20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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LE NEWSLETTER

January 20, 2011

What a full spectrum of weather we've had this past week in Toronto but it still seems as though there are plenty more places that got hit much worse. 

I've recently met a fabulous trainer, Brent Bishop of
Think Fitness Studios.  I went by his swanky fitness studios last week for a first session and was truly impressed.  It was an 'attitude-free zone' with friendly staff and trainers that are truly invested in their clients.  Membership to the studio automatically includes your own trainer with a customized fitness plan - just for you.  And I thought another really cool feature was their FITMOM™/Mom & Baby Classes for all you busy moms out there.  Brent is also the newest addition and fitness guru on the Marilyn Denis show.  Check out the article below under TOP STORIES.

 
Martin Luther King Day was this past Monday, January 17, 2011.  Check out the article below to see how some Canadian students celebrated under TOP STORIES.

::TOP STORIES::

Brent Bishop - Fitness Contributor, The Marilyn Denis Show

Source: www.marilyn.ca

This fitness fanatic is set to inspire
The Marilyn Denis Show audience with the exercise and wellness tips that have made his career such a success. As the owner of Toronto-based Think Fitness Studios, Bishop is ready to help fans unleash their inner athlete.

VIDEO CLIP: http://www.marilyn.ca/About/Contributors/BrentBishop.aspx  

Health & Fitness - Drop The Last 5-10 lbs with Brent Bishop

THINKFIT** WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM:

DETAILS:

Program Length: 6 weeks
Workout Duration: 25-30min/workout, minimal rest between exercises.
Frequency: 3-5 days/week
Result: Maximize Fitness & Drop 5-10lbs of fat
More Info: ThinkFitnessStudios.com
Warm up: 5 – 10min skipping, jogging, cycling

Game Plan:

1.         Reverse Lunge – Shoulder Press


Anchor resistance band under one foot to desired tension.
Hold handle at shoulder height, step backwards into lunge position.
Come up out of lunge while pressing resistance up. 
Complete 15 reps/side.


2.         Med-Ball Squat Thrust


Hold med-ball in both hands at chest level while in squat position.
Quickly jump out of squat into a wide foot position while pressing med-ball overhead.
Drop back into starting position absorbing your landing to 90 degrees.
Repeat for 15-20 reps.

3.
         Mountain Climbers


Hands on floor or med ball and feet on the ground.
Move one knee in a time while keeping hips still and abs tight. 
Complete 20-30 reps (both knees = 1 rep)

4.         Squat with Chop


Hold med ball or weight to one side while in squat position.
 
Come out of squat while quickly moving med ball upward diagonally. 
Keep abdominal wall tight and arms straight.
Complete 15/direction.

5.         Tripod


Start in crouched position.
Stand upright, pushing off one foot and extending the other backwards.
Extend entire body parallel to the floor while balancing on the one leg. 
Repeat 10-15 reps then move to opposite side.
 REPEAT (2-3 sets of this 5-exercise sequence)
*Increase intensity by adding 1-2 min of skipping at the end of each 5-exercise sequence

General Eating Tips

Eat fruit and other healthy snacks
Sliced almonds, air-popped popcorn are great alternatives - Get rid of the holiday baked goods, candies, chocolates...all those items just mean a higher chance of you not only keeping that extra 10lbs on..but adding to it! 

Try Yogurt as an alternative

Not only great for a snack but a great alternative to higher fat cream-based options. Skip the mayo-based dips and spreads. You can also use yogurt to thicken sauces or instead of creams in soups. Every bit counts when it comes to cutting calories and this is a great place to start if you are a dipper or spreader! 

Veg Out.

Use vegetable purées as thickeners instead of meat or cream stocks for soups or cooking.  This can give you the rich feeling without the fat and way less calories. 

Eating frequency should be 5x/day to maximize metabolism 
 
Limit your carbohydrate intake to 20-30 grams at breakfast and lunch
Preplan your snacks for energy (ex. 12-15 almonds and a cup of yogurt)
Limit alcohol consumption to 2 oz or less/week
Consume 8 glasses of water/day minimum

**Check Brent and his team of trainors at:  www.thinkfitnessstudios.com

Funding Debate As MuchFACT Chair Quits

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 18, 2011) Outgoing MuchFACT chair Bernie Finkelstein says he can’t support MuchMusic’s move to decrease funding for independent Canadian artists.

Finkelstein announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down as chair of MuchFACT — which gives money to Canuck musicians to help them produce music videos and websites — after more than 26 years.

Over the past year, MuchMusic has campaigned the CRTC for changes to its licence. The network wants to air fewer music videos in favour of more teen-focused “lifestyle” programming, and it wants to cut the amount of money owed to MuchFACT in half.

But while Finkelstein says that his decision to step down has nothing to do with those changes, he’s also clear that he doesn’t agree with Much’s decision.

“I don’t mind saying that I don’t support that,” Finkelstein said in a telephone interview. “I can’t support the idea that they’re going to fund (MuchFACT) less just because they want to play less videos.”

Many of the licence changes initially requested by MuchMusic were struck down by the CRTC in November, but the network has said that it would continue to seek the same alterations.

MuchFACT is funded entirely by MuchMusic and MuchMore, and provides grants for Canadian artists, independent record labels and artist management companies. Applications for funds are judged by the organization’s six-person board of directors, which currently includes Farley Flex as well as executives from MuchMusic.

Much, meanwhile, has argued that the changes it has requested are essential for a music network trying to flourish in a time when music videos are available on demand from a number of different sources.

The type of licence Much holds with the CRTC — called a “Category A” — is rarely granted anymore. Such a licence essentially guarantees distribution of the network across all cable and satellite firms in Canada.

Because of that, Finkelstein says the network has a certain obligation to give back.

“My opinion is that MuchMusic has a privileged position in the marketplace,” Finkelstein said. “And in return for those privileges come responsibilities. And it’s my sense that one of those responsibilities is to support the Canadian music business, and one of the major ways they do that is through funding MuchFACT.”

“The idea is that video is less popular on their station, and I don’t argue about that because they have the facts, they have the figures and they run their own business. But video is more popular than ever despite all that, because of things like YouTube, etc.

“So the fact that it doesn’t fit their business model doesn’t mean that they still don’t have an obligation to support the Canadian music business in certain ways.”

“But it has nothing to do with me leaving whatsoever. There’s no tie-in whatsoever. I was getting ready to go anyway.”

Finkelstein, a 66-year-old music manager who has steered the careers of Murray McLauchlan, Barney Bentall and Dan Hill, co-founded MuchFACT with former Much honcho Moses Znaimer in 1984, when it was called VideoFACT.

He’s the only chair the organization has ever had. MuchMusic’s parent company CTV said in a release Tuesday that Finkelstein’s successor would be named soon, and Finkelstein says he’s offered to stay on as long as needed in the meantime.

The Toronto native is a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. He founded True North Records in 1969 but sold the label in recent years.

Finkelstein will continue to serve as manager for folk singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, and he says he’s working on a memoir to be published by McClelland and Stewart. He’ll also look to spend more time now on his farm in Ontario’s scenic Prince Edward County, a popular region for wine-growing.

“There are 33 vineyards there — by the time I’m finished tasting all their vintages every week I can barely stand, so how can I chair a meeting?” he said with a laugh.

During Finkelstein’s reign, MuchFACT provided more than $63 million to Canadian artists including Arcade Fire, Sarah McLachlan, Broken Social Scene, Nelly Furtado, k-os, k.d. lang, Great Big Sea, Kardinall Offishall and Céline Dion.

He called the decision to walk away “bittersweet.”

“I love MuchFACT and it’s been a big part of my life,” he said. “I think we did really, really good work without sounding too immodest. It’s always sad to leave something, but on the other hand, 26 years is a long, long time. And it just felt to me like it was time for me to step down, so I did.

“And that part doesn’t feel that bad because it feels like I’m doing the right thing even though a part of me is going to get left behind — or some romantic nonsense.”

Golden Globes Are Fun, But It’s Time To Get Serious Now

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 17, 2011) Much like a drunken wedding rehearsal dinner, the
Golden Globes did exactly what they were supposed to do Sunday night: getting everybody loose before getting serious.

The Globes are as authentic as Hollywood bust sizes. They’re handed out by some 90 freebie-loving members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a group with dubious journalistic credentials and zero critical respect.

Their reputation as an Oscar bellwether has taken a hit in recent years, since they’ve been wrong more often than not about key awards categories — including last year, when they gave Avatar top honours over The Hurt Locker, the latter going on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Even their former publicist has been busy lately badmouthing them for their lack of integrity.

HFPA members make better bartenders than journalists, but the one thing flowing more freely than the booze at Sunday’s lavish awards dinner was the venom.

The string of lethal one-liners from emcee Ricky Gervais (and an even more unrestrained presenter Robert Downey Jr. and special honouree Robert De Niro) frequently took aim at the HFPA’s unprofessional behaviour.

The Globes at least have good timing. They’re broadcast just as Academy voters are filling out their ballots for Oscar nominations, which will be announced Jan. 25 (the awards are scheduled for Feb. 27).

The yawn-worthy results of Sunday’s Golden Globes aped Friday’s similar awards at the coming-on-strong rival Critics Choice Movie Awards (CCMAs), making it abundantly clear that we were spoiled last year.

That titanic struggle between James Cameron’s blockbuster phenomenon Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s scrappy indie The Hurt Locker, a battle between movies and ex-spouses, was a genuine nail-biter all season long, until the final Oscar envelope was opened.

Most years, awards season is much like it’s shaping up this year: a group of obvious winners that dominate critics’ group prizes until their eventual ratification by the bestowers of hardware.

So Sunday’s Globes were more of a rubber stamp than a revolution, with prizes mostly going to this year’s usual critical suspects.

Big winner The Social Network won much the same hardware it took at the CCMAs: Best Dramatic Picture, Director (David Fincher), Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) and Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

There was also a same-again vibe to the victors in the Globes’ dramatic categories, each a repeat of their CCMA wins: Colin Firth (Best Actor, The King’s Speech), Natalie Portman (Best Actress, Black Swan), Christian Bale (Best Supporting Actor, The Fighter), Melissa Leo (Best Supporting Actress, The Fighter).

The winners in the Globes’ unique comedy/musical categories at least offered a few fresh and grateful award winners.

Producer Robert Lantos and “the great nation of Canada” both got shout-outs from Best Comedy/Musical Actor winner Paul Giamatti for Barney’s Version, which is based on Mordecai Richler’s final novel.

Giamatti can’t win in the same category at the Oscars because the Academy doesn’t single out comedy the way the HFPA does. But Giamatti now has improved chances at getting a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars.

The same goes for Annette Bening, Best Comedy/Musical Actress winner for The Kids Are All Right, who is Portman’s main competitor for Best Actress honours at the Oscars. To the surprise of no one, The Kids Are All Right also won for Best Comedy/Musical Film.

The HFPA’s adoration of stardom over raw talent was evident in the choice of warhorse Al Pacino for best actor in a TV mini-series, for You Don’t Know Jack. It was Pacino’s fourth Globes win in 15 nominations, and he beat Venezuela’s Edgar Ramirez for Carlos, the terrorist drama that earlier won for best TV miniseries (although it’s really a five-hour movie). The HFPA can’t be accused of taking the “foreign” part of their name too seriously.

The look of despair on Helena Bonham Carter’s face when Melissa Leo again beat her for a best supporting actress prize was one of the night’s few revelations. She’ll get an Oscar nom for her fine work in The King’s Speech, playing the young version of the Queen Mother, but the Best Supporting Actress gold is now Leo’s to lose.

It wasn’t shocking, but nobody watches the Globes for anything remotely startling — other than the rude jokes.

Fun’s over. Time to get down to the serious work.


MOTION PICTURES:

Best Picture, Drama: "The Social Network."
Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: "The Kids Are All Right."
Best Actor, Drama: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech."
Best Actress, Drama: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan."
Best Director: David Fincher, "The Social Network."
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right."
Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: Paul Giamatti, "Barney's Version."
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter."
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter."
Best Foreign Language: "In a Better World."
Best Animated Film: "Toy Story 3."
Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network."
Best Original Score: "The Social Network."
Best Original Song: "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," (written by Diane Warren), "Burlesque."

TELEVISION:

Best Series, Drama: "Boardwalk Empire," HBO.
Best Actor, Drama: Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire."
Best Actress, Drama: Katey Sagal, "Sons of Anarchy."
Best Series, Musical or Comedy: "Glee," Fox.
Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory."
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Laura Linney, "The Big C."
Best Miniseries or Movie: "Carlos," Sundance Channel.
Best Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Claire Danes, "Temple Grandin."
Best Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Al Pacino, "You Don't Know Jack."
Best Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jane Lynch, "Glee."
Best Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Chris Colfer, "Glee."

Students Mark Martin Luther King Day

Source: www.torontosun.com - By Victoria Gray, Toronto Sun

(January 17, 2011) Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of peace and equality thrives in Regent Park.

Students at Lord Dufferin Public School welcomed U.S. consular officer William Nelson to help mark Martin Luther King Day.

“What’s important on a day like today is to remember the lessons from Dr. King’s life. The thought that an idea can change the world,” he said on Monday.

Toronto Police Insp. Heinz Kuck, an organizer of the event for 12 years, said that King’s message has made a huge impact on children in the community.

“I’ve seen kids that I have spoken to years ago, gone on to high school and university and they have done great work,” said Kuck, who works at 51 Division. “They are trying to make a positive change for the community and become community leaders. We’ve had a great radiating effect in the last few years.”

Kuck noted the importance of admiring not only pop culture icons, but also figures like King, who highlighted the power of love over violence.

“We are trying to set the stage with young people as to what pathways to follow and how they could divert away from violence, the guns, the gangs and that sort of activity,” he said “It has tremendous value because it has allowed the schools (and kids) to participate in the program.”

Grade 7 student Ali Rizeig converted the Lil’ Wayne rap tune Tie My Hands into a song that used many of King’s famous quotes. The 12-year-old performed the song for his peers and hopes that King’s message came through loud and clear.

“He fought for us, without him we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “We wouldn’t be together, white and black people in the same school. I’m sure that other kids are thinking of what they are going to do now thanks to him.”

:MUSIC NEWS::

Concert Sampler, Jan. 20 to 26

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

1.
“Do Me So Wrong” (live)

White Cowbell Oklahoma

The locally beloved southern rock boogie orchestra is justifiably renowned for their show, and recently released
a live album recorded in Germany. While it’s good, it still pales to the over-the-top in-person experience. (Thursday, Sound Academy, www.myspace.com/whitecowbelloklahoma)

2. “Cloudlight

Eskmo

The San Francisco electronic producer makes a thick, heady hip hop-based musical mix. Fittingly signed to Ninjatune, it works very well in headphones, so we’re very curious to see how it translates live. (Friday, Wrongbar,
www.myspace.com/eskmo)

3. “Night by Night”

Chromeo

The silky-smooth electro-funk duo from Montreal play two nights in town. Bring your leisure suits, people. (Saturday-Sunday, Opera House,
www.myspace.com/chromeo)

4. “Doo Wop That Thing”

Lauryn Hill

The former Fugee has been on tour, and while she remains immensely musically talented, the word is that she starts late, and remains her idiosyncratic old self, to put it mildy. (Saturday, Sound Academy,
www.myspace.com/laurynhill)

5. “Cuckoo”

Lissie

This female rocker had a very good 2010, touted as one of the year’s new breakout artists, with her very well received Catching a Tiger album. She’s got a great, smoky rock voice, is known for a good live show, and loves doing interesting covers. (Monday, Opera House,
www.myspace.com/lissiemusic)

6. “Indestructible” video

Robyn

The Swedish dance-pop mistress comes back to town for her make-up date after cancelling her November show due to illness. (Wednesday, Sound Academy,
www.myspace.com/robynmyspace)

“Money For Nothing” Ruling Makes Waves On Radio

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(January 15, 2011) Last week's ruling by the private radio regulator Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) to ban a Dire Straits song is “chilling” and effectively puts rock radio stations on notice, claims a longtime music industry expert.

Former Billboard Canadian bureau chief and current CelebrityAccess senior editor Larry LeBlanc says the fallout from banning Canadian private radio stations from airing the unedited version of the 1985 hit “Money For Nothing” — specifically for its repeated mention of the word “faggot” in a verse of the song — could resonate with music programmers for some time to come.

“It's an interesting precedent,” says LeBlanc, who has conducted radio-content research for the federal government and private broadcasters during his 45-year career. “And if you're an active radio station — particularly an active rock radio station — I would say it makes you very nervous about all the music that you've played over the years.”

The CBSC edict, prompted by a sole complaint from a Newfoundland listener (identified as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community) is troubling, says LeBlanc, especially in light of the word's context in Mark Knopfler's song.

“This sets an alarming precedent, because this song is clearly not about name-calling,” he notes. “It was almost making fun of a redneck character” who speaks the offending word. “To me, the fine line should be, ‘Is there hatred intended here?' And it's clearly, ‘No.' ”

David Marsden, free form radio guru and founder and creator of Canada's first alternative station CFNY, called the ruling “the goofiest thing I've ever heard . . . There are other songs with much more offensive lyrics.”

Marsden, who will be inducted into the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Hall Of Fame in March, could only recall one controversy, from the 1980s when he played “The Boiler” by The Specials and Rhoda Dakar.

“This song, we only played it once. It's about a woman who told the story of her rape . . . I felt it was a way for men to be able to grasp what abuse felt like from a woman's perspective.

“A lot of women in particular protested. I never played it again, and I wouldn't,” said Marsden, whose radio program The Marsden Theatre In Fabulous Free Form airs on Oshawa's 94.9 The Rock on Saturday and Sunday nights.

In Toronto, listener reaction from the community that the Dire Straits song allegedly slurs has been “minimal,” says Bob Willette, program director for 103.9 Proud FM, the commercial radio station that caters exclusively to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.

“We haven't talked about it a ton on the air yet,” said Willette on Friday. “I've actually had requests from people to play it in its entirety from people who identify themselves as part of the community.

“I'll read you what somebody just requested from our website: ‘As a faggot myself, I would like to hear this music totally unedited. Thank you.' That's the only reaction we've gotten so far from listeners.”

The CBSC has been regulating private broadcasters since 1990; it has made a few controversial rulings in the past, notably regarding infamous shock-jock Howard Stern.

Reaction to the Dire Straits ruling within the radio community has been almost uniformly hostile. Three Canadian rock stations — two in Alberta, one in Halifax and Cold Lake, Alta. — protested by playing the unexpurgated song continuously for an hour.

Even Dire Straits keyboardist Guy Fletcher weighed in on his website, calling the decision “unbelievable” and saying he had talked with Knopfler. “Mark tells me that due to the ban, he has now substituted the word faggot for ‘fudger' . . . for Canada,” Fletcher wrote.

With files from the Canadian Press

Bruno Mars Continues Hot 100 No. 1 Rotation with 'Grenade'

Source: www.billboard.com - by Silvio Pietroluongo, N.Y.  


(January 13, 2011) "
Grenade" supplanted "Firework" two weeks ago, only to have Perry's track reclaim the chart's lead spot for a fourth cumulative frame on last week's ranking. It is the first time two songs have alternated holds at No. 1 over four weeks since "Live Your Life" by T.I. featuring Rihanna traded spots with Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" in December 2008. Mars' track sits atop Digital Songs for a fourth straight week with 275,000 downloads (down 35%), according to Nielsen SoundScan, as the post-holiday glow has finally worn off the digital download market with total sales dipping by 29% this week.
 
Threatening the reign of Mars' "Grenade" or the return of Perry's "Firework" to No. 1 next week will be the arrival of Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me," which was released near-simultaneously at radio (Jan. 10) and exclusively at iTunes (Jan. 11). With airplay off to a blazing start and track sales set to exceed 400,000 according to industry sources, a second No. 1 debut for the pop starlet is likely. She previously started at the summit with "3" on the chart dated October 24, 2009.
 
Back to this week's top 10, "What's My Name" by Rihanna featuring Drake, which topped the chart for a week in November, is on the upswing (4-3) while grabbing the Airplay Gainer trophy for a seventh time in the past 11 weeks. The title has now topped Radio Songs for four straight weeks. Rihanna's prior single, "Only Girl (In the World)," meanwhile, returns to the top 10 (12-10) after two weeks outside the upper tier. The song has spent 15 of its 18 chart weeks in the top 10.
 
Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" slides 3-4 while P!nk's "Raise Your Glass" stays still at No. 5. P!nk's new single "F**kin' Perfect" sprints back onto the chart at No. 57 as top 40 radio play for the track (No. 29 debut on Pop Songs) prompts an 85% digital spike to 36,000, 42% of which are of the radio-friendly edited version.
 
Enrique Iglesias holds at No. 6 with "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)," featuring Ludacris & DJ Frank E. Wiz Khalifa and the Black Eyed Peas swap spots as the former's "Black and Yellow" improves 8-7 and the latter's "The Time (Dirty Bit)" is bumped 7-8, one placement above Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" (9-9).
 
Flo Rida's "Who Dat Girl," featuring Akon, is the top Digital Gainer, rising 53-39. The track is the only title that was on the 75-position Digital Songs chart a week ago to post a sales increase this frame (up 6% to 63,000). The only other actual increases on Digital Songs come from debuts and re-entries.
 
Gwyneth Paltrow charts a third title on the Hot 100 with "Country Strong," the title track from the motion picture in which she stars, which is the top debut at No. 81. She previously placed two tracks on the list in December from her guest starring turn on "Glee." Paltrow is now not too far behind hubby Chris Martin, who's appeared 10 times on the Hot 100 (nine with Coldplay) since 2001.
 
The only other new titles on this week's list belong to country newcomer Sunny Sweeney, who opens at No. 96 with "From a Table Away," a current top 20 title on Country Songs (No. 16), and Travis Porter who enters at No. 100 with "Make It Rain."

Sam Phillips Changes The Music Game With Online Experiment

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

(January 17, 2011) Actors talk about the invisible “fourth wall” that allows theatregoers to see into the action but that also keeps them at a distance. We don’t have a term for the wall the music industry put up between musicians and their audience, but the world changed drastically for
Sam Phillips when that wall came down.

Phillips, one of the best songwriters you may never have heard of, had made eight acclaimed solo albums for Virgin Records and Nonesuch when, a year and a half ago, she decided to go straight to the people. She launched a subscription-based website, where for $52, fans would be able to download five EPs and a full-length album that she promised to write, record and produce within a year.

She didn’t quite make it – the LP won’t be ready for another month. But the Los Angeles musician says her site Long Play changed her working process and her relationship with her audience, probably forever.

“I was a horse that just wanted to break out of the barn,” said Phillips, who may be most widely known for her music for TV’s
Gilmore Girls (she also has a song on the 2009 Jeff Bridges film, Crazy Heart). “I wanted to go back to the old days when people would record a single and give it to a radio station and get it out right away, instead of waiting two or three years for their record company to clear a space for them.”

Even without the forthcoming LP, there’s about 90 minutes of music on Long Play. But Phillips knew that it wouldn’t do just to put songs on the site and nothing else. There’s short videos, a blog, audio conversations with colleagues (including Canadian guitarist Colin Linden), Phillips’s photos and collages, and Facebook exchanges with subscribers.

 “I wanted to give people a lot for their $52,” she said during a recent phone interview. “I wasn’t responsible to a record company through a contract, I was directly responsible to my subscribers, and that’s a very different feeling. I wanted the challenge of seeing how much music I could write in a year, and to work with no restrictions, or only the restrictions we put on ourselves.”

She had three songs in hand – outtakes from
Don’t Do Anything, her 2008 album on Nonesuch – and put them on Old Tin Pan, the fourth Long Play EP. She also had a few ideas that she felt didn’t need a full album, such as a collection of songs with a string quartet (which became Hypnotists in Paris, the first EP) and a seasonal record (Cold Dark Night, which includes four covers and two originals).

Almost all the rest is original material. The dark pop-cabaret style of many of the songs will be familiar to anyone who knows Phillips’s
Fan Dance album of 2001 (produced by her then-husband T-Bone Burnett), which remains one of my favourite discs of the past decade. Her alto voice wends through the surgically precise lyrics as if touching on secrets too painful to be revealed fully. The accompaniments behind her ebb and flow, as her band (the same veteran group that worked with her on Don’t Do Anything) seeks out new ways of making the music sound fresh and scuffed at the same time.

“I wrestled with how much to reveal of the creative process,” said Phillips, one of whose blog entries explains the role of silence in creative work. “For me, some of it is so boring. You could put down every thought, every feeling, every recording session, but for me that was too much information. The listeners say they want to know everything, but ultimately I don’t think they do. I think in the end we all want a bit of mystery.”

In some cases, she said, the song arrangements grew out of what was available. If her drummer Jay Bellerose was away touring, she would do without drums or play them herself. Her violinist Eric Gorfain wrote the string arrangements, but also took a hand in recording and engineering. Everyone, she said, was pushed beyond their usual limits, and all participated in Long Play’s most whimsical regular feature: the Drum Fill of the Week – a short audio recording of a drum pattern or flourish.

Long Play was not a way to make a living – it just covered its costs, she said – nor did she expect it to be. It was an experiment, and a way of changing the game.

“The music business has pretty much been decimated, and I feel it was a great time to do this kind of project, before they figure out the new system and get it working for them again,” she said. “The old way is dying, but the new is not in place yet.”

Long Play will probably come to an end in April she said, and may eventually be mined for a multimedia project, possibly a book with a disc or vinyl record – the best of Long Play, so to speak. She’s already working on her next physical album, due in the spring, and has no intention of reconnecting with the conventional music industry.

“I intend to raise my own funds and make it a self-release,” she said. “It’s looking good so far. We need to raise money for manufacturing, and that may come from an investor, or from listeners. Even if I get beat terribly and have to backtrack and go back to a label, at least I tried.” And at least she will get to do everything her way, this time.

Pick Of The Week: Jenn Grant Gets Happy

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

Pop
JENN GRANT
Honeymoon Punch (Six Shooter)

(January 17, 2011) Well, it's bad news for many smitten Canadian males, but very good news for her music: Jenn Grant is hopelessly in love and eager to share her joy with the world on her latest — and best by a mile — album, Honeymoon Punch.

Where 2009's striking, but relentlessly sombre Echoes wandered in romantic misery, Honeymoon Punch mostly lives up to its title, opening with effusive praise for a new beau (“You look like a movie star from this angle”) and an invitation to “tell me all your dreams and let's get wasted” over a giddy, guitar-pop trot on “Oh My Heart” and generally keeping the proceedings upbeat and more “rock 'n' roll” in the classic sense than we've ever heard Grant before for the dizzying 35 minutes that follow.

There are flashes of '50s girl-group innocence and horn-powered, old-school Motown oomph on the tingly “All Year” and “Heart of Sticks.” “Parliament of Owls” is an unexpectedly Go-Gos-esque New Wave sugar rush. The churlish “Walk Away,” all sinister synths and sawing cellos, verges on prog-rock. And the glorious single “Getcha Good” — already the cutest CanCon video clip of 2011 — is a joyous dance party worth of Nancy Sinatra.

So, yes, Honeymoon Punch is a pronounced departure from Grant's winsome folk-pop roots, but it's not at all jarring if you're at all acquainted with her slightly daffy, good-humoured stage persona. (She'll be at the Horseshoe on Feb. 19 if you care to find out for yourself.)

This is, in fact, arguably exactly where Jenn Grant should be musically, and she's been guided attentively and with consistently imaginative arrangements by her longtime bandmates and producer Daniel Ledwell of In-Flight Safety, who also happens to be her fiancé. Methinks they belong together.

Top track:Getcha Good.” If you can resist this, you are made of stone.

Master P Fighting Obesity with Grammy Event

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 15, 2011) *
Master P is making a noble move during Grammy week, as he will be honouring the late R&B singer Teena Marie in hopes to raise awareness about health related issues.

He and his son, Romeo are bringing celebrities together in effort to support Michelle Obama’s fight against obesity.

The event is set to take place on Feb. 11 in Los Angeles and will be sponsored by ME Entertainment Network, RTC Media Group and Urban Born Foundation.

“We are taking the initiative to help fight child obesity by educating the next generation on how to eat right and exercise through music, dance and entertainment,” a rep for Master P. told AllHipHop.com in a statement. “We are connecting musicians and entertainers through concert events to bring awareness to this epidemic of childhood obesity and health issues.”

Lauryn Hill and Keri Hilson on One Track? Just Maybe

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 15, 2011) *
Keri Hilson might just be smiling from ear to ear these days as one of her wishes was recently granted. She met her idol, Lauryn Hill.

In an interview, she expressed her admiration for the multi-talented, multi-genius artist and suggested working with her in the future.

“I loved her candidness, her candour, she’s just up there. She exposes all sides of herself, her vulnerabilities, insecurities but you also see the strength and her innocence,” she said.

Now that her wish has come true, the next step is getting Hill to make a record with the new singer.

“No one understands…I will never be the same. Utmost respect 4 Lauryn
Hill.
So beautiful,” she told her fans. “Very down to earth. Anyone who knows me knows she’s a huge inspiration to me…I told her 2nite. Said she loves Pretty Girl Rock (SCREAAAM) & her daughter loves me! Said my music embodies a certain confidence women need. I’m so inspired. Keri also says the impromptu meeting made her long for an opportunity to meet Michael Jackson, the only other person she’s ever really wanted to meet.”

Hilson’s “No Boys Allowed,” sold over 100,000 copies in its first week.

Janet Jackson’s Tour Begins in February; LA Date Sells Out

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 16, 2011) *
Janet Jackson is getting ready to get back on the road to being her international tour in February, starting with Singapore.

Although it’s been a year since her brother’s death, people are quite surprised she’s even performing.

“For the tour, Jackson will play each of her 35 number one hit singles in 35 different cities around the globe. Jackson says the tour will be ‘more intimate and more personal’ than anything she’s done before,” RTTNews reports.

Update…

No doubt about it. Janet is the hot ticket, so to speak. After tickets to her April 14 Los Angeles date at the Gibson Amphitheater went on sale at 10 a.m. Friday morning, they sold out in less than 10 minutes, according to a spokesman for Live Nation.

To try to keep up with the demand, Jackson and Live Nation have added an additional Gibson Amphitheatre performance for Friday, April 15.

Presales of tickets began January 14, 2011 at the official tour site.

USA Dates, cities and venues:

* Mar. 7, 2011 – Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre)
* Mar. 8, 2011 – Chicago, IL (Chicago Theatre)
* Mar. 12, 2011 – Toronto, ON (Sony Centre for the Performing Arts)
* Mar. 16, 2011 – Uncasville, CT (Mohegan Sun Arena)
* Mar. 18, 2011 – New York, NY (Radio City Music Hall)
* Mar. 22, 2011 – Washington, DC (DAR Constitution Hall)
* Mar. 25, 2011 – Atlantic City, NJ (Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa)
* Mar. 26, 2011 – Atlantic City, NJ (Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa)
* Mar. 29, 2011 – Atlanta, GA (Fox Theatre)
* Mar. 31, 2011 – St. Louis, MO (Fabulous Fox Theatre)
* Apr. 2, 2011 – Grand Prairie, TX (Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie)
* Apr. 6, 2011 – Denver, CO (Wells Fargo Theatre)
* Apr. 8, 2011 – Phoenix, AZ (Comerica Theatre)
* Apr. 9, 2011 – Santa Barbara, CA (Santa Barbara Bowl)
* Apr. 14 & 15, 2011 – Universal City, CA (Gibson Aphitheatre at Universal CityWalk)
* Apr. 19, 2011 – San Francisco, CA (Bill Graham Civic Auditorium)
* Apr. 22, 2011 – Las Vegas, NV (Colosseum at Caesars Palace)
* Apr. 23, 2011 – Las Vegas, NV (Colosseum at Caesars Palace)

Prince and Badu to Share the Stage Superbowl Weekend

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 16, 2011) Texas! Erykah Badu is about to make a home return in concert with the one and only Prince at “the Event” benefit show in support of Gross-Michael Foundation’s scholarship program.

Badu will be taking to the stage right before the high-heel wearing, style of his own, singer comes out to perform some of his classics along with some new stuff.

The concert is a part of Dallas’ Super Bowl weekend activities and will include some fantastic amenities.

“One of The Goss-Michael Foundation’s missions has been to encourage the talents of young artists, both visual
and performing, through our statewide high school scholarship programs,” Joyce Goss, executive director of the Goss-Michael foundation explained in a statement. “With the funds raised at this one-of-a-kind event, students will be able to reach for their dreams. Prince is an artist that hundreds of millions of people around the world admire. Our scholarship winners and all of us are honoured that Prince has selected The Goss-Michael-Foundation as the beneficiary.”

The event will begin at 8 p.m. on Feb. 4. Tickets are on sale now at www.PrinceDallas.com.

Obituary: Music Promoter Hosted Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(January 18, 2011) A business associate says rock promoter Don Kirshner has died of heart failure at a Florida hospital at age 76.

Promoter Jack Wishna said the man Time magazine once dubbed “the man with the golden ear” died Monday at a Boca Raton hospital, where he was being treated for an infection.

Wishna calls Kirshner an icon who touched many lives in the music industry.

Kirshner was behind the TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1972, and gave national exposure to musicians including Billy Joel and The Police.

The show also featured artists Kirshner helped launch including Prince, The Eagles, Lionel Richie and Ozzy Osborne. And Kirshner boosted the careers of comics, including Billy Crystal, Arsenio Hall and David Letterman.

Wishna said Kirshner was a pioneer who developed a system for singer-songrwriters to share in the profits of selling music.

He also ran three labels, Dimension Records, Colgems Records and Kirshner Records.

Before he died, Kirshner was chief creative officer of Rockrena, a company launching this year to find and promote talent online.

No Sugarcoating: Songwriting Is Hard Work For Martin Sexton

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(January 19, 2011) It’s strange to hear a singer-songwriter admit that the most difficult thing they do is write songs.

Where other musicians grumble about the stress of touring, of unexpected audiences in unfamiliar venues, Yankee folk-blues guy
Martin Sexton takes the business side of his career in stride.

“Writing for me is the work part. That’s what I get paid for,” he says from his home in western Massachusetts, about 160 kilometres and two decades from the sidewalks of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., where he got his start as a busker.

Sexton tours the music from his 2010 album, Sugarcoating, to the Mod Club on Saturday night. He’s already hard at work on a sequel, which is why his thoughts have turned to the creative process — and how he is his own worst critic.

“That’s part of the reason that writing is hard for me,” Sexton admits. “There’s that editor who lives in my brain. It’s hard to write a song when he’s on the job. The trick is to write maybe first thing after waking up, before the editor has shown up, because stuff comes out.

“Otherwise, those little tapes start playing: Oh, that sucks; oh, that sounds contrived; this sounds like. . .” he trails off.

This is an unexpected mood from someone who appears to have so much fun on stage. Unlike the dead-serious mien of so many roots performers, Sexton has no trouble launching his voice off on a mad riff into the higher octaves. He loves to scat. He often turns his guitar into a percussion instrument.

Sexton tells how he was going through some old files recently and found a review from 1998, for a show in Los Angeles. The critic dissed him for having fun.

“They made it sound like I was some sort of a circus act,” he says.

But he admits he’s an entertainer — an art and a craft he’s been honing ever since he showed up to busk in Harvard Square “in a ponytail, with a white Stratocaster” guitar.

“I tried doing shows staring at my shoes, because I’d read articles on artists who do that, and they get all these accolades,” he recalls. Of course he wanted to impress the critics with serious emotional and profound thinking.

“But it felt completely contrived,” Sexton says. “I asked myself, ‘What are you doing, dude. Is that you?’”

On-stage flair notwithstanding, this musician is no airhead. As with any serious, socially conscious artist, the politics of division in his home country — and how these have led to an economic mess at home and involvement in no-win wars abroad — are never far from his thoughts.

“The whole left-right paradigm only gives us an illusion of (political) choice,” he explains. Rather than play into it, Sexton is trying to use this as a jumping-off point to help people overcome ideological impasses.

The title track on Sugarcoating is a case in point. It’s about “finding myself, of finding the likeness in people,” says the singer. “In civil society, if we’re all fighting with each other, I think we’re a lot easier to control. When we get unified, and set our differences aside, we are a true force to be reckoned with.”

Sexton says he’s “blessed” to have a steady audience that enjoys his blend of entertainment and social consciousness. The U.S. economic crisis has hit the music business hard, but he hasn’t seen ticket sales to his gigs decrease substantially.

“People still show up and they’re still cheering,” he says.

The musician started his own record company, Kitchen Table, back in 2001, well before others realized that the days of guaranteed success with a big label were numbered. Although touring is going fine, Sexton does admit that the ground has shifted under the recording side of the business, enough to warrant a complete rethink of how albums are packaged, released and marketed.

“I’m not certain how the next release will go — whether it will be a traditional album of 12 or 13 songs, or if it’ll be something different,” he says. “I’m still looking for direction; it’s uncharted territory for everyone in the business.”

But he’s not letting doubts stop him, the way his inner editor would. “I know I’m gonna write and I’m going to put out something,” he assures me.

You can also bet it’ll be entertaining.

JUST THE FACTS

WHO: Martin Sexton

WHERE: Mod Club, 722 College St.

WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m., doors at 7 p.m.

TICKETS: $26.88 at Ticketmaster or at the door

MUSIC TIDBITS

Audio: New J.Lo Track Premieres on ‘Idol’ Eve

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 18, 2011) *
Jennifer Lopez used her “American Idol” co-worker Ryan Seacrest to debut a new single this morning. The day before she debuts as an “American Idol” judge, the singer/actress/entrepreneur unveiled her new single “On the Floor” on Seacrest’s LA-based radio show On Air with Ryan Seacrest. Produced by RedOne, Lopez sings over a techno beat, which incorporates a sample of Kaoma’s worldwide hit “Lambada.” “If you go hard, you gotta get on the floor/ If you’re a party freak, then step on the floor/ If you’re an animal, then tear up the floor/ Break a sweat on the floor/ Yeah, we work on the floor,” she sings. The track features assistance from rapper Pitbull. J. Lo has been teasing fans about her collaboration with super-producer RedOne (Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance”) via Twitter. “I see u @RedOne_Official! We’re making BIG things happen ‘On the Floor’ this new year!!!” she wrote last week. Listen to the track below.

:FILM NEWS::

Indian ‘Oscars’ Will Put Bollywood’s Focus On Toronto

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(January 19, 2011) When Bollywood’s version of the Oscars coming to Toronto in June, it will not only be the first time the event is held in North America. It will also be the first chance many fans here will have to see how massive the Bollywood industry is globally.

The International Indian Film Academy will be hosting the three-day awards event June 23-25, culminating in the main awards show, open to the public at the Rogers Centre.

As in North America, India has a plethora of awards shows. But organizers say that, with the star power and high TV ratings the IIFA show attracts, it has become Bollywood’s Oscar equivalent.

Now in their 12th year, the IIFA awards have never been held in India – the IIFA claims that foreign host sites heighten the show’s glamour for the Bollywood press. They have previously been held in the U.K., South Africa, the Netherlands and China. North America was overdue.

“We consider this a landmark event, huge in proportion,” says Sabbas Joseph, director of IIFA. “It is the highest-rated, most-watched television [Indian] event … It has a viewership of 700 million to 800 million globally.”

He added: “The difference between this and the Oscars is that our film stars sing and dance, compared to Hollywood stars. So the stars themselves provide the entertainment of the night.”

Other awards events include a gala screening in Brampton, a major centre of Toronto’s Indian community; a music and fashion show for Canadian and Indian designers, including Indian singers and movie stars; and a convention in Toronto for Canadian and Indian businesses.

Anil Kapoor, who played the game-show host in Slumdog Millionaire, is currently in Toronto helping to promote the awards program. And with him inevitably follows all the attendant celebrity gossip.

Bollywood superstar leading man Amitabh Bachchan has reportedly been replaced as spokesman for the event. But Kapoor, giving a hint of the regal way Indian stars talk publicly, didn’t want to enter the fray of gossip. Instead, he insisted he was a supporter of the awards show and was doing what he could to help. Unspoken subtext: He knows all about the controversy back home.

“You can call me an ambassador. You can call me a friend. You can call me an actor. It’s up to you whatever you want to call me,” he said en route to an event at the CN Tower. “I did Slumdog Millionaire as an experience I’ve never done. All the filmmakers know me as the kind of actor who tries to do something different.”

Because of the hyper-attention paid to Indian film stars, the focus on Toronto in the months to come will be no small affair. In India, public appearances by film stars often create massive crowds. “People from all ages react the same way. They all become like teenagers,” Kapoor said.

IIFA would like to export at least a small taste of that excitement. As Joseph noted, about 40 per cent of Bollywood’s total box office revenues come from outside India. So crossover international hits are increasingly key to Indian cinema.

Doc Explores The State Of Marriage – And Its Future

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(January 19, 2011) Marriage rates are declining – we’re tying the knot later, if at all – and yet we remain a culture obsessed: witness the slate of wedding-related reality TV populating the airwaves.

This contradiction has not gone unnoticed by Sue Ridout, a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker who became interested in exploring marriage in modern times when she came across what she found to be some surprising statistics coming out of the 2006 census.

For the first time in Canadian history, she learned, there are more single than married people in this country.

“It just seemed like a really interesting tipping point,” Ridout said this week. “It raises all kinds of questions.”

For her documentary Thoroughly Modern Marriage, which airs on CBC-TV’s Doc Zone on Thursday, Ridout profiled couples in some non-traditional situations: an interracial couple for whom race appears to be a non-issue as they prepare for their $100,000 wedding (they won it at a wedding fair); a 45-year-old bride overcoming her fears about divorce; lesbian wives with a young child; an older couple living in separate apartments in the same house; a young couple who regularly (and separately) engage in sex outside their marriage; and the Quebec parents of two children who have no plans to marry.

Ridout didn’t set out, she says, to find a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! of married couples, but to examine the state of – and prospects for – the institution. “There are some people who believe it’s completely on its way out and is about to die at any moment,” she says.

As the Quebec dad asks: “Why in the world would anyone want to get married?”

And yet, they do. Eighty per cent of Canadian women, the documentary reveals, still marry at some point in their lives.

“I think we’ve been so inundated with divorce stories and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the documentary in the first place,” says Ridout. “Divorce understandably has received a lot of attention, and it should receive a lot of attention. But I think in all of those stories we kind of lose track of the fact that there’s still an awful lot of people getting married.”

Perhaps, as a marriage celebrant in the documentary suggests, it’s because people are still hopeful. Perhaps, as is the case in the “marriage capital” of Canada – Hanover, Man., where nearly 70 per cent of adults are married (20 per cent higher than the national average) – it’s because the bride and groom are bowing to religion or tradition (or their parents).

Or perhaps, Ridout shudders to think, it’s all that wedding dress TV.

“I think that unfortunately amongst twentysomethings, the marriage has become very much confused with the wedding. And I think that confusion has everything to do with consumer culture and with the notion that if you get the right dress, if you get the right venue, if you get the right DJ, the right ring with the right coloured diamond, that that’s going to somehow hold meaning for the marriage,” says Ridout, 54. “And of course those of us who have been married for a while know that it has nothing to do with that. I think it’s disturbing, I do.”

Married for 26 years and the mother of two grown daughters, Ridout bristles at the notion she should be congratulated for accomplishing marital longevity. “It makes me uncomfortable when people say that, because everybody’s different, because people divorce for all kinds of different reasons and people stay together for all kinds of different reasons. Because I don’t like to imply that something is a success as opposed to a failure.”

As for her documentary, she wants to make it clear: This is an investigation, not a celebration.

“The last thing I want to do is come across as some kind of marriage booster.”

Thoroughly Modern Marriage is on CBC-TV’s Doc Zone Thursday at 9 p.m. ET and PT.

Anne Hathaway Is The New Catwoman

Source: www.thestar.com -
Los Angeles Times and Star staff

(January 19, 2011) Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle, the slinky and savage outlaw who is known as Catwoman, in next year's Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. Pictures announced. She will star alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Tom Hardy, already announced as a cast member, will play Bane, the chemically created brute who first appeared in the comics in 1993 — making him a far “younger” villain for Nolan's Batman mega-franchise, which has most prominently featured The Joker (who first appeared in 1940), Two-Face (1942), Ra’s Al-Ghul (1971) and The Scarecrow (1941).

Catwoman — then just called “The Cat” — first appeared in 1940 as the creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger
, and she has brought leather-clad sexual tension to the Batman adventures both on the page and beyond. She was portrayed by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether on the 1960s television series starring Adam West as the caped crusader, and Michelle Pfeiffer memorably cracked the whip in the role opposite the masked Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's 1992 film Batman Returns. In 2004, Halle Berry starred in the character's own solo film, Catwoman, but the film became an infamous flop and was jeered by comic-book fans after director Pitof jettisoned years of comic-book lore and character touchstones.

Nolan will direct the film from a screenplay he wrote with his brother Jonathan Nolan, from a story Christopher Nolan wrote with David S. Goyer. Christopher Nolan will also produce the film with his wife and longtime producing partner, Emma Thomas, and Charles Roven. The Dark Knight Rises is slated for release on July 20, 2012.

Joan Rivers: Gifted And Alone

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Lynn Crosbie

(January 19, 2011) It’s like watching Milton Berle perform in a meat dress.

Who knew that 75-year-old comic
Joan Rivers – in her new-to-DVD biopic – worked blue? There is not one joke she makes about her daughter’s offer to model for Playboy in the opening scene of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work that I can repeat, and other critics faced the same problem when the documentary was shut out of the Oscars’ short list.

Rivers has said she is angry that the film wasn’t nominated, but she’s not chummy with Hollywood’s elite and seems close only to her family, assistant and charity (God’s Love We Deliver, an organization that tailor-makes and delivers meals to people too ill to cook or shop).

And to Kathy Griffin, her hand-picked nemesis: One feels the most tenderness for Rivers, seeing, in the film, how ludicrous is her sense of the comedy scene and its players. In her frantically busy, fairly isolated life, Griffin is a superstar. Then Don Rickles, then Garry Shandling.

Hollywood’s elite has not embraced her since her feud with Johnny Carson, which began when Rivers left her post as The Tonight Show’s permanent guest host for her own late-night show on Fox. Carson’s reaction was draconian: When she told him her news, he slammed the phone down and never spoke to her again.

The show was a disaster – I remember watching her kiting jokes about bumper stickers, drenched in flop sweat, before switching channels. And her husband, the show’s producer and her long-time business partner, killed himself in 1987 after he was fired by the network. “From the humiliation,” Rivers has always maintained.

His death, and her daughter Melissa’s and her own reaction to this tragic event was documented in the bizarre 1994 made-for-TV film Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story. And it is this kind of hack work, this bizarre candour, that has helped to hinder a career that should be heralded by – as the tart blonde herself says – courageous, persistent and, let us not forget, path-carving women everywhere.

The documentary shows old clips of Rivers, young and pregnant in cute little frocks, telling raunchy abortion jokes, jokes that would attach a stigma to her work that still remains. Note the scene in which a furious man violently heckles her for riffing on deafness at some Podunk club. (Would he have been so emboldened if she were a man?) At any rate, she shreds him and carries on, but this scene reveals a tiny bit, and yet enough, of what it’s like to be gifted, alone and addicted to performing at an advancing age.

In fact, it is only Griffin and Rickles who come close to celebrating Rivers properly in interviews. Griffin compares her to Moms Mabley and Phyllis Diller; Rickles notes her “outstanding timing.”

In her work, definitely. In her life, not so much. It would be decades before an audience could countenance a foul-mouthed female comic, and still, so few exist. (It is not feminine to compare one’s wayward lady parts to a grey bunny slipper, and that is that.)

And Rivers, an old-style comic who keeps index cards of bada-boom jokes in a huge filing cabinet, is politically volatile. In the film, she compares Michelle Obama’s style to Jackie O.’s with shocking and crude élan as her assistants groan in distaste.

Rivers does not seem to care what people think: Having cut her teeth in tough clubs in Greenwich Village, she seems impervious to the pop world’s cynical opinions, which she wisely attributes to her having long been pigeonholed, among the elite, as a “Borscht Belt” comic.

But watch her face as the male comics at the Friars Club Roast excoriate her “clown mask.”

“No man has ever called me beautiful,” she quietly notes earlier in the film, and here lays bare the woman beneath the hard, brittle carapace.

The documentary, her big victory on Celebrity Apprentice (“Meh, it’s not the Oscars, but still,” she is heard saying), a rush of publicity and more have filled up her date book, the empty sight of which, she says, scares her to death.

I never liked Rivers until I saw this film: She is a brilliant comic, possessed of an inspiring heart. When she delivers food to a sick woman in Manhattan, she shows genuine interest in her photography, then goes home to Google her.

I did the same: It was the great cult flâneuse Flo Fox, a little down but not out. Quite a lot like her friend in all the vulgar fur and flash, the great Joan Rivers.

FILM TIDBITS

Halle Berry Confirmed to Play Aretha Franklin in Biopic

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 14, 2011) *Oscar winner Halle Berry has reportedly been confirmed to star as Aretha Franklin in a biopic about the singer’s life. According to WENN, the actress will play the Queen of Soul in her older years. “Halle Berry is me for the older me and a younger actress has yet to be named,” Franklin reportedly said. The 68-year-old legend is currently recovering from an unknown ailment in Detroit, and told ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ she has previously had offers for films about her life but has turned them down for not offering enough. “For the last four years we’ve been talking about that and I’ve had a number of offers but unfortunately they were not good offers,” she said. Currently, Berry, 44, is filming the romantic comedy “New Year’s Eve,” the follow-up to “Valentine’s Day.” She will also film ensemble comedy “Shoe Addicts Anonymous” and time-bending sci-fi drama “Cloud Atlas.” Her film “Frankie & Alice” is in limited release and will open nationwide on Feb. 4.

Giamatti Thanks 'Great Nation Of Canada' As He Wins Globe For 'Barney's Version'

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 16, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.—
Paul Giamatti thanked the family of Mordecai Richler and the city of Montreal on Sunday night as he won the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy for “Barney's Version.” “This was an extraordinary movie to be a part of and people busted their asses to get it made,” Giamatti said as he accepted the award from presenter Halle Berry, noting he was “jacked up” from eating too many of the Godiva chocolates handed out at the ceremony. “I got to smoke and drink and get laid in this movie and I got paid for it ... amazing.” It took producer Robert Lantos over 10 years to turn Richler's sprawling novel into a film. Giamatti lauded Lantos and expressed gratitude to the family of the late author, who died in 2001. “I also want to make sure to thank the incredible family of Mordecai Richler who let me stomp around in their private lives, which was very kind of them,” he said. He also gave a shout out to the film's “incredible” crew in Montreal, where the film — which also stars Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike — was shot. “An incredible beautiful city which I dream about,” Giamatti said. “An incredible place in a great nation, Canada. And I salute the great nation of Canada.”

Slumdog Star Anil Kapoor Meets McGuinty

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 17, 2011) Ontario got a taste of Bollywood stardom on Monday. Bollywood film star Anil Kapoor visited the provincial legislature, receiving a personal tour from the premier. Premier Dalton McGuinty appeared to be so excited to see the Slumdog Millionaire actor that he breezed past two cabinet ministers who joined the tour without saying hello to them. The premier showed Kapoor the legislative chamber, then gave him an Ontario flag. The two men hugged before going inside the premier’s office for a private chat. Kapoor is in town to promote the International Indian Film Academy, which is holding its awards ceremony in Toronto in June. It’s the first time the international celebration of Bollywood films will be held in North America.

::TV NEWS::\

The Monday Q&A: Marilyn Denis On Keeping Busy

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(January 14, 2011) Marilyn Denis likes to keep busy – very busy. The Toronto radio personality and ex-Cityline host has returned to television with The Marilyn Denis Show, which launched on CTV last week to nearly 400,000 Canadian viewers.

Born in Edmonton and raised in Pittsburgh, Denis was already a radio fixture in Canada and the United States before signing on to host the syndicated TV series Cityline in 1989. For 19 years, she hosted the show while holding down daily morning duty on Toronto radio station CHUM-FM. She left Cityline in 2008 and has spent the past two years prepping for her new show, which now brings her perky presence to a national audience.

And yes, she's still on the radio every morning. She recently took a breather to chat in Toronto.

How much will your new show be scripted?

I'm not a scripted person. Bottom line, the show will be great information, better living, lifestyle ideas and having fun. My dad asked me what the message of the show would be and I told him it's about making people feel better about themselves. Just being a good girlfriend to people out there.

Your last broadcast of Cityline was back in May of 2008. How does one get back into TV mode?

You continue to work out each day. You continue to do the radio show, which I did. You just keep doing your thing, you know?

But to be clear: The Marilyn Denis Show is not Cityline, correct?

No, this will be a very fluid show. It's a talk show that's going to change every day. Sometimes we'll have something planned, sometimes some big celebrity will arrive, so we'll accommodate that person or those people. There are no days designated for certain things.

And you really plan to keep doing your daily radio show?

Absolutely. Radio has been a constant in my life since 1976. I stay with it because I love it. Radio is the love of my life, along with my son, of course.

Describe your typical work day, please.

Up at 4 a.m., which I would do for the radio show anyway. Be at the radio station for 5:30 a.m. Finish the show at 9, drive to the studio, then hair and makeup. Go live at 10, wrap it up at 11. Talk to the audience as they're leaving. Then meetings and I'm outta there at 1 p.m., because I need to work out at 2 p.m. It's a full day.

What time do you go to bed in order to get up at 4 a.m.?

During the week I go to bed probably around 8 p.m. Of course, this is not going to help me get a date.

Where does your energy level come from?

You'd have to ask my dad. My mom, who has since passed away, said that when I was a baby, when she came into the room each morning, I was always up and ready to go.

Why use average people as correspondents on the show?

I think a lot of people have this thing where they're an accountant by day and an unbelievable chef by night. We wanted to cover those categories familiar to everybody – fashion, cooking, decor – but with fresh faces.

Will viewers be able to interact with the new show?

Oh, big time. We're on Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff. We're totally involved in social networking.

But do you social network yourself?

No! [Laughs.] But once I got onto Facebook, my old professor from the University of Idaho was the first person to contact me. He was the person who got me into radio in the first place and he was the first person to contact me on Facebook. That is some magic.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

The Marilyn Denis Show airs weekdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on CTV, and 5 p.m. on A channel.

There Are Friends And BFFs, And Then There’s Oprah

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 17, 2011) Never mind the all-expenses-paid trip, red-carpet treatment and face time with
Oprah Winfrey — a Saskatchewan woman has boosted her business through her participation in the media maven’s expedition to Australia last month.

Regina-based
Janice Taylor was among a dozen Canadians included in “Oprah's ultimate Australian adventure,” which has been spun into four episodes of the TV talk show that begin airing Tuesday.

Last June, inspired by Winfrey’s connection with her BFF Gayle King, Taylor founded www.justbefriends.ca, an online match website for female friendships. The former pharmaceutical sales rep credits her letter about the venture for garnering a seat at The Oprah Winfrey Show's 25th season premiere on Sept. 13.

Winfrey awarded that audience of 150 “Ultimate Viewers” — and their one guest apiece — with a free, 10-day trip to Australia in December.

“I wrote into the Oprah show last August and said, ‘Every woman should have a Gayle,’ ” Taylor explained.

“I’ve been watching the show since I was 14, and for years thought the best thing she has given us is a great example of female friendship.

“I was married for 12 years and found myself separated and really just wanted a friend to do things with. I didn’t necessarily want to date, but our society is built on couples. I just wanted a friend to go to the movies with when I don’t have my kids.”

Taylor, who is 35, does have a best friend of 23 years — Mona Crandell, who accompanied her to Chicago and Australia — but Crandell is married, and so limited in availability.

Taylor said being recognized as an Ultimate Viewer and having the opportunity to talk about justbefriends.ca with King, the Oprah show producers and the other audience members has increased interest in her website, which has 700 members in Regina and is on the verge of expanding across North America.

And she cited friendship as the cornerstone of the Australia adventure, which featured star-studded Oprah show tapings at the Sydney Opera House with Russell Crowe, Bon Jovi, Olivia Newton-John, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, a U2 concert and gifts of pearl and diamond necklaces.

“The biggest souvenirs were the relationships and conversations,” said Taylor who stays in touch with the other Ultimate Viewers, such as Burlington teacher Nada Smith, on a private Facebook group.

New CBC Head To Undo Predecessor’s Controversial Legacy

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(January 19, 2011) Kirstine Stewart, the new head of CBC English-language services, plans to undo one of the most controversial recent moves by the broadcaster.

When the CBC began airing the game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 2008, Stewart’s predecessor Richard Stursberg often described the decision to offer the programs – criticized as American fare widely available on the dial – as necessary to attract “eyeballs.”

But Stewart, who formally replaced Stursberg in the job last week, sees it differently. She wants to replace Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! with Canadian shows – which she insists can pull in the same kind of ratings. Dragons’ Den, for instance, attracts two million viewers.

“Now that the fix has happened, and we can make shows like Dragons’ Den or Battle of the Blades that are consistently making big numbers, I believe that we have the talent in the country now to make those kinds of shows,” she says. “We are looking to replace [Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!], for sure.”

It’s all the result, she adds, of a much larger fix at the CBC over the last few years, particularly in its TV operation. This has allowed the broadcaster to compete with private networks and to become “a real player in an industry that needs a strong public broadcaster.” Within the CBC, Stewart says, that meant “a lot of changes.”

Stewart first took over as acting vice-president of CBC English-language services back in August, following Stursberg’s surprise departure.

The common view within the CBC is that Stursberg’s highly focused business strategy ultimately clashed too much with CBC president Hubert Lacroix’s view of the public broadcaster as serving a larger cultural purpose. Neither has spoken publicly about Stursberg’s departure.

When Stewart was appointed to her position on a permanent basis, the news was generally seen as a foregone conclusion, even though Stewart, 42, had been viewed by many outside the CBC as Stursberg’s faithful lieutenant.

Stewart left Alliance Atlantis for a job heading up CBC-TV programming in 2006. At the time, there had been a few disastrous programming decisions under Stursberg’s watch, such as the green-lighting of the music reality show The One: Making a Music Star (which debuted in the summer of 2006), as well as a demoralizing CBC employee lockout. But then Stursberg and Stewart together had their successes, such as reality shows such as Battle of the Blades and Dragons’ Den, a version of a Japanese hit TV show.

While Stursberg tended to talk about “eyeballs” and hard numbers, Stewart isn’t afraid to speak in terms of the intuitive “magic” that goes into programming. She is loath to repeat Stursberg’s much quoted remark that it takes one million viewers for a show to considered a hit. There are many other ways to judge success, she says.

“Not everything is expressed in numbers. It’s a matter of what you do and how it is accepted [by audiences],” Stewart says. One small success can trigger another, “and it starts to build.”

The CBC has also had to go through a marked turnaround in morale, she says. She notes that “for the longest time, there was this sense that it didn’t matter what the CBC did. Canadians just weren’t watching.” The mood was so downbeat that there was a running joke inside the corporation that if CTV’s sitcom Corner Gas had aired on CBC instead, it wouldn’t have been a success.

Little Mosque on the Prairies, which debuted in 2007, was the turning point, Stewart says.

She recalls the day after the series launched. She was coming out of a meeting and looked at her Blackberry. A message read “2318 OMG.” She wasn’t even sure what that meant. Was “OMG” an oh-my-God good, or bad? Did “2318” just mean the usual, lowly 200,000 viewers plus change?

Then she heard screaming down the hallway. The show had actually drawn an astonishing 2.318 million viewers. “The feeling in the organization changed to one of opportunity … Now these shows are being shown worldwide. And there’s an industry being built around the idea of long-running series,” she says.

Stewart hints of changes elsewhere as well at the CBC, such as in CBC Radio, which she suggests could start offering new ways to stream music digitally, possibly packaging it as an additional CBC service.

“You look at the opportunities that have happened for music in technology … We also have those possibilities. We have the possibilities of streaming [music digitally], we have the possibilities of expanding. I think technology is going to enable us to actually deliver all kinds of genres to many different people, but in the way that we at the CBC have always framed things,” she says, careful not to reveal too much at this stage.

She also acknowledges CBC’s unique role as a public broadcaster – and that public perception very much affects how she foresees going about any changes.

“It’s not a top-down vision plan. I don’t intend for the CBC to do anything that hasn’t been the subject of a lot of input. That’s what we have been doing, and we need to do even more,” she says. “It is the communal- meeting-place-as-public-broadcaster for Canadians.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor Loses Leg To Amputation

Source: www.thestar.com - Sue Manning

(January 15, 2011) LOS ANGELES—Zsa Zsa Gabor was doing well after surgery to amputate her right leg — an operation that doctors said was necessary to save her life, her publicist said Friday.

Gabor’s blood pressure and heart rate were normal and she was resting comfortably hours after her surgery, publicist John Blanchette said. He said she’ll be in the hospital for another week or two and hopefully will be home by her 94th birthday on Feb. 6.

Gabor was being watched carefully, but there were no complications, doctors at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said.

“The surgery today went well, however, she is in frail health so we will continue to monitor her closely,” said Dr. David Rigberg, associate professor of vascular surgery.

Gabor, who had an infection in her leg for several months, was hospitalized on Jan. 2 after efforts to save her leg with antibiotics failed.

Gabor broke her hip and had replacement surgery in July, and has been hospitalized several times since for swelling in her legs and blood clots throughout her body. Publicist John Blanchette said the wounds wouldn’t heal, so doctors had no choice but to operate.

“Ms. Gabor needed an amputation above her knee due to poor circulation and a large ulcerated area on her right leg,” Rigberg said. “After consulting with her husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, we felt this was the best medical course of action.”

In August, Gabor was in critical condition and asked for a priest during a hospital visit. She recovered and returned home.

Gabor has used a wheelchair since she was partially paralyzed in a 2002 car accident, and she had a stroke in 2005.

She retreated from the spotlight after the accident and stroke. She liked staying home and watching soap operas, game shows and old movies, husband von Anhalt told reporters in July. She detested having her picture taken by the paparazzi while she was in her wheelchair.

“She wants people to remember her as she was years ago,” he said then.

A Hungarian-born sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s, Gabor had a brief and unremarkable film career, from Moulin Rouge in 1952 to Queen of Outer Space in 1958.

Her primary role was herself, dripping in glamour during TV special and game show appearances and uttering her trademark “dahling.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor Loses Leg To Amputation

Source: www.thestar.com - Sue Manning

(January 15, 2011) LOS ANGELES—Zsa Zsa Gabor was doing well after surgery to amputate her right leg — an operation that doctors said was necessary to save her life, her publicist said Friday.

Gabor’s blood pressure and heart rate were normal and she was resting comfortably hours after her surgery, publicist John Blanchette said. He said she’ll be in the hospital for another week or two and hopefully will be home by her 94th birthday on Feb. 6.

Gabor was being watched carefully, but there were no complications, doctors at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said.

“The surgery today went well, however, she is in frail health so we will continue to monitor her closely,” said Dr. David Rigberg, associate professor of vascular surgery.

Gabor, who had an infection in her leg for several months, was hospitalized on Jan. 2 after efforts to save her leg with antibiotics failed.

Gabor broke her hip and had replacement surgery in July, and has been hospitalized several times since for swelling in her legs and blood clots throughout her body. Publicist John Blanchette said the wounds wouldn’t heal, so doctors had no choice but to operate.

“Ms. Gabor needed an amputation above her knee due to poor circulation and a large ulcerated area on her right leg,” Rigberg said. “After consulting with her husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, we felt this was the best medical course of action.”

In August, Gabor was in critical condition and asked for a priest during a hospital visit. She recovered and returned home.

Gabor has used a wheelchair since she was partially paralyzed in a 2002 car accident, and she had a stroke in 2005.

She retreated from the spotlight after the accident and stroke. She liked staying home and watching soap operas, game shows and old movies, husband von Anhalt told reporters in July. She detested having her picture taken by the paparazzi while she was in her wheelchair.

“She wants people to remember her as she was years ago,” he said then.

A Hungarian-born sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s, Gabor had a brief and unremarkable film career, from Moulin Rouge in 1952 to Queen of Outer Space in 1958.

Her primary role was herself, dripping in glamour during TV special and game show appearances and uttering her trademark “dahling.”

Regis Philbin Calling It Quits

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 18, 2011) NEW YORK—Veteran broadcaster Regis Philbin is retiring from his weekday talk show.

Philbin made the announcement at the start of Tuesday morning’s Live With Regis and Kelly, which he has hosted for more than a quarter-century, most recently sharing hosting duties with Kelly Ripa.

Philbin said he would be stepping down from the show around the end of the summer, but he didn’t specify a departure date.

“I don’t want to alarm anybody,” he began, then declared, “This will be my last year on the show.

“It’s been a long time. It’s been 28 years,” he continued, “and it was the biggest thrill of my life to come back to New York, where I grew up as a kid watching TV in the early days, you know, never even dreaming that I would one day have the ability, or whatever it takes, to get in front of the camera and talk to it. . . .

“There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera — especially certain old people!” cracked Philbin, who is 79.

“I think I can only speak for America and all of us here,” responded Ripa, “when I say it has been a pleasure and a privilege and a dream come true. And I wish I could do something to make you change your mind.”

“Now wait a minute,” Philbin said slyly.

Nothing was said about the future of the show after Philbin’s exit, or what the future holds for Ripa, who is currently marking a decade as Philbin’s co-host.

Laszlo Barna leaving EOne

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(January 18, 2011)  • Laszlo Barna is resigning as president of Entertainment One Television on Feb. 1 to create a new production company, Pier 21 Films, where he’ll continue to do work with EOne.

 • The King's Speech has scooped up 14 nominations for British Academy Film and Television Arts Awards including best film, best original screenplay, best actor, best supporting actress and best director. The other four titles shortlisted for a best-film BAFTA were Black Swan, Inception, The Social Network and True Grit.

 • Actor Bruce Greenwood, 54, is getting ACTRA's Award of Excellence for his body of work, which includes a leading role as U.S. president John F. Kennedy in Thirteen Days and parts in Barney's Version, Capote, Being Julia and The Sweet Hereafter.

 • Canadian filmmaker Terence Macartney-Filgate will receive the outstanding achievement award at this year's Hot Docs festival, which runs from April 28 to May 8. Programming head Sean Farnel says the U.K.-born director and cinematographer helped refine the free-form, unscripted, observational approach of early NFB films. Hot Docs will also celebrate Toronto's Alan Zweig with the Focus On retrospective, an annual program showcasing the work of a mid-career Canadian filmmaker.

 • Ottawa folkie Bruce Cockburn, 65, will release his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, on March 8 before heading on tour for more than two months, including a top at Massey Hall in Toronto on April 9.

 • Vince Neil will take a plea deal and serve two weeks of jail time, plus two weeks of house arrest, for driving drunk in his Lamborghini last summer near the Las Vegas Strip. “I have recognized that you can't drink and drive at all,” the Mötley Crüe singer said in a written statement.

Star staff and wire services

Smithsonian Institution secretary Wayne Clough has defended his decision to remove an artist's video that depicted ants crawling on a crucifix from an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, saying a controversy over the short clip threatened to overshadow its first major exhibition on gay themes in art history.

Critics had blasted Clough's decision as verging on artistic censorship while some members of the U.S. Congress and a Catholic group had complained that the video was sacrilegious.

In his first public response to questions on the issue, Clough said the controversy overshadowed the exhibition and threatened to spiral beyond control into a debate on religious desecration. He said he acted to preserve the overall exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

In November, the Catholic League complained that the video, A Fire in My Belly, by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, was sacrilegious because of the crucifix clip. The artist's work explored the subject of AIDS. Wojnarowicz died of complications from the disease in 1992 at age 37.

The exhibit also includes works by major artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Thomas Eakins and Annie Leibovitz, among others. It's the largest exhibit ever staged by the Portrait Gallery.

TV TIDBITS

Jennifer Aniston On Her Rachel ’Do: ‘The Ugliest Haircut I’ve Ever Seen’

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(January 18, 2011) Jennifer Aniston says the haircut she inspired in the mid-1990s wasn’t worth the following it built. The 41-year-old former star of Friends says in the February issue of Allure magazine that “the Rachel” was not her best look. “How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.” Aniston wore the style on the show’s first and second season, and it quickly caught on at salons across America. It was named for her character, Rachel Green. Aniston’s longtime hairstylist, Chris McMillan, came up with “The Rachel.” He still works with her today.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Brian Bedford Conquers Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 14, 2011) The New York press provided a warm welcome on Friday to a select member of our Canadian stage nobility.

Brian Bedford (a.k.a. “The Duchess of Bedford”) has received unanimous raves for his performance as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest for the Roundabout Theatre Company, a performance which began at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2009.

Bedford (both as star and director) and designer Desmond Heeley moved Manhattan, but no other members of the original cast, except for Sara Topham as Gwendolyn, were invited to join the production.

Bedford was hailed as “brilliant,” “consistently funny” and “a master,” with Charles Isherwood in The New York Times praising Bedford for “one of the great performances of the season.”

Topham also fared well with bouquets like “ravishing,” “deliciously absurd” and “exquisitely lovely” being tossed in her direction.

The overall production didn’t earn unanimous raves, with some reviewers finding the lead roles of Jack and Algernon (played at Stratford by Ben Carlson and Mike Shara) treated with insufficient flair.

What is Stratford getting out of all this? According to general director Antoni Cimolino, “an enormous amount of publicity that lends pretty powerful support to our branding as the leading classical theatre company in North America.”

Financially, Stratford gets “a rental fee for some costumes, props and a few set pieces.”

Still, when Bedford and Topham return to Stratford this summer to appear in The Misanthrope, the Gotham stardust they’ll trail with them will be, as they say in those MasterCard commercials, “priceless.”

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Brian Bedford Conquers Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 14, 2011) The New York press provided a warm welcome on Friday to a select member of our Canadian stage nobility.

Brian Bedford (a.k.a. “The Duchess of Bedford”) has received unanimous raves for his performance as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest for the Roundabout Theatre Company, a performance which began at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2009.

Bedford (both as star and director) and designer Desmond Heeley moved Manhattan, but no other members of the original cast, except for Sara Topham as Gwendolyn, were invited to join the production.

Bedford was hailed as “brilliant,” “consistently funny” and “a master,” with Charles Isherwood in The New York Times praising Bedford for “one of the great performances of the season.”

Topham also fared well with bouquets like “ravishing,” “deliciously absurd” and “exquisitely lovely” being tossed in her direction.

The overall production didn’t earn unanimous raves, with some reviewers finding the lead roles of Jack and Algernon (played at Stratford by Ben Carlson and Mike Shara) treated with insufficient flair.

What is Stratford getting out of all this? According to general director Antoni Cimolino, “an enormous amount of publicity that lends pretty powerful support to our branding as the leading classical theatre company in North America.”

Financially, Stratford gets “a rental fee for some costumes, props and a few set pieces.”

Still, when Bedford and Topham return to Stratford this summer to appear in The Misanthrope, the Gotham stardust they’ll trail with them will be, as they say in those MasterCard commercials, “priceless.”

::TRAVEL::

Jamaica Calling In February

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Arthur Frommer

(January 13, 2011)
February, when temperatures are at their most frigid, is the most desirable, most popular month of the year for trips to the tropics, but that month is also the most expensive time for air-and-land packages there. Because of that, we’re temporarily dropping our insistence that such packages be available for numerous consecutive dates, and are listing, instead, a number of packages valid only for single specific departure dates in February. These are followed, however, by our normal selections that are valid for a larger number of departure dates.

(1) February in Falmouth, Jamaica: $1,080 for a seven-night stay, including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with all taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the 350-room Breezes Trelawny Resort & Spa (a Superclubs property), leaving on Feb. 10, from Sunquest Holidays on a flight operated by Thomas Cook Canada. This is a large property on a long stretch of white sand beach, with four pools and every other resort facility. Contact Sunquest at www.sunquestvacations.ca or phone 800-387-8438.

(2) February in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: $1,043 for a seven-night stay including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the four-star Grand Paradise Bavaro, leaving on Feb. 6, from Sunquest Holidays on a flight operated by Thomas Cook Canada. The Bavaro is a giant, 1,000-room property of 15 buildings and four outdoor pools (one of which has a swim-up bar) and extensive children’s facilities. Contact Sunquest at www.sunquestvacations.ca or phone 800-387-8438.

(3) February in Holguin, Cuba: $1,029 for a seven-night stay, including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with all taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the Sirenis Playa Turquesa, leaving on Feb. 3, 5, 10 and 12 (add $75 for Saturday departures), from Air Canada Vacations. The Sirenis Playa Turquesa is a 500-room beachside resort with five swimming pools and one kids’ pool; six restaurants, of which one serves buffet-style while five others offer a la carte presentations of Cuban, Mediterranean, Italian, Asian, and grill cuisines. Add six bars, including a lobby bar with piano. To book, access www.aircanadavacations.ca or phone 866-529-2079.

(4) February in Samana, Dominican Republic: $1,305 for a seven-night stay including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with all taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the 295-room Grand Bahia Principe Roulette, leaving on Feb. 5, from Air Canada Vacations. The hotel maintains a full, supervised children’s program. To book, access www.aircanadavacations.ca or phone 866-529-2079.

(5) February in Cancun, Mexico: $1,058 for a seven-night stay, including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with all taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the four-star Occidental Grand Xcaret, leaving on Feb. 10, from Sunquest Holidays on a flight operated by Thomas Cook Canada. Located less than an hour south of Cancun International Airport and 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen, the Occidental Grand Xcaret boasts winding river channels, freeform pools and a private beach of white sand on a quiet cove. It features 11 international restaurants and 10 bars. To book, contact Sunquest at www.sunquestvacations.ca or phone 800-387-8438.

(6) February in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico: $1,068 for a seven-night stay, including round-trip airfare from Toronto (with all taxes and fees also included) and all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the four-star Royal Solaris Los Cabos, leaving on Feb. 7, from Sunquest Holidays on a flight operated by Thomas Cook Canada. This is a luxury oceanfront resort in the town of San Jose Del Cabo. The oceanfront resort has 400 rooms, five restaurants, four bars, a kids’ water park and a large variety of activities and entertainment. To book, contact Sunquest at www.sunquestvacations.ca or phone 800-387-8438.

(7) Miami from Niagara Falls Airport (Buffalo): $84.59 to $99 per person each way, on Vision Airlines, leaving Niagara Falls Airport on Fridays and Sundays, and returning to Niagara Falls Airport from Miami also on Fridays and Sundays. The airline is a cost-cutting carrier and charter operator headquartered in Atlanta; its prices do not include small government fees and taxes. Since these offer a considerable saving off normal fares, they deserve inclusion in our list of top bargains. Call 877-359-2538 for more information. (Note that Vision Airlines also flies from Niagara Falls Airport (Buffalo) to and from Destin/Ft. Walton in the Florida Panhandle, but that itinerary seems of minor interest to residents of the Toronto area).

(8) February in Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic): $909 per person for round-trip air from Toronto on Transat (including all fees and taxes) and seven nights of all-inclusive arrangements (hotel, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the Barcelo Puerto Plata, departing Feb. 3, all from Transat Holidays (866-322-6649).

(9) February at Varadero Beach, Cuba: $975 per person for a full week on the popular Varadero Beach, including round-trip air from Toronto (and all taxes and fees) and seven nights at the 688-room beachfront Hotel Sol Sirenis Coral, with all three meals daily and unlimited drinks also included. The $975 price is for the departure from Toronto of Thursday, Feb. 3, which moves up slightly to $1,105 for the departure of Thursday, Feb. 10. It is the quality of the large beachfront Sol Sirenis Coral that makes this vacation from Sunwing.ca a bargain at the price quoted (which also comes down from higher levels because of the Thursday departure). Prices in the latter half of February for this beachfront property rise considerably.

(10) February in Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic): $805 per person, including round-trip air from Toronto (and all taxes and fees), and seven nights with three meals and unlimited drinks daily, at the 411-room, beachfront Celuisma Playa Dorada, via Sunwing Vacations (sunwing.ca) and Sunwing Airlines. Tuesday departures and Puerto Plata in place of Punta Cana are the key to saving up to $500 per person off the February cost of all-inclusive stays in the newer Punta Cana area, yet for a beachfront vacation fully as pleasant (in my view). The departure of Tuesday, Feb. 8, will cost $805 per person; the departures of Feb. 15 and 22 will cost $855 per person. You easily would pay $1,200 and $1,300 (including taxes and fees) for similar air-and-land packages to equivalent Punta Cana.

(11) Las Vegas for Four Nights: $564 (leaving Toronto Feb. 13) to $573 (leaving Toronto Feb. 6) on WestJet, using the tour packaging services of Vegas.com, the city’s most popular website. You receive non-stop round-trip air from Toronto (including all taxes and fees) and four nights (Sunday through Wednesday) at the Flamingo Hotel on the Strip. The Flamingo is a giant, 3,600-room landmark, with multiple restaurants, bars and theatres and a 15-acre garden with three swimming pools; it is also a member of the Harrah’s chain, and therefore participates in Harrah’s “Buffet of Buffets” ($39 for unlimited meals at any Harrah’s buffet over a 24-hour period) and “Buffet of Shows” ($99 for 48 hours of theatre at any Harrah’s hotel). Bear in mind that earlier, in January, you can enjoy a shorter three-night air-and-land package to Las Vegas at the Flamingo hotel for $574 including all taxes and fees, from Air Canada Vacations using flights of Air Canada, leaving Toronto on Jan. 25 and 26.

(12) China: $1,323 to $1,523 per person, including round-trip airfare from San Francisco and 10 nights in five Chinese cities (hotel, many meals, daily escorted sightseeing). Until recently, China Focus (800-868-7244; www.chinafocustravel.com) had a clear advantage over all other tour companies in the pricing of its basic, 10-day China tour program for first-time visitors (“Historic China”) at $1,323 to $1,523 (February through March of 2011), including round-trip air between San Francisco and China (with all fuel surcharges and government taxes also included).

Now that clear advantage has all but vanished with the dramatic announcement by competitor ChinaSpree (tel. 866-652-5656; www.chinaspree.com) that the latter will be operating an 11-day tour (to slightly different cities) in February, for similar rates. China Spree’s February departures from San Francisco will cost $1,418 per person, including round-trip airfare (with fuel surcharge and taxes also included), 10 overnights in Beijing, Suzhou, Tongli, Hangzhou and Shanghai, with buffet breakfast daily, and 14 other meals (including a Peking duck dinner, Mongolian Barbecue lunch and lunch in the home of a Chinese family).

ChinaSpree’s tour (China Delight) spends 10 overnights in five cities (see above); China Focus spends nine overnights in four cities (but visits six cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Tai’an, Qufu, Jinan and Suzhou). China Focus provides all meals (except one in Shanghai). And China Focus charges $1323 in early February, $1,423 in mid-February, and $1,523 in March (China Spree has not listed March departures). Note that the prices are almost identical, but that China Focus provides two extra meals.

(13) Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: From $63 for nonstop flights to the Florida resort city aboard Spirit Airlines from Niagara Falls Airport. Starting Jan. 27, the cut-rate Spirit Airlines will fly three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) to and from Ft. Lauderdale from the airport at Niagara Falls, a 90-minute drive from Toronto, for prices lower than anything you’ve seen to date. Though rates for Friday flights are frequently high, prices for one-way Monday and Wednesday flights between Niagara Falls and Ft. Lauderdale (on Spirit Airlines) run as low as $63 to $93 in February and March (including all taxes, fees and fuel surcharge; although fares are initially listed by Spirit at much lower rates, the addition of those fees, taxes and fuel surcharge bring them up to the $63 to $93 level). Go to SpiritAirlines.com for precise details. But bear in mind that Spirit has harsh baggage policies, charging $25 for luggage checked aboard and as much as $30 for luggage carried aboard a flight that can not fit beneath your seat. In charging for carry-on luggage, Spirit Airlines is the first airline to do so; pack light.

(14) Escorted Costa Rica: $995 per person. On what are virtually daily departures from San Jose, Costa Rica, in all of January, February and March, the long-established Caravan Tours (in business since 1952) will take you by escorted motor coach on a 10-night tour of every important sight, city, beach and attraction of Costa Rica, for a total of $995, including quality accommodations every night, all three meals daily, daily escorted sightseeing and entrance fees. You’ll find all the details at Caravan.com, or by phoning CARAVAN, and your only other significant cost is round-trip airfare between Miami and San Jose, Costa Rica. You simply pick your day of departure, fly to San Jose, and join your tour group and well-informed escort. Caravan Tours has scored a resounding success with its program of 10-day escorted motor coach tours for $995 per person, and its program to Costa Rica leads the list of its trips in popularity.

(15) Orlando, Fla.: $558 for round-trip air between Toronto and Orlando (including all fees and taxes) and seven nights at the Clarion Hotel Maingate, a mile and a half from the entrance to Walt Disney World. The tour operator is Transat Holidays; the airline used is CanJet; and a car also will be provided (though exact details of the auto rental are not currently disclosed on the tour operator’s website). Departures: Feb. 7 and 14. Contact Transat Holidays at www.transat.ca, or phone 866-322-6649.

(16) Two Weeks in Turkey, All-Inclusive: $1,350 in February and March of 2011, including round-trip airfare from New York to Istanbul, all taxes and fees included, and then a two-week escorted motor coach tour to every important Turkish location, staying in first-class hotels throughout, receiving almost all meals, and accompanied by a full-time guide, with all entrance fees paid by the tour operator. The 25-year-old Pacha Tours (800-722-4288; www.pachatours.com) has just released its 2011 catalogue, and its prices are nothing short of amazing for its departures in February and March: $1,350 from New York, $1,420 from Chicago, and $1,770 from Los Angeles, including round-trip air transportation to Turkey on Turkish Airlines. Your only additional expense: government fees and taxes on the airfare, of an unspecified amount.

(17) London: $686 to $736 round-trip from Toronto, on Transat Airlines ( www.airtransat.ca, 866-847-1112). Transat flies to London from Toronto on scattered dates in February and March, for round-trip prices (including taxes and fees) of $686 in February, and $736 in March. As for your London accommodations, book them at the big, tourist-class Royal National or President Hotels, both just off Russell Square within walking distance (a fair walk) of London’s West End theatres, and you’ll pay as little as ?100 ($156) a night for a twin-bedded room with two full English breakfasts. You book these hotels by going to www.imperialhotels.co.uk.

(18) Mediterranean Coast of Spain: $1,225 for two, three or even four weeks in a high-rise beachfront hotel on the Mediterranean coast of Spain (“Costa del Sol”, near Torremolinos), including round-trip airfare to Spain from New York (see below for departures from Montreal), transfers, buffet breakfast daily, sightseeing tours. The tour operator: Sun Holiday Tours, of Orlando, Florida ( www.sunholidaytours.com, phone 800-422-8000). The hotel: the large, beachfront Sol Timor. The airline is Iberia, and the daily breakfast is a big one served buffet-style; and your room is air-conditioned with kitchenette and balcony. Price for a two-week stay (including airfare) is $1,225 on departures in February and March, Three-week stays cost $100 per person more. Write for a detailed Sun Holidays catalogue (Sun Holidays, 7932 West Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819) or consult the website.

An important note: Transat.ca will begin operating charter flights from Montreal to Malaga, near Torremolinas, starting Feb. 1; phone the tour operator for the total price including this direct flight from Canada.

(19) New York City or Washington, D.C. by bus (from $41 one-way): Toronto’s most cost-conscious travellers have long known that they could take Megabus to New York City (a ride of about 10-and-a-half hours) for as little as $41 each way (although some ultra-popular dates go up to $77 and $84); the $41 price prevails for most dates. These buses are double-deckers, provide free WiFi, are occasionally available for a promotional $1 (rarely), and have now been in operation for four years (see megabus.com). They also operate between Toronto and Montreal for as little as $10 each way, but for a more usual $14 to $17 — a major bargain.

Megabus also is operating from Toronto (the Coach Terminal) to Washington, D.C., enabling an inexpensive trip to that interesting capital city. Although Megabus hasn’t yet posted the schedules and prices for its Toronto-to-Washington, D.C. service, they are bound to be fairly similar to the rates charged for trips to New York.

(20) Dublin, Ireland: $499 for round-trip air (from New York) and four nights in a Dublin hotel. Provided only that you’re willing to fly out of New York (thus combining a New York theatre stay with Dublin), you’ll pay only $499 for round-trip air to Dublin and four hotel nights from now until March 10, $549 for the same with five hotel nights, and $599 for the same with six hotel nights. All this from the well-known Sceptre Tours (800-221-0924; www.sceptretours.com), which actually offers a choice of departure cities: New York or Boston (and you can also go from Chicago for $70 more). Your carrier: Aer Lingus; your hotel in Dublin, the Regency. Additional taxes and fees come to around $180.

NOTE: The prices cited are per person for each of two persons travelling together, and do not include government taxes and fees (unless those taxes and fees are specifically listed as included). Airfare is often included in the price, but only when specifically mentioned. Prices are subject to change, and new listings will periodically be substituted for those that are no longer valid.

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program, The Travel Show, with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer’s blog at frommers.com. Order your copy of Frommer travel guidebooks at www.StarStore.ca.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Venus Williams’ Aussie Open Win Aided by Mama Oracene?

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 19, 2011) Venus Williams celebrates her win over Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.

*Venus Williams was in the middle of a first-set tiebreaker at the Australian Open on Wednesday when the voice of her mother rang out from the players’ box at Rod Laver Arena.

Oracene Price’s urges to “fight” were clearly intended for her daughter, but they appeared to fall on deaf ears, as Venus lost the last point of the tiebreaker, hurting herself on a twisting backhand volley in the process.

Writhing in pain and clutching near her stomach as she walked back to her courtside chair, a WTA trainer was called and Williams took a medical timeout. A few minutes later, though, she returned with her upper right thigh taped and a whole new attitude.

She later said she injured her “psoas” muscle, which flexes the hip and spinal column.

 “It was really tough, but I’m a long way from home and it’s such a long way I didn’t want to go back yet,” Williams said after surviving through a 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4 second-round win over her Czech opponent, Sandra Zahlavova.

“You’ve got to be able to play under all kinds of circumstances — good, bad, strange, weird, all of the above. I had to just calm myself down. In the middle of a match like that, you can get a little hysterical.”

Her fighting spirit — and the strapping and perhaps a painkiller — helped continue a streak in which Williams has completed all 257 singles matches she has started at Grand Slams. Never has she retired with an injury in a major.

Still, she needed some help at the end, asking courtside staff — first chair umpire Alison Lang of Britain, then a ballboy — to help carry off her equipment. Williams was well enough to carry off her glitzy handbag, though, which went with her outfit — a revealing peek-a-boo lattice-style top with a multicoloured satin short skirt she later referred to as her “Alice in Wonderland” outfit.

Mike Tomlin Says He And Rex Ryan Are ‘Similar’

Source:  www.thestar.com - Chris Adamski

(January 18, 2011) PITTSBURGH—One is loud. One isn’t. One speaks his mind. One doesn’t. One has a Super Bowl title as a head coach. The other’s still in search of one. But don’t tell Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin that he’s not like New York’s Rex Ryan. The Steelers coach actually thinks there are similarities between the two.

Who knew?

Tomlin isn’t the type to brazenly predict his team will win the Super Bowl. And he doesn’t figure to ever make use of a weekly press conference to point out that the upcoming game is “personal,” as Ryan famously has during this postseason.

Tomlin also works for an organization that would, in all likelihood, politely decline allowing HBO cameras to document the team’s training camp, as the Jets did this past summer for a reality series.

But throw all that out for a second.

During his weekly press conference Tuesday in advance of the AFC championship game between his Steelers (13-4) and Ryan’s Jets (13-5), Tomlin implied that if someone were given that kind of behind-the-scenes access to his team, they’d discover that the Jets and Steelers aren’t that far apart.

“Our styles are probably more similar than you would imagine,” Tomlin said. “Rex just has more fun with you guys (in the media).”

What’s more, just as Ryan had several kind words for his counterpart the day before, Tomlin reciprocated the mutual admiration society Tuesday, offering a sincere, “I love Rex” when first asked about the former defensive coordinator of Pittsburgh’s rival, the Baltimore Ravens.

Tomlin said there’s a lot more depth to Ryan than just the sometimes-brash, wise-cracking, jovial coach who appears to be so much at ease in the spotlight standing behind a podium.

“When you see past all of those things, this is a great football coach,” said Tomlin, who is in his fourth season with Pittsburgh. “He has the pulse of his football team, and he does a great job of motivating them. He’s very sound schematically in all three phases, and his glass is always half-full. I appreciate that.”

While some might say they’re growing tired of Ryan’s mouth, it’s working. The Jets are in their second straight AFC championship game, and Ryan has a chance to match Tomlin’s feat of winning a Super Bowl in only his second season as a head coach.

Plus, the case could be made that Ryan’s occasional over-the-top antics are good for the game. After all, the Jets’ win over the New England Patriots on Sunday was the most-watched divisional playoff game in history, and it’d be naive to suggest the build-up Ryan helped create in the week leading up to it wasn’t part of that.

Still, Tomlin — like his players did the day before — chose not to engage in any trash talking. Not the Steelers way, of course.

“We’re in the AFC championship. Likes or dislikes really are irrelevant,” Tomlin said. “I think they’ve been pretty consistent about stating their intentions all year, which is to be world champs. I think we’ve been pretty consistent in stating ours. So you know where that’s going to lead us — that’s two trains on a track.”

Tomlin flashed his trademark, cool persona when asked whether he believed Ryan’s antics benefited the NFL.

“I think he’s great for the Jets, and I think that’s all he’s concerned about being great for,” Tomlin said. “He’s got them in the AFC championship game. I’m sure he’s not concerned about the National Football League.”

Ryan’s Jets were one of only four teams to beat the Steelers this season, a 22-17 victory Dec. 19 at Heinz Field. But Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, of course, did not play in that game due to an Achilles injury, and Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller also sat out because of a concussion.

Both have returned, and Polamalu wasted no time showing why he is a league defensive player of the year candidate. On the second play from scrimmage in his first game back Week 17 in Cleveland, Polamalu intercepted Colt McCoy. The Steelers scored on the ensuing play en route to a blowout victory that secured the No. 2 seed.

Still, Tomlin isn’t the type to suggest the absence of its top playmaker left the Steelers handcuffed in the loss.

“We weren’t,” Tomlin said. “We’re not going to use his presence or lack of presence as an excuse for anything. We have one standard and that standard is winning. The last time we played the Jets, they beat us.”

Although Polamalu will be limited in practice this week, that has become the norm in recent years. So, make no mistake. He will play Sunday. In fact, Tomlin characterized his team as “in great shape” on the injury front.

Starting offensive tackles Jonathan Scott (head) and Flozell Adams (illness) are fine, and defensive end Aaron Smith is even scheduled to fully practice for the first time since tearing his triceps Oct. 24.

“We’ll see where that practice participation takes us,” Tomlin said, adding that even if Smith, a former Pro Bowl player, did dress, he would have a limited role.

Tomlin said cornerback Bryant McFadden (abdominal strain) and reserve safety/special teamer Will Allen (knee sprain) will be limited in practice. William Gay will start if McFadden is unable to play.

These Are Not Your Father’s New York Jets

Source:  www.thestar.com - Scott Soshnick

(January 18, 2011) “Same old Jets” was the succinct assessment of the coach, Rex Ryan, whose underdog bunch had just completed what he’d projected to be the second-most-important win in franchise history.

Same old Jets. Ha. That’s a knee-slapper, even for the wig-wearing Ryan, the man who on day one in the new gig made boastful proclamations about visiting the White House. And soon.

According to Ryan, there was Joe Namath and Super Bowl III in 1969 and what transpired on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., where the Jets talked big and performed even bigger in a 28-21 win over the uncharacteristically sloppy New England Patriots. The Jets are, for the second straight season, one win shy of the Super Bowl, which Ryan declared as the do-or-disappoint goal at the outset of the season.

This time the Jets outperformed Bill Belichick’s poised and polished program, to use a college term, whose coach doesn’t say much because, well, three Super Bowl rings say enough.

You have to remember that Ryan’s father, Buddy, was an assistant to Weeb Ewbank on the Jets team that shocked the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl back when Namath was a pantyhose pitchman.

Ewbank, shortly before his death in 1998, spoke of his, uh, let’s call it unconventional, trick for keeping a cool and calm demeanour while his belly churned. A nervous coach leads to nervous players, said Ewbank, who would stick his hand in his pocket and twist his testicle. Yes, really. The way Ewbank explained it, the resulting pain would allow him to remain stoic, even if the next play determined which team won and which team lost.

A lot has transpired since Namath and his ballyhooed guarantee. And, as any fan of the J-E-T-S will tell you, much of it hasn’t been good. Most fans would like to forget the 1995 and 1996 seasons under Coach Rich Kotite, who won a grand total of four games. They’d like to forget about the heavy dose of disappointing draft picks. Too many to list.

Ryan has to understand that Jets fans have been conditioned to think Sisyphus, not Super Bowl. Up, down. Up, down. Repeat. If you told a Jets fan that, in the game on Sunday, one team would’ve muffed a fake punt in their own territory, the guys in green would’ve guessed their boys. Jets fans are conditioned to expect that something will go wrong.

Now, though, it seems that everything will go right.

Up next for the Jets is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the Super Bowl two years ago when wide receiver Santonio Holmes made a highlight-film catch inside the final minute. Holmes wears green now, not black and gold.

The Jets were half-a-game short of the big game last season, when they lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game. The Jets led at halftime, 17-13. Final score: Colts 30, Jets 17.

But that wasn’t the same old Jets. It was more about Manning’s brain, not to mention his right arm. Guess who the Jets beat in the first round of this season’s playoffs? First Manning, in Indy, then Brady, in Foxborough, and now the opponent is Ben Roethlisberger, in Pittsburgh. To label that gauntlet as formidable would be a grand understatement. Beating those teams, back-to-back-to-back, would be one of the more impressive feats in NFL playoff history.

Most times, what happens in the regular season doesn’t mean anything. Most times. It does this time. The Jets and Steelers met last month in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers, trailing by five points, drove inside the Jets’ 10-yard line with the clock winding down. Roethlisberger more than once cocked his right arm and let the football fly. Only, surprise, surprise, he couldn’t connect. The Jets won, 22-17.

These are not the same old Jets.

Turns out that Mark Sanchez is, indeed, a franchise quarterback. He’s looked shaky at times, yes, but he’s demonstrated the poise and precision required at the most stressful times. He’s good enough to beat Manning and Brady.

There probably won’t be a barrage of points scored by the Jets or Steelers, who odds-makers have installed as a field-goal favourite.

Don’t be surprised if Roethlisberger or Sanchez has the ball in his hands, clock ticking down and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

At that moment, take a gander at the Jets sideline to see if Ryan has his hands in his pockets.

Same old Jets.

Carmelo Anthony: A Model Superstar Break-Up

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Grange

(January 16, 2011) This week may provide some resolution to the question that has been hanging over the NBA since the season started: What next for Carmelo Anthony.

The gifted scorer – the most lethal bucket-getter in the league, for my money – in the last year of his contract and facing the possibility of an NBA lockout and a more restrictive wage environment, wants to sign a $65-million contract extension now, before the current collective bargaining agreement goes up in smoke.

The problem is who to sign the contract with?

He’s enjoyed great success in Denver – seven straight playoff appearances, a western conference finals showing, three straight 50-win seasons – but has worked for three different management teams and an owner that has consistently signalled that cost-savings is part of the plan (the Nuggets trading Marcus Camby to Los Angeles Clippers before the 2009-10 season, comes to mind) which makes it hard to add to an already expensive, veteran team

And can he get his way without going all LeBron or Bosh? That is, piss off the people who have paid his rent for his entire career?

Incredibly, the class of 2003 is heading into their ninth NBA season. Peers and Team USA teammates Bosh, LeBron and Dwayne Wade seem to have figured out a promising NBA middle-age for themselves; and now Anthony wants the same thing.

He requested a trade before the season started, and stated his preference to play for the New York Knicks. In the meantime Denver has been working hard to maximize value for their franchise player and it's the New Jersey Nets – eventually the Brooklyn Nets – that can put together the best trade package for Denver (and the biggest – with as many as 14 players potentially involved, an NBA record if it happens).

Meanwhile reports are that Anthony the player is in the middle of a tug-of-war between several powerful and potentially conflicting interests.

And all this is going on while Anthony still has to go to work.

What’s amazing, from afar, is that Anthony has been able to walk this tight rope without really alienating anyone.

He heard it from the crowd the Pepsi Center recently when he played poorly in a loss to New Orleans – the first time this season he’s been a target at home, despite months of trade speculation – but turned that around with a hustling, 28 points and 10 rebound effort in a win over the Suns the next chance.

For his part Anthony appears to have learned from the missteps of his peers.

Unlike Bosh, he appears to have been upfront with his current team, or as Anthony put it: "I'm not Chris Bosh." And he says he watched what happened with LeBron and won't be going there, either, telling Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen: "I would never go about it the way LeBron did it...If he could do it all over again, he wouldn't do it that way -- he would do it a totally different way, I can guarantee you that,"

Could it be that fans – fickle as they can be – realize they have no reason to boo their franchise player, even if he’s not long for the job any more?

Chris Bosh will get roasted when he returns to Toronto on Feb. 16th; he dissipated much if not all of the good will he built up in his seven years here when he began surveying fans via Twitter; and burned the rest of it when he complained about his cable.

Vince Carter? His quit job to force his trade to New Jersey will never be forgiven and has been a lasting stain on his career.

LeBron? There may be a few otherwise reasonable people who think he owed it to Cleveland to spend his entire career there, but not that many. But surely there is no one who thinks The Decision – torching his home state via his own television special – was the right way to go about leaving. He needs security when he returns to Cleveland now.

Anthony was drafted to play in Denver and signed a contract extension with them the first time he had the chance. He’s continued to play well for the Nuggets since it became clear he wasn’t going to sign another deal with them.

He needs to be proactive to secure the best opportunity for himself and what’s left of what are all too short a career; after all, it’s not like NBA commissioner David Stern is looking out for Anthony’s interests when he makes noises about cutting $800-million from the NBA wage bill.

People understand that; even if they don’t like it. Anthony has to do what he has to do.

In the meantime, play hard; play well; don’t pretend nothing is going on, but don’t rub it in everyone’s faces either.

Do all those things and chances are you’ll get the contract you want in the city you prefer, and you won’t have to use a police escort to return to your old place of work.

Looking Back At The NBA Season’s First Half

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(January 16, 2011) A look at the NBA, with some Raptors stuff thrown in for good measure, as the season reaches the halfway point:

Who are these guys?

Remember the old-time San Antonio Spurs, who won games with stifling defence and the presence of Tim Duncan anchoring the offence? Well, Duncan’s on pace to have – statistically – one of his worst seasons as a pro and the Spurs are a surprising fifth in scoring as the season gets near the halfway point.

What’s it mean?

It means San Antonio, where the Raptors play on Wednesday night, had the best record in the league at 34-6 before play Sunday, they are legitimate championship contenders, and the sublime talents of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are more than making up for any decline in Duncan’s production.

The sneaking suspicion, however, is that Duncan, with the blessing of coach Gregg Popovich, knows that what happens now really means nothing and when May and June roll around and games start to really count, he’ll be there.

Yes, it most certainly is

The use of Twitter is becoming rampant in the NBA, a way for players to get out unfiltered messages to their fans.

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so much.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 112-57 to the Lakers, LeBron James’s Twitter account had this message:

“Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”

Of course, James later denied much to do with the note, saying he just passed on a message but …

In his next game, he sprained an ankle in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He sat out the next game, a loss to Denver, and was on the sideline in street clothes again Saturday in Chicago as the Heat lost another one.

Karma? A bitch? Seems to be.

On the home front

If there’s karma around the Raptors, it’s almost certainly bad.

A young team without a star player had to fight through a spate of first-half injuries that sent the season careening off the rails.

They hit the halfway point with Reggie Evans (foot), Sonny Weems (back), Leandro Barbosa (hamstring) and Peja Stojakovic (knee) back home in Toronto while the team is in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Jerryd Bayless hasn’t been his normal self for a few weeks because of a bad ankle.

Someone must have done something bad in a former life.

Labour pains

Oh, that silly LeBron James.

He was at it earlier this season, talking about how the league might benefit from contraction as contentious negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement go on.

Later, he said he wasn’t quite sure what “contraction” meant — which is, itself, worrisome.

But with the CBA expiring in July and Commissioner David Stern openly talking about shorter, cheaper, less-guaranteed contracts, it’s going to be the big issue. The Feb. 18-20 all-star weekend — when Stern generally delivers a state of the league address, and union chief Billy Hunter does the same — is the next key moment.

Best teams?

Spurs and Celtics.

No, it wouldn’t be the dream final from a marketing point of view, but if the second half unfolds as the first did, it’d be folly to discount the possibilities of a San Antonio-Boston championship series.

The Spurs, as mentioned, have re-made themselves while the Celtics are what they’ve been for years — a veteran crew that knows what it takes to win every night out.

Boston has survived its own share of injuries — to Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West and the ever-fading ex-Raptor Jermaine O’Neal — but they have the best record in the East and a track record of post-season success. If they stay healthy in the second half, watch out.

Worst teams?

Plenty to choose from.

Sacramento, Cleveland and Minnesota seem to have the inside track on the No. 1 pick in June’s draft but there’s a host of others — Toronto among them, with Washington, Detroit and the Los Angeles Clippers — that could be in contention.

Ouch. A lot of ouch.

Yao Ming. Gone for the season, maybe gone forever.

Brandon Roy. Gone for weeks, maybe gone for the year.

Dirk Nowitzki. Gone for a couple of weeks and, with him, Dallas’s hot streak.

Joakim Noah. Gone for a couple of months.

Kevin Garnett. Gone for a couple of weeks.

Caron Butler. Gone for the year.

Greg Oden. Gone for the year.

John Wall. Gone quite often, it seems.

Guess the injury thing isn’t just limited to Toronto.

Speaking of the Raptors …

General manager Bryan Colangelo, a surprise arrival in Washington on Saturday night to see his charges, could be a busy many in the next six weeks.

He’s got a few trading chips — the expiring contracts of Peja Stojakovic and Reggie Evans, about $12.2 million left in the Chris Bosh trade exception — that he can use to acquire “assets” between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Colangelo has vowed to be active in his rebuilding of a young, unproven roster and he’ll be looking for other young players and draft picks, primarily, as he goes shopping.

He’s already made one significant move; others should follow.

Broadway revival

Thanks in large part to Amare Stoudemire, and the overall weakness of the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks have become somewhat relevant again.

It’s made for a good story in Gotham, and they currently occupy a playoff spot, but they are not at all close to the top four teams in the East.

Until …

If you’ve followed the breathless dispatches of the last week or so, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony may be headed to New York in a trade, or he may be headed to New Jersey in a trade, or he may be headed somewhere else in a trade.

But one thing seems certain: As the second half of the season begins, Anthony’s time with the Nuggets is coming to an end.

His will likely be the biggest trade of the second half of the season, but there are other teams to watch as well.

Charlotte, surging under new coach Paul Silas, may want to divest itself of Gerald Wallace, reports indicate Chris Kaman of the Clippers could be had, there will always be chatter about the availability of Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala — if a team will take Elton Brand as well — and Sacramento’s Samuel Dalembert would welcome a trade.

Buckle up, it might be a bumpy ride.

An emerging star

Too bad he plays on a team few care about, because Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers has become something of a phenomenon in his rookie year.

He’s a powerful dunker, plays with a reckless abandon and his style has become a YouTube sensation, with fans flocking to see video evidence of what he’s done lately.

Sure, there’s half a season to go, but if he’s not the rookie of the year, there should be an inquiry.

But, his team …

Is owned by a guy who has a tendency to, um, mess up.

So far this season, Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been caught heckling one of his own players — Baron Davis — from his courtside seat, and was named in a lawsuit filed by fired general manager Elgin Baylor. The lawsuit has all kinds of lurid details, including charges Sterling would bring a bevy of young women friends into the locker room so they could “admire” the bodies of the athletes.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

Is This Really The End? Brett Favre Files For Retirement

Source:  www.thestar.com - Reuters

(January 17, 2011) NEW YORK—Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who played the game with a boyish joy and bulldog determination, filed his retirement papers with the NFL after a 20-season career, the league confirmed on Monday.

The 41-year-old Favre, one of the game’s most decorated players, sat out the final game of the regular season with a concussion and said it would be his last.

It is the third time Favre has retired from the NFL, but after failing to make the playoffs in a season that included tendinitis in his right elbow, a broken ankle and split chin, the gray-haired grandfather said this time was for real.

“I know it’s time. And that’s OK. It is,” Favre said after the Vikings lost their final game of the season to the Detroit Lions on Jan. 2. “I hold no regrets, and I can’t think of too many players off hand that can walk away and say that.”

Favre, who also said he understood that some fans would be sceptical of his decision being truly final, filed retirement papers with the NFL on Monday, the league told Reuters.

Favre, whose record streak of 297 regular season starts ended in December because of a sprained shoulder, was a shadow of the player who enjoyed so much success a year earlier when he led Minnesota to within one win of a Super Bowl appearance.

His reputation took a hit when he was fined $50,000 by the NFL in December for not cooperating with an investigation into allegations he sent lewd messages to a female employee of the New York Jets when he was with the club in 2008.

Favre is a three time winner of the NFL’s most valuable player award and holds most major records for a quarterback, including career touchdowns, passing yards and wins.

He won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 1997 and was selected for the Pro Bowl on 11 occasions.

Favre began his professional career in 1991 when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons but did not make a great start. His first NFL pass was intercepted for a touchdown and he was traded to the Packers the following season.

He went on to establish himself as one of the greatest passers in the history of the game and spent the next 16 seasons with Green Bay, leading them to their first NFL title in 29 years when they beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 1997.

In 2008, Favre retired for the first time. But a few months later he signed with the New York Jets. He retired again after one season with the Jets but made another comeback, this time for the Vikings.

Despite his advancing years, Favre had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2009, throwing for over 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

But Favre’s numbers dropped off in his final season as he threw for 2509 yards and 11 touchdowns, the lowest totals since his rookie year when he played two games.

The Vikings, who began the season with hopes of making another playoff run, finished last in the NFC North Division with a 6-10 record.

Favre watched his final NFL game from the sidelines given post-concussion symptoms after being slammed to the turf during a game against the Chicago Bears two weeks earlier.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Concussed Crosby Improving But Could Miss All-Star Game

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(January 18, 2011) PITTSBURGH—Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is feeling better despite a concussion that has sidelined him for six games, but doesn’t know when he can resume practising or playing. Crosby’s status for the All-Star game Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C., is uncertain, although he said Tuesday there is a “slight chance” he could be back for it. Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer despite being out for nearly two weeks, is experiencing occasional headaches that are preventing him from returning. The Penguins have said Crosby will not take the ice again, even for practice, until he is symptom free. Crosby was injured after absorbing hits to the head in successive games, Jan. 1 against Washington in the Winter Classic and Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay.