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

January 26, 2012

Exciting things happening all over the city on the cusp of
Black History Month.
This past Monday, I attended the TD Launch of Black History Month celebrating diversity and calling it Now and Then, featuring their launch photo/poster (pictured here) with our Michael Chambers.  Michael is currently showcasing some of his works as part of the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival held at BACK ("Black Artists' Network in Dialogue) Gallery, 832A Bloor St. W. Go and check out some of his amazing work! Check out new photos in my PHOTO GALLERY!  
  

Along those lines, Harbourfront Centre brings us
KUUMBA (Swahili word for creativity) showcasing many concerts, panels, film by Black Canadian filmmakers, comedy (Jay Martin and Trixx and others), fashion and lots of family events. The entire listing of is under HOT EVENTS.
 

Also, I have a 'pay what you can' real music offering from Torontonian
Slakah the Beatchild!  Check out the details under SCOOP for your download of his entire debut album, The Other Side of Tomorrow.  What an amazing move by this talented artist and producer - you MUST take advantage of this opportunity and support this indie Canadian artist!  You won't be sorry! 

This week's news features toronto.com's Guide to Black History Month; the North American showcase of dance, the
International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival; the sad and tragic passing of skier, Sarah Burke and her legacy; another passing of a treasured artist, Etta James; hip hop's impact on the Grammys and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.

::HOT EVENTS::

Feb. 3-5, 2012:: KUUMBA presented by TD at Harbourfront Centre

Source: Harbourfront Centre

The 16th annual Kuumba festival presented by TD returns to Harbourfront Centre with an entertaining and educational weekend celebrating Black History Month. “Kuumba” is the Swahili word for creativity and has become synonymous with showcasing the best local and international artists from the African and Caribbean diaspora.
 
This winter, Harbourfront Centre presents programming that questions the BIG iDEA of perspective. Join us Feb. 3-5, 2012 to gain perspective on black history with a celebration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence with legendary reggae dub DJ and producer Clive Chin, a Honey Jam Then & Now showcase, a hilarious Canada vs. USA Comedy Clash, a film series celebrating black filmmakers, an Intimate and Interactive indie music showcase with Rochelle Jordan, 88 Days of Fortune and Shi Wisdom, a fashion workshop with Canadian supermodel Stacey McKenzie and a variety of family activities including a Soca on Ice skating event with Dr. Jay de Soca Prince.

All Kuumba events celebrate the vitality of Toronto 's African and Caribbean communities, by showcasing works by innovative Canadian and international artists.. Kuumba runs from Friday, Feb. 3 to Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Most events are FREE and take place at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto ). For more information and to purchase tickets the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit harbourfrontcentre.com.
 
KUUMBA EVENT LISTINGS:
 
MUSIC
 
Honey Jam – Then and Now (Hosted by Michie Mee, with DJ Mel Boogie)
* Ticketed event $10

Friday, Feb. 3, 7-10 p.m. (Brigantine Room)
For the past 16 years, Honey Jam has been Canada’s premiere all-female talent showcase featuring a wide variety of local DJ’s and artists representing hip hop, jazz, gospel, reggae, blues, r&b, dance and spoken word.
This celebration features performances by Kellylee Evans, Eternia, Jemeni, Kim Davis, Belinda Brady, True, Saidah Baba Talibah, Motion, Natasha Waterman and more!
 
A Celebration of Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence through Reggae Music with Clive Chin
Saturday, Feb. 4, 8-10- p.m. ( Lakeside Terrace)
To commemorate Jamaica ’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, reggae music legend Clive Chin presents an exclusive DJ workshop on the history of Jamaican music. Chin is a Chinese-Jamaican record producer whose credits include recordings by Dennis Brown, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Augustus Pablo, Peter Tosh, Jackie Mittoo, The Wailers and Black Uhuru, among many others. Chin was a pioneer in the establishment of dub as a standalone musical form - producing the Java Java Dub album in 1973, arguably the first-ever dub album. Chin will be signing copies of the album following the event. Hosted by CBC personality Garvia Bailey.
 
I & I: Intimate and Interactive
Saturday, Feb. 4, 9:30p.m.-12 a.m. (Brigantine Room)
Hosted by Tika Simone (MTV’s The Hills Aftershow), I & I: Intimate and Interactive
is an all-ages independent artist event that showcases Toronto ’s urban music stars of tomorrow, today. This session features Rochelle Jordan, Shi Wisdom and 88 Days of Fortune (KJ, Spek Won, Abstract Random and more).
 
Youth Workshop and Hip-Hop Performance by P.E.A.C.E
Sunday, Feb. 5, 4-6 p.m. ( Lakeside Terrace)

People Everywhere Actually Co-existing Equally (P.E.A.C.E.), is a mission to bring awareness to the power of action in our communities. Identifying with hip hop culture, Jamaican heritage and African roots, this workshop and performances use musical inspiration and sound therapy to generate positive energy and share ideas.
 
T&T 50th Anniversary of Independence with Pan Fantasy

Sunday, Feb. 5, 3:30-5 p.m. (Brigantine Room)
Celebrate Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th Anniversary of Independence at this musical extravaganza produced by the award-winning Pan Fantasy Steelband. The celebration kicks off with a medley of classic calypso songs that span generations, to contemporary numbers, featuring a special homage to legendary calypsonian Mighty Sparrow.
 
 
DANCE
 
Lua Shayenne:  Afro-roots dance workshop and performance
Sunday, Feb. 5, 3 p.m. ( Lakeside Terrace)
Lua Shayenne presents traditional African and Afro-contemporary dance works that draw on the aesthetics and values of African culture to create pieces that challenge stereotypes.
 
 
FILM
 
Celebrating the Cinematography of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago: Joebell and America , directed by Asha Lovelace ( Jamaica )
Friday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m. (Studio Theatre)
Based on the true story by Earl Lovelace, Joebell and America tells the story of Joebell, a gambler who concocts a risky plan to escape to the promise and fantasy of America . Prepared to leave everything behind, including his newly-found romance with the village beauty, Joebell sets out for his final destination, with each step of his journey uncovering him to himself and revealing the island he had never really seen. The film received the Best International Narrative Feature Award at the Women’s International Film Festival.
 
Celebrating Black Canadian Filmmakers: Devotion, directed by Dawn Wilkinson ( Canada )
Friday, Feb. 3, 9:30 p.m. (Studio Theatre)
Alice, a bi-racial 11-year-old girl, has recently lost her mother in a car accident caused by her father’s drunk driving. As father and daughter begin a new life, Alice is haunted by nightmares and memories of her mother’s death and the new woman in her father’s life. Winner of the Best Feature Award at San Francisco Urban Kidz Film Festival, the Star! Audience Choice Award at the ReelWorld Film Festival and the 1st Annual Tony Stoltz Completion Fund Award.
 
Celebrating the Cinematography of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago:
Saturday, Feb. 4, 1:30 p.m. (Studio Theatre)
A series of short films celebrating the richness of Jamaican and Trinidadian cinema.
 
Caribbean Skin, African Identity, directed by Mandisa Patin (Trinidad & Tobago)
CaribbeanSkin is a documentary that examines the concept of African identity as it has evolved over generations in Trinidad & Tobago. In it, the director explores her own identity using the Emancipation Day parade and its rituals as a starting point for her journey. Interviews with African-Caribbean scholars define and explain some of the complexities of race in this society.
 
Directions, directed by Renee Pollonais (Trinidad & Tobago)
No one gives directions like a Trinidadian. In this short dramatization of that endearing and frustrating phenomenon, a number of persons are asked to give directions to a well-known Port of Spain landmark, with hilarious results. Directions received the People’s Choice Award at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival.
 
Entry Denied, directed by Christopher Browne ( Jamaica )
Entry Denied  follows the story of a young Jamaican footballer, from the ghetto of Kingston , who is refused a visa to take up a scholarship at a university in the US .  Dramatic events and coincidences conspire to take the story to an alternate conclusion.  
 
Now Jimmy!, directed by Mary Wells ( Jamaica )
Now Jimmy! is a short documentary that explores land rights issues. The film follows a riveting and unusual story about the title character Jimmy, a squatter who has built his own house out of salvaged materials on prime Jamaican real estate. The film received the Outstanding Documentary from the Caribbean Award by the Sheryl Lee Ralph Jamerican Film & Music Festival, it was screened at TIFF and it was also chosen by UNESCO to be a part of an international selection of films from around the world for the new Radio-Television Afghanistan .
 
Celebrating Black Canadian Filmmakers:
Lying Lips, directed by Oscar Micheaux in partnership with COMMFFEST( USA )
Saturday, Feb. 4, 5 p.m. (Studio Theatre)

Lying Lips is a 1939 drama starring Edna Mae Harris and Robert Earl Jones (the father of James Earl Jones). Lying Lips follows the story of a nightclub singer refuses to "date" customers, so she's framed for the murder of her aunt, convicted of the killing and sent to prison. However, her friend, who is a police detective, doesn't believe she did it and sets out to prove her innocence.
 
Celebrating Black Canadian Filmmakers:
Finder of Lost Children, directed by Ricardo Scipio (Trinidad & Tobago)
Saturday, Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m. (Studio Theatre)
Finder of Lost Children is the story of two half-sisters that meet for the first time after the funeral of the father neither one of them knew. These reluctant siblings make a road trip to deal with their father’s meager possessions and discover the existence of several other lost brothers and sisters who are unaware of their father’s passing. The film was screened at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and at CaribbeanTales Film Festival.
 
 
COMEDY
 
CANADA Versus USA Comedy Clash
Saturday, Feb. 4, 7-9 p.m. (Brigantine Room)
Team USA (Sheldon Johnson and Zack Johnson) challenges Team Canada (Jay Martin and Trixx) to a side-splitting duel of jokes and more jokes. The event sees the best comics from each country squaring off in a serious game of humour.
 
FASHION
 
Fashion Blackout
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2-4 p.m. (Brigantine Room)
Fashion Blackout is a multi-faceted event that shines a spotlight on black and diverse designers, models and influencers in the fashion industry. Join us for the screening of The Colour of Beauty, a shocking short documentary that examines racism in the fashion industry; a Walk This Way fashion workshop with Canadian model Stacey McKenzie and panel discussions with fashion designers and influencers such as Montreal’s Miss Sly (Noëlly Sam), leading model agent Norwayne Anderson (NAM) and journalist Sarah Nicole Prickett. Hosted by CBC personality Anne-Marie Mediwake.
 
PANEL DISCUSSION
 
Identify and Address: A Panel Discussion about Black Women and Leadership with The Congress of Black Women
Sunday, Feb. 5, 3-5 p.m. (Studio Theatre)
Identify and Address is a panel discussion created in partnership with The Congress of Black Women of Canada. A group of selected panelists will discuss and answer questions from the audience about issues black women face..
 
FAMILY ACTIVITIES
  
A Celebration of Afro-diasporic Tradition through Storytelling with Itah Sadu and Guests
Saturday, Feb. 4 and Sunday, Feb. 5, 2-3 p.m. (Miss Lou’s Room)
Author and storyteller Itah Sadu shares the rich oral traditions of the Caribbean, Africa, and North America with tales that celebrate African roots.
 
OWARE: African Board Gaming
Saturday, Feb. 4 and Sunday, Feb. 5, 3-6 p.m. (Miss Lou’s Room)
Learn to play or watch the hugely popular traditional African board game Oware with MACPRI Oware Canada . Oware is the oldest African board game still widely played in the world today and has been traced back nearly 3500 years to ancient Egypt .
 
Rhythms of Ghana : Drumming Workshop with Alpha Rhythm Roots
Sunday, Feb. 5, 1-3 p.m. ( Lakeside Terrace)
Participants can learn basic drumming techniques with Alpha Rhythm Roots and discover the music, dance, traditions and culture of  Guinea , Africa .
 
DJ SKATE NIGHT
 
Soca on Ice featuring Dr. Jay de Soca Prince
Saturday, Feb. 4, 8-11 p.m. (The Natrel® Rink)
DJ Skate Night explores hot Caribbean rhythms at the second soca party on ice! Join us as Dr. Jay de Soca Prince heats up the ice with spicy soca and calypso tunes.
 

MARKET PLACE
 
Village Market
Friday, Feb. 3, 6-11 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 4, 1-11 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 5, 1-6 p.m. (Marilyn Brewer Community Space)
Harbourfront Centre’s Village Market features exotic, sustainable and eco-friendly products of excellent quality and unquestionable authenticity.
 
 
ABOUT HARBOURFRONT CENTRE
Harbourfront Centre is an innovative, non-profit cultural organization which provides internationally renowned programming in the arts, culture, education and recreation, all within a collection of distinctive venues on the 10-acre site it operates in the heart of Toronto 's downtown waterfront. harbourfrontcentre.com
 
ABOUT TD - THEN & NOW series
TD salutes the contributions of members of the black community to Canada by proudly sponsoring the THEN & NOW series of cultural events. This celebration of Black History Month, showcases 12 visual arts, performance and cinematic events for the entire family. Visit the Then & NOW website for more information.

::SCOOP::

PAY WHAT YOU CAN DOWNLOAD:: Slakah Invites Fans to "Pay What They Can with No Minimum" for Debut Album

Source: On the Fly Public Relations

The Other Side of Tomorrow by The Slakadeliqs
now available for download exclusively on http://theslakadeliqs.bandcamp.com/!   

After 4 years of writing, experimenting and exploring different groups of musical influences than most would expect, Slakah the Beatchild has released the debut album by his alter ego, The Slakadeliqs entitled The Other Side of Tomorrow, available now for “pay what you can, with no minimum”.

And check out the hottest new video - JUST RELEASED and welcome to its premiere!



The Slakadeliqs explains, “What's most important to me is that as many people have access to my music. I know times are rough right now and even if you don't have the dough you still deserve to have great music. But in addition to this, I want the people to decide for themselves what the value of these songs are to them, so I've decided to make the album "pay what you can" with no minimum.”

Released independently, The Other Side of Tomorrow has already
received over 100,000 total plays and has the Internet and Twitter exploding with excitement! Numerous websites and blogs from around the world have posted about the album, and The Slakadeliqs received a big co-sign from music superstar Drake, who tweeted: “One of my favourite producers I ever worked with just dropped his album... http://theslakadeliqs.bandcamp.com”.

Vastly different from his previous hip-hop and soul focused work, The Slakadeliqs showcases Slakah the Beatchild’s range and musical diversity drawing inspiration from an eclectic mix of artists including Neil Young, The Guess Who, Tingsek, The Zombies, The B-52’s, UB40, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Andre 3000, The Beatles and Lenny Kravitz.  The Other Side of Tomorrow is a journey from a different creative perspective than most are accustomed to from Slakah the Beatchild, who hopes to introduce new and existing fans to a new sound and musical experience.

The Other Side of Tomorrow Track Listing:
1. Keep Breathing ft. Justin Nozuka 
2. Call Me Your Friend ft. Sandie Black 
3. Dear Lucy 
4. Love Controls the Sun ft. Justin Nozuka 
5. When the World Falls Apart 
6. Dream On 
7. Beneath it All ft. King Reign and Shad 
8. Defective 
9. Perfect Summer Night ft. Tingsek
10. Speed of Time
11.
Love Judge ft. Tingsek and Ebrahim
12. Nine 2 Five ft. Tingsek
13.
Everything for Nothing ft. Tanika Charles
14.
The Other Side of Tomorrow 

To download The Other Side of Tomorrow: http://theslakadeliqs.bandcamp.com

Twitter.com/theslakadeliqs
facebook.com/TheSlakadeliqs 

::TOP STORIES::

Black History Month: Explore Toronto's Underground Railroad History

Source: www.thestar.com - By Liz Bruckner


(Jan 23, 2012) Toronto is a mecca for many things, but when it comes to being able to visit historical sites linked to the Underground Railroad — perhaps the most dramatic protest action against slavery in history that brought an estimated 40,000 African Americans to freedom in Canada — options aren’t as plentiful as one might suppose.

According to Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, it’s with good reason. “During the time that the Underground Railroad was in operation, when people finally made it out of the U.S. and onto Canadian soil, they were safe. Many chose not to leave the areas they settled in once they reached the border,” she says.

And even when they did, because of the lengthy amount of time that
has passed — it was between 1830 and 1865 that the abolitionist activity reached its peak — and the city’s continual urban renewal, many structures that could have been deemed historical are no longer standing.

Still, there are a few.

Such as Inglenook Community High School in Cabbagetown (19 Sackville St.). The oldest continually-operated school building in the Toronto District School Board, it was in 1985 that archaeologists discovered clues that revealed the area served as a terminal for the Underground Railroad when it was inhabited by Lucie and Thornton Blackburn between 1834 and 1890. Escaped slaves who eventually settled in Toronto after fleeing their native Kentucky, the Blackburns were responsible for creating Toronto’s first taxi company in 1837, became well-known members of Toronto’s African-Canadian community and played an important role both in efforts that helped freedom-seekers and promoted anti-slavery. The foundation of their house at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Sackville Street has recently been preserved and was given a designation of national historic importance in 1999.

The plaque at the northwest corner of Beverley and Baldwin Streets honouring George Brown is another. Placed across the road from his still-standing home, the renowned journalist, politician and Father of the Confederation used his paper, The Toronto Globe — now The Globe & Mail — to attack slavery, and eventually instituted the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. Established to abolish slavery, members helped former slaves reach Canada via the Underground Railroad. The plaque heralds his efforts, and was erected in 1999.

At St. Lawrence Hall (157 King St. W.), there’s a Parks Canada plaque explaining that the venue, which served as a platform for major abolitionist speakers, was an important one for many activities in support of freedom and rights for African-Canadians. It details the 1851 meeting of the “North American Convention of Colored Freemen,” where anti-slavery leaders from Canada and the U.S. met to discuss how to advance the fight against slavery and segregated schooling, and proclaims Canada the best destination for refugee American slaves.

Looking for more? Though Toronto City Hall and the Toronto Historic Museum Mackenzie House both put on presentations in honour of Black History Month that are worth checking out, topics may not focus specifically on the Underground Railroad. As such, consider leaving the city to visit one or more of these southwestern Ontario sites:

— The John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum near Windsor, where Walls’ biological family members take you on a tour of the original log cabin, the Walls’ family cemetery and show you the trail fleeing slaves followed.

— “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” ( www.uncletomscabin.org) in Dresden, which was built in 1841 by Josiah Henson after he endured 41 years of slavery. In his aim to provide refuge and a new beginning for former slaves, he also created one of Canada’s first industrial schools, and because of his leadership in abolition, became the first person of African descent to appear on a Canadian stamp.

— The North American Black Historical Museum ( www.blackhistoricalmuseum.com) in Amherstburg, features the Nazrey Church, which was built in 1848 and served as a safe house, school and a social centre for refugees. It was also the first still-standing black site to receive recognition as a National Historic Site.

Black History Month Guide HERE.

International Association Of Blacks In Dance Festival In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb


(Jan 24, 2012) Close to 250 dancers, teachers, company managers and
academics from across North America and overseas gather in Toronto Thursday for the annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival. It’s only the second time the 25-year-old organization has held the event outside the United States.

Toronto-based COBA (Collective of Black Artists) is not participating this year, but Ballet Creole, the city’s other leading exponent of Afrocentric dance, is. Canadian participants include local emerging troupes and others from across the country.

Over the next three days, they’ll network and share experiences, attend panel discussions, take classes and, if they’re dancers, audition for a variety of troupes appearing in four nightly showcase performances at the CNE’s 1,200-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The non-performance sessions are at the Sheraton.

The IABD convened in Toronto for the first time in 2007 and then as now, the city’s Dance Immersion, an organization that promotes dance of the African diaspora, pulled it all together.

“The first time was such a success the IABD was soon asking us to host it again, but I delayed because, frankly, it really is a huge undertaking,” said Vivine Scarlett, Dance Immersion’s program director and curator.

Although participants pay to attend, Dance Immersion is offering performers a modest honourarium. And there are other substantial bills to be met, including theatre and equipment rental.

British-born Scarlett — she came to Canada at age 2 — launched her funding campaign two years ago, soon after agreeing to organize the event. She’s since attracted support from all the major arts councils as well at the Department of Canadian Heritage and says TD has stepped up as “a very helpful” corporate sponsor.

Just as Afrocentric/black dance has flowered and evolved in Canada, so the IABD has itself changed with the times. The need for such an organization recognized both the rich heritage of black dance and the importance of identifying it as such.

Black dance forms have historically been widely appropriated without due recognition. The IABD celebrates and sustains the roots.

Even so, as Scarlett emphasizes, the conference and festival is fundamentally about dance itself and, as she puts it, “anyone can belong and all are welcome,” if they share a passion for black dance in any of its many expressive forms.

As an indication of how much Canada is now plugged into the broader black dance scene, Scarlett points to the fact that a number of performers now based in the U.S. started out here, among them Canadian Sean Cheesman (So You Think You Can Dance), who shares two special guest instructor spots at the conference with Lion King choreographer Garth Fagan.

“We’ve got stuff up here,” says Scarlett. “And we can also go to the States and make it if we want.”

Canadian Freestyle Skier Sarah Burke Dies From Injuries

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman and Stephanie Findlay, Staff Reporters


(Jan 20, 2012) Of all the freestyle skiers,
Sarah Burke was the legend.

She was the sport’s pioneer, its best athlete and advocate, who gave everything for her cause.

Burke died Thursday morning at the University of Utah Hospital from injuries sustained in a training accident at Park City Mountain Resort. She was 29.

Her death sparked an outpouring of grief from the sports world and beyond.

“She’s in every snowflake, every ray of sunshine, every breeze. More than ever, now and always, I #BelieveInSarah,” tweeted Trennon Paynter, coach of the Canadian freestyle half pipe team.

Jennifer Heil, freestyle skiing moguls Olympic champion, said “she was a true leader in the way she pushed for women’s sport and the way she challenged herself and strived to be better.”

“I admire all of that. What I admire most is the way she did it. You never once saw her without that smile and her bubbly and positive attitude,” said Heil.

“I think it rubbed off on everybody. She lived with such passion and grace and it never ceased to inspire me. I really mean it. She lived so true to herself and did so much for sport and women in sport.”

Ski legend Nancy Greene-Raine said she was saddened by the news.

“I did not know Sarah, but really respect what she accomplished and the way she did it,” she said. “From everything I’ve heard and read, she was a great person and will be missed be not only her family and friends, but by women’s sports.”

Steve Podborski, a member of the famed Crazy Canucks who lived a good part of his skiing life on the edge, doesn’t see Sarah Burke’s death as a tragedy.

To him, the tragedy would have been if she didn’t try to explore her limits.

“Say you’re driving down the highway and you get killed in a car crash. People say ‘That’s too bad,’” said Podborski. “But when you’re doing something that you love at the level that Sarah was killed doing, people say ‘That’s a tragedy.’ To me, they’ve got it precisely backwards.

“When you get killed doing something day to day, that’s when you’ve really lost your future opportunity, you never again will have the chance to be the best, to do something really special or unique.

“Sarah was someone who could do something that others couldn’t. So, she was out in that superpipe trying to be better tomorrow than she was today. She was trying to be the best in the world and win an Olympic gold medal for herself and her country. She paid too big a price. That’s sad. Let’s celebrate what she was and what could have been and not see it as a tragedy but grieve and mourn what she has lost.”

Burke fell on Jan. 10, on the same half-pipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury two years ago.

Witnesses said it didn’t look as bad as it turned out to be. After all, when she fell before she always got back up.

This time, Burke had ruptured a vertebral artery, one of four major arteries supplying blood to the brain, leading to a severe intracranial hemorrhage that caused her to go into cardiac arrest at the scene.

Emergency personnel administered CPR. She was placed on life support. A day later, the injured artery was repaired.

Yet the damage had been done. Following the operation, it became obvious she had “severe irreversible damage” to her brain, a result of the lack of oxygen and blood after the cardiac arrest.

“Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved,” wrote Iris Yen, vice-president of communications and public relations at Quiksilver, in a press release Thursday afternoon.

SARAH BURKE PHOTO GALLERY

According to the release, Burke’s organs will be donated.

A fundraising website set up by Burke’s family for the skier’s medical costs and related expenses ( www.giveforward.com/sarahburke)

has raised nearly $94,000, as of noon Friday.

The website was organized by her agent, Michael Spencer and has marked a goal for $550,000. Her husband Rory Bushfield, a fellow skier from Alberta whom she married in 2010, is listed as the beneficiary.

“Sarah did so much for females and winter sports during her time with us; now we are asking for your help,” the site’s opening page reads.

“Sarah leaves behind her beloved husband Rory, loving parents Jan and Gordon and her supportive sister Anna. Please consider helping them cover the enormous cost of Sarah’s recent medical care and to provide for other arrangements by donating. Your support in their greatest time of need will be gratefully appreciated and forever remembered.”

The family says a celebration of her life will be held in the coming weeks.

Burke leaves a rich legacy. She tried many of the toughest tricks and was the first woman to land a 1080 — three full revolutions — in competition.

Before the accident, she was favoured to win more X Games gold (she was a four-time champion).

An outspoken activist for her sport, Burke’s talents weren’t confined to the hills.

She lobbied to add super-pipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed — the pipe was already built — and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck.

Perhaps predictably, she won over the bigwigs. The discipline will debut at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The daughter of ski racers, Burke was born in Barrie, Ont., but grew up in Midland.

John Faragher, Burke’s former teacher at Midland Secondary School, said that even then, young Sarah was a trailblazer.

“The school took trips to Mount St. Louis for recreational ski days,” he wrote in an email to the Star, “and Sarah spent most of the day in the terrain park to the amazement of all who watched her.”

Though she moved to Squamish, B.C., Faragher says Burke never forgot her roots. “Many of her closest friends are former students from her high school days which is a testament to her values and well-grounded nature,” he wrote.

Steve Omischl, four-time World Cup aerials champion, is devastated. “The entire freestyle community is pretty messed up right now,” he said.

“She was just someone so larger than life. It’s very hard to imagine she’s not with us anymore,” said Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. “You’re obviously left without words and with significant emotion.”

At least one of her fellow athletes questioned whether the sport was worth it.

Warren Shouldice, world freestyle aerials champion, is currently sidelined with a concussion; a decade ago he recovered from a broken neck.

There’s certain risks that are inevitable. You just hope the unspeakable doesn’t happen to you,” said Shouldice.

“The thing is, Sarah was more qualified to do what she was doing than anyone,” he said. “It’s terrible. It’s really hard. It’s probably going to be hard to go back up there and jump.”

With files from the Associated Press

Etta James Dies At Age 73

Source: www.thestar.com - By Robert Jablon

(Jan 20, 2012) LOS ANGELES—
Etta James’ performance of the enduring classic “At Last” was the embodiment of refined soul: Angelic-sounding strings hearkened the arrival of her passionate yet measured vocals as she sang tenderly about a love finally realized after a long and patient wait.

In real life, little about James was as genteel as that song. The platinum blond’s first hit was a saucy R&B number about sex, and she was known as a hellraiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents.

The 73-year-old died on Friday at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons at her side, her manager, Lupe De Leon, said.

“It’s a tremendous loss for her fans around the world,” he said. “She’ll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category.”

James’ work inspired the current generation of R&B divas, including Toronto’s Jully Black who found success with a remake of James’ hit “Seven Day Fool” in 2007.

“I stood on the shoulders of Miss Etta James, and in her passing I pledge to continue to celebrate the strength, courage and wisdom her legacy has taught me and so many others,” said Black. “If I could be one per cent of the songstress she was, I’d be perfect.”

She called the singer her “SHEro for life.”

James’ spirit could not be contained — perhaps that’s what made her so magnetic in music; it is surely what made her so dynamic as one of R&B, blues and rock ’n’ roll’s underrated legends.

“The bad girls ... had the look that I liked,” she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, Rage to Survive. “I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.”

Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for
”At Last.” Her jazz-inflected rendition wasn’t the original, but it would become the most famous version and the song that would define her as a legendary singer.

Over the decades, brides used it as their song down the aisle and car companies to hawk their wares. It filtered from one generation to the next through its inclusion in movies like American Pie. Perhaps most famously, U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife danced to a version at his inauguration ball.

The tender, sweet song belied the turmoil in her personal life. James — born Jamesette Hawkins — was born in Los Angeles to a mother whom she described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth.

She never knew her father, although she was told, and believed, he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. He neither confirmed nor denied it. When they met, he simply told her: “I don’t remember everything. I wish I did, but I don’t.”

She was raised by a couple who owned the rooming house where her mother once lived in. They brought up James in the Christian faith, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir. She said she became so well known that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.

But she wouldn’t stay a gospel singer for long — she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the rhythm and blues.

“My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy,” she recalled in her book.

She was doing just that when bandleader Johnny Otis found her singing on San Francisco street corners with some girlfriends in the early 1950s.

“At the time, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a hit with ‘Work With Me, Annie,’ and we decided to do an answer. We didn’t think we would get in show business, we were just running around making up answers to songs,” James told Associated Press in 1987.

So they replied with the song, “Roll With Me, Henry.”

When Otis heard it, he told James to get her mother’s permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording. The 15-year-old singer forged her mother’s name on a note claiming she was 18.

After her 1955 debut, James toured with Otis’ revue. In 1959, she signed with Chicago’s legendary Chess label and recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and ’60s including “Trust In Me,” “Something’s Got a Hold On Me,” “Sunday Kind of Love,” “All I Could Do Was Cry,” and of course, “At Last.”

“(Chess Records founder) Leonard Chess was the most aware of anyone. He went up and down the halls of Chess announcing, ‘Etta’s crossed over! Etta’s crossed over!’ I still didn’t know exactly what that meant, except that maybe more white people were listening to me,” she wrote in her autobiography.

In 1967, she cut one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time, Tell Mama, an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a churchy chorus. A song from the album, “Security,” was a Top 40 single in 1968.

Her professional success, however, was balanced against personal demons, namely a drug addiction.

“I was trying to be cool,” she said 1995. “I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats. At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies. Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she’s on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that.”

She was addicted to heroin for years, beginning in 1960, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities and her money, eventually, almost destroying her career.

It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for years, taking full responsibility for drugs during an arrest even though James was culpable.

“My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high,” she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.

She finally quit the habit and eventually got regular bookings — even drawing Elizabeth Taylor as an audience member. In 1984, she was tapped to sing the U.S. anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.

Drug addiction wasn’t her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed some 200 pounds.

James performed well into her senior years, and it was “At Last” that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged, and on Jan. 20, 2009, as crowds celebrated that — at last — an African-American had become president of the United States, the song played as the first couple danced.

But it was superstar
Beyoncé who serenaded the Obamas, not the legendary singer. Beyoncé had portrayed James in Cadillac Records, a big-screen retelling of Chess Records’ heyday.

An audio clip surfaced of James at a concert shortly after the inauguration, saying she couldn’t stand the younger singer and that Beyoncé had “no business singing my song.”

But she told the New York Daily News later that she was joking, even though she had been hurt that she did not get the chance to participate in the inauguration.

James did get her accolades over the years. She was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, captured a Grammy in 2003 for best contemporary blues album for Let’s Roll, one in 2004 for best traditional blues album for Blues to the Bone and one for best jazz vocal performance for 1994’s Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday. She was also awarded a special Grammy in 2003 for lifetime achievement and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her health went into decline, however, and by 2011, she was being cared for at home by a personal doctor.

She suffered from dementia, kidney problems and leukemia. Her husband and her two sons fought over control of her $1 million estate. In December 2011, her physician announced that her leukemia was terminal, and asked for prayers for the singer.

With files from Chantaie Allick

Grammy Awards 2012: Rap A Long-Lasting Loser At The Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mesfin Fekadu

(Jan 23, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Since its beginnings in the 1970s,
rap music has transformed from an underground, street-based sound to a definitive part of pop culture, transcending race and becoming one of the strongest — and most prolific — voices of today’s generation. But at the Grammy Awards, rap has had a long-lasting losing streak in the top categories.

The hip-hop sound — first recognized at the 1989 Grammys — has garnered numerous prestigious nominations over the years, and for 10 of the last 14 years, rap acts have either led or tied for most Grammy nominations. But rarely will a hip-hop act win one of the show’s top four honours — album, song and record of the year, along with best new artist. Instead, rap acts tend to win rap awards.

50 Cent, who won his first and only Grammy two years ago, believes Grammy voters are out-of-touch and need a fresh outlook on what’s going on in contemporary music.

“I think that the board is a lot older and they’re conservative, so some of the content in the music is offensive on some level,” said 50 Cent, who famously interrupted Evanescence’s best new artist speech by walking onstage when he lost to the rock group in 2004. “There’s a lot of people that don’t accept that hip-hop culture is now pop culture.”

This year, hip-hop leads the Grammys in nominations again, with Kanye West earning seven; it’s his third year as the show’s top-nominated act, and his fourth overall (he tied Mariah Carey and John Legend for most nominations at the 2006 Grammys). While his song All of the Lights is up for song of the year, his critically revered fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, didn’t score an album of the year nomination, a shock to many. Even Jimmy Jam — the chair emeritus of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — was surprised by West’s snub.

“I think he’s one of the genius artists, and I’m saying this as a person who’s worked with Michael Jackson and Prince, so I don’t throw that word around lightly,” Jam said. “So, yes, I was surprised.”

West’s album with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, was also left out of the top album category; both CDs are nominated for best rap album.

Jay-Z, who once boycotted the Grammys because of the show’s lack of love for hip-hop, says Grammy nominations are “cool,” but he doesn’t use the accolades as a barometer of his success.

“The Grammys and all of those other things, they’re fine and it’s a good way for everyone to get together amongst their peers and collect some trophies at the end of the night, but my whole thing is for the people, as long as the people accept it — that’s my real Grammy,” Jay-Z said. “As long as it connects with an audience in a way.”

But Steve Stoute, the former record executive who accused the Grammys of being irrelevant last year in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times after Eminem and Justin Bieber lost top awards, says there is a bigger problem. Stoute believes The Recording Academy doesn’t have board members who understand hip-hop as a true art form.

“If (The Recording Academy) understood that, then (rappers) would be scoring technical points,” he said. “They don’t get the technical points.”

In Grammy history, 14 hip-hop albums have received nominations for album of the year. Lauryn Hill has the distinction of being the first hip-hop artist to win album of the year for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1999, but the album, while featuring rap, was heavy on R&B. Hill also won best new artist that year, the second time a rap-based act had done so following Arrested Development’s win in 1993. A rapper hasn’t won the award since.

OutKast, the alternative, genre-bending hip-hop duo, followed in Hill’s footsteps with an album of the year win in 2004 for the double disc Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It, too, was not strictly hip-hop, as Andre 3000 blended rock and even jazz for his half of the project.

But while there have been high-profile wins, what stands out more are the losses. No rapper has ever won record or song of the year, and both Eminem and West, each nominated three times, have failed to win the album of the year trophy in years where they appeared to be critical favourites.

At last year’s Grammys, three of the five songs nominated for record of the year were rap smashes. Lady Antebellum’s crossover hit, Need You Now, ended up taking away the record and song of the year honours.

AhmirQuestlove” Thompson, the leader and drummer of the Roots, says the hip-hop community shares some of the blame for its losing streak. He says those in the genre aren’t involved enough with The Recording Academy, its community and its events.

“We’re not active members of (The Recording Academy) and I promise to take a more active role in that,” said Questlove, who has won three Grammys. “I should definitely come and be more involved in that. It’s taxing timewise, but you know, I can either sit and complain ... or do something about it.”

Jam says rap’s losses are also a reflection of the Grammy membership, which he said is “traditionally very heavy” with members of the country, jazz and classical music worlds.

“We’re a membership organization and the members vote. So, if the numbers of members who consider themselves of the hip-hop genre ... if those numbers are lower, then the results probably point to that fact,” Jam said.

But Stoute, who is the author of The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy, had harsh words for Jam, a founding member of funk-soul band The Time and best known for producing multiple hits for Janet Jackson, Usher, Boyz II Men and more with partner Terry Lewis. Stoute and Jam had a conversation after last year’s awards, and Stoute was upset that Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind wasn’t up for song of the year: At the Grammys, a track is not eligible for that award if it contains a sample or if it’s not an original piece of work; that disqualifies much of rap, which relies heavily on sampling (Empire State of Mind samples The Moments’ Love on a Two-Way Street).

Stoute said Jam should be helping hip-hop, and blasted the renowned producer.

“What he’s doing is not right,” Stoute said of Jam. “And if he’s supposed to be the guy who understands urban music because of his famed career as a producer ... (and) if he’s not going to be sensitive to the creativity around hip-hop, I am sorry, we’re in trouble.”

Jam, who was The Recording Academy’s chairman from 2005 to 2009, says his goal was to diversify the Grammy community, and if people have an issue with traditional Grammy rules, they should demand a change.

“You can write a proposal,” Jam said. “I hope ... people step up to the challenge rather than dismiss it, which is the easy thing to do.’”

Jam also said he helped bring forth the best rap song award at the 2004 Grammys, which honours rap tracks that contain samples. Jam also implemented a new rule in 2009 that allowed anyone nominated for a Grammy to bypass the regular application process and automatically be made a member for a year. He said he did it so that nominated acts would easily be involved in the organization the following year.

“If hip-hop is the most nominated, then they should be the best represented according to what I did,” Jam said.

::MUSIC NEWS::

City And Colour, All Dressed Up And Sounding Great

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Jan 20, 2012) The suits were a surprise.
Dallas Green and his band walked onstage for the first Canadian stop of City and Colour's Canadian tour (which started earlier this week in Seattle) all suited up. No plaid flannel, no hoodies. The formal attire was a hint of the slickness to come. This was not going to be a folksy little acoustic set.

City and Colour was born as Green's side project while his hardcore punk band Alexisonfire was burning up the charts and winning Junos - a poetic outlet for the singer-songwriter dying to break out from the rock star. Tired of the competing demands of both projects (creative and otherwise), Green finally chose between his two loves. City and Colour it was.

On Thursday night, it seemed a very good choice, as City and Colour played a solid show, his gorgeous voice and easy stage manner enchanting the sold-out crowd.

He opened with We Found Each Other in the Dark from City and Colour's 2011 release Little Hell and throughout the night played a number of tracks from the album, including Weightless, Sorrowing Man (also known, in my row, as "bathroom break"), The Grand Optimist, Little Hell and the lovely Fragile Bird.

To go with the suits was a light-show spectacular that seemed a little incongruous with the material (even the rocking stuff) and, frankly, had bright lights shining in my eyes for what felt like half the night. Not sure if I was simply seated in the exact wrong spot, but I doubt it, somehow.

About seven songs in, Green's backing band left the stage and he was alone in the smoky spotlight, where at one point he asked the crowd for a favour: Put away your cellphones. He wanted one song, he said, that the crowd could actually experience rather than record. "By no means am I angry with you," he explained, always the gentleman. And then he launched into Body in a Box, gorgeous and cellphone-free, as far as I could tell. Hands liberated from technology, the audience even broke into spontaneous clapping along, our inability to keep the beat mocked by Green (kindly) afterward.

The backing band came back for a beautiful version of The Girl, which was surely one of the night's highlights, along with a shivers-up-your-spine rendition of Comin' Home later on (people were screaming out for it all night).

There were sing-alongs, jokes (best line: "just joshing your pickle") and a moment to remember what Green called "the worst night of my life" - the night, during the Vancouver Olympics, that fans broke through the barriers at a free Alexisonfire concert, which was then cancelled within seconds. Nineteen people were hurt.

"We'll leave it at bummer," Green was saying about the incident, before a heckler's non-sequitur "Luongo sucks" lightened the mood. (Green, it turns out, is an NBA, not an NHL, fan, so was unable to offer any comment, he said, on the Vancouver goalie's performance.) The opener, Rhode Island-based indie-folk collective the Low Anthem, brought an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to its instruments (including saw and cellphone) and it sounded like it: an audio cacophony that was often more messy than masterful. Their technically flawed downer set had some sweet moments, but the sound was too produced for the material and, I suspect, their intention. (Did I mention they're from Rhode Island? They did. Three times.) They can learn something on this tour: You can be polished and slick, and still be true to your folk/acoustic material.

Nobody's going to call this City and Colour show a spectacle, but it would be fair to call it spectacular. Just please do something about those lights.

City and Colour

At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

In Vancouver on Thursday

City and Colour's cross-Canada tour (with a few U.S. dates) wraps up Feb. 26 in St. John's.

Ne-Yo Exits Def Jam to Become Motown A&R Exec

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 25, 2012) *Ne-Yo is kicking off the New Year with a new gig.

The Grammy Award-winning singer (and co-star of the George Lucas-produced “Red Tails”) has not just moved from Def Jam to Motown Records, according to a statement sent to MTV News on Wednesday (Jan. 25), but he will also take over as the label’s senior vice president of A&R.

“I’m honored that I¹ve been given such a prestigious title and trusted with such responsibility; terrified because I know that playing this role in the fashion of one of my career role models, Mr. Smokey Robinson — these are big shoes to fill. But trust, I can handle it,” the singer said in the statement.

Ne-Yo released his debut “In My Own Words” on Def Jam in 2006 and released three subsequent albums on the label. The singer/songwriter’s fifth LP will now come through Motown, which, like Def Jam, falls under the Universal umbrella. The deal also calls for Ne-Yo to bring his Compound Entertainment imprint over to Motown.

“His track record of success at Def Jam will always be a benchmark,” said Universal Republic and Island Def Jam Motown chairman/CEO Barry Weiss in the same statement. “But this move to Motown will provide new and inspiring challenges for Ne-Yo as both an artist and a key member of the new senior management team that is taking form at the label in 2012.”

Senior Vice President of Motown Ethiopia Habtemariam added that signing Ne-Yo, who has written for Rihanna (“Take A Bow”), Beyoncé (“Irreplaceable”) and Mario (“Let Me Love You”), will only bolster Motown’s historical reputation for making great R&B.

“We are committed to discovering, developing and nurturing R&B/soul superstars here at Motown,” she said. “In Ne-Yo we have both a global superstar and arguably one of the best songwriters in music. His presence on the executive team only strengthens our commitment to be the very best in R&B.”

Common Explains His Rap Feud With Drake

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ryan Pearson


(Jan 25, 2012) PARK CITY, UTAH — The Sundance Film Festival
became the unlikely centre of hip-hop’s latest feud when actor-turned-rapper Drake and rapper-turned-actor Common came to town.

Common was promoting his role in upcoming family drama LUV, while Drake was performing at one of the many late-night parties.

The two have traded insults recently via their raps, but Common said he didn’t want to say anything else about Drake not in rhyme form.

Read more: Drake like ‘Canada Dry,’ says Common in rap feud

“I feel like I said everything I really needed to say on the record. I just looked at it as like ‘Hey, it’s just a hip-hop battle,’” he explained in an interview this week.

“The time to talk is on record as far as I’m concerned. If we in the ring, then we just handle our business in the ring.”

Common had the most recent entry into the battle, by adding his verse to a Rick Ross song and naming Drake directly — a move that the Chicago native said he felt obligated to make.

“Ice Cube, when he was going at N.W.A., once he left N.W.A., you knew who it was. Jay-Z and Nas — Jay-Z said, ‘Smarten up, Nas.’ And you just knew. Cats would say names,” he continued.

“So that’s just the way that I feel like you’ve got to do it. I don’t want to like leave anything — I don’t want anybody else to think I’m talking about them. I want you to know, ‘Hey this is who I’m talking to.’”

Common, known more lately for his acting than his rapping, started the battle with a song called Sweet on his new album, The Dreamer/The Believer.

“He (Drake) felt offended by it. And the song is really discussing how hip-hop has a softer side,” said Common.

“And I made it clear that I’m not talking about anyone specifically. For me it was no different than when Jay-Z addressed with DOA, he was talking about Auto-Tune. I was talking about, ‘Hey, you know hip-hop is starting to become more just saturated with softer songs,’” he said. “And I don’t see anything the matter actually with the love songs. I do love songs. So I don’t see anything the matter with it, but when the music becomes saturated with it, I mean, I speak up. I love hip-hop music.”

The festival continues through Sunday.

Jazz Bandleader Jane Bunnett Speaks In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Jan 23, 2012) Married jazz musicians
Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer took a trip to Cuba in 1982 that changed the course of their music.

In a largely empty resort outside the city of Santiago de Cuba, they were invited onstage to play with an 18-piece band.

“We were so nervy,” laughs Bunnett, a multiple Juno winner and leader of Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana. Once they heard the music, they raced back to their room for their instruments and then sat in the bar with their cases on their laps waiting for an invitation.

One of the beauties of Cuban jazz is that there are natural spaces in the music where musicians can improvise and that’s what the two did that night. This experience ignited an interest in Cuban music, she says, and because the town was on the Caribbean side of the island she was able to see the influences of “Jamaican, Haitian and African culture, all mixed in.”

Bunnett’s 30-year journey into the Cuban jazz scene is summed up in Mundo: The World of Jane Bunnett, a two-CD compilation that is being released in February. It is also the topic of her Monday night appearance at the Toronto Reference Library Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. where she will be interviewed by Star reviewer John Terauds (see www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/appelsalon for information).

Bunnett also appears at Hugh’s Room on Jan. 27 with the Heavyweights Brass Band and at the Lula Lounge Jan. 28 for an evening billed as a “salsa dance party.”

The new release, which includes some songs not recorded before, comes a few years after a debilitating depression stopped her in her tracks in 2007.

“I don’t know any artist who doesn’t go through these ups and downs. It all happened in the tumbling down of the recording industry.”

She characterizes it as a time of great self-doubt and exhaustion.

“I was so physically exhausted from touring, trying to find work, trying to keep our group going and I felt my work wasn’t so interesting anymore. There are lots of Cuban musicians in Canada now.”

She returned to Cuba to work on Embracing Voices with the Creole Choir of Cuba, a group she worked with years ago when it was called Grupo Vocal Desandann.

“Working on this new material started to get me out of my funk.”

Filmmaker Elisa Paloschi has recorded Bunnett’s journey to recovery in a documentary, also called Embracing Voices, an Eyesfull production that is being submitted to documentary competitions.

When asked if this was a mid-life crisis, Bunnett burst into laughter and said, “Yes.” Not everyone would want that recorded for posterity, but Bunnett said, “Yeah, go ahead.”

She was followed not only to Cuba but also Banff and to the Juno Awards where Embracing Voices won Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year in 2009.

Bunnett thinks one of the reasons she felt so blue is that many of her older jazz musician friends were dying.

Although Mundo: The World of Jane Bunnett is being called a “best hits” collection, she admits that some of the pieces are just sentimental favourites where it is not so much her musicality but her memories that make them special.

One example is a song from her 1996 album Chamalongo that she recorded in Cuba. “Amor Por Ti” (“Love for You”) was an Italian song given a rumba beat and featured legendary Cuban performers, percussionist Tata Guines and singer Merceditas Valdes.

“We did this very unusual version. For years the two hadn’t spoken to each other. They used to work together, but there’d been a rift. Although he’s not a singer, he sings with her and me playing the saxophone. That was a special moment.

“After we brought them together, they were friends again.”

Both Valdes and Guines are dead now and this is Bunnett’s way of remembering them.

“There are so many people that I was connected to and they are not here anymore. They were my extended family.

“For me, there is so much history on these recordings.”

Jim Carrey’s Daughter Auditions For American Idol

Source: www.thestar.com - By Niamh Scallan

(Jan 23, 2012) The daughter of Canadian funnyman
Jim Carrey is off to Hollywood.

Jane Carrey, 24, won her golden ticket to
American Idol’s Hollywood round during a San Diego audition in front of judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler Sunday night.

It’s the next big step for Jane Carrey, a Los Angeles-based waitress, mother and lead singer of amateur alternative rock quartet
Jane Carrey Band.

Jane Carrey, the daughter of Jim Carrey’s ex-wife Melissa Womer, met two of the band members while studying jazz at the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in California, according to the group’s
Facebook page.

The group’s influences include Rufus Wainwright, Sheryl Crow, Billie Holiday and Lynyrd Skynyrd, according to the band page.

In her pre-audition tape, Carrey said a shot at American Idol could help her “make (her) place in the world,”

“It’s difficult growing up in a shadow trying to find your way,” she said.

Idol judge Lopez couldn’t believe her eyes when Jane Carrey stepped into the room to sing. She had met the younger Carrey way back when J.Lo was a struggling Fly Girl on the ’90s comedy show In Living Colour, starring Jim Carrey.

“I remember you when you were little,” Lopez said.

“I think I was like 2,” replied Jane Carrey, who then launched into her audition song “Something to Talk About,” a tune made popular by Bonnie Raitt in the early 1990s.

All three judges gave Jane Carrey the green light, alongside a few helpful tips — work on volume, keep your eyes open to connect with the audience etc. — for her next performance.

Outside the audition room, Jane Carrey called father, Jim Carrey, to share the news.

“I can't wait for the world to understand what she has inside her,” he said over speakerphone. “It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Canada’s Classical Stars Shine In Colombia Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - By John Terauds


(Jan 23, 2012) CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, COLOMBIA—Great
classical music is not something most sun destinations have on their tourist menu.

But this fortress town on the Caribbean Sea, founded by Spanish colonists in 1533, doesn't qualify as an ordinary sun destination.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Cartagena has been working hard ever since to attract tourists with as wide a mixture of cultural attractions at it can think of. That includes art, literature and music.

It helps a lot that strong-minded Colombian presidents and city mayors have worked hard over the past decade to virtually eliminate the formerly notorious drug cartels and appease political terrorists.

A strong and visible (yet polite) police presence serves as a quiet reminder that everything is under control.

Most of the tourist bustle along the city's narrow, colourfully winding streets comes from day trippers spilling off visiting cruise ships and from longer visits from fellow South Americans, who fill hotels and beaches in and around the walled city during the peak tourist months of January and February.

It was mostly Colombians who savoured the sixth annual Cartagena International Music Festival's eight days of concerts, lectures, master classes and community outreach programs that ended on Jan. 14 with a nationally televised closing concert.

But the finest of the music-makers were, in this writer's opinion, Canadians — including violinist Lara St. John and the St. Lawrence String Quartet — and Americans.

California-based pianist, composer and arranger Stephen Prutsman has been the festival's artistic mastermind for the last four years.

Cartagena and its businesspeople have given him use of a half-dozen excellent venues, ranging from intimate former Spanish colonial-era chapels to an open-air square, to a picturesque restored 1911 Heredia opera house, now known as the Teatro Adolfo Mejia.

Each day saw three paid classical concerts as well as a free, late-night, open-air event featuring more popular musical styles which, this year, included Québecois new-folk powerhouses, Le Vent du Nord.

Latin America was represented by several emerging talents, as well as members of the Sao Paulo National Orchestra of Brazil, the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela and Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov (a recent guest of the Toronto Symphony's annual New Creations festival).

Between their daily gigs, the visiting musicians provided group and one-on-one instruction to 500 teenage students who won places at the festival's school through a competition. The concerts were so well attended that a local tourism operator complained to me that most events are sold out well before the music begins.

Even so, Prutsman said he has to work hard to make the finances work. He explained that, because there is next to no middle class amidst the segregation of rich and poor in Colombia, he simply doesn't have the wide small-donor base that sustains performing arts organizations in North America.

Despite the challenges, Prutsman, who speaks Spanish fluently, looks forward to coming back every year. “I've been to Venice many times, but no place has the magnetic attraction of Cartagena,” he said.

He spends the festival dashing between events, practising for his own daily appearances on stage as a piano accompanist, emceeing the outreach tours beyond Cartagena and putting out last-minute fires.

Prutsman tries to weave themes through the programming, such as the relationship between fashion and Mozart, or Bach and jazz.

“It's called relational thinking,” says the Californian.

He has also noticed that Cartagena audiences love the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. “If I close with something by that guy, people will leave happy,” he says.

Geoff Nuttall, first violin of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, takes the mix a step further, making sure that one of the group's new-music commissions can get on programs alongside the old classics.

The audiences responded with shouts of approval.

“Freaky,” is how Nuttall describes playing serious art music alongside the Caribbean Sea. That's a good kind of freaky, because this was his quartet's third return visit.

Mavis Staples Has Only Praise For The Festival Set

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Jan 22, 2012) The career of the U.S. gospel singer
Mavis Staples stretches back to 1948, when she sang with her father Pops Staples and her sisters.

Ahead of a short tour of Ontario this week, she spoke about stages - the ones of her long career, as well as ones on which she's performed. At age 72, she still takes us there.

When it's winter in Chicago, like it is now, do you ever ask yourself why you're still there?

It's home. It's where I grew up. We've travelled the world. I've been just about any place you could name. But I'm always happy to get back to Chicago.

Outside of Chicago, where's your favourite stage?

I have fun just about everywhere I go. But, you know, I enjoy the Hollywood Bowl. We played there for the first time last year. It's legendary, but more than that the people were receptive. I like the festivals too, like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, where all the college kids are.

You've been playing festivals since Newport Folk in the 1960s. Is the vibe at Bonnaroo different?

The vibe is the same, but the faces are different. The kids today have these fresh faces. It's like they're on pins and needles, waiting to see what I'm going to do. They've never seen me. In the 1960s, those were hippies. They were wired up already. The kids today know me because I've worked with Jeff Tweedy and other young producers.

And what's been their reaction to seeing you for the first time?

At Lollapalooza, I chose to start with Wonderful Savior, which is an a cappella song. So we started singing, [Staples begins to sing over the phone] "I have found a wonderful saviour, who is freely blessing me forever." And I didn't see a response. I thought I'd chosen the wrong song, but all of a sudden they started clapping and got with us. They're curious to see what this old girl is going to do.

Do you change your show, depending on the audience?

When I come out of my dressing room, I go to my heart and say a little prayer and go out on stage. There I am, coming to lift you up and to motivate you. I want to bring joy. It's gospel, and gospel is the truth. It's what I do. I'm going to bring you the truth and lift up your spirit. That's what the Staple Singers have always been about.

Have you ever run into a crowd that wasn't responding to what you were bringing?

Yes. It was Singapore in 2010, and I never want to go back there again. They were disrespectful, and it wasn't like they didn't understand what I was singing. They were walking around, talking and not listening. I cried after. At one point I wanted to walk off stage, but I couldn't do that.

Because you're not a diva. But then again, you recently performed for VH1's Diva Duets.

Yes, I sang with Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu. We did I'll Take You There. But I've never thought of being a diva. I think of divas as those really sharp girls, strutting and talking smack. But I'm still going to walk the same walk I've been walking down through the years, and talk the same talk. I will take the title though, a diva.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Mavis Staples plays Kingston, Jan. 24; St. Catharines, Ont., Jan. 25; Brampton, Ont., Jan. 27; Burlington, Ont., Jan. 28; and Toronto's Koerner Hall, Jan. 29.

CBC Reaches Licensing Deal For New Digital Music Service

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ryan Pearson


(Jan 25, 2012) CBC has reached a deal with the
Audio-Video Licensing Agency so it can stream more of its radio programming online unedited and on demand.

“Up until this point, the majority of the radio programming that we make available online and on demand we’ve had to strip music out of, so if you’re listening to one of our shows on demand we’ve either had to take music out or go through some fairly complicated arrangements around clearing it,” said Chris Boyce, executive director of radio and audio of CBC English Services.

“So it allows us to make more of our radio programming available when and how Canadians want it.”

The agreement also covers a new digital music service that CBC plans to launch later this winter, with details to be announced in the weeks ahead.

Boyce would not say if it would be available for free.

“It leverages CBC’s strength around Canadian music, it takes advantage of our ability to create original content, to provide context, to build community,” he said.

“It really builds on CBC’s history around music and if you go back to the mandate of CBC as a company and you look at what’s written in the Broadcast Act about reflecting Canada to Canadians ... what we’re going to launch is us reimagining what that mandate means in the 21st century, in a world where consumption of music and music content has shifted dramatically through digital technology.”

New Springsteen Album Wrecking Ball Out March 6

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

(Jan 19, 2012) Surprise, grizzled rockers with early bedtimes: News broke last night that
Bruce Springsteen has a new album coming out on March 6. Wrecking Ball, co-produced by pop producer Ron Aniello (Guster, Barenaked Ladies and - ahem - Springsteen's wife Patti Scialfa), has a stab at an anthem, "We Take Care of Our Own," as the first single:

First take: hmmm, that's kind of a different drum sound for Bruce - a little more tightened up digitally, for one thing. Lyrically, it is Springsteen's latest attempt to speak for the less fortunate (which is just about everybody). Longtime music-industry observer Bob Lefsetz compared it unfavourably to a recent Jackson Browne protest
song and then went further:

"It sucks.

"But it doesn't matter.

"Bruce Springsteen should fire the E Street Band. But his audience won't let him ... He got rid of the band once and the audience freaked and Springsteen blinked and he's been irrelevant ever since, worried about giving us what he thinks we want as opposed to what we need, and that's artistic death...

"If you want to live in a cult, so be it. But if you want to grow, you've got to get people's attention, and you do this by being superior. And "We Take Care Of Our Own" is not. It's so-so. Probably good live. But the chorus is so wimpy, it sounds like one of the Boss's kids wrote it. And the whole band crammed into an MP3... He's got a veritable orchestra on this record and it all ends up sounding like noise."

1. We Take Care of Our Own
2. Easy Money
3.
Shackled and Drawn
4. Jack of All Trades
5. Death to My Hometown
6.
This Depression
7.
Wrecking Ball
8.
You’ve Got It
9. Rocky Ground
10.
Land of Hope and Dreams
11.
We Are Alive



No Sax For Bruce Springsteen

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


(Jan 24, 2012)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band announced the first leg of their
tour on Tuesday and the first bit of bad news local fans will notice is that Toronto's not on the list (though they do hit Buffalo on April 13). That's no big deal; there are a lot of big cities not represented, and we can be sure they'll be by eventually. The second bit of news is more interesting: the band lineup is listed, and there's no replacement for late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died last year. "The E Street Band's members are: Roy Bittan - piano, synthesizer; Nils Lofgren - guitar, vocals; Patti Scialfa - guitar, vocals; Garry Tallent - bass guitar; Stevie Van Zandt - guitar, vocals; and Max Weinberg - drums; with Soozie Tyrell - violin, guitar, vocals and Charlie Giordano - keyboards," says the Boss' website. Fine players all, but a lot of Bruce's best-loved songs feature the Big Man, Clemons, on a solo or otherwise. What will he sound like filling an arena without a sax player? 

Just Two New Songs Make Oscar Cut

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


(Jan 24, 2012) The rules for getting a nomination no longer guarantee
five selections, but even so, it's a mild surprise in the Oscars news this morning that there will be only two nominees for Best Original Song. If you saw The Muppets, it's no surprise that "Man Or a Muppet," by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame, got a nomination. It's well done, it comes at a critical point in the movie, and it's the answer to your question about what Bret has been doing since the show ended.

So it'll be a head-to-head showdown - none of this "I'd like to congratulate all the other nominees" jazz - versus "Real in Rio" from Rio, by Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett. Veteran pop fans know Ms Garrett, too; she was Michael Jackson's duet partner on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," the first single from Bad. As such it was an inevitable No. 1 hit based on momentum from Thriller alone, but for Jackson's young fans acquired by that mammoth album, a mild disappointment for those expecting something funkier or more dynamic. 

Since then, she's done a ton of lower-profile singing and a lot of work with Quincy Jones and co-wrote a hit with the Brand New Heavies, but at age 51 her pop aspirations are now about songwriting. We hope she and Bret get through this awkward moment on Oscar night, Feb. 26.

::FILM NEWS::    

Two National Film Board Of Canada Animated Shorts Nominated For Oscars

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch


(Jan 24, 2012) Montreal-based filmmaker Patrick Doyon heard the news that he’d been nominated for an Academy Award first thing Tuesday morning — and then the rest of his neighbourhood likely heard it too.

“I was screaming,” the 32-year-old laughed in a telephone interview shortly after the nominations were announced. “I was with my girlfriend and my daughter, and we were screaming in front of the computer.”

In fact, there was plenty of good cheer to go around as two
National Film Board of Canada productions landed Oscar nominations for best animated short film.

Calgary-based filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby earned the other nod for their Prairie-based picture Wild Life, while Doyon claimed the honour for his debut Dimanche/Sunday.

They’ll compete against La Luna from Pixar Animation Studios, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Moonbot Studios) and A Morning Stroll (Studio AKA).

Dimanche/Sunday is a winsome animated fable that follows a bored young boy trying to escape a dreary Sunday. Doyon says the film is based on his memory of his own childhood — specifically spending numbing grey afternoons after church with parents and grandparents — but injected with sufficient whimsy to keep the charming tale from being autobiographical.

The work was Doyon’s first professional short film — his only other credit being Square Roots, a three-minute film he crafted while a student of an NFB program for emerging filmmakers — so he greeted the nomination with awe.

“It is special,” he said, before joking: “I don’t expect that on every film.”

Forbis and Tilby, meanwhile, have more experience with the Oscars.

They were nominated together in the same category for their 1999 collaboration When the Day Breaks, while Tilby also received a nod for her 1991 short Strings.

Still, they were elated by the recognition.

“It doesn’t get old,” said Tilby, 51, on the line from Calgary.

“On a personal level, it’s just so gratifying because we spent years on it and went through a lot of insecurities about whether it’s working, whether it’s understood, whether it touches people at all.”

Set in Alberta in 1909, Wild Life tells the story of an affluent Brit who immigrates to Western Canada to establish a ranching career, but finding himself devoid of practical skills, spends his time instead playing badminton, birdwatching and quaffing liquor.

The filmmakers were inspired by their own ancestors, Prairie-bound Englishmen who “did not fare very well” in their fumbled attempt at farming. They had been concerned that the sprightly short was too overtly Canadian to receive recognition from the Academy, but obviously they needn’t have worried.

“(It) certainly was a concern because it is such a deeply Canadian tale ... (but) our hope was that you could really tell a story about anything and anywhere and if it’s well told, it would reach people,” Tilby said.

Oscar vets that they are, Tilby and Forbis can now begin preparing for the ceremony — which isn’t always a pleasant proposition.

“I think the last time we told ourselves: ‘We’re going to have fun, we’re going to treat this like a lark, we’re not going to take it too seriously,’” Tilby said. “And then as the day draws near, you get whipped up into a frenzy of nerves just at the prospect of having to stand up in front of however many billion people. Who can relax with that?

“So anyway, we’ll try to not dwell on that, because we have a very good chance of not having to get up.”

Interjected Forbis, 48: “It’s just all the preening that we find really terrifying. All the shopping you have to do, and making sure you look good, and the facials and the massages.”

“Men have it easy,” Tilby agreed. “You can just go and rent a tux.”

The 84th Academy Awards will take place Feb. 26 in Los Angeles.

Canadian-Made Indie Game: The Movie Scores HBO Deal At Sundance

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Chad Sapieha

(Jan 23, 2012) Indie Game: The Movie has an HBO deal.

The independently produced [HERE] and financed documentary feature, made by first-time Winnipeg filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, details the creative, emotional, and financial struggles faced by aspiring game makers Edmund McMillen (of Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac fame), Phil Fish (the fellow behind upcoming Xbox Live game FEZ), and others.

Confronted by a similar financial struggle, Ms. Pajot and Mr. Swirsky - who, prior to their movie-making odyssey, spent their days running a small video production company - were forced to bankroll their passion project in innovative ways, including a highly successful crowd funding campaign.

Their risk and effort looked like it would finally pay off when it was selected for screening at the prestigious 2012 Sundance Film Festival, a place where indie movie makers' dreams can come true. And, sure enough, Deadline New York reported [http://www.deadline.com/2012/01/sundance-hbo-and-scott-rudin-to-turn-docu-indie-game-into-series] Sunday, just a day after Indie Game's Sundance screening, that American network HBO and heavyweight producer Scott Rudin (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, There Will Be Blood) have acquired remake rights for a fictional television series based on the film.

But the unofficial announcement has also been the subject of some confusion. Ms. Pajot and Mr. Swirsky explain on the movie's Facebook page [http://https://www.facebook.com/indiegamethemovie/posts/352368818109093] that the original report suggested the series would be a comedy show. That's not the case. The show, though only half an hour, will apparently be just as sincere as the documentary.

The duo go on to express their confidence in both HBO and Mr. Rudin, stating in no uncertain terms that these are "by far the best people possible to make this show."

Indie Game: The Movie has yet to screen in its makers' home country, but that will soon be remedied. It will premiere in Winnipeg with two showings on the 3rd of February. Screenings in other cities will follow.

Canadian Director Yung Chang's New Doc Focuses On Boxing In China

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Jan 25, 2012) In his multiple-award-winning, first feature-length documentary Up the Yangtze, Yung Chang distilled the immense social engineering of China's Three Gorges Dam down to two young people working on river cruise ships.

Now comes his much-anticipated sophomore film, China Heavyweight, hitting the Sundance Film Festival now, and Canadian screens this spring.

The Montreal-based filmmaker follows two young boxing hopefuls as they rise through the ranks, along with their coach, who is still fit enough to enter the ring.

Banned during the Mao regime, boxing is seen as both a symbol of the West and an escape from economic hardship. In this Chinese-Canadian co-production (the first documentary made jointly between the two countries, Chang says), the personal stories may seem small. But what they exemplify about a new China is huge. The Globe spoke to him recently by phone.

How are the boxing coaches so successful at attracting young children to their hard, bloody academy?

It's amazing how arbitrary the recruitment process is. It wasn't until later that I got a sense that maybe, especially through the coach, there was some life lesson being taught to these kids. But the process of the recruitment is so arbitrary - going around and asking kids to throw punches.

Essentially, the reason coaches at this boxing school have been so successful [at winning] is that they are at a higher altitude in the mountains of south-central China. The [kids] they recruit are mostly from tobacco families. You'll notice in the scene that the master asks how long it takes a student to walk to school. That's one of the traits they look for. If it takes two hours, then you've got a certain body type and big lungs and potentially the endurance to make a boxer.

The coaches promise the kids a chance to see the world, to rise above a life on the farm. Surely it takes more than a vague promise to convince them?

There's an allure of the quick fix, to reach to the heights of success and finding the fast track. On the surface, boxing looks like it can offer that. These kids are growing up in a relatively poor county, only with a population of 300,000, only the size of Oshawa [Ont.], where I was born. There's access to the Internet, and you look at the way the kids dress. They have fancy Nike outfits and shiny shoes even in the [tobacco] fields.

So if you quit the boxing program, it's essentially back to the farm?

There's no other option, unless you have parents with a little more money than other parents. That's why the stakes are so high.

This sense of do-or-die exists in so many areas of contemporary Chinese life. Why did you settle on boxing as your subject?

It was banned for many reasons in 1959, the mostly striking being that it was considered too capitalist, too violent, too Western. It was banned up to 1987 at the time when reform was happening in China, and the fledgling sport began to take hold around the country, partly because of nationalistic ideas for Olympic medals.

It really comes down to the essential question: Who are you fighting for? For Chinese, you're fighting for the country. That's why they groom these young students and recruit them and put them through the amateur circuit, leading to the Olympics. But boxing is not necessarily a sport for the collective. It's about the individual. And I found that really fascinating. Here you have a country raised in collectivism, communism. And then you focus in on this sport where the question really is whether you are fighting for yourself. I thought that was an interesting way to explore a concept of contemporary China that is emerging right now.

And for you, with the success of Up the Yangtze, did you feel heavy expectations for this second film?

Certainly there's always that pressure to one-up the first film. And I guess the common answer would be just to not let that affect you. But what helped me through the process of getting around that curse was that the production of this film was so special. We were able to shoot without any hindrance, with a very collaborative little town and subjects that wanted to make this together with us. It was so joyous and in the end very emotional. Because the film is so dramatic, you get very close to the subjects.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Haywire, starring Gina Carano: Review

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Haywire
Starring Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Tatum Channing.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh. 92 minutes. Opens Jan. 20 at major theatres. 14A

(Jan 19, 2012) Woe to anyone possessing XY chromosomes, as Gina
Carano takes her explosive kicks and punches from the mixed martial arts ring to the multiplex.

But joy to genre fans looking for fresh thrills.

New to most filmgoers as star of Steven Soderbergh’s agreeably balmy spy chase
Haywire, Carano benefits from her relative anonymity as she delivers leather and knuckles to famous male faces.

We don’t know quite what to expect from her as Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and other cocky males challenge her in various fraught settings in Europe and America.

It’s a major reason why Haywire works so well, despite its tossed-off air — Soderbergh banged this out before making last fall’s disease thriller Contagion — and its rote script by Lem Dobbs (Soderbergh’s The Limey).

“You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman — that would be a mistake,” one male character says to another.

Carano’s Mallory Kane, a military-trained and mysteriously motivated mercenary, would be the first to agree.

“I don’t wear the dress,” she tells McGregor’s Kenneth, the Washington
-based suit who appears to be her boss but certainly isn’t her master.

The tough talk isn’t strictly true. Carano is an attractive woman — she cleans up quite nicely — and she wears a gorgeous evening gown while on a Dublin assignment for Britain’s MI6 spy service.

The supposedly routine gig pairs her with Fassbender’s Paul, an Irish spy who, like most men in Haywire, isn’t working with a transparent agenda.

Male perfidy is made plain early on, when an on-the-lam Mallory enters a roadside diner in upstate New York to meet Aaron (Channing Tatum), a guy from her past whom she apparently trusts.

So much for trust. After an exchange that ends in groin kicks and a commandeered car, she takes flight in the first of many escapes.

Along for the ride is the car’s shocked owner (Michael Angarano), who serves as a useful ear to fill with exposition, as Mallory explains how she ended up this way.

“Put your seatbelt on,” she tells him, and that advice is also for the audience.

Much of the film’s middle portion doles out flashback scenes, wherein we learn of a Barcelona rescue of a kidnapped Chinese journalist (Anthony Brandon Wong) and various intrigues involving men of dubious purpose, the elder of which are played by Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. The only man who is above suspicion is Mallory’s dad (Bill Paxton), who knows his way around a fight.

Haywire is really just a vehicle for Carano to demonstrate her action chops, which she does with a vengeance, set to David Holmes’ buoyant and badass score.

The males she pummels are so interchangeable, even the famous ones, they get labels like “Bad Guy No. 1” in the sticky notes that Mallory leaves to herself.

“She’s a real twizzler,” says one of Mallory’s victims. Yes, indeed, and she’s also potentially the star of a new action franchise, one that could rival anything Angelina Jolie does with planned sequels for Salt, a like-minded estrogen actioner.

As for Soderbergh, he not only directs Haywire, he’s also the film’s chief cinematographer and editor. He may be making just a genre film, but he’s fully in command and evidently enjoying himself.

The enthusiasm is infectious — but watch out for flying feet.

 

Keke Palmer Shaking Up Her ‘Good Girl’ Image With Slutty Role

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 23, 2012) *
Keke Palmer is branching out and transforming her good girl image into a not so respectable one.

Her next project is to star alongside Abigail Breslin in a “Virgin Mary, ” a coming-of-age drama ala “Sixteen Candles.”

The story is about a 15-year-old girl who vows to have sex with her best male friend if they are still virgins by the time they are 18. Palmer plays the “best Black friend” who happens to be a slut.

In an interview with VibeVixen magazine, the teen shares her thoughts about her new gig.

“We haven’t started to film it yet, but I’m very excited because this is something new for me. People have always known me, as I said, as Keke Palmer the ‘good girl.’ In this movie, I’m not necessarily being a huge slut, but my character is just that. She’s like, ‘I’m a sex enthusiast. That’s who I am,’ but the reason why I chose this film was because it’s different from what everybody knows me as. And this character spoke to me because she was funny, she was likeable … Even if I didn’t play the character, you would immediately love her because she’s just lovable. It’s almost like [Draya] on ‘Basketball Wives LA.’ People can say whatever they want about her, but you like Draya because that’s who she is. You either like her or you don’t. No fronting, no nothing.”

It’s a risky step for Palmer, but it’s obviously a risk she’s willing to take

Meanwhile, Keke Palmer, the “good girl,” is currently co-starring alongside Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in “Joyful Noise,” which came in at #4 at the box office with $11 million take in its opening weekend.

Another Face Of Ralph Fiennes

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rick Groen

(Jan 20, 2012) Not too long ago, a dozen years or so, the talk was that
Ralph Fiennes just might be the best actor of his generation, gliding effortlessly from stage to screen, embodying fully and frighteningly characters ranging from the horrid Nazi commandant in Schindler's List to the debased American intellectual in Quiz Show. But the biz is fickle and, since then, that talk has diminished, even if his talents have not. These days, the putative best actor of his generation is left, along with half the British thespian community, to vie for the crown of best actor in the Harry Potter saga. Things change.

And so has Fiennes. Pushing 50 now, clad in black shirt and blue jeans, sporting a full beard with long thinning hair combed straight back, he appears to have lost a fair chunk of his matinee-idol looks, perhaps to encroaching age or maybe just to his latest role - as Prospero in a production of The Tempest on London's West End. "I had a dispensation of two nights off," he says, "But I have to be back at work tomorrow." The dispensation has brought him to Toronto (we are speaking last fall during the Toronto International Film Festival) to promote another change in his status: his debut as a film director. Yes, like many before him, the Oliviers and Branaghs and Eastwoods and Redfords, he's finally jumped behind the camera, while still starring in front of it.

His choice of material is both surprising and not. It's Shakespeare inevitably, but Coriolanus is hardly the most celebrated part of the canon. Not that the play lacks fans. T.S. Eliot preferred it to Hamlet, and Cole Porter clearly enjoyed its rhyming potential ("If she says your behaviour is heinous/ Kick her right in the Coriolanus"). Fiennes, naturally, had loftier motives for the choice: "In the popular Shakespeares like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet or Midsummer Night's Dream, we know where to put our sympathies, but here we don't. Quite deliberately, we're not meant to know who to be rooting for, and I love that. I find it dramatically thrilling that there's this complicated figure who doesn't let us in."

Just to brush up your Shakespeare, that title figure is a Roman general bred in the patrician class who, after a successful military campaign, is wooed into politics. There, he refuses to pander to the people or their wishes, a proud lapse that leads to his expulsion and later to his betrayal of Rome. In Fiennes's rapid-fire version, shot in Belgrade, the text is stripped down and the setting is contemporary. With a shaved head and battle fatigues, his Coriolanus brandishes an automatic pistol in one hand and a cellphone in the other, while cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (who worked with Fiennes in The Hurt Locker) turns the Bard's action scenes into vicious urban warfare.

Why modernize the play so aggressively? Two reasons, the first pragmatic and the second aesthetic: (1) "Frankly, it was easier to finance that way," and (2) "I kept seeing images in the newspaper that were clearly Coriolanus, like Milosevic's coffin being fork-lifted from The Hague, or endless images out of Iraq."

Consequently, in this adaptation, TV screens abound, with the media used as the vox populi that the general, in his patrician pride, refuses to appease. Whatever the other changes in his appearance, Fiennes's eyes remain as piercingly blue as ever, and here they twinkle with delight: "I'm afraid I like his contempt of the populist media. There's something in me that finds the endless shape-shifting of the media slightly repugnant, the way we're all kept in this constant noise. So I took a kind of pleasure in the fact that Coriolanus has complete contempt for that. For example, when he says with disdain, 'Let them wash their faces and keep their teeth clean,' I always laugh at that."

Perhaps he comes by that sympathy honestly, given his own distant patrician background - Fiennes is an eighth cousin to the Prince of Wales. He's also a third cousin to the explorer Ranulph Fiennes, although (like his siblings Joseph and Martha) his adventures are confined to the world of art. Oh, and amour too. His first marriage, to actress Alex Kingston, ended, as did a long-term relationship with actress Francesca Annis, not to mention (if press reports are to be believed) a rather shorter one with a flight attendant on board a Qantas flight. In his personal life, allegedly, those blues eyes are prone to roving.

But professionally, on the screen at least, what counts is his face, and its remarkable ability to register the extremes of brutish strength or utter fragility, sometimes simultaneously. He can look huge and menacing (Schindler's List, In Bruges, Strange Days); he can look diminutive and frail (The Constant Gardener, The Reader, Oscar and Lucinda); and he can look a heart-rending combination of the two (The English Patient, Spider, Sunshine).

Coriolanus demands a lot of the brute but also, at the climax, a crucial element of the fragile, where Fiennes relies heavily on the movie actor's sharpest tool: the close-up. This helped to solve a problem that defeated him on stage: "I don't think I quite pulled off the role on stage, because he's so strong in his views, with so many angry speeches, that I'm afraid there was a tendency to stridency in my performance. But here I could modulate it with the close-up."

Such are the benefits of film, and of film directing. His major influence, behind the camera anyway, was another candidate for best actor of his generation: "Olivier made a very profound impression on me. When I was very young, the first movie I saw was Bambi, and the second was Henry V." He laughs, and so do I, openly at his remark but, more covertly, at his physical posture while delivering the remark. In conversation, Fiennes has a way of always looking up from beneath a slightly tilted head, suddenly fixing you with a glance that appears at once as defiant as a Tudor king and, yes, as shy as Bambi.

He continues: "Also, Olivier's filming of Hamlet remains daring and cinematic. Like him, I would like to direct again, but not Shakespeare the next time. Maybe later, though. You know, I think if he were working today, Shakespeare would be writing amazing screenplays, because he's continually cutting in his plays from one place to the next. What he does with visual imagery when he has people describing things, he'd be writing descriptive scenes instead. How do we know, really, yet it's a nice idea to ponder."

It is, but the time for pondering is over. He's late. An airplane awaits (if not a flight attendant) and Prospero beckons an ocean away - let our indulgence set him free.

Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston Excited About ‘Sparkle’ Remake

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 23, 2012) *
Jordin Sparks is overly excited about her role in the remake of 1976′s “Sparkle” because one of her biggest idols will star in the movie alongside her.

It’s been more than 15 years since 48-year-old
Whitney Houston has played a significant part on the big screen and many are rejoicing for her return to that side of the industry. Here’s what Sparks told People:

“She was so cool and very motherly toward me,” says the former American Idol winner, 22, who marks her film debut in the remake of a 1976 movie that originally starred Lonette McKee and Irene Cara. “If I ever looked like I needed something, here she came saying ‘Are you okay?’ ”

But Sparks isn’t the only excited about the whole ordeal. The legendary singer is overwhelmed with joy to have a part in a film like this.

“Part of the fun of making this movie is definitely the costumes and the hairstyles,” Houston also told People. “The movie is set in 1963, and we had a great wardrobe, hair and makeup person and I loved wearing the outfits.”

The film, which also stars Derek Luke, is all about the challenges the group of sisters faced once they made it big. It’s due Aug. 10.

‘The Artist’ Beats ‘The Descendants’ For Producers Guild Award

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Jan 22, 2012) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—The Artist followed its Golden
Globe win by taking top honours at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday, as the silent film continues its unlikely run toward Oscar night.

Producer Thomas Langmann received the award handed out at the Beverly Hilton by the Producers Guild of America, as The Artist beat out George Clooney’s family drama and another Oscar favourite, The Descendants.

The Artist won best musical or comedy at Sunday’s Golden Globes and The Descendants won best drama along with a best actor nod for Clooney, making the movies likely rivals for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The other nominees in the movie category were War Horse, The Help, Bridesmaids, Hugo, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball and another Clooney movie, The Ides of March.

Along with honours from other Hollywood professional groups such as actors, directors and writers guilds, the producer prizes have become part of the preseason sorting out contenders for the Oscars, whose nominations come out on Tuesday.

HBO’s saga of mobsters in Prohibition-era Atlantic City Boardwalk Empire won the producers’ award for television drama series, keeping AMC’s 1960s advertising agency drama Mad Men from winning its fourth straight PGA Award.

A team of seven producers including Martin Scorcese received the award for Boardwalk Empire, which also beat out Showtime’s Dexter, CBS’s The Good Wife, and another HBO series, Game of Thrones.

The ABC network’s Modern Family took the award for best TV comedy series for the second straight year, beating 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Glee, and Parks and Recreation.

Other winners at the PGA awards included PBS’s Downton Abbey for long-form television, The Adventures of Tintin for animated film, Beats, Rhymes & Life for movie documentary, and The Colbert Report for talk and live entertainment shows.

Oscars 2012: A Lot Of Surprise Nominations This Year

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell


(Jan 24, 2012)
Oscar was paying attention.

Often criticized for simply going with the flow of months of speculation,
campaigning and contests, the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences indicated they really did try to judge films and talent on their own merits.

Despite the relentless buzz prior to Tuesday’s nominations announcement, the Oscar assigners listened to their own hive mind.

The result was a number of surprises in most categories, such as remembering Nick Nolte’s powerhouse performance in the forgotten Warrior and giving Terrence Malick new shoots for his arthouse gem The Tree of Life.

RELATED: Full list of nominees

Such occurrences are rare on nomination morning, but the Academy gave us plenty of things to smile about — and a few to puzzle over.

Here are some of them:

BEST PICTURE: A rule change this year requiring nominees to have a least 5 per cent of first-place votes made for the biggest Oscar guessing game in years: anywhere from five to 10 movies could have qualified for Best Picture contention.

The Academy went with nine films, an odd number that will lead to much speculation over what was the 10th film that failed to make the cutoffMy Week with Marilyn, Bridesmaids or The Ides of March?

The voters confounded most pundits by choosing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as one of their nominees, elevating a movie ignored by the Golden Globes and other earlier contests.

They also found a spot for The Tree of Life, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and took top honours with many critics’ groups, but generally was viewed as a dark horse for the Oscars.

And no BP love for the Bridesmaids, which continues the sad tradition of Oscar not giving comedies their due.

BEST DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick gets back the spot that many thought David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) robbed him of in earlier nominations by the Directors Guild of America. But the Academy agreed with the DGA’s other picks of Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris).

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS: Following the lead of members of the Screen Actors Guild, there’s a Best Actor berth for Demian Bichir in the little-seen immigrant’s drama A Better Life. Another mild surprise was Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a quietly impressive performance that evidently impressed the Academy more than any of Canadian superstar Ryan Gosling’s three touted performances in The Ides of March, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love. But the real contenders here are George Clooney (The Descendants), Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist), in roughly that order.

The expected shoot-out between Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Viola Davis (The Help) is here, as is Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) as a possible spoiler. But the Academy also found space for Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), neither of which were sure bets. And in the case of all but Davis, voters cherry-picked roles they liked in movies from movies they snubbed for Best Picture.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS: Canada’s Christopher Plummer gets his expected — and deserved — nomination as a sexy older gay man in the comedy Beginners. Consider him a lock for the win. Plummer’s chief rival, Albert Brooks from Drive, was passed over in favour of Nolte, Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball) and Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), none of whom were considered sure bets.

Among the women, it was great to see Melissa McCarthy’s nomination for Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer’s for Albert Nobbs, Jessica Chastain’s for The Help and Bérénice Bejo for The Artist. But it’s game over here, too – Octavia Spencer has this sewn up for her emotive turn as one of the embattled maids of The Help.

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Canada gets a slot in this hotly contested category for the second year running, with Philippe Falardeau's school drama Monsieur Lazhar getting deserved recognition. But it faces possibly insurmountable competition from the most-awarded foreign film of 2011, the divorce puzzler A Separation by Iran's Asghar Farhadi.

Billy Crystal returns to host the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26.

List of Oscar nominees HERE.

Is It My Duty To See Red Tails?

Source: www.slate.com - By Aisha Harris

(Jan. 25, 2012) In a recent New York Times Magazine profile by Slate
columnist Bryan Curtis, George Lucas says of Red Tails, the new movie about the Tuskegee airmen that he financed himself: “If we can get over $20 million in our first weekend, we’re kind of in the game. We’re in The Help category.” In fact, Red Tails finished in second place over the weekend, with what Box Office Mojo described as “a very respectable $19.1 million.”

So close. And for me, that gap inspired just a hint of regret (but zero surprise). Like clockwork, I hear the murmur of “moral obligation” emanating from my superego each time I see a trailer for the latest mainstream film featuring a predominantly—or even moderately—black cast. Red Tails. The Help. Precious. I usually ignore it (at least until the film comes out on DVD).

Most of the time, that murmur is made audible by a few over-enthusiastic brethren who may (cough, Oprah, cough) or may not have a vested financial interest in a film’s success. Every once in awhile, though, it’s someone else—someone like George Lucas, for instance, the embodiment of cinematic gold, who has been rallying the people to prove to his ignorant counterparts that black audiences aren’t unicorns, as he did too much acclaim on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago:

Like many people I know, I was initially impressed by Lucas’s admission that the business of Hollywood is still, in many ways, systematically racist.
(Not everyone was so taken.) His description of the movie he had just produced also made me excited to see it: Red Tails sounded like a mix of classic WWII movies and Indiana Jones with the added bonus of portraying bona fide, real-life heroes.

But a smart piece by Charing Ball prompted me to reconsider the impression Lucas had made. Ball attempts to dispel the myth that a single film of questionable artistic merit can make or break the state of black cinema today. And she questions why an indie film like Pariah, with its rare storyline surrounding a black teenage lesbian, does not prompt similar activism among black moviegoers.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Pariah is being shown only in limited release. But it’s precisely such small films that are likely to benefit from mobilizing a community of viewers. If the same people who are riled up to see Lucas’s movie did the same for, say, The Interrupters, their energy might be more effective.

Ball’s post also raises one of the key questions when it comes to moviegoing activism: How important is the quality of the film? When you belong to a “niche” audience, Hollywood throws you a bone here and there—and you’re often expected to embrace it and be content with the promise that more doors will eventually open. (The dearth of commercial movies by black filmmakers is why Tyler Perry continues to be one of the only viable players in the field—at least financially—despite his questionable artistry: He’s filled the quota.) What Lucas has said about opening the doors for more major projects centered on black characters is exactly what pundits were claiming when Precious was fresh on the scene two years ago and when Halle, Denzel, and Sidney made a shamelessly exquisite chocolate trifecta on Oscar night 10 years ago. But does Precious really hold up artistically? Is there anything truly exceptional about Berry’s performance in Monster’s Ball (besides the fact that she had to have sex with a guy named Billy Bob onscreen)?

Some might argue that supporting mediocre cinematic work will only encourage more mediocrity. But ultimately, I don’t think that urging people to see popcorn flicks like Red Tails “to support the community” will weaken the push for real creative ambition—and it may even help. Whatever you think of Spike Lee’s filmography (or his Lucas-lite marketing ventures), he has mentored and supported the works of other directing newcomers, male and female, including David C. Johnson and now Dee Rees (director of Pariah). He clearly understands that in order to create more minority talent, those at the top must use their clout to foster and cultivate such promise. Moviegoers who want to see such stories told do need to support these films, not because we’ll lose our hypothetical “black card” if we don’t, but because it’s the only way those stories will be told again—and maybe, the next time, a little better.

FILM TIDBITS

Ciara Cast in Adam Sandler Comedy ‘Donny’s Boy’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 24, 2012) *It appears as if 2012 will mark a comeback of sorts for Ciara. The singer, and new Epic Records recording artist (after signing last Fall), has joined the cast of Adam Sandler’s recently renamed comedy “Donny’s Boy.” Formerly known as “I Hate You, Dad,” the film focuses on a father (Sandler) who moves in with his son just before his wedding. According to IMDB, Ciara is set to portray a character named Brie. Due in theaters June 15, the comedy also stars Vanilla Ice, Todd Bridges, Leighton Meester and Will Forte.

::TV NEWS::     

Degrassi’ Scores GLAAD Media Nomination For Transgender Storyline

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Jan 19, 2012) Canada’s ground-breaking high school series
Degrassi has been nominated for a best-drama prize from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The long-running soap is up for a GLAAD Media Award for various storylines that involve gay, transgender and lesbian characters.

Degrassi, which airs on MuchMusic in Canada and TeenNick in the U.S., is up against Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Shameless and Torchwood: Miracle Day.

This is its fourth nomination for a GLAAD Media Award, which celebrates inspiring media images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Degrassi introduced its first gay storyline back in 1988. It broke new ground in 2010 when it introduced its first transgender character.

The awards ceremonies will be held in New York on March 24, in Los Angeles on April 21 and in San Francisco on June 2.

“What a great honour this is for the entire Degrassi team,” executive producer Linda Schuyler said Thursday in a release.

“This nomination reinforces our continuing dedication to telling relevant stories about the LGBT community.”

New episodes of Degrassi return to MuchMusic on Feb. 24.

24’s Kiefer Sutherland Returns In Touch

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Jan 24, 2012) Sometimes things are not as they appear. For example,
Touch, Kiefer Sutherland’s remarkable new “domestic-thriller” (previewing Wednesday night at 9 on Fox and Global, where it will eventually debut March 25), which will remind you at times of everything from Numb3rs to The Sixth Sense to Parenthood to Person of Interest.

Touch embraces all of this and more, considerably more than the sum of its parts. The uniquely smart and sentimental destiny drama packs almost a season’s worth of story and character into a single introductory hour, which is 23 less than it took 24.

Any remaining 24 baggage from Sutherland’s former, fondly remembered white-knuckle hit is effectively jettisoned when, about three-quarters through, there is the vividly familiar sight of Sutherland running full out, desperately pushing his way through a crowd while an omnipresent clock ominously ticks away the seconds . . .

And then he gets the crap beaten out of him by Titus Welliver. For the second time.

Jack Bauer would have driven a Bic pen into the guy’s kneecap, cut the blue wire, foiled the terrorists, rescued the orphans, saved the whales and solved the Greek debt crisis, with milliseconds to spare.

Martin Baum, Sutherland’s Touch persona, is at best a flawed hero. Traumatized by his wife’s death in the 9/11 attacks, a single parent barely coping with the constant care of an ostensibly autistic 10-year-old, the former investigative reporter has been stuck in a series of dead-end jobs, barely able to support his unreachable son financially and, now increasingly, emotionally.

Jack Bauer would just have gritted his teeth and stoically soldiered on.

No secret here how the role lured Sutherland, however reluctantly, back to series TV so soon after eight gruelling seasons as 24’s star and hands-on co-producer. The Toronto-raised actor has found a television role equal to the considerable range that has long been evident in his work on film.

That alone would be enough to draw and keep viewers, along with the mutely cherubic appeal of doe-eyed David Mazouz as his silent, strangely sage son, Jake.

But here instead is where it starts to get complicated — and quite likely, alas, too smart for the room. I mean, I watch television professionally, and it took me two viewings to mine every last drop of delicious, destiny-drenched detail.

I do not want to deny anyone that same joy of discovery. But I wasn’t kidding when I said this one episode incorporates all that back-story and still manages to cram in another half-dozen equally intriguing, subtly interwoven subplots: turns out the apparently oblivious Jake actually perceives an indescribably complex world of precise mathematic connectivity.

Human existence, we discover, is both vastly more complicated and much simpler than it would appear.

It will be interesting — though I suspect depressing — to see which will be exhausted first, the writers’ uncanny episodic output of compelling multiple dramatic vignettes, or the average viewer’s ability and willingness to follow them.

I’m hoping that with Sutherland as emotional anchor, the masses will manage to stay the course. But ultimately, I fear, they’ll lack the patience and perseverance to stay in Touch for an entire season.

MAINLY BECAUSE OF THE MEAT

In Vancouver last month, I was invited for lunch at a local institution, Save-On-Meats, a 55-year-old deli and butcher shop on the city’s disreputable Downtown Eastside.

What I got was much more than a terrific sandwich (and trust me on this: I have a genetic ethnic appreciation for good corned beef). The inspiring story behind the reborn eatery is something we can all share in the new documentary series Gastown Gamble, airing Wednesday nights at 9:30 on the Canadian OWN.

As if it weren’t enough of an accomplishment just running a hybrid deli in the country’s most impoverished urban postal code, entrepreneur restaurateur Mark Brand and his fashionista wife Nico have turned the five-floor building into a bargain butcher, community caterer, outreach facility, cooking school, artist residence and gallery and . . . well, watch the show and see for yourself.

And share in my frustration that they don’t deliver this far east.

The Bachelor, The Canadian Version, Coming To Citytv

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Jan 23, 2012) Canada, will you accept this rose?

The popular reality series
The Bachelor is getting a homegrown version on Citytv this fall.

U.S. host Chris Harrison made the announcement in Toronto Monday morning on Breakfast Television.

The ABC show, now in its 16th season, features one man attempting to choose a future wife from 25 contenders. Those invited to stay in the competition week to week are asked by the Bachelor to accept red roses, until the pool is narrowed down to two finalists.

PHOTOS: Our picks for bachelors worthy enough to carry the rose

Rogers Media says preproduction has already begun on the nine-episode The Bachelor Canada with principal photography to start this spring.
It's being produced by Vancouver-based Force Four Entertainment.

“The Bachelor has long been a fan favourite on Citytv and we look forward to putting a Canadian spin on this thriving franchise,” said Claire Freeland, director of original programming for Rogers Canada, in a news release.

“Canada is brimming with eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, and we're excited to offer them the opportunity to embark on their own quest for love through this entertaining series.”

In fact, Canadians have regularly been cast on the U.S. show, something Harrison commented on last year.

“I think with the Canadians, our show is hugely popular up there,” he told reporters last January. “The second thing is Canadians need love, too. That's been proven. It doesn't hurt (that we had) Jillian as our Bachelorette.”

The Jillian in question is Albertan Jillian Harris, an interior designer who's been featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and hosts Canada's Next Handyman. She got her start as a reality TV star on Season 13 of The Bachelor. Although she didn't find love then, she returned as the one doing the choosing in the Bachelor spinoff The Bachelorette.

Another Canadian, Jessie Sulidis, an Oakville model and TV host, competed on The Bachelor and another one of its spinoffs, Bachelor Pad.

She also figured in a scandal when she blew the whistle on Justin Rego, a Toronto man who walked off The Bachelorette when it was revealed he was still dating a woman at home. He later competed on Bachelor Pad.

Some fans of Rego have suggested via Twitter and Facebook that they'd love to watch a season of him looking for love, which brings us to the question of who will be Canada's Bachelor.

Rogers says it will announce those casting details later but, in the meantime, the search is on nationwide for “rose-loving bachelorettes.” Go to
www.Citytv.com/BachelorCanada for eligibility details.

Current U.S. episodes of The Bachelor air Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC and OMNI Television.

Marg Helgenberger Tells CSI Fans: ‘You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Alicia Rancilio

(Jan 19, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — It’s not easy to walk away from a
secure gig in Hollywood, especially one that’s popular, but Marg Helgenberger is doing just that.

After 12 seasons the actress will leave the CSI in a two-part episode airing Wednesday, Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. EDT.

Helgenberger said in an interview she’s looking forward to time off, hiking with her dog and even looking for work. She’d also love to do Broadway.

Despite her departure, 53-year-old Helgenberger said she would be willing to return for a special episode or two in the future.

“Oh, absolutely, in fact that was one of the reasons why it was a little easier for me to leave the show because the producers said to me practically every day the door is wide open. ... If I’m available and I’m up for it you betcha.” She’s proud the show has inspired some people to become criminalists and says to fans: “You haven’t seen the last of me.”

She called the role of Catherine Willows “one of the best roles” she’s ever had and “quite a journey.” Looking back at older episodes she likes to remember the crime that was solved, see who the guest stars are and marvel at some of her clothes and hairstyles. “Sometimes I go, ‘What was I thinking?’” she laughed.

She’s received both Emmy and
Golden Globe Award nominations for her work on CSI and will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Jan. 23.

She’ll also remain in the loop with what’s happening behind-the-scenes because her son Hugh is now a production assistant on the show.

CSI is known as the most watched show in the world and has received the International Television Audience Award at the Monte Carlo TV Festival. Helgenberger began to understand this firsthand when travelling abroad.

“In the Musee d’Orsay (in Paris) ... I got kind of swarmed by people which was so strange to me because just in these galleries housed Van Gogh’s and Monet’s and Manet’s and Toulouse-Lautrec and I just thought ‘Wait a second this is so strange!’ but anyway, nonetheless, it was flattering and I was just kind of taken aback by it.”

TV TIDBITS

Katherine Heigl Wants To Return To ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz

(Jan 19, 2012) Although
Katherine Heigl star left Grey’s Anatomy in a
storm of controversy in 2010 after criticizing her character Izzie Stevens, the actress admitted she has already told showrunner Shonda Rhimes that she is keen to return to the medical drama, though she is unsure if it will be possible. The One For The Money told E! Online: “I’ve told them I want to [return]. I don’t know ... Being a showrunner and being a writer of a TV series like that is so complicated that I mean she’s got how many characters are there now? There’s a lot and so she’s balancing about 40 different storylines, so I don’t know if it fits in to their sort of vision for this season or next or however many seasons it goes.” The 33-year-old actress revealed the main reason she hopes to return is so she can discover Izzie’s fate, as the surgeon was last seen leaving the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital after husband Alex ended their relationship. She said: “I really, really, really want to see where [Izzie] is. I just want to know what happened to her and where she went and what she’s doing now. “My idea is that she actually like figures it out, and finds some success and does really well in a different hospital. She was always floundering you know, and so she was always one step behind the eight ball and I want to see that girl take some power back.”

::THEATRE NEWS::

Filmmaker Atom Egoyan Loving His Return To Directing Live Theatre

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


(Jan 25, 2012) For a director most strongly identified with film,
Atom Egoyan is remarkably pleased to be returning to the theatre.

The two-time Oscar nominee is directing
Cruel and Tender by British playwright Martin Crimp — whom Egoyan describes as “one of the leading playwrights in the English-speaking language — and adding to the pleasure and the pressure, Canadian Stage has invited Crimp to Toronto for the show’s opening night.

“(Directing theatre) is not as lonely as filmmaking. Filmmaking’s very lonely. You have a lot of people around you but they’re all relying on your way of imagining how it’s going to fit together,” said Egoyan, the director of 12 feature films, as well as occasional forays into theatre with productions as various as Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure and Samuel Beckett’s Eh Joe.

“Theatre is absolutely open. What’s wonderful about theatre is that it’s all on the table from the very first reading. The actors are aware of where and how these scenes fit in and it’s absolutely open and collaborative,” he added.

Crimp said he was “incredibly excited” to learn from British composer George Benjamin — with whom he’s collaborating on his second opera — that Egoyan was directing Cruel and Tender.

Crimp said he became “hooked” on Egoyan’s films after seeing Calendar (1993), noting he’s followed Egoyan’s films since “because I just love the strange worlds he creates.”

“I get lots of invitations. It is the most marvellous thing and it is something I would never have anticipated when I first started writing,” Crimp said on his first trip to Canada, though he admits he’s “fussy” about the ones he accepts.

“I’m fussy for two reasons; I could literally be on the road travelling if I wanted to, going to see things and that would be quite destructive of work. Secondly, I don’t want to see everything. I want my mind to be free. So it really depends on what I know about the production and on personal things, like a director I know,” Crimp added.

Cruel and Tender, which Crimp wrote in 2002, is a reimagining of Sophocles’ play, Trachiniae. The modern version tells the story of a woman whose husband, a general, sends a young woman to live at his home while he is away at war and the consequences that ensue.

Egoyan said the play, written in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, offers a number of lessons for contemporary audiences.

“(The play) is very current because it is dealing with the notion of what information we choose to receive both at a political level but also within a marriage and a family, the things we choose to address, that we choose not to address and the consequences of our actions,” Egoyan said.

It’s also the first opportunity for Egoyan to collaborate in theatre with longtime muse and wife, Arsinee Khanjian, who plays Amelia, the wife of the general.

“I’ve often watched her (Khanjian) on stage and we’ve done so many films together but we’ve never actually done a play together. So it’s been crazily wonderful to be able to come to work together and leave work together because you’re not able to do that when you’re doing a film,” Egoyan said.

“This has been almost dreamlike to be able to (work together) in a more regular way,” he added.

Cruel and Tender’s officially opens Thursday at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

Playwright Tony Kushner Talks About His Powerful Musical, Caroline, Or Change

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jan 21, 2012) With Tony Kushner, it’s not the devil who’s in the
details. It’s more likely to be an angel.

I’m talking about the winged character who drives the action in his most famous play, Angels in America, as well as the quieter, not-so-sweet-at-first-glance maid who lends her name to Caroline, or Change, the musical Kushner wrote with Jeanine Tesori that finally gets its Toronto premiere this week at the Berkeley Street Theatre, courtesy of Acting Up Stage and Obsidian Theatre.

The details are those facts about the world that lead Kushner to write every one of his plays, whether they’re comic or tragic, dialectic or driven by character.

Angels in America could only have taken place in the last part of the 20th century, with AIDS ravaging the population and Caroline, or Change is even more specific, beginning on that fateful Friday afternoon in November, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“It was a complicated time,” says Kushner softly on the phone from his home in New York, “the death of Kennedy was a national tragedy. It signalled a time of enormous change, everywhere.

“The civil rights movement had reached its apotheosis and everyone was waiting to see what would happen.”

Into this world, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kushner puts a sullen black maid, battling her own personal demons and a young Jewish boy, struggling with his own sense of identity. A household drama nearly rips their strange friendship apart, but the struggle ultimately binds them closer together.

If you were an optimist, you could call it a metaphor for race relations in the United States.

But you’d also be justified in calling it the most personal look into Tony Kushner’s life that he’s yet provided in his works.

Considering that Kushner was roughly the same age his surrogate Noah is when the play begins, one has to ask Kushner about the similarity and he willing concedes that “it’s the closest thing to an autobiographical play that I’ve ever done.”

Having made that admission, he backtracks a bit, admitting that “Caroline is loosely based on a woman who worked for my family. She’s still alive, she’s seen the play many times and, in fact, it’s dedicated to her.

“But I don’t turn specific incidents into theatre. I’m more interested in their potential meaning than their historical exactitude.”

That doesn’t stop Kushner, however, from adding another layer of personal experience to the mix that makes it even more complex.

“A few years after the events of the play, when I was 11, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her case was mishandled badly by her radiologist and she had to go to New York for about half a year.

“My mother was gone, my younger brother and I were frightened, but they told us everything was going to be all right.”

Kushner took those personal feelings and expanded them to merge with what America felt after Kennedy’s death.

“It was a scary thing when he was assassinated, but we still had a great belief in the power of government back then. He was a martyr to the hopes of a different kind of country, a different kind of world.

“And Lyndon Johnson kept building in many ways on what was the best of the civil rights movement. He took that good part of Kennedy’s legacy and made it better, but the bad part that Kennedy left him, the war in Vietnam, finally destroyed him.”

Kushner was still in his early teens when the struggle over that war nearly tore America apart, but he was able to note, with a kind of quiet awe, that “American democracy has a sort of durability. It gets us through the crises in our republic that must be dealt with.”

Civil rights wasn’t a theory to young Kushner, it was a reality. “My high school was integrated, the teaching staff was integrated. White kids and black kids went to school together and were friends, which wasn’t true of my Northern cousins.

“But just before I left high school, the white people who didn’t believe in this dream passed a municipal bond issue to create an all-white high school in a better neighbourhood. That integrated school I went to is all black now.”

Fade out. Fade in a decade or so later, when Kushner was debating a career in the theatre.

“I told myself that if I could come up with 12 different plots for plays, then I would have the write to be a playwright. I did.

“And one of them was the story of the maid that eventually inspired Caroline, but I didn’t do anything with it at the time. I remember writing this description: ‘An African American woman works for a Jewish family in Lake Charles, but in another way is the president of the United States.’”

Fade out, fade in again in the late 1990s when “the San Francisco Opera asked me to prepare a libretto for Bobby McFerrin to set to music. I took a Kleist short story about the iconoclastic riots in Germany in the 16th century and wrote a script based on it. Bobby didn’t like it.”

But before he gave up on opera, he told McFerrin the story of Caroline.

“Bobby said he liked it a lot and wrote one tiny section, but then he gave up on it.” Only now, Kushner had fallen in love with the story again.

“I got the rights back from the opera. I had already talked to George C. Wolfe about directing it and he really liked it.”

All that was needed was a composer. They took it to Jeanine Tesori who turned them down. But a year later, a producer hired Kushner and Tesori to work on a musical version of the 1994 Johnny Depp film, Don Juan DeMarco.

“We didn’t like what we wrote for that project and it never went anywhere, but we discovered we did like working together and George suggested she look at Caroline again. She wrote one song, everyone loved it and we were on our way.”

Although never a great commercial success, the show has resonated with audiences around the world since its 2003 premiere at the Public Theatre in Manhattan.

What causes the work’s hold on audiences? How would Kushner describe what it’s about?

“That’s a question I would never answer. I never think of a play as being about something. I would prefer that people come and figure out what it means to them.

“To me, it’s a very powerful piece about grief and loss and the difficulties of change, both personal and political. In a way, it’s a coming of age story.

“It’s the piece I’ve written that I’m proudest of.”

Caroline, or Change runs at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. through Feb. 12. Tickets available at 416-368-3110 or through canadianstage.com

Kim’s Convenience Is A Cause For Celebration: Review

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

Kim’s Convenience
By Ins Choi. Directed by Weyni Mengesha. Until Feb. 11 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666 or youngcentre.ca

(Jan 19, 2012) How do I love
Kim’s Convenience? Let me count the ways.

Ins Choi’s Fringe Festival hit, which opened at Soulpepper Theatre on Thursday night, has so many things right with it that it’s the kind of show that restores one’s faith in the theatre, no matter how much it might have been sagging as of late.

In the first place, this charming old school study of a Korean convenience store in Toronto and the family that’s built its life around it has “authentic” stamped on it the minute you walk into the theatre.

Ken MacKenzie’s set is an absolute marvel, the distillation of every convenience store you’ve ever gratefully patronized. (A shout out to my neighbourhood one, Luke’s on Logan Avenue!) Your eyes will pass over it time and time again looking for one false note and you won’t find it. The work is that real, that good.

It’s actually a metaphor for Choi’s play, which is built on simple enough values, but keeps opening them up to you in new and different ways as the 85-minute play winds along.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is the patriarch of this small but valuable domain, a man as large in spirit as he is in body, dispensing folk wisdom in his endearingly broken English, while quizzing everyone on the facts of Korean trivia around which he’s built his sense of transplanted national pride.

Lee’s lordly bulk moves with surprising grace, and his voice is capable of endless modulations, taking us from volcanic rage to whispered regret in the space of a moment. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

He gets great support in the play’s blissfully comic opening scenes from Esther Jun, brisk and bright as his daughter, and the amazing Clé Bennett, who plays four different characters with such rapid costume changes and total sense of transformation that you’ll refuse to believe one man is behind all of them.

Jean Yoon is sweetly restrained as his wife, hiding her feelings deep inside until a beautiful scene in which she meets up with their estranged son, Jung and we see how much emotion she has had to hide from her husband.

Then there’s Choi himself as Jung. Smart playwright, he gives himself the evening’s smallest role, but the one with the biggest impact.

Jung was a troubled kid who did drugs, robbed his father and nearly wrecked the family home before making a sudden exit. Now he’s back, probably wiser, definitely sadder and looking to make a profound change in his life.

Choi is as skilled an actor as he is an author, and he underplays beautifully against the intentionally theatrical rage of Lee as his father. The play’s final scene between the two of them is a masterful demonstration of how much can be said in very few words.

Weyni Mengesha has staged it all in a blessedly straightforward style that leaves the comedy broad, the passions near the surface and the human values free to triumph above all else.

All of this would make Kim’s Convenience a success on its own, but the play also offers much else that leaves one truly proud of this city and this theatre company.

True, there are Korean groceries all over the world, but it took a Korean-Canadian in Toronto to decide to immortalize all the hard-working brave countrymen of his who left aside often prestigious careers and started all over again in this country, working 18-hour days to give their families a better life.

And one is proud of Albert Schultz and his Soulpepper Theatre family as well, launching their 15th season with a work by a local playwright who came up through the ranks in their academy and chose to give his first successful play to the people who had helped guide him along.

There are many reasons to cheer at Kim’s Convenience. Join the celebration.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

RIM’s Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie Resign

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Lewis

(Jan 23, 2012) Smartphone pioneers Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis
are stepping down from their chief executive roles at struggling BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd. in a dramatic shakeup that will see Thorsten Heins take the leadership reins as CEO.

But despite a more than two-thirds decline in RIM’s share price over the past year, Heins signalled that he will largely stay the course set by Balsillie and Lazaridis, who will remain significant shareholders and continue to hold seats on the Waterloo company's board of directors.

RIM shares drop in early trading after Balsillie, Lazaridis step down

“Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade,” Heins, who will sit on the board, said in a news release. “We are more confident than ever that was the right path.”

In an interview with the Star Sunday night, Heins blasted critics who have dismissed RIM as yesterday's company, saying it's still a solid financial performer.

“The perception just doesn't match the reality,” Heins told the Star. “We've got $1.5 billion in the bank, and virtually no debt. We've also got a 75 million subscriber base.”

A plummeting share in the U.S. smartphone market isn't the only measuring stick RIM should be judged by, Heins said.

“It's not just smartphones. We've got a data network, we've got services,” said Heins. “In a lot of countries around the world, we're the No. 1 smartphone maker. In the U.S., yes, there's a challenge.”

The biggest challenge in the U.S., says Heins, isn't RIM's technology, but its communications efforts.

“I think we need to do a better job of communicating with consumers,” said Heins.

Heins also praised Lazaridis and Balsillie for stepping back from the company they turned into one of the world's best-known technology brands. It was a tough decision for them, he admitted.

“How would you feel? They created an icon. They took it from a $294 million company into a $20 billion one,” said Heins. “They saw it coming, and they prepared the company for it.”

The constant takeover rumours have been frustrating, Heins admitted.

“You can't let frustration guide your decision-making,” he said. “But the people I feel bad for when I read those stories is our employees. They're talented, hard-working people.”

RIM also announced late Sunday that company director and former Royal Bank of Canada executive Barbara Stymiest will assume the role of independent chair. Board member Prem Watsa will become independent director.

The moves follow months of investor agitation for Balsillie and Lazaridis to relinquish their co-chair roles to allow more independent oversight of executive decisions.

The changes, which are effective immediately, follow a sharp decline of the BlackBerry brand in the U.S. market in the wake of delays and missteps in introducing new products and a failure to keep pace with rivals including Apple Inc. and devices running Google Inc.'s popular Android software.

Heins, who joined RIM from Siemens Communications Group in December 2007 and became RIM's chief operating officer for product and sales last August, said he will continue to collaborate closely with Lazaridis and Balsillie.

RIM added in a statement that the executive and board changes are the result of a recommendation from its co-chief executives to implement the succession plan they previously submitted to the board.

Lazaridis is transitioning to vice-chair of RIM's board and will chair the board's new innovation committee.

“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership,” he said in a news release. “Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now. With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond.

“Jim, the board and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten Heins.”

“I agree this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership, and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company,” Balsillie said in the release.

Tech analyst Carmi Levy says leadership change at RIM was expected, but it has taken much longer than it should have.

“They should have acted on it months ago, and now RIM would have been deeper into transition,” said Levy.

“The good news for RIM's stakeholders is that they are not just vacating the co-CEO roles, but the co-chairman role. It signals a significant change. It's not just lip service.”

However, Levy said that some investors will question how fundamental a change this is, given an insider is being promoted to the top job.

“That's the eyebrow raiser. They didn't go outside,” he said. “It's fair to ask whether this is the fresh set of eyes that RIM needs at this time.”

Levy noted that the BlackBerry maker has chosen to promote the chief operating officer to the top job, just as main rival Apple Inc. picked Tim Cook to succeed Steve Jobs.

Like Cook, Heins is a telecom veteran with significant experience on the operations side.

“An operating expert and strategic visionary are often different things,” he said. “It's sometimes tough to step out of the shadows of inspirational leaders.”

Vic Alboini, chairman and CEO of Jaguar Financial, said RIM should have gone further with its changes.

"I think it's a good first step, but it doesn't go far enough," said Alboini, a vocal critic of the dual CEO structure at RIM.

Having Balsillie and Lazaridis remain on the board is a mistake, as was making Stymiest the chair, said Alboini.

"She's been on that board for four years. She's been part of the problem," he said.

With files from Josh Rubin and Vanessa Lu

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Travel Deals To Impress Your Valentine – And Save You Money

Source: www.thestar.com - Kathryn Folliott

(January 20, 2012) No pressure, gents (and ladies), but Barton Creek
Resort & Spa near Austin, TX is promising a free one-night anniversary stay to couples who get engaged with its ‘Deep in the Hearts of Texas’ package. Available Feb. 10 - 14 for a lead-in rate of $214 (all prices U.S.), the deal combines accommodation with a $50 dining credit and breakfast in bed, plus a session with the resort’s ‘Romance Concierge’. See www.bartoncreek.com. Also offering fun in the sun for Valentines, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa in Florida is giving free suite upgrades for bookings through Feb. 16, with a one-category upgrade to a one- or two-bedroom suite, all with private balconies just right for taking in those famous Clearwater Beach sunsets. The resort is also featuring Valentine’s-themed spa specials and a ‘love’-ly menu at the on-site SHOR restaurant on Feb. 14 ( http://clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com). And the Westin Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale invites couples to ‘Rekindle Romance’ with its package, available Feb. 10 - 15 from $319 per night with breakfast in bed, a ‘Wine & Dine’ meal, spa treatments and champagne and strawberries. See www.westin.com/fortlauderdalebeach.

EUROPEAN ROMANCE

For jet-setters, the newly renovated Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel in London has teamed up with local shop Coco de Mer (‘for lovers, adventurers and dreamers’) for the ‘Seduce Me at The Mercer Street’ package, including accommodation, breakfast, champagne and a gift box full of Coco de Mer’s bestsellers, for a lead-in rate of 450 pounds, or 600 pounds for a suite ( www.radissonedwardian.com/seduce-me).
And in Paris, Milan, Trieste and Venice, Starhotels’ ‘Collezione’ properties are offering special Valentine’s packages with all sorts of perks, from a five-course tasting menu dinner at the 108-room Castille Paris, to aphrodisiac treats upon arrival at Milan’s Rosa Grand in Milan, the Savoia Excelsior Palace in Trieste and Splendid Venice. See
www.starhotels.com.

I LOVE NEW YORK (AND BOSTON)

At St. Giles Hotel New York - The Court, the ‘Sweet, Sweet Valentine’s Day’ includes two passes to ‘The Luxury Chocolate Tour’ with New York Chocolate Tours, plus one night’s accommodation complete with an in-room rose petal trail, and breakfast, for a lead-in rate of $459 (all prices U.S.). Packages are available Feb. 10 - 19 (however the chocolate tours are purely a weekend event, from Feb. 10 - 12 and again Feb. 16 - 19); see
www.stgilesnewyork.com. In Boston, the Renaissance Boston Waterfront’s ‘Leap Into Love’ package starts at $229 per night and runs through February (with a 45-minute couples’ massage, plus champagne and oysters). See www.renaissanceboston.com (promo code LUV). Another Boston property, the famous Liberty Hotel - formerly the Charles Street Jail - has Valentine’s Day all locked up with its Guilty Pleasures Romance package, from $429 per night ( www.libertyhotel.com).

BEST INDULGENCE OF THE WEEK

California’s Mission Inn in Riverside (between L.A. and Palm Springs) is on a ‘Mission for Romance’, offering guests an overnight stay in a ‘Fantasy Suite’ with candles, rose petals and champagne, plus a private dinner for two, couples massage, a dozen roses and a docent-led tour of the castle-like property (or a take-home keepsake book), for $1,529 (all prices U.S.) through Feb. 29 ( www.missioninn.com).
Another option: Hong Kong’s Landmark Mandarin Oriental, where the Valentine’s Romance package comes with accommodation, breakfast, dinner and transfers, for about $1,030 per night, plus you can add an sunset helicopter ride over iconic Victoria Harbour for approximately $550. See
www.mandarinoriental.com. And for the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift - a Tahiti getaway - the folks at Tahiti Tourism have put together packages starting at $1,699 per person with airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui and five nights accommodation. A seven-night package to Bora Bora and Moorea starts at $3,499. See www.tahiti-tourisme.com/romanceintahiti.

Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.

PICKS OF THE WEEK

Sunquest: Costa Rica, air & hotel, $889 (+$262 taxes & fees) (Feb. 4).
www.sunquest.ca

Air Canada Vacations: Two-night New York City, air & hotel, $389 (+$130 taxes & fees) (Feb. 3).
www.aircanadavacations.com

Nolitours: Cancun, air & hotel, $1,337 (+$343 taxes & fees) (Feb. 29).
www.nolitours.com

Signature Vacations: Mazatlan, air & hotel, $785 (+$257 taxes & fees) (Feb. 14).
www.signaturevacations.com

Transat Holidays: Samana, air & hotel, $679 (+$388 taxes & fees) (Feb. 2).
www.transatholidays.com

Bel Air Travel: Nassau, air & hotel, $659 (+$296 taxes & fees) (Feb. 9).
www.belairtravel.com

Sunwing Vacations: Cayo Coco, air & hotel, $595 (+$290 taxes & fees) (Jan. 28).
www.sunwing.ca

Sell Off Vacations: Brussels, air & hotel, $748 (+$482 taxes & fees) (Feb. 20).
www.selloffvacations.com

itravel2000: Santa Clara, air & hotel, $675 (+$290 taxes & fees) (Feb. 29).
www.itravel2000.com

WestJet Vacations: St. Maarten, air & hotel, $1,379 (+$107 taxes) (Feb. 21).
www.westjetvacations.com

Tour East Holidays: Dubai & UAE, hotel, tours, transfers, meals, $1,460 (through Sept. 30).
www.toureast.com

Lake Placid: A Perfect Weekend In Upstate New York

Source: www.thestar.com - Lionel Beehner

(January 23, 2012)
Lake Placid can feel cryogenically frozen in time – 1980 to be exact, which was when this secluded pocket of the Adirondacks hosted its second Winter Olympics. The towering ski jumps and toboggan runs, not to mention the “Miracle on Ice” hockey rink, look much as they did when Jimmy Carter was in office. But over the last few decades Lake Placid has quietly been adding non-Olympic attractions, including sophisticated farm-to-table restaurants, higher-grade lodgings and a gleaming convention centre. Luckily the downtown has not lost its aura of Adirondack authenticity, with A-frame cottages and unpretentious boutiques drawing plenty of non-skiers. If the town were not smothered in Olympic logos, visitors might forget about its Olympics connections and think they had wandered into an idyllic Swiss hamlet.

Friday

6 p.m. MIRROR IMAGE

First things first: That placid body of water next to town is not Lake Placid – it’s Mirror Lake. To see Placid, head a few miles out of town to the Lake Placid Lodge (144 Lodge Way; 518-523-2700; www.lakeplacidlodge.com). This icon of the Adirondacks burned to the ground a few years back. But the lodge was recently rebuilt, all 30,000 square feet, including its grand porch strewn with rustic chairs handbuilt from gnarled twigs, its stone fireplaces crowned with moose heads, and its diamond-paned windows offering sweeping lake views. The lodge has a restaurant, Artisans, with a menu custom-made for carnivores. Try the local strip loin and Maine lobster ($50) or pork osso buco ($32). Most tables overlook the lake; or you can ask to dine in the cozy wine cellar.

8 p.m. MOONLIGHT SKATING

The original skating oval from the 1932 Games was left intact and is one of the country’s few Olympic-size (400 meter) rinks left in the country (Main Street; 518-523-1655;
www.whiteface.com). Entry is $8 a person, with skate rentals costing $3. It can get chilly, but there’s a giant fire pit to stay toasty. Or head inside to the indoor rink ($7).

Saturday

7:30 a.m. SOURDOUGH BREAKFAST

Skip the greasy buffet at the hotel and head to Saranac Sourdough (2126 Saranac Ave.; 518-523-4897). For over a decade, Eileen Black and her husband have been serving up yeasty sourdough breads like raisin brioche ($6.50) and tangy sourdough pancakes ($5.50) in their converted log cabin. The room is encased in swirling twigs and Impressionist paintings of the Adirondacks. Try the Gordie ($9.95), a mountain-size stack of pancakes, meats and sourdough toast.

9 a.m. INTO THIN AIR

Ignore the “Iceface” moniker, which refers to the windswept face and notoriously icy conditions of Lake Placid’s signature ski hill. Whiteface Mountain (518-946-2223;
www.whiteface.com) has been stepping up its snow-making capacities and even recently added a whole new face, Lookout Mountain. For daredevils, take the gondola up to the top of Little Whiteface and ski down to the Summit Quad to be spirited up to the highest ski point – a cool 4,386 feet above sea level. There you can feast your eyes on the breathtaking altitudes of the Adirondack peaks. Cloudspin, immortalized in the 1980 Olympic Games, is a challenging run perfect for speedsters. Serious tree skiers will opt for the Slides, a steep chute of dense glades, while bump addicts should head to Mountain Run, a vast canvas of fluffy moguls. Cruisers practicing their S-turns should try the newly carved and never-ending Wilmington Trail that winds along a steep and picturesque ravine, or Excelsior, a twisty run popular among snowboarders.

Noon WINE, CHEESE, VENISON

Whiteface’s dining options can feel more rusty than rustic. For a pleasant exception, try the new J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines Cafe at the base lodge, which serves up tasty platters of French cheeses ($17.95), as well as chef’s salads, paninis and Cajun-seared salmon on ciabatta rolls. They all go well with a Belgian hot chocolate ($3) or hot mulled wine ($7). For something less fancy, swing by the deck at the mid-station Boule’s Bistro, where on Saturdays you might find sunburned locals dressed like Eskimos grilling up venison on their hibachis.

2 p.m. HOCKEY AND MORE

Smack in the middle of town is Lake Placid’s main attraction: the Olympic Center (2634 Main St.; 518-523-1655). It is a draw for not just hockey dads but also winter sports buffs. The museum displays an impressive collection of miscellany, like coach Herb Brooks’ natty suit (or at least the one worn by Kurt Russell, who played him in “Miracle on Ice”), monogrammed ice skates, and Olympic torches from past games that look like medieval weapons. Upstairs a new motion theatre ($10) featuring films from a first-person perspective and mechanized seats simulate the feeling of soaring off a ski jump or barreling down a bobsled run ($10). The main attraction remains the hockey rink – a smallish arena whose rafters are festooned with American flags.

3:30 p.m. TOP OF THE WORLD

Take the glass-enclosed elevator up 120 meters to the top of the Olympic Jumping Complex (52 Ski Jump Lane; 518-523-2202). The observation deck offers spectacular sunset views of the Adirondacks’ majestic peaks. Entrance to the observation deck costs $11. At the base there is a medals-ceremony podium draped in flags for picture taking. Off to the side, the complex recently installed a 700-foot-long tube park under the lights; $8 an hour.

7 p.m. ADIRONDACK FOODIES

The Custard Mustard N’ Brew has changed its name and is closed in the winters, but nostalgia seekers can still find a Howard Johnson’s (2099 Saranac Avenue; 518-523-2241;
www.lakeplacidhojos.com), one of three still standing, just up the street. Another locals’ favorite is Liquids and Solids (6115 Sentinel Road; 518-837-5012; www.liquidsandsolids.com). Don’t be fooled by its dive-bar facade and no-frills interior; this recently opened gastro-pub boasts an inventive “solids” menu, combining innovative farm-to-table dishes like Utica-style chard ($12) or rabbit confit gnocchi ($22). There’s also a daily poutine, as well as the tastiest burger ($9) around, smothered in aioli on a focaccia roll and served with sides like maple baked beans.

9 p.m. BAR HOPPING

Unlike many ex-Olympic Villages, Lake Placid’s Main Street retains its party atmosphere all winter, luring tourists and townies alike to commingle over pints of local lager. Zigzags (134 Mirror Lake Drive; 518-523-8221), named for the deadliest pair of turns on the old bobsled course, is a lively bar that doubles as a shrine to bobsled paraphernalia, yellowed world maps and vintage signs reminiscent of a Brooklyn dive. By 10 p.m., the place fills up with rugged-looking locals in floppy dog-eared hats and flannel shirts, as a live band belts out oldies. For something less crowded, you could head to the Cottage (77 Mirror Lake Drive; 518-523-2544;
www.mirrorlakeinn.com), a rustic spot overlooking Mirror Lake that offers a late-night (after 9 p.m.) happy hour. Drinks start at $3.

Sunday

10 a.m. MUSH MUCH?

Greet the morning with the sounds of eight Alaskan huskies barking and pulling a sled across a glistening Mirror Lake. For $10, John Houghton (518-891-6239) will take you on a brisk loop of the lake, starting from the boathouse where Main Street turns into Mirror Lake Drive. Bring a blanket to pile on top of the one provided to stay warm for the 10-minute ride.

11 a.m. DEVIL’S HIGHWAY

No trip to Lake Placid is complete without a bobsled ride ($80 a person). The track (220 Bob Run Lane, Route 73; 518-523-4436), rebuilt a decade back, is a squiggly chute of steel, concrete and ice that allows amateur bobsledders to reach speeds of over 50 miles per hour. You share the sled with a pair of pros who look like members of the Navy Seals. Another recent addition is the skeleton ride ($65). Not to be confused with the luge, this is a face-first solo thrill ride aboard what feels like a cafeteria tray affixed to steel runners. Who said Lake Placid had lost its Olympic mojo?

IF YOU GO

The main strip of Lake Placid is full of cheap cottages, cabins and condos. But for true Adirondack-style luxury, rent one of the 19 Lincoln Log-looking cabins at the Lake Placid Lodge (144 Lodge Way; 518-523-2700;
www.lakeplacidlodge.com), which are pet-friendly and come equipped with crackling stone fireplaces and deep-soaking “antique-style” porcelain tubs. Rooms start at $575.

A more family-friendly option – there’s even a bowling alley on the premises – is the Whiteface Lodge (7 Whiteface Inn Lane; 518-523-0500;
www.thewhitefacelodge.com). No lakeside views but private beach access. Suites start at $450.

Fernie: The Small Mountain City With Big Ski Dreams

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Tom Maloney

(Jan 20, 2012) A decade ago, an acquaintance described
Fernie as the next Telluride. It seemed a brazen prediction at the time; not so much today.

Telluride is located remotely in southwestern Colorado, set in a box canyon, characterized by Old West/Victorian architecture and a wide main street, overshadowed by a ski mountain in the Rockies, spooked by the legend of the bloody raccoon skin, home to a film festival that last September attracted the likes of Colin Firth, Laura Linney and George Clooney.

Fernie is located remotely in southeastern B.C., set in a box canyon, characterized by Old West/Victorian architecture and a wide main street, overshadowed by a ski mountain in the Lizard Range of the Rockies, spooked by the legend of the Ghostrider, and home to a film festival in February that, well, gives free popcorn to kids and "is dedicated to filmmakers who spark awareness of mountain cultures."

In other words, no Clooney, but who knows, the way Fernie is trending.

Trains hauling coal blast haunting bellicose horns while trudging through Fernie in the middle of the night, a reminder of the resource-based economy past and present. That economy has diversified from mining to tourism and recreation, driven by the skiing and spiced now by an emerging entertainment and shopping scene. Downtown, there's a growing sense of West Coast culture meeting Alberta petrodollars as Calgarians - three hours' drive and several radar traps away (watch out: the Longview, Alta., trap is notorious) - arrive in droves on weekends.

Fernie Alpine Resort, the tourist magnet owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, celebrated its 50th year of skiing with the opening of the Polar Peak chairlift last week.

The chair takes skiers and boarders for the first time to Fernie's ridge line and drops them into Currie Bowl, one of five open bowls spread across the terrain. The lift extends the resort's vertical metres to 1,082, its skiable in-bounds acreage to 2,550, and number of marked runs to 140. The ski mountain offers plenty of everything - glades, bumps, wide-open bowls, skinny double-diamond chutes through craggy boulders.

To survive, though, ski resorts are increasingly installing infrastructure for families. Fernie is no different, with a terrain park in place, an aerial park and zip line to come this summer. Still, the snow is the resort's primary asset, with a dump of about 12 metres last winter. Nearly 150 centimetres of joyous, whoop-inducing powder dropped just this past week (43 cm in one night alone).

When our family visited just before Christmas, though, the conditions (grrr) ranged from hard-packed to windswept, and these office-softened legs were grateful one day to see how the downtown core, once deemed a lost cause for seasonal business, is gradually luring people from the slopes and cross-country trails.

I walked into the General Store building on Second Avenue, the main drag, to shop for souvenirs in a clothing store. But a shop tucked in the back caught my eye - especially a painting by Laura Nelson. Turns out the shopkeeper, Michael Hepher, moved his family to town this past summer and, in October, opened the

Clawhammer Letterpress and Gallery, showcasing works by local artists, as well as his own three-dimensional pieces. We chatted for a while about Fernie, I left, and later arranged to have the painting shipped to Ontario. Definitely a no-pressure sale.

"People here seem to love unique, one-of-a-kind merchandise and shopping experiences," Hepher told me later. "Downtown Fernie is becoming a destination in and of itself."

Fernie has twice burned to the ground, the last time in 1908 when a forest fire claimed 100 lives. It was rebuilt with stone and brick, and today entrepreneurs are gradually transforming the heritage buildings into restaurants, shops and lofts. You can walk through the downtown core in about 15 minutes. Highway 3 fissures through town on its way to the ski hill. On both sides, the old clapboard miners' shacks are gradually disappearing in favour of modern rebuilds, especially along the Elk River where fly fishing is popular in summer. Most remarkably, the old high school in a scuzzy-ish part of the downtown core was developed into 901 Fernie, a collection of luxury lofts and condos priced between $600,000 and $1-million, with some available for rent.

"There's an invisible magical factor in Fernie with the combination of the people, place and determination," says Nelson, the artist. "From all those hard times, a definite spirit lingers in the old Fernie-ites. People try to make a go of it in Fernie, and that means being creative."

Several years ago, volunteers saved a crumbling railway building by moving it across the tracks and transforming it into the Arts Station, where paintings surround diners in the popular breakfast spot, the Blue Toque. The community effort triggered a movement that now appears full steam ahead as people migrate to Fernie to take up permanent residence. Once a meat-and-potatoes, rough-and-tough mining town, Fernie is in irrepressible transition.

At the Beanpod, raw cacao beans are stone-ground in a 1948 granite mélangeur and turned into $7 bars over five days. An individual melt-in-the-mouth bonbon tasted so incredible it made me yearn for a glass of Okanagan cabernet. Grand Fromage makes its own cheese, the Essential Yoga Studio offers more than 30 classes a week, and microbrewer Fernie Brewing Co. fills 1.98-litre "growlers" on the spot, European-style. (You won't ever go wrong with the Buck Wild lightly hopped golden blond.) The Yamagoya sushi restaurant still serves the "best rolls this side of Vancouver" (as deemed by aficionado Bruce Dowbiggin, The Globe and Mail's sports media columnist), the new Fernie Cattle Co. restaurant advertises grass-fed SPCA-certified meats and sustainable seafood, the Picnic Restaurant serves house-made elk chorizo, and the Northern Bar & Stage is a first-class sports bar with live keno and (eat your heart out, Ontario) a half-price wine night.

Aside from Albertans, the resort attracts skiers and riders from Britain and the American Midwest, and visionaries - led by eightysomething Heiko Socher, who took the first chair up this season at the resort he developed - who see even greater potential. Island Lake Lodge, accessed on the north side of town, already offers world-class cat-skiing and has received regulatory approval to install a chairlift and expand hilltop accommodations. Get this, though. Socher has proposed a development, Heaven's Gate, to transport skiers from a downtown gondola to Coal Ridge south of town, as you might experience in Italy or France.

While oil-and-gas companies dream of coal-bed methane production out in those hills, others, in this evolving ski village, see a different future, this one fuelled by a snow-white dream.

IF YOU GO

Getting there

From Calgary's airport, it's a three-hour drive southwest; from Cranbrook, B.C., it's a one-hour drive east or you can take the Fernie Connector shuttle.

Where to stay

Cornerstone Lodge is a luxury condo at the base of the mountain with a Kelsey's on the main floor. From $296 a night. 888-423-6855; cornerstonelodge.ca

Timberline Lodge has condos a short uphill walk away from the lifts. From $205 a night. 877-333-2339: skifernie.com/vacations

Skiing

Lift tickets are $76.95 for adults. 1-877-333-2339; skifernie.com.

Tired of skiing?

The Fernie Aquatic Centre (downtown on Pine Avenue) has a six-lane, 25-metre competition pool with a one-metre diving board and Tarzan swing, a 15-metre leisure pool with spray fountains, a 25-person hot tub, a 15-person steam room, and a 45-metre waterslide. 250-423-4466; fernie.ca.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Andrea Bargnani Scores 36 Points As Raptors Defeat Suns 99-96

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith


(Jan 25, 2012) PHOENIX—The three-pointers were silky smooth, the
mid-range game was there, the engagement on the defensive end was impressive and Andrea Bargnani made a triumphant return to the Raptors here Tuesday night.

It couldn’t have come soon enough for coach Dwane Casey and a reeling team.

Bargnani, back after a six-game injury absence, poured in a season-high 36 points as the Raptors snapped an eight-game losing streak by hanging on to beat the Phoenix Suns 99-96, their first win in the US Airways Center in eight seasons.

“We needed a ‘W’ to keep our confidence, to keep the ship going in the right direction,” Casey said after Toronto beat Phoenix for the first time since 2004. “We needed a ‘W’ to reinforce what we’re talking about.”

The return of the 7-foot Bargnani was the perfect tonic for a Raptors offence that had been stagnant in his absence. Not only did he stretch defences with his outside shooting abilities — he was 4-for-6 from three-point range — but his presence simply created space for other Raptors to operate.

“He makes everything easier for everybody else,” said Casey. “He opens up the lane, LB (Leandro Barbosa) could get in the lane for layups, James Johnson could get in the lane and get to the offensive boards. He’s kind of a hub that everybody can play off.”

And it was never more apparent than on one key Toronto possession with the Suns threatening late in the fourth quarter.

Mindful of the Raptors’ effectiveness at running a two-man game with Bargnani and Jose Calderon, the Suns left Calderon alone, and he drove down the lane and hit a left-handed layup while three defenders were paying close attention to Bargnani.

And on another vital possession with less than a minute to go, they ran it to perfection as Bargnani rolled to the basket, pulled up to hit a 15-footer and put Toronto up by seven with 42.5 seconds left.

Toronto also got huge nights from James Johnson (18 points,10 rebounds), Leandro Barbosa (19 points off the bench) and Calderon, who had just five points but 11 assists and calmly ran the offence.

The Suns got 21 points from Marcin Gortat and 17 points and 14 assists from the sublime Steve Nash as they dropped their third straight home game.

“Nash will make you look bad if you’re not exact and precise on your pick-and-roll coverage,” said Casey, whose Toronto team didn’t wilt in the face of a difficult first half.

“I thought our guys did a good job of fighting from behind. We could have pitched a tent and called it a day there at the beginning of the game but they showed fortitude, they stuck together, stayed together.”

The return of Bargnani allowed the Raptors to at least try to match the Suns’ high screen-roll play with Calderon and the 7-foot Roman once again working in concert.

After a predictably slow start — four misses on his first five field goal attempts — Bargnani caught fire and his 18-point third quarter allowed Toronto to take a 79-71 lead into the fourth.

“I thought our focus coming out of the locker room was pretty sharp, coming into the third quarter,” said Casey. “We locked in defensively, we got some easy buckets. Again, Andrea made things happen. He had nine points at halftime, he came out being aggressive offensively and kind of set the tone.”

The Raptors made another lineup move that paid off as well. Aaron Gray was inserted into the starting lineup for Amir Johnson and while his numbers weren’t impressive — two points and five rebounds in 15 minutes — his contribution was noticed.

“Talk about physicality. I thought he did a good job in the third quarter setting screens, getting everybody open and being physical on the offensive end,” said Casey.

“We have some situations where he sets a screen for Andrea — he did a good job of doing that.”

Maple Leafs Hit All-Star Break With OT Win

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski


(Jan 24, 2012) UNIONDALE, N.Y.—
Leafs coach Ron Wilson had a simple message for Clarke MacArthur: Get your feet moving again, finish your checks and you’ll be reunited with your old linemates, Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin.

MacArthur heeded the message here Tuesday night. His legs were moving, his body was crashing, his line looked great — especially Grabovski — and his team bagged an important 4-3 overtime win over a rough-and-tumble Islanders club before 10,888 fans at Nassau County Coliseum.

MacArthur bagged a pair of goals, including the OT winner, which was reviewed. Islanders goalie Al Montoya, back from a month-long concussion layoff, made an incredible glove save across his crease, but caught the puck well inside the goal line.

“Just getting my feet moving, and I thought our line played a lot like it did last year,” MacArthur said. The threesome was the Leafs’ best last season, when MacArthur was rated as best bang for the buck by Forbes magazine (Kulemin was seventh).

Grabovski engineered a tremendous play on the game-winner, stripping the puck in the Leafs zone and breaking up ice on a two-on-one before threading a pass through for MacArthur to fire it home.

Grabovski, who arguably had his best game of the season, had a goal and three assists while rookie Jake Gardiner wristed in his first career goal in his 43rd game.

Toronto, though, couldn’t make up the ground they needed to get back into the playoff picture despite grabbing wins the past two nights. They settled into a three-way tie with Florida and New Jersey at 55 points. Based on tiebreakers, the Leafs sit in ninth place, just outside the playoff bubble.

“We wanted to go into the all-star break feeling good about ourselves. . . . We like our game right now and where we’re at,” said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who now heads to Ottawa with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel for the all-star game, while the rest of the Leafs get a five-day break.

Leafs fans and the rest of the hockey world will also be watching for any trade movement.

Leafs GM Brian Burke said that while his phone is busy with calls from other NHL GMs, “nothing is imminent.”

“We’re doing a lot of listening and working the phones,” Burke said at Nassau County Coliseum.

The Islanders came out strong after dropping a 3-0 game in Toronto the night before.

John Tavares, in particular, had a nasty edge to his game. He scored 1:54 into the game, his 20th of the season, mixed it up with several Leafs, and crashed Carl Gunnarsson into Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson — after the Leafs did a top-notch checking job on him Monday to snap his 12-game point streak.

Lupul collided with him at the end of the second period behind the Islanders’ net, getting his arms up into Tavares’ face. The Islanders star lay on the ice for a few moments but was fine afterwards.

“I didn’t see him there until the last second, I got my hands up a bit . . . I hope he’s okay,” Lupul said.

Kessel also attracted attention. He had several slashing exchanges with Travis Hamonic and other Islander defencemen. Kessel had pretty much all he could take from Hamonic and wrestled with him after the slashes. Lupul stormed into the skirmish. Hamonic received a double minor, and Josh Bailey scored a short-handed goal to put New York up 2-0.

The Leafs, to their credit, found another gear and got their fore-checking game going with good results.

In the meantime, Gardiner was all smiles. His father, John, had spent the past week watching games and having a wonderful time with his son. The elder Gardiner returned to the family home in Wisconsin two days ago, and wasn‘t on hand to witness his son’s first NHL goal.

“I’m sure he’s going to be the first one to call me,” the younger Gardiner said. “He’s always supported me and I’m sure it’s an emotional night.”

Gardiner simply fired a wrist shot from the point that made it through a crowd of players, including MacArthur, who ran as much of a screen as possible on Montoya.

Wilson and the rest of the coaching staff had been yelling at Gardiner to shoot more.

“I’ve always got away with passing more at the college level, but it’s harder here — there’s better athletes and they read that well,” Gardiner said. “I just tried to get it on net and I guess good things happen that way. I’m happy to get the first one out of the way.”

Steve Nash: Not My Style To Demand A Trade

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith


(Jan 25, 2012) PHOENIX—It’s about 90 minutes until tip off and
Steve Nash wanders by a few interlopers in a hallway on his way to a session with his private physiotherapist in the Phoenix Suns practice facility.

He greets a familiar face with a handshake and a smile and in a private moment the question is posed: “How’s it going.”

Nash looks at the guest with a rueful smile and a bit of wistfulness and says quietly:

“All right, I guess.”

And that about sums up the existence of the best player on a bad team, a two-time NBA MVP who will be a central figure on the league’s rumour mill in the next six weeks, a 37-year-old with an immeasurable amount of loyalty to the city he represents and the team he plays for and a questionable future.

It will be “all right.”

Not great. Not terrible. Something in between and therein lies the conundrum in the world of Nash and the Suns in this strangest of NBA seasons.

Nash, 37, becomes an unrestricted free agent in July; his team is in some half-baked rebuilding process, not young, not old, but somewhere in between. The Suns won’t challenge for the NBA championship this season — they likely won’t challenge for a Western Conference playoff berth — yet the face of the franchise isn’t about to give up the ship.

Nash, who will be in incredible demand as the NBA trade deadline approaches, coveted by teams that see him playing still at an all-star level and the Suns could probably obtain a significant package of young players and draft picks for the 6-3 point guard. He still leads the league with assists per game at 10.4 prior to Wednesday night’s games.

But he remains — publicly at least — fiercely loyal to his teammates, his bosses, the city he represents and will not go hat-in-hand to the Suns asking for a trade to a contender, or a team much closer to a championship than Phoenix is.

As someone close to him said after the Raptors snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 99-96 victory Tuesday night, “Steve wants to think about the positive, it takes too much energy to turn this into a negative situation.”

Nash, indeed, hasn’t come close to ruffling feathers about wanting to go, realizing what a distraction that would become for his team and himself.

Even as the Suns get off to a horrible start — they are 6-11 and have lost three straight at home — he only hints at frustration rather than rage about the situation.

“If you’re winning, everyone feels good, chemistry is good,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “But I also think it’s a funky season and you got to just keep your head down and keep working, and keep believing. And if you do that long enough, good things will happen.

“It’s been tough, we haven’t made shots that we normally make, a lot of guys haven’t quite found their rhythm and I think that’s hurt our cohesion.”

Nash’s only extended public utterances on his short-term future came in an interview earlier this month with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, who wondered whether it was time to go in and ask for a trade.

“What does that mean?” Nash wondered. “Do I go in and say, ‘Trade me to a top two or three team?’ I think it’s lot more difficult than people think.

“One, it’s not my style. Maybe I’m old school, but I feel like that’s not my place to give up on my team, give up on my teammates. I signed a contract and made a commitment.

“And two, I don’t feel it’s like choosing a restaurant. It’s got to be a situation that works for two teams. And I don’t know how simple that is. But before we even get to that part of it, I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and the organization to fight.”

But Nash also knows it’s not entirely in his control. Suns general manager Lon Babby has long insisted Phoenix wouldn’t trade the surefire Hall of Famer but there may come a time when the package he could get would be irresistible.

It would cause shockwaves in the Arizona desert because Nash is by light years the best player on the team but even Nash knows nothing is out of the realm of possibility as the March 15 NBA trade deadline approaches.

“Everything’s okay,” he said in the brief hallway chat before Tuesday’s game. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Joe Paterno Dead at 85

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 22, 2012) *Legendary Penn State football coach
Joe Paterno has died after a long fight with lung cancer, according to the Washington Post .

Paterno, who is college football’s all-time winningest coach, saw his reputation take a major hit after a child sex abuse scandal rocked the university last year.

Many believe that Paterno kept his mouth zipped about the abuse that his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was committing against young boys for over a decade.

Paterno’s family released a statement to the media after his death.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today,” the family said in a statement. “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.

“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

Read more at the
Washington Post

Yu Darvish Pitch Long In The Planning By Texas Rangers

Source: www.thestar.com - Evan Grant

(Jan 23, 2012) DALLAS—A few minutes after 7 p.m. Friday in the
Rangers’ Hall of Fame room, general manager Jon Daniels gathered his prepared notes and nervously began his internationally broadcast introduction of the most intriguing signing in the club’s history.

The night that was supposed to be about
Yu Darvish, however, began with an impassioned “thank you” to the Rangers’ scouting department and ownership group.

“The work our scouts did — their diligence, their passion and their willingness to put in time — allowed us to comfortably make a recommendation to ownership,” Daniels said. “And our scouts’ effort and creativity was matched only by our ownership group.”

It was appropriate.

Without either group going to unprecedented lengths, the introduction of the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher to Texas would never have happened.

The road to Darvish was a five-year odyssey that cost far more than just the $106.7 million the Rangers spent on his six-year contract. It essentially required the creation of a new branch of the scouting department. And it required convincing owners who came from the oil and gas business that this exercise was not mere wildcatting, but was more likely to produce results.

This is how it all came together.

SCOUTING HIM

When the Rangers overhauled the organization in 2007, the big moves were to create a huge draft class and to trade Mark Teixeira for a huge return. Less noticed: the December hiring of Jim Colborn as director of Pacific Rim operations.

If the Rangers were going to create a long-term contender, they needed to be able to procure talent from the emerging Asian market, too. With Colborn’s hiring, the Rangers got an experienced Asian scout to supervise a department that consisted of, well, Jim Colborn.

Within a year, the Rangers had a specific goal: Sign at least one player a year out of Asia who could contribute in the majors. A year after that, the goal became more specific: Be prepared to know Darvish like no organization had known a Japanese player in case he went through the posting process.

“We were going to go all out to measure him up,” said Josh Boyd, who runs the Rangers’ professional scouting department. “We were going to start a really thorough homework process on and off the field to get to know him as a player and a person.”

In short, the Rangers combined two types of U.S. scouting — amateur and free agent. In preparation for the draft, amateur scouts try to get to know their potential targets as people, not just pure talents, to identify their growth potential. In scouting potential major league free agents, pro scouts may spend most of a season homing in on one or two guys.

A total of 12 different club officials — including Daniels — saw Darvish pitch in person live in 2011. They saw 22 of his 28 starts.

They also weren’t alone. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays were also regularly represented at Darvish’s starts. And other clubs made occasional appearances.

“There were a lot of guys there with radar guns,” said Darvish representative Don Nomura, a veteran of dealing with Japanese talent. “But the Rangers were there with more than that.”

The Rangers had signed Darvish’s former teammate Yoshinori Tateyama. They had added scout Joe Furukawa, who like Colborn had a long history and lots of relationships within Nippon Professional Baseball. They reached out to Farsad Darvish, the pitcher’s father.

There was one more innovative step that can’t be overlooked: The Rangers didn’t really assess Darvish as a Japanese pitcher. They viewed him as simply a potential free agent coming from Japan. It’s a subtle-sounding distinction, but was big in the Rangers’ evaluation process.

Darvish didn’t look like a Japanese pitcher. At 6-5, he’s taller than any starter who had tried to transition from Japan to the majors. His size gives him more power than most Japanese pitchers, and the Rangers noticed a distinct uptick in his velocity in their two years of scouting him. He went from a 90-92 mph fastball to 93-95. That gives him more ability to rely on the fastball, a quality Japanese pitchers have often lacked when they come to the United States.

And during the last year, Colborn saw a pitcher who refined his repertoire to working mostly with two pitches and commanding them, rather than throwing a wider array of pitches that are often more difficult to command.

It made him a different commodity from any Japanese pitcher who had come before.

“Quite frankly, we tried to be a little more sophisticated than just judging him against guys who grew up in the same place,” Daniels said. “He is different.”

BIDDING FOR HIM

Seeing Darvish as a free-agent pitcher rather than a Japanese free-agent pitcher was key to the presentations Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine made to club president and CEO Nolan Ryan.

By the time the winter meetings in Dallas began, Ryan was on board.

“We looked at him as the No. 1 pitching talent out there,” Ryan said. “We looked at his age and thought that if we signed him, we’d be signing a pitcher just as he’s coming into his most productive seasons. Very seldom to do you get a shot at a free agent of that caliber at that age.”

When the meetings began at the Hilton Anatole, the Rangers took a hard line with C.J. Wilson. On Tuesday of the meetings, the Rangers told Bob Garber, Wilson’s agent, they didn’t see themselves making anything more than a four-year commitment to Wilson, and they weren’t going to $15 million annually. Wilson was seeking six years and close to $100 million.

The next afternoon, Daniels, Levine and top advisers A.J. Preller, Don Welke and Boyd got a chance to make their three-hour pitch to Ray Davis, one of the club’s chairmen. As the meetings wound up, Darvish’s Japanese club, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham, announced it would post his rights up for bidding, and the Los Angeles Angels announced they had reached agreement with Wilson and Cardinals slugging first baseman Albert Pujols.

The Rangers management group went straight from the Anatole to the Simpson’s Fort Worth, Texas, office of co-chairman Bob Simpson to make another three-hour pitch.

“I think we all drank 5-Hour Energys on the way over,” Daniels said.

The presentation included laying out trade scenarios, such as dealing for Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez, and pursuing middle-of-the-rotation starters in their mid-30s. Daniels advocated what a perfect long-term fit Darvish would be with the Rangers’ young core of starters and how signing him would not take away from the pitching depth in the minors.

“I was pretty skeptical,” Simpson said. “But the presentation was so passionate and so thorough that I made almost a 180-degree turn. With a background in oil, I know the difference between wildcatting and production. I wanted to be able to lower the risks as much as possible. Their presentation did that.”

After that, all it took was putting together an actual bid. In that regard, the oilmen’s background came in handy, too.

The posting process is essentially a blind poker bet without an ability to see any of the other players’ cards. All the Rangers had to go on was the 5-year-old Daisuke Matsuzaka case. There was one school of thought that the number to beat would be the $51.1 million Boston paid; another that Boston had so widely overbid that other clubs would focus more on topping the New York Mets’ $37 million second-place bid.

When the group reconvened to finalize the bid on deadline day, Daniels’ scouts had not been able to ferret out any specific information about potential bid amounts by the Yankees or Toronto, expected to be the two top contenders.

“I told (Simpson and Davis) that I wish I had better intelligence,” Daniels said, “but I didn’t. I told them it could be anywhere from $30 million to $60 million. You are giving your bosses a $30 million range. That’s not really ideal.”

And so around the table they went discussing potential bids. Simpson went back to his background in bidding for properties.

“If we’re thinking it may be high, somebody else is probably thinking that way,” Simpson remembered.

“$51.7 million,” he told the table. “Guys, if we’re gonna bid, we’re gonna bid to win.”

SIGNING HIM

Though it took up until the last minute of the 30-day negotiating window to sign Darvish, the negotiations were largely anticlimactic.

The hardest part was waiting five days to hear that the bid had been accepted.

“We were in limbo,” Ryan said.

At the announcement of Darvish’s signing last week, Daniels said there had never been a moment of contentiousness during the 30-day negotiation window. Daniels and Levine visited Los Angeles twice to meet with agent Arn Tellem, the other half of Darvish’s representation team. Boyd visited Japan to assure Darvish’s parents of the Rangers’ interest in their son beyond the pitcher’s mound. The key moment came in early January when Darvish and his father visited Dallas-Fort Worth.

On their second night in town, they dined at a table of 13 at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle in Fort Worth. It was the first time Ryan had seen Darvish in person.

“I felt like he was everything he had been represented to be,” Ryan said. “He looked like a pitcher. He was built like a pitcher. He sounded passionate and dedicated. My comfort level went way up.”

Darvish’s did, too. When asked Friday about coming to the Rangers, Darvish, through his interpreter, said:

“They made me feel comfortable. They treated me like I was part of their family.”

And now he is.

Patriots-Giants A Match Made In Football Heaven

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(January 22, 2012) The NFL doesn’t care who makes the
Super Bowl. They just get the names and start printing the money. But some matchups will send something that feels curiously like joy through even Roger Goodell’s black, black heart.

Based on the drama of Sunday’s conference championship games and the combatants who crawled, bleeding, over the lip of the fighting pit, Super Bowl XLVI is shaping up as the most anticipated contest in league history.

The Feb. 5 title game in Indianapolis will feature a rematch of Super Bowl XLII — the New England Patriots vs. the New York Giants. It’s the two biggest sports markets in the U.S. and its two most fascinating personalities at quarterback — the Hollywood imperturbability of Tom Brady against the shy charm of Eli Manning. If you’re only going to place one bet, make it the over.

If you haven’t booked Indy already, don’t bother. The NFL — not some scalper, the league’s own website — was advertising sideline tickets for $17,000 (U.S.). Each. And that was before New York won an NFC championship game that had a truly biblical feel — that is, it took forever and the heavens were open for most of it.

As they’ve done all season, the 49ers leaned on their kamikaze defence. Working to prove that last week’s performance wasn’t a mass hallucination, Niners quarterback Alex Smith began by showcasing how bad he used to be. He completed only one pass of note in the first half — a 73-yard sideline catch-and-run to tight end Vernon Davis that cashed a touchdown. Take that off the board, and he was 1-for-6 for nine yards in the half.

Luckily, the Giants weren’t a whole lot better, despite the best efforts of Eli Manning. They played a positional game, which only works if the other team isn’t scoring. At the outset, the 49ers weren’t. It was 10-7 for New York at the half.

With conditions improving in the third quarter, the game began to take form.

Smith found his limited passing groove. Davis caught another touchdown — giving him four in the last couple of playoff games. Manning replied with his own bullet to Mario Manningham. Smith retorted again, moving his squad down the field for a field goal.

With six minutes left, it was 17-17.

They traded fruitless drives — six in all — before heading to overtime. It wasn’t until Niner Kyle Williams fumbled a punt return in the extra frame that a window was opened. A 31-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal won it for New York, 20-17.

Poor Williams. At least he wasn’t the only goat of the day.

Earlier, the league’s greatest practitioner of catch-me-if-you-can won a game of stand-up-and-fight. Forced to run the ball and absorb pressure from Baltimore’s aerial attack, the AFC champion Patriots proved they can win ugly as well. New England’s Tom Brady had a terrible statistical day — throwing two interceptions against zero touchdowns — but provided his customary infectious calm. That would be the deciding factor that pushed the Patriots past the very game Ravens.

It ended 23-20, but came down, as so many of these seem to these days, to two plays inside the final half-minute.

With 27 seconds remaining, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed a game-winning TD pass to Lee Evans, only to see the ball stripped from Evans’ grasp before he could plant his trailing foot. The man who knocked the ball out, rookie Sterling Moore, was only playing because of an injury to a starter.

That left it to former Pro Bowler Billy Cundiff to kick a 32-yard field goal and send the game to overtime. It didn’t go well. Cundiff clutched the ball wide left, leaving the Baltimore bench doing a collective, open-mouthed zombie impersonation.

The unfortunate Cundiff becomes this generation’s Scott Norwood — a nationwide punchline. His teammates backed him afterward, but Fox analyst Michael Strahan probably got closer to reality when asked how he would deal with a kicker who’d just shanked a gimme to get to the Super Bowl.

“I’d say, ‘If you’re back here next year, we got a problem,’” Strahan said. Truth.

But that’s next year. We’ve still got the biggest game of all — maybe of all time — to get through. If there’s any solace for Cundiff and Williams this morning, it’s that their names will be forgotten in the lead-up. Right now, the NFL is too busy crowing to waste its time with regrets.

Tigers Hand Prince Fielder $214-Million Over Nine Years

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jeff Blair

(Jan 24, 2012) This isn't the first time David Dombrowski has answered a damn-the-torpedoes call from ownership by blowing somebody out of the water.

It was Montreal Expos owner Charles Bronfman who told Dombrowski - then known as The Boy GM - in 1989 that time was wasting and he wanted what Dombrowski understood to be one last shot at the postseason. So the Expos shocked the baseball world by acquiring Mark Langston from the Seattle Mariners for Randy Johnson, Gene Harris and Brian Holman.

The Expos were one of the stories of that season before collapsing in August en route to finishing fourth in the National League East. Langston left as a free agent and Bronfman promptly put his stake in the team up for sale and there it was. Forget the handy scapegoating of Jeffrey Loria; Major League Baseball in Montreal had taken its first step out the door.

The results will be far less Draconian if Dombrowski's latest shocker doesn't turn out. There is no indication that Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is about to sell the team any time soon, but he will be 83 and the Tigers, frankly, owe him a World Series.

From a baseball point of view, Dombrowski's agreement on Tuesday with
Prince Fielder on a nine-year, $214-million (all currency U.S.) contract probably carries less risk than that Langston deal. It's just money, after all, and the Tigers have shown an ability to manage payrolls. Detroit's a happening place for sports these days.

Dombrowski must surely realize that Ilitch's lifetime as a sportsman is at the legacy stage, what with the NHL due to turn its annual outdoor classic next season into a celebration of his ownership of the Detroit Red Wings, so why not roll the dice with Fielder?

The Tigers could have been favourites heading into the season without Fielder, even with designated hitter Victor Martinez out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But talk about taking no chances. In landing Fielder, they have a left-hand hitting monster mashing behind righty hitting cleanup man Miguel Cabrera.

Fielder, a three-time all-star, hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. He has averaged 40 homers and 113 RBIs over the past five years. He's also been among the most durable players in the majors, appearing in at least 157 games in each of the last six seasons.

It's a lot of money to have tied up in, um, soft-bodied, beer-league types (Cabrera, who said Tuesday he will move to third base if manager Jim Leyland wants him to, has four years left on an eight-year, $152.3-million contract, and Martinez will have two more years remaining on a four-year, $50-million deal if he recovers as expected in time for the 2013 season).

But it will matter naught if Ilitch wins the World Series. If he doesn't? At least Dombrowski won't have to watch anybody pitch his way to the Hall of Fame the way Johnson did after he was dealt away from the Expos.

So baseball learns once again that it is never wise to laugh at Scott Boras, Fielder's agent, who told anybody who would listen early in the off-season that the starting price for Fielder was more than the annual average value of existing contracts signed by Mark Teixeira ($22.5-million a year) and Joe Mauer ($23-million a year). Oh yeah, and Fielder's contract would be for 10 years, thanks. Admit it, some of you laughed.

Yet here we are, unusually late by free-agent signing standards (Carlos Delgado waited until Jan. 25 to sign a contract with the Florida Marlins in 2005), and Boras gets the money and the terms he wanted. All this in an off-season in which two of the usual market movers, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, had already committed to first basemen (Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, respectively), in which the Los Angeles Dodgers were hampered by cloudy ownership, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had already cast their lot with Albert Pujols, and the Chicago Cubs, mysteriously, went into hibernation.

What of the Toronto Blue Jays in all this? The guess here is the team kicked the tires on Fielder just as it did with Jose Reyes, but more with an eye toward sussing out the market. (Nine years? Sorry, I'm not having that, not for any player.)

The Blue Jays are going to try to kill teams with relief pitching and homegrown hitting this season, their front office believing it is pointless to test the resolve of team owner Rogers Communications Inc. In the meantime, they are among a group of teams whose road to the promised land of the wild card just became a whole lot harder. But that's just off-season conjecture and guesstimation.

What we know for sure is this: He who laughs last has Mike Ilitch's phone number, and that he who laughs best is almost always named Scott Boras.

With a report from The Associated Press

SPORTS TIDBITS

Giants Conquer Defending Champion Packers At Lambeau Field

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 15, 2012) GREEN BAY, WIS.—For Eli Manning and the
New York Giants, Lambeau Field has become a familiar launching pad. After beating the Green Bay Packers at home for the second time in four years, they only hope this trip ends the same way — at the Super Bowl. Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Giants shocked the Packers 37-20 in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. Manning threw for 330 yards, sending the Giants to San Francisco for the NFC championship game next Sunday night. The Giants stunned the reigning Super Bowl champs with a touchdown off a long heave just before halftime, then knocked them out with a late touchdown off a turnover. Lambeau Field fell silent as the Giants swarmed the field in celebration.

::FITNESS::

Total Body Workout: 3 Exercises

By Shawn McKee, eDiets Contributor


Increasing time constraints and countless exercise options make it difficult to find an effective fitness plan that fits your busy schedule, but your workout doesn’t have to be as complicated as your life. You can get a total body workout in just three moves.

“People get too caught up in complexity in just about everything,” explains fitness pro Raphael Calzadilla. “A workout doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be effective.”

He recommends focusing on compound movements that work multiple muscle groups at the same time to burn more calories and “get more bang for your buck.”

Limiting your workouts to three compound exercises will allow you to focus on proper form while still getting a total body workout.

“It’s not always the exercises but more the technique, level of intensity and consistency that you bring to the workouts,” says Raphael. “You can fully work a muscle in as little as 3-4 sets, but you may need 8-9 sets to accomplish the same thing if you’re using ineffective technique and intensity.”

Focus on these exercises for a simple workout that will produce results, but Raphael insists you first think about what you want from your workout.

“Always consider the goal. If your goal is to increase overall strength, make an impact on many muscle groups and look leaner and tighter, then these workouts will work for you,” says Raphael.

Raphael also put together a home version of this workout for those times when your life gets too busy to make it to the gym.

“Here are workouts you can do at the gym (with weights) and at home on other days without weights. This will provide some balance between the gym and home and keep you motivated,” says Raphael.

Perform the workouts on 3 non-consecutive days per week. You can do a gym workout on Monday, home workout on Wednesday and gym workout on Friday. The following week, simply reverse the order and start with the home workouts.

Remember to warm up before each workout and to stretch after each workout.

Gym workout Instructions:

Circuit each of the exercises and build to a point where you can perform 4-5 sets per exercise (4-5 circuits). Don’t take any rest time between the exercises. However, after performing the 3rd exercise, rest 30 seconds. Then repeat 1-3 again.

You might only get 12 reps on the second circuit, 10 reps on the 3rd circuit, etc. but that’s fine. It simply means you’re fatiguing the muscle. If you can perform more than 15 reps on the first set, then increase the weight slightly.

Gym workout

1.
Barbell or dumbbell squat – set of 15 reps

2.
Flat or incline dumbbell bench press – set of 15 reps

3. Lat pulldown – set of 15 reps

Based on your schedule, if you have to repeat the same workout (i.e. gym workout on Mon. and Wed.), simply try to add a rep to each set. You may not be able to, but make it the goal. In a short period of time you’ll be increasing reps and weight.

Dumbell Squats

Start – Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each
hand with arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another. Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.

Movement – Lower your body by bending from your hips and knees stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor. Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points – Exhale while returning to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times). It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower, otherwise your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow. Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down. Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.

Caution – Practice this exercise without weights until you master the movement. It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.

Dumbell Bench Press

Start – Lie on a flat bench with your spine in a neutral position. Hold a dumbbell in each
hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.

Movement – Contracting the chest muscles, press both arms upward above the chest until the arms are almost fully extended with a slight bend in the elbows. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points – Exhale while lifting the weights. Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Caution – Do not attempt to lower below parallel because it places undue stress on the shoulders.

Lat Pull Down

Start – Extend your arms up and reach for a straight bar with an
overhand grip. Sit tall with your knees supported under the leg pad with the knees and hips at a 90 degree angle. Arms should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the elbows. Relax your shoulders and keep your chest lifted.

Movement – Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the bar down leading with the elbows stopping when the bar is just above your chest. Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the weight stack touching.

Key Points – Exhale while lifting the weight. Inhale while returning to the starting position. Do not allow your upper back to round or your chest to cave in.

Home workout instructions:

Circuit each of the exercises as you did with the gym workouts. Perform as many reps as possible for pushups, 15-20 steps of walking lunges in one direction and then turn around and return for another 15-20 steps to the start position. Then get on the stationary bike (or cardio of your choice) and bike at a fast speed for 2 minutes.

Remember to warm up before each workout and to stretch after each workout.

Home Workout

1.
Pushups – aim for 10 reps or as many as possible.
2. Walking lunges (stationary lunges for beginners) – 15 steps one direction, turn around and walk lunge 15 steps to the start position.
3. Stationary bicycle, jump rope or cardio of your choice – 2 minutes at a high intensity but not so fast that you burn out too quickly.

Watch the video below for a beginner’s version of the workout with demonstrations of wall pushups and stationary lunges:

Based on your schedule, if you have to repeat the same workout (gym workout on Mon and Wed), simply try to add a rep to each set. You may not be able to, but make it the goal. In a short period of time you’ll be increasing reps and weight.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note
 

It is important that when pursing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish”. Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, short-sighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.

Source:  Dalai Lama