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October 6, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians! What are you thankful for?  Please celebrate with love and safety. 

I've just created a fan page on Facebook for
Langfield Entertainment ... please give me a 'like' by clicking the ICON!

 I went to the
K'naan concert last Saturday as part of the Walk of Fame series.  Opening was Adam Cohen and Bedouin Soundclash - both fantastic performances!  K'naan brought his humble spirit on the stageand the reaction of the audience was wildly supportive and across all age groups and races. Seeing this Canadian (via Somalia) artist live is truly an unforgettable treat with the offering of real music, lyrics and message.  Check out some photos in my PHOTO GALLERY!

This week's news features the long-awaited news of another 'urban' radio station,
Radio 98.7 (who are hiring in many positions!), Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple loses his battle with cancer, Drake showcases his latest video, the Walk of Fame inducts its latest members and the reviews from Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson show are outstanding.  Feel like being inspired by an extraordinary performance?  Then you MUST watch this extraordinary dance performance by J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff from Dancing with the Stars, dedicated to the many fallen soldiers of war.  It's truly moving ... Check it out under TOP STORIES.

I hope you do more than just scroll to your entertainment news, but click on the articles too - you won't get the juice of the entire stories that I've carefully chosen for you otherwise!  Just click on the
photo or the headline and you'll get directly to the article and your latest entertainment news!

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


Radio 98.7 Fm To Hit The Toronto Airwaves On October 3

Source: www.carn987.com

(September 28, 2011) On October 3, 2011, Toronto's newest radio
station, Radio 98.7 FM, will turn on its frequency and go "live" with its vibrant mix of R&B, Soul, Reggae, Soca, Hip Hop, Worldbeat, Gospel, and Smooth Jazz. Radio 98.7's parent company, will also officially unveil the station name, call letters and branding, as well as introduce its executive team.

Radio 98.7 FM (formerly referred to as CARN Radio) will target the population of the Greater Toronto Area with an eclectic offering of Black and Caribbean music, news, talk, and cultural programming. The station, which received its broadcast licence from the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on June 9, will focus on the 25-54 demographic.

"When listeners tune in to 98.7 on the FM dial, they will be treated to the sweet, soulful, and rhythmic sounds of internationally-renowned artists who are either non-existent, or completely under-represented, on the Toronto airwaves," said Radio 98.7 Founder, President & CEO, Fitzroy Gordon. "This massive list includes artists such as R&B giants The Temptations, Soca queen Alison Hinds, Afrobeat king Fela Kuti, Reggae ambassador Beres Hammond, and Gospel icon Kirk Franklin. We'll also highlight young stars like Rihanna and Canada's own Drake. This station is long overdue, and we are very excited to be bringing this format to the people of Toronto."

As part of the required signal frequency testing process (mandated by Industry Canada), Radio 98.7 will broadcast a music-only playlist for several weeks. Full programming, including the addition of on-air announcers, station promotions, commercials, and a robust news & talk format will commence in November.

"I am very proud of the strong executive team that we have put in place to lead this pioneering effort," says Gordon. "We are now undergoing an in-depth outreach and hiring process to round out the core personnel, which will include the on-air announcers, as well as promotional, sales, production, and technical support staff."

For more information on Radio 98.7, please visit www.carn987.com.

New Urban Music Station Hits Toronto’s Airwaves

Source: www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

(Oct 04, 2011) Toronto’s newest radio station, Radio 98.7 FM, begins airing Monday morning with a non-stop mix of R&B, soul, reggae, soca, hip hop, world beat, gospel, and smooth jazz.

Owned by the Intercity Broadcasting Network Inc., the soon-to-be-named station was licensed in June by the federal broadcast regulator with a prescribed mandate “to add cultural and racial diversity and benefit the Caribbean and African communities of Toronto with its spoken word programming and musical format.”

The station’s target audience is aged 25-54, founder and president Fitzroy Gordon said recently.

Its playlist will include The Temptations, Alison Hinds, Fela Kuti, Beres Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Rihanna and Drake. The station will be restricted to airing only music for several weeks, as part of its signal testing process.

Full programming, including on-air announcers, station promotions, commercials, news and talk shows, will begin in November, Gordon said.

Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs Dead At 56

Source: www.thestar.com

(Oct. 5, 2011) SAN FRANCISCO—Apple Inc co-founder and former CEO
Steve Jobs, counted among the greatest American CEOs of his generation, died on Wednesday at the age of 56, after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer and other health issues. Jobs' death was announced by Apple in a statement late on Wednesday. The Silicon Valley icon who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone resigned as CEO of the world's largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook. Jobs, who fought a rare form of pancreatic cancer, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America.

Steve Jobs timeline

Feb. 1955: Steve Jobs is born and soon adopted by the late Paul and Clara Jobs.
Fall, 1973: Jobs spends one semester at Reed College in Portland, Oregon before dropping out.
1976: Apple Computer Inc. is launched by Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne in Silicon Valley.
Feb. 1982: Jobs makes the cover of Time Magazine
1998: Jobs introduces Apple's revolutionary iMac.
Oct. 23, 2001: Jobs unveils the first iPod.
Apr. 28, 2003: Apple opens the online iTunes Music Store in the U.S.
2007: Jobs introduces the first iPhone. In December, Jobs is inducted in the California Hall of Fame by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jan. 5, 2009: Jobs takes a medical leave of absence for six months, and undergoes a liver transplant.
2010: Jan. 27 Steve Jobs unveils the much-anticipated iPad tablet.
Oct. 5, 2011: Jobs dies at age 56.

VIDEO - Drake Debuts Video for 'Headlines'

Source: www.billboard.com - by Erika Ramirez, N.Y.

(Oct. 2, 2011) Drake takes us on a journey through his hometown of Toronto in the video for his first single, "Headlines." Directed by Lamar Taylor and Highly Alleyne, of The Weeknd's XO team, Drizzy Drake and his camp tour their city, ranging from The Guild to the Rogers Centre, before making a toast in a Huxtable inspired sweater.

Although "Headlines" holds the No. 2 slot on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rap Songs charts, Drake told Billboard.com's The Juice that "Headlines" is not the best song on his sophomore album, “Take Care" (Oct 24), but "it's really just the song for this moment."

"I always try to put forth a song with a message. A lot of people pick their single by what's the strongest song. I don't really do that. I like to make sure that the content is very relevant to right now," Drake told The Juice of "Headlines." "I want people to party to it but at the same time the fans, the people that care about my career, the people that follow me, will hear a message in it."

"By no means is it the best song on my album, it's really just the song for this moment, right now," Drake tells Billboard.com's The Juice of his first single, "Headlines." After blazing through one of his best shows at the 2nd Annual OVO Festival, in Toronto on Sunday (July 31), Drake talked to The Juice on "Headlines," released the morning of OVO Fest, and said his sophomore album, "Take Care," is his "best project."

"By no means is it the best song on my album, it's really just the song for this moment, right now," Drake tells Billboard.com's The Juice of his first single, "Headlines." After blazing through one of his best shows at the 2nd Annual OVO Festival, in Toronto on Sunday (July 31), Drake talked to The Juice on "Headlines," released the morning of OVO Fest, and said his sophomore album, "Take Care," is his "best project."

“Eclectic” Mix Joins Walk Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Oct 01, 2011) As Canada’s Walk of Fame CEO Peter Soumalias noted, the latest group of inductees is “very eclectic,” with representatives from the entertainment scene as well as sports, tennis doubles star Daniel Nestor and astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar.

“When we look at the (inductees), we see Canadian diversity well-represented,” Soumalias said.

“We engage Canadians in almost everything that we do and it begins with the nomination process. Everyone here was nominated by people across Canada. The hardest thing that we do is actually go through all the nominations and shorten it down to a manageable list,” he added.

View a photo gallery of the inductees

Roberta Bondar

Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie

Best known for: Becoming the first Canadian woman in space and the world’s first neurologist in space when she travelled aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1992. More recently, she’s become known as a landscape photographer. She was named among North America’s best explorers by Time magazine in 2003.

Quote: “It’s great, very Canadian, eh? I was (surprised). It’s good for Canada to be able to say there are other things besides just sheer entertainment and comedy, that we can do other things and still be recognized.”

Fan’s take: “I’m fascinated by her. She’s one of the first women astronauts to go into space. The company I work for, we actually do services on her property. I’ve met her a bunch of times. She’s a very nice lady and every time she’s around, I talk to her. She’s extremely intelligent and she’s done a lot to benefit us as Canadians.” — Adam Harding, 27, Toronto

Burton Cummings

Birthplace: Winnipeg

Best known for: Co-founding the Guess Who, and for writing or co-writing numerous Canadian and international hits, including “These Eyes,” “Laughing,” “Undun,” “Hand Me Down World,” “Clap for the Wolfman” and, of course, “American Woman,” which was named the greatest Canadian single of all time in the book 100 Top Canadian Singles.

Quote: “This is a huge deal. I don’t take this lightly and I don’t take this for granted. This is a very special deal. And I’m the only one ever to get a second star. The Guess Who got one eight years ago. So I’m going to be on the sidewalk twice.”

Fan’s take: “I’ve been a fan of Burton Cummings since the last ’60s. I saw him in 1972 for the first time and I’ve probably seen 30 or 40 times since then. I’m a huge fan. I think he’s the greatest singer/songwriter ever.” — Michael Combes, who with wife Karen drove up from Cincinnati, Ohio

Daniel Nestor

Birthplace: Belgrade, Yugoslavia and raised in Toronto

Best known for: Being the third most decorated doubles champion in tennis history. He won 73 ATP Tour doubles titles. He’s also the only player ever to win all four Grand Slams, all of the Masters Series events, the year-end Masters Cup and Olympic Gold (for Canada in Sydney) in doubles.

Quote: “Considering who’s won it before, (the award) is pretty overwhelming. I’m not used to the red carpet. I’m used to, if I get a trophy, saying a couple of words and then go away. This has been a couple of days of a lot of attention.”

Fan’s take: “He (Nestor) is the greatest Canadian doubles tennis player of all time. He’s a Canadian tennis icon really, he certainly is.” — Grant Bridgewater, 42, London

Sandra Oh

Birthplace: Ottawa

Best known for: Her role as the driven Dr. Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, for which she has won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe and five Emmy nominations. She also had a significant part in the 2004 movie Sideways. She first came to prominence in Canada playing a teenage prostitute in The Diary of Evelyn Lau in 1997.

Quote: “I miss the fall so it’s great to be back in the crisp air. It’s an amazing honour and it’s also completely different.”

Fan’s take: “I love her on Grey’s Anatomy. She’s awesome. She’s why I watch the show pretty much. I’m just a big fan. She’s very talented.” — Lauren Lambert, 24, St. Catharines

Russell Peters

Birthplace: Toronto

Best known for: His live comedy shows and YouTube clips, specializing in sometimes raunchy humour that skewers all ethnic groups, including his own Anglo-Indian background. He was on Forbes magazine’s list of top-earning comedians in 2009 and 2010. And his autobiography, Call Me Russell, was a bestseller.

Quote: “It feels pretty good. I am surprised actually. There’s so many more deserving people, but I’ll take it.”

Fan’s take: “He’s funny. I like his jokes and also his takes on everyday life. I know he has an Indian background and I’m from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) so we have a little bit of a similar kind of culture so I can really relate to his jokes.” — Abdul Aloreinan, 26, Toronto.

Mordecai Richler

Birthplace: Montreal

Best known for: His novels, including The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which became a 1974 movie starring Richard Dreyfuss; St. Urbain’s Horsemen, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award; and Barney’s Version, which won the Giller Prize for Fiction and became a Genie- and Golden Globe-winning movie (also nominated for one Oscar) starring Paul Giamatti.

Quote: “I think he (Mordecai) would have been amused (by the honour). I think if they provided a little glass of whisky at the end, he would have been even happier.” — Widow Florence Richler.

“Or at the beginning,” added son Noah Richler.

Cirque’s Tribute To Michael Jackson A Spectacular Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(October 03, 2011) MONTREAL—When I first heard that Cirque du Soleil was planning a show based on the life and works of Michael Jackson, I felt a shudder of fear.

To begin with, I doubted the wisdom of the famous company drawing too heavily off the presence of pop idols, so soon after they failed to ring the bell with Viva Elvis!

And as I walked into the Bell Centre on Sunday night, I also questioned what was to be gained by sifting through the ashes of Jackson’s sad demise so soon after the event, especially with the manslaughter trial of his physician, Conrad Murray, about to enter its second week, reminding us over and over of The King of Pop’s tragic, drug-induced death.

Well, about 15 minutes into the opening of
Michael Jackson – The IMMORTAL World Tour, I heard a voice in my head saying “Oh ye of little faith.”

Not only is Cirque’s latest show their most spectacular to date, but for almost all of its 2-hour length, it succeeds in distilling a sad and powerful poetry out of the enigma that was Michael Jackson.

Credit Jamie King, the writer and director with succeeding in erecting a tower of glory on top of what could have been a potential minefield.

Things click from the very opening, where we’re about to start groaning at the presence of a quintet of typical Cirque clowns, only to realize they’re blessedly multi-racial, genuinely funny and larger-than-life comic portraits of The Jackson Five.

Soon after, we tap into a vein of sweet nostalgic bliss for a happy childhood that Michael never really had, taking us through “the lost and found of my heart” and asking a question he would pose until his death: “Where is my childhood?”

A little child in a hot air balloon floats over the golden gates of Neverland and disappears over our heads in the spectacular arena staging King and his collaborators have created.

They turn the cavernous Bell Centre into a place of magic and I can’t wait to see them repeat the trick in Toronto’s ACC later this month.

In a show so packed with visual wonders, it’s impossible to catalogue all the beauty on display, but you won’t forget the aerial acrobats all in black, whose bodies are wired with an assortment of lights that turn them into human star sculptures of breathtaking beauty.

And when it comes to the “Ghost Stories” sequence, we all wait to see what’s going to be done with the archetypal Jackson number, “Thriller.”

But instead of a mere imitation of the video we all know so well, King and company turn it into a mind-blowing voodoo funeral, all in white, with the spectre of Baron Samedi hovering over the familiar dance steps.

As the show goes on, we start to realize how much of Jackson’s vision of the world was ebony-hued and how sadly potent that darkness was.

In fact, we literally see how certain images came to overwhelm the reality of Jackson by having his trademark hat, shoes and glove all appear 20 times larger than life as the song “Beat It” is ironically sung.

But as the driven Michael keeps dancing towards his death on the numerous video screens, we also see giant clock wheels spinning madly out of control, just as time did for the superstar.

There is no one playing Jackson per se, but a solitary performer, clad all in silvery white, with a childlike cap, fills the role of our central figure who becomes hero and victim all at once.

As the end comes closer, it gets almost unbearably moving when we hear Jackson’s prophetic lyric, “Gone Too Soon,” with its lines about “Born to amuse, to inspire to delight/Here one day and gone one night.”

A stage full of performers with illuminated red hearts beat faster and faster, before fading out one by one. Then from the darkness, we see the entire company with hearts glowing anew, filling the aisles of the theatre while we watch a video of the very young Michael singing “I’ll Be There” with that unique voice which could hurt and heal at the same time.

I would have been happy to have the show end in simplicity, right there, but it goes on to an acrobatic upbeat finale, with “greatest hits” like “Billie Jean,” “Black or White” and “Man in the Mirror.”

But this is just the very first performance of a world-wide tour and since they have so much of it right already, there’s no reason to doubt that Cirque’s tribute to Michael Jackson will shimmer in complete glory before too long.

The capacity audience of 13,000, who stayed cheering on their feet long after the show had ended, adored it, as did the Jackson Family members who attended: mother Katherine; brothers Tito, Jackie and Marlon; and Michael’s three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket.

Somehow the sad fact that many of the Jacksons were flying back to Los Angeles early Monday morning to return to Dr. Murray’s manslaughter trial drove the show’s theme home with incredible poignance.

Michael Jackson: gone too soon, yet somehow alive again on stage.

Video: J.R. Martinez Brings DWTS to a Standstill

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 04, 2011) *It’s the moment from last night’s “Dancing With the Stars” that everyone is talking about today.

Although Ricki Lake received the highest score among the judges, it was Iraq war veteran-turned-actor
J.R. Martinez who got the longest standing ovation in the show’s 13-season run.

Martinez, who was badly burned during his 2003 tour of duty, and his partner, Karina Smirnoff, decided to dedicate their dance to the military men and women who didn’t come home and get a second chance. When they finished, Martinez and Smirnoff were in tears, along with judge Carrie Ann Inaba and many in the audience, who didn’t want to stop clapping and didn’t want to sit down, notes TV Guide.

“I’ve never cried in front of that many people before,” Martinez said after the show. “Karina was telling me that in order to get to that place, in order to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform, I needed to be an open book tonight. I needed to be willing to go to that place and tap into that time in my life when it wasn’t all pictures and fame and everyone caring — when I felt so alone.”

Added Smirnoff, “We got through talking about the physical injury, then we tapped into the emotional journey that J.R. had to go through: the coma, and waking up and seeing the light above the bed, turning his eyes but not his head to see his mom, because he couldn’t move his head. And the nurse giving him the mirror [to look at the extent of his burns, which covered more than 40 percent of his body]. And all the emotions he had to go through, the anger, the questions. And then taking all of this and turning it into something so strong and positive.”

Martinez has brought out great tenderness in Smirnoff, a fiery Russian who is known for being tough-minded and strong-willed. Her dancing, already brilliant, has never been better. “He inspires me,” she says. “And to have that kind of response in the ballroom, to have people crying with us? It’s so much bigger than us. Whether we win this [competition] or not, it will always be part of this experience, and a dance we’ll never forget.”


Feist Emerges From The Wilderness

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Oct 01, 2011) Leslie Feist is still very much the same laid-back indie-rock chick she was before the iPod ad and the Grammy nominations and the Juno Awards and Sesame Street and all the other madness in which she was swept up after The Reminder hit in 2007. So much so, that one tends to forget that this friendly face long familiar to denizens and hangers-on of Toronto’s musical underground now belongs to a bona fide international pop star.

Feist would never use that term to describe herself, of course. Indeed, she bowed out of the public eye and abandoned music completely for a good 18 months once she’d finally disentangled herself from the hubbub surrounding her last album in part to come to terms with her new “celebrity” reality, to distance herself from the growing unreality of it all and to plant her feet firmly back on the earth.

It’s there in the background, though, looming large once again now that this coming Tuesday’s release of her closely watched fourth album, Metals, is upon us. Even on a barren strip of lakefront real estate in the Port Lands near the rehearsal studio where she’s been prepping for a tour that will commence in Amsterdam on Oct. 15 and bring her back to her adopted hometown and Massey Hall on Dec. 1, Feist earns a stealthy second look from a quartet of youngsters who’ve ambled past on an idle stroll.

“We’ve been clocked,” she chuckles, studiously avoiding their eyes. A few minutes later, however, she casually mentions how she has “the world’s smallest cameo” in the new Muppets movie. That was a spinoff benefit from her guest appearance on Sesame Street in 2008 singing “1234,” the hit Reminder single and onetime iPod Nano commercial jingle that catapulted her to demographic-shattering pop ubiquity — and so you’re reminded, once again, just how far the 35-year-old performer has come since her days as a scrappy punk-rock refugee from Calgary knocking around town in bands like By Divine Right and Bodega.

“In the opening sequence, for a split second there’s a girl in a red dress,” says Feist. “It’s me, but you probably won’t even recognize me. I sing one line and then I spin away. Me and Mickey Rooney.”

Frolicking with Muppets and Mickey Rooney is hard to turn down, but there came a time a couple of years ago when Leslie Feist had had enough of such opportunities.

Although she never became quite as inescapable as, say, Justin Bieber, Feist was all over the place for awhile there. There was the iPod ad, a performance at the Grammy ceremony, a bounty of Junos, appearances on Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special, invitations to record with the likes of Beck and Wilco. She soaked it in for as long as she could, she says, but fled when she feared the duties of “fame maintenance” might overwhelm her art.

“The touring went beyond the lifespan of an album and it started to be that I could continue indefinitely playing these bizarre, strange and wonderful things that kept just falling into my lap,” she says. “It was an embarrassment of riches, these offers that were coming in. Just stuff that was, like, insane on paper.

“And to live them would have been even more insane . . . They were more novelty, ‘I can’t believe that I would get to go do that’ things rather than things that were interesting on a musical level. So I started to say ‘no’ and then I realized that I would have to draw a real line on the calendar and say ‘I’m stopping’ and realign to what was interesting about doing this to me, to get back to the teenage point of doing things, which is doing something because you are compelled to for some reason beyond any external sh--.”

More than anything, really, Feist needed a break. She’d been on tour for seven years straight at that point, as both a member of Broken Social Scene and in support of The Reminder and her well-received 2004 sophomore disc, Let It Die.

She’s been playing shows regularly since she was 15, however, so no wonder Feist is already sick of answering questions about why she took some time off and disappeared into the countryside north of Toronto for a couple of years.

“I recoiled 18 years later and went and chilled out for a minute,” she says. “I want to say to all these journalists who are basically 18 that it’s okay for someone to rest for a second after 18 years. I was just hustling all the time. . .

“It took awhile to teach myself basically how to do really normal things, to cook and to just plan my own day, find my own day. Not being on a plane all the time, waking up in the same place more than a couple of days in a row — all of these things took awhile to figure out.

“I wasn’t expecting that I would make another record, necessarily. I wanted to only do that if I had real fuel to.”

Once that period of soul-searching was out of the way, Metals actually came together in no time at all.

Longtime collaborators Jason “Gonzales” Beck and Dominic “Mocky” Salole spent a month with Feist in Toronto last winter arranging and rearranging her new songs, then they all decamped with her band to a cottage in bucolic Big Sur, Cal., and nailed the recording in a mere two-and-a-half weeks.

The brisk pace of the album’s creation has left it with an appealingly unvarnished quality. The mood is cloudy and insular and uncertain, and the music crapes and stretches and clatters in unusual directions throughout. Feist likens the loose-limbed process of their creation to orienteering, where “you’re given a map and a compass and there’s marks in the woods and the stopwatch gets clicked and you just run off trying to orient yourself . . . We all knew the terrain and how we had to get there and everyone kind of planned their own way and we met at the other end of the song.”

Metals isn’t the dainty folk-bird album that fans of “1234” might want, then, nor the surefire hit record for which you’d think Feist’s American label, the Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records, would have gone fishing. The album is the follow-up, after all, to a record that Spin magazine recently referred to as “the Nevermind of iRock,” noting that The Reminder opened the gates for such quirky Feist successors as Lykke Li, Adele, St. Vincent and Florence and the Machine.

This, observes Feist — still joined at the hip to Toronto’s Arts and Crafts label in Canada — is one area in which all her months in the wilderness definitely paid off.

“The peanut gallery emptied out after that year and a half off. That was part of the point, to let the opinion mill die down,” she says. “I didn’t have any communication from the label. It was pretty remarkable when I think about it. I had absolutely free reign. And then Lady Gaga appeared right at my sub-label within Interscope, so we were, like: ‘Awesome. They’ll be distracted for awhile with the biggest artist on earth.’ She certainly supernova’d beyond anything they could want from me, so it helped me just get invisible again.”

Audio and Video: Jill Scott Pumps Wu, Rick Ross to Battle Stage Fright

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Sept. 30, 2011) *With her single “So In Love” still heating up R&B radio, Jill Scott continues to promote her first number one album “The Light of the Sun” with tour stops scheduled in Tuscaloosa, Baltimore and Newark in the coming weeks. [Click here for details.]

Anyone who has experienced this soul-drenched vocalist live can testify to leaving the concert with goose bumps. But fans will be shocked to find out that just getting to the stage is a huge battle for the singer, due to a crippling case of stage fright.

In an exclusive phone interview with EURweb’s Lee Bailey, she admits to having actual panic attacks before live performances. “Little ones, that most people don’t see,” she clarifies, “But yeah. If you really know me, you know I’m going through it.”

In the bonus audio below, Scott tells us which hip hop artists she blasts and how she mimics Muhammad Ali to get her in “warrior mode” for a performance.

 Jill Scott on how rap music helps her battle stage fright by CherieNic

Video: T-Boz Opens Up About Brain Tumour; Sickle Cell

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 04, 2011) *CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently sat down with TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins to discuss her struggle with sickle cell anemia and her recent brain tumour.

Since childhood, she suffered from sickle cell anemia and was told that she wouldn’t live past 30. Told that she wouldn’t be able to have children and would be disabled, Watkins, 39, has a 9-year-old daughter.

She had seemingly beaten the odds. But three years ago, her doctor delivered news she never imagined: she was told she had a brain tumour.

The tumour was benign, but because of her sickle cell disease, surgery was risky. Watkins could lose everything a performer needs: hearing, balance, facial movement, and speech.

VIDEO - Beyonce Reveals Teaser of ‘Countdown’ Video

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 3, 2011) *A 30-second snippet from Beyonce’s video for her new single “Countdown” has hit the Internet.

The clip features an extreme close-up of Bey hamming it up before the camera pulls out to reveal a look that recalls both Michael Jackson and Audrey Hepburn – complete with short bangs, cropped pants, black turtleneck and exposed socks. She stands in front of a black-and-white striped wall as she moves her arms like a clock.

Right before the sample of Boyz II Men’s countdown begins, Beyoncé curls her lips for the lines, “If you leave me, you out of your mind.”

The singer then shimmies around in a black-and-white color-block outfit with vibrant eye makeup. As the tease closes, Beyoncé shows off her pregnant profile and then appears in three different bodysuits accessorized with a black-and-white hat. [Scroll down to watch.]

When MTV News caught up with Boyz II Men last week, they gave Bey props for sampling their “Uhh Ahh” in the single.

“I thought it was very clever,” Wanya Morris told MTV News. “She’s a clever artist. She’s one of the best in the business right now. I guess you can say we finally got our duet with Beyoncé.”

VIDEO - T.I. Returns With Triumphant 'I'm Flexin' Single

Source: www.billboard.com - by Jason Lipshutz, N.Y.

(Sept. 30, 2011) The King of the South gets uncaged on "I'm Flexin'," the triumphant new single that debuted on T.I.'s official website on Friday (Sept. 30). The song, which features fellow Southern hip-hop heavyweight Big K.R.I.T., arrives one day after T.I. was released from an Atlanta halfway house after serving a 10-month prison sentence.

"Feds want me back behind that wall/it's the only place that I can't go," T.I. sneers in the first verse of the track, which finds the rapper operating in "Big Sh*t Poppin'" mode by combining bullet-time rhyming with a slick electric guitar riff. Other lyrical highlights of "I'm Flexin'," which will hit iTunes on Tuesday (Oct. 4), "MC's ain't dope enough/I still split your coconut" and "The A is mine, no questions asked/The king's home, now the best is back."

T.I. has been busy since ending his prison sentence for a probation violation: along with this song release, Tip has been featured on Young Jeezy's new single, "F.A.M.E.," as well as a spot on Future's "Magic (Remix)." The song also marks T.I.'s first solo single since "That's All She Wrote," from last year's lacklustre "No Mercy."

Voice Problems Force Adele To Quit Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Oct. 4, 2011)
Adele, the British singer of ubiquitous hits “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You,” has cancelled her sold-out American tour due to illness.

The Grammy-winning soul diva, who first began having problems with her voice back in January, announced Tuesday that a hemorrhage on her vocal cord has forced her into shuttering the shows, the second such cancellation this year.

Adele began having problems with her voice in January, but another hemorrhage earlier this year and a chest infection further compromised her health. In June, she had to stop performing after being stricken with laryngitis, but had recently finished a tour stint in the U.K.

She writes on her blog that she has never been able to fully recover from her throat problems because of her touring commitments.

“Singing is literally my life, it’s my hobbie (sic), my love, my freedom and now my job. I have absolutely no choice but to recuperate properly and fully, or I risk damaging my voice forever.”

She apologized to fans, vowing to start vocal rehab immediately.

J. Cole: Off the Sidelines, Into The Game

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Amy Verner

(October 04, 2011) Hip-hop artist J. Cole insists that no one has been waiting longer for his first studio album to drop than J. Cole.

But just try telling that to fans who have been following him since his first mixtape, The Come Up from 2007.

Or even those with a cursory knowledge of hip hop who have been intrigued by his reputation as the first artist signed to Roc Nation, the record label started by Jay-Z in 2009.

That was the same year Jay-Z invited his protégé to rap a verse on The Blueprint 3. Appropriately, the track was called A Star Is Born, and on it, J. Cole spent a few lines contemplating his impending fame.

He kept the momentum going with two more mixtapes - both confirming his status in the freestyle firmament - and several cool collaborations, but two years passed and no studio album.

Cole World: The Sideline Story finally arrived on Sept. 27 and coincided with J. Cole's first headlining tour, which makes stops in 76 cities across North America and Europe before the year's end. On Amazon.com, the album already ranks as the bestselling hip-hop album. Still, he remains largely unknown outside the genre.

This means that the towering 26-year-old is either about to become the hottest breakout star since Drake or a talented MC who fails to translate to a mainstream market.

J. Cole's first single off the album, Work Out, features a sample of Paula Abdul's Straight Up and is cute, catchy and romantic in a non-committal kind of way. He acknowledges that the song represents a different - and necessary - side to his otherwise moody, often autobiographical lyrics. "Even visually, we shot a different video at first and it was too dark and I needed it more lighthearted - something less serious and with colours," he says.

The artist has fine-tuning his performance skills along the way, opening for Rihanna, Jay-Z and Wale. "I'm more confident now," he explained the evening before his recent sold-out Toronto show. "You know whoever is there is there to see you as opposed to going in with the mind state of having to win people over every night."

Jermaine Lamarr Cole was born in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved to Fayetteville, N.C., with his mother Kay, who he calls his "biggest supporter." He later moved to New York and attended St. John's University, graduating magna cum laude.

But life did not change overnight once he signed with Jay-Z. "Everyone kept asking me, 'Hey, what's your relationship like with Jay-Z?' But I was like man, I don't really even know the guy yet," he says. "There was a bit of sitting around, you know. I was waiting on my cheque."

Whatever delays J. Cole experienced on the studio side did not preclude him from putting out mixtapes - music available to download free - which allowed him to build a reputation as an articulate MC who produces his own beats and raps about real-life issues in the style of Tupac Shakur, with nods to other hip-hop greats such as Nas and Jay-Z.

He also started playing with the notion of "Cole World" (a play off "cold world") on a track in The Warm Up mixtape and it stuck. Now, it seems his expectation of himself is nothing less than worldwide success, so much so that he is already referring to this stage of his career as the "innocent period."

"I'm just now starting to see the signs of no return," he says. "I'll look back on these three years like, man, those were the days when we were just freestylin' and learning, before we got too jaded and now we know the business in and out and what needs to be done and it's still fun but it's a different kind of fun. I don't know if we'll be able to get this back. But it's always like that."

J. Cole and Drake, who made the leap into mainstream last year, are often compared to each other. Some people embrace them equally, others take sides. Together, they recorded In the Morning, an oozy track about sex at dawn that is on The Sideline Story. Drake did not appear at J. Cole's Toronto concert as he has done for other performers this year; J. Cole says he didn't want to "abuse the friendship."

Laughing, J. Cole flatly denies the suggestion of a bromance. "That just sounds so wrong!" he says.

When he's not on the road, J. Cole lives in Queens, N.Y. (apparently, Brooklyn is too trendy for his taste). His look is understated; as he says on one of his songs, "I'm not into flashin.' " Translation: He's not big on the bling but appreciates nice things.

"I'm getting there but not enough to really claim it," he says of his style, while also adding that he envisions a clothing brand along the lines of Jay-Z's Rocawear one day. It comes as no surprise when he says he's beginning to see himself as "the CEO of J. Cole."

But J. Cole did not always aspire to rap mogul status.

"It's the stereotype for young black males, but if I weren't doing this, I would honestly be trying to chase a basketball dream. For real. It was my first love."

A lean 6 foot 4, he certainly would have met the height requirement.

The court has remained a running theme in his music; he often refers to himself as the "LeBron James of rap" and the video for Work Out shows him distracted by girls as he plays a game of pick-up.

And then, of course, there's the album title. The subtext of Cole World: The Sideline Story: "I made the team, aka I made the record deal and it was like this celebration moment," he says. "But then I realized, now that I'm on the team, it doesn't really mean anything because I don't want to be the last one on the bench. What good is being on the team if you never get in the game?"

Now, J. Cole must prove he's hip hop's most valuable player.

Our Pop Future: Muskox

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Chandler Levack

(Oct. 5, 2011) Who are they? Based on the compositions from musician-about-town Mike
Smith, Muskox formed in 2006 with a group of local players from Toronto’s folk and interpretative jazz scenes. (Members include Ali Bertok, Jamie Drake, Pete Johnston, Mark Laver and Erika Nielson.) Since then they’ve released three EPs and two full-length albums, including their newest Invocation/Transformations, which was launched just last month. Smith, who has a background in jazz guitar and has played in bands that include Steamboat, Timber Timbre and Bruce Peninsula, is a man with a specific vision. The concept of Invocation/Transformations comes from a childhood dream to soundtrack the story behind his favourite fantasy novels.

What do they sound like? Imagine a fusion of afro-funk, prog-rock and delicate folk songs all led by the stirrings of the mighty banjo. On Muskox’s latest album, mystical tracks like “Zephyria Tholus” play with the conventions of banjo-driven folk, changing between soft melodies and robotic futurism (with an uber-heavy power chord breakdown). The frequent changeups in tone and structure transform each musical theme as the group finds a beat and pulse behind their orchestration. Thanks to Smith’s great love of collaboration, Muskox songs are alive and breathing. Like the mammal they’re named after, the band plays with great majesty and power.

Where can I see them play? Muskox plays The Holy Oak (1241 Bloor St. W.) this Sunday at 9 p.m. It is pay-what-you-can. 

Enrique Iglesias Charms The Panties Off The Air Canada Centre

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Sept. 30, 2011) You know, Enrique Iglesias really is a good-looking man — the sort of good-looking man that other men secure in their sexuality can appreciate as a good-looking man.

PHOTOS: Iglesias turns up the heat at the ACC

It’s kind of ingratiating, then, that during his last couple of tours to Toronto the Spanish-born pin-up pop star, always dutifully dressed down in jeans, ball cap and simple white t-shirt, has made a point of pulling at least one fella up onstage with him to drink in a little of the adoration being beamed his way by the thousands of women in attendance. And to drink with him, no less.

A chap from Ecuador named Eli got to do a couple of whisky shots in front of a very jealous, close-to-sellout crowd with Iglesias at the Air Canada Centre last night. And the gesture was indicative of an inclusive, “fans first” spirit that rendered the entire performance oddly appealing, even if you weren’t personally in tune with the Enrique oeuvre. Yes, Iglesias clearly revels in the attention — he spent as much time high-fiving the front rows and milking the room for cheers as he did actually singing — but he’s as diligent as Lil Wayne in making sure his fans know that he didn’t get to where he’s at without them in a manner that’s both believably sincere and guaranteed to get people blowing their gaskets all over the place.

Gaskets were definitely blown, too. The climax of the show came when Iglesias plucked another quivering soul, this time a young lady from Iran, to join him on a raised dais at the back of the arena bowl for “Hero.” He sang the song with her embracing him so hard that he actually staggered a couple of times, then at the end she crumpled in full supplication at his feet.

“Don’t do that,” pleaded Iglesias, looking not a little rattled. “You’re in Canada. You can do whatever you like.”

Maybe the girl was a plant, but who cares? The scene played into a running narrative about the six months Iglesias spent living in Toronto’s Chinatown in 1995 whilst preparing his first record at Phase One Studios and developing an appreciation for the city’s multicultural character (“I was 18 so all I did was eat Chinese food and watch porn,” he quipped). After that, the place was fully on wheels. All love, all around. Opener Pitbull came out to join him on the throbbing new single “I Like How It Feels” and it suddenly felt like you were in the middle of a rave — albeit a rave populated by a whole lot of middle-aged-and-older ladies cutting loose in a manner that put their teenaged counterparts to shame.

You can’t argue with that much crowd energy. And, to Iglesias’s credit, he’s walked away from his nine albums with enough memorable hits — from turn-of-the-millennium smashes such as “Bailamos” (which drew the first pair of underpants successfully thrown onstage) and “Escape” to more recent, club-friendly bangers from last year’s Euphoria album like “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” and “Dirty Dancer” — that the 90-minute set never once felt padded. In multicultural Toronto, in fact, the Spanish-language entries in the set list might have gone over even better than the big guns, lending a touch of authenticity to Iglesias’s claims that “this is my town.”

“All right, security, this is my hometown, so let Toronto do whatever the f--- they want,” he said at one point, urging fans to crowd the floor beneath him and currying even greater favour with the throng. Pure showmanship, true, but a lot of ladies went home very satisfied indeed.


K-os Rockin’ the Temple

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Oct 02, 2011) If you still remember when MuchMusic was primarily a music station, then the one-hour concert special MuchMusic Presents: k-os might be welcome. It features rapper and singer k-os, taped earlier this year at Toronto’s Masonic Temple, with the likes of Emily Haines of Metric, Shad, Lights, Saukrates and Sebastien Grainger of Death From Above 1979 adding their talents (MuchMusic at 9).

Beyonce to Start Record Label with Boy Band

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Oct. 1, 2011) *Even though the popular diva is pregnant with Hip Hop royalty, Beyonce is still hard at work doing things she’s never done before. She recently announced that she’ll be promoting her third fragrance Pulse and is also looking forward to birthing a new record label. “I am starting my company, my label,” the 30-year-old R&B star told the Associated Press. “I see so many male artists building these empires and passing their knowledge on to other artists and development. I see myself doing the same thing and hopefully other younger artists when they grow up and they have been around for 15, 20 years, they can do the same thing.” Her dreams aren’t lofty. She’s already looking to begin a boy band. Beyonce has a lot on her plate and is still learning to balance everything in life, including her album promotion and clothing line.

Vogue: Rihanna Channels Marilyn; Shuns Being Role Model

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 3, 2011) *Rihanna suits up as iconic Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe for the cover of the new British Vogue. Inside, she explains how the bad-ass persona that has dominated her appearances in such videos like “S&M” is all an act. “That’s not me. That’s a part I play. You know, like it’s a piece of art, with all these toys and textures to play with,” she tells the magazine. “See, people … they want me to be a role model just because of the life I lead. The things I say in my songs, they expect it of me, and [being a role model] became more of my job than I wanted it to be. But no, I just want to make music. That’s it.” Rihanna added that, despite a past that included a father who reportedly struggled with substance abuse and an assault at the hands of then-boyfriend Chris Brown, she feels stronger now than ever and doesn’t feel that her experiences make her any different from the millions of others who have dealt with broken homes and domestic abuse. “I saw too much. I was way too mature for my age,” she says. “Look, God doesn’t give any more than you can handle. I had to get through a lot of ups and downs — big downs — and a lot of trial and error to get where I am now.”

Memorial Service for Sylvia Robinson Set

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 3, 2011) *Funeral arrangements have been set for singer, songwriter, producer and music executive Sylvia Robinson Her services are set for Tuesday, Oct. 11 Community Baptist Church in Englewood, NJ. As EUR reported, the “Mother of Hip Hop” passed away on Sept. 29 after suffering congestive heart failure. She was 75 years old. Robinson was the co-founder of Sugar Hill Records, the label that launched the careers of The Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. She was also credited to writing and producing the track, “Love On a Two Way Street” which was a hit for the Moments and Stacey Lattisaw.

Alicia Keys to Write Songs for Broadway’s ‘Stick Fly’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Oct. 05, 2011) Musician
Alicia Keys attends the screening of "Five" at Skylight SOHO on September 26, 2011 in New York City *Alicia Keys is making moves toward Broadway. The R&B singer-songwriter will pen original music for the upcoming Broadway production, Stick Fly, the Associated Press reports. The play, by Lydia R. Diamond, will begin previews on Nov. 18 at the Cort Theatre before its official opening on Dec. 8. Stick Fly is a comedy that revolves around a wealthy black family whose insecurities begin to unravel during a vacation. Psych star Dule Hill, Mekhi Phifer, Tracie Thoms and Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson are a few notable names in the cast. The New York Times reports that rehearsals on Stick Fly will begin later this month.

::FILM NEWS::    

Bollywood Star Gives ‘Breakaway’ A Major Boost In India

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Sep 30, 2011) Having Indian actor/producer Akshay Kumar on board has already guaranteed the success of Canadian-Sikh hockey comedy Breakaway.

The film, which opens across Canada on Friday, premiered last week on 650 movie screens in India, thanks to the fact that Kumar is a well-known Bollywood star and a particularly well-connected producer. It will open in 99 theatres in the United Kingdom on Friday, as well as in Australia and parts of Africa and Asia.

The film’s title has been changed there to The Speedy Singhs, the fictional hockey team in the film, “because Breakaway wouldn’t make much sense there. It’s very much a hockey term,” Kumar said.

“When I got this opportunity, I jumped for it and it was a big opportunity for me to make an international film. It’s a good blend between Hollywood and Bollywood coming together, and I’ve always wanted to do something like that. This is the first international film that is going to get such a huge release there back home. It’s never happened,” Kumar said.

Kumar, an ardent sports fan, is also a longtime friend of Canadian producer Ajay Virmani, whose son Vinay Virmani wrote the screenplay and stars.

“I liked the whole subject . . . about Sikhs trying to play a white man’s game, ice hockey,” Kumar said.

In India, he noted, field hockey is the national game, with teams often picking up gold medals at the Summer Olympics.

“Our national sport is hockey. The only difference is that this is ice hockey and we play on grass,” he said.

Kumar, who has already shot a number of films in Canada, said there are big differences between making a film here and in his native India.

“The biggest thing is here everything is organized and there, it is not that well organized. It takes time,” Kumar said, with a laugh.

“I always literally say if you want an international driver’s licence, you should learn how to drive in India. I can drive anywhere in the world, I’ve never had any problem. So it’s just like that. If you can produce a film there and you can organize yourself there, you can organize yourself anywhere,” he added.

Kumar, who came to Canada for the first time in 1994 and owns a home in the Greater Toronto Area, said he has fallen in love with this country.

“Practically, after every two or three months, I’m here. I just come here for four or five days and spend some time and then I go back. The people here are very, very friendly. Plus, it’s such a huge country, it’s seven times huger than India and there’s so much space,” he added.

Audio and Video: Anthony Mackie Throws Down in ‘Real Steel’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders

(Sept. 29, 2011) *In the feature film “Real Steel,” opening Oct. 7, Anthony Mackie plays an underground fight promoter in 2020 – a time when robots have replaced human beings in the sport of boxing.

Hugh Jackman stars as a down-and-out boxer who is rendered irrelevant by the new fighting machines and reluctantly decides to team up with his son to build a robot that can kick some a** and win him a desperately-needed championship payday.

Mackie, whose character is like the Don King of boxing’s underworld, says he couldn’t help but think of the infamous wild-haired promoter when approaching his role.

“I’ve always loved boxing, I’ve always participated in male,
professional, athletic, combat sports,” Mackie told us with a grin. “So when I got the script, I read it and I was like, ‘This dude is amazing.’ If I think of Don King how he got to where he was, I look at him like [my character], you know, fighting to lay the groundwork to control and create something that’s unlike everything else.”

Inevitably, Jackman and Mackie’s character Finn come face to face [see clips below], and Mackie says he was shocked to discover that the Aussie film and Broadway star is actually not an “a**hole.”

Gerard Butler: Hollywood’s Rare ‘Really Masculine’ Star

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(September 30, 2011) It’s hard not to think about the consequences of violence, in life and even in films, when the actor you’re interviewing has a bodyguard standing outside his hotel room. But Gerard Butler, the Scottish star of movies that include 300, The Ugly Truth and RocknRolla, who was in Toronto two weeks ago to promote his new drama, Machine Gun Preacher (it opened on Friday), was unfazed.

It wasn’t his first bodyguard. When he played a Spartan king who overthrew the Persians in 2006’s 300, “there was some shouting in Iran,” he said, in a Scottish accent thick as thistles. “They felt it was disrespectful to their people, because it was heavily stylized, with the Spartans depicted as incredibly masculine and powerful, and the Persians – not.” The studio, Warner Bros., received death threats, and the actors got safety lessons from ex-secret servicemen.

This time around, Butler said, Machine Gun Preacher’s filmmakers had received “threatening phone calls from some radical organizations” – which is why his bodyguard gave me the once-over as I entered, much to Butler’s amusement. He plays the title character, Sam Childers, a real-life drug dealer turned religious orator who built and runs an orphanage in a part of the Sudan too dangerous for NGOs and the United Nations to go into. Part of his work includes rescuing kidnapped child soldiers, and he’s made some scary enemies because of his willingness to meet violence with violence.

The film doesn’t shy away from depicting that – from its poster, where Butler hoists his gun under red-spattered letters, to its end credits, which feature a clip of the real Childers asking, “If your family member was kidnapped, and I told you I could get them back, would you care how I did it?” Yet both Butler and the film’s German-born director, Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace), say they feel ambivalent about it.

“There were other posters that were more my flavour,” Forster said in a separate interview. “But I have heard that one-sheets with guns on them sell more tickets.”

Forster initially resisted Childers’s story. “I kept saying, ‘Violence creates more violence,’ ” he said. “And I thought, it’s another story about a white man going to Africa to save black children.” Still, he travelled to Pennsylvania to meet Childers, and to Sudan to see the orphanage.

“After spending time with the kids there and seeing the atrocities going on – The stories are way more brutal than in the movie, one after the next. I had to hold back. Audiences can’t digest that much – I felt I couldn’t turn my back on this story,” he said. “And I realized that, in fact, Africa and the children saved Sam. This man with no education, few financial resources, was able to change the life of hundreds. So many people today feel powerless. I felt this was inspirational, this man taking his power into his own hands.”

Forster cast Butler because he’s one of the “few leading men in Hollywood who are really masculine,” he said. “Apart from his bigness and strength, there is this wild side that Sam has too. Like, ‘Get out of my way.’ And this charisma. In his personal life there is also the dark and the light. He grew up without a father; he had a history with drugs and alcohol, as did Sam. They were good things to draw on for this character.”

Butler and Childers spent a lot of time together, talking and riding motorcycles. “I questioned [Sam’s methods] a few times, too,” Butler said. “But whenever I did, it always came back to the fact that there are thousands of kids alive because of the work he’s done who otherwise wouldn’t be. He hasn’t killed hundreds of people. He’s been involved in a few gun battles. But he’s working in a world which people have turned a blind eye to. It’s easier not to think about what’s going on over there.”

Though he’s played a number of brutes on screen, in person Butler, 42, is sweet and self-deprecating. Born in Paisley, Scotland, he didn’t see his dad from age 2, when his parents divorced, until he was 16. (They later reconciled; his father is now deceased.) At 11, after begging his mother to drive him to Glasgow to audition for the musical Oliver!, he landed a role as one of Fagin’s gang. “It was all so exciting and bedazzling,” he said, “but I lived in a place where drama was not at the forefront of people’s lives.”

At 15, his dream returned – literally. After watching the fantasy film Krull, he dreamt that he was living in the movie. “I was standing with the princess, and the love between us was so incredibly powerful, and flames were coming out between our hands,” he said. “I laugh now, but dreaming it, it was so romantic and so consuming. I woke up and knew there was one thing that I had to do, and that was to act. To go and live in that world.” When he told his mother about it, he wanted it so badly that he started to cry.

He attended a five-week residential course at the Scottish Youth Theatre. Afterward, feeling more practical, he went to law school. At 25, after seven years of training, he was a week away from qualifying when his law firm fired him. “Those guys that sat in that chair and said, ‘You’ve got to go, we’re sorry’ – at the time, they felt like ogres to me,” Butler said. “Now I see almost God sitting there, saying, ‘This might be painful now, but really this is me allowing you to do what you’re supposed to.’ ”

The next day, he packed his bags and moved to London, where he knew a casting director. He became her assistant, and worked odd jobs, including bartending, telemarketing and trade shows. “I’d be at a toy show demonstrating windup cars, wearing the same suit that I wore when I was a lawyer, thinking, ‘What happened to my life?’ ” Butler said, grinning. Eventually, while casting a West End production of Coriolanus, he read for it himself, and landed a place in the ensemble. “There’s a beautiful synchronicity to that,” he said, given that his next film is Coriolanus, where he plays rival to Ralph Fiennes’s title character.

In both Preacher and Coriolanus, Butler shows a depth and range we haven’t seen from him before. Ambiguity seems to suit him more than certainty, and based on his life, it’s no wonder.

Forster, too, is still struggling with his film, long after it’s in the can. “It got very complicated for me morally, and I haven’t found an answer,” he said. “At least it’s a movie you watch and discuss afterward. You can say, ‘I don’t like it,’ or ‘I disagree.’ But it has an impact.” An impact requiring a bodyguard.

Poetry: Beauty Survives Amid Illness And Injustice

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(September 30, 2011) Novelistic in its attention to day-to-day detail and thematic complexity, Poetry is the latest significant film from South Korea's Lee Chang-dong (Oasis, Secret Sunshine). The winner of the best screenplay prize at Cannes in 2010, the film focuses on a grandmother facing misfortune compounded by calamity: First, she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease; soon after, she learns that her teen-aged grandson, who is in her care, has been implicated with five other boys in the death of a female classmate whose body we have seen in the film's opening scene, floating face-down in a river.

Like Lee's last film, Secret Sunshine, Poetry is about a woman literally at her wits' end. But while injustice and suffering are the backdrop here, Poetry, as its title suggests, is also a meditation on how beauty can find its place in such a world.

Early in the film, shortly after a worrying check-up with her doctor, Mija (Yung Jeong-Hie) wanders into the local community centre and enrolls in a poetry class. The professor produces an apple, and promises that they will soon learn to see the apple as if for the first time.

Mija, a chic 67-year-old who favours sunhats and floral prints, spends her days caring for her sullen teen-aged grandson, Wook, while also acting as a maid and caregiver for an elderly stroke victim.

One afternoon, she learns of Wook's crime from a group of fathers of the other boys, who have gathered for a hideously amiable lunch to talk about taking care of the problem. ("Although I feel sorry for the dead girl ..." begins one father.) They want Mija to chip in to a fund to buy the silence of the victim's mother.

What's more, she has to produce a poem for her class, and all she can do is make notes to herself about flowers and fruit.

Poetry progresses slowly, but one by one the tumblers fall into place. Through a series of visits and new friendships at a spoken-word poetry club, further encounters with the old man she tends, and amid more pressure to come up with the hush money, Mija has a moment of over-arching clarity. Art isn't just seeing apples anew: It's about taking an empathetic leap into the lives of others.

Yun, a veteran Korean actress, gives a splendidly layered performance as an aging flirt who covers her anxiety and confusion with a cheery patter ("I do have a poet's vein, I like flowers and say odd things").

The real impact of Poetry, though, comes from director Lee's pitch-perfect control of tone, as the film's apparently haphazard sequence of events resolves into a conclusion both startling and poetically just.

Directed and written by Lee Chang-dong
Starring Yun Jeong-hie
Classification: 14A

Mia Wasikowska: Young Actress Hits Her Stride

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Sep 30, 2011) It’s been less than two years since meeting Mia Wasikowska and the change in the actress as a little-known beginner from Australia to self-assured movie star was immediately obvious when she arrived at TIFF in September.

Back in January 2010, Wasikowska was in Toronto to promote her lead role in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Her blond hair was cut in a boyish cap for Restless, a bittersweet movie she was shooting at the time with director Gus Van Sant (Milk, Elephant) and co-starring Henry Hopper. In it, she plays Annie, a smart and often-glib 16-year-old with a thing for funerals. She’s experiencing first love while she deals with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. After premiering at Cannes in May, Restless headed to TIFF prior to hitting theatres here Sept. 30.

 • PHOTOS: Mia’s career in film.

In the intervening time, Wasikowska has earned critical acclaim for the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right and the title role in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. Watch for her as Helen Dawes, a saucy maid in Albert Nobbs, the 19th-century Irish drama starring Glenn Close as a woman who masquerades as a man for 30 years in order to work as a waiter in a rundown Dublin hotel.

Wasikowska flew to Toronto for a whirlwind visit during the TIFF to appear on the red carpet for Restless, taking a few hours away from the Nashville set of her latest film, Chan-wook Park’s Stoker. She was back at work the next day.

We spoke backstage at the Ryerson Theatre while Restless screened behind us, in between Wasikowska stepping onstage with producer Bryce Dallas Howard and director Van Sant to welcome the audience and to answer questions afterwards. She was wearing a simple black-and-white checked dress and sky-high heels, a slash of deep red lipstick setting off her porcelain skin.

Q Everybody thinks Stoker is a vampire movie, as in Bram Stoker.

A No, it’s not a vampire movie (laughs). It stars Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, and I’m having trouble summing it up. I guess you could call it a psychological thriller. I hate even putting a name to it. Chan-wook Park is the director and he’s a completely original filmmaker. I’ve never worked with anyone like him.

Q How was it working with Gus Van Sant on Restless?

A I absolutely adore him. My mum used to show me his films when I was a teenager and they were really the first films to open up my mind to the power of cinema. The one that really got me was Elephant.

Q Are you tired of doing teen roles now that you are about to turn 22 in October?

A I feel like I was still a teenager up until a year or two ago so it feels relatively close, but I guess it’s all about slowly finding more adult roles.

Q Helen Dawes in Albert Nobbs is a more mature role. Was Glenn Close helpful to you in creating that character?

A I loved working with Glenn and seeing how she works and what she does. It was one of those (movies) that grew in intensity for me. It really is about security and protection in the purest sense of the word. The thing about Glenn is she knows the story inside and out so if you have any queries or anything you weren’t sure about, you could ask her and trust her opinion. She’s incredible.

Q What about playing Annie in Restless? Had you thought about death and dying when you were that age?

A Sure, yeah. One of the things I think teenhood is about is the reaction to the realization that we’re mortal and so often there’s a certain amount of time when you’re not aware of your mortality. When you become a teenager, everything shifts for you, including the realization that death is inevitable.

Q Did you read up on teens and cancer to prepare for the role?

A I did yeah and there’s this great organization called CHAP in Portland (where Restless was shot) — Children’s Healing Art Project — an art-therapy facility where kids go and they just rule this place. I hung out there. But I was also aware of not letting cancer define the character. She’s a young girl who is in love for the first time and she’s experiencing this whole awakening.

Q You’ve played so many interesting roles, from Sophie in TV’s In Treatment to Jane Eyre. Was Jane the role that helped you mature in your career?

A I suppose so. I love doing different things and want to keep doing that. Hopefully (the roles) are good enough choices to feed that.

Q Your character in Stoker is an accomplished pianist. How has that role challenged you?

A I’ve just started learning the piano for Stoker and I love it and I hope to continue that (after the movie). I did a really accelerated program for about three months. I had a lesson every other day for up to two hours. I have enough obsessive compulsion in me to be able to do that!

What's Your Number?: 20 Lovers, Fewer Surprises

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Sep 29, 2011) In What's Your Number? 20 is plenty, 21 too many.

That's the simple premise of a women's magazine article that Ally Darling and a gaggle of gal pals at a bachelorette party take much too seriously. It says most women who've had more than 20 lovers are doomed to barren spinsterhood. Heaven forfend!

Ally's score card has reached the near-tragic number (20) so she hires her hunky neighbour Colin across the hall, who's sort of a private detective, to track down her past amours in case she's let the right one get away.

You pretty much know when he first opens his door to fetch the newspaper, naked except for a tea towel to cover his naughty bits, that by movie's end, they'll fall into each other's arms. But hey, this is a romantic comedy — albeit one within an insidiously puritanical construct — so you go along for the ride.

After all, Anna Faris, who plays Ally, is appealing in a plucky/ditsy sort of way. Likewise, Chris Evans, as Colin, is a handsome specimen with a wry manner and easy smile.

Of course, the old double standard that labels sexually active women tramps means sexually active men like Colin are studs, so he can bed scores of women without fear of being condemned to bachelorhood.

The supporting cast is fine, though Blythe Danner as the mother of Ally (and her soon-to-be-wed sister) is rather an overbearing horror.

Some of Ally's escapades are kinda/sorta fun and there's plenty of casual swearing, including among some very impressionable youngsters, that's rather amusing.

The dialogue occasionally crackles, with bits of over-the-top dark humour. To wit: Colin: (archly) “I may not be your first (lover), but I may be your last.” Ally: “Why? Are you going to rape and kill me?”

But in the end, Ally's lament — “how many relationships do I have to have before I find the right guy?” — reminds us that, for all its edge, What's Your Number? is rooted in stale convention, boxed in by unfair societal strictures and holds to the belief that good girls still need the affirmation of a man and marriage to be complete.

That's not funny, that's just sad.

What's Your Number?
Starring Anna Faris, Chris Evans. Directed by Mark Mylod. 106 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

We Were Here: On The Frontline Of AIDS In The ‘80s

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Sep 29, 2011) “None of my friends are around from the beginning, so I want to tell their stories as much as I want to tell my story,” artist Daniel Goldstein tells us in We Were Here.

The “beginning” he refers to is in 1981, when a mysterious “gay cancer” — later to be known as AIDS — has begun its decimation of San Francisco's gay community.

Goldstein, a long-term survivor living with HIV who lost two lovers during that devastating first decade, is one of five people who look back at a time of fear, discrimination and hopelessness.

But if there's a lesson to be drawn from We Were Here, it is that AIDS was also a catalyst for hope.

That while men who had flocked to California's gay mecca, San Francisco, were dying in terrifying numbers, the disease also galvanized the community to care for those suffering; that it helped to heal divisions between gay men and lesbians as they struggled for equality; that it sped up the trial process for new drugs and that, in the end, it gave meaning and purpose to people's lives, including the dying.

The documentary also hears from Guy Clark, a street vendor for 28 years in the city's Castro District who long ago last track of how many funerals he provided flowers for; Eileen Glutzer, a registered nurse who was among those who “came out here because we didn't quite fit where we were” and cared for the dying in San Francisco General Hospital's ward 5-B; Ed Wolf, who became a volunteer caregiver for those in their last days; and Paul Boneberg, who became a community activist.

The war-zone stories they tell are heartbreaking but also life-affirming. There are moments throughout when voices break and eyes well with tears as they recall friends and loved ones lost.

The documentary takes us from the heady days of the late 1970s when the gay-rights movement — spurred on by the anti-war and women's movements — began to become more publicly assertive, to the early years of the disease to the first trial of an AIDS drug that only led to terrible suffering, to the mid-1980s when a Los Angeles Times poll find half of the respondents in Ronald Reagan's America wanted to quarantine the infected and prominent fundamentalist Christian leaders declared AIDS a judgment from God.

Throughout the struggle, though, we see people whose lives are united by shared loss but also enriched by camaraderie and the coming together of community. We see people who learn to move past feelings of powerlessness to find peace and personal strength.

With the addition of sometimes-haunting archival images, We Were Here takes us back to a terrible but remarkable time in human history. It is both a testament to the fallen and a series of life lessons from five brave survivors, lessons about finding the best in ourselves in the worst of times.

We Were Here
Directed by David Weissman and Bill Weber. At the Carlton. 90 minutes. PG

Would You Vote For George Clooney?

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Peter Howell

(Sept. 30, 2011) There's no doubt that George Clooney would make an attractive politician. 

The Ides of March, due Oct. 7, which he directed and stars in opposite Ryan Gosling, Clooney looks every bit the polished pol as Pennsylvania Gov. Mike Morris, campaigning to be the Democratic challenger in a presidential race.

But take a closer look at some of the policy proposals Morris makes, and ask yourself if he'd stand a chance in today's hardboiled America, where any perceived weakness or inconsistency is ruthlessly attacked:

-- Morris proudly states that he's an atheist, and worships only the U.S. Constitution. Points for honesty and patriotism, but no avowed atheist has ever been elected President of this "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all";

-- He has a half-baked plan of compulsory two years' service in the military,  Peace Corps or other approved institution for people under 18, in return for which they'll get free college tuition. Sounds like the return of the draft, and you'll remember how popular that was;

-- Morris is officially against the death penalty. But asked what he'd do if someone murdered his wife, he replies that he'd "find a way to kill him ... I would commit a crime for which I would happily go to jail";

-- He has to win a primary in Ohio, the auto industry state, if he hopes to be chosen the Democratic flag bearer.  Wonder what unemployed auto workers think of his proposal to do away with the internal combustion engine in 10 years, if he's elected?;

-- His grasp of Middle Eastern politics and oil economics seems facile at best.  Pushing for unproven hydrogen technology to replace oil, a faint hope, he says Americans can beat terrorism by ceasing to use petroleum from violent desert nations: "Their product is oil. You just don't need it and they go away." Tell that to Al-Qaeda;

-- Morris refuses to use computers, insisting on getting all of his information printed on paper. Welcome to the 21st Century, Mike! At least he has an iPhone, but it's probably an older model.

50/50: Odds Are You'll Love This Clever Comedy

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Jonathan Levine. 99 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(Sept. 29, 2011) The thumbnail description — a comedy about how a
serious 27-year-old dude with cancer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his genial slacker best friend (Seth Rogen) deal with his diagnosis — doesn't come close to explaining the film within.

Nor should it be confused with the sappily sentimental The Bucket List.

Written by Will Reiser, Rogen's real-life close pal, about the humour-tinged way they handled Reiser's cancer diagnosis six years ago and directed by The Wackness' Jonathan Levine, 50/50 is this generation's take on a Frank Capra film. An everyman tale with plenty of heart and honesty, the serious subject matter is regularly enlivened with jolts of genuine hilarity, some of it in delightfully questionable taste.

It's also unashamedly moving; Reiser delivers stabs of sadness and fear without setup or cheap sentiment. Only the hardest-hearted will avoid misting up.

After Seattle public-radio producer Adam (Gordon-Levitt) gets the worst news of his life in a ham-fisted way from a distracted doc, his co-worker and best buddy Kyle (Rogen) tries to lighten the mood by telling him his 50/50 survival odds are a Vegas dream. Adam's girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) vows to stand by him. And if his doting mom (a superb Anjelica Huston, shining in a small role) is acting more weird than normal, he can handle that. He's just fine. Really.

Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, the newly minted, 24-year-old therapist assigned to Adam's case, whose nervous inexperience slowly grows on him as he finds he needs her more than he first imagined. Kendrick is sailing very close to her role in Up in the Air as a know-it-all masking inner vulnerability with apparent self-assurance, one of the detractions of 50/50.

Levine wisely lets his actors improvise regularly and Gordon-Levitt and Rogen both excel at it, serving to give the film an immediate, documentary feeling that heightens realism.

Scenes where the pals trash a piece of once-important memorabilia in a backyard rampage and the after-effects of pot-laden cookies scored at the chemotherapy clinic show loopily grinning Gordon-Levitt at his best.

Kudos to Levine for not letting Rogen's very funny comedic bits overshadow the proceedings. The actor dials it down ever so slightly and isn't afraid to be the butt of jokes — watch for Gordon-Levitt's spot-on Rogen impersonation.

The suggestion a bald head and a cancer diagnosis could be the ultimate pickup leverage leads Adam and Kyle into funny territory. But the hilarity turns with the exploration of deeper relationships as Adam finds new friends among the genial stoners of all ages at the chemo clinic, including Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall in pleasing small roles.

It won't be surprising to hear Gordon-Levitt's name crop up as Oscar season approaches. But what stops 50/50 shy of reaching loftier heights is the difficulty with the female characters. Neither relationship involving Kendrick and Howard feel credible, especially Howard as Adam's easily distracted girlfriend. Aside from Huston's small but impactful contribution, the men carry the picture.

A cancer comedy may be an unorthodox premise but 50/50 proves there are times when things only stop hurting when you laugh.

The Real Deal Behind 'Real Steal'

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chris Alexander

(Oct. 5, 2011) As multiplexes around the globe prepare to unspool the big budget, sci fi action
satire Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, a majority of pundits will go in and out, blissfully unaware of its storied pedigree.

The film, which takes place in a dystopian future where the iconic sport of boxing is akin to a bloody bout of Rock’em Sock’em Robots, actually stems from one of dark fantasy fiction’s greatest creative fonts, California-based literary legend Richard Matheson.

Matheson, perhaps best known as the writer whose 1954 novella I Am Legend redefined vampire lore and pretty much invented the contemporary zombie mythology, was also one of the most notable scribes behind Rod Serling’s landmark TV series The Twilight Zone (which ran on CBS from 1950 to 1964). In the show’s fifth and final season, Matheson self-adapted his short story “Steel” for Serling, and although his other work on the program includes such iconic episodes as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (starring a young William Shatner), “Night Call” and ‘Nick of Time,” it was the dramatic realization of “Steel” that the author smiles brightest on today.

“I love what (director) Don Weis did with that,” says Matheson, who at 84, is still sharp and professionally active.

“That was my favourite of my Twilight Zone episodes. It was close to my story, and I especially liked the things Serling said in the beginning and the end wraparounds, which I also wrote. In fact, I wrote all my own wraparounds for that show.”

Both the original “Steel” story and its black and white, 30-minute small screen Zone adaptation tell the tale of a world where boxing is illegal and savvy promoters have kept the sport alive and infinitely brutal by subbing human punching bags for destructive, gloved robots. The film deviates from the story, which saw its protagonist masquerading as a robot in order to stay in competition, and instead focuses on a father (Jackman) and his son building a bionic contender themselves.

But all versions of the tale deal with classic Matheson themes of average, identifiable people and situations suddenly being transformed by unbelievable — sometimes supernatural — events. It’s a thematic setup that propels all of the author’s work, from I Am Legend to his beloved work with filmmakers Roger Corman (The Pit and the Pendulum) and Dan Curtis (Night Stalker) and continues in his latest novel, the sexually charged fantasy Other Kingdoms, a story that mines another of the author’s interests: metaphysics.

“I first fell into metaphysics as a teenager,” Matheson recalls.

“Metaphysics is a broader look at the world, it means literally ‘above physics.’ It’s in all my works to a varying degree. I wrote the novel What Dreams May Come (adapted for cinema with actor Robin Williams in 1998) which is actually completely steeped in metaphysics.”

Cerebral as Matheson’s work can get, at their core his strengths lie in solid, no-nonsense storytelling and inventive genre entertainment. And yet, Hollywood rarely succeeds in transferring his relatively straightforward narrative esthetic to screen. I Am Legend alone has seen three official screen versions (1964’s The Last Man on Earth, 1971’s The Omega Man and the 2007 Will Smith vehicle) and none has quite managed to capture the soul of the source work, often blatantly ignoring what makes the award-winning tale so revered in the first place.

Matheson’s ultra short sci-fi morality story “Button, Button,” itself adapted as an episode of the 1980s Twilight Zone revamp, was also expanded and radically transformed by director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) as the demented 2009 Cameron Diaz feature The Box, a move that Matheson still questions.

“(The Box) was ludicrous,” scoffs the author.

“I mean, to take a story that was so slight and do what they did with it . . . it was not my story . . . just awful.”

Real Steel, which opens Friday, looks to be a brighter and more tonally faithful effort, due in no small part to the creative force at its core, executive producer and Matheson enthusiast Steven Spielberg.

“Steven made my story Duel into a movie in 1971,” says the author about the smash man vs. truck telefilm that in turn put Spielberg on the map.

“‘Steel’ was optioned by DreamWorks and Steven actually personally called me and asked if the script they were adapting was close to the spirit of my story. I’m happy to say that it is . . .”



Derek Luke Confirmed for Lead in ‘Sparkle’ Remake

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 3, 2011) *Derek Luke has been announced as the male lead in Sony TriStar’s remake of the 1976 film “Sparkle,” reports Deadline.com. Luke plays Stix Warren, a songwriter and aspiring manager who becomes the love interest to Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), in a role that was originated by Philip Michael Thomas. As previously reported, the film also stars Whitney Houston, Mike Epps and Cee Lo Green and is being produced by Debra Martin Chase. Luke, who got his breakout turn at Sony in “Antwone Fisher,” just played Keira Knightley’s love interest in “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World,” the Lorene Scafaria-directed film that stars Steve Carell. He was most recently seen in “Captain America: First Avenger.”

Idris Elba Covers November Essence

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 04, 2011) *“Luther” star Idris Elba graces the cover of Essence magazine for its upcoming November issue. Inside, writer Dream Hampton talks to the actor about his first big break, fatherhood, and what he loves about women. “Skin, I love beautiful skin,” he says. “I’m tactile, very tactile. A woman who has really nice, looked-after skin is such a turn-on for me. It’s always sexy….” The November issue of Essence hits newsstands on Oct. 12

::TV NEWS::     

Wedding of Shannon Tweed, Gene Simmons Benefits Saskatoon SPCA

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(October 3, 2011) SASKATOON — The Saskatoon SPCA is several thousand dollars richer thanks to the wedding of reality TV star Shannon Tweed and Kiss rocker Gene Simmons.

The couple tied the knot in Beverly Hills, Calif., on the weekend but didn't set up a gift registry.

They had asked guests to consider making a donation to the Saskatoon SPCA instead.

Tweed, a former Playboy model, was born in Newfoundland but was raised in Saskatoon.

SPCA spokeswoman Tiffany Koback says a lot of Tweed's family has stopped in to make donations, which already stand at $5,700.

Koback says the cash will go towards medical care, equipment and upgrading the kennel room.

It's not the first time Tweed has been involved with the Prairie city's SPCA. She made a $10,000 donation in July after hearing the story of two dogs who survived being shot.

Tweed and Simmons have been a couple for years and star together in the reality show Gene Simmons' Family Jewels. One of the episodes was filed in Saskatoon.

The new season starts Tuesday on the A&E network.

The 62-year-old Kiss bassist and Tweed, who is 54, have two children.

Nelson Mandela’s Grandkids Get Reality Series

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Sept. 29, 2011) *The grandchildren of former South Africa president Nelson Mandela will star in a reality show, the family announced Thursday, according to the South Africa Mail and Guardian Online. It will likely air in 2012.

“The show will be about our lives as young, black women … We’re not wearing ‘I’m a Mandela’ T-shirts,”
Swati Dlamini, granddaughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told reporters in Johannesburg.

Her cousin Dorothy Adjoa Amuah, the granddaughter of the late Evelyn Mandela, added: “We are exposing Africa for what it is … with a new middle class of intellectuals … contributing to the economy.”

Dlamini and her older sister Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway, and Amuah said the show would follow their lives as mothers and career women. They grew up in the United States but returned to South Africa for business.

“We’re definitely not the African Kardashians,” Amuah said.

“They clearly have a great love [for each other]. This may be part storytelling, part reality, except the story we are telling is real … it’s not going to detract from the dignity of Nelson Mandela,” Producer Rick Leed told the Mail and Guardian.

The show will also feature other cousins, but not their parents and grandparents.

Dlamini-Manaway, 34, has two children (a 10-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter), and another child due in January. She works for the family business, Mandela Dlamini Associates, and wants to launch a clothing line.

Dlamini, 32, is a single mother who is re-launching her career by setting up a foundation to focus on medical, education and housing issues.

Amuah, 27, has a law degree and MBA from Monaco. She works in the luxury brand market.

The Truth, But Not The Whole Truth, About Dexter

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Oct 01, 2011) This isn’t going to be easy. I am professionally obligated to preview for you the sixth season debut of Dexter (Sunday at 10 p.m. on The Movie Network).

Problem is, you don’t want to hear it. The bigger the fan you are, the less you want to know, sometimes going back several seasons (though frankly, if you’re that big a fan, you really should be caught up by now).

I know from personal experience that Dexter fans, perhaps more than any other, are incredibly touchy when it comes to spoilers. I mean, seriously. One reader wished me a fatal disease. Another actually compared me to Hitler.

I’m not sure what either of these has to do with Dexter. My point is, these people are serious.

So let me begin by warning the more extreme among you to STOP READING NOW. I’ve done my best to avoid major spoilers, but then I never really know what’s going to set you off.

So here we go. This is going to be a good season. Not that Dexter has ever been anything less than great. But there’s great, and then there’s great. Season 6 falls into that latter category.

Mind you, I’ve only seen the first three episodes. Things could very well go downhill from there. It’s happened before. John Lithgow was an absolutely amazing Dexter nemesis at the start of Season 4 but, about halfway through, started to drift out of character, as indeed did our Dexter.

(Many of you will no doubt disagree and you’re not alone. The season finale set a ratings record. But I don’t want to hear about it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I can’t help it if mine is public knowledge.)

Season 5 tried to go nemesis-less, which I don’t think worked out quite as well as they’d hoped.

One thing you need to understand about Dexter is the creative turnover: the show-runners and writing staff have changed virtually every season. So a little inconsistency from year to year is entirely understandable. In fact, given the circumstances and with the possible exception of the absent antagonist experiment, the show has remained remarkably consistent over the last five years.

Still, this season appears to be a return to form. It’s the good old glib Dexter, verbally winking at the audience, happily going about his dark business while enjoying immensely his fatherly bond with the now 2-year-old, walking, talking Harrison.

He is, as he says early on in narration, “stronger, smarter, better” — though that does sound a lot more like the opening of The Six Million Dollar Man

“All is well in my little corner of the world,” he says and for a while, anyway, he appears to be right.

Suffice it to say that, particularly in Dexter’s world, appearances can be deceiving.

And that’s all I’m going to say. Except for this . . .

What follows are several fairly innocuous sixth-season character revelations. There is nothing here, as far as I can determine, that will undermine in any way your enjoyment of the season.

But I could be wrong, so proceed with caution.

 • The promotional campaign is somewhat misleading. Dexter does not have a religious epiphany and start killing in the name of God. At least, not in the first three episodes.

 • Deb comes up with several even more outrageous variations on the F word. And has several very good reasons to do so.

 • No one will ever again compare Colin Hanks to his dad.

 • I always thought Edward James Olmos was kinda creepy. This proves it. And then some. (Actually, I’ve talked with him several times, and he is in real life a warm and thoughtful man. But still . . . )

 • Mos has dropped the “Def,” which has somehow made him an even better actor.

 • Remember how LaGuerta was starting to become a more sympathetic character? Now, not so much.

 • Angel really doesn’t like being called “Mr. LaGuerta.” Especially now.

 • Masuka may actually get laid. But not in the first three episodes.

 • Fruit rolls make young Harrison fart.

That’s it. That’s as far as I dare go.

And for the record, I am reasonably healthy and bear absolutely no resemblance to Hitler.

Sesame Street’s Newest Muppet Is Poor And Hungry

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct 04, 2011) Iconic children's show Sesame Street has introduced a new character so young people can learn about the issues of poverty and hunger.

At a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates nearly one in four American children – an estimated 17 million – may be going hungry, Sesame Street is introducing Lily, a new character who will highlight their plight.

Lily, whose family is so poor that she often doesn’t have enough to eat, will be introduced in a one-hour primetime special on Oct. 9 called Growing Hope Against Hunger.

The show, sponsored by retail giant, WalMart, features country singer Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly Williams Paisley, as well as the Sesame Street Muppets.

“Food insecurity is a growing and difficult issue for adults to discuss, much less children. We are honoured that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked us to be a part of this important project,” the Paisleys said in a statement.

The program will include stories of real-life families to raise awareness of the issue and to offer ways for families to provide for themselves.

Video: Tracee Ellis Ross Has Style, and So Does Her New Character

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Oct. 1, 2011) *Without a doubt, Tracee Ellis Ross is one of the most fashionable celebs on television. Her style is perfect and she’s always caught in some of the best designs.

Since her fans are also fans of good fashion, she’s decided to give folks a sneak peek of her wardrobe for newest show, “Reed Between the Lines.”

You won’t catch her without looking trendy and you can bet she ensures her style is kept on camera, regardless of the role she’s playing.

Ross admitted that she had a hand in generating the wardrobe for her character Carla Reed, explaining that she definitely inspired the fashion for the show.

“We created this closet,” she told BET, noting that the costume designers do much of the work.

“This happens to be an extremely large closet. It happens to be an extremely full closet. And it happens to be an extremely delicious closet,” she teased

And the wardrobe just happens to be so appetizing she sometimes finds herself borrowing her character’s clothes.

Asner And Cariou, TV’s Grumpy Old Men

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(October 3, 2011) They have, between them, logged an astonishing 88 years on TV, with stage careers that extend well beyond that.

And now they’re involved in a kind of old-guy exchange program, with the legendary
Ed Asner coming to Canada for a recurring role on the new CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Winnipeg-born stage and screen star Len Cariou now in his second season on the CBS cop drama Blue Bloods.

Two veteran character actors at the height of their powers: in person,
charming and thoughtful men; on camera, crusty as week-old bread.

Asner does playfully affect some real-life crust, but his warmth and intellect can’t help but shine through. At 82, he’s the elder of the two actors — Cariou, 10 years his junior, is only five years older than Blue Bloods co-star Tom Selleck, who plays his police commissioner son.

Asner has seven Emmys to his credit, including unprecedented comedy and drama awards for playing the same character, the irascible Lou Grant, on the classic ’70s sitcom Mary Tyler Moore and then its short-lived spinoff, Lou Grant. He has reached an entirely new generation as the lead voice of the Oscar-winning animated feature Up.

Cariou has dozens of series arcs and episodic appearances, from Murder, She Wrote to Damages, and won the Tony Award for his definitive Broadway run of Sweeney Todd. He’s had two other Tony nominations, a Genie win, and nominations for an Emmy and a Gemini.

Asner is no stranger to our shores: he was last here in 2008, filming George F. Walker’s cable crime drama The Line.

“Some of my best work,” he enthuses. “I’ve always said, I love working in Canada. Even the bad s--t I’ve done in Canada was less bad than the s--t that I’ve done in America.”

Asner is back in a recurring role on the new CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays — starting this Tuesday and running through to the end of November — as the psychiatrist’s psychiatrist, therapist to lead character Dr. David Storper, played by the show’s writer/creator, Bob Martin.

Though it really should be the other way around: Asner’s character is a certifiable loon.

“It’s such a joy,” the actor enthuses. “Short of dropping my pants, there’s nothing this guy won’t do. And who knows, maybe on the last show of the series, there will be a dropping of the pants. That’ll be the only thing left.”

It’s certainly a far cry from Lou Grant, a sitcom icon the moment he hit the screen on Mary Tyler Moore, uttering that immortal line, “You’ve got spunk . . . I hate spunk.”

“That was such a lie,” he now likes to grouse. “Valerie (Harper as Rhoda) had spunk and he liked her. And Sheree North (Lou’s fifth-season girlfriend), she had spunk. Lou loved spunk.”

Blue Bloods is be Cariou’s first full series role and it came at a price: He very reluctantly had to pull out of a planned Dublin stage production of Death of a Salesman.

They are now a few episodes into their second season, with the first already selling well after only a couple of weeks as a DVD boxed set — and this after a summer of reruns.

The secret to its success, Cariou ventures, is its unique combination of issue-oriented crime-fighting and relatable family dynamics.

The cast had that family feeling from the outset, he says, from the first day of shooting the pilot — which, incidentally, was done here in Toronto.

“The first scene we did was the dinner scene,” he fondly recalls. “And there we were, 10 total strangers, and we’re supposed to be playing this close-knit family. So we sat around and talked about it a little bit.

“And as we did each take, we would talk to the director, ‘Hey, that was neat, can we try that again from this angle? Can we get coverage here, so I can to react to this, and then he can react to what I say . . . ’ And it just kind of evolved like that.”

And it continues to evolve, including Cariou’s character, the family patriarch and a former commissioner himself.

“I went to Howard Safir, who is a friend of mine and who was police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani,” he says, “and I asked him for a couple of storylines I could take to the writers.

“In fact, the one we’re shooting now gets me out of the house for a job interview. Should be a good episode.”

Money Disputes Could Put An End To ‘The Simpsons’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish

(Oct 04, 2011) Don’t have a cow (at least not yet), but The Simpsons — the longest-running sitcom in the history of broadcasting — may soon fade to black.

A money dispute between 20th Century Fox Television and the actors who voice the characters could turn the show into rerun history (500 episodes) after the current 23rd season ends this spring.

It’s an old story — there have always been salary squabbles and studio execs have threatened to use sound-alikes — but, for the first time, the powers that be have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a 45 per cent pay cut, The Simpsons would die.

The actors, including Dan Castellaneta (Homer) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart), want to take around a 30 per cent pay cut in exchange for a tiny percentage of the show’s huge back-end profits — amounting to untold billions.

The actors each earn about $8 million a year for about 22 weeks work.

Even under the proposed downgrade, they’d still be making about $4 million a piece.

The actors have always argued they deserve a bigger piece of the pie due to the massive dollars that come from syndication and the merchandising of such things as Simpsons clothing, lunch boxes, stamps, DVDs, a feature film and video games.

“Fox is taking the position hat unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they’ll pull the plug on new shows,” said a Simpsons insider. “The show has made billions in profits over the years and will continue to do so far as they eye can see down the road.”

A Fox Television spokesman had no comment by late Monday night.

Asner And Cariou, TV’s Grumpy Old Men

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(October 3, 2011) They have, between them, logged an astonishing 88 years on TV, with stage careers that extend well beyond that.

And now they’re involved in a kind of old-guy exchange program, with the legendary
Ed Asner coming to Canada for a recurring role on the new CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Winnipeg-born stage and screen star Len Cariou now in his second season on the CBS cop drama Blue Bloods.

Two veteran character actors at the height of their powers: in person,
charming and thoughtful men; on camera, crusty as week-old bread.

Asner does playfully affect some real-life crust, but his warmth and intellect can’t help but shine through. At 82, he’s the elder of the two actors — Cariou, 10 years his junior, is only five years older than Blue Bloods co-star Tom Selleck, who plays his police commissioner son.

Asner has seven Emmys to his credit, including unprecedented comedy and drama awards for playing the same character, the irascible Lou Grant, on the classic ’70s sitcom Mary Tyler Moore and then its short-lived spinoff, Lou Grant. He has reached an entirely new generation as the lead voice of the Oscar-winning animated feature Up.

Cariou has dozens of series arcs and episodic appearances, from Murder, She Wrote to Damages, and won the Tony Award for his definitive Broadway run of Sweeney Todd. He’s had two other Tony nominations, a Genie win, and nominations for an Emmy and a Gemini.

Asner is no stranger to our shores: he was last here in 2008, filming George F. Walker’s cable crime drama The Line.

“Some of my best work,” he enthuses. “I’ve always said, I love working in Canada. Even the bad s--t I’ve done in Canada was less bad than the s--t that I’ve done in America.”

Asner is back in a recurring role on the new CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays — starting this Tuesday and running through to the end of November — as the psychiatrist’s psychiatrist, therapist to lead character Dr. David Storper, played by the show’s writer/creator, Bob Martin.

Though it really should be the other way around: Asner’s character is a certifiable loon.

“It’s such a joy,” the actor enthuses. “Short of dropping my pants, there’s nothing this guy won’t do. And who knows, maybe on the last show of the series, there will be a dropping of the pants. That’ll be the only thing left.”

It’s certainly a far cry from Lou Grant, a sitcom icon the moment he hit the screen on Mary Tyler Moore, uttering that immortal line, “You’ve got spunk . . . I hate spunk.”

“That was such a lie,” he now likes to grouse. “Valerie (Harper as Rhoda) had spunk and he liked her. And Sheree North (Lou’s fifth-season girlfriend), she had spunk. Lou loved spunk.”

Blue Bloods is be Cariou’s first full series role and it came at a price: He very reluctantly had to pull out of a planned Dublin stage production of Death of a Salesman.

They are now a few episodes into their second season, with the first already selling well after only a couple of weeks as a DVD boxed set — and this after a summer of reruns.

The secret to its success, Cariou ventures, is its unique combination of issue-oriented crime-fighting and relatable family dynamics.

The cast had that family feeling from the outset, he says, from the first day of shooting the pilot — which, incidentally, was done here in Toronto.

“The first scene we did was the dinner scene,” he fondly recalls. “And there we were, 10 total strangers, and we’re supposed to be playing this close-knit family. So we sat around and talked about it a little bit.

“And as we did each take, we would talk to the director, ‘Hey, that was neat, can we try that again from this angle? Can we get coverage here, so I can to react to this, and then he can react to what I say . . . ’ And it just kind of evolved like that.”

And it continues to evolve, including Cariou’s character, the family patriarch and a former commissioner himself.

“I went to Howard Safir, who is a friend of mine and who was police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani,” he says, “and I asked him for a couple of storylines I could take to the writers.

“In fact, the one we’re shooting now gets me out of the house for a job interview. Should be a good episode.”


Leonard Nimoy Attends His Final ‘Star Trek’ Convention

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(October 3, 2011) ROSEMONT, ILL.—Leonard Nimoy has attended his final Star Trek convention. The 80-year-old actor, best-known for playing Mr. Spock in the original TV series that began in September 1966, formed four fingers into a V for Vulcan sign and intoned to fans Spock’s most famous phrase: “Live long and prosper.” Nimoy has said the convention in suburban Chicago celebrating the 45th anniversary of Star Trek would be his last. He spoke for an hour about his life and career, and thanked fans for their support over the years. Some held signs saying: “We love you Leonard! Live long & prosper.” Creation Entertainment organizes the Star Trek conventions. Company CEO Adam Malin says the company has toured and collaborated with Nimoy for nearly three decades and that Nimoy “will be missed.”

'Arrested Development' Announces New Show, Movie

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(October 3, 2011) The Bluth family's frozen banana stand may be back in business. At an Arrested Development reunion Sunday at the New Yorker Festival, the creators and cast announced plans for a new TV show that spins off the short-lived but critically acclaimed TV show, which went off the air in 2006 after just three seasons. They also discussed more concrete plans for a much-awaited movie. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz said the spinoff will feature nine or ten episodes focusing on each character and leading up to the movie. The first scene of the movie will be all the characters reunited. The Fox show, which suffered low ratings despite its rabid fan base, starred Jason Bateman, Michael Cera and Portia de Rossi. They played members of a dysfunctional family who ran a collapsing real estate development company and frozen banana stand. Shooting for the TV show is tentatively set to begin next summer. The movie doesn't have a release date, Hurwitz said, adding that the creative aspects have been largely worked out, but the business side is still being negotiated. "We're all game," he said. "We've hated being coy, but we've been trying to put together this ambitious idea."

Charles S. Dutton to Visit ‘Criminal Minds’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Oct. 05, 2011) *TVGuide.com is reporting that
Charles S. Dutton will make a guest appearance on the CBS drama “Criminal Minds” later this season. The three-time Emmy winner will play Tony Colt, a Philadelphia boxing trainer who learns that his favourite pupil, whom he’s mentored like a son, turns out to be the violent serial killer that brings the show’s BAU to the city. Dutton, 60, won two guest-acting Emmys for his work on “The Practice” and “Without a Trace,” and a directing Emmy for the HBO miniseries “The Corner.” In recent years, he’s guest-starred on “CSI: NY,” “Law & Order: Los Angeles” and, perhaps most memorably, as Foreman’s dad on “House.” “Criminal Minds’ airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Dutton’s episode, the 10th of the season, has not been scheduled yet.

Kevin Hart to Co-Star on ‘Modern Family’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Oct. 05, 2011) *Funnyman
Kevin Hart has a new role to play on comedy series “Modern Family.” He’ll be Andre, a physician and new neighbour of Phil Dunphy. When he begins production, he’ll be starring alongside former “Soul Plane” co-star Sofia Vergara. Recently, the Philadelphia native and his Hartbeat Productions pulled off an unexpected victory at the box office with his debut standup film “Laugh at My Pain,” which follows his recent national tour run. It debuted inside of the box office top 10 ranking and pulled in nearly $2 million, in just 97 theatres, for an impressive per-location gross of $20,619. The film only cost $750,000 to make.


Dazzling Dramas Out Of Africa

Source: www.thestar.com - By Robert Crew

Another Africa
Shine Your Eye by Binyavanga Wainaina, directed by Ross Manson. Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God by Roland Schimmelpfennig, directed by Liesl Tommy. Double bill runs until Oct. 22 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E. 416.368.3110

(Sep 30, 2011) The future of the St. Lawrence Centre may be up in the air, but there’s no uncertainty about the Volcano Theatre production that’s just opened there. This Canadian Stage presentation will be a huge hit — and deservedly so.

Another Africa consists of two plays that were part of a trio presented at last year's Luminato festival. Glo, the weakest of the three, has been shelved but Shine Your Eye, by Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina and Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, by German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig make a triumphant return, bolder and better than ever.

Shine Your Eye centres around a young Nigerian women named Gbene Beka (Dienye Waboso turning in another terrific, textured performance.) The daughter of a political hero who was brutally silenced ten years ago, she is working in a shady internet office in Lagos, where they fleece foreigners by sending out those “help us dispose of a fortune” letters that pop up from time to time.

The boss (the powerful Lucky Onyekachi Ejim) argues that it is fitting revenge for the colonial exploitation of Nigeria by oil firms and others.

But there’s also pressure of another sort on Beka. Her lesbian internet friend Doreen (Ordena Stephens-Thompson) wants her to emigrate to Canada and live with her. Two futures are being laid out for her; which, if either, will she chose and at what cost?

It’s a beautifully written, deeply poetic piece, tautly directed by Volcano’s Ross Manson.

There's been real growth — a tightening-up and refocusing — in Peggy Pickit (the name of one of two dolls who are key to the action). Frank and Liz have remained at home and had a daughter while their fellow health professionals, Carol and Martin, have just returned from six years’ humanitarian work in an unnamed African country. The welcome-home party proves to be an unmitigated disaster, as both wine and secrets are poured out.

It’s a play about getting involved vs. remaining on the sidelines (albeit while providing financial support). It looks at motivation — sometimes impure and invariably complex — that drives seemingly selfless volunteerism. And it takes a hard, unemotional look at whether such work is really worthwhile or whether in some cases, it simply exacerbates the problem.

Mighty themes and all couched in a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf-type setting of warring, unhappy couples.

Original cast members Tony Nappo and Maev Beaty are back with even fuller performances, Nappo as the Mr. Tactless host who simply wants everyone to have a good time, Beaty as the troubled Carol who has faced some terrible decisions, unimaginable to those who haven’t been there.

The newcomers are Tom Barnett as Martin, Carol's philandering husband, and Kristen Thomson as the bread-baking, face-slapping Liz. Both are outstanding.

Liesl Tommy’s direction is immaculate, making the most of looping passages of dialogue and freeze-frame action. The design work (the same team is responsible for both shows) is top-notch, with particularly effective use of video projection.

Two plays, each offering a different window of experience on how the West and the African continent relate to each other but curiously similar in some of the themes and conclusions.

Catch this time around. And if you saw it before it's well worth another look.

Supernatural And Magical, A Fool’s Life Is A Wonder

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(October 04, 2011) TORONTO — Brilliant. Imaginative. Magical. Ahuri Theatre’s production of A Fool’s Life is all these things and more.

Toronto is home to several physical theatre companies, all of them architects of collaborative, innovative, original productions. The link among them is the late French actor/mime Jacques Lecoq (1921-1999) and his famous movement-based theatre school in Paris. Ahuri was founded in 2005 under artistic director Dan Watson, a former Lecoq student.

A Fool’s Life was inspired by the life and works of author Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), the father of the Japanese short story. Two of his tales form the plot of the legendary 1950 Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. A Fool’s Life is the title of another story.

Watson was drawn to Akutagawa’s writings because of their grotesquerie and wild supernatural fancies, all tinged with satire noir. He was also influenced by Akutagawa’s long battle with schizophrenia, and his tragic suicide from a barbiturate overdose when the writer was just 35.

The director’s structure for A Fool’s Life is very clever. On one hand, the cast enacts three stories, each one more dark and disturbing than the one before. Collectively, they mirror Akutagawa’s real life descent into madness.

The Nose is about a monk, horribly disfigured by a long nose reminiscent of an elephant’s trunk. Horse Legs describes a man who died too soon, and was sent back to life with horse legs to replace his decomposed real ones. Hell Screen centres on a famous artist who is painting a screen, and demands that real life images, no matter how cruel or dangerous, be created for him to copy.

The stories are interpolated with scenes with actor Julian DeZotti as Akutagawa himself, describing the writer’s fascination with the kappa, a bizarre mythical creature from Japanese folklore. Just like the progression of the stories, the kappaland tales are increasingly terrifying. DeZotti’s droll delivery adds to the growing sense of mental decline.

Designers Sean Frey’s and Sonja Rainey’s simple but elegant costumes instantly evoke place and time, be they a draped orange cloth for a monk’s robe, or an elaborate kimono for a woman. The duo’s set is a large wall of textured paper that also acts as a screen for their projections. Moveable, triangular baffles of the same material help organize the playing space. André du Toit provided the atmospheric lighting.

The most spectacular design feature is the combination of live drawings and preset pictures. For example, Hell Screen ends with a horrifying fire that destroys a carriage. This image is created both by the picture of a carriage, and by painting broad, angry brushstrokes in vivid red and orange on the video screen, superposed over the woman in the carriage being burned alive.

As for the talented cast – Claire Calnan, Haruna Kondo, Derek Kwan, Richard Lee and DeZotti – are all physical theatre masters, creating stunning visuals through body positioning combined with props.

For example, in The Nose, the poor monk (Calnan) keeps getting his proboscis trapped in his food, and needs an underling (Kondo) to lift it out of the soup with a chopstick. The hero of Horse Legs (Kwan) does a spectacular job mimicking a horse’s gait.

Live Japanese percussionist Gaishi Ishizaka is a kagura drummer who is adept at making sounds on a bewildering array of instruments, from drums to gongs, from whistles to shakers. His marvellous cinematic score follows the action with minute detailing.

A Fool’s Life is one of those original productions that satisfies on every level – intellectually, emotionally and visually.

A Fool’s Life continues at the Theatre Centre until Oct. 8.

A Fool’s Life

Ahuri Theatre/WhyNot Theatre
Conceived and directed by Dan Watson
Featuring Claire Calnan, Julian DeZotti, Haruna Kondo, Derek Kwan and Richard Lee
Live percussion score by Gaishi Ishizaka

Fall Dance Preview: Five Shows To Keep You On Your Toes

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Paula Citron

(September 30, 2011) Full-length story ballets keep attracting the crowds, so it's no surprise that they are dominating the fall dance season. The National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet are all presenting original works. But this fall will also see acclaimed works on national tours, and some key festivals are showcasing Canadian and international dance talent. In a very rich season, here are five to watch.

National Ballet of Canada's new Romeo & Juliet

The company is presenting the debut of superhot choreographer Alexei Ratmansky's version of Romeo & Juliet to Sergei Prokofiev's beloved score. This is artistic director Karen Kain's big gamble because the National Ballet has been successfully performing John Cranko's version since 1964. With Ratmansky, however, the company gets a version that is uniquely its own.

Four Seasons Centre, Toronto (Nov. 16-27)

Alberta Ballet's Love Lies Bleeding

Jean Grand-Maître's penchant for creating ballets to songbooks is paying off big time. This razzle-dazzle homage to the songs of Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin is touring to big theatres because it has mass appeal. The ballet is also exciting interest abroad.

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver (Oct. 13-15) and Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto (Nov. 8-13)

Newfoundland Festival of New Dance

There is a discerning contemporary dance audience in St. John's because this annual festival has consistently presented high-quality programming for more than two decades. The playbill always includes local and national choreographers. Among the latter this year are Montreal's Margie Gillis and Hélène Blackburn, and Toronto's Susanna Hood and Claudia Moore.

LSPU Hall, St. John's (Oct. 11-16)

Tanztheater Wuppertal - Pina Bausch

The late, German-born Bausch was one of the greatest dance-theatre choreographers who ever lived. Her loyal company performs her 1995 Danzon, a wry cradle-to-grave journey of life experience. Bausch's portrayal of adolescent raging hormones is one of Danzon's highlights. Lucky Ottawa gets the exclusive Canadian engagement.

National Arts Centre, Ottawa (Nov. 25-26)

Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Montreal's Chouinard brings her much praised Le nombre d'or (Live) to her hometown. The work, an eccentric take on the foibles of humankind, received rave reviews at both its debut at the Venice Biennale in 2010, and its showing at Vancouver's Cultural Olympics.

Place des Arts, Montreal (Nov. 24-26)

Stratford’s Superstar Broadway Bound

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Oct 04, 2011) Hosanna! As originally predicted by The Star in its opening night review, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar will start performances at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre on March 1, 2012, with the official opening night set for March 22.

A smash hit with critics and audiences alike, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical about the last week in the life of Christ has been playing to sold out houses in Stratford and will move to the LaJolla Playhouse in California after it closes here for a run that will take it through the end of December.

In an exclusive interview from the south of Italy where he’s enjoying a brief vacation, Stratford’s Artistic Director, Des McAnuff revealed that “although I think it’s great that we’re going to Broadway, that really never was my original intention. I tend not to go there in my brain, just because of superstition. I’ve seen too many shows that looked like sure things get derailed along the way.”

McAnuff admits, however, that “I got a really good feeling about this show in my gut from the beginning. When the designs came in, I felt that this could really be something special and I started to think about the possibility of a tour.

“Then when I got into rehearsal, well, the strongest signal you get right away that a show has legs is that it’s easy to stage. It almost takes on a life of its own. You feel more like a passenger than a pilot.”

Unlike Stratford’s 2009 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, which arrived in New York with the same director, designer, leading actor and ingénue that it had in Stratford, only to have the rest of the company replaced by Americans, McAnuff has worked hard to make sure that Superstar would showcase the Canadians who had made it a hit.

All of the leading players (Paul Nolan, Josh White, Chilina Kennedy, Brent Carver and Bruce Dow) as well as every member of the ensemble who was willing and/or able to go will be sharing in the thrill of a Broadway opening night.

For some of them, like the Tony Award- winning Carver or veteran Dow, it will be a familiar experience, but for the rest, it will be the kind of thrill performers often wait a lifetime for.

Besides any financial rewards that might accrue to Stratford, it also serves notice on the world stage that here is a group of performers who can hold their own anywhere.

It’s the kind of win-win situation that doesn’t come along often in the Quixotic world of theatre.

Alberta Ballet's Elton John Show Heading To Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(Oct. 05, 2011) The
Alberta Ballet's acclaimed collaboration with music superstar Elton John is headed to Toronto next month.

The contemporary dance production Love Lies Bleeding features aerialists, dancers on spinning turntables and fire-shooting roller skates.

It's inspired by and features some of John's biggest hits, including Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Rocket Man and Believe.

The innovative show heads to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts from Nov. 8 to 12.

It was created by the Alberta Ballet's internationally renowned artistic director and choreographer Jean Grand-Maitre.

Love Lies Bleeding enjoyed a successful run in Alberta last year.

“We're thrilled to bring this innovative ballet to Toronto,” Corey Ross, president of Starvox Entertainment said Wednesday in a release.

“It's a show that appeals to ballet fans, but also a new generation of aficionados. This show is simply a good time.”

The show is part of the Sony Centre's 51st season.

Other shows include Classical Mystery Tour, in which a tribute band – backed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony – plays 30 Beatles tunes exactly as they were written.

Also on the bill is the South African Soweto Gospel Choir and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.


Toronto Has Become The Centre For App Development

Source: www.thestar.com - Vanessa Lu

(October 03, 2011) There are apps for banking, apps for the Leafs, and apps that can supposedly detect everything from cancer to scams.

There are even
apps to manage your apps. And a lot of them are being developed in Toronto.

“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg of the explosion of new successful companies,” said Valerie Fox, director of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, which helps budding digital entrepreneurs get started.

The zone, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square, offers free rent and Internet access — and though it has already expanded once and plans to again, there’s a rigorous selection process for a coveted spot.

“We don’t charge. We don’t take equity,” said Fox. “What we want ultimately is for these companies to thrive here in Canada, and not to go to Silicon Valley.”

California companies are known to look to Toronto. Last summer Zynga, of Farmville fame, bought Five Mobile, a Toronto-based app maker.

Mobile apps are hot because smartphone use is on the rise — everything from iPhones to Blackberrys and Android phones.

It’s unclear if tablets will enjoy a similar success, given HP has just thrown in the towel and Research in Motion’s PlayBook is struggling. But the iPad is flourishing and Amazon last week introduced the Kindle Fire.

And app stores are making it easier for entrepreneurs to bring an idea to market, though they generally take 30 per cent of all sales — so you need to sell a lot of 99 cent apps to make money.

Some go viral, like Angry Birds, though those success stories are few and far between.

GO train rider Matt Rix slowly developed his Trainyard game as he commuted to his job in Liberty Village. He eventually quit his job and started his own gaming company.

Other Toronto firms like Polar Mobile develop apps for clients, using its platform and adapting it to individual needs. Its media clients include CBS, Bloomberg and Condé Nast publications.

The company was created by six friends from the University of Waterloo just before they graduated in 2008. They launched an app before Apple created the App store.

“Four years ago, nobody knew what apps were,” said Polar Mobile CEO Kunal Gupta, who estimates they have released 1,200 apps to date from a Front St. office that now has a staff of 40. “Even two years ago, people started know what they were, but people didn’t care.

“Now companies care like you would not believe,” Gupta said, “around apps, what’s their apps presence, and what their apps strategy is.”

Dayton Pereira, chief operating officer of Indusblue, whose firm designed TSN’s iPad application, says the key is designing a product “that’s sticky” — meaning it has features that users keep coming back for more, which translates into higher ad revenue.

Pereira believes Toronto has become a hub, partly because of the number of experienced web developers here, who meet up regularly or are inspired by the success of others.

“Mobile is growing fast. It’s not slowing down at all. It’s at a breakneck pace,” he said, adding his firm is focusing on iPhone and iPad as well as Android applications.

Kathleen Webb, director of Mobile Experience Innovation Centre affiliated with the Ontario College of Art and Design, estimates there are 3,000 companies working on apps in the province.

That’s everything from big companies to freelancers and small companies of fewer than five people, she said, adding her centre is just completing a survey to calculate the presence here.

“What’s great about mobile apps is they are widely available,” said Webb, and for a few bucks, people can try it out. “And as they generate more revenue, developers can make improvements.”

The key is to keep entry point low, or free, and then upsell within the apps for premium plans, Webb said.

Indusblue’s Pereira doesn’t believe the demand for apps will slow down.

“It’s a question of have we built enough websites yet? No, there’s a billions of apps to make, and there’s a continuing source of opportunity,” he said.

Interactive music app

Jamie Alexander's Sound Selecta app brings music and art together.

The former IBM engineer designed his iPhone and iPad app, where people can alter music by touching any part of an artist’s image.

“Instead of buying a song, you’re buying an interactive version of a song,” he said.

He’s featured everything from reggae music to toddler tunes and is working on various songs.

His latest, to be released later this month, features Toronto beat boxer Scratch Cat, who he heard busking in his a cappella style at Yonge-Dundas Square, and artist Maria Gernega, who just graduated from Seneca College.

One song features a typical Toronto scene complete with a subway car as Scratch Cat makes all the noises himself, from the train to the warning bell as the doors are closing.

“It’s idiot-proof music that will sound good no matter what you push,” said Alexander, who plans to offer a free app with one song, and then others ranging from 99 cents to $2.99.

The map app

Mapping company Avenza Systems in midtown Toronto counts among its customers the military, National Geographic and the CIA.

Technology means people can easily get directions on their GPS or through their mobile phones, but president Ted Florence said some people still want a paper map.

So Avenza’s product blends a bit of old with new — the PDF map app essentially scans in paper maps, but gives users interactive details. If you’re in a new city, type in Starbucks and you can find out how many outlets are near you. If you’re hiking in Algonquin Park, and there’s no cellphone service, you’ll still be able to use the app.

“If map publishers don’t adapt to changes like camera companies, from film to digital, they’ll be out of business,” said Florence.

“With paper maps, you have to guess how many copies to print, ship and warehouse,” he said, and any new streets require printing a new version. “With this, you can change a map on the server.”

Safety app

Imagine you're alone in a laneway at night and get the feeling someone is following you.

Instead of immediately calling 911, you could activate your Guardly app where it would immediately alert up to 15 people that you might be trouble. It will escalate to a 911 call depending on the situation.

“We see ourselves as the natural extension of the home alarm,” said CEO Josh Sookman, noting the app can tap into the user’s location as well as their friends and family to determine who is closest. You can also snap photos and send to your network

The premium version, which costs $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year, allows for a real-time conference or instant-messaging among your safety network.

Sookman’s idea was first incubated at OCAD’s Mobile Experience Innovation Centre, eventually grew too big and moved out on its own.

The next step is to get more universities to sign on — where they would pay a fee and all students on campus would have access to the app.

Ico And Shadow Of The Colossus Return To Glory

Source: www.thestar.com - By Darren Zenko

The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Rated T

(Oct. 5, 2011) Most fields of art don’t have to continually make excuses for their canon. Nobody,
for example feels the need to say Shakespeare’s plays were great “given what he had to work with at the time.” But the technologies that make video games possible are new and rapidly changing, and the classics of the medium — the very earliest only one human generation old — struggle for appreciation against their too-early datedness; “Remains surprisingly playable!” is high praise for any game older than the Confederation Bridge.

Only a very few games are so perfectly of themselves they become timeless, and Fumito Ueda is responsible for two of them,
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, this week bundled and re-released for PlayStation 3.

First released in 2001, Ico at the time was groundbreaking achievement in tone and style, a puzzle/action game light on both action and puzzling that built its experience out of silence and frustration. Ico, in which the eponymous hero drags balky waif Yorda through a fortress of peril, is a simulator of hopeless dependency, an excruciating journey through a ruined world peopled only by wraiths.

Does that sound horrid? It can be! Playing it again today, against a backdrop of hyper-paced mobile games that exist only to keep the endorphin payoff cycle running, feels almost masochistic . . . for a little while. But then something clicks, and you realize you’re not really controlling Ico and leading Yorda; Yorda and Ico are one being. In that moment, frustration inverts into an overwhelming feeling of tenderness and vulnerability, and the game takes on an emotional luminosity to match its glowing visuals. Eleven years and a handful of industry revolutions have not dimmed its power.

Shadow of the Colossus, on the other hand, I found to be even more rewarding now than I did when I first played it seven years ago. If you’re even casually familiar with video games, you won’t need me to re-hash the praise that has been heaped (and will continue to be heaped, for all time) on this masterpiece. It’s a mood piece, a wholly unique gameplay concept, a dark fantasy, an epic, a character study, and a near-silent Jeremiad of a meta-game . . . all while being one of the most mercilessly challenging action experiences ever released. Shadow of the Colossus jerks tears, pops eyes and whitens knuckles relentlessly, until your endocrine system just kind of gives up and dumps everything it’s got into your brain at once.

The real proof of the timelessness of Shadow of the Colossus, though, is in playing it in the company of one or more friends, preferably friends who are new to the game. The secret truth of Colossus? It’s one of the greatest multi-player games ever, more conducive to controller-passing and backseat-driving than even the GTA games. And the constant chorus of Oh My Gods and Holy S--ts that will rise from the couch? That’s the sound of immortality.

Both games have been treated to a high-def massage and other supposed improvements for this re-release, and these changes are mostly welcome — though the trophy alerts, as always, mess with the mood a little. What really comes across, though, is how extraneous to the experience those extra pixels (let alone 3-D support) are.

Beyond the basics (i.e. late-’90s graphics capacity) needed to express their ideas, these are games whose power has little or nothing to do with their tech. Their operating system is the human mind/body/soul — they are true art, and thus will never need to be excused.


Generation Giller: New Young Writers Dominate Canada's Richest Fiction Prize

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Barber

(Oct. 05, 2011) A new generation of Canadian writers took centre
stage on Tuesday with the announcement of six finalists for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize, led by two largely unknown young writers from the West Coast who have become world-leading nominees due to the impact of their current novels.

Vancouver-born, Oregon-based Patrick deWitt and Calgary-born, Victoria-based Esi Edugyan both added Giller nominations to nods already obtained for Canada's Rogers Writers' Trust prize and Britain's prestigious Man Booker Prize, earning each of them a purse of $11,500 before the selection of winners in any of the contests.

DeWitt, 36, got a nod for The Sisters Brothers, his second novel, a contemporary Western that the three-person Giller jury described as "equal parts slapstick brutality, howling humour and prose grace." Edugyan, 33, described by the jury as "a true prodigy," was honoured for Half Blood Blues, also her second novel, a story of black jazz musicians in Paris during the Second World War.

Joining them on the Giller short list is David Bezmozgis of Toronto, 38, named one of The New Yorker magazine's top 20 writers under 40 last year, whose widely anticipated first novel, The Free World, chronicles the misadventures of a family of Soviet Jews as they attempt to emigrate from their native Latvia in the late 1970s. His novel "has the strange immediacy of a family album where the photographs light up and start talking," the jury said, describing Bezmozgis as "a truly magical writer."

Edmonton's Lynn Coady prevailed against a number of better-known Prairie novelists - including Guy Vanderhaeghe and Marina Endicott - to earn a spot in the Giller finals for The Antagonist, a contemporary variation on the old-fashioned epistolary novel that documents the alienation and betrayal of a hockey enforcer who goes on to seek online revenge. Coady's third novel is "one of the most eccentric and memorable autobiographies you're ever likely to read," according to the jury.

Vancouver's Zsuzsi Gartner earned her place on the list with Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, the only book of short stories to be named as a finalist for the Giller Prize this year. Her book "shows the short-story form at its savage best," the jury wrote, describing it as "a rare work of wisdom and laughter."

Appropriately, the jury lauded the work of the only senior member of the Canadian literary establishment to be nominated this year - The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje - as a "mature" work, one that is "rich in images, precise in its language and wise about the way people can be haunted by their own experience."

Given the distinctly youthful cast of the short list, observers joked that it was extended from the usual five nominees to six this year in order to include at least one recognizable name - a novelist who has previously won both the Man Booker Prize (for The English Patient) and the Giller (for Anil's Ghost).

The overall calibre of entries this year was "stunning," according to Giller juror Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean. "They're not just Canadian greats, they really are world greats," she said at Tuesday's announcement, adding that the process of picking six finalists was easy. "There was no real argument."

The Giller jury had already selected Edugyan and deWitt's novels before they were named to the Man Booker long list, according to Lyon.

The sense of a generational shift among this year's literary honourees first emerged last month with the announcement of the short list for the 2011 Writers' Trust Prize, which like the Giller was dominated by young unknowns with the exception of another lone senior figure - in that case Clark Blaise, veteran of the same 1960s renaissance that brought Ondaatje to attention. The fact that deWitt and Edugyan made both lists, in a rare example of converging tastes, emphasized the trend. The final evidence will emerge next week when the jury selecting this year's Governor-General's Award for English language fiction announces its selection of finalists.

Regionally, the Giller list is dominated by four West Coast writers, balanced by two from Toronto. Half of the books were produced by independent Canadian publishers, with two of them - The Sisters Brothers and The Antagonist - put out by Toronto's House of Anansi Press. Edugyan's Half Blood Blues survived the bankruptcy of its original publisher, Key Porter Books, to emerge under the imprint of Toronto's Thomas Allen Publishers.

All but two of the books - Gartner's Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and Coady's The Antagonist - were published simultaneously in Canada and abroad. Coincidentally, those are the only two books on the Giller short list that are set in Canada and include recognizable Canadian content.

There were an unprecedented number of entries this year - more than 140, compared with a normal complement of 100, according to prize founder Jack Rabinovitch.

"This year the publishers outsmarted us," he said. "We restrict the number of entries they can make, but they have imprints."

Nuit Blanche: The Big Chill

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(October 2, 2011) Is this goodbye? That’s the thought that kept leaping to mind, more times than I could count Saturday night as I steered my way through the cold, the crowds and the largely underwhelming art that tends to populate Nuit Blanche.

I know I’m not the only one asking that question. It’s no secret that the city is in a major budget crisis, and culture — the category, however loosely, Nuit Blanche falls into — is one of Mayor Rob Ford’s bugaboos, a stated frill he seems happy to let fall under the axe.

As the omnipresent red tents festooned with its logo reminded us Saturday night, the event’s lead sponsor is Scotiabank, which last year committed to another five years of support. But that’s no guarantee. A cluster of corporate sponsors and government grants paid for 73 percent of the all-night art festival’s $2.3 million budget this year, but the city still contributes 23 percent, not to mention a critical breadth of administrative, staff and infrastructure support, making it easy enough to imagine that this one could be the last.

Would it be missed? By some, certainly. By the numbers, Nuit Blanche has pull: More than a million of us routinely crowd the streets for it, and by the hordes creeping up Yonge St. at 3 a.m. Sunday, this year was no exception.

At the same time, you have to question how much of the draw of our “all-night contemporary art thing” is art, and how much the illicit appeal of wandering the streets all night, doing what you’re not supposed to, just this once, with the city’s blessing. Throw in the funnel cakes, mini-donuts, cotton candy, product placement and faintly ominous carnival atmosphere, and the main difference separating Nuit Blanche from, say, the Ex is the location and the hour on the clock.

Nuit Blanche tends to follow a predictable arc: Early evening excitement and general feel-good civic camaraderie followed by a thick middle phase where the crowds grow bigger, drunker and less inhibited, and on into the earliest morning, where the streets seem to simmer with dangerous possibility — one that was realized during the event, tragically, with a fatal shooting near Trinity Bellwoods Park.

That first phase of the night is always the best one. My night began with own little project, offering art criticism and conversation out of the back of a van in Parkdale.

It had its usual warm fuzzies. One in particular stuck with me: A 9th grader whose art project was, impressively, to pulp reams of sheet music she had been forced to learn as a child, and to make of them something new and entirely her own.

One twenty-something guy came in to openly declare that he “didn’t really get art” and that he couldn’t understand why an abstract painting — a background, a stripe, the end — he’d seen at the National Gallery was art at all. Art history’s a funny thing, I told him, but it shouldn’t tell you what to think and his response was no less valid than anyone’s. He seemed genuinely relieved.

It seemed like a good lesson for the night to come.

The only consistent aspect of Nuit Blanche, year to year, is inconsistency, and “art” is a loosely applicable label, or a marketing term, depending on your level of cynicism. (Case in point: “Flight Path,” a laser-light show and hang-glider ride at Nathan Phillips Square. Remember what I said about the Ex?)

Cruising east along Queen St. around 10, I found that put to the test quickly by a goofy animation projection in Trinity Bellwoods Park, accompanied by a soundtrack of heavy dub, Caribbean style. Definitely not art in my books, but the assembled crowd dancing stumble-footed in a haze of pot smoke may have disagreed.

Off to the Art Gallery of Ontario, then, for Paul Butler’s “Other Painting Competition,” held in the AGO’s shiny new drawing studio, which opened last week.

It had the right energy: Packed and festive but not rowdy, there was something about the spectacle that worked for me — art-making as popular spectator sport — and I left feeling buoyed.

It turned out to be short-lived, though, as I steered my bicycle north to Bloor St. The Royal Ontario Museum and Royal Conservatory, both active hubs in past years, stood dark and still. Through Yorkville and into Cumberland Park, another dead zone. Last year, condo owners complained and shut down the “all-night” events there at 11 p.m., which likely accounted for the quiet on Bloor as well — cultural NIMBYism at work. So much for the civic all-for-one.

As a result, Jessica Rose’s “City Sleepover,” an open-invite slumber party held in decommissioned subway cars in Lower Bay Street station, seemed a lone outpost. Previous Nuit Blanches have seen the station beset with hour-long waits, whereas the sleepover had only a comfortable complement of snoozers.

In the end, it worked in her favour: Inside the cars people had strung up hammocks, built forts and in a good many cases, actually gone to sleep. I counted at least one set of fuzzy pyjamas — red flannel, snowman print — and snoring from three different points.

Up there all alone, the City Sleepover became that rarest of Nuit Blanche things — a project mounted and realized as sincere social experiment not overtaken by the unreality of unrelenting throngs. It worked.

This should not be as rare as it is. Nuit Blanche is essentially an experiment, and that’s part of its charm — there’s no dry run, so you never know what’s going to happen until it happens — but perennially, it’s more miss than hit.

I’m all for spontaneity, but let’s face it: Nuit Blanche is too big, too sprawling, too ungainly and under-controlled to ever be declared a success in anything other than sheer numbers.

Maybe I’m not the only one who feels that way. Nuit Blanche is impossible to characterize as a whole, but am I the only one seeing an undercurrent of futility and dread? Ambling down Yonge, around 2 a.m., the crowds spilled every which way past “The Police Station,” an Althea Thauberger installation where passers-by were held for questioning, processed, and released.

Farther down, glaring lights just south of Queen were both blinding and an irresistible draw into “Barricades,” a corridor of yellow caution tape walling in a pinwheel of blue cop barricades arranged into a makeshift sculpture.

Echoes of G20 chaos rung loudly, even as people took playful photographs in the web of the tape, but this work, by Jeremy Jansen and Niall McClelland, became my unexpected favourite: Dull, bright surveillance glare piquing irresistible curiosity, it epitomized the urge to be somewhere you shouldn’t.

Around the corner, the night’s best spectacle played out to a boisterous crowd: Geoffrey Pugen and Tibi Tibi Neuspiel’s “The Tie Break,” a shot-by-shot recreation of the famous 1980 tie-breaker between Bjorn Borg (Neuspiel) and John McEnroe (Pugen).

Even at 3:30 a.m., it lived up to billing, every shot freighted with significance. Not everyone knew what they were watching — a chant of “Sampras sucks!” rose and fell — but they were riveted nonetheless.

Still, everyone has a breaking point, and mine came at 12-all (McEnroe to serve). Even here, at the most openly entertaining work of the night, Nuit Blanche’s demons inevitably emerge: Some drunken shoving nearby, an argument, that sick feeling that something could go wrong, and fast.

Right around 4 a.m., I called it quits, done in by the cold and the creeping sense of malevolence from a crowd under the influence of a dangerous brew of alcohol, exhaustion and boredom.

It was a solid hour earlier than I packed it in last year. Maybe I’m getting old, I thought as I pedaled home. Or maybe Nuit Blanche is.

10 Head-Start Holiday Gift Ideas

Source: www.thestar.com - By Adrienne Jackson

(Oct 04, 2011) For most of us, the holiday season is still in the distant future. But for über-organized gift givers, the shopping season starts now. Here are some lust-worthy items for everyone on your list to scoop up now and wrap up later.

The Techie

The techie in your life is always the first one to have the latest and greatest item. When it’s cold out, keep them plugged in with their favourite downloads. This genius gadget tidies up shows streamed from the internet into neat listings. Browse them with a normal remote or flip the box over for a handy keyboard. (The Boxee Box by D-Link, $199.99, Best Buy)

The Book Lover

For the book lover on your list, get something they’ll love to look at now and for years to come. A beautiful, oversized book is not only nice to flip through, it also makes a great statement in a room and is usually something with a ticket price that people don’t like to splurge on for themselves. (Mark Rothko National Gallery of Art Washington, $44.10, Indigo)

The Homebody

When it’s cold outside, a homebody hardly needs a reason to stay toasty warm inside. Give them something cozy and cheery, like a luxuriously soft blanket to liven up a well-lived in space that will feel as familiar as it does new. Choose a neutral colour to complement any decor, and a chunky texture for handmade appeal. (Chunky Tassel Throw, $71.65, west elm)

Your Main Man

Nothing says “take me away for the holidays” like a classic weekender bag. Sophisticated and sturdy, it’s the perfect addition to any man’s repertoire, and takes him seamlessly from work to weekend to business trip. Look for a durable material like canvas or leather with lots of pockets for the ultimate organization. Interesting hardware details and buckles keep it stylish without being overly showy. (Filson Duffle Bag, $268, Uncle Otis)

The new parents

The holiday season can be hectic, especially with a new little one. Give new parents the gift of free time now or in the New Year with hassle-free pre-made dinners. You choose a one-to-seven day tailor-made catered package (or a long-term package) and have gourmet meals prepared in advance and dropped off to be enjoyed any time. Deluxe packages include the addition of soups and desserts. For the time-starved, it’s an idea that’s as delicious as it is practical. (Two-day Deluxe Package, $118, Mamaluv.com)

The Fashionista

Even the girl who has everything can find room to flaunt a glimmery little bag. Small enough to not overpower yet big enough to make serious impact, a little retro-throwback evening bag will accent any outfit and add flair to a party frock. Whether worn to holiday parties or well into the year to dress up jeans, a little sparkle is sure to go with everything. (Multi-texture mesh evening bag, $98, BCBG)

The Sports Fan

Spread a different kind of cheer by giving the gift of sport. On or off season, they’re sure to be a big fan of their team’s memorabilia. Score points with a rare collector’s item, like their favourite player’s rookie card. It’s a gift that will be well received and idolized forever. (Maple Leafs Rookie Card, Prices vary, Legends of the Game)

The Travel Buff

‘Tis the season for travel. Whether you’ve got a snow bird, a jetsetter or a visiting in-law to think of, make sure they arrive (or depart) in style. In all the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to lose track of travel documents and passports. Keep them all in one place in a handy passport holder in a bight, eye-catching colour that looks well-travelled, well-heeled, and is easy to find, even in the biggest carry on bag. (Patent Blue Leather Passport Holder, $145, Tiffany & Company)

The In-laws

There’s something soothing (and convenient) about giving an audio book tailored to the listener. Great for a rainy day at home or a long afternoon drive, these short story compilations are rapt with funny anecdotes and moving morals. Particularly Canadian with a lullaby-like tone, they make a memorable and meaningful gift for the avid audio-reader. (Stuart McLean Vinyl Cafe Stories, $17.61, Indigo)

The Foodie

When entertaining is at the top of the list, even the most seasoned foodie can use a little help. A classic, carved cheese knife set and wooden plank board are great additions to any table and serve as the perfect complement to a mix of festive cheeses, chutneys and compotes. Keep a few on hand as these makes for a thoughtful and useful hostess gift in a pinch. (Antonini Olive Wood Cheese Knives & Board, starting at $49, Williams Sonoma)


A Magical Night Near Montego Bay

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(Oct 03, 2011) MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA—There's 400 acres of beaches, a children's playgrounds, a first-class spa with waterfalls, a dolphin lagoon, croquet, golf and an equestrian centre where they'll take you swimming on horseback.

But the thing that impressed me most about
Half Moon A Rock Resort was the simplest attraction they have. It was my second and last night on the property and I had just come back from a memorable dinner on a floating house boat in Montego Bay. I stopped at the beachside bar to see what was happening, there being few things in the world better than sipping a cocktail by the ocean.

The bar was half asleep, so I started to walk down along the beach towards my unit. I looked out and, in the nearly full moonlight, saw a 60-foot-long pier jutting into the shallow waters of the bay. Waves gently splayed up over the pier every few seconds, and there was no one in sight. I took off my sandals and walked out to … sheer perfection.

The moon was bright enough to read by. The waves were gently rolling over a reef a few feet away. On the shore, hundreds of tiny lights at the resort's Seagrapes restaurant lit up the trees and the gazebo bar. The tinkling sound of glasses and friendly chatter almost evoked an image of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda on a Jamaica cocktail cruise.

The lights from the villas on the shore cast a golden light the colour of summer wheat on the dark water, and the shadows of towering palm trees waved in the sparkles.

Some folks, of course, demand more from a vacation than a midnight moon. Luckily, the Half Moon resort in particular and Jamaica in general have an incredible array of options.

You can try the equestrian centre, where they'll even lead you on a short walk down to the beach. Timid types let the horses go into the sea up to their knees, but more adventurous sorts can hang on for dear life while the horses submerge themselves in the surf a hundred yards off shore.

“Awesome,” said Scott Handwerger of New York. “Going out in the surf was 10 out of 10. But I would've liked more time riding on the beach and the ride to get here was nothing special.”

My first night at Half Moon I ate on the tree-covered patio at the Sugar Mill Restaurant onsite, dining on jerk chicken spring rolls, snapper in a coconut-saffron sauce, smoky crayfish bisque and a wonderful orange-banana bread pudding with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee for dessert. The second night I opted to get outside the resort.

The hotel called me a cab (a word of warning: a cab called by your hotel might cost you $40 for 20 minutes; not bad by Canadian standards but higher than you might expect for Jamaica) and I hopped in with a guy from the south part of the island, Dennis. We got to chatting about a place I was going to visit later, Jake's at Treasure Beach, and I told him how the director of the reggae film classic The Harder They Come was partly behind Jake's.

He quickly ejected his cassette tape and fired up the movie soundtrack, and we went blasting down the streets of Montego Bay screaming out, “the oppressors are trying to keep me down, trying to drag me underground.”

After a few songs, I told him to surprise me with something I wouldn't hear at my hotel. Within a few seconds the car speakers were sending out something that sounded like country hurtin' music mixed with reggae and splashed with Motown horns.

“Ernie Smith,” he said when I raised an appreciative-mixed-with-what-in-the-world eyebrow. “He's a legend down here. 1960s, mostly.”

The music was old-timey and wonderful and we listened all the way to the restaurant, passing roadside shacks, people selling soft drinks and kids in red uniforms trudging home from soccer practice.

The next day, it was a short visit to Scotchies; a roadside attraction of its own near the Montego Bay Airport. You line up at an open-air counter and place your order for jerk chicken or pork or, on some days, ribs. There's also breadfruit and yams and something called festival—long, skinny pieces of flour and cornmeal together.

You sit outside at giant, round tables under a thatched roof, so it's quite cool. It's great jerk, but I was surprised it wasn't spicier. I was dipping mine in the fiery yellow hot sauce for some extra kick and was shocked my tour guide/driver wasn't doing the same.

Lest I get excited about besting the locals on the fire-eating scale, he explained that the restaurant keeps things mild for the tourists, while the locals get the real thing when they pull over at the side of the road on the way home.

One of the great things about Half Moon is the inestimable Wordsworth Watson, who began working here in 1958 and is still going strong.

“I wanted a waiter's job but they made me a busboy, which meant I had a bucket and some Scotch-brite for cleaning.” He made a name for himself by seeing what guests ordered and how they acted and handing them their favourite drink or food item before they even ordered.

These days, he's up around 4 a.m. to scour the grounds and report back on what he sees, using his half-century of experience to know what's wrong and how to fix it. He goes home, then comes back later in the day for more sleuthing.

“It's not work,” he insists. “I love it. I love it.”

Watson has seen many a celebrity pass through the airy lobby at Half Moon. He's fond of Queen Elizabeth and Desmond Tutu, but wasn't so enamoured with Eddie Murphy's bossy bodyguards.

“Liz Taylor came here a couple times; the Princess of Monaco, too. Paul Simon comes every year. David Bowie and he are friends and sometimes they come at the same time.

“Nobody bothers them. Paul can go in the buffet line with everyone else and it's no big deal.”

Watson tells the story of once meeting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

“He had the whole RCMP group with him and it was New Year's. The lights went out and the generator didn't kick in. So I walked over to make sure everything was okay. The Mounties were on full alert but he waved me over to his villa and had me sit with he and his wife and have a glass of champagne.”


SLEEPING Half Moon is located in Rose Hall, a few minutes from the Montego Bay airport. Rooms were recently listed for $223 per night and up for October. www.halfmoon.rockresorts.com or call 1-877-956-7625 or 1-888-830-5974. Rooms come in a wide variety of styles and with different plans and packages. Folks looking for something more basic can try a spot on the so-called Hip Strip in Montego Bay. The Wexford Court is convenient but quite basic, with rooms from $121 and up. www.thewexfordhotel.com.

DINING Both Seagrapes and the Sugar Mill serve outstanding food. The Houseboat Grill is a fun and funky spot in the port area. Down on the HipStrip, Jimmy Buffett fans flock to Margaritaville. Or you can dine like a local at The Pelican, where you can dine on fresh local fish with red peppers and onions.

Halloween In Orlando A Real Scream

Source: www.thestar.com - Mitch Stacy

(September 30, 2011) ORLANDO—Universal Orlando’s first foray into Halloween Horror Nights 21 years ago involved one weekend, a single haunted house tucked away in the back of the park by the “Jaws” ride and some people in store-bought masks jumping out of dark corners.

What was largely an experiment that first year has evolved into a monster draw for the Orlando theme park. Once the creative types figured out that people loved having the wits scared out of them and would pay for the privilege, the challenge was on to create something bigger and better every year.

This time the event runs 25 nights in September and October and takes over the entire park, with eight themed haunted houses and mazes, two live shows, sophisticated makeup, film-quality set decor, lots of fake blood and as many as 1,000 “scare-acters” involved. Planning and production takes place year-round now, and the event draws hundreds of thousands of people who pay $42 or more to attend.

“I think it all has to with escape,” says Patrick Braillard, a production show director and one of the gleefully demented minds behind the event. “People love to be transported, they love to be taken somewhere they’re not familiar with. So our job is to create eight immersive environments. When they walk in, they are completely somewhere else.”

The concept is basically the same as in the cheesy neighbourhood haunted houses that spring up every year to raise money for charity: costumed characters jumping out of dark, creepy surroundings to make unsuspecting patrons scream. But for a generation raised on computerized special-effects, slasher movies, video games and the Internet, Universal and other theme parks that get into the scare business every October have had to step up their game. And that means realism.

The Universal haunted houses and mazes are on sophisticated studio soundstages and all have a theme and eerie story attached. Attention to detail and sense of place is stunning. In one, visitors walk through a misty haunted cemetery as corpses emerge from disturbed graves and crypts. In another, souls that perished at sea on Christopher Columbus’ fourth ship forever haunt a Spanish fort. (The gallows setting in that one alone could induce nightmares for those who are prone.) Another has an obligatory tie-in to a Universal movie, in this case “The Thing,” which comes out in mid-October. A Lady Luck gambling theme — it’s the 21st year for the event, get it? — is a common thread throughout.

Horrible-looking zombies and other ghouls lurk in “scare zones” throughout the park. This is definitely not for younger kids and the faint of heart.

“You’ve got moments of breathing room, like the bathrooms and any food lines that you might go into, but pretty much you’re ours as soon as you hit the gate,” Braillard says.

A note to Harry Potter fans: Universal Orlando consists of two parks. Halloween Horror Nights takes place at Universal Studios Florida, not at its sister park, Islands of Adventure, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located.

Universal Studios Hollywood stages its own Halloween Horror Nights, with original mazes based on ‘70s shock rocker Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to My Nightmare” theme, Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Wolfman.” Also new this year is a maze built around “La Llorona,” the fearful story of melancholy and murder that has terrified Mexican and Latin American children for generations. For the uninitiated, La Llorona was doomed to wander Earth forever after drowning her children in a desperate attempt to win a lost love.

At Busch Gardens in Tampa, the annual
Howl-O-Scream event will feature “The Dark Side of the Gardens” for 17 nights, with seven haunted houses and mazes, plus the streets will be crawling with hideous zombies. Creative director Scott Swenson says twice as many actors are hired just to haunt the streets inside the park now than were involved in the entire event when it started 12 years ago. That first year, there were three haunted houses, a few costumed monsters roaming around and a couple shows. Now Busch Gardens hires an extra 1,000 people and artists spend hours creating detailed silicone prosthetics and masks for the characters.

Swenson says he thinks people come to the park to be scared for the same thrill they might get from extreme sports.

“It’s an adrenaline rush that if you let your imagination go is just as real as being terrified anywhere else,” he says. “But deep inside, you know you’re still going to be safe. You can get close to the edge.”

For families that want some Halloween fun that doesn’t involve uncomfortable surroundings, gore and body parts, Walt Disney World has
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party. The costumed little ones can collect trick-or-treat candy from throughout the Magic Kingdom and see the Boo-To-You parade that includes stars of the famous Haunted Mansion attraction. Disney caps it off with a Happy HalloWishes fireworks show.

The SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego also are offering family friendly Halloween events with undersea themes. Kids can trick-or-treat throughout the parks and check out the themed shows, including Sesame Street’s “Countdown to Halloween Show.”


Canadian Women Claim Third Place At FIBA Americas

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(October 1, 2011) Neiva, Colombia — Canadian head coach Allison McNeill says she learned a lot about her team at the FIBA Americas Championship women's basketball tournament.

Canada wrapped up the Olympic qualifying tournament with a 59-46 win over Cuba on Saturday in the third-place game.

McNeill's team rebounded from Friday's disappointing semi-final loss to Argentina to finish the event on a high note.

“We came down here and some of our younger players had never played in a tournament of this magnitude and I think it was real growth period for some of them,” McNeill said. “I think we've learned that we are a world-class defensive team. We can guard good teams.”

Brazil hammered Argentina 74-33 in the gold-medal game later Saturday.

Despite finishing third in Colombia, Canada took a significant step toward qualifying for the London Olympics.

Brazil gets an automatic berth at the 2012 Games, but by finishing in the top four, Canada is guaranteed a spot in the worldwide 12-team Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer.

Despite the positives, McNeill says there are areas her players must improve if the team is going to take the next step.

“I think that we've learned we have to improve our ball-handling skills,” McNeill added. “We had too many turnovers here and we have to do a better job handling the ball and making better decisions.”

Kim Smith of Mission, B.C., led the way for Canada with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists against Cuba. Teresa Gabriele, also of Mission, added 13 points of her own, to go along with four boards and three assists.

Saskatoon's Krista Phillips had eight points, while Chelsea Aubry of Kitchener, Ont., chipped in with a game-high seven rebounds for Canada.

McNeill was furious with the officials at the end of Friday's 61-59 loss to Argentina.

Canada led 59-56 in the final minute when Argentina hit a three-pointer to tie the score. The Canadians took a timeout and advanced the ball to half court before inbounding to Hamilton's Shona Thorburn.

Argentina had two fouls to give and repeatedly attempted foul the Canadian guard. But the referees failed to make a call as Argentina instead stole the ball and went in for the winning layup.

McNeill was happy how her team put the disappointment in the past against Cuba.

“It was a tough loss last night in terms of the way it kind of went down and we really had to regroup today and they did and showed a ton of character,” she said. “Cuba's a very explosive team and we just played great defence so I was very proud of them.

“You can't look back and you can't go back so I was really pleased that (Friday's loss) didn't grind our team down. They were resilient and got the bronze.”

Bautista, Votto Up For Aaron Repeat

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish

(Oct 03, 2011) Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has once again been nominated for the Hank Aaron Award as baseball’s top offensive performer.

Bautista and Toronto’s Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, who has also been nominated again, were last year’s winners.

The award is voted on by fans and a panel of Hall of Fame players including Hank Aaron, Roberto Alomar, Joe Morgan, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Robin Yount.

Bautista led the majors in home runs for the second consecutive year, with 43, while batting .302 with 103 RBIs.

Votto hit .309 with 29 homers and 103 RBIs.

One player from each of the 30 clubs was nominated. Voting ends Sunday and a winner from each league will be announced during the World Series.

NBA Games To Be Axed If No Agreement In Place By Monday

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

(Oct. 04, 2011) Commissioner David Stern floated it as an idea more
than a firm proposal: a 50-50 revenue split.  Even so, the union's reply was unequivocal. “They said, ‘We can't do it.“’ according to Stern.

And with that, the remainder of the pre-season was lost and the first two weeks of the regular season moved to the brink of cancellation.

NBA shelved the rest of its exhibition schedule Tuesday and will wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no labour agreement by Monday.

“We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we could make and we were not able to continue the negotiations,” Stern said after nearly fours of talks between owners and players ended without gaining ground on a new deal.

No further meetings are scheduled, making it even more likely the league will lose games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1998-99, when the season was reduced to 50 games.

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said owners offered players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. That's below the 57 per cent that players were guaranteed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, but more than the 47 per cent union officials said was formally proposed to them.

The only numbers that matter now, however, are the millions that stand to be lost when arenas go dark.

“The damage will be enormous,” Silver said.

Players had offered to reduce their BRI guarantee to 53 per cent, which they said would have given owners back more than US$1 billion over six years. They say they won't cut it further, at least for now.

And they insist the 50-50 concept wasn't an even split, because it would have come after the league had already deducted $350 million off the top.

“Today was not the day for us to get this done,” players' association president Derek Fisher said. “We were not able to get close enough to close the gap.”

With superstars like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett standing behind him, union executive director Billy Hunter said the players' proposal would have made up at least $200 million per season — a sizable chunk of the $300 million owners said they lost last season.

“Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games,” Hunter said.

The sides are also still divided on the salary-cap structure.

Training camps were postponed and 43 pre-season games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were cancelled on Sept. 24. Both sides said they felt pressure to work toward a deal with deadlines looming before more cancellations would be necessary.

Stern said the owners had removed their demand for a hard salary cap, were no longer insisting on salary rollbacks, and would have given players the right to opt out of a 10-year agreement after seven years. But the money split was always going to be the biggest hurdle in these negotiations, with owners insistent on the ability to turn a profit after the league said 22 of its 30 teams lost money last season.

“We want to and have been willing to negotiate, but we find ourselves at a point today where we in some ways anticipated or expected to be, faced with a lockout that may jeopardize portions if not all of our season,” Fisher said.

After hardly budging off their original proposal for 1 1-2 years, owners finally increased their offer to players from 46 to 47 per cent of BRI. It was then that the top negotiators discussed the 50-50 concept, and while Stern sounded disappointed that it didn't work, Silver was more frustrated.

“I am not going to get a good night sleep,” he said. “After this afternoon's session, I would say I'm personally very disappointed. I thought that we should have continued negotiating today and I thought that there was potentially common ground on a 50-50 deal. I think it makes sense, it sounds like a partnership. There still would have been a lot of negotiating to do on the system elements, but I'm personally very disappointed.”

On what both sides stressed was an important day, the owners' entire 11-man labour relations committee came to New York to meet with 11 players. They could still work something out before Monday's deadline, but neither side sounded optimistic.

“Right now, we had our committees, we gave it a really good run, and it didn't work,” Stern said.

Hunter said the union would hold regional meetings with its players, set up workout centres and help in other ways. And many players — including Bryant, who has been in talks with an Italian team — will have to decide if they want to explore playing overseas.

And without a deal, the battle could go to the courts. Hunter said the union would have to consider decertification, and on Tuesday a federal court judge scheduled a hearing for Nov. 2 to hear arguments in the league's lawsuit against the players seeking a declaration that the lockout doesn't violate antitrust laws.

All things both sides hoped to avoid Tuesday.

“It wasn't to be, and we don't have any plans right now,” Stern said.

Bible, Thumping Videos: How The Leafs Prepare For Big Games

Source: www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter

(October 04, 2011) James Reimer, like most people in sports, tosses numbers around easily. They roll off the goaltender’s tongue . . . 14:31, 41:10, 3:1, each reference punctuated with an aside such as “that one’s pretty great” or “a real classic.”

Reimer doesn’t keep a bible on opposition shooters; he has the Bible. Matthew 14:31, Isaiah 41:10, Colossians 3:1 are all among the passages he cites as reminders of his place in the grander scheme.

The Maple Leafs open the franchise’s 95th season at the Air Canada Centre against Montreal on Thursday. Toronto fans, their own faith shaken by six consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, will be anxiously watching to see if these Leafs really have found their saviour in the guy making the saves.

To cope with the burden, as he does on the night before every game, Reimer will connect to God through prayer and his well-thumbed Bible.

Other Leafs, like athletes in all sports, have found their own pre-game quiet place, even if their methods don’t appear overtly calming.
Jay Rosehill, for example, watches fight videos on his laptop. Tyler Bozak likes to play war games on Xbox.

In the largely secular world of hockey, calling on a higher power other than Brian Burke is atypical, but Reimer says his devotion allows him to cope with life in the Toronto fishbowl.

“He’s a strength that I rely on big-time because the nerves and the pressure is way too much for me, especially at times,” Reimer explains.

“There’s a passage that reads, ‘He gives you the peace that exceeds all understanding.’ To feel that in the midst of a pressure-filled, pressure-cooker place to play — especially on the night before when I’m, like, ‘Crap, what’s going to happen tomorrow; I could get lit for 13 goals on 17 shots’ — to experience that through Him, with Him. That’s indescribable. That’s the big thing for me, just that peace in a chaotic life.”

Opening Night accentuates the anxious moments. But on the eve of any big event, athletes from all sports wrestle with the inner demons of self-doubt. How they manage their emotions, how they find peace before the lights turn off will almost always influence how they perform when the spotlight comes on, whether they’ll be facing a rampaging defensive lineman, one of the NHL’s best shooters or an icy mountain slope.

“It’s such a mental game,” says Canadian alpine skier
Manuel Osborne-Paradis, recalling the night before hurtling down the treacherous drop at the menacing Hahnenkamm course at Kitzbuehel where speeds can hit 140-kilometres an hour.

“It’s so in your head about how to figure out the course; how to be so scared but still push yourself to be one of the fastest guys is mentally very draining. I kind of like to watch a movie and zone out. It’s not what you’re watching. It’s more just the fact that you’re doing something other than just freaking out inside.”

Those psychological hurdles are not exclusive to athletes. Everyone from a salesperson making a presentation to a lawyer crafting a closing argument must deal with performance jitters in their professional lives.

Adele recently confided to British Vogue that stage fright makes her physically ill.

“I puke quite a lot before going on stage,” she said. “But the pre-show puke guarantees a great performance. The bigger the freak-out, the more I enjoy the show.”

Not to regurgitate an old story, but Adele was simply channelling her inner Glenn Hall, the Hall of Fame NHL goaltender who would famously find a not-so-quiet moment to wretch before each game. It is in sports, where failures and successes are so brutally laid bare and athletes face the added element of physical danger, that controlling anxiety becomes crucial. So much so, that it is not unusual for professional teams and various national sports bodies to employ a psychologist to handhold players through mentally troubling times and help them be at their best when the fans take their seats.

“You should be breathing slowly and deeply. Let all the last traces of tension drain out of your body. You may notice a sensation of warmth and heaviness throughout your body as though you are sinking deeper and deeper into the bed or chair. You may feel you are floating on a cloud or lying on a warm beach. Enjoy the sensation of relaxation. Ask yourself, are there any changes you would like to make in your game or your life? Changes that you have direct control over. Repeat to yourself the specific behavioural changes that you want to bring about. Picture yourself performing these new-found behaviours. Accept this scene and the change it represents as already being part of your game or your life.”

The soothing voice belongs to broadcaster Tish Iceton but the words are from
Paul Dennis, a professor of sports psychology at both York and Toronto universities. Dennis, employed by the Leafs for more than two decades, believes so strongly that mental preparation the night before a game can influence performance that he created, and has widely distributed, an 11-minute CD to guide them through those quiet moments.

Click here to listen to the CD

The recording takes the listener through a series of progressive relaxation exercises and, just as the athlete is about to drift off, he or she visualizes a successful performance the next day.

“Let’s say it’s a goal scorer, the theory is if he sees himself handling the puck really well, being incredibly confident and finishing off with a great shot and a great goal, that image seeps into his subconscious mind and that’s the driving force behind all his behaviour,” explains Dennis.

“If he has that image just before falling off to sleep, the more likely it is he will try to replicate that the next day.”

Dennis said it’s not unusual for even very successful athletes to feel anxious or experience self-doubt the night before a game or race. To get past that, he says, a psychologist might encourage the athlete to “restructure” his thinking and recall the positive images of triumph.

“What we’re trying to do is get them to shift their focus from what could go wrong to what is always right. Focus on the evidence; focus on the truth,” says Dennis. “They wouldn’t be a professional athlete or a highly successful athlete if the negative things they’re thinking came to fruition.”

Still, it’s not always easy.

Rosehill fights the doubts inherent in his role as an enforcer who wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the opening night roster. He cracked the line-up but he’s never certain when he will play but when he does, he’s almost certain he will have to fight the other team’s tough guy.

“Some of the times I’ve been really anxious or nervous, by the end of the game, I always look back and laugh. ‘Why was I worked up about that? That was no problem.’

But then the next day comes and you go through it again,” he says.

While teammate Reimer opens his Bible for reassurance, Rosehill reaches for his mouse. On the eve of a game or before his pre-game nap, he’ll surf the web looking for hockey fights featuring the opponent he’ll most likely encounter on the ice. He dissects his style but, mostly, he wants to see his potential dance partner getting pummelled.

“I’ll end off with one where the guy I’m thinking about didn’t fare so well. I try to see what (his opponent) did to get the better of him and try to leave on that note so that I have a little bit of extra confidence,” he explains.

Most successful athletes have developed mental tricks to calm themselves in order to get their rest and not be knotted with anxiety on the eve of competition.

“You sometimes have to separate yourself from your sport,” says
Jon Montgomery, the skeleton racer who won gold at the Vancouver Olympics.

“Read a book or sit down with a cup of tea; a glass of wine for some athletes. For myself, I usually have one beer while I’m preparing (my sled) runners the night before just to make sure you’re getting yourself calm.”

Far from the days when the likes of Broadway Joe Namath would famously be completing passes with members of the opposite sex on the eve of a big game, if you were to kick in Montgomery’s door the night before a race, he’d likely be reading Adam Carolla’s In Fifty Years We’ll all be Chicks after he enjoyed that single beer while sanding his sled’s blades to a mirror-like sheen.

National team skier
Larisa Yurkiw would likely be sipping tea, reading a Danielle Steele novel — “Something that can make me brain dead before I go to sleep. Anything that isn’t too deep; anything that doesn’t have intricate sentences . . . no real theories,” she says — and listening to acoustic music.

Leafs centre
Bozak, after going through a mental checklist of the faceoff habits of the opposition pivots, would likely be winding down playing Call of Duty online, possibly with teammates Clarke MacArthur, Mike Komisarek or Mike Brown.

While, on the night before stepping into the trenches against the best rush ends in the NFL, Buffalo Bills left tackle
Demetrius Bell chugs a carton of milk while munching oatmeal raisin cookies.

“I never had a sports psychologist. I’ve never heard of that,” says the 311-pound lineman. “I like milk and I like cookies.”

Not all athletes are on edge before a competition. While Yurkiw confesses to being “scared” before racing a new track and looks for ways to numb those feelings, local mixed martial arts fighter
Claude Patrick said he is actually at his most relaxed the night before a bout. It’s almost a relief, he says. He’s made it through his training healthy, which isn’t always guaranteed, and is ready to go to work, which he loves to do. It matters little that his “work” can be dangerous and bloody.

“Being worried about what a guy is going to do to you makes no sense, because you can’t change that,” he explains. “I focus mostly on myself. They have a plan but so do you.”

Matt Lashoff, a defenceman who just departed Leafs’ camp for the Marlies, uses visualization to keep his confidence up despite his status on the cusp of the NHL. The night before a game, he’ll consume any hockey he can find on television as a learning tool and then he’ll picture everything in his mind from what position he should take in certain situations on the ice to how he’ll recover if something goes wrong.

“A lot of this stuff may seem like hocus-pocus from the outside but it really is just driving home positive re-affirmations to yourself,” he said. “Not only does it help you on the ice, it keeps you sane.”

Lynx Finish The Dream In Game 1 Of WNBA Finals

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jon Krawczynski, The Associated Press

(October 2, 2011) Rebekkah Brunson had 26 points and 11 rebounds and Seimone Augustus added 22 points to lead the Minnesota Lynx to an 88-74 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the WNBA finals on Sunday night.

Lindsay Whalen added 15 points and six assists and the Lynx turned a close game into a runaway with a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter. Taj McWilliams-Franklin added eight points and 10 boards while battling an illness.

Angel McCoughtry scored 19 of her 33 points in the third quarter and Lindsey Harding scored 20 points for the Dream.

Atlanta led by 12 points midway through the second quarter, but the Lynx kept them off the board for the first 4:34 of the fourth quarter to take control.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Wednesday night in Minneapolis.

For those who say the women's game lacks everything that makes the sport great - athleticism, shot-making and competitive fire - Game 1 will not help them make their case.

Maya Moore's sensational reverse layup, a scoop shot that started from clear on the other side of the rim, got the Lynx started on a third-quarter surge that got them back into the game. Brunson finished a three-point play and Augustus's no-look pass was finished by Whalen's reverse layup to cap a 9-0 run that gave them a 51-49 lead.

On the other end, McCoughtry was simply unstoppable, hitting an incredible array of jumpers from odd angles all over the floor, blocking shots and forcing steals to keep her team from faltering. She scored all but four of Atlanta's 23 points in the third and the game was tied at 62 heading into the fourth.

Whalen started the deciding surge with a three-point play and a shooter's roll jumper and the Lynx turned up the pressure on the defensive end to get two fast break layups to take a 75-62 lead with 5:45 to play.

The Lynx outscored the Dream 52-30 in the paint and held Atlanta to 37 per cent shooting in Minnesota's first finals game in franchise history.

After 12 largely anonymous and often wretched seasons of existence, the Lynx finally broke through this year in a major way. With Augustus healthy for the first time in three years and Moore coming from UConn with the No. 1 overall pick, the Lynx blew the doors off the rest of the league, finishing 27-7, six games better than the second-best team.

A fired-up crowd of 15,258 - the second-largest in franchise history - waved white pom-poms and celebrated wildly after a nerve-racking start.

The Dream just seemed a step quicker than the Lynx in the early going, with Harding running circles around Whalen and the rest of the Lynx in the first 13 minutes. They forced six turnovers and Harding hit two threes as they jumped out to a 29-17 lead early in the second quarter.

The Lynx couldn't buy a basket while Atlanta built its lead, shooting 29 per cent in the first quarter and a half. Augustus missed six of her first seven shots, but once she got going, the Lynx clawed back into the game.

She hit a pull-up jumper and a three-pointer from the wing to get things started and fed Jessica Adair on a pretty pick-and-roll to pull the Lynx to 39-36 at halftime.

The Dream are playing in the finals for the second year in a row after losing to Seattle last year. Not bad for a franchise that just started four years ago. They dispatched top-seeded Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals to get here, winning on the road in Game 3 to advance.

Kobe Bryant and Italian Club agree to $3M Deal

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Sept. 30, 2011) *It’s pretty much a done deal that Kobe Bryant will play in Italy during the NBA lockout, but scheduling in the Italian league remains a hurdle.

The NBA superstar for the Los Angeles Lakers would be paid $3 million for the opening 40 days of the season according to an Associated Press report on Friday.

“We have reached an economic deal,” Virtus president Claudio Sabatini told a local radio station. “There’s still some things to arrange, but at this point I’m very optimistic. I would say it’s 95 percent done.”

The deal should last about 10 games and would allow Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends.

Sabatini wants to create a special schedule that assigns Bryant’s games to Italy’s biggest arenas.

“This is an important investment and a unique chance for the city of Bologna and all of Italian basketball,” Sabatini said. “I’m hoping everyone wants to collaborate.”

Well it looks like that’s not going to be the case because of a couple of haters in the Italian league. It seems two teams refuse to alter their schedules to accommodate Virtus and Bryant.

A person familiar with the negotiations said smaller clubs Cremona and Varese were refusing to alter their schedules. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing.

Read/learn MORE at LA Times.

Former Sabres Star Rick Martin Had Brain Disease

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(Oct. 05, 2011) A study of the brain of former Buffalo Sabres star
Rick Martin has shown the 52-goal scorer had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated brain trauma.

Martin died of a heart attack at 59 last March.

The news follows post-mortem CTE diagnoses on the brains of fellow former NHL players Bob Probert and Reggie Fleming. Martin is the first who did not play the role of fighter or enforcer.

"His CTE was definitely there and likely caused by repetitive blows to the head, received in hockey over the years," said Robert Stern, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University and co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the university's school of medicine.

Martin, who played most of his 11-year NHL career without a helmet, had a disease which can have no symptoms at the start but can present problems as one ages.

Stern said in an interview Martin died without showing CTE's typical symptoms of poor memory and other cognitive difficulties such as depression, suicidal thoughts or difficulties with impulse control.

"He didn't have them in any significant fashion," he said. But onset of symptoms can't always be predicted.

"We don't know why someone like Rick Martin would have a mild form of the disease at 59, and others who are younger would have much more significant severity of disease. That's one of the important things our centre is trying to understand," Stern said.

"What he was suffering from was a progressive brain disease ... it's a disease similar to Alzheimer's, though different. It starts developing earlier in life and progresses and eventually - when it's severe enough - will start having symptoms."

Martin did not suffer any known brain trauma outside of hockey and did not engage in fighting in his playing days. Martin wore a helmet his last four years in the NHL.

"We hope the decision makers at all levels of hockey consider this finding as they continue to make adjustments to hockey to make the game safer for participants," Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy co-director Chris Nowinski said.

Richard Wennberg, professor of medicine and neurology at the University of Toronto, said it was interesting that pathological changes were in evidence. Martin suffered convulsions after a serious 1977 concussion and may have had other unreported concussions.

"Is one concussion enough to cause permanent damage? It's certainly possible it could be related to one concussion," Wennberg said.

The Toronto doctor warned the public shouldn't jump to the conclusion all sport is bad and should be banned: "You could be walking down the street and injure yourself."

A member of Buffalo's famed French Connection line with Gilbert Perreault and René Robert, Martin scored 52 goals in 1973-74 and again 1974-75. He finished his NHL career in 1981, with 384 goals and 701 points in 685 games.

Martin was diagnosed by neuropathologist Ann McKee, director of the largest CTE brain bank in the world, the Bedford (Mass.) Veterans Administration Medical Center.

McKee has completed the analysis of the brains of over 70 former athletes, and more than 50 have shown signs of CTE, including 14 of 15 former NFL players, as well as college and high-school football players, hockey players, professional wrestlers and boxers. More than 500 living athletes have committed to donate their brains, including a dozen former hockey players.

"Someone who wasn't a fighter, by playing the game of hockey for the number of years that he did ... it put him at risk for developing this disease," Stern said of Martin.

"We can speculate symptoms would have gotten worse. The message is that we need to take brain trauma in hockey and in all sports much more seriously than we have before."