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June 28, 2012

Happy Canada Day and a long weekend to boot! Happy July 4th toofor all my American friends out there. I hope you will all take advantage of the good weather predicted and please celebrate safely!

As summer has reached us, have you noticed that there seems to be a joyful buzz in the air - is it because we, as Canadians, are sun deprived with the long winter gray months? Or is it the blissful planning of long weekends with friends and family?

In this weeks news: Toronto celebrates early the50th anniversary of Jamaican independence from British rule withJamaica Rhythms with tons of events happening; we mourn the third anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson; Hollywood mourns the passing ofNora Ephron;F. Gary Grayis looking for actors to star in theNWA biopic; and much more.Check it all out underTOP STORIES


Click on your favourite subject under theTABLE OF CONTENTS.Welcome to those who are new members to receiving this newsletter and thank you for your support!


Maxi Priest’s Take On Jamaican History

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Jun 27, 2012) A very important milestone in Jamaican history is just around the corner.

August 6 marks the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence from British rule, but Toronto’s Caribbean community is marking the occasion six weeks early with Jamaican Rhythms. To be held June 28 at the Sony Centre, the 7:30 p.m. show is a live “rockumentary” showcasing the evolution of Jamaican music from ska and reggae to dub and dancehall.

The impressive lineup includes ’60s Johnny “I Can See Clearly Now” Nash’s backing musicians Fab 5; Lovers Rock reggae pioneer John Holt; I-Threes founder and Bob Marley harmony singer Marcia Griffiths; reggae/dancehall innovator Yellowman; reggae crossover superstar Maxi Priest; Grammy-winning dancehall king Beenie Man (who last month apologized for his homophobic lyrics via YouTube); Toronto Juno winner Exco Levi with Mountain Edge and fellow Juno nominees Jay Douglas and Steele.

But at least one of the headliners feels that Jamaican independence has been awarded prematurely . . . and it isn’t Beenie Man.

“To be a part of Jamaica’s anniversary of independence is significant to me because it’s my people’s,” said Max “
Maxi Priest” Elliott when reached at his home in London, England last Thursday.

“Not to say that I am one of the greatest supporters of the initial independence. I kind of think we weren’t ready for independence.”

Priest, whose 1990 smash “Close to You” remains, along with UB40’s “Red, Red Wine” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” the only British reggae acts to score chart-topping North American hits, feels differently today, right?

“Do I?” responds the 51-year-old with a chuckle. “No, I don’t, because I think we’re still dependent on a lot of other parts of the world.

“I am not one of the persons that believe we are ready for independence, but I am a supporter of my people. We are now in independence so we gotta make the best of it.”

Priest suggests that Jamaica’s current economic turmoil, due largely to the infiltration of foreign interests, is evidence that the decision to break away from Britain should have been delayed.

“If you check the politics, though, you’ll find that a lot of other countries have come in and built roads and stuff like that, and we are in debt to a lot of other people. That doesn’t necessarily make for a great independent situation.

“You look at most of the other Caribbean countries who got independent later on, and they’re a lot more stronger.

“Here we are in England. We are not a part of the Euro. The Euro is fast slipping and England is holding steady. Jamaica was originally a part of England. And there was a time when we were pound for pound. If we had waited a little longer . . . ”

He’s enjoying his own independence these days after two rounds of recording for Virgin Music, peaking in the ’80s and ’90s with such hits as his cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” and duets with Roberta Flack (“Set The Night To Music”), Shabba Ranks (“Housecall”) and Shaggy (“That Girl”) running his own label and performing in such diverse locales as Qatar and Sri Lanka.

“Times have changed, the business has changed, Internet, downloads — you create your own independent situation,” says the dulcet-toned Priest, emphasizing the point with a laugh that his latest anthology, Maximum Collection, is available “on Amazon.com, on my website, Twitter, my bedroom, my lavatory.”

He also promises to “run a few new tracks” from his upcoming Nothing But Trouble while in Toronto “in the very short space of time that they’re going to give me.”

Priest says he’s happy to be reunited with all his friends and to be sharing the stage with a particular influence, John Holt.

“John Holt is one of those pioneers that has influenced a lot of people,” Priest explains. “I don’t know if you know The 1000 Volts Of Holt album, but his songs would be played in our house as kids, every Sunday, every weekend, every party and every house party, especially during the times when I was coming up in England.

“We’d come together and stick together — we grew up with a lot of that John Holt stuff. So he influenced me in many ways, but I would say definitely, his vocals.”

Summer finds its rhythm

Once there was Caribana — the vast catch-all event that was, for many locals, the high point of summer. That event succumbed to disorganization years ago but more than the spirit lives on — for lovers of Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean and African culture, the next few weeks are stuffed with events. (And it was never just about Caribana’s official events, anyhow.) Here’s just a few:

Afrofest (July 7-8): Star musicians from every corner of Africa from Mali to Madagascar — with a few non-Africans thrown in — keep the crowd at Woodbine Park dancing relentlessly. Details at musicafrica.org.

TD Irie Music Festival (July 14-15 and Aug. 3-6): Two weekends — first in Mississauga, second in Toronto — put the spotlight on free performances by Jamaican musicians, from reggae super-group Third World to reggae/dancehall star Wayne Wonder and singer/DJ Richie Spice. More at iriemusicfestival.com.

Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival (July 17-Aug. 12): The inheritor of some of Caribana’s biggest events, like the Grand Parade (Aug. 4), the Calypso Monarch musical showdown (July 23) and the King and Queen competition (Aug. 2). Details at torontocaribbeancarnival.com.

Canjam Reggae Festival (July 21): An evening of Jamaican culture — fashion, film and art, but most of all music, featuring Anthony B, singer/DJ Khago & Freddie McGregor and Etana plus others at the Sound Academy. Info at canjamfestival.com

Rastafest (Aug. 25): This multi-disciplinart festival at Downsview Park showcases different aspects of the Rastafari culture, at minimal charge. More info coming to rastafest.com.

Tributes, Fans Mark Third Anniversary of Jackson’s Death

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 25, 2012) *Tributes and memories are pouring in for the late Michael Jackson, who died three years
ago today at his home in Los Angeles.

“RIP Michael Jackson” is one of the top trending topics on Twitter today, as his fans remember his pop legacy. Usher tweeted: “RIP Michael Jackson — you will never die in our hearts, your legacy will live on forever!” Rapper Wiz Khalifa tweeted: “3 years ago today the world lost a legend. RIP Michael Jackson. Your music lives on for you. Thank you for everything!”

Fans are also gathering today at MJ’s California ranch as well as his birthplace of Gary, Indiana. Additionally, another wax figure of the star was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong this weekend to coincide with the anniversary.

Meanwhile, the King of Pop’s brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon – are set to return to the stage as The Jacksons this week. Earlier this month, they announced their 16-city “Unity” tour, which will feature slight updates to the “oldies” as well as a tribute with slideshow to the set’s final song “Gone Too Soon.”

The shows mark the first time all of the remaining brothers have toured together since the 1980s “Victory” outing. As previously reported, Jermaine said rehearsals have been tough.

“The brothers don’t know this, but I’ve broken down several times and cried during rehearsals,” he told the AP. “I’m so used to Michael being on the right and then Marlon, Jackie, on and on. It’s just something we never get used to.”

Marlon added: “For me, this cycle that comes around every year – this day, that day – that doesn’t affect me because it affects me every day. When that day comes around, it’s the same. You learn to live with it. I still wake up sometimes and go, ‘Jeez. I can’t believe my brother’s not here.’”

Acclaimed Screenwriter Nora Ephron Dead At 71

Source: www.reuters.com

(Tue Jun 26, 2012) LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated screenwriter
Nora Ephron, known for
romantic comedies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," has died in New York at age 71 after battling leukemia, according to media reports on Tuesday.

The New York Times cited her son, Jacob Bernstein, as saying Ephron died of pneumonia brought about by acute myeloid leukemia. Bernstein is a freelance reporter for the Times.

A spokeswoman for her agency, Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency, declined to comment on the reports. Nicholas Latimer, a spokesman at publishing company Random House, told Reuters Ephron was "gravely ill."

He could not confirm reports that she had died, which also was reported by The Washington Post and show business newspaper Daily Variety.

Ephron, also known for the screenplay "Julie & Julia," which she also directed, had not publicly addressed suffering from any illness in recent months.

During a long career, Ephron has written for newspapers and magazines. She published books and essays, but is perhaps best known for her work in movies.

She was nominated for three Academy Awards for writing "Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Silkwood."

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara)

F. Gary Gray Named Director of NWA Biopic and He’s Looking for Actors

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2012) *The
NWA biopic is actually getting off the ground now.

Filmmaker and recently dubbed biopic director of “Straight Outta Compton,”
F. Gary Gray is looking for the perfect actors to play the baddest crew in Hip Hop history.

The last we heard about the film, Ice Cube confirmed the project was going to come through, but he was searching for the right man to head it up.

Cube and Matt Alvarez, as well as Eazy-E’s widow Tomica Woods are producing the movie of the decade.

As we said, actors are being cast for the film and via Twitter, F. Gary Gray shared the following:

I’m casting for my next film STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Spread the word! Thanks!

The tweet also included the photo/flier below:


Sarah McLachlan with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Jun 23, 2012) Whenever you play with an orchestra, it’s good to remember that there are strings attached.

It was a notion that seemed lost for the first half of
Sarah McLachlan’s hit-and-miss two-hour concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Molson Amphitheatre on Friday night, the kick-off of her 13-date summer Symphony Tour.

Except for a few inspired bursts here and there, due perhaps to an underwhelming sound mix, the 90-piece TSO’s role was initially relegated to afterthought, dwarfed by the universally beloved Vancouver-based singer and songwriter and her four-piece backing band.

The concert opener, “Building A Mystery,” was a wash, with the orchestra, conducted by Sean O’Loughlin, who also handled arrangements, barely registering on audio, a missed opportunity to enhance the grandiose flow of an already majestic song.

Redemption came with the second number, “U Want Me 2,” with orchestra strings and reeds punctuating the “Laws Of Illusion” tune’s percussive melody, adding a tinge of drama to the proceedings.

But “Answer” was a reversion back to the rote, and for the next few confessionals, “Fallen” and “Hold On” among them, McLachlan could have just employed the services of her sublime guitarist, Luke Doucet, multi-instrumentalist and harmony singer Melissa McClelland, keyboardist Vince Jones and drummer Curt Bisquera, and her audience of approximately 8,500 would have been none the wiser.

By the time “Rivers of Love” came around, orchestral involvement was a little more evident, but the first set closed and was flat overall, the ballad-heavy lineup not helping McLachlan’s case for presenting something extraordinarily different that her fans would never forget.

However, Act Two was a different animal altogether.

Following a self-contained set of “Good Enough” and a pair of tunes from the married tandem of McClelland and Doucet, the TSO was brought back into the mix and finally allowed to shine, erupting in a splendid kaleidoscope of aural colours that truly showcased the magnificence and power of a symphony in full flight.

The tempo of “Sweet Surrender” was slowed to a trickle to bring up the dramatic flair and beauty of the orchestral accompaniment, while “Fear” made the most of McLachlan’s stratospheric vocal range, the strings, reeds and horns raising the animated stakes and tension of the song into a powerful tour de force that had the crowd leaping to their feet in applause at its exciting conclusion.

McLachlan, who sounded golden, confident and was beaming all night, had finally delivered on the promise of a magical evening.

It’s just a shame it took awhile to get there.

Justin Bieber, Pop Zombie

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

Justin Bieber
Island Def Jam/Universal
Rating 1.5/4

(Jun 15, 2012) More than two dozen producers worked on this record. I would guess that fewer people have a
hand in an open-heart surgery. The heart is worth mentioning when talking about Bieber’s latest record, because most of the 16 songs are about the yearnings of this organ. Our hero waits by the phone, or pleads at the door, or dreams about still loving if he were really poor, and all for the sake of his hungry heart.

The object of all this heartfulness is pretty vague. She needs to be wooed, that’s all we know. If we’re feeling optimistic about our hero’s chances, we have to hope she goes for guys with a low pulse rate, because there’s not much heart in Bieber’s tune-slinging about love. His voice has been smoothed, Auto-Tuned and conditioned to such a pale and lifeless standard, it makes Bruno Mars seem as wild as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

This is what pop stardom looks like in 2012: You climb the slippery pole while still in your teens, get 22 million followers to read your tweets, and sell out your whole North American tour in an hour. Your handlers respond by draining your vital fluids and injecting liquid nylon. It’s that hyper-synthetic radio sound, and there seems to be no escape for the likes of Bieber.

The songs cover a wide span of styles, from the thumping dance-pop of All Around the World (which recalls Britney’s Till the World Ends) to the dub-steppish As Long as You Love Me and the gritless, Brazilian-flavoured MOR balladry of Catching Feelings.

The process is so homogenizing that even when a pal (Drake) comes in for a duet, he ends up sounding pretty much like Bieber.

One could cite the old saw about too many cooks. But that implies that the broth was ruined by conflicting efforts, and that there was only one broth. Few of the 16 broths at Bieber’s table were handled by the same people, yet he sounds like a pop zombie in every one.

But those healers only try to preserve the living. Bieber’s helpmates had a harder task: to drain the life out of something, then reanimate it in synthetic form.

Toronto Jazz Festival: When Nimble Fingers Face Off, Music Lovers Win

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

(Jun 25, 2012) Showing off is an intrinsic part of the art of jazz. Fans and players aren’t always eager to
acknowledge this, in part because strutting your stuff can sometimes devolve into the sort of virtuosic display that seems more athletic than musical. But the fact is, the best soloists are not only quick-witted and musically nimble, but also blessed with a competitive spirit that can lead to bouts of friendly one-upmanship.

That certainly was the case at Nathan Phillips Square Sunday evening, when the Toronto Jazz Festival brought together two chop-heavy but musically dissimilar combos.

On one end of the spectrum, there was Hiromi’s Trio Project, a fusion-inflected combo whose rhythm section includes two big names from the rock world: bassist Anthony Jackson (who made his name with the bass line to the O’Jays hit For the Love of Money) and drummer Simon Phillips (who replaced Kenney Jones in the Who). On the other end was the Bad Plus, a postmodern piano trio whose music draws from alt-rock and contemporary classical music, performing that night with guest saxophonist Joshua Redman.

In both cases, these were special projects that grew into ongoing relationships. Hiromi Uehara, speaking at her hotel before the gig, explained that she had written some material with Jackson and Phillips in mind. She’d recorded with Jackson before, as a guest on her first two albums, but was “really surprised” that Phillips was already familiar with her work.

“He and Anthony go way back,” she says. “They’ve been playing together for, like, 30 years. We had great chemistry from day one.”

No kidding. Watching the three of them onstage was eavesdropping on friends so close that they’re forever completing each other’s sentences. During her tune Now or Never, as Uehara and Jackson traded licks, she quoted the first two bars of the hard bop chestnut Gingerbread Boy, and Jackson responded with the answering phrase.

Despite the trio’s collective virtuosity, there was precious little grandstanding during the set. Uehara’s tunes didn’t offer solo set pieces, but instead emphasized the whole ensemble, so even when Phillips uncorked a crowd-pleasing drum solo during Flashback, with rapid cymbal crashes and thundering double kick drums, his flourishes remained within the flow of the group.

Uehara said before the show that, although she has recorded a second album with the Trio Project, it’s not necessarily an ongoing band, and the Bad Plus is in a similar relationship with Joshua Redman.

In their case, however, it started out not as an album project but as a blind date set up by the New York jazz club the Blue Note in April 2011. “As part of their 50th anniversary celebration, they wanted to put together artists that they like,” said Bad Plus drummer David King from his home in Minneapolis a few days before the show. “So they actually arranged for Joshua and us to play together.”

There wasn’t any new material written for the shows. “We just churned the repertoire and figured out what would work,” said King. And things worked well enough that the four repeated the performance last August at the Saalfelden festival in Austria, which led to a European tour next month. “What we’re doing in Toronto is just a one-off,” he adds. “It’s not like the new Bad Plus or anything. We’re friendly with him, and he’s a great musician, so it’s ended up working out nicely, musically.”

Redman and the Bad Plus actually stood in the crowd and watched much of Hiromi’s set, and although nothing was said afterward, it was not hard to sense a bit of the competitive spirit in their set.

Whereas Hiromi’s set ended with a bang, as she and her band tore through a blistering rendition of Desire, the Bad Plus started with a whisper, with pianist Ethan Iverson gently intoning the first bars of Love Is the Answer. It wasn’t a rebuke of fusion intensity so much as a means of refocusing the audience’s attention away from technical displays and toward a more cerebral virtuosity.

That’s not to suggest that TBP or Redman are slouches. King, for example, had exactly half as many drums onstage as Phillips, but he used them in such interesting ways that his sonic palette seemed twice as large. Likewise, although Reid Anderson’s acoustic double bass lacked the amplified heft of Jackson’s electric contrabass guitar, his playing actually carried more weight rhythmically, particularly on Iverson’s quasi-improvisatory 2 p.m.

And make no mistake – these four could definitely make noise when they wanted to. Silence Is the Question may have started with a quiet statement of the melody on Anderson’s bass, but it gained considerable sonic momentum as it went along, particularly when Redman’s plangent tenor joined the fray. By the time it climaxed, with Redman’s saxophone shrieking the melody as the others churned and pounded behind him, its dissonance and complexity was every bit as affecting as Hiromi’s fusion – even if it wasn’t quite as easy to swallow.

VIDEO: Soul Artist Sanetta Arrives to ‘Make It Happen!’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2012) *EURweb’s Black Music Month Artist Spotlight proudly presents
Sanetta, a soulful soprano
who was influenced by the styles of Natalie Cole, Minnie Ripperton, and The Emotions.

As a former Miss Black Illinois, Sanetta appeared all over the Chicago area at various events. Sanetta has performed with coveted artists such as Luther Vandross, Ice Cube, Chaka Khan, Marilyn Manson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jennifer Holiday, Bootsy Collins and many more. Sanetta’s brand new single “Just Make It Happen” has just been released on the Tri-Coastal/SMG label and is available on CD Baby and iTunes.

Take a sneak peek at the video and get a huge burst of inspiration:

The video from “Just Make It Happen” premieres before a live audience at the 3rd Annual Beauty Bash in Chicago, on June 25th2012 at The Shrine. Sanetta is a potent and dazzling artist who can stand on her own in any arena. EURweb celebrates this next phenomenal chapter in her career. Radio Programmers and music fans, make way for a new star with a great sound! Click here to hear a sample, or to download “Just Make It Happen.” Follow Sanetta on Facebook.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About MC Hammer

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 24, 2012) *One of the premier music stars of the 1990s was
MC Hammer.

From his “Hammertime Dance,” shiny outfits and endless commercials, Hammer was the man. But as all good things do, they come to an end; and the buzz surrounding the musician died down soon.

What made things even worse is that his finances disappeared after he made approximately $30 million in his career.

But aside from people remembering that, they don’t know much more about Hammer.

Here are 5 things you didn’t know about him compiled by our partner site The Urban Daily.

1. He was Doug E. Fresh’s boss.

In 1992, Hammer owned and operated Bust It Records. He signed Doug E. Fresh that same year. The product of their collaboration was Doug E.’s album, Doin’ What I Gotta Do. One of the singles, Bustin’ Out (On Funk),” received minor recognition. Most of the song’s praise went to the Rick James sample of Bustin’ Out.” Despite some radio play, the album is widely considered a flop.

2. Hammer was into technology before it was popular.

As most of us know now, MC Hammer is a technology junkie. Since the early 90s, he has had a hand in cultivating the internet for business purposes. On top of being a rapper/actor, Hammer runs an internet consulting firm. Businesses hire him to come up with ideas to increase their internet presence. Tech magazines consider Hammer to be a web mogul. His newest venture is the site
DanceJam.com which is dedicated to dance competition videos, techniques, and styles. Hammer and his partners rate and critique the videos for the users.

Read more at The Urban Daily

Natalie Cole Perseveres Through Pain

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jun 22, 2012) With just 25 tweets on her six-month-old Twitter timeline, it's not surprising to hear
Natalie Cole admit to a sketchy relationship with social media.

“Oh, I'm very bad at that,” said the veteran vocalist in a phone interview with the Star ahead of Monday's Sony Centre gig at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

“I just don't have the desire to let people know what I'm doing. It's so strange to me.”

Cole's few tweets have a thread of woe: first, stupefaction over the sudden death of her “baby sis,” legendary vocalist Whitney Houston in February; then reflections on disco diva Donna Summer's passing last month; and just last Tuesday, requested prayers for mom Maria Cole, recently diagnosed with stomach cancer.

The ailing matriarch is the latest in Cole's lifelong series of traumas: the death from lung cancer of her nonpareil crooner dad Nat King Cole in 1965 when she was 15; the succumbing of only brother Kelly to AIDS in 1995; two divorces and a third marriage that ended in annulment; and older sister Cooke's cancer death in 2009, on the same day Cole had a kidney transplant as a result of hepatitis C, most likely triggered by long-ago heroin use.

But at 62, the L.A. native remains positive and thankful for her career, despite the pressures and accountability of fame.

“Definitely, there have been some low moments, some tragic moments, some not so great moments, but you have to have a passion for this. If you don't sing as good and as hard and as true for $12 as you do for $100,000, then you're not really an artist, you doing it for the money.

“I'm a messenger to take this wonderful music, these wonderful melodies and change people's lives. It's the song that should change their lives, not necessarily the singer. I think a lot of people get hung up on (believing) that when the artist is singing a certain song that's who the artist is.

“It's a very convoluted type of career to have. You've got to be very careful, because people look up to you, they emulate you. When we see the kind of influences that some of the rock stars have, like Madonna, when she first came out and all the girls were dressing like her, that's scary. They put us on such a high pedestal that it's like we can't fail.

“I'm just glad that my voice sustained through it all. I'm so much better (since the transplant). The way I perform is just with a little more passion, a lot more joy, I have so much energy and I'm very grateful.”

There have been as many highlights for the mother of one 30-something, percussionist son. She's a nine-time Grammy winner, best known for '70s R&B singles, such as, “This Will Be” and “Inseparable,” and two jazz albums Unforgettable and Still Unforgettable, which featured technology-enabled duets with her late father.

She's currently touring with an eight-piece band and making plans with her team to record her first Latin album.

“My father did two Spanish records that were very popular and a lot of the songs that we're looking at were done by him. I can always do jazz for the rest of my life, but I don't know that I want to just do that and not do anything else.

“I like to sell records. The kids, they can download just one song, that's fine, but I think adults like to put on a record and just let it go. It's sometimes hard to do, because you get one song that's great and the rest of the CD sucks. We're hoping we don't do that.”

Supergroup Spectrum Road Revives An Edgy Fusion Experiment

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

(June 24, 2012) In 1963, when a 17-year old Tony Williams was hired to drum with the Miles Davis Quintet, he
was not only the youngest member of the group but also its only rock fan. Even so, when he put together the Tony Williams Lifetime in 1968, with guitarist John McLaughlin, the jazz world wasn’t sure what to think.

Although many were put off by the band’s combination of free-flowing improvisation and rock-style attack, a few immediately grasped the genius of Williams’s breakthrough. Among them was Davis, who hired McLaughlin to play on the sessions that became In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, albums that pulled jazz fusion into the mainstream. Lifetime, by contrast, was not so lucky. Even with the addition of former Cream bassist Jack Bruce in 1970, the band toiled in obscurity.

Hindsight, though, has a way of changing perspective, and 44 years after its start, the Lifetime legacy looms large. Although Williams died in 1997, Cindy Blackman Santana – the wife of Carlos Santana and a former student of Williams’s – rekindled the spark in 2010 with an album of Lifetime covers called Another Lifetime. Later that same year, former Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid – who played on the album – formed Spectrum Road, a Lifetime-inspired band featuring Blackman, Bruce and keyboardist John Medeski, of Medeski Martin & Wood.

The Globe spoke to Reid from his home in New York.

So you’re in the John McLaughlin seat now.

Oh, yes. [laughs] I guess that’s the hot seat at the moment.

How did that come about?

I had been working with Jack Bruce in his band, the Cuicoland Express, in the early 2000s. I started asking him about his life, asking about what it was like to play in Cream, and I asked him about Tony Williams. Tony had just recently passed, and he had a lot of affection for Tony. We talked about it for a while, and that was the beginning of the thought, in my mind, about maybe bringing some people together to play that music.

Spectrum Road is a bit of a super group, and the four of you are well known in rock circles as well as in jazz. Is it a bit weird to be playing Lifetime’s music when the four of you are much better known than Williams’s band was?

Jack said that they always had problems with Lifetime. Like, for instance, they would go to gigs and the marquee would have the name of the band completely wrong. Tony was a really underground, obscure figure, but he really started – certainly from the jazz side – jazz/rock fusion.

But those collisions between rock and jazz have been kind of treated unfairly. I mean, Tony was always acknowledged as a phenomenal drummer, but at the same time he got a lot of brickbats for singing. The odd thing is, a lot of what he did predates a lot of alternative rock.

I always hoped that Tony would do another electric project, because he was not just a tremendous jazz drummer, he was a tremendous rock drummer. He didn’t play at it – he actually played it, from the inside out. He had this awesome rock feel.

Which, I think, is what a lot of jazz fans resented about Lifetime.

Oh, yeah. It was very, very powerful, and there were no limits to how far he was willing to go to express what he felt in the moment. When I was having the first conversations with Jack about Tony, jazz and improvised music was in a very, very conservative kind of place. There was an anti-electric stance that was pretty much the common thing. One of the reasons I thought of John Medeski for this band is that he was part of a counter-movement, or a resurgence of electric jazz, with Medeski Martin & Wood. They started out playing CBGBs, which was a club I knew very well.

Although most of what’s on Spectrum Road’s album are Lifetime tunes, not everything is.

Right. This is less a tribute and more an ‘influenced by’ band, because if it were a tribute band, we would be meticulous about recreating the exact sound of the Lifetime thing, and that’s not what we do. It’s really our take. So when we started up, we didn’t do set lists. We would go and we would play, and then things would just happen. It’s much more open-ended.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Spectrum Road performs June 25 at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver; June 27 at the Sound Academy, Toronto; and June 28 at Théâtre Maisonneuve, Montreal.

Fiona Apple’s Blunt Poetry Betrays A Heart Divided

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett Green

The Idler Wheel…
Fiona Apple
Epic Records
Rating 3.5/4

(Jun 22, 2012) The heart is a hunter and often lonely, to paraphrase the title of a book I’m pretty sure
Apple has read. At any rate, she seems to live out that thought, or at least to sing it out whenever she makes a new record like this one, her first in seven years.

The full title is The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. An idler wheel is an intermediary device that transfers rotation from one moving part to another, so we can guess that Apple sees value in a kind of patient passivity she doesn’t often show in her songs. But a whip has a stinging immediacy not shared by ropes that merely bind, which implies that intense direct action is the way to go.

In short, this album is the work of a self-consciously divided soul. Push and pull are the driving forces, and they often work simultaneously. “How can I ask anyone to love me, when all I do is beg to be left alone?” she sings in Left Alone. And yet she does go on asking, with all the tools of the hunter at hand and ready for use.

“I don’t feel anything till I smash it up,” she sings in Daredevil, but a moment later, she’s all about acceptance: “give me anything, and I’ll turn it into a gift.” The music is bony and sparse, but there’s a jaunty feel to its sinister dice-rolling. Apple’s entanglements with self and other are usually dark, but she sees humour there too. In her video for Every Single Night, she appears po-faced with a pneumatic rubber octopus on her head, while singing about being wracked by thoughts that seep through the brain and down to the belly. The dire imagery of the lyrics is balanced against the silliness of that tentacled wig.

None of these songs are like anyone else’s. Apple has her own melodic voice, which is rare these days, and she builds her songs without much care for the usual distinctions of verse, chorus and bridge. The album’s a bit heavy on waltz and “three-feel” meters, but Apple finds ways to twist them, throwing a kick into the rhythm of Periphery (for example) just where the words turn angry. She packs a lot into her blunt poetic lyrics.

The Idler Wheel… is more austere than the Jon Brion-assisted Extraordinary Machine of seven years ago. The songs are mostly backed by Apple’s pungently tuned piano, with a trickle of percussion and upright bass. These minimal forces bring her strong pop alto to the fore more than ever, and she flaunts its raw yet vulnerable qualities. Each word and note finds its right sound, pretty or not. Every Single Night spans the gamut, from a bold field-holler style to the wispy constrained tones of “I just want to feel everything,” sung as if a weight were crushing her chest.

These are the songs of a needy solitary, but in Hot Knife, Apple becomes a crowd, as her multiplied voices swirl up a grand counterpoint of overlapping melodies and texts. “I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter,” she chants, over a rumbling drum beat. “I’m gonna show him that he’s never gonna need another.” He has been warned.

Fiona Apple plays Montreal’s Olympia Theatre on July 3, Toronto’s Sound Academy on July 4, and the Orpheum in Vancouver on July 24.


Music Lab Seeks More Canadian Music In Canadian Films

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Jun 21, 2012) Filmmaker Norman Jewison, Blue Rodeo rocker Jim Cuddy, composer Mychael Danna and the Slaight Family Foundation have joined forces to help get more Canadian music into Canuck films. The
Slaight Family Music Lab, launching this fall, will offer a nine-month music residency at the Canadian Film Centre, as well as two business opportunities to bring Canadian music and closer together. “I believe the marriage of the moving image and music is perhaps the most powerful visual communication we have,” said Jewison, the CFC Founder and Chair Emeritus, at a Thursday evening garden party at the CFC’s Bayview Ave. expanse. Blue Rodeo co-founder Cuddy has been named Songwriter Chair for the Lab, while award-winning composer Danna will be the Composer Chair.

Maxwell Cancels Summer Mini Tour for Medical Reasons

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2012) *Well, this is a real bummer.
Maxwell fans, we’ve got bad news. The smoothed out soulful
singer has cancelled his planned Summer tour due to vocal swelling and hemorrhaging. On Friday, a representative for the singer said that he has been advised by doctors to rest and undergo treatment. Maxwell’s six-date summer mini tour had shows planned for Los Angeles, Atlanta and Newark, N.J. for July and August.= In a statement Maxwell, 39, said that cancelling the tour “sucks” but he plans to be back on the road when his new album, “blackSUMMERS’night,” is released later this year. The statement also said refunds are available at the point of purchase.

D’Angelo Set to Perform on BET Awards

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 22, 2012) *Now that
D’Angelo is making it known that he’s ready to funk n roll, he’s in high demand.
Earlier it was announced that he’s set to do the “Essence Music Festival” next month. Now comes word he’s doing the “BET Awards” also. His appearance at the awards will mark his first televised performance in twelve years. After the success of his 2000 album “Voodoo,” D’Angelo stepped away from music, but the singer has been rejuvenated lately, performing at Bonnaroo’s Superjam and, as we just mentioned, lining up performances at “Essence” and the “Made in America” event in September. Recently, Questlove revealed D’Angelo has recorded around 30 new tracks over the past few years, expressing hope that the singer will release a new album soon. Usher, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and 2 Chainz are among the performers already announced for the awards show. The “BET Awards” will air on July 1st, with Kanye West leading the way with seven nominations. Samuel L. Jackson is set as host.

Usher’s ‘Looking 4 Myself’ Album Debuts at No. 1

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2012) *
Usher just scored his fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart as “Looking 4 Myself” debuts atop the list with 128,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, but it’s his smallest first-week sales for a regular studio album since 1997′s “My Way” bowed with 67,000. His last studio effort, 2010′s “Raymond v Raymond,” opened at No. 1 with 329,000. The new album was ushered in by its lead single “Climax,” which is in its ninth straight week at No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Of Usher’s 12 No. 1s on the R&B/Hip-Hop tally, only one has spent more weeks at No. 1: “You Make Me Wanna . . .” (with 11). On the Pop Songs airplay chart, the album’s top 40-focused single “Scream” rises 11-10, having slipped 10-11 last week. On the all-format Billboard Hot 100 chart, “Scream” slipped 13-14 last week.

Patricia Hammond Finds His Era, Chow Stays In The Now

Source: www.thestar.com

Patricia Hammond
Our Lovely Day (Imperial Music & Media/Universal)

(Jun 26, 2012) And as you glean from rose-tinted titles such as “My Lovely Day” or “A Nice Cup of Tea,” the
perfect world Patricia Hammond sings about in this recent album is an idealized England — sort of a Downton Abbey without the plot twists. The mezzo soprano and her backing band plays this late Victorian and Edwardian repertoire straight even when it comes to a potentially saucy ditty such as “The Honeysuckle and The Bee.” In the modestly jazzy “Button Up Your Overcoat” Hammond offers an entirely chaste, “ooo-ooo” without a hint of flirtation. (No lip pursing here please, we're British.) Classically trained while growing up in B.C., Hammond is hardly free and loose when it comes to the tango-based rhythms in “Yours,” or to any rhythm suggestive of hip movement. (No swaying please, it leads to pouting.) She is, however, the perfect singer for songs by Ivor Novello, arguably the greatest English melodist until the arrival of Paul McCartney, and he's represented here by “We'll Gather Lilacs,” written in 1945 as the Second World War was ending. Novello's greatest gift was to give voice to that uniquely British longing for a past that never was. Hammond's unique gift is her ability is to give a voice to that longing.

VIDEO: Lana Del Ray Releases Extended ‘National Anthem’ Video

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Jun 27, 2012) While she was previously reviled online for her performance on Saturday Night Live, Lana Del
Ray is making viral video news again with her just-released extended video clip for “National Anthem.” The 7:40 minute long short film features Ray variously inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, kicking off the video aping the actress’s breathy “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” before splendiferous party and family scenes. The ‘JFK’ role in the video is played by hot young New York MC Asap Rocky, who spends most of the video canoodling and kissing Ray, smoking cigars and playing dice. The video’s old school look makes it feel like it was shot through an Instragram filter, but near the end it clearly takes the famous Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination as inspiration. Directed by Anthony Mandler, who has previously made videos for Rihanna, Jay-Z, Drake and The Killers, the video is being shared on Twitter and is trending in Toronto. It’s also not the only collaboration with the artists, as Ray will appear on a track “Ridin,” on Rocky's upcoming debut album, Long Live A$AP, due in September.

::FILM NEWS::    

Michelle Williams, In The Sunlight, Quietly

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(June 22, 2012) Even when she was starring on a teenage soap opera 12 years ago (albeit the smart, angsty
Dawson’s Creek), Michelle Williams had an idea, a yearning, about the kind of work she wanted to do, work that slanted more toward art than commerce.

“It was like having a secret or a hunch, an untested theory,” she says now, on the phone from Brooklyn, New York, where she lives with her daughter Matilda, 7. “I knew the feeling of what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how to do it, or how I would get the chance to do it. But I had this thing inside of me.”

Everything that Williams, 31, says during our 20-minute conversation sounds like this – thoughtful, self-aware, self-deprecating. She speaks quietly, almost dreamily, and sounds happiest when she’s connecting idea to idea. In mysteriously few words, she communicates that, though she’s a private person, she’s willing to be intimate and honest if the subject is right. It’s a rare combination – and, you realize, a pretty accurate précis of what she radiates on screen.

When I ask her, for example, why she signed on to star in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz
, as Margot, a woman in the midst of realizing that the person she once was is not the person she wants to be, it’s a pedestrian question. But Williams’s answer ranges far and wide, from her triggers (“I’m interested in playing people who make mistakes. I’m interested in blind spots.”) to a quotation that guided her (“How do you go about finding the thing, the nature of which is unknown to you?”) to sociological observation.

“I was reading how romantic love has become a replacement for spiritual love,” Williams says. “How our human desire, our drive and burn for connection and deep understanding, used to be a religious experience, but our culture has detached from that, so it’s become a sexual or romantic experience. I saw Margot as someone who wants this kind of communion, but with whom? Herself? Her husband or lover? And is it outside or inside? Its restlessness – is something wrong, or is this just what it feels like to be alive? And what do you do with that feeling?”

Obviously, this is not an actress who would be happy making movie after movie in which the emotional high point is a shopping montage, and luckily for everyone, Williams steered a better course. On a hiatus from Dawson’s Creek, she did the black-comic play Killer Joe in New York, then worked with director Wim Wenders for 2004’s Land of Plenty. She consistently favoured artistry over box office, in films that garnered the particular kind of acclaim and attention she wanted, including The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy, Blue Valentine, and My Week with Marilyn. Directors as diverse as Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) and Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) sought her out, and Oscar nominations (three) and Independent Spirit Awards followed.

“I do feel like what I’m doing right now is exactly the secret I had in my heart all those years ago,” Williams says. “This is most certainly the work of my dreams.”

“Until I met Michelle, I didn’t fully understand this character I’d written,” Polley says about her sophomore feature, which opens Friday. “But Michelle has a kind of poetry to her.” With Williams as a collaborator, Polley says, she could ask thorny questions – How can your beloved spouse become a person you’re afraid to touch? When should your happiness take precedence over hurting someone else? – and trust that the audience would stick with Margot, “even if they didn’t love all her decisions.”

“I was 29 when I made Take This Waltz, and Margot is 28,” Williams says. “That she was not 30 was a big deal to me, because I think it’s primarily a coming of age story. Your 20s are such a transitional time. Mine were. Oh my gosh, everything was so mysterious. I didn’t understand myself; I didn’t understand people around me. None of it seemed to make sense or add up. And 30 was like a magical number to me. I feel more settled with myself, I’m accepting the things about myself that I used to fight, both internal or external.”

Take This Waltz, like most of Williams’s work, includes scenes of physical and/or emotional nakedness, the type that people call “brave.” But she’s not convinced. “I’m still trying to figure out what people mean when they say that,” she says. “Sometimes nudity is gratuitous. But for something like this or Blue Valentine, it’s a piece of a whole, it’s part of my ability to storytell.” She laughs. “It’s not easy to do well, or fun or pleasurable. I wouldn’t say it’s a good day on set. But I feel far more free in my work – less self-conscious and less inhibited – than I do in my life. I think I’m more naked in movies, in a way, than I am in my life. Because it’s a sort of disappearing act. I can do it and think, ‘It’s not exactly the body I do things with, it’s not how I see myself.’ There’s a ‘hidden in plain sight’ thing.”

Has Williams always felt inhibited in her life, or has fame made her so? (Though she doesn’t play the movie star game, she’s been a tabloid target since the accidental death of Heath Ledger, her ex-fiancée and Matilda’s father.) Both, she admits.

“Michelle is used to the scrutiny, it’s part of her life, but I can’t imagine how she retains her sanity in the face of it,” says Polley. Her process as a writer/director is to spend a chunk of time with her actors before the shoot begins, so she and Williams spent a month roaming around Toronto, sitting in cafés, talking. “It was really amazing for me, and I think for her, too to meet someone else who’s been acting since she was a kid,” says Polley, (who became a Canadian star on Road to Avonlea) “who felt like she’d somewhat missed out on her childhood, but had reclaimed being in film as an adult in a way that was really satisfying.”

For the first few weeks, they were so unharassed that Williams pondered relocating here. “She was actually looking in real estate offices,” Polley says. But eventually the paparazzi discovered her, and her idyll ended. Polley found herself “literally chasing paparazzi down the street, screaming, because I was so upset that they’d ruined this little respite for her.”

Happily, Williams can still find refuge in her work, especially in roles that require her to convey a lot while saying little. “Often, when I read things that are very verbal, they kind of rub me the wrong way,” she says. “They don’t feel entirely authentic. I respond to it when it’s obviously a style choice, a director’s or writer’s aesthetic. But sometimes it just feels like creating an impossible world where these people are too smart and everybody kind of sounds the same. It doesn’t feel right to me. I feel like life is so much more fumbly and incoherent and full of saying the wrong things. There’s so much figuring out, so much decoding to do with what’s going on in front of you, and then what’s going on underneath that. What excites me is trying to communicate this beauty, these ideas, not using any words.”

One moment from Wendy and Lucy particularly stands out, Williams says: “The screenwriter, Jon Raymond, who is also a novelist and short story writer, wrote this beautiful passage where Lucy [who’s broke] stands in a patch of sunlight, and thinks that at least the sun is still free. Kelly [Reichardt, the director] cut it out of the script, but I said, ‘No, we have to try to do that moment, I want to see if I can communicate that idea without language.’ In the end, I wasn’t up to the challenge.”

It’s an awfully abstract thing to convey non-verbally, I venture. “I really thought that I could, though!” Williams replies. “I don’t know, something about being warm. Whenever I’m really sad I take about three baths a day, I just find it so comforting.” Her voice becomes determined. “I’m still going to try to crack that one,” she says. “I’m going to try to put that in every movie that I make: Stand in the sunlight, bathe in the warmth, and have the thought that this is the one good feeling that doesn’t cost anything. You’ll see it some time.”

I can see it already.


James Cameron To Film Three ‘Avatar’ Sequels At The Same Time

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jun 26, 2012) James Cameron is set to film three Avatar sequels at the same time, Sigourney Weaver has
revealed. Weaver, who is due to reprise her role as Dr. Grace Augustine for the follow up motion pictures to the 2009 3-D sci-fi film — which tells the tale of humans exploiting the natural resources of the planet Pandora — confirmed the plans are in her schedule. In an interview with Showbiz 411, the 62-year-old actress admits she has no idea how Cameron is going to helm all three movies at once, nor how long it will take before adding: “I just show up.” Weaver’s comments come after Cameron — who has directed Titanic, The Terminator and Aliens — previously admitted he only plans to make Avatar films for the rest of his career. He explained: “I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. “I’m not interested in taking scripts ... I think within the Avatar landscape I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what I think we need to be doing about it. And doing it in an entertaining way.”

::TV NEWS::    

Canada’s Got Talent Won’t Return Next Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Andrew MacNaughtan/Rogers Media

(Jun 22, 2012) After only one season on the air,
Canada’s Got Talent won’t be back next year.

Citytv has confirmed that the reality talent competition isn’t returning for the 2012-13 season.

The TV network, owned by Rogers, cited the “current economic climate” in a release.

The show launched on March 4 and featured a star-studded judging panel including Hamilton-raised funnyman Martin Short, Grammy-nominated soprano Measha Brueggergosman and songwriter Stephan Moccio.

Manitoba dance troupe Sagkeeng’s Finest was crowned as the show’s inaugural winner on May 4, earning a prize package that included $100,000.

But the show, the latest instalment of the British Got Talent franchise, never gained a foothold in the ratings during its two-month run.

“After careful consideration of all factors, including the current economic climate, Citytv has refocused its programming strategy and will not be producing Canada’s Got Talent for the 2012-13 season,” Scott Moore, Rogers Media’s president of broadcast, said in a statement.

Citytv remains extremely proud of Canada’s Got Talent and the national platform it provided to showcase our diverse and eclectic homegrown talent from across the country.”

Hugh Dillon Humbled By Flashpoint Connection To Eaton Centre Victim

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jun 26, 2012) Not to trivialize the tragedy, but the horrifying shootings at the Eaton Centre on June 2 bore a
striking resemblance to one of the weekly fictional scenarios on the Toronto-shot police series Flashpoint.

It certainly did to the family of the unidentified young boy who was injured, all of them professed fans of the show.

The 13-year-old, his mother and sister were given a VIP tour of the Flashpoint sets on Monday, the last day of filming for the show’s fifth and final season.

“They couldn’t say enough about how much they loved Flashpoint,” says co-star
Hugh Dillon, who presented the boy with the sunglasses worn onscreen by his cop character, Ed Lane.

“When that young man was wounded, his sister was telling me she remembered (a) Flashpoint episode,” Dillon says.

“So now, when there’s a real horror show and some real tragic event, these people were able to get a little glimpse of what we do on the show — thanks to the real cops — and use it to save that young man’s life.

“That young girl calmed her brother down, slowed (his) breathing . . . just the things she’d seen on the show.

“Those moments I find humbling, because of what we’ve done. It transcends television.

“I can’t put that into words.”

Emotions were already running high before the family’s visit, as the cast and crew shot their final scenes after four years and five seasons of close-knit collaboration.

“It’s like any goodbye,” offers co-star Enrico Colantoni. “I don’t like them. Because it’s always bubbling up, how you’re really feeling, but you really just can’t sit down and weep.

“But I know I’ll see these people again. The community is small in Toronto and if there is work to be had, these are the people who are going to be there.”

Off the set, all around the Flashpoint production facility, things are being disassembled, torn down and stored away. In a hallway, racks of costumes are being offered to anyone who wants them, at a bargain $5 per filled green garbage bag.

Outside on the street, the studio’s Eastern Ave. neighbours are sifting through boxes of old props and furnishings, being given away free.

One of the show’s primary standing sets will, however, remain so: the city itself, which has never before been showcased on TV in such a compelling way (at least, not as itself).

“We made it so sexy and so cool,” agrees Colantoni. “And to a lot of people who’ve never been to Toronto, it sort of added to the mystique of the stories, like, ‘What is this new-age place . . . this crazy, futuristic world?’”

The show was not only a consistent hit here in Canada — an accomplishment in and of itself — but also in the U.S. on CBS and all around the world.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve done for Canada in terms of what that means around the world,” adds Dillon. “People now recognize Canadians, not so much because of the snow and igloos and all that stuff, but now also Flashpoint. And that’s something.”

The show has often touched on real-life situations and none more memorably for Dillon than an episode from the first season, “Haunting the Barn,” in which Ed breaks down while talking to his mentor about post-traumatic stress.

“That was one that meant a lot to me personally,” he says. “It was important, because (series consultant) Jimmy Bremner, who actually trained me, he talks about post-traumatic stress and what it means to the real folks who are really dealing with this stuff.

“All of a sudden I realized it’s not just a show. It’s not just us trying to make a nice little cop show. There are deeper issues that really help people.”

Oprah Winfrey Starts Up Her Book Club Again

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2012) *Oprah’s going back to the basics and has started up “
Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.”

The project revitalization is a joint effort with OWN network and O Magazine and will start with popular memoir “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s story of her 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Washington.

But this time around, the book club gets an upgrade.

According to the Associated Press, besides the traditional paper version, featuring the circular Oprah book club logo, special e-editions will be made available that include Winfrey’s comments and a reader’s guide.

Readers will be able to share their opinions online via social media networks and at www.oprah.com.

“This is way different from the old book club,” Winfrey said in an online video announcement. “This time it’s an interactive, online club for our digital world.”

The new book club will serve as a testing ground for Oprah to check if she’s really got the same kind of influence she used to have. She first started the club in the mid-1990s, making several books big hits.

The Newsroom: How Much Is Too Much Aaron Sorkin?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(June 24, 2012) It has Aaron Sorkin written all over it.

And not just in the opening credits. I defy anyone to read the following monologue — or, as many will, watch
it in the opening scenes of the first episode of The Newsroom — and not immediately know who and where this has come from.

The new Sorkin-written and created drama debuts Sunday night on HBO Canada.

By way of context, The Newsroom’s main character, veteran cable anchor Will McAvoy — played with smug disdain by Jeff Daniels — is sitting on a debate panel in a college lecture hall when one of the students dares to suggest that America is “the greatest country in the world.”

McAvoy begs to differ. “You, sorority girl,” he begins, zeroing in on his hapless victim. “Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.

“We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labour force, and No. 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defence spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.

“None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student. But you, nonetheless, are, without a doubt, a member of the Worst. Generation. Ever. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f--- you’re talking about. Yosemite?”

McAvoy’s tirade results in him taking some time off from his cable news show, only to return to find the show and staff retooled to be smarter and more relevant.

There’s actually a lot more to it, but that’s the gist. Smart, sarcastic, witty, ridiculously well-informed and typically long-winded (even on a Sorkin scale) . . . opinionated? What did you expect? It’s. Aaron. Sorkin.

The Newsroom is not quite Sorkin at his best. That would have been The West Wing, and nothing else he ever does is ever going to touch that. Ever.

But neither is it his subsequent Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which, for all its conceptual good intention, was convoluted and inconsistent, and awkwardly confessional — from Sorkin’s own real-life drug problems to his own failed relationships.

The Newsroom, then, falls somewhere in between clearly aspiring to West Wing greatness but falling somewhat self-indulgently short.

As with all of the Sorkin shows — and we include here the unjustly overlooked Sports Night, with which it shares its TV-behind-the-prompter milieu — The Newsroom is all about quirky people saying improbably smart things at an impossibly rapid clip, often while walking briskly through hallways, though in Newsroom Sorkin seems more content to have them sitting in offices and boardrooms.

The primary commonality here is density and length. Why write a simple speech when a smart-ass crack or impassioned soliloquy will do?

There is one notable and rather brilliant exception, three episodes in, when Jane Fonda appears as the no-nonsense network owner, a clever bit of casting indeed, given her former marriage to CNN founder Ted Turner.

But here’s the thing: It’s Jane Fonda. And she doesn’t say a word. Now that takes cajones. You manage (apparently at the 11th hour) to get Jane Fonda on your TV show, and she’s goofing on her ex-husband, and all she does for almost all of her screen-time is glare imposingly over her reading glasses.

It does make it much more impactful when she does speak, about 10 minutes before the end. But it is very un-Sorkinly to have such an asset and not have her bantering overwritten rhetoric while jogging.

But give it time. She’ll be back. And in the meantime we have Daniels-as-McAvoy, whom Sorkin endeavours to separate from his earlier TV heroes by making him a moderate, left-leaning conservative — at one point even a Sarah Palin apologist.

As the series progresses, it becomes quite clear that his heart really isn’t in it, though I guess you have acknowledge at least the effort to expand his world view.

And, this being an Aaron Sorkin show, it is his world view that we are getting. Which is enough. More than enough. A lot more than enough. Frankly, way more than enough . . .

It has Aaron Sorkin overwritten all over it.

Russell Brand Talks Brand X With Russell Brand

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jun 27, 2012) Russell Brand is not someone you have a conversation with. He doesn’t talk with you, he talks
at you. But if you listen really, really closely to the rapid-fire barrage, you might be able to discern the elements of an answer.

Probably not. Brand makes obfuscation an art.

The scruffy British comic was in rare form — in his case, not rare at all — at a news conference in January announcing his new FX comedy series, Brand X with Russell Brand, which debuts Thursday night at 11 on FX Canada.

“I think there will be inevitable biographical elements (in the show),” he began, clearly enough, “because you can’t speak from anyone’s perspective but your own.”

So far so good. And then it goes off the rails.

“If I was to speak from the perspective of, I don’t know, Anjelica Huston, people would think I lack the proper authority. Imagine if I said, ‘Oh, it was a tumultuous relationship with Jack and, indeed, my father; alpha males throughout my life have caused me problems. But then The Addams Family truly gave me a sense of myself.’ People would go, ‘(Expletive) him. He’s not qualified.’”

You see what I mean. Never give a straight answer when a surrealist riff will do.

At the time, Brand was going through a very public breakup with his then-wife, pop songstress Katy Perry. Not that that was up for discussion. The closest anyone got was a veiled reference to “events.”

“The brilliant American author Kurt Vonnegut,” he nattered, “he’ll tell you that if you imagine reality as experienced simultaneously, ‘events’ become redundant.”

He was similarly vague about the show itself; though to be fair, they didn’t even start shooting till April.

“I think that what this show is . . . both in its presentational style and in terms of the content . . . it’s about authenticity. We live in a time where we’re stupefied by plasticity, where we have this toxic sequined wave of vapid culture polluting our minds, denigrating our consciousness, detracting us and removing us from our spirituality.”

OK, so no Kardashians. And very little about his own, storied personal life.

“Potentially, at the risk of plunging myself into a post-structuralist, postmodern vortex, I could analyze myself while I was doing it, or if I did something newsworthy, during the show.

“So there will inevitably be experiences. I will speak from my own perspective. Because what this show is, right, is I’m in this extraordinary country of yours. I’m not from here, am I? I’m English. So, like, it is the perspective of an alien trying to understand this peculiar time, this peculiar country.

“I think it’s a bit like . . . remember Mork? He was an extraterrestrial. He was trying to, I think, get a green card. And essentially that’s what I’m doing.”

He may encounter some resistance there. Last week the Internet was rife with rumour that an encounter in March with a paparazzi photographer — Brand allegedly tossed the man’s iPhone through a window — might result, in the case of a conviction, in Brand being deported from his new adopted home.

Of course, it could all be some kind of stunt. A few months ago, on the eve of a Canadian concert, Brand tweeted to followers that he had been detained and turned back at the Canadian border.

It turned out to be a prank. Either that, or the customs officer who interviewed him had no idea what Brand was taking about.


Faith Evans Joins Four Other ‘R&B Divas’ in New TV One Reality Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 26, 2012) *This summer, TV One will debut a new reality series strictly based on women in music. “R&B
Divas” documents the real-life stories of five multi-talented singers including Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert, Monifah Carter, Syleena Johnson and Keke Wyatt. (see photo below) The ladies have seen it all – ups, downs, success, and failures. As veterans in the industry, they know what they need to take their careers to the next level. Equipped with wisdom and a few years under their belts, these ladies are ready to make moves in music no one has ever seen before. These friends come together, at the instigation of Faith Evans, to produce a charity album inspired by her friend, Whitney Houston. In honor of the late singer, proceeds from the album will benefit the Whitney E. Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, an institution that Houston attended, located in her hometown of East Orange, NJ. At the same time, they are all juggling myriad personal challenges and responsibilities in addition to making music – including raising families. The ladies end up forming a strong sisterhood. “R&B Divas” is an eight-episode one-hour series that is filmed primarily in Atlanta. It debuts Aug. 20 on TV One.


Dora Awards: The Antidote To A Tumultuous Year In Toronto Theatre

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

(June 25, 2012) The
Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Toronto theatre’s annual awards show, takes place Monday. And boy, does this city’s theatre community need a party and a nice, stiff drink (or two).

What a tumultuous 12 months. The rollercoaster ride began last June when SummerWorks lost its (now re-instated) Canadian Heritage grant under suspicious circumstances, and ended with beloved artistic director Ken Gass being dismissed by the board at Factory Theatre. In between, theatre companies folded and tales of libel chill grabbed the headlines.

And so it’s a pleasure to look back at the season staged by Toronto’s theatre artists and find that, artistically, it was the strongest I’ve covered as critic.

Among the Dora nominees this year, as usual, there’s a long list of surprising omissions. How could Studio 180’s heart-wrenching revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart not be up for best production?

What distinguishes this year’s Dora nominations from other editions, however, is that, well, there’s nothing to quibble about when it comes to who and what actually did make the cut. Pity the jurors, for instance, who will have to pick the winner of the outstanding production award from War Horse, The Penelopiad, Topdog/Underdog, The Golden Dragon and Crash. All five shows – from the mega to the mini – were indeed outstanding.

Here are a few reasons why our cup runneth over – and so many shows were held over – in Toronto this season.

Toronto’s got directing talent

The old complaint about Canadian theatre is that our actors are as good as anywhere, our playwrights aren’t half bad, but our directors aren’t up to snuff.

That’s simply not the case anymore. Toronto is blessed by being home to versatile talents like Weyni Mengesha, who mined all the heart and laughs in the hit comedy Kim’s Convenience at Soulpepper, then immediately turned around and crafted a psychological thriller worthy of Hitchcock in Carole Fréchette’s critical darling The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs at Tarragon Theatre.

Likewise, Alan Dilworth’s controlled direction of Pamela Sinha’s Crash turned a solo show about a rape survivor into an surprisingly edge-of-your-seat experience.

From established pros like Kelly Thornton (The Penelopiad), Ross Manson (The Golden Dragon and Another Africa) and Chris Abraham (Seeds) to younger, emerging talent like Ashlie Corcoran (The Ugly One), Michael Wheeler (Jesus Chrysler) and Kelly Straughan (Stockholm), there was no shortage of directors rising to challenge of excellent material or lifting so-so scripts up to the next level.

New Canadians: If you stage it, they will come

Toronto has a huge population but, too often, the cities’ established companies try to tap into the old reliable theatregoers rather than bring in new audiences from diverse communities.

In particular, the 50 per cent of Torontonians born outside of Canada are considered linguistically or culturally out of reach.

It’s worth the risk to target them, however: Two warm-hearted stories about the clash between new Canadians and their children enjoyed sold-out runs this season.

Of course, there was Kim’s Convenience, a rollicking comedy that tells the story of an inter-generational battle in a Korean-Canadian corner store. But another surprise success was A Brimful of Asha, in which actor Ravi Jain enlisted his mother, Asha, to tell the true story of how his parents’ attempt to arrange a marriage for him on a trip to India. It’s coming back to the Tarragon in November.

Homegrown musical theatre is on the rise

Forget the decline and fall of Dancap. Toronto doesn’t really need another commercial company bringing in touring companies from the United States.

What Toronto does need is more middle-scale producers like Mitchell Marcus, whose Acting Up Stage Company had a breakthrough season this year.

In the fall, Marcus partnered with Theatre Passe Muraille to bring the delirious Canadian musical Ride the Cyclone back to town for a run that quickly became an impossible-to-get-a-ticket sensation for.

Then, in the winter, Acting Up joined forces with Obsidian Theatre for a production of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change that critics felt was stronger than the original productions in New York and London. It leads the Dora nominations with good reason.

Next season, Acting Up will get some competition from Theatre 20, another similarly sized theatre company looking to produce Canadian and international musicals with our own talent.

With any luck, Toronto is at the start of a second, sustainable, musical-theatre boom.

Shaw Festival Profile: The Three Faces Of Nicole Underhay

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(June 22, 2012) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE—Will the real
Nicole Underhay please stand up?

As she rides the wave of one of those career-making years that happen once in a lifetime to an actor, it's fun to wonder which one of her recent stage personalities is going to show up for a lunchtime interview.

Will she be Grace, the emotionally wound-up heroine of Tarragon's The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs? That won her the 2012 Toronto Theatre Critics' award for Best Actress and the smart money has her likely to duplicate the feat at the Dora Awards on Monday night.

Or maybe she'll appear as Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga, the title character in Shaw's The Millionairess, which opens on July 5? She's a dynamo best described as a female Donald Trump with charm, who declares, “I am the most interesting woman in England.”

And then, behind Door No. 3, we've got Hildy Johnson from His GirlFriday, the best reporter in the cutthroat world of 1920s Chicago daily journalism.

She's a writer esteemed as “one of the guys,” who just happens to be a woman, and one romantically involved with her volcanic editor-in-chief, at that.

Just as conjecture is about to start running rampant, she appears in a simple white summer dress and you realize quickly that she is all these women and much more.

“Sorry I'm late,” she begins, “but my car broke down and I had to ride my bicycle in.” No problem, you think, in sleepy Niagara-on-the-Lake, but Underhay lives on a houseboat in St. Catharines and she pedalled 20 kilometres to get here for the interview.

Crab cakes and chardonnay ordered, she sits back and smiles. You think of what Rick Roberts, her co-star in The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs said about her.

“She's got this incredible life force. That's your first impression. Then you come to realize that she's always there. You have the feeling that what's coming at you is both lived-in and new.

“As a person, she combines this incredible intellect with an amazing naïveté and presents all of it to you in the most spontaneous manner, all the time.”

Underhay laughs at the description. “I don't have any choice other than being spontaneous, especially in The Millionairess. Once it starts, it's like a train leaving the station and you just have to keep rolling. And the language is so fantastic, you want to stay out of its way while making it your own.”

Epifania spends the play searching for a suitor and Underhay quips, “It's like having crushes on all the different boys at school. And they're contractually required to tell me I'm wonderful.”

His Girl Friday is a different game completely. The show is based on the gender-bending movie which turned The Front Page into a screwball romantic comedy, with Rosalind Russell playing Hildy, the role that Underhay is now tackling.

“I don't think it's any kind of a feminist statement,” she insists. “She's talented and the men all respect that. How am I tackling it? My work is all terror-based. I just dive in and I usually feel like an idiot for a long time, but that spurs you on to make it better.”

Even sitting still, Underhay seems to vibrate, but not with the nerves that plague many performers. In her case, it seems like something far more positive.

Blair Williams, one of her directors this season, pinpoints what it is.

“The first time I saw her, I remember being astounded by the contained energy she carried around onstage as well as off. She's extremely receptive, incredibly inventive.”

He chuckles. “She's got all the attributes of a star without any of the affectations.”

So where did this singular sensation come from? No surprise to hear that, like many of her generation's brightest talents, she hails from St. John's, N.L.

“I mistakenly have a tattoo on my back,” is how she answers a question about her age. “The tattoo is not the mistake. It's what I put alongside it. I was born in the year of the tiger and so I have a tiger tattoo. Fair enough.

“But then, I also have the year of my birth, 1974, tattooed next to it, so I'm sunk if I ever tell someone I'm younger than I am and then wind up having to, er, show them my tattoo.

“Oh what the hell, I never cared that much about age,” says the 38-year-old Underhay. “I am what I am.”

She's also the youngest of three girls, a situation which meant “I was always the baby. Not spoiled, but taken care of. Her mother was a high school secretary and her father, who died in 2008, worked across the street from their home for Statistics Canada.

“That meant my Dad would come home every day and make me lunch, which was very sweet.”

She used to hang around the Resource Centre for the Arts in St John's and see Andy Jones, Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh and Rick Mercer every time they performed, “but I was so shy, I never thought that could be me.

“In high school, I was a jock. I never went into the theatre in our school. My God, I don't think I even knew there was a theatre in the school.”

That would change. She went to university to study geology (“I didn't care about it at all, but they were offering science scholarships.”), but reached her breaking point after two years.

“If I'm not happy, I just keep changing things until I am happy. I can't live with not being satisfied, so I keep following my heart. It gets scarier as you get older. It gets harder to do.”

But back then, it seemed easy. So she went off to New Zealand by herself (at 19) for three months, then moved to Toronto.

“All of a sudden, I thought, ‘Nobody knows me here. I can create my own identity.' And so, I don't know why to this day, but I started taking acting classes.”

Unlike many novices who wait years for a role, Underhay soon found herself cast in a production of Antony and Cleopatra. “I played Iris, one of the handmaidens. I was on stage an awful lot, even though I only had about five lines, so I made all my friends come and sit through the whole four-hour extravaganza.”

It wasn't long before she was getting roles at Soulpepper, Neptune, Factory and then the National Arts Centre.

That's where Jackie Maxwell saw her in Arms and the Man and brought her to the Shaw Festival.

She instantly dazzled critics and audiences alike, but after 4 seasons, she felt she had to leave, for personal reasons.

“How can I put this? I didn't have a lot of romantic opportunities at Shaw. Jackie's casting tastes and my dating tastes weren't on the same page and I thought, ‘If I stay here, I'm never going to find a partner!'”

So she went across North America, acting in Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Toronto, including a stint in the rock musical Fire!, where musical director/co-star Ted Dykstra was sufficiently impressed to say “If she wanted to go for a career in music, she has the personality, the appeal, the talent and the drive to do that.”

But besides a lot of frequent flyer miles and a scrapbook of great reviews, she also found “the amazing guy I've been with for three years now,” which is making her think about her future.

“Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock!” she mock-shouts, evoking the dreaded biological clock. “That's something that's definitely on my mind. But I also worry that if I take the time off to have a family, there goes my career. I still have that fear that once I stop, I'll never work again. And don't forget, actors don't have maternity leave, either!”

Ask about her future dreams and they don't include Hollywood or Broadway. No, Underhay wants to join “this amazing English language theatre in Vienna. I must spend a year with them.

“I need to keep challenging myself, to throw caution to the wind. The bravest thing I ever did was getting into this career from the beginning. Something made me pursue this. I still don't know how it happened. Yes, I do. Somebody took a chance on me. There's a lot of great actors out there who don't work because nobody took a chance on them.”

She gets up to leave: a broken car to mend, a bike ride to St. Catharines to make and two giant parts to open a day apart at the Shaw Festival. It may sound very brave, but she mocks that notion.

“The bravery I radiate? It's just one facet of me. I'm also incredibly insecure. I'm needy and strong and depressed and happy. I'm a well-rounded person.”

Black Canadian Theatre Company Owns Dora Awards

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

(Jun 25, 2012) Black was the new black at the Dora Mavor Moore awards on Monday night, as Obsidian
Theatre dominated Toronto’s annual theatre, dance and opera awards.

Canada’s leading black theatre company was the big winner in both the play and musical theatre categories with a pair of co-productions of challenging contemporary American works.

Topdog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks’ sharp 2001 two-hander about African-American brothers named Lincoln and Booth, was named outstanding production of a play, beating out such high-profile competition as the international stage hit War Horse.

Obsidian artistic director Philip Akin was given the gong for best director for his work on the production, which was originally staged at the Shaw Festival before traveling to Toronto. Nigel Shawn Williams received a Dora for best actor for his portrayal of a one-time street hustler working as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.

Meanwhile, Caroline, or Change – produced by Acting Up Stage Company in association with Obsidian – received the award for outstanding production of a musical. Cast members Arlene Duncan and Sterling Jarvis were named best actress and actor in a musical, for their performances in Tony Kushner’s sung-through musical about an African-American maid struggling in 1963 Louisiana.

Acting Up Stage Company picked up an additional award for best touring production for bringing Atomic Vaudeville’s hilarious hit musical about an undead high-school choir, Ride the Cyclone, to Theatre Passe Muraille.

The big surprise of the evening came when Pamela Mala Sinha’s Crash was named best new play over Ins Choi’s sold-out Soulpepper comedy Kim’s Convenience.

Sinha also picked up the best actress award for her harrowing performance in the solo show that explores the aftermath of a brutal rape.

Mirvish’s all-Canadian production of War Horse did not ride out of the Dora empty-hooved; it won for best costume design (for Handspring Puppet Company’s extraordinary puppet horses) and best choreography (for Toby Sedgwick’s “horse” movement).

While Canadian Stage was shut out in the general theatre division, its presentation of choreographer Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters was named outstanding dance production. Lina Cruz and Fila 13 Productions’ Soupe du Jour was honoured for outstanding original choreography.

In the independent theatre division, Theatre Smash’s production of The Ugly One was named best production, while Jules Lewis’s absurdist comedy about jealousy, Tomasso’s Party, was named best play.

Last but not least, in the opera division, the Canadian Opera Company’s presentation of Iphigenia in Tauris was named the best of the year.

For the entire list of Dora winners, visit tapa.ca/doras.

Davis, Harvey, J-Hud, Usher, Vandross to get Walk of Fame Stars

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 25, 2012) *Viola Davis, Steve Harvey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Luther Vandross are among the 24
honorees who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced today.

“CSI” veteran Marg Helgenberger, who was honored with a star last year, announced the names at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Friday. No dates were given for when the stars would be placed.

Vandross and Janis Joplin are joining the cadre of posthumously awarded musicians who have been honored with a star. Buddy Holly was honored in 2011, Roy Orbison in 2010 and George Harrison in 2009.

View the complete list of 2013 Walk of Fame star recipients below.

Motion Pictures:
Rick Baker
Javier Bardem
Viola Davis
James Franco
Ron Howard
Helen Mirren

Simon Baker
Bryan Cranston
Ellen DeGeneres
Jane Lynch
Katey Sagal
Matthew Perry

The Backstreet Boys
Jennifer Hudson
Jane’s Addiction
Janis Joplin (Posthumous)
New Kids On The Block
Usher Raymond IV
Luther Vandross (Posthumous)

Live Theatre/Performance:
Olympia Dukakis
Penn & Teller

Steve Harvey
“Shotgun Tom” Kelly

Ken Gass Fired From Factory Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jun 21, 2012) On Wednesday evening, Ken Gass walked into a meeting of the board of directors of Factory
Theatre, the company he founded in 1970 and rescued from bankruptcy a quarter-century later.

When he walked out shortly afterwards, he had been terminated as artistic director and, having turned down an offer of a token position as artistic director emeritus, was told not to enter the theatre again, he says.

“I felt that it came as a complete surprise to me,” said Gass, although he said the relationship between himself and the board had grown so tense in recent months he had suggested appointing an arbitrator, a move the board rejected.

What caused the bad blood? It wasn’t financial trouble, according to Gass. “The theatre is in solid financial shape. All shows last year hit their box office targets and the property itself is worth between $8 million and $10 million.”

Others suggest it was a question of how the theatre should be developed, rebuilt and expanded in the future.

“Ken had this big project in mind,” says George F. Walker, the playwright that Factory discovered who has stuck with them throughout his long and distinguished career. “He wanted to expand the mainspace, rebuild the studio, add a restaurant, grow with the neighbourhood.”

Board president Ron Struys refused to discuss specifics with the Star.

“I’m not prepared to get into a discussion of matters that we believe are confidential when we’re dealing with personnel matters,” he said in a phone conversation.

“It was not a quick or easy decision. We continue to appreciate Ken’s contribution to the theatre scene and we were prepared to honour that with our offer of the artistic director emeritus position.”

Gass said the offered job was “a sham position with a token salary and duties that involved dragging me out at opening nights and fundraising events, but with no real say in anything.”

By early Thursday afternoon, the board had put out a news release soliciting appointments for a new artistic director “as part of revisioning for Factory Theatre’s future.”

Albert Schultz, founding artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre, was shocked by the news.

“I don’t know any artistic director in this country who has done more for their theatre than Ken,” Schultz said. “He put his soul, his blood and his money into the place. How many people do that?”

Designer Shawn Kerwin, a member of the Factory board, was also shocked.

She is currently in Blyth, designing the opening show for the theatre festival there, and says she was told her presence was not required for Wednesday’s meeting.

“No one ever told me Ken was going to be terminated, either before or after the meeting,” Kerwin said. “My opinion was never sought. In fact, I had to hear the news from Ken today.”

He has received numerous honours, including the Dora Mavor Moore Silver Ticket Award for lifetime achievement (1997), the George Luscombe Award for theatre mentoring and a Toronto Arts Award (both 2001), the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2010) and the first special citation from the Toronto Theatre Critics Association (2011) for making Factory Theatre “the place where some of the best Canadian playwrights debut, develop and grow.”

After founding the theatre, Gass left in 1979 and returned in 1996.

Walker’s latest script, Dead Metaphor, was supposed to have its Canadian premiere at Factory in March 2013, but he said he would pull the play.

“Who do they think they are, firing Ken Gass from his own theatre?” said Walker. “It’s like someone firing you from your own house.”

Gass was still reeling from the decision. “I gave 15 years of my life to that theatre,” he said.

“Yes he did,” agreed Struys, “but it also ran for 22 years without him.”

The board of directors of Factory Theatre terminated Ken Gass as artistic director at a meeting on Thursday night.

In an email sent to the Star on Friday morning, Gass said that “Last night, the Board of Directors of Factory Theatre informed me that my position as artistic director was terminated, effective immediately. No ‘cause’ has been given for the action, but simply that they have decided it is time for the Theatre to move forward in a different direction. For me the termination was a surprise and unexpected.

“I am not happy about this, as this is not the way I would have planned my exit after more than 15 years working at the Factory and at this point in my artistic career, but the Board has made its decision and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my creative life.”

Gass founded the theatre in 1970 and ran it with great distinction until 1979. He later returned in 1996 when it was nearly bankrupt and kept it alive through an infusion of $5,000 of his personal funds.

He has run the theatre since then, until Thursday night.

Meg Roe Sweeps Lead Actress Categories At Jessie Awards

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(Jun 26, 2012) Actor/director Meg Roe swept the lead actress categories at Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Monday night, winning the lead actress – large theatre award for The Arts Club Theatre’s production of The Penelopiad and the lead actress – small theatre Jessie for The Electric Company’s All the Way Home.

All the Way Home – an innovative treatment of Tad Mosel’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning play which sat the audience on-stage within the set – picked up more Jessies than any production, winning six in total, including awards for outstanding production, direction (Kim Collier), supporting actress (Nicola Lipman) and set design (Marshall McMahen), as well as the Critics’ Choice Innovation Award.

In the large theatre category, Patrick Street Productions’ The Light in the Piazza led with four awards, including outstanding production, significant artistic achievement (outstanding music and musical direction), lighting design (Alan Brodie) and set design (Lance Cardinal).

Greg Armstrong-Morris won best lead actor for La Cage aux Folles, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company’s only award in its final season. Jonathon Young was named best supporting actor for the Arts Club’s Intimate Apparel, and The Penelopiad ‘s Colleen Wheeler was named best supporting actress.

Craig Hall won best director for Rumble Productions’ Snowman, which also won for sound design or original composition (Robert Perrault).

Mara Gottler won best costume design for The Merchant of Venice at Bard on the Beach.

In the small theatre category, Andrew Wheeler beat, among others, Andrew Wheeler for lead actor, winning for Pacific Theatre/Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre’s production of Re:Union (he was also nominated for his role in Gordon). Michael Kopsa won best supporting actor for Pound of Flesh Theatre’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

Bill Richardson and Veda Hille picked up two Jessies for Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, including outstanding original script and original composition or sound design.

Temporary Thing / Twenty-Something Theatre’s The Bomb-itty of Errors picked up two Jessies for significant artistic achievement (outstanding ensemble performance with live music and DJ) and costume design (Vanessa Imeson).

Parjad Sharifi won for outstanding lighting design for Leaky Heaven Circus’s project x (faust).

In the Theatre for Young Audiences category, Théâtre la Sezième’s Le portrait Gooble won for outstanding production, direction (Rachel Peake) and performance (Vincent Forcier). Green Thumb Theatre won the Significant Artistic Achievement Award for outstanding and socially relevant curation. And Drew Facey won for set and costumes for Carousel Theatre’s Aesop’s Fables.

A number of other awards were presented Monday night, including the Patron of the Arts Award, which went posthumously to former Vancouver City Councillor Jim Green, who died in February.


Mike Tyson, Spike Lee take on Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mark Kennedy

(June 18, 2012) NEW YORK—Mike Tyson wants his next knockout to be on Broadway. The former boxer
announced Monday that he will team up with director Spike Lee to bring his one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, to the Longacre Theatre for six nights only, July 31 to Aug. 5. The show, a raw confessional on the highs and lows of the life of the retired heavyweight and tabloid target, made its debut in April at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It will mark Lee’s debut as a Broadway director. Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever in 1986 when he won his title as a 20-year-old. His life since then has been marred by accusations of domestic violence, rape and drug use.


Online Game Powered By Children’s Exercise

Source: www.thestar.com - Andrea Gordon

(Jun 24, 2012) In the uphill battle to get kids outside running, skipping and climbing trees, screen time is
portrayed as the evil villain. The more inactive modern children become, the easier it seems to blame the iPad, Xbox and smartphone.

But anti-tech attitudes won’t reverse the trend. Digital devices are here to stay. That’s why one innovative group has decided to turn the traditional narrative on its ear.

Instead of demonizing screens, the non-profit Concerned Childrens’ Advertisers is bringing technology and exercise together in a pilot project. Its goal: to harness the allure of online gaming as an incentive to get kids moving.

In fact, each child’s daily exercise — measured by a tiny Fitbit pedometer worn on their waistband and then uploaded onto a computer — is the sole source of power for the new game, called Gogoyu.

Don’t want to go out and play? Then you can’t earn the steps you need to log on.

That kind of motivation was enough for 11-year-old Sohail Limbada.

“It made me learn that physical activity is really important,” says Sohail, whose Grade 5 class at Cornell Junior Public School in Scarborough took part in the pilot that ended this month.

“(The game) made me want to get more steps. I thought ‘I have to get more steps by playing basketball and running around.’ ”

Each lunch hour, he dashed home and back to have more time in the schoolyard.

In Gogoyu, the kids create their own avatar which uses their personal steps to travel the world. The ultimate goal is to reach the moon. Sohail was first in his class to get there. The game has a timer that turns it off after 20 minutes a day.

While games like Nintendo Wii and Dance, Dance Revolution are aimed at getting kids off the couch while at the console, this is a different approach.

“We thought let’s look at media in a positive way instead of a negative way,” says Bev Deeth, president of Concerned Children’s Advertisers, which is known for public interest campaigns on topics ranging from self-esteem to substance abuse.

“Our first task is to determine whether marrying a pedometer to a game motivates kids,” she says. If the pilot shows a change in their behaviour, “it could potentially revolutionize the way youth physical activity programming is looked at and developed.”

The organization has no plans to turn the game into a commercial enterprise itself; it launched the project as a research exercise. Gogoyu was developed pro bono by advertising agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky.

Designed according to Canadian fitness guidelines that call for at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity for kids, the game was tested for six weeks by 250 children across Canada.

Researchers at University of Toronto’s faculty of kinesiology and physical education are collecting and analyzing data. Their findings are expected to be presented in the fall.

The groups of 10- and 11-year-olds in cities from Whitehorse to Moncton included five classes at Toronto-area schools.

To start, the kids wore the tiny Fitbit on their waistbands for a week to track their typical activity levels. Then for the next four weeks, they uploaded their step counts at least once a day and so their avatar could climb the Empire State Building or explore pyramids in Egypt. For the final week, they tallied steps again without playing the game.

Deeth said preliminary research showed tweens understand physical activity is important but want something to motivate them. This is the time in their lives when they begin to make some of their own decisions, and also when many start to drop organized sports and increase time spent on sedentary activities.

At Cornell, teacher Tanya Williams said the game got her 25 students excited and engaged. During their first week, many kids were only clocking about 5,000 steps a day, far below the recommended target of 12,000 for children. But they soon were able to double that.

After track and field day, some kids were up to 17,000 steps. During daily schoolwide runs, the class opted to run four laps instead of two. At recess, everyone was tearing around outside, including the girls who once preferred to stay in the classroom and help their teacher.

“The computer component was the biggest seller,” says Williams. “They couldn’t wait to go home (to play). If they didn’t have Gogoyu and a computer or another incentive I don’t know if it would have been so powerful.”

The potential is intriguing to Michelle Brownrigg, director of physical activity and equity at U of T who helped spearhead the research group.

“I see this as an untapped opportunity on the menu of choices to increase children’s physical activity. I think it’s a great first step.”

Screens are smaller and more pervasive than ever, and to only dwell on media literacy and the need for parents to limit screen time at home “is not going to get us where we need to be,” she added.

Instead, it’s crucial to explore ways of boosting exercise in the context of the media-saturated world in which kids live.

Salim Limbada, who watched his son Sohail take pride in his virtual Gogoyu travels as well as his activity levels in the real world, agrees.

Sohail loves playing hockey and riding his bike, but can also be hard to budge from the computer. Linking the two made sense.

“He was excited, he came home jumping,” says Salim. “This is helping make good habits.”

Revamped Nintendo 3ds ‘Xl’ Doubles Screen Size

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Yuri Kageyama

(June 22, 2012) Japanese game maker Nintendo Co. has upgraded its
3DS handheld to sport a screen nearly
twice as big as the previous model amid hot competition against smartphones and tablets that are wooing people away from dedicated gaming machines.

The Kyoto-based maker of the Super Mario games and Wii home console said Friday the Nintendo 3DS LL, called 3DS XL in overseas markets, goes on sale in Japan and Europe July 28, and in the U.S. and Canada from Aug. 19.

It will sell in Japan for $236 and $199.99 in the U.S. It did not give a price for Europe.

The 3DS, which has a touch panel and delivers 3-D imagery without special glasses, has two screens — one is 3.53 inches and the other is 3.02 inches.

The LL or XL version’s screens are 4.88 inches and 4.18 inches, according to the company. Screen inches refer to the diagonal measurement so LL screens are 1.9 times bigger.

“There were demands for a bigger screen, and so we are ready to respond with a size-variation model,” Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said in a video on the company’s website. “You can enjoy powerful 3D imagery.”

It weighs a bit more and is slightly bigger than the previous model. But battery life was extended to up to six and a half hours for 3D games from the previous five hours, and up to 10 hours from eight hours for regular games.

Yusuke Tsunoda, analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities Co., said bigger screens are generally almost always a plus for game machines sales, and the affordable price adds to the appeal.

“People who already have the 3DS and those who don’t may but it. After all, it’s so cheap,” he said.

Nintendo and Japanese rival Sony Corp. with its PlayStation Vita handheld are fighting tough competition from smartphones and tablets, which allow users to not only play games but also spend time on social media and other entertainment.

The bigger screens may help differentiate Nintendo’s handheld from other devices, but the upgraded screen is still smaller than the iPad.

Mr. Iwata has repeatedly shrugged off the threat from smartphones.

“Nintendo doesn’t want to compete in a sector other than where it feels its strength lies,” said Mr. Tsunoda.

Nintendo has sold 17 million 3DS machines worldwide so far. Sony has sold 1.8 million of its PS Vita machines.

Nintendo is also planning a new home console called Wii U for later this year. It will have a 6.2-inch touchscreen controller that works separately from what’s on the TV monitor. But it won’t work as a portable like the 3DS or 3DS LL.

Photo-overload: Everyone's Taking Pics, But Is Anyone Really Looking?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Erin Anderssen

(June 23, 2012) Last year, one billion mobile phones with cameras were sold around the world; it's estimated
that more than one-third of the earth's population owns a digital camera. Every two minutes, they snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s.

In New York City, fear grew of a rising epidemic: a stalker who wandered the streets invading the privacy of upstanding citizens, scrutinizing their ordinary steps, and creating a scandalizing record of everyday life. It was 1884 and George Eastman, of eventual Kodak fame, had invented a process to mass-produce dry plates for photographs; the day was arriving when any aspiring shutterbug could take a picture.

The "camera lunatics," as their unwitting subjects dubbed them in panicked letters to the editor, were endangering the public sphere. A New York Times story declared them responsible for the overcrowding of "lunatic asylums." The article's advice for repelling them is not unlike a Hollywood celebrity's tactic in 2012: Take a brick and smash the camera.

These days, that would require a lot of bricks. Last year, one billion mobile phones with cameras were sold around the world; it's estimated that more than one-third of the earth's population owns a digital camera. Every two minutes, they snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s, according to calculations by the photo storing site 1000memories. All the pictures ever taken add up to about 3.5 trillion shots, endless digital slideshows of cooing babies and fluffy kittens, to say nothing of the cute top someone saw at Forever 21 and wanted to get their Facebook friends' opinions about.

And that math was done way back in September, 2011, which might as well be 1884 in internet years. Facebook's own most recent stats say that 300 million photos were uploaded per day to the social-media site in the three months ending on March 31, even before June's prime picture season of proms, dance recitals, graduation ceremonies (kindergarten to university), post-exam parties and weddings. (Also, the tech analyst company, Infotrends, estimates that the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations would produce an additional 1.3 billion photos.)

That's not counting the many billions of images hosted by Flickr or tweeted on Twitter, with the unspoken understanding that a picture of three human beings in stock pose (heads together, arms looped, smiles synchronized) will bounce from one digital space to another, until its context fades like an old print in a shoebox. But not for long: Facebook this week announced the purchase of facial-recognition software. Soon no goofy grin shall go unnamed.

So if the good people of 1884 New York thought they had a camera epidemic on their hands, the modern world has shown them – and ourselves, in pixelized glory – a billion times over. Even the concerns about how shutterbugging affects mental health persist: These days we fret particularly about anxiety – produced from not being in enough pictures or being in the wrong ones – and narcissism, the inevitable by-product of a culture that insatiably records every moment as if it's Oscar-worthy.

Of course, it's a vice of necessity in a way: To participate in Facebook you have to show your face, the more often the better. But whether one is a grudging participant or a vain poseur, the deeper risk may be that the medium eclipses the moment.

While David McCullough, Jr. – the Massachusetts English teacher who has lit up the Internet with his "You're Not Special" commencement speech – doesn't explicitly chide his audience for its picture-taking obsession, he does say: "Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

This month, the paparazzi parents will be out in droves, jockeying for the best shot of the family rock star, angling their video cameras above rows of heads and cursing waning battery lights. (The truly invested mother and fathers arrive hunchbacked with SLR cameras and tripods and lenses; anyone, in 2012, can pull her iPhone from her pocket.)

Taking pictures at an event has become the event. If you are not snapping shots, you are probably worrying about what you are missing, and missing what you're supposed to be watching.

'Unprecedented visuality'

The technology that's utterly altered the way people deal with pictures, of course, is the digital camera, with its ever-multiplying capacity. There's no need to economize when your memory card can handle 2,000 shots in one go. And there's no need to wait: Digital images are now more about what happened two seconds ago than they are a record of life a decade past.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a hundred thousand pictures worth? It seems like a calculus of diminishing returns.

"We are living in a time of unprecedented visuality," says Martin Hand, a sociologist at Queen's University, and the author of the new book, Ubiquitous Photography. "The irony is that having a photo doesn't mean you are going to remember. It feels like you have a vast repository of memories. But the number of photographs prompts a certain kind of forgetting."

The romance of photographs once involved discovering them tucked in a dusty album in your mom's closet: The sudsy, bathtub baby picture you didn't know existed. The yellowed family photo of a great uncle you can't name, but whose nose looked just like yours. Shutterbugs of a certain age will even recall the surprise inherent in the trip to pick up the pictures from a roll of film and finding the solitary magical shot in a stack of red-eyes and blurry exposures.

But today, when a hundred pictures require little more storage space than does one, we can skip the painful process of deciding what to keep and what to toss.

"I have a hard time deleting anything," confesses Susan Murray, an associate professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, who has lost count of the number of photos of her young son she has stored on her devices. "Even the ones that aren't quite perfect I can't seem to delete. ... I keep buying more and more external hard drives." Someday, her son will have a library-sized visual archive of his childhood.

Are thousands of pictures amassed on iPhoto, however, really the same as a few dozen carefully chosen and pressed into an album?

Perhaps someday, suggests Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, a Canadian-born Internet analyst and occasional fashion photographer, "we'll ask: 'What happened to that whole decade? We didn't take any great pictures.'"

Stop – don't shoot

A few years ago, Michael Cooper gave up his camera. For 12 months, the professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, stopped taking pictures. An avid traveller, he had begun to notice a worrying trend: He was spending more time staring at his camera than the scene around him.

"You can't do both things at once," he says, "there is way of looking without the camera, of understand the ambiance of a place."

He came to appreciate the freedom of moving without cumbersome camera gear or sightseeing without the pressure to snap a shot. "The pleasure it gave me to sit on some stone wall and look out at a field, and not have something in my hand," he says. "It was very liberating."

When he returned to picture taking, he found that something else had changed: His subjects shifted to the people he saw on his travels, not the buildings. It was as if his camera-free year had awakened him to the faces of a place rather than its bricks and mortar.

'Slow photography' on the rise

Prof. Wu has noticed a similar pattern while visiting the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. People would step up, snap a shot and walk away, as mindlessly "as dogs marking their territory," as he later described it in the online magazine Slate.

He is among a small but growing group of bloggers and photographers who are making the case for a "slow photography movement" – a reaction, like that of foodies before them, to the gluttonous habits of a camera-captured culture. It advocates taking fewer pictures, more carefully posed and with reflection on the process of photography as much as the result.

Prof. Wu has also become more deliberate about when he brings out his camera and rarely uses the camera feature on his iPhone. "We can't all be watching," he says. "If everybody is the photographer, who is the doer?" (Although he admits his wife recently chided him for not taking enough photos on their vacation.)

Prof. Cooper even cynically suggests that people brandish smart phones habitually now because no one smokes anymore and they aren't sure want to do with their hands.

Is it true that we have lost the ability to savour a moment for its own sake? The idea that taking a picture in itself distances you from the scene is a debatable one: Sometimes, as Ms. Murray points out, it requires a concentration on details you might have overlooked otherwise.

But the research of Dr. Hand, the Queens sociologist, suggests that at least among 20-somethings there is a growing awareness that even as the public replication of digital images makes them powerful, it weakens the value of the photograph itself. In his interviews he found that university students were diligent about managing their visual presences online, especially images of compromising scenarios.

They argued that younger teens, who are new to the technology, and their parents' generation, who are confused by it, were more careless. But they know better, they said: "I don't want to be seen all the time."

Many were also sensitive to the pressure to whitewash their digital selves in hindsight, especially in case of employers' searches. On the other hand, to preserve private memories some of his interview subjects had begun keeping handwritten diaries so that they could not be edited with a mouse click: "Even if I cross a line out," one student to told him, "I can see that I once thought this thing."

In the end, our ardent picture-taking may not be (entirely) a vanity project, but rather the 2.0 version of trying to stop life and time from passing on by, if only with the power of 10 megapixels.

But before we block the seven-year-old ballerinas, the Mona Lisa or that lovely sunset with a camera, perhaps we should ask ourselves more often what we might see if we sat still, empty handed, and just watched the world happen.

Someone else, after all, is bound to take a picture.


Sail On A Catamaran (Not A Cruise Ship) To Explore Tiny Caribbean Outposts

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jillian Dickens

GUADELOUPE, LESSER ANTILLES —Perched on the starboard bow of
New Beginnings catamaran, with my
legs dangling over the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Guadeloupe, I watch a school of fire-engine-red parrot fish glide through the blue beneath my feet. Knowing the water is nearly as warm as the soft air, I dive in after the fish and swim to the uninhabited lush green island of Îles de la Petite Terre, where we have been anchored since last night. In a few hours, the oasis will be crawling with snorkel-gear-toting tourists attracted by the coral reef nature reserve framing the island. But right now, we have the place to ourselves.

There are cruise people and then there are people who want to explore multiple destinations without a crowd. Sailing on a small intimate yacht like New Beginnings is for the latter group. New Beginnings is part of the TradeWinds Cruise Club, which at the minute is the only outfit providing this experience at a luxury level. You can rent a cabin and sail with a group of like-minded travellers, or you can charter the entire vessel. There are TradeWinds yachts scattered throughout the Caribbean, Greece and Turkey, and itineraries typically run a week, stringing together secret discoveries like uninhabited beaches, unspoiled villages and crowd-free snorkelling spots.

I'm with a group of six friends who make up the guest list of the 70-foot Galathea catamaran. She's plush and treats us well with queen beds and private ensuite baths.

I'm not used to such luxe on the open seas. As a fisherman's daughter from British Columbia, I've spent lots of time on the ocean, but I've always been working. So this week, while my friends take lessons on steering the boat, tying knots, laying anchor and setting the sails, I'm happy to leave everything to the capable crew. And when I say everything, I am including paddling to the local French grocer for fresh baguettes, mixing a new Caribbean cocktail every evening, playing DJ and baiting hooks during afternoon fishing adventures. Sadly all we catch is a metre-long barracuda – it's beautiful, but not fit for eating. We give it back to the sea.

Our itinerary goes something like this: We sail from Guadeloupe through the surrounding French islands, including Marie-Galante and Îles des Saintes, Îlet du Gosier and back to Guadeloupe, tucking into various points along the way. I feel like an early explorer, mapping out my new colony, and tie a bandana around my head for dramatic effect.

For me, the week is a mix of decadence and adventure. I wake with the sun and climb the few stairs up to the main deck, where breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, granola and yogurt are already waiting. “It's another beautiful day in paradise,” Captain Mick says after the meal. He's describing the day's plans, pointing out the route we'll take to our next secret hideaway. I can't argue with his outlook. While my friends lower themselves into kayaks to explore the mangrove overhangs lining the islands, looking for mongoose and wild ducks, I wade ashore and bushwhack into the jungle, careful not to step on any critters lining the forest floor. I allow myself to think I'd do okay being stranded on this deserted tropical island. Easy to say when New Beginnings is tethered close by.

On board there's enough room for people to gather or get away on their own. Two seats at the ship's prow prove to be the most popular spot for us to ride the waves, yelping with each big splash, trying to dip our legs into the water. The boat is one big bed on floats. I move from trampoline to chaise longue to over-the-water netting, never short of a place to settle. When too hot for comfort, we dive from the bow into the cool water below. At night, we swim through the dark and our strokes start the water glowing phosphorescent, twinkling around our fingers and toes as we move.

In the small group of islands known as Îles des Saintes, we tender into the little French fishing village of Bourg des Saintes. Bright coach houses line the narrow streets, and rowboats anchored in the harbour are painted in vivid teals, oranges and reds. This piece of France (I swear I hear someone wearing a striped shirt and beret sing, “Oui, oui mon chérie”) is folded against a fertile mountainside smack in the most luscious of the Caribbean. It's here my fellow sailors let off steam and rent scooters to explore the island.

We set off, looking silly in mismatched, ill-fitting helmets, giggling our way through the village and countryside, locals waving as we putt-putt by. We drive up to the mountaintop to explore Le Chameau, an old lookout tower, and Fort Napoleon, a former jail-turned-museum. We cross town and zoom up the other side, passing goats, donkeys, horses and makeshift gardens overlooking a turquoise sea and volcanic island archipelago. After cruising down a one-way street past what feels like the entire village frowning and shaking their fingers at us, we call it quits. After admiring the sunset, we head back to New Beginnings for a feast of lobster and chardonnay.

Aside from the odd tomfoolery, most days are spent dropping anchor in a secluded bay for an afternoon of basking and swimming and playing Robinson Crusoe. I want all my new beginnings to be just like this.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Felicien Reignites Her Olympic Track And Field Passion

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Allan Maki

(Jun 25, 2012) CALGARY —Her one coach shouts encouragement. “That’s a good run. That’s an excellent run,”
praises Les Gramantik. Her other coach, Gary Winckler, watches from track-side and concurs.

This is what Perdita Felicien needs because time is running out. Come Saturday at the Canadian Olympic track and field trials, the former world champion either finishes in the top three of the women’s 100-metre hurdles or she misses out on qualifying for the London Games.

Her rivals make the 100 hurdles an unpredictable event and a significant challenge, the toughest of the entire trials. Leading the way is 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, followed by sprinters Phylicia George, Angela Whyte, Nikkita Holder and heptathlete Jessica Zelinka. Any combination of those three could keep Felicien from London and what is likely her last shot at an Olympic medal.

And that’s why Winckler is on the scene, joining Gramantik in helping fine-tune Felicien for Saturday’s final at Foothills Athletic Park. Winckler was Felicien’s coach when she attended the University of Illinois and earned all-America status and later won the 2003 world title.

And it was Winckler who recommended last year that Felicien move to Calgary and train with Gramantik.

The two coaches have worked together in the past at training camps in Arizona and St. Kitts. Weeks ago it was decided they would team up in Calgary to assist Felicien in her final push for London.

“Her training sessions have gotten better. She’s getting back that feeling,” said Winckler, who noted how Felicien lost six weeks of training time this winter with tendinitis in both her Achilles. “She’s in a good place mentally.”

That may seem an odd assessment given how Felicien finished sixth at the Donovan Bailey Invitational in Edmonton this month. But there were reasons to be optimistic. Felicien got out of the blocks poorly anticipating a false start. When she got to the second hurdle, she was still waiting for a second gun to sound and restart the race. When none came, she dug in her spikes and blasted her way to the finish, making up a goodly amount of ground.

“In a solid field like that, you can’t give that up [at the start], a centimetre, a step, nothing,” Felicien said.

“It was a good wake-up call. Better it happened there. They’re not giving out Olympic medals in Edmonton or naming the Olympic team in Edmonton, as far as I know.”

Winckler and Gramantik agreed Felicien’s run in Edmonton was her most technically sound to this point and that the beauty of the 100 hurdles here is that it’s not about the time (all six of the top competitors have equalled or bettered the Olympic qualifying standard); it’s about racing, being in the top three. In that regard, Felicien has a wealth of big-race experience.

“I’ve been in a situation like this so many times,“ she acknowledged.

“I’m trying to recreate that I’ll be on this very same track, maybe in the very same lane [Saturday]; it’s not that different. The other seven lanes, I can’t control. I can control my thoughts, execute my race.”

The Olympics have been a sore spot for Felicien. In 2004, as the gold medal favourite, she did the unthinkable and tripped over the first hurdle before falling to the track. In 2008, she was unable to compete because of a foot injury. At 31, London looks to be her final go at the Olympics and while that could adversely add to the pressure, instead it has helped Felicien enjoy her preparations. She understands she has only a few “major championships” left in her career and intends to revel in them.

“It’s been a long road being injured and trying to find the rhythm [needed for hurdling]. When you lose it, it takes a while to get it back,” she explained. “Finally, this is it. I want to enjoy the moment. It’s about having that fire for Calgary. I’ve been searching for that. I feel I’ve finally got that fire in my belly.”

The Canadian Olympic trials begin Wednesday and will close Saturday with the women’s 100-metre hurdles.

Athletics Canada will then select its 2012 Olympic team the following day.

MacLennan And Cockburn Lead Canada To Upset Victory At Trampoline World Cup

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(June 22, 2012) AROSA, Switzerland — MacLennan and Cockburn qualified third and fourth in the prelims but
stepped up their performance in the final to share a World Cup podium for the first time.

MacLennan won her second career World Cup gold medal with a score of 55.605 points with Cockburn a close second at 55.125.

Huang, the 2009 world champion, took the bronze with a score of 55,050 and 2010 world champion Li Dan ended up off the podium in fourth at 54.70.

Both Cockburn and MacLennan went into their final competition before the Olympics eager to prove the formidable Chinese team was not unbeatable.

Cockburn, who’d like nothing more than to cap her extraordinary career with a record fourth straight Olympic medal, also admitted a 1-2 finish seemed almost too good to be true.

“We wanted to do strong routines and hoped to push one of the Chinese off the podium but we never expected to come first and second,” said MacLennan, who was runner-up at last year’s world championships.

“It’s kind of surreal, the Chinese didn’t fall and they did good routines, so we’re kind of shocked,” added Cockburn, who has won two silvers and a bronze in three Olympic Games.

Maple Leafs Great Mats Sundin Elected To Hockey Hall Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski

(Jun 26, 2012) Mats Sundin has been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame — on his first try.

The former Leafs captain was announced Tuesday afternoon as one of four players to enter the hall as part of the 2012 class.

“Three years have passed since I retired and it makes me realize how privileged I was to play my entire career in Canada, where hockey really matters,” said Sundin. “Having my hobby and love for a sport become my livelihood really allowed me to live out my dream.”

It was Sundin’s first year of eligibility and he enters along with former teammate Joe Sakic, Adam Oates, and Pavel Bure.

Sundin scored 564 goals and 785 assists in his 17-year NHL career. The 38-year-old Swede also played for Quebec and Vancouver.

Sundin, who had his famous No. 13 jersey raised to the rafters in an emotional ceremony at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 11, will join his fellow inductees for the induction ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 12.

Sakic, like Sundin, started his career with Quebec. He went on to play in 1,378 NHL games, scoring 625 goals, and 1,016 assists. Many observers were surprised Brendan Shanahan, who helped guide the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cups, was not included in this year’s list of inductees.

But Sakic was considered a “no brainer.”

His list of accomplishments include: a Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year Award (1988), Conn Smythe Trophy (1996), Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (2001), Lester B. Pearson Award (2001) and Hart Memorial Trophy (2001).

“As a kid I always dreamed about making the NHL, but never really thought at all about the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Sakic. “I was fortunate to play 20 seasons, which gave me the opportunity to build on my list of accomplishments. Having great teammates and coaches was a key component of this.”

Sakic also played in a dozen NHL all-star games and won the world juniors, world championships, World Cup, Olympics, and Stanley Cup.

Oates had himself a huge day Tuesday, entering the Hall and being named the new coach of the Washington Capitals.

Oates was considered the ultimate set-up man, posting 1,420 points in 1,337 games with Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim, and Edmonton.

“Growing up I was a guy who was kind of overlooked and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and have the time for my game to mature,” said Oates. “This is a tremendous honour and I look back and realize how lucky I was to have great coaches to help me along the way.

Bure was considered a player whose induction was long overdue.

Bure played 12 seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, averaging better than a point per game in his NHL career (779 points with 437 goals in 702 NHL games).

“It is a tremendous honour to be selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Bure.

“Growing up I never even thought I would be able to play in the NHL, much less make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

While the hall added four new players, it once again did not enshrine anyone in the builders’ category.

The hall has now gone two consecutive years without making additions to this category.

Many observers had been expecting former Toronto, Montreal, and Boston coach Pat Burns to be added in this category. Burns passed away last year. Other names considered Hall-worthy in this category include former Flyers coach Fred Shero and Blackhawks-Flyers coach Mike Keenan.

Canadian Milos Raonic Wraps Up First-Round Wimbledon Win

Source: www.thestar.com - Jerome Pugmire

(June 27, 2012)
It took two days, but 21-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic is through to the second round at

Raonic advanced with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Colombian Santiago Giraldo on Wednesday.

Raonic led 2-0 and was about to serve for the match Tuesday night before rain and darkness forced officials to stop play. Raonic only needed 80 seconds to close out play Wednesday, setting up a second-round meeting with American Sam Querrey on Thursday.

The Thornhill, Ont., native said he treated Wednesday’s short stint as a “practice session.”

“I warmed up a bit long this morning,” said Raonic. “Normally I start matches serving well, so I was not too nervous.”

The No. 21-seeded Raonic fired 20 aces, converted 93 per cent of his serves and had three service breaks while holding his serve throughout. Raonic had 44 winners and made just eight unforced errors.

Raonic was playing at the All-England Club for the first time since slipping and hurting his hip in a second-round match against Gilles Muller at last year’s tournament. He was forced to retire from that match and remained sidelined until October after requiring surgery.

Raonic said he’s been more cautious on turf ever since.

“If I start slipping on the grass now, I stop going for my shots quite as much,” he said. “That’s the difference between now and last year.

“I had a match point Tuesday and if it had not been wet I could have pushed for it and gotten to the ball a bit earlier.”

With the win, the six-foot-five Raonic faces the six-foot-six Querrey in a battle of big men. But Raonic said the two players don’t use the same strategy.

Querrey hits big but we play different games with different patterns,” said Raonic, who hasn’t competed against Querrey but has rallied with him in the past.

Querrey defeated Canadian Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday night. But Raonic said he’s confident ahead of the showdown.

“I can hit all the sports, serve in different patterns,” he said. “I’m returning well, that will be the key in this match.”

Raonic and Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., are the only Canadians left at Wimbledon. Wozniak opened with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Russian Vera Dushevina.

Wozniak plays her second-round match Thursday against China’s Zheng Jie, who she beat at the French Open last month.

VIDEO: Miami Beats OKC 121-106 and Win 2012 NBA Championship

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2012) *(Via ESPN) – The decision is final:
LeBron James made the right call coming to Miami.

Finally an NBA champion, it’s all worth it now.

James – who was also named the Finals MVP – had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, was unanimously voted Finals MVP, and got the kind of help that was worth leaving home for, leading the Heat in a 121-106 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night to win the NBA Finals in five games.

Best player in the game, best team in the league.

James has found it all since taking his talents to South Beach.

“It means everything,” James said moments after the win. “I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland but I understood what my future was about … I knew we had a bright future (in Miami). This is a dream come true for me. This is definitely when it pays off.”

He left the game along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for good with 3:01 remaining for a round of hugs and the start for a celebration he’s been waiting for since arriving in the NBA out of high school as the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft.

James hopped up and down in the final minutes, shared a long hug with opponent Kevin Durant, and watched the confetti rain down from the rafters.

The Heat took control in the second quarter, briefly lost it and blew it open again in the third behind their role players, James content to pass to wide-open 3-point shooters while the Thunder focused all their attention on him.

Read/learn more at ESPN.

Watch as LeBron James shares his first thoughts in the moments after winning the NBA title:

Spain Beats Portugal In Semifinal Shootout

Source: www.thestar.com - Jerome Pugmire

(June 27, 2012) DONETSK, UKRAINE—Far from its best,
Spain still advanced to another major final on Wednesday by beating Portugal 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw at the European Championship.

Cesc Fabregas, who came on as a substitute in the second half of regulation time, scored the deciding penalty after Bruno Alves had hit the crossbar for Portugal moments earlier.

“I played poorly, but the team worked really hard,” Fabregas said. “I had this intuition that we could advance if we went to penalties and that’s what we did.”

Spain, which is trying to win a third straight major trophy after claiming titles at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, will next face Germany or Italy on Sunday in Kyiv.

“Being in another final is a miracle,” Fabregas said. “It’s really incredible.”

Cristiano Ronaldo had several chances for Portugal, but he sent three shots well over the bar as his team held its own for the entire match. The Real Madrid star, who came alive with three goals in his last two matches at Euro 2012, did not take a penalty in the shootout. He had been slated to take the fifth one, but he never got that far.

After an often dour opening 90 minutes in which the Spanish failed to impress, the match livened up in the 30 minutes of extra time. Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta forced Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio into a superb reflex save in the 103rd minute. Iniesta ghosted into the penalty area, then held his head in disbelief as Rui Patricio reacted brilliantly to get a strong hand to his shot after Jordi Alba cut the ball back toward the penalty spot.

Rui Patricio made another fine save to deny substitute Jesus Navas in the 111th.

Tempers frayed at times, with Portugal centre half Pepe getting a yellow card for a challenge on Xabi Alonso as they went for a high ball. Ronaldo also received some heavy challenges late on.

In the shootout, Xabi had the first attempt saved by Rui Patricio. But Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas then saved Joao Moutinho’s shot. Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos then all scored for Spain, while Pepe and Nani scored for Portugal.

“The first one wasn’t so lucky, and then we scored the rest of them,” Casillas said. “Yes, we really were lucky. Everything is about luck sometimes.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque ditched his unorthodox 4-6-0 formation for Wednesday’s match and opted for a traditional striker — but not the one many expected. Instead of Fernando Torres, it was Alvaro Negredo that got the start up front. But 10 minutes into the second half, Del Bosque took him off and replaced him with Fabregas.

Although Negredo worked hard, his lack of movement made him easy to mark. Spain improved as Fabregas made clever runs to stretch the defence and the defending champions dominated most of extra time with the addition of Pedro Rodriguez late in the match.

Rui Patricio was a big help in goal for Portugal, but much more was expected from Ronaldo. The winger had a chance, albeit a difficult one, to win the game in the 90th minute when Portugal poured forward after clearing a free kick. But Raul Meireles’ pass was fractionally behind Ronaldo and, with momentum lost, he had to check his run and sent his shot high and wide.

Ronaldo briefly threatened early in the first half, whipping over a cross from the left wing that Casillas grabbed before Nani could head it in. He also sent a free kick into the wall after too easily tumbling under a challenge.

Working as a unit, Portugal started to gain the upper hand midway through the first half. Moutinho flicked the ball into the path of Ronaldo, whose wild shot flew over.

Italy Eliminates England In Euro Quarter-Final Shootout

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(June 24, 2012) KYIV, UKRAINE—When England’s current manager, Roy Hodgson, was made Inter Milan boss
nearly two decades ago, confused locals went to the dark genius who’d defined that club and Italian football generally for decades to get some reassurance.

“I have never known any really talented English coaches,” Helenio Herrera sniffed.

Herrera was not born in Italy, but in terms of football no man has ever been more Italian. As a manager at Inter in the ’60s, he perfected the stultifying style of defensive football Italians call catenaccio — the door bolt. Outside Milan, Herrera is remembered as the man who made the game unwatchable.

A brutish taskmaster with a philosophic bent, he also had a knack for aphorisms. One of his best: “The worst thing is to make a mistake with someone else’s ideas.”

That little piece of wisdom should be haunting Hodgson and everyone involved in the English football set-up Monday morning.

Faced with a chance to assert the quality of the English game, England instead ran from Italy for 120 minutes. Theirs was a game without ambition based on a foundation of fear. It was embarrassing to watch, and puts the lie to the idea that England belong in the elite of world football.

Sunday night was their chance to prove they are as good as the professional league they host. If the Premiership is the world’s best, we now know it’s down to all the foreigners.

“We’ve done the country proud,” Steven Gerrard said autonomically after the match. In the media centre, the line played for laughs.

Across the park, position-by-position, England was outclassed. They notched one quality chance in the fifth minute. Glen Johnson ran to the front of the net, and found the ball at his feet. He fumbled with it for a bit, and then scooped it up into Gianluigi Buffon’s outstretched hand. It was the last real work Buffon had to do for the next 2 1/2 hours.

Through their brilliant midfield creator, Andrea Pirlo, the Italians carved out chance after chance, but couldn’t slot any one of them. England was happy to stand up in no man’s land, dancing around and dodging bullets, without ever trying to return sustained fire.

All game long, they took the coward’s route — the one that goes backward and leads to penalties.

They got what they wanted. And then they got what they deserved.

Monday morning, much of the blame will have worked its way over to Ashley Young and Ashley Cole, the latest in a long line of England players who’ve blown it in a penalty shootout. It’s no individual’s fault. The rot is institutional. Like many teams that have lost too often for too long, England has absorbed the lesson that any sort of win by any sort of means does them credit. It doesn’t.

Great teams do get lucky, but they don’t build their organizational raison d’etre around fluking their way through sides they regard as equals.

“I wouldn’t begrudge them their victory, but I thought that for long periods of time, it was an interesting tactical battle,” Hodgson said afterward, a sort of Herrera-ism. The difference being that Herrera won these sorts of games.

Begrudge them? Hodgson should be thanking them.

Here in Kyiv, the Italians saved several things.

They saved hundreds of millions of neutral fans the trouble of watching at least one crushing bore in the semis. If England were too afraid to attack Italy — a team that has scored only one goal here from open play in four games — can you imagine how they would approach Germany? The next few days might have been spent trying to figure out if it makes more spatial sense to stack 11 men in the goalmouth side-by-side or one on top of the other.

They saved this tournament’s reputation. Having rid itself of the Scrooge of the quarter-finals, Euro 2012 is still on track to be the best since Euro 2000.

They saved international football from the pernicious, spreading belief that playing like Chelsea might actually work for teams other than Chelsea.

Most importantly, they saved England.

They saved England from myopically putting its faith for years to come in dour, belittling football. Having lost so many big games in the past, this may be the one that shakes the English game out of its deep well of ill-placed self-regard, and spurs some sort of real ambition to join the best.


Canadian Women Win Big In Olympic Basketball Qualifier

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Jun 25, 2012) ANKARA, Turkey - Courtnay Pilypaitis scored 15 points and 11 teammates also got on the
scoreboard as Canada thumped Mali 89-23 in the opening game for both teams at a FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament Monday. The Africans made just eight of 52 shots, scoring six, four, four and nine points in the four quarters. Kimberley Smith had 11 points for Canada while Miranda Aym added 10. Nassira Traore led Mali with seven points. Canada, ranked 11th in the world, outrebounded No. 19 Mali 58-19. The Canadians, ranked fourth at the tournament, must finish in the top five at the 12-team qualifier to earn a spot in London. Canada plays No. 8 France on Tuesday. The Canadian women have not made it to the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games. The Canadians failed to earn a London berth at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament last fall, but their third-place finish guaranteed them a spot in the last-chance qualifier in Turkey. Canada’s only team qualified for London so far is women’s soccer.


Kindness and a good heart are the foundation for success in this life, progress on the spiritual path, and the fulfillment of our aspirations. Our need for them is not limited to any specific time, place, society, or culture.

Dalai Lama