 in total - including television series such as Air Waves and Nikita to the recent Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, the HBO Canada TV series based on Vincent Lam's book. Acting remains one of the ways she supports her filmmaking habit.

In 1989, she decided to move into producing. She optioned the Margaret Atwood novel Cat's Eye for a film. She worked as assistant director on Atom Egoyan's 1991 film The Adjuster. Through songwriter Jane Siberry (her husband John Switzer was Siberry's bassist and record producer) she met filmmaker Peter Mettler and ended up producing his documentaries Picture of Light and Gods, Gambling and LSD.

Eight years ago, she started her own company, pUNK Films, with the ambitious motto "Nothing is impossible." The company has already made six shorts and four feature films, including Only and Modra. She made Only, starring her son, Jacob, as a boy who has a chance encounter with a girl at a motel in Parry Sound, Ont., for $20,000 by maxing out four credit cards. She used a borrowed digital camera, and everyone in the cast and crew was paid a flat fee of $100. She submitted a DVD to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where audiences and reviewers were enthusiastic. Invitations to other festivals followed.

"Only at that point did I go to Telefilm and their alternative distribution program and said, 'Look - we've definitely got something here. Can you help us?' We got some money for a website, a small trailer and posters, and some travel money."

In Canada, she served as her own distributor, phoning theatres, negotiating the split between exhibitor and distributor, putting up posters and drumming up all the local media attention. At a festival in Rome, the director of the Milan Cinematheque liked Only so much he acquired the film for theatrical distribution in Italy, and ran it for a week at his own theatre, between retrospectives of Robert Bresson and François Truffaut.

Veninger's efforts weren't all successes. She paid €500 to have her film in the Cannes International Film Festival market. She had one screening and one audience member - a woman who sat down, removed her boots and slept through the entire 73-minute film.

Making her new film, Modra, which started as a family holiday plan to visit the old country, was a comparatively lavish project. The official budget is $250,000 (the minimum required to gain access to Telefilm Canada's low-budget feature-film assistance program). The cash cost was half that, and if she factors in the post-production favours she got, the actual budget could ballooned up to a million.

After a successful run at major festivals in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax, Modra was picked up by Mongrel Media for national distribution in Canada. The film also ended up on TIFF's list of Canada's Top 10 and won a People's Choice Award at a film festival in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, the city where Veninger was born.

At this point, you might imagine she could relax. Instead, for the next 10 days, she'll be at every screening of Modra at the Royal Cinema in Toronto for question-and-answer sessions with the audience. But because she can't be everywhere, she also paid $4,500 to send her parents on a train trip to Vancouver, where the film is also screening. Helen, 66, and Frank, 77, will bring 10,000 postcards, 1,000 posters and 300 buttons. Her mother, dressed in traditional Slovak costume, will handle the Q and A's at Vancity Theatre while Ingrid does the Royal in Toronto.

"My job as a producer is to do everything possible to get bums in seats," she says. "If I could drive people to the theatre I would. Instead, I'm out there with postcards and bugging people in bars and reminding them every time I get a chance when the film is on. The director part of me asks, 'Ingrid, isn't this a bit embarrassing?' The director would rather be off somewhere sipping a latte."


Exploit your family

In both Modra and Only, Ingrid Veninger used her children as the stars. In Slovakia, the extensive cast included her uncle Imrich (whose band Bukasovy Masiv provides music in the film) and her 96-year-old great aunt Jozefina Ochabova played Great Aunt Josefa. Working for five weeks, at times she subjected them to up to 25 takes. They were patient, as only relatives could be.

Use young film crews

Says Veninger: "I like to find any of the young filmmakers coming out of York, Ryerson, George Brown, Seneca or wherever, because they're looking for experience. I can't make anyone rich, but I can promise them an adventure."

Modra is at Toronto's Royal Cinema through Feb. 17 and Vancouver's Vancity Theatre through Feb. 15.


Schwarzenegger Returning To Acting

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(February 11, 2011) Arnold Schwarzenegger on Twitter about his return to acting. "Exciting news. My friends at CAA have been asking me for 7 years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light today.”  Getty Images/Kevin Winter  LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—After seven years in the California governor’s mansion, Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning to his old day job: acting. Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter that he’s ready to start considering film roles again. The former governor tweeted Thursday night: “Exciting news. My friends at CAA have been asking me for 7 years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light today.” Schwarzenegger’s personal aide, Daniel Ketchell, confirmed the tweet Friday morning. Before leading the state of California from 2003 to 2010, the former body builder was the star of such blockbusters as the Terminator franchise and True Lies and comedies like Kindergarten Cop and Twins.

William Shatner to host Genie Awards on CBC

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 16, 2011) Movie and TV star
William Shatner will host this year’s Genies ceremony, honouring the best achievements in Canadian film. The Canadian actor best known as Capt. Kirk of Star Trek is currently starring in CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says and hosted a CBC TV special on Genies-winning movies last September that included a comical song in which Shatner pleaded to be recognized with the award. The March 10 ceremony in Ottawa will air on CBC TV. Barney’s Version, based on Mordecai Richler’s book, and Incendies, which is also up for a best foreign-language film Oscar, lead the nominations. Organizers are coy about which stars will appear, but the acting nominees include Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver for Barney’s Version, Jay Baruchel for The Trotsky, Molly Parker for Trigger and Timothy Olyphant for High Life.

::TV NEWS::\

Jackson And Jones Star In Some Serious Drama

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

The Sunset Limited
Saturday, HBO Canada, 9 p.m.

(February 12, 2011) Serious viewing here - this two-hander is a straightforward TV version of novelist Cormac
McCarthy's stage play. There are only two characters, the setting is tightly limited and it's really one long, ambling, often charged conversation between a college professor with a bleak worldview and suicidal tendencies (Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed) and a gravely religious ex-con (Samuel L. Jackson). Although these are fully fleshed characters the production is really about two points of view in life. One is grim, a perspective that sees society as collapsing into itself through self-absorption and shallowness. The other is more hopeful, finding goodness all the more appealing in a horrible world. Anyone who has read McCarthy's novels will be familiar with the themes. Both actors go at it with gusto, often a tad too much gusto. This is one of those cases of serious theatrical material that would have benefited from being expanded for TV. Still, McCarthy devotees will adore it.

The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards
Sunday, CBS, Global, 8 p.m.

Oh my.
The buzz about the 2010 Grammy Awards is just mad. Mad, I tell you. The list of performers includes Eminem, Cee Lo Green, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, Katy Perry and Canadian band Arcade Fire. Also, a special duet - Canadian fella Drake and fellow but female sensation Rihanna. Can you beat that for excitement? Wait, there's more - Mick Jagger makes his very first live appearance at the Grammys, part of the show's "In Memoriam" tribute. No don't be confused, he's not dead but appearing live through the magic of TV technology. He pays homage to music icons who have died in the past year. Plus, there is "a valentine and get-well card" to Aretha Franklin, performed by Yolanda Adams, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride and Florence Welch. The Grammy announcement says Franklin underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment. But "she has since said she is in excellent health." Possibly she said she's doing fine in order to stop this "valentine and get-well card." To no avail. Red-carpet coverage starts on Global at 7 p.m.

Love Letters
Sunday, CBC, 11 p.m.

This ain't no Grammy-style shindig. This is for grown-ups - a terrific TV special derived from A.R. Gurney's famous play of the same title. Real acting couples perform excerpts from the play (which tracks a lifelong love from adolescence to old age) and also talk sweetly about their own relationships. Among the performing couples are Peter Keleghan and Leah Pinsent, Peter Donaldson and Sheila McCarthy and Carlo Rota and Nazneen Contractor. Gordon Pinsent (Leah's dad), who performed the work many times with his late wife Charmion King, introduces the program. It's a production that works well - the bittersweet heart of the play is honoured, while the acting couples get to unleash certain dynamics that are normally off-limits to them in their work. The whole thing is imbued with great charm. CBC is re-airing this in honour of Donaldson, who died last month at 57.

Guilty Pleasures
Sunday, CBC NN, 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye

This lovely, light-hearted doc is about the romance-novel industry. We're told at the start that a romance novel is sold every four seconds somewhere in the world. The first writer of the genre we meet is Roger, a senior living in England who turns out romance novels, aimed at women, under the name Gill Sanderson, and does very well at it. We also meet a Japanese housewife who is mad for dancing and has a serious thing for David Beckham. She consumes romance novels voraciously. We see Roger meet his fellow writers at a gathering in England (he's one of the few males) and meet a woman in India who sees her personal relationships through the prism of gushing novels abut true love. Obviously the contrast is between reality and the escapism offered in the books, but it is very nicely done.

Check local listings.

Love Is On The Air

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 11, 2011) Emerson probably wasn’t thinking of sitcom characters. Today’s TV network executives, however, apparently think of little else.

It is no mere coincidence that all four of the major U.S. networks have added new half-hour romantic comedies to their mid-season schedules.

The first, and least of these, Perfect Couples, debuted on NBC Jan. 20. Fox’s vastly more intriguing Traffic Light premiered on Tuesday, Feb. 8. ABC’s Happy Endings won’t come true till mid-April.

Mad Love, the best of the bunch, debuts, appropriately enough, on Valentine’s Day, and in a can’t-miss timeslot, 8:30 Monday nights on CBS, sandwiched between existing hits How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men.

“It is kind of the year of the ‘rom-com,’ ” agrees David Hemingson, executive producer of the just-arrived Traffic Light — not a particularly romantic title, it refers to the characters’ primary mode of cross-communication, talking while driving, on a (hands-free, of course) mobile phone.

“There is, I think, in the zeitgeist, a mood for something that’s sort of hopefully a little optimistic,” Hemingson says, “kind of reinforcing the idea that we’re all okay. People want to investigate relationships a little bit more, and I think that’s why you’ve seen a rise in kind of the romantic comedy on television.”

“People have been through a lot, and I think maybe their priorities have sort of been somewhat adjusted. I think the idea that relationships are something to celebrate is very kind of en courant.”

Mad Love creator/producer Matt Tarses will confess to somewhat more mixed feelings. “I don’t know,” he muses. “I have this kind of love/hate relationship with romantic comedies . . . and so I find myself drawn to them. I also find myself hating myself for being drawn to them.

“So I tried to (come up with) a show that encapsulated both those attitudes, and there was no room for a third attitude.”

Of all the new rom-coms, the premise of Mad Love is the most straightforward — closer to the classic two-couple comedies, from I Love Lucy on through Will & Grace, than the other three, more currently common, Friends-like ensemble shows.

It is also, unlike the others, a traditional multi-camera show, the kind of thing his writer/producer father, Jay, proved so adept at with the Bob Newhart Show, Tony Randall, Carol Burnett and Buffalo Bill.

(To make it a complete family affair, if a slightly conflicted one, Matt’s sister, Jamie Tarses, a former ABC executive, is listed as producer on both Mad Love and Happy Endings.)

“I do fine with multi-camera rhythm,” allows Matt. “It’s very comforting . . . (although) I do think this is sort of a modernized version of that. It’s not quite that rhythm anymore.

“I think that if you are talking about my dad, he got away from that rhythm and then never came back. I like being back there, and I feel like this is the best of both worlds. There is some of that rhythm, but because we shoot over three days, we can do some stuff that’s a little more single camera-ish, and for me, a little bit more interesting. It keeps my attention a little bit.

“Yeah, we still keep that laugh track. We can still go down there and laugh out loud during the takes. So I think this, for me, is really an ideal way to work.”

It is a new world entirely for series star Jason Biggs, best known for his comic pastry sex in the American Pie movies.

“Without giving too much away,” Biggs deadpans, “I have sex with a sheet cake in the second episode.”

In fact, the sex is with Sarah Chalke, with whom he falls immediately, madly in love on Mad Love after meeting cute atop the Empire State Building, like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember.

“It’s amazing doing a sitcom,” gushes Biggs. “I’ve been trying to do something with the good folks at CBS . . . and I was lucky enough to be fixed up with Matt and Jamie Tarses, and it’s been a great experience for me.

“You know, the format is great, the sort of situational comedy format. We’re shooting ours as a hybrid show, but it’s still requiring a certain rhythm and cadence, a very specific kind of comedy rhythm that I think all four of us are not necessarily used to, but that we’re all kind of having fun learning.”

The other two of that foursome are Tyler Labine and Judy Greer as the couple’s respective best friends, an immediate, hate-at-first-sight antagonism so vehemently (and hilariously) snipey you just know there’s something more to it (either that, or it’s Fred and Ethel all over again).

Another possibly distinguishing characteristic of the successful rom-com is its Canadian content. Think about it: Matthew Perry in Friends. Eric McCormack in Will & Grace. Cobie Smulders on How I Met Your Mother. Chalke on Scrubs, in a popular guesting arc on Mother, and now here.

On Mad Love, the Ottawa-born Chalke is joined (though not romantically) by Brampton’s own Tyler Labine, formerly of Reaper and his own Sons of Tucson . . . and a little-seen 1996 TV-movie, Robin of Locksley, in which he played a contemporized Little John opposite Chalke’s Marion.

“I’m surprised no one’s heard of it,” she laughs. “But we have known each other since we were 15. Just a couple of years ago.”

Yet another of the new rom-coms, the forthcoming Happy Endings, stars yet another Canadian, Elisha Cuthbert, best known as the widely reviled, often unlikely endangered young Kim Bauer of 24.

“I did my best to make it authentic and real,” she shrugs, “and I just put all my trust in the writers and the team who put that show together. There’s no complaining when you’re on a show like that. It was all good times.”

She has a similarly unlikely story to sell on Happy Endings, after, in the opening moments of the pilot episode, she abandons her nice-guy fiancé on their wedding day.

“It’s not always about pleasing the audience,” she allows. “Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit open to the fact that if you’re making the audience feel anything, then it’s worth something.

“In our show here, I leave him at the altar right off the get-go. That’s not setting up the audience to love me all that much, right? But then you find a way to bring it back and get your audience back on your side, and hopefully they will, at the end of the day, root for you.”

So what is it about Canadian actors that makes us so gosh-darned lovable?

I did encounter one interesting theory, espoused by actress Rachelle Lefevre, one of two Montrealers (along with Caroline Dhavernas) in the cast of Off the Map, a jungle spin on a similarly ubiquitous TV romance format, the doctor drama.

“When you’re from Canada,” Lefevre suggests, “you tend to be able to get real close real fast.

“Not that we’re particularly lovable. We’re just used to huddling together for warmth.”

Jasmine Guy Remembers Legacy of ‘A Different World’

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo A. Hazell

(February 16, 2011) *The last time we spoke to the multi-talented
Jasmine Guy she talked about what she’s been up to. Now we continue on with that conversation, but this time she deals with the unexpected legacy of ‘A Different World,’ the Cosby created college comedy that’s still running in syndication today.

“When you’re in it you really don’t that that’s what’s going on,” Guy told Lee Bailey. “I’m very grateful that what we did on that show was greater than we knew. While we were on it I thought that we could have done more. But Debbie (Allen) used to say ‘Do you know that enrolment in black colleges has tripled since we’ve been on the air?’

The sitcom made the college life appealing to many young African Americans, including myself.

“The impact of the show didn’t hit me until after I left the show,” she continued. “This is what I did! I came to a
set and I went home. Now that I’ve been around the country and listening to kids say they went to school because of ‘A Different World’ or dudes telling me ‘I knew I could get a girl like Whitley because of Dwayne Wayne,’ that’s just incredible to me … the power of that medium. Also, back then we had 20 million people on three different networks watching the show. You don’t even get that now. Also, it was a Cosby show, (he) thought and did things his way and paid for it and fought for it. He knew the business. By the time Bill Cosby did ‘A Different World’ he had already done four or five television shows. He already knew what the animal was out here.”

The characters on the show were unique in several ways. It depicted an entire cast of intelligent African Americans that were aspiring to be more in their lives. But they weren’t in anyway similar or monolithic in behaviour. Guy says the diverse cast and characters was empowering within itself. Some incredible actors and actresses graced the set as well.

“I was very aware of interpretation,” said Guy. “I knew the difference in the line reading and the depiction of the
character and what that would do to our people. On ‘A Different World’ I had full freedom to be myself because we had so many other different people that were black, but gave different voices to our culture. So, I didn’t have to be the one voice like you have to on a lot of shows. Like when I did ‘NYPD Blue’ and I’m like ‘Oh, you just want me despicable.’ You can see it. If it’s not that important then how come I can’t say it how I want to say it? Why are you making me change?’ I know how important that is. I know how important our sexuality is. I see why they take certain things away. It’s because it’s power.”

Like many in the black community Guy feels the television and film mediums are depicting blacks the way others imagine them to be. The balance of character is missing. But that could change simply by allowing an actor to deliver a line his way.

“The image of black men – if we empower (the actor) – it’s delivery of the line this way or delivery of the line that way and it can be changed in the editing room. I’m very grateful ‘A Different World’ had that balance and it still resonates today.”

When we initially ran into Jasmine she was on the set of TV One’s ‘Way Black When’ special waiting to go on. She was there to help represent the 90s and many of her cast members were there as well.

“I feel like I’m at more of a high school reunion,” said Guy. “I feel like this is more my high school reunion than my actual high school reunion was. I was in a class of 500 so there were a lot of people that I didn’t know, but I know these people. When I saw pictures of Glynn Turman and Bill Duke, they were people that I used to talk to and that influenced my life. They were people I used to talk to. A lot of people invested in me, like Patti LaBelle. A lot of people came through the set of ‘A Different World.’ One day I looked at Charlie, who was playing Kim and I said ‘We got Superfly and Shaft up in here today!’ Thrilling! It feels so good to see them and their energy and their spirit because we all don’t make it 20 years later. We could get broken or broken down. Having lived long enough to see what life does to us, that makes me feel good. It’s been 25 years, I’m 48 now. On my first season of ‘A Different World’ I was 25 and it eventually ended when I was 30. 18 years ago we ended the show.”

As Lee and Jasmine continued roaming the set of ‘Way Black When’ the duo came across many of the most notable talents of the 90s. The gleeful actress must have felt like she was going “Black To the Future” instead of “Way Black When.”

“That’s what I’m saying! I’m buggin’ out, man! I feel like I am dreaming, I’m on a set, I’m in a play but I don’t know what the line is and I’m missing my entrance. And as I’m going to the wings I’m saying ‘What do I sing? What do I do?’ Then I pop up and run into Naughty By Nature, not cuz I hate ya! Then I run into Robert Townsend, who I haven’t seen in years,” Jasmine told EURweb.com as she and Lee turned what was supposed to be a 5 minute interview into a half-hour conversation.

It’s difficult to be oneself in the entertainment industry. That’s especially the case when dealing with journalists in the ‘TMZ’/'WSHH’ era, but it was apparent that talking to Uncle Lee brought back some fond memories.

“I remember my first Ebony interview, my first Jet interview, my first RadioScope interview, my first appearance on Soul Train. The thing was whether I could be myself because I was young. I wanted to represent. I didn’t want anything stupid to come out of my mouth. I remember having a ‘Newsweek’ interview where all she kept talking about was my mother was white, my father was black until I said ‘Why do you keep talking about that? What about that? Why don’t you ask me what they did for me? Why didn’t you ask me how smart they were? So what? One was white one was black, where does the conversation go after that? They raised me! I’m doing well! What, you want me to bitch about being mixed?”

Jennifer Beals: From Ripped Sweats To Dress Blues

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 16, 2011)
Jennifer Beals was born in Chicago and now, full circle, she’s back there again, starring in The Chicago Code, a terrific new cop-and-politics drama on Fox and Global Mondays at 9 p.m.

But in between, with all her Canadian connections, we could virtually claim her as one of our own.

The dance bar in her breakout film, 1983’s Flashdance, was ostensibly based on a Toronto strip club. In 1998, she married a Canadian, film technician Ken Dixon. She then spent five years in Vancouver, shooting the much-admired cable series The L Word.

She was here in Toronto last year to premiere her Canadian film, A Night for Dying Tigers, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and also to shoot a Hallmark Channel TV-movie, The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.

And this week she was back, on a promotional tour for Chicago Code.

“I am so happy to be here,” she enthused. “I was so excited . . . I was worried that the immigration officer at the border might not let me through.”

That will become increasingly unlikely as Chicago Code’s audience grows. As of the upcoming third episode (airing Monday, Feb. 21), the show really hits its groove. Generally speaking, other actors have told me, immigration officers tend to gush over travelling TV cops.

If not the real cops themselves, or worse, their more image-sensitive political masters.

For example, the city of Baltimore, which initially embraced the local production of both Homicide and The Wire, later came to regret it, ultimately, unsuccessfully applying pressure to move the latter to another city.

Chicago law enforcement is, of course, well known for its own historic dark side, dating back to Al Capone. And while not perhaps now as overtly corrupt as Baltimore’s . . .

“You mean it’s not depicted as being as corrupt,” Beals grins.

Point taken. But that still leaves a lot of room for institutionalized bad behaviour.

Not that anyone is apparently complaining. Over 100 local Chicago cops have been recruited for speaking roles or as background extras, and last September the governor of Illinois himself paid a goodwill visit to the set.

“So far the Chicago police department has been nothing but incredibly supportive,” Beals says. “They get screenings before each episode airs and (the reaction is) always incredibly positive.

“I think anybody who lives in Chicago has to know that it’s a corrupt system. And that, as corrupt as it is, there are also people trying to clean it up.”

One of those people, at least fictionally, would be Beals’ Teresa Colvin, a heroic street cop promoted up through the ranks to become, quite unexpectedly, the department’s youngest and first female superintendent.

“When she first gets into the job, she doesn’t quite know how to navigate that kind of leadership. She’s just really getting her bearings. But by Episode 3, I think, she really finds her power.”

Though initially she looks like a frightened little girl playing dress-up, there is an unshakable resolve and razor intelligence lurking just below the surface, waiting to be unleashed.

These are qualities largely shared by the actress herself who, at the height of the Flashdance phenomenon, set aside the temptations of sudden superstardom to complete her studies at Yale.

Meanwhile, even as Beals was busy putting Flashdance behind her, the movie went on to indelibly impact the pop culture of the early 1980s, from music video-style filmmaking to funky street fashion.

It’s her fault, I tell her, there are still people wearing leg warmers who have never seen the inside of a dance studio or gym.

“Yeah,” she winces. “I apologize for that.”

She can, however, legitimately take credit for the distressed, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt look that has remained even more entrenched.

“When I was in high school, I had a favourite sweatshirt that had remained in the dryer for too long,” she explains. “So the hole for my head was too small — I couldn’t get my head through. So I cut around the hole.

“I wore it to one of the auditions and they liked it.”

Even more fondly remembered, particularly by men of my approximate age, was that iconic Flashdance moment where, as dancer/welder Alex, she casually removed her bra, through the sleeve, from under that same stylishly ventilated sweatshirt.

That was all Beals too, from the days when she would layer her clothes to go from school to, say, horseback-riding, rather than take the time to change.

I thank her on behalf of an entire generation.

“You’re welcome,” she smiles. “Happy to oblige.”


Toronto Couple Compete For ‘World’s Greatest Love Story’

Source: www.thestar.com - Star staff

(February 14, 2011) A Toronto couple will appear on Live! With Regis and Kelly on CTV and ABC at 9 a.m. Tuesday to compete for the title “world’s greatest love story.” After being liberated from the Nazi German death camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945, 16-year-old Nechama Baum spotted Howard Kleinberg lying among corpses in a field and pulled him out when she saw a flicker of life.  By the time he regained full consciousness, she was gone. But their paths crossed again two years later after both had moved to Toronto.  Howard and his wife, now named Nancy, will celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary next month.

[ARCHIVES 2011/photogallery/photo00016778/real.htm]

Iyana Vanzant Returns to ‘Oprah’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2011) * Iyanla Vanzant and Oprah Winfrey get into a heated discussion about what went wrong between them during an episode scheduled to air on Wednesday (Feb. 16). Vanzant, a self-help expert, was a regular on “Oprah” during the 1990s, but her subsequent attempt to launch her own talk show failed.  Now, Vanzant reunites with Winfrey for the first time since her last “Oprah” show appearance in 1999 to talk about her fall from grace and what’s happened in her life in the years since.

Jesse L. Martin Cast in Musical Drama Pilot for ABC

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2011) *Former “Law & Order” star
Jesse L. Martin is making a return to television. The actor is the first to be cast in “Hallelujah,” a musical drama pilot developed by “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry. The ABC project is set in the town of Hallelujah, Tenn., which is being torn apart by the forces of good and evil. But the town’s fortunes change when a mysterious stranger comes to town, bringing justice, peace and possibly restoring faith. The show features a church choir that acts as a Greek choir of sorts, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Martin is a veteran of Broadway — where he starred in “Rent” and recently wrapped “The Merchant of Venice” opposite Al Pacino.


Sandra Shamas: Hot Flashes Of Insight

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 12, 2011) She may show city wit, but Sandra Shamas finds meaning in every day working on her farm in the country.

There’s been a change in Sandra Shamas.

No, I don’t mean she’s a different person. The woman I sit down opposite in the Mirvish Production offices is as funny and feisty as she was when we last met nine years ago.

The show she was about to open then was called Wit’s End 2: Heart’s Desire. The new one is Wit’s End 3: Love Life and it starts performances on Feb. 16 at the Winter Garden Theatre.

“Nine years! Has it really been that long?” she asks, with her eyebrows literally lifting towards the ceiling. “Well, you know, it takes a lot of time to go through menopause. You’ve got your physical, spiritual and psychological turmoil.

“And then, when I finished all the tectonic activity on my own hormonal landscape, the world’s financial scene started its own hot flashes. It’s hardly advisable to ask people to risk the money to come see a show while the world is trembling around them.”

But now, everything has settled down and Shamas is ready to entertain her devoted audience of Shamas-heads once again. They’re certainly ready as well, because before its first preview has even taken place, audience demand has warranted a hold-over through March 13.

“I know it’s been a long time,” she says, continuing on the theme of her extended absence from the stage, “I’m a good guest. I show up when I have something to offer. Something that’s worthwhile. I’m obeying my inner voice. It’s been fun to explore it and see how I’ve changed.

“There’s that word again, ‘change!’. There’s no ----ing doubt it’s a change, buster. You’re going from something to something way different. Some things go and some things stay. I’ll tell you what it all boils down to, though. It’s about being the most me I can be without explanation or apology and I adore that down to the goddam ground.”

From that fateful day at the Edmonton Fringe in 1987 when Shamas learned how to lay her life on the line and make it funny, with My Boyfriend’s Back and There’s Gonna Be Laundry, she’s never pulled back from being honest.

Courtships gone awry, marriage and its madness, divorce and its grief, hitting middle age on your own — Shamas has brought it all to the stage, so why shouldn’t she do the same with a hormonal meltdown?

“I used to be like a flamenco dancer at night, flicking the sheets off. I had my last period when I was 50 and I’m 53 now. After all the to-ing and fro-ing and snarling and sweating, I’m coming out the other end to say I made it.”

She thinks back to how it all began and snorts ruefully. “I remember saying to someone ‘Is it hot in here?’ and she said ‘No’ and I thought ‘Oh f---’, but I didn’t think about it again. That’s how it happens. It hiccups along. You finally have to buy a pregnancy test because you’ve skipped a period. Well, I had gotten used to constantly checking my crotch once a month for 39 years.

“I hadn’t had a period in a long time and then after 11 months I finally did. I felt girlish. ‘Are those cramps? Do I have a tampon? Is there chocolate in the house?’ ” Shamas breaks into a bit of Leonard Bernstein “I feel pretty, I feel pretty…”

Then with impeccable timing, she cuts it off.

“That was the last one. Next thing I knew, I had a doctor looking into my (nether regions) and saying ‘I can see cells dying.’ Like I needed that.”

So to celebrate her final period and her 50th birthday, Shamas decided to see the world. Thinking of her Lebanese heritage, she momentarily pondered going to Beirut “because they’re so nice there. They check your ID before they shoot you.”

But she finally settled on Rome and Paris.

“Oh my God. I think everyone there has a full-length mirror. Everybody looks awesome at every tine of the day. And when they are all together on the street, even the street looks beautiful.

“Full-length mirrors. They’re the answer. I’ve got them everywhere now. I’ve got one in my truck.”

I ask Shamas about the subtitle of her show — Love Life — and discover it’s not about her sexual activity, but the fact that she’s now more in love with living itself than she ever was before.

“Romantically, I’m far more in love with myself than I ever have been. I’m also much more available, because the rules have changed. I think I’m more open to different and varied forms of relationships.”

I ask her to define what she means, which is always a dangerous tactic with Shamas. She closes the topic obliquely: “Whatever you need to do, you need to do. You figure out who your tribe is and who you get along with the best. Who has your back and who doesn’t.”

She laughs out loud. “You know, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally figured out the difference between men and women and it’s something I love. We’re into minutiae. We take a sperm and an egg and we multiply it 3 million times. If we could do it over the kitchen table, we’d have friends in to watch.

“Guys are all big-picture types. They don’t want to know about details. They show up in the delivery room with a catcher’s mitt, even though the poor kid won’t be able to use it for 10 years.”

Another thing that has given Shamas ongoing pleasure and a rewarding sense of fulfillment is her farm.

“Sure, I’ve had a garden for years, but I sell things now. I do organic garlic. It’s awesome. I pulled out 750 head last year and it won the red ribbon two years running at the Erin Fall Fair. I admit it’s a struggle not to wear the red ribbon like Minnie Pearl.

“I have eggs in the barn and they taste like a kiss on the mouth. They’re like a bowl of sunshine, it’s stunning, they’re so yellow.” She listens to herself, then pauses.

“Do you hear how I’m going on? It’s like eggs are the new ----ing.”

Even though she lives alone on her farm, she doesn’t rely on the internet much for her entertainment or communication.

“Someone said they’d send me photos by e-mail and I told them not to, because I still have dial-up and it would take all day. ‘Dial-up?’ they gasped. ‘How do you look at porn?’ And I said ‘There’s porn on the internet?’ ”

She pauses for a moment then chuckles. “Imagine how slow porn would be on my computer and what it would look like!” The movements she does to illustrate her thoughts are vintage Shamas.

But in the end, she comes back to the big picture. “I found out a lot about who I am living on a farm. And I like who I am a lot. I’m a good woman on the ground. I learned about livestock and I learned about deadstock. If you want to be the caretaker of something that is alive, then you have to be the caretaker of it when it is dead and yes, that is hard.

“I can think of my dog dying. I can think about having to put down a baby goat. In the scheme of things, those things had to happen. I didn’t like them, but they had to happen, so I cried. You do no favour to something that is suffering to keep it alive for your benefit.”

Shamas steadfastly resists any thought that she might ever return to the city.

“People ask me ‘What do you do all day?’ and I say, ‘I don’t know, but it takes me all day to do it and I’m filthy at the end.’ ”

A smile of discovery breaks across her face. “That’s the difference between the city and the farm. People shower at the morning in the city, they shower at night on the farm.”

She shakes her head. “I was at Shopper’s Drug Mart the other day and I saw this young slip of a thing waiting at the checkout. She had pads, liners, tampons. I just wanted to put a bar of Lindt chocolate on top and say ‘Don’t worry, honey, 30 years and it will all be over.’ ”

It’s time to head back to the organic garlic, the eggs like sunshine and the dial-up internet, but Shamas has one final thought.

“I can literally pick my fights now. I don’t start any, but I don’t back down. It’s a good life. I recommend it.”

Sandra Shamas is in Wit’s End 3: Love Life, at the Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St. from Feb. 16 through March 13. For tickets, call 416-872-5555 or go to www.ticketmaster.ca

Two Crowd-Pleasing Ballets Go Toe To Toe In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(February 9, 2011) Winnipeg, population 700,000 or so and several hundred dollars from any other major centre, is not the easiest city in which to sustain an artistically vibrant ballet company. That the 72-year-old Royal Winnipeg Ballet thrives is a tribute to prairie grit and a canny sense of audience tastes.

Its dancers know how to soar beyond the footlights, which, perhaps not so obviously, connects them in friendly competition with the New York-based Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Both companies arrive in Toronto on Thursday, with unconventional crowd-pleasing shows, the Winnipeggers at Sony Centre and Trockadero at the Winter Garden Theatre.

The Trocks, as they’re known to fans, is a travesty ballet troupe; men in tutus on their tippytoes — hairy chests and armpits notwithstanding. So what, in heaven’s name, makes them even vaguely comparable to our venerable Royal Winnipeggers?

Worlds apart though they might seem — besides the toe shoes — both embrace the notion that art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive and that audiences deserve their money’s worth.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet

It’s more than a decade since the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s oldest dance company and a once frequent visitor, played downtown Toronto. As if to compensate for this lamentably long absence, the world-travelled troupe trumpets its return with the kind of populist blockbuster that made it the darling of local audiences in bygone days.

It’s part of a five-city, Southern Ontario tour that includes a Sunday appearance in Hamilton and a Valentine’s Day stop at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre.

Few would pretend that RWB resident choreographer Jorden Morris’s Moulin Rouge: The Ballet, thus named to avoid confusion with Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie, is a masterwork; yet the fact that it’s packed theatres across Canada since its October 2009 premiere to become the biggest-grossing work in RWB history — surpassing Morris’s 2006 Peter Pan — testifies to its box-office appeal.

With a score that taps countless composers — Chabrier, Debussy, Massenet, Offenbach, Ravel, Shostakovich and Johan Strauss Jr., to name but a minority — Moulin Rouge is a colourful, cancan confection that skirts the sexual waywardness of fin-de-siècle Paris to offer a more or less family-friendly entertainment.

With the actual 122-year-old Moulin Rouge cabaret’s trademark windmill as a dominant design motif — the RWB had to negotiate permission for that — plus the Eiffel Tower as a romantic background feature of Andrew Beck’s skeletally stylized set, Morris conjures a tragic drama that pitches starry-eyed painter Matthew into a vicious love triangle.

Its unlucky apex is the innocent laundress and would-be dancer Nathalie. In the third angle is predatory Moulin Rouge proprietor Charles Zidler. Post-impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — more agile in the ballet than in his disabled real life — acts as a well-meaning bystander.

Les Ballets Trockadero

The Trocks began as a bunch of guys trying on tutus and fooling around in a 14th Street loft in New York. Their friends laughed so hard the dudes decided to go public. Almost 37 years later audiences are still laughing themselves silly.

The Trocks’ fashionability has fluctuated but today they’re riding high on a wave of tulle and Tammy Faye Bakker-strength mascara. Apart from extensive North American touring, this year the Trocks’ 15 hardworking lads will delight crowds in Britain, Greece, Italy, Spain, Japan and Israel.

And make no mistake, they know how to dance with style. Says renowned Canadian choreographer James Kudelka: “The Trocks are one of the few real ballet companies left. They dance with just about the most understanding of classical ballet as anyone you might see.”

Whether it’s spoofing the classics — or postmodern dance, as they’ll be doing this visit — the Trocks take their work very seriously. As artistic director Tory Dobrin says, the quality of dancing is as important as the humour.


WHAT: Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Moulin Rouge

WHEN: Thursday to Saturday, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Sony Centre, 1 Front St. E.

TICKETS: $44 to $137 at Ticketmaster


WHAT: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

WHEN: Thursday to Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St.

TICKETS: $40 to $125 at Ticketmaster

Performer Walks The Line For Johnny Cash

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(February 14, 2011) Shawn Barker once auditioned to play Elvis Presley onstage. Turns out he’s more of a Johnny Cash.

For the past six years, the 39-year-old performer from St. Louis, Mo., has been walking the line as
The Man in Black, in a show of the same title that is coming to the Panasonic Theatre from Feb. 15 to 27.

“I grew up with Johnny Cash’s music. I was a fan before I even took the role. I’ve always been into the ’50s music and culture so . . . I really loved Johnny’s music and his style. He was just a great storyteller really. His songs are stories set to music. He had a voice and a way of telling a story that was unlike anyone else,” Barker said in an interview.

Barker had auditioned to play Presley in a show being developed for Broadway called Million Dollar Quartet, which featured the music of Presley, Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, four top-earning performers for Sun Records Studios of Memphis, Tenn., who once famously jammed together, creating an impromptu album of gospel songs.

But after hearing his voice and noting his physical resemblance, the show’s producers suggested he play Cash instead.

“At the same time, I decided to start performing as Johnny Cash on my own and the show that we know now as The Man in Black show, it got so busy that I ended up having to drop out of the play,” Barker recalled.

Three years ago, Barker teamed with Quebec City-based LCQ Productions, which added a fresh coat of polish and panache to The Man in Black. They’ve been working together ever since, with Barker living much of the year in the chilly provincial capital. He’s recently met a woman from Quebec and spent the Christmas holidays with her relatives.

“I do know a little bit (of French). Of course, you’re going to pick it up being here. But it’s a difficult language to learn, it really is,” he said, with a solemn Midwest drawl.

Barker said he’s not particularly surprised that the show is popular in la belle province despite the fact it’s performed in English. He was once stopped by Montreal police only to find they wanted an autograph, not to hand him a ticket.

“It’s just a testament to Johnny Cash more than me. His music just spanned different barriers . . . language barriers and ethnic barriers. People just love his music,” Barker said, adding that Cash’s “everyday person” persona is another part of his enduring appeal for audiences.

While fans have praised Barker’s performance, the biggest compliment came from W.S. (Fluke) Holland, Cash’s drummer over four decades, who shared the stage with Barker in Las Vegas and in Laughlin, Nev., for a handful of performances.

“It was really, really cool. He (Holland) was just blown away by the whole thing, and we’re still friends today and keep in touch. To say that he thought I was doing a good job and making the comment that it was just like playing with Johnny again was probably the biggest compliment I could get from anybody,” Barker said.

Soulpepper Adds Tenderness And Whimsy To The Fantasticks

Source: www.thestar.com - Kamal Al-Solaylee

The Fantasticks
Written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. Directed by Joseph Ziegler. Until March 24 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill Street. 416-866-8666

(February 16, 2011) It’s tough to tell whether Soulpepper has stooped to the level of
The Fantasticks or if that wafer-thin musical has learned to punch above its weight in the course of its 50-year history.

The truth may not lie in the middle but in that strange place where low and high brows exchange contact information, and where hamming it up and Chekhoving it down duke it out for our laughter and sympathies.

While I wouldn’t go as far as calling Joseph Ziegler’s production, which opened Monday, postmodern or revisionist, it is nonetheless thoughtful and tender. Above all else, its first act is funny in silly and soulful ways. Audiences who need an hour or so to try to remember their gentler and more romantic past can’t go wrong parking there.

“Try to Remember” is of course the show’s signature song. It’s sung, beautifully and wistfully I must add, by Albert Schultz in his role as a narrator. The story follows two sets of neighbouring fathers (William Webster and Michael Hanrahan) who fake a feud to get their children Matt and Luisa (Jeff Lillico and Krystin Pellerin) to fall in love. Before you can say Romeo and Juliet — or, tragically, Gnomeo & Juliet, as it’s likely to be referred to from here on for the target plus-10 audience — the plot needs the staged intervention of a bunch of travelling actors. Yes, kinda like Hamlet or your typical Adam Sandler romcom. (Didn’t I mention high and low, very low, brows?)

To his credit, Ziegler dips in and out of the show’s meta content without ignoring or underscoring it. To see The Fantasticks as an homage to the illusions of theatre is like watching The Bachelor for insights into feminism. Something just ain’t right about that.

The Fantasticks has always been more about the impetuousness of youth and the sorrow of old age, and Ziegler is careful not to overromanticize the young or banish the old to the land of comic relief. The tone slips occasionally but not without some rewards. As one of the older actors, Oliver Dennis shifts his inner harlequin to high gear. This part of the washed-up ham is the work of an actor at the peak of his powers.

If the comic scenes have more punch than the songs, it’s because this is a musical that’s been cast with what is politely referred to in the biz as actors who can carry a tune. Schultz carries. Lillico does too, albeit with some struggle. Pellerin doesn’t. Her rendition of a song like “Much More” leaves much more to be desired.

The tone of the second act is more maudlin and it’s where you begin to see that 50 years of performances have not addressed the book’s imbalance.

It’s probably in keeping with the message of the show: the longer you live, the more heartaches and disappointment you experience. But if I understood the show, it’s those setbacks that make you fall in love with love, life and, with whimsical productions like this one, theatre.

Rhubarb Hits The Pavement

Source: www.thestar.com - Alison Broverman

(February 16, 2011) Even if you aren’t planning on attending the
Rhubarb Festival, you may not have a choice in the matter.

The 32nd annual feast of experimental theatre and performance art is busting out of the Buddies in Bad Times theatre space. This year is festival director Laura Nanni’s first at the helm, and she’s put together a two-week line-up featuring many artists responding to the present tension in the city with some hyper-local work.

“The Toronto focus emerged naturally from people responding to a lot of changes in our city over the past year,” says Nanni. “After the G20 and the election, I think there’s a desire to reclaim space and rediscover a sense of wonder in the city.”

One of Nanni’s additions to Rhubarb is a series called Mobile Works, in which artists take to the streets and subways in “performance interventions” meant to surprise Torontonians out of their usual February funks.

Mobile Works even includes a show that will be developed over the course of the festival. Performance artist Erin Brubaker has just moved back to Toronto after 12 years away, and wants Rhubarb patrons to help her get reacquainted with her piece Dear Neighbour. During week one, Brubaker will hang a map at Buddies on which patrons can mark suggestions of where she should visit. Brubaker will follow up on these suggestions and develop a performance for the last weekend of the festival.

Nanni herself is curating a Toronto Show-and-Tell, where people from all over the GTA will bring in an object and share a story pertaining to its geography.

Sticking with the theme of public consultation, Jacob Zimmer and his theatre company Small Wooden Shoe are using Rhubarb to kick off their next big project, Upper Toronto: Zimmer will be seeking suggestions for a futuristic Toronto built on top of the one we live in now.

On the flip side, delving into Toronto’s history is Praxis Theatre’s Jesus Chrysler, which examines the life of Eugenia “Jim” Watts, an underappreciated but important figure in Toronto’s theatre history (the title is the name of Watts’s car). Watts was a political organizer and theatre director in 1930s Toronto. She directed the legendary agitprop 1933 play Eight Men Speak, which was banned after a single performance.

The seeds of Jesus Chrysler were planted when Praxis artistic director Michael Wheeler (who directs the play) attended a theatre history lecture about the Progressive Arts Club, which was the cultural chapter of the Communist Party of Canada. Last summer, he persuaded playwright Tara Beagan to join him in developing a play about Watts’s life and her passionate friendship with the poet Dorothy Livesay.

Though Beagan has been very busy this year (she’s a playwright in residence at the National Arts Centre, and last month she was named Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts), she agreed that Watts’s story was an important and fascinating one, and she was especially drawn to the local connection.

“I’m really interested in work that grounds people in the place they live,” she says. “There’s a lack of human story in history as it’s taught — it’s up to the artists to fill that part in.”


WHAT: Rhubarb Festival

WHEN: Until Feb. 27

WHERE: Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St.

TICKETS: $20 (PWYC Sunday) at 416-975-8555. Schedule at www.buddiesinbadtimes.com


Guitar Hero Gets Axed

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(February 10, 2011) With the news that Activision Blizzard is dissolving its music game business, the Guitar Hero franchise is effectively ending and it’s safe to say the heyday of the music game is over.

It’s almost a coda to a day that has been long coming, as the genre that helped lift the entire video-game business to ever higher financial heights — racking up almost $3 billion in sales in five years — had suffered from the same quieting refrain for a while.

Declining sales of competitor Rock Band 3 led to Viacom selling developer Harmonix and MTV Games shuttering it doors, two fairly recent signs the genre has been out of tune. There’s nothing that says Guitar Hero can’t be resurrected for a reunion tour, but the signs of its lack of cultural relevance were fairly easy to see.

Here are five reasons why Guitar Hero was put on the shelf.

1. The song remains the same: Actually, it’s not the song, but the game play of hitting colours to a beat that didn’t change much over the series of Guitar Hero titles. With song licensing, there was a seemingly endless supply of tunes to play, but little reason to buy boxed game updates or further iterations of the plastic instruments, which were expensive to produce. “In retrospect it was a $3 billion or more business that everybody needed to buy, so they did, but they only needed to buy it once,” Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan video-game business analyst, told Associated Press. “It’s much like Wii Fit. Once you have it, you don’t need to buy another one.”

2. Coke vs. Pepsi: Rock Band stole Guitar Hero’s thunder when it released its full band setup in 2007. It was created by many of Guitar Hero’s original developers. RB3 is also in decline but is still trying to evolve, as its latest version added keyboards, more sophisticated drums and has a learn-to-play option, which like actual music education is really hard.

3. Oversaturation: This is likely the largest single reason that Guitar Hero failed. Guitar Hero II expanded the franchise from the PS2 to the Xbox 360. Subsequent titles included Guitar Hero: Rock the 80s, Guitar Hero III, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero: Metallica, as well as mobile versions, with many of the releases coming just a few months after the last. Combine that with the explosion of like-minded games such as DJ Hero and karaoke-type games with similar rhythm-based mechanics — SingStar, Def Jam Rapstar — and the flood of music games all served to cannibalize each other.

4. Song licensing: Music video games were just one of the latest supposed saviours of the music industry, but while an appearance in a game helped boost sales, it was still an expensive prospect. The high cost of licensing music was cited as one of Activision’s main reasons for closing the business. The real money to be made was on the hardware. The music industry’s movement to a hit single mentality perpetuated by iTunes meant that fewer people were buying the (often overpriced) track packs. Piracy likely played a part, as people found ways to illegally get the songs they really wanted.

5. Rise and fall of the party game: For a while, breaking out Guitar Hero or Rock Band was the must for any party. Now it’s more likely those plastic instruments are gathering dust in a corner of the basement. Guitar Hero appealed to non-traditional and casual gamers, who could move on, and obviously have, to other entertainments. At one point, Guitar Hero was the height of fashion and, like most trends, people grew tired of it.

Police Quest 1-4

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Police Quest 1-4
PC (Download)
$9.99 from Good Old Games (gog.com)
Rated T-M

(February 11, 2011) For some, it’s used bookstores. For others, antique shops or vintage clothing boutiques. For geeks of a certain age, Good Old Games (gog.com) is where the nostalgia dollar belongs. Purveyors of fine titles otherwise orphaned by the cruel march of gaming’s so-called progress, GOG always has some new old thing to tempt me out of a couple beers’ worth of petty cash. Last week it was the complete
Police Quest series.

The brainchild of retired California Highway Patrolman Jim Walls, Police Quest was the third of Sierra’s famous Quest adventure-game series, following King’s Quest and Space Quest. Walls set out to create a cop adventure that would give an authentic taste of life behind the badge. As Officer Sonny Bonds, players had to cope not only with the scum of the streets but with the rules and regulations that define a cop’s world.

Playing these games again for the first time in 20 years, I am struck by how deeply weird Walls’ ambition was and is. Police Quest is a “police procedural” in the most literal sense. Sierra adventures were infamous for game-ending instadeaths around every corner. Where King’s Quest’s Sir (later King) Graham might be roasted by a dragon, or Space Quest’s Roger Wilco doomed by a shoddy used spacecraft, Sonny Bonds’ greatest danger was getting tossed off the force for not going by the book. From the requisite pre-shift safety inspection of your vehicle, through proper arrest procedures, to filling out the booking paperwork, any deviation from police policy nets a big, fat GAME OVER.

This is utterly alien to the shoot-first, ask-question-never mindset of pretty much every other video game featuring cops, and it’s what makes Police Quest special. Sure, the plots are great, the characters are interesting and there’s more than enough gritty crime-thriller material to satisfy, but through it all you’re never allowed to forget that you’re a man with a job, and that job has rules, and those rules are what makes a cop. Maybe that sounds like a drag — honestly, it sometimes is, a little — but it makes for a game with a lot more heft and complexity than any dozen guns-blazing police power fantasies.

The package offered by GOG includes the entire series, the Walls-designed Police Quests 1-3 and the (to my mind inferior) fourth game that had former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates as its advisor. Disappointingly, the version of Police Quest 1 included here is the later VGA remake; only Police Quest 2 is presented in its full 16-color glory. But that’s a quibble; overall, this package is an opportunity to get down with one of the strangest and most satisfying of stories from adventure gaming’s Golden Age.


Michael Oher: The ‘I Beat the Odds’ Interview with Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams

(February 15, 2011) *
Michael Oher was born on May 28, 1986 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he negotiated a perilous path through the foster care system, experiencing periods of homelessness.

He eventually attended Briarcrest Christian School and met Sean and Leigh-Anne Tuohy, who became his adoptive parents. His inspirational story is the subject of Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which was adapted to the screen in 2009 as
The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning performance.

Oher currently lives in Maryland where he is an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. After playing college football at the University of Mississippi for the Ole Miss Rebels, he was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Following his first year in the league, he was named to both the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team and the USA Today All-Joe Team. He also earned NFL Rookie of the Month honours for December and recently completed a second successful season with the Ravens, making the playoffs.

Here, Michael talks about his new autobiography, I Beat the Odds

Kam Williams: Hi Michael, thanks for the time.

Michael Oher: No problem. What’s up?

KW: You and the Raven’s had an excellent season. How’d you feel when your season ended in Pittsburgh with that loss to the Steelers on a last-minute Roethlisberger TD pass?

MO: It wasn’t a good feeling losing to those guys. It really stung.

KW: What’d you think of the Super Bowl?

MO: I just couldn’t bear to look at it. I watched a total of about four minutes.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you and they sent in a million questions.

MO: Hopefully, you won’t give me a million, ay?

KW: Well, we have limited time, so let’s see how many we can get to. Let me start by asking how did you manage to make it all the way to the NFL, given the neighbourhood you came from and your challenging childhood?

MO: There’s a big difference between where I came from and the NFL. Things like this don’t happen to people from there often. It just took a lot of hard work and dedication, staying on the right path, believing in myself, and having an inner drive.

KW: Peter Keough asks: Why did you write your autobiography? Was it because you felt misrepresented by The Blind Side?

MO: I kinda wanted to clear some things up after I got thousands of letters from people who looked up to me, telling me I was such an inspiration, and that they wanted to follow in my footsteps. And that if I could do it, they could do it. I wanted to send out a positive message and let them know that you don’t need a wealthy family to come in and save you, like they saw in The Blind Side, because I felt that I always had an inner drive deep, down inside. So, I just want to be an encouraging voice for those who don’t believe they can make it.

KW: Kathy Ancar says: In the movie, there is a restaurant scene where you embrace a young waiter who turns to be your brother. Have you reconnected with your biological siblings?

MO: I’ve always been connected to them and maintained those relationships. That scene in the movie was just Hollywood.

KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell asks: What do you think can be done on the national level to increase awareness about the size of the foster system in America and to help kids caught up in it?

For full story, go HERE.


Bahamas And Bermuda - The Quiet Side Of Romance In The Islands

Source: www.thestar.com - Carol Perehudoff

(February 11, 2011) PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS—I never knew there was an erotic way to flop over in a deck chair but an afternoon at the adults-only pool at the Cove — a sleek hotel connected to the island’s mega Atlantis Resort — was a learning experience.

First, you do a slow half turn. Pause midair. Arch your back and stick out your butt then seductively lower yourself down. This, preferably, is done in a leopard print pink-trimmed bikini.

The high-octane energy of the Cove’s poolside scene is fun and endlessly entertaining: think DJs and bright red and orange day beds, but if you’re aiming to connect with your significant other, you may crave more of a non-scene, a place where the goal isn’t to mix it up but to slow it down. Somewhere with understated elegance and a spa geared towards two. You can find it at two different resorts on two different islands.

The One & Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island, Bahamas

The Ocean Club may welcome families but this uber-upscale resort maintains a dreamy romantic vibe. Just a quick chauffeured ride away from the Cove, this is the upper strata of the Atlantis complex, once the exclusive retreat of fat cat Huntington Hartford II, heir to the A&P fortune. Today, the fat cats are still here, but they’re low-key cats, hiding out by their private infinity pool at one of the resort’s three $10,000-a-night villas, soaking up rays on the ghost-pale beach or dining at the French-Asian restaurant Dune, the baby of star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

A Bahamian resort with British colonial architecture, tiered French gardens and a Balinese spa, the Ocean Club has a history of attracting power duos like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

“It’s easier to name the celebrities who don’t come here than the ones who do.” My driver laughs as he whisks me back to the airport at Nassau.

It makes me wish I’d paid more attention to the other guests, but something about the Ocean Club makes celebrity-spotting seem as trite as it sounds — this is a place to Be rather than See, and you’ll be the star of your own show.

Spend the day: Float down a faux river on an inner tube at Atlantis’ sprawling waterscape, swing with the pros at the Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course then return to your room for complimentary champagne and strawberries served daily by your butler. Top it off with a sunset stroll through the Versailles-inspired gardens complete with transplanted 12th-century Augustinian cloister.

Why the spa will bring you together: Forget single treatment rooms. This spa is made for bonding with eight spa villas, each with massage tables for two, outdoor Jacuzzi, hand-carved teak panels and garden overflowing with ferns, white birds of paradise and bamboo.

Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, Somerset, Bermuda

Voted Best Place for a Discreet Rendezvous at the 19th annual Best of
Bermuda Awards, the quietly sophisticated Cambridge Beaches on Bermuda’s western tip caters exclusively to adults (children are allowed only on specific dates). But don’t expect a predatory singles scene. According to Michael J. Winfield, president and CEO of Cambridge Beaches, this is a place for couples not just to connect but to reconnect.

“Relationships need time and attention. How many times do you see couples sitting side by side, but they’re not together at all? They’re looking at their BlackBerrys or computers. Our goal is to bring them together again.”

Maybe this is why Bill and Hillary Clinton chose to spend Bill’s birthday here in 2009, staying in a deluxe private pool suite.

One of Bermuda’s original cottage colonies of the 1920s, when the island first became a jetsetting playground, Cambridge Beaches is a scattering of pink-stucco cottage-style rooms spread out over a 12-hectare peninsula — ensuring ocean views all around. A hybrid of Old World British (think croquet lawns and high tea) and New Age rejuvenation (clothing-optional sundeck, labyrinth and crystals) it’s ideal for some languid hand-holding togetherness.

Spend your day: Shop at the nearby Royal Naval Dockyard, sip a rum swizzle by the resort’s new waterfall infinity pool or laze on one of the property’s four beaches. Top it off with a moonlit dinner on a hidden cove arranged by the hotel’s Romance Concierge.

Why the spa will bring you together: The splashy Ocean Spa revels in treatments for two. Try a Couples Massage Lesson, his and her pedicures, an 80-minute Sensual Awakening or full-day Sensual Journey package. The décor is bright and breezy with vibrant greens and shell motifs. Upstairs, the airy Aquarian has an assortment of pools, and treatments include entry to the Experience Suites, a clothing-optional wellness area.

Just the Facts

WEATHER: Bermuda is a sub-tropical island on the Atlantic with winter temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius – don’t expect the blistering heat of the Caribbean. Do expect pink sand beaches, businessmen in Bermuda shorts and designer shops.

PRICES: Resort rates start at $370 per night with breakfast and afternoon tea. A “3rd Night Free” promotion runs until March 12 (ref code CBW3P). www.cambridgebeaches.com. Tele: 800-468-7300.

Carol Perehudoff is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her trip was subsidized by the Ocean Club and Cambridge Beaches. Visit her blog at www.wanderingcarol.com.


Canada’s Erik Guay Races To Men’s Downhill Title

Source: www.thestar.com - Eric Willemsen

(February 12, 2011) GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, GERMANY—Erik Guay of Canada won the men’s downhill title at the world championships Saturday ahead of pre-race favourites Didier Cuche and Christof Innerhofer.

Guay sped down the 3.3-kilometre Kandahar course in one minute, 58.41 seconds, beating Cuche — the World Cup downhill champion from Switzerland — by 0.32.

Italy’s Innerhofer, who won super-G gold Wednesday, trailed Guay by 0.76 to place third.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” said Guay, who wore bib No. 10 to start ahead of most top racers. “It’s really amazing. Some of the best skiers in the world came down after me but my time stood. I had put my money on Cuche.”

The 29-year-old Guay said winning skiing’s most prestigious title “has always been on my to-do list. An incredible day.”

Guay is the second straight Canadian winner of the world downhill title after 2009 champion John Kucera, who is recovering from breaking his left leg last season. They are the only Canadians to win the title.

Guay dedicated his victory to the injured racers on his team, which also included Manuel Osborne-Paradis.

“Our team has gone through hard times,” Guay said. “So this title is also for them, who are recovering. They will be back.”

Guay won three career World Cup races — two of them on the same course in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. His last win came at a super-G in March last year, which earned him the discipline’s crystal globe.

“Somehow Garmisch has always been great to me,” Guay said. “I don’t think I realize what I’ve done, I am just very happy now.”

Cuche, who won the last two World Cup downhills prior to the worlds — in Kitzbuehel, Austria and Chamonix, France — came close to beating Guay as he led the Canadian by 0.23 at the first intermediate time.

However, Cuche went wide on a couple of turns and lost pace going into the final section. Cuche earned his country its first medal after Swiss racers placed fourth in all three previous races at the worlds — Cuche and Lara Gut in super-G and Dominique Gisin in super-combined.

“I am very glad with this result,” Cuche said. “Before the start, I knew it would be hard to get into the top three. I think I won second place and not lost victory.”

Cuche’s teammate, Olympic downhill champion Didier Defago, is sitting out the entire season after tearing ligaments in his left knee.

Innerhofer started ninth and charged from the top. His right ski went up in the air after catching a bump but he adjusted quickly and didn’t seem to lose much speed.

His best time up to then, 1:59.17, was immediately bettered by Guay, who was flawless in the steep and turning middle part of the course.

“I felt no pressure, I had nothing to lose after taking the super-G,” said Innerhofer, who was suffering from a fever Friday. “Pressure was on the other guys, I tried to relax though I wasn’t as fresh anymore as in the super-G race.”

Innerhofer was delighted with his showing in the event after collecting a second medal.

“I could only dream about championships like these,” the Italian said. “You always start a race to win it. So did I in the past two years but I finished on a podium only once.”

Relatively high temperatures softened the snow on the slope, which earlier this week had been described by many racers as too icy and too bumpy.

“This proves that I am also fast if it’s not very icy,” Innerhofer said. “We trained a lot on soft snow in the last couple of years.”

Aksel Lund Svindal, the 2007 world champion who was second and third in the training runs, avoided major mistakes but could not keep up with the pace and finished 1.52 back in fifth.

He fell after crossing the finish line and crashed into the boarding. He initially appeared injured, but officials helped him to stand up after two minutes and he walked out of the finish area waving to the audience.

Bode Miller of the United States charged down in his usual fighting style, but the 2005 champion was obviously disadvantaged being only the 22nd starter as the course became weaker during the race. He finished 2.42 off the lead in 15th place.

Michael Walchhofer, the last Austrian to win the men’s downhill world title in 2003, competed in his last major race before retiring at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old Austrian wasn’t clean form the start and played catch-up throughout his run and finished 1.87 behind for seventh place.

“My run wasn’t perfect, but even if it was, I would not have been 1.87 faster,” Walchhofer said. “Visibility was not great but that’s no excuse as I was too far off the lead anyway.”

Adrien Theaux, who was fastest in Friday’s final training, misjudged a left turn early in his run and slid full speed into the safety nets. He lost both skis but appeared unhurt.

Thornhill’s Raonic Makes Sonic Leap To No. 59

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 10, 2011) Sometime a win is just a win. Sometimes it's more.

In the case of
Milos Raonic's victory Sunday in San Jose, it's only the biggest shot in the arm for Canadian tennis in at least 15 years. Proclaimed by Patrick McEnroe at the Australian Open last month as "maybe the next big thing in men's tennis," Raonic's blistering serve carried him past Fernando Verdasco of Spain and to his first ATP victory.

Greg Rusedski was the last Canadian to win a tournament, and soon after he cashed in his talent for British citizenship, so it's hard to count much of what Rusedski did as anything that contributed to Canadian tennis.

Raonic may indeed be the real deal. Winning any event in men's pro tennis today is nothing to sneeze at, given the remarkable depth of the men's game in the modern era, the raw physical nature of the sport these days and the heavy travel demands. Those not in the top 20 don't get all the perqs the top players get, from massage therapists to preferred hotels to convenient scheduling, so winning San Jose was an enormous achievement for the Thornhill-raised Raonic.

Canadian tennis has been waiting a long time for someone like this. Young and articulate with loads of promise, Raonic's cannon-like serve is the stuff of which tennis stars are made. The most popular American player in the post-Agassi, post-Sampras era has been Andy Roddick, who built his game almost totally around his spectacular serve, only adding other elements later.

There are big servers on the tour who don't have much more than that - 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic comes to mind - but it would appear Raonic has other compelling elements to his game, including a big forehand that allows him to dictate play and an ability and willingness to come in and play at the net.

The great news is that he's given the country a tennis player to watch, at least for this year. Wimbledon is made for those who can serve and volley, so he'll be worth watching there in June.

At the same time, it's important to put Raonic's Silicon Valley triumph in some perspective so as not to exaggerate it.

This may be the most diluted portion of the men's tennis season, and last week there were no fewer than three ATP tour events, including San Jose, one in Rotterdam and another in Brazil. The world's top three players - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic - played in none of them. The San Jose tourney featured only one top 10 player - Fernando Verdasco, beaten by Raonic in the final - and three players currently ranked in the top 20. The fourth-seeded player was Xavier Malisse, currently ranked 45th in the world.

Robin Soderling, the world's No. 4 player, won the Rotterdam tournament, one that had much deeper draw than San Jose and is the bigger event of the two. Nicolas Almagro won on clay in Brazil as the talent on the tour was spread thinly across the globe.

This week, there are three more events in Marseile, Memphis and Buenos Aires. Not only are there too many tour events - players have been complaining about this for years - but too often overlapping events dilute the product.

None of this should take away from Raonic's win. Capturing this tournament was the next logical step in a career that appears to be bursting with promise, and beating Malisse, Verdasco and James Blake demonstrated he could not only defeat experienced tour veterans, but ones with very different kinds of games.

Winning a tournament like this allows him to pile up some points, improve his seeding at future events and continue his drive towards the top 20.

The next step? Following up San Jose with another strong effort in Memphis, a tournament that ranks below Masters events like the Rogers Cup but above the San Jose tourney. What separates the top players from the rest is their ability to put together consistent results That's Raonic's next challenge.

But a win is a win. And this was no ordinary win.

Halifax Rolls Out Canada Winter Games Welcome Mat

Source: www.thestar.com - Keith Doucette and Michael MacDonald

(February 11, 2011) HALIFAX—A city looking for a little redemption used its ties to the sea to welcome the country’s best young athletes to the Canada Winter Games on Friday night.

As host city, Halifax wants to repair its reputation after infamously dropping out of the running four years ago for the 2014 Commonwealth Games over that event’s $1.7 billion price tag.

The opening ceremonies were the first step in that process as the city put on a spectacle that paid tribute to the athletes with a nod to Nova Scotia’s maritime history.

“This is going to be the biggest sporting event in our province’s history,” said Premier Darrell Dexter. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we’ve always been famous for, which is Nova Scotia hospitality.”

As the athletes entered the Halifax Metro Centre, faces of people painted in various provincial colours were projected onto screens fashioned to look like the schooner sails of the legendary Bluenose. A less-than-capacity crowd of spectators waved red sparklers as the athletes, led by Yukon, entered the arena.

Throughout the city Friday, young athletes in brightly coloured provincial uniforms could be seen in small groups, heading to hotels and checking out the local sporting venues.

In all, 2,700 competitors from 800 communities will take part in about 20 sporting events, including freestyle and alpine skiing at two hills north of Halifax.

Jamie Jewels, 21, a wheelchair basketball player from Donkin, N.S., beamed with pride at competing in her home province.

“It means the world to put the Nova Scotia gear on and come out and represent your province in your own province, it’s a great feeling,” she said.

Others were eager to get their competitions started.

“I’m super excited to be here,” said speed skater Victoria Spence, 18, of Kamloops, B.C., who was her province’s flagbearer. “We’ve travelled a long way and I’m ready to compete.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the athletes should be proud of the hard work that got them to the Games and that will get them to future international competitions.

“You take on each other, province against province, but never forget that you are getting ready to take on the world, to take on the best in the world because that is what this is all about,” he said.

“Canadian athletes did that last year at the Olympics, do you remember?

“Do you remember when Canada won the most gold medals by any country ever at the Olympic Games?” he said to loud cheers.

New Brunswick Premier David Alward and P.E.I.’s Robert Ghiz also attended the opening ceremonies.

A number of acts from the province were on the bill, including The Trews, Grand Derangement, Jimmy Rankin and the Stanfields.

The beginning of the two-week event marks the first time Halifax has hosted the Games since the inaugural summer event in 1969.

“Some of these aspiring athletes are going on to bigger and better things ... like the Olympics,” said Chris Morrissey, CEO of the Games. “You can’t beat the experience of coming to an event like this.”

At the Vancouver Olympics last year, 63 per cent of the Canadian athletes who won medals had competed at previous Canada Games.

In the days ahead, Alberta’s men’s hockey team will be vying for its sixth straight Canada Games medal. The team took home the bronze in 2007 while Ontario nabbed gold.

In women’s hockey, Ontario is considered the team to beat as it looks for its fifth consecutive gold medal.

At the Canada Summer Games in Charlottetown in 2009, Ontario took home the Flag as the top scoring province, edging out British Columbia. It’s an honour the province has won in 17 of the last 21 Canada Games.

We Remember: CFL Tough Guy Kuntz Was All Heart At Home

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(February 7, 2011) On the job, Bobby Kuntz was a tough guy, a hard-hitting linebacker who spent 11 seasons flattening ball carriers for the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

At home, he melted into a tender father, who put in time on the practice field and the family business but still had plenty of energy left for his children. Once inside the house the longtime Tiger-Cat would morph into “The Tickle Tiger,” who prowled his Waterloo home looking for children to tickle. He never had to look far. Kuntz and his wife, Mary, had six children.

Kuntz, 79, died Monday from complications from Parkinson’s disease.

His youngest daughter, Liz, remembered him as not just a local sports celebrity but as a fun-loving father.

“It was wonderful to have a father people admired,” she said. “He was a tough guy but was tender and gentle off the field.”

Kuntz was born in Detroit but grew up in Cleveland, where he was cut from his high school football team. When the family moved to Kitchener he made the team at St. Jerome's High School before heading to McMaster University, where he starred in both football and basketball.

He graduated to the CFL at 23, signing with the Argonauts for the 1955 season. In the first phase of his CFL career Kuntz was named a divisional all-star at three different positions and often played both offence and defence in the same game.

Despite his gridiron success Kuntz retired briefly in 1961. He was healthy and successful but the death of his older brother David meant he had to run the family business, Kuntz Electroplating, on his own.

By the end of that off-season Kuntz was ready to resume playing. The Tiger-Cats, who were based closer to his Kitchener home than the Argos, were ready to put him to work and after requesting a trade to Hamilton, he returned to the field.

His success in Hamilton translated to fame in his hometown — Kuntz is a member of the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame — and as a result his kids encountered very few schoolyard hassles growing up.

Liz says potential bullies quickly turned into fawning fans once they figured out who her dad was.

Kuntz was a member of Ticats teams that won Grey Cups in 1963 and 1965, though his second championship ring took decades to materialize.

Liz says none of the members of the 1965 squad received their Grey Cup rings until a reunion and ceremony that took place roughly seven years ago. By that time Kuntz was already in a long-term care facility, so Mary accepted the ring on his behalf.

Copies of the ring were made for each of Kuntz’ five surviving children — oldest daughter Suzanne died of cancer at 34.

Liz still wears her ring.

Through sheer coincidence she met and married a man with the same last name — former Star editor-in-chief Fred Kuntz — but says changing her last name upon marriage was never a consideration.

“With a father like I had I would be a Kuntz no matter what,” she said.

Kuntz is survived by his wife, Mary and by children Carl, Liz, Robert Jr., David and Joel.

Visitation will take place Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Erb & Good Family Funeral Home, 171 King St. S., Waterloo, and again Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Funeral mass will be celebrated Thursday at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 49 Blueridge Ave., Kitchener.

New Toronto FC Coach Wins Praise By Players

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(February 15, 2011) Their time together has been brief and the first kick of significance is still more than a
month away, but the early reviews from the new Toronto FC head coach, and the men playing for him, are decidedly upbeat.

Former Dutch international
Aron Winter, who promised to bring an attractive, attacking, possession-filled game to TFC when he took the job last month, liked what he saw during the two weeks of training in Turkey.

And, the feeling is mutual.

“It’s a style that everyone likes and enjoys playing,” captain Dwayne De Rosario said Tuesday after the Reds trained in Oakville. “There’s a lot of movement, the ball is on the ground, a lot of talking and possession.”

De Rosario, who said of his ongoing contract dispute that “things definitely look brighter” and “we all want to get it behind us and focus on football,” added Winter’s call to play in space and run at guys suits his game.

“You’re not looking at the goalie lumping the ball up the field,” said De Rosario, who had a career-best and club record 15 goals in 2010.

Winter pronounced himself “very happy” with his core 15 or so players. But with changes allowing rosters of up to 30 this year, he said “we’re looking to have a good team” to withstand a long MLS season, June’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will likely see several Canadian internationals on TFC called up, and other potential competitions such as the Champions League.

Winter said the club is about to sign three Dutch players who were on trial in Turkey — forwards Javier Martina and Nick Soolsma, and midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba. He called their performance overseas “very good.”

Martina, 24, and Soolsma, 23, who were trained in Dutch youth programs, started all three games for TFC in Turkey. Bouchiba, 32, spent a decade in the top Dutch league before going to play in Qatar the past two seasons.

“These are three good players,” Winter said. “I’m convinced that they can make a difference during this season.”

De Rosario said the trio understands the “Dutch-style football” that Winter wants to play and “they’ll fit in quite well with this team and this league.”

Midfielder Jacob Peterson, who was acquired just prior to last season as someone who could widen the field down the wing but never got on track under former head coach Preki Radosavljevic, said Winter “instills a lot of confidence” in the players.

“When you have a coach that believes in the system, believes in the players, I think that you can do good things,” Peterson said.

Julian de Guzman, who continues to recover from off-season knee surgery, said “guys are impressed and surprised by the changes that have been made.

“There are a lot of positives that we can take into the season,” he said.

TFC, which was 1-1-1 during three exhibition matches against European sides in Turkey, will get its first taste of action against Major League Soccer opposition at the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in Florida next week.

That will be followed by three more exhibition games at the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C., from March 5 to 12.

TFC kicks off its fifth MLS season March 19 in Vancouver against the expansion Whitecaps.

Lance Armstrong Retires For Good This Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Litke

(February 16, 2011)
Lance Armstrong is calling this one “Retirement 2.0.”

Almost a month after finishing 65th in his last competitive race in Australia, and nearly six years removed from
the last of an unprecedented seven straight Tour de France titles, the 39-year-old cyclist made clear there is no reset button this time.

This time, he’s leaving professional racing behind for good.

“Never say never,” Armstrong laughed at the start of an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, then quickly added, “Just kidding.”

His retirement ends a comeback effort that failed to produce an eighth title or diminish talk that performance-enhancing drugs helped his career. The timing has as much to do with his growing responsibilities and family as it does with the physical limitations time has imposed. He’s tired, and tired of being hounded. Armstrong will miss competing — let alone dominating a sport like none before him — but not the 24/7/365 training regimen that made it possible.

“I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s been an excellent ride. I really thought I was going to win another tour,” Armstrong said about his comeback attempt in 2009, four years after his first retirement. “Then I lined up like everybody else and wound up third.

“I have no regrets about last year, either,” he added, despite finishing 23rd. “The crashes, the problems with the bike — those were things that were beyond my control.”

Armstrong spoke to the AP in a telephone interview and in a videotaped interview from his office in Austin, Texas.

Armstrong zoomed out of relative obscurity after a life-threatening bout with testicular cancer to win his first tour in 1999, then set about recalibrating both the popularity of his sport and how much influence athletes can wield as advocates for a cause — in his case, on behalf of cancer survivors and researchers worldwide.

Along the way, Armstrong also became one of the most controversial figures in the evolving battle against doping in sports. He claims to be the most-tested athlete on the planet during his career. Armstrong came back clean every time, and vehemently denies ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

Even so, he remains shadowed by a federal investigation into the sport launched last year following accusations by former teammate and disgraced 2006 tour champion Floyd Landis that Armstrong used drugs and taught other riders how to beat testing. Though the probe is continuing, lawyers familiar with the case told the AP recently that any possible indictments are a long way off.

“I can’t control what goes on in regards to the investigation. That’s why I hire people to help me with that. I try not to let it bother me and just keep rolling right along. I know what I know,” Armstrong said. “I know what I do and I know what I did. That’s not going to change.”

What won’t change, either, is his tenacious campaigning to raise funds and awareness in the fight against a disease his doctors once believed would keep Armstrong from competing at anything more strenuous than gin rummy.

That was 1996. A year later, he set up the Livestrong Foundation and raised $10,000. In the intervening years, Armstrong used his story, his celebrity and hard work to sell millions of those ubiquitous plastic yellow wrist bracelets and enlist lawmakers in Texas and global policymakers on the scale of Bill Clinton in the cause.

By the end of last year, despite tough economic times, the foundation had raised nearly $400 million total. But the real heavy lifting may just be beginning.

After lobbying successfully for a Texas state constitutional amendment to provide $3 billion for cancer research over a 10-year period, Armstrong now has his sights set on California. This summer, he’ll work with legislators there to draw up and put on the ballot a measure mandating a cigarette tax with the proceeds to fund further research. Come September, Armstrong will also plead his case before a United Nations General Assembly special session on non-communicable diseases that he provided much of the impetus for.

“We knew we’d be able to have some impact, but we didn’t know we’d pick up so much momentum,” he said.

That’s how Armstrong broke through nearly every barrier the sport had erected over a century and more — by leading with his chin. He spilled blood on the roads, came back from crashes and more than once, crossed the finish line of a stage race draped over his handlebars like a man hanging on for life instead of an unbreakable machine.

One thing that never changed, though, was how Armstrong’s withering gaze controlled the pack of riders around him. He doled out favours, like stage wins, or withheld them as the mood struck him. He could command the peloton to speed up to chase a breakaway rider or slow down with an ease the old-time cycling bosses — respectfully called patrons — would have envied.

That was just one reason Armstrong leaves the sport with nearly as many enemies as friends.

“A lot of that has been overanalyzed and inaccurately portrayed, but it’s part and parcel of cycling. It’s how cycling operates,” Armstrong said. “There’s too much infighting, jealousy and bitterness within the sport, so everybody tries to pick apart a person or a spectacular performance.

“And some of it,” he added, “we bring on ourselves.”

Cycling made Armstrong wealthy several times over, and many of the sponsors he brought into the sport continue to use him as a pitchman. A second career in politics someday does not seem out of the question.

“I don’t think so. I get asked that question a lot. It’s a job. It’s probably many times a thankless job. ... If I were to run for any kind of office, it’s impossible or very difficult to run right down the middle,” he said.

“I would have to immediately alienate half of our constituents: ‘Wait a minute, we thought this guy was a Republican. Wait a minute, we thought he was a Democrat.’ I think the effect there would be a negative effect for the foundation. For now, absolutely not on my radar.”

Armstrong will be at this year’s tour, bringing the oldest of his five kids, 11-year-old Luke, back to the race this summer. He may even climb into a team car to do reconnaissance work for some of the Radio Shack riders he used to race alongside.

One thing Armstrong vowed not to do was spend much time reliving his accomplishments on the bike.

“In 10 years time,” he said, “if I’m sitting around saying, ‘I was so strong on L’Alpe d’Huez in 2001,’ then I got a problem.”

AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.


Couples Workout

Source: By Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

Sexy positions and sweaty, interlocking bodies — I’m talking about exercise, of course. I’ve created a fun and
exhilarating couples workout to get muscles working and circulation pumping — but you have to perform this workout with your sweetie. So have some fun, be supportive of your partner, and give your heart and muscles what they need.

Pam Ofstein, eDiets Director of Nutrition Services, was kind of enough to be my partner in this Valentine’s Day couples’ workout.

Perform each exercise, then move to the next one. Try to complete the circuit (all exercises) twice.

Couples’ Lunge and Reverse Lunge

1. You get double your money with this exercise. Begin by facing your partner while holding each others’ hands with arms slightly elevated.

2. Pam takes a forward long lunge with her left leg, while I perform a reverse lunge with my right leg. Alternate legs with each rep. Keep your body straight during both movements, and don’t let your opposing knee touch the floor. Perform 12 reps on each leg.

After completing 12 reps, the person performing the reverse lunge then performs the forward lunge, and the person performing forward lunges will switch to reverse lunges. Lunges will work the quadriceps, hamstrings and the butt. Support your partner by keeping your hands and arms elevated and by giving them words of encouragement.

Couples’ Squat

Begin by facing your partner while holding each others’ hands, with arms slightly elevated. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.

2. Lower by bending at the hips and knees to a parallel squat. It’s important to stick your butt out while lowering — almost as if you’re about to sit in a chair.

Rise back up to the starting position and repeat. Perform 15 reps. Squats work the quadriceps, hamstrings and butt.

Interlocking Crunches

Begin by lying on a mat with your feet and ankles interlocked. This will provide support for your partner.

2. Place your hands crossed over your chest and perform an abdominal crunch. Support your partner by telling them to keep his eyes straight up and not to bend his neck. Perform 15 reps.

Interlocking Bicycle Manoeuvre

Begin with your backs flat on a mat with feet and ankles interlocked. With your fingertips placed on the sides of your head, perform opposite elbow to opposite knee crunches. Lower to the mat and perform the same movement on the other side. Perform 15 reps on each side.

Chest Press

Both partners shoulder stagger their feet so one leg is behind and one leg in front. Bring hands up to chest level and place the bottom of your hands against the hands of your partner. Now each of you should slowly push right and left as each partner provides just a bit of resistance. This is great for the chest, shoulders and arms. Perform the movement for 40 seconds. Look directly in your partner’s eyes while performing the exercise and keep your torso facing forward — don’t twist your upper body.

Shoulder Press

One person will begin on their knees. Bend arms at the elbow 90 degrees and make fists. Partner stands behind and provides the slightest resistance by pressing down with the palms as the person kneeling presses upward. The goal of the person kneeling is to perform a full shoulder press with resistance. Perform 10 reps, then switch.

Hamstring Stretch

Lay flat on a mat with knees bent. As you raise one leg, your partner will place his hand on your ankle and gently stretch your leg towards your upper torso. This should be performed with very little pressure, and your lower back should not come up off the mat. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.

Celebrate Your Victory!

Oh, and guys? Please give your honey a Valentine’s gift that’s thoughtful and meaningful. Otherwise, the remainder of 2010 will look like this


All the positive states of mind such as love, compassion, insight and so on, have the quality that you can enhance their capacity and increase their potential to a limitless degree, if you regularly practice them through training and by developing constant familiarity with them.

Source:  Dalai Lama