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Updated:  February 17, 2005

The rainy but mild temperatures are keeping winter at bay in Toronto!  Gotta love it!  The Grammy Awards were a good show this year, with many of the awards going to the late Ray Charles but it certainly had its low points - Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's duet for one.  And the Beatles selection that the artists struggled through to raise funds for tsunami relief.  I don't consider myself a hater but whoa!  Check out the related articles below in the Grammy section. 

Soweto Gospel Choir will knock your socks off TONIGHT (Thursday), so jump on the gospel train!  Harbourfront’s KUUMBA continues its legacy of traditional and non-traditional events, all part of Black History Month celebrations.

Also, check out young soul and jazz stars at Future Soul who take the stage tomorrow night, Friday, February 18, for a special soul music showcase at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM - 100 Queen's Park), starting at 6:00 p.m. brought to us by UMAC and Word Magazine.  On Sunday, February  20th , check out a FREE screening of Hardwood directed by Hubert Davis, the first African-Canadian ever to receive an Oscar® nod at the National Film Board (NFB), 150 John Street at 2:30 p.m.  Mr. Davis will be in attendance for a Q&A.  For more info and to RSVP, contact the NFB at 416.954-2045.

There seems to be an evil influence sweeping the entertainment industry these days, from Houston gouging his own eye to  Najai Turpin, a contestant on The Contender, taking his own life.  Let's keep these individuals and their loved ones in our prayers.   See related articles below.  On a higher note, there are more inspirational stories - one on Pape Sow of the Toronto Raptors and another on Alison Sealy-Smith in Cast Iron.  Check them out below for a ray of hope.  Speaking of hope, I have also included the lyrics for Hope, the track by Twista featuring Faith Evans

Check out the rest of the entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, OTHER NEWS, and SPORTS NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  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.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWish to be removed from this distribution, please CLICK HERE.






Soweto Gospel Choir’s Toronto Performance - February 17, 2005

Source:  Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts

The renowned Soweto Gospel Choir, referred to as the “Voices From Heaven”, will give a one-night Toronto performance at the Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts on Thursday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. as part of their North American premier tour with only two stops in Canada.  Torontonians will experience the exuberance and inspirational performance from the 24-piece ensemble singing their South African spiritual songs as well as other popular songs including Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross.  Founded in 2002, the voices for the Choir were selected from various church choirs as well as from the general public to create this ensemble, which includes traditional African drummers and dancers. 

Under the musical directorship of David Mulovhedzi, the Choir has become renowned for uplifting music, colourful costumes and dance.  The Choir has received many prestigious international awards.  Most recently, Soweto Gospel Choir won Best Choir of the year 2003 at the American Gospel Music Awards and also at the 2003 South African Music Awards.  The Soweto Gospel Choir is an ambassador for the helpless children of Soweto and victims of HIV/Aids.  Proceeds from their concerts support these initiatives through their Charity Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani (meaning to arise, do something!).  Their first CD Voices From Heaven will be introduced on their North American tour.

The Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts is Canada’s premier performance venue and an historical and cultural landmark in Toronto.  It is operated for the benefit of the people of Toronto and the continuation of cultural diversity and entertainment excellence in Canada.  The Soweto Gospel Choir concert is presented by The Toronto Star.

Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts
1 Front Street East, Toronto.
Tickets: $25, $35, $45 & $55
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 416-872-2262 or on line at, by visiting Hummingbird Centre Box Office or any Ticketmaster location.
Groups of 10 + (416) 393-7463
For more information visit or 

For further information, please contact: Andrea Delvaillé , Andrea Delvaillé & Associates, Telephone: 416-496-8413




KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

(Jan. 18, 2005) KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  This year's edition of Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre celebrates African Heritage Month with two jam-packed weekends of music concerts and dance premieres, engaging and provocative readings and panels, a film series curated by the Get Reel Film Festival, a visual arts exhibition premiere and a variety of family activities.  Kuumba's full tenth anniversary activities begin on February 5 and February 6 and continue February 12 and February 13, 2005. All events, except where noted, are free admission and appropriate for all ages. Complete Kuumba program below: The Kuumba cultural programme is also part of Harbourfront Centre's Winter exploration of HE. The changing nature of the male identity and shifting notions of man's role in society are embedded as sub-themes in select Kuumba events. For more information the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit .  All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto).




Canada Grooves – TONIGHT!

Last fall the Canada Council brought together in Montreal musical groups from all across Canada in a showcase designed to promote some of the best Canadian aboriginal and world music artists recording and performing today. The idea behind this event was to create a greater awareness of the diversity of music being created in Canada. The result was an explosion of creativity reflecting Canada's new ethnic mix.  Of particular interest, our fav bass player, Rich Brown, joins the crew as he jams with two bands, Maryem Tollar & Mernie, and a great Brazilian influenced jazz band called Vuja DeRich tells us,You also have to check out the great Celso Machado doing a one-man show that is just KILLIN'.’  Watch Opening Night Thursday evening at 8 p.m. -- it's like having season tickets to the world's top performances.

Opening Night returns for a fifth glittering season of performing arts – opera, theatre, music and ballet. Audiences and critics alike have raved about the series, calling it “great TV for the malnourished mind.” (John Doyle, Globe & Mail). This award-winning weekly two-hour series brings viewers the best in arts programming from Canada and around the world, commercial-free.







Motivational Note:  Do you want to change your life?

Excerpt from - By Willie Jolley

Do you want to change your life? Well, to change where you are, you must first change your thinking. Your thinking not only determines where you are today, but more importantly, where you are going tomorrow. If you want success it is imperative that you change your thinking because the definition of "insanity" is to keep on doing exactly what you've been doing in the exact same way and expect different results! If you can change how you think, you will change how you act. And if you can change how you act, you will change what you do. And if you can change what you do, then you will change what you get. And if you can change what you get, you will change where you are going. And if you can change where you are going, you will change your life! Change your thinking and you will change your life!







Hope – Twista featuring Faith Evans
 There’s something that I find so beautiful and stirring in the chorus of this track – almost eerily inspiring - basically it moves me to tears!  I love the sweet vocals of the lovely (and svelte!) Faith Evans and Twista’s rap on any day – a unique talent – but it’s the message of hope that I want to leave you with today.  Check out the video HERE and the lyrics below.
 [Twista talking]
 Man, I know we had a lot of tragedies lately.
 I just wanna say rest in peace to Aaliyah,
 Rest in peace to Left Eye,
 Rest in peace to Jam Master Jay,
 And everybody lost in the Twin Towers,
 And everybody lost period.
 All we got is HOPE!!
 [Verse 1 (Twista)]
 I wish the way I was living could stop, serving rocks,
 Knowing the cops is hot when I'm on the block, And I
 Wish my brother woulda made bail,
 So I won't have to travel 6 hours to see him in jail, And I
 Wish that my grandmother wasn't sick,
 Or that we would just come up on some stacks and hit a lick, And I (I wish)
 Wish my homies wouldn't have to suffer,
 When the streets get the upper hand on us and we lose a brother, And I
 Wish I could go deep in the zone,
 And lift the spirits of the world with the words within this song, And I (I wish)
 Wish I could teach a soul to fly,
 Take away the pain out cha hands and help you hold them high, And I
 Wish my hommie Butch was still alive
 And on the day of his death we had never took that ride, And I (I wish)
 Wish God could protect us from the wrong
 So that all the soldiers that were sent overseas come home
 We will never break, though they devastate, we shall motivate,
 And we gotta pray, all we got is faith.
 Instead of thinking about who gonna die today,
 The Lord is gonna help you feel better, so you ain't gotta cry today.
 Sit at the light so long,
 And then we gotta move straight forward, cuz we fight so strong,
 So when right go wrong,
 Just say a little prayer, get ya money man, life goes on!!!
 Let's HOPE!
 [Chorus (Faith Evans)]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful
 [Verse 2 (Twista)]
 I wish that you could show some love,
 Instead of hatin so much when you see some other people comin up (I wish)
 I wish I could teach the world to sing,
 Watch the music and have 'em trippin off the joy I bring, (shiit)
 I wish that we could hold hands,
 Listen instead of dissin lessons from a grown man, And I (I wish)
 Wish the families that lack, but got love, get some stacks
 Brand new shack and a lack that's on dubs, And I
 Wish we could keep achieving wonders,
 See the vision of the world through the eyes of Stevie Wonder, (you feel me) (I wish)
 And I hope all the kids eat,
 And don't nobody in my family see six feet, (ya dig)
 I hope the mothers stand strong,
 You can make it whether you wit him or your man's gone, And I (I wish)
 Wish I could give every celly some commissary,
 And the po po bring the heat on them priest like they did R. Kelly, And I
 Wish that DOC could scream again
 And bullets could reverse so Pac and Biggie breath again, (shit) (I wish)
 Then one day they could speak again,
 I wish that we only saw good news every time we look at CNN,
 I wish that we could never get the blues,
 Wish I could bring back the people that died, Eddy too
 I wish that we could walk a path, stay doin the right thing
 Hustle hard so the kids maintain up in the game,
 Let's HOPE
 [Chorus (Faith Evans)]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful
 [Verse 3 (Twista)]
 Wish the earth wasn't so apocalyptic,
 I try to spread my message to the world the best way that I can give it,
 We can make it always be optimistic,
 If you don't listen gotta live my life the best way I can live it,
 I pray for justice when we go to court,
 Wish it was all good so the country never even went to war
 Why can't we kick it and just get em on,
 And in the famous words of Mr. King "Why can't we all just get along",
 Or we can find a better way to shop and please, And I
 Hope we find a better way to cop a keys, And I
 Wish everybody would just stop and freeze,
 And ask way are we fulfillin these downfalls and prophecies,
 You can be wrong if it's you doubting,
 With the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains,
 And only the heavenly father can ease the hurt,
 Just let it go and keep prayin on your knees in church!!
 And let's HOPE
 [Chorus (Faith Evans) X2]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful




Pop Music's New Beat Is The Sound Of Surrey

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Jane Armstrong

(Feb. 15, 2005) Surrey, B.C. — Terry Batth and his brother, Jag, get hounded for autographs at movie theatres and malls here. Their latest CD sold more than 300,000 copies in India, and their single, Dil Mangde Tera, is so popular you can download ring tones of the hit to your cellphone.  But the men, mobbed in Mumbai last summer during a debut tour of India, are unknown to mainstream pop fans in Canada. Outside the Indo-Canadian community, few in this country have heard of this Punjabi pop sensation called Mantra. Mr. Batth and his circle of singer friends say Surrey -- that Vancouver suburb better known for uninspired urban sprawl than musical inspiration -- is the North American hub for a new wave of Indo-Canadian pop singers. "Surrey is hot," Mr. Batth said. "If you're in India and you say you're from Surrey, they go: 'Wow, man, that's where it's at.' " Most of the up-and-coming acts in India are from Surrey, Mr. Batth said. The hottest expat Punjabi singer in India right now is Jazzy B, also known as Jaswinder Singh Bains to his friends from high school in Surrey. He has sold millions of records and divides his time between India, England and Surrey. But Mr. Batth wants to take Indian pop to a broader North American audience. So he set up a recording studio in an industrial mall in the heart of Surrey, which has become a beacon for young Indo-Canadian acts with stars in their eyes. Each day, they gather to rehearse and record and critique one another's videos. Some, like Harj Uppal, a 24-year-old Grade 8 teacher with big brown eyes and a bigger voice, arrive after they've finished their day jobs. Last week, Sanjay Seran, or San-J, as he's known in the music press, was trying out a song -- the first he's recorded that has English as well as Punjabi lyrics. San-J and his partner, Luv (LV) Randhawa, make up the group Signia. Like Mantra, Signia has a fan base in India and has generated buzz on world music websites. Mr. Batth, 28, who was born in England and moved to Canada in his early 20s with his family, has a dream of being much more than a local hero. He wants to see Mantra videos on MuchMusic and MTV, not just on multicultural cable channels. He wants Dil Mangde Tera played in nightclubs in downtown Vancouver -- without his requesting it. And he wants non-Indians to pay to see Mantra in concert. And the duo wants this mainstream crossover to occur while the singers stay put in Surrey.

"All the Canadian artists run to America to make it," said Jag Batth, 23. "We're proud to be where we are. There's such a concentration of Punjabi culture here, it's inspiring. We want to be able to live our lives here." While the music has its roots in India's northern Punjab, the Surrey singers' sound is distinctly Canadian -- West Coast Indo-Canadian, for that matter. With more than 100,000 residents of Punjabi origin, the Vancouver area has one of the largest concentrations of Punjabis outside India. A mainstay of the culture is Bhangra music, which dates back centuries and was performed by farmers during harvest festivals. Its most distinguishing characteristic is the throbbing beat of the barrel-shaped dhol drum. Thousands of second-generation Indo-Canadians in B.C.'s Lower Mainland grew up listening to the distinctive folk music at weddings and family celebrations. There are only a handful of themes in Punjabi music, Jag Batth said with a laugh. "Girls, lost love and good times. Oh, and missing the Punjab." The lyrics, he said, are traditional and often repetitive. Punjabi pop is an outgrowth of this folk music and is the most popular form of music in India outside Bollywood musical productions. The Surrey singers have further modernized the genre, adding English lyrics and producing videos geared for MuchMusic audiences. Signia's video, Bhangre, which was filmed at locations in Bombay and Vancouver's Westside, has a gritty, urban North American feel replete with a gang of dancers performing hip-hop moves and a scantily clad female foil, the Indo-Canadian girl rapper, Lil' D. On video, San-J, 25, affects a menacing rapper attitude. In person, the University of British Columbia graduate is articulate, upbeat and polite. Signia's music is an amalgam of cultures, he said, just like his background. Growing up in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, San-J spoke English to his parents and Punjabi with his grandmother. Most of his friends were Chinese or Filipino. He sang in the school choir and listened to rock and hip-hop. At UBC, he joined a Bhangra club and was introduced to Surrey-raised Indo-Canadians. "The [Indo-Canadians] from Surrey and Vancouver are more traditional in their thinking and the way they are. Being in the Bhangra club really opened me up to the Indian scene." But the multicultural Canada that nurtured the singers' interest in the music of their homeland might also prevent them from developing a mainstream audience. "It's really weird how little people outside the Indo-Canadian community know about us," Terry Batth said. In Canada, both Mantra and Signia have played in big venues, including cavernous Pacific Coliseum, but the gigs were part of the cultural circuit. In January, Signia was the halftime act at a North American Bhangra dance competition in Vancouver. And last weekend, Mantra, Signia and Ms. Uppal performed at a downtown Vancouver shopping centre for a Chinese New Year concert. Most in the audience were non-Indian. "It was awesome," San-J said. "Everyone was totally open to us. They loved it. I think it's the best we've performed."




Suni Clay Wins “The World’s Leading   Songwriting Competition”

SourceKickAss Records

Ontario-based rapper/songwriter Trevor Walker AKA Suni Clay took home first prize in the rap category of the 2004 USA Songwriting Competition with his song "Lil’ Man".  Suni Clay is the first Canadian rapper to win an international writing competition. With over 35,000 applicants in 15 different categories the prize winners of the competition also came from Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Lebanon, Argentina, Iceland, Moldova, Japan and the United States. (  Winning songs of the 2004 competition will receive radio airplay on a nationally syndicated radio program serving over 60 cities in North America.    Entrants shared a grand prize of over $50,000 (US) in cash and merchandise as well as invaluable exposure. Past winners have received recording and publishing contracts, and also had their work placed on film and television.

Judges for the event included music reps from Warner/Reprise Records, Walt Disney Music Publishing, Sony Music, Peer Music, ASCAP and Tommy Boy Records.  Along with Music Connection, sponsors for the event included MARS Music Superstores, Berklee Press, Mackie, Guild Guitars, D'Addario Strings, Electronic Musician, Digitech, Line 6, Kurzweil, Peavey, Gavin, ASN, Tascam, Vibe, Blaze and SPIN magazine.  Since the release of his “Throw It Up” video in 2002, Suni Clay has kept quiet while preparing for his new project “Sunrise” and subsequently signing a record deal with Kick Ass Records. “Throw It Up,” directed by Rob Elsworthy continues to receive play on MuchVIBE

Sunrise is produced by Marcus Kane (Urban Music Association of Canada Award Winner Producer of the Year 2004), Lac “Keez” Sihra” (who has a production deal with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs), Rude, a Juno award-winning platinum producer, Motoe from Vancouver and Colin Munroe.  Suni Clay produced “Money” on his own as well as co-producing the spiritual song “Psalm 23” with Keez.  The album is expected to be released March 22, 2005 on the Kick Ass Record label, distributed by DEP/Universal.  SUNI CLAY will be touring Canada, U.S., the Caribbean and Europe extensively to promote his album.  Prior to the release of Sunrise, the double-single “My Hood” /“I’m Out” with bonus tracks entitled “Cowboy” featuring multi-platinum reggae artist, Snow, and Sunshyne was released to retail and radio in Canada late September 2004 as a prelude to the album and to create awareness of the artist. The single has remained top 40 at retail and top 20 at radio. “My Hood” is on rotation on Dred E. Maximum CIUT, the British Armed Forces Base in Medicine Hat, AB, and Zip FM Jamaica. The latest single “N.I.” has been pre-released to Flow 93.5 Toronto to rave reviews.   "I am very pleased to receive such recognition," said Suni. "I believe any chance we have to encourage others in the creative arts should be pounced upon. I wrote L’il Man when my creative juices were flowing…it all came to me!




Someone Please Throw Some Arcade Fire On The Junos

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Carl Wilson

(Feb. 12, 2005) In the past two weeks, the two new solitudes in Canadian music were mapped in bright relief. First, Montreal's sturm-and-strings rock brigade, the Arcade Fire, took Manhattan: The band made a madcap appearance (with helmeted percussionists drumming on each other's heads) on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. They sold out two large New York clubs, with scouts, critics, fans and David Bowie in the house. The second night -- in perhaps the most surreal, sugar-cereal-sweet moment so far in Canada's indie-music renaissance -- their encore of the Talking Heads' Naive Melody was joined by David Byrne himself. The New York Times followed with a Sunday Arts cover story proclaiming Montreal music "the next big thing," naming the likes of Stars, the Dears and Sam Roberts. Spin, Interview and Rolling Stone magazines are joining the chorus. Comparable worldly strides have been made by Vancouver's Hot Hot Heat and New Pornographers. Toronto has Broken Social Scene, Death From Above 1979, and the Hidden Cameras (cultivated partly by the weekly Wavelength concert series, celebrating its fifth anniversary this weekend). Not to mention Canadians abroad such as crooner Leslie Feist or various electronic-music whiz kids.

But then on Monday came the annual Juno Awards nominations. And like blue-state Democrats whose exit-poll high came crashing down in November, Canadians were served notice that our "best artists" still were supposed to be Bryan Adams and Céline Dion. The likes of the Arcade Fire were shunted off to the token alternative categories, not included in the April awards broadcast. In Canadian music, the revolution will not be televised. This isn't the annual gripe about the Junos being square. The awards have made a remarkable turnaround since their 2002 takeover by glitz-loving CTV after, sad to say, three decades of parochial CBC broadcasts. It was an inspired initiative to add more performances and, with much foofaraw, to change cities each year (St. John's, Ottawa, Edmonton and, this year, Winnipeg). The ceremonies are now watched by nearly as many Canadians as tomorrow's U.S. Grammys will be, and that's amazing. Last year's triple win by Sam Roberts caught the nation off guard, and this year the non-conformist Toronto rapper k-os got three nods, and Feist two. The new adult-alternative category, with nominees such as Rufus Wainwright, is another sop (what are the other alternative nominees -- babies?), but at least the Junos try. No, the alternative ghetto exists because Canadian radio and our U.S.-branch-plant major record labels remain timid, lumbering beasts. Nearly all the artists above are on tiny indies here, with bigger deals abroad. Feist broke through in France. The Arcade Fire is on North Carolina's Merge. Broken Social Scene is on Mercury U.K.

Most aren't even tempted to sign in Canada. As David Byrne posted in his on-line diary after his Arcade Fire gig, "The question is, can the larger labels that are courting them do better? . . . [Maybe] they're doing all right where they are." The damage is to the national culture. If you haven't heard these artists, it's because no one is promoting them on Canadian radio. After decades of radio regulation and industry sponsorship, Canada still lets Americans sell our culture back to us, as in Neil Young's or Joni Mitchell's day. Toronto's Evan Newman is one of the few insiders to speak out. As an employee at V2 Records, he wrote an open letter to his industry peers in September asking how they could let the rising indie stars pass them by. Then he quit to start his own management firm, where he advises clients such as Toronto band Tangiers to sign abroad. "The majors here are looking for the Canadian equivalent of U.S. acts. They aren't interested in nurturing a distinctly Canadian sound," Newman told me. They want cash cows to slide unnoticeably between U.S. hits on radio, he said, corrupting the spirit of Canadian-content rules. When Juno time comes, they spin wheels to get their latest one-hit clones onto the list. The trouble isn't that major nominations are based on sales -- the Junos would wither as a showcase of unknowns. True, the figures used (of recordings "shipped" by labels to stores) are very open to manipulation, but even if the system were reformed, the airwaves would still be flooded by disposable signees whom the labels pump for a year or two and then dump, such as Canadian Idol winners. If that push were given to more unique Canadian voices, Newman contends, the public might embrace them, too. But no one dares.

Such tunnel vision is hardly restricted to Canada. And there has been progress. Vancouver's Nettwerk continues to discover the Sarahs and Avrils. Warner Music has made daring moves like signing hip-hop maverick Buck 65. Other majors have made side deals with indies, or created "incubator" imprints such as Universal's MapleMusic, trading aid to promising newcomers for an option on future partnerships. But this country could do better. More than ever -- maybe thanks to immigration, travel, the Internet -- Canadian artists are sophisticated, not split between lonely poets and provincial cheeseballs. The world is noticing, yet Canada hasn't. America will always best us at big, dumb, dazzling stuff; the Brits will always be more louche and arch. But as the Arcade Fire's flare signals, Canada may be the country that makes arty stuff the masses can love. It's not just our Leonard Cohen roots. It's what we are becoming. And I don't say so purely out of "true patriot love and la, la, la, la, la," as Halifax rocker Joel Plaskett sings. The New York Times writer flailed around trying to explain why Montreal is so fertile. He went on about downtrodden anglophone minorities (with an egregious comparison to South Africa, while overlooking the many francophones in the bands). He mentioned a recession (that happened 15 years ago) and low rents (which actually have skyrocketed). Why Montreal? Why Canada? Why now? Really, he had no clue. A better answer is secreted amid the jargon in a report by the consulting firm Catalytix submitted to the city of Montreal last month: "The Montreal region has been experiencing a shift in its economic base since the early 1990s," the authors write, "from classic industrial to a creativity-focused business mix more dependent on ideas and innovation than on natural resources or transportation cost." They add that Montreal "ranks in the Top 5 North American regions in terms of employment growth over the past five years; in 2003, it ranked first." So much for the starving-grotto theory. In fact Montreal artists are getting a little of the new wealth, helping them start labels, artist-run nightclubs and festivals such as Pop Montreal, Mutek and Suoni per il popolo. Catalytix is run by best-selling American author Richard Florida, who made "the creative city" a catchphrase in city halls across the continent. Montreal ranks second among the 25 largest North American cities in the relative size of what Florida calls the "super creative core," the demographic that works in high tech, science, media, education and the arts. And who comes first and third? Toronto and Vancouver. If we don't screw up, that's our distinct Canadian future. (All American cities rank lower, from Seattle to New York.) It doesn't mean just pointy-headed esoterica, with no old hoser stomp. Canuck humility lives. Our musicians like their audiences. They form (broken) social scenes. They perk up for melodies, dance beats and sing-alongs. They put sticky peanut butter in their bitter chocolate, populism in their conceptual art. Overhype and backlash be damned, this is not the flavour of the month. It's the new Canadian cuisine. Industry scaredy-cats can lap it up or go hungry. As the Arcade Fire sang to Conan O'Brien, "If you want somethin', don't ask for nothin' " -- and as David Byrne sang to the Arcade Fire, "I guess that this must be the place."




Amy Sky: Living A Love Song

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 13, 2005) Toronto songwriter Amy Sky has written for everybody from Reba McEntire to Roch Voisine, but here, on the eve of Valentine's Day, she tells us what it's like to compose a ballad straight from her own heart.   Amy Sky, who is currently working on a greatest hits collection, is writing a companion book on the stories behind her songs. Here she shares the personal emotions that went into penning her 1996 hit "I Will Take Care of You," which she recently re-recorded with her husband Marc Jordan and daughter Zoe for her latest album, With This Kiss.

On a September afternoon in Nineteen Sixty-One
A baby girl's first cry rang out
A new life had begun ...

Those are the opening lines of my song "I Will Take Care of You." Over the years, I have heard many interesting reactions to the song from fans.  One of the first things people usually say is that the song came on the radio while they were driving their car, and they started crying so hard they had to pull over to the side of the road. So first of all, let me apologize for any traffic accidents my song may have caused.  But secondly, let me say I am thrilled to have made you cry. That means I have had the privilege, as a writer, of reaching into your hearts and helping you connect with yourself. What is crying if not evidence that your deepest emotions are in play? And it is these emotions that give us a sense of meaning to our relationships and to life itself.  Life is, in fact, what this song is about: the cycle of life, and the lessons and legacies that are passed down from one generation to the next. People often ask me if the song is autobiographical. I say it is, though the names and dates were changed to protect the innocent.  My first child, my daughter Zoe, was born on Sept. 24, 1990, on my 30th birthday. Sharing a birthday with my child seemed to me to be a wonderful metaphor for becoming a mother. I was the first of my siblings to have kids, and among the first of my friends. I had basically made a hard right turn from a career fast track to motherhood. I was fairly unprepared — hence the line in the song where the mother says to the daughter, "Darling I'm just as scared as you..."  But while I wasn't sure which end of a diaper was up, what I was gratified to find was the enormous wellspring of love and bonding that came so suddenly. I had always thought your child would arrive, and you would take your time getting to know him or her. Phone calls, a few coffees, and at least a dinner or two were, to me, the prerequisites to a genuine protestation of undying love. But my husband and I fell hard instantly for our squeaky little bundle.  As any new parent can tell you, the immense connection and desire to protect and nurture are pretty overwhelming. I was also aware that the reason it felt so easy to access those deep wells of emotion was because that must have been the kind of love I myself had received from my parents. You don't really understand what you have been given in life until you are called upon to give the same. And if those reservoirs of unconditional love are present, that's pretty good proof of how you were loved as a child. 

I had already opened my heart to a new level when I met and married my soulmate Marc. (This is reflected in the second verse as a young bride and groom exchange wedding vows.) But mother love — the fierce, primal, throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-bus-to-protect-your-child instinct, coupled with the blissful contemplation of your little one's perfection — that was new to me.  So two pieces of the cycle of life's puzzle were working their way through my brain. My daughter was born on my birthday, and all the love I had received as a child was there waiting in my heart, ready to be passed down to her — like a precious heirloom.  However, we were also dealing with one of life's unhappier aspects: That same year my father had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  He had been physically and mentally deteriorating for some time, but we weren't sure why. When the diagnosis came, we knew his decline was irreversible. My five siblings, my mother and I were suddenly faced with his mortality. So while a new generation of parents, aunts and uncles had been born with Zoe's arrival, we also knew we were witnessing the passing of the older generation.  Judging from the stories I have heard from fans, this cruel juxtaposition of joy and sorrow is a paradox many experience. But as often as I have been told stories about adult children losing parents around the same time they became parents themselves, I have also been told inspiring stories of how they have taken care of their ailing mothers and fathers.  When I perform this song, and get to the bridge, which talks about the young woman taking care of her ill mother, I usually see a sea of white handkerchiefs in the audience.  But after the concerts, when I meet the fans, no one is sad or angry that they cried. What used to astonish me was that they were grateful for the chance to revisit and grieve once again over what has to have been one of the most painful episodes in their lives. I have come to realize that caring for the parent that gave you love and life itself is a profound opportunity to repay the debt somewhat, and to close the circle of love.  I am gratified to be told that my song has helped people process both their grief and their joy. Our wounds need the dignity of our attention in order to heal. Both music and the experience of sharing your pain with other people who have also lived it can give those hurts the time and space they need.  Music has tiny fingers, and can reach places in the heart that words alone cannot. So when you hear my song, or any song, and it makes you want to cry, I hope you open your heart to the healing tears can bring — but pull your car safely off to the side of the road.

Amy Sky will be performing in concert with 2005 Juno nominee Marc Jordan at Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.; 416-531-6604.




Grammys All About Ray

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic (With files from Star wire services)

(Feb. 14, 2005) Rapper Kanye West, the vaunted new face of hip hop, went in with 10 nominations, but it was the swansong by the late, great Ray Charles that stole the show at the 47th Grammy Awards last night.  Genius Loves Company, an album of duets released after Charles' death at 73 last June, picked up eight awards at the annual music industry gala from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  The honours earned by the disc, the best selling album of the pop legend's career, included best album, along with record of the year and vocal collaboration for "Here We Go Again," featuring Norah Jones.  "I'm glad he's getting recognized because of who he is and how much I love him," said Jones backstage.  Charles, who won 10 Grammys when he was alive, was also the subject of a couple of musical tributes. One was performed by Jamie Foxx, who played the singer in the Oscar-nominated biopic, Ray, and multi-nominee Alicia Keys, joining forces for "Georgia On My Mind" in one of the evening's lower-key highlights.  Keys didn't fare too shabbily in the trophy department either, winning four awards, including R&B album for The Diary of Alicia Keys. She shared one prize for "My Boo" with Usher, who won two other awards on his own.  West, whose album The College Dropout was one of the most critically acclaimed of last year, wasn't entirely shut out.  The 27-year-old Atlanta rapper, who made his displeasure public after being snubbed at the American Music Awards, can't have been thrilled at losing the coveted new artist prize to Los Angeles lightweights Maroon 5. But he made the most of his win for rap album  "Everyone wanted to know what I'd do if I didn't win," said West, who also won rap song for "Jesus Walks." "I guess we'll never know."  West's performance of "Jesus Walks," with assists from Mavis Staples and the Blind Boys of Alabama, was also the night's most electrifying, topping an all-star Tsunami benefit performance featuring Bono, Stevie Wonder and Brian Wilson, among others.

The show, the last of 35 by retiring Quebec-born producer Pierre Cossette, got off to a rather hectic, if somewhat unfocused start, as the camera cut between a cross-genre roster of high profile participants, from pop queen Gwen Stefani to hip hop crew Black Eyed Peas to Scottish rock upstarts Franz Ferdinand.  The show again relied on the tape delay introduced last year to insure that viewers wouldn't be treated to anything as titillating as Janet Jackson's Super Bowl debacle. Not that there was any cause for concern.  Even more than 2004, when the closest thing to controversy came in the form of Christina Aguilera's own inadvertent wardrobe near-malfunction, everyone was on their best behaviour during a reverential program dominated by a tribute Janis Joplin featuring Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge, the obligatory U2 appearance and other generally wholesome fare.  "Rock and roll can be fun and dangerous at the same time, so thanks a lot," said Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong in accepting the best rock album award for American Idiot, which received six nods in all.  Then there was the much-touted but horribly schmaltzy number by Jennifer Lopez and hubby Marc Anthony, who looked like they were auditioning for a Telelatino soap opera.  Loretta Lynn, whose Van Lear Rose was top country album, collected her first awards in 33 years. Her duet with Jack White of the White Stripes on "Portland, Oregon," also won for best country collaboration with vocals.  White and Lynn teamed up for the night's best acceptance speech as well, with White taking the opportunity to get in a deserving shot at the country radio's conservative programming.  "We were sitting on the front porch together while we were making this record and in between songs, she told me `You know what, Jack, 14 of my songs got banned by country radio and every time they wouldn't play it, it went No. 1.' Well, country radio wouldn't play this record either. Look who's No. 1 now."  "Portland, Oregon" beat out the tandem of Canadian hopeful Shania Twain and Alison Krauss & Union Station, nominated for "Coat of Many Colors." The Timmins-bred diva's "She's Not Just a Pretty Face" also lost out to newcomer Gretchen Wilson's trailer park anthem "Redneck Woman" for country vocal.  Among other Canadians, Toronto composer Howard Shore garnered two more Grammys for his work on the Lord of the Rings blockbusters. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for best score, as did a song from the movie, "Into the West," beating out fellow Canadian Benoît Charest for "Belleville Rendez-Vous." Shore already has two Grammys on his shelf for his previous instalments in the series.  University of Guelph grad Peter Buchanan-Smith, a native of Puslinch County, won for his artwork on A Ghost Is Born, the Wilco disc that was also named the year's best alternative album.  Golden Horseshoe polka rivals, Walter Ostanek of St. Catharines and John Gora of Burlington, were beat out by Texas group Brave Combo. Toronto rapper k-os, Sarah McLachlan, Nickelback, Rush and Tafelmusik also came away empty handed in what wasn't considered a strong year for Canadian nominees.

Other notable winners included singer/songwriter John Mayer, whose "Daughters" won song of the year, U2, whose "Vertigo" was top rock tune and Basement Jaxx, whose Kish Kash was the inaugural album winner in the new electronic/dance category.  Brian Wilson finally broke through for his first Grammy win for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" from Smile, the album he'd begun nearly 40 years ago but put on hold because of a near mental breakdown.  "I waited 42 years for this Grammy and it was well worth the wait," he said backstage. "I'm so thrilled to win."  Other first time winners from opposite ends of the career spectrum were Britney Spears, whose "Toxic" won for dance recording, and Rod Stewart, who finally broke through with Stardust: The Great American Songbook Vol. III. Somewhat more unlikely, roots rock iconoclast Steve Earle's incendiary The Revolution Starts ... Now won for contemporary folk album.  A few faces from outside the music world won awards including former U.S. president Bill Clinton for best spoken word album for his autobiography My Life and comedian Jon Stewart for best comedy album. 





Grammys A Love-In For Brother Ray

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 13, 2005) Los Angeles — Voters had ivory keys on their mind as an old master and new mistress of the piano were feted Sunday night at a star-studded, music-jammed Grammy night. Ray Charles's posthumous duets album Genius Loves Company, which has become the biggest seller of his storied career, took six trophies in the pre-show. Soul singer Alicia Keys received four Grammys, including best R&B album for The Diary of Alicia Keys. The show itself proved a melting pot of musical genres, with airtime for Lynyrd Skynyrd-styled southern rock, Jennifer Lopez's Latino romance, gospel-infused rap and politically charged punk rock. Charles's presence was felt early in the show with a sonic tribute by Ray-impersonator Jamie Foxx who performed Georgia On My Mind. Producer-turned-rapper Kanye West, the leading nominee with 10, won three awards including best rap song for Jesus Walks and best rap album for The College Dropout. Dressed all in white, West had the most spirited acceptance speech of the night. "Everybody wanted to know what I'd do if I didn't win. I guess we'll never know," he said waving the golden trophy over his head. In the night's biggest upset, he lost the best new artist category to alt-pop outfit Maroon5. "Kanye West, I want to thank you for being unbelievable," said frontman Adam Levine, who stopped to shake West's hand on the way to the podium.

Backstage, Levine added: "Everyone in the room expected him to win. He deserves it as much as we do." Heartthrob Usher also made off with three, including one he shared with Keys for the hit song My Boo. As expected, Green Day's punk opera, American Idiot, snagged best rock album. The politically aware disc has catapulted the group back into the limelight. The last time the Southern Californian band won a Grammy was 11 years ago, when their breakout record Dookie netted them a trophy for best alternative music performance. "Rock and roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time," frontman Billy Joe Armstrong said accepting the award. At a ceremony prior to the televised show at the Staples Center, Charles won best pop vocal album. He's been on the voter radar for months, buoyed in part by his death last June at age 73 and the success of the film Ray. His CD was also named best-engineered and best surround sound album "I thank God for giving us Ray for all those years," said the disc's producer Phil Ramone. Charles's Heaven Help Us All with Gladys Knight won best gospel performance while Here We Go Again with Norah Jones won best pop collaboration. "I worship him," Jones, who also took home a second trophy for her song Sunrise, gushed backstage. "I felt musically challenged sitting there with Ray Charles. He's the best singer ever in the history of the universe." Backstage, Charles was on many people's minds. "He had the greatest God-given talent that ever lived," said Jerry Lee Lewis, who was feted with a lifetime achievement award. The 47th annual awards opened with a 10-minute-long number by five nominated artists: the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani (performing with Eve), Los Lonely Boys, Maroon5 and Franz Ferdinand.

As for the Canadian contingent, Toronto-born Howard Shore won another two Grammys for Lord of the Rings. The first was for best score soundtrack album for Return of the King — his third consecutive year picking up that trophy. His other was for co-writing Annie Lennox's Into the West, shutting out first time nominee Benoit Charest, of Montreal, who was up for best song written for a film for his work on The Triplets of Belleville. Shore didn't attend to accept his hardware. Another Canadian winner was Peter Buchanan-Smith, 32, originally from Guelph, Ont. The art director, who now resides in New York, won for the packaging on Wilco's A Ghost Is Born. Others didn't fare too well with Victoria-born producer David Foster losing to Victor Vanacore, who arranged Over the Rainbow, the Charles and Johnny Mathis duet. Sarah McLachlan also lost to the Charles album. Newcomer Gretchen Wilson beat out veteran country stars Shania Twain, Alison Krauss, Loretta Lynn and Martina McBride in the best female country vocal performance category. Twain lost her other nomination to White Stripes frontman Jack White and Lynn who collaborated on Portland Oregon. Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra also lost in its category as did polka bandleaders Walter Ostanek and John Gora and Gorale. Nickelback lost to Velvet Revolver while rapper k-os lost to Britney Spears, who won her first-ever Grammy for the dance track Toxic. Beach Boy Brian Wilson beat Rush for best rock instrumental for Mrs. O'Leary's Cow from Smile, the album he'd begun nearly 40 years ago but put on hold because of a near mental breakdown. It was his first-ever Grammy. "I waited 42 years for this Grammy and it was well worth the wait," he said backstage. "I'm so thrilled to win." Lynn, also a sentimental favourite, won best country album for Van Lear Rose, her project with White Stripes frontman Jack White. "You're an American treasure," White told Lynn, who looked resplendent in a long blue gown.

A few faces from outside the music world won awards including former U.S. president Bill Clinton for best spoken word album for his autobiography My Life and comedian Jon Stewart for best comedy album. There are a whopping 107 Grammy categories, most of which were awarded at a three-hour ceremony prior to the televised show. Grammy winners are determined by the U.S. recording academy's 15,000 members based on merit, although commercial success often influences votes.




Billboard Goes Backstage At The Grammys

Excerpt from - Melinda Newman, Gail Mitchell and Todd Martens, L.A.

Notes from backstage at last night's (Feb. 13) 47th annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

(Feb. 14, 2005) Norah Jones, wearing a Diane von Furstenberg dress, described herself backstage as fashion-challenged. But musically the singer/songwriter had no problems, picking up several Grammy statuettes, including record of the year and best pop collaboration with vocals -- both for "Here We Go Again" with the late Ray Charles -- and best female pop vocal performance ("Sunrise").   Jones was the darling of the 2002 Grammy ceremony, where she won five awards, including record and song of the year ("Don't Know Why"), album of the year ("Come Away With Me") and best new artist.  "I didn't think I would win," said Jones, adding that her latest Grammy go-round was less pressure-packed. "My first year at the Grammys, I was in a daze. This time it's been a little easier. Actually, I'm still pretty freaked out because I'm singing with Stevie Wonder and everyone [on the tsunami relief performance of the Beatles' "Across the Universe"]. But I'm glad Ray Charles is getting the recognition for who he is. I love him."

A number of veterans took home their first Grammys, including rocker-turned-crooner Rod Stewart, metal stalwart Motorhead and Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, won best rock instrumental performance for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" from "Brian Wilson Presents Smile" (Nonesuch).   "I waited 42 years for this first Grammy and it was so worth the wait," said Wilson. "The Grammy represents a triumph and achievement in music that I feel I deserve. 'Smile' took 38 years to develop. There are a lot of sentimental reasons and I feel great relief to have finished it."

"Scrubs" star Zach Braff was stunned to take home the Grammy as executive producer of best compilation soundtrack album for a motion picture, television or other visual media for the film "Garden State," which he wrote and directed. Although Braff made the film on a shoestring budget, he was able to load the soundtrack with music from such artists as Coldplay, the Shins, Zero 7 and Frou Frou.   "This is for all the musicians who, when we had no money for the movie, let us show them a clip and then they said, 'yes,'" Braff said. He added a note to the musicians in the audience: "I would encourage you all that when a movie maker calls you and says, 'I have no movie,' at least look at the scene."

Singer/songwriter Steve Earle, who won his first Grammy for "The Revolution Starts... Now" (Artemis/E-Squared) after eight previous nominations, has a litmus test for if his albums have enough edge: "If I'm not pissing off the New York Post or Fox News, I know I'm not going my job."  "The only review I've ever framed in my life was the one-star review in the New York Post for [2002's] 'Jerusalem,'" he added. "I'm a well-known pinko so no one's really surprised with what I say anymore."

For producer of the year John Shanks, many backstage questions centered on his work with Ashlee Simpson and her performance woes on "Saturday Night Live" and during the Orange Bowl halftime show. He said of their first meeting, "I was really knocked out by her energy, her enthusiasm. I drilled her about what kind of music do you listen to, what kind of music do you want to make. We got together the next day and started writing. When I met her, she reminded me of Marianne Faithfull, Joan Jett, a little Chrissie Hynde. There was a tone to her voice that I really enjoyed."

For Basement Jaxx, the win for best electronic/dance album, "Kish Kash," was bittersweet in that it was the act's last project for its U.S. label, Astralwerks. The reason for the split? Simon Ratcliffe suggested, "The album is quite varied; it's not easy to pigeonhole."   And, therefore, added partner Felix Buxton, too tough to market Stateside. "It's difficult in America," he said. "It's very segregated, very black and white. Coming from Europe, it's a lot more of a melting pot there. It can be all things in one go, which is often what we do."

Maroon5 frontman Adam Levine admitted that even his fellow band members were surprised when the group won the best new artist award. "It was very shocking," he said. "I think everyone expected Kayne [West] to win. I think I thanked him first. He deserves it as much as we do."   He added that the group has no qualms about a sophomore slump. "I don't think we're scared about the second album," he said. "We're already reached a level that was unimaginable for us."

Just like Maroon5, John Mayer, winner for song of the year with "Daughters," felt that one of his fellow nominees was just as deserving.   "I don't know why I won tonight and I hope I never autopsy it," he said. "I watched Alicia Keys perform tonight and I am so thanking for be in an era where music [like that] is being made. I'm going to screw the top half off of the Grammy and give her the base."   He added that he was opposed to Columbia releasing the song, which also won the best male pop vocal performance honour, as a single. "It's such a personal song that I felt that anyone other than me would think it's the most disingenuous piece of slop," he said.

Nancy Wilson's award for best jazz vocal album for "R.S.V.P. Rare Songs, Very Person" (MCG Jazz) is her second Grammy in 41 years. She won her first in 1964 for best rhythm & blues recording ("How Glad I Am").   "[It's] nice to win a Grammy in jazz," she said. "But the Grammy itself for me this time goes to the production. I am so proud of the production values on this album and of all the marvellous musicians who participated." Wilson plans to go back into the studio in the late summer to record a new album.

A self-deprecating Jerry Lee Lewis provided laughs backstage while answering questions about his lifetime achievement award, including why he thought it took so long for the recognition. "I kind of thought about that myself," he said, "but it's great to get it."   He then reeled off this checklist of career achievements: "Hard work, rippin', runnin', kickin' down stools, having a ball and loving up some of the most beautiful women in the world. It's just rock and roll."  Asked if he finds much time to play just for fun, he added, "I used to when I was younger. Now I just go out on the lake and fish."

Jill Scott savoured the high of winning her first Grammy. The singer/songwriter lost to Shelby Lynne in the best new artist category in 2000, but said her win for best urban/alternative performance for "Cross My Mind" is no less sweeter.  "It's something I've always wanted," Scott said. "Artists who have them at home may say they don't matter, but they do. I thought I deserved to win on my first album. I wish I had played it off well but I didn't. I can't pretend: I talked about it on camera and embarrassed my publicist. But I'm so happy to win this time. I'm tingling all over; it's a dream come true."

It was a big year for Hawaiian music with the introduction of the best Hawaiian music album Grammy award, which was accorded to the compilation "Slack Key Guitar Volume 2" (Palm Records).   Album producer Charles Michael Brotman said the award represented much more than simply recognition for the effort. "There were a lot of people involved in the process [of adding the category] in Hawaii and [the Recording Academy]. Our hope is that it brings a lot of people who don't know about Hawaiian music into it. There are a lot of stereotypical images of what Hawaiian music is when it's really diverse. There is a lot of music being produced and written in Hawaii that encompasses the culture, the music, language, slack key. We hope the addition of the award brings a lot of people into the music."




Grammy Hangovers: Afterparty Wrap-Up

Excerpt from

(Feb. 15, 2005) *When Stevie Wonder took the stage at Spago's in Beverly Hills, it was still Grammy night.  When he wrapped the impromptu performance that paid homage to the late Ray Charles, it had become Valentine’s Day.  And what a Valentine’s weekend it was for the late Genius of Soul.  Carson Daly, Joe Pesci, Quincy Jones and Record of the Year co-winner Norah Jones were also on hand at the famed restaurant to honour the music legend, whose posthumous album “Genius Loves Company” won eight golden gramophone statues to lead the pack.   At 1 a.m., multiple Grammy winner Alicia Keys rolled through the spot. She and Wonder -  who hours before had struggled through the all-star tsunami benefit performance of John Lennon's “Across the Universe” – were struggling to get through some macaroni and cheese, catfish, collard greens and cornbread as they laughed and whispered at his table.

*Across town at the Sony BMG shindig, the grand Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel hosted a younger crowed, as DJ Tony Okungbowa of the “Ellen Degeneres Show” spun hip-hop and pop records. Folks from Maroon 5 and members of Velvet Revolver imbibed while watching the West Coast replay of the Grammys on a TV by the bar.  Zach Braff, Cyndi Lauper, Grammy winner Jill Scott, red carpet-zilla Star Jones Reynolds and Ricky Martin were also in the house. Usher was seen rushing out of the hotel when the fire marshal closed off the Roosevelt’s packed VIP room.

*Weed was reportedly thick in the air at Usher’s post-Grammy party at Geisha House in Hollywood, which had as guests Nelly, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri and Wesley Snipes.

The biggest Grammy party of them all happened 24 hours before the actual ceremony, courtesy of Clive Davis.  His pre-show bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel featured Janet Jackson, Diana Ross and Mary J. Blige sitting side by side at tables; plus Quincy Jones, Mos Def, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Nelly, Jermaine Dupri, Chaka Khan, the Backstreet Boys , J.C. Chasez of 'N Sync , Kid Rock, Anthony Hamilton, Peter Asher, David Foster and – for a split second – Prince  The Grammy-winning musicologist came late, then dipped out early to host his own live show/party in the Hollywood Hills, the first of several this week – sources tell Fox News. 

Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds; Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe; Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick; Evander Holyfield; Sugar Ray Leonard; Chris Tucker; and director Brett Ratner (who brought his grandmother as his date), were also crammed into the crowded ballroom, as were "American Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest

Live performances after dinner came courtesy of Alicia Keys, Mary J., Carlos Santana, Fantasia, Usher, Gretchen Wilson, Maroon 5 and Chaka Kahn, among others.

Jamie Foxx, who also took the stage (in a white suit and black fedora), summed things up to AP.

"Everybody's here, all the stars, everybody you want to get autographs from," said the best actor Oscar nominee. "Somebody said to just breathe, and that's what I'm doing. I'm breathing it in, enjoying myself and having a great time."

*Judging from Monday morning’s Nielsen numbers, folks were only killing time through the Grammy’s first hour on CBS until it was time to switch over to ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” at 9.  While CBS’s 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. coverage of the ceremony won the night overall, the first new episode of the night time soap in three weeks won the 9 p.m. hour by a comfortable margin.   

The Grammys, which featured performances by Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys and Melissa Etheridge, received its lowest rating since 1995. An estimated 18.8 million people watched Ray Charles run away with the top awards, which marked a 28 percent drop from last year’s telecast.




Grammy Has Fun With Canuck Nods

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Angela Pacienza, The Canadian Press

(Feb. 12, 2005) There's the man who plays a vacuum cleaner and the occasional refrigerator shelf, two others who lead bands in vivacious polkas, a lyrical hip-hop maestro and a raven-haired sexpot whose bellybutton is as famous as her cliché-laden hits. While it's not the biggest Canadian contingent to ever grace a Grammy stage, the performers are among an eclectic group of Canuck nominees that are anything but boring. Some of the home-grown nominees are the usual suspects: country superstar Shania Twain, pop singer Sarah McLachlan and rock outfit Nickelback. Others include duelling polka-band leaders, Walter Ostanek and John Gora, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, jazz artist Benoît Charest and rapper k-os. But they'll need to work hard to distinguish themselves among the many nominees as awards are handed out in the annual music competition's 107 categories tomorrow night at Los Angeles's Staples Center.

Kanye West leads the nominee pack with 10 nods for his CD, The College Dropout. Alicia Keys and Usher each received eight nods, while the late Ray Charles -- whom actor Jamie Foxx hopes to channel in a Grammy performance -- is up for seven. "The variety of the Canadian nominees is absolutely amazing. Sometimes you think, 'Where did they come from?' " said Richard Flohil, editor of Applaud!, a trade publication distributed outside Canada about the Canadian industry. "The amount of Canadian input at the Grammys and other international award ceremonies just seems to indicate a real proof of the way in which Canadian talent has developed, particularly over the last decade." One of those talents is hip-hop lyricist k-os, who hopes to take home the best-dance-recording trophy for Get Yourself High, a collaboration with the Chemical Brothers. "I always use these little things as proof that sometimes the least effort garners great things . . . here's a track that I ended up free-styling and then it gets a nomination for a Grammy," he said excitedly from his home in Toronto earlier this week. While the rapper relied on his free-styling skills, nominee Benoît Charest used a vacuum cleaner and other unconventional instruments to land in the Grammy spotlight. His quirky ditty, Belleville Rendez-Vous, from the animated feature The Triplets of Belleville is up for best song for a motion picture, against The Lord of the Rings music master Howard Shore, of Toronto.

The Triplets track was also nominated for an Oscar last year but lost to Shore's monumental work on The Lord of the Rings. The spotlight provided by the Triplets has opened many doors for the artist, an unknown prior to the film. He's about to start work on a children's picture for Universal. "That wouldn't have been possible without the Triplets," said Charest, who's been playing professionally since 16 as a studio musician. Other nominees include: Rush, up for rock instrumental performance for a drum solo by Neil Peart on O Baterista, a track off the band's Rush In Rio live disc; renowned producer David Foster, for best instrumental arrangement; and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, for best small-ensemble performance. Rounding out the Canuck nominations is jazz darling Diana's Krall's Girl in the Other Room. But in the event of a win, the statue will go to her producer, Tommy LiPuma and engineer Al Schmitt. As well, Alanis Morissette's producer John Shanks is up for an award for his work on the Ottawa singer's So-Called Chaos and Robbie Robertson's Shine Your Light.  This year's production of the Grammys also marks the end of a long and successful career for Quebec-born Pierre Cossette. Thirty-five years ago, the ambitious businessman went to the American music academy and made a deal to stage a live-to-air awards show. Prior to 1971, the show was held in a stuffy hotel ballroom far away from adoring music fans.  But it was a bittersweet first run. A year earlier, the spunky Cossette -- now 81 and producing his final Grammy shindig tomorrow -- had gotten into a "terrible fight" with Paul Simon over a song the musician had written for a TV special.

"I said, 'We can't open the show with this song. This is not what I sold,' " Cossette, who was born in Valleyfield, Que., recently recalled from his Beverly Hills office. "We argued so much he finally said, 'Let's just call this thing off. I'll buy you out.' " A year later, Cossette was faced with Simon and Garfunkel as the top nominees.  And the big song everyone was clamouring to hear? Bridge Over Troubled Water -- the very one Cossette had deemed too boring for TV consumption. "Simon and Garfunkel got record of the year, song of the year, album of the year," said Cossette, launching into a few bars of the song, which ended up winning five Grammys that year. "Oh god, that was really something." Aside from that blunder, Cossette has had a successful run at helming the annual music bash.  And while naysayers have often criticized the jury's choice in winners, the show's musical variety usually wins praise, and sometimes generates controversy, such as the year Elton John and Eminem performed a duet.  Cossette credits a revolving door of musical talent for his long-standing success. Moving to California as a youngster, Cossette started out in the music business shortly after university, producing variety shows for clubs and hotels in the Las Vegas area.  He moved on to managing artists and helped found Dunhill Records, where the roster included the Mamas and the Papas and Steppenwolf. He quickly moved into TV with Stand Up and Cheer, one of the first celebrity-driven programs. The Andy Williams Show soon followed.

After tomorrow's Grammy show -- which should be another career highlight, with hyped performances by Jennifer Lopez and hubby Marc Anthony and Oscar-nominated Ray actor Jamie Foxx with Alicia Keys -- Cossette will retire to his home in Ste.-Anisette, Que., a small community about an hour west of Montreal. He'll continue to mount the occasional production, especially ones for his friend Celine Dion.  As well, he's currently developing The Woody Guthrie Story for Broadway, where he's found much success, having produced the six-time Tony winner, The Will Rogers Follies. "Thirty-five years is a long time to be doing one show," said Cossette, who received a star on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard this past Monday.




Cole Powered

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(Feb. 16, 2005) He's been dead nearly half a century, but Nat King Cole is still captivating listeners — and selling more than one million albums a year.  He endures, of course, because of the 700 songs recorded in that memorable tenor; but also thanks to the meticulous way the offspring of the Alabama native, who succumbed to throat cancer at age 45 on Feb. 15, 1965, have cultivated his legacy.  Daughters Carole, Natalie, Casey and Timolin are partners in King Cole Productions, which works with Capitol Records (known as "The House that Nat Built" for the 150 charting, money-making singles he made with them) to manage the licensing of their father's music.  "I pretty much oversee everything, but we all work and make decisions together," said Carole Cole in a phone interview from California, adding "every now and then something comes along that we don't think is appropriate" but she's loath to provide details.  Their recent projects are The World of Nat King Cole — a just-released 28-song compilation including gems such as "Mona Lisa," "Nature Boy" and "When I Fall in Love" — and a DVD documentary of the same name that comes out next month.  "Because it's the 40th anniversary of my father's passing, we felt that it was an opportune time to do something really special and really make it kind of the year of Nat King Cole," said Carole.  This is a family imbued with a sense of propriety, evidenced in the documentary by the ever-impeccable Cole, his graceful widow Maria and their constant stoicism.  That's why it's surprising that the 89-minute film includes Eartha Kitt's ambiguous remarks about the nature of her relationship with the late singer, and it also recounts the affair he was having with Swedish actress Gunilla Hutton when he took ill.  "Her experience with the man are her memories and it was very interesting and kind of telling to hear her express all that," said executive producer Carole of Kitt's coy "no comment" comments.

"We gave the filmmakers a pretty wide canvas with which to explore whatever they were going to explore. And prior to anyone's interview, who knew what they were going to say?  "So there were various discoveries along the way for them and I became aware of those discoveries when we were in the editing process.  "The filmmakers felt that they couldn't ignore that there was this relationship towards the end of Nat's life.  "And I felt that it was handled in a way that was dignified and proper. But, you know my father was a man like any other man, in many ways. I think it would've been a little questionable had it not been spoken of at all."  She'd rather focus on the film's exploration of the crooner's contribution to civil rights. He broke the colour barrier on TV and Las Vegas stages.  "He was certainly a political and social activist in his own way. What's lovely about this documentary is that it does clearly take a look at that in a way that it's never really been looked at before and specifies ways that he singularly pioneered various aspects of the entertainment industry."  His children benefited financially, but suffered socially and emotionally in the upscale all-white California neighbourhood where they were raised.  "There were some incidents that were rather horrific for me and my family: things like having one of our dogs poisoned, or walking out to wait for the bus one morning for school and someone had burned the word `nigger' in our front lawn. I realized at some point that my sister Natalie and I probably integrated every school that we attended prior to college."  Often their parents weren't around to ease the hurts.  "He was really away that much. Certainly in those days, and it's probably the same for many artists today, it wasn't uncommon to be on the road nine or 10 months out of the year. Mother accompanied him. In our life Christmas was an especially big deal, because it was the one time that we were pretty much guaranteed that dad would be home."  Carole was 21 when Cole died.  "It was certainly a bit of a shock, because we didn't know how sick he was and because there were a lot of things going on at the time.  "People dealt with their issues a little differently then. I find the recent passing of Johnny Carson rather interesting, because there's something to be said for people who are in the public eye (who) really maintain their privacy and dignity.  "That was some of the thinking at the time of my father's illness and passing. Needless to say the press did get in there and it became a big public event.

"I remember going to the church where the service was and seeing all these people lined up for many blocks. That was pretty disconcerting ... you have a conflicted response, because obviously it said a lot about how much he was revered and loved, but at the same time it feels kind of like you're in a fish bowl."  Of Cole's five children (a son, Kelly, died in 1995), only Natalie followed in his footsteps. But they're devoted fans, like the rest of us, says Carole.  "It's mind boggling to me sometimes to hear people of all generations, across all kinds of cultural lines, say they feel that they have a connection to him."  The World of Nat King Cole DVD comes out Mar. 29. An earlier documentary When I Fall in Love: The One and Only Nat King Cole which features clips from his 1956 TV variety show airs on Bravo! this Saturday at 10 p.m.




Nat King Cool

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Robert Everett-Green

(Feb. 12, 2005) The face in the blotchy, black-and-white TV clip is familiar, and the voice even more so. But something's not right about this picture of a man singing at the piano. The skin tone looks unnaturally chalky. It could be the fault of crude TV technology, but it's not: Nat King Cole is performing in whiteface. The clip, from one of Cole's early TV appearances, is the most arresting image in The World of Nat King Cole, one of two new documentaries about the pop and jazz star who died 40 years ago this Tuesday. It's a deeply sad piece of footage, both for what it says about the racism of the times, and for what it must have cost Cole to work his subtle magic from behind a mask. Millions know Cole as the suave and genial singer of ballads such as Mona Lisa, Unforgettable and Nature Boy. Thousands are aware that he was also an innovative jazz pianist, possibly the best and most influential of his generation. Both sides come out in When I Fall in Love: The One and Only Nat King Cole, a new collection of broadcast performances from his groundbreaking TV show and other sources, knit together with biographical commentary and airing on Bravo! next Saturday night. For Capitol Records, the company built on Cole's catalogue of more than 150 hits, the singer from Birmingham, Ala., was one of the great moneymakers of popular music. Cole still sells a million albums a year, and that's not counting cheap European compilations of recordings no longer under copyright. Just last month, Capitol launched yet another anthology, also called The World of Nat King Cole. Few who buy those records know what kind of man Cole was under the makeup, and under the more permanent mask he fashioned for himself during his years trying to make it as a black man in a white man's world. In some ways, he was his own greatest work, a perfect amalgam of qualities that allowed him to entertain everyone while threatening no one.

By all accounts, he was an easygoing, self-contained man who seldom blew his top, and then only in private. In public, he was bound to the idea that an entertainer's job was to ease the spirits of the working stiffs out front, not to shake them up with uncomfortable ideas. Cole in his prime as a pop entertainer was a genial hipster who kept a smile at the ready and never implied real men don't have feelings. He was elegant, sincere and always seemed to sing up to the crowd, no matter how humble the song. "He was cool before it was cool to be cool," says Isaac Hayes, in The World of Nat King Cole. True, but it was a friendly kind of cool, not the icy cool of today's rappers, or the aggressive cool of Frank Sinatra. Cole's recording of Walkin' My Baby Back Home (included on the new Capitol disc) has a big, swaggering accompaniment, but Cole doesn't strut it the way Sinatra would have done. That kind of expression was not his style, and couldn't be if he wanted to succeed. He wanted success all his life, and got started early, building his piano craft, and duelling with the likes of Earl Hines while still in school in Chicago. He was on the road by 17 and formed the King Cole Trio in L.A. a year later with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. A jazz trio with no drummer was a new idea, especially during the Big Band era. The group countered the heaviness of those massed reeds and brasses with a light, swinging chamber style grounded in Prince's nimble bass, Cole's stabbing left-hand chords and his ornate, elegant interplay with Moore. The trio had a sensational impact on the scene, and prompted Art Tatum to form a similar group, followed by Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal decades later. (Diana Krall also went drumless for most of her 1996 tribute, All For You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio.) In 1944, the trio had its first big hit with Straighten Up and Fly Right, a song written by Cole with Robbie Williams. It was the beginning of the broad celebrity that eventually pulled him away from jazz, destroyed the trio and ignited a debate about his artistic integrity that continues to this day. As a pianist, Cole had enormous influence, notably on Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell and Ray Charles. Peterson's study of the King's style was so close that during a blind hearing set up by Down Beat magazine in the late forties, Cole actually mistook Peterson's playing for his own. They perform together in two vocal numbers in When I Fall in Love, with Peterson's trio and Coleman Hawkins on sax. Peterson's florid obbligato annotates Cole's vocal line so thoroughly that it's hard to tell where the homage leaves off and the shadowboxing with Cole's absent piano begins.

One of the great myths of Cole's career (perpetuated in both documentaries) is that his distinctive singing style came together without any of the obsessive study that went into his piano playing. But Leslie Gourse, the most musically astute of his biographers, suggests that Cole began developing his ideas about singing while slogging away as a rehearsal pianist and vocal coach during his early days in L.A. The lightness of touch he cultivated at the piano shaped the floating, contemplative style with which he handled a ballad, and the stinging rhythmic accents he used while singing a tune such as Route 66. His famously clear diction stemmed from a conscious decision to rinse the Southern inflections from his voice. (You can still hear them from his brother Freddy, who appears in When I Fall in Love.) Cole's voice had a baritonal sound shot through with tenor lights and a rasp that balanced the smoothness of his delivery. He probably learned a few things about balance and tone from the Ink Spots, the vocal group that first hit the charts three years before Straighten Up and Fly Right. Like them, he made a success in the white world in part because he projected a poised, agreeable image, even if internal tension cost him a bleeding ulcer. He carried the same attitude into the maelstrom of the civil-rights period. When he was turned away by hotels because he was black, he preferred private legal action to a public tussle in the press. When his new neighbours in a posh white district of Los Angeles tried to dislodge his family by saying they didn't want any "undesirables," he deflected the insult by appearing to agree, saying, "If I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain." Even after he was assaulted on an Alabama stage in 1956, he kept to the high road, telling the press that entertainers were not political figures and that he was "not mad at anybody." The remark touched off a storm in the black community. "All Cole needs to complete his role as an Uncle Tom is a banjo," said Thurgood Marshall, counsel for the NAACP and a future Supreme Court justice. In Harlem, Cole's hits were removed from jukeboxes. Cole's family and friends are still fighting to clear the record. The CD booklet for Capitol's new anthology reproduces a telegram from Martin Luther King thanking Cole for "your support in the struggle." In The World of Nat King Cole DVD, Andrew Young, one of King's lieutenants, calls Cole "one of the leaders" of the movement, in spite of the fact that Cole didn't join the NAACP till after the Alabama fracas, and didn't march in Washington to support the civil-rights legislation of his friend Jack Kennedy. Cole also gathered flak from his jazz fans, upset by his mutation into a pop singer. At first, he tried to placate them by presenting his pop incursions as a strategy for throwing a stronger light on "real" music.

"Don't you guys think I ever get sick of playing those dog tunes every night?" he told Metronome magazine in 1946, the same year NBC gave him his own national radio show. "We're only waiting until we've reached a firm enough point where we can mix the real stuff with the popular and still have an audience. ..... I'm planning to make more and more jazz records." But by 1950, he no longer wanted to hear about the jazz he should be playing. "I'm in the music business for one purpose: to make money," he told Down Beat that year. "Jazz is pretty dead commercially. ..... The trio has gotten away from jazz." Cole ultimately got away from the trio. The Christmas Song, in 1946, was his first with a studio orchestra, and a sign of the future. He spent most of his solo career away from the piano, immersed in showy accompaniments by the likes of Nelson Riddle, who became his house bandleader for NBC's Nat King Cole Show, the first TV show hosted by an African-American. The show capsized after a year for lack of a sponsor, because, as Cole put it, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark." At around the same time, Cole's career began to suffer from the advent of rock 'n' roll, which he figured would blow over. He recorded a tune called Mr. Cole Won't Rock and Roll. Ironically, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Natalie Cole's 1991 duet version of Unforgettable helped promote the idea that Cole was a wonderful family man, and family testimonials have been ubiquitous ever since, though Natalie was only 14 when her father died of lung cancer in 1965. But he was usually on the road, preferred the casinos of Vegas to the comforts of home and would probably have left entirely if death hadn't intervened. The lasting image, perpetuated in hundreds of songs, is that of an intimate friend you never actually met. In the world he created for the microphone, there were no losers, only people who needed to hold onto their dreams more tightly. Cole's own dreams mostly came true, but the character of the dreamer remains elusive. Like the painting he serenaded in his biggest hit, Mona Lisa, he was a figure whose large public identity came wrapped up with a quality of reserve that was both impenetrable and irresistible.

When I Fall in Love airs on Bravo! on Sat., Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. The World of Nat King Cole will be released as a DVD by EMI on March 1. Capitol's one-disc companion anthology is in stores now.




Wu-Tang To Honour ODB On Posthumous Album

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2005) The surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan have regrouped to record a tribute to the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, who died in November while working on his first album since being released from jail in 2003. Wu-Tang principal RZA says the track, tentatively titled "I Go Through Life," will hopefully appear on ODB's album, which will be a joint venture between RZA's Wu-Tang Records imprint and the new Damon Dash Music Group.  "Every member is on it so far, besides Ghostface Killah," RZA tells "Method Man was the first guy to do his verse. Raekwon and GZA did their verses pronto. I had to take some time with U-God. Cappadonna is on it also. All I need is my Ghostface verse and it will be one of the first recordings in three or four years with every member again."  "This is a gift to ODB and the fans, so the fans can feel our love," RZA continues. "Everybody's got something to say about it. Raekwon had one line like, 'One day I'll put a statue in my house to resemble you / so my son can resemble you.' I haven't played it for too many people, [but] me and Quentin [Tarantino] were hanging out a couple weeks ago. He came by my studio and I played it for him, and he said he caught a chill."  The night ODB died, RZA says he had an uncharacteristically frank conversation with him about "getting things back on track and clearing away all the things on the table. We wanted to focus on the Wu legacy plan we had. He was getting things together, but there were still some crinkles he needed to iron out. It was really one of the first times he saw it. He agreed with almost everything I was saying. I was glad. I was happy."

In light of the tragedy, RZA says he's thrilled Dash reached out to him to work together on the album, due March 22. "He can use the Wu-Tang's support, and my creative energy and support, to help guide the project, for the benefit of ODB's family and for the legacy of the Wu-Tang," he says.  Method Man, Raekwon and Macy Gray appear on the proposed first single, "Intoxicated," which RZA produced and describes as "pretty unique." About five other tracks he collaborated on with ODB are expected to make the final cut, including "The Stomp Part 2," on which ODB "got a chance to be his crazy self."  "I also helped guide tracks produced by other people," RZA says. "I think we may end up with a 13- to 16-cut album, so you'll have about 35% of that Wu flavour, that abstract noise, you know what I mean? The songs I did with him -- if anything makes it to the radio, I'll be surprised." Other producers lending a hand on the set include the Neptunes, Just Blaze and DJ Premier.




Fantasia Trades ‘Idol’ Worship For Critical Praise

Source: Ant Fail RCA Music Group  J Records / RCA Records / Arista Records /

(Feb. 14, 2005) (New York, NY)  J/19 recording artist Fantasia - who will co-host the 19th annual Soul Train Awards on March 12th - takes a giant step toward fulfilling the title of her debut album, FREE YOURSELF, as it passes the RIAA platinum sales mark this week and moves up to #13-bullet on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and #4-bullet on the R&B chart (this week’s ‘Greatest Gainer’ on both lists).  “Truth Is,” the first single from FREE YOURSELF, has exploded at Urban radio and becomes Fantasia’s first #1 Urban Adult chart-topper this week.  The record also came in at #9 on the Urban Mainstream radio chart with Urban radio tallying big reaction to “Baby Mama” and “Free Yourself” from the album - look for one of them to emerge as the follow-up single to “Truth Is.” Back in December, Fantasia personally debuted the promotional video for “Truth Is” (directed by Diane Martel) on BET’s 106 & Park, where it stays in Power Rotation.  She’ll return to 106 & Park next Thursday, February 17th for a live performance of her hit "Truth Is."  On February 24, she's back singing "The Lord Will Bless Me Right Now" on BET’s Celebration Of Gospel special. In advance of next month’s Soul Train Awards, Fantasia’s millions of fans can catch her performance of “Truth Is” on the weekly show this Saturday, February 12th (please check local listings).  In addition to co-hosting the Awards gala on March 12th with Nicole Richie, Brian McKnight and Nick Cannon, Fantasia will perform a medley of “Baby Mama” and “Free Yourself” on the big night.  Fantasia has also been nominated for a Soul Train Award herself as Best New Artist, R&B/Soul or Rap (against Ciara, J-Kwon and John Legend). In other awards news, Fantasia has also been nominated for Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Female Artist at the NAACP Image Awards, to broadcast on Friday night, March 25th.   The nominations indicate the overwhelming positive critical reaction that has greeted FREE YOURSELF.  In fact, Fantasia has truly won her freedom - and the next phase of her career - as “the first American Idol to count as a discovery” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “the American Idol champ most likely to become a genuine pop idol” (People). Fantasia first entered the pop music record books in June, when she became the first artist in the 49-year history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart to debut at #1 with her debut single, “I Believe,” which also set a one-week 2004 Nielsen Soundscan sales record in the process.  The song now serves as the climactic closing number of FREE YOURSELF, which also includes another memorable Idol show-stopper, the Gershwins’ “Summertime."  “With the release of her first album,” raved the New York Daily News, “… the now 20 year-old Barrino is ready to step out of the American Idol bubble and become a star in her own right.”    




Bebe Finally Makes His ‘Dream’ Album

Excerpt from

(Feb. 15, 2005) *“If any album defines who I am, it’s this one,” says BeBe Winans, the seventh child born into Detroit’s own gospel-drenched Winans family. Happily in his forties, BeBe has gone through some thangs in the past five years that have spawned a sudden rebirth of creative energy. The newfound oomph led directly to the creation of his first studio album in five years, “Dream,” due Feb. 22 on his new label, Stillwaters, a gospel division of Hidden Beach Recordings.    After gaining notoriety in the mid 80s through early 90s as part of a recording duo with his sister CeCe, the singer - born Benjamin Winans - released a string of solo inspirational albums, including a self-titled 1997 effort, and 2000’s “Love and Freedom.”  It would be another five years before he stepped foot in a studio to record new material.

EUR’s Lee Bailey got BeBe on the phone earlier this month at his home in Nashville to discuss the reasons for his long studio absence, the effects of a recent divorce, and why his new album “Dream,” and its Dr. King-inspired title track, is his most personal work to date.

Lee Bailey: So you have a dream, huh?

BeBe Winans: Yeah (laughs). This album was five years in the making.  Five years ago, CNN was honouring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and every second there was an excerpt of his [“I Have A Dream”] speech. And that particular day, it just went through me for some reason.  I called a friend, asked him to give the speech to me over the Internet, and I read the speech from top to bottom - first time ever doing it.  It just gave me chills.  After I read it, I went to the piano room and the song was birthed in about five minutes. 

LB: After years of hearing the speech, why do you think it resonated in that way all of a sudden?

BW: I think way beyond my abilities, there’s a purpose behind this song.  After I wrote it, I said to myself, “This is not for me, this is for the world.”  We have planned for this to be heard next year for his birthday – for the anniversary of his death in April, for the [anniversary of the] speech in August, and then we’ll come around again in 2006 for his birthday.  Just this January, there were stations that grabbed the song and just played it all day long.  It’s the most powerful song that I’ve ever been involved in.  It took almost a year and a half to two years to get the [licensing] signatures from the King Foundation. They’ve licensed little excerpts from the speech, but when it came to the whole speech, they had no clue.  They would say, “We love it, we embrace it, but you’re going to have to give us time to try and figure this one out.”  It took a year and a half, but it was worth the wait.  For the rest of the album, it’s been a five-year journey. 

LB: What was at the root of this five-year journey? Why did you stop recording?

BW: In the last three or four years, I really didn’t desire to sing. At this point, I know and realize who I am and where I’m going, and that has everything to do with the chapter of music closing in my life.  We’re at the end of BeBe Winans – the artist making albums every year and going out and touring and marketing and all of that.  I have other passions now, and I’m at peace with that.  There are other things now that are I’m very passionate about, which are movies, television, television production, a record company.  This album represents all that. It’s a very mature BeBe.   After this album, I think there are two more albums inside of me.  The next album will be totally different than this one. I’m not afraid to do that because this is me, now. This is really me. It took these years to get to that place. I think it’s just growing up, you know. 

LB: Well let’s hear about some of the songs on this album.

BW: Friendships mean the most to me, so there’s a song on there called “That’s a Friend.”  My children are the dearest things to me, so I wrote about them – my son Benjamin, and my daughter. The song is entitled “A Love Thing.”  There’s a song called “Have You Ever Had,” and I think everyone will be able to relate to that - when the days just go wrong. I don’t care who you are, what you believe in, everything you do just seems to turn out wrong, and you’re about to choke somebody.  [The first single] “Safe From Harm” is just a song of remembrance. It’s to let everyone know that we have a blessed assurance, even though you turn on this channel and it’s talking about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and this channel’s talking about fear of this and that, and if it’s not the economy, it’s terrorism.  There is a safety net that we all have, and that safety net is God. 

LB: Did the Christmas album come out while you were waiting on the King Foundation to clear the way for “Dream’s” release?

BW: We were waiting on the King Foundation when Sony heard “My Christmas Prayer” single and said look, we want this to be a whole album. 

LB: You also went through a divorce during the recent years. How long were you married to your wife?

BW: We were married 18 years.  You know, a friend of mine said, “You can let society define divorce for you or you can define it for yourself. Which is – you threw away 18 years, or you had 18 great years and now it’s another chapter.  It doesn’t mean it wasn’t a painful process; I wouldn’t wish divorce on my enemy. But there is life on the other side of it, and that’s where I am with that.  One of the things that was most important was to see how my children were going to handle it, and they’ve rebounded wonderfully. 

LB: You’ve also been busy hosting your weekly-syndicated, two-hour “BeBe Winans Radio Show.” How is that going?

BW: It’s been good.  I do four shows a month. It has freed my creativity. I have reason now to put my mind, body and spirit into my talents.

LB: Speaking of your talents, any plans to follow-up your film role in Jonathan Demme’s “The Manchurian Candidate” with future parts?

BW: Jonathan Demme has asked me to do a couple more movies with him, and I have a meeting with the networks on a sitcom. Think of Archie Bunker as a black man in 2005.  [The idea] is something I’ve thought about for years. It mirrors my life, and it’s looking like this is going to happen.  We may have Denzel Washington be the executive producer.  A lot of things are happening, I’m just sitting back and laughing, saying, ‘This is really wild.

LB: Would this mean that finally, you’ll start house-hunting in Hollywood soon?

BW: Maybe. [laughs] I used to say never, never, never; and now I’m saying, well, whatever.




Clark Terry: 'I can't look back now'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Mark Miller

(Feb. 16, 2005) ''The Golden Years,'' Clark Terry has taken to saying lately, ''suck.''  It's a quip that always gets the venerable jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and ''mumbler'' a laugh. He'll probably repeat it again when he arrives at the George Weston Recital Hall in Toronto on Saturday afternoon with the young musicians of the Toronto All-Star Big Band -- if only to relieve the tension. "It takes me a little while to get out on stage and get settled," he explains, interrupting his breakfast for a 2 p.m. telephone interview from his home in New York. "People are waiting, anticipating and saying, 'What's this old dude gonna do?' " You can almost hear the twinkle in his eye. This old dude, one of the true characters in jazz, is now 84. His association with the Duke Ellington Orchestra is more than 45 years behind him, his time with Count Basie's bands almost 55. He has since been a pioneering presence in the studios -- the first African-American musician on staff at NBC, where he played for The Tonight Show -- and a major force in jazz education. "I've always been of those really macho types who's able to do anything at any time for any reason," he notes, without a hint of boasting. "In recent years, I've discovered that those things that were easy to come by aren't so easy to come by any more." Indeed, three years ago, he was fighting colon cancer; it's in remission now, but he will, without prompting, describe its after effects in intimate detail. His sight, moreover, is poor, and his hearing only a little better. Nevertheless, Terry's latest recording, Porgy & Bess (A440 Music Group), with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra (CJO), received a rare five-star review in the latest issue of Down Beat magazine. The CD revisits the classic arrangements that Gil Evans wrote for trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1950s. "It was a heck of a challenge," Terry remembers, of his sessions with the CJO, "because I can't see, you know? Jeff [Lindberg] said, 'We'll work something out.' So he put all of my trumpet parts on big cardboard. I had a 'book' about three feet high -- quarter-notes as big as my fist!"

And never mind that Terry reprises a role created by Miles Davis. Any other trumpeter might be intimidated by the prospect, but not this one. "After all," Terry says, by way of qualification, "Miles was almost a student of mine when he was a little kid." The place was St. Louis, where both men grew up, Davis five years Terry's junior. The time, 1940: "I remember Miles was so thin, when he was in school and stood sideways, they'd mark him as absent.'" Speaking of students, Terry has worked with a lot of them over the years, as he will again with the young men and women of the Toronto All-Star Big Band this weekend. He regards the kids' attitudes toward playing jazz with a sort of good-natured impatience. "Some of the younger players are fully prepared to work with all that's gone before, but some of them think the whole scene starts on the fifth floor; they don't know there's a basement." And another thing: "They refer now to the 'old' music of Count Basie, but there's still nothing around swings any more than that." So who better to set them straight -- about Basie and basements -- than someone who worked with the Count, as well as with Duke Ellington, who laid the foundation for so much of jazz? "I knew both of them very well," Terry admits of the two pianists. "Ellington was far more knowledgeable as far as theory, harmony and counterpoint, et cetera, were concerned, but nobody in the world knew more about 'mother wit' than Basie -- about what jazz was all about. He knew how, where, when and why to do whatever was being done." Or not being done, as was often the case with Basie. The pianist, continues Terry, "offered the world something that very few people before him had offered -- a total understanding of the utilization of space and time."

In real terms, that meant Basie didn't play very much piano on any given tune. He could, were he so inclined but, generally speaking, he chose otherwise. According to Terry, who knows a good story when he tells it (and knows a lot of them), the decision was entirely practical. There was a little club in Kansas City called the Cherry Blossom, you see . . . "Basie knew everybody who came into the joint and they all knew what his 'refreshments' were. So they'd all have some of his 'refreshments' at their table. Jo Jones was in the band on drums, Walter Page on bass and the Fiddler [Claude Williams] on guitar; this was the rhythm section and they'd start swinging." Terry mimics the sound of a walking bass line. The presence of Williams in the story dates it to 1936 or early 1937; it's not clear whether Terry, who would have been barely 16 at the time, was actually there or not. But no matter. . . . "Basie'd waltz over to a table. 'Guy's got a taste [set up] for me.' Meanwhile Walter Page, Jo Jones and the Fiddler were walking right on, you know? Basie'd go back to the piano, play a little, then see someone else he knew. . . ." Ellington's contributions to jazz as a composer, meanwhile, have been justly celebrated. Terry, however, points to another distinction. "He taught us how to establish a rapport between the bandstand and the audience. "He'd prepare a program each night, but when he went to the job, he could read the audience and know what to play and what not to play. He might change the whole program before we'd get a chance to open the book!" That sense of rapport clearly rubbed off on Terry himself during his nine years with the Ellington orchestra. His Mumbles routine in particular, born in emulation of the inebriated blues singers he heard in St. Louis bars as a teenager, has been endearing him to audiences for the last 40 years. Of course, jazz elders are a beloved breed anyway, but none more than Terry. No wonder he carries on, despite his infirmities. "I'm still doing it," he agrees. "I can't look back now. Gotta keep steppin'." You can almost hear that twinkle in his eye again.

Clark Terry and the Toronto All-Star Big Band play at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the George Weston Recital Hall in the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St. (416-231-5695).




Juno Tickets In Winnipeg Sell Out In 16 Minutes: Organizers

Source:  Canadian Press

(Feb. 13, 2005) Toronto — Winnipeggers helped set a record for the quickest Juno Awards ticket sell-out Saturday, snapping up all available tickets for the April 3 show in 16 minutes, organizers said. "We anticipated a sell-out, but this exceeded our expectations," Melanie Berry, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts, said in a release. "We are very excited by the outstanding support shown by Winnipeggers." The previous record was set in 2003 when the event from Ottawa's Corel Centre featuring host Shania Twain sold out in 21 minutes. This year's show from Winnipeg's MTS Centre will be hosted by Brent Butt of the TV show Corner Gas and will be televised by CTV. Performers will include The Tragically Hip, Neil Young, k.d. lang, k-os, Billy Talent and Simple Plan. Avril Lavigne tops the nominees list for the 34th annual Junos with five nominations, including artist of the year, fans' choice and best songwriter.




Kevin Lyttle And Jimmy Cliff Featured On Soundtrack Of Hitch

Excerpt from

(Feb. 11, 2005)  A remix of Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On and the original take of Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get it if You Really Want, are among the tracks making the final cut for the thirteen track various artistes soundtrack to the new Will Smith movie Hitch.   Cliff is no stranger to being featured on movie soundtracks. Among his credentials are efforts on The Harder They Come, Cool Runnings and Club Paradise. Other artistes featured on the Hitch movie soundtrack include the O’Jays, the Temptations, Earth Wind and Fire, new R&B star John Legend, former B2K lead singer Omarion, Amerie and Heavy D and the Boyz.




Pete Rock & All-Star Cast To Host Tsunami Benefit

Excerpt from - By Clover Hope

(Feb. 12, 2005) Organizers have arranged a hip-hop benefit concert at BB King's Blues Club in New York City February 22, to raise money for victims of the devastating tsunamis that hit South Asia last December.  The concert is the first in a series of hip-hop benefit shows as part of "Rap for Relief," created by The Agency Group in an effort to raise money for worthy causes. "The artists were all more than willing to donate their time for a cause like this, and BB King's (being one of New York's homes to hip-hop) was a logical choice of venue," Agency Group Vice President Peter Schwartz said in a statement. "The club was more than willing to donate their venue and expenses to make this a reality." For the first show, Pete Rock, Buckshot, J-Live, High & Mighty, C-Rayz Walz, and rappers/beatboxers Rahzel and Doug E. Fresh are expected to perform. "This is what hip-hop is all about giving back!" said Rahzel, who was the first to enlist in the project. DJ JS-1 will be the house DJ for the night. Tickets are $20 in advance and extra donations will be accepted at the club the night of the show. All proceeds from the Feb. 22 show go to the Red Cross.




Aguilera Engaged To Music Executive Jordan Bratman

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 14, 2005) Los Angeles — Christina Aguilera may be getting what a girl wants. The Grammy-winning singer is engaged to her boyfriend of two years, music executive Jordan Bratman, Aguilera's representative, Meghan Prophet, told The Associated Press on Saturday night. Bratman, 26, proposed to the 23-year-old pop diva on Friday night while the two were vacationing at an undisclosed location, Prophet said. "No wedding plans have been set yet," she said. Bratman presented Aguilera with a diamond ring designed by jeweller Stephen Webster, according to Prophet. The engagement initially was confirmed to the magazines People and US Weekly. Aguilera, whose hits include What a Girl Wants and Genie in a Bottle, won a Grammy as best new artist in 2000, another in 2002 for best pop collaboration with vocals for her cover of Lady Marmalade with Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink, and a third award last year for female pop vocal performance on Beautiful.




Destiny’s Child Shoots Their Next Two Videos

Excerpt from

(Feb. 15, 2005) *The ladies of Destiny’s Child are baring it all for their next video, reports MTV, who got wind of the video treatments for the next two singles off of the trio’s double-platinum album “Destiny Fulfilled.”    For “Cater 2 U,” the next single to be released in the U.S., Jake Nava directs Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle – all tastefully nude - in their own desert scenes: Beyoncé on a diving board, Kelly on a deserted road and Michelle in a lounge chair, reports MTV. Each lady sings about, and briefly to, their respective male co-stars. The video climaxes with a group performance and dance routine that ends in the threesome standing side by side. For the video “Girl,” directed by Bryan Barber, the ladies pay homage to HBO’s "Sex and the City," with Beyonce as Carrie – of course.  The video features Michelle on a shoe-shopping spree when she spots Kelly’s man getting cozy with another woman. Kelly eventually gives the dude his comeuppance, which is co-signed with glee by her girls Beyoncé and Michelle.



Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Curtis Mayfield, Curtis Remixed, Rhino
Lee Dorsey, Yes We Can/Night People, Raven
Stanley Turrentine, Don't Mess With Mister T. [Bonus Tracks], Sony
USHER Rhythm City - Volume 1: Money, Power, Respect (DVD) (Zomba)
Various Artists, 26 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1945, Bear Family
Various Artists, 27 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1946, Bear Family
Various Artists, 27 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1949, Bear Family
Various Artists, 28 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1947, Bear Family
Various Artists, 28 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1948, Bear Family
Various Artists, 28 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1950, Bear Family
Various Artists, Smooth Sax Tribute to Aretha Franklin, Tribute Sounds
Various Artists, Tribute to DMX, Tribute Sounds
Various Artists, Tribute to Nelly [Tribute Sounds], Tribute Sounds

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bo Diddley, Vamp, Universe
Ghetto Mafia, Return of Ghetto Mafia, Downsouth Entertainment
Layzie Bone & Bizzy Bone, Bone Brothers, Koch
Smif N Wessun Presents the General Steele, Welcome to Bucktown USA, Duckdown
The Youngbloods, Beautiful! Live in San Francisco 1971, Sundazed
TONI BRAXTON Best Remixes (BMG Heritage)
Tru, Truth, Koch
Various Artists, Soul Classics, Vol. 2 [Collectables], Collectables







Jane Austen Gets A Bollywood Makeover

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker

(Feb. 16, 2005) For director Gurinder Chadha, Bride & Prejudice will always be known as the film that Beckham built. That's Bend It Like Beckham, Chadha's phenomenally successful 2002 movie about a soccer-loving Anglo-Indian girl.  The small-budget movie re-wrote the rules for what makes a box office hit. Theatrical and video revenues are estimated at around $120 million (all figures U.S.).  "I think this film would not have got made unless Beckham had been so successful," she says, recalling how she and her husband Paul Mayeda Berges wrote her Bollywood adaptation of the Jane Austen classic before shooting Beckham.  With the early signs of a bonanza for Bend It in North America, Chadha attracted a budget of $20 million. It's a lot of money, but still modest, she says, considering the major production costs associated with the Indian genre.  "There are so many songs and dances, and you need a big star. And I wanted it to take place in all these different landscapes."  She was determined to be faithful to Bollywood, the Mumbai-based industry that produces about 800 films a year, eight times more than Hollywood.  Scenery changes, usually cued to songs, are essential, says the director. "But I wanted to incorporate them into the story. Otherwise Western audiences would just think it's silly.  "It is so easy to parody Bollywood and that's the one thing I didn't want to do."  She was looking for authenticity as much as Bollywood fantasy. That dictated location shoots in Goa, Mumbai, Amritsar, London and Los Angeles.  But for the big number, "A Marriage Has Come to Town," Chadha replicated the streets of Amritsar inside an abandoned mill in Mumbai.

Shooting in the real city was out of the question because of star Aishwarya Rai, "Queen of Bollywood." She plays Lalita, closely fashioned on Austen's Elizabeth Bennet: a beauty with a rapier tongue and a haughty scepticism about the wealthy American visitor Darcy.  "You'll find there are no shots of her (outside) because there were just riots every time we tried to do something with her in public," says Chadha.  Bride contains numerous elements of musical movies she was raised with. Film buffs will spot references to Oliver!, Grease, and a tribute to Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. She calls the film's marriage song her homage to Fiddler on the Roof.  Born in Kenya, transported to Britain where her Sikh parents settled in 1951, Chadha's positive spirit steeps the atmosphere of her films. Unabashedly a romantic, she's also a born journalist. She first worked for the BBC and made her first film, a 30-minute documentary for Channel Four called "I'm English, But ..." in 1989.  Bride was never intended to be a purely imitative exercise.  "I thought, if I'm going to do a Bollywood film, I'm going to do something inventive with it." She thought the antithesis between Bollywood and 19th-century classic English literature would produce creative energy. The surprise was how easily Austen's 1813 novel adapted to 21st-century India.  "It was incredible how close the two worlds were: 1790s small-town England and contemporary small-town India. Both were obsessed with marriage; women single after a certain age bear a big stigma."  "But it was a metaphor for integration for me. You take these two streams but they can be one. Which is what I am."  Making this adaptation, which earned praise from Margaret Atwood when the author was speaking at Canada House in London, may have whetted Chadha's appetite. Her reading during the promotion tour has been M.G. Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. "There's some great literature coming out here," she says. Literary agents take note.  The only parody in Bride comes in the depiction of America and particularly the Americanization of immigrants.  British actor Nitin Ginatra (Truly Madly Deeply) plays an Indian cousin, back home from his California accountancy practice in search of a bride. He modelled his character on Peter Sellers' hilarious portrayal of an Indian in The Party.

Lalita's directness makes a mouthpiece for Chadha's sly critique of American society wrapped in a fun-loving musical. Lalita reacts powerfully to Darcy's perception of India as third world and therefore lesser than his. He is stunned when she lets him know she comes from a more civilized nation.  Married to Berges, a Californian she met at the Toronto film festival, the London-based filmmaker has visited the U.S. frequently, but notices a big change in public attitudes since 9/11.  "For the first time I'm seeing how much more aware Americans are of their reputation abroad." Bride & Prejudice, to be released in Canada Feb. 25, might well hasten that recognition.




Bhutan's Beauty Buries Message

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(Feb. 11, 2005) It's not every week that Toronto sees two Buddhist-themed movies (Travellers and Magicians and Ong-Bak) opening on the same Friday, and that alone calls for a moment of meditation. So inhale deeply: Who knows when it will happen again?  The fascinating thing is, as ostensibly different as the two movies are, they both tend to emphasize the fundamental contradiction in the very idea of "Buddhist entertainment." Because, as I understand it, if your Buddhist practice is working, you shouldn't need entertainment.  Where the contradiction in the ridiculously visceral Ong-Bak is embedded in the very concept of a pacifist martial-arts bonecruncher, in Travellers and Magicians you find it in the movie's setting, the startling natural splendour of Bhutan. For here is a place one cannot look at without wishing one was there, and yet this is a movie about learning to accept where one is.  The second feature by the monastery-raised high lama Khyentse Norbu, Travellers and Magicians is, like the 1999 soccer-fixated fable The Cup, a cautionary tale about earthly western temptations. But where the earlier film depicted the invasion of secular consumerism via electronic channels, his new film is about someone who has heard the ruckus and wants to find it.  Dondup (Tshewang Dendup) is a government official stranded desolately at a remote rural outpost. Surrounded by monks who thrill to the daily pleasures of archery and meditation, Dondup dreams of travelling to America. An inveterate air guitarist and cigarette smoker, he decides to skedaddle on the next available bus to Thimphu, which only arrives once every two days.  Upon missing the bus (because of the villagers' annoying habit of overcourteousness), Dondup finds himself hitchhiking with a elderly apple seller and a chattily patronizing Buddhist monk (Sonam Kinga).  Taking an instant bead on Dondup's spiritual shortcomings, the monk begins telling a cautionary tale for the benefit of the restless traveller. Unsurprisingly, it's a story about what happens to man who wishes too much for what he doesn't have.  Shot in gauzy, magic-kingdom blues and greys, the monk's tale unfolds like a Tibetan-chic cross between a farmer's daughter joke and The Postman Always Rings Twice: After dreaming of leaving his village and its deadbeat Buddhist obligations, Tashi (Lhakpa Dorji) finds himself lost in a forest. Finding refuge at the forest hut of a crabby old man and his beautiful young wife, Tashi becomes smitten by the young woman and eventually drawn into her scheme to poison the old bugger. For his carnal desires and lack of serenity, he will surely pay.  Shifting systematically between the parallel tales of restless wanderers, Travellers and Magicians is lovely, obvious and strangely unconvincing.  The message of acceptance of what one has is, for all its Buddhist trappings, as conventional as Dorothy's adventures in Oz, and the sermon about living in the moment is curiously undermined by the film's status as dreamy escapist exotica. If anything, you'll wish you were anywhere but here, but especially there.




Telefilm Fires Its Hollywood Agents

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Feb. 12, 2005) Wayne Clarkson has been executive director of Telefilm Canada for less than four weeks but already he's brought smiles to the faces of the Writers Guild of Canada and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. He did it in a speech in Ottawa last week when he announced he was killing a controversial deal that his predecessor, Richard Stursberg, inked last year with L.A.'s Creative Artists Agency. The CAA pact was for one year, with a March 31 expiry -- but with potential for renewal. However, for what Clarkson this week called "philosophical and resource-related reasons," the Crown agency won't be spending any of its $130-million annual parliamentary appropriation on CAA, home to Sting, Nicole Kidman, Steven Spielberg and Mike Myers. It wasn't the money that necessarily caused ACTRA and the WGC to tear their sprockets. (While Stursberg never revealed the amount of CAA's "retainer fee," it was estimated to be about $400,000.) Rather, it was the notion that a federal agency was "cozying up" to a Hollywood player to realize its domestic ambitions.  The deal was conceived as a two-way street: It would help mid-level Canadian producers access CAA's talent pool (there are reportedly 2,500 registered Canadian-born actors, writers and directors in L.A.); and it would encourage CAA agents to approach Canadian producers with performers and, potentially, Canadian-themed scripts. One of its aims was to "speed up" the realization of Ottawa's feature-film policy which, in 2000, decreed that Canuck flicks had to account for at least five per cent of total domestic gross box office by 2006. Clarkson, former chief of the Canadian Film Centre and Toronto's international film fete, admits he only "looked at [the deal] in a cursory way" before cancelling it. "And I can't say with certainty what projects occurred as a result of it." But "my nature isn't to look south of the border for challenges or fixes . . . I think co-productions, co-ventures and the like are great, but not this sort of association."

Asked if CAA has been asking, "Come back to our five-and-dime, Wayne Clarkson," he laughed: "They actually haven't." In the meantime, wouldn't it be amusing if Stursberg, now V.P. of English-language TV for CBC, recast the CAA deal on behalf of Mother Corp.? He told the Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last week that he wants to double the number of prime-time drama series and specials, and create a new comedy series and soap opera. Some of this can be done in-house, but a lot will have to be made by indie producers. And if these programs are going to make any headway in the American-dominated, 500-channel universe, they're going to need the sort of mass appeal Stursberg was advocating while at Telefilm.  Speaking of Stursberg, it appears that Goose!, one of the most anticipated movies of his era at Telefilm, won't be getting into theatres until late October -- three years after principal photography was completed in Alberta. Telefilm has poured more than $3-million into this feature starring Chevy Chase, Joan Plowright, Canucks Kari Matchett and James Purefoy, and Tom Arnold as the voice of Randall the Goose. The shoot lasted less than 30 days, but since then Goose! has undergone all sorts of audience testing, rewriting and re-edits, primarily to give it the zip of a Chicken Run. Now all appears to be ready, and promotion is expected to start in July with the launch of a Goose! Fun Website. Toronto director Barry Avrich has begun work on a one-hour documentary for CBC-TV on one of this country's most powerful but elusive cultural figures, promoter extraordinaire Michael Cohl. The man behind 2003's SARStock in Toronto as well as all of the Stones' tours since 1989, and the upcoming U2 around-the-world extravaganza, Cohl, 57, has not sought the spotlight since he began his showbiz career in the late 1960s after dropping out of York University. Still, Avrich, a board member of the Toronto film fest and director of docs on Dominick Dunne and Eddie Greenspan, among others, says he's getting Cohl on camera, not to mention Mick Jagger. It's going to be called Tumbling Dice: The Life and Times of Michael Cohl.




Stones Thrown At Rock

Excerpt from

(Feb. 16, 2005) *Gil Cates, the producer of the Feb. 27 Academy Awards telecast, had to turn attention away from his day-to-day headaches of organizing the big night to address recent comments made by his host, Chris Rock.  Several unnamed members of the Academy are reportedly voicing concerns over Rock’s duty as Master of Ceremonies after his true feelings for the show surfaced in the latest issue of “Entertainment Weekly.” He called the notion of giving awards for art "idiotic," among other things.    “Come on, it's a fashion show," Rock said in the magazine’s Feb. 4 issue. "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one. And they don't recognize comedy, and you don't see a lot of black people nominated, so why should I watch it?"    A story posted Sunday on the Drudge Report Web site, under the headline, "Host Chris Rock Shock: Only Gays Watch Oscars," cited unnamed sources as saying angry academy members have privately called for Chris Rock to be removed as host, fearing he may “tarnish the reputation of the academy."  In response, Cates released a statement dismissing the backlash.  "The academy has heard no grumbling from its members and has no intention of even suggesting that Chris step aside," he said. "The Academy is excited about Chris Rock hosting this year's Oscar telecast and looking forward to a very funny evening with him. Chris's comments over the past few weeks are meant to be humorous digs at the show that some people, obviously including Chris himself, think may be a bit too stuffy."  Likewise, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement in defense of Rock.    "Chris Rock isn't making fun of gays -- he's poking fun at the Oscars," GLAAD executive director Joan Garry said. "It's shtick ..."


King Trumps Prince In Hitch

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Feb. 11, 2005) Will Smith has always had an easy time grabbing the spotlight. His high-fivin' style and easy banter ("I make this look good") have shot him up the A-list ranks, even when his movies were in the B-list category.  So it's amusing to watch him struggle a bit to keep audience eyes on him.  Especially in a movie like Hitch, where he's billed as the main attraction.  He has to move to keep up with Kevin James, the cut-up from TV's The King of Queens who plays the clown to Smith's Casanova. As the charisma-challenged accountant Albert, who seeks the hand of a wealthy heiress named Allegra (Amber Valletta), James keeps yanking the rug out from under his considerably smoother co-star.  Wonder if Smith even noticed? He's so busy establishing his "date doctor" character Hitch as the new Cary Grant, he seems to have overlooked the arrival of James as the new Woody Allen. But you have to figure that director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama) quickly realized who was providing most of the laughs, since he rewards James with a large amount of screen time.  It's almost too easy for Smith to play Hitch, a New York smoothie who has reduced the art of seducing women into a series of Playboy one-liners and smouldering stares.  "Any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet," he brags to us in his straight-to-camera opening monologue. "He just needs the right broom."  Hitch is also convinced that women don't really listen to men ("Ninety per cent of what you're saying ain't coming out of your mouth") because they're too busy watching for cool moves ("Three dates is all I need").

He sells this advice to anyone who can come up with the big cash needed to sustain his expensive lifestyle, which includes a Manhattan apartment that Martha Stewart might envy. Working by referrals, Hitch counsels any man who can make the payments, as long as he's not just looking for a quick shag.  Hitch insists on honesty, even though he counsels the use of "guile" and "game" to woo the ladies: "Women can always tell when you're not being straight with them."  Wonder how the average woman, the target audience for this picture, will appreciate being reduced to such a formula?  But this is a romantic comedy, where formula reigns, and so it goes that we must also accept that the comely and talented Eva Mendes is a newspaper gossip columnist who hates men, even though she can't stop attracting them.  "Relationships are just for people who are waiting for something better to come along," she sniffs. We know her character Sara is a bit eccentric, because she's wearing a Beatles T-shirt, which is just so 1965 of her.  Here's where the movie gets a mite complicated, mainly due to the split personality of the script by rookie screenwriter Kevin Bisch. The story is supposed to be about Hitch, who of course is going to chase Sara until she catches him, and it dutifully follows a series of encounters that are more sitcom that satiric.  These encounters are also puzzling. If Hitch has such a way with women, why does it require him spending thousands of dollars attempting to impress Sara? Their first date alone, in which they roar around New York Harbour in Sea-Doos and wetsuits, before retiring to a private island, looks as though it required numerous permits and a second mortgage to arrange.  And while we're killing time with Hitch and Sara, we're really waiting for the next encounter between Hitch and Albert and between Albert and Allegra, where the laughs really happen. Especially when Albert is leaning how to kiss, or when Albert just can't stop dancing, even though he resembles an over-caffeinated orangutan when doing so.

Albert is just one big cuddly sweathog of love, or as he tells Hitch in all earnestness: "I've waited my whole life to be this miserable."  It is watching James play Albert that you realize the real charm of Hitch: for all of its palaver and jive, it's the moments of silence where the picture works best. Sometimes saying nothing at all is the right thing to say, and maybe Hitch is correct that 90 per cent of communication doesn't involve words — although that goes for men as much as women.  And speaking of paying attention, don't be in too big of a rush to exit the theatre, even though the picture does run on the long side at nearly two hours and the product placements are laid on a bit thick (Krispy Kreme and Benadryl, anyone?)  The movie ends with a dance sequence, and this isn't giving anything away, that is straight out of Napoleon Dynamite. Even Will Smith finally gets to shake a leg, but once again Kevin James upstages him.  Smith is either a far more generous actor than we've ever given him credit for, or it's time for him to listen to his inner Hitch and learn a few new moves of his own.




Aviator Flies Off With BAFTA Top Prize

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 14, 2005) LONDON -- The Aviator soared Saturday at the British Academy Film Awards, taking four prizes including best film. The abortion drama Vera Drake won three, including best director for Mike Leigh. The Aviator, which has 11 nominations for the Feb. 27 Academy Awards, had led the field with 14 nominations. But members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts scattered the prizes widely. While Aviator director Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio went home empty-handed, the film won a best supporting actress award for Cate Blanchett, as well as prizes for production design and best hair and makeup. Imelda Staunton won best actress for her wrenching performance as a 1950s housewife who performs illegal abortions in Vera Drake. The film also took the costume design prize. "It's an immense privilege to have been allowed the freedom to make as uncompromising a film as I think we've made, and to make such an epic film with such a small budget," Leigh said. Jamie Foxx was named best actor for his uncanny depiction of singer Ray Charles in Ray. The film also won the award for best sound. British star Clive Owen was named best supporting actor for Closer. The U.K. awards, known as BAFTAs, have become an essential pre-Oscars stop since they were moved in 2000 from April to February.  A clutch of stars, including DiCaprio, Keanu Reeves, Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and model Claudia Schiffer, braved the rain to walk up the red carpet in London's Leicester Square. The Che Guevara road movie The Motorcycle Diaries won two awards -- best foreign-language film and best music. Another double winner was fractured romantic comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which took BAFTAs for editing and for Charlie Kaufman's original screenplay.  The prize for best-adapted screenplay went to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for the wine-tasting comedy Sideways. The Orange Film of the Year prize -- the only award decided by the public -- went to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.




Canadian Film Industry In The Spotlight

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Feb. 11, 2005) Toronto -- Franz Ferdinand picked up awards in the British categories for best group and rock act. Keane won as best British breakthrough act and best British album, for their Hopes and Fears release. Stone beat heavily favoured Jamelia as best British solo artist and urban act and brought down the house with a gospel-flavoured version of "Right to be Wrong." Hollywood Reporter The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has announced a round of nationwide public hearings on the Canadian feature-film industry, starting March 9 in Vancouver. Subsequent hearings will be held in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax in April and May.  It's just part of a wide-ranging examination of the health of the film industry, pegged to the fifth anniversary of the From Script to Screen policy initiated by the federal Liberals in 2000 to boost movie-making in the country.  In the meantime, an independent evaluation of the film policy, commissioned by Canadian Heritage, was begun this week by Le Groupe Nordicité, and its results are expected to be released by mid-summer. From Script to Screen was implemented in October 2000 and it marked a major shift in government efforts to boost filmmaking. Its most ambitious aim was to increase the box-office earnings of Canadian films to 5 per cent of total revenue (Previously, this percentage has ranged from less than 1 per cent to 3.5 per cent). It also involved a hike in the average production budget of a Canadian film, to $5-million, and set a minimum of $500,000 for marketing budgets.




Montreal Fest Fights Not Over

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 11, 2005) No sooner had a new name and boss been revealed yesterday for Montreal's new film festival than the boss of the old fest pounced, reportedly saying its name belonged to his organization.  Serge Losique, whose troubled festival lost its government funding after a scathing report last year, was quoted in Variety as saying Equipe Spectra, the group leading the New Montreal Film Fest, had "usurped" the name from his fest, though the latter is technically titled the World Film Festival. The New Montreal Film Fest will be known in Quebec as Le Festival international de films de Montréal.  Losique's fest lost $1 million in annual funding after a consultant's report last year found interest and local support for his festival was dwindling. It also noted it was managed very secretively.  The government funding that was once Losique's will instead go the new festival, which yesterday named Moritz de Hadeln — who has previously run both the Berlin and Vienna fests — as head delegate, programming.  The New Montreal Film Fest also said its inaugural edition will take place Oct. 12-23, which avoids overlapping with the Toronto film festival in September. But the dates raised another objection, from the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, which starts Oct. 13.  "It is starting very badly for the new festival," Nouveau Cinema director Claude Chamberlan told Variety. "This is simply the same scenario as the fight between our fest and the World Film Festival. It's about confrontation, lack of respect. The goal is to get rid of our festival."  Despite the controversy, Alain Simard, president of Equipe Spectra and the New Montreal Filmfest, was upbeat at a Montreal press conference, saying de Hadeln's presence "will allow us to have instant international recognition."  He denied Losique's right to the fest's name and said his event will work closely with the Nouveau Cinema fest, underlining that its president, Daniel Langlois, is on the Spectra fest's board.  The festival will have a budget of $5.4 million this year and $4.8 million by next year, when the event will move to the summer.  Losique has launched lawsuits relating to the demise of his fest's funding from Telefilm and its provincial equivalent SODEC.




Oscar Winner To Headline Documentary Fest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 16, 2005) Toronto -- A retrospective of the works of Oscar-winning U.S. filmmaker Errol Morris will highlight the 12th annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 22-May 1), organizers said Monday. North America's largest documentary festival will also bestow an outstanding achievement award on Morris, who won an Academy Award last year for Fog of War. Morris will receive his tribute April 29 at Hot Docs.  His film credits include the 1978 documentary Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line and Fog of War, a portrait of former U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert S. McNamara.  The line-up also features Canadian filmmaker Larry Weinstein, whose work includes Ravel's Brain and Making Overtures: The Story of a Community Orchestra. Reuters




Ebert And Roper Choose Cheadle Over Foxx For Oscar

Excerpt from

(Feb. 16, 2005) *“Chicago Sun-Times” film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper have gone against the critical tidal wave supporting Jamie Foxx’s expected best actor Oscar win for “Ray” to suggest that Don Cheadle should take home the statue for his leading role in “Hotel Rwanda.”   “I think this is one of the great desperate man performances in recent years,” Roeper says on the annual "Ebert & Roeper" special, "If We Picked The Winners," scheduled to air in syndication this weekend.  Ebert chimes in: “The Academy showed real imagination in nominating him for an important film like "Hotel Rwanda," and while I would be happy if Eastwood or Foxx won as best actor, I think I'd let out a whoop for Cheadle.”  Ebert picked Morgan Freeman to win best supporting actor for “Million Dollar Baby,” and both Ebert and Roeper chose Virginia Madsen of “Sideways” over “Hotel Rwanda’s” Sophie Okonedo for best supporting actress.




Harrison Ford To Shoot Film In Kamloops This Spring

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 12, 2005) Kamloops -- A Hollywood film starring Harrison Ford will shoot in the Kamloops area this spring, Mayor Mel Rothenburger said Thursday. The Wrong Element is set to shoot for three weeks in April or May. Set crews will be in the city for five weeks beforehand. The thriller also stars Paul Bettany. CP







Media Seek Youth Market

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Feb. 15, 2005) We begin this dispatch with an observation from Mrs. Enid.  On a recent episode of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the wise-cracking alter ego of Cathy Jones said, "The CBC trying to be young and hip is like an old lady wearing a thong — it's embarrassing for everyone."  The fictional dame was mocking The Hour (CBC Newsworld, Monday-Thursday, 8 and 11 p.m.), a current affairs show that debuted last month with a "no bullshit" attitude.  Oh no. Not that old chestnut.  With its vertigo-inducing graphics, cheeky sensibility, quirky stories, and multi-pierced host, ex-MuchMusic veejay George Stroumboulopoulos ("Strombo" from this point on), The Hour certainly looks like nothing else on Newsworld.  One can only imagine the surge of frantic calls to the CBC switchboard following the premiere. Was there a coup? Did the public broadcaster move to Queen St. W.? Was Newsworld hiring squeegee kids and tattooed-roustabouts to herald a new era of edgy programming?  It all seemed so blah blah predictable.  For all the breathless chatter about the CBC trying, once again, to corral young viewers, for all the tired barbs about the stodgy CBC playing footsies, once again, with "cool," it has been easy to overlook a simple truth: The Hour is an excellent show.  Last week, stories included the weaponization of space, BlackBerry addiction, the sponsorship inquiry, Watergate conspiracies, "reality" television (both Rock Star and The Amazing Race), the wedding of Charles and Camilla, and a balanced discussion about Saudi Arabia, among others.  The Hour is doing exactly what it must: Selecting interesting stories and presenting them in a compelling way at a time when the Internet has all but obliterated any archaic notion of "news."  Like CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, The Hour is a slick, custom-made vehicle for its host. For Strombo, the accelerator pedal is located in his mouth, not far from the Fu Manchu patch under his lower-lip.  His words spray out rapid-fire yet penetrate with the assured sting of a dude who knows what he's talking about.  Unlike some other CBC hipsters, past and present, Strombo is the real deal.  From the foreign headlines in "Mile a Minute" to the breezy entertainment recap, The Hour is fast-paced and clever without appearing superficial or patronizing. Stories toggle between the serious (the latest Middle East peace deal) to the absurd (mayhem at an Ikea opening in England), from the provocative ("Is environmentalism dead?") to the mildly satirical (a faux-maudlin tribute to the "dying" Hubble Telescope).

The Hour also has a sardonic streak, which often shows up in "The List," a Top 5 inspired by some news item. The animus between Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, for example, led to a list of All-Time Best Rivalries, which included The Simpsons' Itchy and Scratchy.  There have been some missteps. A segment on obituary writers last week was taken directly from Newsworld's "The Desk," another new CBC show. Running the piece smacked of the shameless cross-promotion that, in theory, should be anathema to The Hour.  Some of Strombo's throwaway lines can also trigger a rolling of the eyes. During last Monday's 90-second "The Closer" — the requisite commentary epilogue — Strombo said Martin and Chrétien testifying at the sponsorship inquiry was "like getting double fries, man."  For the most part, Strombo should appeal to a generation not used to stopping on Newsworld. On Wednesday's show, a clip was shown in which U.S. President George W. Bush said, "That's uniquely American," to a woman with three jobs.  Strombo could barely contain his disdain.  "No, that's uniquely poor," he said. "That's uniquely hard-working. No wonder people around the world, `Don't get it.'"  After North Korea admitted to having nuclear weapons, Strombo tied it to the U.S. military action against Iraq, sarcastically asking, "What's a guy gotta do to get invaded?"  The show also gets top marks for having the thick-skinned moxie to share unflattering feedback. My personal favourite, read last week, was a backhanded compliment from a viewer who noted, "Your website no longer sucks donkey scrotum."  An instant classic.  These days, everybody on television has a closing phrase. Strombo's is, "That's time." For what it's worth, I think he has grounds to amend this.  After watching last week, I found myself saying, "It's about time."




Toronto In A Starring Role

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Vinay Menon

(Feb. 12, 2005) On a frigid Saturday afternoon, Old City Hall is bustling with a surprising amount of outdoor activity.  Bundled in scarves and toques, people trudge along Queen St., past the street vendors, panhandling urchins and trolling taxis. The passersby seem for the most part preoccupied, in a hurry, or perhaps too cold to notice the lights, chairs, monitors and cameras whirring around the majestic entrance.  But as police keep watch, a few nosy souls stop to scrutinize the chaos. What is going on?  "They're filming a TV show," explains an officer, his eyes squinting toward the brown staircase where actors Rick Roberts and Michael Healy are shooting a scene for CBC's This is Wonderland.  The drama started its second season last month and has rated about 500,000 viewers per episode, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. It is set in Old City Hall, a labyrinth of chambers and numbered courtrooms that handles about 100,000 cases a year.  This is Wonderland presents an unflinching portrait of the city. This is a Toronto that few of us recognize.  "I think it's a gruelling, realistic look," says Cara Pifko, who stars as lawyer Alice De Raey. "And it's not an entirely favourable depiction of Toronto.  "In many ways, we are showing the dirty underbelly of Toronto. The part nobody sees because we don't tend to go into Old City Hall and see what our criminals are up to."  Designed by E.J. Lennox, Old City Hall opened in 1899 and is now one of those landmarks most of us only glimpse while going somewhere else.  When the show's creators, playwright George F. Walker (Suburban Motel) and screenwriter Dani Romain, arrived to do research three years ago, they were hypnotized by the chaos — the disoriented people, the overburdened system, the put-upon lawyers, the unfathomable daily grind.  From one courtroom to the next, the cases played out with the ephemeral beat of a comedic tragedy, something they've managed to capture in a series of brilliant scripts.  "The idea really came from this building," says Walker, sitting on a dark wood bench in the Romanesque foyer. "I came in on a very busy day and just thought, `Oh my God, this is a TV show.'"

Old City Hall may be the one place, he adds, where all of Toronto is represented. Consider: Translators are on hand to cover about 160 languages.  "The grandeur of the building juxtaposed with what is actually going on inside makes it a very special place. So the goal was to capture that."  The building is, indeed, shot through with contradictions. During the day, as people get swept into the maelstrom of the lower courts, it's easy to overlook the architectural flourishes — the ornate mosaic floors, the stained-glass windows, the restored gargoyles, the clock tower, the muted marble fittings, the massive stone footings, the turn-of-the-century murals.  Understanding what the show is requires an appreciation of what it is not. Unlike Law & Order, This is Wonderland is not ripped from the headlines. The cases, as quirky as they are quotidian, are fictional, though often loosely based on a composite of real cases and anecdotes.  Each episode, multiple storylines intersect for an hour, zigging and zagging through the various courtrooms.  In the first two episodes this season, we've already seen a racially charged dispute between two neighbours that ended with a shovel assault; a man accused of stealing a woman's purse just to meet her; a high-strung bride who assaulted her father-in-law when he tampered with the seating plan during her wedding; a drug dealer issuing death threats against his lawyer unless contraband was smuggled into jail; a woman charged with shoplifting at The Bay; an immigrant housekeeper accused of living in her employer's house after she died; a computer technician accused of stalking one of his clients, an attractive debutante; and a dispute between a gay couple that ended with an accident on the Gardiner.  To keep it real, the show employs a team of 12 researchers and legal consultants. In theory, everything that happens on This is Wonderland can, or will, happen in Toronto. And unlike other legal dramas, where murder and white-collar mayhem drives the plots, the show operates with a counterintuitive motto: "No crime is too small."  Given this, the show casts a sympathetic light on people rarely seen on network television. There are no heroes, no villains, just a relentless parade of the downtrodden, the marginalized, the seething, the disenfranchised. Along with the lawyers and judges, these rubes are trapped in a legal system that's buckling under the weight of its own monstrous dimensions.  "I just loved the idea of doing a show about Toronto in the 21st century," says Bernard Zukerman who, along with Michael Prupas, serves as executive producer. "It frustrated me that this city I love was not reflected in an accurate way on the TV dial in this country."  We're on the second floor, sitting in a makeshift lunch area, surrounded by grey tables and red fold-up chairs.

"This show says that we are a city unique on the face of the globe," adds Zukerman. "It's a reflection of the variety and number of cultures that are coming together here. We are a window into the city."  A window that is now being opened across the planet as This is Wonderland gets beamed into nearly 100 countries. The show tackles many of Toronto's grimy issues — homelessness, poverty, mental illness. But when asked to identify the dominant theme, Walker pauses before answering: "Fairness."  Outside Old City Hall, scanning the periphery, the line between reality and fiction vanishes. One second you're on set, the next somebody is begging for spare change.  "When we're out there shooting on location," observes Walker, "there really is a point where you can't tell where the show ends and where the city begins."  This caused Pifko considerable distress during the first season.  "It's a surreal experience sometimes," she says. "I had a really hard time when we finished the first three episodes of the first season. There was this realization that really sent me into a bit of a tailspin.  "I was shooting a scene and then I went outside on the front steps and I'm looking across the street and there is a guy lying on a grate who could be living the exact story that I was just pretending to tell.  "And I was feeling really horrible about it because here we are making good money, doing a TV show for CBC and isn't it all wonderful, but are we doing it on the backs of these people that we're writing stories about?"  Pifko says she didn't exorcize these demons until last summer, when she accepted a media award on behalf of the show from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. It finally hit her: "We're making a difference."  This season, the show is more of an ensemble work, as Alice, James (Michael Healy), Elliot (Michael Riley) and Nancy (Siu Ta) have started their own firm.  Viewers hoping to get more insight into the character's personal lives should be pleased — well, relatively speaking — with the remainder of this season. But, again, remember what the show is not.  "We're not trying to make a soap opera and show what's going on behind closed doors at home," says Pifko. "We're not making Ally McBeal or even My So-Called Life."  Michael Riley is sitting in his trailer, around the corner from the Eaton Centre. He agrees.  "For the most part, people seem to be happy gleaning information about the characters while watching them work," he says. "I like the little details that I get to include about Elliot while he's working. I wouldn't want to go home with him. I like getting the information from him by watching how he operates.  "I also like the fact that this is more pointillism. There are some broad strokes, but the information is spread out over several episodes. And so the show unfolds organically."

This is Wonderland is an ambitious undertaking. Three episodes are shot in blocks, out of sequence, in about 21 days. This can create logistical nightmares and put a strain on the actors.  In addition to the leads, there is a large recurring cast, including Michael Murphy, Eric Peterson, Tom Rooney, Angela Vint, Yanna McIntosh, Catherine Fitch, Alison Sealy-Smith, Mung Ling Tsui, Janet Laine Green and Kathryn Winslow, who plays intimidating crown attorney Pamela Menon (no relation).  Over the first season, there were more than 400 speaking parts, 5,000 extras and guest roles for several actors, including Brent Carver, Peter Outerbridge, Barbara Gordon, Jennifer Dale, Wayne Robson, Patrick McKenna, Leah Pinsent and Fiona Reid, among others.  Cast additions this season include Angela Vint, who plays crown attorney Tamara Rogan, and Jayne Eastwood, who stars as Rondelle Sacks, Elliot's mother.  If the show is renewed for a third season — a decision will be made within a couple of weeks — Toronto will get an even bigger role, as new locations (including the waterfront) are incorporated into the shooting schedule.  "I love the idea of having a vehicle where we can address the issues facing Toronto," says Zukerman, his eyes as intense as laser beams. "We live in a city where there are problems. They are very difficult to deal with for government, for police, for funding agencies.  "As the best drama does, we just lift the veil on these issues."




TV Producers Blast Fund's Rules

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 14, 2005) A major war is brewing between the Canadian Television Fund and an irate coalition of TV producers and broadcasters. At the centre of the conflict is how the CTF, principal funding authority for domestic TV production, is interpreting guidelines on Canadian content. According to sources, the CTF is going to ''absurd'' and ''parochial'' lengths to compel producers to Canadianize documentary films.  Under its mandate, the CTF may refuse to fund projects deemed insufficiently Canadian or, in cases where films are already complete, demand that Canadian material be added or money refunded. Last year, for projects it funded, CTF money represented 31 per cent of the average TV production budget. A private-public initiative administered by Telefilm Canada, the fund annually doles out about $230-million.  Under what it calls its "essential requirements," projects funded by the CTF must "speak to Canadians and reflect Canadian themes, subject matter or points of view." But producers and broadcasters now say the mandate is being interpreted too stringently. They call the CTF's process for determining whether projects are distinctively Canadian "Orwellian," and are incensed by what they call the subjective assessment of what Canadian audiences will watch. For example, a proposed film on Modigliani by acclaimed filmmaker Harry Rasky was rejected by the CTF on the grounds that it was insufficiently contextualized for Canadians. One independent producer was told that Captive, her documentary for Vision TV on Esther Wheelwright -- the Ursuline nun who buried General Montcalm after the 1759 Plains of Abraham battle -- did not qualify because "this is about history before there was a Canada." Several producers have resorted to inserting otherwise gratuitous shots of Canadian insignia -- provincial flags, hockey sticks, recognizably Canadian buildings -- into their films, to appease CTF demands for more Canadianness. Others have reportedly been told to superimpose titles identifying interview subjects as "Canadian expert" or "Canadian professor." Sandra Macdonald, the CTF's embattled CEO, concedes that "mistakes have been made. I'm not defending this as a perfect system." But she insists that the agency is merely carrying out its mandate -- to fund programs that are distinctly Canadian.  This year, she says, the CTF funded 387 projects, rejecting only 20.

Fearing reprisals, many filmmakers are unwilling to speak publicly about their problems with the CTF.  "We're living in a censored state," said one producer whose project has been under scrutiny. "My parents fled the Soviet system," says documentary maker Simcha Jacobovici.  "The most Canadian thing about Canada is its democracy and its multiculturalism. This feels Soviet to me. It reduces Canadian culture to beavers and hockey sticks. You're editing with the knowledge that they can pull the rug out from under you at any time. That's a terrible threat. It can bankrupt you." Documentary films on Mozart, Freemasons and Biblical archaeology -- universal topics that are not inherently Canadian -- have all been rejected by CTF committees. The panels screen rough cuts and, weeks later, send notes to producers through CTF bureaucrats. In a recent controversy, Halifax filmmaker John Wesley Chisholm was told that his rough cut on Freemasonry in Canada did not seem "to clearly take place in Canada or portray Canadian subjects." In fact, Chisholm wrote in a letter of complaint, his documentary is "the most visibly and audibly Canadian film" he's ever shot. All of the action takes place in Canada. And all of his "streeters" -- interviews with ordinary people on the street -- were with Canadians and "shot outside the main library in Halifax." "Why does everything we do have to be about Canada?" asks Charlotte Engel, who heads Bravo!'s documentary unit. She commissioned the Mozart documentary from filmmaker Mark Johnston, loading it with Canadian musicians and Canadian musical experts. It was rejected by CTF, but Johnston is now appealing the ruling.  "It's very hard to shoot Biblical archaeology in Yellowknife," says Bill Roberts, president of Vision TV, which commissioned 26 half-hours of Jacobovici's series, The Naked Archaeologist. "And it's insulting to Canadians to have to say, literally, in the script, 'Mozart matters to Canadians because . . . .' Worse, the skewed emphasis on Canadian content threatens to jeopardize co-production agreements with, or sales to, foreign broadcasters, whose appetite for Canadian hockey symbolism is limited. Says one Canadian producer, "the CTF is making Canada the mockery of the documentary world." Rudy Buttignol, who heads documentary production for TVO, calls the CTF's screening procedures "Byzantine . . . It has turned what should be an objective exercise into a subjective one." Laszlo Barna, one of the country's most respected producers, believes the CTF's essential requirements have become redundant. He says the CTF should relinquish its role in determining Canadian content, because all CTF applicants must already satisfy rules adjudicated by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO). Only projects in which Canadians hold key creative positions -- director, producer, crew -- are certified, and thus eligible for tax credits. "Surely to God we're beyond policing Canadian identity," says Barna. "We're auditioning ideas for people who aren't filmmakers. It's very destructive." The CTF's Macdonald says that if producers and broadcasters have a problem with her guidelines, they should complain to federal Heritage Minister Liza Frulla. However, she said the organization has struck a new committee, chaired by Breakthrough Films producer Ira Levy, to examine issues surrounding the controversy.




NYPD Blue Fades To Black

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 15, 2005) LOS ANGELES — There comes that time in every cop show's life to turn in the badge.  Most often that time arrives through network cancellation after a few months, but sometimes a cop show will hang around for years. And for each TV generation, there's a rare entity like NYPD Blue, which is closing the precinct after 12 gritty seasons. It's the end of the shift. NYPD Blue's last episode will air March 1, after which the show will live on forever in second-run syndication. The sturdy police soap has earned its place in TV history, surviving controversy, ratings wars and countless cast changes. NYPD Blue was a new spin on the genre: A character-driven cop show. There were crimes going on -- hey, this was New York -- but the sharp dramatic focus was on the personal lives of the men and women of the madhouse 15th Precinct in midtown New York. "We all knew this was something truly different for television, right from the start," says Dennis Franz, whose indelible cop Andy Sipowicz has sustained Blue's entire run. "I had already played a lot of cops by that stage of my career; 27, in fact, and I wasn't eager to play another one. But the writing on this show was incredible. It was better written than most movie scripts I'd seen." Blue will leave quietly. ABC made the decision several months back to end the venerable drama, which has fallen in the ratings during the past few seasons. Starting March 8, its long-standing time slot will be filled by Blind Justice, a new drama about a visually impaired police detective (Ron Eldard). But NYPD came in like a lion. It's difficult now to fathom the hubbub stirred up by the show's arrival. Even before Blue launched in the fall of 1993, there were rumours that the show was too hot for TV. The sneak-preview talk was that it went way over the line of what was considered appropriate for prime time back then. These were flawed characters. The dialogue was supposedly harsh, saucy adult situations abounded and there was even a shot of a naked behind in the pilot, heaven forbid. But it came to pass. The first year of NYPD Blue delivered all of the above and more. There were immediate boycotts by skittish ABC affiliates fearful of offending advertisers. Church groups squawked. American lives were ruined because of the bare bums. And the language? In the pilot, Sipowicz confronted a legal-jargon-spouting female prosecutor, grabbed his crotch and barked, "Ipso this, you pissy little bitch."

Viewers realized immediately this wasn't Dragnet. Blue garnered the biggest buzz of any show that season. It was a jarring addition to prime-time television. Some viewers even complained to ABC that the show's jittery camera style was making them nauseous. But people were watching. Blue was a ratings beast after only a half-dozen episodes. "I knew that if we survived our first month, we would be fine," says executive producer Stephen Bochco, who created NYPD Blue along with writer David Milch. "The only way for us to survive past four weeks was if we sort of jumped out and were perceived as a hit from the beginning, because there was so little support for the show. There was so much controversy surrounding the show." The principal players of Blue's inaugural season were odd-couple partners: Franz as wretched Sipowicz, a veteran Big Apple detective and practising alcoholic, and David Caruso as John Kelly, a younger, New-York-Irish detective who never smiled. Caruso's measured portrayal of Kelly was intriguing and a harbinger of his current dour presence on CSI: Miami, but Sipowicz was the cop to watch on NYPD Blue, then and now. In those early days, Sipowicz was a loose cannon, the type of cop who might beat a confession out of a suspect if the mood struck him. But only if the skell (Blue jargon for a low-life crook) deserved it. Detective Andy was portly and balding, and a white-knuckle drunk. Sipowicz was Blue's noble wreck, a tortured soul in desperate need of redemption. The intensity of the character almost scared Franz off. "I was concerned because Sipowicz had absolutely no redeeming qualities," Franz says. "There was nothing to like about him. Who was going to care if this guy lives or dies? Then, as time went on, I realized that at the core, this is probably a good man who started a downhill slide and couldn't put the brakes on. That's where we're introduced to Sipowicz, when he was at his absolute lowest. From that point on, it was a rebuilding." Caruso left after the first season, amid a very public salary dispute. It was seemingly another setback that worked in Blue's favour. "If David had stayed," says Bochco, "my guess is the show wouldn't have lasted this long." Caruso's abrupt departure permanently tilted the show toward Sipowicz and ushered in a succession of rotating partners for him. Caruso's role was capably filled the next season when Jimmy Smits signed on as Detective Bobby Simone. It was a superior pairing: The graceful, Armani-wearing Latino was the cool counter to sweaty Andy in his short-sleeved shirt and wide necktie. Bobby even tamed the beast. Andy stayed off the bottle, took a wife (the same prosecutor he told to "ipso this") and fathered a son. The Bobby-Andy partner-romance lasted four seasons before Smits left to pursue film work.

Next was the curious choice of ex-child star Rick Schroder, who stuck three seasons as Detective Danny Sorenson. He wasn't the brightest cop and left under mysterious circumstances. Stranger still was Schroder's replacement: former Saved by the Bell regular Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who joined the show as Det. John Clark in 2001 and will close out the series in the role. "I'm trying to make the most of every day we're still here," he says. "I'm dreading the very last shooting day; I know it's going to be some time before I'm part of something this unique again." It's no small task ending a TV saga after 12 years, 20 Emmys and 262 episodes. The standard procedure for a long-running series is to write a satisfying closer that neatly wraps up any dangling story lines and sends everyone off into the sunset. Bochco is writing the final episode and promises a low-key send-off. It should be just another day on the beat. "There isn't anything that needs to be tied up," he shrugs. "We're not blowing up buildings, and we're not killing anybody off. Life at the precinct will continue on, you just won't get to visit it every week." Only three episodes remain, which doesn't leave much time for long goodbyes anyway. NYPD Blue was of its time, and possibly ahead of its time. The grand irony of its departure is that no respectable American network would dare go near it today. "There's no question that over the last few years, the medium has become increasingly conservative," Bochco says. "I don't think we could launch or sell NYPD Blue today." NYPD Blue airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC and Global.




Bernie Mac’s Rare Disease

Excerpt from

(Feb. 14, 2005) *Bernie Mac, the star of Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show,” issued a statement through his publicist Thursday that he has sarcoidosis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the body’s tissues, most frequently in the lungs, reports E!.   "I've had sarcoidosis since 1983, and it has not altered or limited my lifestyle," Mac said in the statement. "No one knows where sarcoidosis comes from or where it starts, and there's no known cause for this condition that effects primarily minorities." The 46-year-old comedian was hospitalized last summer for what initially was described by a Fox rep as “exhaustion,” but has since been revealed by Mac’s spokesman as “double pneumonia which weakened his lungs and his entire immune system, and the sarcoidosis symptoms became pronounced."   Sarcoidosis can be fatal in about five percent of cases, and was cited as the cause of death for NFL great Reggie White last December. Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Russell also suffers from the disorder. Mac's publicist, Matt Labov, explains that sarcoidosis is a "treatable illness and not deadly." In his statement, Mac says: "I still walk, play basketball and do normal things...Since sarcoidosis hasn't slowed me down, then it shouldn't be a concern for others." The Chicago native says he has visited several sarcoidosis patients at La Rabida Hospital in Chicago. "I'll be devoting my summer to creating the Bernie Mac Foundation. Through my ongoing and private efforts, I'm organizing a golf tournament in Chicago, and the proceeds will be given to different sarcoidosis organizations,” he said. “I hope to announce further details about this soon."







Alison Sealy-Smith: Throwing Her Weight Around

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Feb. 11, 2005) For most stage actors, putting their stamp on a character is a process that begins during rehearsals and culminates with the performance onstage. Alison Sealy-Smith is not one of those actors. Her involvement as a "dramaturgical performer" in Lisa Codrington's one-woman, multiple-character Cast Iron began long before she, Codrington and director Ahdri Zhina Mandiela stepped into the rehearsal room. In fact, Sealy-Smith put on her dramaturgical hat almost as soon as she read the play more than a year ago and fell in love with the story of Libya Atwell, a 78-year-old woman from Barbados now living and reminiscing in a nursing home in sub-zero Winnipeg. Sealy-Smith and Codrington, both of Bajan heritage, then flew to Banff for an intense playwright-performer development workshop. "I like to think I was always guided by Lisa and her intentions but I also knew I would have an impact on the way it developed because of the kind of performer I am," says the Dora-winning actor of Harlem Duet and founding artistic director of Obsidian Theatre Company. "I'm a very weighty performer. Subtlety is not my forte. As soon I approached it, what I was drawn to and what I loved is where the play could deepen and where I saw potential for drama rather than comedy." Cast Iron opens next week at the Tarragon Extra space in a Nightwood Theatre production in association with Obsidian. If the title seems familiar, it's because Codrington herself played the one-woman show in an earlier version at SummerWorks that leaned more toward a comic performance tradition than a dramatic one. "It was an unfinished piece when I started working on it," recalls Sealy-Smith, "and it did live in a more comic realm as a way for Lisa to strut her stuff, play a few characters and explore her heritage. It's now about storytelling. . . . I think the play is a richer, darker cut of meat now."

It's also a more demanding piece to perform. The lesson here may be: Be careful what and for whom you dramaturge. As she sits alone onstage, conjuring up and conversing with a handful of people from her character's past, including virile young men in their 20s, Sealy-Smith must anchor each new persona in Libya's consciousness of them. The role requires technical proficiency, vocal rhythm and timing but also an ability to make the story and its characters clear and accessible to an audience who don't share Sealy-Smith's and Codrington's innate knowledge of Bajan history and dialects. "It's been exhausting," says the feisty Sealy-Smith, emphasizing every syllable in the word. "You're supposed to do these things when you're in your twenties and that was the last time I did a one-woman show. The age is showing. Lines don't go to my head the same way. Fifteen years ago I used to glance at a page and I memorized the lines. Now I'm studying like a fool." And yet 15 years ago Sealy-Smith -- who won't reveal her age but says she's "almost double" Codrington who is in her "early twenties" -- may not have been able to give Cast Iron "the due it deserves." That weightiness she refers to was put on after 20 years juggling the feast or famine of being a working stage actor in this city. Something else has changed in Toronto in the last two decades: the emergence of a black Canadian theatrical movement. It's still in its infancy and as Sealy-Smith readily acknowledges, it's "hit and miss," but productions like The Adventures of a Black Girl, The Piano Lesson and 'da Kink in My Hair and now Cast Iron are more than isolated phenomena. "We're trying to unearth an aesthetic," suggests Sealy-Smith. "Is there a way that we can do theatre that's relatively unique, informed by a whole bunch of diasporic influences that can enrich Canadian theatre?" There are some facts of Canadian theatre that are equal-opportunity obstacles: short development and rehearsal time for instance. Although Cast Iron has gone through Nightwood's exemplary development process -- from its Write from the Hip program for novice writers in 2002 to its Groundswells Playwrights Unit in 2003 to Banff in 2004 -- all involved are aware they're discovering the play's essence to the beat of a ticking clock.

"I don't write plays but I would imagine a playwright will learn so much from the first production and three weeks of audiences," says Sealy-Smith. "Some playwrights have to be produced to learn. I can imagine we'll come down some time in March, look back and say 'Well, if we had to do this again. . .' But that's evolution, that's growth." Or in Sealy-Smith dramaturgical parlance, that's how plays turn into richer cuts of meat, performers become weighty and playwrights learn how to develop writing muscles.

Previews start tomorrow; opens Feb. 16 and runs to March 13. $16 to $33. Tuesday to Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. matinees, 2:30 p.m. (except Feb. 19). Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave., 416-531-1827.




Richard Monette To Leave Stratford

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Robert Crew, Arts Writer

(Feb. 11, 2005) The hunt begins today to find the next artistic director of the Stratford Festival.  Richard Monette, the festival's head since 1994, announced yesterday that he will step down at the end of the 2007 season, when his current contract extension expires.  It's the top theatre post in the country, "a wondrous and worrisome job," as Monette describes it.  "I am proud of our accomplishments and feel that, at this term's end, the time will be right for a change of leadership," Monette said.  "I look forward to continuing my creative work in the theatre at a less demanding pace."  A search committee, led by Kelly Meighen, chair of the festival board's governance committee, will set up to look for his successor.  "In one sense it will be a relief because `uneasy lies the head that wears a Crown,'" Monette said, quoting from Shakespeare's Henry IV, pt 2.  "All I do 24/7 is think about, talk about and worry about the Stratford Festival. I'm Johnny One-Note."  Sometimes criticized for his popularist approach, Monette has presided over a period of growth, stability and achievement.  He established a training centre at the festival, oversaw the opening of the new Studio Theatre and expanded the festival's play development program.  And despite the recent challenges of 9/11, SARS and the war in Iraq, Stratford has remained solidly in the black for the past 11 seasons in a row  Monette mentions all these successes, plus the endowment campaign, set up to ensure financial stability in the years ahead. And he adds one thing more:  "I am also proud of not having a nervous breakdown."  Possible candidates within the festival include executive director Antoni Cimolino, associate director Andrey Tarasiuk and associate artist Peter Hinton.  Others who might be on the shortlist are Martha Henry, longtime festival actor and former artistic director of the Grand Theatre, London, and Marti Maraden, who recently stepped down as head of theatre at Ottawa's National Arts Centre.  What will he do at the end of 2007, having completed 15 years at the helm and becoming Stratford's longest serving artistic director?  "I was thinking of becoming a theatre critic," he replies, tongue firmly in cheek.




Playwright Arthur Miller Dies At 89

Source:  Associated Press

(Feb. 11, 2005) NEW YORK — Arthur Miller, whose dramas of fierce moral and personal responsibility such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible made him one of the 20th century's greatest playwrights, has died at the age of 89.  Miller died Thursday night of congestive heart failure at his home in Roxbury, Conn., surrounded by his family, his assistant Julia Bolus said today.  For decades, the playwright, along with Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, dominated not only American stages but theatres throughout the world. Broadway marquees were to dim their lights Friday night at curtain time.  "It is the loss of a giant," said Robert Falls, director of the 1999 Broadway revival of Death of Salesman that starred Brian Dennehy as the iconic title character Willy Loman. "He made tremendous art."  Playwright Edward Albee, recalling how Miller once paid him a compliment by saying that Albee's plays were "necessary," said, "I will go one step further and say that Arthur's plays were `essential.' "  It was Loman and Death of a Salesman, which took Miller only six weeks to write, that cemented his reputation when it opened on Broadway in 1949, starring Lee J. Cobb and directed by Elia Kazan. Loman was a man destroyed by his own stubborn belief in the glory of American capitalism and its spell of success.  "I couldn't have predicted that a work like Death of a Salesman would take on the proportions it has," Miller said in an interview in 1988. "Originally, it was a literal play about a literal salesman, but it has become a bit of a myth, not only here but in many other parts of the world."

Yet Miller had other powerful plays as well. The Crucible, a 1953 drama inspired by the repressions of McCarthyism, told the story of the mass hysteria during the Salem witch trials. And there was All My Sons (1947), his earliest Broadway success, about a corrupt businessman who commits suicide after it is revealed he sold defective airplane parts.  Miller's marriage to film star Marilyn Monroe in 1956, following his divorce from his first wife, Mary Slattery, gave the playwright a celebrity he tried to avoid.  In a 1992 interview with a French newspaper, he called her ``highly self-destructive" and said that during their marriage, ``all my energy and attention were devoted to trying to help her solve her problems. Unfortunately, I didn't have much success."  The marriage, which ended in divorce, did provide material for two of his plays: After the Fall (1964), the story of a tempestuous singer not unlike Monroe; and his last major work, Finishing the Picture, produced last year at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. A rueful, yet generous play, it dealt with the misbehaviour of a film star on a movie set, similar to The Misfits, which Miller wrote and which starred Monroe.  In 1962, he married his third wife, photographer Inge Morath. That same year, Monroe committed suicide.  Miller's success, so overwhelming in the 1940s and 1950s, seemed to wane during the next two decades, despite a well-received Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman starring Dustin Hoffman, in 1984. But enthusiasm for Miller's work remained particularly strong in England, which marked his 75th birthday in 1990 with four major productions of his plays.  Nicholas Hytner, director of Britain's National Theatre, called Miller "the last of the great titans of the American stage" and said British audiences had embraced his work.  "We have felt more comfortable with the uncompromising morality of his worldview than his compatriots," said Hytner, who directed the 1996 film adaptation of The Crucible.  "America felt rebuked by him. Over here, we relish the ferocity of his arguments with the way things are."  Undaunted, Miller continued to write, even as he became increasingly disillusioned with Broadway. In 1991, he premiered a new play, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, in London — the first time he had opened a play outside of the United States.  "It is what I do," he said in a 1996 interview. "It is my art. I am better at it than I ever was. And I will do it as long as I can. When you reach a certain age, you can slough off what is unnecessary and concentrate on what is. And why not?"

Among his later plays were Broken Glass (1994), a drama about a dysfunctional family that won respectful reviews on Broadway and a Tony nomination, but no big audiences. In London, it won an Olivier award as best play. Resurrection Blues had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 2002. Set in an unnamed banana republic, the satire dealt with the possible televised execution of a revolutionary.  And Miller had a surprise hit with a New York revival of his first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck. It lasted only four performances in 1944, but nearly six decades later, in a Roundabout Theatre Company production starring Chris O'Donnell, this family drama received positive notices.  David Richenthal, who produced the last Broadway revival of Salesman, said recently that he and Miller were working on a London revival. It will go on as planned in May, directed by Falls and starring Dennehy and Clare Higgins.  Dennehy said not having Miller with them in London will put "a pall over it. We wished he would be there with us, although the last few months we knew it probably wouldn't happen.  "It's not just the play, he's been a presence in my life since I was 13."  Born Oct. 17, 1915, Miller was one of three children in a middle-class Jewish family. His father, a manufacturer of women's coats, was hard hit by the Depression and could not afford to send Miller to college. A tall, imposing man with a gruff Brooklyn accent, Miller worked as a loader and shipping clerk at a New York warehouse to earn tuition money and eventually attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1938.  He wrote his first plays in college, where they were awarded numerous prizes. He also published several novels and collections of short stories. Miller also wrote several screenplays. Besides The Misfits, there was Playing for Time, (1981) a controversial television movie about the women's orchestra at Auschwitz.  He also wrote a number of books with Morath, mainly about their travels in Russia and China.  Miller had two children, Jane Ellen and Robert, by Slattery, and he and Morath, who died in 2002, had one daughter, Rebecca, a filmmaker married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis.







Simply Meant To Be An Argo, Smith Inks A Two-Year Deal

Excerpt from The Toronto Star  -Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(Feb. 12, 2005) Adrion Smith agrees that if retirement had been on his mind, the Argonauts' Grey Cup victory in November would have made the perfect swan song.  "But it didn't even cross my mind. I'm 33, not 41," he said, chuckling at the friendly poke he had taken at quarterback Damon Allen, who earlier this week signed a new two-year pact. Smith yesterday also inked a two-year deal.  "I'll think of retirement when I can no longer compete at the highest level. But I feel I still can. I've been fortunate not to have had any major injuries nor joint pains. I'm still a kid at heart."  Smith said it also never entered his mind to test the free-agency market.  The cornerback, who becomes the club's longest-serving player as he enters his 10th season, feels he's simply meant to be an Argo.  "In 1998, after I tried out with the Buffalo Bills (following two all-star seasons with the Argos) and came back to Canada, I was going to sign with Hamilton because they had made the best offer," Smith confessed. "I drove over to Hamilton for the Labour Day game and I was going to sign after the game.  "But when I approached (GM) Mike McCarthy, he said they were taking the offer off the table. I walked over to the Argo dressing room and asked (then head coach) Don Matthews if he wanted me. His answer was, `When can you start?' I said, `Tomorrow.'"  Looking back, Smith also feels he was meant to play with and for head coach Mike Clemons.  When Smith was in high school in Kansas City, Clemons was a punt and kickoff returner with the Chiefs. Later, at West Missouri State University, one of Smith's teammates was Clemons' brother-in-law.  Smith began his CFL career with the Ticats in 1994 and was traded to the Memphis Mad Dogs the next year. When the U.S. expansion experiment ended after the '95 season, Smith became an Argo and Clemons' teammate.  Like Clemons, who is his son's godfather, Smith is in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen.  Smith has 41 career interceptions, tying him with Jim Rountree for second in Argo history.




Pape Sow: The Ties That Bind

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(Feb. 15, 2005) The emotion had been building for years, an eldest son's longing for the embrace of his mother and father, the desire of a man to see the parents who remember him only as a boy.  They were emotions held in check through homesickness and tragedy, through moments of loneliness and moments of unbridled joy, moments that were meant to be shared in person.  So when Pape Sow finally saw his mother and father in the arrivals area of Pearson International Airport last week, 4 1/2 years after he left Senegal as a teenager headed to a strange land and foreign culture, when he finally got to touch his parents instead of merely talking to them on the telephone, the moment was overwhelming.  "You don't know how happy I am," he said yesterday. "I cannot tell you how I feel. You cannot even know."  Indeed, it is impossible to truly comprehend how the Raptor rookie must have felt when his mother, Rokhaya Sarr, and father, Macodou Sow, landed in Toronto last week from their home in Dakar, Senegal; it is impossible to comprehend how any of them must have felt. Families are not supposed to be separated by thousands of kilometres and light-years in different lifestyles.  There is one thing for certain, though. When they finally saw each other, everyone around them knew something special was unfolding.  "I was about to cry," Pape Sow said. "It was so loud. Everyone was over there but my mom (saw) me. She was screaming, loud, she was giving me a hug for 10 minutes.  "My dad was sitting over there and I said, `Mom, let me go. I want to go give my dad a hug, too.'  "That's such a good feeling, I haven't had it for four years and a half."  But it was not just joy that made the reunion so special. There was sorrow, too.  Just before Christmas, one of Sow's younger sisters died suddenly, a family tragedy no one should have to bear alone. But because he is chasing his dream, and because he intends to grow into a man who can take care of his extended family and that means honing his craft at every possible instance, Sow remained with his team while his family grieved.  "I couldn't go back home," Sow said of a time that had to be unspeakably lonely. "When we were talking on the phone she told me she really wanted to see me and I wanted to go back but my dad told me to just stay here and focus. He said everything is taken care of, keep working hard and one day we are going to come out there."  And when they did, when they finally saw the son who moved to California to try and become a professional athlete, plucked from a Dakar high school by a college scout who saw his raw potential, don't think for a moment there wasn't some healing and sorrow in that long airport embrace.

"She was sick for like one day, they took her to the hospital and they couldn't find out what was going on and she passed way," Sow said of his sister's death. "That was hard, hard, very hard for me and my parents. My mom was crying every day when I was talking to her on the phone; the best way to make her happy is to bring her here with me."  So now they sit in Sow's lakefront condo, a family once again.  And as they reminisce — either in their native tongue of Wolof or French because neither of Sow's parents speaks English — you can be sure the folks are a bit mystified by what exactly it is that their eldest of four children does for a living. They may have read about his exploits in one season at a California junior college or his three years at Cal-State Fullerton and they might know something about the draft process that made him a pro last June but they can't comprehend the game itself.  Sunday's Raptors game against the Los Angeles Clippers represented the first basketball game Rokhaya Sarr ever saw; Sow's father saw him play once, as a high schooler in Dakar.  "She loved it but she told me, `I can't wait to see you play,'" he said. "And I told her, my time is going to come, maybe before you leave I might have a chance."  The 6-foot-10 forward-centre possesses, according to those who have seen him practice, shocking athletic skills and raw ability. Raptors coach Sam Mitchell lauds Sow's efforts and dedication to the game every time he mentions his name.  And Mitchell wants to reward the former second-round draft pick for that effort.  "He's one of those guys you would pick to talk about if you were talking about good character, being a good teammate, being a good hard worker," said Mitchell.  The decision to remain here and work on his game while he could have easily taken a week or two off to grieve his sister speaks to Sow's maturity, the coach said.  "You see what this guy has gone through and how he appreciates everything he has and then you see other guys in this league who haven't had to do anything like that and they don't appreciate what they've got ..." the coach adds, his voice trailing off in admiration.  "It just speaks to the level of his maturity."  So, too, does Sow's work ethic. He knows he has much to learn and is willing to put in all the work necessary to learn it.

"I'm a rookie, I'm dedicated, I know what it takes to be a pro," he said.  "That's why every day I'm going to keep working hard, working hard until the day I get my spot. It's hard some days. Everybody wants to play.  "I'm not going to quit working hard, that's what I like to do, that's what I love to do. Sometimes when I go home after practice and I'm not tired, I get home and I'm mad at myself."  And, for now, there's someone at home to talk to.




Contender in Boxing TV Show Takes Own Life

By David B. Caruso, Associated Press Writer

(Feb. 15, 2005) PHILADELPHIA - A promising young boxer who got the break of a lifetime when he was selected by NBC's upcoming reality TV program, "The Contender," committed suicide.  Police said 23-year-old Najai Turpin shot himself in the head at 4 a.m. Monday while sitting with his girlfriend in a parked car outside the West Philadelphia gym where he trained. Investigators were unsure why he took his life.  An NBC spokeswoman said the producers, cast and crew of "The Contender" were shocked and saddened by Turpin's death. The program, scheduled to debut March 7, will go on as planned.  Produced by reality TV mogul Mark Burnett, "The Contender" will follow the lives of 16 boxers competing against each other for a chance at a million-dollar purse.  The episodes involving Turpin had already been taped.  Percy "Buster" Custus, a trainer who had worked with him since Turpin was 12, said the boxer had enjoyed his experiences with the show but seemed troubled in recent weeks. He said Turpin abruptly left a training camp in the Poconos and returned home to Philadelphia, saying he missed his family.  "None of us really know what brought this about," Custus said Tuesday. "You just want to see the boys come out of the neighbourhood. From the time they're young kids, you really want to see them make it. And he was right there."  Turpin had a 13-1 record and had won a city Recreation Department title before he was picked for "The Contender."

A biography on the show's Web site called him an "extremely soft-spoken" but focused fighter who worked two day jobs to support his family. He had a 2-year-old daughter.  "You would never know he was a fighter," Custus said. "He was a tough guy in the ring. He was a vicious fighter. But outside the ring he was a different man."  Police said they didn't know where Turpin got the gun. He was not licensed to carry a handgun and the weapon was not registered to him.  NBC released a statement from Burnett in which he called Turpin a "great fighter with tremendous heart and courage."  "The episode in which he was most depicted will stand as a wonderful testament to who he was. It will not be changed," Burnett wrote.  A tribute to Turpin will be added to the show. Viewers will also be offered a chance to donate money to a trust fund set up to support Turpin's child.  NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks declined to say how Turpin had fared in the show, which is to conclude with a live championship bout between two finalists in May. She said, however, that the show will not need to be overhauled because of Turpin's death.  Every contestant was being paid $1,500 per week to stay in training pending the finale.  Turpin worked out at the James Shuler Memorial Gym, a haven for serious fighters from a rough and impoverished neighbourhood.  Tybius Flowers, another boxer at the gym, was murdered last year shortly before he was to appear as a key witness in a murder trial.




Iverson's Magic Number Hits 60

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Associated Press

(Feb. 13, 2005) PHILADELPHIA—Allen Iverson gave the crowd an electrifying performance to remember. Then the fans returned the favour with raucous ovations he won't soon forget.  "That's when you get the goosebumps," Iverson said. "You honestly don't really feel it when the shots are going down. You don't ever get the goosebumps until the fans start to appreciate what you're doing out there."  The Philly star scored 60 points, a career high and the most in the NBA this season, to lead the 76ers to a 112-99 win over the Orlando Magic last night. Iverson, averaging an NBA-leading 29.7 points a game, was 17of36 from the field and made 24of27 free throws. His previous high was 58 against Houston on Jan. 15, 2002.  "I score a career high and we won the game," Iverson said. "That's how you draw it up in your dreams."  It was the first 60-point game in the NBA since Tracy McGrady scored 62 for Orlando against Washington on March 10, 2004. Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal had the previous high in the NBA this season, scoring 55 against Milwaukee on Jan. 4.  Iverson had the fourth-highest total in 76ers' history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain.  He earned a standing ovation for points 50 and 51 after he stole the ball and was fouled hard on a lay-up attempt, slamming against the floor as he seemingly always does. The crowd erupted and stood in appreciation for Iverson, who went to the line and made a pair of free throws.  It was the same for points 59 and 60 — two more free throws. The fans were on their feet each time Iverson had the ball in the fourth quarter, giving a routine game the feel of a Game 7.  Iverson left an impression on Sixers coach Jim O'Brien.  "This is the greatest performance I've ever witnessed," O'Brien said.  Iverson was consistent from the start, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 11 in the third, and 20 in the fourth. Eleven of his fourth-quarter points came from the line.  "It was just attacking, attacking, attacking all night,'' Iverson said.




Reggie Miller To Retire

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 11, 2005) INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reggie Miller will retire after the season, ending a career with the Indiana Pacers in which he became one of the NBA's greatest shooters, his sister and The Indianapolis Stars said.  "Yesterday I spoke to Reggie, and after 18 seasons with the Indiana Pacers, this will definitely be his last season," Cheryl Miller reported Thursday night on TNT.  Miller, who turns 40 in August, spent his entire career with the Pacers and supplied reels of highlight footage with his clutch shooting. He helped transform the Pacers from one of the NBA's worst teams into one of its most consistent.  The Indianapolis Star reported that Miller told Pacers coach Rick Carlisle of his decision Thursday.  "It's not a shock," Carlisle told the Star. "I guess it's a sobering dose of reality that this is the last season to see one of the game's greatest players.''  The team had no immediate comment on the report, Pacers spokesman David Benner said Friday.  Miller holds NBA records for most 3-pointers made (2,505) and attempted (6,321) and is the leading scorer in Pacers history with 24,685 points. He appeared in five All-Star games, 131 playoff games and the 2000 NBA Finals.  Since 1990, the Pacers have made the playoffs all but one year and have reached the Eastern Conference playoffs six times. He is averaging 11.9 points as the starting shooting guard for the Pacers, who play Friday night at home against Houston.  Miller's retirement after 18 seasons with the Pacers would leave him behind only John Stockton, who played 19 seasons with Utah, among NBA players who have played entirely with a single franchise.

"The one thing he can really be proud of is that he finished his career with one team — something we don't see a lot of in sports today," Cheryl Miller said.  Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown, who coached Miller for four seasons in the mid-1990s, called him "the best shooter I've ever been around.''  "If you needed one guy to make an outside shot, I don't know if you could find anybody better," Brown said Thursday night. "He's going to be missed.''  Two weeks ago, Miller denied another TNT reporter's story that said he had told teammates of his plans to retire. Miller said if he were to make such an announcement, he'd break the news through his older sister.  Miller's NBA career began with a cascade of boos when team president Donnie Walsh selected him with the 11th pick in the 1987 draft out of UCLA. Fans wanted Steve Alford, who had just led Indiana to the NCAA championship.  "Reggie Miller was supposed to have been a guy who spit on a player and wasn't a good guy," Walsh said in a 2003 interview. "I found him to be just the opposite of what everyone said he was. He was a great, great basketball shooter, even back then.''  Miller burst into national prominence in 1994 when he scored 25 fourth-quarter points in an Eastern Conference finals victory over the New York Knicks while trading words with Spike Lee as the movie director sat courtside.  A year later against the Knicks, he hit two 3-pointers while scoring eight points in the final 8.9 seconds for a 107-105 playoff win in Madison Square Garden.  Miller averaged at least 18 points a game for 12 consecutive seasons through 2000-01. He has been praised by teammates and coaches for allowing others — notably Jermaine O'Neal — to take a more prominent role.  His decision to retire comes during a troubled season for the Pacers, who enter Friday night's game at 23-25 after three top players received long suspensions for the November brawl with Pistons fans. Miller also was among several players who missed long stretches with injuries. He was out for the first 16 games after breaking his left hand during an exhibition game.




Reebok Launching New Campaign

Excerpt from - By Nolan Strong

(Feb. 10, 2005) Reebok is launching a $50 million dollar ad campaign, “I Am What I Am,” which will feature rappers Jay-Z, 50 Cent, NBA stars Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, tennis star Andy Roddick, soccer star Iker, skater Stevie Williams and actress Lucy Liu.  The global campaign kicks off February 20th, with television ads running during the NBA’s All-Star Game.  “The 'I Am What I Am' marketing campaign which celebrates authenticity and individuality is both relevant and inspiring for young consumers," said Dennis Baldwin, Reebok's global chief marketing officer. "We understand the struggle for today's youth to both fit in and stand out as individuals. Through this campaign, we hope to encourage young people to find their own voice by celebrating contemporary icons who have accomplished their dreams by being true to themselves and following their own unique path to greatness." Other advertisements will be placed in cinema and on billboards in key markets such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London and Tokyo.

Reebok is hoping to dethrone Nike as the #1 brand for young purchasers and has frequently used rappers to maintain their position as one of the leading brands.  Previous ads have featured such rappers as Jadakiss and Scarface, while the sports giant has deals with Jay-Z and 50 Cent.  A deal with Neptunes producer Pharrell Williams for his Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream sneaker line recently soured. "We took a unique approach by enrolling the athletes and entertainers into a campaign that provides them with a genuine forum for self expression," said Brian Povinelli, Reebok's vice president of global integrated marketing. "We want the world to know that 'I Am What I Am' is more than an ad campaign, rather it speaks to who Reebok truly is as a brand and it is an invitation for today's youth to join in." In addition to participating in the ad campaign, Reebok will donate a total of $1 million dollars on behalf of the stars, to the charity of their choice.




Mailman Retires Now

Excerpt from

(Feb. 14, 2005) *Karl Malone made the decision Sunday to end his 20-year attempt to get that elusive NBA championship ring.  The Mailman officially retired Sunday, ending his career at an afternoon news conference in Utah – where his journey began as the Utah Jazz’s 13th pick in the 1985 draft. After meeting with the San Antonio Spurs last week to mull a return after knee surgery last summer, he decided that mentally he couldn’t play at the level that made him an NBA superstar.   "When I got on that plane, I knew I was done. That it was time," Malone said. "I look at basketball as 100 percent physically and 100 percent mentally. And if I can't bring you 200 percent, from me, I can't bring you anything."     The 41-year-old finishes second on the NBA's career scoring list with 36,928 points, just 1,459 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.







Dionne Brand: Sweet Smell Of Ethnic Stew

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 14, 2005) The "we" in Dionne Brand's new novel, What We All Long For, implies inclusion, of shared desires. It's us: Toronto, the city that crows about how it is the most multicultural place in the world.  High time it showed up that way in our fiction. We've had WASP Toronto, Italian Toronto, West Indian Toronto, South Asian Toronto — all the diasporas. But Brand is the first Toronto novelist to capture a generation born and bred into this masala of cultures, creeds and nationalities.  Brand was conscious of what she was doing as she told her story of an artist, Tuyen, her brother lost in the family's flight from Vietnam, and her friends, whose combined parentage takes in the Nova Scotia black community, the Caribbean and Italy.  Currently holding the Research Chair in Creative Writing at Guelph University, Brand has been teaching writing and literature to this generation of Ontario youth. That, combined with her daily experiences in the western stretch of Bloor St. where, to quote playwright David Gow, "rasta meets pasta," made Brand think there was something here worth observing in fiction.  "I learned about cities, like Paris or New York or whatever, from reading about them," she says. "So when I went to New York, I knew where I was.  "I thought that this city was worth knowing that way," she says. "What interested me was that there are various communities but they don't live completely discretely from one another; they overlap."  During the writing of What We All Long For (Knopf Canada) Brand would find herself gazing out the window of a west-end restaurant, perhaps near College St. and Spadina Ave., the locale for her characters Tuyen and Carla.  "I'd be looking through the window and I'd think this is like the frame of the book, the frame of reality: `There they are: a young Asian woman passing by with a young black woman passing by, with a young Italian man passing by.'"  It seemed to her that she was witnessing the city at a crucial point in its history. "There aren't `them' and `us,' anymore ... It's a city of everyone."  Brand invented a family based on actual tales she'd heard of Vietnamese immigrants. There's a profound disconnect between the parents and older sisters who left Vietnam after the war and the younger daughter and son who were born after they settled in Toronto.

"I wanted to think about why people do things for really small, personal fears or reasons," says Brand, She writes like a poet, not like a journalist reporting a story. Brand, who speaks in tones coloured by her Trinidad origins, grew up in the city's west end and wrote her first lines of poetry as a teenager.  She conjured Tuyen's friend Carla's Caribbean-Italian family from a memory of a 1970s West Indian club near St. Clair Ave. and Bathurst St. Jazz, the music that runs through Brand's life, also runs through her fiction, shaping the rhythms of her prose.  Her first two novels, Another Place, Not Here (1996) and At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999), were her first forays into fiction after she'd established herself as a poet. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Trillium Award in 1997 for Land To Light On, and the Pat Lowther Award for Poetry for her 2003 collection, thirsty, Brand has honed her craft. She was shortlisted for the prestigious Griffin Prize last year.  Laughing at the teen who felt she could write anything that came to her lips, she now teaches young people possessed of the same passion to write. "(Poetry ) is such a concentrated thing, such a close art. You have to get that down. What interested me about writing novels was the effect poetic language could have on fiction."  But you have to watch the transitions, says Brand. "The poetry has a good effect on the fiction but the fiction doesn't have a good effect on the poetry. It stretches things out and makes them too watery."  Besides expressing the mingling of races and cultures, Brand's characters also reflect liberated sexual identities.  "All borders are fluid," she laughs. "The city is a liberal space and we've had a discussion in this society about sexuality, so there are a lot of possibilities," she adds.  Although Brand says her activist days ended 20 years ago, she won't deny that her omniscient narrator in What We All Long For, "has a bone to pick."  But not by sermonizing. "The novel is involved in a conversation with the city and with contemporary culture," she says. "But I think that any novel that comes out this year is involved in that same conversation."  Maybe so, but not with quite the same accents.




Federal Funds Hardly The Boost We Need

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Feb. 10, 2005) Toronto may not quite have caught up to London, Paris and New York as international cultural meccas, but let's take one thing at a time.  We're being officially designated by the federal government as one of Canada's cultural capitals for 2005. That means Toronto has earned recognition (try to contain your excitement) as creatively on a par with Victoria, B.C., and Annapolis Royal, N.S., not to mention previous winners, such as Regina.  Tomorrow, federal heritage minister Liza Frulla is flying here from Ottawa to celebrate this great honour — and present a $500,000 cheque — with prominent members of Toronto's cultural community. Mayor David Miller will be on hand to express his deep gratitude.  The festivities will take place at the St. Lawrence Centre, after other potential venues (including City Hall, the Carlu and the Art Gallery of Ontario) were ruled out. All the participants will be on their best behaviour, and no one will mention the obvious: You can't become much of a cultural capital on $500,000.  Can we be frank? This is hardly a reason for Toronto to throw its collective hat in the air and honk its horn on Yonge St. as if the Leafs had won the Stanley Cup.  The Culture Capital designation is part of the recently renewed Tomorrow Starts Today program, designed to shower money on the arts. In fact, there are three kinds of winners. This year, one large city was chosen for the honour, one medium size city, Victoria, which also gets $500,00, and three cities so small you might call them towns: Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, Ont., Annapolis Royal, N.S. and Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Que., will each get $250,000.  The point of the program is to highlight past achievements that demonstrate a commitment to arts and culture. The funds enable recipients to hold special events celebrating arts and culture.  Toronto will use part of the money to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its magnificent City Hall in September and hold the rest of the funds for a series of arts celebrations in 2006, called Year of Creativity.  To be fair, it should be noted that the City of Toronto applied for this award, and city officials are pleased to receive it — on the grounds that something is better than nothing. (The only other applicant in the category of large cities was Halifax.)

But what if Ottawa were to embrace the notion that Canada desperately needs a cultural capital able to compete with European and U.S. cultural centres, and came to the conclusion there is only one city in Canada that can realistically aspire to achieve that goal — Toronto?  That is unlikely to happen, for political reasons. If it did, perhaps the rest of Canada would loathe and resent Toronto even more than, according to a recent Star survey, it already does.  But imagine what could happen if the Prime Minister read a book by Richard Florida and came to the conclusion that Canada needs Toronto to work as a cultural capital, not only because the arts enrich our quality of life, but because the economic future of the country may depend on it. With a huge budget surplus, this is a luxury he can afford.  Suppose he decided to enshrine Toronto as the country's cultural capital, not just for 2005, but for always? Suppose he allocated, let's say, an extra $25 million a year, every year, to help Toronto live up to its designated title?  He could start by providing a reasonable level of operating funds to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada, two of this country's cultural jewels that happen to call Toronto home.  He could find a way to push Toronto's waterfront forward (after decades of delays) with two or three major cultural projects.  He'd certainly waste no time in offering funds for the Toronto International Film Festival's dreamed-of permanent home at King and John Sts., acknowledging how lucky Canada is to have one of the world's top film festivals.  And he would even risk the political fallout of giving Toronto special status — official recognition that this town has to be a cultural capital in a way that, with all due respect, Regina, Victoria and Annapolis Royal never will be.  It would be nice. But for now, let's take the $500,000 and say, "Thanks, Ottawa, we really appreciate your vision and generosity."




Morris O'Kelly: Hip Hip Hooray, V-Day's Over!

Excerpt from

(Feb. 15, 2005) Is it over yet?  I mean, is it safe to come out from under my rock and re-enter society? Don’t act like you don’t know to what I’m referring.  Somebody get a calendar…quick!  It is the 15th of February … right? Whew…thank goodness THAT’S over.  You got it.  The only thing good about Valentine’s Day is the fact that the 15th can’t be far behind.  One day I’ll get it down to a science.  I will try to sleep as late as possible into the dreaded day and go back to bed soon thereafter as to avoid having to deal with much of it. It’s like how some people say that the only thing good about going to the dentist is that eventually you get to leave the dentist. Well sort of...  The other ‘good’ part about going to the dentist is you at least have some say as to when your appointment will be.  Not so with “V” Day.  Valentine’s Day is like…Tax Day.  It never changes on the calendar and is just as unpleasant.  You can’t avoid it and there are severe penalties if you ‘forget’ or are ‘late.’ You got it…I don’t particularly care for Valentine’s Day.  If you’d like a nominee for “Understatement of the Year”…there you have it.  I’d rather have the bubonic plague if you’d really want to know the truth.  Leprosy, hives and scabies might not be bad either.  Shingles?  Bring ‘em on! Root canals and prostate exams seem far less painful (and shorter in duration) than any Valentine’s Day fiasco. That’s the one day out of the year when every woman in the world wants to compete against every OTHER woman in the world for the largest public Valentine’s display on record.  Ladies, you know what I mean.  It’s not that you want your man to let you know he still loves you…it’s that you want everyone in your office to know as well.  He has to impress you AND your office.  A dozen roses and balloons don’t mean jack to a woman if her worst enemy in the office received 2 dozen roses, balloons and a singing telegram.  It only means that dude #1 is going to get cussed out something horrible.   Men are competing against other men to please their own women…the ones supposedly already won over.  It’s like the one day that women are the ‘pimps’ and we are…well, you know… It’s not just wives or girlfriends, but mothers too.  Like clockwork, I can always be sure that my mother (Kay O’Kelly) will be making her annual call trying to find out what I have planned for Valentine’s Day.  It’s her way of doing reconnaissance; maybe see if a daughter-in-law or grandkids are on the immediate horizon.

No and HELL NO.  Stop asking me Moms.  When I know…you’ll know. Don’t get me wrong, I love women.  In fact, I’m a pretty romantic guy when I try to be (granted, I don’t ‘try’ all that often).  It is just that I could never get with the idea of predetermined romanticism. Whatever happened to real days of significance? Anniversaries…check.  Birthdays, absolutely.  Got your G.E.D., damn right.  In fact, anything of specific and special meaning to a relationship I’m all for celebrating.  But just because someone ordained a day in February for everyone to be amorous does not mean that it was a good idea. In fact, it was a very bad one.  So you’re telling me, BECAUSE a little half-naked White dude with rouge makeup on his cheeks is running around shooting people in the butt with arrows; means I need to go out and save my relationship on an annual basis?  I don’t follow the logic.  How about I ‘save’ my relationship the other 364 days and just sit this one out.   Yeah, that sounds like a plan. Let’s be honest…Valentine’s Day is a contest.  And in a contest, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.  Invariably, the men have to lose.  It’s not right.  It’s just not fair.  No matter how well we do one year, it only means we’ve raised the stakes for next year.  It’s a slippery slope where the better you do one year, the greater your chances for colossal failure the next. Uh, no thanks…I will gladly boycott Valentine’s Day and just take my chances with the impending a$$-whoopin’. There are thousands of men who are mad right now…and they went WAY out of their way to please their woman.  If you’re likely to get cussed out either way…you might as well get cussed out but also be able to pay your car payment on time.  Or at least, that’s how I look at it. See, men should take a page out of my book and just boycott the whole damn thing.   I mean, ‘technically,’ it’s “Valentine’s” Day, right?  I’ve never dated anybody named Valentine.  So I’m struggling to see the connection here.  Let Valentine get all the gifts. Hell, do women ask for gifts on “Presidents’ Day”?  No… We honour past Presidents. Do women get roses on “All Saints Day”?  No…  We honour saints.

Stay with me y’all…I’m about to go to the bottom of the ocean on this one. So technically, Valentine’s Day (named after Roman Saint Valentine) really doesn’t have jack to do with pleasing my woman or anybody’s woman for that matter.  We have families that don’t give presents at Christmas because that’s not the true meaning of the day…so why is it any different when I don’t give Valentine’s gifts when it isn’t the true meaning of the day?  (I know that just about every woman is steaming hot at me right now.  So much for anyone hooking me up with Victoria Dillard.) But there’s some truth in my logic…  Fellas…you can’t win playing the Valentine’s game.  You may THINK you won this year, but really you’ve just assured yourself of spending an extra $300 next year for that singing telegram or extra dozen roses.  My car payment was made on time.  Was yours? The only way you win is not to play at all.  Yes, shower your woman with love, affection and trinkets all year long if you so choose.  I’m all for it.  But please oh please can we just do away with Valentine’s Day? Or how about this, if Valentine’s Day is for women, then say maybe give us…MLK Day.  Maybe next January, all the women will have to run around frantically, worried about whether the gift they got for their man on “MLK Day” was enough to show him how much she loved him. “Girlfriend…what did you get yo’ man for MLK Day?  You know it’s next week!”  “Nothin’ yet, girl…he’ll just kill me if I forget again!”  “Mmmph, child, you know every man wants to be remembered and loved on MLK Day!  Nothing says “I Love You” like a plasma-screen TV, complete with DirecTV and an NBA League Pass!  Trust me, I know!” Then and only then will you women know how it feels. We have Mother’s Day AND Father’s Day.  We have yin, we have yang.  There is up AND down.  Left AND right.  Good AND evil.  Ike AND Tina.  It’s called balance. When there is balance, then it will be fair.  Until it is fair; I’m boycotting. Keep hope alive.  Only 364 more days to go until my next boycott.  Stay strong my Brothas. Now, if all of my fellow Brethren can circle together and raise their voices in unison: “We shall overcome…we shall overcome…we shall overcome, someday…”

Keep hope alive.



Sydney Evans -- Putting his Brand On Fashion

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(Feb. 10, 2005) Sydney Evans is the originator and visionary behind SYD (Some Young Designer) a new brand that has burst onto the fashion scene and set it afire.  SYD is in the business of creating women’s ‘ready to wear.’  The mantra of SYD is casual luxury.  Recently, the SYD collection launched its fashion wear in L.A. during Fashion Week at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood.  They were voted “Best of Show.”  So pleased by what they saw, Fashion Wire Daily gave the company a great honour by naming SYD one of the best collections of the Mondrian suite.  The company will also be featuring their third show at Parsons Auditorium in NYC on Wednesday, February 9th at 7:00 p.m.  The budding company plans to juxtapose the casual luxury genre to fashion in order to give women outfits that will take them from 9:00 to 5:00.  The idea is to allow women to have an outfit for work but enable women to easily change a few things about the outfit to take them to that evening drink with a business associate and/or to a glitzy outing with a friend.  For example, a nice pair of slacks with a jacket designed to wear to work can transform into evening wear by simply removing the jacket to expose a sexy silk or lace top.  Also, merely by draping a cashmere shawl around the shoulders, one can produce a look of elegance that lends taste to one’s appearance.  “SYD is about providing garments that don’t only make you look great but make you feel great,” says owner Sydney Evans.  “Our clothes are affordable.  I would say our prices are in the middle price range of today’s clothing market.  Although our collection is definitely in the better clothing stores, as I said, our prices are affordable. For example, for the Fall season, a well-cut quality suit which covers a multiple spectrum of occasions would run a customer $350.00 to $400.00. “The people who viewed the collection we showcased in LA were surprised how affordable our brand is for the type of quality reflected in the garments that make up our collection,” explained the young marketing expert.  “I want to have great clothes but if no one can afford them what is the point of having great clothes.  We work with interesting materials – we use a lot of silk jersey and cashmere for our Fall line.  We also use leather. We are doing faux fur.  That may appeal to those who are nature conscious. For our Spring line we are using a lot of silks like silk charmeuse and chiffon. We use quality materials, offer a great cut and have wonderful designs that give our customers a great look and make them feel fabulous when wearing our designs” remarked the creative force behind SYD.

Bigger is not always better so SYD is not planning on being a flash in the pan or a huge brand overnight.  “We were very concerned about getting quality to our customers so we want to grow gradually.  I pay close attention to the stores we target to make sure we launch the collection right and make sure the consumer gets the best value in the cut and fit of the clothing.  So, if a customer really does have that couture mentality they benefit from the way our clothes are cut and made.  We want our customers to feel that they are in custom made outfits when they put them on though we are not doing couture.”  Presently sizes run from 4 to 14.  However, the company plans to expand to larger sizes in future.  Evans claims he believes there is a little designer in all of us, thus he created SYD (Some Young Designer) as his company name. “I think everyone has that unique ability to design.  When folks get up in the morning they choose what they are going to wear for the day and put their ensembles together so though they may not realize it they are in a way their own designer,” claims Evans. SYD at this time is comprised of a team of 4: 2 designers, pattern and sample maker, PR and corporate strategist.  Evans considers one of his talents his knack for creating brand.  He has a background in international marketing that he studied at Florida A&M University.  “I have vision and at some point I see SYD going beyond design.  At some point I want to see the SYD brand on eyeglasses, bed sheets and flatware.  We will be the one-stop shop for casual luxury.  As I see it, when one creates a company, it should be formed to embody a brand. I think that gives a company staying power. So I never really like to be described as a clothing company because SYD is a full service brand with clothing as one extension of that brand.  Right now we are test-marketing a line of jewellery but I haven’t launched it into the marketplace yet.  I think the plan is to launch it in 2006.  We are also considering bags as well and will market them under the brand name SYDS Sacks.” Reared in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sydney has very little time for a personal life.  His entire focus is on bringing his passion and vision into fruition.  SYDS is a family affair and has the full backing of his grandmother, a former model, and his mother who is special events planner for the City of Philadelphia. “My mother does a huge event for the Girls Scouts.  I hope one such event may result in SYD designing some t-shirts for the Girl Scouts of America.  We are always looking for strategic relationships and partnerships with individuals and companies that seek to embody what we are doing.  Fashion is an expensive endeavour so we seek investors who are interested in investing in our company and wish to see their investment grow” remarks Evans.  Although, it’s incredibly difficult to break into the fashion industry and SYD is only a year old, the company is already getting noticed.  The fashion industry in LA has been especially responsive to the line so Evans is presently seeking L.A. representation, although he plans to be on both coasts.  The young company has already attracted the attention of stars the likes of Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie when filming “Alexander”; Broadway star Courtney Fine; and Stacie J and Omarosa of ‘Apprentice’ fame.   Individuals, who wish to attend the 7:00 p.m., showing of the SYD Collection on Wednesday, February 9th at Parsons Auditorium (located on 39th Street and 7th Avenue), can call 1-800-316-7654 for further information and/or look up SYDS through their website at




The Robertson Treatment: Black Is Beautiful

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2005) While it’s true that being Black is beautiful thing every day of the year, I look forward to February and Black History Month because of the many insightful things that I always learn about African American history. This year is no different, but I wanted to spotlight some of the special programming making its debut this month that I feel readers would do themselves good to check out. 

Slavery and the Making of America (PBS) 
This four-part PBS documentary examines the most overlooked chapter in American history – slavery.  Beginning with the arrival of the first African captives and on thru to the Civil War, Slavery and the Making of America is absolutely much watch television.  Narrated by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (just a prediction!!!) the eight-hour narrative presents empirical data detailing the financial and cultural contributions made by early African American settlers.  Augmented by a companion book and website supported by the series producer (Thirteen Online) and chief underwriter (New York Life Insurance Company), that expands the material presented in the series, Slavery and the Making of America  delivers an epiphany of knowledge, insight and freedom to all viewers. A+   For more information visit

“Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (Paramount Home Entertainment) 
Celebrated director Ken Burns explores the life and times of America’s first Black heavy weight champion with unflinching honesty with this provocative DVD documentary. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, Courtney B. Vance and Billy Bob Thornton, and seen earlier this year in two-parts on PBS, Unforgivable Blackness sets the record straight on the life and times of an American original who live his life on his own terms and transformed the perception of Blacks in sports forever. A+

 Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed (Fox Home Entertainment) 
It’s no secret that amazing Black women are at the cornerstone of African American history; few women personify this truth more than Shirley Chisholm. Presented with great detail by first time director and Ken Burn’s prodigy Shola Lynch, this DVD offers a comprehensive account of the congresswoman’s controversial bid for presidency.  Featuring tons of archival footage, plus a recent interview with the congresswoman conducted shortly before her death, Unbought and Unbossed shines light on a true pioneer in American politics who was an example for women and all who strive for change and excellence. For more information please visit

Lackawanna Blues (HBO) 
Noted actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s semi-autobiographical tale of his life growing up in an urban African America community before desegregation is brought to life with “Lackawanna Blues” debuting this Saturday, February 12 on HBO. Presented with extreme candour, respect and love, by noted theatrical writer/director George Wolfe who makes his film-directing debut with this poignant and powerful story that centres around  the relationship between Rachel “Nanny” Crosby and a young boy, who she adopts as her son. Filled with colourful characters and underscored by provocative commentary that examines the pros and cons of segregation, Lackawanna Blues delivers bountiful gifts that will leave a smile on your face for a long time to come. A+ 

A regular edition of Robertson Treatment Syndicated Column (RTSC) returns in two weeks with a spotlight on the legendary Ebony Fashion Show.




Doodling With Google Logo Is His Special Artistry

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hutsul, Staff Reporter

(Feb. 13, 2005) If you're a young student who gets into trouble for doodling during class, you should probably read this. And after you've read it, you should clip it out, laminate it, punch two holes in the top, loop a string through those holes, and wear it to school like a necklace.  This story is about your new hero, a guy who doodled a lot as a kid then landed one of the sweetest gigs in the world because of it.  At 26, Dennis Hwang is already in his fifth year at Google Inc. As an international webmaster, he spends most of his time programming and managing site content. But Hwang has another, more creative role.  He's the artist behind the illustrated Google logos that seem to pop up magically on holidays and important anniversaries. If you're a regular user of the popular Internet search engine, you've probably seen Hwang's beautifully rendered designs, including one for the Chinese New Year last Wednesday. By incorporating images into the letters that make up Google's corporate logo, he has celebrated everything from Earth Day to the 100th anniversary of flight.  In doing so, Hwang brings a splash of colour to an online institution that's really not much more than an elaborate web-based indexing program.  "It makes things really fun, and our users appreciate it too," says Hwang from the Google offices in Mountain View, Calif. "It makes people feel that Google is connected to the same world that they live in. It's not some automated machine that's just chugging along, there's actually people working behind the scenes."  Though he was born in Knoxville, Tenn., Hwang spent most of his childhood in South Korea. It was there that he developed a love of drawing — a love that would eventually put him at odds with his teachers.  "Often my teachers frowned upon my doodling in class," says Hwang. "But my parents always supported my hobbies."

When Hwang returned to America as a teenager, he was determined to become an artist. While studying fine arts at Stanford in California, he began to dabble in computer sciences. He had a knack for HTML, the principal programming language that websites are written in, and in 2000 landed an internship with a little company called Google.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company's founders, had been experimenting with revisions to the Google logo for special events (in 1999, the first time they tried it, they added a "burning man" to the logo to let pals know they'd be at the Burning Man festival in Nevada for a few days). But Page and Brin were unhappy with the quality of the drawings they were getting from a freelancer. On one occasion, they asked Hwang, knowing that he was an art major, to redraw one of the submissions. He did — and it was exactly what they were looking for.  "After that, it became an unofficial side job," says Hwang, who was hired later that year. "The founders increasingly trusted my ideas, and I've been doing it since then."  We asked Hwang if there'd be a special logo tomorrow for Valentine's Day, but he couldn't say for sure. That's the thing about the special Google logos: There's no set list of events to illustrate, and users never know when one is going to pop up.  Hwang takes pride in bringing attention to somewhat obscure events and anniversaries. In 2002, Hwang celebrated the birthday of artist Piet Mondrian. In 2003, he showcased the 50th anniversary of the understanding of DNA. Last summer, he commemorated the summer Olympics with a series of sport-related logos. In each case — he's created nearly 200 such images to date — Hwang researches his subject thoroughly to ensure he doesn't get any symbols wrong.  Like other Googlers, as the employees call themselves, Hwang puts in long hours at Google's corporate headquarters, but he feels good about having a challenging technical job that allows him to explore his childhood passion.  "It's very gratifying," say Hwang. "I can do technical work and creative work ... When I feel I need to draw, I can do it, and it gets to be seen by millions of people."

For an archive of logos, visit




CNN News Chief Resigns

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 11, 2005) New York — CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan quit Friday amid a furor over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq. Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy. During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum last month, Jordan said he believed several journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted. He quickly backed off the remarks, explaining he meant to distinguish between journalists killed because they were in the wrong place where a bomb fell, for example, and those killed because they were shot at by U.S. forces who mistook them for the enemy. "I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise," Jordan said in a memo to fellow staff members at CNN. But the damage had been done, compounded by the fact no transcript of his actual remarks has turned up. There was an online petition calling on CNN to find a transcript and fire Jordan if he said the military had intentionally killed journalists. After several management restructurings at CNN, Jordan actually had no current operational responsibility over network programming. But he was CNN's chief fix-it man overseas, arranging coverage in dangerous or hard-to-reach parts of the world. "I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq," Jordan said. "I have devoted my professional life to helping make CNN the most trusted and respected news outlet in the world and I would never do anything to compromise my work or that of the thousands of talented people it is my honour to work alongside," he said. Jordan joined CNN in 1982 as an assistant assignment editor on the national news desk. CNN's global newsgathering infrastructure is chiefly the result of Jordan's work, said Jim Walton, chief of the CNN News Group.




Dash’s ‘House of Rocawear’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 14, 2005) *On Wednesday, Roc-A-Fella mogul Damon Dash teamed with famed designer Patricia Field to launch their House of Rocawear collection at the Hotel Gansevoort during New York Fashion Week. The shindig celebrated the 30-piece limited-edition collection, created by Field for fall. DJ Clark Kent served as DJ for the night, which included guests Ja Rule, Lil' Kim, Cam'ron, Naomi Campbell, Irv Gotti, Mark McGrath and Michael Imperioli.







Is Stress Making You Fat?

By Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

(Feb. 16, 2005) From rising terror alerts to falling stock prices, today's world provides ample stimulation to trigger a stressful response. But did you know that this stress response could be making you fat?

The Flight or Fight Response

Millions of years ago, our cavemen ancestors needed to react swiftly to any perceived threat. This flight or fight response was designed to provide quick energy for 5-10 minutes, enabling our forefathers and mothers to either do battle or run.  At the first sign of perceived danger, the human brain releases a substance known as corticotropin-releasing-hormone, or CRH. CRH travels to the adrenal cortex and stimulates the release of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol.  Immediately eyesight and hearing improve, lung capacity jumps, and thinking becomes more focused. The digestive system is temporarily shut down, and blood is shunted from the internal organs for emergency use elsewhere. Heart rate and blood pressure climb, and due to increased cortisol levels, more stored fuel (fat and glucose) is mobilized for quick action.  Production of insulin, the fat storage hormone, is also dramatically increased. Insulin overrides signals from adrenalin to burn fat, and instead, encourages the body to store fat (for future use) in the abdominal region.  For a great ab workout, click here.  This life-saving, emergency response plan was appropriate to an era when your biggest concern was surviving the day. But when was the last time you reacted to a stressful situation by actually fighting or running away? Unfortunately, the human brain cannot distinguish between a valid physical threat and ordinary, day-to-day stress. For many stressed-out individuals, the flight or fight response is triggered on an almost continuous basis.

Here's what we know so far:  Your body reacts to stress and prepares itself to run or fight by releasing certain hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, insulin). Your brain cannot distinguish between chronic stress and a life-threatening situation, and will react the same in both cases. In today’s world, physical threats are few and far between, but day-to-day stress is chronic, and can also trigger the flight or fight response.

Cortisol is the Culprit

As you sit in your car and stew over the wall of traffic in front of you, the deadlines at work you’ll never meet, and the bills you can’t pay, your brain begins to sense the onset of a threatening situation and sets the flight or fight response into motion.  You feel this as nervous tension or just plain anxiety. Your heart pounds, you want to jump out of your skin, but you can only sit. All that extra fuel (in the form of fat and glucose) that's designed to provide you with emergency energy, is now being mobilized for action, but goes unused and left behind, only to be re-deposited as fat. And to make matters worse, usually belly-fat.  High cortisol levels are associated with increased appetite and fat deposits, typically around the trunk and abdomen. Some researches theorize that this unused fuel (or fat) is generally deposited in the abdominal area because of its proximity to the liver (where it can be quickly converted to a usable form of energy).

The Adrenalin Antidote

As part of the body's short-term protective measures, Cortisol acts like the adrenalin antidote. Upon removal of the stressful stimulus, adrenalin levels quickly dissipate, but cortisol levels remain high, causing insulin production to surge as well.  In the face of prolonged or chronic stress, cortisol levels can remain constantly high, keeping you in a state of perpetual hunger. We can easily see how elevated cortisol levels can promote weight gain due to an overabundance of insulin. Insulin resistance, which affects 25 percent of all Americans, is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  The average caveman was well served by a system that signaled him to eat after every emergency, and where total energy expenditure was not uncommon. Today true physical emergencies are rare, but this short-term protective mechanism, although somewhat outdated, still works, and the act of going out and obtaining food burns only as few calories as it takes to drive to the nearest supermarket or McDonald's (about one french fry).  The stress response is hardwired into the fabric of our lives. Ask the average man or woman off the street if he or she gets stressed out on a regular basis, and you’ll most likely hear an emphatic, "Yes!" So if we can’t eliminate stress, how can we combat the negative effects of the flight or fight response?  One of the most obvious ways to combat fat and the ravages of stress is with exercise. Exercise represents a triple threat to body fat. First, exercise burns calories and utilizes stored body fat as fuel. Second, working out increases the amount of lean muscle mass your body must provide with fuel on a 24-hour basis. More muscle means less fat.  Researchers from Yale University have now clearly demonstrated a third mechanism by which exercise reduces stores of body fat, especially around the belly. They've demonstrated that moderate to vigorous exercise, such as lifting weights, can offset the negative effects of cortisol and insulin.

With as little as 10 minutes of strenuous exercise the brain begins to produce beta-endorphins that calm you and decrease levels of the stress hormone. Many feel that strenuous exercise actually mimics a typical caveman-like physical reaction to a threat, and is the modern-day version of an appropriate reaction to the flight or fight response.  Don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can actually cause additional stress and associated symptoms. Be sure to get plenty of rest. Inadequate sleep increases cortisol levels and reduces leptin, a hormone that signals fullness.  Common sense dictates that you eat right, get plenty of sleep, and exercise, but now we have another weapon in the battle of the bulge; stress management. Be sure to not ignore the signs of being overstressed, of which being overweight is just one symptom.  Another victim of stress is the youth-promoting hormone Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. DHEA is a naturally occurring feel-good hormone that’s been shown to decline under times of physical and emotional trauma, and may be another connection between stress and weight gain.  Researches have found that DHEA levels can be easily elevated during meditation, as well as by exercise. In a similar fashion to the beta-endorphins that are released during vigorous activities, DHEA production increases during meditation. This process reduces blood cortisol levels and combats the negative effects of stress.  Recognize symptoms and do something today, whether through exercise or other types of stress management techniques such as psychotherapy, hypnosis, taking up a hobby, or meditation. Take back control of your life.

Early warning signs of stress:

·  Sudden weight loss or weight gain

·  Tired but can’t sleep, excessive fatigue

·  Speech difficulties, impatience

·  Headaches, repeated colds or flu

·  Nail biting, teeth grinding

·  Low or high blood sugar

·  Low or high blood pressure

·  High cholesterol or triglycerides

·  Ulcers and gastric disturbances

·  Chest pains, muscle aches

·  Lower back, shoulder, neck pain

·  Menstrual problems, hair loss

·  Forgetfulness, withdraw from social life




EVENTS –FEBRUARY 17 - 27, 2005




KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

(Jan. 18, 2005) KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  This year's edition of Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre celebrates African Heritage Month with two jam-packed weekends of music concerts and dance premieres, engaging and provocative readings and panels, a film series curated by the Get Reel Film Festival, a visual arts exhibition premiere and a variety of family activities.  Kuumba's full tenth anniversary activities begin on February 5 and February 6 and continue February 12 and February 13, 2005. All events, except where noted, are free admission and appropriate for all ages. Complete Kuumba program below: The Kuumba cultural programme is also part of Harbourfront Centre's Winter exploration of HE. The changing nature of the male identity and shifting notions of man's role in society are embedded as sub-themes in select Kuumba events. For more information the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit .  All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto).




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
10:00 pm
EVENT PROFILE: Monday nights at IRIE continue their tradition.  Carl Cassell’s original art and IRIE itself will be featured in the January 2005 issue of Toronto Life!  It’s no surprise to me that Toronto Life has chosen Carl Cassell, in their quest to reveal those restaurants that also offer the unique addition of original art.  Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture.




Revival Bar  
783 College Street (at Shaw)  
10:00 pm  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!  

Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment