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LE NEWSLETTER

March 15, 2012

After two weeks absence, here is this week's edition of your entertainment news - lite! Short and sweet and you can look forward to your more complete news next week.

As I previously mentioned, I was attending the
32nd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta ... with Beres Hammond as the closing headliner. I am currently writing my coverage of this amazing and fun-filled week of extremely cool and fun parties with top notch live music.

In this weeks abbreviated news, Juno Awards update; K'naan featured at Luminato; Tamia speaks out on basketball wives; and more entries are made into the Canadian wireless market; and so much more! Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

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

::TOP STORIES::

Juno Awards: Drake, Michael Buble Won’t Attend, Justin Bieber A Maybe

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch


(Mar 14, 2012) Drake and Michael Buble have a combined seven
nominations heading into next month’s Juno Awards, but neither Canadian star will be able to attend the show in Ottawa.

Drake — who hosted the show last year and is tied for the lead with four nods including album and artist of the year — has a performance scheduled in Manchester the same night as the April 1 gala, while Buble is set to perform in Brazil.

But Melanie Berry, head of the organization that runs the Juno Awards, said the absence of those stars wouldn’t hurt the show.

“I don’t see it as a blow,” said Berry, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“We’ve got a star-studded lineup and we’ve got some amazing acts. We have international superstars — you can only expect them to be on the road. We have to share them, we can’t have them every year.

“So you know, we’re happy when they’re here.”

Berry also pointed out that of the 162 people nominated in the Junos’ 41 categories, 114 are expected to attend the show — roughly 70 per cent of nominees.

But another Canadian’s potential absence still looms large.

Eighteen-year-old teen-pop sensation Justin Bieber — nominated for two Junos — is not among the confirmed guests for the show, and while Berry says it’s not a “100 per cent” certainty that the Stratford, Ont., native will skip the Junos, organizers aren’t counting on his presence.

“He’s had a long year (and) I know the Kids’ Choice Awards are the night before us,” Berry said.

But Berry stressed that the Junos have had a good relationship with this trio of homegrown pop stars — all of whom are up for album of the year — even if they can’t make it this year’s bash.

“All three have been amazing to us,” she said. “They’ve supported the Junos a lot, so that’s fantastic.”

The Juno Awards will be broadcast on CTV.

Luminato 2012: Festival Announces Bold Lineup From K’naan To The War Of 1812

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian


(Mar 14, 2012) The 2012 edition of
Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity is the first one under its new Artistic Director, Jorn Weisbrodt and it’s not coincidental that the program announced Wednesday is probably the boldest and most varied selection of works since the Festival was launched in 2007.

“Arts shapes history, just as history shapes art and it’s that combination of Revolution and Transformation we’re exploring this year,” Weisbrodt told the Star about the sixth edition of the event, which will run from June 8 through 17 at various locations around Toronto.

The latest play from Robert Lepage (Playing Cards), one of the classic works of modern opera from Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (Einstein at the Beach), a tribute concert to the late Kate McGarrigle (featuring her sister, Anna and son, Rufus) and a rare in-person interview with Alice Munro are some of the highlights previously revealed in The Star.

But Wednesday’s announcement also brought word of the kind of large-scale event we can obviously expect from Weisbrodt, including pianist Stewart Goodyear performing all 32 Beethoven piano concertos, accompanied by what is called “an onstage durational performance piece” by Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is being explored in a variety of panels and discussions, as well as a giant work at the Fort York historical site called The Encampment, where 200 creative collaborators will occupy an equal number of A-frame tents, combining to create not just an art installation, but “a metaphorical archeological dig.”

Two mammoth musical events will also mark the historic anniversary. The 200-voice Canadian Children’s Opera Company is producing a specially-commissioned work entitled Laura’s Cow: the Legend of Laura Secord.

And the spectacular conclusion of the festival on June 17 will be a free concert at David Pecaut Square, featuring TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian, leading the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a double bill consisting of Tchaikovsky’s famed 1812 Overture, as well as a specially commissioned new 2012 Overture written by Philip Glass.

Displays of magic, a windsock installation involving 12,000 sq. ft. of ribbon fabric and nine to 25 foot-tall windsocks, in-depth discussions with the creators of the Festival’s major works and free public concerts from the likes of K’NAAN, Rufus Wainwright and Loreena McKennitt are just a few more of the events filling out the cultural landscape during what Weisbrodt told The Star “is just the beginning of what I hope we can achieve with this incredible showcase for the arts and creativity.”

For more information, go to www.luminato.com.

Singer Tamia: ”Basketball Wives’ is Not Reality’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 14, 2012) *When you watch the show “Basketball Wives,” you wonder if every woman who is married to a ballplayer is as ratchet as some of these seem to be.

Let’s go down the list: Tammy, Evelyn, and Gloria … all women who have exhibited “unlady like” behaviour on the show on numerous occasions.

But then you remember that you can’t put all crabs in one bucket and there are wives of basketball players out there who don’t act this crazy.

While they may not be wives, Gabrielle Union, Savannah Brinson and Ray Allen’s wife are all class acts.

The one who may be the quietest, unassuming one is singer
Tamia.

In a recent interview, she talks about her life as the basketball wife of Grant Hill.

Since you’re married to an athlete, what are your thoughts on the perception of the “Basketball Wives” franchise?
Tamia: Well, I think the perception is definitely not a reality. I think, to be fair, a lot of those women [on the show] aren’t wives. And I’m good friends with Shaunie. And as far as business is concerned, I applaud her, but I think that it’s definitely very misleading in terms of what our lives are about. I do have a lot of friends who are married to athletes, and a lot of these women are involved in charities, doing all kinds of things behind the scenes and are supportive wives, and — believe it or not — have supportive husbands who are really great guys. I think not only for the women, but I think it just paints a really bad picture about the men as well. I think for athletes in general, people are like, “Why would you want to marry an athlete?” And that goes back to what I was saying to you: what works in one person’s marriage, may not work in the next. So keep your eyes focused on yours! I guess it’s interesting TV, but it’s definitely not reality.

Read more here at Uptown.

Wireless Market In Canada Opens To New Carriers

Source: www.thestar.com - Steve Rennie


(Mar 14, 2012) RUSSELL, ONT.—Ottawa moved Wednesday to open the
door to foreign ownership and smaller players in an effort to boost competition in the Canadian telecom industry.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis says the new measures will allow new wireless carriers into the market and foster greater competition in the telecom industry after a spectrum auction expected next year.

Canada’s wireless market is currently dominated by three big players: Telus, Rogers, and Bell.

The changes to the auction rules will let at least four companies obtain spectrum in each of Canada’s 14 licence areas, effectively making one block available for one of the smaller players.

As well, companies with less than 10 per cent of the telecom market will no longer have restrictions on foreign investment.

The government is also applying measures to the upcoming 700-MHz wireless spectrum auction to ensure rural Canadians receive the same level of service as people who live in bigger towns and cities.

“Wireless services are changing our families, our work, our economy and our communities,” Paradis said.

“The importance of these technologies are undeniable. It is essential that these be offered at affordable prices in every region of our country.”

The new spectrum up for auction has the ability to allow cellphone calls in elevators, deep in underground parking lots in big cities and in basements and attics in suburban areas.

The frequencies, made available by the switch to digital television signals, also provide better and more affordable service in rural Canada because fewer cellphone towers are needed to provide coverage.

Companies that hold more than one block of spectrum will have to provide wireless services to 90 per cent of their coverage areas within five years, and to 97 per cent of their coverage areas within seven years.

Antenna tower-sharing and roaming policies will also be changed.

Wind Mobile and Public Mobile — two of Canada’s smallest cellphone companies — had threatened to sit out spectrum auction if space wasn’t set aside for smaller players like themselves.

Anthony Lacavera, chairman and CEO of Wind Mobile, said Wednesday he was pleased by the decision to lift the foreign ownership limits, but said that the cap system handicaps the smaller companies because there isn’t enough of the valuable 700 MHz spectrum available.

“What the incumbents can buy makes the remaining dribs and drabs we can get not enough,” he said.

“The problem is the government is letting them buy too much, so we’re not able to get enough to offer competitive solutions to these guys.”

Globalive Communications Corp., Wind Mobile’s parent company, has faced challenges to its ownership structure. Egyptian company Orascom holds a 65 per cent equity stake in Globalive, but does not hold voting control and only a minority of board seats on the company’s board.

Lacavera said Wind Mobile would have preferred the federal government to set aside a portion of the 700 MHz spectrum for smaller companies, but the company was studying the cap system put in place.

In an interview with the Star in November, Egyptian financier Naguib Sawiris who founded Orascom expressed deep frustration, saying Ottawa had failed to make good on its commitments while clinging to archaic foreign ownership restrictions.

“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” Sawiris said at the time, adding if he had it to do all again, he wouldn’t have invested to launch Wind Mobile.

The billionaire art collector said the federal government had promised to enforce the sharing of cellular towers between incumbent wireless providers and new entrants but had not done so.

Sawiris also said Ottawa had not then enforced roaming requirements that see Wind Mobile calls being dropped when crossing rivals networks.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who writes a weekly column for the Star, said Ottawa’s move didn’t go as far as it could have.

“It is a surprise the government took so long to unveil its spectrum policy, and (that it) remains somewhat timid on the issue of opening the doors to foreign investment,” he said.

“It was more aggressive on these issues back when it was a minority government, when one might have thought it would be a little more cautious. Now that it’s got a majority, it’s still seemingly unwilling to jump in with both feet on issues like foreign investment restrictions.”

Amit Kaminer, an analyst at the SeaBoard Group, a telecommunications and technology consulting firm, said Industry Canada tried to balance the interests of all sides.

“Relaxing the foreign ownership rules of smaller firms is an important step in the right direction but without set-asides the incentive for the new entrants to bid in the auction in the first place is greatly reduced,” he said.

“That said the caps structure does leave small but important opportunity for the new entrant to access a limited amount of spectrum.”

The government said it will hold the 700-MHz auction in the first half of 2013, to be followed by auction of the 2500-MHz spectrum within a year.

In 2008, the federal government set aside radio spectrum for newcomers opening up Canada’s cellphone industry to more competition and raising more than $4 billion for federal coffers.

The auction saw the debut of Wind Mobile, Public Mobile, Mobilicity and Quebec-based Videotron all launch into the cellphone market.

The combined market share of all the new entrants is about 4 per cent, according to Industry Canada officials.

With files from Reuters

::MUSIC NEWS::

Hedley Offers Heartbreak In A Rowboat In High-Octane Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chandler Levack


(Mar 14, 2012) It takes a lot of charisma to make an arena full of girls
squeal at the sight of you in a yellow rain slicker. Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard and his band of merry dudes from British Columbia (that’s bassist Tommy Mac, guitarist Dave Rosin and drummer Chris Crippin) may not have much originality behind their power-pop quartet, but they make up for it with a high-octane rock show that has the calculated theatrics of a Broadway musical.

For fans of Canadian Idol, you may remember Hoggard as the impish finalist of Season 2 who dared to take the stage in a blue jumpsuit. He has a buttery rock tenor that swiftly bends into an elastic Bono falsetto, and was fully committed to keeping the crowd entertained. His litany of stage moves (including a signature whirling dervish spin performed on top of his red piano!) cribbed from Freddie Mercury, Adam Levine and at grosser points, Akon’s video for “Smack That.”

Halifax rapper Classified admirably warmed up the crowd with a well-received set that included his new single “The Day Doesn’t Die,” the confessional “Passion” and the patriotic “Oh ... Canada” which gave shout-outs to The Kids In The Hall and “the health care system, y’all know it’s free.” Though the rapper seemed overwhelmed by the size of the crowd as well as their age (“I grew up on hip hop from the 1990s, is anyone in this crowd familiar with anything from the 1990s?” he asked warily), Classified acted as a suitable hype man, even contributing a verse for Hedley’s Juno-nominated single “Invincible.”

With a 20-track set list that leaned on the band’s 2011 album Storms, Hedley delivered several anthemic rock songs that shifted between propulsive pop punk and sensitive piano ballads. Opening with the emo-tastic “321” which begs, “why we have to go and change things?” Hedley quickly shifted gears to more inspirational fare. “Bullet for Your Dreams” imitated the pop pacing of a Katy Perry hit with an inevitable power chord breakdown, proving that Hedley’s players do have chops. Hoggard is clearly inspired by Idol’s karaoke approach to rock 'n’ roll (how else to explain the interstitial snippet of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity?”), but the crowd ate up his old romantic radio favourites like the smash hit “For The Nights I Can’t Remember.” (Hoggard’s lyrical wheelhouse seems to be the apologetic love song.)

An acoustic interlude featuring the band all snuggled up inside an onstage rowboat was a welcome change as the band jammed in slickers. A bare-bones arrangement of their tender track “All You Get is Sound” was a rare showing of how to do arena rock with vulnerability.

But 6,500 screaming girls can only tolerate heartbreak in a rowboat for so long. By the time Hedley brought out their T-shirt cannon and unleashed the beast that is their sardonic single “Cha Ching” (despite its satiric meaning, the song basically sounds like money), the fans only wanted Hedley’s inevitable encore of weepy ballad “Perfect.” “I’m not perfect, but I keep trying,” sang Hoggard as hordes of screaming girls swayed in agreement. Hedley’s live show may not be flawless yet, but at least it’s honest.

Biggie Smalls Remembered On 15th Anniversary Of Death

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jenni Dunning


(Mar 09, 2012) Today is the 15th anniversary of the drive-by shooting
death of hip-hop legend Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls.

Though his murder remains unsolved, his hits remain as popular as ever.

On Twitter, “RIP Biggie Smalls" is trending in Toronto, with fans remembering the 25-year-old, who was just getting started in his career when he was gunned down on March 9, 1997 in Los Angeles.

The greatest rapper of all time died 15 years ago today. RIP Biggie Smalls. (@iamfase)

You know u're a legend when the great Jay-Z keeps stealing ur lyrics for 15yrs. RIP Biggie Smalls. (@Monsieur_RJ)

GREATEST rapper to ever touch a mic, in my eyes. RIP Biggie Smalls. (@KeepIt232)

I'm actually going to listen to biggie all day Wednesday, RIP Biggie Smalls! <3 (@itsJamieS)

He released two studio albums in his career, with Life After Death coming out posthumously. He also worked with other artists such as Lil’ Kim, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Mary J. Blige.

CBC vs. The Music Biz: How Much Is A Song Worth?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Omar El Akkad


(March 12, 2012) How much is a song worth? In the world of Internet-based music services such as Pandora, Grooveshark and the
CBC's new streaming Web radio, nobody seems to have a clear answer.

This week, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada indicated it believes the country's national broadcaster may not be paying music publishers enough for the rights to play their music - rights that were in part negotiated before the explosion of on-demand, Web-based music services that have shaken up the recording industry.

But the battle to determine how much money new music services should pay is intensely complex - so much so that several of the most popular music-streaming services, such as U.S.-based Pandora, have decided that expanding into Canada isn't worth the hassle of signing new licensing agreements yet.

However, the CBC finds itself in a particularly sensitive position. As the national broadcaster, it pays considerably less in royalty fees than commercial radio stations. But while some critics complain that fee structure needs to be changed to reflect the new era of Web-based music services, others argue the CBC's long-standing role in promoting Canadian music should earn it some slack.

Canadians spend $500-million a year on music, and 34 per cent of those sales take place online (mostly on Apple's iTunes, which allows users to buy individual songs or entire albums). Digital sales are the only segment of the music sales industry that is growing, gaining about 15 per cent a year.

"For the longest time the average Canadian's perception of what it meant to live in a digital music environment has meant you go to iTunes and download something," said Graham Henderson, president of Music Canada. "Or, you download something and steal it. So you had a choice - iTunes or illegal. Canada shuffled along too long - we risked reaching a tipping point where an entire generation grew up without an appetite for spending a single cent on music."

As with video content, the process of securing music distribution rights for Web-based services is often drawn-out and complex. And the resulting clauses and restrictions range across a wide spectrum. Services such as 8Tracks, a site that lets users create virtual mixtapes, only allow listeners to skip over a certain number of songs per hour, as part of the licensing agreement with publishers. Some sites, such as SoundCoud, allow musicians to skip the middleman and simply post their music directly for users to hear - indeed, bands such as Radiohead have tried to bypass the traditional music sales model entirely, offering some of their music to fans via the Web on a pay-what-you-like model.

Other sites let users create virtual stations that feature music similar to that of a particular artist, rather than letting them hone in on a specific song. YouTube has a music-specific sub-site, Vevo, which features videos from many big-name artists. However many such videos aren't available for viewing on certain devices, such as some phones and Web-connected game consoles. In other cases, music videos - like other kinds of copyrighted video content - are only viewable in certain countries.

(Licensing video content is equally complex. For example, Canadian users who watch episodes of Saturday Night Live on Netflix will find, in most cases, that the music performance portions of the shows are mostly gone).

In Canada, SOCAN applies different formulas for determining how much money it collects from various music-laying services, according to Paul Spurgeon, the group's vice-resident of legal services. The formula tends to take into account the service's Internet-based revenues, as well as the number of page impressions, or hits, the service gets. However the ratios are significantly different for various types of services, such as commercial or non-commercial radio stations.

Spurgeon said SOCAN files for tariffs at the end of March every year, and with the CBC's new Web-based radio service, may have to alter its royalty fees formula for the national broadcaster.

"We currently have a tariff that applies to CBC's online delivery of their [broadcast] signals," he said. "And this [CBC Music] is a new thing they've got. We have to look and see how the new facts apply to the tariff, and that's what we're considering."

However Spurgeon added that changing the fee formula would entail a hearing process, and could take years to implement.

With reporting by Steve Ladurantaye and Guy Dixon

Emeli Sande Plays The Drake

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen


(Mar 06, 2012) Looking for the Next Big Thing?

You can find her Wednesday night onstage at The Drake, accompanied
by guitar, a cello and percussion.

Although
Emeli Sandé’s debut album Version of Our Events won’t be released here until June, the buzz emanating from across the Atlantic is already impressive and considerable: the 24-year-old singer has won over the music-writing sect with the Critics’ Choice Brit Award, and Version steamrolled its way to the top of the U.K. charts upon its February release.

It’s not surprising when you hear the album: it’s a self-assured (think a U.K. equivalent to Janelle Monáe) 14-song soulful pop masterpiece replete with epic melodramatic heart-grabbers like “River” and “My Kind Of Love,” and a roaring voice that will send chills scurrying down your spine.

“I never do things by half measure,” chuckles Sandé, a coat draped around her shoulders, in the bowels of a downtown hotel conference room Tuesday afternoon, before an industry-only showcase that was also held at the Drake.

“If I want to do science, I’ll do medicine. If I want to do music, there’s no in-between, so I guess that’s how I approach relationships as well,” she giggles.

Yes, before she embarked on life as a songwriter, penning music for such Simon Cowell discoveries as Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis and Cheryl Cole, Sandé entered the world of medicine . . . at least, she schooled for it.

“I loved studying medicine,” says Sandé, who says she would have been a neurologist or a psychiatrist if music hadn’t intervened.

“It was always in my head that I was a musician, but I wanted to get a degree and thought, after I did this, I’d love to do music.

“But then when a door opened up, I realized I couldn’t wait for another opportunity. So I graduated with my research degree, but I didn’t finish my doctorate.”

In the next breath, Sandé readily admits that medicine didn’t have a chance, such was her devotion to music. Born in North England to a Zambian father and an English mother, Sandé grew up a shy child and began singing when she was 4 years old.

But it was when she was 7 and she got the parental thumbs-up that the deal was sealed.

“I thought, ‘Well, if my Dad said I’m good, I’m going to be a singer,’” she says. “So I was always singing, and then I started playing instruments and writing. That was where I belonged: wherever I am, I’m a musician.”

She began writing and performing in jazz lounges. Among her chief inspirations: Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell.

“I think Blue was the first album I heard by (Mitchell),” Sandé reminisces. “Until then I’d heard very structured songs. And then she came and it was all about the poetry of the lyric and certain phrases would capture you instead of, ‘Oh, there’s a chorus.’

“That was just a whole new way of thinking about songs for me and I loved just how she writes a song, and she’s very free with it. I love that.”

Sandé gave up her Simone ambitions when she met her musical soulmate, Shahid “Naughty Boy” Khan, who produced most of Our Version of Events.

“That was a big lesson for me,” she explains. “I came from this ‘Oh Nina, I want to do this, I want to do that,’ mentality, and everything was very complicated, the lyrics a bit too overthought.

“And Shahid came along with a beat and taught me to simplify what I was doing. He would say, ‘Oh, maybe you only need four chords. It doesn’t make you any less of a musician: you should be more powerful with your lyric and go straight to the point.’ I started to understand pop and learned how to still say something but get it played on the radio. I veered away from jazz.”

She also veered away from her first name. If life had been different, Sandé — who is currently co-writing with Alicia Keys for her next album, and opening for Coldplay at the Air Canada Centre on July 23 and 24 — would have been known by her first name, Adele.

“She was already on a big career path just before I released my first song, so I ended up going by my middle name, Emeli,” Sandé smiles.

“I’m glad I did.”

Katy Perry’s 3D Film “Part Of Me’ To Be Released This Summer

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 08, 2012) Katy Perry’s 3D movie will be released this summer.

The ‘California Gurls’ singer — who split from husband Russell Brand after 14 months of marriage in December — is following in the footsteps of Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber by releasing a concert movie, Katy Perry: Part of Me.

She wrote on twitter: “READY FOR HUGE NEWS?! FINALLY, my MOVIE is coming out with Paramount this summer! It’s called “KATY PERRY: PART OF ME” Presented In 3D!(sic)”

Producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz are in negotiations to direct the project, which will feature footage from Perry both on and offstage.

Their production company Magical Elves have previously worked on Project Runway and created Top Chef.

Justin Bieber’s concert movie Never Say Never was released in February 2011 and grossed $73 million in the U.S.

Michael Jackson’s This Is It took in more than $261 million worldwide upon its release in 2009.

Audio: Mary J Blige Dishes on ‘Idol’ Visit; New Single ‘Why’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders


(March 10, 2012) *
Mary J. Blige put in work this week on “American Idol,” first as a co-mentor to the contestants alongside Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine, and then, as a musical guest during Thursday night’s results show.

In an interview shortly after contestant Jeremy Rosado was sent packing, she told us she was blown away by the talent of this year’s finalists, which made her experience as a mentor all the more rewarding.

“I like to see people win,” she said. “When they’re talented and they work really hard, I just really want to work with them. I just really want them to get the best. All of these contestants on this show are super talented; they really, really want it. They work really hard, so it just makes me want to go the extra mile — and tell them the truth.”

Below, Mary J says she can personally relate to the dreams of the contestants, which made it much easier for her to give them that honest feedback, whether it was positive or negative.

During Thursday’s live broadcast, Blige performed her single “Why?” from the album “My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1),” released in November.

“’Why’ means so much, because in life and in so many relationships, we wonder why when we hit a certain bump or when we’re doing something wrong, why things can’t work out,” explained the 41-year-old Bronx native. “I just know that so many people are going through that right now.”

Watch her “American Idol” performance of “Why” below.

Monkees Remaining Members Won’t Attend Davy Jones’ Funeral

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen


(Mar 06, 2012) The remaining members of
The Monkees will not attend Davy Jones’ funeral.

The 66-year-old singer passed away from a heart attack last week and while his bandmates are upset, they have agreed to stay away from his burial as Jones’ family want a “low-key” send-off.

Asked if he and his bandmates Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork will attend the funeral, drummer Micky Dolenz told Billboard: “My understanding is they want to avoid a media circus and the family wants to keep it very, very low-key and very, very private. And you can imagine as soon as one or two or any of us were to show up, it would very quickly be degraded into something that I don’t think his immediate family would want to deal with that.”

The Monkees have previously toured without Nesmith and now that Jones has passed away, Dolenz believes it is unlikely any of them will perform under the group’s name anymore.

He said: “We’ve had a sort of unspoken, I guess, agreement over the years that if it’s just two of us getting together we never called it The Monkees. I can see us getting together to do a memorial concert, of course, but right now I can’t imagine anything else happening without the Manchester Cowboy.”

Jones will be buried in Florida, with public memorial services expected to take place in New York and the singer’s native Manchester, north west England, though no other information has been given.

Pop Pulls On The Cowboy Boots

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Morris


(March 12, 2012) Ten years ago, Johnny Reid was a singer-songwriter with a home address in Brampton, Ont., and a Scottish accent, neither of which was drawing much water in Nashville. Yet when Reid was shopping a demo song around town, the avid fan of soul, rock and country took a chance. Instead of hiring a drawling singer, he simply recorded the tune in his own voice. "I got a call and they said, 'Hey, man, I really love the song but who's the singer?'" Reid explains on the phone from outside Music City, where he now makes his home.

Though he has sold over a million albums since then, the two-time Juno winner reckons the gatekeepers are still baffled. "They're looking at this Canadian-Scottish immigrant and thinking, how did we miss this? Where did this come from?"

Pop radio and country music are an odd couple, but thanks to crossover artists from Shania Twain to Taylor Swift, they've made it work. It's only recently, however, that the country audience has entertained advances from other genres. Whether it's a pop star like Kelly Clarkson scoring a hit via a country duet, or Johnny Reid dominating Canadian country radio and CMT with nary a Stetson in sight, the border between country and pop is more porous than it's ever been.

The country-radio success of the singles from Reid's seventh album, Fire It Up (out Monday), with its horn sections and Reid's mighty, Wilson Pickett-indebted roar, shows how much the landscape has changed. The largely banjo-and-fiddle-free new country sound appeals more to boomer rock fans raised on the likes of Bob Seger, the Eagles and Tom Petty than mushy adult contemporary or heavily Auto-Tuned Top 40. Thirty years ago, Reid's title track would have been deemed pop-rock. Today, it's country, yet Reid is pulling in huge audiences in Canada's major cities as well as country's rural strongholds.

But without the 10-gallon hats and twanging guitars, what is it about these pop artists that makes country fans warm to them?

"Country isn't just a sound, it's a lifestyle," says Kelly Clarkson, her voice, with its Southern accent, rising above the TV crews packing up after a shoot at the Four Seasons in Toronto. "It's almost like a personality thing, and I fit very much more into that. What's funny is, musically I fit into pop, but personally I'm way more in the country world."

The easy charm of the American Idol winner, The Voice guest mentor (she works with members of the team coached by country star Blake Shelton) and soon-to-be cast member of ABC's new singing show, Duets, stems partly from her roots in Burleson, Tex., - which is also the home town of her manager since 2007, Narvel Blackstock. Clarkson warmed to Blackstock in 2002 when Reba McIntyre (Blackstock's artist, and also his wife) guested on Idol. Her then-manager wanted her to be "the biggest singer in the world," often demanding she receive star treatment. That attitude, she says, is "totally different from how I am. And you know, your management is a representation of you."

Many expected that Clarkson would use her new connections to give up pop for country. She didn't - her latest album, Stronger, is a pop-rock juggernaut. It's rife with guitars, and just enough modern production to sound at home next to Rihanna; the album's title track currently sits atop the Billboard Hot 100. But Clarkson seems to have dual citizenship as far as the country audience is concerned: Her duet with Jason Aldean, Don't You Wanna Stay, topped the country charts; and on her Canadian tour dates, she skipped big cities and played casinos instead - a standard trajectory for country stars, who go to the rural markets where most of their fans live.

Like Reid, Clarkson has convinced audiences to follow her across genres. On the subject of the booming drums that dominate Stronger (in contrast to the programmed beats of most Top 40), Clarkson declares, "I love how a live band sounds. It's my favourite thing, and I like those elements on the record and I have to fight for that."

The reality of music fandom, both Clarkson and Reid take pains to stress, is that most people like a wider stylistic range than one genre can capture. The industry is slowly making room for genre-busting polymaths like Jack White, at whose mention Clarkson visibly brightens.

"I love him. He is working with so many different people, and the common denominator with him is that he loves music, all different kinds. Most people do; I think [artists] just get thrown into what people think society's going to be willing to accept."

Johnny Reid plays 32 Canadian tour dates starting April 10 in Victoria. Kelly Clarkson appears on The Voice, which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.

SWV (Sisters With Voices) Going on Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com


(March 10, 2012) *Since music has taken a turn for the worst,
SWV (Sisters with Voices) is taking the industry back and has planned to return to R&B with a tour beginning March 24.

The 90s singing group will kick off the return to good music on the Tom Joyner Cruise before getting to the Fresh Music Festival Memorial Day weekend.

The group will join other artists like K-Ci & JoJo, Guy, and Keith Sweat on a multi-city tour that will wrap up in August.

Due out in April, the girls will release a new album, “I Missed Us” and their single “Co-Sign” has already hit No. 15 on the charts.

“It’s a great feeling to be back recording together again! Something special always happens when we come together,” said members Coko, Lelee and Taj.

Tour dates:

3/ 24 – 3/ 27 – Tom Joyner Cruise
3/29 – St. Louis, MO w/ New Edition – (Radio One 95.5 B-day Bash) Scottrade
Center 4/ 7- Hampton, Va – Hampton Convocation Center
5/ 5 – Miami, FL – Funk Fest
5/ 18- Atlanta, Ga W/New Edition – Funk Fest – Wolf Creek Amphitheater

(FRESH MUSIC FESTIVAL TOUR W/ KC & JOJO, KEITH SWEAT)

5/ 25 – Lafayette, LA – Cajun Dome
5/ 26 – Houston, TX – Reliant Arena
5/ 27- Greensboro, NC – Greensboro Coliseum
TBA – Philadelphia, PA – Liacourous, Center
6/ 8- Bridgeport, CT – Webster Bank Arena
6/ 16- Charleston, SC – N. Charleston Coliseum
6/ 29-Augusta, Ga – James Brown Arena
6/ 30- Raleigh, NC – RBC Center

(*** not part of the fresh music festival tour)

7/ 6 – New Orleans, LA – Essence Music Festival performance*** 7/ 13-
Jacksonville, FL – Veterans Memorial Arena ***
7/ 14- Mobile, AL – Mobile Civic Center ***
7/ 21 – Baltimore, MD – 1st Marina Arena ***
7/ 28- Richmond, VA – Richmond Coliseum
8/ 4 – Macon, GA – Macon Complex

Ruben Studdard Talks Divorce, Weight, Taxes, More on ‘Wendy’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 14, 2012) *Ruben Studdard visited by The Wendy Williams Show Tuesday to promote his fifth album, “Letters From Birmingham,” and discuss a number of other topics, including who should judge “X-Factor,” the truth behind his divorce, his tax problems and his former “American Idol” rival Clay Aiken’s chances on NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

After Williams questioned Studdard about “X Factor’s” contract negotiations drama with Britney Spears, Studdard said his judge of choice would be: Mariah Carey.

“She wouldn’t pull any punches,” said Studdard, who also name checked former Pop Stars judge David Foster as another choice.

Regarding his divorce from his wife of three years, Surata Zuri McCants, he rejected Williams’ theory that McCants expected the high life when she married the Velvet Teddy Bear. Studdard said they were just “two people going in two different directions,” explaining that he wanted a big family and she already had a daughter.

He also said that although Studdard and Aiken are perceived as quiet guys, he’s not surprised that Aiken’s sense of humor is shining on “The Apprentice,” and added that Aiken is an entertaining and funny person, which he learned from living with the singer in the same house during “American Idol’s” second season, and on tour.

He even said that a production hand on the “American Idol” tour said that a camera should have been backstage just so people can see how “stupid” Aiken and Studdard really are.

Studdard also revealed that he has regained most of the weight he lost due to stress eating and “kicking it” following his divorce (sweets is his downfall, especially red velvet cake). Also, the title of his single, “June 28,” is the date he got married; he is very single, and is working with his tax attorney to repay the $100,000 in taxes he owes to the IRS.

“I won’t be the first person on television with that problem and I won’t be the last,” he said.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Taylor Swift Is Billboard’s Top Money Maker For 2011

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 09, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Taylor Swift is No. 1 again: The singer is the top act on Billboard’s “Money Makers” list. Swift earned more than US$35 million in 2011, according to the Billboard list released Friday. U2 was second with $32 million. Kenny Chesney, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne rounded out the top 5. Artists’ rankings were based on U.S. income sources from tours, albums sales and publishing royalties. Billboard said in a press release that it didn’t factor in “sponsorships, merchandise sales or synchronization deals.” Adele was tenth on the list. Though she cancelled most of her U.S. tour due to issues with her vocal cords, her album 21 sold more than 5 million units in 2011. Including sales from this year, 21 has sold nearly 8 million copies.

Bette Midler To Receive Songwriters Hall Of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 08, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Bette Midler’s voice has helped make songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings” classics, and now she’ll be honoured for that gift. Midler is set to receive the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 14 in New York. The organization’s chairman, Jimmy Webb, says Midler “captivated the world” with her “stylish presentation and unmistakable voice, making each song her own.” Past Sammy Cahn honourees include Dick Clark, Neil Diamond and Tony Bennett. The Songwriters Hall of Fame is inducting Bob Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot, Don Schlitz, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, and Jim Steinman this year.

Nicki Minaj Says She’s ‘Working on Two Books’

Source: www.eurweb.com


(March 13, 2012) *
Nicki Minaj is about to become an author. The rapper – who already has her own nail polish line, a shade of M.A.C. lipstick and an upcoming fashion line – has revealed to fans that she’s expanding into the literary world. Asked if she would ever consider writing a book, she tweeted: ”Wrkng on 2 books actually…” In the past, Nicki has expressed a desire to expand her career beyond music to create an ”empire” that would rival rap mogul Jay-Z, who is involved with a number of ventures, including a basketball team, clothing line and nightclubs. She told Allure magazine: ”I never thought about music as just being the end-all, be-all. I always looked at it like a business, something that I could create an empire out of. So that’s why I’m only about to put out my second album and I’m already thinking about this. ”I had a little conversation with Jay-Z at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. He said, ‘Congratulations on all your success.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m coming for you. I’m coming for your spot, Mr. Mogul.’”

Doobie Brothers Drummer Michael Hossack Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chandler Levack


(Mar 13, 2012) SONOMA, CALIF. — Longtime
Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack has died at age 65. The band's manager, Bruce Cohn, said in a statement that Hossack died of cancer on Monday in his home in Dubois, Wyo. Hossack played with the group from 1971 to 1973 and rejoined in 1987. His drumming can be heard on early hits including "Listen To The Music," ''China Grove" and "Blackwater." He stopped performing with the band two years ago while struggling with cancer. Doobie Brothers co-founder Tom Johnston said, "Mike has always been a part of my musical life and the life of the Doobie Brothers ... He was an incredible musician." Hossack grew up in New Jersey and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He is survived by a son and daughter.

::FILM NEWS::    

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: From Horror To Awe To Oscar

Source
: www.globeandmail.com

(March 12, 2012) ‘There is a story here,
Sharmeen, and it is a remarkable one.” These were the first words that Daniel Junge said to me two years ago, over a static-ridden phone line from Denver. The Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker had recently spoken with Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a Pakistani-British plastic surgeon who regularly visits Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence, the horrific practice of throwing disfiguring chemicals onto the faces of women. Over the past several years, more than 150 cases of acid violence have been reported annually in the country where I grew up and where I have made a number of my films.

Most survivors do not have the resources to seek treatment for their burns. Daniel was in the process of producing a film that would celebrate Dr. Jawad’s efforts, and he was inviting me to direct it with him. The moment I hung up on my end of the line in Karachi, I dived into the project.

Being from Pakistan – as a Pakistani-Canadian, I also live about a third of the year in Toronto – I was certainly aware of acid violence. Acid attacks have been going on in countries as varied as Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan for a decade now. They first appeared in Pakistan about five years ago. Most attacks take place in rural areas, where rates of unemployment and illiteracy are high, acid (used to wash cotton) is widely available, and misogyny is rampant. Being based myself in Karachi, far from the agrarian Saraiki region in the province of Punjab, where most attacks occur, I had spent no time with survivors, nor had I worked with organizations that support them.

As our team delved into research and production, our findings shocked me. Most cases of acid violence are motivated by the concept of shame. Scorned lovers, rejected marriage suitors and abusive husbands attack women with the bald intention to dishonour, control and hurt them.

During our work, we came to know about the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), an organization that rehabilitates victims by providing free medical treatment and counselling. ASF guided us through the Saraiki region, and introduced us to survivors and their families. Many of the victims were young and unmarried; all faced tenuous futures. Married women were often compelled to remain with the very husbands who had disfigured them – they simply didn’t have the resources to support their children independently.

It was difficult to reconcile the lives of these women with my own reality, and to come to terms with the fact that such acts occurred in a country I call home. The anger and frustration that I felt only strengthened my resolve to produce a film that could combat such narratives with an alternative one – one that would focus on the individuals who dedicated their lives to ridding Pakistan of what Dr. Jawad aptly calls “a disease.”

Saving Face also became the story of two extraordinary survivors: Zakia and Rukhsana. At the time of shooting, Zakia – a mother of three, and the wife of an alcoholic, drug-addicted gambler named Pervez, who had hurled acid onto her face in broad daylight and in front of several witnesses – was in the midst of fighting him in court. She was represented by Sarkar Abass, an eminent lawyer who had taken her case pro bono.

Rukhsana, the mother of two small children, lived in a village in southern Punjab. While asleep, she had been doused with petrol and acid by her husband and mother-in-law, who then set her on fire and locked her in a room. When I met Rukhsana’s husband, he protested his innocence, and insisted that 99 per cent of victims had burned themselves and were simply passing the blame to their husbands.

During shooting, Zakia and Rukhsana were poised to seek treatment with Dr. Jawad. At about the same time, Pakistan-based Valerie Khan, who runs ASF, was working with female parliamentarians to pass the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill of 2011. She encouraged many survivors – including Rukhsana – to testify before parliament.

When the bill was brought, there was a palpable sense of urgency in the air. Parliamentarians from different backgrounds came forward to present a unified voice. Sentiments of change echoed throughout the assembly, and as I looked around, I was filled with a hope that can only be felt when you realize that you are part of something bigger than yourself. I watched as spirited women parliamentarians, including Marvi Memon, Farahnaz Ispahani and Donya Aziz, made impassioned speeches that echoed one clear message: Women were demanding change. The bill was passed unanimously.

Around this same time – though not under the new law – Zakia’s husband was tried, and given two life sentences. Although the right side of her face had completely melted off after the attack, after surgeries more than 70 per cent of the damage is now repaired. Rukhsana, whose entire face and neck had been melted by acid, but who was too poor to leave her husband, became pregnant while waiting for justice. She has now given birth, which will allow surgery on her scars to begin in two weeks’ time. She is currently working with ASF to figure out ways to live independently and educate her children.

It was a privilege to spend time with both women, and to have the opportunity to tell their stories to a world-wide audience. When we wrapped shooting, I was certain that we had a strong message. However, no filmmaker can predict how audiences will receive their film.

I was in my office in Karachi in late January, surrounded by colleagues, when I learned that Saving Face had been nominated for an Academy Award. The office erupted in shouts and tears of joy. It was an indescribable and surreal feeling, one that didn’t fully sink in until I entered the Kodak Theatre last Sunday. When Saving Face was announced as the winner of best documentary short, I froze in my seat. It was only when I saw Daniel bounding down the stairs that I realized our film had won.

At first glance, Saving Face is a heartbreaking depiction of a heinous crime that highlights alarming realities in Pakistani society. However, the film also celebrates the survivors of acid attacks – and those who have stepped up to help them: a selfless doctor; tireless parliamentarians; intrepid organizations that rehabilitate survivors and help them get the treatment they need.

The film’s message ultimately shines through the women who want their stories to be catalysts of critical conversation – and change. Above all, Saving Face is the story of a nation that is realizing it cannot hide behind its flaws, but must fight them together. No one would claim that acid attacks are now a thing of the past simply because legislation has been passed. But I’d like to think that Saving Face offers genuine hope that Pakistan can fix its problems – that when we come together as a nation, we are nothing short of invincible.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is currently developing an animated cartoon series about superheroes for children in Pakistan.

’21 Jump Street’ Delivers; Ice Cube Discusses Film and New Projects

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 14, 2012) *New life has been breathed into 80s TV’s police procedural crime drama, “21 Jump Street,” which helped launch the careers of Hollywood luminaries such as Johnny Depp and our beloved Holly Robinson Peete.

In its soon-to-be-released big screen version, Channing Tatum (Coach Carter, Step Up) and Jonah Hill (Super Bad, Money Ball) shine as they deliver perfectly timed antics and action that will likely command the laughter and attention of theatregoers.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), the drama-turned-action-comedy will surprise you with its level of energy. Tatum and Hill take you on an action-packed ride as the pair team up to join the police force and end up disguised as high schoolers charged with executing a major drug sting. The movie’s action scenes are well executed and serve as the perfect complement to the hilarious comedic scenes that make the 21 Jump Street flow with ease.

As a surprise to many, famed rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube serves as the witty, aggressive Captain Dickson in the film. Dickson, who oversees the drug sting, has no tolerance for the antics of Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) and gives the pair a hard time as they work to carry out their mission. Although Ice Cube makes an excellent showing as a police captain, it is clearly opposite the “*Bleep* the Police” rapper that earned him entre’ into the entertainment business.

EURweb.com was able to catch up with Cube and gather firsthand insight on the movie, his role and what’s up next for his production company, CubeVison.

EURweb: How long have you been in film?

Ice Cube: I’ve been doing this thing here since 1990.

EURweb: Do you even know what number film this is for you?

Cube: I heard 30! But I don’t keep count. Once I finish one [movie], it’s in the rearview mirror and you kinda have to go on to the next thing. However I do take time to look back and reflect.

EURweb: How do you stay afloat in this ever-changing entertainment industry?

Cube: I’m always looking for the next project, even when I’m working on a project. I keep a lot of plates spinning, and I don’t rest on my laurels at all.

EURweb: Were you a fan of the original 21 Jump Street series?

Cube: I wouldn’t say I was a fan, you know the show was hot, but I really didn’t have the time to consistently follow the show. I did watch it every now and then when I could. But I like where we went with this movie. It was the perfect movie to flip and make more of a comedy.

EURweb: What’s your favorite scene in the movie?

Cube: I like the “Korean Jesus” scene! That was dope. Seeing Jonah get into his many costumes has us all laughing. But the place we were in was an actual church, so everyone kept it cool with the “extra.”

EURweb: Your character, Captain Dickson, keeps everyone focused and under control. Who is that person for you in your personal life?

Cube: If anyone, I’d have to say my wife. I wouldn’t say she’s as hard as a Captain Dickson though. No one else has that much influence.

EURweb: Are you a Captain Dickson-ish father?

Cube: Oh no. I usually don’t have to go that hard. If you stay consistent in your discipline, you won’t have to be that kinda guy.

EURweb: What was your favorite moment off-camera?

Cube: The cast are all comedians so every moment was a “moment.” I wrapped up my scenes quicker than the rest, but I did enjoy telling old NWA stories.

EURweb: How did your high school experience compare to that in the movie?

Cube: I was a part of the jocks for a minute playing football, then I got into music so I went from the jocks to the “freaks.” Our clothes were different and eventually it caught on and people started trying to be us. Which made us the new innovators and no longer the freaks.

EURweb: The ending gave us hope for more. What can you say about it?

Cube: If the movie does what it’s supposed to do, we’ll be back!

EURweb: What’s next for your production company, CubeVision?

Cube: Getting the next “Friday” movie into works as we speak, there’s an NWA movie we’re putting together and getting the right directors for. “Are We There Yet?” is coming back on TBS, and more Coors commercials!

EURweb: What’s your message for African-American males working hard for success and preventing becoming a stereotype?

Cube: Well … you have to be proud of who you are. Sometimes when you’re so busy running from stereotypes, you run from who you are. So, I’d say be yourself, but also strive to be better. Recognize your opportunities because they’re all around you. I don’t care where you come from, there are opportunities and it’s all about taking advantage of them. If you’re sitting back and just waiting for something good to come to you, it’s not gonna happen. You have to make something good happen.

“21 Jump Street” will be in theaters March 16.

Watch the red band trailer for “21 Jump Street” (NOTE: Contains adult language; may not be safe for playing openly at work. Otherwise, enjoy):

The Story Behind Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Mar 13, 2012) Unless you’re a kid (in which case, be sure to hide this),
it won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the real Elmo is not actually fuzzy red with googly eyes, is not particularly ticklish and does not live on Sesame Street.

But a large, bald, 50-year-old black man from Baltimore?

Even if you are already aware that Miss Piggy is really a man, to see
Kevin Clash alongside (or rather, under) his little felt friend, and hear that perpetually prepubescent voice emerge from its true source, the effect is, well, a tad disconcerting.

But spend a few minutes with Clash and the two become one. Even to Clash, who often in interviews finds himself talking out of both sides of his mouth.

You’ll see this first-hand in the festival award-winning PBS documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which christens the Bloor Cinema as the new home of Hot Docs this Friday. (And if you miss it at the Bloor, it will air on PBS stations April 5.)

You’ll also hear from Elmo fans like narrator Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell, prime mover of the Tickle Me Elmo toy phenom, and colleagues like Frank Oz (the aforementioned Miss Piggy) and Caroll Spinney (Big Bird).

And you’ll learn that by the time Clash first met Elmo in the mid-1980s, the character was already tarnished goods.

“I had gotten the character thrown to me by this unbelievable, talented performer called Richard Hunt,” Clash remembers. “And he was the second puppeteer to perform Elmo on Sesame Street.

“And, you know, I was an up and coming young puppeteer. And I said to myself, ‘If he can’t do anything with it, how can I come up with something?’

“Well, I went back home and hung out with my mom. My mom was a daycare mother, and so I hung out and watched kids. Then I came back up the next season and there was this one sketch that was written for Elmo . . . just Elmo imagining that he was going to a trip and it was all in his imagination. It was just an outline. And I started doing some silly things.

“Once I heard the camera guys, who have seen everything, start laughing, I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I’m doing something that might work here.’”

To suggest that Clash is uniquely in touch with his own inner child is an understatement. And it was as a child that he was first introduced to the magical world of puppeteering.

From that point on, he never wanted to do anything else.

“The doc starts with me talking about how much I loved the Muppets and wanted to be with the Muppets,” he says.

He got his chance when, at the age of 18, he wangled a tour of the Muppet workshop with master puppet-maker Kermit Love (no relation to the frog . . . though actually, if you think about it . . .).

“I finally got to go to the shop and see all of this stuff that I’ve always wanted to do.”

It has now come full circle, says Clash of his own recent encounter with a precocious 10-year-old, “a wonderful little child whose name is Tao.”

The meeting was filmed for the Elmo documentary but, like almost 200 other hours of additional footage, did not make the final cut.

“I call him up on the phone,” Clash recalls. “He doesn’t know that I’m calling. So I call him and I say, you know, “This is who I am,’ and he says, ‘No, you’re not.’

“Then I gave him the tour that Kermit gave me and Jim (Henson) gave me, through the shop. And Jason Weber, who runs the shop, gave him a huge bag of fur that you can’t find anyplace and some foam.

“His eyes got this big, just like mine did. This little kid was losing his mind.

“He (looked up) at his mom, and he said, ‘I think I just threw up in my mouth.’”

The memory still tickles Clash. “That was one of the moments that will be on, hopefully, the DVD extras, because I think it’s one of those wonderful moments, you know, when somebody is finally where they always wanted to be.”

You’re not quite sure if he’s talking about Tao or himself. Or Elmo.

I suspect a little of all three.

Derek Luke Grateful for Moments With Whitney Houston in ‘Sparkle’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders


(March 9, 2012) *Expect to see
Derek Luke starring in the long anticipated remake of 1976 classic “Sparkle” as the love interest of title character played by Jordin Sparks.

Since making his big break as “Antwone Fisher,” the actor has experienced some heavy weight roles, but nothing quite like this one, reports BET.com.

Working with Whitney Houston was a historical moment for Luke, something he’ll cherish for the rest of his life.

“We had a great time bonding,” said Luke at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. “We had a few scenes together and we were always on set together, shooting at the same time.”

After hearing of the singer’s death, Luke could hardly believe the news.

“The whole cast was,” he said, adding that she was happy being in front of the camera again as Emma, the mother who disapproves of Sparkle’s music biz dreams. “Whitney’s friends said they’d never seen her more comfortable on a set. She felt at home and made us feel at home.”

The actor complimented Houston, saying she’s “excellent” in the film.

Friends With Kids Review: The Parent Trap

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard


Friends With Kids
Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd and Megan Fox. Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt. 107 minutes. Opens March 9 at major theatres. 14A

(Mar 08, 2012) Everybody wants to be the couple who has sex in the restaurant bathroom in between courses and nobody wants to be the grouchy old marrieds who are covered in baby barf.

First-time director Jennifer Westfeldt starts with that comic premise in
Friends with Kids and then starts to layer a much deeper exploration of relationships upon it. The result is a smart, sexy and honest ensemble comedy about parenthood and relationship issues with a 24-karat cast. Jon Hamm, an underused Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd all hit it out of the park in scenes that crackle with chemistry when the Bridesmaids alums are involved.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the main couple (Westfeldt and Adam Scott), and the script, written by Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), occasionally gets too busy with the smart talk and quick banter, and loses considerable steam during a lurching, predictable trip to the finish.

Single best pals for life Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Scott) are horrified at how the addition of kids has become the ultimate relationship killer in their friends’ lives.

A visit to see Leslie (Rudolph) and Alex (O’Dowd), former hip Manhattanites who traded urban island life for more bedrooms in Brooklyn (this was last year; now Brooklyn is hot) now means screaming kids and hostile spousal exchanges. Glimmer twins Missy (Wiig) and Ben (Hamm), the libidinous pair who couldn’t keep their hands off each other if both were in straitjackets, are at each other’s throats with the arrival of their baby.

Julie and Jason, both perpetually single, start to think the kids they wanted to have someday will never come. And what if they did meet someone and having a brood kills the mood for good?

Why not just make a baby as friends and split the proceeds 50-50? No strings, no relationship and no hassles, right?

Their friends are horrified at this co-parenting scheme, but the newly pregnant pair (they got their baby the old-fashioned way, too!) are too busy buying his-and-hers sets of everything for their separate apartment nurseries to care.

Complications arise when Jason, now a doting daddy, starts dating superhot Broadway dancer Mary Jane (Megan Fox), who shudders at the thought of having kids. “I like my freedom,” she says.

A weekend at a cabin with the couples — plus Julie’s new boyfriend Kurt (Edward Burns) — results in a scene out of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

What’s problematic about Friends with Kids is the not-a-couple pair at the heart of the story. Julie and Jason share everything — late-night phone calls, secrets and, finally, a confession that will be embarrassingly familiar to just about anyone, right down to the panicked awkwardness of the response.

So why don’t we believe it? Westfeldt’s Julie is sweet and smart, and Scott plays Jason as an arch cynic with tenderness lurking below the surface, yet there is simply no chemistry between them. It’s not their baby plan that lacks believability, it’s them.

FILM TIDBITS

Monsieur Lazhar The Big Winner At Quebec’s Jutra Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard


(Mar 12, 2012) MONTREAL — Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar
continued its banner year at Quebec’s Jutra Awards, winning seven prizes including best movie. Falardeau also took home the prize for best director. The Oscar-nominated flick about an Algerian immigrant who helps a class of Montreal students grapple with the sudden death of their teacher also won for best screenplay, sound and for original music. Rounding out a great night for Monsieur Lazhar were Jutras for 11-year-old Sophie Nelisse as best supporting actress and for 13-year-old Emilien Neron as best supporting actor. Besides the Oscar nomination as best foreign film, the movie also won six Genies, including best film and best director. Other big Jutra winners were Gilbert Sicotte as best actor for his role in Sebastien Pilote’s Le Vendeur, and Vanessa Paradis, who repeated her Genie success by taking home the best actress award for her performance in Cafe de Flore.

Whitney Sings and Sounds Great in ‘Sparkle’: Watch the Video

Source: www.eurweb.com


(March 11, 2012) *Luckily for
Whitney Houston fans, before she died she completed filming on the remake of the classic 1976 film “Sparkle.” And luckily for all of us Entertainment Tonight had a chance to visit the set and speak with Whitney, director Salim Akil and her co-star, Jordin Sparks, about the film. The best part is that “ET” was able to film the church scene where Whitney is actually singing and she sounds great. She hit some high notes pretty much like she did back in the day. Watch it below. “Sparkle” is set to hit theaters August 17.

Oscars 2013: 85th Academy Awards Set For Feb. 24

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chandler Levack


(Mar 14, 2012) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — The
85th Academy Awards have been set for Feb. 24, 2013, and they’ll take place once again at the Hollywood & Highland Center. The venue, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, opened in 2001 to be the permanent home of the Hollywood’s biggest awards ceremony. Eastman Kodak Co. filed for bankruptcy protection and dropped its name from the event just before this year’s Oscars were handed out. A representative of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says the academy has a contract with the owner of the Hollywood & Highland Center through the 2013 show. Negotiations are still ongoing as to where there ceremony might take place in upcoming years. Academy Award nominations are set for Jan. 15, 2013.

::TV NEWS::    

Top Chef Canada’s Lisa Ray Finds A Life Worth Dining For

Source: www.thestar.com - By Vinay Menon


(Mar 10, 2012)
Lisa Ray swirls red wine around her mouth and her eyes flutter closed in ecstasy.

“It looks peculiar in polite company,” she says, laughing and aerating the Malbec between her teeth with a swooshing sound. Then she laughs some more.

Sitting inside One, the tony restaurant in Yorkville, Ray is at once giddy and serene. The film actress, former model and new host of Top Chef Canada, which returns for its second season on Monday (Food Network, 10 p.m.), is in a happy place.

Her boyfriend Jason Dehni, vice president of international wealth management at Scotiabank, proposed last month in Napa. Now an engagement ring, a diamond the size of Gibraltar, sits on her finger. Ray is working, traveling, socializing, planning a wedding and laughing each and every day — in other words, doing things she was not just over two years ago during a near-death fight with cancer.

Her ordeal started in 2009. During a trip to India for Moksha yoga training, one of her passions, Ray struggled to get off the floor when her classes would end. It was as if an unseen force was pinning her down, short-circuiting her muscles, squeezing her bones. Upon returning to Toronto, she booked a physical — the first in more than a decade — unaware her world was about to spin off its axis.

One test result was so alarming that, upon glancing at her red blood cell count, Ray’s doctor jumped out of her chair and exclaimed, “How are you even standing?”

Ray was rushed to Toronto General for an emergency blood transfusion. This would lead to more tests, including a bone marrow aspiration.

About six months later, the diagnosis was grim.

An incurable blood cancer known as multiple myeloma had infiltrated Ray’s plasma cells. The news was virtually impossible to fathom. But the part that now bothers her most is this: instead of paying attention to the signals her body was telegraphing, Ray kept functioning. She kept up with her grueling schedule.

“That is not a testament to my willpower or to anything positive,” she says, framed by the dining room’s gossamer curtains and a panoramic view of Yorkville. “I think it’s actually an illustration of our modern-day ills of having to push through, to go no matter what. I was a poster child for that. I was pushing myself well beyond what I should be physically enduring. I was literally pushing myself into the grave.”

After getting intensive treatment with steroids and oral chemotherapy, Ray had a stem cell transplant at Henderson Hospital in Hamilton. Amazingly, she defied the odds and scored a decisive victory. Of course, with multiple myeloma, this does not mean the game is over.

“It is technically incurable,” says Ray, sipping a glass of room temperature water. “Here’s the reality about the disease that I am still living with: It’s a beast. Right now, I am officially in remission. But the beast is in the cage. It’s not that I am cured.”

Ray’s healing process has transcended the physical. She is ditching old attitudes, re-evaluating beliefs, changing her priorities. Her role on Top Chef, for example, has less to do with career ambition and more to do with the kind of message she now wants attached to her public image.

“That’s where the cancer came in and kind of reset everything in my life,” she says.

Hosting a reality show might seem like a strange move for the star of films such as Bollywood Hollywood, Cooking with Stella and Water. But the show, which she jubilantly calls “the best gig ever,” was a liberating experience in an industry that can be obsessed with unrealistic beauty ideals.

Ray tells a story. While on a promotional junket for Water in 2007, she was supposed to appear in a Vogue spread. She went to the magazine’s editorial offices, where she was given a once-over before any photographs could be shot.

While she “passed” this bizarre inspection, the pictures never ran. It seems the slender and petite Ray was deemed too fat for the fashion bible.

“I was kind of devastated about that,” she says. “Not because it was my life dream to appear in Vogue. I just felt, ‘How is this related to the film that I’m a part of?’ This is a film about women’s rights. It’s about the suppression of women. Isn’t that ironic?”

The experience may also explain the tortured relationship Ray once had with food.

“Although I never said it to myself, probably at some point in my life I was anorexic,” says Ray, who turns 40 next month. “For some portion of my life, I was bulimic. It’s shockingly common.”

Her illness put all of this in a new light.

“Cancer gave me the permission, I think, to celebrate fully and embrace the bounty of food,” she says, tugging on the lapels of her navy blazer and laughing again. “If you are denying yourself food, you are denying life.”

Living in various parts of the world has also shaped her appreciation of food and what it can mean to a society.

“Food brings people together,” she says. “I’ve lived in India. I’ve lived in Italy for three years. I lived in Paris for a while. These are really strong food cultures. It’s all about gathering over a meal and the wine and the discussions.”

She drags a piece of Alaskan black cod with miso through the butter sauce on her plate and lifts it into her mouth. The “accidental actress” who once trusted fate and circumstance to carry her from project to project, from city to city, is now operating with new clarity and focus.

She still loves acting. She still loves to be in front of the camera. But she is unapologetic about now using her celebrity to advance important causes and help others. The energy she exudes, that alchemy of giddiness and serenity, is the kind of energy you might expect from a person who has stared down her own mortality and walked away with new insights into who she was and who she wants to be.

“I realized I had been doing a lot of things in my life that had taken me very far from what my essential nature is,” she says. “That creates an ongoing conflict and tension in yourself. You carry that around and it’s going to manifest in some way.”

A few minutes later, we are talking about the hypercompetitive nature of a city like Toronto. Ray has a new motto, post-cancer: “I’m not competitive. I just get what I want.”

Her laugh ricochets around the dining room.

Ashley Judd Goes Missing

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Mar 12, 2012) Becca Winstone is a widowed one-time ace CIA agent,
now 10 years retired, taking on her former bosses and just about every other international espionage organization, kicking butt and taking names in a desperate, emotion-wracked search for her abducted teenage son.

That takes guts. But it’s nothing compared to the real-life challenges facing
Ashley Judd, who portrays her in Missing, a 10-episode mid-season thriller debuting Thursday night at 8 on ABC and CTV.

Judd-as-Becca is in virtually every scene, doing most of her own stunts (“It’s fun!”), scaling historic buildings and leaping from bridges into canals, and speed-racing Vespas through narrow European streets — and, most of all, beating the living snot out of bad guys and fellow spies — as she relentlessly pursues the mysterious somebodies who kidnapped her son, and may have also killed her husband.

All of this after five years in “semi-retirement,” taking time off from a thriving film career (Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Eye of the Beholder) to study and regroup.

“I got burned out,” she explains. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and not knowing why I was sick and tired.

“What really triggered my opting out of my acting career was finding the miracle of recovery,” she says, “and being introduced to a new way life that helped me address unresolved childhood grief, and all the issues that come with being born into . . . a very loving and creative and resilient and amazing family (singing mom Naomi and sister Wynonna), but also a family with generations of alcoholism and dysfunction.

“So I went to treatment for codependency and depression, and then once I was given that gift, I made it the single most important thing in my life. I knew that my recovery had to come first, so that I could become well established in that way of life, and that it would be portable eventually and I could take it into all of my affairs.”

Affairs that led to a new, expanded social awareness: “Public health, feminism, social justice, human rights . . . I started to work with an alphabet soup of international organizations.

“And then I went to graduate school.”

And not just any graduate school: Harvard. “Which was quite the commute from where I live, in Tennessee.

And it was only then that she started to think about restarting her acting career.

“While I was in school, people were sending me a lot of television material, but it was either try to get an ‘A’ in Health and Human Rights or read a script,” she says. “And I figured, you know, I’m in school. I might as well go for the grade.

“Once I graduated, my agent called me with that special lilt in her voice, which all actors love to hear, ‘I think I found the one.’ And I flew to Los Angeles and had a meeting with these fine producers, and they pitched me this sensational idea: a mother looking for her son.

“And it was going to film 10 episodes, which does work well with the balance of my very abundant life. And, hey, each episode is event TV set in a glorious European capital. What’s not to love?”

And thus begun a whirlwind working tour, à la I Spy, of Czechoslovakia (the production’s home base), Italy, France, Croatia, Romania, Russia and Turkey.

And, in each country, a different language to pretend to be fluent in.

French was not a problem: she majored in it at the University of Kentucky. As for the rest . . .

“My husband (racer Dario Francitti) teases me that my Italian has a distinct Spanish sound. And my Czech absolutely stinks.

“In fact, I was practicing my Czech dialogue when my Czech assistant said, ‘Oh, are you working on your Russian?’

“I will say my Czech dialogue was cut entirely. But please, get off my back. I was at the same time trying to fly a helicopter.”

Donnie Wahlberg Talks Blue Bloods

Source: www.thestar.com - By Hamish McKenzie


(Mar 13, 2012) It has been 28 years since
Donnie Wahlberg burst into the bedrooms of teenagers around the world as part of boy-band pop sensations New Kids on the Block. Now, at 42 years old and the star of CBS cop drama Blue Bloods (airing Fridays at 10 p.m. on CTV), the Bostonian is known as much for his acting as his ability to make girls swoon to his treacly ballads and suggestive hip thrusts.

According to one of Wahlberg’s Blue Bloods castmates, he’s as popular as ever with his many female fans. “Everywhere we go, there’s like 15 to 20 to 30 girls out there waiting,” says Amy Carlson, who, along with the rest of the cast, was sitting for a round of interviews to promote the show at its New York set. Carlson plays the wife of Wahlberg’s character, hard-hitting detective and soft-hearted family man Danny Reagan. “We could be at a cemetery shooting in the rain and I’ll be like, ‘How did they find us?’”

Wahlberg, who alongside veteran actor Tom Selleck, leads the show, says he’s grateful for any support he gets and usually stops for photos with his fans: some in their teens, some in their 20s and others now all grown up. They find him through a website that lists the show’s shooting locations.

“Sometimes, literally, I’m leaving work and the fans will say ‘Okay, we’ll see you tomorrow!’” says Wahlberg. “And I’ll ask them, ‘Where am I shooting tomorrow?’ And they’ll tell me.”

Blue Bloods, the ninth-most watched show on Canadian television last year, is now in its second season and has been praised for combining exciting police drama with a sensitive look at life in a cop family. It focuses on the tight-knit Reagan clan, of which New York Police Department commissioner Frank Reagan (played by Selleck) is the patriarch.

Although he has played a lot of cop throughout his acting career, Wahlberg says the personal element depicted in Blue Bloods has taught him a lot more about police life. “When we watch Law & Order or shows like that, we don’t see the cops go home, we don’t see them with their families, we don’t know who they’re going home to and we don’t always value the importance of getting home.”

That nuance extends to Wahlberg’s character. Real-life police like that Danny isn’t afraid to break some rules in the pursuit of justice, Wahlberg says. “They don’t endorse what he does, but they understand and wish they could sometimes. He’s not bullying people for no reason; he’s pressing as hard as he can to get justice. A lot of cops would like to have that freedom.”

For Selleck, the character-driven story is key to Blue Bloods’ success, much as it was to his hit 1980s show Magnum P.I. “If you really think about Magnum, you know my shorts may be too short now and out of style, but it’s in 100 countries,” says Selleck, still sporting the thick moustache that helped make him famous. “It isn’t in 100 countries because of the plots. It’s in 100 countries because it’s a character-driven show and the problems, whether funny or serious — and they were both — are people problems. And people problems don’t change over generations.”

In that way, the two shows are alike. “Magnum still translates, and I think Blue Bloods translates and seems to be crossing borders because of the police work aspect, but certainly because of the family.”

Canadian actor Len Cariou, who plays Selleck’s father and retired police commissioner Henry Reagan, says the show also resonates with such a wide audience because of the familiarity of its family dynamics, exemplified by the Reagans’ weekly dinner ritual.

“A lot of people say, ‘Hell, I used to do this every Sunday,’” says the 72-year-old Winnipegger. “I did when I was a kid growing up. Sunday was the big meal, we all sat down to a family dinner. My father was a travelling salesman, so we only saw him on the weekend. It was pretty sacred time.”

In many modern families, the TV set has replaced the dinner table as the social gathering point, but in that way, too, Blue Bloods is bringing them together.

Stephen Hawking To Appear On The Big Bang Theory

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar


(Mar 13, 2012)
The Big Bang Theory has snared the guest star the cast and crew has been longing for. Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking recently shot a cameo where he meets up with Jim Parson’s awkward theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper. “When people would ask us who a ‘dream guest star’ for the show would be, we would always joke and say Stephen Hawking — knowing that it was a long shot of astronomical proportions,” Bill Prady, the show’s producer said in a statement announcing the news. “In fact, we’re not exactly sure how we got him. It’s the kind of mystery that could only be understood by, say, a Stephen Hawking.” Hawking will appear on the episode airing April 5. It’s the not the first pop culture appearance for Hawking, who has voiced himself on The Simpsons four times and also on Futurama.

Mad Men Actors Discuss Season Five

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chandler Levack


(Mar 14, 2012) At Paleyfest in Los Angeles, actors Jon Hamm, January Jones
and Jay R. Ferguson, as well as creator Matthew Weiner, talk about the return of their TV show 'Mad Men' but give away precious little about what might happen in season five.

::ARTS NEWS::

National Ballet Of Canada’s The Sleeping Beauty Awakens, Excites Toronto Fans

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb


National Ballet of Canada: The Sleeping Beauty
Produced/staged by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa. Until Mar. 18, 2012; Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W; (416) 345-9595 or www.national.ballet.ca

(Mar 11, 2012) The big weekend event for local dance aficionados was
the Canadian debut of Stuttgart Ballet star and National Ballet guest artist Evan McKie. Anticipation was keen Sunday afternoon as Toronto-born McKie, who’s built his professional reputation in Europe, stepped on to the Four Seasons Centre stage. Would he live up to his impressive advance billing? The answer is an emphatic yes — only more so.

Within seconds of his first entry, the tall 29-year-old dancer, naturally blessed with noble looks and aristocratic bearing, established his unimpeachable credentials as that rarest of beings, a true, blue-blooded ballet prince.

The Sleeping Beauty, which the National ballet will perform all week, is pretty thin on plot, leavings little scope for character development. Even so, McKie managed to convey the inner emotion of a prince wearied by the aimless flirtations of his court and yearning for an ideal love. He achieved this not through gratuitous mugging, but by the pure expressiveness of his immaculate dancing.

His sure partnering of Greta Hodgkinson, the afternoon’s Princess Aurora, helped establish a happy chemistry between them that made their Act III grand pas de deux much more than a display of technical virtuosity, both of which they have in spades. No wonder the crowd went wild.

The pair will reprise their roles on March 15 and 18, but even if you can’t catch their remaining performances, the National Ballet is fielding a fine roster of other casts during the current 11-show run.

Saturday evening, for example, featured another power couple — Heather Ogden and Guillaume Côté.

When Ogden made her Aurora debut in 2006 she was understandably more focused on the devilishly tricky steps. On Saturday night, however, Ogden fully projected those steps as an emblem of burgeoning womanhood, from Act I’s coy debutante to Act III’s radiantly confident bride-to-be. Côté, for his part, conveys a convincing ardour that grabs the heart strings.

This infusion of dramatic substance carries down through supporting roles, whether it’s in the convincing fury of Rebekah Rimsay’s vengefully offended wicked witch, Carabosse, the clear anxiety of Patrick Lavoie’s possibly cuckolded Count, or the sheer avian excitement of Skylar Campbell’s debut Bluebird variation.

With such dancing this Beauty never slumbers.

Kathleen Turner To Star In Matthew Lombardo’s Play ‘High’ In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian


(Mar 14, 2012) Oscar and Tony Award-nominated actress
Kathleen Turner will star in Matthew Lombardo’s play High in Toronto in May.

Producers say the touring production will run for just one week at the city’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, from May 8-13.

Written by Lombardo and directed by Rob Ruggiero, High stars Turner as a nun and rehab counsellor whose faith is tested when she takes a teenage meth addict under her wing. Co-stars include Evan Jonigkeit and Timothy Altmeyer.

The show — described as having mature themes, strong language, and nudity — had its world premiere in 2010 in Hartford, Conn.

Last April it opened on Broadway, but closed after fewer than 40 shows due to slow box office sales. Still, Turner earned a Drama League Award nomination and Jonigkeit was a contender for an Outer Critics Circle Award.

Tickets for the Toronto engagement go on sale on March 26.

Turner, a two-time Golden Globe winner, has starred in films including Body Heat, Romancing the Stone and Peggy Sue Got Married, for which she got a best-actress Oscar nomination.

Her other stage credits include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for which she got Tony nominations, and The Graduate, which ran in Toronto in 2002 at the Canon Theatre, now named the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

High has been a compelling, rewarding experience and I am looking forward to bringing this tour to Mirvish audiences in Toronto,” Turner said in a statement.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Caribbean Travel: Swim With The Turtles In Barbados

Source: www.thestar.com - Bob Downing


(March 13, 2012) BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS—Turtles, rum and
glistening white-sand beaches.

A toast to sun-splashed Barbados and three of its biggest attractions.

Turtle snorkels in Barbados are very popular. Tourists on a boat don snorkels and masks and quickly enter the blue-green water off the southern shore of this very British Caribbean island, which typically gets 3,000 hours of sunshine annually.

On this trip, a crew member carried some fish for turtle food.

And they quickly appeared out of nowhere at the bottom, cruising along in 20 feet of water. The shells are very colorful, with leather-like patches and markings.

They were much bigger than I had expected: bodies up to three feet across. Think of a large boulder or a spare tire with flippers, a head and a tail. The biggest ones we saw weighed in excess of 200 pounds. They can get bigger.

They were powerful and graceful, agile enough to twist and snap at small fish that dared come close to the powerful jaws. They were impressive and very cool. They approached the swimmers as if to see what was up.

The turtles are charismatic, even though they all but ignore swimmers. "Get out of my way, there's food here somewhere" seems to be their main message in the water. That meant there were frequent near-collisions and close encounters, but the turtles were unfazed.

We had hawksbill and green turtles (named for the color of their fat, not their shells), a few small ones and several large guys. They must surface regularly to get air.

The swimmers had been issued a few simple warnings: Keep your toes and fingers away from the turtles' jaws. That sounds easy, but actually is a bit trickier as the turtles weave in and out of the mosh pit of swimmers jostling for views.

Also we were told to give the turtles their space, not to chase, grab, harass or ride them.

We were told that we could touch the turtles if they swam by very close. Touch the shell, but not the head, flippers or the tail, especially on the males. The male turtles, it seems, store their penises in their tails. No one wanted to touch that.

The boat operator did not give us fins for our feet because they could injure the turtles.

Barbados is home to four species of sea turtles: the hawksbill and green turtles we saw, plus loggerheads and leatherbacks.

The hawksbill turtles are the most common in Barbados and the most colorful. The name comes from its narrow head and a large beak like that of a parrot. The turtles may be seen on the beaches or in the water.

Barbados has the second-largest hawksbill breeding population in the Caribbean with an estimated 500 nesting females annually. The hawksbill turtles thrive off the island's coral reefs. Sponges are a favorite food.

Green turtles are common in Barbados' waters and they nested on the island for the first time in 2005. They are the species most frequently found on turtle-feeding trips on the island's west coast. They dine largely on sea grass as adults.

The turtles' numbers have dropped because of overfishing, but they have been protected in Barbados since 1998. There is a $25,000 fine and two-year prison sentence for killing sea turtles.

The turtles are closely monitored by the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. It was started in 1987 by the government and the University of the West Indies. Turtles have been tagged to better study their movements. For information, check out www.barbadosseaturtles.org.

The project also monitors turtle nesting on beaches from mid-May through October. The female hawksbills typically lay four clutches, each with 150 eggs. The hatchlings are on their own and must move from the sand to the water to survive. It is estimated that one in 1,000 hatchlings will become an adult.

Sea turtles may live for 60 years and may not begin breeding until they are 20 to 30 years old. Females will return to the same beach to lay eggs.

If turtles aren't the No. 1 Barbados attraction, rum may be. The island features more than 1,500 colorful neighborhood rum shops.

Barbados is the birthplace of the drink of pirates and the British Navy. There are more than 80 distilleries in the Caribbean, but Barbados, with eight distilleries, is the spiritual home of rum. Barbados exports $60 million worth of rum annually.

Some of the world's best-loved rums hail from Barbados: Cockspur, Doorly's XO and Mount Gay, which began production in 1703 and is the world's oldest commercial distillery (based on written evidence).

The natives have a word for it: Liming. That is, chilling out or doing nothing, usually with friends. It generally involves food and drink, often at one of the island's 1,500 rum shops or tiny bars that are everywhere.

On Barbados, the preferred method of drinking rum with its subtle flavors is over ice, with a splash of water, in a punch or with ginger ale. Mixing it with cola is acceptable, although it's looked down on.

The distinctive red-and-yellow Mount Gay signs are everywhere and the company's visitor center is one of the most popular tourist attractions. You can learn about Mount Gay's history and enjoy a tasting lesson.

Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd. proudly calls itself "the rum that invented rum." It remains one of the most famous in the Caribbean, along with Jamaica's Appleton.

In the 2006 movie "Casino Royale," the first drink ordered by James Bond was a Mount Gay rum with soda. (Author Ian Fleming preferred Appleton dark rum.) It is also a key ingredient in Stirling punch, named for famed yachtsman Harold Stirling Vanderbilt.

Mount Gay is owned today by French-based Remy Cointreau. Production is based at the company's refinery in St. Lucy Parish in northern Barbados, surrounded by fields of sugar cane that can be 9 feet tall. It is not open to the public.

But you can tour nearby St. Nicholas Abbey, which was built in 1658. The Jacobean mansion is situated on one of the oldest surviving plantations on the island and includes 400 acres of woodland, sugar cane fields and well-tended gardens.

It was once the home of Sir John Gay Alleyne, who became a manager of the Mount Gilboa plantation that was renamed Mount Gay in his honor after his death in 1801.

Sugar cane was introduced to Barbados in 1637 by the Dutch, and rum production began as early as 1667.

It takes 10 to 12 tons of sugar cane to produce a half bottle of rum. It is a simple mixture of sugar, water and yeast. Juice is extracted from the sugar cane and boiled to produce thick molasses. This is diluted with water and yeast is added for fermentation in huge, bubbling industrial vats. The liquid is heated, the alcohol is separated off from the water and collected in tanks.

Visitors can tour the Mount Gay Rum Visitors Centre on Spring Garden Highway outside Bridgetown in the town of Brandons. On the 45-minute tour, you get a short film that tells you of the company's history and a tour of the facility where the rum is bottled. Admission is $8. Call 246-425-8757 for information or visit http://mountgayrum.com.

Barbados, nicknamed Little England, is a pretty and civilized island. Much of the pear-shaped island is flat with rolling hills and 70 miles of beaches.

The east coast on the Atlantic is wild and rugged. There are strange rock formations of limestone and coral at Bathsheba. The Soup Bowl is known for its surfing.

The west coast on the Caribbean is milder and mellower, dominated by luxury resorts and powdery coral beaches. It is known as the Platinum Coast. Brighton and Mullins beaches are among the best. So, too, is Crane Beach on the southeast coast.

Visibility can be up to 100 feet in the water. More than 50 species of fish are commonly found along the reefs.

The national dish is flying fish with cou-cou (cornmeal and okra), and cricket is a very popular sport.

Barbados gained its independence from Britain in 1966. The island is 21 miles by 14 miles, with 285,000 people, known as Bajans. It gets 1 million visitors a year, nearly 40 percent from Britain.

JUST THE FACTS

For tourist information, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority, 246-427-2623. You can also contact the organization at 212-986-6516 or 800-221-9831, www.visitbarbados.org.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Ski Cross Coach Says Team Wants To Go On, To 'Do It For Nik'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Beverley Smith


(March 13, 2012) Ski cross coach Stanley Hayer heard about the death
of Nik Zoricic on a day when some of his teenaged students were about to take part in a Nor-Am race at Lake Louise, Alta., last Saturday.

The race went on. The youngsters wanted to go down the hill, in memory of Zoricic. "They might think twice about making a pass or hitting a jump," Hayer said. "But that is good. It's always good in any sport when you actually use your brain."

Hayer, an Olympian who skied with Zoricic, said it was a hard day emotionally, but made easier by busying himself with young skiers. Thankfully, he said, the course was easy and didn't challenge anyone on a difficult day.

"The parents were there and the kids were there," Hayer said. "They raced for Nik."

Hayer will find out this morning on a conference call if Canada will send a team of young skiers to the world junior ski cross championships on March 20 in Italy. Marielle Thompson, 19, of Whistler, B.C., winner of the Crystal Globe last weekend for women at the elite level, is eligible for the event, but has pulled out. She was in Switzerland on Saturday when Zoricic died.

Hayer said the parents of his students are fine with the sport and want to push on. "They understand some of the risks," he said. "They trust me to minimize the risk."

Hayer said members of the ski-cross community "have all broken down plenty of times in the last few days," but he says they really have to go on and "do it for Nik."

Hayer has been coaching teenagers for the past 1½ years since a knee injury prompted his retirement after the Vancouver Olympics. He's been a bit of a mother hen to the young skiers, always focused on safety. He has a protocol: if he feels they are not up to the course, or it they "look really scared" or the course is built wrong, he has the option to pull them from the race.

"Sometimes you have to dictate what they try because sometimes people do push themselves to the limit too early in their skill development," he said.

The elite ski-cross racers make their own decisions - but their skills are well developed, he said.

Hayer was a downhill skier before he made the switch to ski cross in 2003. He never liked downhill. It frightened him.

In ski cross, he would occasionally come across a track with a feature that frightened him, but after inspections and training runs, officials could adjust the course, and by the end of the week, they had also learned how to ski the features.

"Maybe crashing or breaking a leg, you think about that sometimes," he said. "And as you get older, you think about it more, for sure."

Hayer also competed at X-Games, which has always offered enormous jumps. Two years ago, Hayer faced a finish jump of 120 metres. "It was ridiculous," he said. "But it was ski-able and it was actually perfect, once you got used to it and once they adjusted it a little bit."

During the first few days of an event, ski cross racers are a bit like guinea pigs, he said, until courses are adjusted.

In Grindelwald, Switzerland, where Zoricic died, skiers ran down the course 10 times. All of the Canadian skiers liked it, Hayer said. "They never thought there was anything wrong with it. It's one of the first courses that there wasn't anything that needed changing."

Some athletes just crash more than others, Hayer said, but Zoricic wasn't one of those. Ski cross racing is not doing to disappear, Hayer said. He calls is "a pretty safe sport." He was part of it for eight years, and blew up his knee.

"I didn't even crash," he said. "That could happen walking down the street."

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins Superstar, Will Play Thursday

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Mark Zwolinski


(March 13, 2012) Now that it’s official and
Sidney Crosby is back, the question becomes where he’ll play on a marvellously resilient Penguins team that performed extremely well without him.

It’s not like the Penguins are facing a painful decision about where to put the game’s recognized best player. Obviously, they’ll find a spot for him, and judging from Tuesday’s practice, the club already had a sound plan in place for him.

During the workout practice at the club’s Southpointe facility, Crosby skated on a line with wingers Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, according to the Penguins’ beat reporters.

That enabled the top two lines to remain intact for the Pens, who have gone 21-4-1 in their last 26 games, including a current nine-game winning streak.

Both Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin centre those lines, but coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby could see time with Staal (no decision on who stays at centre) with either Pascal Dupuis or Steve Sullivan filling in at the other wing spot.

Crosby also manned the point on the power play during practice. The 24-year-old former MVP, who has been sidelined since Dec. 5 with concussion-like symptoms, has not filled that role since junior hockey.

Crosby announced his return following practice Tuesday.

“The plan is to play Thursday . . . looking forward to getting out there,” said Crosby, who postponed his highly anticipated return over the weekend to allow himself a few more full-contact practices.

Crosby had been skating with his teammates since Jan. 13, but held back from those skates periodically. He has been battling a concussion for over 14 months now, and his return Nov. 21 lasted eight games before he suffered another setback.

Crosby netted 11 points in his first five games back, but managed just one assist in his last three before being sidelined again.

Now that he’s back, Crosby joins a tremendous battle for supremacy in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. His next three games are against the Rangers, Devils, and Flyers — all on the road. And all three teams are on pace for 100 points.

OLG Changes Show There’s More Honesty At Racetracks Than At Queen’s Park

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins


(Mar 14, 2012) It used to be stated here, and seconded elsewhere, that
horse racing was its own worst enemy.

For sure, that no longer is the case. In a monumentally misguided shuck, our elected wizards at Queen’s Park have decided to abandon a lucrative source of revenue churned by an historic industry that affects some 60,000 full- or part-time workers in Ontario.

Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have summoned the resolve to act on one of the Drummond Report’s 362 recommendations, which is, essentially, to assassinate horse racing and (they hope) pick up the enormous financial slack by introducing more, and more widespread, legal gambling, including a Toronto casino.

Related podcast: Is a Toronto casino a good idea?

Those 60,000 people whose jobs already are at risk? That’s what they get for living mostly in ridings that don’t vote Liberal, eh? As long as Toronto and Ottawa voters elect this guy, who needs hay farmers?

The Liberals also unleashed dishonest attack ads that speak of “secret subsidies” to rich guys, money that could be going instead to health care or your kiddies’ kindergartens.

It is complete swill.

The simple fact is, Ontario now wishes to renege on a 1998 revenue-sharing agreement for its slot machines, one that has dropped more than $15 billion into the public coffers over 13 years, with $3.4 billion going to racing people. This cash arrived without benefit of an e-health or ORNGE-type scandal, by the way.

The Liberals call that $15 billion good business. The $3.4 billion it now calls a “subsidy.”

Come March 14, 2013, the day after the program is scheduled to end, slots still will be open for business. But racing’s share of the take will be removed — and clearly that money has kept the sport functional, even alive, these past few years.

What did Ontario do for its 75 per cent of the take? Next to nothing. It allowed for the installation of slots machines at racetracks, where there already was a willing gambling-ready clientele. The racetracks shouldered the costs. Still do. In return for customers lost because it is far less challenging to pull a handle than to learn how to handicap, the tracks took 20 per cent of the profits. (Municipalities took the other 5.)

With its 20 per cent, Ontario racing transformed itself, right down to the breeding sheds. The harness racing became the best in North America; both New York and Pennsylvania studied the Ontario business model for their own slots-at-racetracks program. Thoroughbreds blossomed with higher purses and betting revenues solidified, throwing good money into the tax coffers. (The total from both breeds was $261 million last year and how does that nut compare to unemployment benefits and/or retraining costs for up to 60,000?)

Clearly, the deal didn’t work the same at each of Ontario’s 17 racetracks. The process of change began Wednesday with three borders tracks — Fort Erie, Sarnia and Windsor — having their slots padlocked, mostly because Americans have stopped fighting border traffic for gambling experiences they can get at home.

Surely, too, some tracks took the money, didn’t make capital improvements and didn’t improve the quality of racing enough, like baseball owners who took revenue sharing, put it in their pockets and didn’t spend on players to improve their team.

But plenty of the tracks did do the right thing, did it well and helped save an industry under strain after provinces and states sought easy money by getting into the lottery/scratch-card business. On-track attendance is nothing like it used to be, but that’s not surprising, given the legality now of simulcasting parlours, telephone accounts and Internet betting. Plus ever-expanding competition for the entertainment dollar.

Racing also had image issues. Always has. Exposure to the game revealed plenty of rogues, rascals and outright crooks not always punished with alacrity. But I’d swear to this: Pound for pound, there is more honour and honesty on any backstretch than there is these days at Queen’s Park.