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LE NEWSLETTER

July 7, 2011

 
There's nothing like summertime in Toronto ... and we're headed into one of the most fun months too - July.  Tons of concerts, events, BBQs and time outside with friends and family. 

One of those exciting and fun line-ups include the upcoming concert
Truth & Soul featuring Yolanda Adams at the Rexall Centre on July 23rd.  Get those tickets as you'll find it difficult to see this quality line-up again in any upcoming gospel concerts.  See the details under HOT EVENTS!

This week includes news on prior events including the
Toronto Jazz Festival, and Pride 2011, as well as Nia Vardalos and her newest film, Larry Crowne, the passing of Gordon Tootoosisand the winner ofthe Top Chef Canada.  Lots more exciting news at your fingertips. Oh and check out under FILM NEWS for some outdoor movies being shown around the city for FREE!

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.
 
 

Remember to look for VIDEO or AUDIO in the titles of articles for some visual and sound to perk up your reading pleasure!


 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!

::HOT EVENTS::

Truth & Soul: A Gospel Event – Saturday, July 23

Source: www.blackcreekfestival.com

Check out this TV spot advertising the upcoming gospel extravaganza:



The BlackCreek Summer Music Festival presents “
Truth and Soul: A Gospel Event,” starring gospel greats Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, and The Mighty Clouds of Joy.

An undisputed gospel siren,
YOLANDA ADAMS is one of the key figures of the genre’s bold renaissance, one of gospel’s most transcendent ambassadors. Since her 1988 debut, the acclaimed and uplifting Just As I Am, Adams has been wowing gospel audiences all over the world — extending her magnificent reach without watering down the message. Hailed as the most versatile contemporary gospel singer since Aretha Franklin, Adams has won several Stellar awards (gospel’s highest accolade) as well as two Grammy nominations, a Soul Train Lady of Soul award, and an unforgettable live performance spot on the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards telecast. Her “bring-the-crowd-to-their-feet” reputation has now become the stuff of pop legend. Joyful, uplifting, inspiring, affirmative, exuberant, playful, and universal in its appeal and intention — that is the music of Yolanda Adams.

Siblings Erica and Tina Campbell’s groundbreaking, chart-topping duo
MARY MARY has never wavered from defying convention to fulfill its mission: sending uplifting messages through music and words that are relatable to everyone. Mary Mary has earned 3 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award and a BET Award. Their debut album, Thankful (2000), went platinum and won a Grammy; the follow-up, Incredible (2002), was certified gold; 2005’s self-titled album peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200; and 2008’s The Sound hit No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart. After only nine weeks at radio, the lead single “Walking” from Mary Mary’s sixth album, SOMETHING BIG, is already in the top 10 at Urban AC and is steadily growing. SOMETHING BIG resonates with a fusion of sound (R&B, hip-hop, dance, pop, gospel and jazz), empowering messages, and their signature crystalline harmonies.

DONNIE McCLURKIN creates profoundly uplifting music for the soul and formed both the McClurkin Singers in 1979 and the NY Restoration Choir in 1989. He was signed to Warner Alliance Records as a solo artist where he recorded his pivotal self-titled album. Oprah Winfrey invited him on her show, which catapulted his CD to #4 on the gospel charts, recognition beyond the church world and gold + sales. McClurkin soon signed to Verity Records where his first CD, Live in London and More, far surpassed his solo debut thanks to secular radio embracing his gracefully reassuring “We Fall Down.” The song met with international acclaim, made the Top 40 of Billboard’s R&B chart and rocketed past platinum sales of over one million copies, instantly making McClurkin among gospel’s best-selling artists. He has earned a trophy case full of Dove and Stellar Awards, two Grammys, and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Artist.

Contemporary gospel’s preeminent group,
THE MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY, pioneered a distinctively funky sound that over time gained acceptance even among purists, pushing spiritual music in new and unexpected directions. The Mighty Clouds was one of the first gospel groups to incorporate R&B techniques, such as drums and stylized choreography, and became known as “the Temptations of Gospel.” Through the years the group has released more than 30 albums, won 3 Grammy Awards, were the first gospel act to appear on Soul Train, and has performed as many as 200 concerts a year and with such esteemed artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and the Rolling Stones.

SATURDAY, JULY 23
TRUTH & SOUL: A GOSPEL EVENT
Rexall Centre (York University)
1 Shoreham Drive
5:00 PM
Tickets: $47.50 - $156.00; BUY THEM HERE
MAP HERE

Directions and parking info HERE

::TOP STORIES::

New Strategy Nets Massive Turnout

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jul 02, 2011) The
25th TD Toronto Jazz Festival will be remembered for drawing record-breaking crowds and offering less jazz on its mainstage.

Anchored at David Pecaut Square, after a decade at Nathan Phillips Square, the 10-day event winds up Sunday with Montreal sensation Nikki Yanofsky's concert at the tent.

The silver anniversary edition drew massive crowds to its new hub for free shows by Juno-winning rapper Shad, and the festival's “largest-ever” single performance audience of 20,000 for Aretha Franklin. While covering a smaller area than Nathan Phillips Square, the site seemed to offer patrons more value with surrounding restaurants and pubs and proximity to other festival venues, such as Glenn Gould Studio, Quotes Bar & Grill, the Rex and the Music Gallery.

There was some grumbling from the cognoscenti that mainstage headliners such as Los Lobos, The Roots and Bootsy Collins made the tent skimpy on jazz, with the genre relegated to venues like Koerner Hall and Enwave Theatre.

“That was intentional, moving back into the entertainment district,” said the festival's executive producer Pat Taylor. “The ticketed concerts were designed to complement the neighbourhood. What is important to us is to meet our budget. We put in the tent what will sell 1,200 seats. Appropriate jazz shows — say, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet — will absolutely be in there.”

While jazz acts like the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Kurt Elling sold out Koerner Hall and Enwave Theatre, respectively, Taylor's strategy is supported by the disappointing example of the stellar solo piano series with Randy Weston, Jacky Terrasson, Vijay Iyer and Kenny Barron struggling to meet half of the Glenn Gould Studio capacity.

At the Pecaut Square hub, which did offer local free
jazz at noon and after work on its outdoor stage, the tent's jazz highlight was Wednesday night's sold-out double bill of Molly Johnson and the Count Basie Orchestra.

The Toronto native was in full jazz diva mode, wearing a slinky, red Haux Couture gown, with a white flower in her hair and pleasing set of originals and standards, such as “Lush Life.” Later, in a stunning white pantsuit, also from the Toronto label, she joined the swinging 17-piece orchestra for “Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You.”

Other Canadian standouts included the Toronto Jazz Festival Orchestra, under the tutelage of trumpet dean Guido Basso, a who's who of local players backed Aretha Franklin and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Most of them had previously accompanied the Queen of Soul at casino shows or private events. So when she didn't turn up for their run through with her band, our boys executed like they'd been playing her soul and gospel charts for months.

In contrast, the 17 musicians rehearsed four hours with Bridgewater for her Monday show at Koerner Hall. Also, unlike Franklin, who never acknowledged the musicians in her set, Bridgewater lauded and bantered on stage with the players, such as saxists Alex Dean and Mike Murley.

Another shining hometown act was Jordan John & Blue Angels, who wowed the crowd as Franklin's opener. Singer-guitarist John, who performed with his dad, renowned Lincolns bassist Prakash John, drummer Al Cross and B3 organist, Michael Fonfara, is a former drummer who only recently moved into centre stage.

“I spent three months considering and listening to a lot of established or up-and-coming musicians to open that show,” said Taylor, who scouted the Oakville native at his Tuesday night Joe Mamas gig.

“He was such a talented 25-year-old, really going unnoticed, and I thought he was the most appropriate musically. Aretha's people gave their blessing, now 20,000 people know who he is.”

If Taylor's plans pan out, he could give more musicians similar exposure.

Nia Vardalos: My Big Fat Greek Secret About Tom Hanks

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald

(July 2, 2011) Like any good, never-toot-your-own-horn Canadian,
Nia Vardalos has always been loath to discuss her long-standing friendship with mentor Tom "the-most-beloved-man-in-Hollywood" Hanks.

Since they met over a decade ago, the two have collaborated on several projects - the most high-profile being Vardalos's 2002 sleeper hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was made for a paltry $5-million (U.S.) and went on to gross $369-million worldwide. (The story goes that Hanks's wife saw Vardalos's play by the same name and suggested they produce it. When Hanks first called, Vardalos hung up on him, convinced it must be a prank.)

While the pair has kept in close touch since, Vardalos has stayed mum on the topic of Mr. Tom Hanks. But now, having co-written the new romantic comedy
Larry Crowne with the two-time Oscar winner, the Winnipeg native says she finds herself in the awkward position of having to break her cone of silence (a bit) and dish some details on her famous friend, who also stars in and directs the film.

"For years, I felt sick to my stomach talking about our relationship," says Vardalos, who also teamed up with Hanks's Playtone Co. for 2009's My Life in Ruins and the short-lived TV sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Life.

"As a Winnipegger, we don't name-drop. It's just not in our makeup. So for years, I'd be coy about discussing Tom. Now it's so odd because I have to talk about [our relationship] since we wrote the script together," says the vivacious 48-year-old actor and former Second City ensemble member.

What seems to have brought Hanks and Vardalos together is that they are true kindred spirits in their low-key, hard-working approach to high-profile Hollywood careers.

"I'm an innately optimistic person, and Tom is like that as well. He's an empathetic guy and it shows in the script. Tom's had the idea for Larry Crowne in his head for a long time, and we set out to discover what a person would do if he suddenly lost his job, and his prospects were bleak. Tom's so in touch with what's happening in the world globally, and with the economy. He brings a common man's touch to a hard-knocks story. And he's the perfect person to pen a script like this because he truly is an average guy. He doesn't live in a big castle. He's such a normal person."

In the works for six years, Larry Crowne is a heart-warming (although so far, critics' hearts have been cold) story about a 50-year-old guy who, through no fault of his own, is downsized and has to reinvent himself. Vardalos, who estimates she and Hanks churned out 40 versions of the script, says the character of Crowne was a constant work in progress. He starts out as a family man, and ends up single, forced to sell his house and car and go back to college. There, he meets the comely but disillusioned teacher Mercedes Tainot, played by Hanks's other frequent collaborator, Julia Roberts.

"Initially, Tom didn't think it feasible that Larry, who drives a scooter and works part-time in a diner, could get the girl," chuckles Vardalos. "But I basically said, 'Forgive me, but I'm the audience, and I'd like to see the two of you kiss, so there.' "

Vardalos, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 18 years, New York-born actor Ian Gomez, and a six-year-old daughter, adopted in 2008, claims she landed this latest writing gig largely because of her impetuous labrador, Manny.

"I was talking on the phone to [Hanks's producing partner] Gary Goetzman about My Life in Ruins, and he invited me in for lunch. I packed up Manny, and when we pulled up to Playtone, he raced into the office and started running everywhere, peeing on everything," she laughs. "Tom was in his office with his agent, running through a list of potential writers for Larry Crowne when Manny burst in. And in that It Girl moment, he said: 'Nia, do you want to write a movie with me?' I love that mutt."

But the Ryerson University grad admits that writing does not come easily to her. "It's so lonely, and daunting. I normally hate it, because I feel like a fraud. But I loved writing with Tom. I loved how disciplined he was, how engaged, diligent and focused. He wanted to create an adult story that wasn't a downer but hopeful."

To shape the storyline, Vardalos says she tapped into her working-class roots - her Greek-Canadian parents pushed her to get her first job, at 16, stacking shelves at the Zellers in Winnipeg's Polo Park Mall. "I still have my Zellers badge, because when you have an unusual handle like mine you don't often get a lot of things with your name on it," she says. At university in Toronto, she made ends meet by working at a tiny florist shop on Gerrard Street. And when she moved to Chicago to join Second City, she sold T-shirts in the lobby to make rent.

"My parents [her bookkeeper/homemaker mother and land-developer father] taught me to work, and I have friends - whose careers are at different stages - who still hold down several jobs. Larry Crowne is not too proud to scramble eggs and flip pancakes at a local diner, and believe it or not, if all this went away tomorrow, I'd be quite content to go back to the wonderful world of floral designing."

The cast of Larry Crowne is jam-packed with Hanks's friends, including his bestie Roberts, his wife Rita (who has a cameo), Vardalos's husband (another cameo), as well as Barry Sobel, newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cedric the Entertainer. Vardalos, too, has a bit part in the film as the voice of Robert's GPS. "I love that it's the part that's harassing Julia," she says.

Vardalos says she and Hanks wrote the role of the dissatisfied, rum-swilling college professor Mercedes with 43-year-old Roberts in mind. "We always hoped we were writing for her. Tom wanted a character with depths and edges to her. He sent her the script, and she said something like she couldn't stop smiling through it."

The actress makes no apologies for writing a film that is simple, feel-good fare. "Tom and I are both optimists, so it just fit." But she adds that her next feature is going to a less sunny place. "I'm writing an R-rated film about the world of motivational speakers [with Larry Crowne cast mate Rob Riggle]. I want to push myself in a different direction. I want to be fearless and see if I can do it."

As for whether there will be future collaborations with her buddy Hanks, Vardalos resets quickly to coy. "We rescued a dog on the street about a year ago, and our daughter has christened him Louie Salvadore Dominick Bagel Vardalos Gomez," she says. "So maybe I'll head back to Playtone, with Louie this time, and see if he can work the same magic Manny did.

"Tom and I came out of Larry Crowne better friends than when we went in," she adds. "I'm proud of our relationship, but after this movie, I plan to shut up about him again."

Actor And Activist Gordon Tootoosis Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(July 06, 2011) NORTH BATTLEFORD, SASK.—Saskatchewan-born actor and aboriginal activist Gordon Tootoosis has died at the age of 69 after a brief illness.

Tootoosis, a Cree from the Poundmaker First Nation, was one of the stars of CBC’s North of 60 television series.

His long career ranged from the 1973 film Alien Thunder with Donald Sutherland and Chief Dan George to 1996’s Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt.

Tootoosis, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2004, was also an accomplished stage actor and a founding member of the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company.

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo called Tootoosis “a Cree and Canadian cultural icon.”

He said Tootoosis will be remembered as a talented, dedicated and multifaceted individual.

“He was truly extraordinary,” said Atleo. “He survived the tragedy of the residential schools and used that experience in a positive way to help his people, serving as a social worker for youth and young offenders.”

Despite his success in the entertainment industry, Tootoosis always made his home on the Poundmaker reserve and used to joke that the movers and shakers in Hollywood knew where to find him.

He recently starred in Gordon Winter, a play by Saskatoon playwright Kenneth T. Williams that was featured at the Prairie Scene festival in Ottawa.

“He imbued every role he took on with humanity and complexity,” said Atleo. “He made a difference to those who knew him personally as well as those who knew him only through his performances.”

The Canadian Press

Toronto Celebrates Longest Pride Parade Ever

Source: National Post, Tristin Hopper 

(Jul 3, 2011) Tens of thousands massed downtown Toronto Sunday
afternoon for the Toronto Pride Parade, the epic finale to Toronto Pride Week. As the rainbow flags waved and the water guns squirted, the Post’s Tristin Hopper gets the skinny on one of the city’s largest cultural events.

Longest ever

While previous parades have lasted a meager 90 minutes, this year’s parade is expected to be a whopping four and a half hours of floats, feathers and lycra. Organizers suspect the swelling ranks of the parade may partly be a reaction to Canada’s trend towards right-leaning governments. “There seems to be a buzz in the air. I don’t know if it’s because we have Rob Ford as a mayor and Stephen Harper as a prime minister, and we may see Tim Hudak win in Ontario,” said Pride Toronto interim executive director Glen Brown to Xtra!. Toronto’s parade remains a box social compared to Sau Paulo, Brazil, however. Every June, the South American city routinely pulls in upwards of 3 million participants, or, 500,000 more people than the entire population of Toronto.

Cops!

Toronto’s first pride event, held in 1981, was largely an anti-police protest march held in the wake of Operation Soap, a raid of four Toronto bathhouses that resulted in the arrest of more than 300 gay men. Over the last decade, however, the one-time targets of the Pride parade have become active participants. Toronto police chief Bill Blair has been making an appearance at the parade since 2005. In addition to the occasional rainbow-bedecked police cruiser, this year’s parade is expected to feature officers from the RCMP, OPP, Halton, York, Peel and Durham Regional Police.

Swastikas expected … but not to worry

Neo-Nazis are not the only ones who should be able to hoist swastikas at a parade, claims the International Raelian Movement. At Pride, the Quebec-based UFO religious sect will host a booth attempting to rehabilitate the symbol’s pre-Nazi connotations. “The goal is to return the swastika’s true meaning of peace and harmony to this ancient symbol regretfully hijacked by the Nazis,” movement spokeswoman Brigitte Boisselier told Postmedia.

Shake your moneymaker

As one of North America’s largest pride events, Toronto Pride Week routinely fills restaurants and hotels with LGBT tourists from around the world. In 2009, an economy impact study estimated that Pride Week attracted $139 million in local spending.

Gay Iranians to prove existence

For the first time ever, an Iranian contingent will appear in the Toronto parade. Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, homosexuality has been a capital offense in the country. Officially, the Iranian government has even denied they exist. “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a 2007 to students at Columbia University. Fifty gay Iranian refugees will appear in Sunday’s parade. Some will be concealing their faces to protect family members back home.

Fordless

The non-attendance of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has become the signature issue of Pride 2011. Ever since Mr. Ford announced that he would skip the parade in favour of a weekend at his Muskoka cottage, all of Toronto’s last five mayors, his own deputy mayor and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke have urged him to reconsider. NOW Magazine has even stationed a Cessna 206 float plane near Mr. Ford’s cabin to whisk him out to Toronto Island Airport at a moment’s notice. Despite rumours that Mr. Ford would make a surprise 11th hour appearance, on Sunday morning a Ford spokesperson confirmed that the Toronto mayor would not be attending. Read the Post’s analysis of the Ford-Pride affair here, here, here and here.

The First Top Chef Canada Is...

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Debra Yeo

(July 05, 2011) Food Network Canada photo Connie, Dale and Rob compete on the Top Chef Canada Season 1 finale.

Vancouver-based chef Dale MacKay became the first winner of Top Chef Canada on Monday night, earning $100,000 and a GE Monogram kitchen worth $30,000.

MacKay took on Toronto’s Rob Rossi (formerly of Mercatto) and Calgary’s Connie DeSousa (of Charcut) in the final episode. MacKay won with a three-course meal prepared for guest judges David Hawksworth, chef/owner of Vancouver’s Hawksworth; John Peller, owner of Peller Estates; and Jason Parsons, executive chef at Peller Estates.  

“Winning Top Chef Canada is easily the biggest accomplishment of my career,” said MacKay, executive chef and owner of Vancouver’s ensemble restaurant.  “Canada has such amazing culinary talent, so it's a real honour to represent the country this way.”

Before opening ensemble in May, MacKay had been a protégé to Gordon Ramsay at his restaurants in Tokyo, New York and London, as well as executive chef at Vancouver’s Lumière.

If you missed the Top Chef Canada finale, it airs again Saturday at 7 p.m. on Food Network Canada or online at www.topchefcanada.ca. A second season of the show is scheduled to air in 2012.

::MUSIC NEWS::

VIDEO: Expat Canadians Sing Praises Of Paris And Home

Source: www.thestar.com - Adrian Brijbassi

(July 1, 2011) PARIS —
Melissa Laveaux stands beneath a tree and, upon the urging of a journalist, breaks into an a capella version of her song “Ulysses,” causing heads to turn and feet to tap. It’s a scene more along the lines of what you’d expect from New York than Paris, where your attention is always stolen by grand monuments so beautiful you think they were built in order to wear out cameras.

Laveaux, though, has broken into spontaneous performance in Buttes
Chaumont Park, a 25-hectare green space with no attractions greater than the grassy hills that tempt picnic blankets to rest and the delicate sounds that are too often muffled in the din of a city. You hear children’s giggles, the ruffle of leaves fending off the breeze and the scratch of a squirrel’s paw against bark. The park is in the 19th Arrondisement — the penultimate district of Paris and the neighbourhood the musician from Ottawa now calls home. After relocating three years ago, Laveaux chose Menilmontant for its reasonable rent, musical heritage and artistic vibe. Since then, she’s discovered its charms, including the spectacular panoramic view of the city from the top of Belleville Park and this much larger green space that was developed in 1867. With a manmade lake housing an island in the form of a 30-metre rock façade, Buttes Chaumont is as much a treasure for Parisians as any other public area in the city. In this cramped metropolis, it’s one of the few places they can find space for themselves, as Laveaux has discovered.

“It reminds me of Canada coming here and seeing all of this green. People really use this park. It’s an escape,” she says as bikers and joggers pass by, taking advantage of the five kilometres of trails. We stop in at Rosa Bonheur Bar, located at the top of one of Buttes Chaumont’s hills. It serves fast food and drinks, including beer and wine, and although the outdoor patio is where patrons end up, the interior has a comfortable retro feel with a large open floor that seems more fitting to a southern American bar.

“I missed home a lot when I came to Paris,” Laveaux says, recalling that she cried during those early days of her move more than three years ago. She arrived in the city at the behest of a record label who felt her soulful, upbeat music — she shares similarities with Macy Gray — would have an audience in France. In her time in the country, she’s played well over a hundred and been able to take advantage of France’s generous arts funding to devote time to writing and producing songs.

Laveaux is among the many dozens of Canadians living or spending extended time in the City of Enlightenment. During our afternoon together in Menilmontant, she showed me around to some of her favourite spots in the area she calls, “The real Paris.” It’s grittier and less travelled by the tourist crowd, although Edith Piaf fans come to check out the reputed site of the famous singer’s birth at 72 Rue de Belleville and at some of the clubs, such as La Java (105 Rue du Faubourg du Temple), where she rose to prominence. The area’s other main attraction is the place where she’s buried, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, also the resting place of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Moliere, Chopin, Balzac and a pantheon of other notables, the most famous of whom have their names boldfaced on the map of the grounds, which can be picked up at the main entrances.

Many of the gravesites are difficult to find, even with the help of a map. Piaf’s gravestone features a bust of her, but some graves, including Morrison’s, aren’t as well adorned and you have to look for other signs, such as the tree across from his site that’s notched with messages from fans and lyrics from the Doors’ songs.

At the Café Pere Lachaise, at the corner of Gambetta Avenue and Menilmontant Boulevard, you’ll be able to liven up with a cup of very good coffee and pastries, and then continue with your visit of the 19th and 20th Arrondisements. One highlight for Laveaux is Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix, the largest church in the neighbourhood and one known for its Gothic and Romanesque architecture, as well as its organ music. While Laveaux adores Paris, she says she has found it difficult to fall in step with Paris life, noting that she found the Metro system to be a challenge that prompted her to always add a half hour on top of any journey to account for getting lost or getting stuck in a delay.

Other Canadians living in Paris also noted the difficulty of living in a new, big city, but none of the ones I spoke to had regrets. On the Left Bank of the Seine River, the famous (in this country, at least) Great Canadian Pub resides, serving Moosehead beer and decent chicken wings. Dave Holmes, his wife, Sarah, and a few other Canadians are regulars, coming to the pub to watch hockey or North America’s brand of football and to catch up with each other. “It takes a while getting used to things here and to getting used to people’s customary patterns of behaviour,” says Holmes, who took a transfer from Vancouver from the IT company that employs him. “For instance, when you enter a store people expect you to say hi. It’s like you’re entering their home.”

Holmes and others say they appreciate all the great things Paris has to offer, even though there are many things to get used to, including the lack of diverse cuisine, small apartment sizes and customs that seem odd at first.

“Every night I would see people shuttering their windows even if it was still light out or if it was hot,” says Will Inrig, a 20-year-old aspiring film maker from Ottawa living in Montmartre, “and I asked someone why they do such a thing and was told that it’s a custom that goes back to when the Ancien Regime would send police officials around to assess the apparent wealth of citizens.” According to Inrig, who is studying at the American University, the legend says taxes would be levied based on the perceived value the police saw in the furniture and décor, so Parisians took up the habit of shuttering their windows to eyes of assessors peering in from outside.

Quirks and bureaucratic hassles aside, Paris remains a city with endless charm, the Canadians say. Keyanna Ehsani, a 22-year-old Torontonian, says moving to Paris last year was the best decision she’s made, and not just because there’s a sense of adventure with travelling abroad for an extended stay. “I’ve really matured since I’ve been here,” she says, noting that the Parisians her age don’t drink as much as their peers in Canada. “You explore more, you learn more about the culture. I’ve always said that they call it the City of Love not because you come here to find love or for romantic reasons but because when you fall in love in Paris, you’re falling in love with the city itself.”

Mel Dark, a copywriter from Toronto, concurs, saying the real joy of this city comes “when you discover the real Paris, not the touristy Paris.”

The Canadian Consulate in Paris had a pre-Canada Day celebration on Wednesday and expat Canadians will be celebrating in larger numbers on July 1 in London, where an outdoor show is planned for Trafalgar Square with Blue Rodeo headlining the festivities.

For more on expat Canadians living in Paris and for Paris travel tips, visit Adrian Brijbassi’s blog ( www.adrianbrijbassi) and follow him on Twitter under username @AdrianBrijbassi

Where Is Musician Sam Roberts’ Favourite Place In Canada?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch

(Jun 30, 2011) When Sam Roberts takes to the road to tour Canada, nothing beats straying from the beaten path.

The six-time Juno winner prides himself on venturing into each nook and cranny of his vast homeland. For instance? His summer tour includes a Canada Day date in Ottawa on Friday and other big-city gigs in Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal, but will also see the rock howler trek to such smaller Ontario enclaves as Amherstburg, cottage-country getaway Bala and Kirkland Lake (population: 9,000).

“We’re so pleasantly surprised by ... this whole process of travelling through Canada and the surprises you find around every corner,” Roberts said during a recent interview on a sunny Toronto patio.

“You have to dig for them. And you can’t sort of stay on the beaten path all the time.”

“It’s why we go to all these out of the way communities.”

Canadian musicians often lament the difficulty of touring their home country — the vast distances between destinations, the seemingly endless struggle to amass respectable followings across the nation’s many divided regions, and, of course, the harsh winter weather, constantly threatening to send gear-packed vans (not to mention morale) careening into a roadside ditch.

But the upside? This is a country that’s certainly not short on scenery, and few people develop as intimate a relationship with our endlessly diverse terrain as the musicians who spend months traipsing from coast to coast.

As a result, it’s not surprising that those well-travelled souls struggle to come up with a favourite city or place to spend time in Canada.

“My favourite part of Canada? Hmm,” pondered Pierre Bouvier, front man for the Montreal pop-punk outfit Simple Plan. “I like Montreal and Vancouver and Toronto. I like all of it.

“What I like about Canada is that we have all these different cities and we can go from Halifax to Quebec and people speak French and you think you’re in Europe, and then drive across and go to Calgary and all the girls are hot, and go to Vancouver and enjoy the most beautiful sights you can see.”

Grammy-nominated Latin-pop artist Alex Cuba has likewise been all over Canada since moving here in 1999 from his native Cuba.

On Friday, he will join Blue Rodeo and Karkwa with a performance in London’s Trafalgar Square, billed as the largest Canada Day celebration outside our borders. He calls the opportunity to represent his adopted homeland a “complete honour.”

He still remembers his first Canada Day in ‘99, when he wandered the streets of Victoria and curiously took in the revelry — “You feel the spirit, you know, even though at that point I didn’t know really what it was all about.”

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that his home province still holds a special place in his heart.

“I like natural beauty, you know, and there is a lot of that happening in B.C.,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

“My favourite place in Canada is B.C., for sure.”

Many other artists agreed.

“My personal favourite is anywhere in British Columbia,” said Canadian Tenors crooner Clifton Murray, a native of Port McNeill, B.C.

“You know, they’ve got the Coast Range Mountains, they’ve got the ocean, there’s nature trails that go on for days and days up there. So many beautiful parts of British Columbia. And then you get into the Kootenays, Kelowna area, where it’s kind of like you’re in Arizona, you’ve got palm trees and desert and lakes and you’ve got wake boarding.

“B.C., itself, is just the most beautiful place on earth and if you can find some time in the summer months or fall or spring to get over there you’ve got to check it out. And of course, the skiing, snowboarding, Mount Washington, Whistler ...”

Colin Linden zeroed in on a more specific part of the province.

“Burrowing Owl (Estate) Winery in the Okanagan Valley,” said the Toronto-born two-time Juno winner.

“They make really good wine. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. I love the Okanagan. That’s my favourite place in Canada.”

Others, meanwhile, prefer the comforts of home.

“Where I live in Halifax now — that’s where my wife and my daughter are, so that’s pretty much my favourite place in Canada,” said Vancouver-born Blackie and the Rodeo Kings singer Stephen Fearing.

His bandmate, former Junkhouse front man Tom Wilson, then spoke up for his own hometown, Hamilton.

Ivor Wynne Stadium, Cannon Street, usually on the Labour Day Classic,” he said, referring to the annual CFL showdown between the Tiger-Cats and the rival Toronto Argonauts.

“Best place in Canada.”

Others, however, were less decisive.

Dallas Green — the tattooed troubadour who divides his time between the screeching post-hardcore of Alexisonfire and contemplative sway of his solo project, City and Colour — simply refused to pick only one place.

“I love Halifax, I think it’s a wonderful city,” said the St. Catharines, Ont., native.

“I love Vancouver. I love Alberta. Alberta’s always been so kind to Alexis and me — Edmonton and Calgary, they’re like the first shows to sell out on the tours.”

“I love it everywhere in Canada. It’s a beautiful country to live in.”

And how about Roberts’ own answer, you might wonder?

Well, the 36-year-old quickly reels off a bevy of ideas for the most beautiful corner of Canada — Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba, where polar bears and wolves survey a striking landscape; the unspoiled nature of Lac La Biche, Alta.; the scenic mountains of Lillooet, B.C., which he calls “spectacular” — but, like Green, he initially struggles to hone in on one specific destination.

“Damn, that’s a really hard one — it really is,” he says, shaking his head.

Then he remembers his hometown.

“Sometimes, standing atop of Mont-Royal in Montreal and looking out over the river — you know, it’s hard to imagine a better spot than that, or a spot closer to home than that.”

Teenage Star Plays Piano For The Art Of It

Source: www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

(Jul 01, 2011) Jan Lisiecki’s long, lithe fingers trace poetry on the piano keys.

The music’s pure, unaffected quality could well be a mirror of the 16-year-old himself.

A thick tousle of blond locks, expressive blue eyes and easy smile cap off a body not yet fully expanded into manhood. But the teen pianist exudes a self-confident calm that eludes even many mature adults.

The Calgary native seems unperturbed by a hectic international concert schedule that his international agent and manager-mother have woven around his recent graduation from high school in Alberta and imminent arrival in Toronto as an advanced student at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould Professional School.

He’s just a young guy doing what he wants to do.

But there is plenty of buzz around Lisiecki, not just in his home country, but in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Like Gould, Lisiecki had his first concert date with a symphony orchestra at age 10.

But Gould, who is still revered around the world nearly 30 years after his death, was 22 when he sat down to make his life-changing recording debut with J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Lisiecki was 15 earlier this year, when he signed a five-album deal with prestigious international classical label Deutsche Grammophon. Like his illustrious predecessor, the teenager dictated what he wants to record first: two Mozart piano concertos.

The orchestra and conductor? Not finalized, but it’s not for lack of eager candidates.

Despite his early accomplishments, Lisiecki dislikes being called a prodigy. For him, the word implies that the beautiful music comes easily or naturally.

“It’s just a lot of hard work,” he insists.

Seated in a practice room at the Royal Conservatory’s Telus Centre, Lisiecki chats easily about how he got his iPad2 and how Ludwig, his seven-year-old pet canary, loves to sing along with his practising for hours on end.

This kid loves spending time cycling and collecting mushrooms at his grandparents’ home near Gdansk, Poland. A gift for math means he could easily have gone on to a career in the sciences.

Instead, he’s trying to learn and memorize a pile of new music before undertaking a nearly 20-concert summer and an even more ambitious fall, which includes opening the season at Salle Pleyel in Paris and embarking on his second Japanese tour, with all proceeds going to UNICEF to help with post-earthquake disaster relief.

Fortunately for us, some Canadian dates are part of the plan (see sidebar).

One of the benefits of the Glenn Gould School, which offered Lisiecki admission on full scholarship, is that being absent because of concert duty is not only okay, but encouraged.

After all, it makes the conservatory look good. When the school announced this spring that Lisiecki would perform with the student orchestra at Koerner Hall on Sept. 30, tickets sold out immediately.

Given the pressure, the practice room overlooking Philosopher’s Walk is more popular than it should be.

Lisiecki in Ontario

July 14: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 and Liszt Concerto No. 2 with National Academy Orchestra, part of the Brott Music Festival, McIntyre Theatre, Hamilton ( www.brottmusic.com)

July 15: Repeat of Brott Festival program at the Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto ( www.brottmusic.com)

Aug. 1: CBC 75th Anniversary Celebration, part of Ottawa Chamberfest, Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Ottawa ( www.ottawachamberfest.com)

Aug. 4, 5 & 6: Three solo recitals at Stratford Summer Music Festival, St. Andrews Church ( www.stratfordsummermusic.ca)

Aug. 8: Solo recital at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque ( www.1000islandsplayhouse.com)

John Terauds

Young Canadians to watch

Mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, 25: Having just used the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio as a springboard into the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artists Program, there is no reason not to expect a brilliant future from this Ottawa-born natural.

Cellist Stéphane Tetreault, 18: The Montrealer has Quebec classical music fans in the palm of his hand. Now he needs to be heard by a wider audience.

Violinist Timothy Chooi, 18: The Victoria, B.C., native is currently a student of Ida Kavafian at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Trombonist Keith Dyrda, 22: The native of Oakbank, Man., tossed aside his violin for the trombone in Grade 5 and hasn’t looked back. He is already a member of the Canadian Brass and has earned accolades wherever he plays.

Video: Janet Jackson Duets With Michael’s Image in London

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 5, 2011) *Janet Jackson revived her 2009 MTV Awards performance of “Scream,” her 1995 duet with brother Michael Jackson, by featuring the image of Michael from their music video on a large screen behind her during a July 2 show at London’s Royal Albert Hall.  [Scroll down to watch.]

“It feels great — just listening to and hearing his voice,” she told reporters about the set, adding that when she’s on-stage, she finds herself “remembering the experience of recording it.”

Jackson is currently on a worldwide tour promoting her “Number Ones” album.  Next, she heads to Dublin, Monaco and Barcelona.

On tour since February, the show will wrap on Sept. 1 at the Los Angeles Greek Theater.

Below, Janet Jackson – If /Scream/Rhythm Nation – London Royal Albert Hall (July 2, 2011)
The “Scream” duet begins at 3:23.

Johnny Gill: ‘The Old Man Has Officially Come Out of Retirement’

Source: www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders

(July 5, 2011) *Johnny Gill took a moment before presenting at the recent BET Awards to announce that his new album will be released in the fall. Backstage, he explained why he allowed 16 long years to pass since the release of his last studio album – 1996’s “Let’s Get the Mood Right.”

“I was touring all year round, then doing projects with
New Edition, LSG, Heads of State,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey exclusively.  Then, during his 11th year of studio inactivity, “Terry Lewis told me one day ‘Man, people wanna hear from you, and you’re gonna have to do something.’”

Five years after that conversation, and one year after signing with St. Louis-based Notifi Records for his sixth solo album, “The old man has now come out of retirement – officially!” Gill proclaimed.

The crooner, 45, is preparing for the Sept. 20, 2011 release of “In the Mood,” featuring a title track that reached the Top 20 within 14 days of its debut last month.

“I’m like ‘whoa,’ because I didn’t know what to expect” Gill said of the song’s high charting after such a long hiatus. “It kind of just threw me. I’m sitting there going, ‘Wow. Amazing.’” [Scroll down to listen.]

With Terry Lewis on board as a producer, Gill came up with so many tracks for the CD that deciding which ones to keep got a little too “Sophie’s Choice.”

He explains in the bonus audio below.

Don Cornelius’ ‘Soul Train’ on Track to Smithsonian

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 3, 2011) *On of the pillars in black music culture is going down in
history at the Smithsonian. “Soul Train” artefacts will be making their way to the historical national museum.

According to the Washington Post, five pieces will be donated, including the 10-foot-long neon “Train” sign, which was used from 1993-2006.

For 37 years, the classic television series caught the attention of young African American people all across the country as new artists were highlighted and dancers got their start.

It originally aired in 1971 and was hosted by its founder, Don Cornelius (pictured). With his smooth, deep voice, the former Chicago newsman took the show to Los Angeles and eventually helped launch it into syndication.

At the end of every show, fans at home and abroad would follow along when he said, “As always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOUL!”

“From a scholarly point of view, this is one of those television shows that beamed African American cultural to the households of black and white America. It (became one of the early) crossover shows. It dominated the black TV viewership of black teenagers. And then it impacted white households,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum. “Like every black kid in America, I watched to see what the newest move was — even if I couldn’t do it.”

Britney Spears Brings Femme Fatale Tour To Vancouver

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(July 1, 2011) If I said that
Britney Spears is not at the top of her game, would you hold it against me?

The pop princess/tabloid fodder favourite brought her Femme Fatale tour to Vancouver Friday night for its first Canadian stop and by rights it should have been a killer show. If you're into that sort of thing, her new record is really good, full of classic Britney over-the-top dance tunes (whatever you may think of the processed vocals, and content such as this ancient pick-up line-inspired lyric: "if I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me").

The show itself dazzles in a no-expenses-barred kind of way, with a people-moving conveyer belt, ever-changing sets, big-time props (ride-on car, ride-on guitar, floating swing, etc.), costumes and pyrotechnics. The dancers amaze, and the acrobatics are out of this world. Ninja warriors? Check. Ancient Egyptian boats? Check. Laser beams? Check.

And yet there was something fundamental missing from the show: Spears herself. And I don't just mean the apparent absence for much of the night of her live singing voice.

Oh she went through the motions: did the dance moves, wore the glittery barely-there costumes, and yes appeared to lip sync her way through many of the songs. But often she seemed low energy, and tentative in her movements - even a bit awkward. (Did she fall in rehearsal, I wondered.) And here's the thing: she did not look like she was enjoying herself.

Contrast that to Nicki Minaj, Spears's hip hop sensation opener. Minaj tore the place up with a superb performance: rapping like she meant it, owning the stage, having, it would appear, a blast. Confident and sharp, she killed it on numbers such as Monster and Check It Out (the Video Killed the Radio Star sample seemed oh so apt as the night progressed). Yes, it was a Pink Friday. For Spears, it's got to hurt to be upstaged by your opener (and your dancers, sets, etc.)

Where Minaj's set fell down - and Spears's even more so - was the use of a narrative as a framing device. In her story (complete with voice-over), Minaj was tooling around the universe, trying to restore peace, I think (the sound was problematic).

In the movie clips that played (seemingly endlessly) throughout Spears's set, she was a "not-that-innocent" (funny) femme fatale, on the run from the good guys (the police) and a lollipop-sucking bad guy, whom (spoiler alert) she ultimately defeats. These film clips are clearly meant to give the crew a chance to deal with the show's elaborate set and costume changes, but they slowed everything down and frankly weren't that interesting. Maybe if the sound had been better ... But probably not.

(An aside: can we talk about the crowd for a moment? OMG. The only thing more concerning than the teenagers and early 20-somethings teetering in impossibly high heels and the tightest, we-changed-on-the-bus-so-our-mothers-wouldn't-see-us outfits was the under-12 set who were exposed to some fairly raunchy lyrics (Minaj) and dance moves (both). You could almost feel their mothers blushing. LOL.)

While we're on skimpy outfits, Spears is the queen of this sort of thing and the many Femme Fatale costume changes did not disappoint. Spears, I can report (thanks to my companion's binoculars), has clearly been working out and is extremely fit. Did I notice a couple of tiny tummy rolls when she got on and off that giant guitar? Yes. Is the woman a human being who has given birth to two children? Yes.

Back to the performance.

I realize with a Spears show, you have to manage your expectations so you're looking for more of a spectacle than a great musical experience. (There was no musicianship to speak of, really. The one time it seemed sure that Spears was actually singing live, into a hand-held mic (while up on a swing) on Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know, she didn't sound great.)

But there's got to be some wiggle room for the artist to inject a bit of spontaneity, even in a carefully choreographed event like this. Other than the requisite shout-out to Vancouver and finally, during the encore, a "Happy Canada Day" (which each of the three opening acts - Minaj, Nervo, and Jessie And The Toy Boys - remembered to wish the audience), nothing felt unique or remotely personal about the night. You get the feeling that this show is pretty much sticking to script. Even the big audience participation number, the Rebecca Black-meets-Greased Lightning onstage convertible treatment of I Wanna Go, when one lucky guy was pulled from the audience for a Britney lap/pole dance, felt very much like an only-the-names-have-changed kind of moment. Will this would-be show-stopper be any different in Winnipeg or Toronto or Montreal? The lap dance won't look the same, but I imagine that's about it.

All of that said, the show had its moments. When Spears launched into Baby One More Time, the place came alive. She seemed confident in her biker get-up, the crowd was loving it - and then it was over, way too soon. This was one song she should not be cutting short. I'm a Slave 4 U was another highlight. But she really seemed to hit her groove during the encore, with a fast-paced Toxic followed by a rousing Till The World Ends. Everyone was on their feet singing along on that last song and Spears herself finally seemed to let go: moving with ease across the stage and really dancing (like everyone was watching). Here was the magic that had been missing all night. I would have loved for her to do it again; to capture the spirit of that performance and apply it to the entire set. But oops, the night was over.

The Femme Fatale tour hits Winnipeg on July 4, Montreal on August 11 and in Toronto on August 13 and 14.

Polaris Short List Revealed

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

(July 06, 2011) The 2011 Polaris Prize short list, as revealed today:


Arcade Fire The Suburbs

Austra Feel It Break

Braids Native Speaker

Destroyer Kaputt

Galaxie Tigre et Diesel


Hey Rosetta Seeds

Ron Sexsmith Long Player Late Bloomer

Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

Timber Timbre Creep On Creepin' On

The Weeknd House of Balloons


Instant handicapping: The Polaris pickers have in the past taken great pains to be seen as pushing boundaries, so merely excellent but conventional creators like Sexsmith have no real shot. Arcade Fire don't need this award's help, and in the past that seems to have been a huge consideration, too. The Weeknd might be what they're looking for, but Austra and Colin Stetson are even more so - stranger and smaller being distinct pluses here. Then again, the jury is nothing but critics, and it sometimes seems like Destroyer's fan base is exclusively critics, so who knows.

We find out Sept. 19.

Beyoncé: I Admit It. I’m Transfixed By Her Bootyliciousness

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Leah McLaren

(July 1, 2011) It’s hard to argue with
Beyoncé. She’s just too good at what she does. Watching her perform, even on YouTube at 8 a.m. before coffee, is like witnessing a feat of Olympic-level athletic prowess pumped up on something much starrier – the ferocity of her glamour is almost blinding. It seems impossible that any mere mortal (let alone one in four-inch heels, a spandex bodysuit and writhing hair extensions) could possibly nail it – every note, every step, every shimmery bat of a false eyelash – every time.

And yet, she does, bringing her performance, in the form of a broad-voiced, booty-shaking pleasure bomb, to my humble laptop screen at each request.

Just the act of typing her name into Google, with all its bouncy vowels and raspy consonants, has the ability to cheer me up. Like most women on the planet, I became obsessed with the Single Ladies video a couple of years ago – one girlfriend actually tried to make me take dance lessons to learn the moves, but I prefer to leave such feats to the pros.

These days, I’m transfixed by the handheld rehearsal footage her husband Jay-Z shot backstage at American Idol and posted online. In it, Beyoncé is just a tiny figure in the corner of a room filled with people (including her mother and a bunch of backup singers) who sit nodding and basking in the awesome power of her voice. That the song is a tribute to the man holding the shaky camera only makes the stripped-down spectacle more shiver-inducing. A few minutes after it was shot, Beyoncé sang the same song live onstage in a ball gown bathed in red smoke as fans screamed and millions more watched from their living rooms. It was a performance one U.S. critic likened to giving birth onstage and it’s a weirdly fitting analogy – Beyoncé’s appeal is enormously physical. Listening to her music does not have nearly the same effect as watching her perform it, either in a choreographed video or live onstage.

Like countless other fans, I downloaded her new album 4 the day it was released this week (the album looks set to top the charts in both the U.K. and North America by week’s end) after reading the mostly slathering reviews touting it as an artistic breakthrough. The consensus is that she’s evolved from funky young thing to devoted wife and power balladeer who is, as she sings on one track “all up in the kitchen in my heels/dinner time.” Sure, there’s the hit single about girls running the world (which loses most of its charm when unaccompanied by footage of Her Bootyliciousness stomping through those mind-bending dance moves), but in truth Beyoncé’s not promoting female empowerment in earnest. Instead her power stems from the paradox of watching white-hot sexuality and raw emotion emanate from a such a winsome girl next door.

The real-life Texas-born Beyoncé Knowles, 29, even has an alter ego who acts as a vessel for all this dazzling ferociousness. Her name is Sasha Fierce (as named in the 2008 album I am... Sasha Fierce), and Beyoncé herself admits to being discomfited by her antics. “She’s too aggressive, too strong, too sassy, too sexy!” she told Parade in 2006. “I’m not like her in real life at all.”

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones rightly observes the world of pop music is currently being ruled by three women: Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Adele. While Adele’s breakout album 21 is poised to be the year’s top seller, Frere-Jones anoints Beyoncé the prevailing pop queen of the bunch. Adele, he thinks, is too much of a soccer-mom favourite to keep her youth cred (“she is selling to the demographic that decides American elections, who don’t know how to pirate music and will drive to Starbucks when they need to and buy it”), while Gaga is a talented craftswoman who is fated to one day cast aside the bizarre theatrics and do what she does best: write songs for gorgeous young creatures who can only hope to sing and dance like, well, Beyoncé.

But while critics have long sneered at the performance raunch that belies Beyoncé’s untarnished real life (in case you’ve been living under a rock, she’s happily married to the reigning king of hip hop, lives in a mansion in the New York suburb of Scarsdale, flies around on a private jet, winters in St. Barts and is tight with her family), this tension is in fact the key to her success.

Beyoncé Knowles is America’s Sweetheart and she does transgressive about as well as Matthew McConaughey does lawyerly,” Frere-Jones writes. “We don’t buy misbehaviour any stronger than an appletini from Beyoncé and we don’t need to.”

But Beyoncé is more than just a superbly talented Pollyanna. She represents a new kind of glamour all together – the rise of the fearsome, fight-ready pop diva who keeps her hips grinding and her nose clean. She may not be subversive, but she doesn’t need a meat dress to get our attention.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve some live concert footage to watch.

Tony Bennett And Diana Krall: Old Friends Together Again

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

(July 1, 2011)
Tony Bennett and Diana Krall aren’t just two of the most popular singers in modern jazz, or even just two of the foremost exponents of the Great American Songbook. They’re also friends, something that becomes immediately obvious once the two get on the phone with each other.

“Hey, Tony, how are you?” says Krall as she comes on the line.

“I’m okay, how’re you doin’?” replies Bennett.

“I’m good.”

“And how’s your family?”

“Good, everybody’s good. Last week of school, you know? I’m looking forward to seeing you, Tony.”

Yeah, same here.”

Where they’ll be seeing each other is the Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto, where they’ll be splitting the bill at the Capital One BlackCreek Summer Music Festival on Saturday. In advance of the performance, the two agreed to a joint interview with The Globe and Mail.

To be honest, though, the term “interview” may be overstating it, as it didn’t take much in the way of questions to get these two talking about music, their favourite artists, and each other.

Let’s start with a simple question: Have you guys ever shared a bill like this before?

Bennett: Well, we have, haven’t we?

Krall: Yeah, we did a whole tour together in, was it 2000? That was one of the highlights of my life.

Bennett: Thanks. Yeah, we had a great time.

Krall: We had an amazing time, one of the most important times of my life, where every night I got to see Tony Bennett, and hang with you. It was just a dream come true.

Bennett: I love the fact that we did the, on my 80th birthday, when we did the show [Tony Bennett: An American Classic], and we opened the show, you and I, with The Best Is Yet to Come. And it ended up that year that it won several Emmys.

Krall: That was such an incredible show. I loved being part of that. And I was pregnant with my kids when we did that, so I’ll always have that happy memory, too. [laughs]

Each of you is playing the Montreal Jazz Festival, as well. Will you catch each other there?

Bennett: I’m playing in Montreal the night before the concert in Toronto.

Krall: That’s July 1st, right? I’m playing 26th, 27th and 28th. So I’ll miss you there, unfortunately. I’ll never forget that press conference you did there years back. That was like a master class, you answered everything so amazingly.

Bennett: Well, thank you. But the Montreal Jazz Festival – I’ve played other jazz festivals, and it’s really my favourite of all the jazz festivals in the world. You’re treated so well in Montreal. I’ve always had nothing but a wonderful time there,

Krall: That André Ménard [the festival’s artistic director], he’s really amazing. My first gig at the Montreal Jazz Festival was a tribute to Nat Cole, and it was a big risk for him to take. And he gave me a whole week to work it out, which was extremely generous, and it turned into a great thing for me. So he’s also giving me another opportunity, which is a big challenge, because I’m doing these shows solo – no band, just me and the piano. So say a little prayer for me! [laughs]

Bennett: I love that your big influence was Nat Cole. Nat Cole was a friend of mine. He was so magnificent. People still don’t eulogize him enough. He actually built Capitol Records. Every time he made a recording, it went to No. 1 on the charts, and he had so many hit records it was unbelievable. He was such a great musician.

Krall: We were just listening to him yesterday, the record he did with George Shearing.

Bennett: Oh, I love that one.

Krall: I love every record Nat Cole did. He was like Louis Armstrong – it didn’t matter what song Nat sang or played, there was always magic in it. Even if he was doing some silly novelty song, it still sounded like magic.

Bennett: I know what you’re saying. You remember that song, [sings] ‘I realize now, I treated you so unkind.’ You know that one? [I Realize Now ed.]

Krall: Sing to me! [laughs] Even if I do know it, I’ll say no. I want to hear you sing more! Sing me a few more lines!

[laughter]

Bennett: He was such a gentleman. It was so tragic that when he had his own television show, because of being an African American and the bigotry during that time, he couldn’t get a sponsor. And here he had Nelson Riddle and he had guest stars like Ella Fitzgerald, and all these great artists. It was a magnificent television show, and yet he couldn’t get a sponsor. They were all afraid.

Krall: I remember he had Jazz at the Philharmonic on, with Flip Phillips and Oscar Peterson, and he would sit at the piano and play Paper Moon. He was a great jazz musician as well as a very different kind of singer. He just was very complex – two different artists, almost, as a singer and a piano player.

Bennett: That’s right. He was a master.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Tony Bennett and Diana Krall perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.

Katy Perry Makes A Great Dad-And-Daughter Date

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Simon Beck

(July 1, 2011)
Katy Perry may be the archetypal teenage dream, but judging by the ecstatic crowd at the Air Canada Centre, she's also in the reveries of tiny Dora the Explorer fans, soccer moms, grandmothers, gay males and - this one really threw me - the four hormonal adolescent dudes behind me with letters spelling K-A-T-Y emblazoned on their naked chests.

Perry is also the dream employer of an army of choreographers, graphic designers, wardrobe consultants, videographers and special-effects artists who adorn her shows in a rainbow of candy-coloured bling. To this proud member of the Brotherhood of Old Farts, she has always seemed like the only tolerable pop diva currently assaulting the sensibilities of today's impressionable youth.

It was therefore with some relief that I heard my eight-year-old daughter Hadleigh tell me recently that Katy Perry was "epic." It was her first serious pop-music crush, and thus - when Perry's Toronto concert dates were announced - a suitable venue to introduce her to the transformational wonders of the live gig.

Taking one's child to their first concert is a key milestone in the life of a parent; what I hoped to see etched on Hadleigh's face was the first experience of the pure, no-strings-attached joy of pop. Passing the torch of music appreciation is not hard, but don't expect them to keep it burning according to the same hard-core rules you applied in your misspent youth.

It took barely two minutes to realize how perfect a Katy Perry concert was for this momentous occasion. Her music is kid-friendly, yet packed to the gills with the same tropes that stirred all of us parents in the audience (and there were many) to gaze lovingly at those 45s spinning on turntables a generation ago: emphatic hooks, countless euphemisms for sex and, of course, instant danceability.

In my early days, I would get my fix from the likes of Marc Bolan, Robert Plant and Joey Ramone, but in many ways (cue howls of outrage from the purists) Katy Perry is cut from the same cloth. True, the spontaneity and energy our old heroes had are now choreographed and scripted out of most of today's hit artists; replaced, in the Perry show, by an Osmond-esque devotion to Vegas-style showbiz perfection. But in great pop songs like California Gurls (her rousing encore number), Perry displays the T.Rex/Ramones talent for subverting the genre with humour and irony - albeit with enough costume changes (including a dozen in one song alone) to send Lady Gaga bawling back to that giant egg of hers.

Perry's show was a two-hour frenzy of DayGlo excitement: part Folies Bergères, part Teletoon, part John Waters. She's as comfortable singing skankily about kissing a girl and liking it as she is balancing on a pink cloud above the audience or dancing on stage with a line of goofy gingerbread men. And the visual effects were topnotch; after seeing her perform E.T. to a stunning backdrop of lasers and video graphics, I reckon Pink Floyd should be on Craigslist inviting someone to cart off their old sets for free.

There was also a soupçon of hubby Russell Brand in her act, judging by the witty one-liners and audience banter sprinkled liberally through the show.

She has a remarkable ability to appeal to young children without alienating teenagers. A touching moment came near the finale, when, clad in a cute, sequined, polka-dot swimsuit, Perry did a jaunty cover of Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me); while this dad's feet were moving in best old-man-at-the-club fashion, Perry filled the stage with young kids from the audience and handed out hugs and photo-ops as if she truly meant it. Why Sesame Street once deemed her too hot to handle is a mystery.

Hadleigh doesn't dance in public; she's either too cool or too reserved for that just yet. Instead, she glazed intently at the spectacle, barely blinking, absorbing the myriad sights, sounds and smells (dry ice and cotton candy) of her first visit to the altar of pop.

I suspect she will remember the event with fondness when she's old enough to worry about the influence of popular culture on her own children. But for now, I'll have to make do with the curt "really good" when I asked for her verdict during the ride home. Showing her age, she added, "I'm really tired," and fell asleep in the back of the car.

Honestly. That's today's youth for you.

Katy Perry plays Montreal's Bell Centre on Saturday and Ottawa's Scotiabank Place on Sunday. Other Canadian dates are Regina on July 13, Winnipeg July 14, Calgary July 16, Edmonton July 17 and Vancouver July 19.

Katy Perry

At the Air Canada Centre In Toronto on Wednesday

 

Nicki Minaj and R. Kelly to Perform at Sumfest in Jamaica

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

(July 04, 2011) *Nicki Minaj is on call and in high demand everywhere. The rapper will be performing with R&B legend R. Kelly at this year’s Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica (July 17-23, 2011).

“Nicki Minaj, one of the hottest acts in the world right now, will be treating her multitude of fans to a scintillating performance,” Johnny Gourzong, executive producer of the event said in a press release. “Last year we had a tremendous festival with great Jamaican and international acts. This time around patrons will again be treated to amazing performances with the likes of Mavado, I-Octane, Beenie Man, Jah Cure and so many other great artists.”

He went on to celebrate that R. Kelly will be present as well.

“The Reggae Sumfest team is excited to be presenting R. Kelly on the Sumfest stage. We have been trying to contract him for the last five years and it is great to see that it is finally happening. We are expecting a spectacular performance from Mr. Kelly.”

This will be the singer’s second time performing on a Jamaican stage sine 1996.

Two Divas And A Whole Lot More At the T.O. Jazz Fest

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

(July 4, 2011) In a neat bit of symmetry, the 25th edition of the Toronto Jazz Festival opened with one diva, long-reigning Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, and closed with another, jazz vocal wunderkind Nikki Yanofsky. In both cases, the term refers to vocal prowess, not attitude; in fact, there was a notable lack of drama around this year’s festival, a welcome change after last year’s coincident G20 troubles.

But if book-ending the festival with two such different divas was meant to make a statement about the music’s past and future, the message got muddled. Franklin’s performance may have made a strong case for the enduring vitality of aging legends, but Yanofsky’s set seemed to suggest that the promise of youth doesn’t mean much when it’s filtered through the confusion of adolescence.

Yanofsky has matured quite a bit since her first TJF appearance in 2007, but the 17-year-old still seems undecided about what kind of singer she wants to be when she grows up. At David Pecaut Square on Sunday, she bounced from contemporary R&B to straight-ahead jazz to modern country to bossa nova in just five songs, and though she sang well on each of them, none of the renditions shed much light on her own artistic identity.

Her sense of swing is sure enough to make the jazz fare feel right, and she has largely reined in her tendency to show off, although her reading of
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive nearly succumbed to death by melisma. But she avoids improvisation – her “scat” solos in No More Blues and I Got Rhythm actually had her doubling written-out instrumental lines – and frankly seems happier belting out retro-R&B numbers like the Cee-Lo Green hit Forget You (with the clean lyrics, of course).

There’s no way Yanofsky could have enjoyed the chart success she earned through the Olympic ballad
I Believe – Sunday’s first encore – had she stuck to singing Air Mail Special and the like. But it would take a greater optimist than the author of that tune to imagine that Yanofsky’s future will be in jazz.

Classics of a different sort

There was a delicious irony in hearing The Bad Plus introduced at the Enwave Theatre last Tuesday as being notorious for their versions of new-wave tunes when the only cover in their 90-minute set was Stravinsky’s
Variation d’Apollon. (A fan later called out for their version of The Rite of Spring, but that apparently was being saved for a July 8 appearance at the Halifax Jazz Festival.)

As always, Ethan Iverson’s classically schooled pianism made for an engaging contrast against the occasionally funky ferocity of the rhythm section, and he brought a wonderfully tart lyricism to his interplay with bassist Reid Anderson in
People Like You. But the band was at its best when drummer David King was in the driver’s seat, as on the aptly titled Rhinoceros Is My Profession.

There were also classical overtones to the Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo performance at Koerner Hall on Wednesday, although that had more to do with acoustics than with musical style. Deciding to take advantage of the Koerner’s intimate size, Marsalis played off-mic the whole evening, allowing the audience to enjoy both the richness of his sound and immediacy of the duo’s interplay. Although there were a few “classics” in the set – most notably
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? – the duo’s most moving playing came courtesy of originals such as Eternal and La Valse Kendall.

And while it was possible to hear echoes of classical in the music Vancouver native D’Arcy James Argue brought to Pecaut Square Thursday afternoon, they weren’t where you’d expect. Argue’s Secret Society, the 18-piece big band he brought from New York, painted some brilliant soundscapes during their 90-minute set, but the classical influence was mainly audible in the pulsing, Steve Reichian patterns the rhythm section used in
Zeno.

On the other hand, the electric piano and bass clarinet of
Pharaoh Magnetic evoked Miles Davis’s Pharaoh’s Dance, and when you add that to the Bob Brookmeyer-ish colours of Transit, you have some sense of just how wide a net Argue casts with this band. Add in incendiary solos by baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, trombonist Ryan Keberle and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and you have good reason to wonder how long this Society will remain secret.

At The Montreal Jazz Festival, An Eclectic Mix Of Icons

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Alan Conter

Festival international de jazz de Montreal
Various artists at various venues in Montreal

(Jul 05, 2011) Kids played in the reflecting pools on the terrace of
Place des Arts in the late afternoon sweltering heat. Thousands of people ambled into the area in front of the main stage of the Quartier des spectacles for the final, blow-out performance of this year’s international jazz festival, the B-52s. Yes, those B-52s of the post-punk new-wave fame. By the time the concert got under way at 9:30, there were over 100,000 people ready to bop the night away.

Meanwhile, in the air-conditioned comfort of the Théâtre Maisonneuve, an enthusiastic crowd of mostly people over 40 came to see a different sort of icon, Marianne Faithfull. A former rocker, a sometimes cabaret singer, a throaty interpreter of R&B, she remains a consummate performer. No wonder her show sold out almost as quickly as Prince’s.

Back to that in a moment.

Kudos to the programmers of the festival for another eclectic mix. You could catch Holly Cole, Diana Krall in a rare solo show, Tony Bennett – a festival stalwart -and a raft of local talent such as Florence K, François Bourassa or Nikki Yanofsky.

Last Wednesday I opted for the Hilary Kole Quartet at L’Astral. This small venue is a great setting for her. One of Kole’s claims to fame is being the youngest singer to perform at New York’s legendary Rainbow Room, and she/ performed at the Roy Thomson Hall tribute to Oscar Peterson back in 2008. Travelling with her to Montreal were Paul Gill on bass, Carmen Intorre on drums and John Hart on guitar.

The set started with Haunted Heart from the album of the same name and while the band was solid, Kole’s voice seemed small and tight, rather than rich and colourful. Luckily she has a wicked sense of humour and quickly had the audience on her side. As the show continued, her voice opened up. She said that she wasn’t sure she would tell us, but since people hadn’t bolted for the doors she was happy to explain that two days prior to the Montreal gig, a bronchial congestion had left her voiceless. Pretty impressive “show must go on” moxie. Her rendition of Alec Wilder’s Blackberry Winter was stunning.

The next night, a different crowd, different vibe and a much larger venue – the Théâtre Maisonneuve for Colin James and Chris Caddell. Here, an R&B inspired rock guitar roll out.

Caddell opened the show solo and between the first two pieces told how his grandfather had brought him to the festival years ago to see Colin James perform. That’s when he figured he wanted to be a guitarist.

Well, the two got along just fine. Their guitars produced a huge sound with Caddell’s rhythms playing off of James’s dexterity. James would switch guitars almost after every tune. He’s got to travel with a good dozen. Black Eyed Dog had an intensity and fierceness that was riveting. The set had the audience roaring for more. Alluding to Prince’s two-and-half-hour encore, James joked that his would be shorter.

On a totally different guitar register was Kurt Rosenwinkel’s show at the Cinquième salle. Famous among jazz guitar aficionados, Rosenwinkel is an American graduate of the Berklee School of Music who now teaches at the Hanns Eisler music school in Berlin. His playing can be atmospheric and haunting, as it was on Sunday night. When he is playing with the reverb, you can close your eyes and think you’re listening to a pipe organ in a cavernous church. Then he’ll shift into a more mellow mode. The tonal play is hypnotic.

Back to Marianne Faithfull. The concert began with material from her recently released Horses and High Heels, an album of songs that suit an older and more mature voice. On Stations her music director Kate St. John switched from keyboard to English horn with the measured backing of the rest of the band. Like Hilary Kole, Faithfull was performing with health issues. Thrombosis would require her to sit periodically and apologize a little too often. The audience loved basking in her presence and in return she blessed us with some grand old hits such as Sister Morphine and Broken English. For her final encore, she performed Strange Weather, composed for her by Tom Waits, accompanied only by her guitarist Doug Petitbone.

Special to The Globe and Mail

This Is Not Tim Robbins's Midlife Crisis Album

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Jul 05, 2011)
Tim Robbins, actor, political activist, outspoken Oscar-winner and now, at age 52, folk-rock singer-songwriter. In advance of a string of Canadian dates, The Shawshank Redemption star talked about dreams, darkness and his self-titled debut album Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band.

Your name comes first on the album, but inside the CD jacket, a photo of the band shows you way to the left. Was this intentional?

This album wouldn't have happened without the Rogues Gallery Band and [producer] Hal Willner. I had been through a darker period of my life. I have this work ethic, that whenever I feel like sulking I find a project to do, whether it's making a cabinet or whatever. So, when I had a film project fall apart, I put down on tape some of the songs I had written over the years. A couple of months later, I bumped into Hal. I told him about the demos; he listened to them and told me he thought there was an album there. He said he had the perfect band for me, and that he would be meeting with them in a couple of weeks. It was that quick.

In the album notes, you thank Hal for pulling you out of the dark period you were going through. You split with Susan Sarandon and you spoke to the BBC last year about this being a midlife crisis album. Is it?

Definitely not. I regret doing that interview. I made a joke on [the radio program] Desert Island Discs on the BBC about calling my album a midlife crisis album. It was a joke; the host was laughing. But somehow it got into the tabloid press that every song on the album was a response to the recent things in my life.

The songs are stories, rather than any emotional purging. Is that fair to say?

I couldn't imagine something I'd want to hear less than someone rambling about a midlife crisis. When you hear the songs, they're clearly about all kinds of things - love, life, experiences and people I've met, including Iraq War veterans. There are magical sprites and all kinds of stuff.

The sprite is on Queen of Dreams. There are references to dreams throughout the album.

I put a lot of stock in the subconscious, and streams of consciousness. I do believe that if I were able to remember my dreams, I would write more songs. Dreams are poetry, you know? They're not real, they're not even fiction. They're a hybrid of poetry and reality, and I like them because of that.

Were you comfortable in the studio, with your voice?

All the vocals on the album are live. I wanted it that way - it was a moment in time. It has an immediacy and a presence that works. It was that time in my life, and the emotions I was going through.

So, no overdubbing?

Hal asked me if I wanted to make some fixes in the vocals, and I said no. I'd rather it be imperfect. I wanted it to be what it was, that day. Things are overproduced, not just in music but movies too. I find perfection boring; it's not why we go out at night to go see live music. We want something that's genuine and real.

Your parents, Gil (of the Highwaymen) and Mary Robbins, were active in the New York folk scene. Do we hear their influence on the album?

Music was very present in my household. We didn't have much money growing up. We didn't have a TV until 1969. But we always did have a good stereo and good speakers and good headphones. There was always vinyl coming into the house.

And how did all that music affect you?

All my imagination and creativity comes from listening to music in the sixties and the seventies with my headphones on. It was my source of entertainment. It was my source of truth.

Any specific artists you were drawn to? I hear Bruce Springsteen on the album.

I like a good storyteller. A great song can change the way we look at life in a three-and-a-half-minute span. I think that's a pretty great artistic achievement.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band play Winnipeg Folk, July 7 and 8; Quebec City Summer Fest, July 10; Montreal, July 13; Ottawa Blues, July 14; Windsor, Ont., Bluesfest International, July 15; Vancouver Folk, July 16; Toronto, Aug. 2; and Edmonton, Aug. 6.

A Soundgarden We Can Believe In Again

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Jul 03, 2011) When
Soundgarden took to the stage for the first time since 1997 at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago last year, its long hoped-for reunion seemed like a bad idea — or, at least, a half-hearted one.

For a band whose roiling, rhythmically complex heaviosity requires intense discipline from all four players, the Soundgarden of 2010 was shockingly sloppy at times, audibly under-rehearsed and not putting out much discernible energy to suggest that it actually wanted to be back together playing in front of a crowd of 50,000. The show was a letdown, plain and simple, and it looked as though the Soundgarden reunion would be another case of a legendary rock ’n’ roll band not knowing well enough to leave its legacy alone.

At the Molson Amphitheatre on Saturday night, however, 16,000 roaringly supportive Torontonians got to witness the Seattle grunge quartet’s proper rebirth. Louder than bombs, tightened up in all the right places and at times hair-raisingly intense, this was a gig that could make one believe in Soundgarden again, believe that the band might now have something more than a pale shadow of its former self to offer its fans.

Although there’s a new album reportedly close to completion, Saturday’s was a two-hour greatest-hits set spanning all five of Soundgarden’s records, reaching back as far as a walloping take on “Beyond the Wheel” from 1988’s Ultramega OK and as far forward as “Let Me Drown,” a stoner-metal leviathan left over from 1991’s Badmotorfinger sessions that was released last year and now makes for a truly monstrous show opener.

That was fine; the band — which rehearsed at the Amphitheatre for a couple of days before the tour kickoff and could be heard from my Dundas and Ossington balcony on Friday evening staging a quick sound-check concert for 200 contest winners at the venue — is welcome to enjoy one victory lap before proving whether it can be relevant in a contemporary setting if it’s going to deliver the goods like this every night on its 20-date summer tour.

Toronto was “the best place to start, by the way,” said frontman Chris Cornell two songs in, unnecessarily currying favour with the crowd after a crushing rendition of “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” had already left the appreciative (and incredibly drunk) throng ready to rip its seats from their moorings. “That might sound like bulls---, but it’s not bulls---.”

The 46-year-old Cornell’s famous shriek is a bit more parched and ragged than it was back in the day, and strained now and then to sustain the high notes as long as it once did. But he can still let loose when it counts — on the ferocious “Rusty Cage,” for instance, or the titanic “Outshined” — and his high register was still in reasonably good shape by the time “Slaves & Bulldozers” ground the encore to a molten finish while lightning ricocheted around the sky towards 11 p.m.

Indeed, he sang so well on “Jesus Christ Pose” that bassist Ben Shepherd could be seen smiling and nodding in approval to guitarist Kim Thayil and drummer Matt Cameron (who now counts Pearl Jam as his main gig) behind his back. It was kind of a sweet moment to witness between four guys who seemingly couldn’t handle each other’s company by the time their band blew apart.

It wasn’t a perfect set, with slightly slapdash takes on “My Wave” and “Burden in My Hand” betraying a little bit of rust still to be smoothed away. Cameron and Shepherd are firing on all cylinders again, though, and that tectonic rhythm section is really all you need.

The big hits, too — “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Spoonman” — ripped out of the PA at full strength and full confidence the way the big hits should, so no one was marching out of the Amphitheatre in disgust as the rain teemed down and the evening drew to close.

This felt very much like a performance by the Soundgarden we knew and loved during the ’90s, perhaps even a Soundgarden in slightly better shape than the fractious foursome that was already coming apart at the seams during its final tour in 1997. That Lollapalooza business is already forgiven.

2cellos Wear Out The Wonder, And More

Source: www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

Pop
2Cellos

(July 04, 2011) Wanna make the cello sexy? Find two broodingly handsome twentysomethings, show them off in black-leather jackets and three-day-bender beards, hand them two sleek, carbon-fibre instruments, and set them loose on the rock canon. Transformed classical cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser have pretty much guaranteed bestseller status for their debut disc as 2Cellos, thanks to the million-and-a-half views earned by their first music video, their take on Guns 'n' Roses' “Welcome to the Jungle.” Other familiar songs that translate fiery guitar licks and melodies into something wild for a pair of cellos and rapidly unravelling bows include Michael Jackson's “Smooth Criminal,” Trent Reznor's “Hurt,” a version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that must have Kurt Cobain shooting up in his grave and a smattering of gentler fare such as U2's “With or Without You.” Although these boys have a dazzling way with their instruments, the sheer physicality of their work becomes grating. It's like having to listen to your little brother play air guitar at the top of his voice all afternoon. A cello can enchant by singing without the need of a breath, but the music on this album works better with real guitars — and real voices.

Jazz
LES DOIGTS DE L'HOMME

The fourth album by French guitar-jazz quartet Les Doigts de l'homme (literally, The Fingers of Man, but really a clever pun on The Rights of Man) is a rollicking, loving tribute to the “manouche” (gypsy jazz) music of Django Reinhardt. Although the legend has been dead since 1953, Reinhardt's music remains as refreshing as a just-squeezed orange. Olivier Kikteff and his fast-pickin', swift-strummin' partners Yannick Alcocer and Benoit Convert are nothing short of awe-inspiring. One of the album's finest uptempo tracks is the opening Alcocer arrangement of Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies,” but this CD's real treat is in savouring how these boys can caress a fine melody on less-frenetic tracks. My favourites are Reinhardt's sensual “Boléro,” Convert's take on Lev Knipper's “Russian Melody,” and Kikteff's dreamy “Improsture No. 1.”

dCONCORD CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY

The core sextet of the Massachusetts-based Concord Chamber Music Society is made up of classical musicians (many are members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), but this disc is clearly jazz-inflected. Although much of the music lives out on the more experimental branches of the jazz tree, both Chris Brubeck's Danza del Soul and Michael Gandolfi's Line Drawings achieve the magical during their slow movements (“The Loneliness of Secrets,” in Brubeck's case, and, especially Gandolfi'sObbligato Aria”). Although the music of Lukas Foss could sometimes be obtusely modern, Central Park Reel, which dates from 1987, is an entertaining mix of bluegrass and big city.

Classical DVD
SALZBURG FESTIVAL

Handel was a senior citizen by the time Theodora had its first performance in 1750. Although this Salzburg Festival production by Christof Loy in 2009 treats the work like an opera, Theodora is an oratorio centred around Christian faith and martyrdom, set in the times of Roman emperor Diocletian. The three-part work bulges with gorgeous arias, duets and choruses, but there's painfully little action to animate it into an opera. Fortunately, it works fine as an extended dramatic tableau, with a fantastical, oversized set of baroque organ pipes as a backdrop. The singers, in modern dress, are fantastic — especially soprano Christine Schafer as the oh-so-pure Christian Theodora and countertenor Bejun Mehta as her ardent admirer, Roman officer (and secret Christian) Didymus. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser is another standout, as his friend Septimus. The Salzburg Bach Chorus sings beautifully, while the excellent Freiburg Baroque Orchestra brings the music to vibrant life under conductor Ivor Bolton.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Lady Gaga on So You Think You Can Dance

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Debra Yeo

(Jul 05, 2011) She told American Idol Scotty McCreery to pretend the
microphone was his girlfriend and he had to stick his tongue down her throat, so who knows what advice she'll have for the contestants on So You Think You Can Dance? Nigel Lythgoe confirmed on the weekend that Lady Gaga will be a guest judge on the reality dance competition, which airs in Canada on CTV. It's not the pop star's only connection to the show, since past contestant Mark Kanemura has been dancing with her on tour and in TV show appearances (including the MuchMusic Video Awards last month in Toronto). Lythgoe, SYTYCD executive producer, said, "Lady Gaga will give great advice on how to handle yourself, how to be creative with what you do and how to be a fabulous performer. Her help is going to be invaluable."  No date was given for her appearance. On the bright side, if she shows up in shoes with heels that look like penises, like she did during her American Idol mentoring session, she'll be behind a table, so the cameras won't have to shoot her from the ankles up.

Essence Fest Draws Nearly Half a Million Attendees

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 06, 2011) *The Associated Press is reporting that more than 422,000 attended the 2011 Essence Music Festival held over the Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans. The three-day gathering featured nightly concerts inside the Louisiana Superdome and free daily empowerment and community-based events at the city’s convention center where the festival, presented by The Coca-Cola Cola, celebrated its 17th anniversary. Citywide hotel occupancy was in the mid-90 percent range or higher throughout the weekend, according to the AP Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said Tuesday that the large numbers underscore the festival’s significance as a one-of-a-kind platform for entertainment, information and inspiration. The festival featured performances by Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Jill Scott, El Debarge, Chaka Khan, Charlie Wilson and others.

::FILM NEWS::

Moviegoing Al Fresco

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Anderson

(Jun 30, 2011)
Outdoor summer cinema: Opportunities to enjoy favourite flicks outside on a (hopefully) warm summer night become far more plentiful this week as more of the city’s free outdoor movie programs get rolling.

On July 5 at Harbourfront Centre’s WestJet Stage, the Longo’s Free Flicks program of Tuesday-night movies begins with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, one of several city-centric films to screen there this summer. Next up are Annie Hall (July 12) and Paris Je T’Aime (July 19).

Beloved musicals dominate the slate for TIFF in the Park, the outdoor series presented every Wednesday night by the Toronto International Film Festival and the Toronto Entertainment District in David Pecaut Square (Metro Square). You can join Judy Garland and several flying monkeys when The Wizard of Oz launches the series on July 6 at sunset — soon to play are The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (July 13) and Funny Girl (July 20).

Meanwhile over at Yonge-Dundas Square on July 5, the square’s Dancing in the Dark program continues with 1965’s Beach Blanket Bingo, the fourth of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s string of ’60s beach party movies.

Though busy with Canada Day festivities this weekend, Downsview Park gets in on the act next week with a new edition of its popular Movies Under the Stars series — Shrek Forever After plays July 8.

Don’t forget to bring all the blankets, chairs and snacks you need. And always remember the cardinal rule of summer moviegoing: eat your Junior Mints before they melt.

Canada Day at Harbourfront: As part of its Canada Day festivities, Harbourfront Centre hosts an array of free film events. At 3 p.m. in the Studio Theatre in the York Quay Centre, there’s Talespinners 2, a kid-friendly package of seven NFB animated shorts. Then at 5 p.m., the documentary Finding Farley depicts one family’s 5,000-km journey from Calgary to the Nova Scotia home of Farley Mowat.

Presented in partnership with the Inside Out festival, Boardwalk Flicks is comprised of a trio of LGBT-themed short films — it runs at 9 p.m. on the Harbourfront Centre Boardwalk.

Wimbledon in 3D: Sure, it would be great to score courtside seats for a Wimbledon final but who really wants to risk being beaned by one of Rafael Nadal’s 85-mph serves?

Three Cineplex theatres in the GTA make things a little less dangerous for tennis fans by screening this weekend’s men’s and ladies’ singles finals in 3D. It’s the first time ever the matches will be filmed in high-definition 3D and broadcast into cinemas worldwide.

The ladies’ final begins at 9 a.m. on July 2 with the men’s final match scheduled for the morning of July 3 (weather permitting, of course). Tickets are $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors and $9.95 for youths with presentations taking place at the Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John Sts., the SilverCity in Mississauga and the Colossus in Woodbridge.

Argento overload: As eye-poppingly lavish as they are stomach-churningly gruesome, the horror films of Dario Argento lose much of their impact when seen on television screens.

That’s why fans of the freaky stuff are in luck when two of the Italian director’s best films screen at TIFF Bell Lightbox on July 2. At 5:30 p.m., his 1977 shocker Suspiria is paired with Federico Fellini’s 1968 short Toby Dammit in a double feature presented by special guest Guillermo del Toro. Then at 11 p.m., the summer-long Best of Midnight Madness presents Opera, an equally deranged 1988 hit in which a masked killer forces an opera singer to witness the murder of everyone she holds near and dear.

Rarely have the Lightbox’s screens been put to such diabolical use.

An offer you can’t refuse: Also making a rare appearance on the rep circuit is The Godfather. Screened from a 35mm print, Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Mafia drama plays twice at the Toronto Underground Cinema on July 3 and 7. A resurgence of mush-mouthed Marlon Brando impressions will most surely ensue.

Falling Into A TV Jackpot

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chris Alexander

(Jul 02, 2011) Aliens invading earth have been a staple of fantasy
entertainment since H.G. Wells put space amoebas in tripods and levelled gaslight London in his novel War of the Worlds. But in the annals of Hollywood, iconic multi-hyphenate filmmaker Steven Spielberg has been one of popular science fiction’s most influential architects, lacing the innate terror of things coming from the stars with intimate stories of everyday human struggle in such groundbreaking works as 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1982's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and his own 2005 riff on War of the Worlds.

Spielberg’s latest venture into xenophobic drama is the highly hyped new TV series
Falling Skies. The show had the most watched cable launch of 2011 on U.S. channel TNT in June, with 5.9 million viewers. It premieres in Canada Wednesday on Super Channel.

Although Spielberg is only credited as executive producer, he helped conceive the series and was hands-on in creature design, trailer editing, plot and character arcs, and casting. That last element was a blessing to young Toronto actor Connor Jessup, who was hand-picked by Spielberg to play Ben, a teen who is kidnapped by the galactic ghouls for reasons unknown.

It’s up to his suburbanite-turned-warrior father Tom Mason (played by ER’s Noah Wyle) to liberate him from the slimy clutches of the otherworldly occupiers while also figuring out why the monsters have designs on stealing the planet’s youngsters.

“Steven was instrumental in this show, it was a pet project of his,” says the charming and articulate 16-year-old.

“In 2009, after my first audition, I got a call saying that Steven loved my take on Ben and that he wanted to see me again. I still don’t fully understand that I’m working for him. It feels like a dream.”

Jessup’s jump from marginal 12-year-old heartthrob in the Australian-shot preteen series The Saddle Club to key role in a big-budget, already cult-approved hit is indeed the stuff dreams are made of. But it’s all part of his plan, a destiny set in stone from his earliest days.

“When I was younger, I was always dressing up,” Jessup recalls.

“If I watched Batman I’d wear a Batman costume for two weeks. My parents put me in theatre groups but back then, when I was 4 or 5, it was all running around, screaming and playing, but I wanted to do Shakespeare. So when I got older I had friends who were going out for commercials and had agents, so I convinced my parents to let me do the same. I honestly have never looked back.”

Falling Skies takes place six months after a catastrophic alien invasion, one that leaves the planet free of social order of any kind. Pockets of survivors emerge to resist the takeover and rebuild a semblance of a world where humanity can thrive. The blending of the fantastic and supernatural infiltrating the middle class is in many ways the secret to Spielberg’s success and Falling Skies is no exception.

“Unlike stuff like Battle LA or Independence Day, the show focuses less on special effects, though there are lots of cool creatures and cool FX,” says Jessup. “But more than anything, it’s about humanity and poignant emotions.”

And unlike relentless, sometimes aimless serials like Lost, Falling Skies has a clear, finely tuned narrative drive with a designated resolution.

There’s no filler episodes,” Jessup says.

“The audience knows just as much as the characters do, they’re just as blind and just as aware, and you can imagine what it would be like to be in the hero’s shoes. But the show will resolve itself and provide answers . . . when it’s over, there won’t be any threads dangling.”

Video and Audio: Meagan Good on her Decision to Produce, Star in ‘Video Girl’

Source: www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders


(July 5, 2011) *“The Game” star Meagan Good worked double duty as star and producer of her latest  film “Video Girl,” where she plays a small towner who moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a video vixen.

But once she becomes “the hottest, highest paid chick in the game,” her life spirals completely out of control. [Scroll down to watch the trailer.]

The movie opened in select AMC theatres on April 29, and continues
its slow rollout across the country – with Chicago’s ICE Theatres scheduled to begin a run on July 22, according to the film’s website.

Below, Good describes the film as a cautionary tale aimed at young girls with stars in their eyes.

Forbes Lists Angelina Jolie, Sarah Jessica Parker As Top Earners

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(July 06, 2011) NEW YORK - Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker, with estimated annual earnings of $30-million (U.S.) each, are the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, according to the Forbes.com annual list.

Jolie topped the Forbes.com list thanks to the worldwide success of her action film Salt, which brought in $300-million, and The Tourist, which also featured Johnny Depp and earned $280-million at the worldwide box office.

Much of Parker’s hefty earnings comes from reruns of the hit television show Sex and the City, which she starred in and produced, and earnings from the second SATC movie, which generated $290-million at the global box office.

“People may be surprised to see Sarah Jessica Parker up there, but they may not realize that in addition to acting, she earns big from her perfumes and endorsement deals,” said writer Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes.com. “Also she's coming off of Sex and the City 2, which turned a healthy profit.”

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon were not far behind in the rankings, with each actress bringing home $28-million.

The 10 highest-paid actress made a total of $218-million between May 2010 and May 2011, according to Forbes.com, which compiled the list by talking to producers, lawyers, agents and Hollywood insiders.

Last year’s top earner, Sandra Bullock, took a 12-month break from making movies and dropped to No. 9, with $15-million.

The full list can be found here.

FILM TIDBITS

VIDEO: Ryan Reynolds And Scarlett Johansson Together On Movie Project

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

(July 04, 2011) They may have officially called it quits, divorcing over the Canada Day weekend, but Ryan Reynolds’ and Scarlett Johansson’s names will be linked a while longer. They’re sharing an executive producer credit (along with Eric Desatnik) on The Whale, a doc about the orphaned orca, Luna, who charmed a small British Columbia town on Nootka Sound with his arrival in 2001. Directed by Smithsonian Magazine writer Michael Parfit and producer-cinematographer Suzanne Chisholm, The Whale has been picked up for theatrical distribution by Paladin.  Green Lantern star Reynolds, who is from B.C. and married Johansson there in 2007,  narrates the movie, which will start screening later this summer and expand in the fall. A link to Parfit’s story in the Smithsonian about Luna can be read here.

 

Hot Docs Gets New Home At Bloor

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

(Jul 05, 2011) Toronto Star file photo The Bloor Cinema reopens as the
home of Hot Docs this fall.  Hot Docs is moving to a permanent home at the Bloor Cinema. Blue Ice Film and Hot Docs are teaming up to operate the Bloor, which is currently dark while  undergoing renovations. The Bloor St. W. theatre will reopen this fall under Hot Docs’ management and the organization will also be responsible for year-round programming outside the popular spring documentary film fest. The Bloor will host the monthly Doc Soup screening series, rep cinema films and other film festivals, including the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, the After Dark Film Festival and the Images Festival. Blue Ice Film also teamed with Hot Docs earlier this year to provide $1 million in grants over the next five years to African documentary filmmakers.

::TV NEWS::  

Bruce Gray Knows The Benefit Of A Few Good Lines

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Jul 02, 2011) Canadian actor
Bruce Gray has certainly paid his dues.

He starred in the award-winning series Traders, played the uptight father of the groom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, has done guest spots on countless TV shows and had recurring roles on Queer as Folk and Medium.

It’s not like he has to take any old job that comes along. But he’s awfully glad he interrupted his cottage vacation a couple of summers ago to audition for what looked to be a tiny part in a new TV series.

The show turned out to be Falling Skies, the Steven Spielberg-produced drama about the aftermath of an alien invasion that debuts on Super Channel on Wednesday.

“I think there were two lines (at the audition). Now I have these wonderful scenes that I get to play,” said Gray, 74, who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Canadian parents and began his career here while he was getting his master’s in psychology at the University of Toronto.

In Falling Skies, he plays Uncle Scott, whom Gray describes as “an 83-year-old garage mechanic” with an MIT education.

Scott is one of the survivors left behind after aliens invade Earth, destroying its infrastructure, including its computers, and leaving a small occupying force to hunt down the remaining humans.

“Bands of us are trying to escape the aliens and their robots. We try to get into a place where we can forage for food and get through the day without getting killed,” said Gray.

“What it is really about is the human condition, how we interact with each other, how we form alliances, how we come together in adversity, how there are some people who take advantage of the situation, how you see in other people qualities you overlooked before.”

Speaking of interacting, Gray has high praise for the cast. It includes Noah Wyle (whom Gray worked with on ER), Moon Bloodgood (“she’s terrific just extraordinary”) and Will Patton (“a tremendous actor, oh my goodness, just great”).

He also calls Spielberg “a classy, classy guy.”

“He came on the set when we were shooting in Hamilton, at the botanical gardens, and the air just got electric when he walked on . . . Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t have made a bigger impact on that crowd. He is the king.

“He did the classiest thing. He marched over to the producers and spent some time talking to them. There were maybe 10 or 15 of us who were guest stars or regulars on the show: he came over to our little tent and talked to us all until he’d answered all our questions.”

Gray lives in L.A. but spends at least a month in Toronto every summer, visiting friends. And he returns to his old high school, Humberside Collegiate, every fall to hand out an acting scholarship.

There’s likely a lesson for future actors in the fact that Gray landed three roles that began with auditions of just one or two lines: Falling Skies, a role in the movie Water for Elephants (“It was like The Beatles,” he said, of working with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson) and father-in-law to the lead character on Medium.

“So often you hear actors say they won’t go (to an audition) for just a few lines,” said Gray. “I worked three projects every day in a row in two different countries, all from parts that originated from just a few lines.”

Coaches On Board For Season 2 Of The Voice

Source: www.thestar.com - By Yvonne Villarreal

(Jun 30, 2011) LOS ANGELES—When viewers were first introduced to07 Javier Colon on The Voice, he was just a guy with a backward baseball cap, crooning an affecting rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Fast-forward nine weeks and Colon — now embracing sleek suits and a hat-free head — is booking appearances on Today and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno as the first winner of NBC’s surprise hit talent competition.

“I feel some pressure,” Colon said Wednesday ahead of that night’s finale. The 34-year-old singer-songwriter from Stratford, Conn., went on to beat runner-up Dia Frampton and fellow finalists Beverly McClellan and Vicci Martinez.

“The first winner,” he added, “(has) to go out there and show folks why you were (chosen) the winner. You got to prove that you deserve it.”

Colon is not the only one with something to prove; NBC now faces the challenge of retaining the show’s momentum.

Though Wednesday’s finale was down by almost two million viewers in the U.S. from Tuesday’s performance show — bringing in 10.8 million total viewers — it performed better than anything NBC has aired in its time slot in quite some time. And the series has consistently brought in strong numbers in the key advertising category of adults ages 18 to 49 since its April 26 premiere.

“It was a great first year,” said host and NBC personality Carson Daly. “And we’re already ready to get back to it. I think Season 2 can be even bigger and better.”

Hoping to continue the winning streak, the network will use its coveted post-Super Bowl slot to air the winter premiere of the series, which is modelled after Holland’s top-rated vocal talent discovery show, The Voice of Holland.

It’s a slot often given to highly touted new shows or current series with heavy growth potential. Last year, Fox put Glee in the slot. The year before that, CBS successfully launched Undercover Boss in the period.

And its cast of celebrity coaches — Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton — will all be on hand for Season 2, the network confirmed Thursday.

“I’d love to come back,” Levine, who led Colon to his win, told reporters after the finale. “I like to think I was a good coach.”

Testing the show’s endurance until then is a summer tour. The finalists, some of whom are already working on albums, will kick off the six-stop stint in Los Angeles later this month, around the same time that auditions for the second season get underway.

The next round of hopefuls seems to have its work cut out. “Bring it,” McClellan said. “’Cause it’s already been brought.”

The Voice came too late to rescue NBC from bottom place among the leading four U.S. networks for the official 2010-11 TV season that ended in May. But the network has high hopes for 2012.

NBC Thursday declined to specify when The Voice will return for regular episodes, other than to say it will resume in “mid-season,” which could mean roughly anytime in the first few months of 2012.

That leaves the door open for a slot between January and May, and a possible direct challenge to American Idol, which drew more than 29 million viewers for its 2011 finale and remains the most popular show in the United States.

With files from Reuters News Agency

Old Spice Guy’s Smelling The Roses

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rita Zekas

(Jul 04, 2011) Isaiah Mustafa is not The Old Spice Guy.

Well, he is and he isn’t.

“Before, I was a struggling actor and I needed that one thing to boost me to the forefront, to boost me into people’s view,” says Mustafa, 37, the strapping 6-foot-3-1/2-inch ex-footballer who stars in the popular commercials.

“I am not that character. I am an actor who plays that character.”

Mustafa was in Toronto recently to introduce “Komodo,” a new collection of body washes, antiperspirants and deodorants in the Old Spice line. He was fielding interviews on the tall ship Kajama, anchored off Queens Quay, to reference the nautical theme of the Old Spice brand.

Born in Portland, Ore., Mustafa is the youngest of seven children, with five sisters and one brother.

He played basketball, ran track and, from 1997 to 2000, was on practice squads of four different NFL teams. He won a football scholarship to Arizona State, where he studied history.

“I always wanted to be an actor,” he says. “I got a degree in history because I wanted to know I could get a degree.”

He’s been acting since 2002. He studied in Los Angeles (where he lives) and still takes classes.

His first paying gig was a commercial for Office Depot, followed by appearances on TV series ranging from Ugly Betty to NCIS: Los Angeles, until he nailed the Old Spice audition in February 2010.

“It was a random audition,” he recalls. “I just followed the script: I needed to be mysterious, a magician, charming. I was acting.”

Mustafa’s Old Spice Guy character makes people laugh.

“I’ve done improv,” he admits. “I’m looking to get back to it. Timing is a special thing and every opportunity I get, I try to learn from the masters like Bill Murray, Del Close, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin and Betty White. I enjoyed working with Betty White (in Hot in Cleveland).”

Mustafa was one of the leads in the Tyler Perry movie Madea’s Big Happy Family and plays a police officer in the film Horrible Bosses, which opens Friday. He was also due to head to Vancouver last month to shoot the Nickelodeon film Ragz, in which he plays a record executive.

The commercials are not a piece of cake, he says. With a few exceptions, there is nothing computer-generated about them. Mustafa is suspended by wires most of the time.

“It is done in real time,” he explains. “I go from a boat to a horse; I go from rolling logs to a kitchen and hot tub; I get my pants torn off. In the Fiji commercial, I’m buried up to my nose in sand and the puppies were CG so as not to upset the Humane Society. They had no problem burying me, but they don’t want to bury the puppies.”

The divorced father of a 10-year-old daughter, who was one of People magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful People in 2010, works out four times a week to keep in shape for the ads’ “Look at me” catchphrase.

But contrary to what you might think, he says he’s not beating women off with a stick.

“I wish,” he says. “The recognition gets the introduction. You need to do the rest of the work yourself.”

He adds that people keep asking to smell him.

As we sneak a goodbye peck on both cheeks, I take a sniff.

He smells like baby powder.

Critics Love Them Some ‘Treme

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 06, 2011) *In the wake of Sunday’s season finale of HBO’s “Treme,” the show and one of its characters have been given extraordinary props by two separate media outlets.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman, in his piece “How ‘Treme’ Found Greatness In Ordinary People And Counterintuitive Storytelling,” tries to pinpoint the exact ingredients that make this show stand out from the rest.

Goodman writes:

See, you could put 10 critics in a room, and even if seven of them agreed on the greatness of Treme, none of the seven would probably agree on what merits got it to such exalted heights. Nor would they likely agree on whether the show is going about its business the right way, even as they lay some praise on it. Treme is quite the enigma, it turns out. And if you haven’t discovered that yet — or, one might assume, the show itself — then start renting or buying the episodes from the beginning (and say a little prayer that HBO’s largesse continues toward this gem).

Before going any further trying to contextualize the achievements of
Treme, it’s necessary to talk about something series co-creator David Simon isn’t too keen to talk much about anymore — the fact he previously created arguably the greatest drama in TV history with The Wire. Just the fact that Treme is even in a conversation about top-tier television series is something of a miracle after that. The burden of expectation on Simon (and, in some sense, HBO) was enormous following The Wire, and the odds were long that a follow-up act would be any good. Why? Because making even one excellent series is rare. Repeating greatness in the arts is no easy feat. More so in television than almost any other medium — even music, with the dreaded sophomore album. So that achievement — and it’s enormous — needs to be thoroughly understood before moving forward.

Click here to continue reading Goodman’s piece.

Meanwhile, at TV Guide, “Treme” star Khandi Alexander was singled out for a big “cheer” this week in the outlet’s “Cheers and Jeers” blog.

The website’s Bruce Fretts wrote:

As her character, bar owner LaDonna Batiste Williams, raged at the rapist who attacked her — and the legal system that temporarily freed him due to a clerical error — Alexander powerfully embodied the citywide anger at the lawlessness in post-Katrina New Orleans. The actress, who was unjustly denied an Emmy nomination for her fiercely nuanced turn as a recovering drug-addict mother in Treme creator David Simon’s 2000 miniseries, The Corner, deserves long-overdue recognition for this role.

Alexander’s was only one of many encore-worthy performances in the HBO drama’s sprawling 90-minute season finale. Other standouts included Steve Zahn (DJ Davis bid farewell to his band, the Brassy Knoll, and to Season 2 by spinning Louis Armstrong’s “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”), Kim Dickens (Janette helped free her imprisoned sous chef and pondered a move home from New York City to New Orleans to open a restaurant), Jon Seda (opportunistic Nelson saw the flood of money from rebuilding projects shut off due to a political scandal) and Clarke Peters and Rob Brown (Albert and Delmond’s father-and-son reunion was sealed with an ecstatic appearance at JazzFest).

It’s Looking Sunnier For Charlie Day

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(July 06, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Charlie Day can’t say no to a good scheme.

On It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the series Day stars in, writes and produces with Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton (airing in Canada on Showcase), his character’s exploits have included trying to sell barrels of gas to capitalize on high prices at the pump, saving up for retirement with Garbage Pail Kids cards, and attempting to resolve a real estate squabble with a flaming bag of poop.

In the new comedy film
Horrible Bosses, opening Friday, Day stars alongside Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis as a trio of friends who plot to murder their variously oppressive managers.

While Day’s characters seldom lack enthusiasm for their exploits, their rate of success is — thankfully — close to nil.

“Schemes are funny because characters’ motivations are very clear,” Day said in a recent interview. “You really have to understand why a person is motivated to do a terrible thing. You’re watching a character try and do something that they really should not be doing, and enjoying watching them fail at it. Because if they got away with it, it’s Hannibal or something.”

In the six seasons of Sunny, Day has been a fan favourite for his lovably deranged behaviour. His character, also named Charlie, is illiterate, addicted to sniffing glue and extremely fond of cats.

Day’s performance on the cult hit — about three self-obsessed friends running a Philadelphia bar — eventually caught the attention of Hollywood. Last year, he was generally considered the best part of the romantic comedy Going the Distance. His unabashed character gleefully spouted sex talk on the street and instituted an “open door” bathroom policy at home.

Horrible Bosses is Day’s biggest movie part yet. For many of his scenes, he’s paired with Jennifer Aniston, who plays his boss, a sexually abusive dentist.

At the sprawling press junket for Horrible Bosses at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, Day appeared as though he had been loaned out to the land of glitzy moviemaking from the merrily depraved world of It’s Always Sunny. He has an exceptionally easy manner, and a warm glint in his eye for every fan of Sunny that approaches him.

What’s remarkable is how seamlessly Day has transitioned from the fringe to the mainstream.

“People are like, ‘Charlie’s becoming a movie star!’ I’m like, ‘It’s about time,’” says McElhenney. “I feel like this should have happened years ago. Charlie’s just the kind of guy that you can write any scene, any line of dialogue, and you know he’s going to find a way to make it funny.”

McElhenney first met Day years ago on a cross-country flight while they were both struggling actors auditioning for the same part in a sitcom pilot. When McElhenney created Sunny — it began as a cheaply made home movie — he just turned to his friends, including Day. In a wry bit of casting, Day’s wife, actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis, plays Charlie’s unrequited love interest, known only as “The Waitress.”

“It was definitely actor first and foremost,” Day, a Rhode Island native, says of his aspirations before Sunny. “I never saw myself as a comedian. I saw myself as a guy who can act funny. Still when I go on talk shows or whatever, I worry that I have to live up to some kind of comedic persona.”

Day says he, Howerton and McElhenney began simply by playing the worst sides of themselves, and improvised characteristics (like Charlie’s inability to read) as they went along. It’s ironic that he plays someone so uneducated, because Day is a graduate of Merrimack College, studied acting with Massachusetts’ Williamstown Theater Festival, and his parents — a professor and a music teacher — both have PhDs in musicology.

“Perhaps a lot of that comes out of my own fear and insecurities of my own intelligence,” says Day. “Being in such a well-educated family, perhaps I was always nervous about that. So it was good to make light of that in the show.” He waits a beat, and then adds: “I can read.”

Day bears some of his parents’ musical talent, which he’s occasionally exploited by writing songs on Sunny, such as the beloved “Nightman,” a nonsensical tune that sparked an actual touring theatre show in 2009 called The Nightman Cometh.

As Sunny has grown and continued (it recently wrapped its seventh season, to premiere this fall) the fortunes of its three principals have grown, but none more so than Day. Director Guillermo Del Toro has recently expressed interest in casting him in his film Pacific Rim.

But going from the intimate set of Sunny to large studio productions has been an adjustment.

“It’s a real challenge,” says Day. “Rob, Glenn and myself are probably three of the most opinionated men you’ll ever meet on the set. We’re not phoning it in when it comes to that show. Whether it’s a script or a prop or whatever it is, we have opinions and we really believe in affecting the production as a whole. So it’s very difficult to then hand all that over to other people.”

He adds: “Once I really let go, it was relaxing.”

Sudeikis also co-starred with Day in Going the Distance and made a guest appearance on last season’s Sunny. He’s gotten to see up close Day’s propensity to get riled up in high-pitched, rapid-fire fury. Sudeikis calls his humour “hilarious hostility.”

“He’s already got a funny take on the world and when you give him an emotion to ride out, he cracks me up,” says Sudeikis. “He’s very genuine as a person and therefore as an actor.”

That earnestness is one reason why audiences tend to root for Day, however despicable his schemes.

“I don’t think the characters in Sunny would ever go as far as to actually attempt to have someone murdered, even though they might seem more extreme,” says Day. “They’d come up with something more clever.”

TV TIDBITS

Geminis go to CBC

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Debra Yeo

(Jul 04, 2011) CBC gets dibs on the
Gemini Awards this year, which honour the best in Canadian TV. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced Monday that CBC TV will broadcast the red carpet gala on Sept. 7. from the CBC Broadcast Centre in downtown Toronto. Two other nights of "industry awards" will take place Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 in Toronto. Last year's gala, hosted by Glee star Cory Monteith, was held in November and broadcast on Global TV and Showcase.  In a news release, Helga Stephenson, interim CEO of the academy, said the organization was looking  forward "to a long and productive relationship (with the CBC) spotlighting our best Canadian talent."

James Spader Joins 'The Office' But Not As Carell’s Replacement

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(July 06, 2011) NEW YORK—NBC has signed James Spader as a full-time cast member of The Office. The network announced Wednesday that Spader will reprise his guest role as manipulative salesman Robert California when the comedy returns this fall. California will have been hired over the summer as the new manager of the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin paper company. But within hours, he wangled a promotion to CEO of Sabre, the parent corporation of Dunder Mifflin. This leaves the branch manager's position vacant again. An actor to replace departed series star Steve Carell is yet to be announced by NBC. Spader appeared as one of several guest stars on The Office this spring. He's previously starred in the drama series Boston Legal and The Practice.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Hugh Jackman: From Wolverine Claws To A Theatre’s Applause

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(July 1, 2011) It’s tough, all this multitasking. Every two hours,
Hugh Jackman was supposed to eat a mini-meal – vegetables and lean protein only – to bulk up for the film he’ll be shooting in the fall, The Wolverine, yet another iteration of his adamantium-clawed X-Men character. But as fast as he was putting calories in, he was burning them off, because he was also prepping a two-week run of a song-and-dance show, complete with an 18-piece orchestra, that he’ll launch July 5 at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre. On a June afternoon about a month before his opening, he was holding court in the basement bar of the theatre next door, chatting up such an eager succession of reporters that all he had time to ingest were some nuts and a bottle of vitamin water.

Still, something was working. Jackman, 42, was super-charming, engaged, Aussie accent in full bloom. He made the reporter before me blush by telling her she was the spitting image of his first girlfriend, when he was 14. “She dumped me at a bus stop,” he said. “She was crazy,” the reporter managed to stammer. When I faced him, he looked tall (he’s 6-foot-3) and trim in a short-sleeved polo shirt. But then he crossed his arms behind his head, and – bam! – out popped humongous biceps, like mountains on the horizon of his humeri.

Jackman has always been a mixed bag. Nasty enough for action flicks (
Swordfish, Van Helsing), pretty enough for romances (Australia, Kate & Leopold), soulful enough for dramas (The Fountain, The Prestige), he was also gutsy enough to put his film career on hold at its first peak in 2003 and head to Broadway to play Peter Allen, the gay Australian choreographer, in the musical The Boy from Oz.

“The idea of doing Broadway in sequins for a year didn’t seem smart,” Jackman says. “But I’d been offered the part years earlier and strategized my way out of it. When I saw how terrific it was, it made me sick to the stomach that I’d let it go. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.” He won a Tony for it, and a three-year gig hosting the Tony Awards. And he no longer strategizes.

“My agent does, a bit,” Jackman says, “but only as far as ‘I think you’ve got the talent to be an actor when you’re 85, and I want to protect that.’ It’s long-term, which I like.”

The strategy behind his Toronto show is simple. For about eight years, Jackman had been noodling the idea of a stage show he could do in short stints, to keep busy between films. Last summer, he booked a theatre in San Francisco and spent two months putting together a two-week run: “It was that theory of, if I have the date, I know I’ll do it. Sort of like scheduling your housewarming party for a week after you move in. I remember they said, ‘You can have the theatre in advance, because we know you don’t have the lighting yet.’ ” He laughs. “Lighting? We didn’t have a show!”

He’ll continue to refine it here, in hopes of doing it in many places over many years, including Australia and eventually Broadway. True to form, it’s a “wide mix,” including standards, Elvis Presley, Queen, Elton John, a tribute to Australia (“Peter Allen makes a comeback,” he said), and a medley of movie music. “I quite humiliatingly take the audience through my first audition, in high school, for
The Music Man,” he says. And he does a touching tribute to his wife of 15 years, the actress Deborra-Lee Furness.

“Ever since we met,” Jackman says, “if we were out with friends and she would have three drinks, I’d be terrified, because I knew she would ask me to sing. ‘Sing, Hugh – you’ve got to hear him sing.’ ” So, in the show, he performs
The Way You Look Tonight against a backdrop of photos of her life. It’s an “aww” moment from a couple renowned for having a model showbiz marriage. They live in New York with their two children, Oscar, 11, and Ava, almost 6, and have stuck to a deal: They never work at the same time, and never spend more than two weeks apart.

“When we got married, the minister gave us the best advice we ever got,” Jackman says. “He said, ‘At any stage in your marriage, if you come to a crossroads – career, where you’re going to live, whatever it is – ask yourself a simple question: Is this good or bad for my marriage? If it’s bad for your marriage, don’t do it.’ It’s as simple as that. But not so easy to live up to.”

Because he’ll be working steadily next year, Jackman is taking this summer off, renting a house in France. “We’ll park ourselves for a month, have family join us, which has been a lifelong dream,” he says. But he found himself asking Furness if he could take two teeny weeks and do the Toronto show first. “It’s my version of a golfing weekend with my buddies.”

It all sounded great, but I had one nagging doubt. Hollywood loves to pigeonhole. Could there be a disadvantage to doing everything well?

“Probably,” Jackman answers. “I don’t really have a temperature of what people think of me.” He launches into a story about growing up in Sydney with his single father (his mother moved to England when Hugh was 8) and four siblings, and how all of them but him had hobbies.

“For years I tried to find a hobby,” he says. “For a while I thought, ‘Cars!’ But I didn’t even like cars.” Then he went to drama school, at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts “and it was the happiest I’d been, because it was a classical training – you might do circus skills, then Shakespeare, then singing or movement or Alexander technique, then scene work. I loved it all. My career in a way has echoed that.”

He did admit, though, that “it’s a rare thing to get a part or a film where you feel compelled to do it. There is a wisdom in knowing what you do well. I may in the past have tried to push out in too many ways. If I’m honest with myself about the kind of movies I thought I would do, it would be a lot more Everyman roles. More Gregory Peck or Cary Grant.”

He laughs. “It’s easy to say that, isn’t it? Yeah, I’ll be a little more Gregory Peck.”

Maybe later. For now, being Hugh Jackman seems quite enough.

Hugh Jackman’s show runs July 5 to 17 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto; tickets at mirvish.com.

First Summer Dance Intensive

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

(Jun 30, 2011) School holidays start in earnest this weekend for most Toronto area children but more than 40 of them are heading straight back to class on Monday for two weeks of gruelling instruction in the finer points of ballet, taught by a faculty of leading
National Ballet of Canada artists and specially hired teachers.

In a pilot programme, the company is convening its first Summer Dance Intensive. Students aged 14 or more who’ve already achieved at least intermediate level training will take ballet and repertoire classes, plus pointe class for the ladies as well as sessions in jazz dance and hip hop.

“We wanted to offer a fairly broad spectrum of styles,” says National Ballet first soloist Jonathan Renna who designed the new programme with his partner, National Ballet School-trained teacher Kate Kernaghan.

Fellow teachers will include former superstar, now National Ballet artist-in-residence Rex Harrington, leading dancers Tanya Howard and Stacey Shiori Minagawa, successful show dancer and So You Think You Can Dance Canada finalist Jonathan Arsenault, and dynamic Toronto-born dancer Shavar “Caution” Blackwood for hip hop.

Renna, who says he loves passing on his dancer’s experience to aspiring young talents, suggested the 10-day intensive to National Ballet managers following the success of earlier monthly open classes offered on Sundays under the banner “Ballet Class With The Stars.”

Renna and Kernaghan are splitting the students into two groups with a rotating schedule that has classes run simultaneously in the National Ballet’s bright, airy studios.

“Having smaller groups will allow for more one-on-one attention,” explains Renna. “It’s going to be an exhausting but fantastic experience for the kids.”

Although the intensive comes under the National Ballet’s education-outreach wing, it has to be self-supporting. Registrants will pay $750 for a total of 50 hours of instruction; not cheap but certainly competitive.

If this year’s pilot programme is as successful as organizers intend it to be, Renna hopes the company can find donors willing to underwrite scholarships, making future intensives as accessible as possible.

(4-15 July; Walter Carsen Centre for the National Ballet of Canada, 470 Queens Quay West; HERE).

Signs Of Intelligent Life Beyond The Tonys

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(Jul 01, 2011) NEW YORK — This is prime tourist season in the city
that never sleeps, and in the afterglow of last month’s entertaining Tony Awards presentation, the Broadway box office has been booming as if the world were enjoying a full-scale economic recovery.

When it comes to numbers, attention must be paid to the shows that are taking in millions and filling
large theatres, such as The Book of Mormon, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Anything Goes, War Horse and long-run hits like Wicked, Jersey Boys and The Lion King.

But for those who crave challenging fare beyond the big hits with mega budgets for ads and promotions, there are a couple of encouraging if less flashy signs of theatrical vitality.

Hopeful Sign No. 1: For the most adventurous theatre aficionados, the biggest buzz concerns a little-hyped show called Sleep No More that takes place in abandoned Chelsea warehouse space, requires the audience to run up and down staircases and through spooky corridors, and has an absurdly small potential weekly gross of around $250,000. Created by the inventive British troupe Punch Drunk, it will never be eligible for Tony awards or loom large as a tourist attraction.

Sleep No More may sound a lot like Tamara (which originated in Toronto) because the audiences choose which characters to follow around a large non-conventional space. But this time, with a story loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we venture into territory unknown to Tamara veterans. We’re in an interactive 3-D film noir that is also a silent epic, with speech of any kind strictly against the rules.

Wearing masks suitable for a Venetian ball, we scamper around dimly lit paths, snooping through drawers and bumping into fellow participants and members of a large cast, while heading into and out of weird settings and landscapes — a ballroom, a cemetery, a chapel, an enormous bathroom filled with endless tubs.

Sleep No More is a choose-your-own-adventure extravaganza in which the main ingredients are decadent decor, choreographed tableaux and tabloid thrills such as a naked and bloodied Macbeth stepping out of a bathtub.

Hopeful Sign Number Two: In an atmosphere of all-singing, all-dancing, all spectacle, several serious plays have managed to hang on and achieve extended runs on Broadway even if they aren’t breaking box office records.

Among the surviving non-musicals on Broadway is Jerusalem, a three-hour parable from London about a rural rebel with a cause, starring Mark Rylance in a Tony-winning performance as a wild man of mythic dimensions.

A special case is The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s wrenching account of early-’80s panic in New York’s gay community over the first stage of the AIDs crisis. A quarter-century ago, it had its premiere off-Broadway. Only this year did it get its Broadway debut, spearheaded by Joel Grey, who co-directed it with George Wolfe. It not only earned a Tony for the year’s best revival but also won for best featured actor, John Benjamin Hickey, and best supporting actress, Ellen Barkin.

The Normal Heart’s producers have kept it running because they are less interested in making a profit than in spreading their message of AIDs awareness to a generation that wasn’t around in the 1980s. To help reach their target audience, they have been offering $30 tickets one night a week.

These shows are about as far as you can get from Spider-Man, with its record-setting $70 million cost, and an opening so long-delayed that it missed the deadline for Tony eligibility.

Jane Krakowski: From 30 Rock To Rocking The Live Stage

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jul 03, 2011) Over the years, I’ve discussed a lot of things with
Jane Krakowski, the dynamic star of 30 Rock, who appears Saturday night as part of the BlackCreek Summer Festival’s The Very, Very Best of Broadway.

We’ve chatted about female sexuality, men’s perception of attractive women, the perils of being involved in a long-running, gossip-riddled TV series (that would be Ally McBeal, by the way, not 30 Rock).

There’s one topic neither of us ever dreamed would be on the table, but it was the first thing we tackled over the phone on a recent afternoon.

Motherhood.

Krakowski and her boyfriend, British designer Robert Godley, became parents to a 7-pound, 12-ounce charmer named Bennett Robert Godley on April 13.

“I know, I know, I’m definitely a little bit surprised,” Krakowski giggled. “Listen to me here with full-on baby-brain. Is this the girl you know?”

Frankly, no. Krakowski has always been the coolest of cookies, albeit with a side of molten chocolate.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you, I secretly had hoped for this all my life, but I just wasn’t sure if the timing would ever happen. You know, the right man at the right moment.

“When I met Robert, I felt he was the one, but then there was so much to think about. I mean, we met when I was 40. The old biological clock. If you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it now.”

Krakowski, now 42, laughed. “You know, I think I got here just before the store closed.”

She was even able to squeeze pregnancy into the frantic 30 Rock shooting schedule, although she observed that “my pregnancy wasn’t handled quite as neatly as Tina’s. She never had to look like she was expecting at all, but I had to go in for lots of close-ups and billowy garments that everyone knows are a dead giveaway.”

What makes Krakowski so ebullient these days is that the bliss of her personal life is meshing with a show she loves doing so much.

“Our show has a real handmade feel to it, but I mean that positively. All the musical numbers I do as Jenna are totally live. Look, I’m a fan of Glee, but we don’t go in for the Auto-Tune and pre-record like they do. You get us warts and all, baby.”

The culmination of that was the live program 30 Rock did this year, using the actual Saturday Night Live set.

“Believe me, when you step on that stage, you actually feel the incredible crazy adrenalin rush those people who worked there must have felt every Saturday night.”

Something else that’s becoming noticeable as 30 Rock goes on is that its leading characters are becoming bolder, broader, almost like figures in the “comedy of humours” that Ben Jonson and George Chapman pioneered in the 16th century.

Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon grows, well, more lemony. Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy is now truly “the ego that ate Manhattan,” Tracy Morgan’s Tracy Jordan is “the voice of the inappropriate child gone mad” and Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney is the “self-entitled artist starring in her own glorious mega-musical.”

“I see what you mean,” agrees Krakowski carefully, “but I think Tina does it in more subtle ways. I will tell you one thing. Lots of people think this show cuts more closely to the bone than it actually does.

“She takes touches of all of us for sure: Liz’s love for cheese, Alec’s desire to advise, my overeagerness to perform, Tracy’s gift for saying the wrong thing; always these little bits and characteristics. And then the choices we make as actors come from someplace where there is a truth within us.”

She pauses before summing it up.

“I think we’re a lot like our characters and a lot not like them as well. You have to be willing to make fun of yourself on 30 Rock. Self-deprecation is a very big part of the whole thing.

“And no one does it more bravely than Tina and Alec. We see them taking chances and we’re all like, ‘We’re so going there!’”

But Krakowski’s the first one to admit that she’s always loved theatre best, from hanging out with her stage-struck folks at the Parsippany Little Theatre in New Jersey, to showing up as Dinah the Dining Car in the original version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express when she was only 19.

A few years later, she got a Tony nomination for dancing in Grand Hotel and that swooped her off to Los Angeles for 112 episodes of Ally McBeal.

Then Broadway called her back and she got a Tony Award for seducing Antonio Banderas in Nine. (“Tough gig, eh?” she quips.)

Now she’s summoning up all her musical theatre mojo for one night in Toronto opposite Martin Short, Audra McDonald, Raul Esparza, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marvin Hamlisch in what’s being billed as “a star-studded, spectacular evening.”

“I can’t wait to be doing this again,” she says with her excitement barely repressed. “You see, I feel a part of me just isn’t really alive unless I’m in a show.”

Cirque in NYC: Zarkana is Dazzlingly Opaque

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jun 30, 2011) After suffering a major disaster with their first attempt to crash the New York City market, Banana Shpeel, it's obvious that Cirque du Soleil wasn't going to take any chances with their next show, Zarkana, which opened Wednesday night at Radio City Music Hall.

So they brought in one of the most respected directors in their stable, Francois Girard, added a major vocal talent from the Quebec music scene, Garou, and even borrowed the show-stopping “Wheel of Death” from their Las Vegas production of .

Obviously no punches were being pulled and the combination of acrobatic stars in the foreground, actor/dancers in the background and awesome video projections framing the whole thing made it clear that “Go big or go home” was Zarkana's motto from the very start.

At its best, the show is tremendously impressive, probably the most technically sophisticated work that Cirque du Soleil has ever undertaken. And there are moments, especially in the second act, when everything clicks together perfectly and you experience something which is not only awe-inspiring, but deliciously appealing at the same time.

The bottom line is that Zarkana will provide even the most jaded New Yorkers with enough delights to make them glad they ventured from their homes to the 6,000-seat art deco palace called Radio City Music Hall.

And in that venue lies the show's blessing as well as its curse.

It's wonderful to see that giant art deco warhorse of a theatre being used to its fullest, with Stéphane Roy's multi-layered sets filling the giant void and Alain Lortie's astonishing lighting showing us where to look amid the crumbling ruins.

But, it's also a space that's too big for just about anything other than the launching of the Titanic and although Girard always gives us plenty to look at, there are times when one wonders if less wouldn't truly be more.

The most exquisite single moment in the evening is the sand painting done by Erika Chen at the top of Act II, revealed to us by an overhead camera. Her work is bold, yet fragile at the same time and it causes the same awe that the various acrobats do.

The strangest thing in the show is the fact that it's sort of a rock opera, with lots of songs written by musical director Nick Littlemore and sung by Garou and Meetu Chilana.

The songs' English lyrics would barely be understandable if Brian Bedford were to recite them, but with the heavily accented speech of Garou and Chiliana, comprehension becomes a lost art form.

I enjoyed watching Zarkana, but it never really touched me and I truly don't have any idea what it was trying to say.

But if you want your Cirque shows to be like a trophy wife: lovely to look at, but impossible to understand, then Zarkana may be just what you've been waiting for.

Bright Ray Of Hope For Dance Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

(Jul 04, 2011) A lot of sun is going to be shining into the lives of disadvantaged kids in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood because of what’s happening on the roof of 509 Parliament St., home to the newly renamed Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre — formerly the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre.

In June the company began feeding electricity into the grid from a 6,000-square-foot array of 96 photovoltaic solar panels. CCDT will be using the generated revenue, estimated at a minimum of $15,000 a year, to offer free dance classes for underserved children in the Cabbagetown/Regent Park area. It’s also reduced its carbon footprint by a third.

“We’re using the power of the sun to help kids realize their talents and at the same time sending a message about the importance of green energy,” says company co-founder/artistic director Deborah Lundmark.

Outreach has always been part of CCDT’s mandate, but the recession compromised the company’s ability to finance scholarships for children otherwise unable to afford dance classes. Having ambitiously bought the former movie theatre turned CBC radio studio in 1995, CCDT found itself squeezed by high maintenance costs as revenue, particularly from charitable foundations, plummeted.

That’s when Lundmark’s husband and company co-founder, Michael deConinck Smith, began looking for ways to lower costs without sacrificing the company’s artistic and community outreach goals.

He found a friend in the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The provincial government agency financed a major energy efficiency retrofit of the almost 80-year-old building that cut CCDT’s hydro bill by 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, as work progressed, George Smitherman, then Ontario Energy and Infrastructure minister, announced the province’s new Feed In Tariff program, designed to encourage people to go green while stimulating industries in the renewable energy sector.

CCDT looked at its expansive, south-facing roof, did some arithmetic and saw the potential. The only problem was financing. Again the Trillium Foundation, attracted by CCDT’s community-oriented project, stepped up to the plate with a $150,000 grant.

The FIT program was officially launched in fall 2009 and Trillium confirmed its grant the following March. Over optimistically, deConinck Smith had hoped to flip the “On” switch last summer. He’d not counted on the complex application and approval process involved. Now, after a year’s delay, he can sit in CCDT’s office watching a flat-screen monitor that provides real-time readings of energy output, carbon and other offset equivalents and even an estimate of return on investment. The same information is broadcast on a screen under CCDT’s marquee entrance. “We hope passersby will be inspired when they see the benefits of green energy,” says deConinck Smith.

CCDT has a guaranteed 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority. Says Lundmark: “Owning our own building has been such a struggle but now it’s actually going to help us survive. Our mortgage will eventually go away but revenue from the roof will keep flowing.”

For non-profit arts organizations facing similar financial challenges, CCDT’sSolarDance Initiative” offers a bright ray of hope. Jini Stolk, executive director of Creative Trust, says the company “has blazed a trail for us all.”

Those eager to follow CCDT’s example also have a valuable resource in deConinck Smith. Now an expert on what’s involved, he’s written a simple one-page “How To” for other arts sector companies interested in putting the sun to work. “Hopefully it will smooth the process for them,” he says.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Twitter

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Starr Hall, Entrepreneur.com

(June 30, 2011) With a little strategy,
Twitter can boost your connections and website traffic.

I like to think of Twitter as a live networking event where you can jump into a conversation at any time. It’s a great tool, but many use it only for sharing information – not for starting a two-way dialogue. That’s a lot like walking into an event and shouting at people, without listening to their responses. It just doesn’t work.

Over the last few years using Twitter, I’ve uncovered a few features that help businesses make better connections and build brand exposure. The following tips should help improve your marketing strategy:

1. Use advanced search options to locate opportunities. On a site like search.twitter.com, insert keywords that people would use in conversations to find you or your product or service. For example, I search for people who are tweeting the phrase “looking for speaker.” It turns up a ton of tweets related to event or meeting planners. Once I find these keywords in posts, I reach out to the person who tweeted them to say hello and start building a relationship.

The search function also allows you to target tweets from a certain area, so that you can reach out to Twitter users in your locality.

2. Tweet often to boost search-engine optimization – this helps you to stay active on newsfeeds, and improves your ranking in online searches. Be sure to use keyword-rich phrases in your tweets as often as possible. If you can’t get your company name or personal name as your Twitter handle, then make sure to include it in your bio, which is public – using keywords in it, such as your company name, can help Google index content that’s relevant to your business.

Using Google Alerts, monitor your name and company to stay informed about what people are saying, as well as what your competition is up to.

3. Use Twitter to connect with the media. Tools like Cision’s Journalist Tweets and Muckrack can help you locate reporters, editors and producers, and find out how active they are on Twitter. This can help you decide which media outlets you would like your business to be featured in, and makes it easier to connect with the journalists who work there.

4. Mobile messaging is one of the best ways to connect with your customers, and Twitter can help get your information out to them. If someone has subscribed to your tweets from his or her mobile device, they will automatically receive your tweets as a text.

You don’t have to sign up for this service, so choosing Twitter over a text marketing company can save you time and money.

It’s a good idea to create a separate Twitter account for mobile users and only tweet a few times per week so that you don’t overwhelm your followers. These accounts are usually named after your brand followed by the word mobile or SMS, e.g. @starrSMS or @starrmobile.

5. Change link headlines each time you tweet them to boost traffic – tweet 10 to 20 times using slightly different headlines each time. Twitter is excellent for ongoing live traffic around the clock, so posting more than once gives you a better chance to get more exposure. Changing headlines can attract different people and, if you post at different times, you can reach people in different time zones.

Finally, remember that Twitter is a tool than can help you discover what your target market is talking about and searching for. When used correctly, it can also boost your connections and website traffic.

Starr Hall is an international speaker, author, publicist and social networking expert. She’s the CEO of StarrHall.com, a consulting and training company based in Avila Beach, Calif.

Skype Introduces Video Calling For Android Phones

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(June 30, 2011)
LONDON — Skype, which is being bought by Microsoft for $8.5-billion, introduced a new service on Thursday allowing users of Android phones to make free video calls to Skype contacts, including those on Apple iPhones.

The company whose name became synonymous with Internet calling in the mid-2000s said its updated Android app would initially support video calling on selected HTC and Sony Ericsson Phones, with more to follow soon.

“We are committed to bringing Skype video calling to as many platforms as possible,” Skype’s product and marketing chief Neil Stevens said in a statement.

The move will help makers of phones based on Google’s Android software compete with Apple’s FaceTime video-calling service launched last year for the iPhone and now available on its iPad 2 tablet and Mac computers.

Video calling could also help new Skype owner Microsoft promote its Windows Phone smartphone platform, which it is merging with Nokia’s in an effort to become competitive with Android and Apple.

Skype had an average of 145 million connected users per month in the fourth quarter of 2010. Together, they made 207 billion minutes of calls in 2010, about 42 per cent of which was video calls.

Mobile video calling is in its infancy, but the fixed-line Internet calling market grew 12.6 per cent to $17.3-billion last year, according to UK-based telecoms research firm Point Topic.

With the new Android Skype app, users will be able to make free one-to-one video calls between Android phones, iPhones, Mac computers, Microsoft Windows PCs and televisions.

The first Android handsets to support Skype video calling are the HTC Desire 5, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.

Blackberry Under Attack In Corporate Cradle

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Roy Strom, Reuters

(July 1, 2011) The
BlackBerry, once ubiquitous in business, faces deep challenges in that market as more companies allow employees to pick their own smart phones and add third-party security applications.

One of the BlackBerry’s main selling points has been
Research in Motion’s RIM-T top-tier security and management features, which appeal to IT managers eager to control what workers do with corporate information and protect business systems from cyber attacks.

But with companies such as Good Technology and MobileIron offering applications that could untether IT managers from their BlackBerrys, analysts say that consumer-market pressures could intrude into RIM’s mainstay corporate market.

Only two of nine major U.S. companies contacted by Reuters said they exclusively use the BlackBerry, namely Boeing and Exxon Mobil.

The remaining seven – Alcoa, Caterpillar, DuPont, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Microsoft and Verizon Communications – support at least one other brand, such as
Apple’s APPL-Q iPhone or phones that run Google’s GOOG-Q Android or Microsoft Windows.

“I would say their enterprise base has been besieged really, first by Apple, then by Android,” John Jackson, a mobile device analyst at CCS Insight, said of RIM. “What’s happening in the consumer market is repeating itself in the enterprise market. They’ve been materially hurt in their core enterprise market.”

RIM’s share of the U.S. smart phone market stood at 25 per cent in April, down from 35 per cent in October last year, pushing BlackBerry to third place from first place in the market, according to research firm comScore.

Most of RIM’s problems, analysts say, can be traced to their delay in rolling out new phones to compete with the iPhone or Android phones sold by Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

Chemical company DuPont, which has 67,000 employees, started to give some workers the option to use the iPhone in the fourth quarter of last year. In a few months, iPhones grew to about a quarter of Dupont’s smart phones, according to Eric Smith, a telecommunications manager at the company.

“The technology that people have available in their personal and daily lives, they want to use at work. People had their own iPhones and iPads, and they said, ‘Hey, why can’t we use these for work?”‘ said Smith.

SECURING PERSONAL PHONES

RIM shares are down 60 per cent from their year high, and dropped sharply in mid-June when it released dismal quarterly results and postponed a new operating system and touchscreen version of the Bold phone aimed at companies.

These delays pile pressure on IT managers to support additional phone platforms, which can be costly – or risk security breaches if they say no and employees use their own phones anyway for company matters.

To help IT managers, there is a growing number of third-party security options, such as e-mail encryption and technology, that allow IT managers to remotely control data on personal phones. For example, they can wipe corporate data from lost or virus-infected phones.

As employees get more choices, they take on more responsibility for security, said Bob Tinker, CEO of MobileIron, which raised $20-million in a fourth round of private funding in May.

“It’s much more of an adult model, where you’re given the latitude to do what you need to do, but if you cross the boundary, there are consequences,” Tinker said.

The influence IT managers have over phone selection is shrinking. Company-bought smart phones fell to 7 per cent of the market in 2010 from 15 per cent in 2009, according to research and accounting firm Strategy Analytics.

Neil Mawston, a London-based analyst at Strategy Analytics, calls the trend consumerization. “BlackBerry has really been the one that’s been hit really hard by that trend,” he said.

Another survey by research firm Yankee Group found that 55 per cent of IT managers cited RIM as their preferred operating system, but that fell to 34 per cent when they were asked what they will prefer in two years.

Boeing has not found a security option that it trusts other than BlackBerry, said the aircraft maker’s spokesman Kenn Johnson, adding that it was feeling pressure to allow more phone choices. “We always know there’s a desire for that cool aspect, but it can’t be at the fault of security,” he said.

Jackson, the mobile analyst at CCS Insight, said it was imperative for RIM to develop more exciting phones.

“Unless you can outsex Apple, you’re going to have a problem,” he said.

::OTHER NEWS::

Duchess Dons Toronto Label’s Jacket

Source: www.thestar.com - Daphne Gordon

(June 30, 2011) When
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was spotted wearing a Smythe Les Vestes jacket Thursday, it catapulted the Toronto-based label into the global fashion limelight.

“She’s our perfect model,” noted co-founder Andrea Lenczner. She and partner Christie Smythe were calmly smiling in their West Queen West studio after learning that the Duchess had donned their One Button Blazer when she boarded the plane for Canada.

“The fact that her choice of jacket is so representative of Smythe’s esthetic ... it’s a classic style with a twist. Well, it’s just thrilling,” added Smythe.

It was also a perfect choice for the occasion, noted the women, who launched their line of tailored jackets in 2004. “The strong shoulder and clear lines show respect for her role,” said Smythe.

The designers had known for a few weeks that the former Miss Middleton was considering the navy wool jacket, with its cream lining and single brass button, for her trip to Canada. “But we weren’t sure she would wear it until this morning,” Lenczner said, beaming.

Smythe is already carried by top retailers in the U.S., Britain and Japan. In Canada, Holt Renfrew has sold the line since the beginning. It has its fair share of celebrity friends, too, with sightings on Heidi Klum and Rachel McAdams recently.

The jacket sold out on luxury online retailer Net-A-Porter.com within 15 minutes of Catherine’s arrival at the airport. On Thursday morning, Holt Renfrew’s public relations team tweeted that the chain had 66 of the $550 jackets in stock, but did not expect to have any at closing time.

The “Kate effect” could dramatically increase demand for Smythe’s Spring 2012 line, which will be seen by buyers this fall. It’s no secret in the fashion world that merchandise flies off the racks after Catherine is photographed in something gorgeous.

Unlike her royal predecessors, she mixes accessibly-priced pieces into her wardrobe, so the effect at retail is multiplied. Her favourite fast fashion shops in Britain — Reiss, Jigsaw and Topshop — sell out of items within hours of a Kate sighting.

With this in mind, Smythe’s co-founders are bracing — with big smiles — for Spring 2012.

“We’ve got a similar, but different, blazer for Fall 2011,” said Lenczner. “And we still have time to react for Spring 2012,” added Smythe.

But they will not reproduce the exact same jacket. “We try to evolve,” said Lenczner.

Rap It Or Paint It, Muslim Artists Tackle Identity

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Kate Taylor

(July 4, 2011) Sabrina Jalees is a lesbian comic of Pakistani-Swiss
heritage who grew up in Toronto, now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her girlfriend, and likes to joke that when she came out to her parents she was worried her Muslim father would force her to take 10 wives. Yassin Alsalman is a Montreal rapper known as The Narcicyst who uses the aggressive language of hip hop to denounce the heavy hand of U.S. Homeland Security and the war in Iraq, his parents' homeland. Boonaa Mohammed is a spoken word poet of Ethiopian extraction who celebrates Islamic history in his work - when he is not teaching at an Islamic school in Scarborough, Ont.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a generation of
Muslim Canadian artists has emerged that addresses identity and religion through art - and whose members are quick to identify themselves as Muslims, no matter how tenuous their adherence to Islam.

"Maybe it would be easier if I just took photographs of Muskoka," says Alia Toor, a Toronto visual artist born in Pakistan and raised in Canada, "but that is not who I am."

Instead, Toor has created work about security and religion: She belongs to an artistic community shaped by the terrorist attacks and the wars that followed them.

"I learned about terrorism from CNN," Mohammed says, explaining his urge to counter unrecognizable stereotypes by writing celebratory poetry about Islamic heroes and values. "After 9/11 you were either brave enough to wave the flag and declare yourself and be proud of your faith or you just shrivelled up and tried to blend in. There was this joke: Mohammed turns into Moe."

But people who want to blend in rarely become artists: Jalees, who points out she could pass for Portuguese, began making jokes about her Pakistani heritage because she wanted to confront people's new discomfort with Muslims.

For artists like her, political events and the gap between stereotypes of Islam and their own cultural experiences have provided plenty of inspiration. Immigrants themselves or, more often, the children of immigrants, these artists are steeped in Western culture and have no time for doctrinal debates about whether or not Islam prohibits imagery of the human form or limits the use of musical instruments. The vocabularies they use are usually those of Western media - stand-up comedy, contemporary visual art, documentary film and popular music.

"We learned from the African American community on how to be vocal about our experience artistically," Alsalman wrote in an e-mail explaining the development of what is known as Arab hip-hop. "... before hip hop and the Arab world met, we were silent. Now our generation is speaking out more than ever." 

Others have adapted traditional art forms. Tazeen Qayyum, a visual artist who lives in Oakville, Ont., trained as a miniaturist in her native Pakistan, where that historic practice, once used to paint tiny portraits of battling heroes and frolicking monarchs, is being revived as a contemporary art form. Today, she creates work about political issues using the delicate and colourful miniaturist style, painting intricate images of cockroaches, for example, that represent the civilian body counts in Iraq.

The artists disagree about how well this work is received in Canada and how much Canadian attitudes are shifting. Alsalman, for example, argues that racism is still very prevalent and that the image of Muslims is generally a negative one; others perceive a gradual change in attitudes since the panic of 2001, precisely because people have been forced to confront the prejudices expressed against Muslims, and add that the popular rebellions of the Arab spring have helped build a more positive and diverse image.

"The racism and the intolerance and ignorance when it comes to Muslims is no longer cool; people know it is unacceptable," Jalees says.

Meanwhile, some of the artists also believe Canada is particularly open to the kind of hybrid art they are creating because of its multiculturalism. Their work is made possible by a world of global communications and social media, where artists and audiences can follow the culture of any place they choose. If there is one theme that emerges, it is a refusal to define being Muslim in a context where East and West are themselves increasingly impossible to untangle.

"There is no one Islam," says Montreal filmmaker Omar Majeed, the creator of a 2009 documentary about Taqwacore, the North American Muslim punk movement that he believes arose precisely because young Muslims felt marginalized by narrow depictions of Islam. "That's an idea a vocal minority tries to push, the right-wing extremists in the United States and the religious fundamentalists inside Islam. It's bogus. ... There is no pure Islam that exists any place. Wherever you may be, your are living in a global world."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

A Luxury Barbados Resort Drops Its Prices

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Patrick Dinen

(June 30, 2011) The Crane Residential Resort in Barbados is offering savings of 25 per cent to travellers booking three nights or more.  Visitors must book by July 31 for travel through Dec. 23. The Crane is set on 40 acres of oceanfront land on the southeast coast and is the island’s oldest vacation resort.  The offer is for new bookings only.  For more information, e-mail: reservations@thecrane.com or visit thecrane.com.  Special to The Globe and Mail

In Antigua, Let Go, Relax And Get Your Chakra Fixed

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Si Si Penaloza

(June 26, 2011) Overworking often overthrows your best intentions for maintaining mojo. Visitors to Hermitage Bay Antigua are drawn to the rustic purity and holistic approach of the hotel’s wellness program. Artfully fusing the serene and sensuous, the spa’s colour rituals correspond with the chakra system of the body. I opt for the Yellow Solar Plexus Chakra Ritual, which – in the words of the menu – “inspires self-confidence, encourages concentration and relieves mental fatigue.” A tall order for a tall-latte addict.

My therapist starts with a full-body exfoliation of honey and Himalayan salt, which to my relief is more hydrating than stripping. Warm oil infused with eye-opening frankincense and lemon enables a high-octane cocktail of light Reiki and deep Swedish massage.

I’m then enveloped with a silken baby blanket of a body mask while she performs nursery-rhyme-sweet hand reflexology. My eyes flit open as she thumbs my palm, glimpsing a gentle yellow light emanating from a light box on my right –which conjures a lost memory of my mother’s lemon chiffon cake in my sedated mind. The vision hovers over my heart, the faint scent of citrus in the air.

My therapist makes a perfectly silent exit. This is a rarity in an industry plagued by the ghastly practice of propping up the bed even while your eyes are still closed. Nothing says “Next client, please” like the electronic prop-up, or worse, the manual one. As I slip off the bed in sweet privacy, I catch a dazzling Brazilian citrine that must have been resting on my sternum at some point. There’s nothing quite so euphoric as a spa visit that unravels like a subliminal journey sans timers or set endings.

The Benefits

According to the Hindu chakra system, the solar plexus chakra is related to the metabolic system, pancreas and adrenal cortex, and involves personal power, introversion, transition from base emotions to complex. I’m caught off guard as my therapist invites me to make a joint affirmation: “I let go and relax. I will leave this room strengthened with new energy. My goals: release of unnecessary burden; self-confidence and spontaneity.” Every aspect of this treatment bears a ceremonial weight that I choose to embrace rather than giggle off.

The spa

More posh cottage colony than typical beach resort, Hermitage Bay takes the slow food movement to hotel development. Six years ago, the owners cleared the land by hand, sourcing sustainable materials and conforming buildings to the landscape instead of the other way around. The practice continues to this day with the use of natural detergents and beauty products, solar energy technologies and organic fruits and vegetables from the hotel’s own garden. The spa director’s choice of Dorissima products is a perfect fit; created by Gianni Versace protégé Doris Brugger, the line uses aroma and chroma- (colour) therapy in a range of natural oils to balance the body’s energy centre. The spa villa is set in lush vegetation, adjacent to just 25 private, spacious terrace pavilions scattered down the hillside and onto Antigua’s most secluded beach.

The Basics

Hermitage Bay at Jennings New Extension, Saint John’s, Antigua; 268-562-5500; hermitagebay.com; $240 for two hours.

Special to The Globe and Mail

::SPORTS NEWS::

Third Time’s A Charm For Pyeongchang; South Korea To Host 2018 Olympics

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(July 06, 2011) DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA — Pyeongchang of South Korea won the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics on Wednesday with a crushing victory in the vote by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over rivals Munich of Germany and France's Annecy.

IOC President Jacques Rogge announced Pyeongchang's victory at the IOC's session in Durban after just one round of voting.

Pyeongchang polled 63 votes to 25 for Munich and a mere seven for Annecy, a totally unexpected margin of victory.

It will be the first time a Korean city has staged the Winter Games and only the third time it will have been held in Asia.

“This is one of the happiest days for our country, our people and millions of youth dreaming of winter sport,” Pyeongchang bid chief Cho Yang-ho told Reuters seconds after the announcement. “We have been waiting a long time for this.”

The Pyeongchang delegation in Durban cheered and chanted “Korea, Korea” after Rogge announced the verdict.

Rogge told Reuters: “I was surprised by the fact that it was a one-round vote. We expected two rounds. I was surprised by the margin. Patience has been rewarded.”

Pyeongchang narrowly missed victory in each of the last two Winter Olympic votes, losing out to Vancouver of Canada for the 2010 Games and to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for 2014.

Each time they had led on the first round of voting by IOC members but failed to gain a majority and lost out on the second round.

The Koreans put in a determined bid, stressing their virtues of perseverance and patience, and employed their country's President Lee Mying-bak and Olympic women's figure skating champion Kim Yuna to persuade and charm the IOC.

Lee told Reuters: “It feels great. I will make a statement a little later.”

The Munich bid team issued a statement saying: “Of course we are disappointed because we came here to become the host of the 2018 Winter Games.

“But the IOC has decided to award this honour to another candidate and because we are a sporting team, we accept this decision. We always knew that this would be a very tough race alongside two strong competitors.”

Annecy bid leader Charles Beigbeder told Reuters: “I am very disappointed. We were hoping to be selected but we congratulate Pyeongchang who were great competitors.”

Opening Win Opens Big Possibilities For Argos

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(July 2, 2011) CALGARY—It was only two points, the first victory in a
long season that could take many twists and turns.

But in so many ways the
Argonauts’ 23-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders here Friday night meant so much more.

There are the obvious benefits to winning a game in a stadium that had produced nothing but defeat since 2005. Then there are the advantages that will be derived from winning on the road with a schedule that has the Argos playing their first three games away from home.

The prospect of an 0-3 start heading into the home opener on July 23 no longer exists.

But maybe the biggest thing the Argos took away from the Canada Day game was the knowledge that they’re no longer a team that relies on guile, razzle dazzle and spectacular kick returns.

For one night at least they won by standing up to a top-rated team, trading punches and then knocking them down. A victory against a team favoured to be in the Grey Cup will go a long way toward building confidence, said kicker Noel Prefontaine, whose 43-yard field goal with 17 seconds left sealed the victory.

“It’s nice to come out and show that we can compete at this level and we’ve got just as good a shot as anybody else in the league,” he said.

Running back Cory Boyd, whose 100 yards rushing set the tone for the Toronto offence, says the Argos need to develop the kind of confidence that has made the Montreal Alouettes perennial contenders.

“That’s something we’re learning, just to have confidence, just have belief that we’re going to go out there and win,” he said. “Not just have the hope, but have belief.”

Naturally, victories are always great for a team’s confidence and morale. But defensive captain Willie Pile says the way the Argos won Friday’s game — taking a good lead in the fourth quarter, blowing it and then coming back — will pay dividends down the road.

“I think that showed every component of this team, that we’re committed to being a team and not getting down on each other,” said Pile, who stripped the ball from Calgary punt returner Larry Taylor to set up an earlier Prefontaine field goal.

“The defence had to make the stops late in the game and we did. Cleo (Lemon) came out and made the necessary throws, directed the offence with his own calls, got the ball in the right people’s hands and got us within field goal range.

“Then you saw our all-star kicker come through in a clutch situation. That showed everything it takes to be a complete team.”

Another confidence builder was the Argos’ reaction to the loss of two key players: receiver/returner Chad Owens (back) and linebacker Jason Pottinger (knee.)

Tristan Black stepped into Pottinger’s spot and was awarded a game ball, in part for his interception of a Henry Burris pass in Argo territory.

Andre Durie and Byron Parker replaced Owens on returns, with each recording long returns.

Owens is expected to play in Winnipeg on Friday, while Pottinger’s knee is still being assessed.

ARGO RECAP

BEST ON OFFENCE

 • Wide receiver Brandon Rideau made a great over-the-shoulder catch on a nice Cleo Lemon touch pass in the corner of the end zone for the Argos’ first touchdown.

 • Cory Boyd reeled off a spectacular 33-yard run on the last play of the third quarter to set up his own two-yard touchdown dive.

BEST ON DEFENCE

 • After coughing up two touchdowns in less than four minutes, the Argo defence shut down the Stamps for the rest of the game.

 • The defensive line recorded three sacks, with rookie Claude Wroten recording a pair and Kevin Huntley the other.

 • Lin-J Shell recovered a fumble and Tristan Black intercepted a pass.

THE BAD

 • Lemon followed Black’s interception by tossing one to Calgary’s Geoff Tisdale.

Cruz stops Faber at UFC 132

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andy Samuelson, The Canadian Press

(July 2, 2011)
Las Vegas — The smallest guys in the UFC put on the biggest show Saturday night at UFC 132 inside the MGM Grand Garden.

Dominick Cruz defeated Urijah Faber by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 48-47) in a bantamweight championship match that proved that a pair of 135-pound, former World Extreme Cagefighters could indeed carry a main UFC event.

“Oh my God,” said a momentarily speechless Cruz, of what it meant to win for the first time in the UFC after parent company Zuffa merged the two promotions at the beginning of the year. “(Faber)'s tough, he's a veteran and he has heavy hands. A great fight.”

There was plenty of action from start to finish as the two swarmed around the octagon. Faber won a close first round, in part from a big right hand that dropped Cruz two minutes in.

Cruz stormed back taking the second and third rounds, with the fourth too close to call.

Cruz had two late takedowns in the final minute of the fight, as the crowd was going crazy, to probably lock up the victory and avenge his only career loss, which came against Faber in March of 2007.

The fan favourite Faber said he felt he won the fight, but agreed with commentator Joe Rogan that a third fight definitely should happen.

“I'd love to, let's do it,” Faber said. “I felt it could have went either way, I thought I won the fight because I landed the more damaging punches. But I didn't finish him or do enough to convince the judges. Congratulations to Dominick.”

The night offered mixed results for two legends of mixed martial arts as Tito Ortiz, facing a must-win scenario to stay in the UFC, defeated Ryan Bader in the first round via guillotine choke; while Wanderlei Silva was quickly knocked out by Chris Leben in the first 30 seconds of the co-main event.

Arguably the biggest applause of the night came when Silva walked into the octagon with the techno song Sandstorm blaring and fans on their feet.

True to his “Axe Murderer” moniker, the Brazilian wasted little time cracking Leben with a hard right. But “The Crippler” who admitted this week to getting sick because he eat a bunch of candy before his one-sided loss to Brian Stann in January, quickly responded with a flurry of punches.

A couple of left-right hooks dropped Silva, who has lost six of his last eight fights, and Leben finished the former PRIDE superstar with a series of strong left-hands. Silva was so dazed that he initially tried to pull referee Josh Rosenthal into his guard before he realized what had just happened.

“I only visualized a three-round war. I never envisioned a knockout. Wanderlei I love you, you're my hero,” said a fired-up Leben. “Thanks for honouring me with that fight.”

Fans inside the arena were none too pleased when German Dennis Siver scored a close unanimous decision victory (29-28 on all three scorecards) over Matt Wiman, a lightweight from Colorado, on the Fourth of July weekend as fans booed in unison.

Wiman also appeared upset as he stormed off through the main tunnel, instead of the normal route that runs in front of press row.

With his back against the wall in his light heavyweight bout against Bader the 36-year-old Ortiz gave the fans chanting his name what they wanted to see — dropping Bader with a big right hand and then finishing the job with a guillotine choke less than two minutes into the first round.

“First I have to thank Dana White for pushing me to my limit,” said Ortiz of the UFC president, who on Thursday said the MMA legend absolutely had to win to keep his job.

“I'd like to thank Lorenzo Fertitta for giving me this awesome opportunity and giving the fans what they want to see — me kick some ass.”

Ortiz (16-8-1 MMA, 15-8-1 UFC), who was a 5 1/2-1 underdog at the MGM sports book, felt out Bader for the first minute, before landing a solid left. Bader countered with a punch, but shortly thereafter his when Ortiz dropped him with a big right.

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” quickly secured the guillotine and Bader — who dropped his second straight bout after starting his MMA career a perfect 12-0 — tapped out at the 1:56 mark.

Carlos Condit started off the main card in impressive fashion, landing a flying knee to a stunned Dong Hyun Kim before finishing off the South Korean with a series of punches as Kim lay up against the cage.

Melvin Guillard swears he isn't going to ask UFC brass for a title shot, another performance or two like Saturday night and he won't have to — matchmaker Joe Silva will be forced to give one to the up and coming lightweight.

The New Orleans native floored Shane Roller with a left hook and big knee to earn his fifth straight victory and eighth win in his past nine fights, knocking out the former Oklahoma State wrestler just 2:12 into the first round.

“I give you fireworks every Fourth of July,” Guillard told a cheering crowd. “I'm kind of emotional right now. My whole life has been a battle, but now I'm coming back to the top.

“I'll keep knocking them out as they line ‘em up. I don't know how close I am (to a title opportunity), but I want another top contender next.”

Rafael dos Anjos provided the first finish of the evening when he knocked out George Sotiropoulous with a big right hand just 59 seconds into the first round.

Former WEC bantamweight champ Brian Bowles wasn't too pleased with how he got his victory over Takeya Mizugaki, considering it was the first time he's had a non-finish in 11 fights when he earned a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

But Bowles, who might have actually broken his right hand in the first round, said not only would he take the win — but thinks it actually positions him as the top bantamweight contender.

“I think I'm next in line for a shot at the belt. If not me, then who?” said Bowles, whose only loss came because of a doctor's stoppage against Cruz in March of 2010.

“That was my first decision, so I'm not too happy about that. But Mizugaki is tough as hell and I'm proud to have been able to get a win over him.”

After suffering back-to-back losses to Leben and Mark Munoz, Aaron Simpson scored his second straight victory with a unanimous decision over Brad Tavares.

The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 finalist Andre Winner's time in the UFC might have come to an end as the English fighter dropped his third-straight bout when Las Vegas-based Anthony Njokuani defeated him by a lopsided unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the bout 30-26.

“It took too long for me to get going tonight. I was too tense and didn't use my range. He was a good puncher, but I spar with guys like Paul Daley so I'm use to hard shots,” said Winner, who looked like he might be stopped in the first round when Njokuani delivered several hard knees and big punches up against the cage.

“Anthony was just better tonight in all aspects.”

Rangers Sign Brad Richards To Nine-Year, $60-Million Contract

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By David Shoalts

(July 2, 2011)
Brad Richards took the path most expected he would, rejoining head coach John Tortorella by signing with the New York Rangers.

The most anticipated decision of this year's NHL free-agent market came late Saturday morning, a day after Richards entertained pitches from several teams, some in-person at his agent's office and others via conference call. One of the conference callers, the Rangers, landed him with a nine-year contract for a total of $60-million (all currency U.S.), according to TSN.

The deal, which works out to a salary-cap friendly $6.67-million per season was a surprisingly low total given the Friday's frenzied activity on the first day of free-agent season. It appears Richards, 31, left at least some money on the table to rejoin Tortorella, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2004 when they were both with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Richards said Friday night the race was down to four teams, presumed to be the Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.

The pitches for the veteran centre's services included video appeals from Kobe Bryant and Wayne Gretzky on behalf of the Kings and a telephone pitch from Flames star Jarome Iginla.

Richards seemed flabbergasted by all of the attention. He said in an interview with Rogers Sportsnet "the whole day was pretty crazy. For a kid from Murray Harbour, PEI, it was a lot of stuff thrown at me in one day I never imagined I'd see. It was neat. I'll chalk it up as one of those experiences in my life I'll look back on and have good memories on."

The criteria for Richards' choice, he said, were "stable ownership, a hockey environment, with a plan on putting together a team not just now but for a while." He said he "got burned on that with the last two teams," the Lightning and Dallas Stars, because of ownership changes. He mentioned the Lightning dismantling the 2004 Stanley Cup team two years after the championship, which may be one reason the Lightning were out of the race for his services by Friday night.

However, the biggest factor, which the three runners-up could not overcome, was Richards' desire to play for Tortorella again. In a statement released by the Rangers, he said, "I've seen how [Tortorella] operates, it's worked, I know that firsthand, and I can see how he's bringing this young team along in New York. You factor all that in together, this was just the right fit for me."

Like most of the big contracts signed in this free-agent season, Richards' deal is front-loaded in order to lessen the cap hit and any problems that may crop up with the new collective agreement next year. He is expected to get most of the money in the first five years, as much as $50-million.

The last three years of the contract call for a salary of $1-million in each year. This serves the dual function of bringing down the cap hit in average salary and seeing Richards gets most of his money on the front end to protect him from a lockout or strike if the labour negotiations in 2012 break down.

For that, the Rangers are getting a good but not great centre, although he did run up 77 points in 72 games with the Stars last season. But he did suffer a major concussion late in the season and he has had hip problems.

It will also be interesting to see how Richards, a low-key personality, handles the spotlight in New York. He will not get as much attention as players from the New York Yankees and New York Knicks or either of the city's NFL teams but as the Rangers' latest big-money signing, Richards will be in the public eye much more than he ever has in his 10-year NHL career.

After missing out on the No. 1 centre they badly need, the Maple Leafs turned around and signed free-agent centre Tim Connolly. TSN reported he agreed to a two-year contract for an average of $4.75-million, which represents a gamble for the Maple Leafs due to his injury problems.

The Kings contented themselves with veteran winger Simon Gagne. He made a verbal agreement to a two-year contract at $3.5-million per year. Gagne, 31, is another player who battled injuries in recent years but should be a good fit with either Mike Richards or Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles. He had 40 points in 63 games last season with the Lightning.

The second day of the NHL's free-agent auction started much slower than Friday.

Aside from Richards, Gagne and Connolly, the only other significant signings on Saturday saw forward Anthony Stewart sign with the Carolina Hurricanes and defenceman Ian White go to the Detroit Red Wings.

Stewart, 26, finally established himself as an NHL regular last season with the Atlanta Thrashers with 39 points in 80 games. He decided not to make the move to Winnipeg with the Thrashers and became a free agent, signing for two years for a total of $1.8-million with the Hurricanes.

The weekend was quiet for the Winnipeg Jets. They were not expected to make a big splash in the free-agent market and signed four depth players, forwards Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien and Aaron Gagnon and defenceman Derek Meech, who is a Winnipeg native.

But they did get defenceman Randy Jones on Saturday for one year at $1.15-million, according to TSN.

Saturday's other notable signing saw the Rangers lose defenceman Matt Gilroy to the Lightning.

Just two years ago, Gilroy, 26, was the hot prize in the bidding for U.S. college free agents. But he was never able to establish himself with the Rangers. He had just 11 points in 58 games last season, his second in the NHL. Gilroy went to Tampa for a one-year deal for $1-million, according to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos.

Djokovic Wins Wimbledon

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(July 3, 2011) An inspired Novak Djokovic outplayed Rafael Nadal to
win the Wimbledon title with an emphatic 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3 victory in the final on Sunday.

The Serbian second seed saw off the top seed and defending champion to claim his first Wimbledon crown and confirm his status as the new world number one.

"This is the best day of my life, this is the tournament I always dreamed of winning," Djokovic said following the presentation ceremony.

"When you are playing the best player in the world, Rafa Nadal, I had to play at the top of my game and I think I played my best match on grass."

The first set went with serve until Djokovic conjured a break out of the blue in the 10th game to clinch it.

Nadal, serving at 4-5, made two uncharacteristic errors to hand the Serbian a set point and the Spaniard struck a forehand wide to give Djokovic first blood.

Djokovic was playing almost flawless tennis and struck again in the second game of the second set, showing great anticipation and speed to reach a dropshot and clinch the break.

Nadal tried to lift his game but he simply could not live with an inspired opponent who dominated the baseline rallies with immaculate shot selection and clinical execution.

Djokovic broke Nadal again to open up a 5-1 lead and he served out to love to move two sets ahead.

Nadal, twice Wimbledon champion and winner of 10 grand slam titles, finally got a foothold in the match when a rare Djokovic error handed him a break in the second game of the third set and he repeated the feat before holding to love to breeze through the third set.

The momentum of the match had completely changed and Nadal created an early break point in the fourth set which Djokovic saved.

The Serbian immediately went on the attack himself and broke Nadal in the next game but Nadal broke straight back, clinching the game with a lucky net-cord that dribbled over the net.

Djokovic refused to buckle, though, continuing to match Nadal from the baseline and he broke the Spaniard's serve again in the eighth game before clinching victory on his first match point.

No One Wins As Long As The NBA Is Locked Out

Source: By Nick Underhill masslive.com

(July 3, 2011) If you thought the NFL lockout was idiotic, David Stern
and the NBA owners have a trick for you.

Fresh off the most compelling NBA Finals since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers to don a moustache reminiscent of a certain German dictator's in Hanes commercials, the league officially began its lockout at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

How popular was the league becoming? The Finals were the highest rated since 2004, and included the most-viewed Game 6 in ABC's history; it was ESPN's most-viewed NBA postseason ever; and the regular season was the most-viewed in ESPN and ABC's history.

Even the draft, which you'll remember mostly for the selection of that European guy you have never heard of, earned its highest ratings since 2007.

Obviously, this wasn't the most opportune time to shut things down.

The league got the casual fan back, something it hasn't enjoyed since before Allen Iverson ruled the court.

But if games are lost, those sports-viewing nomads will find something else to occupy their time next year. How LeBron James responds to the Finals loss, what the Big Three does in its last stand or how Kobe Bryant reacts to Mike Brown become a lot less compelling in 2012 than they are in '11.

And that's a real possibility. Several of the NBA's owners have ties to the NHL, which used a lockout to cancel the 2004-05 season, and are convinced they can use the same tactics to get the players to cave.

They say it's necessary. Commissioner David Stern recently announced that 22 teams are losing money and that the system where players receive 57 percent of the league's basketball-related revenue is flawed.

The way they make it sound, the owners are going to have to start selling flowers on the street just to keep their office lights on.

I understand that it's a business and that money has to be made, but excuse me if I don't keep NBA owners in my thoughts this Sunday. They bought these teams as toys used to feed their egos and impress friends – the equivalent of a successful dentist buying a Ferrari.

I'd feel bad for Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, whose franchise operated at a 6.7 percent deficit last season according to Forbes, if his private company, the Taylor Corporation, hadn't already made him worth $2.7 billion.

What about Herb Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers and their 16.9 percent operating deficit? The real estate and shopping mall tycoon had quite the scare in 2009 when the bubble burst on his market. But his company's stock surged 57 percent last year, returning him to billionaire status.

If not them, then certainly you must feel for Richard DeVos, owner of the Orlando Magic and co-founder of Amway. His team operated at the highest percentage loss of any team and the poor guy was hit hard by the recession in his other businesses. After being a fixture in the Forbes 100, his net worth dropped to $4.2 billion as he fell all the way down to 176.

It must be hard for him to show his face at family picnics these days.

As Charlie Pierce recently wrote, these are the same people that, in their regular day jobs, ruled over the labour collapse of the last 30 years. They also sent jobs overseas, destroyed unions and took away employee benefits.

It's hard to cheer for them. And even though someone like Dwight Howard will never have to make a decision between buying groceries or healthcare for his children, he seems a lot easier to support than someone on the Forbes list.

Idled NBAers Look For Ways To Fill Their Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(Jul 05, 2011) Sonny Weems, the NBA swingman who played the past
two seasons in Toronto, was waxing philosophical on Twitter the other day.

“Limitations live only in our minds,” went one of Weems’s posts, a motivational quote attributed to U.S. cyclist Jamie Paolinetti. “But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.”

There’s a strong possibility that Weems, one of a handful of U.S.-based pro hoopsters conjuring profitable career choices in the midst of an
NBA lockout, will spend the coming season playing in Europe. Sources say Weems is expected to sign a one-year deal to play with Lithuania’s BC Zalgiris in the coming days.

While Weems will have to make do without NBA-style luxuries such charter air travel and five-star hotels — European teams mostly fly commercial and sleep in the four-star accommodations provided by the host team — the signing will have its perks. He will receive the Euro-standard benefit of the use of a gratis apartment and automobile. And though the team and Weems are still putting the finishing touches on the deal, sources say it’s expected Weems will be paid an after-tax net salary approaching 1 million euros, or about $1.4 million (U.S.). That’s a relatively rich deal for a player who earned a pre-tax salary of about $854,389 (U.S.) in Toronto this past season.

Still, while Weems joins a trickle of players with NBA experience who are taking shelter from a labour storm on the other side of ocean — NBA veterans Nenad Krstic and Hilton Armstrong are bound for Russia and France, respectively — insiders say the July signings are far from a harbinger of an impending migration to the Euroleague.

“There’s limited opportunities in Europe,” said one source. “It’s going to be difficult for a lot of NBA players to find jobs in the price range they’ll want to be paid. . . . It’s not going to be a mass exodus.”

Still, earlier this week Krstic, the NBA free agent who was a starter for both the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder last season, inked a two-year deal worth about $9.8 million U.S. to play with CSKA Moscow. But Krstic’s deal is expected to amount to a rare opportunity.

“I don’t think you will see a lot (of NBA players) coming (to Europe),” Krstic told the Boston Herald. “Europe is not in a great situation financially. There are only four or five teams now that can offer much to NBA players, and those teams right now are almost full. . . . That’s a problem for NBA players. It was a reason why I had to go right away. I got maybe the best contract in Europe because of that.”

For the West Memphis-raised Weems, moving to Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania (population 321,200), will amount to both a cultural adjustment and a calculated gamble. While undrafted University of Pittsburgh player Gilbert Brown this week signed a deal with a German-league club that will allow Brown the option of returning to the United States when the NBA lockout ends, sources say Weems’s contract includes no such escape clause.

Weems, who turns 25 on Friday, could come to regret the deal should the NBA and its players association come to a quick agreement and begin the NBA season on time. But given the apparent gulf that lies between the sides, Weems is more likely to look like a prescient planner if, come the winter, NBA players remain without a collective bargaining agreement while he continues to hone his game overseas.

What does Weems’s change of address mean for the Raptors? It won’t alter his status as a restricted free agent in the NBA, meaning that whenever he makes his return to the league — and the plan, by all accounts, is for him to be back in the NBA in 2012-13 — the Raptors, who tendered him a qualifying offer last month, will retain the right to match any NBA offer he receives.

Though NBA clubs are currently barred from having contact with players, it’s safe to say the Toronto front office would be in favour of Weems playing in Europe; while the club is hardly sold on Weems as a long-term contributor to the cause, newly installed coach Dwane Casey is said to be intrigued by Weems’s potential as a defensive specialist with considerable scoring punch. Weems could raise his NBA stock if he shows the maturity required to thrive in Europe.

Certainly playing basketball in Lithuania beats, say, playing craps in Las Vegas. Should the lockout drag on, NBA players will need an outlet for their energies — not to mention a place to maintain their skill sets.

Kobe Bryant and his agent are reportedly in the early stages of assembling a group of NBAers to embark on a potentially lucrative tour of exhibition games in China; a similar idea is said to be in the hopper of the Wasserman Media Group, whose clients include Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Russell Westbrook.

The nascent National Basketball League of Canada is even attempting to capitalize on a potentially idle workforce, sending out a press release on Tuesday inviting locked-out NBAers to consider running with one of its franchises. And while some observers may see that prospect as a stretch — NBA players earn average salaries of about $6 million (U.S.) while the NBL recently announced a salary cap of $150,000 for each 10- to 12-man roster — perhaps the limits of the imagination will inspire players with NBA résumés to come north, even for a relative pittance.

As one NBA insider said: “There’s only so much you can do working out alone in a gym with pylons.”