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


February 16, 2012

Black History Month continues with its many offerings and celebrations.

Speaking of
celebrating, I have a ticket giveaway for Obeah Opera for the Wednesday, February 29th, 8:00 pm show! If you can tell me WHERE this magical play is showing, YOU could be a winner! Please only enter if you know that you are available on February 29th. Enter the contest HERE! To refresh your memory, Obeah Opera is a musical that is for anyone appreciating the legacy of Black music. Get all the details under HOT EVENTS. And check out the rave review under TOP STORIES.

Of course, the biggest news this past week has been the passing of the talented and iconic Whitney Houston. I couldn't even begin to think about how to translate my emotions into words, but Dwayne Morgan has done it for me in his tribute under MUSIC NEWS. Thank you Dwayne - you read my heart, and I suspect, many others as well. RIP Whitney. More news about Whitney are woven throughout this edition of the newsletter, including funeral details.

Also in news,
Michael Chambers gets some well-deserved credit for his most recent exhibit, Motion; Canadian Melanie Fiona represents at the Grammys plus lots of other Grammy news; Lawrence Hill's book gets put to music; Sugarhill Gang and hip hop documentary; Keshia Chante and Aaliyah; Josh Duerk makes sports history; and so much more!

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly. Or click on your favourite top in the Table of Contents!

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!


February 16 - March 4, 2012:: OBEAH OPERA a new Play Exploring Black History

Source: b current and Theatre Archipelago

b current
Performing Arts and Theatre Archipelago proudly present the full stage mounting of Obeah Opera. A total musical journey with a twist, the evocative production celebrates significant influence of black music combining blues, folk, jazz, gospel, spirituals, R&B, and traditional genres. Created (book, libretto, and music) by Nicole Brooks, this mesmerizing work will be presented as part of Black History Month at the 918 Bathurst Cultural Centre from February 16 – March 4, 2012.

Obeah Opera explores the Caribbean connection of a notorious time in North American history and tells the story of five woman accused of abominable spiritual acts in the peaceful Puritan Town where they live. The opera is loosely based on historical texts of the infamous witch-hunts and 17th century trials in Salem Massachusetts, journeying musically with some of the women first accused of the derided practice of obeah. "This Caribbean-themed opera is a pioneering Canadian theatre piece, which gives an intimate look into some lost pages in history,” says Dub Theatre mistress and Founder of b current, ahdri zhina mandiela, who also directs Obeah Opera. “Producing the piece renews creative and cultural pride for both theatre companies, our artists, and much of our audience.”

The cast of Obeah Opera includes multi-winning Canadian Calypso Monarch, Macomere Fifi*, renaissance performance artist Nicole Brooks, vocalist and recording artist Joni NehRita, newcomer Saphire Demitro, and Canadian soul rocktress Saidah Baba Talibah. The production is rounded out with an all-female 10-member chorus.

Musical direction by contemporary composer and vocalist, Tova Kardonne; choreography by Anthony Prime Guerra; set and costume design by Julia Tribe; Lighting design by CJ Astronomo; and stage management by Sandi Becker. From its early showcasing and recent workshop production in May 2011, Obeah Opera audiences have generated exciting response. "Producing this piece solidifies our mandate to present works from the Diaspora inspired by a Caribbean understanding" says Rhoma Spencer, Theatre Archipelago's Founding Artistic Director and Artistic Producer for the opera. This is a production not to be missed.

*Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ella Andall the acclaimed roots chanteuse from Trinidad & Tobago, is unable to make it to Toronto to perform in b current and Theatre Archipelago’s World Premiere of Obeah Opera. However, the producing companies are pleased to announce that Calypso Queen supreme Macomere Fifi (aka Eulith Tara Woods) will be replacing her and stepping into the role of Elder.

918 Bathurst Centre
918 Bathurst Street (north of Bloor St)
OPENING GALA: Wednesday, February 22 at 8:00 PM
Wed. to Sat. at 8:00 PM
Sunday matinee at 2:00 PM
General Admission: $30; Seniors & Students $25
[Previews: February 16, 17 & 19:: Tickets: $15]

Tickets and info: www.obeahopera.com
Group Bookings (10 or more): 416-533-1500


Michael Chambers: Through Images Of Dance, Glimpses Of Black History

www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(February 10, 2012) Photographer and curator
Michael Chambers has never encountered a human body he did not want to photograph.

Chambers’ work has ranged over the decades from high-gloss, much-coveted portraiture (of everyone from lieutenant-governors to adorable kids) to series after series of carefully constructed, lit-by-the-angels nude studies, to provocative juxtapositions of the human form in constricted circumstances. And his work is everywhere these days – in advertising campaigns, gallery exhibitions and a forthcoming book. He is an artist in demand and a demanding artist – the latter always leads to the former.

His latest project, on display at multipurpose space BAND, is
Motion, a historical survey of dance-production posters featuring African-American or African-Canadian dancers assembled for Then & Now, a multimedia showcase presented in tandem with Black History Month (and for which Chambers created the lively poster imagery).

If, like me, you know very little about the history of dance in Canada, you might reasonably wonder what Chambers’ discoveries have to say to you. Well, lots.

Within the collection itself, there are fascinating variations in design, product placement (for lack of a better word – the posters are selling performances, after all) and self-representation (by both the companies putting on the events and the individual dancers, and, of course, the photographers who captured them).

Some posters “sell” the body of the dancer(s), in motion or in an abstracted pose meant to accentuate their physiques, while others emphasize the narrative the dance is offering, or the company’s mandate. In the last case, one sees posters focused on dance as athleticism, dance as a spiritual expression, dance as storytelling, or dance as a hybrid of performance art and time/movement-based art.

Within these larger dynamics, Chambers has created a kind of précis of black dance history in Canada and thus black self-representation.

Aspects of African-North American culture as diverse as religiosity and mysticism, particularly as expressed in the beautiful posters created by Ballet Creole, are hung parallel with U.S.-based dance posters, which tend to make connection with the long history of black entertainment in the United States as well as black participation in sport.

Black bodies are presented in ecstatic poses and in conflicted poses, in meditative stillness and in contorting, strenuous exertion. Urban (hip hop and breakdance) and non-pop-music-based forms (jazz, contemporary) of movement-based expression complement each other in the varied images, but never seem at odds. In fact, when viewed collectively, the images present a continuum of black presence in dance, rather than a chronology, hierarchy or progress model.

From classical ballet to postmodern choreography, the black presence infuses the history of North American dance with what Chambers describes in his brief introductory essay as “… the magnetic forces that unite a group; the powers of rhythm that carry the body through space.…”

Until Feb. 19, 823A Bloor St. W., Toronto;

VIDEOS and PHOTOS: Whitney Houston Dies At Age 48

www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(Feb 11, 2012) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. —
Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behaviour and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

News of Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night — the
Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony. Houston's longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.

In photos: Whitney Houston’s career

“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney's passing,” music producer Quincy Jones said in a written statement. “I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”

At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's bestselling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

She had the perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanour and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

“The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modelling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told Good Morning America.

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with Whitney Houston, which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” ''You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.

Another multi-platinum album, Whitney, came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.”

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989.

“Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?” she told Katie Couric in 1996. “You're not black enough for them. I don't know. You're not R&B enough. You're very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.”

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. (The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.

“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”

It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America's sweetheart.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the Bodyguard soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, My Love Is Your Love in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”

But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time The Preacher's Wife was released, “(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumours spread she had died the next day. Her crude behaviour and jittery appearance on Brown's reality show, Being Bobby Brown, was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album I Look To You. The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on Good Morning America went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Cancelled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

Whitney Houston: Timeline Of The Singer’s Life

Source: www.thestar.com - Matt Sayles/The Associated Press

(Feb 12, 2012) Whitney Houston died on Feb. 11, 2012 at the age of 48. Here are some key dates from her life.

1963: Whitney Elizabeth Houston is born in East Orange, N.J. to gospel singer Cissy Houston on Aug. 9.

1974: Starts performing as soloist in junior gospel choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J.

1978: Sings backup on mother’s album “Think It Over,” beginning run of backup performances for artists including Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and Lou Rawls.

1983: Arista records executive sees her performing on stage with her mother, label head Clive Davis sees her soon after and signs her to contract.

1985: Debut album, Whitney Houston, is released, selling millions and spawning huge hits “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love For You” and “Greatest Love of All.”

1987: Multiplatinum follow-up album Whitney is released. Includes hits “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”

1988: Records theme song for Seoul Olympics, “One Moment In Time.”

1991: Returns to limelight with performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl during the first Gulf War.

1992: Stars opposite Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. The hit film makes Houston a Hollywood star and its theme song, “I Will Always Love You,” becomes a signature hit that tops charts for weeks and wins Grammys for record of the year and best female pop vocal.

1992: Begins high profile and tumultuous marriage to former New Edition member and soul-singing star Bobby Brown.

1993: Has daughter with Brown, Bobbi Kristina.

1995: Stars in movie Waiting to Exhale.

1996: Stars opposite Denzel Washington in The Preacher’s Wife.

1997: Appears as fairy godmother in TV version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

1998: Releases album My Love Is Your Love. Song “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” brings Grammy for best female R&B vocal.

2003: Police respond to domestic violence call from Houston about Brown. Police find Houston with cut lip and bruised cheek.

2004: Briefly enters drug rehabilitation clinic.

2005: Returns to drug rehab under court order.

2005: Appears in reality TV show Being Bobby Brown.

2006: Files for legal separation from Brown.

2007: Divorces Brown.

2009: Comeback album I Look To You debuts at top of charts, eventually goes platinum.

2010: In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, declares herself drug free. She would return to rehab in 2011.

2012: Dies at age 48 in a hotel room in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 11.

Sean Cheesman: Whitney's Canadian Connection

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave McGinn

(Feb 13, 2012) Most people will remember Whitney Houston for her voice. Calgary native Sean Cheesman's lasting memory of the singer will be her laugh.

"She had a really hearty, full-of-life laugh," says the Los Angeles-based choreographer, who has worked with artists including Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.

Houston, who died Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the age of 48, had a handful of connections to Canada. Some were tenuous, such as appearing in a Canada Dry commercial at 19, three years before releasing her self-titled debut album. Others, such as working with famed producer David Foster, profoundly shaped her career. Victoria native Foster produced the soundtrack for 1992 hit The Bodyguard.

It was that movie that brought Cheesman and Houston together.

"She was at the height of her fame," recalls Cheesman, who worked on the film as a choreographer and even played a small part as a choreographer named Rory in the movie.

"Surprisingly, in a great way, she was so nice. You're always afraid that your idols or somebody who is so famous is going to be a diva, and she was definitely not a diva," he recalls. "She was very friendly and very nice to everybody, and she was also nervous." After all, it was Houston's first movie, and she was starring alongside Kevin Costner, who had recently taken home two Oscars for Dances With Wolves. "She would be going over her lines relentlessly right before we started shooting," Cheesman says.

The two became such good friends that Cheesman attended Houston's wedding to Bobby Brown and went on to choreograph Houston's video for I'm Every Woman.

The video shoot was proof of another side to Houston, Cheesman says. Early in her career Houston had sung backup vocals on Chaka Khan's debut album, and when it came time to do her version of the song Khan made famous, Houston gave her a cameo in the video.

"She was a very loyal person," he says.

The two drifted apart over the years, and Cheesman was just as shocked as the rest of us to learn of her death.

"I remember her as this young woman who was full of life and joy," he says.

Obeah Opera: Witchcraft Opera Wields Frightening Power

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Feb 15, 2012) Obeah is an ancient witchcraft practised in the
Caribbean, which has the power to frighten even today.

When director ahdri zhina mandiela handed out promotional flyers for
Obeah Opera on the streets of Toronto, there were people who shrank back in fear and refused to take the material.

“The content, the subject, is still taboo,” she says. “For centuries it has been, ‘don't talk about it.' Some people will be afraid to come.”

The fear is rooted in history — a history exposed by Obeah Opera, which is about black slaves being caught up in the Salem witch trials due to their association with the practice of Obeah.

Mandiela praised creator Nicole Brook for challenging audiences — and the other actors and theatre staff — saying the subject matter involved people looking into their past “and their baggage.”

Multi-tasker Brook wrote the story, music and libretto of Obeah Opera. And she is also one of the five singing leads. The journey from singer and filmmaker to emerging playwright began with the encouragement of mandiela, artistic director of b current Performing Arts. b current fosters the development of black artists in a wide range of areas to create original work, says mandiela, who founded the Toronto organization in 1991.

When Brook auditioned for a place in the chorus in 2009, mandiela set her on a more creative path. “I said ‘no, there is more here, much more,' ” remembers mandiela. “I had to draw the creation that I could see, out of her.”

Although there is classical music in the opera, there is also blues, gospel, African, Caribbean and folk music and it is sung a cappella. It is in previews and then opens Feb. 22 through to March 4 at 918 Bathurst in a co-production by b current and Theatre Archipelago. Brook, who has worked mostly as a filmmaker in the past, including a 2009 movie about Ontario's first black Lt.-Governor, Lincoln Alexander, says she considers herself “a storyteller.”

The story of the Salem trials of the 1700s was a treasure trove for Brook, who researched and found details of a small number of black slaves accused of witchcraft. The ones who confessed got to live, she says. One woman's herbal medicine was considered so powerful that even after she was imprisoned officials allowed her out in the evening to treat the sick. This character, called the Elder, guides and watches over the characters Mary, Candy, Sarah and Tituba a little bit “like Glinda does in The Wizard of Oz.”

The opera is sung a cappella, which requires the five leads and the 10-person chorus to make all of the sounds such as wind, she says. The characters are all based in “real history,” says Brook, adding that she had to take some licence as so little was actually written about the slaves. “I had to give voice to the voiceless. They didn't have the chance to tell their story. They were considered not important.”

b current provided Brook with an experienced musical director and dramaturge who helped her shape the piece. It is being directed by mandiela. All this assistance means the work is dramatically enhanced from the first 10-minute segment she wrote. “I was really scared. Apparently, this is the first Caribbean opera in Canada,” says Brook. “I realize the privilege that's been given me. It is a huge responsibility to wear so many hats.”

The collaboration among the cast and crew of the opera means “I am really standing on the shoulders of elders.”

Just the Facts

What: Obeah Opera

Who: b current and Theatre Archipelago

Where: 918 Bathurst St., at Bloor.

When: Previews Feb. 16, 17, 19 at 8 p.m. Then Feb. 22-March 4, 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $30, seniors and students $25, previews $15.

Melanie Fiona Wins 2 Awards, Deadmau5 Shut Out

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch

(Feb 12, 2012) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Toronto R&B singer
Melanie Fiona has won two Grammy Awards.

The 28-year-old claimed the prizes for best traditional R&B performance and best R&B song for her Cee Lo Green collaboration “Fool For You.”

She had been nominated for Grammys twice previously.

Fiona’s sultry verse on the sizzling soul tune was included only on the single version of the song, with the version included on Green’s album The Lady Killer featuring Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist Philip Bailey instead.

The 28-year-old Fiona claimed the prizes for best traditional R&B performance and best R&B song for her Cee Lo Green collaboration “Fool For You.”

Whitney Houston, I would not be standing up here if it was not for you — God bless you,” said Fiona, invoking the pop superstar who died suddenly Saturday before a pre-Grammys party at age 48.

“My heart is heavy,” Fiona said backstage. “It’s kind of a weird feeling because there is so much excitement and adrenalin and nervousness going into this but there was such a heavy weighted feeling in my heart, which in a way levelled me out from being too extreme in either case.

“But now I feel so proud to be able to say that she was such a huge influence of mine and to be able to say I can attribute a lot of my success and this success today to what she’s given to me as an artist.”

Houston’s death cast a pall over the Grammy festivities on Sunday, with artist after artist taking the time to pay tribute to her myriad accomplishments.

But Fiona kept the singer closer than most.

“Whitney Houston is the first voice and memory I have of music,” she said. “My mom used to play her for me to fall asleep in the crib. Hers was the first song I ever sang. She has been an inspiration to me throughout my entire career, for her presence as an artist, her voice, and what she was able to do and the way she made people feel.

“I would not be up here as a nominee or as a winner without her influence and presence in my life, so it’s very emotional for me.”

Deadmau5, the DJ from Niagara Falls, Ont., had a trio of Grammy noms going in, but lost in all categories to his friend Skrillex. Still, he gave the Canuck — whose real name is Joel Zimmerman — a shout-out in one of his speeches.

“And deadmau5, thanks for signing us to your label,” said the L.A. dubstep producer. “I love you Joel. You should have worn a tux though man, c’mon.”

Fiona released her debut album, The Bridge, back in 2009. Her sophomore follow-up, The MF Life, is expected this spring.

Another Canadian, deadmau5 had a trio of Grammy noms going in, but lost in all categories to his friend Skrillex. Still, he gave the Canuck — a Niagara Falls, Ont., native whose real name is Joel Zimmerman — a shout-out in one of his speeches.

“Ad ddmau5, thanks for signing us to your label," said the L.A. dubstep producer. "I love you Joel. You should have worn a tux though man, c'mon.”


A Poem For Whitney by Dwayne Morgan

Source: http://dwaynemorgan.ca

A Poem For Whitney

I can’t judge your life.
I don’t know the demons
you had to fight;
I can only wonder why.
This feels sudden
And too soon;
While you may have
Slipped from your path,
I wished that Clive Davis
Could have resurrected you.
We all hoped for one more note,
The beads of sweat
On your forehead and nose,
Reminding us to hold out hope
That you still had it.
All at Once,
I’m feeling So Emotional,
Sitting in this Heartbreak Hotel,
Reading obituaries
written in tweets
On the eve of the Grammys,
Where you will once again shine
Like you did when you were alive;
Once again the spotlight
Will be yours.
It seems like this
One Moment in Time
Is standing still;
I’m searching for words,
But I have nothing.
Why Does it Hurt So Bad?
I feel like I’ve lost
A piece of my childhood,
And I Will Always Love You.
Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
My head is spinning,
Like The Greatest Love of All On vinyl.
Death is the final reminder
Of how precious life is,
And right beside
your heels that will never be filled,
You’ve left us a gift,
That we can pass on to our kids.
Through your music
You will live forever,
Without the rumours and demons,
But just with love and adoration,
As it was meant to be;
Sometimes greatness comes
With heavy crosses to bare,
And I wish that your shoulders
Were broader.
While you were busy
Being every woman,
We just wanted you to be the old you,
The woman that we loved,
But we don’t get to choose
How another walks in their shoes.
I’ve been Saving All My Love
To pen this tribute,
As an ode to your life,
What you gave,
And what you lived through.
If this is your judgement day,
and you’re standing on the front line,
and the Lord asks you
what did you do with your life,
Please say,
that I tried to live it for you.


Dwayne Morgan

Grammys 2012: Adele Sweeps Show Focused On Whitney Houston

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch

(Feb 12, 2012) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — Adele made a triumphant return to the stage at the 54th Grammy Awards on Sunday and left the gala with arms as full as her robust voice, but it was another diva whose memory dominated the evening as a grieving industry came together to mourn the sudden death of Whitney Houston.

The show was more about the tribute than the trophies — despite Adele's six-award night, which included a sweep of every major category, who died Saturday at age 48.

Host L.L. Cool J opened the show by acknowledging Houston — “We've had a death in our family,” he said before reading a prayer and introducing a video tribute to the superstar — and Grammy winner after Grammy winner went on to pay their respects.

“Whitney, we will always love you,” the rapper-turned-actor said.

Indeed, the mood was uncommonly muted at the typically breezy Grammys, and Houston was never far from the fore.

Read the full list of winners

Jennifer Hudson — alone under a spotlight, struggling to remain composed — contributed a devastating version of Houston's “I Will Always Love You,” several stars screamed her name out during performances and legendary artists including Stevie Wonder and Bonnie Raitt shed light on Houston's far-reaching influence on the broadcast and backstage.

Producers did their best to respectfully pay tribute to Houston while keeping the mood of the show as buoyant as possible — a balance perhaps best personified by L.L. Cool J's intro, in which he followed the video tribute by shifting gears and trying to raise the audience's spirits by the sheer volume of his voice alone.

Bruno Mars made a similarly fleet-footed segue from shouting out Houston to chiding the crowd for not getting up and dancing during his frenetic performance of “Runaway Baby,” while Rihanna took a breathless moment from her neon-streaked dance number “We Found Love” to shriek: “Make some noise for Whitney!”

Of course, the focus on Houston understandably drew attention away from what was supposed to be the final triumphant cap to the Year of Adele.

While the Foo Fighters also had a huge night with five trophies total and Kanye West won another four, Adele's haul was exactly as mighty as expected for one of the most successful albums in recent memory.

Since releasing her mournful, scornful sophomore opus 21 back in January 2011, the 23-year-old's powerful pipes have funnelled her ever higher and higher, with the stealth smash reaching sales levels thought to be inconceivable in the industry's lean era: diamond certification in Canada, 14 platinum plaques in the U.K. and six-time platinum sales in the U.S.

The momentum continued Sunday. She won every single category in which she was nominated, including best song, album and record of the year.

“Thank you so much, thank you,” she said as she claimed her final trophy, her composure finally cracking, tears streaming down her face.

“I just first of all say, mum: girl did good! Mum, I love you, I'm so sorry you're not here ... This record is inspired by something really normal and everyone's been through it, and that's a rubbish relationship.”

“It's been the most life-changing year.”

It wasn't hard to understand the Adele adoration after watching the Brit take the stage for the first time since undergoing vocal microsurgery in November.

Her performance of her gospel and disco-tinged neo-soul hit “Rolling in the Deep” opened free of musical accompaniment, with Adele providing ample evidence of the rejuvenation of her voice without any pesky instruments to muck up the mix.

With a reverent audience clapping along — hell, they gave her a standing ovation before she'd even started — Adele seemed to push the tune's soaring chorus even beyond its usual full-throated peaks, swaying gently and wearing an expression of cool calm as she effortlessly delivered one of the evening's most impressive vocal takes (rivalled only by Hudson's spine-tingling performance).

Afterward, she shrugged and curtsied as the crowd rose to its feet and roared its approval.

Clearly, she was a Grammy darling. And in fact, the show seemed to borrow from the same mix of factors that has propelled Adele to such heights — making the sounds of yesterday sound thrillingly new — to program its line-up of performances this year in general.

The focus was largely on celebrating the musical pillars of the past, with youthful acts offering faithful interpretations of undeniable classics while their masters looked on and eventually joined the fray.

There was the breezy tribute to the reunited Beach Boys, with Maroon 5's Adam Levine guiding his flawless falsetto over the waves of “Little Surfer Girl,” breakout rockers Foster the People charging through “Wouldn't It Be Nice” and the whole gang joining together for the pocket masterpiece “Good Vibrations.”

A similar setup was used for a stirring dedication to beloved country legend Glen Campbell. While he announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and was considering ending his career, his familiar voice sounded full and warm wrapped around his best-known classic “Rhinestone Cowboy,” preceded by reverent covers of “Gentle on My Mind” and “Southern Nights” by the Band Perry and Blake Shelton, respectively.

And the show was bookended by fierce performances from industry legends, both of whom emphasized substance over spectacle.

Bruce Springsteen opened the gala with his fist-pumping new anthem of patriotic frustration, “We Take Care of Our Own,” while the show's final number — from Beatles legend Paul McCartney — was no less inspired.

He led a medley of the “Abbey Road”-closing trifecta “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End,” assisted by the Eagles' Joe Walsh and Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl. Ultimately, with those three and two more guitarists trading show-stopping solos, the Grammys ended in a hail of furiously plucked guitar notes.

Younger artists seemed to similarly subscribe to the less is more esthetic. Adele, the Civil Wars, Hudson, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson all contributed performances that put the focus squarely on their musical talent and not ambitious set designs or other incidentals, a theme coincidentally hammered home by Grohl as he accepted the fifth of the Foo Fighters' trophies.

“We made this (album) in my garage with some microphones and tape machine,” he said of Wasting Light.

“This means a lot because it shows the human element of making music is what's important ... it's not about what goes on in a computer.”

For good measure — and with producers trying to play him off the stage — he added with a shouted flourish: “Long live rock 'n' roll!”

There were moments that nudged toward the future, too, chief among them a booty-shaking tribute to electronic music — held in a massive white tent erected just outside the arena — led by Lil Wayne, Foo Fighters, David Guetta and rodent-helmeted Canadian DJ Deadmau5, a three-time loser this year (Toronto's Drake was similarly shut out despite a trio of nods).

Also notable was the performance from controversial R&B singer Chris Brown, who earned a spot in Grammy infamy three years ago when he assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna the night of the awards bash.

There was no hint of lingering ill will in the audience's response to the 22-year-old's medley performance of “Beautiful People” and “Turn Up the Music” in which the multiple nominee danced about capably on a pyramid of coloured cubes. He received a standing ovation, at least from some in attendance, and went on to win best R&B album for F.A.M.E.

“First and foremost, I just gotta thank God for this opportunity and thank the Grammys for letting me get on this stage and do my thing,” he said after claiming the award.

“I don't know, man, I'm nervous, I don't know what to say.”

Other multiple winners included Tony Bennett, Skrillex and Bon Iver — the indie-folk outfit that surprised the room in winning best new artist.

“I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here,” said the band's visibly stunned brainchild Justin Vernon, stating the obvious, before the camera panned to capture his girlfriend, Ottawa singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards.

“With that discomfort I do have a sense of gratitude. I want to say thank you to all the nominees and all the non-nominees, who aren't here and never will be here.”

And while some of the night's biggest performances provided no-frills thrills, the two-sided Grammys stage was hardly stark for the entire evening.

Exploring the nonsensical but entertaining theatrics that are typically Lady Gaga's exclusive domain, motor-mouthed rap eccentric Nicki Minaj kicked off her performance of “Roman's Revenge” and “Roman Holiday” sitting on a canopy-shrouded bed with a priest. Then — after a bizarre short-form music video — she appeared strapped into a slab of concrete amid a stage dressed to look like a majestic cathedral.

She ended up levitating at least a dozen feet above the stage while smoke machines went off.

Earlier, double winner Taylor Swift slipped into a simple peasant dress and strummed a banjo through her poison-penned screed “Mean” with the stage covered in scrap wood and decorated to evoke the look of an old-fashioned hoedown, while a blue-haired, metal-clad Katy Perry descended to the stage in a rectangular glass box she soon shattered, with fireballs bursting into the air behind her — generating an impressive, if not entirely thematically coherent, spectacle.

But no matter how flamboyant the set-pieces at the Grammys became on Sunday, the event never pierced the dense pall of Houston's death.

When Toronto's Melanie Fiona won the first two Grammys of her young career, her obvious joy was tempered by what happened at a glamorous hotel across town just one night prior.

“Whitney Houston, I would not be standing up here if it was not for you,” she said. “God bless you.”

Grammys 2012: 6 Weird Moments From The Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Margaret Wappler

(Feb 13, 2012) LOS ANGELES — The Grammy Awards: What would the ceremony be without its weird moments, its awkward collaborations or puzzling choices?

Although Adele’s clean sweep lent the night a classy air — even in spite of her admission that snot was running down her face; hey, anything sounds suave in a British accent — Sunday night was rife with the kind of fodder that pushes Twitter close to overload. Nicki Minaj performing an exorcism on herself? That was just for starters.

Here are six of the most notable of the evening’s slip-ups, gaffes and other “I don’t get it” moments:

1. The Recording Academy did a tremendous job responding to the sudden death of former pop titan
Whitney Houston, arranging a gorgeously simple tribute from Jennifer Hudson. But nobody could’ve predicted the awkwardness of the ceremony’s opening line. Gearing up to perform “We Take Care of Our Own,” Bruce Springsteen asked the crowd, “Anyone alive out there?” Funny how standard warm-up banter can suddenly seem cringe-worthy.

2. The Foo Fighters, the traditionalist guitar rockers led by Dave Grohl, must’ve been on sale when the Grammys were budgeting Sunday’s performance schedule. The band was omnipresent at the show, from playing in the parking lot outside — maybe they’d torn up too much of the furniture inside already — to inexplicably joining the late-hour dance-music collaboration with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, DeadMau5 and David Guetta.

As far as the latter performance, is Grohl really the best representative of the genre-blurring intentions of dance music when only an hour previous, he groused about music made with computers?

3. What’s an award show without Kanye West? He won for best rap performance for his “Otis” collaboration with Jay-Z and also took the best rap album in the pre-telecast for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” but the Chicago spitfire was nowhere to be seen.

We think we understand why. The innovative Kanye thrives on excitement and unpredictability. And with the recently recovered, wholly genial Adele set to take all her awards, it was the kind of odds lockdown that makes betting, or chest-beating, a moot point.

4. Chris Brown: Did we need to see him perform twice? Are we ready to embrace him so full-heartedly? Three years after assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna, Brown was embraced by the academy, which invited him to perform his own music on top of some sort of Cubist contraption seemingly designed by Atari. Then later on, he leads the aforementioned dance party that showed rich people what the Coachella dance tent has been like for the last several years.

We have to say that Rihanna would’ve been the better choice to lead that number; her music has tracked bigger with dance crowds from the start. “We Found Love,” her collab with electronica wiz Calvin Harris, is the perfect example of pop, dance and R&B merging into one powerhouse strain. Or what about Lady Gaga — and why was she relegated to quietly wearing a veil all night? Are performances with eggs or meat-dresses not cool anymore?

5. Praise for Rihanna aside, we can’t totally let her off the hook for one of the night’s most plodding medleys. “We Found Love” dribbled into a Coldplay acoustic puddle — a serious downtick in momentum. If only they’d flipped the order and saved Rihanna’s slick jam for last. Regardless of who started, the set behind both performers was a torrent of images seemingly ripped from someone’s crashing iPhone, an onslaught of multicolour slashes and glowing auras. If this was homage to Steve Jobs, he’s not happy right now.

6. Nicki Minaj’s performance — Catholic nightmare overload or inspired frightfest? Wait, notice how those two things aren’t that different? It might take us years to process all the ideas at work in Minaj’s performance, and while we applaud her for presenting them all with gusto, it seemed a case of too much, too late. So there was a video in there? And a cross she was hanging from? Or did she levitate? That’s a start, Nicki, but if you want to do The Exorcist, your head has to spin around, not ours.

CBC Launches New Online Music Service

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Feb 13, 2012) Music, the site and service launched Monday, and will offer access to web radio stations, blogs by CBC personalities and an accompany app for listeners on the go.

CBC has long offered streams and podcasts of its programming, and already has CBC Radio 3, an alternative-themed online radio station. The difference here is that the national broadcaster will offer more music-on-demand streaming of artists.

Streaming services have been gaining in popularity around the world, with services like
Pandora and Spotify, both of which are not available in Canada. Difficulty of licensing music in Canada has been said to be the reason why these services have been slow to come Canada, but that hasn’t stopped some others, like Rdio and Astral, which launched online services two weeks ago.

CBC spokespeople have said this new initiative was made possible because of a deal struck with the Audio-Video Licensing Agency, which allows it to stream more of its radio programming online unedited and on demand.

Currently, CBC Music is a beta release, and experimenting with it this morning found some glitches, although the streaming worked fine. The current selection feels dwarfed by rival music services, but there is a decent cross section of Canadian artists available, such as Ohbijou and Austra.

Lawrence Hill’s The Book Of Negroes Leaps From The Page

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Feb 12, 2012) Bestselling novel
The Book of Negroes is going multimedia.

On Valentine’s Day,
the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, led by founder and artistic director Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, is teaming up with author Lawrence Hill and jazz veteran pianist and composer Joe Sealy at Toronto’s acoustically pristine Koerner Hall. There they will present an evening of music and narrative based on Hill’s award-winning novel, a fictional work inspired by a non-fictional historical registry of the same name, and portions of Sealy’s Juno Award-winning Africville Suite.

Titled Voices of the Diaspora . . . The Book of Negroes, the program will intersperse Hill reading excerpts from his book with relevant classical, folk, gospel, spiritual and jazz works by Canadian composers Nathaniel Dett and Brian Tate; Americans Adolphus Hailstork and Moses Hogan; and others, including veteran Sealy.

“This is a wonderful juxtaposition of literature and music,” said Blyden-Taylor at St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, prior to a Wednesday evening rehearsal of the program.

“It’s illuminating a part of history. It’s inviting people to consider aspects of things that occurred; to be moved and entertained at the same time.”

Many Canadian readers are already familiar with Hill’s 500-page novel about an 11-year-old West African girl named Animata Diallo who is abducted, sold into slavery to a North Carolina plantation, and eventually gains her freedom. More than 500,000 copies have been sold in this country alone. Along the way it has amassed the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, CBC’s Canada Reads title and a spotlight in Oprah Winfrey’s influential O magazine as a summer read selection.

Some may be less familiar with Sealy’s work, inspired by the plight of African Nova Scotians located in the Bedford Basin of Halifax, who had their homes expropriated and razed in the 1960s by the city of Halifax to make room for corporate interests.

“There’s a synergy there, that’s for sure,” said Sealy, who will be performing with bassist Paul Novotny, drummer Daniel Barnes and singer Jackie Richardson.

“A number of pieces of my Africville Suite will be used in connection with the basically complementing and underscoring The Book of Negroes readings that Lawrence will be giving.”

There’s an even more intimate, though happenstance connection, between Hill and Sealy’s works: Dan Hill, brother of Lawrence, wrote the lyrics to three songs about Africville, a pair of which — “Deep Down Inside” and “River of Dreams” — will be sung by Richardson, who was a last-minute addition to the bill.

“It’s kind of like a family affair,” says Lawrence Hill, who adds that he had never envisioned a night of music by the 21-voice Nathaniel Dett Chorale themed around his novel. “It’s really something.”

Hill says the catalyst of his novel, named after the historical registry kept by British loyalists listing the 3,000 black citizens who supported the British army during the American Revolutionary War — and were allowed to flee Manhattan for Canada as a reward — was introduced to him through a book published by James Walker, a history professor at the University Of Waterloo, in 1977.

“My mind was blown,” recalls Hill. “It seemed to me to be something that should be enshrined in national consciousness.

“It was such a staggering document and represented such hugely symbolic and real migrations. Learning in the same book that 1,200 loyalists left Nova Scotia, went to Africa, the first back-to-Africa exodus in the history of the world — not from Jamaica, or not from the States as people might imagine — but from Halifax in 1792, I just had to write the book.”

Voices of the Diaspora … The Book of Negroes plays Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tickets from $39 at 416-408-0208 or rcmusic.ca.

VIDEO: City And Colour Turns Up Intensity At Massey Hall

www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Feb 11, 2012)
Dallas Green has found his footing.

At one time, there was a sense that the St. Catharines-born-and-bred singer, songwriter and guitarist may have suffered from living in a house divided, the push ‘n pull commitment between the post-hardcore aggression of Alexisonfire and his own acoustic-engrained confessional City and Colour taking a bit of a toll on the latter when it came to shouldering performances on his own.

On Friday night, the first of two sold-out Massey Hall gigs – and the first since he announced his departure from, and the demise of, AOF – those doubts were fully dispelled by a masterful 16-song concert that was notable for its focus as much as its nuance.

Drawing exclusively from the three City and Colour albums Little Hell, Bring Me Love and Sometimes – although, notably, his breakthrough hit “Save Your Scissors,” was absent from the set list – Green and his stellar four-piece accompaniment relied on substance rather than flash, fancy rock n’ roll strobe-lighting effects notwithstanding.

From the moment the first dulcet strains of “We Found Each Other in the Dark,” escaped from his esophagus, hovering in that heavenly high vocal register that seems to defy gravity, Green delivered a lively emotional intensity that validated the notion that some acts must be experienced live to be fully appreciated.

The striking harmonies of “As Much As I Ever Could” – vocally enhanced by the participation of longtime collaborators Scott Remila and Daniel Romano, positioned stage left to Green’s stage right location – were all that much sweeter when experienced in person; the sudden hoedown swerve midway through “The Girl” had that added country kick, nicely anchored and amplified by the rhythmic team of drummer Dylan Green, pedal steel guitarist Aaron Goldstein and bassist Remila; and “Sorrowing Man” built its momentum into a stunning crescendo of oceanic reverb, flooding Massey Hall with blustery chords and providing one of the few instances where Green commandeered an electric guitar solo, deferring the lead duties for most of the night to his cowboy-hatted crony Romano instead.

Focus – or maybe just a case of nerves, since it’s assumed many relatives were in the house, enjoying a rare glimpse of their kinfolk in action -- may have also been the reason why, for the first handful of tunes, Green was all business: he didn’t smile too much, nor address the crowd except for a brief sentence or two.

His microphone positioned at a height where he sings under and into it so he can wring every last emotion he projects, Green eventually loosened up after delivering soulful renditions of “Sleeping Sickness” (minus the Gord Downie cameo) and “The Grand Optimist,” cajoling the crowd to stop “taking pictures, tweeting, and video” with their cell phones so they could experience his solo rendering of Bring Me Your Love’s “Body in a Box,” and later persuading them to provide the harmony fill for “What Makes A Man?”

Still, Green never warmed up the intimacy to the point where it felt like audience and performer were united as one, although the endless shouts of “We love you, Dallas!” from male and female admirers alike left no doubt of the crowd’s devotion.

Regardless, Dallas Green supplied ample proof as to why City and Colour is selling out shows all around the world: his music is an intoxicating mixture of vulnerability, connection and resonance, delivered with heart and soul.

Colour the audience impressed.

A Reason to Live: Drake featuring the Weeknd, "Crew Love" (Shlohmo Remix)

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Ben Rayner

(Feb 13, 2012) Can’t think of a better palette cleanser to have found lurking in my email inbox after an evening of staring into the Grammy void than the sublimely spaced-out new Shlohmo remix of Drake and the Weeknd’s “Crew Love.”

The original, one of the highlights of Drake’s Take Care, was rather more Weeknd than Drake to begin with, more of an excuse for Drake and his go-to producer, Noah “40” Shebib, to craft an appropriately trip-hop-shocked and very Weeknd-like venue for Abel Tesfaye’s choirboy-gone-to-seed ululations than a proper Drake track. Shlohmo’s take on the tune – initially unsolicited, now officially sanctioned by Weeknd HQ after a live bootleg found its way to the source’s ears – is, fittingly, maybe even more Weeknd than the Weeknd: dazed, menacing and coldly distant, with Drake’s typically ambivalent braggadocio pitched down just enough to make the man sound drained or drugged to complete detachment from himself. I’m still fond of the Take Care version because the wantonly interruptive programming lets me dream of a parallel reality where everything in the Billboard Top 10 sounds a bit like
Tricky circa Nearly God, but this Shlohmo character definitely has a bearing on the track’s essential, evil essence. Easily on par with the original.

This remix aside, “Crew Love” and
Drake’s memorably blank cameo on “The Zone” from the Weeknd’s Thursday portend an ongoing, immensely fruitful creative back-and-forth between Toronto’s reigning lords of self-lacerating emo-rap and nihilistic 21st-century R&B. Here’s hoping they keep working together. They bring out the best of the worst in each other.

A Soul Singer Searches, Finds And Delivers Golden Moments

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires
At Lee's Palace
In Toronto on Saturday

(Feb 09, 2012) If he didn't already, now the soul singer had something
to cry about.

After a booming performance of sweat-soaked outpour and horn-backed sorrow,
Charles Bradley was doing his after-show thing, walking among his people in a super-packed room, giving and receiving full hugs from the fans who'd just experienced him intensely.

Then he cut his victory lap short, walking back on stage and asking that the house music be turned down. He had spent more than an hour singing us his blues, as he plumbed the depths of his imagination on golden rules, heartaches and a world gone up in flames.

Someone told him that Whitney Houston had died - he hadn't known. "Every moment and every second I do my best to show you that I'm a real soldier," he said, his expression somewhere between puzzled and pained.

Through his songs, we knew what kind of hardness this 63-year-old man had been through, but now he wanted to make sure we absolutely understood his role - and, by extension, the roles of others, be they Houston, Winehouse, Jackson or James Brown - which was to help make people's lives a little bit more bearable, in whatever time they had, even if the performers themselves hadn't overcome their own problems yet. "We're all just passing through," he said, head down.

Earlier, in one of the electric concert's bigger moments, Bradley and his young, white six-piece offered a spiffy, Memphis-ized take on Neil Young's Heart of Gold. The crowd began to sing along, but Bradley's version wasn't communal.

Earlier in the week, the Florida-born Bradley, who toiled in obscurity and took odd jobs for decades before recently signing with Brooklyn's retro soul-and-funk Daptone label, told The Globe and Mail that he had to feel a song written by someone else in his heart before he could sing it. On stage, resplendent in a series of sharp waistcoats - which he always took off, leaving him at one awesome point in just a vest - Bradley sang it all believably. Because it was true - about wanting to live, about wanting to give, and about getting old.

He stuck to the material of his only album, No Time For Dreaming. Against his band's deep-pocket groove, Bradley's voice scorched like Wilson Pickett's - on slow-dance love songs, on troubled ballads and on funkier fare that often spoke to a personal frustration as well as a much wider dissatisfaction. "Why is so hard to make it in America?" he genuinely wondered. On The World (is Going Up in Flames), Bradley worried that his crying wasn't being heard and that his trying wasn't being recognized.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

He would get down on his knees, in the way of the hardest working man in show business, to serenade his microphone stand. Toward the end of every number, Bradley - he is the Screaming Eagle of Soul - would gracefully wave his outstretched arms in a wing-like landing.

His afro was full, as was his belly (as his snazzy open vest revealed). He occasionally busted moves. Hip thrusts happened.

Here was a miner, searching for a heart of gold. A generous performer in every way, Bradley did on to us as he would have done on to himself. And as far as getting old, it's better than the alternative.

L.A. Consulate Throws Canadian Pre-Grammy Bash

www.globeandmail.com - Pamela Chelin

(February 9, 2012) It was a festive evening for Canada in Hollywood on
Wednesday as the Canadian Consulate turned House of Blues on the infamous Sunset Strip into what was called the “House of Canada” for one night only. Five hundred guests, including Canadian actors Martin Short, Tonya Lee Williams and Gil Bellows, gathered in honour of the Canadian 54th Grammy nominees.

The celebration's emcee, Ottawa native actor/comedian Jeremy Hotz, a dual Canadian/US citizen, joked about how he landed the hosting honours. “I think I owe Revenue Canada some money, so they got me tonight for free.”

Dressed in a black Armani pinstripe suit, Martin Short was milling among the crowd and fraternizing with Canadian born artist Jim Budman, older brother to Roots co-owner Michael Budman. “Here's the reality,” said Short. “I just finished Conan O'Brien and I had a couple of hours to kill, so I am here to celebrate House of Canada and then I'm having dinner here with Danny Aykroyd.” As to which Grammy nominees he enjoys, Short said, with a smile, “All of them. You name them. Beaver. Bieber. I am a fan.”

In addition to free-flowing appetizers including pesto flatbreads and bacon, lettuce and tomato pastry cups, guests were treated, in true Canadian style, to Molson Canadian and Moosehead beers, and Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head premium vodka.

Arriving a fashionably hour late to the soiree, Ajax-born Sum 41 singer Deryck Whibley, 31, whose band is nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance said, “The nomination feels amazing. It's very unexpected. We didn't know about it and then I got a bunch of emails congratulating me and I was like, ‘Ok, I gotta find about this.’ ”

Having been nominated for two previous Grammys in both 2010 and 2011, Toronto native Melanie Fiona, 29, nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song along with Cee-Lo, was beaming with delight just before she took the stage for her performance. “I'm really, really excited for Sunday,” she said. “I was actually at the Grammy nominees concert when I found out I was nominated. I had just gone to the concert because I thought it would be fun. I called my mom immediately and said, ‘Turn on the television. I got nominated for 2 Grammys. I’ve gotta go. Bye.’ ”

With a night of stellar performances from The Canadian Tenors, Vancouver indie rockers Gold & Youth, Halifax pop poster boy Rich Aucoin, and the soulful Fiona, the enthusiastic crowd packed the dance floor.

Toronto native Ryan Shore, nominated for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, dressed casually in a brown blazer, black button-down and jeans, expressed his happiness and gratitude for his nomination while sipping Crystal Head vodka and 7-Up. “It feels amazing,” he said. “I was with my buddy when I found out. We had just finished working out and I knew the nominations were coming out, so I went to the Grammy website and read it myself. Then I posted it on Facebook and called my mom. It's been wonderful to be here tonight and great hearing Melanie Fiona perform.”

Grammys 2012: Whitney Houston Honoured At Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(Feb 12, 2012) The
Grammy Awards was transformed into a Whitney Houston memorial, where attendees celebrated the pop star and the show hurriedly assembled a last-minute tribute.

Sunday night’s ceremony, just a day after Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room, began with the tone of a wake, where the music industry family honoured one of its biggest stars and a six-time Grammy winner.

“We’ve had a death in our family,” said host LL Cool J shortly after Bruce Springsteen opened the show by singing, with obvious poignancy, his new single, “We Take of Our Own.”

Cool J led the crowd in a prayer for music’s “fallen sister,” as the Staples Center crowd bowed their heads. He declared the night one to “celebrate and remember,” and played a clip of Houston performing “I Will Always Love You” from the 1994 Grammys.

Later in the show, Jennifer Hudson, the actress and American Idol finalist, was to perform a tribute to the 48-year-old Houston. That her death came so soon before the CBS broadcast meant “a full-blown tribute” wasn’t possible, said Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich.

With just hours to prepare a fitting tribute, the Grammys had to act quickly.

“Musicians, by nature, improvise,” said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, on the red carpet before the show. Portnow said the tribute was the result of hours of frantic phone calls in the aftermath of Houston’s death.

The vibe of the awards was altered from merely a flashy awards party. Houston had been expected to perform at the pre-awards gala Saturday night thrown by music impresario Clive Davis.

“Whenever there’s tragedy, family pulls together — and this is my family,” said producer Jimmy Jam. “There’s going to a little bit of everything tonight, and that’s how the emotions should be.”

“I’m glad we’re all together to grieve together,” said Bonnie Raitt.

For those who were particularly close to Houston, the evening was a difficult one. Just days before, on Thursday, R&B singer Kelly Price performed a duet of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” with Houston at a pre-Grammy celebration — Houston’s last performance.

Videos from the Toronto Star.

Whitney Houston’s Funeral To Be Held Saturday

Source: www.thestar.com - By Dave Porter

(Feb 14, 2012) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — Pop star Whitney Houston's funeral service will be held Saturday in the church where she first showcased her singing talents as a child.

The owner of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark said Tuesday that Houston's funeral would be held at noon Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

The funeral home said that no wake would be held and that there would be no public memorial at Newark's Prudential Center, the sports arena that the family had discussed as a possible venue.

The funeral service will be by invitation only, Carolyn Whigham said, reflecting the family's desire to keep the memorial more personal.

“They have shared her for 30 some years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell,” she said.

“The family thanks all the fans, the friends and the media, but this time is their private time,” she said.

The 48-year-old Houston died Feb. 11 at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was set to perform at producer Clive Davis' pre-
Grammy Awards bash. Officials say she was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a bathtub.

After an autopsy Sunday, authorities said there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner's office completes toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.

Los Angeles County coroner's assistant chief Ed Winter said bottles of prescription medicine were found in the room. He would not give details except to say: “There weren't a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet.”

Her body was returned to New Jersey late Monday.

Houston was born in Newark and was raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years. Her cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, also sang in its choir.

An impromptu memorial for Houston was held Sunday during a sadness-tinged Grammys, with Jennifer Hudson saluting her memory with a performance of “I Will Always Love You.” Viewership for the awards show soared over last year by 50 per cent, with about 40 million viewers tuning in to the program on CBS.

On Monday, mourners left flowers, balloons and candles for Houston at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick church, which sits near the edge of an abandoned housing project near the train line leading to New York City.

“She was an inspiration to everybody,” said Gregory Hanks, an actor who grew up in the neighbourhood and who dropped off a bouquet. He saw Houston perform in New Jersey years ago.

“I grew up listening to her as a little boy, and to hear her sing, you knew she was special,” he said.

A sensation from her first album, Houston was one of the world's bestselling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” ''How Will I Know,” ''The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You.” But as she struggled with drugs, her majestic voice became raspy, and she couldn't hit the high notes.

Houston left behind one child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

Sugarhill Gang: Doc Reveals Rap's Original Ripoff

Source: www.thestar.com - By Christian Pearce

(Feb 15, 2012) What does it mean to lose everything?

Rappers who see their album sales flop get spit out by callous labels, only to owe back their advance. While such pitfalls are common — and not exclusive to hip hop — they don't always spell an end.

If an artist's reputation is otherwise intact — if his or her name still holds weight — recovery can be had on the concert circuit, and perhaps someday, a new (ideally wiser) record deal. In hip hop, your name and any attendant appeal are what matter most. Lose your name and you've lost everything.

Pioneering hip hop group the Original Sugar, a.k.a.
The Sugarhill Gang, lost everything. More precisely, Wonder Mike (Mike Wright) and Master Gee (Guy O'Brien) had everything ripped off — including their rap handles.

Best known for their 1979 mega-hit, “Rapper's Delight,” with its seminally simple lyricism — “I said ah hip-hop, the hibbit, the hibbit / to the hip-hip-hop and you don't stop” — Mike and Gee were the first, and to this day still among the most, commercially successful hip-hop acts, selling over 10 million copies of their smash single. “I knew it was gonna be a big record,” Wonder Mike told the Star over the phone, “ 'cause no one had heard this, outside of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. So when it hit in St. Louis it was big, it hit in Boston it was big. Three months later, it hits in Germany, and Italy, and England, it's big. And we believe our place in hip-hop history is we kicked the door open so everyone else could come in and eat and get their deals.”

Unfortunately, unlike many rap acts of today — who seem more focused on what they can learn from Bill Gates than from KRS-One — Wonder Mike and Master Gee learned the hard way that where the music industry is concerned, to borrow Public Enemy's immortal words, “Can't truss it.”

“When it comes to dealing with the business side, the young Carters are much more savvy,” Wonder Mike explained. “They have our experiences to draw upon.” In I Want My Name Back, those sordid experiences are laid bare.

Directed by Hollywood veteran Roger Paradiso, the documentary tells the “dark side” of The Sugarhill Gang's story, which began after they were signed by Sylvia and Joe Robinson — the latter a notorious sort — to a record label financed in part with mob money. As Vanity Fair's Steven Daly says in the doc, “These were young artists, very inexperienced, and the Robinsons could run roughshod over them.”

A former employee at Sugar Hill Records who ably narrates the doc, Tony Rome describes how the Robinsons added their own children, Joey Jr. and Leland, as co-writers on Sugarhill Gang songs, positioning them to benefit from publishing revenues. Rome claims further that while the Robinsons may have made more than $100 million on the Sugarhill Gang's music and tours, Master Gee and Wonder Mike each earned less than $250,000 since the release of “Rapper's Delight” 30 years ago.

The treachery culminated in Joe Robinson Jr. impersonating Master Gee on stage, trademarking the “The Sugarhill Gang” name in 2002, and swearing false documents in order to trademark the names “Wonder Mike” and “Master Gee” in 2005. The real Mike and Gee were legally barred from using their own rap monikers, with Joey Jr. threatening lawsuits against concert promoters who booked the genuine Sugarhill Gang.

While tales of music industry malfeasance are familiar across genres, Wonder Mike and Master Gee's experience with the music business may indeed be the most egregious. And with a raw quality that conveys an honest charm, the doc is less about objective storytelling than it is about redeeming its subject: two young men who were owed much better for their role in seeding what's become a global culture.

“This was our opportunity to get our story out, straight from the source,” Wonder Mike told the Star. “It was the story of us against them, and it really was a hard struggle. In fact, the first time I saw it, I couldn't move. I had to sit there for a few minutes.”

I Want My Name Back premieres in Canada, at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Bell Lightbox. Performance by the Sugarhill Gang to follow. Tickets at tiff.net.

Laila Biali And The Womanly Wave In Jazz

www.thestar.com - By Peter Goddard

(Feb 9, 2012) Jazz’s game changing inspired moments have a history all
their own.

Getting the nod from Benny Goodman during a sizzling version of “Sing, Sing Sing” at Carnegie Hall, in January 1938, pianist Jess Stacey quietly began to unfurl one of the greatest solos in jazz history. Responding to a call from Miles Davis, a Who’s Who of jazz star players took their chairs at Columbia Record’s 30th St. studio in New York in Aug. 1969, entirely unaware they were about to dive headfirst into the maelstrom recording of Bitches Brew.

Laila Biali — and for her band and audience Friday at Glenn Gould Studio — the music-changing instant came during the recording of her last album, the 2011 Juno-nominated Tracing Light where she began to feel her son, Joshua move inside her.

Being pregnant had already given her a “phenomenal burst of energy,” the composer/singer/pianist says. But feeling her son’s kick was something even more remarkable. It brought a sense of freedom she’d not felt before in her music. Creating Joshua was the creative achievement paramount in her mind, Biali realized.

“So as I was playing there was a sense of ‘who cares?’ but in a positive way,” she says on the phone from her Brooklyn home where she lives with Joshua and husband, drummer Ben Wittman. “I felt there was less at stake. I felt this enormous sense of abandon.”

Talk about getting a kick out of playing. Talk about how jazz women are changing the music from the inside out.

For Brandi Disterheft, appeared Feb. 21 at the Glenn Gould Studio with her group, the “aha” moment came when she realized bass playing wasn’t only for strong-armed guys. “It’s all about practicing,” says the bassist/composer who like Biali is a British Columbia native now Manhattan-based. Disterheft is studying with Ron Carter, jazz bass great and Miles Davis alumnus. “Even the movement of the bow arm is similar to the arm movement I learned in ballet,” she says.

Anyone doubting Disterheft’s muscular oomph need only hear her bass playing on her composition, “Duke’s Dead,” on her Juno Award-winning 2007 first album, Debut. Her fat, round sound is as big as the recording studio itself and recalls the band-dominating playing of Jimmy Blanton, Duke Ellington’s bass genius from the early ’40s. When the late Oscar Peterson first hear Disterheft, she reminded him of Ray Brown, the bassist of the famed Peterson trio. Peterson called her “serious,” heavy praise indeed.

So Disterheft no longer needs worries about power although she admits every extra bit comes in handy when carrying a bass up and down New York subway steps.

“In fact Ron Carter has taught me to lighten up, to create a warm sound but still push it forward,” she says on the phone.

Jazz’s boundaries now stretched further out than ever before, embracing everything from hip hop to Nirvana covers. Adding reggae scion Ziggy Marley to the recently announcement line-up of June’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival raised few eyebrows even among jazz’s hardcore purists. “Inclusiveness and cross-pollination are informing the music,” says Josh Grossman, festival artistic director.

Biali and Disterheft reflect this inclusiveness in their own ways. Having worked with Sting, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega, Biali feels comfortable in a set ranging from evergreens like Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s The Best is Yet To Come to edgy instrumentals such as her own, Human Condition, which she feels, “is more representative” of her musical thinking. Friday’s show will feature Sudanese singer Waleed Abdulhamid as guest along with pop songwriter Marc Jordan and jazz saxophonist Phil Dwyer. If she were to ever devote a CD to a single body of music, she might consider “some Cole Porter standards, but in a contemporary setting,” she says. “Or it might be an album of Joni Mitchell.”

Disterheft — who’s opened for Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall and Dave Brubeck — is likewise sure-footed in pop, jazz and places far beyond. Her 2009 second album, Second Side runs the gamut from pop (her vocal on Combien De Chances) to the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer jazz standard This Time The Dream’s On Me to the quasi-symphonic Liege another of her compositions.

Then there’s Esperanza Spalding, named Downbeat’s 2011 jazz artist of the year — and the 2011 Grammy best new artist, driving Justin Bieber fans into one collective hissy fit — who’s a one-woman genre-defying creative force on her own. (Spalding is also slated for the Toronto Jazz Festival.)

Disterheft, Biali’s and Spalding’s success — as composers and leaders as well as singers — have entirely erased the notion that women’s place in jazz is mainly to be “the chick singer with the band.” The “all girl groups” like Ina Rae Hutton and her Mellodears in the 1940s were seen as novelty acts. These days, the Maria Schneider Orchestra is the boss big band of them all in a field that includes the Carla Bley Big Band.

Indeed, jazz’s return to its roots — to where it embraces pop, can dance up a storm and responds directly its audiences — is due to the number of women bringing back to jazz a certain visceral awareness.

Biali is now thinking about “who is my target audience, “ she says while “I’m in process of choosing material for the next album.”

Disterheft describes Gratitude, her up-coming third album — which includes pianist Renee Rosnes, a graduate from Handsworth, the same North Vancouver highschool attended by Disterheft — “as a record which goes back to my jazz roots. It’s Duke Ellington inspired.”

Canadian Musicians Make It Into Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Feb 14, 2012) One of the new additions to this year’s
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, which hits the stands Tuesday, is a feature highlighting up-and-coming musical artists.

Two Canadian groups made the cut:
Montreal DJ A-Trak and Hamilton synth duo New Look’s Sarah Rubah and Adam Pavao. They are among a group of artists — including Vonnegutt, Black Lips and Maluca — whose music was used for a segment on SI.com called Swimtrack, which features videos of the models dancing to different songs.

“We’re excited to shine the enormous spotlight of Swimsuit on to these 17 emerging artists ...,”said MJ Day, senior editor for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. “Music plays such an important role in setting the mood for swimsuit shoots. It can take the tone from fun to sultry; it’s amazing how vital music is to the editorial process.”

While most of the videos are of the models posing to music, A-Trak, a.k.a. Alain Macklovitch, stars in his — and gets to assist on a photo shoot with model Jessica Gomes. The segment kicks off with a stylist leading A-Trak to the set and saying, “Let’s go wrangle some cleavage.”

He gets to pick a swimsuit for the shoot and tries to look useful on the set. He and Gomes, an Australian model of Chinese-Singaporean-Portuguese heritage, eventually head away from the beach to a record store, where they talk about music and he teaches her how to spin.

A-Trak is pretty well-known in the electronic music community. He first exploded on the scene as the youngest person to win the DMC World DJ competition at the age of 15 in 1997. He was recruited by Kanye West to be his tour deejay in 2004, a gig he performed for three years.

In 2007, he started his own label, Fool’s Gold, and continued to record, remix and collaborate with several artists. He and NYC DJ Armand Van Helden were nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording for their work together under the name Duck Sauce. They lost the award to Skrillex.

New Look is a group that will likely benefit from the exposure in the magazine. The married pair who split their time between Hamilton, Ont., and Brooklyn, N.Y., produce a moody electronic sound. Ruba also works as a model, which could be where they got inspiration for the group’s name.

South Africa’s Die Antwoord: Rowdy Rappers But Sweet, Too

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

(Feb 15, 2012) South Africa’s Die Antwoord is reputedly the most controversial group in rap at the moment, a statement that speaks volumes about how much the genre has mellowed since the days of N.W.A. The trio brought its act to Toronto on Tuesday, playing a sweaty, sold-out show that leavened its attitude with a surprising amount of uplift.

They bad

Die Antwoord released their latest album, Ten$ion, a week ago, after having been dropped by Interscope records for insisting that the first single be a tune whose title is an Afrikaans obscenity.

Judging from the shout-alongs, the young, heavily male crowd at the Phoenix – a group whose taste tended more to metal T-shirts and the occasional mohawk than hip-hop togs – had already committed much of the album to memory. Whether this cheered the group is hard to say, as tattooed front man Ninja wore a perpetual scowl through the performance, while the muscular DJ Hi-Tek hid his expression behind a vaguely simian mask.

Brought to you by the letter ‘F’

Whether in English or Afrikaans, the members of Die Antwoord love to swear.
Ninja and his pixie-voiced sidekick, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, toss the F-word around as casually as teenage girls say “like,” while DJ Hi-Tek, who started the show with DJ Hi-Tek Rulez, articulated his toughness through an unquotable menu of the various ways in which he (or his beats) would violate the listener.

Still, it was hard to get upset by the profanity. Some of it was mere peacock strutting, tough talk for the sake of seeming macho, but mostly it was used for rhythmic emphasis, to lend the raps a verbal kick equivalent to Hi-Tek’s bass-heavy grooves.

Drop that bass

Rap has emphasized the bowel-vibrating power of deep bass since Afrika Bambaataa discovered the Roland 808 drum machine in the early 1980s. Die Antwoord’s sound is similarly bass-heavy, but the beats tend to be faster and less funky than most rap, which puts the group’s sound closer to techno or dubstep than to mainstream hip hop.

At times, as during Baby’s on Fire, Ninja and Yo-Landi underscore the similarity to techno by offering club-style vocal melodies; elsewhere, as on the drum-driven Fatty Boom Boom, they emphasize the rhythmic momentum of the track with rapid-fire rhymes and machine-gun delivery that, even when it obscured the words, increased the music’s impact.

Sexy and they know it

As their F-nocentric lyrics reflect, Die Antwoord like to rap about sex. Ninja – who stripped down to his Dark Side of the Moon silk boxers for the last few numbers – does so in classic hip-hop style, equating virility not only with sexual prowess but also with general alpha male-ness.

Vi$$er, by contrast, treated sexiness as currency, a dialectic she offered both as criticism, on the booty-wagging Rich Bitch, and celebration, as with the breathlessly horny I Fink U Freaky. But where Ninja and Hi-Tek spent most of the set shirtless, Yo-Landi sported her hot-pants and cropped top only when lyrically appropriate; by the show’s end, she was sporting a modest, dress-sized T.

Maybe not so bad

Die Antwoord closed the show with Never Le Nkemise, Pt. 2, which found Ninja insisting, “We make our own rules. We answer to no one. We keep it gangsta.”

If so, they’re pretty sweet for gangstas. When a scuffle broke out during Wat Kyk Jy?, Ninja asked if everyone was all right, then added, un-ironically, “You guys kiss and say, ‘I’m sorry.’” And when Yo-Landi bade the crowd farewell by chirping, “Toronto – be happy!” it didn’t undercut the tough-talk so much as remind us that this was, after all, entertainment. And given the quality of the performance, it would be safe to say that most of the crowd did, in fact, leave happy.


Kanye West Heads to the Middle East for Video/Film Shoot


(February 11, 2012) *No one can tell Kanye West “no.” Why? Because he’s going to find a way to do what he wants. And despite what anyone has to say about the Middle East or what America is about to do in that region, music reigns supreme in Kanye’s world. According to sources, the rap star sent his scouts out to Doha, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to find some spots for filming. “They did a full round of meetings, speaking with various government agencies, institutions and private investors,” a source told the Hollywood Reporter. “They toured each area and met with all the major players.” He’s doing another one of those very long music videos it seems. “It’s supposed to showcase the beauty of the region, a piece that’s culturally sensitive and embraces the customs and traditions of the region,” the source continued. But at this point, it’s a rumor since Kanye’s camp has yet to confirm the deets.

CeCe Winans Hopes to be ‘Very Involved’ with Goddaughter Bobbi Kristina

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 15, 2012) *CeCe Winans, godmother to Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, is promising to be “very involved” in the 18-year-old’s life, a source tells E! Online’s Marc Malkin. The celebrated gospel singer and longtime friend of Houston has reportedly “been praying regularly specifically for Bobbi Kristina,” according to the source. Soon after learning of Houston’s death, Winans, who lives in Nashville with her husband and their two children, issued a statement to E! News: “I have no words to express how I feel. Whitney was not just a friend but a sister and I am going to miss her voice, her humor but mostly her friendship. She was undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time but she was also a great person. Please keep her family in prayer and the best way to honor her is to be reminded that tomorrow is not promised to any of us so love God and love each other.” She also tweeted, “I LOVED her SO much, but God loved her more. I pray she’s resting in His arms!” As previously reported, CeCe’s brother, the Rev. Marvin Winans, will deliver Houston’s eulogy at her funeral on Saturday in New Jersey.

::FILM NEWS::    

Keshia Chante Breaks Silence on Aaliyah Movie Status with Chris Yandek

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 14, 2012) *Three years ago in an announcement across the world, it was reported singer Keshia Chante was reportedly set to play the role of Aaliyah in the biopic of her life.

Three years later this month, Ms. Chante opens for the very first time ever telling Chris Yandek of
CYInterview.com in a world exclusive in its entirety what happened with the Aaliyah movie, updates the status of the Aaliyah project and put all the rumours to rest.

“I did meet a few people production company wise that are developing the Aaliyah movie and they spoke to me about playing her in the biopic of her life… And from my understanding, there are people trying to create a movie and Aaliyah’s family are still mourning her loss and aren’t ready to share her story and create a film. So there’s a bit of back and forth thing with her family and with creative people. And I know that they would bless a movie being created, they’re just not 100 percent comfortable and unfortunately from my understanding they don’t have complete control of her estate. So a movie could technically be made without them green lighting it and I kind of think that’s unfortunate. So I want her family to be on board and to be happy with it. It’s still kind of lingering in the air.”

Ms. Chante explained why this was the perfect time to tell the world through interview journalist Chris Yandek what is the status of the movie that many Aaliyah fans want to see happen:

“I’ve always wanted to kind of talk about it, it’s just really, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to disrespect her family. I know that they’re, they don’t like it. They don’t like when they get calls from people, like, ‘Oh, I heard this about your daughter. I heard this.’ Because it’s painful for them. So I know that the lawyer and even them and even my team who have kind of like you know, it’s happy, it’s better for everyone to not really speak on it and I just feel like you know, I’m not supposed to speak on it, but I know in this situation, yeah, it’ kind of, it’s a long time coming and I know people really want to know what’s going on. So yeah, I definitely think this was the perfect time to tell you.”

You can read and listen to more from Keshia Chante on the Aaliyah Movie, her memories of her, a review of her entire music career and discussion of her latest album Night & Day at Chris Yandek’s

Whitney Houston’s Final Project: Remake Of Movie ‘Sparkle’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(Feb 13, 2012) Whitney Houston had great plans for her new movie premiering this August and even talked about a possible sequel to the film Waiting to Exhale.

“I’m older, I’m matured. I’m looking forward to the years to come. Good years,” she
told the celebrity TV show Access Hollywood in November in her final one-on-one interview after the wrap of filming for her movie Sparkle.

Laughing and enthusiastic, Houston also admitted she couldn’t say no if producers put together Waiting to Exhale 2, a follow-up to
the 1995 film she starred in.

Houston is executive producer and a star of Sparkle,
her remake of a 1976 movie, she told Access Hollywood, she watched “countless times” growing up in East Orange, N.J.

“Her spirit and energy were just great,” Sparkle producer Curtis Wallace
told the Detroit News after Houston’s death Saturday at the age of 48.

The movie, in which Houston plays the mother to three singing sisters, filmed this past fall in Detroit.

“I was surprised at how funny she was,” said Wallace.

“I remember how much fun she was to be around on set. One night, like many, we were working late, it was 2 or 3 a.m. and she was making up songs, getting everyone laughing.”

told People magazine last month she loved the original Sparkle because, “As a young black girl in the ’70s, this was positive for African-American women and anyone who wanted to pursue their dreams.”

Wallace said Houston spent 10 years trying to make the movie, which would be her comeback and first feature film since
The Preacher’s Wife in 1996

Even in the last weeks, she had to step in to save it,
Detroit television station WDIV reported on the weekend.

The star cut a $2 million cheque to bail out the film, the station quoted cast member Elijah Conner as saying.

Jordin Sparks, an American Idol winner, told People magazine in January that working with Houston was “a dream come true.

“I sang her songs into a hairbrush when I was little,” said Sparks, 22. “Now she's acting as my mom and scolding me.

“If I ever looked like I needed something, here she came saying ‘Are you okay?’”

Houston told Access Hollywood that her own encouragement and support came from “belief, faith and determination” and family.

“I have a mother that’s very strong, and family that surround me and constantly tell me they love me,” she said. “My daughter is my greatest inspiration. My greatest, my greatest.

“She supports me, she loves me, she gives me good mommy hugs.”

Houston’s daughter with Bobby Brown, 18-year-old
Bobbi Kristina Brown, was treated in hospital for stress and anxiety after her mother’s death and released, the Associated Press reported.

The film wrapped up shooting on Nov. 18, Wallace said. It is scheduled for release Aug. 10.

“She called the cast and crew together and talked about how it was her first film in 15 years and that they created such a wonderful atmosphere on the set and how she was grateful.

“She then asked everyone to join hands in prayer. That was my last memory of Whitney Houston, and it was profound.”

Teen’s Suicide Inspires Keke Palmer to Share Message

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2012) *Young actress Keke Palmer made incredible timing recently with her heartfelt Twitter message about teen suicide.

After the world learned of Don Cornelius, the family and supporters of 17-year-old Ashley Duncan who may have killed herself, are reaching out to young people about the topic of suicide.

The Texas teen’s death came shortly after several references of suicide on her Twitter and Tumblr pages, including a photo of a gun with a caption that read, “I finally got a gun.”

Palmer along with Duncan’s family are urging youth to be smart, make good decisions, and speak up when there is suffering.

The actress told her fans and followers to stay away from drugs, saying they could lead to depression. She also encouraged teens to speak up if they are having problems or even think they are depressed or suicidal.

She then went on to talk about her own struggle with obtaining positive self-esteem.

I think I’m BEAUTIFUL! I didn’t start feeling that way completely until I liked the person on the INSIDE, and that’s real,” she Tweeted.

Duncan’s death follows that of 18-year-old Ashley Billasano also from Texas who sent 144 tweets expressing her grief before finally killing herself in November.

Duncan warned parents to talk to their kids and pay closer attention to their children, Houston’s FOX 26 reports.

BET Nabs Common, Danny Glover Crime Drama ‘LUV’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 14, 2012) *”LUV,” a coming-of-age story that premiered last month at Sundance, has been acquired by the Indomina Group and BET Networks, the companies announced Saturday.

Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good, Lonette McKee and Michael Kenneth Williams star in the movie about Woody, an 11-year-old orphan who reveres his Uncle Vincent, a former drug dealer who is trying to turn his life around.

Woody is torn when the temptations — and violence — of his uncle’s old world return.

Sheldon Candis directed the movie, which he wrote with Justin Wilson,
according to Reuters.

Indomina plans a theatrical release in the fall, followed by a broadcast premiere on BET. [Watch a clip from the film below.]

“‘LUV’ is a highly engaging film with resounding performances from a brilliant cast,” Indomina vice chairman and CEO Jasbinder Singh Mann said in a statement. “It has everything we look for in a film and we believe it will resonate with audiences.”

Indomina also picked up Ice-T’s performance documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” this year at Sundance.

Chico & Rita: A Sultry, Nostalgic Treat

www.globeandmail.com - By Fiona Morrow

(February 10, 2012) This sexy, pulpy, very grown-up film is not your
usual best animated feature material. Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal's Spanish-language Chico & Rita has nevertheless made it onto this year's Oscar shortlist alongside more traditional cartoon fare such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and Rango. And a welcome addition it is.

Told in flashbacks, the plot is driven by the tumultuous love affair between up and coming jazz pianist Chico (Eman Xor Ona), and Rita (Limara Meneses), the singer with honey-flecked vocals who steals his heart. It's Havana, 1948, Latin jazz is smoking hot, and rich, white Americans cruise in to make merry.

Until she meets Chico, Rita is following the money, playing escort at high-end clubs on good nights, and slumming it as a dime-a-dance girl on others. She pairs up with Chico to win a local talent show, then couples up with him for a night of passion, before Chico's girlfriend turns up to spoil the party.

And so goes their on-again off-again relationship, with misunderstandings and infidelities clouding their various career highs and lows - a journey that takes us through the New York and Paris jazz scenes at their most glamorous and exciting.

Unapologetically nostalgic, the movie harks back in tone and structure to the Hollywood musicals of the era - A Star Is Born; On the Town; Singin' in the Rain - powered by the (specially recorded) music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and other greats of the period.

The animation itself is fluid and improvisational, smartly reflecting the free-wheeling jazz score. Drawn in bold strokes, it's more naïve than naturalistic, stylistically designed to wrap the viewer in its heat and emotional drive. A decidedly adult affair, complete with sex scenes, the film is definitely not one for the whole family. It also doesn't flinch from the period's pervasive drug culture. Indeed, one true note included is the gunning down of Cuban drumming sensation Chano Pozo in his prime (he was part of Dizzy Gillespie's crew) over a dope deal.

While this homage by Oscar-winning filmmaker Trueba (Belle epoque) and artists/animators Errando and Mariscal is truly lovely in many ways - the Hollywood-style montage detailing Chico and his buddy Ramon's arrival in the Big Apple, for example - it could have used stronger teeth in the storyline department. Chico and Rita are more archetypes than uniquely delineated characters; and the glimpses of politics and racism in pre-and post-revolution Cuba could have been more fully explored.

But these reservations aside, Chico & Rita is a real treat - an animated One from the Heart with a touch of Buena Vista Social Club thrown into the mix. For anyone who loves the romance of Golden-era Hollywood and the spicy sultriness of jazz, it's the perfect Valentine.

Chico & Rita

Directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando

Written by Ignacio Martínez de Pisón and Fernando Trueba

With the voices of Eman Xor Oña and Limara Meneses

Classification: NA

3 stars

Canadian Film In Competition At 2012 Berlin Film Festival

www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Feb 9, 2012) For the first time since 1999, a Canadian film will try for
the Golden Bear, the coveted Best Picture prize at the Berlin film festival, also known as the Berlinale.

Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen wrote and directed
Rebelle (War Witch), a drama set in sub-Saharan Africa about a 14-year-old girl’s abduction by a rebel army and her fight for survival.

Rachel Mwanza plays Komona, a young mother-to-be who tells her story to her unborn child as she recalls the horrors of war, and her attempts to escape the ghosts of her past with the help of a fellow enslaved teenager named Magician.

Rebelle will have its world premiere at the Berlin on Feb. 17. It’s the first time a Canadian film has been in competition there since Léa Pool’s Emporte-moi (Set Me Free) in 1999. A Canadian picture hasn’t won the Golden Bear since The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in 1974.

It’s Nguyen’s fourth feature film. His first, Le marais (2002), earned Jutra nominations, including Best Film and Best Director.

Among the 18 movies competing for the top prize at Berlin is Jayne Mansfield’s Car, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton. The drama about two families clashing in Alabama in 1969 also stars Robert Duvall, John Hurt and Kevin Bacon. Also in the running is Irish troubles dramatic thriller Shadow Dancer, directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire) and starring Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough, which had its world premiere at Sundance last month.

The Feb. 9 opening-night film, Farewell My Queen (Les adieux à la reine), starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette, examines the final days of the French Revolution from the perspective of servants at Versailles.

The jury for the Berlinale, which runs Feb. 9 to 19, is led by British director Mike Leigh.

Also premiering at Berlin is The NFB’s Road Movie, a film-based installation directed by Toronto artists Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky. The stop-motion animation uses a series of individual journeys through the West Bank to document how political strife shapes people and landscapes.

Safe House Review: Bourne To Be Mild

www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Safe House
Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. 110 minutes. Opens Feb. 10 at major theatres. 14A

(Feb 9, 2012) As quick to lecture as he is to kill,
Safe House’s Tobin
Frost (Denzel Washington), a rogue ex-CIA agent, explains to rookie sleuth Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) how it is they can fool people.

“We take advantage of people’s desires to believe, to trust,” he says.

I know the feeling. With a cast this promising — Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Rubén Blades are included — and potential alchemy between the two leads, I was hoping for this chase thriller to be more than an homage to the Bourne franchise and to Tony Scott films.

Consider me suckered, and maybe you, too. Danish director Daniel Espinosa fairly worships at Bourne’s altar, utilizing the same cinematographer (Oliver Wood) and spy-hunt conceit. Espinosa and screenwriter David Guggenheim also clearly admire the caffeinated films of Tony Scott, which often feature Washington.

Safe House could have overcome its déjà blues if better use were made of the corrosive chemistry of Washington and Reynolds, one a wise cynic and the other a cynical wiseass.

No such luck there, either. Washington’s Tobin is a pedantic cipher and Reynolds’ Weston a dull Dudley Do-Right, and the resulting mix, apart from a few good chases, is bland enough to bottle for Gerber’s.

And it all starts off so well. Weston is bench-warming at a CIA safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, busily maintaining a feeble cover with his hot French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) while bugging his boss (Gleeson) for a transfer to Paris.

The bossman tells him he’s got to prove his worth, and soon opportunity comes knocking. The most high-value target in spydom, ace CIA guy turned commie traitor Tobin Frost, turns up at Weston’s casa, having suspiciously turned himself in to the U.S. Consulate.

Frost is a real badass, but he’s also unflappable and inscrutable. When his American apprehenders begin the waterboard torture, he acts like it’s a thrill ride while Weston nervously watches.

“Is it legal?” Weston asks, in one of the film’s mild attempts at political commentary.

Before you can say “Who cares?” the safe house is invaded by a gang of heavily armed swarthy types, their intent unknown beyond spiriting Frost away atop a heap of bodies.

Frost and Weston are on the lam and at odds, forced to cooperate even as they attempt to outwit and outmuscle each other.

Espinosa demonstrates good chase chops as the pair hot-wheel it around Cape Town, pursued by the aforementioned swarthy types who, like all generic baddies, are charter members of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

The same palsy afflicts cameraman Wood, who should have been ordered into lockdown mode. Whenever shakycam is used this much, along with the desaturated colour that is now simply boring, it’s inevitably a vain attempt by the filmmaker to hide structural deficiencies.

Most of which have to do with Guggenheim’s script, which sags in the middle as Safe House plays it way too safe and Washington and Reynolds rarely get to match wits or fists. (If Reynolds was looking for a literal safe house after the debacle of last summer’s Green Lantern, he doesn’t find it here.)

This is the kind of movie where an on-screen timeline ticks away for no dramatic purpose and we are reminded that the city with the Eiffel Tower is Paris, France.

Meanwhile, such decent actors as Gleeson, Farmiga and Shepard are chopping expositional wood at CIA headquarters, given little to do apart from growling at Weston and each other.

Only Rubén Blades gets to make an impact, in an all-too-brief scene as a passport forger where he hilariously refers to Washington as “the black Dorian Gray.”

True enough: Washington never does seem to age, and he’s far too content just to stand still while the formula paycheques keep rolling in.


Naomi Watts To Star As Princess Diana In Biopic Film

www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Feb 09, 2012) LONDON — Producers say
Naomi Watts will play
Princess Diana in a film about the last years of the royal’s life. Britain’s Ecosse Films says Caught in Flight will focus on the two years before Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in August 1997. It is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, best known for his film about Hitler’s last days, Downfall. The screenplay is by Stephen Jeffreys, who penned The Libertine. Filmmakers said Thursday the biopic “charts how finding true personal happiness for the first time” allowed Diana to find her role as “a major international campaigner and humanitarian.” The Australia-raised Watts, who received an Academy Award nomination for 21 Grams, said she was honoured to get the role. Filming will begin later this year.

Nicole Beharie to Play Jackie Robinson’s Wife in ‘42’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 14, 2012) *Actress Nicole Beharie has been added to the cast of “42,” the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros biopic of baseball’s first black player, Jackie Robinson. Beharie will play the role of Rachel Isum, who married Jackie in 1946 – a year before he broke baseball’s color barrier. Last year the actress starred in Fox Searchlight’s “Shame” with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. She also appeared last year with Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright on Broadway in John Guare’s Free Man Of Color. She made her film debut in Samuel Goldwyn’s “American Violet” and appeared in Universal’s “Express.”

Check Out Latest Photo Of Jaden Smith

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

(Feb 15, 2012) Jaden Smith photo
Jaden Smith in costume for After Earth. Whether you think Jaden Smith is the next big thing or the world’s most annoying child actor, there’s no doubt who his dad is when we look at the first photos of him in costume for M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming sci-fi flick, After Earth. Jaden, 13, will star alongside his dad, Will Smith in the drama, set on a long-abandoned Earth. Smith also has a producer’s credit on the movie, which is due out in June 2013. There’s also news Smith the younger will be back doing his fighting thing in a sequel to the 2010 reboot of The Karate Kid, which made bushels of money. Jackie Chan will also reprise his role.

::TV NEWS::    

Arsenio Hall Steps Back Into Spotlight On ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux

(Feb 10, 2012) Here’s something that might make you go “Hmm”:
Arsenio Hall on Celebrity Apprentice.

The former late night talk show host is one of 18 cast in the latest edition of the Donald Trump reality series, which returns Sunday on NBC. Global will broadcast the series Saturday nights, beginning Feb. 25; it’s also available for streaming starting Monday at GlobalTV.com.

The comedian, who turns 56 on Sunday, joined several other contestants at NBC’s TV critics press tour party last month in Pasadena, Calif.

Other comedians on board for the fifth edition are magician Penn Jillette, Adam Carolla and Lisa Lampanelli.

American Idol grad Clay Aiken, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, original Star Trek player George Takei, former TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno, race car driver Michael Andretti and American Chopper dad Paul Teutul, Sr., are also in the cast, as are supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, singers Aubrey O’Day and Debbie Gibson, Tia Carrere and Patricia Velasquez, former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, and reality stars Victoria Gotti and Teresa Giudice.

While he’s occasionally surfaced on sitcoms and other late night venues, Hall has been largely out of the spotlight since his syndicated talk show went off the air in 1994. He almost hosted Deal or No Deal, a gig that went to fellow comedian Howie Mandel. He did briefly host a revival of Star Search in 2003.

Money was not an issue for Hall. He owned a piece of his syndicated talk show and made millions off that series.

The Arsenio Hall Show is best remembered for kick-starting Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid after the then-Arkansas governor put on some shades and played “Blue Suede Shoes” on saxophone with Hall’s band.

It was also where NBA star Magic Johnson made a dramatic appearance after revealing he had contracted HIV. Hall points out that it has been 20 years since Johnson asked him to join the board of directors on the Magic Johnson Foundation. The chance to raise funds and awareness for the campaign to find a cure for AIDS is what really motivated Hall to join this year’s Apprentice.

Otherwise, says Hall, there was “no amount of money that could make me stand there while Clay Aiken screams at me,” he says, goofing on one of his opponents.

Hall says he’s been asked to appear on Celebrity Apprentice before but always turned the opportunity down, begging off with the excuse that he wanted to concentrate on raising his son Cheron, now 12. He’s always balked at the two-month commitment to leave L.A. for New York in order to tape the series.

“I’ve never been away from him that long,” he says of his son. “I needed him to look me in the eye and say, ‘Daddy, let’s do it.’”

Hall also probably didn’t want to go against Joan Rivers, a past Celebrity Apprentice winner. When Rivers left her late night talk show on the Fox network in the late ’80s, Hall emerged from a posse of replacements as the one who eventually got his own shot at late night.

He’s also been wooed to take part in Dancing With the Stars but has so far resisted that temptation.

Carol Burnett Applauds Funny Girls Past And Present

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Feb 15, 2012) In this era of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, of Ellen DeGeneres and Chelsea Handler - not to mention Melissa McCarthy's Oscar-nominated turn in Bridesmaids, where she broke new ground for female gross-out humour - it's kind of funny to think of a time when a female host for a comedy variety series seemed too radical for network television.

Such was the case for
Carol Burnett. The network signed her to a 10-year contract in the early 1960s, including an option to run her own hour-long variety series. When she told the network she wanted to put it in motion, though, they balked.

"They came back and said, 'You know Carol, this kind of a variety show is more like Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle and Dean Martin. It's really kind of a guy's thing," Burnett said recently on the line from Los Angeles. "They had a TV pilot they wanted me to do called Here's Agnes. You can just imagine. I said 'I don't want to be Agnes.'"

Contractually bound, CBS premiered The Carol Burnett Show in September, 1967, with the idea, Burnett says, that it would be off the air by February. Of course, it was an enormous hit, running 11 years, averaging 30 million viewers a week, and winning a display case full of Emmy Awards.

Burnett, now 78 - and appearing at Vancouver ComedyFest Friday night - was a comedy trailblazer, but she didn't do it alone.

In this Mean Girls kind of world, it's pretty heartwarming to hear about the support she received along the way from that other pioneering comedienne, Lucille Ball.

"When I was first starting out, I remember she came to see me in Once Upon a Mattress, and she came backstage and - she called me Kid - and she said 'you know, Kid, this is great ... and if you ever need me for anything, give me a call.'"

A few years later, Burnett needed her. There was the possibility of a CBS special - but only if Burnett could land a big name guest. "The producer said, 'You've got to call Lucy.' I said 'I'm not going to do that.'" But she did. Ball took her call right away. "Hi, Kid. What's happening?" she said. When Burnett finally spat out the request, Ball didn't hesitate. "When do you want me?"

Ball appeared on Burnett's special; she had Burnett guest star on The Lucy Show; and when Burnett was pregnant with her second child, Ball threw her a black-tie, co-ed, evening baby shower. "I remember the men saying, 'Gee are these showers that much fun?' Not usually, no. When would a man ever go to a baby shower? But that was Lucy."

Fast forward a lifetime, and being a funny girl is no longer unusual, nor is it any sort of risk for a network. Have we come a long way, baby?

"Yes and no," Burnett says. She's not crazy about seeing women go "blue" in their material. "I'm not one to go for gratuitous language. Hell, I say it myself, but it's almost like, can you be more clever without doing it?"

She finds DeGeneres fall-on-the-floor funny, she's thrilled to witness the comedy renaissance of her old friend and collaborator Betty White, and she absolutely loved Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig's performance may have been overlooked by the Oscars (although not her script), but Burnett is delighted to see McCarthy nominated for best supporting actress.

"She had some great scenes, especially on the plane, with that guy," says Burnett. "She deserved that recognition."

Burnett stars with Poehler in the animated film The Secret World of Arrietty - in theatres Friday - and the two recently teamed up for a press junket day. Maybe not a passing of the torch, but Burnett was glad they had that time together.

"She was so fun to be with. She's quick, she's sharp, she's sweet and I fell in love with her," says Burnett. "And she said that she'd kind of grown up on our show."

Burnett hears a lot of that (ahem), and is often told by younger women in comedy that she was an early inspiration.

"It makes me feel like I'm 104," Burnett says, that trademark laugh still so rich. "But I'm very flattered by it."

Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett is at the Orpheum Theatre for Vancouver ComedyFest on Friday night (comedyfest.com).


Hot In Cleveland To Host Regis Philbin, Joan Rivers, Rhea Perlman

Source: www.thestar.com

(Feb 14, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Regis Philbin might no longer be a staple on morning television, but he’ll soon appear in prime time on Hot in Cleveland. Philbin along with Joan Rivers, Rhea Perlman, Andy Richter and Kevin Nealon are all slated for guest appearances on the TV Land comedy. The show, now in its third season, stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick who have a layover in Cleveland, Ohio, while on a trip to Paris and end up moving to the Midwest city permanently. Betty White plays their feisty caretaker. The sitcom has become known for its roster of guest stars including Ed Asner, Rick Springfield, Kristin Chenoweth and Susan Lucci. Hot in Cleveland airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m.


Bistro 990 And Sutton Place: End Of A Golden Era

www.thestar.com - By Rita Zekas

(Feb 9, 2012) They paved paradise and put up a condo.

In the span of a week, we learned that two of Toronto’s most storied celebrity hangouts are slated to close: the property housing
Bistro 990, 990 Bay St., has been sold for condo development, while the Sutton Place Hotel across the street is being converted into condos.

It is truly the end of a golden era.

If Toronto is Hollywood North, then Bay and Wellesley was Hollywood and Vine. The Sutton housed the celebs; Bistro 990 fed and watered them.

It started in the mid 1980s with the stars of Three Men and a Baby (Tom Selleck, Steven Guttenberg and Ted Danson) and Switching Channels (Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve) billeted at the Sutton. Danson would host a party every Thursday night in his suite.

There was a Burt and Loni (Anderson) memorial suite, so designated by hotel president Hans Gerhardt, the penultimate gracious host. No request was too outrageous — not even Melissa Gilbert (bunking in with squeeze Rob Lowe) requiring a silver spoon to feed her dog foie gras or the actress who demanded — and got — her room repainted yellow.

Sutton Place butler Werner Jankowski was Gerhard’s facilitator, covertly cruising gay bars with closeted actors; ironing Shelley Winters’ bloomers. (He subsequently went to work for Conrad Black, whose bloomers were ostensibly less capacious.)

Gerhardt’s tenure at Sutton Place was from 1986 to 1993, when everyone from Mister Rogers to Marlon Brando stayed there.

Everyone from Sophia Loren to Spider-man (Tobey Maguire) Bistro’d across the street.

Genial general manager Alfred Caron and his seamless successor Fernando Temudo took care of celebs without making Bistro 990 a “celeb petting zoo.”

“Bistro 990 is known for having the top people in the hospitality industry working as general managers throughout the years,” says Barbara Hershenhorn, events producer for TIFF and president of Party Barbara Co. “Everyone who walked through the door was treated like a celebrity.”

And celebs were treated like civilians. Celebs loved Bistro because they could fly under the radar. Liam Neeson would sidle over to regulars at the bar and chat them up just like an ordinary person.

“We let them be themselves,” recalls Temudo, who now has his own restaurant, Luci, in the west end.

“They are easier to handle than you would think. They simply wanted to be left alone. They expected and appreciated it and we made sure they were. A little (staff) presence goes a long way.”

Celebs could kick back unmolested at Bistro. Vanessa Redgrave would shuffle over from the Sutton in her scuffies and grandfather cardigan and have dinner every night while poring over her script.

Meg Ryan ordered takeout chicken every afternoon before driving to Hamilton to shoot Against the Ropes. “Meg Ryan’s chicken” is still on the menu.

While in T.O. shooting Finding Forrester, Sean Connery dined at Bistro every night with his formidable wife Micheleine, who delighted in bullying the wait staff, until she found her match in the unflappable Richard Caron and demanded him as their waiter.

Connery created a huge buzz, but the biggest flap had to be over Chris Noth, during his heyday as Big on Sex and the City. One evening, a party of over-stimulated trophy wives had to be restrained from flashing Noth.

The Sutton was the official hotel for the
Toronto International Film Festival and the Bistro was the official resto, until the festival outgrew the Sutton and transitioned in the late ’90s northward to Bloor to the Four Seasons Hotel, The Intercontinental and Park Plaza, now the Park Hyatt. More recently the festival moved south to its new home, the TIFF Bell Lightbox and surrounding new hotels.

Things could get so raucous at the Bistro in its festival prime, Rufus Sewell dubbed it “Bistro 666.”

The bar upstairs morphed into a mosh pit, with the likes of Denzel Washington, Ralph Fiennes and Christian Bale checking out the action.

Celebs famously met at Bistro. Quentin Tarantino hooked up with Mira Sorvino at a festival party there.

Temudo fondly recalls hosting Morgan Freeman, Omar Sharif, Mel Brooks, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon . . . “And Goldie Hawn — in a big way,” he adds.

How did he prevent being star-struck?

“I didn’t hang out with them,” he says. “They gave me a window to do my work. I’ll always miss those glory days.”

So will Piers Handling, director and chief executive officer of TIFF.

“Bistro 990 fed us while the Sutton Place bedded us — and in the most personal and affectionate way! Our guests were made to feel they were all special, and who can forget the days of our rollicking Hospitality Suite at the Sutton, where the festival, smaller in those days, would retire to party in the late, late hours.

“An era ends. We’ll miss ’em.”

Dani Girl: An Uplifting Musical With A Heavy Theme

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish

(Feb 15, 2012) Children often surprise us with their herculean strength
and determination to overcome adversity.

As adults we become mired in pessimism, cynicism and the pair’s constant cousin: regret.

Meanwhile, many kids, spared the tribulations of their parents, soar — like Peter Pan — through hopes, dreams and imagination.

This is the inspiring lesson that unfolds when
Dani Girl — the story of a young girl battling a life-threatening disease — takes the stage beginning Thursday at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

It’s a musical from New York duo Michael Kooman (music) and Christopher Dimond (book and lyrics) under the musical direction of Wayne Gwillim. The Star’s theatre critic Richard Ouzounian directs the Toronto production.

“The music is just great,” says Jeff Madden, who plays the role of Rafe, a character best described as Dani’s guardian angel, as well as several other characters. “It’s mainly piano and percussion and it really, really works.”

The actor, best known for his starring role as Frankie Valli in the long-running Toronto production of Jersey Boys, notes that although Dani Girl is about a girl living with cancer, it’s an uplifting tale.

“The subject matter is serious but it’s presented in such a wonderful way,” he says. “We’re all doing our best to get the idea of hope and perseverance across to the audience.”

Nine-year-old Dani, played by Dora Award nominee Gabi Epstein, has lost her hair due to therapy and — like many young people — this issue looms larger than the stark reality of her mortality.

After befriending a boy sharing the same hospital room — Marty, played by Jonathan Logan — they embark on a fantastic journey — via magic rocket ship — in quest of her health, happiness and, of course, that elusive hair.

Rafe, as all good guardian angels are wont to do, guides Dani through the process, as does her mother, Katharine (Amanda LeBlanc), who follows established literary protocol and never sets foot in the imaginary universe.

They start small, shrinking to probe the insides of Dani’s favourite teddy bear to try to understand cancer, then they go big — a visit to God, with other landing spots in between.

Although relatively new, the team of Kooman and Dimond are already considered heavy hitters on the American musical theatre scene with various awards, including the 2010 Jonathan Larson grant for emerging composers and writers in musical theatre.

They were recently named fellows at the O’Neill National Music Theatre Conference and included as finalists for the 2009 Fred Ebb Award.

Ouzounian cautions that the work is staged for “regular” adult audiences, with a window open to older children and families, but is not what one would consider a kids show.

Dani Girl plays Feb. 16 to March 4 at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. Tickets are $33 + HST at 416-504-7529 or www.artsboxoffice.ca.

Jamra Gives Us A Lot More Than Classic Belly Dancing

www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra. Until Feb. 12 at Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000 ( www.harbourfrontcentre.com)

(Feb 9, 2012) If curvaceous ladies with gyrating midriffs is your idea of
a good night out, Arabesque, Toronto’s Middle Eastern dance troupe, will be just what you’re looking for. But in the case of its latest show, Jamra, which opened Thursday night, there’s a lot more than classic belly dancing.

Arabesque is taking a journey through a variety of regional dances, from upper Egypt to southern Iran, and the results suggest there’s much more to Middle Eastern dance than shimmering shoulders, hip hits and seductive undulations.

Take, for example, a Lebanese dance entitled Dabki Montage, revived from an earlier Arabesque show. The women in their trousers, knee-high boots and silky tunics are a world apart from the bubble-gum blowing, audience-enticing sirens of Cairo’s Mohamed Ali Street, later evoked in Ali Loz. In fact, for a moment, you could imagine you’re looking at Russian folk dance as they stomp the floor, dance in circle formations and criss-crossing lines.

Equally, the regional dances presented in the show’s second half cover a wide gamut, including a choreographically well-structured “bandari” dance from Iran and a Turkish gypsy number that’s a riot of flower baskets and swirling colour.

As for the belly dancing, it too comes in a range of styles. Most of the time it could hardly be called subtle, but when Arabesque founder-director Yasmina Ramzy makes a late appearance to dance an improvised solo to the accompaniment of singer/musician/band-leader Bassam Bishara you realize what’s too often missed by her younger company colleagues.

Jamra, we’re told, is an Arabic word for embers or glowing coals and Ramzy captures this smouldering sense in the way her arms weave musically subtle patterns in the air. The bloom of youthful allure has long betrayed her but even in middle age Ramzy out-dances anyone else on stage.

The range of ability within the 17-dancer ensemble is unsettling.

Some of them mug inexcusably. Others seem to grasp that belly dancing is more than an exercise in priapic stimulation, that in some ways it’s a personal reverie, akin to Spanish flamenco, that transports the dancer to a poetic realm beyond tawdry cabaret flash and dazzle.

As usual, a major draw of any Arabesque show is the company’s orchestra — given plenty of opportunity in musical interludes to show its mettle. If only all the dancers were as attentive to the rhythmic impulses it provides as Yasmina Ramzy clearly is.

Tony Danza Will Appear In Honeymoon In Vegas For Mirvish In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Feb 09, 2012) He’s still the boss. When
Tony Danza stepped onto the stage of the Ed Mirvish Theatre this week as part of the Mirvish 2012-2013 subscription launch, the applause he got was the most substantial of an event that had already generated positive response.

He was being introduced as one of the stars of the new musical version of Honeymoon In Vegas, based on the 1992 film comedy, which is having its world premiere in Toronto in December. It’s being directed by Gary Griffin, written by Andrew Bergman, with songs by Jason Robert Brown.

Dapper as ever, the 60-year-old Danza (best known for his five seasons on Taxi and his eight seasons on Who’s the Boss?) knocked it out of the park with a darkly humorous song from the show, called “Out of the Sun,” in which he laments the fact that his late wife’s passion for suntanning led to her untimely death.

The song soared, the lyrics landed and Danza got even bigger applause when he was finished than when he entered: something that doesn’t always happen when TV stars of a certain age venture into musicals.

His rendition owed more than a little bit to Francis Albert Sinatra. When I mentioned that to him afterwards, he positively beamed.

“Hey, I’m Italian, so of course I was thinking of Sinatra. But also Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, all those guys from that period. Don’t forget I was around when they were in their prime.”

And he was. Much trimmer now than he was in his youth, Danza went to college on a wrestling scholarship and competed as a boxer for a while before being discovered by a talent agent who sent him off to Hollywood.

“Sure I had a great time doing those TV shows and I wouldn’t give up that time for anything, but what I really want to do right now is theatre, more than anything, honest.”

Danza has been on Broadway before, in a 1998 revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, in Kevin Spacey’s 1999 marathon of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh and he appeared as Max Bialystock on Broadway in Mel Brooks’ The Producers in 2006-07, repeating it in Las Vegas in 2007-08.

“I loved that too,” he beams, “but I’ve never created a part in a show before, which is why this so special for me.”

The role he’s playing in Bergman’s adaptation of own his film is that of Tommy Korman, played in the movie by James Caan.

“Jimmy is a good friend of mine and one of my heroes, in fact, so I asked for his blessing before I took this on and he gave it to me.”

Danza is snapping his fingers with energy he didn’t dissipate onstage.

“I am so ready for this! I’ve got five songs; I’ve got a Gene Kelly-style dance number. Me! Doesn’t that kill ya?

“I love this show. It understands that Vegas isn’t just a place. It’s an idea. And it’s an idea nobody ever gets tired of.”

He starts to sing another musical number for the show, this one a cappella. “If you’re a betting man, we’ve got a game for you . . . ”

Danza grinningly repeats the show’s tagline.

“What happens in Vegas . . . comes to Toronto!”

Theatre Producer David Mirvish Named As University Of Guelph’s Next Chancellor

Source: www.thestar.com

(Feb 14, 2012) Canadian theatre producer David Mirvish will be the University of Guelph’s next chancellor.

He will be installed in the post during a ceremony in June.

Mirvish is known for owning several Toronto theatres, including the Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales and bringing many popular musicals to the city.

He has also produced plays and musicals throughout Canada, on Broadway and in London’s West End.

The son of late Toronto businessman Ed Mirvish and artist Anne Lazare Macklin, David Mirvish is also known for supporting contemporary art and Canadian artists.

He’ll be the eighth chancellor since the university was founded in 1964, succeeding Pamela Wallin who served from 2007 to 2011.

As chancellor, Mirvish will preside at convocations, confer degrees and act as an ambassador. He’ll also represent the university’s interests in dealing with all levels of government.

“I am proud to become a member of a university community that is making a difference around the world,” Mirvish said.

“Whether it be the food on our tables, the quality of the environment, our health and the critical aspects of our communities and culture, the University of Guelph is having an impact.”

His appointment was endorsed by a vote of the university’s senate on Monday.

Alastair Summerlee, the university’s president, called Mirvish “a cultural icon and leader.”

“His experience, wealth of ideas and endless creativity will be an asset in these times of great challenges,” Summerlee said.


Canada's Newly Competitive Cellphone Market At Risk

www.globeandmail.com - By Rita Trichur, Iain Marlow

(February 11, 2012) Fed up with expensive cellphone bills, Brian Wilson cut off his wireless service with Rogers Communications Inc. RCI.B-T more than a year ago. Today, he's thinking of going back.

Every time he walks into a building, he worries about losing the signal on his Samsung smartphone. As he travels between his home in Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, where he works, his phone sometimes kicks into "roaming" mode - meaning he'd have to pay extra fees to make a call or use data services - even though he's still within the coverage area of his new cell provider, Mobilicity.

He's not thrilled with the customer service, either: Mr. Wilson says the company gave him the runaround when he tried to have some roaming charges reversed. So while he doesn't want to give the industry giants any more of his money, he's having second thoughts about his decision to go with one of the Canadian wireless industry's newest players.

"If I could get better pricing and support a competitive startup, it seemed like a chance worth taking," says Mr. Wilson, 46, who designs online courses at UBC. "I'm willing to put up with a bit [of hassle]. ... But at some point, you're thinking, 'Well, it is really not worth it.' "

Mr. Wilson is one of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who signed up with the upstart competitors in a Canadian wireless industry overwhelmingly dominated by the troika of BCE Inc. BCE-T , Telus Corp. T-T and Rogers. But more than four years after the federal government unveiled an ambitious plan to boost competition in the $17-billion sector, new companies such as Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and Public Mobile are still struggling to gain a foothold against the goliaths.

The Harper government's attempt to engineer more competition for the benefit of Canada's 27 million wireless users has been successful in a couple of ways: Prices have fallen for the average customer, and service plans are now more flexible. The question is, for how much longer? The upstarts' networks are still poor - both in quality and scope - and there is constant talk of consolidation among players that may be too financially weak to go it alone. Many believe the endgame will see the Big Three eventually consolidate their grip on the market by buying up their smaller rivals, returning the wireless industry to its former state as a cozy oligopoly.

"There is a fundamental difference between competition and sustainable competition," says Alek Krstajic, chief executive officer of Public Mobile. "I think what this country needs is sustainable competition." The upstarts say that for all their success in driving prices lower, they will die off without further help - or without foreign funding, which is currently restricted by Ottawa's foreign ownership rules in the telecom sector. Some of them are already pointing fingers at the government that encouraged them to launch in the first place, arguing that Industry Canada has failed to enforce the sector's rules of fair play, such as forcing BCE, Telus and Rogers to share their wireless towers.

The incumbents, meanwhile, argue that Canadians simply prefer the major players' higher-quality service as well as the higher-end devices they offer such as the iPhone, which the upstarts lack. If the government wants to score political points by lowering prices for consumers, and the big wireless companies say, they will further fragment the relatively small Canadian market and make it more difficult for carriers to afford the latest, greatest wireless technology.

All of this has put the Harper government in a difficult spot. Ottawa is set to auction off valuable wireless licences, probably later this year or next. It must soon decide what the rules for that auction will be - whether to tilt them in favour of new wireless companies by setting aside licences that only they can purchase, as the government did in 2008 to stimulate more competition. Its decision on that question and on foreign ownership will shape the industry's future, and will help determine whether the new entrants can survive for the long haul, or are doomed to disappear.

A key public policy issue

The last burst of wireless competition, which began in the late 1990s, ended with the new entrants succumbing to financial problems or selling out to the giants they had been fighting for years.

Clearnet Communications Inc. was scooped up by Telus for $6.6-billion in 2000 after it had amassed around two million subscribers. Microcell Communications shook up the market with its Fido brand but later buckled under financial pressure. After emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2003, it faced a hostile takeover bid from Telus before it was purchased by Rogers for $1.6-billion in 2004.

Today's new wireless players might not be as strong as Clearnet and Microcell were. Back then, fewer Canadians had cellphones, so there were many more new customers to pick off. "They were better financed, and it was a growth environment - as in, all telecom was growing, there was a lot of growth, and the incumbents were on their heels a bit," says a senior industry executive who has worked at both new and incumbent telecoms.

The price of entry is still steep - it takes hundreds of millions, even billions, to buy wireless spectrum, build towers and lease retail space - but the conditions are no longer as favourable. When the new companies launched in late 2009 and early 2010, about 70 per cent of Canadians were estimated to have cellphones. But in urban areas, where new wireless competitors focused their efforts to gain scale, that number was likely around 85 per cent or higher, especially in major cities such as Toronto, where it is likely closer to 95 per cent.

Michael Hennessy, senior vice-president for government and regulatory affairs at Telus, says new wireless companies were forced to attack on price because they overestimated the number of Canadians without mobile phones.

"It was the belief that things were worse than they were, leading to an assumption that there was low hanging fruit that really wasn't there," Mr. Hennessy says. "The only thing left they had to differentiate on was price. And that just puts you into a spiral of a startup company, where you're always trying to rely on price to grow market share in order to ultimately flip or consolidate."

For Anthony Lacavera, chairman of Globalive Wireless Management Corp., which operates Wind Mobile, the story of facing new entrants is not so simple.

"The government doesn't have policies in place, or teeth to enforce policies that are in place, to make sure we are able to compete, and it is on every front," Mr. Lacavera says. "We've faced unprecedented legal challenges, we've faced unprecedented regulatory challenges."

In 2009, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that Globalive had too much foreign control, and violated ownership laws. The Harper cabinet overruled that, allowing the company to begin service, but the issue is now before the Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the case.

But that has hardly been the only hurdle. While the federal government has forced incumbents to share their towers with x new entrants and allow the upstarts' customers to roam on their larger networks, those policies have failed, Mr. Lacavera says.

Overcoming obstacles

The Big Three drag out cellular site-sharing feasibility studies, he and others claim, while filling up towers with non-functional equipment. Executives at the new competitors also accuse incumbents of enforcing a roaming policy called a "hard handoff." It means that when a customer of a new entrant roams onto the network of one of the big players, the call is dropped.

Some of the incumbents have also reacted aggressively in their marketing to the new competitors. Rogers launched a new wireless brand, Chatr, with a pricing structure practically identical to Wind's. (Such smaller brands owned by bigger companies are known as "flanker brands.")

"There are, I would say, dubious competitive actions taken by the incumbents, whether it is the launching of flanker brands that directly mirror the offerings of the new entrants - and they offer those plans probably at a loss," says Stewart Lyons, president and chief operating officer of Mobilicity. "Or their actions with retailers, where they buy shelf space away from retailers to keep us out. Or they don't share towers or they mess around with roaming."

Ken Engelhart, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs at Rogers, says any suggestions that Rogers does not share its towers is categorically false.

"To say that we're not offering them towers is very, very irritating. We're offering them lots of towers," he says. "In many cases, they request a tower, we offer them the tower, and then they cancel their request, which is also very irritating. And under Industry Canada rules, we're not allowed to charge them for all that work."

As to mandated seamless roaming, Mr. Engelhart says it does not exist in any country. "It is just simply not done."

While there is agreement among new entrants that Canada needs a fourth national carrier to ensure sustainable competition, the path is unclear.

There is frequent speculation that Globalive and Mobilicity will be the first to merge, but perhaps not until there is more certainty about Ottawa's auction policy and changes to foreign investment rules. Current law restricts direct and indirect foreign investment in telecom companies to a combined total of 46.7 per cent.

Among its options, the Conservative government is considering whether to allow full foreign ownership of telecom firms with a market share of 10 per cent or less. That would give providers like Wind and Mobilicity more options for raising the money they need to build their networks and weather the early years of operating losses. Without some sort of regulatory change, the past two years will amount to a "blip" where wireless prices came down temporarily before competition fizzled, says Mr. Krstajic of Public Mobile.

The cable threat

But there are others who take a less dire view. Canada, with a population of about 34 million spread over a large geography, might not be able to sustain so many wireless companies. Experts say there is no magic number. "It is not clear to me that consumers aren't well served today," said telecom consultant Mark Goldberg. And there are some new competitors with deeper pockets. Quebecor Inc.'s Vidéotron unit has brought new competition to the Quebec market, and Halifax-based EastLink all bought wireless spectrum in 2008 - though in the West, Shaw Communications Inc. bowed out after deciding it couldn't make a decent return in the wireless business.

With cable TV and broadband Internet, these companies have the ability to bundle services for customers and pose the most serious threat to the big players. "We're probably the reason that competition is so aggressive now," says Vidéotron CEO Robert Dépatie.

But Mr. Dépatie thinks the present era of competition is unsustainable and has joined the other new entrants in calling for preferential treatment in the coming auction. He argues that spectrum bought in 2008 isn't enough to continue on. "[The incumbents] have proven, in the last spectrum auction, that price is no object."

The issue is one of furious lobbying right now in Ottawa. And the issue is more complicated than just one of prices, says Wade Oosterman, president of BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility unit. He says Canada's small population already makes it difficult to bring the best technology to Canada - and to use scale to bring it here as fast and affordable as possible.

"Remember the uproar when we didn't get the iPhone in time?" he asks. "Even Vidéotron, which is a big company, can't even get the iPhone because they don't have scale. If we had 10 Vidéotrons, would we really be better off as a country?"

Mr. Oosterman thinks the big players are good for the digital economy because they can pull in the world's best devices. He adds that consumers who make the switch - like Brian Wilson in Vancouver - experience a drop in network quality, and that "the new guys lose a tremendously large number of subscribers every month."

"What Canada has to come to grips with is [that] scale is enormously important and should be encouraged. Seven carriers is crazy for this country, and it leads to negative consequences for industry. ... What the government has to decide is whether we want to have the Apple of telecom or the Dollar Store."


There is always bickering in Canada about the state of wireless competition.

One side (mainly consumer groups, academics and international organizations) argues that Canada's large telecom companies are sheltered from foreign competition, operate in a regulated sector, and get away with high prices, poor services and little innovation.

The other side (mainly industry consultants and the large companies) argue that rival studies use flawed methodology that draws from a small sample of rate plans, and that measures small, densely populated European countries against Canada, which has a vast geography and a dispersed population.

Last June, after Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development reports ranked Canada's telecom sector as uncompetitive, Telus Corp. commissioned a report from consulting firm Nordicity. The report noted that Canadian wireless voice costs are 10 per cent lower than the OECD average, based on average income; and that the cost of wireless voice is declining more quickly here than in other OECD countries.

This week, SeaBoard Group issued a report arguing that there is no evidence Canada's geography or population distribution have anything to do with the high costs facing Canadians. It noted that before new wireless firms launched in 2008, Canada had only 8,000 cellular sites, compared with 35,000 in the U.K. and 220,000 in the U.S.

The Seaboard report argues that Ottawa must set aside more wireless licences for new competitors, as it did in 2008, and remove foreign ownership restrictions. The report noted that when the Telus-owned Koodo cell brand raised prices, Bay Street analysts figured its rivals would do the same. "It speaks volumes when one carrier can make a pricing adjustment and the investment community automatically expects the other incumbent brands to follow suit," SeaBoard said. "That is why Industry Canada must continue its work to enhance competition in the wireless market."

Iain Marlow

Sony PlayStation Vita review: A lot of fun, but pricey

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Feb 13, 2012) Available in North America on Feb. 22, Sony’s PS Vita is one of the most powerful portable gaming systems ever made. On the strength of all it can do, the best thing about it is that it succeeds in providing a near-console gaming experience in an impressive on-the-go package.

Sony is at its core a hardware company, and that is where this device shines. The big evolution here is a portable system that has two thumbstick controllers, finally giving a similar control scheme to console controllers. It has a powerful quadcore CPU, and a gorgeous five-inch screen. It also has two cameras and two touch screens — front and back — and accelerometers so that tilting and moving the device can be used in many games. The device seems bulky, but feels lighter than it looks. If you consider all of the technology in the device, you can almost begin to understand the $250 price tag, which is on par with the consoles.

All of that tech allows games to open up their control schemes, so players can have options as to how they play. The biggest — and best — launch game is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. There are many points in the game that show how the different controls can be used. The uses vary between good and gimmicky. One scene, where the main character is sliding down a river rapids, you need to tilt the device up and down too avoid rocks. Another activity involves rotating and examining found objects by using the rear touch screens and cleaning them off using your finger over the front.

Sony is also positioning this as an all-around device, with music and video-playing software, some social gaming components, but it clear that this is a device targeting hardcore gamers. The two cameras are not high quality, and the browsing experience on the device is slow and not very good. Battery life is okay at four or five hours per charge. One huge complaint is the complete lack of on-board memory, so you will have to shell out too buy Sony's proprietary memory cards, an added cost that needs to be taken into consideration.

The initial launch titles are a mixed bag of games, some that barely use the new functionality that the device brings, like Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, or ones that are made to show off the new ways to play, like Little Deviants, a cute game where the first level requires using the rear-touch screen to manipulate the landscape to move the games characters around. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is clearly the only must-have launch game.

This is clearly a pure entertainment device, and while it has some interesting additional functionality, it’s the gaming experience that is the reason to buy this device. I have enjoyed my Vita a lot, and think this is the true portable PlayStation experience that we have been waiting for. As a hardcore gamer, you had me at the dual analog sticks. There is an incredible amount of potential in this device, both for ports of existing and oncoming console games, and as developers get creative in finding new ways to design games that make use of the various control schemes.

All that said, I don’t like the high price, I wish there were more exciting games at launch, and an easier way to port my old PSP games on the devices. Sony had a program for that in Japan, where the device is already for sale, but it is not bringing it to North America. This device is definitely a luxury, and a lot of fun, but anyone thinking about buying it should be very aware about the price of admission.


Reconnect Without Leaving This Jamaican Resort

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Catherine Dawson March

(Feb 3, 2012) "Where's the most romantic spot on the resort?" I asked a lot of people this question: former guests, current guests and many of the staff at Half Moon in Montego Bay. It had been a long time since my husband and I were able to escape. But the babysitting stars had aligned. We had five days - just enough time to jet off to Jamaica. Half Moon [http://halfmoon.rockresorts.com] promised us luxury, and lots of ways to reconnect without leaving the resort.

"Take a long walk. The coastline goes on forever."

Giddy with new-found freedom - our only commitment was a dinner reservation - we took our time strolling the resort's three kilometres of shoreline. We found the best shells on the quieter Sunrise Beach, eels and sea urchins in the eddies and, surprisingly, a giant chessboard at the water's edge. We never have time to play chess any more, but Jamaica was working its magic. I lost, twice, but the scenery took out the sting. Who says chess isn't sexy?

"Watch the ocean from the waterfront gazebos."

We'd heard that the best place to see the sunset was in Negril at the westernmost part of the island. But joining a tour group would kill our coupledom, and driving a rental car in unfamiliar territory (on the left side of the road no less) was an argument in the making. So we took our tequila sunset cocktails to the beach jetty instead. The white gazebo juts far enough into the ocean that all you hear is the pounding surf, letting you get lost in the changing sky. We felt like we had the sunset, and the ocean, to ourselves.

"Have dinner under the waterwheel at the Sugar Mill."

It's a lovely spot, all right, a private table under the stars, lit by candelabra and moonlight, set up in a restored corner on an old sugar mill. It's about 50 steps from the restaurant (the classiest one at the resort), but the $200 (U.S.) premium just to be seated there put it out of our range. Our favourite spot was the Seagrape Terrace where the tables are steps from the ocean. At night, the trees are wrapped in white lights, the frogs are serenading, insects are chirping, and cruise ships are lit up like Christmas trees out in the black ocean. I'm falling in love all over again.

"Try the spa."

This is not just any resort spa. This is a Rock Resorts Fern Tree oasis. Literally. The spa is a world unto its own in the middle of Half Moon. There's a breathtaking outdoor soaking pool shrouded in palm greenery with a waterfall design that lets you canoodle at three different heights - unless, of course, your man disappears into the sauna. I opt for a bigger pool and a decadent chaise longue, perfect for soaking up the sun and listening to yet another waterfall. Treatments here are plentiful and creative, using local ingredients like Blue Mountain coffee, coconut and rum. Best of all, when you book a treatment, you can use the relaxing rooms, dry and wet saunas and secluded pools for the rest of your stay at the resort.

"Spend the day at the beach."

We borrowed a double kayak at Sunset Beach but co-ordinating it through ocean swells threatened to overturn our laid-back vibe. We traded it for singles - plying the waves this time was a lot more fun. We raced about, crashed and rode the waves into shore and out again, and played like the kids we were when we first met. At day's end, we took a chilled bottle of Champagne to the shore and toasted ourselves with our feet in the ocean.


To set and keep the mood, take advantage of luxury airport lounges.
WestJet's Plaza Premium Lounge [http://www.westjet.com/guest/en/travel/basics/lounges.shtml] lets you forget the indignity of security screening. Less than $30 gets you its hushed confines in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Quebec City. A hot breakfast, a great view of the sun rise over the tarmac and comfy chairs to snooze in was a sanity saving start to our trip.

On the way home, we hung on to our vacation mindset a little longer inside Club MoBay [http://www.vipattractions.com] at Donald Sangster International. A ticket to this 10,000-square-foot private lounge took us to the front of the security line - worth the $30 (U.S.) cost alone. Inside, the first thing I hear is a cocktail shaker at the massive bar and it (almost) feels like we never left the resort. Food and drinks, including cocktails, are included, there's also a business centre, showers and a play centre for children. (A mini onsite spa arranges massages for a fee.)

Since the realities of home are fast approaching, I send a Club MoBay runner to elbow his way through the duty-free lineup for me. Meanwhile, I have one last pina colada at the lounge bar in peace.


We had to make one foray off the resort - for real Jamaican jerk. Turns out it's hard to find in hotel restaurants, as most guests can't handle the heat. Scotchies, a roadside jerk stand, is just a five-minute drive west from Half Moon. (If you're coming from downtown Montego Bay, it's about 10 minutes east on Falmouth Road.) Seasoned pork, chicken and fish are slow cooked in a fire pit over green pimento wood and covered with sheets of corrugated metal that seals in the flavour. Mouth-cooling sides run from deep-fried festival bread, roasted breadfruit and yams to bammy (Jamaican flatbread). Get some to go (on your way back to the airport) or enjoy it in the rustic bar behind the grill area. Jerk tastes better when you're sitting on an overturned beer keg anyway. Quarter chicken with festival bread is about $4 (U.S.).


Canadian Para-Skier Josh Dueck Appears On ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Feb 15, 2012) BURBANK, Calif.— Last week Good Morning America. This week the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Josh Dueck and his exploits on the ski hill are getting noticed.

Earlier this month, the 30-year-old from Kimberley, B.C. — a paraplegic since 2004 — became the first athlete to successfully land a back flip on a sit ski.

The moment was captured on film Feb. 3 in Whistler, B.C., and since then, Dueck has become something of a celebrity.

In addition to his jump being viewed more than 600,000 times on YouTube, it's been featured on Good Morning America and ESPN. And on Wednesday, Dueck was a guest on DeGeneres' daytime talk show along with veteran comedian Kevin Nealon, Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo and country singer Dierks Bentley.

DeGeneres had seen the video of Dueck's jump and said she wanted to meet him.

“I'm so happy to meet you,” she said after Dueck joined her onstage, sliding out of his wheelchair into an oversized red chair. “They showed me this several days ago and I was like ‘Please can we have him on the show, can I meet him? What an inspiring story that is.“

Dueck was clearly thrilled to meet the star comedian.

“You have no idea how excited I am,” he told DeGeneres, rubbing his hands together gleefully.

Dueck was paralyzed eight years ago in a crash doing a demonstration jump.

“I wanted to sit up, but I couldn't,” Dueck explained to DeGeneres.

He goes on to tell her that he had the idea to do the flip while he was recovering in the hospital and started practising a couple of years ago.

Dueck, whose wife Lacey was in the audience, left the show with a couple of souvenirs. DeGeneres presented him with a white ski helmet mounted with a camera as well as a bright blue jacket featuring the word ”Freedom” across the stomach, a nod to a similar tattoo Dueck has.

Both items were emblazoned with the show's logo.

“I hope to see you skiing in it,” DeGeneres said as she gave Dueck the jacket.

“I admire you,” she added. “Thanks for being here.”

First Black NBA Player To Be Honoured At Hawks-Heat Game

www.globeandmail.com - Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press

(February 11, 2012) ATLANTA— Earl Lloyd remembers wondering
when he suited up for the Washington Capitols more than 60 years ago as the first black to play in an NBA game if he'd make a good enough impression to stick around.

Lloyd and the Capitols lost the game. But he played well enough to earn a roster spot and break the colour barrier in a league that had only three black players in 1950 and now features the highest percentage of African-American athletes in any of the major professional leagues.

“Before the game, I was terrified,” recalled Lloyd, who scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Capitols in a 78-70 loss to the Rochester Royals on Oct. 31, 1950. “I had a fear of disappointing the people who depended on me. Luckily, letting people down was not a part of my DNA.

“I'm glad I was part of something that helped pave the way for others.”

Now, as part of Black History Month, the 83-year-old Hall of Famer will be honoured for his breakthrough at halftime of the Atlanta Hawks-Miami Heat game on Sunday. The former West Virginia State standout along with six others African-Americans will be recognized at all Hawks home games this month.

“I'm blessed to still have my health,” said Lloyd, who also became the Detroit Pistons first black coach in 1971. “I know that there are a lot of people who didn't make it to 61 years of age. So for me to be around this long and still get some recognition.”

Since Lloyd made history, the NBA has increased its number of black players to 78 per cent, according to the league's racial and gender report last year. About 83 per cent of the players in the league are people of colour.

These days, Lloyd said some of his favourite players to watch are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat. He personally met James a couple years ago, but has yet to meet Wade.

“They might be too busy with the game to come and see me,” he said with a chuckle. “I've met LeBron before but hopefully if Dwyane slows down for a moment and decides to give me a high five, I'll be sure to return the favour.”

Lloyd, who was drafted in the seventh round, was one of three blacks to play in the NBA in 1950. His debut was a couple of days before two other African-Americans who helped integrate the NBA — Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics, the first black draftee; and Nat Clifton of the New York Knicks, the first black to sign a league contract.

The six-foot-five Lloyd had his best season in 1955, averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 per game for Syracuse, which beat Fort Wayne for the NBA title. He and Jim Tucker became the first blacks to play on an NBA championship team.

Lloyd played in more than 560 NBA games in the league and became known for his defensive prowess. In eight seasons, he averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.

When Lloyd first appeared in an NBA game, he said he couldn't have imagined the league as it is today. He gives credit not only to himself, but also to Cooper and Clifton for breaking the colour barrier.

“The league has come a long way,” he said. “I'm happy that Chuck, Nat and myself helped pave the way for others.”

Knicks Sensation Jeremy Lin Impresses Kobe Bryant, Among Others

www.thestar.com - Tom Pedulla and Rachel Shuster

(February 11, 2012) NEW YORK—“Lincredible!” exclaimed the back page
of Saturday’s New York Post.

“Just Lin, baby” read the bold headline in the New York Daily News.

Point guard
Jeremy Lin is the talk of New York, the nation . . . and the world after he validated his four-game rise from anonymity to stardom with a career-high 38 points in leading the New York Knicks past the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 92-85 on Friday night.

Lin has carried the Knicks to a season-tying four-game winning streak, which they can extend Saturday night when they play at the Minnesota Timberwolves.

U.S. media outlets are not alone in the coverage of the undrafted point guard from Harvard — the NBA’s first American-born Chinese or Taiwanese player — who has emerged from the end of the bench to become a world-wide phenomenon in a week. Just since Thursday his Twitter followers have risen by 50,000 to a total of more more 155,000.

The Asian media are so taken with Lin, crowding him at shootarounds and post-game, that they are concerned for his well-being.

Lin, whose previous high for the season before the streak had been nine points in limited playing time, has been living with his brother, a dental student at New York University in Manhattan, and sister-in-law. Lin also spent a night on the couch of teammate Landry Fields.

So one of the foreign reporters told Lin after Friday’s victory that his Asian fans are worried about his unsettled living situation.

The 23-year-old thanked those fans for their concern — and assured them he is working on it.

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant said before he arrived at Madison Square Garden that he knew very little about Lin, who played in only 29 games last season for the Golden State Warriors and was cut. The Houston Rockets also had Lin with them for a time before releasing him.

But after Lin brought a frenzied crowd of 19,763 to its feet time and time again Friday with soft jumpers, spinning drives to the basket and crafty passes, Bryant is beginning to grasp what “Linsanity” is all about.

“Players don’t usually come out of nowhere,” Bryant said after Lin helped New York snap a nine-game losing streak to Los Angeles that dated to February 2007. “If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. But no one ever noticed.”

They’re noticing now especially because the Knicks (12-15) have been without all-star forward Carmelo Anthony, who has a strained groin, and forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who has been with family in Florida following the death of an older brother.

Lin has made believers of once-skeptical teammates and coaches.

“He’s not a fluke,” said Knicks centre Tyson Chandler, adding, “You can tell when a guy isn’t really that skilled but is just having a good stretch. This guy is skilled. He’s fast. He gives the defense a problem, and he’s really crafty at the rim.”

That Lin even has had the chance to post four games in a row of 20-plus points is more remarkable given the Knicks were considering releasing him in anticipation of veteran guard Baron Davis finally getting healthy and making his season debut. With Davis remaining out, and the absence of Anthony and Stoudemire, Lin has made the most of his shot.

And quite literally. During the winning streak, with Lin starting the last three games, he has shot 57.5 per cent. He has scored 114 points (28.5 per game) with 32 assists, 15 rebounds and seven steals.

Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni is at a loss to explain the exploits of his sudden star, saying it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

“It is not often that a guy is going to play four games, the best you are going to see, and nobody knows who he is,” D’Antoni said.

“I am not really too worried about proving anything to anybody,” Lin said. “As a team, we are growing and I think everyone is buying into it and that is why we are becoming more dangerous.”

The slender 6-foot-3 guard outplayed Bryant in drilling 13 of 23 field-goal attempts Friday, including two of four from three-point range, with seven assists and four rebounds. Bryant closed with 34 points, hitting only 11 of 29 from the floor. He was one of five from beyond the arc with 10 rebounds and one assist.

“It is a great story,” Bryant said. “It is a testament to perseverance and hard work. It is a good example to kids everywhere. I am sure he has put in a great deal of work to always have that belief in himself. Now, he has the opportunity to show it.”

Lin averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 assists in 29 games last year for Golden State. He also played 20 games for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Developmental League, averaging 18 points and 4.3 assists.

He emphasizes that opportunity is everything. “I wouldn’t say Golden State wasn’t suitable for me,” he said. “I think I have grown as a player. In terms of personnel, there is more opportunity here.”

Nirra Fields Fields Of Dreams

www.globeandmail.com - By Eric Duhatschek And Sean Gordon

(February 10, 2012) When her California high-school team, Mater Dei, suffered a three-point loss in last weekend's Nike Tournament of Champions, Nirra Fields didn't sleep restfully.

"Woke up today wanting to punch someone in the face ... I hate losing," the Canadian phenom tweeted.

This past Wednesday, at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Fields - born in British Columbia, raised in Montreal - reacted by playing ferocious defence through the first quarter as her team scored the first 21 points in a lopsided game. Fields was all business on the court, smiled rarely, hand-slapped a teammate occasionally. When in possession of the ball, she demonstrated a shooter's mentality in spite of struggling offensively at the outset, the sort of selfishness that characterizes scorers in any sport.

"She's one of those rare players who thinks she can get her shot off and create her own shot any time," says Cori Close, the UCLA women's head coach, who won a successful recruiting battle to sign Fields to a full-ride scholarship. "A lot of girls expect the plays to create shots for them. They don't have the sense of that the same way guys do. They want the offence to create that perfect shot opportunity. Nirra doesn't need that."

Fields is travelling a nomadic basketball odyssey, first from the Montreal area to Virginia, then to Cleveland, and on to Southern California, where she's turning heads as a high school senior, bound for UCLA on scholarship next season, and named to the McDonald's All-American game that is to be played in Chicago in March. In Cleveland there developed a friendship with Carolyn Brown, the wife of then Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, who was hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.

The Browns have become Fields's legal guardians. Their two sons, Elijah and Cameron, also attend Mater Dei in Santa Ana, a prep powerhouse. Brown, an affable and gregarious bundle of energy, doesn't want to take any bows for his or his family's contributions to Fields's life, though he smiled when asked about what her presence in the household means.

"She's great," he answered. "She's fun to have around and she's fun to be around. We're just trying to help her out."

The Fields family declined to allow Nirra to be interviewed for this story.

Brown had spent five years handling the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, back when local sensation LeBron James was still wowing them on the banks of Lake Erie. Nowadays, he presides over Kobe Bryant and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, Metta World Peace. Accordingly, Brown knows something about precocious basketball talent.

"With the way she plays the game, her upside is tremendous," said Brown, indicating that Fields, also a part of the Canadian national program, has the talent to play in the Olympics. "If there are - and there may be - but if there are any girls in Canada better than her, then wow, all power to Canada. They're going to have good teams in the future, because Nirra is one of the best girls I've ever seen."

Fields's back story is similar to the journey many teenage boys take to play junior hockey in Canada. Born in British Columbia, she grew up in the working-class Montreal neighbourhood of Ville Saint-Pierre.

Otis Delaney, former principal of the senior elementary school that Fields attended in La Salle, Que., first spotted her in the school yard.

"She was probably the best athlete in school, male or female," said Delaney, a former captain of the St. Francis Xavier University varsity team, "and she used to dominate the boys."

Fields, who grew up with her mother and two brothers in a family of modest means, played as an 11-year-old in the local boys' football league. She began playing organized basketball in Montreal's Little Burgundy neighbourhood through DJ Sports Club, a charitable group for youths founded by former Concordia Stingers standout Dexter John.

Delaney recommended Fields to a basketball program run by Sun Youth, a Montreal community organization that helps underprivileged kids. Sun Youth, which combines sports with school work and has more than 60 players plying their trade in U.S. colleges and prep schools, exposed Fields to top-flight competition.

She played briefly at Montreal's Lakeside Academy (where she also won a city 100-metre sprint title in the 11-13 age group) before moving on to Lower Canada College, a tony private school, for a year. From there, she moved again to Mouth Of Wilson, Va., to play for Oak Hill Academy, an American high school powerhouse, where she averaged 26.5 points a game.

She lived for a time in Cleveland, but the school she was to attend, Regina, closed, leaving her high and dry. In the end, needing a place to play, she accompanied the Browns to California, where eligibility issues permitted her to practise, but not play, with Mater Dei, a two-time national champion, until January.

She's making up for lost time. Along with teammate Jordan Adams, who has committed to rival USC next year and was also named to the McDonald's All-American West team, Fields has the No. 2-ranked team in the state poised for a deep playoff run.

Close, the UCLA coach, met Fields years ago when she was coaching at Florida State and "recruiting Ohio real hard. We signed a player from her old high school, Regina, and that was my first exposure to Nirra Fields. So it's really fun that it ended up this way. The first time I spent any time talking to Nirra, we spent the whole time talking about people that we mutually knew.

"I had a chance to meet Nirra's biological mother, and that's a big sacrifice for her - to entrust these people she's never met with her baby, and really hope they're giving her the opportunities she's dreamed about. It's very interesting. I never thought about it before, but she is living out the Canadian boys' hockey dream in the girls' basketball situation."

Fields has represented Canada multiple times already - at under-16, under-17 and under-19 championships. Last year, as the Canadian team pulled off the unthinkable by knocking off the United States at the FIBA U19 championships in Chile, she averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in the tournament games.

She is ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 2012 high school class by ESPN HoopGurlz, and the No. 3 guard.

"It takes a lot of courage to leave your family, come to the States and pursue this educational dream as well as her basketball dreams," Close said. "To have to move around and develop relationships in strange new cities all through high school, that's a very difficult situation. I'm very glad she's landed in L.A., not only for us to have a chance to coach her in the future, but with the Brown family. They are spectacular in terms of caring for her and providing a great environment for her to finish her high-school career."

In the game against Serra, Mater Dei led 70-24 with a minute left in the third quarter when Fields came out of the game. After having a hard time finding the range in the first quarter, she put up a quiet 18 points to lead her team. Afterward, the celebration was subdued.

"Nirra Fields can flat-out play," Serra coach Mary Rossignol said. "She's confident, she's experienced and you can tell she's played against some top competition as a young kid, all the way until now, and it pays off when you play against older kids and guys.

"She's fluid. She basically can hang in the air. She can shoot. She has the mid-range game and she can take the ball to the hole. For a lady basketball player, she's all that. I mean, I'm thinking she's going to be great at the next level. She's one of the best around that I've seen in my 25 years of coaching."

Off the court, Close says the relationship between the Browns and Fields has set Nirra for the future.

"Carolyn Brown is really the salt of the earth and she has worked so hard to make sure Nirra has what she needs academically, to make sure she takes preparatory classes for the SAT and ACT [college entrance exams], to really love having a girl and go shopping with her. Just the investment of time and energy for Nirra's preparation has just been unmatched. Mike Brown is a wonderful man and people love to talk about him because he's the coach of the Lakers, and he's a great guy, but his wife is spectacular and she's done such a great job with those two boys and Nirra."

Seven years ago, to find some competition in the hockey haven of Montreal, Fields was playing hoops on the playgrounds with boys. Helped along by solid mentoring, compelled by basketball powers, she's on her way to UCLA.

"It's a wonderful story with a storybook ending," said Sun Youth basketball coach Les Hughes, who had Fields on his team for a season just before she started high school. "If this principal [Delaney] doesn't pick up the phone, who knows what happens?"

Tennis: France Crushes Canada's Davis Cup Dream

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By David Ebner

(Feb 12, 2012) France trumped Canada at the Davis Cup Sunday afternoon, as French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat a spirited but outmatched Frank Dancevic - and injured Canadian star Milos Raonic watched on from courtside.

It was Raonic who was to play Tsonga but withdrew at the last moment because of a "minor" knee injury. The injury scuttled a hotly anticipated match that could have been one of the most exciting in the history of Canadian tennis.

Instead, Tsonga, the world No 6, beat the No 178 Dancevic, winning 6-
4, 6-4, 6-1, to clinch victory in the best-of-five Davis Cup competition, 3-1. France moves on to face the United States in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup world group. It was Canada's first appearance at the world group stage in eight years. The country hoped to capitalize on home-court advantage in Vancouver against the favoured French but could not pull off the upset.

Raonic hurt his knee on Saturday during doubles play with Daniel Nestor. Canada's strategy will be questioned. Vasek Pospisil had been scheduled to be Nestor's doubles partner but Raonic was subbed in by coach Martin Laurendeau, with the aim to get an unexpected 2-1 jump on France going into Sunday's singles match. The plan failed, and looked even worse when Raonic couldn't play Tsonga on Sunday.

Raonic, Canada's best-ever singles player, had dealt with minor pain in his left knee through the week. It didn't show on Friday in Vancouver when the world's No 29 cruised by No 35 Julien Benneteau in straight sets - putting Canada at a 1-1 tie with France in the best-of-five competition.

On Saturday, losing in straight sets with partner Daniel Nestor to France, Raonic tweaked his knee and was "struggling to move" - though that wasn't apparent to most viewers of the match. Raonic had been wearing a band on his left calf below his knee during play, with a bone causing muscle problems.

After talking with doctors, he decided to pull out of today's match, last-minute news on Sunday before the 2 p.m. PT start.

Whether Raonic will play this week in San Jose, where he is to defend his first major title at the SAP Open, is unclear. He flies to San Francisco Monday morning and has an MRI schedule at Stanford Medical Center.

Playing on Sunday for Canada "just didn't make sense," Raonic told Davis Cup broadcaster Sportsnet on Sunday afternoon.

"I don't think I would have been that much use."

His replacement, Dancevic, played admirably, given that he had no real shot to win. Dancevic has faced only a handful of players in the top 100 in the past two years. But his play versus Tsonga was impressive, especially his effort, pushing the Frenchman, but to no avail.

A press release described Raonic's knee injury as "minor." His agent Graham Cross was evasive in a short interview with The Globe on Sunday about the situation. Raonic plans to speak with reporters late Sunday after the Davis Cup is concluded. Cross said Raonic's status for the SAP Open is "day to day."

The 21-year-old, who had hip surgery last summer, expressed frustration.

"The toughest part is the lack of information," Raonic told Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani.

Tennis commentators said the situation is difficult for Raonic, withdrawing his spot to play for his country, while still wanting to play in San Jose, as his pro tennis ascent continues. It is a clash between the individual nature of the tennis business, with the Davis Cup team/country element being an aberration to the normal calendar. "I'm worried about the kid's image," said one tennis insider, adding that it's important Raonic clears the air.

Canadian Downhiller Ben Thomsen Breaks Through On Sochi Olympic Course

www.thestar.com - Andrew Dampf

(February 11, 2012) KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA—Two weeks ago,
Canadian Ben Thomsen was in danger of being sent to skiing’s minor leagues.

Now he’s got his first World Cup podium result, on the 2014 Olympic layout, and brimming with confidence.

Slicing effectively through the icy technical section on top of the course, the native of Invermere, B.C., then turned on the speed on the flatter, lower section to finish second in Saturday’s World Cup downhill event.

Thomsen was 0.27 seconds behind Swiss winner Beat Feuz on the course that will be used for the Sochi Games.

“I wanted to do good here so I can get an invite back and I think I did good enough, so hopefully I’m here (in 2014),” Thomsen said. “You’ve got to have heart. Sometimes passion trumps logic.”

Last month, Canadian speed coach John McBride was considering sending Thomsen to the Nor-Am circuit after a string of less-than-stellar results. But Thomsen has achieved career bests in his last three races, starting with 11th- and fifth-place finishes last weekend in Chamonix, France, before Saturday’s finish.

“It’s pretty exciting, a little bit of a Cinderella story,” McBride said. “It’s just confidence.

“You see it where someone gets a little feel or taste of it and I think Benny has all of a sudden realized he can compete with these guys.”

With four jumps, including one that sends skiers soaring into the air for more than half the length of a football field, this course suits Thomsen.

“He’s not afraid of much,” McBride said. “He loves the big air, he loves to go fast, he’s not afraid of a challenge and he deals well with pressure — he has from the day I met him.”

That aggressive approach helped the 5-foot-7 Thomsen on the highly technical upper section, which was injected to form an extremely icy surface.

“Some of the iciest conditions I’ve seen,” said Thomsen. “You could grab your hockey skates and go right down with the puck.”

Thomsen joins the Canadian Cowboys, a title bestowed on podium winners in World Cup, world championships and Olympics. And he extended a series of solid results for the team that began with a second-place finish by Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, two weeks ago before Calgary’s Jan Hudec won last weekend in Chamonix, France, in a race where Guay finished third and Thomsen was fifth.

“We’re only three guys but we’re moving forward and we’re feeding off each other and it’s looking good,” Thomsen said.

Other racers are starting to take notice of Thomsen.

“He’s definitely a new guy to look out for on the downhill tour,” said Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, a two-time overall World Cup winner.

For now, it is just Thomsen, Guay and Hudec racing the speed events for Canada, although McBride hopes to have 2009 downhill world champion John Kucera of Calgary and Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver — who has won three World Cup races — return from back injuries later this month in Crans Montana, Switzerland.