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


July 21, 2011

Things are popping off in Toronto this summer, as evidenced by all the HOT EVENTS listed this week, which are listed in date order below!  Always wanted to visit Toronto?  Well any time in the next few weeks would be ideal and you'd get to hit some of these great events!

Leading the pack is
FAHWARD; the experience of a dance and fete, all under one roofthis Friday!  Next in the calendar line-up is the After Dark Caribana Party, which is the city's post Caribana parade party on Captain John's boat on Saturday, July 30th! And for all the golf fans out there, or especially the wanna-be golf players, there's the FREE event in the Street Golf Tour And Concert on Sunday, July 31st.  Lots of free giveaways here with a great cause and purpose behind it. Check it all out below!

And now a special giveaway offer for all da Kink fans out there - and for
those that don't know what that is (have you been sleeping?).  da Kink, the musical version, hits Toronto (post U.S. shows) in August!  If you can tell me where the performances will be held in Toronto, you could win a pair of tickets. The answer is under HOT EVENTS.  Enter the contest HERE

Now, if you want to look fly for all these events, stop by
LUX SPA for your beautification ... men included! Check out all the services under SCOOP!

 This week includes news on
D'Angelo, Derek Luke, The Yard and Roberto Alomar, with lots LOTS more!

Just click on the photo or the headline and you'll have your latest entertainment news!  OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles
 This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members!


The Ultimate in Reggae Vs Soca – Friday, July 22

Ajahmae Live Entertainment

So many of you have lamented about the fact that there are no parties like this.  Finally, someone has put the best of both worlds together – reggae and soca.  The team that brought you Trinidad vs Jamaica Comedy Clash brings you the Reggae vs Soca musical event of the summer. 
FAHWARD; the experience of a dance and fete, all under one roof.  Move FAHWARD! The Toronto Carnival Edition, Friday, July 22nd at the Vue Nightclub.

Check out the promo video here!

Come hear CIUT's KingTurbo's Slingshot vs CHRY’s Island Explosion's DJ DOC. Tickets are only $15!

Receive a free promotional CD while supplies last. This event will be iconic.  The best jam in the west - FAHWARD!

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2011
The Vue
195 Galaxy Blvd
(Dixon & Carlingview)
Doors Open At 10:00pm
Advanced Tickets $15
$20 At The Door
Info 416-428-0164

Jamaica House (Finch) 416-744-2913
Jamaica House ( Brampton ) 905-874-6811
Granny's ( Mississauga ) 905-272-4950
Island Mix (Pickering) 905-831-1649
Play De Record (Downtown) 416-586-1649
Nicey’s Scarborough 416-497-9717
Nicey’s Brampton 905-450-6045
Shine Barbershop 905-790-3031



After Dark Caribana Party – Saturday, July 30, 2011

Source: Top Rank Promotions

Top Rank Promotions (formally with the United Professionals) and Too Nubian Entertainment have been over the last 14 years providing  The
Caribana event post parade for those of us with discerning taste and the desire to get our party on with like-minded individuals , friends and family; that party takes place as always aboard Captain John’s Ship (air conditioned and remains docked)!

The music is orchestrated by some of the GTA’s most experienced (3 generations deep) and versatile DJ’s (Bump N’ Hustle, Back in the day, CHRY 105.5FM), including Juiceman Jonathan Shaw, DJ Niterider, DJ Kicks, Paul E. Lopes and Uncle Funke.

This party has consistently proven itself to be a highlight of the summer (large ballroom, lounge and open ships deck /patio).

As we have always maintained, “This Unique party is where the adults will be” so if your musical tastes run the gamut of Old school, RnB, Reggae, Soca, Dancehall, House, Disco, Hip Hop, Soul and Slow Jams  etc., it’s all going to be played.  Don’t miss out because all your friends will be here!

1 Queens Quay West
(Queens Quay and Yonge Street)
Toronto, Ontario
9: 30 Pm
$20 in Advance $30 @door B4 Midnight


Free Street Golf Tour And Concert - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolutionary STREET GOLF TOUR and CONCERT at Yonge-Dundas Square, Caribana Sunday, July 31 (all day) features a Super Mini Golf Course (computer simulators, driving/chipping nets, etc.), prizes to win at each hole, FREE PGA Certified Coaching Session for beginners, extra tips from a Special Guest Professional Golf Player, skills contests including hole-in-one, fastest swing, longest swing and perfect swing challenges, live DJs, music artists and more!  Grand Prizes include a chance to play in the Angus Glen BPL ROSE GGA Golf Tournament on August 28th! 

We are driving to promote the Holistic and Transcendent Benefits of
Golf, especially as it relates to developing concentration, focus, character, etiquette, vision and goals.  Funds raised will support the Grassroots Golf Association, where you can sign up to received Sponsored Golf Equipment, Sponsored Professional Golf Coaching, the best Certified Life Coaching and Business Coaching!  All ages are invited to Pre-Register in the Street Golf Tour Super Mini Tournament in advance for half price at www.streetgolftour.com or info@streetgolftour.com.  Limited same day registrations will be accepted.  See you there!

"Golf brings out your assets and liabilities as a person.  The longer you play, the more certain you are that a man's performance is the outward manifestation of who, in his heart, he really thinks he is."
-Hale Irwin (3 time U.S. Open Champ, World Golf Hall of Fame)

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011
1 Dundas Street East
11:00 am
(Visit website for Super Mini Golf Tournament Entry Fee and Skills Contest Entry Fee to Win CA$H and PRIZES


'da Kink in my Hair On Stage August 11 – 21, 2011

Source: Trey Anthony Studios

BACK by Popular Demand! Five years ago,
Da Kink in my Hair took Toronto by storm – it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences!  Now it's finally back.

Held over five times at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences!

'da KINK is 'da bomb!" --Toronto Sun

Kicking off its international tour for 14 performances only!  Set in a Caribbean hair salon in Toronto, this amazing musical gives voice to eight dynamic women who tell their incredible, uncensored, unforgettable stories.  Stories that will move, inspire, and delight you!

a new Canadian and U.S. ensemble!  A brand new musical score and a breathtaking, new monologue

This award winning, heartfelt play is guaranteed to have you laughing, crying and yelling, ‘you go girl!’  Get your tickets before they’re gone!

AUGUST 11 – 21, 2011
Enwave Theatre
231 Queens Quay West
Previews: $30; VIP, Red Carpet, Opening Night: $99;(includes reception); Regular: $37-$77

Call 416-973-4000 or visit Harbourfront Centre HERE

View the exciting Kink trailer:


Welcome To Lux-Spa Toronto's Destination For Hands And Feet

Source: www.lux-spa.com

LUX-SPA offers the ultimate in luxurious specialized treatments for hands and feet with unparalleled service and fastidious attention to hygiene. This award-winning "social spa", ideally suited for meeting friends or clients, is also an excellent event venue.

Time-out for Summer Skin Relief

Deep pore cleaning, exfoliation and moisturizing are all critical to replenish glowing summer skin. Call a time out and spend a few hours soothing and perfecting your summer skin. Make an appointment and get your summer skin relief today!


LUX-SPA is the ultimate indulgence for your hands.
Give your hands the total spa treatment, with LUX-SPA's unparalleled beauty expertise. Our advanced approach to the art of nail and hand care will have your hands looking and feeling more gorgeous than you ever thought possible.  LUX-SPA is the ultimate indulgence for your hands.  Give your hands the total spa treatment, with LUX-SPA's unparalleled beauty expertise. Our advanced approach to the art of nail and hand care will have your hands looking and feeling more gorgeous than you ever thought possible.


LUX-SPA is the supreme luxury for your feet.  The LUX-SPA pedicure is a
divine experience. Using the latest treatments and advanced methods, LUX-SPA beautifully transforms your feet like never before. At LUX-SPA the pedicure becomes an art form.  Click on SERVICES to have LUX-SPA can indulge your feet...


LUX-SPA may not offer you facials, body massage and exotic body treatments but we do indulge you in the most expert finishing services to give you that whole head to toe beautification! 
LUX-SPA offers the latest advancements in the arts of full body waxing, threading, airbrush tanning, professional makeup application and lash enhancements. Take a look at how we can help your body look and feel more beautiful...


We're much more than a spa. We're an experience.  While your
esthetician polishes your nails to perfection our award-winning interior will delight the eye. And while your aching feet are being massaged you can indulge in a warm cup of tea to soothe the soul. It's all about the details. Invite a friend into our "social spa" and experience the immediate benefits of the LUX-SPA difference.


Lux Spa carries the following lines for purchase:



25 Bellair Street
Toronto, ON M5R 3L3
(416) 921-1680
Located in the heart of Yorkville, LUX-SPA is conveniently open 6 days a week.
To make an appointment please call 416-921-1680 or Book Online.


D’Angelo Back in the Studio Recording New Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 15, 2011) *Reclusive R&B singer
D’Angelo looks to be back at work on his long awaited third album.

According to Billboard.com, a studio session took place in New York late last night with two longtime D’Angelo collaborators, Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and bassist Pino Palladino, as well as producer/engineer Russell Elevado, according to posts from Questlove on Twitter.

“Most people use midnight as a time to sleep. others are working on their 11 year follow-up. this of course being hour number one,” tweeted the drummer.

The album, which was at one point provisionally titled “James River,” is being eyed for release before the end of the year through J Records, according to a Billboard source. It will be D’Angelo’s follow-up to the 2000 album “Voodoo,” which won the 2001 Grammy for best R&B album and has sold 1.7 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Questlove and Palladino later backed D’Angelo on an acclaimed tour in support of the album.

Billboard reports:

The new project has been plagued by long breaks in recording and other delays, and many collaborators have come and gone. Last year, producer Mark Ronson told Billboard.com he was about to hit the studio with D’Angelo, but it is unknown if any of his work will make the final cut. Prince, Raphael Saadiq, John Mayer, Cee Lo Green and Roy Hargrove have also been mentioned as contributors at various times during the process.

Since the release of “Voodoo,” D’Angelo has endured a serious car accident and arrests for drug possession and solicitation. In lieu of new music of his own, he’s made sporadic guest appearances on albums by Ronson, Common, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip and the late J Dilla. His last release under his own name was the 2008 Virgin compilation “The Best So Far,” which rounds up highlights from “Voodoo” and its 1995 predecessor “Brown Sugar,” along with soundtrack contributions.

Derek Luke - The HawthoRNe” and “Captain America” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Independent Spirit Award-winner
Derek Luke (for Antwone Fisher) has joined the cast of TNT’s HawthoRNe, the powerful medical drama starring and executive-produced by Jada Pinkett Smith. In a multi-episode arc that began with the June 14th season premiere, Derek is playing the role of Dr. Miles Bourdet, a young surgeon who arrives at James River Hospital to become the protégé of Dr. Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan). Currently in the midst of a divorce, Miles will attract the attention of Camille Hawthorne (Hannah Hodson), daughter of Jada’s character Christina Hawthorne.

In addition to the title role in Antwone Fisher, Luke’s feature film credits include Friday Night Lights, Miracle at St. Anna and Notorious. Here, he talks about HawthoRNe as well as his new movie,
Captain America: The First Avenger.

Kam Williams: Hey Derek, thanks for another interview.
Derek Luke:
No doubt! Same here, Kam.

How you been?  
Things are great! I been blessed, bro.

So, what interested you in joining the cast of HawthoRNe?
DL: First, a project has to speak to my heart. When I got the call to do HawthoRNe with Jada, I appreciated the fact that they were very open to collaboration and building my character. That was a signal to me loud and clear, as a person who cares about what type of message the show was going to deliver, that this was going to be a great opportunity. 

KW: How would you describe your character, Dr. Miles Bourdet?
As a man juggling a number of different responsibilities. He’s a
husband, a father, and a professional. And what he’s discovering is that it’s necessary for him to manage and balance all three roles.  

KW: How are people reacting to seeing you on a TV series instead of in a movie?
Word on the street is that people are really excited and, secondly, I’m learning how many people already love HawthoRNe.  

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Currently, you’re appearing in Captain America, a summer blockbuster, and you have this new ongoing role on the TV series. Which type of work do you prefer?
DL: [Laughs] Which do I prefer? I started in movies, and that has given me a license to go into TV. If I have to pick one, I’d have to say movies, since that was my first love.  

Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier asks: How did you decide to play Gabe Jones?
DL: In this case, we didn’t get to see the scripts until well after we’d signed on. But I knew that Gabe Jones was created by the legendary Stan Lee. And that Gabe happens to be one of the few African-American characters in the comic world, period. In the very first Marvel Comics issue he appeared in he was white, because the printer assumed that the illustrator had made a mistake and changed his color.  

KW: Patricia also asks: What profession would be your second choice after acting, and why?
DL: Wow! What a great question! It’s funny, because my acting career started with a question to God: What were you thinking when you made me? So, I would like to think my second career would be whatever His plan was.

Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What does the role of Dr. Miles Bourdet mean to you?
DL: It means that there’s an opening for spirituality on television. What I love is that he gets to play a healer beyond basic medicine. He’s actually interested in changing people’s lives. Secondly, he’s a man of color with morals and integrity. I’m very proud of that.

Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What is your greatest source of inspiration? How important is spirituality to you and where do you find spiritual nourishment?
DL: The Bible. There’s a verse in The Bible that says, “What makes a man spiritual is ‘The Word.’” And I read a dose of The Word every day.

KW: Florine’s follow-up is: Do you have a favorite quote which resonates with you that you’d like to share?
DL: Yes: “Art without heart is cold and aimless.”

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: Who was your mentor and how important do you think it is to have a mentor?
DL: One of my first mentors was a Bahamian pastor by the name of Myles Munroe. I was given his book at a time that I was starving spiritually. Mentors are very important because they serve as the voices that help guide us on our journey.

KW: Judyth also asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
Now that’s an excellent question. All successful people share a determination and a will to refuse limitation.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome on the road to success?
DL: Believing that God had a plan for me bigger than my abilities.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets," asks: What business advice do you have for aspiring actors?
The first thing I’d tell an actor is to find out what you were destined to do in show business and make it a need that only you can brand.

Jimmy Bayan asks: If you had five minutes of your life to live over again, which ones would it be?
[Pauses to think] Gee, I may have to come back to that one.

What is your favorite dish to cook?
DL: I like baking pastries, especially sweet potato pie.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DL: I see grace and mercy.

If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
Hmm….That everyone in the world be impregnated with a dream. 

The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Growing up free from any responsibilities.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
Nana Boateng.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DL: It starts with a hunger to change.

The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
DL: With worship.

The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DL: As a man who fulfilled all his potential.

Thanks again for the time, Derek, and best of luck with both HawthoRNe and Captain America.
Hey Kam, thank you.

To see a trailer for HawthoRNe, visit HERE

To see a trailer for Captain America, visit HERE

In 'The Yard,' Schoolyard Politics Make For Charged TV Mockumentary

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald

(Jul 13, 2011) On Flashpoint, Enrico Colantoni plays a flinty-eyed police officer who defuses life-threatening situations without breaking stride. But one balmy day last summer, the Toronto actor was on a TV set in an entirely different role - as stage dad to his 13-year-old son Quintin, who is a lead in the new HBO Canada series
The Yard.

"He looks just like me, but with hair," quips the doting papa, best-known as the libidinous photographer on the hit sitcom Just Shoot Me!

Colantoni, on hiatus during the summer from filming CTV's Flashpoint, was on hand every day at Givins/Shaw Public School, where The Yard - a quirky, six-part miniseries that bills itself as the kids' version of The Sopranos - was filmed in Toronto.

The show is a mockumentary about two rival gangs (the good guys led by Quintin's quick-thinking character Nick Moshanski) who are jostling for supremacy in the politically charged environment of a schoolyard - usually during recess.

"I've been waiting for someone to do a children's version of The Sopranos," said the younger Colantoni, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Canada. "And even though this is one of my first 'real' acting jobs, I'm not nervous. With my dad being an actor, I'm kind of used to the whole set atmosphere. So it was an easy transition for me."

The miniseries was developed by director Mike Mabbott (The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico) and novelist and Globe and Mail advice columnist Dave Eddie. They insist that the idea came to each of them independently.

"I was living in Vancouver and I used to play tennis at a public school at Main and Broadway," says Mabbott. "Nine times out of 10, we'd be there when the recess bell rang, and these kids would come screaming out ... [ready] to take care of business. I was fascinated by the very real power struggle there, one not that dissimilar from the adult world."

For his part, Eddie was struck by the schoolyard power struggle as metaphor for adult shenanigans after watching his eldest son Nick interact with his then-Grade 6 peers at Givins/Shaw, where his three boys go to school.

"I was sitting right on these steps watching Nick, and thinking this yard reminds me of a prison," says Eddie, who talks on set while dressed for his role as an ex-con, cafeteria slop server in a filthy apron, striped pants and muscle shirt that proudly shows off the tattoos (the name of his sons) on his right arm. "Nick was with his best friend Joel, and it seemed to me that other kids were coming up to him, asking him questions, and he was dispensing advice and solutions. He later disabused me of this notion and explained the leader of the yard was this other kid named Quan.... He called him the Minister of Information."

Eddie and Mabbott found out that they both had a similar idea for a show when they met to talk about turning Eddie's novel Chump Change into a film (a project still in the works). Mabbott told his friend he'd long been mulling the idea of a documentary about kids and the natural pecking order that quickly establishes itself in the school yard. But he could never figure out how a doc like that might work - let alone how it would get funded. Eddie suggested a TV program, and they hammered out a script.

Still, Eddie bluntly acknowledges that while he was intrigued by the idea of The Yard, he didn't think the series would ever see the light of day. Mabbott was upbeat, however, and convinced Eddie to work with him on a pilot. It ended up in front of Whizbang, a production company helmed by Frank Siracusa and Paul Gross (yes, the Due South mountie). Gross loved the quirkiness and uniqueness of the script so much that he joined on as executive producer. With backing from The Movie Network and Movie Central, the show was green-lit.

Mabbott estimates that the production team interviewed more than 400 kids from coast to coast for the 10 to 15 primary spots on the series. Initially, they were looking for kids with acting experience, but they soon realized that those with less polish, and more spontaneity, were better suited for The Yard.

The last role to be cast was Nick. Hiring Colantoni, Mabbott says, was a total fluke.

"We were in Frank's office at Whizbang lamenting that we still had not been able to find the 10-out-of-10 Nick. I looked across the hall and saw Enrico. On his way out, he popped his head in, and said 'I'll get my kid to put himself on tape for you.'

"It just seemed the way it was supposed to happen. You spend days and weeks in casting sessions looking for this kid, and then some guy looks in and says, 'Hey, I've got the kid for you.' And he did. You can't direct a kid to do what his kid does. It's just a presence."

It showed on set. As scores of extras were excitedly milling around the lunch counter, getting gruel from ex-con chef Eddie, the noise level was almost deafening. Through all the clamour, though, the diminutive Colantoni, shag hair reaching almost to his chin, maintained an air of calm and cool - much like the self-assured Nick, who is "the capo" of school and an astute reader of human nature.

Watching his son from the sidelines, Nick's proud dad agrees he seems to have a knack for the craft.

"It's true what they say: You can't teach someone how to act," says Colantoni, who also has a 10-year-old daughter with aspirations to be in theatre. "A lot of young actors are a little over self-conscious - they're either too happy or they're doing the monkey dance. Quintin is just very comfortable in his own skin.'"

Blue Jays To Retire Alomar’s No. 12

Source:  www.thestarcom - Richard Griffin

(Jul 19, 2011) Next Sunday, Roberto Alomar will become the first player to enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown wearing a Blue Jays cap.

A week after that, on July 31 at the Rogers Centre, he will become the first Jays player to have his uniform number retired.

The last player to wear No. 12 was Edwin Encarnacion. Nobody except Alomar will ever wear it again.

“It’s a special day for me,” Alomar said at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday. “I received a phone call from Paul Beeston that they were going to retire No. 12. I was speechless. I was happy. I was honoured and like I always say, this is my second home.

“I want to thank the whole organization. I want to thank Paul Beeston, Cito Gaston and especially the fans for embracing me since day one.

There are nine names on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence, stretching from foul pole to foul pole, but none of the other players — Tony Fernandez, Joe Carter, George Bell, Dave Stieb — has been so honoured.

Alomar talked about how he ended up with the No. 12. It seems that when he was finally in position to make the San Diego Padres’ roster out of training camp, they asked him what number he wanted. No. 2 was his favourite because it was his father Sandy Sr.’s as a player, but his dad was a coach with the Padres at the time.

No. 1 was his winter league number, but shortstop Garry Templeton had it in San Diego. Robbie’s solution was to combine the two numerals.

One constant for Alomar was his appreciation of the Jays’ fans.

“When I came here for the first time, it was one of the biggest trades in baseball history,” Alomar said. “I don’t think anybody knew about Robbie Alomar. There was a lot of pressure for a young player. But when I came here and put that uniform on, the fans embraced me the same way I embraced them. . . . That’s why I want to thank the fans, because (without) them maybe none of these things would have happened. The fans are a big part of my life. I owe the fans and the organization for embracing me and taking care of me since the day that I got here.”

Alomar spent five seasons in a Blue Jays uniform from 1991-95, winning two World Series and going to five straight all-star games, four as a starter. He left as a free agent following the 1995 season, signing a three-year contract with the Orioles as a free agent.

The ceremony retiring Alomar’s No. 12 will take place prior to a game against the Rangers.


Mac Miller Attack

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jul 15, 2011) Pittsburgh rapper
Mac Miller is garnering wide appeal with songs named for Donald Trump and Nike, but Torontonians may have noted his attempts to steal some shine from our Drake.

“It was all in good fun,” said Miller of telling an interviewer that he, not Drizzy, whom he hasn't met, was “the coolest Jewish rapper.”

However, the 19-year-old upstart was also quick to embrace the idea of collaborating with Drake suggesting “maybe we could make a Hanukah song.”

Responding on Twitter, Drake said “Haaaaaa . . . s--t like this can only be settled in Tel Aviv. Birthright sound clash.”

Maybe it should be settled here in Drake's home town; Mac Miller clearly has a growing throng of fans here. His first headlining show here, in March, was moved from the Mod Club to the larger Opera House to meet demand; it sold out. His Saturday show at Kool Haus — with a capacity of 2,500 people, three times that of the Opera House — is sold out, too.

Tickets are still available for Sunday's show, but it's still a remarkable trajectory for an artist still working on his debut full-length album. (Just last week he announced the title of the forthcoming debut Blue Slide Park in a hilarious online
video.) In the meantime Miller has six mixtapes to his name, and the endorsement from fellow Pittsburgh rapper and labelmate Wiz Khalifa, and even scored a spot in the XXL magazine's authoritative Freshman Class of 2011.

“I have a lot of songs definitely done, but I don't really have a deadline for myself yet,” Miller told the Star about the project in a phone interview. “Blue Slide Park is park in Pittsburgh that a lot of my friends and I grew up at and where we partied when we were older. There's also a deeper concept to it, but I'm not letting that out yet.”

Miller's story seems relatable to lots of his young fans, as in cheerily ambitious lyrics on “Knock Knock”: “I feel like a million bucks/ But my money don't really feel like I do/ And from the ground I built my own damn buzz/ People was amazed I was still in high school/ But now I'm out, and money what I'm 'bout . . .”

With more than 10 million YouTube views apiece, his most popular mixtape salvos — “Nikes on My Feet,” “Donald Trump” and “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” — showcase goofily aggressive lyrics that match his demeanour and a stripped-down throwback sound. The latter is definitely reflected on the pending disc, said the tattoo-covered , backwards-baseball-cap-wearing emcee.

“It means a lot for me to have my first album to be very hip-hop based,” he said. “There's also a lot of other really cool music, because I do play guitar and I want to push my fans boundaries as well as my own.”

One of two sons of a photographer mother and architect father, Miller ditched piano lessons at 6 and continued on his own, also teaching himself to play several other instruments. “I've never liked to be classically trained. I never liked lessons or people telling me what I should do with music. Hip hop for me was something that I could do that I didn't need to go to school for.

“I also wasn't always the best musician; I can't really read music very well and the competition in being a professional musician is just ridiculous. Hip hop was something that I love and most importantly was just fun in every aspect.”

Miller, who began freestyling at local haunts at 15, credits his focus for the growing acclaim — including 600,000 Twitter followers — that has allowed him to work with A-list producers, such as DJ Premier, Q-Tip and Jazzy Jeff. The latter even said, “Mac to me is a young Will (Smith). He wants to have fun, he has a great time with his music, he's 19 years old and living life to the fullest.”

Which is not to say Miller's partying. “For instance, working on my album, I've been living in the studio pretty much, after being on tour for five months,” the rapper says. “A lot of people would tell me that I should take some time off and relax and be a normal kid for a little bit and just hang out, like, go to the pool.

“But I've just been in the studio 24-7. Then, there's being involved in everything that goes into anything with my album — from how its promoted, what we're doing for marketing, how the tours have been set up, the album title.

“I haven't been able to spend as much time with people in my life that don't feel like staying in the studio with me all night. Hopefully, they understand. I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I feel I've been given a one in a billion opportunity to really make something of my life with music. I feel like me taking a day that's not working with it and doing as much as I can is kind of spitting in the face of people who don't have this opportunity.”

And, he certainly doesn't have time to be concerned about living up to expectations, he said.

“I think that people that think too much about what to expect kind of cut themselves short of what they're capable of doing. Why would I worry about what people are expecting me to do and what they want me to do and not worry about what I want my music to be and where I want to take it? I try to block all that stuff out and take it to a place that's more about my creativity and where I can see it going.

“Besides, every time I set a goal, I kind of pass it with flying colours. My dream has been to tour overseas and now in the fall I have whole European tour scheduled and I'm selling out shows in places like Paris and Amsterdam and Toronto. It's just really cool and it's crazy the power of music to really gather as many people as it does across the whole entire world.”

Eleanor Friedberger Goes Sibling-Free

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

(Jul 19, 2011) Eleanor Friedberger has recorded seven albums with the Fiery Furnaces, the prominent art-rock band she formed a decade ago with her brother Matt. The Friedbergers's songs together are often extravagant, wordy medleys full of surrealistic detail. Last week, Merge Records released Eleanor's first sibling-free album, Last Summer.

What did you want to do on your first solo record?

All the songs are about remembering things that have happened to me in New York since I moved here 11 years ago. I wanted to write songs from the point of view of someone who hadn't done all the stuff I've done with the Fiery Furnaces. But I wouldn't have been able to do this if I hadn't had all that experience.

Did you do anything else to separate the sound and concept of this record from your Fiery Furnaces albums?

I wanted it to be simpler.

The songs are very Brooklyn-specific, and loaded with personal details that the rest of us may understand in some way but not recognize.

That comes to me naturally, and has a lot to do with the way Matt and I started writing songs together. I would tell him stories, and we would turn those into lyrics. A good story has specific details, I think that's what people latch onto.

Your video for My Mistakes uses footage of you getting ready for a date when you were in university. How did that happen to be filmed?

One of my best friends shot that for an art class. I was just the actor, I had nothing to do with the concept. She found the VHS in her basement about a year ago, and we watched it and thought it was very funny. Britt [Daniel, of the indie-rock band Spoon] was my college boyfriend, so that's why he's in it. I did a few shows with Spoon right after their album came out, and I said, 'Britt, you should use this for a video.' We talked, but nothing came of it, so I thought, 'Now's my chance to use it.'

That was generous of you, to offer it to him first.

It was generous, and stupid of him not to take me up on it. (laughs)

Speaking of getting dressed, in the chorus of another song you sing, 'For my last ensemble, I'm wearing nothing at all.' What's that about?

I often say that. It sounds like it's sexy, but it's really about women and my girlfriends and getting dressed. Sometimes I wish I could be on stage naked. I feel naked up there, and I wish that I didn't actually have to wear anything. I can't believe I just said that.

The revelation for me, in the video, was that you have a very pronounced widow's peak.

Yes, I was once Eddie Munster for Halloween. Nobody gets to see my forehead any more. You wouldn't believe how many people I know saw that video and didn't realize it was me.

What did you think, back then, that you'd end up doing with your life?

I have no idea. I was in film school. I thought maybe I could be a journalist, or a film producer. I loved music, I had a fourtrack and a guitar, and I played music, but not very seriously or in front of anybody. My brother would send me songs sometimes. Whenever I'd see a band play, I'd think, 'I could do that better.' That was my attitude, kind of competitive, I guess from growing up playing sports.

When did you get serious about music?

It was the year I lived in London, after I finished school. I made some friends who also did home recordings, but they took it very seriously. They weren't really into in doing it commercially, more as an art form. I played in front of one friend, and he was really encouraging. It just took being around the right people, I guess.

What's next for the Fiery Furnaces?

We've been talking about doing a film about making an album, about the creative process. Matt and I would play ourselves, but exaggerated, or slightly different versions of ourselves. Matt would love to do a soundtrack, and there would be us making an album. The idea would be to make something that's good enough that you've don't have to know who the Fiery Furnaces are to want to see it.

When did you last perform with Matt?

We toured together in May. Now I'm going out alone, which is a bit terrifying. I've never gone on tour before without my brother. So it's like, "Wow, I'm really growing up," at the age of 34.

Eleanor Friedberger plays the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto Tuesday.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Josh Groban: Sweet And Slyly Subversive

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

(Jul 19, 2011) Josh Groban definitely knows how to make an impression. After his band offered an instrumental version of Straight to You as an overture, Groban entered the Air Canada Centre in Toronto from the rear, walking through the crowd to a small satellite stage by the mixing desk.

Seating himself at the piano, he launched into a pair of emotionally expressive ballads. Then, after finishing the mournful, nostalgic February Song, he stood and thanked the crowd for coming. "You paid out the wazoo to be here tonight," he said, "so I'm going to sing my ass off for you."

Oh, that Josh - such a kidder!

Middlebrow radical

By rights, Groban should be what seniors call "a nice young man," a charming, pleasant performer with a well-trained voice and a penchant for the sort of sweet, tuneful songs they allegedly don't write any more. Rosie O'Donnell famously dubbed him "Opera Boy," and indeed, his biggest hits - You Raise Me Up and the Christmas chestnut O Holy Night - have made good use of his rich tone and controlled power.

But at 30, the youthful-looking Groban is no mere boy, nor does he seem intent on following Wayne Newton's path down the middle of the road to cultural irrelevance. At the same time, however, he seems genuinely to like old-fashioned melodies, the sort of tunes even the kids on Glee find corny.

So instead of reinventing himself as an indie-rock hipster, like Renée Fleming, Groban has followed his bliss, sticking with big, expressive melodies even as the underlying harmony and structure grew increasingly sophisticated.

Basically, he decided to make middlebrow music edgy - which in its way is far more subversive than covering Death Cab for Cutie.

The big wink

Groban is also quite the joker, and delights in playing against expectations. Toward the end of Monday's show, he went through the audience searching for people to bring onstage. He found a couple who'd been married for 25 years, a pretty "single lady," and a nine-year-old girl. After apologizing that his stage set lacked furniture, he instructed his stage crew to bring out the inflatable sofas they'd been using backstage and seated his guests.

To foster the proper atmosphere, he had wine brought out, plus some milk for the little girl, and served his special audience while joking about possible liability ("I'm pouring my career away ..." he crooned). Once everyone was settled and expecting some romantic music, Groban said, "I'm going to sing you a song about cheating."

The house exploded in laughter.

But the really sly thing about Groban's gag was that the song, Broken Vow, really was a lovely romantic ballad, which he sang with tenderness and sensitivity. It just happened to be about someone trying to figure out why his lover left him.

Beauty versus power

Because middlebrow pop aspires to the grandeur of classical but eschews its artiness, the genre has a weakness for big, musical theatre-style voices. Groban, however, played down his power, keeping to the upper end of his range, which lightened his sound, lessening the temptation to simply power through the ballads.

His falsetto was particularly affecting, and when he sang You Are Loved and Bells of New York City, the brightness of his high notes underscored the sweetness of each refrain. It was genuinely bel canto singing, and while it didn't always work - Machine had him sounding like an even paler Michael McDonald, and he didn't quite manage the rhythmic grace to animate Voce Existe Em Mim - his best moments were wonderfully intimate.

Perhaps that's why he handed off the triumphant You Raise Me Up to his audience. By asking the crowd to fill in for the recorded version's gospel choir, he inverted the model, so that instead of uplifting bombast, the tune became a homey singalong. It was sweet and slyly subversive - classic Groban, in other words.

Josh Groban's tour continues Friday in Ottawa and Saturday in Montreal. He plays Vancouver on Aug. 30; Calgary, Sept. 1; Edmonton, Sept. 2; and Winnipeg, Sept. 4.

Rare Talent Liu Fang Wants To Play Toronto — Someday

Source:  www.thestarcom - By John Goddard

(Jul 19, 2011) FORDE, NORWAY—Sometimes you have to travel abroad to discover the best of Canada.

Liu Fang of Montreal delivered an emotionally intense, stunning performance last weekend at Norway’s leading folk festival. While recognition continues to elude her in Toronto, she drew explosive applause at the Forde Folk Music Festival’s opening gala, in the celebrated fjord-studded region of the country’s west coast.

Without speaking a word, elegantly dressed in a sleeveless gown, Fang leaned into her signature instrument — the four-stringed Chinese pipa — alternately caressing it, stroking it and whacking it like a flamenco guitar.

Her virtuoso display bolstered this year’s “Women of the World” theme for the annual festival’s 22nd edition, emphasizing a worldwide talent pool of female artists, young and old, established and on-the-rise.

“I felt the energy,” Fang said afterward of the audience’s outburst at a concert that also featured evocative Algerian singer Houria Aichi, queen of black Peruvian music Susana Baca and Hardanger-fiddle player Sigrid Moldestad, Norway’s 2010 folk musician of the year.

Despite a demanding international schedule, Fang said she would love to play to a Toronto classical music audience but cannot find a presenter.

At 36, she is one of the world’s top pipa masters. She started finger drills at the age of 6, began performing at 9 and moved to Montreal as a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory at 22.

She plays folk and world-music events but counts herself as a classical artist first. So often does she perform in France and the rest of Europe that she has taken a small apartment in Paris — “to rest between shows,” she said.

She has played in Toronto only four times. Three years ago, she gave a Small World Music show at Harbourfront, to a world-music audience. Ten years ago, she performed three concerts at the Music Gallery on John St.

“I was so surprised — so many Chinese people,” she recalled in an interview after her second Forde Festival concert at an exclusive 70-seat venue.

Her audiences tend to be overwhelmingly Western, she said, people who want to hear Chinese classical music played the traditional way.

Toronto was different, she said. At least half the Music Gallery audience looked to be of Chinese origin.

Her ideal Toronto venue, she said, would be at a 700-seat concert hall with good acoustics, where she could play unamplified to a crowd with a taste for classical music.

“In a very good concert hall, I can really feel the song and the room,” she said. “I can play better. With microphone it’s a different feeling.”

Among other festival highlights, South Africa’s three Mahotella Queens literally stopped a Saturday morning parade through village streets to prompt local beauty queens to dance.

Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura, a rising star who is to play Mississauga on Oct. 1, took the stage nearly 15 minutes late – “due to a technical problem that I will not specify,” an announcer said.

“I had a problem with my beautiful dress — the zipper broke,” Moura elaborated, wearing a black silk blouse and black jeans. “I’m going to show you.”

She then called for a stagehand to bring out the dress, a sparkling black-and-silver floor-length gown that drew cries of “beautiful” from the crowd — perhaps the only girlie moment in four days of powerful shows.

Hannibal Buress: Chillarity Ensues

Source: www.thestar.com - By S, Chandler Levack

(Jul 16, 2011) If you’re going to Skype with comedian
Hannibal Buress, prepare for the following topics of conversation to come up: Buffalo fingers (they’re a Chicago chicken wing), farting (“I’ll fart around my momma”), whether it is classier to have sex with a doughnut or a bagel (the bagel wins but for the record he won’t eat them in Montreal).

Over a pixelated screen in a T-shirt and a pair of wire-frame glasses, the 28-year-old Chicago native (who also wrote this season’s closer of 30 Rock) basically converses like he writes, a slow, chopped n’ screwed monologue from the funniest guy in your dorm.

Too busy touring to write a pilot show for himself, Buress is in the unique position of having to perform his personality for a living. And for a single guy who spends every week in a different city, there are weird problems that come up, like your own material accidentally shooting you out of the saddle.

“I was trying to make it happen with this girl who came to one of my shows and one of my jokes mentions me living with a girlfriend, “ says Buress. “And I live alone now. So I have this bit where I’ll say, ‘I know that I said I had a girlfriend in that last joke, but I like to suit the reality of my material to fit my needs.’ ”

“Did you make it happen with the girl?”

“I wanted her to come hang out after the show, but then she said she had to work the next morning.”

Buress got into standup in college, after realizing he couldn’t be any worse than the comics at his local open mike nights. After being bad for a while, he got good — honing a conversational routine critics have compared to “the black Mitch Hedberg.” You can hear the similarity in the chilled out delivery and the lighthearted observational material, as when he remarked on TV years ago:

“I was in Wisconsin and Wal-Marts there sell guns, which is weird. I wonder if when people buy guns, do they buy them the same way people buy condoms — do they buy other stuff with the gun to make it look like they’re not there for that? ‘Yes, I’ll take the 9 mm and some apple juice.’ ”

Chris Rock, who’s a fan, calls Buress a combination of Steven Wright, Mos Def and Dave Chappelle; comparisons that hold up even when he’s confessing on his solo album (titled My Name Is Hannibal) how much he loves to kick pigeons.

After being hired by Seth Meyers to write for Saturday Night Live (only one of his sketches got on the air, a bit making fun of Charles Barkley’s terrible golf swing), Fey snapped him up for this past season of 30 Rock. But after a year of partying with Tracy Morgan and making Liz Lemon drink chardonnay, Buress is now an independent agent, determined to break into Hollywood as an actor.

“At SNL, you would write a sketch that you thought was funny because you finished it at 3 in the morning and you were slightly delirious and sleepy,” explains Buress.

“You go into the writer’s room and it bombs and it hurts. And because it’s out of your hands, you can feel like a helpless villain sometimes. That’s easy for some people, but because I was very new, it was a struggle for me to be constantly thinking up new ideas.”

“Unless people are coming to see me because I work at 30 Rock, you can say that I work there ... but no, I don’t work there anymore. I just needed to get out on the road and tour more. And I couldn’t do that if I was going to be working at 30 Rock for another season.”

The gambit is working — Buress is touring constantly this summer and will play Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern July 18 then Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the week after that.

He has performed on David Letterman and at the Gathering of the Juggalos — the annual party for Insane Clown Posse fans, where he willingly drank their cherished beverage Faygo. He has flown to Melbourne and then New York and told the same joke about flicking pickle juice on his sandwiches for flavour in three different time zones. And even though he’s built up an amazing hour-long set, Buress admits that it isn’t always easy to be funny on cue.

“Sometimes there’s shows where it’s hard to be a comedian. And it feels like work, just to make it easy for people to enjoy themselves. I’ve made a serious commitment and I enjoy it when it’s fun. But it’s like ... I gotta keep moving from city to city because people get tired of me after a few days. Then I gotta move on and find love again.”

Vancouver Folk Festival Loses Acts As Musicians Denied Entry To Canada

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Jul 15, 2011) Two acts at this weekend's
Vancouver Folk Music Festival have been denied entry into Canada. They include Tinariwen, an internationally renowned Malian collective that performed in Vancouver at the 2010 Cultural Olympiad; and U.S. banjo artist Morgan O'Kane.

"I'm feeling pretty devastated about this," said folk festival artistic director Linda Tanaka. "It's a blow to the festival."

Ms. Tanaka pointed out that Tinariwen has a long history of international touring, performing at prestigious festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella, and has been on tour in the U.S.

"Why is the band getting into the U.S. and not getting into Canada?," asked Ms. Tanaka. "It doesn't make any sense. It's totally ridiculous."

Tinariwen, who opened for K'naan in Vancouver last year, had initially applied for visas at the Canadian embassy in Paris and were denied, forcing them to cancel their scheduled appearance at the Winnipeg Folk Festival last weekend. The band re-applied for entry in Los Angeles, but that application was denied as well, forcing the Vancouver show's cancellation.

In a statement released on Friday, the band said the two Canadian folk festival shows were the largest on their current North American tour. "The loss of these opportunities is catastrophic for us, both personally and professionally," stated the band. "We have received visas to enter Canada almost every year since 2004."

Mr. O'Kane - who is also scheduled to play the Calgary Folk Festival next weekend - tried to enter Canada at the Peace Arch border crossing on Friday, but was denied entry. Ms. Tanaka said the Virginia native has had trouble with immigration officials in Canada in the past, but has been back since. She said he has returned to Seattle to see if he could work something out with the consulate there. But she held out no hope for Tinariwen, at this point.

"How are we supposed to present a festival? This is what we're about. We're a diverse festival. This is what folk festivals are about and it seems like we're going to be restricted with our programming."

A Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson said she could not say why any visa applications are denied because of the privacy act, but said each applicant is assessed on its merits.

"Every time an individual does seek entry, admissibility is determined," said Johanne Nedeau on Friday. "A number of factors are considered, including the profile of the event, the invitations from the Canadian hosts and whether letters of support were received."

Ms. Tanaka said two Vancouver-area MPs - New Democrat Libby Davies and Liberal Hedy Fry - had written letters in support of Tinariwen's re-application in Los Angeles.

"Those are big chunks of our programming, so I don't know what we're supposed to be doing," said Ms. Tanaka. "And nobody in Ottawa will talk to us. I've had two MPs after them and they don't get any answers either."

Another band originating from the African desert, Niger's Etran Finatawa, had its performance at Sunfest in London, Ontario earlier this month cancelled due to immigration issues. The artistic director for the Canmore Folk Music Festival, where Etran Finatawa is scheduled to play later this month, said the visa wasn't processed in time and the rest of the Canadian tour is going ahead as scheduled.

Jennifer Lopez And Marc Anthony Announce Plans To Divorce

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Associated Press

(Jul 16, 2011) NEW YORK — With three failed marriages between
them, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony finally seemed to find true love together when they married seven years ago. They had twin children, went on tour together, did a movie together and even planned a music-based reality show they were working on together.

But on Friday, the pair announced they were no longer together.

“We have decided to end our marriage. This was a very difficult decision,” the couple said in a statement by Lopez's publicist. “We have come to amicable conclusion on all matters. It is a painful time for all involved and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time.”

It was a surprising split for one of Hollywood's most high-profile stars. They seemed inseparable: Lopez even danced in the background for her crooner husband when he performed on American Idol, where she debuted as a judge this past season.

The pair, both of Puerto Rican heritage, married in 2004 after years of knowing each other. He was ending a marriage to former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, while she had recently endured a high-profile breakup with Ben Affleck.

Lopez had been married twice before in brief unions to Ojani Noa and Chris Judd and had a famous romance with Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Her union with Anthony was her most enduring public relationship. The pair did a joint tour together and starred in the movie El Cantante in 2006.

They also had two children, twins Emme and Max. They were Lopez's first children; Anthony had a child from Torres and another from a previous relationship.

In April, the pair announced plans for a television show together, Q'Viva! The Chosen, with Simon Fuller, the creator of Idol. The show was to feature the superstar couple as they travelled the world to find the best performers in Latin music, dance and other arts with the goal of creating a live extravaganza.

The show had no airdate, and it's unclear if it will continue.

Lopez released her latest album, titled Love, this year. Her career, which had lulled in recent years, has surged since she became an American Idol judge.

Classic Rock Bands: Out Of The Bargain Bin And Onto The Stage

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Jul 16, 2011) From Loverboy and Glass Tiger to Chilliwack and Doug
and the Slugs, and everywhere from hay festivals and motorcycle rallies to casinos and corporate events, the hottest bands of the seventies and eighties are dusting off their old tunes and rocking their rock-solid fans (and a few ironic hipsters) this summer, raising a little having a whole lot of fun.

Mike Reno's still working for the weekend, but these days that involves getting up at 3:30 in the morning. The Loverboy front man co-hosts a rock-radio morning show in Vancouver most weekdays. And on weekends, well, he's working too: More than 30 years after their self-titled debut album was released, unleashing such giant hits as The Kid is Hot Tonite and Turn Me Loose, Loverboy is enjoying its second chance at being in the show, and, yes, Reno - minus his signature bandana these days - is lovin' every minute of it.

"We've been managing to earn a wonderful living and stay doing what we do," he said this week from Palm Springs, Calif., where he was vacationing. "It's just huge business and we're busier than ever."

Squeezing into the old costumes and strutting around the stage on creaking knees, belting out anthems that many long ago dismissed as cheesy could be an ego-risking endeavour. So why do they do it?

In their fifties - or sixties - it's not for the sex or the drugs. It's the rock 'n' roll.

"We go out with one thing in mind, and that is to just smoke," says Chilliwack front man Bill Henderson, now 66 and grey-haired, who post-heyday has played for crowds ranging from 13 (a turn-of-the-millennium New Year's Eve concert at a hotel in Port Alberni, B.C.) to 25,000 (a summer classic rock festival). "It's so much fun and then we get paid better than we've ever been paid before for live shows."

This summer, the nostalgia circuit is crowded with middle-aged Canadian rockers reliving their musical glory days. If you grew up in the 1970s or eighties, you can easily find the soundtrack to your youth at a fair, festival or casino near you, sung by people who may look vaguely like the rock stars they once were. Chilliwack, Honeymoon Suite, Glass Tiger, April Wine, Kim Mitchell, Sass Jordan - to name a few - are hitting stages all over the place this month. The big arena shows are gone (gone, gone) - along with the big hair (okay, in some cases the hair is gone, period).

And so are a lot of the pretensions. Some music fans may turn their noses up at the idea of old-timers continuing to perform tunes that have fallen as out of favour as the bad eighties fashions on these bands' early music videos. But lots of people are still showing up, rocking out to tunes that topped the charts decades ago.

"People don't want to let go of this music," says Bernie Aubin, a Vancouver-area booking agent who specializes in what he calls classic rock acts. "It's nostalgia. Every time they hear the music, they remember their first kiss, their first this or that, and it's all so connected to the music."

Aubin, 58, has booked the entertainment for this weekend's first-ever Sturgis North Motorcycle Rally and Music Festival in Salmon Arm, B.C., whose lineup includes metal band Helix, Winnipeg rockers Harlequin, metal queen Lee Aaron, fan favourite Doug and the Slugs and Aubin's own band - he's on drums - the Headpins, the self-described "loudest band ever to come from Canada."

For these nostalgia acts, this is the height of the touring season. Take the 1970s hit machine Trooper. A couple of weeks after being part of a lineup that played for tens of thousands at a Canada Day celebration in Surrey, B.C., the band is in the middle of another busy weekend: After a show at the Great Canadian Bike Rally in Merritt, B.C., on Friday, they're in Thunder Bay Saturday for a fundraising event - Party with the Paramedics - followed by a private birthday gig.

"All these oddball things that we end up doing, they're the kind of thing that adds the fun and the adventure and the rock 'n' roll," says Trooper front man Ra McGuire, 61, who's still raising a little hell at private corporate functions, casinos, peach festivals and chilli ribfests, with about 40 gigs a year, most of them in the summer. "I'm not Bono. I'm not Chad Kroeger. But I managed to make a happy and reasonably comfortable life from something I love to do."

Loverboy's Reno, whose band was an arena rock staple in the eighties, and sold millions of records, has no qualms about playing, say, an asparagus festival in Stockton, Calif., or the Taste of Joliet (Illinois). "Does it bother me that I'm not headlining Wembley Stadium? It doesn't bother me at all. We're in our 50s. We are happy to be participating and earning a living in the music business."

While nobody's offering up financial specifics, Reno says of his own touring: "It pays well. I'm at the Palm Springs house, if that gives you any idea."

Loverboy, like many of the other heritage acts still touring, took a break in the late 1980s - only to reunite about a year-and-a-half later, after feeling the magic during a benefit show in Vancouver. "We were one of the top bands in the world and we just exhausted ourselves," says Reno. "When we decided to dust off the guitars and come back on the circuit ... we weren't number one on the totem pole. We weren't the top dogs any more. We'd been replaced by Nirvana, Pearl Jam."

Still, they loved to play.

"I put Chilliwack on the shelf for 10 years," says Henderson, who fronted the long-running band that produced such massive hits as My Girl (Gone Gone Gone), Whatcha Gonna Do and the rock-star road-warrior anthem Fly At Night, but who has also had a music career in film, television, live theatre - and, during that decade-long break, acoustic folk music. "But I frankly started missing bass and drums. I missed the physicality, the thump."

More than 40 years after forming his band, Henderson is back to flying at night with a new perspective that allows him to savour the experience in a way he couldn't have the first time around, hitting the merchandise table after shows to sign autographs and pose for pictures. "This wouldn't have happened in the eighties because we were all too cool for school," says Henderson. "Now we value it a lot and take it less for granted."

There's also a built-in audience for this vintage of music. People in their 40s are too busy with kids and mortgages to keep up much with the current music scene, offers Los Angeles-based Jonathan Wolfson, who manages Loverboy as well as American duo Hall & Oates. "The Generation Xers who grew up with a lot of these bands on MTV are reaching back to their youth, because it's sort of like comfort food."

But time is just a rubber band, and people in their teens and 20s - often the kids of the original fans - come out, too. At Loverboy gigs, they're even showing up in red bandanas. Trooper's McGuire spots people a third his age in the front row: "You're seeing kids that weren't born when these records came out, singing along with them."

Talk about multigenerational appeal: We're Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time) has become a staple at grad parties - and funerals. "The songs aren't really ours any more," says McGuire. "They're kind of woven into the fabric of the Canadian deal now, you know?"

Many bands tour with only some of their original lineup. That's nowhere more apparent than in the case of Vancouver's Doug and the Slugs, whose front man, Doug Bennett, died in 2004. After that, his bandmates decided to reunite. "It was really just missing performing," says keyboardist Simon Kendall. "People kept coming up to me every week saying, 'I hear you on the radio all the time.' So it was a bit about reclaiming our live show from classic rock radio and the bargain bin."

The Slugs teamed up with fellow B.C. rocker Ted Okos, who displayed an uncanny ability to sing the music, and with the blessing of Bennett's family, they re-formed. Still, there was the thorny issue of the band's name. "We definitely struggled with it," says Kendall, 59. "Should we be the Slugs, the Dougless Slugs, the Slugs without Doug." Ultimately, the band decided to stick with its original name, and goes out of its way to publicize Bennett's absence.

While some of these bands record and perform new material - Loverboy released a single this year called Heartbreaker - most say there's one reason people come out: to hear the old stuff. Mitchell, 59, put out a new album, Ain't Life Amazing, in 2007, but it's the Max Webster - and Patio Lanterns-era - material that gets the audience going. "I'm about customer service in rock 'n' roll. I figure you're the paying customer. What do you want to hear?"

The once hard-rocking Aaron for a while refused to play any of her eighties hits during her shows, including Whatcha Do to My Body and Metal Queen. She had made a shift to singing jazz exclusively in 1997, a year after declaring bankruptcy. "I was a bit angry. I was a bit depressed. Disenfranchised is probably the best way to describe it," says Aaron, now a Vancouver-area minivan-driving, Sunday-school-teaching, mostly stay-at-home mom. "What those songs represented to me was being attached to an industry machine, and being viewed as a marketable commodity, not a human being. So at the time I couldn't stomach it."

Aaron's live shows these days - she does about 15 a year (compared to 250 at her peak) - do include those old metal hits, as well as some jazz and new pop tunes, and attract a variety of people. "I still do get a few die-hard metal fans that are just choked that I'm not playing every song from my second album and they're angry and they leave," says Aaron, 48. "But the guys in leather jackets and mullets are definitely in the minority."

Aaron plays a lot of her gigs at casinos, which offer state-of-the-art venues. For a lot of these heritage bands, they're a lucrative part of their current career. These acts' bread is also buttered with private corporate events, which Reno says pay the best. Says McGuire, "They're just as rocking these days as anything else we do." Trooper has played corporate gigs as far away as San Diego, Curacao and Barcelona. "The people might be wearing suits ... but once it gets going, they're just as much fun."

From corporate gigs to hay festivals, "Some of these bands are making really, really good money," says Aubin. "But most of them have another job. I'd say 60 per cent of all the bands have a day job. Or a rich wife." Mitchell is now splitting his rock 'n' roll duties: He still performs but also hosts the drive-home show on Q107 in Toronto - his first-ever day job.

Since hitting the Vancouver airwaves in January on Classic Rock 101, Reno has made major lifestyle changes to help cope with the early-morning hours. One result: He's dropped 45 pounds. "I'm about an inch away from whipping on those red leather pants I used to wear," he says. "I'm 56 going on 23. Maybe that's what's keeping me young. Still playing in a rock band after all these years."

Where are they now?

Not appearing at a casino - or anywhere - near you this summer: Corey Hart. The pouting Montreal-born dreamboat, who became a superstar with Sunglasses At Night, hung up the shades in 1999, when his third child was born. "I simply couldn't continue my career with recording/touring if I wanted to be a 24/7 Dad," Hart wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail from the Bahamas, where he lives. "I barely knew my own father, seeing him maybe once a year, at best. I did not want this pattern repeated."

Hart, now 49 and a father of four, heads up Siena Records, which, in partnership with Warner Music Canada, recently released its first album, Montreal singer Marie-Christine's Walk In Beauty. Would he get out and perform his old hits again? Not until his youngest, Rain, is a little older (he's 7 now) but Hart does not dismiss it out of hand. "Nothing is impossible. I do sincerely miss my fans."

Where are some of the other big acts of decades past?

Platinum Blonde

He's not blond any more, but Mark Holmes still fronts the band for performances, including a free show at the Celebrate Bloor Festival in Toronto last month. Says one 40-something former fan who caught the show: "My kids laughed at me for knowing all the words to the songs." Platinum Blonde was inducted into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame last year.

Glass Tiger

This Grammy-nominated band, which formed in Newmarket, Ont., had several hits back in the 1980s, including Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone). They're still touring, but there are day jobs, too: Bassist Wayne Parker has a company, SkySheds, that designs and builds backyard telescope observatories for astronomy buffs.

Sass Jordan

She scored hits in the late 1980s and nineties such as So Hard and Make You a Believer, but the hard-rocking Jordan faded somewhat from the spotlight until 2003, when she became a household name again as a judge on Canadian Idol. In 2009, she released a new CD, From Dusk 'Til Dawn, and is still performing.

Carole Pope

With Rough Trade, Pope - who has several shows scheduled this summer - had a giant hit 30 years ago with High School Confidential. Today, she's still making music. Her website includes an invitation to fans: "Help me record my album. Donate now.'' As of Friday morning, she was at 53 per cent of her fundraising goal.

Meryn Cadell

Cadell's smart, spoken-word novelty song, The Sweater, was a hit in 1992. Now living as a man, Cadell is an assistant professor of song lyrics and libretto at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Winnipeg Cello Convergence Deserves An Encore

Source: www.thestar.com - By William Littler

(Jul 15, 2011) Among life's improbabilities count the sight of
55 cellists on the stage of Winnipeg's Centennial Concert Hall, performing Pablo Casals' arrangement of the “Song of the Birds.”

No, I hadn't been sipping imprudent amounts of Madeira, I've been attending the inaugural International Cello Festival of Canada, a five-day event responsible for attracting players from as far away as Sweden and Shanghai.

The reason the event took place last month in our prairie heartland is artistic director Paul Marleyn, an English-born cello professor at the University of Ottawa who formerly taught at the University of Manitoba. While resident in Winnipeg, Marleyn founded, in the year 2000, an annual chamber music festival called Agassiz Music.

It was Agassiz Music, in conjunction with Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada (a rotating annual distinction), that mounted this innovative enterprise.

No fewer than eight different venues were employed, ranging from the rotunda of Manitoba's impressive Legislative Assembly — site of a virtuoso contemporary music recital by Germany's amazing Demenga Brothers — to The Forks, Winnipeg's downtown al fresco cultural playground, with performances, master classes and complementary events taking place daily from morning through evening, before raptly attentive audiences.

All six of Bach's great Cello Suites were performed by candlelight in a single evening by six different cellists; on another evening three different cellists played the three Cello Suites Benjamin Britten wrote for Mstislav Rostropovich. And on yet another evening Yegor Dyachkov joined Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Yuri Hooker in premiering Manitoba composer Jocelyn Morlock's Aeromancy for Two Cellos and Orchestra with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra under Anne Manson's direction.

Aeromancy was one of two original Canadian works commissioned by the festival, the other being David Raphael Scott's After Lines by Guillevic for Three Cellos, premiered by Thomas Wiebe, Denise Djokic and Brian Yoon. The desire to showcase Canadian talent in composition and performance was a major part of Paul Marleyn's motivation for the festival.

“Canada is my adopted country and I'm proud of what is happening here,” the cellist-professor acknowledged in an interview. “I think there were 11 Canadian composers featured on the programs. And some of this country's finest players appeared alongside their international counterparts.”

The rest of Marleyn's motivation came from his experience as a youthful principal cellist of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, of England's now defunct Manchester International Cello Festival, whose founding director, the American virtuoso Ralph Kirshbaum, acted as the Canadian festival's honorary patron.

Although today's superstar of the cello, Yo-Yo Ma, found himself unable to attend, the Winnipeg event set a standard worthy of his presence, with performances such as Colin Carr's of the Haydn C Major Concerto with the Winnipeg Chamber Orchestra and Jian Wang's of the Shostakovich E Flat Major Concerto with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Mickelthwate brought audiences to their feet.

Working with a modest $240,000 budget and a team of volunteers, Marleyn and administrative director Rita Menzies managed to secure a remarkably collegial, non-competitive atmosphere by treating everyone equally, even to the extent of paying them the same fee.

Moreover, anyone who heard Shauna Rolston play the Samuel Barber Sonata or Desmond Hoebig the Haydn D Major Concerto could hardly have doubted the justice of awarding the Canadian soloists fee parity with foreign counterparts.

Whether it will be timely or affordable to mount another such festival in the near future remains an open question. If the cellists themselves have a vote, the answer cannot be in doubt.

Hamilton-based Kirk Starkey, who appeared as both cellist and composer, remarked at the event's close: “I've been to festivals before but in all honesty, this week was one of the highlights of my musical life.”

Fogerty Finally Feeling Fortunate

Source: www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

(Jul 15, 2011) For a time — a couple of decades, in fact —
John Fogerty would do anything to avoid talking about his glory days as singer and songwriter/leader of the influential American roots rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival.

He'd had a bitter dispute with the Berkeley, Calif., musician's bandmates (drummer Doug Clifford, bassist Stu Cook and rhythm guitarist and brother Tom, who died from an HIV-tainted blood transfusion in 1990). He'd had another one with his erstwhile record label over rights to the songs and sound Fogerty had created during Creedence's phenomenal run from 1968 through 1972, with more than a dozen international hits over six albums.

It all broke his spirit, the 66-year-old musician said in a recent phone interview with the Star.

“The effect on me was devastating. I felt betrayed by the people I trusted most. They ran off with my creation. I was trapped. I had such great pride in what I had done, but I was not going to get up there on exhibit as a shadow of my former self. I just withdrew.”

We may never know just how dark Fogerty's darkest days were, though he said he has started to work — “vaguely and slowly” — on a memoir that may explain why he disappeared almost completely after Creedence split 40 years ago, and took more than 20 years to get back into the game.

Fogerty, one of the most admired singers and writers in American popular music and an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is performing Saturday night at the BlackCreek Summer Music Festival on a double bill with the Levon Helm Band.

He said he has finally found a way out of years of despair, self-doubt and anger, and, in the past few years, has learned how to embrace his past, including those timeless Creedence gems — “Proud Mary,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Hey Tonight,” “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Up Around The Bend,” “Down on the Corner,” “(Lookin') Out My Back Door,” among others.

“For years I was praying for a way out,” Fogerty said. “I remember thinking how pathetic it was that I would spend the rest of my days a bitter wreck after just a couple of years of fame, like all those sad and angry rock 'n' roll guys who got ripped off in the 1950s.

“And then I met Julie, the woman who would become my wife, and fell in love in 1987. Slowly the bitterness left me. It was a process ... it didn't happen overnight, and I'm sure she wondered what she'd got herself into.”

After the fog cleared Fogerty said he was surprised by the size of Creedence's musical legacy.

“In all humility, I'm amazed to be in the position I'm in now,” he said. “When things work out as you get older, you just bow your head in gratitude. But when you're young it's different. You're full of self confidence, like a young athlete or prize fighter. It's just ego, but that's not a bad thing.

“You need self assurance to survive, otherwise people will just walk all over you.”

Having begun work on his memoir, Fogerty has been looking for the source of his confidence, the spark that ignited a string of astonishing hits that still resonate 40 years on.

“At a very early age I gravitated towards black music, R&B, which had its own station in the area where I lived,” he said. “I was also drawn to country music, particularly the sound of guitars. When Elvis and Carl Perkins and all those guys from Sun Records in Memphis started getting around, I felt I'd stumbled on the lost tablets, on the secret to some technological marvel from an emerging civilization.

“It was wonderful, primitive, exciting and our elders didn't like it — which made it all the more desirable.”

When Creedence emerged with a guitar-heavy folk/country/R&B hybrid labelled “swamp rock,” and songs about levees and riverboats and happy-go-lucky street musicians, it was assumed the band's origins were in Louisiana, or somewhere along the Mississippi.

“I was very intrigued by the American South, because I didn't live there,” Fogerty chuckled. “I grew up in a San Francisco suburb, in my own little world, but I was drawn to Southern things, and that I can't explain. I was living in my head with Mark Twain, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer . . .

“For years people couldn't figure out how we got so big without being known down there in Louisiana. Somehow the first music I listened to, the gospel and R&B, fit right in with my imaginary world — that strange vibrato Doc Staples used to get on his guitar, the big chunky chords Bo Diddley would play.”

Is he surprised so many of the songs he wrote for Creedence are still being played, still have meaning for new generations of listeners?

“Back then I used to say, ‘I'm not interested in writing pop songs — I want people to play my songs 10 years from now,' Fogerty replied.

“My idea was not to sound contemporary, up to the minute, because contemporary things come and go very fast. I was going for something simpler and more universal. The simplicity of my songs has helped them endure. They're so easy to learn. You can hear someone playing them in every bar on the planet.”

And is songwriting easier now that he has finally figured out the secret to his success?

“It's not as easy as it was in 1969,” he said. “I don't think I'll ever get to that place again. When you're young, you feed on energy. It's like a baseball team on a winning streak . . . you just go from strength to strength.

“But compared to those dark years in the 1970s and '80s, writing songs now is a breeze.”

Video and Audio Exclusive: Rahsaan Patterson on his Road to ‘Bleuphoria’

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders

(Jul 18, 2011) *On Tuesday, R&B workhorse
Rahsaan Patterson releases his 6th album “Bleuphoria,” a soulful, passionate collection that takes listeners deep into the particular color of love he experienced during a recent relationship.

“Normally people equate the color of love to red because of what we see in Hallmark cards with the heart being red. But the feeling and the depth of it for me resonated as blue,” Patterson tells EURweb exclusively. “Emotions have color, songs have color, music has color; that’s why we feel them so much when we hear them. The depth of love is infinite and I related that to the sky and the earth and the sea.”

Patterson enlisted a number of his friends to help convey this ‘Bleuphoria’ feeling, including
Shanice, Faith Evans, Jody Watley , Tata Vega and Lalah Hathaway. But don’t expect to hear all of them singing verses.

“They contributed to my record not necessarily as featured artists.
None of them are duets,” explains Patterson. “They’re guest vocalists and they have featured spaces – like Tata Vega sings adlibs at the end of ‘Mountaintop,’ Shanice adlibs at the end of ‘Crazy,’ Faith Evans sings background vocals on ‘Crazy’ and Lalah Hathaway sings background vocals on the current single ‘6 AM.’” [Scroll down to listen.]

“I’ve never really been big on albums that use the feature of 20 other
artists to help propel and sell their records,” said Patterson. “I’ve always been very comfortable with me selling me without needing the assistance of someone else’s name to gain interest in my music. For example, Van Hunt always participated in my records, but I didn’t have to say, ‘featuring Van Hunt.’”

Speaking of Van Hunt, the singer-producer did not participate in the “Bleuphoria” sessions but Patterson’s other long-time collaborators
Jamey Jaz and Keith Crouch do contribute to the Artistry Music project, and for the first time, Patterson produced two of the album’s tracks all by his lonesome.

“This record was about challenging myself and furthering myself as a musician and a producer and being able to be comfortable with that in terms of sharing it with the world,” he said. “So at this point, I’m taking the reins and presenting , not only to the world, but to Jamie Van and Keith what I’ve learned from them.”

So what happened with Van Hunt?

“I miss working with him, and the only reason why we haven’t worked together is just – he’s been doing his life and I’ve been doing mine,” says Patterson without elaborating.

At age 37, Rahsaan can look back on 27 years in the industry – first as a child star on the 1980s TV show “Kids Incorporated” and later as backup vocalist and writer before signing with MCA in 1997 for his self-titled debut. While music critics have been relentless in their praise of Patterson’s voice and songwriting, his albums sales have not been quite as robust. Still fans of the Bronx native are extremely loyal, both in the states and overseas.

Because I started so young and because fate and the universe has just supported me in my existence, I believe it has done that because my spirit has been genuine; my being, my craft and my communication through my craft are authentic, and I feel I’m rewarded for that by the universe,” says Patterson. “That has helped sustain my career as well as having the support of the people who have been affected by my persona and my spirit and music.

“The people who have followed me from the time that I was 10-years-old till now, they’ve watched a boy mature and grow into a man and into the artist that I am today. I think all of that contributes to my staying power.”

Patterson says he’s no longer in the relationship that inspired “Bleuphoria,” which was recorded from 2008 through 2010. In the bonus audio below, he explains how this person just wasn’t ready to go to the level of love that he was prepared to go for.

SBTRKT Very Good, Very British; And More

Source:  www.thestarcom - By John Terauds


(Jul 18, 2011)
SBTRKT, the masked alter ego of South London dance producer Aaron Jerome, appears on target to make one of this summer's odder populist crossovers. Well, maybe not that odd, since it's been Toronto rapper Drake's remix of “Wildfire” — not to mention his appearance onstage with SBTRKT at Wrongbar two Fridays back — giving this eclectic debut a leg up on North American shores of late. But SBTRKT trades almost exclusively in a woozy, chopped-up amalgam of largely U.K.-specific dance genres such as dubstep, two-step, trip-hop and drum 'n' bass, and it's been a while since an electronic record so unmistakably British garnered this much (almost-)mainstream attention on these shores. An enchanting breed of futuristic, yet earthily human cyber-soul is born whenever SBTRKT hitches his skittery beats and rumbling sub-basslines to a strong vocal melody. His regular collaborator, Sampha, is responsible for most of them, but Yukimi “Little Dragon” Nagano does just fine without Drake on the original version of “Wildfire” and Roses Gabor almost steals the show with a gossamer turn on “Pharoahs,” which recalls the daintily cerebral house music Matt Herbert was making circa Bodily Functions.

Ben Rayner


This artist doesn't want to knock your socks off, he wants to rock you gently with personal tales of life's little epiphanies and disappointments. It's taken U.S. producers a decade to discover the discreet charms of Norwegian singer-songwriter Thomas Dybdahl. But rather than pick up where he left off (his ninth full-length album, Waiting for that One Clear Moment, released in Europe last year), his North American debut album is a stripped-down and freshly recorded selection of Dybdahl's 14 biggest hits and personal faves. The album starts off with the gently plaintive “From Grace,” where the then-twentysomething songwriter pledges all of his love to someone. It's hard to imagine finer hammock music than this; front and centre on each song is Dybdahl's light, lithe tenor and nimble fingers on acoustic guitar. Veteran U.S. producer Larry Klein has condensed and clarified, packaged and polished the songs into tasteful solos augmented by a clever and able five-piece band. Top track: The gentle late-night encounter that is “One Day You'll Dance for Me, New York City.” Dybdahl and band introduce themselves to Toronto July 19 at the Drake Hotel.

John Terauds


The spirit of Motown pop is alive and well in singer-songwriter Nikki Jean (a.k.a. Minnesotan Nicholle Jean Leary). The artist formerly associated with lite hip hop has reinvented herself as a capable old-school songstress, deploying her strong vocals to great effect in a 12-track solo debut that deftly plays mix-and-match with new country, Motown, 1960s girl-pop and rap. Lupe Fiasco provides some backup energy on “Million Star Motel.” Bob Dylan co-wrote “Steel and Feathers (Don't Ever),” which has a folky-rootsy feel. Jean is at her finest when letting loose with plain, old, exuberance that overcomes the lack of anything truly original. Top tracks: “La Di Da Di Da” and “Sex, Lies and Sunshine,” which perfectly represent the spirit of fair-weather fun.




If you go near St. Lawrence Market on Saturdays, chances are you've heard Toronto busker-charmers, the Boxcar Boys. This gang of five young 'n'merry music-makers looks and sounds as if they've stepped right off a Bennett Buggy from the Dirty Thirties. But these four boys and one girl are squeaky-clean 21st-century eclectics, mixing Roma, roots and plain-old rambunctious whimsy in their self-produced debut collection of 12 original songs. Whether they sound like a Dixieland band (“Harbour Song”), a klezmer troupe (“Jägerbomb Blues”) or a group of Mississippi swamp dwellers (“I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry”), Karl Silveira (trombone), John David Williams (clarinet), Rob Teehan (sousaphone), Laura Bates (violin) and Ronen Segall (accordion) — along with a cute spot of soft-shoe dancing by Allison Toffan on “Mugg's Island” — are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Top tracks: Echoes of the Charleston era ring loud and clear in “I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll.” The gang takes on Kew Gardens, at the Beaches Jazz Festival, on July 24 at 12:30 p.m.




A one-star soundtrack for a four-star cap to the greatest movie blockbusters of all time? It's no comment on the Harry Potter franchise, or of the quality of work put in by composer-conductor Alexandre Desplat, the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Voices, soloist Mai Fujisawa and a small army of producers engineers and assistants. Rather, like so many other instrumental movie soundtracks issued as albums these days, this one hasn't been massaged and arranged into a musical story of its own. Divorced from the moving pictures, all we get is a pile of lost musical fragments. Diehard fans of the movies might appreciate the aural prompt for some of the story's finer moments (going back to the original movie, in several cases) but there is nothing here for a listener seeking music as a vehicle for a satisfying aural journey.


A Moment Of Musical Brilliance Relived In True Spirit

Source:  www.thestarcom - By John Terauds

(Jul 18, 2011) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — It’s not everyone who can turn a serious concert-lecture into an entertaining evening of equal parts laughter, historical insight and great music-making.

But that is what
Music Niagara founder and artistic director Atis Bankas managed to pull off for the fourth of 41 concerts he had programmed for the 13th edition of his annual celebration in the picturesque home of the Shaw Festival.

Because he wasn’t performing, Bankas was the picture of summer relaxation a couple of hours before the start of Monday night’s concert at St. Mark’s Anglican Church. That bought him time to chat about how he has built the festival to something with widespread support in the community and that can attract audiences from both sides of the Niagara River.

“We want to take advantage of everything that Niagara-on-the-Lake has to offer,” says Bankas of the festival, which began on Saturday with a sold-out concert of string quartets by Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at Hillebrand Estates winery.

Music Niagara concludes its main season with a flourish of jazz as well as Baroque-era music by Antonio Vivaldi on Aug. 13.

Monday night’s concert, headlined by veteran Ukrainian-American pianist
Mykola Suk, was set up as a replay of a historic faceoff between legendary composer-pianists Franz Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg at a Paris salon in 1836.

Four panellists — former Shaw Festival artistic director Christopher Newton, the Star’s William Littler, Toronto music lecturer and writer Rich Phillips and WNED-TV’s Peter Hall — set the mood, filled in the details, and even heckled their preferences for Liszt or Thalberg, in a lively chat moderated by CBC Radio’s Tom Allen.

What could’ve easily become a boring talk quickly became a lively celebration of a golden moment in music history. The audience was even given a chance to vote for their favourite composer.

He may have been born 200 years ago, but Liszt was mobbed by swooning women at every concert stop. He made a show of his extravagant wardrobe and long hair, and he would sometimes trash pianos with the ferocity of his playing.

In other words, he was a Romantic-era ancestor to today’s biggest musical stars — a fact nicely underlined in the concert by Suk, who followed up the talk with assured interpretations of four technically taxing pieces by the two star composer-pianists.

Bankas, a longtime member of the first violin section of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is a very serious musician, with a wide circle of performing contacts. The evening showed how well he can marshal these resources.

The violinist has also learned how to mix serious music with easier listening. This summer’s calendar reveals an eclectic lineup that includes an outdoor gig by the Métis Fiddler Quartet on July 24, Karakoro Drums of Japan (Jul. 31), salon favourites Quarteto Gelato (Aug. 4) and a fado-flamenco-blues cabaret on Aug. 12 (for more information, visit www.musicniagara.org).

There are several more winery concerts and a rich menu of chamber music, which, Bankas admits, “Is closest to my heart.”

Video: Rebecca Black Releases New Single, ‘My Moment’

Source:  www.thestarcom - By Jenni Dunning

(Jul 19, 2011) One thing you can say about Rebecca Black’s new single “My Moment” is that it’s a little less terrible than her endlessly mocked debut single, “Friday.”

Meaning, you might find it possible to listen to the whole song without flinching as much at her nasally voice, but that doesn’t make it good.

That’s probably the most favourable comment you will find about the song, other than a handful of fan websites that have blinders on when it comes to real music.

At least Black did not name her new single “Monday” after the weekday, July 18, on which it was released.

Instead, she shoots back at all the haters in “My Moment” with a consistently plastered-on smile and meek lyrics to announce she is celebrating her 15 minutes of fame.

“Weren’t you the one who said that I would be nothing? Well, I’m about to prove you wrong,” she sings next to bored-looking guitar players.

We’re still waiting.

The New Foxy Brown: ‘I Go To Church Every Sunday. I’m Saved.’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 20, 2011) *Foxy Brown recently revealed her alter ego, Inga Marchand (the name she was born with by the way) are two different people and her true self is not a diva.

Not too long ago, she showed up three hours late to a photo shoot but with good excuses. She was pulled over by the cops for speeding, but sweet-talked her way out of the ticket. Then she ran into Jay Z randomly and hung out with him for a while. Then she decided to get some food and do a little shopping.

But that’s Foxy y’all.

“The Foxy character and Inga Marchand are two different people,” she tells the NY Post. “My fiancé calls me Inga. No one around me calls me Foxy. I go to church every Sunday. I go to Bible study every Friday night. I’m saved.”

It’s definitely hard to believe since her run-ins with the law have attracted some not so positive attention oh and don’t forget her explicit lyrical reputation.

But her slate is clean right now since the recent court case was dismissed.

“The mooning thing bothered me more than anything else in the past — because I’m a lady,” says Brown.

And that may well be very true, although during the trial it was revealed she wore no panties under a tight fitted night dress.

“I’m cut from a different cloth,” she confessed. “I would never moon someone. I was raised in a good family. All my friends were in the park smoking weed and getting pregnant,”  she said. “I didn’t want to be the young black girl having a baby, a baby’s father, being on welfare. That wasn’t going to be my story. I wanted to be a criminal-justice attorney.”

Well, who knew, Inga? Read more here.


Springsteen Takes The Stage In Tribute To Clarence Clemons

Source:  www.thestar.com

(Jul 18, 2011) ASBURY PARK, N.J.—
Bruce Springsteen returned to his musical roots to remember a friend. Springsteen performed a 45-minute set during a “Tribute to the Late, Great Clarence Clemons” at Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar Sunday night. Clemons and Springsteen were friends for more than four decades. Springsteen joined J.T. Bowen, who was the lead singer of Clemons’ band in the 1980s, The Red Bank Rockers. Bowen was singing with The Soul Cruisers when he called Springsteen to the stage. The Star-Ledger of Newark reports Springsteen kicked things off with “Action in the Streets.” The set ended with a long version of “634-5789.” The E Street Band saxophonist, who was known as the Big Man, died of stroke complications on June 18. He was 69.

L.A. Reid Officially Announced as Head of Epic Records

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(Jul 19, 2011) *Antonio “L.A.” Reid was officially named head of Epic Records on Monday, a long-expected move that was first reported in June. Reid — who will also serve as a judge on Simon Cowell’s singing competition show “The X Factor” this fall — will carry the title of chairman-CEO. He previously headed Island Def Jam from 2004 to 2011. The move has been seen as inevitable since March, when Reid stepped down from his chairman position at IDJ. Epic Records, which has first dibs on “X Factor” performers, is a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment. The label is expected to merge with Jive Records, which Reid will also oversee, according to Reuters.

Audio Exclusive: Eric Benet on his Stevie Wonder Surprise (Video); GMC Film

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(Jul 19, 2011) *EURweb’s Lee Bailey caught up with R&B star Eric Benet last weekend at the 16th Annual JazzFestWest in San Dimas, Calif, a two-day event that also included Boney James, Mike Phillips, Ledisi, Babyface, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly – and a surprise appearance from one Motown legend. [Scroll down to watch.] In the audio bonus below, Benet, 40, talks about being joined on stage by Stevie Wonder, as well as his 20-year-old daughter India. Plus, he gives a preview of his forthcoming TV film “Trinity Goodheart” for the GMC channel, which hits very close to home.


Get ready for Watch the Throne

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

(July 20, 2011) The album Watch the Throne, featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z and (of course) a small nightclub's worth of collaborators is out Aug. 1. The track listing is at one of Jay-Z's websites and here's what's already been exposed to our ears. The track "H*A*M" got a positive reception a few months back from Ben Rayner for its production and paranoia.

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Collaborate for New Project

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 20, 2011) *Robin Thicke is about ready to do a follow-up to his 2009 “Sex Therapy” CD and he’s teaming with Billionaire Boy for the project. The new CD is due out in late 2011 or early 2012. Other possible collaborations just might include Pharrell Williams. “It’s coming great. I think you get to that point where you hate it and then you love it. It’s like any important relationship in your life,” he said. “Just myself, written and produced, like the first few albums.” He confirmed the two talked about linking for the project at Williams’ launch for Qream, a new liqueur. “Yeah, we were just actually talking about it maybe while he’s here in the next week or two, we might get together and do something. Because he’s heard the album so he wants to get something on there. So we’re excited.”


Trey Songz Lands Lead Role in Big Screen Horror Flick

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 20, 2011) *As if there weren’t enough singers and rappers turned actors, Trey Songz is joining the bunch. The saucy singer will be playing one of the lead roles in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.” The movie is another remake of the 1974 horror flick about a group of teens that run into a family of cannibals in Texas. Shooting for the movie will begin shooting later this month in Shreveport, Louisiana and will be released just in time for Halloween next year.

R. Kelly Has Emergency Throat Surgery

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 20, 2011) *The AP is reporting that singer R. Kelly is hospitalized today because he had to have emergency throat surgery Allan Mayer, Kelly spokesperson, said that doctors drained an abscess on one of Kelly’s tonsils on Tuesday and that the singer will be “laid up indefinitely” at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Mayer says Kelly had been complaining of throat pain recently and was rushed to the hospital after a throat exam.


Captain Canuck Gets A Movie Deal

Source:  www.thestarcom - by: Linda Barnard

(Jul 19, 2011) Move over Captain America, there’s a new superhero headed to the multiplex — Captain Canuck.

Toronto-based Minds Eye Entertainment announced Tuesday it has picked up the movie rights to the Canadian comic book superhero from writer/creator Richard Comely, who introduced the character in 1975.

“He’s a Canadian superhero and when Richard contacted me, it was like a dream come true,” said David Cormican, head of development at Minds Eye. “I had read Captain Canuck when I was a kid growing up. I don’t usually get star struck, but he’s the man who created Captain Canuck!”

Cormican said a scriptwriter and director aren’t attached to the project yet, nor is a star, although, “I think it’s safe to say you can imagine all of our top leading men, all of them will be on the list.”

Comely said he’d love to see a Canadian play the Captain, adding that Ryan Reynolds, currently starring in Green Lantern, would be a likely candidate.

With three incarnations of Captain Canuck protecting the True North strong and free, the screenwriters will have plenty of material to choose from, said Comely.

While there have been a number of licensed Captain Canuck products over the years, including Canada Post issuing a stamp, he has yet to make it to the big screen.

‘Harry Potter’ Beats ‘The Dark Knight’ With Record $168.6m Opening Weekend

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Germain

(Jul 17, 2011) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — The boy wizard has vanquished the dark knight with a record-setting magic act at the weekend box office.

Warner Bros. estimates that “
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” took in $168.6 million domestically from Friday to Sunday. That beats the previous best opening weekend of $158.4 million, also held by Warner Bros. for 2008’s Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight.”

The studio had not yet released international numbers for the full weekend, but “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” has been working the same charms since it began rolling out overseas Wednesday.

Through Friday, the film had taken in $157.5 million internationally, putting it on course to become the franchise’s first billion-dollar worldwide hit.

“This will be the biggest ‘Harry Potter’ by far,” said Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “A billion dollars is definitely going to happen.”

The current franchise high is $974.8 million worldwide for the first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” 10 years ago.

“Deathly Hallows: Part 2” does have the advantage of 3-D screenings, which cost a few dollars more than 2-D shows. Because of the higher 3-D price, plus regular inflation, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” sold fewer tickets than “The Dark Knight” over opening weekend.

The “Harry Potter” finale also set a record for best opening day domestically Friday with $92.1 million, nearly $20 million ahead of the previous high for “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” two years ago.

Other records for “Deathly Hallows: Part 2: best domestic gross for debut midnight shows at $43.5 million, topping the $30 million for last year’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”; best domestic opening in huge-screen IMAX theatres with $15.5 million, surpassing the $12.2 million for last year’s “Alice in Wonderland”; and best worldwide IMAX debut with $23.5 million, beating the $20.4 million for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” two weeks ago.

Paramount’s third “Transformers” blockbuster, which had been No. 1 the previous two weekends, slipped to second-place with $21.3 million domestically. It remains the year’s top domestic hit with $302.8 million.

The weekend’s other new wide release, Disney’s animated family flick “Winnie the Pooh,” got swamped by “Harry Potter” mania. A return to the hand-drawn animation style of earlier adaptations of A.A. Milne’s beloved storybook characters, “Winnie the Pooh” pulled in just $8 million domestically, finishing at No. 6.

Chris Weitz On Making A Better Life

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(Jul 15, 2011)
Chris Weitz, the hotshot producer, director and/or writer of, among others, the American Pie films, About a Boy and Twilight: New Moon, wasn’t aiming to be provocative in releasing his latest drama, A Better Life, right now. (It opened in select Canadian cities on Friday.)

Though it’s the story of an illegal immigrant from Mexico, a gardener named Carlos (the excellent Demien Bichir) who just wants what the title says for his teenage son, Weitz did not direct it as a response to the virulent anti-immigration movement that is churning through the United States. “This script has been around for 20 years,” he said in a phone interview last week.

Yet when real-life events occurred that made for some juicy scenes against which to film, Weitz took advantage of them. In the middle of the shoot, in April, 2010, Arizona’s governor signed into law the broadest, strictest immigration measure in recent U.S. history. It made the failure to carry immigration documents a crime, and gave police wide-ranging power to detain suspects. President Barack Obama denounced it, and a number of lawsuits immediately challenged it, calling it an invitation to discrimination.

“A protest was called for the next weekend in Los Angeles,” Weitz said, “and we had a protest scene in our script that we’d been concerned about, because it would have been too expensive to stage. So we were able to put together a second unit to capture the real one.”

Since then, several other states have passed controversial immigration laws, and as recently as July 8, civil-rights groups filed a class action suit challenging a similar law in Alabama. But Weitz isn’t eager to connect his film to current events. “The Rush Limbaughs and Lou Dobbses haven’t taken a shot at us yet, and we haven’t really wanted them to,” Weitz said.

“I know that would be a cheap way to get publicity, but it was never what we were going for. We just wanted to tell a simple story about a father’s love for his son. I’m certainly no adequate spokesman about immigration, because I’ve lived my entire life benefiting from it.”

Weitz, 41, is part Latino on one side (his maternal grandmother immigrated from Mexico when she was 17) and a first-generation American on the other (his father was a refugee from Nazi Germany). His wife, Mercedes Martinez, and his mother speak Spanish. “So I feel like I’ve got some immigrant cred, even if I look and sound like the whitest of white people you’ve ever met,” he said. (He really does – over the phone, his voice has the deep, silky timbre and elegant vowels of a 1950s public-television announcer.)

But his film has been criticized – “mostly by anonymous cowards on comment sites, so I don’t give it much credence,” he said – for being disingenuous, an exercise in “rich white bleeding heart tries to get real about Hispanic L.A.”

This hostile reaction to a mid-budget family drama is evidence of just how difficult and discomfiting it is to talk about race or class in American films. Two other summer movies take a stab at it: the current comedy Horrible Bosses, in which one of the white, middle-class protagonist’s bumbling attempts to be cool offends every black person he meets; and the upcoming drama The Help, about black maids and their racist employers in Jackson, Miss., during the summer of 1963. (The assassination of the civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, which occurred that year in Jackson, factors into the plot.)

But as much as you support these films’ ironic or tear-jerking attempts to address the subject, you also squirm in your seat, because all the black characters in them (played by the talented likes of Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson and Jamie Foxx) still are either maids, criminals or cops. Who says there are no roles for people of colour in Hollywood, right?

For a number of reasons, Weitz was ready for the challenge of making a realistic, intimate film that addresses race, without having the main character be a white person who acts as a guide. Along with his older brother Paul, his films have raked in enough dough that he’s achieved a status in Hollywood that lets him pick and choose.

But after making two big-budget epics – The Golden Compass, “which didn’t work out, as far as I was concerned,” Weitz said; and New Moon, which did – he was “a little tired of supervising visual-effects projects. I was all CGI-ed out.”

He’d had enough, he said, of “explaining to an actor, ‘For the next few hours you’re going to be acting opposite a green pillow dangling from a fishing pole.’ It’s tough for actors to do that. It takes extra time, extra effort. Humans talking to humans is a much more straightforward proposition.”

So, not only was the script for A Better Life “the best thing I’d read in 20 years,” Weitz said, with issues that are “life and death to the people they concern, and a plot that operates like a thriller.” It also addressed his latest obsession, fatherhood. Since having his son, who’s now 4, “I’ve become really absorbed with the parent-child relationship,” Weitz said. “And with the sacrifices one would be willing to make, to make life easier for them. Fatherhood is nothing what I thought it would be. I don’t think anybody can imagine what it’s like. It’s full of surprises. It stretches you, it tests your sanity, it enlarges your heart, in ways that cannot be contemplated beforehand.”

So the fact that this film was set in L.A., which meant Weitz could go home every night, only sweetened the deal. “Movies are damaging to families,” he said. “And I think that families are more important than movies. So I’ll have to figure that out [in upcoming projects]. I’m much more cautious now.”

Still, shooting A Better Life “wasn’t like making Chuck & Buck” – the 2000 indie in which Weitz co-starred as Chuck – “where we were using digital cameras and being catered by a chicken joint, and shooting in my house,” he said. He was able to hire the same composer, cinematographer and editor from his bigger films, because they were willing to work for substantially less than their normal rate.

In other words, he made this film because at the moment, he’s one of the only people who could. “The more people [of other cultures] are able to break into the charmed circle of directing and producing, the more we will see different and interesting films,” Weitz said. “Hispanic L.A. is not only a world unto itself, but several worlds. It’s multifaceted. They think that they’re living in the ‘real’ L.A., and they don’t know much about Anglo L.A. We live in these parallel worlds – in L.A., and in America in general. We don’t know our neighbours any more.” And these days, it seems too many of us don’t want to.

Winnie The Pooh: A Familiar Return To The Hundred Acre Wood

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Winnie the Pooh
Starring the voices of John Cleese, Jim Cummings and Craig Ferguson. Directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall. 69 minutes. Opening Friday at major theatres. G

(Jul 15, 2011)  “Oh bother,” said
Winnie the Pooh as he pulled his red shirt over his furry tummy, which was still round even though it was as empty as his honey jar.

“Movies for children today are all computer-generated talking animals and 3-D magic. How can a stuffed bear of very little brain survive in the busy, blustery world of the multiplex?” Pooh puzzled as he peered into his honey jars and, with a sigh, found them all empty. “I know. I’ll go ask Christopher Robin.”

“Silly old bear,” replied Christopher Robin as he bent down to Pooh-eye level. “People will love a story of a real stuffed bear told without CGI tricks and fancy machines. The hand-drawn animation looks just like the old-fashioned watercolour-and-ink drawings from the first time people saw you at the movies in 1966 and then on TV. Winnie the Pooh will make big people remember their childhoods. And small people will have fun getting to know all of us in the Hundred Acre Wood. You’ll see.”

Pooh listened to Christopher Robin because he was very smart. He was also hopeful there might be some honey involved. Tigger, Kanga and Roo, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit and even Owl, who is also very clever, agreed that a simple movie based on the beloved 1926 children’s book by A. A. Milne would be just the thing for youngsters looking for a summer diversion. It’s made by Disney, the same studio that released the first Winnie the Pooh animated featurette. And the cleverest person of all at Disney and Pixar — someone even smarter than owl, a wizard named John Lasseter — is behind the adventure.

The only extra sounds aren’t car engines or robots, they’re songs (and the occasional rumbly in Pooh’s tumbly), some sung and even written by Zooey Deschanel, an actress who is also a fine singer indeed when it comes to songs for children. Her voice is quite sweet. “Like honey?” asked Pooh hopefully, for he was very hungry, still having had no breakfast.

Pooh’s quest for honey sends him into new adventures based on three old stories about Winnie the Pooh, all contained within one very busy day in the Hundred Acre Wood. First, there is the lack of honey. (“Oh bother,” contributed Pooh.) Then there is a contest to make a new tail for Eeyore, who needs one very badly, having lost his. Then the friends find a note from Christopher Robin: “Gone out. Busy. Back soon.” Owl, who is the best reader among them, says this means Christopher Robin has been captured by the fearsome and not-very-nice-smelling Backson! All the creatures must work together to save him at once.

Kanga says what makes this day in the Hundred Acre Wood so wonderful is that you’ll feel you have been here before, even if you haven’t. It looks like a book come to life — in fact Pooh and his friends often climb words or get caught in tumbling sentences.

“I always get caught on things,” grumbled Eeyore. “I expect it to happen. Never happens to anyone else. Just me.”

Roo says he’s happy his friends sound just like they did back in the olden days of the 1960s and 1970s, even though the original voice of Pooh, Sterling Holloway, and the first Tigger, Paul Winchell, and all the other voices are no longer here. Jim Cummings sounds exactly like them when he voices Tigger and Pooh. When he’s in Kanga’s pouch, Roo thinks it sounds just like the old gang from the wood is there with him.

“Hey, I thought I was the only one!” said Tigger about his new voice. “Sounds like there’s an imposterater in the area.”

Owl, who has late-night TV host Craig Ferguson for his voice, assured Tigger he was indeed the only one, a sentiment repeated by John Cleese, who narrates their adventure.

Piglet, who tries very hard to be b-b-b-brave, was glad the movie was only 69 minutes long, just in case the Backson did show up. And Rabbit, who seems to have become a bit more relaxed about things these days — although not too relaxed — liked the short cartoon that plays before Winnie the Pooh, a funny poem about the Loch Ness Monster and her best pal MacQuack, called Ode to Nessie. That man from Scotland, Billy Connolly, tells the story. It even made Eeyore smile, just a wee bit. But he did smile. Truly.

“That’s quite a thing,” said Pooh. “A very busy day with nice voices and lovely pictures, some songs and adventures, and even a smile from Eeyore. Even a small one. We should celebrate with some honey. If only I had some. Oh bother.”


Spector Gets Royal Treatment

Source:  www.thestarcom - by: Linda Barnard

(Jul 19, 2011) Ever since the news that Al Pacino would play Phil Spector in an HBO Films movie biopic - written and directed by David Mament - yes! - we've been counting the days until it hits the airwaves sometime in 2012. A recent snag made it sound like it could be postponed when Bette Midler, who was playing Spector's first trial defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, had to drop out after shooting started due to a herniated disc. But it's The Queen's Dame Helen Mirren to the rescue! She'll take over the role and filming is expected to start up again next week. Expect a controversial movie and protest from friends of Lana Clarkson, the actress and nightclub hostess Spector was convicted of shooting in his home. Mamet has been quoted in interviews as saying he doubts Spector was guilty of the crime he's serving time for. "I don't think he's guilty ," Mamet was quoted as telling the Financial Times of London, reports Hollywood news website,  The Wrap. "They should never have sent him away."

Mo’Nique Chooses Dramedy for Next Movie Role

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 20, 2011) *It’s been more than two years since Mo’Nique won a supporting actress Oscar for “Precious.” Well now hear the talk show/comedian/actress has settled on her next feature project. She is in talks to play a supporting role in the indie dramedy “Bumped,” according to Variety. Her role would be alongside Katie Cassidy, Alex Gonzalez, Camilla Belle, Xenia Siamas, and Kellan Lutz. “Bumped” would  be produced by Brad Feinstein, Steve Carr, and Jason Taragan as well as Triel, no word yet when filming will begin. This isn’t the first offer Mo’s received since the Lee Daniels directed “Precious.” It’s just that she’s been focused on her BET nightly “The Mo’Niqe Show.” You go girl!

::TV NEWS::    

VH1’s ‘Single Ladies’ Renewed for Second Season

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(Jul 18, 2011) *Love it or hate it, “
Single Ladies” is coming back next year.

VH1 announced today that it has renewed its breakout hit starring  Stacey Dash, LisaRaye McCoy and Charity Shea as three best friends in the world of Atlanta fashion, fame and music. It’s the network’s first hour long scripted series.

“Our viewers have fallen for ‘Single Ladies’ and its honest, modern take on love, female friendship and dating,” said Jeff Olde, VH1′s executive vice president of original programming. “We’re extremely pleased to give the audience another great season of the series they love.”

Executive producer Queen Latifah added: “We knew from the beginning this show was going to appeal to people everywhere; it’s funny, sexy and smart.”

Season 2 is slated for a 2012 premiere.

Breaking Bad: The Anti-Hero Is Waning

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux

(Jul 16, 2011) “Walter White is back and this time he’s not in danger —
he is the danger.”

That’s how AMC is promoting the fourth season premiere of
Breaking Bad (Sunday at 10 p.m.).

White, played by three-time Best Actor Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, has gone from being a quiet little milquetoast chemistry teacher to a desperate crystal meth dealer to a cold-blooded murderer. He has crossed so many lines he’s erased half of them.

In the beginning, an inoperable cancer diagnosis sparked a crazy left turn into a life of crime. White made a grim pact to do anything in order to provide for his family. Somewhere along the way, he became emboldened not just by his death sentence but by the thrill of power.

“He can call his own shots, people are afraid of him now: wow. He’s never felt that way before,” is how Cranston sees it.

As series creator Vince Gilligan has said, White went from Mr. Chips to Scarface.

Walter White is a prime example of the nasty characters who have headlined the top TV dramas of the past decade. Flawed characters are one thing, but these guys were killers: Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) was a ruthless crime boss. Vic Mackey (The Shield) was a murderous, stop-at-nothing cop. Dexter Morgan remains an avenging serial killer.

In decades past, they would have been the baddest of the bad guys, not the heroes. But in a post 9/11 world, they didn’t just push, they helped tear the envelope to shreds when it came to morally reprehensible TV characters who still, somehow, remained essentially sympathetic.

There are many other examples. Dr. House is no walk in the park (and turned especially ugly at the end of last season). Mad Men’s Don Draper makes being a heartless fraud look cool. Californication’s Hank Moody is a jerk and a cheat. Nurse Jackie is a junkie. Damages’ Patty Hewes is a lawyer with a ruthless streak.

It makes one wonder: are their no real heroes anymore? Hollywood seems to be asking that same question, with the pendulum swinging back toward the light the last season or two. This fall especially, many new network dramas tilt more toward escapism or enchantment. Even Mad Men-inspired shows such as Pan Am and The Playboy Club seem to focus on the more carefree side of the ’60s.

Terence Winter, a former Sopranos scribe and now the creator, writer and producer of Boardwalk Empire, walks a moral tightrope with his main character, Nucky Thompson (Emmy-nominated Steve Buscemi). He says it is important not to pass judgment on these modern series leads.

“People are complicated and, if you’re doing your job right, characters are complicated, too,” he says. “They range from despicable to lovable and everything in between. Life is a little bit of a roller-coaster ride.”

Winter also suggests that a well-written series can show you dark sides of people you may never see in real life. “Usually you only see the face people want to show you,” he says. “On a series, you get to see it all. ‘Oh, my God, that person is such a liar!’ Those human moments are so delicious.”

Graham Yost, the Canadian-born executive producer of the modern-day cable western Justified, feels there is a definite shift away from the deadly dark anti-hero of a few years ago. While Justified can be seen as a violent crime series, Yost sees bounty hunter Raylan Givens as a hero who has “stuff haunting him and he’s a human being.”

The fact that Givens, played by Emmy-nominated Timothy Olyphant, is essentially a “good guy” and that “you are rooting for him,” offers a bit of a changeup at FX, home of such darkly dysfunctional anti-heroes as Rescue Me’s Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and The Shield’s Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis).

On the other hand, even Tommy Gavin may be about to lighten up. Peter Tolan, co-creator and executive producer of Rescue Me, told TV critics in 2010 that the era of the anti-hero was indeed over in Hollywood. “People are looking for something else.”

Tolan says the seventh and final season of his series — which just premiered on FX in the U.S. and will air at a future date on Showcase — will reflect the new lighter spirit. Tommy hit rock bottom midway through the sixth season, he says, and the series, about a group of dysfunctional New York City firefighters, now ends “in a very hopeful place, in a much lighter place than I had imagined.”

Hard to see a happy ending for Walter White on Breaking Bad, where the best he might hope for is a Tony Soprano-style fade to black.

Emmy Nominations Include Some Surprises

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jul 14, 2011) While the Academy Awards become progressively more tedious and predictable, and the Golden Globes increasingly, transparently irrelevant, the
Emmys at least retain the capacity to surprise.

The 2011 nominations were announced Thursday morning, by Canadian Joshua Jackson from Fringe and Mike & Molly star (and Bridesmaids standout) Melissa McCarthy — herself a Best Actress, Comedy nominee, her first for any major award.

And that was just the first of several very pleasant Emmy surprises.

And a couple of head-scratchers, like why HBO’s entirely redundant Mildred Pierce remake topped the total nominations with 21.

On the other hand, to the surprise of absolutely no one, AMC’s Mad Men came off its best season yet with a second-place 19 nominations.

This could well be the year of the Men — certainly series star Jon Hamm, who may actually have a shot at Best Actor, Drama, with three-time winner Bryan Cranston not even eligible this year.

The fourth season of Cranston’s Breaking Bad does not start till this Sunday, July 17.

The freed-up category will basically be a face-off between Hamm and Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, also coming off his best season ever (despite the off-camera distractions of his recovery from cancer and messy divorce from co-star Jennifer Carpenter).

Or it could go, finally, to Hugh Laurie for House — who’s been nominated so many times already it will surprise most people to learn that he has never won.

Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights got his second nomination from the now-cancelled show, along with co-star Connie Britton and the series itself. (Hello, academy? Where were you when no one was watching?)

In the corresponding Best Actor, Comedy category, this will be the first year since colour television was invented that Tony Shalhoub was not nominated for Monk.

This opens the field up to Big Bang Theory’s unsung hero, Johnny Galecki, in the unenviable position of having to compete with his co-star, last year’s winner, Jim Parsons.

Also up, both for playing themselves, the controversy-courting comedian, Louis CK, for Louis, and Matt LeBlanc for Episodes.

And, oh yeah, Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell, picking up where Tony Shalhoub left off.

In the Best Actress, Comedy, McCarthy’s most worthy nomination will have to stand against perennials Tina Fey and Edie Falco, though as far as I’m concerned her only credible competitor is the previously nominated Amy Poehler (twice for Saturday Night Live, once for Parks & Recreation).

Best Actress, Drama, will also see some new faces, though Tremé nominee Melissa Leo will be familiar to many as this year’s Oscar winner for The Fighter (and they’re not about to let her backup on stage to unleash another f-bomb).

That leaves it down to Kathy Bates, in her ninth nomination, and first for the freshman hit Harry’s Law, and the favourite, eight-time nominee Julianna Margulies, her second for The Good Wife, with five prior nods and one win for ER.

Mireille Enos is the dark horse (very) for AMC’s The Killing.

Best Drama Series is back to mostly usual suspects, with Game of Thrones an unexpected late entry.

The same, even more so, in the Comedy category, with Modern Family the shoe-in, buoyed by accompanying and well-earned nominations for just about every actor on it.

Biggest and best surprise, as far as I’m concerned, is the long-overdue acknowledgement of So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deeley in the four-year-old boys-club category, Best Reality Host — who, if there is any justice, will see the academy vote three-time winner Jeff Probst off his island.

There were beaucoup Canadian candidates this year, more than any year I can remember, with actors Michael J. Fox (The Good Wife), Christopher Plummer (Moguls & Movie Stars), Will Arnett (30 Rock) and Barry Pepper (The Kennedys) named in their various categories.

Nominated Canadian produced and co-produced series were the aforementioned Kennedys with 10, Pillars of the Earth with seven and The Borgias with six.

Degrassi is nominated for its first-ever Emmy for Best Children’s Program (though the enduring franchise won the International Emmy equivalent in 1986 and ’87).

VIDEO: Is this the Year for British Comedian Gina Yashere?

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

(Jul 19, 2011) *Gina Yashere! Have you heard of her?  Sure you have!  She was the first British (Bri’ish) performer on the cult classic “Def Comedy Jam.” No?  How’s about her being named one of the finalists on “Last Comic Standing,” and she is a regular on television on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  What do you mean you’re not sure?  There aren’t many black female comics in merry ol’ England, are there?

“Actually there are quite a few black female comedians in England, obviously I’m the best, but there are quite a few,” Yashere (Yas-Shir-Ray)told our Lee Bailey. “Same as there are out here. There’s actually a vibrant comedy scene in England, regardless of if it’s black or white. It’s kind of how it was in America in the 80s. There’s a booming scene and of those there are a quite a few black female comics.  Not billions of them, but there’s a few.”

Ok then dear reader, you got us on that one.  There are quite a few black female comics in Great Britain and, to hear Gina tell it, she is the very best. But it isn’t just Gina saying it. The Guardian (London) once called her one the best comedians in the world. We know they were likely giving a hometown girl some extra props, but those are still pretty lofty accolades.

“I’ve been working a long time in England and I’ve reached a level where I can sell out theatres, I sell DVDs and I do quite a bit of television so I think I’ve hit a ceiling and I want to expand my horizons,” Yashere told EURweb.com. “I think America is definitely the home of the best comedy in the world and if you make it in America, that’s it! You’ve made it everywhere. It’s always been a plan of mine to come to America, even before I was in comedy back when I was working as an engineer. I always planned to come to work in America in some capacity.”

Well all righty then! Now she’s finally here and slugging it out in the arena of comedy for laughs and recognition. Last year her Showtime comedy special ‘Skinny Bitch’ had folks in stitches.

“I’ve always loved the whole ethic behind the American dream,” Gina explained.  “I think my personality fits in a lot more here than it does in England. The British mentality is they kind of scorn ambition. You make it and it’s like you have to pretend you don’t know how you made it. ‘I made it. I happened to be in the right place at the right time!’  They do this fake humility kind of thing.   Where in America it’s like ‘I want it, I’m going to work hard for it, now I’ve got it and I’m going to let everybody know I’ve got it and how great it is.’  In England it’s this whole pretend humility thing. That’s just not my personality.”

We guess the expressions “if you got it, flaunt it” and “I’m just doing me” don’t fly over well in the United Kingdom. “Shake what your Momma gave you” probably makes people frown as well.

“I came here to do a TV show called ‘Last Comic Standing’ and I got the top 10 in 2007,” Yashere explained of her first stab at permanent US residency. “That got me a work visa and I thought ‘I’m not going to waste this.’  It’s what most people would kill for and now that I have it here I’m going to make the most of it. I went back to England, sold my house and everything I owned and turned up at the finale with two suitcases. I don’t play around. No regrets whatsoever.”

That was a gutsy move to be sure. Contrary to what some immigrants imagine prior to moving to the United States, the streets are not lined with gold but the hopes of those who dared to have dreams yet lacked the resolve to see them through.  But the success stories are what keep people coming.

“It’s a huge challenge getting work out,” said Yashere. “I didn’t realize before I got here was that the whole club scene out here, in order to get work, is celebrity driven rather than talent driven. Celebrity and talent doesn’t always equate. Somebody could be a celebrity but they might be a sh*tty comedian. I’ve seen a lot of that where there are comedians on stage selling out comedy clubs and I’m like ‘I would wipe the floor with that guy!’”

After her prior statement Lee Bailey asked Yashere for a bit of clarity. While that celebrity/comic phenomenon works in mainstream comedy, black folks are not paying their money to see someone who is not funny.

“Not so much with black comics because with black comics, to get to where you are, you’ve got to be super funny,” said Gina. “I see it more often with the mainstream comics, the white comics most definitely. You’ve got some mediocre comics out there selling out comedy clubs. Mediocre at best.”

Mediocre at best!  One thing you have to love about the British is that they’re so adept at hurling crushing insults without the slightest deviation in vocal tone and inflection. An admirable trait to be certain, especially for a comedian.

“That is very frustrating coming from England where everyone knows who I am, I don’t even have to announce myself,” said Yashere of her level of fame in the UK. “I just show up and people fall all over themselves to book me, coming here they’re like ‘We know you’re funny, but can you sell tickets? No?’ Then we’re not going to book you.”

Another major difference between the comedy scene in the United States and the United Kingdom is the format. Yashere tells EURweb.com that a good comedian can work consistently if he/she is good.

“In England audiences just go to the comedy club,” she explained.  “They don’t know who is going to be up there, but they know that if it’s a reputable comedy club they are going to have good comedians.  It’s not based on who is on that night.  Every comedian works in England. If you’re good and you’re consistently good comedy clubs will book you. It’s not about how many tickets you can sell, the onus is on the comedy club to sell tickets.   That means, as a comedian in England, all comics earn a very good living regardless of how many TV credits you have. In England, all the comedy clubs pay all comics the same money. I think that’s a much better system.   In England I’ve actually transcended. I don’t do comedy clubs anymore. If you get to the point where an audience is coming just to see you then you move to theatres and book your own shows, do your own tours. ”

After going from headlining your own comedy tour, Yashere says her pockets aren’t quite flat, but they certainly aren’t fat here in the U.S.

“I’ve taken a huge, I mean a humungous pay cute, to come out here and work in America.  I think I have something to offer the American audience and once I hit it, I will hit it.  I know I’m very good at what I do and what I’m capable of and every time I get in front of an audience out here they know what I’m capable of.”

For blacks in show business talent and skill almost have to be overwhelmingly apparent, but not so much with some other ethnics groups where folks can get away with being clever and cute.  But there’s also the old ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ scenario.

“Talent will always rise to the top eventually,” said Yashere. “but it’s also whose manager is in contact with whose manager, whose got the best agent, whose got the biggest over all presence.  It’s a combination of a lot of things that can catapult you to the next level here in America.”

“To give you a prime example, I’m on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno every couple of months, doing my psychic sketch, which is a very funny sketch. So funny they keep calling me back to do another one.  I’ve been on the ‘Tonight Show’ six times, which is more than most comedians out here have ever done in their entire careers and I’ve been here not even three years. But that is not translating into the type of work that I thought it would.  It’s not because I’m not talented, but because people don’t know who I am. That’s basically a PR problem rather than a talent problem.”

Another thing female comedians have to deal with in America is delivery.  The angle of approach and delivery is critical.  Feminist, sexpot, activist, mother figure? Yashere says her comic stylings are more observational at this stage in her career.  She also thinks sexual material is the easy way out.

“I’m not overtly sexual because I think that’s a trap that a lot of female comics are falling into,” she explained.  “They think they have to be overtly sexual to be on the same level as the guys.   I made a pact with myself about five years ago to get rid of all that material from my set and try to be strictly observational so that I cannot be judged and compared to other females.   I can do a two hour set without doing any overtly sexual stuff.”

On her most recent DVD, ‘Skinny Bitch’, Yashere talks about being  a newly skinny individual.  She recently lost 80 pounds. She tells our Lee Bailey that it has definitely shaped her material.

“I would have thought that loosing weight would have effected my career drastically but it hasn’t to this point,” she explained.  “I’m probably going to come out with a fitness DVD at some point. My Showtime special is called ‘Skinny B*tch’ because I talk about the fact that I’ve lost like 80 pounds. There’s a trickle down effect.  I decided to loose the weight around the time I’ve moved to America.  It changed my material.  I’ve lost 45 minutes of material because I used to talk about the fact that I was big.  It changed my material because now I get to talk about how I lost the weight, which is good. There’s a lot of big and black females comedians out there talking about being big and black so I needed to move on from that anyway.”

Gina Yashere is a hands down, funny sister from London, England and we think you’ll agree the props she’s getting from the media in the United Kingdom are warranted.  Below there’s a list of select clips for your approval.  If you’d like more on Gina Yashere then log on go www.ginayashere.com.

Rufus Sewell Is Living His Zen Moment

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(Jul 19, 2011) Rufus Sewell has become rather fussy in his character portrayals. Currently starring in the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series Zen, the soft-spoken Englishman has a reputation for picking his roles carefully.

After growing up in Twickenham, Sewell attended London's Central School of Speech and Drama, where one of his instructors, Dame Judi Dench, saw potential and set him up with an agent.

His first notable appearance was in the 1994 BBC miniseries Middlemarch, which he followed with a breakout stage turn in Arcadia at The Royal National Theatre. He played the lead in the 1998 cult hit Dark City before his brooding good looks led to roles in A Knight's Tale, The Legend of Zorro and The Illusionist.

Network television came calling in 2008 with Eleventh Hour, a drama in which he starred as a biophysicist investigating unsolved phenomena. The show lasted less than one season, but he bounced back in the HBO miniseries John Adams.

Zen, adapted from the novels of Michael Dibdin, casts Sewell as a wry Roman police detective who tackles crime and corruption with stylish flair.

More than half your acting résumé has been roles in period pieces. Is that by preference?

I've never had any particular predilection towards period drama or swords and sandals. It's not something I'm particularly fond of or any better at than anything else.

Zen walks both sides of the law with aplomb. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

That's for the viewer to decide. He's not, for me, a winner. I was drawn to the fact that he wasn't one of those corridor-striding kind of winners. The absolute heart of him is how he reacts when he's cornered. He has to be slippery.

How close is your portrayal to the literary version?

The books were the inspiration, of course, but they're so unique. Michael Dibdin wrote 11 books and they vary wildly in style and tone. Some are overtly comic. Some are incredibly dark. And in some the character of Zen is very shadowy and, in some cases, doesn't even appear until halfway, and then fails to solve the crime. In others he's right at the forefront. The one constant is that he's strangely un-dynamic. In many ways, he's just trying to get through the day.

Was filming in Rome the biggest perk of making the show?

What's wonderful about Rome is that it's unaffected by the tourists and stuff. The place is magical. And the Italians are lovely. We were working ridiculous hours, so I didn't see a lot of the city, but just getting dropped off and walking back through Rome at the end of the evening was one of the great pleasures of making the show.

Did the cruel fate of Eleventh Hour sour you on American network television?

I'd say I'm burned on network television. I learned more doing that series than probably anything else I've ever done, but the first benefit of that knowledge is not to do another one. With network television there are so many people you have to please in terms of business and demographics. The kind of thing I like is quite difficult to produce under those circumstances. And even the kind of thing I like, I wouldn't necessarily want to be in for a long time.

No envy, then, of Hugh Laurie's success with House?

No. I think he's fantastic. And I could watch that show back to back, and he's brilliant in it.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Masterpiece Mystery! airs Sundays on PBS.

New Sci-Fi Invasion Hitting The Small Screen

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

(Jul 19, 2011) ER's Noah Wyle is fighting a war against aliens intent on crushing humanity in Falling Skies. Terra Nova star Jason O’Mara is a colonist escaping a future environmental extinction by travelling with his family back to the time of the dinos. Superpowered series Alphas boasts a team of uncaped crusaders fighting crime. And on Torchwood this season, extraterrestrials could be behind a worldwide miracle that threatens to become apocalyptic.

Yes, there's a
sci-fi invasion hitting the small screen. In the past two or three seasons, vampires, zombies and teen werewolves have been the big winners in the television genre wars as once-dominant science-fiction was all but abducted from TV. But in the next few months, major series (including two shows helmed by Steven Spielberg) suggest a light at the end of the proverbial dark and mysterious tunnel.

Why the downturn in the first place? You could blame the genre's success: As long-running hits such as Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate wrapped up, the studios were in a race to peddle the “next Lost” – but failed to deliver the goods. Shows aimed at cult audiences, for example, such as Dollhouse, Caprica and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles were all cancelled prematurely because of their cult-sized ratings. Hyped network series such as FlashForward, The Event and V failed to catch on. The U.S.-based Sci-Fi Channel even softened its genre affiliation with a name change to SyFy.

“Effectively,” says Russell T. Davies, who created the sci-fi series Torchwood, returning to television this summer, “there had been a glut.”

The Lost formula of a series-long story – however successful among hard-core fans – was also a hurdle for the genre. The show's complexity was appealing to some, but a turn-off to others. An executive producer of Terra Nova (one of Spielberg's current TV projects) recently assured TV critics: “This has nothing to do with Lost,” while his network boss, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly, promised “you won't need a study guide to follow it.”

What's ahead, then, could be considered a revamp of sci-fi, starting with Torchwood.

Unlike Lost, Torchwood – a BBC spinoff (and anagram) of Doctor Who about an institute set up by Queen Victoria to defend the British Empire from aliens – tells a single story each season. “People like to think there’s going to be a beginning and ending to things, rather than being led on for seven seasons. You can lose interest,” says the show's star, John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness). “When you look at things like Lost, sometimes as a viewer we watched and thought, ‘Y’know, they just made this up.’ ”

Torchwood also offers adult-oriented “psychological sci-fi,” which goes deeper than “spaceships and aliens.” This season, dubbed Miracle Day, is focused on what might happen if we stopped dying, but still aged, got sick, felt pain and needed to eat. “A lot of it is fuelled by 2008, when we practically saw our entire economy collapse,” series originator Davies says. “If that week had gone any worse, we’d now be living in caves fighting each other with bones. We like to think we're a great stable empire, and we’re clearly not. …

“A lot of science-fiction will use the word metaphor – that their spaceship is a metaphor for human society,” he continues. “Torchwood takes that word out. This is showing what real humans are capable of.”

A similar grim realism grounds the first of Spielberg's series to hit the air. On Falling Skies, co-created with Saving Private Ryan screenwriter Robert Rodat, Wyle is a military history prof-turned-resistance fighter in a sort of extension of Spielberg's 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds. But while that Tom Cruise film focused on the initial invasion, Falling Skies begins six months after a devastating alien attack leaves most of the population dead, the military scattered and our technology useless.

While there are plenty of icky aliens – ranging from slimy monsters to slug-like parasites that use mind control on children – the show is also a mission-based war drama with broad appeal.

Spielberg's other sci-fi gamble, Terra Nova, launching this September, tells the story of a family from a dystopian future who joins a pilgrimage to the dinosaur era to start civilization anew. As Michael McNamara, who chronicles sci-fi/fantasy subcultures on the just-launched Canadian docu-series Fanboy Confessional, puts it: “It's got all the classic elements of a great popular sci-fi pitch, doesn't it? Swiss Family Robinson build a homestead in Jurassic Park.”

But the show has also been beset by high costs – the pilot reportedly topped $15-million (U.S.) – production delays and staff turnover, so Fox is banking on Spielberg while trying to navigate sci-fi’s recent decline. Network executives wary of the limitations of the “sci-fi” label, for instance, are calling the series an “epic family drama” and looking beyond the hard-core crowd that is being targeted by a straightforward genre show such as SyFy's Alphas, which was originally going to air on ABC before it balked.

“[Terra Nova] is made for a massively broad audience,” executive producer Alex Graves insists. “It’s for everybody … from my kids to the gamer to my dad.”

Whether the latest wave of sci-fi will drown all those sexy bloodsuckers or push back the tide of reality television remains a cliff-hanger, but for fans' sake, here's hoping.

“We need strong well-constructed moral fables with imagination and depth,” McNamara says, “and we ain't going to get that from The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Shows like that are like empty calories from a fast-food joint. If you want value, long shelf-life, mass appeal and loyalty, you have to be willing to dig deeper to places where good sci-fi lives.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

A Season Of Dark Undoings At The Court Of Prince Vince

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Warren Clements

(July 15, 2011) The world of TV on DVD grew richer this week. Glenn Close returned in the third season of the legal drama Damages. The British spy thriller MI-5 chimed in with Volume 9. ER ended its run with Season 15.

And, as the half-hour comedy Entourage prepares to kick off its eighth and final season on HBO Canada on July 24,
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season reminds fans that it's always darkest before the dawn. So many bad things happened to so many central characters in Season 7 that creator Doug Ellin made a point of assuring Entertainment Weekly last month that the eighth season will be funnier, lighter and more in the spirit of the show's early seasons.

It's not as though the past season wasn't enjoyable. The series, which follows young actor Vince (Adrian Grenier) and his buddies as they navigate Hollywood, retains its lightning speed and witty dialogue. It continues to juggle interlocking subplots without breaking a sweat.

Famous people continue to play versions of themselves, the way James Cameron did when he offered Vince the title role in Aquaman in Season 2. This time round, Mike Tyson wants to do a remake of The Brady Bunch. Director Nick Cassavetes puts pressure on Vince to perform his own car stunts. And John Cleese pokes fun at his reputation for serial marriages and divorces. He's about to marry a 23-year-old. "You read Perez Hilton?" someone asks him. He replies: "My girlfriend's 23. I have to stay relevant."

But every silver lining has a cloud. Ari (Jeremy Piven), the agent who tackles problems with patter quick enough to set land-speed records, is insufferably proud that he is now the head of the biggest talent agency in the business. Trouble is, he isn't paying enough attention to his agency's clients, and his wife is upset that he pays no attention to her.

Vince takes up with Sasha Grey, whom everyone pretends not to recognize as a porn star; instead, they congratulate her for her mainstream role in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience. So Vince is happy. Then happiness shakes hands with drugs and alcohol, and you just know that means trouble.

As for Vince's entourage, Eric (Kevin Connolly) is in line to marry the daughter of wealthy Terrance McQuewick (Malcolm McDowell), but you never know. Drama (Kevin Dillon) has a development deal for a possible series, but the deal is coming to an end. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is scrambling to keep his business ventures afloat.

If something can go wrong, Season 7 ensures that it will. Expect a dark cliffhanger. Expect that Season 8 will set everything right.


VIDEO: Gleek Alert!

Source:  www.thestar.com -
by: Linda Barnard

(Jul 18, 2011) The trailer for
Glee 3D has landed. It's loud and you get to hear that Journey cover about streetlights and believin' a lot. As usual Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) gets the last word - which is as it should be. The movie opens Aug 12.

Charlie Sheen To Star In ‘Anger Management’ Sitcom

Source:  www.thestar.com

(Jul 18, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Former Two and a Half Men star
Charlie Sheen is planning a return to series television in Anger Management, a new sitcom based on the 2003 film of the same name. No network is attached to the series, which will be produced by Lionsgate Television and distributed by a subsidiary, Debmar-Mercury, the company announced Monday. No co-stars or production start date were disclosed. Sheen will retain a “significant ownership stake” in the series, said Lionsgate. In the film, which starred Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, a mild-mannered man is ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a therapist who needs therapy himself.

Photos: Raven-Symoné Poses for Rolling Out

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 24, 2011) *Actress/singer
Raven-Symoné graces the cover of Rolling Out Magazine. As  you can see, Raven’s new, slim new figure is on display. In the cover story Raven talks about how she lost weight, her new TV show, “The Great State of Georgia,” and gives advice to other actresses trying to get in the game. The photo shoot was 3 hours long and Raven is seen rocking 4 gorgeous looks. Take a look at the pics from the shoot above and below. Then, if you want more, click over to Rolling Out.


Meg Tilly’s Comeback Lights Up Victoria Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(July 20, 2011) VICTORIA — Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not Meg Tilly. And not the theatregoers of Victoria, either.

The Oscar-nominated actress who dazzled audiences from 1980-1995 and then vanished from the public eye, is currently making a triumphant comeback as the foul-mouthed, gin-swilling, Martha in Edward Albee’s classic study of mixed marital doubles, served on the rocks and garnished heavily with four-letter words.

The Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre production in Victoria which closed on July 17 after playing to rave reviews and sellout houses was truly a triumph for Tilly, the company and its artistic director, Brian Richmond.

Richmond once called Toronto his home and served as Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille from 1988-1991, but recent years have found him in Victoria as the Chair of the Theatre Department at the university there, while keeping his professional directing career alive across the country.

But he felt a need to bring the two threads of his life together and in 2009, he founded Blue Bridge so that students from the university would get a chance to work with and learn from established professionals, like Toronto’s David Ferry who starred there as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

When Richmond heard that Tilly had relocated in Victoria, he began discussions with her about appearing on stage, although she had literally only been in one play before in her life.

Martha is a huge challenge for even the most experienced actresses, so one can understand the trepidation everyone (most of all, Tilly!) felt at tackling the role after so many years away from acting.

But 30 seconds into the play, as she crashed, cursing, through the door of Carole Klemm’s perfect set, I knew that everything was going to be just fine.

If you remember her early work like the Oscar-nominated performance she gave in Agnes of God, there always was a dark side to Tilly that made her magnetic when she was an ingénue.

Now that she’s frankly 51, that same unsettling emotional quality pays off with even higher dividends.

I’ve seen a lot of Marthas in my time, from Elaine Stritch and Kathleen Turner to Martha Henry and Nancy Palk, but Tilly was, in many ways, the most terrifying. I truly felt that she was mentally unhinged and that she could have self-destructed or killed any character on stage, given the provocation.

Tilly is also not afraid to use her sexuality in a wanton way, letting everyone see just what she has to offer and how she plans to use it.

The way she sprawls in her own particular armchair, legs splayed out, breasts thrust forward, neck thrown back, gives her a feral air that is totally appropriate for the character.

Richmond has directed the play with a firm hand and even though it runs three and a half hours, your attention is held throughout.

Andrew Wheeler, most recently seen here as Eadweard Muybridge in Canadian Stage’s Studies in Motion, is also a wonderfully convincing George, confident in his intellectual knowledge, but an emotional disaster zone, especially when dealing with his wife.

Wheeler manages to make all of George’s often convoluted utterances make perfect sense and while Tilly rages, he helps keep the ship on an even keel.

The two younger members of the company, Alex Plouffe as Nick and Celine Stubel as Honey, are a bit out of their league opposite the likes of Tilly and Wheeler, but not enough so to seriously damage the evening.

Besides delivering an exciting show, what Richmond and his company are doing is even more rewarding: creating a genuine feel of “you’ve got to see this” about a hometown show.

People were fighting for tickets the night I was there, the house was packed and the audience ranged from teens who had to call their parents up for a ride home afterwards, to seniors who slowly steered their walkers up the theatre’s aisles.

I thought once again about the power of stardom and how, used properly, it can be an excellent thing. Meg Tilly’s name may have brought the people into the theatre, but her acting, Albee’s play and the rest of the production kept them there.

That’s a win-win situation for everyone. Toronto theatres, take note.

Twelfth Night At Stratford: Midsummer Madness Delights

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare. Directed by Des McAnuff. Until Oct. 28 at Festival Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.

(Jul 17, 2011) STRATFORD—If music be the food of love, then you’re
not going to find a more abundant feast of delights than in Des McAnuff’s production of Twelfth Night, which opened this weekend at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

What makes it so good?

There’s a lot of reasons why this well-known story of twins separated by a shipwreck, and how they befuddle the hearts and minds of the people of Illyria, gains such added theatrical resonance this time around.

To Shakespeare’s original play, which is already bursting to the seams with comedy, song and romance, McAnuff adds a physical production that time-trips all over the map and a soundscape (by McAnuff and Michael Roth) that sets lyrics by the Bard and Christopher Marlowe to music that careens through pop music of the past 50 years, evoking everyone from The Beatles to The Boss.

In the words of one of the show’s characters, it’s “midsummer madness.” As always with McAnuff, there’s method in it.

Begin by looking at Debra Hanson’s set. A giant gilt-framed mirror arches over the Festival stage, but the gold has been chipped away and the mirror exists in tarnished, shattered shards.

In no Shakespearean play does vanity take centre stage so often, which is why Hanson’s central device keeps zeroing in on the play’s essence.

Her costumes, which evoke everything from the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to Brideshead Revisited, show us that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, especially in love.

Although McAnuff flips the plays two opening scenes and begins with the shipwreck, before taking us into Orsino’s court — where the famous line “If music be the food of love, play on” — takes place, he makes up for it, by giving those words a fresh reading.

“Play on” is the operative phrase here, because that’s what these beautiful, rich, spoiled, self-centered people do: They play.

McAnuff illustrates this literally with games running from baseball and golf through badminton, but he does it metaphorically as well. Olivia’s self-dramatizing grief and Orsino’s swaggering masculine angst get rich airings.

The two actors cast in those often ungrateful roles, by the way, are an indication of how well this production works.

Sara Topham takes Olivia on a complete journey, from an overindulgence in grief to a genuine discovery of love. Mike Shara isn’t afraid to make Orsino a chauvinist brute who wallows in his swinishness until he, too, is redeemed by the power of genuine emotion.

The comedic scenes of Twelfth Night can often run off with the show and Lord knows they have every right to do so here, with some of the finest actors around filling the roles, but the very rightness of the people involved keep everything tightly linked together.

Brian Dennehy treats Sir Toby Belch not as some cartoon from a British screen comedy, but as a comedic cousin of his James Tyrone from Long Day’s Journey Into Night: full of misplaced self-regard and dreams of past glory, all left to marinate in whatever booze is on hand.

Stephen Ouimette, looking like Helen Mirren’s older, uglier sister, is a Sir Andrew Aguecheek as pathetic as he is hilarious, another self-loving loser, who is never funnier than in a sauna scene where his falling towel looks like he’s starring in a new TV show called Thongs and Arrows.

Tom Rooney proves for once and for all that one doesn’t have to mug to make Malvolio, the steward with dreams of glory, truly hilarious.

The scene where a forged letter from Olivia fuels his fantasies of self-aggrandizement starts from such a genuine point of reality that we’re not ready for it to reach the dizzying heights of laughter that it does.

Then there’s Ben Carlson. No one can find the comic gold in seemingly obscure Elizabethan quips more deftly than this man, and he does it all in the most casual and offhand manner.

Even more impressive, Carlson’s jester, Feste, carries the musical burden of the show and plays and sings on almost every musical number.

His “Oh Mistress Mine” sums up every youthful love affair ever suffered through. His “Come Away, Death” brings the chill shadow or mortality onto the stage like an October breeze. His “The Wind and the Rain” sums up everything that’s gone before to perfection.

If the show has a flaw, it’s that Suzy Jane Hunt, who was imported into the company to temporarily play Viola after Andrea Runge developed back trouble, really doesn’t have the vibrancy needed for the great romantic soliloquies she’s called upon to deliver.

She’s briskly convincing as the character everyone thinks is a young man named Cesario, but the deeply touching woman underneath doesn’t quite come through.

Still, that’s not enough to diminish the sheer delight generated by the proceedings onstage. As Shakespeare’s plot comes to its implausible yet deeply satisfying conclusion, you can’t help but be moved and be happy for all those involved.

How does McAnuff solve the problem of Malvolio’s final threat of revenge upon everyone else in the play? Come and see for yourself. It’s brilliant and different and yet somehow perfect, just like the rest of this show.

The Summerworks Affair: Cheap Shots, At The Expense Of Artists

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

(Jul 13, 2011) On Friday night, Canadian theatre companies across the
country are banding together in unprecedented numbers, united behind a common cause: Glorifying terrorism.

Well, that's what it might seem like if you subscribe to the outlier literary criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, anyway.

From my vantage point, these theatre companies are taking a courageous stand for freedom of expression and demanding respect from a government that keeps trying to score political points on their backs.

The more than 70 participating companies - including such prominent institutions as the Shaw Festival, the Vancouver Playhouse and almost every major Toronto theatre from Canadian Stage to Soulpepper - are collaborating on readings of Catherine Frid's play Homegrown.

Taking place in, at last count, nine cities, these readings are fundraisers for the
SummerWorks Festival, which recently lost the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The choice of Homegrown, Frid's autobiographical play about her complicated relationship with convicted terrorist Shareef Abdelhaleem, is not arbitrary, of course.

Some breathless coverage of the premiere of Homegrown at SummerWorks last year led a spokesman for Mr. Harper to remark in August that "we are extremely disappointed that public money is being used to fund plays that glorify terrorism."

Mr. Harper later told reporters that he was "concerned" about Frid's play, too. "I just think most Canadians would find anything that glorifies terrorism to be abhorrent," he said, a quite reasonable statement if you ignore the fact that Homegrown did no such thing. (Toronto Star critic Richard Ouzounian, to quote someone other than myself who actually saw the play, said it was "definitely not a play that supports or romanticizes terrorism.") Flash forward 10 months and, lo and behold, the SummerWorks festival learned that the modest amount of public money it received at the federal level, about $1,000 per play presented, was no more, leaving it with a 20 per cent budgetary shortfall and little time to make it up.

However, if you think for a moment that there might be a connection between the leader of the land's publicly expressed repugnance and the sudden disappearance of its federal funds after five years of support, in conjunction with artistic and audience growth, you might also think that 9/11 was an inside job, according to Heritage Minister James Moore.

In an interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio's Q earlier this week, Mr. Moore told listeners that SummerWorks had "nothing whatever" to do with Homegrown. "People can draw up whatever conspiracy theories they want," he added when pressed on the point.

In that interview, Mr. Moore made some rather good points about how the Conservatives have shown support for Canadian culture, but as the minister so rightly noted, government support for the arts is about more than just money.

Indeed, it's the disdainful talk that drips out of Ottawa and its trickle-down effects that irk most of all and have led to theatre artists across the country to rise up in revolt.

When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty chastises artists for assuming an "entitlement to grants," as he did in response to the SummerWorks uproar, perhaps Canadians will be led to believe that theatre artists are a bunch of whiners on the dole. In reality, however, what I see are legions of cultural entrepreneurs who have proved ingenious at wringing money out of private sources and who only wish that they could find out about possible funding before rather than after they have to commit to a budget.

And when the Heritage Minister complains about "conspiracy theories" on national radio, perhaps Canadians listening will assume that the theatre artists outraged by the withdrawal of support for SummerWorks are some sort of misguided tin-foil-hat brigade. In reality, however, what I see is a group of citizens who perhaps naively assume that when the Prime Minister publicly expresses concern about an issue, he might actually act on it.

Let us take Mr. Moore at his word, however, and assume that the folks at Canadian Heritage, without political interference, decided that the artists who participate in SummerWorks are 10 times as less in need of a leg-up than Canada's Walk of Fame, which recently received a cool half a million from Canadian Heritage.

And let us take him at his word that the Conservative government respects the arts.

Is it too much to ask, then, that they might consider respecting artists as well, instead of insulting them, mischaracterizing their work and using them as straw men to beat for the perceived bloodlust of their base?

Carrie Fisher's Hard-Won Pearls Of Wisdom

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Jul 17, 2011) One of the reviews of the book form of
Wishful Drinking, a memoir chronicling a peculiarly public life, bubbled that it was "funny as hell," and went on to urge people to "get someone to read this rollicking book aloud to you."

My first thought is that the adjective "rollicking" would starve if it wasn't for book blurbs to keep it in business. My second thought is that the finest person to read Wishful Drinking aloud is, of course, its author
Carrie Fisher. It's her 2006 one-woman show, her book, and her just-nominated-for-an-Emmy meal ticket. Just our luck that Fisher is reading the hell out of the thing down at the Royal Alex, where she, one might say, rollicks.

Friday's strong, warm opening-night performance began surreally, with a hardened, husky-voiced dame who looks nothing like the bikini-wearing Star Wars royalty of her youth bounding on stage to toss glittery confetti and sort-of sing Happy Days Are Here Again.

Fisher suffers from 'bipolar disorder which she treats with electroconvulsive therapy. Some days are happy and some days are not. The day she woke up in 2005 next to a dead, gay, Republican friend was one of the bad ones. Fisher fielded questions about that episode - "who did I call? 911. The policeman who came over said 'I really like your house'" - and then moved on, inviting the audience to join her for a "little bit of a journey."

If you've read or heard any of Fisher's interviews this past week, you already have a fair idea of what the show entails. She tells us about drug and alcohol abuse and her dysfunctional upbringing. The same bon mots and pearls of hard-won wisdom she winningly peppers her show with are the same ones she flings to the press verbatim. Eddie Fisher, her singing father, was best remembered for the tear-jerking Oh! My Pa-Pa?. His daughter calls it "Oh! My Faux Pas."

Wishful Drinking's first segment was Hollywood Inbreeding 101, a chalkboard tutorial that starts with papa Fisher and mother Debbie Reynolds - Fisher does a marvellous vocal imitation of her - and moves on to Elizabeth Taylor and beyond.

The segment was funny, but long. The a-ha moment - that both mother and daughter married short, Jewish singers - wasn't much of a bow to tie it all together. Eddie Fisher and Paul Simon? C'mon, as much alike as Dean Martin and Paul McCartney.

Much attention was given to Star Wars, the blockbuster film franchise that starred Fisher as the bun-haired Princess Leia, a much-merchandised character that apparently even took form as a sex doll. But the giant Leia-likeness that came down from the Royal Alex rafters was made of cement, we were told. cement - it was a sexy statute, not a doll, which made a bit involving a male audience member confusing.

The show closed with a Star Wars "poem" about a struggle against an evil empire. Fisher recited it, just as she did in the original 1977 film. Except the galaxy far, far away is Hollywood, and the rebel princess is the child of that world.

Fisher can't seem to get past that. Well into her fifties now, she still identifies herself as a movie star's daughter. She mentions that the electroconvulsive therapy affects her memory. Clutching an R2-D2 doll, she walked off stage, perhaps to reboot her brain and trigger the life story that plays on demand. Fisher, who describes herself as semi-fictional, is now her own recurring hologram.

Wishful Drinking

Written by and starring Carrie Fisher

At the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto


Hollywood's Digital Push A Boon For Kitchener Factory

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Susan Krashinsky

(July 18, 2011) For more than a century, a film reel running through a
projector - the rapid, steady flick-a-flick-a-flick like the noise of a baseball card in a child's bike spokes - has been the sound of the cinema. But now it is fading out.

Canada's two largest theatre chains, Cineplex Inc.
CGX-T and Empire Theatres Ltd., have committed to switching almost all of their screens to using digital projectors over the next year and a half. By the time the Christmas season blockbusters are released in 2012, the old mechanical film projectors, and film itself, will be a rarity at most multiplexes.

The switch to digital is already under way in many other countries, and is about to pick up speed as lower-cost, higher-quality digital movie prints become the norm. The push toward digital comes straight from Hollywood: the biggest studios recognize the value of paying less than $100 for each digital movie print as opposed to film prints, which cost more than 10 times as much. Because of that, they're kicking in the price of the new projectors so that theatre owners adopt the cost-saving technology more quickly.

But while the end of celluloid may be a sad turn for some film buffs, in one corner of Kitchener, Ont., it is very good news indeed. That's because many of these new digital projectors are rolling off a Canadian assembly line.

"We've invested well over $100-million over the years in developing different platforms, the marketing, engineering, everything ... to now be able to roll out digital cinema globally," says Gerry Remers, the president of
Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc.

Christie is owned by Japan-based Ushio Inc., but the engineering and production of the equipment happens here, and has deep roots in Canada. The Kitchener facility was formerly owned by a Canadian company that spanned most of the 20th century: Electrohome Ltd., which started out making phonographs in 1907, and later made its name in broadcast TV and in manufacturing television sets.

Electrohome invested in digital projection in the nineties, licensing technology from Texas Instruments Inc. with the thought that digital might be the way of the future. In 1999, as part of the long winding-down of Electrohome, its projection business was sold to Ushio, which had also bought a California manufacturer of mechanical film projectors called Christie. The old Electrohome plant now buzzes with activity; these days, Christie Digital ships roughly 900 projectors a month.

The company is now fighting to dominate the global transition to digital movie projection. It estimates there are roughly 140,000 movie screens around the world that could be digitized, of which more than 50,000 have switched already. Just under half of these have Christie products in the projection room.

In one part of the plant, staff test projectors that have just been built to make sure they're operating correctly. They have to watch hours of movies to do it.

"We all know Avatar, word for word," technologist Rose Murphy says.

Christie owes a lot of its business to the James Cameron epic (even if Ms. Murphy is asking her boss for a copy of Transformers 3, just for a change.) The new 3-D technology only works with digital projectors, and many theatres began installing them to meet the demand for the multidimensional blockbusters of the past year and a half.

The arrival of 3-D was a boon for theatres because they could charge a premium on the ticket price, helping to offset the cost of the new equipment. But the full switch to digital projection was held up at first by the question of who would pay for it. Since the cost savings go entirely to the studios, the theatre chains argued they shouldn't have to foot the bill for new projectors that cost between $40,000 and $60,000 apiece.

But in 2005, the studios happened upon a solution: the "digital print fee." That means the theatre chains install new equipment with money lent by finance partners. The film studios, which have the most to gain from the digital switch, pay back the cost over time. Empire and Cineplex are now using the "digital print fee" model to fund their digital rollout.

But there are benefits for the cinema owners as well. Digital prints come in a single hard drive rather than unwieldy, heavy film cans, and can run in multiple theatres off one server. For high-demand movies, the theatres used to have to do what they call "yo-yoing," showing the same movie seconds apart in two theatres by feeding the film reel through one projector and into the other projector for the auditorium next door. With digital, they can now stagger show times more freely. And the quality is much better - digital doesn't scratch or wear down over time.

"A brand-new 35-millimetre print v. a digital print, it's very hard to decipher the difference ... but when you go to the 200th showing of Harry Potter, it's going to be a big difference," said Cineplex chief executive officer Ellis Jacob.

For its rollout, Cineplex will use Christie machines at its approximately 1,300 screens. Empire has gone with the company's Belgian competitor, Barco.

The technological change has made the 300,000 square-foot plant in Kitchener an unlikely sight: a thriving centre of manufacturing peopled with unionized workers, that to this day has not been shipped overseas.

"Print costs have been an issue for 100 years. ... In a five-year time frame, that's going to be gone," Mr. Remers says. "We're changing the industry dynamics, forever."

Mobile Devices To Lead Consumer Electronics Growth: Report

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liana B. Baker, Reuters, The Associated Press

(July 18, 2011)
NEW YORK— More customers than ever will buy tablet computers and smartphones this year, driving consumer electronics revenue to a record high of $190-billion (U.S.) in 2011, according to a new forecast from a leading industry trade group.

Sales of tablet computers such as Apple Inc’s iPad and its rivals will reach 26.5 million units, resulting in $14-billion in revenue, the Consumer Electronics Association said in a report released on Monday.

Smartphone sales will increase by 45 per cent to $23-billion, the study said.

“One year ago, tablets were a new and unproven market, and now they, along with other mobile connected devices including smartphones and e-readers, are leading the entire industry to positive growth,” Steve Koenig, the group’s director of industry analysis, said in a statement.

The consumer electronics industry will expand by 5.6 per cent this
year, ahead of the GDP growth rate in the United States of 2.4 per cent. Shipment revenues for consumer electronics will also climb next year, to an all-time high of $197-billion.

Unit sales of e-readers, such as Amazon.com’s Kindle, will double, bringing in $1.8-billion.

These mobile products are boosting revenue growth for the industry as other types of consumer electronics, such as flat-screen TVs, show declines, Koenig added.

The study found that 88 per cent of U.S households own at least one digital TV. Because of this high rate, sales of TVs are set to fall this year, with revenue of more than $18-billion.

TVs that are connected to the Internet are likely to be a growing area, with more than 10.4 million units shipping to stores this year. Despite the slow adoption of 3D, TVs that have that feature will ship 3.6 million units, up from 1.9 million units last year.

Apple will release its quarterly results on Tuesday, and sales numbers of the new, thinner iPad 2 will be in the spotlight. Wall Street estimates that Apple sold about 8 million new iPads in the quarter.

Amazon Starts Renting Textbooks For Kindle

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press, REUTERS

(July 18, 2011)
SEATTLE— In an effort to snag a larger segment of the college textbook market in the United States, Amazon.com Inc. has begun renting textbooks on its Kindle e-reader.

On Monday, the leading online retailer said students can rent tens of thousands of textbooks from its online Kindle Store, which Kindle users can access on the e-reader. Amazon said its rental prices are as much as 80 per cent lower than the list prices for the books.

Seattle-based Amazon said books are available from publishers including John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis.

Students can rent the books for as little as 30 days or as many as 360 days, and can add an extra day or buy the book if they want, Amazon said.

According to the National Association of College Stores, which represents more than 3,000 college bookstores, over 2,400 of its member stores offered rentals of physical textbooks in January, and nearly all are expected to do so by this fall. Students can also turn to Web-based textbook rental companies such as Chegg.com for physical books, or rent e-textbooks to read on devices such as a laptop or Apple Inc.’s iPad.

Amazon shares fell $3.57, or 1.7 per cent, to $209.30 in afternoon trading Monday.


Lucky in Love: Wyndham Nassau Resort

Source: Melanie
Reffes, www.luvtrip.com

(July 15, 2011) Soaring past the past five million mark, arrivals to the Bahamas hit a high note in 2010 with this year looking just as rosy.  Whether it’s Nassau and Paradise Island, Abaco Islands, Exuma Islands or Harbour Island, a holiday is, indeed, better in the Bahamas. A quick forty-five minute flight from Miami or three hours from New York City, the Bahamas are the perennial
favourite of eternal romantics who covet an evening under the stars or an active day on the water.  From Blackbeard and white beaches to glorious sunsets and spirited casinos, there is something for everyone on more than 700 islands and 2,000 cays.

Sitting pretty in the heart of Cable Beach,
Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino is one-stop shopping for an amorous getaway.  With the tallest tower on Cable Beach, the 559 rooms including thirty six penthouse suites marry island ambience with modern amenities. Wall-to-wall sliding glass doors welcome the ocean breeze while private balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are ideal for a sunrise breakfast or an après dinner nightcap. “Weddings are an important niche market for us” says Joe Eustice, general manager, “our team of planners organize everything from the music, food and photos to a bonfire on the beach.”

Nine restaurants and lounges, a pool with humongous rock formations, seawater swimming lagoon, snorkelling, parasailing and kayaking tempt during the day while the Crystal Palace Casino with four hundred slot machines, forty table games and the area’s only sports book is inviting when the sun sets. “Lovebirds like to tempt Lady Luck with a pull at a slot machine or a good hand at a table,” smiles Arnold Cargill, casino shift manager as he teaches the fine art of blackjack to tourists from Miami.

Chew Love

Hovering over the kitchen like he’s cooking for royalty, executive Chef Stephen Quigg has more than a quarter century of experience under his white apron.  Fresh from a stint at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica, this gastronomic whirling dervish creates unique menus that blend Asian, Italian, French, Caribbean and American flavors. A graduate of Toronto’s George Brown College; Chef Stephen honed his culinary skills in Bermuda at The Reefs Resort and Wyndham Bermuda Resort.

Not for the faint of appetite, Black Angus Grille with its signature selection of steaks, prime rib and delectable sides are worth the splurge.  A treasure trove for the taste buds, blackened conch is big enough to share and too good to miss. Caesar salad made fresh at the table is not to be missed and for special occasions, ask for Chef Tiffany to whip up one of her sinfully sweet chocolate soufflés. “For the garlic in the salad, a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream is the perfect remedy,” advises Chef Tiffany who recommends “honeymooners book a private dinner table right on the beach.”

For breakfast, the SeaSide buffet is flip-flop friendly and chock-a-block with American specialities and Bahamian dishes like Souse and Johnny cakes. For a light snack, Eat, Live Refresh is ideal for lighter appetites and the best coffee this side of Manhattan.

Conch in every shape and size is delectable at the sea view Tiki Hut and with a menu guaranteed to please; lunch is a fine affair with a burger to a grouper salad. For a fruity daiquiri, Da Daq Shaq is the must-try on the beach. Ask bartender Keith Farrington to shake (or stir) an extra potent daiquiri par excellence. At ‘22 Above’, aptly named for its locale high above the casino, a watermelon martini is heavenly while for those wanting to put a spring in their groovy gait, a local band entertains weekend nights at 9:30.  
www.wyndhamnassauresort.com. 1-800-WYNDHAM

The Big Blue

For a day on the open water, Stuart Cove’s is the go-to-spot for snorkelling tours, diving and waters skiing.  Experienced guides take guests on sunny excursions departing from the movie-famous dock that was built for the film Flipper which was filmed there in 1996. “Exploring the ocean is my passion,” instructor Ida Stjernstrom tells an eager boatload of tourists, “once you see the tropical fish and the sharks, you’ll be hooked just like I am. “

Sailing to the picturesque cays with stops to dive overboard, a day on the boat is what morphs a great vacation into a grand vacation. “My favorite reef is Little Elvis,” explains Ullin Saunders, instructor, “an amazing array of parrot fish, blue tangs  and  even fire coral are waiting for us to join them.” Sailing past swanky Lyford Cay where Sean Connery has a home, instructor Ida says she has seen romance bloom on the boats. “We’ve had couples who marry underwater; they wear a mask with a microphone so they can say their vows or they sit fifty feet down on the ocean floor on a wreck called the Ray of Hope.”  Stuart Cove’s has an office at the Wyndham Nassau to make booking weddings a breeze.


Toronto’s Sim Bhullar Could Become Global Basketball Force

Source:  www.thestar.com - Pete Thamel

(Jul 18, 2011) NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.—When the 7-foot-4 centre
Sim Bhullar walks through airports, people flock to him and ask him to pose for pictures. When he recently visited India, where his parents were born, so many approached him at the Sikh shrine known as the Golden Temple that he was ushered into an office. People hung on the bars of the office windows to catch a glance.

Yet only a few who follow college basketball recruiting actually know who Bhullar is: a 17-year-old from Toronto who orally committed to play for Xavier. Recruiting gurus also know his brother Tanveer, 16, another college prospect at 7-2 and 260 pounds.

But as untrained eyes from airport terminals to religious landmarks have shown, Bhullar’s basketball potential is obvious. No matter what level he rises to, Bhullar is poised to become the world’s first prominent men’s basketball player of Indian descent.

“I think it would be a blessing,” he said, “to be the first from an entire country to go to the NBA and be a role model.”

Chinese star Yao Ming, a former No. 1 pick, is retiring from the Houston Rockets, so it is easy to infer that Asia is ready for its next great basketball ambassador. Although Bhullar does not yet show the potential to be a top NBA pick, his size, his hands and the need for big bodies make it very likely that he will have a professional career somewhere.

Along with all the eyes drawn to him, Bhullar will also feel pressure from millions of supporters. Coverage of his games appears in Toronto’s Punjabi newspaper, Parvasi, and Sports Illustrated India has contacted Bhullar.

“It’s going to be a hard role to attach to, just because of all the different groups, religious groups and just people into athletics looking at you,” said Avneet Bhullar, Sim’s older sister, who is a law student in England. “It will be hard at first, but I know he’ll grasp it and set an example for many people the best he can.”

Bhullar’s emergence would be a boon for increasing the popularity of the game in India, with a population about 1.2 billion, including five million who play basketball.

Bhullar said that while visiting Punjab, the northern Indian state where his family’s roots lie, he had never seen anyone playing the game. Although Geethu Anna Jose, the captain of the Indian women’s national team, has attended WNBA tryouts, basketball is not widely known in the country.

The NBA has made inroads in India, where it plans to open an office this year. It televises five games a week there during the season, sponsors a community league in five cities — the Mahindra NBA Challenge — and made NBA jerseys available in India for the first time last year.

“Having a player from India in the NBA is a question of when, not if,” said Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International. “We have no doubt that the elite players from India will emerge.”

For the game to really pique the country’s interest, an Indian player would help greatly. Bhullar was not born in India, but his presence at a high level of basketball would resonate there.

“Like Yao for China and Dirk for Germany, he’s along those lines,” said Paul Biancardi, an ESPN recruiting analyst, referring to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. “He could help populate the game and spark interest in that country. But first, he has to emerge here. And he hasn’t done anything yet.”

Bhullar’s college basketball potential is a topic of debate among coaches, analysts and reporters. The positives he brings to the floor are obvious, as he clogs the lane with his thick frame, passes deftly and does not shy from contact in the paint. He played in the Nike Peach Jam tournament here last week with a broken nose he suffered with the Canadian national under-19 team. His 7-11 wingspan blocked and altered so many shots that opponents felt his presence physically and mentally.

“He hurts you when he fouls you,” Biancardi said.

Bhullar drew recruiting interest from some top college programs — Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse — but plenty of people are sceptical that he can be a consistent contributor.

Although he dropped to 330 pounds from 367 last year while playing at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Bhullar said he needed to lose another 30 pounds. He struggles running end to end, appears to tire easily and is limited laterally. But for Xavier, a perennial NCAA tournament team, it is probably wise to gamble on a prospect who can dunk on the tiptoes of his size 22 sneakers.

Rob Fulford, his coach at Huntington Prep, marvelled at how far Bhullar had come since arriving in November, with his improvement directly proportional to his weight loss.

“A lot of what’s holding him back is his body,” Fulford said. “When he drops weight, he’ll continue to get better. He has a long way to go with lateral movement, but he knows how to play and has great hands and footwork.”

Bhullar, who was introduced to basketball in grade school, faces a crossroads in the next month. He qualified academically to enrol at Xavier but could opt to spend another year at prep school. Bhullar said he would decide with his family in August.

His father, Avtar, stands 6-5 and grew up playing kabaddi, a physical sport with elements of wrestling. He owns a Toronto gas station, where the walls are covered with pictures and articles highlighting Sim’s basketball exploits. Bhullar’s mother, Varinder, works at the station.

Another year at Huntington could allow him to lose weight and to polish his post game. Bhullar could model himself after Xavier’s 7-foot centre, Kenny Frease, who became a top-flight Atlantic 10 player by tightening his body and developing his post game. Bhullar said Xavier coaches had chatted with Yao’s trainer about techniques and drills, but they cannot comment on Bhullar because he has not signed a letter of intent.

“Within the last year and a half, he’s had one of the biggest improvements or jumps I’ve ever seen in a kid,” said Mike George, the coach of Bhullar’s summer team, CIA Bounce, based in Toronto. “Xavier has proven they can get guys in proper conditioning and proven that they’ll use big guys. He’s a different type of guy for the Atlantic 10.”

After reaching 6-10 by the eighth grade, Bhullar said, he grew accustomed to attracting attention. He acknowledged that it was hard at times to be a normal teenager, but said that he made time for Xbox, Facebook and movies with his friends.

Bhullar is quiet and humble, with a dry sense of humour. When gawkers ask what sport he plays, he flashes a mischievous smile and says, “Hockey.”

If Bhullar slims down and broadens his game, he may need a new joke. From Toronto to Punjab, his name could someday be as recognizable as his frame.

Canadian Synchronized Swim Duo Finish Fourth At World Championships

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(Jul 18, 2011) Canada's duet synchronized swim team of
Marie-Pierre Boudreau-Gagnon of Rivière-du-Loup, Que., and Élise Marcotte of l'Ancienne-Lorette, Que., finished fourth in the technical final at the world championships in Shanghai, but maintain hope of a medal finish in the free routine.

"We are going to keep fighting until we get our place," said Boudreau-Gagnon after she and Marcotte earned 94.100 points to place behind Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina of Russia (gold medal 98.200 points), Xuechen Huang and Ou Liu of China (silver, 96.500) and Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes (bronze, 95.400). It was a second gold for Ischenko who won the technical solo event on Sunday.

Boudreau-Gagnon said she and her partner are not discouraged by the fourth place result.

"Our swims have been solid and we are showing we are a major medal threat here," Boudreau-Gagnon said after the technical duet Monday. "We still have hope that we can leave here with a medal in our free routine.''

"It was a good swim. Our goal was to swim better today and we achieved that," said Marcotte.

"We can only control what we can. We need to make some adjustments for the final. We're disappointed with fourth right now and we want to get on the podium.''

Both women are doing double duty as part of the team routine as well, In the team technical preliminaries, Russia stands first at 97.700, China is second at 96.000 and Spain third at 95.700. Canada follows in fourth at 94.00.

Swimming for Canada were Boudreau-Gagnon, Marcotte, Jo-Annie Fortin of Montreal, Chloé Isaac of Brossard, Que., Stéphanie Leclair and Karine Thomas, both of Gatineau, Que., Tracy Little of Pointe-Claire, Que., and Valérie Welsh of St-Nicholas, Que.

Competition continues Tuesday.

NBA Lays Off About 114 Employees, But Claims It’s ‘Not A Direct Result Of The Lockout'

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press

(Jul 14, 2011)
NEW YORK— The NBA laid off about 114 people over the last two days, planned cost-cutting moves that a league spokesman said Thursday are “not a direct result of the lockout.”

The laid off employees represent about 11 per cent of the league office workforce in New York, New Jersey and internationally.

Spokesman Mike Bass told The Associated Press the layoffs are “not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue; that is, the league's expenses far outpace our revenues.”

“The roughly 11 per cent reduction in headcount from the league office is part of larger cost-cutting measures to reduce our costs by (US) $50 million across all areas of our business,” Bass said.

The league said it lost $300 million this season after losing hundreds of millions in each previous year of the collective bargaining agreement that expired at the end of the day June 30.

Owners locked out the players after the sides remained far apart in their final proposals. Commissioner David Stern said at the time it was too early to think about how it could affect staff, but acknowledged that the league would “have to go back and look at everything now with our operations.”

But the reductions had already begun. The NBA and teams had trimmed staff by about 275 since October 2008, either through layoffs or by leaving positions vacant when employees departed.

The league has also cut administrative costs, travel and new technology. It consolidated offices in Europe and Asia, closing offices in Paris and Tokyo, and is shutting down the studio in Secaucus, N.J. where it annually holds the draft lottery. The NBA Store on 5th Ave. in New York has been closed, though the league has said it will re-open in another location.

Already at least two teams, Detroit and Charlotte, have cut staff since the work stoppage was announced exactly two weeks ago. Stern said that day a lockout “has a very large impact on a lot of people, many of whom or most of whom are not associated with either side.”

Sidney Crosby Resumes On-Ice Workouts

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Larry Fine, Reuters

(Jul 15, 2011)
Pittsburgh— Sidney Crosby has resumed on-ice workouts in his comeback from a serious concussion, giving the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League (NHL) a boost of optimism about his return for next season.

Crosby, who has not played since Jan. 5, is training near his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which said it confirmed the development with the Penguins and Crosby’s agent.

The 23-year-old Crosby, a former NHL Most Valuable Player and the league’s top drawing card, missed half of last season when his campaign was cut short after he was slammed into the end boards by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman.

The Hedman hit came four days after he was caught off guard and knocked to the ice by Washington forward David Steckel.

At the time of his injury, Crosby led the NHL with 32 goals and 34 assists in 41 games.

Crosby last tried some on-ice workouts in April during the Penguins’ first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs but was shut down because of headaches. Pittsburgh lost that series in seven games to Tampa Bay.

The workouts do not guarantee Crosby will be ready for training camp in September, and he has yet to receive medical clearance for physical contact, yet word that he was back on the ice renewed hopes for his return next season.

Crosby, drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has lived up to the hype and his nickname of “Sir Sidney” as NHL royalty.

He helped lead Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup triumph in 2009, their first title in 17 years, and his overtime goal won the gold medal for Canada at last year’s Vancouver Olympics.

Crosby has been a points-producing machine since joining the Penguins for the 2005-06 season, recording 215 goals and 357 assists for 572 points in 412 regular season games.

He has also shined during the postseason with 30 goals and 52 assists in 62 playoff games

Struggling Roughriders Left Looking For Answers

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

(Jul 18, 2011) It has been a sudden fall from grace for the
Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Riders have been the class of the CFL's West Division the last two years, winning back-to-back conference titles before enduring heart-breaking Grey Cup losses to the Montreal Alouettes by a combined four points.

But three weeks into the 2011 season, Saskatchewan not only sports a dismal 0-3 record under rookie head coach Greg Marshall, the club is coming off an embarrassing 30-3 road loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday. Up next is a visit to Montreal on Sunday against the high-flying Alouettes, who beat the Riders 39-25 in Regina on July 9 and sit atop the East Division with a 3-0 mark.

“What's the alternative, give up?” said Marshall. “There are a lot of areas where we have to be better in.

“Right now we aren't playing very well and we have to get that corrected in a hurry.”

Trouble is, where does Marshall begin retooling?

Saskatchewan's defence has been the league's worst this season. The unit has surrendered 114 points in three games and the defensive line has failed to get any consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

But compounding Saskatchewan's plight Saturday was both its offence and special teams also spinning their wheels.

Darian Durant, the CFL's passing leader last year, was an abysmal 9-of-23 for 95 yards and was responsible for four of Saskatchewan's six turnovers in the game (three interceptions, one fumble). Through three games, Durant has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three).

With Durant under centre, the offence was non-existent in the opening half, mustering just 34 net yards and two first downs as Hamilton dominated play for a 23-0 half-time advantage. Ticats linebacker Renaud Williams — a former Rider — intercepted Durant's first pass of the day and returned it to Saskatchewan's six-yard line.

Saskatchewan's offence is vastly different from last year's unit. Veteran centre Jeremy O'Day retired, Canadian slotback Andy Fantuz and his league-high 1,380 receiving yard last year signed with the NFL's Chicago Bears while receivers Robb Bagg and Cary Koch are both on the nine-game injured list.

But only a 50-yard field goal from Eddie Johnson prevented Hamilton from registering its first shutout since 1974.

The Ticats also dominated on special teams, consistently garnering solid field position in the return game. Marcus Thigpen had five punt returns for 93 yards, a sparkling 18.6-yard average.

Traditionally, an easy remedy would be air-lifting a host of NFL cuts to inject much-needed life into the lineup. But that can't happen this year as a result of the lockout south of the border.

Promoting players from the practice roster would hardly inspire confidence. There's a reason why those individuals weren't on the active roster to begin with.

So, essentially, any change of fortunes will have to come from many of those players who've endured Saskatchewan's early-season woes.

“All we can do is come back to work and keep plugging,” Durant said. “Whenever you're not successful you can either put your head down or keep your head up and learn from your mistakes.

“Every time you step on the field it's going to be tough. Montreal is a great team but they always bring out the best in us. We'll be ready.”

CALVILLO WATCH: One down, two to go for Anthony Calvillo.

The Montreal Alouettes star quarterback broke Damon Allen's all-time TD passes record in Friday night's 40-17 home win over the Toronto Argonauts. The 18-year CFL veteran threw two touchdown strikes to boost his total to 396, two more than Allen.

Calvillo can now set his sights on Allen's all-time completions record of 5,158. Heading into Sunday's game against Saskatchewan, Calvillo needs to complete just 39 passes to surpass Allen's mark.

A third Allen mark is also in serious jeopardy of falling to Calvillo this season. Allen is pro football's all-time passing leader with an astounding 72,381 yards but Calvillo remains just 3,282 yards behind with 15 regular-season games yet to play.

QB WOES: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback woes continue.

Last year, No. 1 pivot Buck Pierce was limited to just five starts due to elbow and knee injuries. Pierce left Thursday's 21-20 loss to Calgary at halftime due to a bruised thigh.

Backup Joey Elliott came in but suffered a season-ending knee injury, forcing the Bombers to re-sign Justin Goltz on Monday. Goltz was with Winnipeg during training camp.

The expectation is Pierce will play Saturday when the Bombers (2-1) visit Toronto (1-2) in the Argonauts' home opener at Rogers Centre. If Pierce can't go or is injured against the Argos, Winnipeg will then look to third-stringer Alex Brink.

But Elliott's injury means Winnipeg has lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injury in GM Joe Mack's 21 games with the CFL club.

NOTES: Brandon Whitaker has certainly flourished replacing Avon Cobourne as Montreal's starting tailback. Whitaker is leading the CFL in rushing with 259 yards while Cobourne, who signed as a free agent with Hamilton, is fourth overall with 164 yards. ... The Edmonton Eskimos improved to 3-0 with a 33-17 win over B.C. on Saturday. A big reason for the turnaround is quarterback Ricky Ray, who is second to Calvillo in passing yards with 1,002 yards but is the only CFL passer not to throw an interceptions in 2011. It also helps having the league's top receiver in Fred Stamps (316 yards) to play catch with. Another Eskimo worth noting is veteran kicker Damon Duval, who the Alouettes opted not to-resign this off-season. Duval is tied with Sean Whyte, his replacement in Montreal, for the CFL scoring lead with 37 points. Duval has made 7-of-10 field goals this year and has a respectable 43.3-yard punting average. ... Hamilton signed Canadian-born defensive lineman Sean Ortiz on Monday. The six-foot-two, 240-pound native of White Rock, B.C., appeared in six games with the B.C. Lions last season and attended the club's 2011 training camp.

Raptors Round Out Coaching Roster With Johnny Davis And Tom Sterner

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(Jul 13, 2011) The
Raptors have a full coaching staff. Now all they have to worry about is finding something for them to do.

New head coach Dwane Casey has added a pair of long-time coaches—Johnny Davis and Tom Sterner—to a staff that also includes holdovers Micah Nori, Scott Roth and Eric Hughes, the team announced Wednesday.

None of the coaches can have any contact with the players for the duration of the NBA’s lockout but the long-expected announcement takes care of one summer housekeeping issue with the team.

Both of the hires are familiar to Casey, who was named the eighth coach in Toronto’s 16-year history last month.

Davis, who has been a player, coach and front-office executive in the league for 35 years, was on Casey’s staff in his tenure as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005-06 and has spent the last four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Davis has also been the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers and served two stints as the head coach of the Orlando Magic.

Sterner, who spent last season as an advance scout with the Sixers, spent two seasons working with Casey on Rick Carlisle’s staff in Dallas. Sterner has also worked in Orlando and Golden State in 13 years as an NBA assistant.

Nori is the longest-serving member of the staff, having joined the Raptors in 1998 as an assistant to the coaching staff. He’s also served as the team’s advance scout and director of NBA scouting.

Roth enters his second season as an assistant in Toronto; Hughes enters his fifth season with the team and will continue in the role of assistant coach/basketball development that he’s had since 2009.

“I am excited to announce the hiring of what I believe is a strong, well-balanced and experienced coaching staff,” Casey said in a release. “We have a good mixture of former players, head coaching experience and on-court teachers who have a wealth of technical knowledge.

“Since we have such a young team I thought it was necessary to hire a group of coaches who can effectively mentor, communicate, motivate and teach on and off the floor.”

Yao Ming Retires, Praised For Building Bridge Between China And NBA

Source: www.thestar.com - Dennis Passa

(July 20, 2011) SHANGHAI—Wracked by injuries that curtailed his playing time in the NBA, Yao Ming called it quits on his basketball career Wednesday during a packed news conference in his hometown.

The Houston Rockets centre and No. 1 draft pick in the 2002 NBA draft confirmed weeks of speculation about his retirement by opening with a simple statement: “I will formally end my career.”

He promised, though, that he wouldn’t stay far away from the sport that made him a household name in China.

The seven-foot-six Yao played eight seasons in the NBA, but missed an estimated 250 regular-season games over the past six years.

“Today is an important day for me and holds a special meaning for both my basketball career and my future,” the 30-year-old Yao said in comments translated into English.

A third stress fracture in his left foot at the end of last year virtually took the decision out of his hands.

“My past six months were an agonizing wait. I had been thinking (about my future) over and over,” he said. “Today I am announcing a personal decision: ending my career as a basketball player and officially retire. But one door is closing and another one is opening.”

Yao said he will return to work with his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks, with the possibility of becoming general manager. He already owns the club and wants to contribute more.

“My playing career started with the club. I hope I can do something for it,” Yao said.

He also plans to continue his philanthropic work with his Yao Foundation.

Houston general manager Daryl Morey attended the conference and had to get permission from the NBA to attend the formal farewell as the lockout prohibits contact with players.

Morey said he was tired from the long trip for the media conference but “I would be sorry if I wasn’t here.”

“It’s a big moment,” Morey said. “Yao had a sense of humour, a great attitude and sense of working together. I hope we can continue his culture in the NBA.”

NBA commissioner David Stern sent a statement describing Yao as a “transformational player and a testament to the globalization of our game.”

“His dominant play and endearing demeanour along with his extensive humanitarian efforts have made him an international fan favourite and provided an extraordinary bridge between basketball fans in the United States and China,” Stern said.

Yao entered the Grand Shanghai Ballroom dressed in a dark suit, after the master of ceremonies led a countdown to his arrival.

Yao’s wife, Ye Li, and their 14-month-old daughter, Yao Qinlei, and Yao’s parents, Yao Zhiyuan and Fang Fengdi, were in the room. Qinlei was dressed in a red qipao, a traditional Chinese dress. He later appeared with his family on the stage to the applause and cheers of the room.

He thanked his family, friends, coaches in China and in Houston and fellow competitors like Shaquille O’Neal “for making me a better player.”

“I will be always with you,” he added. “Thank you.”

Later, Yao was asked by a Dutch journalist whether he might consider coaching in the Netherlands, to which he politely declined, smiling. He said he had no immediate plans to start his own clothing or athletic equipment lines, either, but didn’t rule it out in the future.

Despite news of Yao’s pending retirement being out for several weeks, the actual announcement was treated with the pomp that Yao’s appearance in China brings. Media were asked to sign up weeks in advance for the conference and show up two hours early Wednesday to pass through airport-style security checks.

The room was crammed at the back with dozens of television cameras and black-suited security men outnumbered the hundreds of media at various stages. China Central Television was to carry five continuous hours of Yao coverage beginning at 1 p.m. local time, including 90 minutes live from the media conference.

Yao’s contract expired after last season, and the Rockets said they were interested in re-signing him if he came back healthy. Yao said in April in China that his professional future depended on his recovery from a stress fracture in his left ankle.

Selected to the NBA all-star team eight times, Yao averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds. More importantly, his impact expanded the NBA’s influence in Asia into lucrative merchandise sales and TV ratings.

After his rookie season, Yao helped the Rockets reach the playoffs in the next two seasons.

Yao played in 77 games in the 2008-09 season, when Houston reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

But Yao broke his left foot in a post-season game against the Los Angeles Lakers, and underwent complex surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2009-10 season. He lasted only five games at the start of the 2010-11 season, before breaking his left ankle. He underwent surgery in January, and was lost again for the season.

Yao had played six years with the Chinese national team before joining the Rockets, and was already a star in his home country.

He carried the Olympic torch through Tiananmen Square and his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

He also donated $2 million and set up a foundation to rebuild schools in the wake of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.

A commentary in the Beijing News on Wednesday said filling Yao’s shoes in China and the NBA will not be easy — there is no other potential Chinese player ready to emerge as an NBA star.

“Since Yao Ming made his first appearance in NBA, the Chinese media have been in search of ‘the next Yao Ming’,” the newspaper said. “Even after Yao Ming retires, the next Yao Ming will not emerge despite repeated calls.”

It said the next Yao Ming is “like Yao Ming used to be, hidden under a stone.”

Wang Shuo, a designer at a software company in Beijing, compared Yao with China’s version of Michael Jordan when he heard the news in Beijing.

“He helped many Chinese develop a passion for basketball and many people will stop watching after his retirement,” Wang said. “Yao is not just a great player but also a great person. He has made this country proud with his non-profit efforts and humble personality.”

Hu Libo, a high school mathematics teacher in central Beijing, said he regrets that there is no one to replace Yao in China.

“The saddest part ... is not him leaving the game, but the fact that there is no one to pass the torch on to,” Hu said. “I really wish we had other Yao Ming-like players in the NBA that the Chinese could root for. We have to be realistic. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before another great player will emerge.”

Woods Fires Steve Williams As Caddie, Says ‘It’s Time For A Change’

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Ferguson

(July 20, 2011) JACKSONVILLE, FLA.—Tiger Woods fired caddie Steve Williams on Wednesday, ending a 12-year relationship in which he won 72 times worldwide and 13 majors.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it’s time for a change,” Woods said on his website. “Stevie is an outstanding caddie and a friend and has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments. I wish him great success in the future.”

Woods did not say who would replace Williams, or when he would return to golf.

Williams, who previously worked for Raymond Floyd and Greg Norman, had worked the last three tournaments with Adam Scott. That included the last two majors, which Woods skipped while trying to recover from injuries to his left leg.

When asked over the weekend at the British Open if he was still working for Woods, Williams grinned and said, “Why would you ask a question like that?” He never answered the question but gave no indication that he would not caddie for Woods when he did return.

Williams could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon.

More than a caddie, Woods and Williams had been close friends. Both got engaged while on safari after The Presidents Cup in South Africa, and they were in each other’s weddings. Woods played the New Zealand Open and even took part in Williams’ other job as a race car driver.

The relationship began showing signs of strain after Woods crashed his car on U.S. Thanksgiving night, followed by stunning revelations of multiple extramarital affairs that led to Woods getting divorced. Woods’ ex-wife and Williams’ wife were close friends.

In recent months, Williams was feeling out of touch during Woods’ rehabilitation. He was not aware that Woods did not plan to compete in the U.S. Open until after flying to the States from New Zealand, where Williams lives most of the year.

Williams has been labelled a bully over the years while working for Woods amid a constant circus, once tossing a camera into the pond at a Skins Game when the photographer snapped a picture in the middle of Woods’ swing on the last hole, another time taking the camera from a fan at the 2004 U.S. Open that belonged to an off-duty policeman.

He also brought Woods’ undue attention toward the end of 2008 by making disparaging remarks about Phil Mickelson during a charity dinner in New Zealand, then repeating them when a reporter called for comment the following day.

The only caddies Woods has used in his 14-year career on the PGA Tour are Mike (Fluff) Cowan and Williams. His childhood friend, Byron Bell, caddied for Woods when he won the Buick Invitational in 1999 and 2000, and Billy Foster caddied for Woods at the Presidents Cup in 2005 when Williams was home for the birth of his son. Foster now works for Lee Westwood.


Ex-NHL Star Nails $1 Million Hole-In-One

Source:  www.thestar.com

(Jul 18, 2011) STATELINE, NEV.—Former NHL all-star
Joe Sakic made a US$1 million hole-in-one Sunday at the par-3 17th at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. Sakic pockets half the check with the other $500,000 going to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation for cancer research, courtesy of an insurance policy purchased by the tourney’s Kansas City-based sponsor. The former NHL MVP and two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Colorado Avalanche says he had never come close to making a hole-in-one before and can’t think of a better place to get his first. He used an eight-iron on the 162-yard waterfront hole where dozens of yachts and boats anchor during the annual three-day tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Grey Cup Ticket Prices Announced

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(Jul 18, 2011) Toronto — Tickets for the
100th Grey Cup next year will range from $150 to $399. The CFL championship game is scheduled for Nov. 25, 2012, at Toronto's Rogers Centre. Argos season ticket-holders will receive first crack at the 2012 Grey Cup, with access to their same seats or equivalent. The tickets will cost $150, $199, $250, $325 and $399. This year's Grey Cup will take place in Vancouver, with tickets ranging from $156 to $436.