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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  April 6, 2006


This week brings us a lot of
Juno coverage which you can see below.  And this week's top stories fills us in on a new entertainment law firm that caters to artists.  As well, there's news on this month's ReelWorld Film Festival on April 19-23, 2006 - taking place downtown this year.  Next weekend is Easter so let's get ready to celebrate the first long weekend since Christmas! 

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER 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 EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.

::JUNO COVERAGE::

Artists Jibe At Junos

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic


(Apr. 3, 2006) HALIFAX—There's been talk of a revolution in Canadian music these past few years, but it was croon-pop schlockmeister Michael Bublé striking decisive blows for the old guard all weekend long at this year's
Juno Awards.  The suit-and-tied Vancouver throwback to the swingin' cocktail-lounge sounds of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett walked away from the Halifax Metro Centre with four statues by the time two consecutive nights of award presentations wound down with CTV's starstruck Juno broadcast last night.  Bublé, a critical punching bag who has nevertheless logged massive record sales on both sides of the border putting schmaltzy spins on familiar pop standards, collected trophies for Artist of the Year, Single of the Year for "Home" and Album and Pop Album of the Year for his sophomore album, This Time.  "I don't know what to say. I feel like Kelly Clarkson a bit," he quipped after his fourth trip to the podium. Later, clutching his four trophies and babbling with endearing enthusiasm, he told the press backstage: "It was only a few years ago that a nervous young kid won Best New Artist and I walked into this room and they asked if anyone had any questions and no one did. Until someone said: `Is it `Booble' or `Bubble'?' ...  "I know there are some people who hate what I do, I know there are some people who love it and there are some people who don't give a damn. But my family loves it and they're the most important to me."  The rest of the winners at the closing ceremony, unevenly hosted by ex-pat Vancouver Island sex kitten Pamela Anderson, painted a somewhat more contemporary picture of today's vibrant, internationally celebrated domestic music scene.  Popular Montreal pop-punk moppets Simple Plan received more votes than Céline Dion, Nickelback and Diana Krall — and denied five-time nominee Bublé a sweep — to pick up the Fan Choice Award.  Young Kingston fusioneers Bedouin Soundclash — whose "When the Night Feels My Song," released on the tiny Montreal ska label Stomp Records has been an international smash — were named new group of the year. Indie-rock orchestras Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire, meanwhile, collected a trophy apiece.

Many observers felt Montreal underground heroes the Arcade Fire, still selling thousands of copies of its two-year-old Funeral album around the world each week, were unfairly snubbed in major categories that awarded eight nominations to Canadian Idol refugees yet largely ignored the country's thriving independent music scene. Arcade Fire's win in the Songwriter of the Year category for "Wake Up," "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)" thus seemed less like a triumphant moment than a conciliatory one.  Shaggy-dog Torontonians Broken took home their second Alternative Album Juno for their eponymous second album and injected a welcome note of unpredictability by bringing a full complement of 16 Social Scenesters (including exiled-in-Paris songbird and former Juno winner Leslie Feist, who lost Single of the Year to Bublé) to perform a rangy version of "Ibi: Dreams of Pavement" on the show.  "We didn't have this many people with us last time so we can all celebrate a little more this time," remarked bassist Brendan Canning, joined backstage by a boozy extended Broken family that included producer Dave Newfeld, the Arts and Crafts label staff and Toronto rapper k-os.  The presence of the likes of Broken, iconoclastic Halifax rapper Buck 65 and Bedouin Soundclash playing alongside Nickelback, Hall of Fame inductee Bryan Adams and slumming foreigners Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas, as well as the decision to present the Alternative Album award on air for the first time, were somewhat face-saving gestures. The Junos have drawn intense criticism this year for largely ignoring the independent-music explosion that's made Canadian acts like Broken, Feist and the Fire, Death from Above 1979, Metric and Hot Hot Heat hot international commodities.  The final awards breakdown — which also witnessed double wins for Nickelback, Neil Young and Toronto's Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra — actually came out slightly more representative of what's going on in Canada today than the emphasis on CTV's Canadian Idol franchise, but that didn't stop some sniping throughout the night.  K-os shrugged off his on-camera introduction to Coldplay's performance by mumbling something about profits and cynicism, while presenter Kardinal Offishall quipped on camera that he was just going to present the Artist of the Year award to himself, "because they never give me a Juno."  Backstage, too, the Broken Social Scene horde made a point of expressing its distaste for the short-sighted industry thinking that's given us three seasons' worth of sacrificial Idol lambs.

"I feel really sorry for the kids on Canadian Idol because they're going absolutely nowhere and I think it's a trick," said Scenester Kevin Drew.  The lads in bi-racial trio Bedouin Soundclash took aim at the indie-rock nation embodied by Broken and Arcade Fire for not being representative of Canada's diverse makeup and failing to live up to its potential for "a more multicultural approach." They praised host city Halifax and elder statesmen like Sloan and Joel Plaskett (formerly of Thrush Hermit), however, for nurturing a local early-`90s indie scene "that helped put Canada on the map."  "It's really nice to get out of Toronto. People in Halifax just like music. It's totally unpretentious..."  Anderson's wobbly standup skills as host weren't exactly helped along by her attempt at the top of the broadcast to draw attention back to her fight against the Newfoundland seal hunt. "One of my favourite artists couldn't be here tonight: Seal. He was afraid he was going to get clubbed to death," she said.  Alan Doyle, front man for Newfoundland folk-rockers Great Big Sea, missed an opportunity to shoot back when he later co-presented the Songwriter of the Year award. It was left to Alberta girl Jann Arden to offer a retort: "I just want everyone to know that my brassiere is made entirely of seal eyelids."

Two Faces Of The Juno Awards

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(Apr. 1, 2006) It's an awkward time to be the
Juno Awards.  A good time, all in all: This weekend's slate of Juno events in Halifax will culminate tomorrow night in arguably the most star-studded and high-profile ceremony in the awards' 35-year history.  Shoring up a roster of homegrown performers that includes such internationally proven success stories as Nickelback, Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, Buck 65 and Toronto's very own Broken Social Scene this year will be the platinum-plated presences of American hip-hop outfit Black Eyed Peas and U.K. superstars Coldplay — not to mention the buxom draw of expat B.C. sex kitten Pamela Anderson, who will be giggling behind the podium as host of CTV's Juno broadcast from the Halifax Metro Centre.  Still, the disparity between the public face of the Junos that will be presented to TV viewers tomorrow night and the old-guard stance of the nominees list itself suggests the behind-the-scenes powers that be haven't quite figured out what to do with their new position.  This year's Junos arrive at a moment when Canada's recent surge to prominence as an exporter of not just workmanlike arena rock and trilling songbirds of the Céline/Shania/Sarah variety, but of globally admired, hipster-approved independent talent, has become almost enshrined. Thanks to the cross-border acclaim and solid international record and ticket sales enjoyed by the likes of Broken and Buck, the Arcade Fire, Metric, Stars, the New Pornographers and Feist, "Canadian" has become a stamp of "cool" in the taste-making pages of Pitchfork and the NME. Believe it or not, the word "Canadian" actually raises eyebrows.

Our domestic music industry, beset though it is by the omnipresent Internet boogeyman, has a lot to crow about these days. And a large platform from which to crow:  The Juno broadcast has drawn record numbers of viewers each year since CTV took over from CBC in 2002 and started glitzing the thing up, luring a reported 1.34 million fans to the tube last year alone.  This year, the network is aiming even higher, making the broadcast available to 11 MTV and VH1 networks around the globe and a potential audience rather optimistically pegged at a half-billion.  Meanwhile, the decision to jog the ceremony out of its Toronto/Hamilton rut and move it around from city to city, starting with St. John's in 2002 and Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg in subsequent years, has lent the aura of a bona fide "event" to the proceedings.  Old habits die hard, though. It does nothing, for instance, for the Junos' credibility to have two former Canadian Idol contestants, 2004 winner Kalan Porter and last year's runner-up Rex Goudie, competing for artist and album of the year while Neil Young and his acclaimed commercial comeback, Prairie Wind, are sloughed off to the "adult alternative album of the year" ghetto.  Yes, record sales determine who makes it onto the shortlist for some of the major categories, explaining why a seasonal toss-off like Diana Krall's Christmas Songs can be in the running for album of the year and why perennial hitmakers Nickelback and Bublé dominate the nominations. Symbolically, though, the heavy Idol presence — Porter's old nemeses Theresa Sokyrka and Jacob Hoggard (as a member of Hedley) are also up for trophies — speaks to the mainstream recording industry's continued, short-sighted pursuit of short-term gains over long-term vision.  This is what the majors are pushing, when artists like the Arcade Fire, Death from Above 1979 and Broken — acts with committed international followings and a shot at lasting careers — can move units in the six-figure range on independent labels with minimal budgets and a fraction of the staff?  With all due respect to the Canadian Idol kids, the odds we'll be seeing them on the Junos 10 or even five years from now aren't great. Ask Ryan Malcolm.

Why not at least grant Montreal's Arcade Fire, whose unstoppable 2004 album Funeral ranked amongst the most highly acclaimed in the world last year and has sold nearly half a million copies worldwide, a token spot in the group of the year category?  Instead, we get rote nominees with a much-diminished presence in the public consciousness, such as Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo and Our Lady Peace vying with Nickelback and its cookie-cutter spawn, Theory of a Deadman.  "You know how it is with the Junos. It's to remind the Canadian music industry that it's still working," shrugs Broken Social Scenester Kevin Drew. "We're gonna go down there as a group of friends and play our hearts out on television, and then we're gonna come home as a group of friends and all the stuff in the middle will be filler. It's just another time to remind our friends and ourselves that we're all doing well and life is to be lived and things are good."  Drew and the BSS extended family took home an alternative album of the year Juno in 2003 for their underground hit You Forgot it in People. But as with most performers who earn awards in the non-marquee categories, their moment of triumph didn't make the Sunday-night broadcast and was relegated to the invite-only "gala" soiree the night before, during which the bulk of the trophies are handed out. This year, only seven of the 39 Junos will actually be presented on air.  "It's all about the night before, really," says Drew. "That's when the true talent is out. You've got the bluegrass and the children's records and the gospel and all that.  "I always like going the night before because then you feel like you're with your peers and you feel like you're with the people who are trying hard to get their stature advanced, who are working hard to make sure they can still make music. They're the ones with families. They don't have the cars and the bling and you're not gonna see them on MuchMusic's version of Cribs.  "Besides that, it's just another three-day weekend to have lots of drinks and talk to people who are really not that significant to the idea of (artistic) creation. But you've gotta love `em because, you know, they need jobs."

Given the underlying reason for the Junos' existence — i.e., to stimulate sales of domestic albums — it would make sense to hand at least a couple of "lesser" winners a trophy on camera, rather than letting Nickelback make four separate trips to the podium in honour of a record that's already moved several million copies.  This year, mind you, there's even less floor space for homegrown acts, since they've had to cede two performance spots to ratings-grabbing imports Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas.  The latter's presence is particularly rankling to Canadian hip-hop artists, who have been fighting for increased recognition at the Junos ever since the Rascalz returned their rap album of the year trophy in 1998 because the category wasn't part of the broadcast.  "It kind of goes to show you what they feel is important or not," offers Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall, who is up in the rap recording category this year for Fire & Glory and, aside from the Peas, will be the only visible hip-hop act. "You know, as far as I know, the Black Eyed Peas aren't in the rap category. It's just one of those things. I guess they're going to let me go onstage and present an award, but I think I'm the only real Canadian hip-hop artist represented on the broadcast.  "A few years ago, after the Rascalz gave back their award, the next year they had us back and made us all win with `Northern Touch.' And that's the way it is. Unless you force their hand, they don't really care. They're always gonna do what they want."

Crooner Bublé Captures Three Junos

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green

(Apr. 3, 2006) HALIFAX — Pamela Anderson took her anti-seal-hunt campaign on national television last night, launching the 2006 Juno Awards show with a blunt denunciation of the hunt. "I don't mind seeing a little blood on the ice if it's a hockey game," she said. "But as you know, I hate seeing blood on the ice when it's baby seals." To boos from the capacity crowd at the Halifax Metro Centre, Ms. Anderson said, "I can take it, I can take it." She also joked that "one of my favourite artists couldn't get here tonight: Seal," referring to the British soul-hop singer. "He was afraid he was going to get clubbed." Ms. Anderson's ripostes went unchallenged until late in the broadcast, when presenter Jann Arden quipped: "I want everyone to know that my brassiere is entirely made of seal eyelid." Great Big Sea member Alan Doyle, who has criticized celebrities who fly in to speak against the hunt, also had a turn at the microphone, but he stuck to the written script. Vancouver lounge crooner Michael Bublé was the evening's big winner, adding three awards (album, artist and single of the year) to the pop album award he won at a closed-door ceremony on Saturday. Mr. Bublé also gave an off-key performance of his soft-pop single, Home. "I'm absolutely blown away," he said after his first award. "I desperately wanted to win. . . . I feel like [American Idol and Grammy winner] Kelly Clarkson a bit." After the show, Mr. Bublé struck a modest tone, telling a media scrum: "I know that there are some people who hate what I do. . . . This is a subjective business. It's not necessarily true that the best guy or the best band won tonight. . . . But damn, this feels good."

Nickelback, which topped the field of nominees with mentions in six categories and performed during the show, failed to claim a trophy during the broadcast awards, winning two (group of the year and rock record) at Saturday's award ceremony. The band tied with Neil Young (adult alternative album and producer of the year) and Tafelmusik (children's recording and classical album, large ensemble). All four Canadian Idol finalists (Kalan Porter, Jacob Hoggard, Rex Goudie and Theresa Sokyrka) were turned aside, as the Idols failed to convert any of their eight nominations. But Porter and Goudie both appeared as presenters, and Hoggard's band, Hedley, took the last performance spot on the two-hour broadcast. The other performers were Nickelback, Bedouin Soundclash, Broken Social Scene, Massari and Divine Brown, who sang the show's longest note near the close of her single, Old Skool Love. The set for the show was dominated by a set of translucent prisms jutting up from the stage like shards of breaking ice, and a narrow catwalk that curved around the audience standing on the stadium floor. Curling light strips overhead seemed intended to evoke the Northern Lights. Ms. Anderson spent much of the evening changing from one skimpy costume to another, leaving the bulk of the hosting job to Nova Scotia hip-hop storyteller Buck 65, who rapped the opening segment through a giant megaphone. Ms. Anderson didn't live up to CTV's advance promotion of her comic talents, and delivered some of her gags as if reading them for the first time. Her script traded heavily on her bombshell image, with introductory lines such as "This next performer gets me really hot" (for Mr. Bublé) and "Give me some Hedley!"

Bryan Adams was honoured as this year's inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, after being introduced by Coldplay's Chris Martin, who did the evening's wittiest mid-readings of a prepared script. Mr. Adams performed a flinty version of 18 'Till I Die, and easily bested all other winners with the length and thoroughness of his thank-you list. "Had I started anywhere else but Vancouver, I would not be here tonight," said the well-travelled rocker. Kingston's Bedouin Soundclash took the award for best new group, Toronto's Broken Social Scene won for alternative album, and Montreal's Simple Plan won the fan choice award. The non-broadcast award winners included Diana Krall (vocal jazz album), Arcade Fire (songwriting), Daniel Powter (new artist), K'naan (rap album), Shawn Desman (R&B/soul album), Corb Lund (roots & traditional album), Christos Hatzis (classical composition) and Marc-André Hamelin (classical album, solo).

For all the winners, go to my page at 2006 Juno Winners.

Broken Social Scene Slams 'Idol' Industry After Juno Win

Source: Angela Pacienza,
Canadian Press

(Apr. 3, 2006) HALIFAX — Time for a power shuffle in the Canadian music industry? Broken Social Scene thinks so.  Following their Juno win, members of the Toronto indie band took some shots at the major label side of the industry, slamming the Canadian Idol star-making machine. "I feel really sorry for those kids in Canadian Idol because they're going absolutely nowhere," singer Kevin Drew said backstage after Sunday's awards. "It's a trick . . . It's a Canadian music industry downfall because in three years no one is going to remember them." The outburst came after Broken Social Scene picked up a Juno for best alternative album.  The group went backstage to meet with reporters, who wanted to know what Drew meant in his acceptance speech when he said: "Is there going to be a change in Canadian music?" All four nominated Canadian Idols — Kalan Porter, Jacob Hoggard, Theresa Sokyrka and Rex Goudie — went home empty handed.

Drew suggested the Idol franchise and the record labels toss young artists out into the public too soon just to make a fast buck.  Hyped around the globe by tastemakers, Broken Social Scene is a major player in the indie rock scene, which has been edging its way into the mainstream of late. They are joined by other Canadian groups such as Stars, Black Mountain, Metric and New Pornographers — all represented by small, independently run labels, which Drew says take the time to foster talent. "I think things should have gotten a lot smaller years ago," said Drew. "It has to change . . . People are still going for the 'instant."'  Leslie Feist — who plays with Broken Social Scene — pointed to the Idols' lack of experience.  "Collectively we probably have 200 years worth of gig experience. I feel only empathy . . . for the kids that are put in that position before they have those road scars," she said Sunday. Susanne Boyce, president of CTV programming, seemed bemused by the backstage remarks. "Whether you have 200 years of (experience) or a day of it — the audiences will connect with you or not," she said Monday, adding that many of the Idols do have previous performing experience. "Why trash somebody else?"  Boyce went on to say that the Canadian music scene is big enough for all types of performers. "What's lovely is when you see that the world has embraced Canadian music ... so it's all fine," she said. "I'm very proud of the whole Canadian music scene. I feel strongly about celebrating all the successes. According to CTV, the Juno audience peaked at 2.1 million viewers Sunday night and was up almost 30 per cent from last year.

Viewers Served Some Eye Candy

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Andrew Ryan, aryan@globeandmail.com

(Apr. 3, 2006) It seemed Pam Anderson didn't know what to do on last night's
Junos telecast, so she could only be herself. She bounced, she flounced, she told a few jokes. And she wore several low-cut tops. In the end, she was simply Pam. The pneumatic Ms. Anderson was a game but rather lame Junos host. The B.C.-born actress and media curiosity was used very rarely, and to predictable effect. She was wedged in between the dozen or so musical performances on the live, two-hour show.  Every half hour or so, Pam would turn up to read something off the teleprompter. Her total elapsed screen time on the show was less than five minutes. It must be the easiest paycheque she's ever earned.  Ms. Anderson, 39, opened the show, strutting out on stage at the Halifax Metro Centre, wearing an extremely low-cut black dress and made immediate acknowledgement of her most notable assets: "The Canadian music scene is bursting at the seam [looks down at her chest]. Imagine that!"  As expected, Pam could not open the show without referencing her recent comments speaking out against the annual seal hunt in neighbouring Newfoundland and Labrador.  "Unfortunately, one of my favourite artists couldn't be here tonight -- Seal. He was afraid he was going to get clubbed," Ms. Anderson said. The groaner drew a few catcalls. Undeterred, Ms. Anderson tried to drive the point further home with another joke about how she loved hockey but, "I hate seeing blood on the ice -- when it's baby seals."  A low rumbling response of disapproval arose from the crowd.

As with all Juno shows, it was a rock-themed affair and she was the girl hired to sit on the motorcycle.  Ms. Anderson’s wardrobe accelerated from cheesecake to, well, sleazy. In her second appearance, she came out in tiny white satin shorts and heels, wearing another exposed-cleavage top and a tiny jacket.  She tried to work her comic skills in her brief allotted segments. To be fair, she was hobbled by terrible material. "Would the person who parked in the fire lane please move their SAV [sic]. Their licence plate is Big Pimp," she said. The camera went to a tight close-up of Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith in the crowd. "Ron, you're going to get towed!" Nobody appeared to get the gag, including Ms. Anderson. Third costume change: Pam came out to introduce the tribute to Bryan Adams. Same white shorts, matched with a black see-through blouse unbuttoned to the waist. Losers in crowd shrieked, "We love you, Pam!" Pam looked coy, said, "I love you, too." After another, even longer break, she came back out, still in the blouse and shorts combo, to introduce multiple Juno winner Michael Bublé. "This next performer gets me really hot," said Pam. And so it went. Rather than assuming a regular host's role, Ms. Anderson did what she does for a living: Stand there and giggle, and heave her chest. Her fourth and final appearance was to sign off the show, by which point she had changed into a gauzy white, very short number that was either a mini-dress or a bathrobe. It was also her most expansive cleavage exposure of the evening. "Oh, gosh, I had such a great time!" gushed Pam, jumping up and down on a raised platform, blowing kisses to the crowd.  Ms. Anderson was doled out in small leering doses, presumably to appeal to the predominantly male audience who might watch a rock-dominated show. She was the TV eye candy on the Junos telecast.

Buble Cleans Up At Juno Awards

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter

(Apr. 3, 2006) Vancouver crooner Michael Buble dominated Canada's Junos Awards last night (April 2) in Halifax, grabbing four trophies. He won for best singer, album, artist and pop album of the year for "It's Time" (143/Reprise), a collection of vintage love songs produced by David Foster.  Buble's main competition included "Canadian Idol" alumni Theresa Sokyrka, Kalan Porter and Rex Goudie, all of whom came away from the Canadian kudofest empty-handed.  Other award winners included Alberta rock band Nickelback, which won best group and best rock album for the Roadrunner set "All The Right Reasons." The band went into the Junos with a field-leading six nominations.  Rock legend Neil Young earned trophies for best adult alternative album for "Prairie Wind" (Reprise) and the best producer award. That brings his take over the years to five Junos (and zero Grammys).  Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas shared the international album of the year award, reflecting retail record sales here of "X&Y" (Capitol) and "Monkey Business (A&M), respectively.  The Juno fan choice award, voted on by the Canadian public, went to Simple Plan, while another rising band, Bedouin Soundclash, earned the new group of the year honour.  Other Juno winners included Broken Social Scene's self-titled Arts & Crafts set for best alternative album, and current Billboard Hot 100 champ Daniel Powter for best new artist of the year.

::TOP STORIES::

Music Law Firm Launches In Canada

By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

(Mar. 15, 2006) A new specialty law firm in Canada, Toronto-based
Taylor Mitsopulos Burshtein Entertainment Lawyers, will focus almost exclusively on music clientele.  Formed by top music lawyer Chris Taylor, whose clients include Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Nelly Furtado, Billy Talent, Three Days Grace, Sam Roberts, Hot Hot Heat, and k-os, the firm does not represent major record labels. "We leave that to other firms," Taylor explains. "We are artist-side lawyers."  Hiring associates Stacey Mitsopulos, Lynn Burshtein, Jason Klein and Miro Oballa -- Mitsopulos and Burshtein are both on the letterhead -- Taylor's stable of music lawyers will help with the existing roster and take on new clients, something he had to pull back on in recent years, as his once-unsigned clients became increasingly successful, requiring more of his time.  Taylor, Mitsopulos and Burshtein all come from Sanderson Taylor Entertainment Lawyers, where they were associates of entertainment law veteran Paul Sanderson, who has represented music, arts and film clients since 1983 and is author of "Musicians and the Law in Canada."  Mitsopulos was brought into the firm four years ago by Taylor, who later partnered with her to co-manage rock duo Death From Above 1979. Her law clients include bands Silverstein, Moneen, and Small Sins (formerly Ladies and Gentlemen). Burshtein had been with the practice two years. Her key clients include electronic violinist Dr. Draw and eTalk Daily's Anna Cyzon.  "Jason, Miro, Stacey and Lynn are all actively out there looking for new clients and I'm out there too, maybe not as much as I was three or four years ago," says Taylor. "Before (at Sanderson Taylor), I think we were losing that development side of what we were doing a little bit just because we were so busy servicing our current roster."  Taylor himself began his career in the music business in 1990, fronting reggae-pop act One, which signed to Virgin Music Canada in 1994 for one album. After disbanding, the Windsor, ON native completed law school and joined Paul Sanderson & Associates, which was renamed Sanderson Taylor Entertainment Lawyers in 1999.

"When I had my name on the letterhead, that was as far as I wanted to go. I would have been happy with that," Taylor says.  Taylor had been with Sanderson for three years and did the Furtado, Sum 41 and k-os deals. Those three artists, and later Sam Roberts, Billy Talent, Three Days Grace, were all unknown musicians seeking a recording contract when Taylor heard and saw something special in them. Billy Talent and Three Days Grace didn't even have management at the time.  He put his reputation on the line and shopped their early demos to labels, both in Canada and the U.S.  As more and more of his clients landed major deals, Taylor became "the" guy to get on your side, if you were a Canadian artist seeking a deal. He was both selective and busy, and often had to turn down artists or they would go elsewhere.  He brought in Mitsopulos to help with the workload, but ironically took on more, albeit outside the firm.  He started Last Gang Records, with partner Donald Tarlton of DKD Group of Labels, for those artists such as Metric and DFA 1979 for which he couldn't get deals. The roster also includes Tiga; From Fiction; a DFA side project/production team, MSTRKRFT; and the solo project of Metric's Emily Haines.  He also formed Last Gang Management, co-managing Death From Above 1979 and MSTRKRFT with Mitsopulos, and Metric with Matt Drouin.  Just before Christmas, as the lease at Sanderson Taylor Entertainment Lawyers' cramped John Street office was up for renewal come March 1, Taylor and Sanderson started to talk about the direction of the firm.  On a practical level, there was literally no room to expand. Already, there were desks in the narrow hallways. But business-wise, they entered into "a respectful, professional discussion" over the next three or four months about whether to sign a new lease or whether to split off.  "I think we built a very successful law firm together over nine years. It just came to a point where it was time for each of us to move on. It's about decision-making and who is going to be leading the charge and I think both Paul and I are leaders," explains Taylor.

He also openly talked to Sanderson about asking Mitsopulos and Burshtein to join him at his own firm.  "I work very closely with Stacey and Lynn," says Taylor. "We'd become a little unit within the law firm.  "Lynn works with me on a lot of Avril stuff for example and Stacey works with me on a lot of Hot Hot Heat and Sam Roberts stuff, so depending on the client, Stacey and Lynn both do a lot of work with me on my client roster. And Stacey's developed a roster above and beyond that as well."  Sanderson was okay with it, says Taylor, and has moved to a new location on Richmond Street W. and started a new practice, Sanderson Entertainment Law with long-time entertainment paralegal Paul Irvine and counsel Frank Farfan. Sanderson set up Taylor Mitsopulos Burshtein Entertainment Lawyers in an office on East Liberty Street.  "I wanted to put (Stacey and Lynn's) names on the letterhead because of the relationship we developed," says Taylor. "I saw them as being a core part of what I was doing going forward and wanted that to be a perk that they had earned over the years."  They are not partners in the firm, rather associates. Taylor carries all overhead and expenses. He is the boss, although he doesn't look at it that way. "The law will look at it that way. It's set up that way. But in reality, even Miro and Jason, everyone has input into this firm."  Klein joined Taylor Mitsopulos Burshtein Entertainment Lawyers from Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Miro Oballa from Goodman and Carr LLP, both in Toronto.  "I think what was important to them is that they had an environment that was nurturing, an environment that was encouraging towards developing a music law practice," believes Taylor. "They both come from Bay street firms where in terms of entertainment practice, music, there's probably less of an inclination to nurture that kind of client.  "I thought they were both good music lawyers, who were out there developing client rosters of their own, but could help us."

For now, Taylor Mitsopulos Burshtein Entertainment Lawyers will focus on servicing artists, managers, record labels, music publishers, and other music industry players. If one of its clients published a book or went into acting, Taylor says the firm wouldn't handle the paperwork at this stage.  "Lynn and Miro and Jason they all have a little bit of TV experience, not a ton but that's an area where we're talking to a few film and TV lawyers about bringing them in to work with us as well. We have room to grow and that's one area we are considering growing in."  Some managers and indie label heads have commented that they wouldn't use Taylor's legal services now because he operates his own label and management companies. They feel uncomfortable that he would see their offer and perhaps come back with a more attractive deal to lure someone to Last Gang, or he may not shop an act properly if he wants to sign it.  "I don't think this logic makes sense," Taylor responds. "The label is an extension of what I have always done as a lawyer: artist development. Nobody wanted Metric. Nobody wanted DFA79. We had to build these from scratch. I didn't 'steal' them from anyone.  "Emily Haines is family so she's signed with us for her solo work. Jesse Keeler is family so he's signed with us for his MSTRKRFT project. The 'shopping' game is 2002. Today, bands and managers build brands with touring and online press/marketing. It's not really a shopping game anymore.  "I am helping my clients build their brands based on my hands-on experience doing it with Last Gang. That experience has made me a much better advisor for my developing bands - and their management/labels," he says.

ReelWorld Film Festival 2006 Unveiled

Source:  Pennant Media Group

(Mar. 23, 2006) Key ReelWorld Film Festival sponsors Citytv, TD Bank Financial Group, CBC Television and Telefilm Canada joined ReelWorld founder and president Tonya Lee Williams today in Toronto as the 2006 Festival programming line up was revealed at the Festival press conference.  The conference was hosted at Rainbow Cinemas Market Square, the general screening venue for this year’s Festival.  Award-winning Canadian filmmaker Claude Gagnon’s “finely crafted” Kamataki is set to open the Festival on April 19. The film stars Matt Smiley. Gagnon was on hand to present the film’s trailer at this morning launch. Both he and Smiley will be attending the Opening Night Screening of their film. Closing the festival on April 23 is the captivating Korean film A Bittersweet Life (Dal-kom-han In-saeng) from renowned director Kim Jee-woon and starring the hugely popular actor, Lee Byung-hun.

Williams’ presentation included announcing this year’s Award of Excellence winner, Graham Greene and ReelWorld Trailblazers Julia Kwan, Priya Rao, Hubert Davis, Annie Frazier, Henry and Floyd Kane. She also officially presented this year’s key art, designed by Joe Taylor of Tempest Design. Other speakers included regional vice president, CHUM Television (Ontario), Nigel Fuller; vice chair TD Bank Asset Management, Satish Rai; program executive Independent Documentary Unit, CBC Television, Sun-Kyung Yi and director, Ontario & Nunavut Regions, Telefilm Canada, Dave Forget.   Highlights of the 2006 ReelWorld Film Festival line up include Barrio Cuba (Cuba), Flip the Script (U.S.), A Very British Bollywood (England), The Toronto Rap Project (Canada) and Lucky (South Africa). Special programming includes French language films, this year’s focus called Le Francophonie Spotlight, the children/youth series and a 100% Canadian music video program. A revamped Industry Series was also spotlighted. The Series will take place at St. Lawrence Hall.

ReelWorld Film Festival takes place April 19-23 at Rainbow Cinemas Market Square.  ReelWorld Film Festival is Canada’s premiere non-profit film festival dedicated to nurturing, promoting and celebrating the full spectrum of racial and culturally diverse film and video. For the past five years, the Film Festival and Foundation have been instrumental in helping talent of colour success in the entertainment industry.  Actress, director and producer Tonya Lee Williams founded ReelWorld in 2001 to provide a platform for emerging individuals of colour in the entertainment industry to build their dreams and hone their skills.

Chaka Khan: From The Fire Came Wings To Soar

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(April 4, 2006) The indomitable spirit and talent of songstress
Chaka Khan is larger than life.  The 8-time Grammy Award winner is a woman that has carved her legacy out of grit and hardship, joy and creative genius.  Life has been both cruel and kind to her and perhaps that is why her voice is so well honed and her songs speak with great passion to the heart of those who listen.  Chaka Khan is a legend who has mastered music of all genres bending it to her will while spitting it out like smouldering fire.  Wherever she performs, Chaka sets the house on fire.   She did just that when she appeared at Lehman College for the Performing Arts, located in Bronx, New York. Chaka Khan, who was born Yvette Marie Stevens, on a naval base in Great Lakes, Illinois and raised on the South Side of Chicago, celebrates her birthday March 23rd.  Known for hits such as “Tell Me Something Good,” “I Feel For You,” “Through the Fire;” “I’m Every Woman;” “Classikhan” and “Ain’t Nobody,” Khan set forth upon a life journey fated to prove she would indeed become ‘somebody.’  At age 11, she formed the group Crystalettes with her sister.  At 18, she became a member of the multiracial group Rufus and earned one platinum album, five gold albums, five gold singles, five number one hits, and two Grammy Awards.  She went solo in 1978, teaming up with Arif Mardin to produce her debut album Chaka. “I’m Every Woman” evolved from that collaboration.  Continuing to perform with Rufus, she and the group scored the hit album Street Player which gave birth to the classic anthem “Stay.”  In 1981, “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me?” became a monster hit.   “I look forward to performing at Lehman, I like working in colleges,” claimed Ms. Khan who came from a musical family.”  Always her own person, Chaka was christened by a Yoruba priest who named her Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi. “Chaka was a Zulu warrior but there is a feminine and masculine pronunciation to the name. I got my name during an African naming ceremony by an African Baba.  I was really culturally into my Pan Africanism then. Chaka is fire, red, Mars” explained the fiery singer who also was part of the Black Panthers and headed up their breakfast program for children.   “When I was 15, I ran away from home.  I worked several gigs and it was then that I meant the group Rufus.  They were in one group and I was in another.  I eventually joined Rufus, which was the best career move I ever made.  I had several hits with Rufus,” remarked Khan who is presently recording a yet to be entitled CD. “I should have a single out by this summer,” promised Chaka.

The road to fame has been a trial by fire which Khan documented in both song and her book entitled “Chaka! Through the Fire”  “I can liken my life to the phoenix wherein out of the trials and tribulations, I have risen. It’s been a purification that has given me strength and empowerment and made me the Woman I Am” claimed Chaka who also produced an album under the same title for Warner Black Music.  In 1982, Chaka released her 4th solo album entitled Chaka Khan which earned her 2 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Performance, Female & Best Vocal Arrangements.  “I’ll Be Good To You” earned a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In 2003, she won another Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance for her version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Interested in humane pursuits Chaka established the Chaka Khan Foundation, an organization that assists women and children at risk.  “We try to help women and children in crisis.  We do mentorship programs for foster kids.  We give money to and find funds for, rehabs and safe houses.  We are doing reading initiative programs as an incentive to help mostly minority kids who want to go to college,” remarked the singer whose heart is a big as her music. “My line of chocolates called “Chakalates” are really good Belgium Chocolates.  We sell them at Neiman Marcus stores in order to raise funds for my projects,” said the well-traveled songstress who has lived in London and Germany and still maintains a home in Europe. The talented and enduring artist has also raised $1 million dollars for autism via a walk-a-thon.  “We do this every year. My sister has a son that is autistic.  I tend to think autism is caused by a virus and mercury poisoning.  I think it strikes hypersensitive children, boys mostly.  Autism is caused when there isn’t enough blood getting to the brainstem,” remarked the performer who appeared in “Mama, I Want To Sing.”  “Some people think it’s a genetic disorder,” stated Chaka.  “Research is still being done.  Some kids have been cured once toxic metals are out of their system.  It’s pandemic now.  One out of 600 children has autism” continued the famed vocalist who received an honorary degree of music from Berklee College last year.  “Life is a most interesting thing. It’s a gift. I love people and try to be kind to everyone but I don’t take a lot of nonsense.  I believe in doing toward others as I would have them do toward me.  I would even say that I believe in doing better toward people than they do toward me, why not up it one!” For additional info about Chaka Khan see: http://www.chakakhan.com/

::MUSIC NEWS::

Massari Soars To New Heights With Hot New Video For “Rush The Floor”

Source:  Lu Bianco, Publicist, 416.417.7809 / lulubianco@gmail.com

(Apr. 5, 2006) Toronto, ON - Continuing in the trend of lavishly extravagant music videos with beautiful young ladies and fancy cars; Massari and Capital Prophet Records joined the unstoppable RT! for Massari's biggest video to date, "Rush The Floor".  "I love making music videos. Even though the days are really long, the energy on the set keeps you going. This video was probably one of the most exciting video's I've done,” says Massari.  The video featuring Massari's label mate Belly, brings together both artists ’ personalities in this big budget production complete with a multi-million dollar private jet; a Rolls Royce Phantom and a custom-built club scene complete with a couple of urban music’s hottest video vixens.  "It's a Celebration B*#%@*S", explains Capital Prophet Records Recording Artist Belly when asked to describe the music video in which he is featured with his crew made up of close friends.  “Rush The Floor” is set to hit video outlets nationally mid-April and promises to continue in the successful trend of Massari’s previous video releases. Massari's first three videos were very successful at national video outlets with debut video “Smile For Me” receiving heavy rotation across the country; "Be Easy" hitting the #1 spot at MuchMusic and "Real Love" soaring into the #1 spot at MuchMusic, MuchMoreMusic and Musique Plus almost simultaneously. “Rush The Floor” is vying to surpass the success of its predecessors.  Massari recently performed at the 2006 Juno Awards in Halifax where he was nominated for an award in the "R&B/Soul Recording of the Year" category. He returns from the East Coast to headline the 35th annual 30 Hour Famine Fight Hunger Concert at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto on April 8th.

For all the latest information on Massari visit http://www.massarionline.com.

UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
April 5, 2006 – Quebec City, Quebec – Dagobert Nightclub
April 6, 2006 – Trois Rivieres, Quebec – Monkey Nightclub
April 8, 2006 – Toronto, Ontario – Yonge-Dundas Square (30 Hour Famine)
April 15, 2006 – Calgary, Alberta – Coast Plaza Hotel
April 16, 2006 – Edmonton, Alberta – Shaw Conference Centre
April 23, 2006 – Hamilton, Ontario – Oakwood Place
April 29, 2006 – Detroit, Michigan – Elysium Lounge
April 30, 2006 – Dearborn, Michigan – The Venue
May 12, 2006 – Sydney, Australia - Stars Palace
May 13, 2006 – Melbourne, Australia – Venue To Be Announced
May 20, 2006 – Sydney, Australia – Venue To Be Announced
July 22, 2006 – Beirut, Lebanon – Forum de Beirut

Maestro - `I Want To Keep It For A While'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Apr. 2, 2006) We spoke to the multitasking rapper-turned-actor
Maestro out in Vancouver, where he was auditioning and meeting agents. The 30-something, who celebrated his birthday in Vancouver and Toronto before heading to Halifax for the Junos, managed to get through about a third of the songs on Tafelmusik Chamber Orchestra music director Jeanne Lamon's iPod.

What did you hear on that iPod?

"She's got some Beethoven that's dope, some Buena Vista Social Club and some Cesaria Evora that's wicked. I already knew about Cesaria and about her history and I always wanted to buy her CD, but I never got a chance."

Did you enjoy everything that you heard?

"I kind of like what she has on her iPod more than what I got on mine. I don't want to give it back to her, I want to keep it for a while. I probably have more variety, but she has more instrumentals ... I'm a music head, so I don't see anything that I necessarily don't like. There's probably some stuff that I have that she won't like."

What's on your iPod?

"I got some Wu-Tang Clan, some Ultramagnetics, some Jelleestone, some Kardinal — a lot of hip hop; but I got variety too, because the best of Burton Cummings is on that as well. And I got the best of Maestro, he's on there, too."

You listen to your own music?

"Sometimes. I have the last one on there, the Urban Landmark, it's like the greatest hits. I like my stuff."

Why do you say you prefer the music on her iPod?

"It's really calming. This is the kind of stuff when we had art in elementary school and high school my art teachers would play while we were painting. The stuff I have on my iPod inspires me to work out or to scream. I'll hear a record I like or a song that I like on my iPod and I'm caught up remembering the first time I heard it or the flow of the MC, but I can't really think. She has good thinking music, brain food. Most of my stuff is lyrically driven while the majority of her stuff was instrumentally driven."

Do you ever listen to instrumentals?

"There's none on my iPod right now. At home I got some Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball Adderley. I grew up with jazz and a lot of my records came from old jazz records."

Do you see her music having an impact on your creativity?

"When I heard the instrumentation of the Buena Vista Social Club and when I heard Cesaria's stuff I was like `Wow.' It's inspiring. It just opens up another channel."

What other differences did you note with her iPod?

"Mine's not as sophisticated as hers."

What's next for you?

"Amma, a film I executive produced and co-starred in has been selected for the Reel World Film Festival (April 19-23) and I'm being inducted in the Scarborough Hall of Fame."

I didn't know Scarborough had a Hall of Fame.

"Me neither, but they're giving the 'Stro some love."

Toronto Hip Hop Interview With Mateo From “The Show”

Source:  Toronto Hip Hop

THH: 
What's your Name?

Mateo: Mateo J.Charlton. The guys in my band call me Miz or Mizzeh

THH: How did you get your name ‘The Show’?

Mateo: Well it's kina funny cause I think each man in the band feels like he came up with the name when in fact I was the one who came up with it. lol I’ll leave it at that!!

THH:  Location?

Mateo: Born in North York (The real York ...lol) and raised and residing in Mississauga ON,

THH: How did you get started and how many years have you been Producing?

Mateo: My aunt bought me a little Casio keyboard when I was like 12 and I had no idea what to do with it cause I had never really played keys before...So that was the 1st time I was introduced to the ability to create music, From there I joined the group soon after and started performing almost immediately. It took me about a year of foolin around with production before the guys would even consider my works.
For the first couple of years all we were doing was singing to music that was made for us and written for us...I didn't like it... I felt like I wasn't getting the opportunity to be a real artist so one day I decided to ask my cousin who is also in the band (JL) for a little help settin me up with my own studio. He had a “Korg Trinity Plus” with a pretty tight set up himself and I can't lie...I thought that was the coolest shit I had ever seen, The blue touch screen, The silver casing and all those pretty lights...I wanted one!! Hahahaaa So with a little help from my dad...I got my own little set up in my bed room with some head phones and a beautiful Korg Trinity Plus...Which I still have and will probably never get rid of!! True Story!!! lol

THH: How has production over the years changed?

Mateo: Well it's weird cause music hasn't really changed that much...The way we produce music has changed significantly due to technological advancements. Early on someone once told me that there are no new chords to create...every chord has been played...all you can do now is take the pieces of the puzzle and make different arrangements. Percussion has become more beefed up...and it's gotten pretty simple in some genera's. You can create a club banger with a kick, snare some hi hats and a dope artist... Done!!

THH: What gear do you use to create your music?

Mateo: I like the blend of software and hardware. I use Logic Platinum for sequencing, arranging and mixing. I love it...but then again I started out using Logic 2 from way back when. BUT… I think I might have to check out all the hype around the latest version of protools!! Up until recently I was all about buying hardware sound modules and keyboards. I have the Trinity Plus, A Roland XV3080 , An Emu Turbo Phat and couple of decent soft synths. But that will all change when the new facility I'm building is ready...It's gunna be serious.

THH: What inspires you?

Mateo: Life inspires me...The trials and tribulations of it all. Music has always been my diary... it's been my channel to the source. I really get focused when I'm creating...Its no joke. Creating music is a natural thing to me...The way I see it, When you're in your mothers belly the first thing you hear and feel is a beat... your mothers heart beat. That's why music is considered a universal language. Who doesn't listen to music?? lol

THH: What music inspires you?

Mateo: Oh shit...This could take long...LOL I tend to gravitate towards very creative stuff like Bjork or Imogen Heap but I've been inspired by a lot throughout the years...Anita Baker to Nat King Cole all the way to Bob Marley to Cold Play... A solid list of all my musical influences would over load your server!! hahaaaa You’ll be able to see that list soon at www.intheshow.com

THH: Do you prefer samples or Synths?

Mateo: I don't wanna say I have a preference because I use both very well. However If I had to choose I'd go with Synths because I like making something from nothing and there’s more flexibility. Plus the younger generation can sample my music in the future! Sounds good to me!!

THH: How do you lay down your tracks?

Mateo: I don't really have a set way to lay down tracks...It's whatever comes first really. I could be sittin down eating and then a dope guitar lick comes to me outta nowhere...So I'd drop that first...then build on it...But generally I'd think to make the beat first then add the melody...but like I said, It doesn't have to nor does it always work that way for me. I try not get too formal when I make music...It's supposed to be the expression of ones self.

THH: What do you start with first?

Mateo: In the afternoon when I wake up (lol)...I like to check my email...I don't know what it is about emails …>LOL I’m playin ….I like to start with whatever comes to me first…or whatever works best for what vibe I’m going with…It depends.

THH: What tips or techniques can you share with the torontohiphop.com members?

Mateo:  I guess I'd suggest that for anyone interested in making music...Just relax...don't make it something that becomes a nuisance. Remember that if you're capable of making music and you have the desire to do it, It's what you're supposed to be doing. Now that doesn't warrant that you'll make great music that will in turn make you shit loads of money but if you're doing it JUST for the money then your motives are already fucked up and I can't help you. But that's just what I think! LOL

THH: How important do you think community radio is for an up and coming producer/ artist?

Mateo: It think it's as important as getting play on commercial radio stations... the only way to be heard is to get played...I really don't care what radio station it is. It’s nice to know that your community is getting a chance to hear it’s own talent though. Hopefully they can appreciate the artistry in it.
I won’t delve to much into this but overall I find the urban industry here is a very lonely one…I mean it can take an urban artist several years, (12 in my bands case) just to get some attention. I don’t know maybe we sucked for the past 11 years but I doubt that’s it. I think Canadians need to be more loyal to their own. We need to start embracing our own talent…our own business’s …everything. If things don’t change we’re going to lose a lot of great Canadians to other parts of the world. Wake up Canada…We have all the elements that create a great country…All we gotta do is put them to use!

THH: Shout outs?

Mateo: I gotta hail up some important people right quick.

- My brothers: Duane and Will AKA Reason & Shou'Shou
- My lickle sista Ash
- My band of brothers: JL, Dbo & Big O "The Show"
- The Show official DJ and long time friend: DJ Stevie Wondraw
- "The Show" Band Management and long time supporters:
Tom Kemp, Jeris Legall
& New to the team, Cindy Wilson
- Happy Birthday to Ashlee B!
- Mike Johnson and Dean Fortin (T.AM Playas)
- Ayneka and Raven @ Vybe Entertainment (USA)
- DJ Mad Dog & DJ Glove (Germany)
- Dred E Maximum (The Drill Squad)
- Duane, Julie and Cory @ EMI
- Craig McConnell / Tim Branton @ (Inside Music)
- Trey Mills @ (Opening Day Entertainment)
- Dane Kano @ (Shake It Music)
- Wayne Swingle @ (Wayne Swingle Sound)
- Ruth, Glen, Malaika & Zelica @ (Strictly Roots)
-and Finally Uncle Mike...All the best to you and your future...It's gunna get much better...just hang in there a little longer.

Damn I know someone's gunna yell at me for not shoutin them so I'm sorry about that...Next time.

Peace.

Mateo.

Bacon Brothers Cut Loose

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Mar. 31, 2006) You hear of a band fronted by a movie star, and your mind is not always so open. The vain excursions of Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves and Russell Crowe have solidified suspicions that music by actors is not likely of a high level -- that the acts are moonlighting lark-gigs, not to be taken any more seriously than the sweaty, journeyman exploits of your average bar band. Don't try to tell Kevin Bacon you have no preconceived notions either, because he's not buying it. He knows perfectly well just how hard it is to accept celebrity players genuinely, mostly because he's harboured the exact same notions. "I'm the same way," he confides, straight up. "I'll hear of an actor getting into music and I'll catch myself rolling my eyes." According to Bacon, star of a diverse roster of films including Footloose, Apollo 13 and last year's Where the Truth Lies, the attitude comes not from snobbishness, but from respect. "People put music on a real pedestal," he says, "and for good reason. It's very powerful . . . and it's hard."  It is, but certain things make it cushier. For one, not having to struggle from scratch takes some of the day-to-day pressure off. Both the brothers have day jobs: Michael scores soundtracks for film and television projects, and Kevin, well, you've already met.

Another leg up for the
Bacon Brothers is Kevin's celebrity. While the 47-year-old actor understands the leeriness his fame brings when it comes to folks accepting his art, he acknowledges the benefits as well. "It's a blessing in that it gets people to come, gets people in the seats." It's been that way for 11 years, starting out with a one-off gig in 1994 in their hometown of Philadelphia. The brothers never planned for it to go on ("It just evolved," says Michael, nine years Kevin's senior), but the band, fleshed out with four musicians, has just released its fifth album, White Knuckles. The record is polished (perhaps overly so), and reveals the influence of the Beatles, James Taylor and Elton John. Apparently each of the previous Bacon albums vary in style. "We really never decided to sound one way or the next," says Michael, who splits singing and composing chores with his famous kid sibling. "We're two very different kinds of writers, so it's pretty hard for us to fit into one place." Live shows (which no longer feature renditions of Kenny Loggins's cheery dance-floor anthem Footloose) are fitted around Kevin's shooting schedule. "It's a balancing act," the actor admits. "But for me, at this point in my life, I have to make movies to pay the rent." One wonders if Kevin Bacon, who accepts the tough judging of his music, sees concerts as a sort of musical audition -- that there's a need to prove himself out there. "No," he declares. "It may be frightening, it may give me butterflies, but I don't feel like I'm trying to get the job. "When we play, I've already got the gig." The Bacon Brothers play Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort tonight and tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. $24.50. Niagara Falls, Ont., 416-870-8000.

Hedley Signs U.S. Deal

By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

(Mar. 24, 2006) Vancouver rock band
Hedley has a platinum-selling album to its name in Canada and two Juno nominations -- and now it has a U.S. deal with Capitol Records.  Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day) is remixing the first single, "On My Own," which goes to alternative rock radio in June. The self-titled album will hit stores on August 29.  "What attracted me to them was their clever songs and Jacob's good-looking eyes," says Capitol's VP, creative, Dan McCarroll, who obviously has as much of a sense of humour as Hedley's goofy frontman Jacob Hoggard.  Hoggard, incidentally, in a separate conversation, first joked that it was McCarroll's breasts that attracted him to the label.  Obviously, they're two of a kind.  On a more serious note, the singer says, "What we wanted to do when we picked the label that we wanted to go with -- besides the fact that we were blessed to be able to choose -- was that this band and the organization we've created, we've really based it around being a family. Everybody from our techs to the assistants, it's a family and it has to be able to work fluidly.  "These people (at Capitol) not only gave that image to us and that style of business, they seemed to really believe in what we are doing. That's the really important thing -- to have people behind you that not only can afford to believe in you, but believe in you to begin with, that have a passion for what you believe in."  Hedley is signed to Universal Music Canada and showcased for numerous labels, both within the Universal family and outside of it. McCarroll went to see the band play a sold-out show at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom last September, where Hoggard, bassist Tommy Mac, guitarist Dave Rosin and drummer Chris Crippin all received gold plaques, celebrating 50,000 units shipped.

"My friend Brian Howes produced a few of their songs and told me about them," says McCarroll, who used to do A&R for Lars Ulrich's record label, The Music Company, to which Howes's band at the time, DDT, was signed. "Also, my friend Darren (Gilmore -- whose best friend was in DDT) is their manager and he told me about them."  Hedley received considerable attention in the initial launch of the album in September 2005 because Hoggard was a top 3 finalist on 2004's Canadian Idol, but he had fronted Hedley -- albeit with a different line-up -- before that television exposure.  McCarroll acknowledges that it does make the label's job tougher to not have any recognition factor from which to build, but says, "We're totally up for the challenge.  "After 6 months, they'll all know who Jacob is -- (they're on) Warped Tour and have dates with bands like Yellowcard and Reliant K.," says McCarroll. "Upon seeing them in Vancouver, they have such a great, striking live show, that our plan at Capitol is to bring them down here, and put them in front of many people as we can, and let them see what a great rock 'n' roll band they are. Then, we'll go to radio with 'On My Own' and have it be a great radio hit."  Hoggard is looking forward to starting from scratch in the U.S. without the C.I. albatross around his neck.  "This (deal) is the kind of pivotal moment for the band which will now decide how we do," Hoggard says. "I think there's a lot of things that came before the band that helped to the success of the band in Canada. Being in the States and having no preconceived notion of who we are, it's going to give us the opportunity to prove ourselves, to see if we can do it or not."  Asked if there will be any changes to the U.S. release -- remixing, remastering, new song additions, new album art -- and, of course, Hoggard can't resist a joke.  "We're looking for a different manager," he teases with his manager sitting right beside him.  "We want better looking guys on the front cover," Gilmore volleys back, then adds, "At this point, we found a company that's incredibly happy with the product. There will be some remixes for radio and things like that, normal types of things, but they're happy with album as a whole.  "The ball is rolling; they'll be playing some festivals; doing the Warped tour, and opening slots with some other great bands and it's going to be a very exciting, very busy year to break this project now globally."

Michael Bublé, Retro Rocket

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Malene Arpe

(Apr. 2, 2006)
He's the Doctor McDreamy of music, the Lloyd Dobler of croon. The unthreatening throwback romance of his songs has propelled sales to over 10 million albums worldwide. The concerts on his relentlessly paced touring schedule sell and sell and sell. He's up for three Junos tonight and if he doesn't win, there will be virtual tears on the fan message boards.  Michael Bublé inspires the kind of devotion usually reserved for boy bands, Jesus and kittens.  "The way Michael sings a song really touches my soul. I can feel his voice and his passion pulsing through me when I listen to him sing," says 27-year-old Angie Fietek of Benson, Minn., attempting to explain to a Bublé beginner what exactly it is about the Vancouver singer that does it for her. "I don't think I've ever had such a reaction to an artist before. He can relax me, he can make me happy, he can make me cry, he makes me want to fall in love ... I feel so many different emotions when I have him on. He has an old soul and he makes me feel alive and I love it! I feel that if music is worth owning and listening to, it should grab on to some part of you and remind you of what it feels like to be alive ... good and bad. That's what Michael's music does for me."  Bublé's interpretations of "That's All," "Summer Wind," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and a slew of other classics are swingy, rat-packy and politely amorous. He and his big band, and his stylish suits, belong in another era. So what exactly is he doing here?  "I think that the world is sucking," says the singer, whose album, the David Foster-produced It's Time has gone five times platinum in Canada and just won the Best Pop Album Juno last night (see next page). "I think that there's no way, this time of the year, it should be snowing. There are wars all over the world and when a cartoon can create the rage that it has, something is not right. I think people are aware, whether consciously or not — I think we're all aware of it. It's time that we escape.  "And I think this music and my show — and other musicians and entertainers and actors in movies — we're part of helping people escape reality, the reality that we face that the world is not in the greatest shape it's been in. I'm not singing angry songs, I'm not singing about killing cops or bitches or getting hooked on crack, I'm singing about love, I'm singing about hope. I think there's a lot of room for that."  Bublé, 31, was on the phone from "Salt Lake City, party town U.S.A.," for a concert this past week. Tonight he'll be in Halifax for the Junos, where he's up for Artist of the Year, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and the Juno Fan Choice Award. He is excited about the show and the possibility of winning, but still allows that the premise of award shows is a bit odd.  "It's almost no different than a talent show; you're only as good as the judges think you are that day. You know, it's a double-edged sword ... I'm very touched and hugely honoured to be nominated for the Junos, and to tell you it's not hugely important for me would be a lie, because I grew up watching the Junos and I wanted to be nominated and I wanted to be nominated for as many Junos as I could and anyone who tells you they don't care is probably lying. But, at the same time, if I win it's not necessarily because I was better than Diana Krall or Nickelback. How do you compare Diana Krall to Nickelback, or Sam Roberts to Michael Bublé?"  Fans from as far away as Germany will be thinking of him tonight. "I'm crossing all my fingers for Michael and his five Juno nominations," Gina, 42, finishes an email.

Bublé became a bestseller before James Blunt and Il Divo and the other kinder, gentler acts that now increasingly populate our weekly lists of earners. Larry LeBlanc is the Canadian bureau chief for Billboard Magazine. He's been following Bublé's career and credits the singer's success to a talented management team, smart marketing and perfect timing.  "What they've done is one of the really incredible success stories out of Canada in the last couple of years. Even more so than the (indie) wave ... a lot of those bands are still not selling records, like Metric or Broken Social Scene. Worldwide, they're selling maybe 100,000-150,000 records ...  "More importantly, Michael's success is even more startling with his management — Bruce Allen, along with Warner. What they did was take a genre that was almost a joke, saloon singer is a joke ... it's one of those categories of music that people have such disdain for; it's like a caricature ... they didn't start off at ground zero, they started off at minus 30, because they had a kid who was a lounge singer, who sang on boats, cruise ships, stuff like that, had a very limited range vocally. The one thing they had going for them was, obviously, this kid has a certain amount of moxie and charisma.  "The first album, I don't think it's a great album; it's a good album, it's okay, but it was the right album at the right time for our business ... it sold past any projection its record company set for it. Warner Brothers made no bones about it in United States, that it would sell no more than a hundred thousand units, and I think it's 1.2 million now in the States." But then again, as LeBlanc says, record company people are often "too hip for their own good."  LeBlanc points out that as Bublé has matured as a performer, he's becoming more comfortable and confident on stage. Bublé tends to agree: "The more and more that I do this, the more and more comfortable I get in my own skin, and the more I'm becoming myself on stage. And I think it might be more endearing to an audience to see the real me than who I think I should be.  "I'm slowly getting closer to allowing myself to be as completely dorky as I am in real life."  Dorky he may be, but the dork is perfectly balanced with good business sense. When asked about his stated wish to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he manages to be aw-shucks and not-born-yesterday, just like that, and all at the same time.

"Damn yes, I want to be on Oprah. I'm a little pissed off and frustrated that I'm not. I'm a fan of Oprah and I think it's a great show ... I feel bad, because I know that my mother is a really big fan of Oprah and she's boycotted Oprah until she puts me on the show. I just want to get on the show so my mom can watch Oprah again. And the fact that you also sell a million records after you go on the show doesn't hurt either. There is that. There is that little thing."  Talking to the press is now routine, but he's quick to point out that it wasn't always thus. "I've been burned a few times. I spent some time with a journalist from a magazine in the U.K. I really liked him a lot; I thought he was a lovely guy. We hung out, he came out on the tour and, of course, there were times when I said, `Do you want to come and hang out with us?' and then stuff was written about, and that kind of thing makes you more aware, guarded.  "I had to learn, and I'm honestly glad I learned that way rather than some publicist saying, `Come on and get your media training.' Because I'm not a hockey player and I don't want to answer each question saying, `I'm just going to take it a day at a time and I'm just happy to be here and I hope I can help out the music business.' That's bullshit, that's bullshit.  "Sometimes the truth isn't always pretty, but I'd rather tell the truth, because you're going to find me out, anyway."  Bublé, whose winning ways with an audience can be witnessed on the CD/DVD combo, Caught in the Act, clearly has hockey envy. When he's asked why he always looks so grim in pictures, he makes a serious voice and explains.  "I am pretty glum. It's not easy, you know. My dream was to become a hockey player in the NHL and I failed miserably, so now I have to do this shit." Pause. "No, I'm not glum, it's more that I'm self-conscious. Like everyone else, I have esteem issues and I never thought I looked nice when I smiled."  The fans who fling the words "irresistible," "boyish good looks," "class act" and "damn good-looking man" around when discussing their crush would probably disagree. They joke about marriage proposals and asking for his phone number. What is it like being the object of that kind of adulation and knowing that masses of people spend time thinking about you?  "I take it with a big, big grain of salt. Of course, it feels nice. It's really lovely to know you have such an eclectic following of people who really enjoy what you do. But at the same time, it gets a bit scary," Bublé says.  "I've had a few things happen that woke me up to the reality that there can be whack-nuts out there. I've gone through some strange things. In Virginia, I had a man who tried to kill me. He came up on the stage with a length of wire wrapped in his hands so he could put it around my neck and he, you know ... there's a big fan. You always have that thought in your head, you know, as much as you enjoy the adulation, you also take it with a grain of salt. I'm a little more careful than I used to be. Once in a while you have those thoughts ... it was a big fan of John Lennon that shot him.  "But I'm grateful that I have such a nice following of people ... and the best part is that they're black people and they're white people and they're yellow people and they're red people and they're gay people and they're straight people and they're rich people and poor people. That's a really important thing to me and it shows me this music crosses all borders and hopefully that I do as well."  Oh, sigh.

Fans Of American Alt-Country Diva Neko Case Think She's One Of Us

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

(Mar. 30, 2006) A Google search of the terms "
Neko Case" and "Canadian singer" yields enough hits to confirm the common but mistaken impression that the celebrated alt-country diva is a citizen of this country.  It's an understandable misconception.  The 35-year-old, Virginia-born vocalist was raised in the northern reaches of Washington State before moving to Vancouver as a teen. Since then, many of her professional associations have been with Canadian artists, whether teaming up with Victoria's Carolyn Mark as the Corn Sisters, performing as part of the Vancouver supergroup the New Pornographers or recording a live album under her own name with Toronto's the Sadies as accompanists.  Case's splendid new disc, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, was mixed in Toronto and features a supporting cast that includes members of the Sadies and The Band's Garth Hudson, U.S. counterparts such as Tucson musicians Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico, Jon Rauhouse and Howe Gelb, and Chicago singer Kelly Hogan.  "If people want to think of me as an honorary Canadian, I'd like that," says Case, who will go up against the Juno Awards when she performs Sunday at the Danforth Music Hall. "I think I must be half (Canadian) by now — at least in my heart.  "When I was little, we lived right on the Canadian border. There were only three TV stations at the time and one of them was the CBC. I remember getting corrected in grade school because I thought we lived in Canada, because that's what I heard all the time.  "I remember Buffy Sainte-Marie very distinctly. I grew up with all the Canadian kid shows, too: Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant. I had all that stuff. I thought (Quebec singer) René Simard was quite a fox."  Not that Case, who calls Chicago home, is about to change citizenship, even if Canadian immigration gave the green light.  "It's not a good time to leave your country when there's bad things going on," she says. "You have to stick it out and try to make a difference.  "I'm not a nationalistic person by any stretch of the imagination. I don't love my government, even a little bit. And I'm really ashamed of the way things have been going here. George Bush is obviously a bumbling asshole. We all know that. But I love the people, the landscape and the culture. And I love Chicago."

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is Case's fourth studio album and first since 2002's Blacklisted. While working on the new disc, she also released a double live disc recorded in Chicago and Toronto, and contributed to the third effort by the New Pornographers. The new album is more atmospheric and less twangy than the singer's previous solo outings.  "I just wanted to leave more space," she says. "I thought the songs were kind of cinematic, so there are a lot less instruments going on at the same time.  "A lot of the songs weren't developed fully until I got into the studio. There's a really nice thing that happens when you're making a record and you're rehearsing and a song starts to sound like a song; that's when everybody gets really excited. That's when we wanted to get it on tape. We tried to be as spontaneous as possible."  Touring in support of the disc has forced her to miss some gigs by the New Pornographers. But she expects to be back on the road — and in the studio — with the band later this year.  "We've had our growing pains over the years, trying to figure out scheduling and stuff. But I'm really proud to be in that band. And I'm really proud of all the accolades (songwriters) Carl (Newman) and Dan (Bejar) have received. It's really gratifying because I get to sing some songs that are super upbeat and poppy. And I have an outlet where I get to be in a band — and not be the focus of the band.  "When I was living in Vancouver, it was common for musicians to be in three or four bands each. It was very communal. Everybody was helping each other get their thing off the ground."

Giving New Orleans A Boost

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Tony Montague


(Mar. 31, 2006)
Irvin Mayfield is a musician with a mission. Appointed as the cultural ambassador for New Orleans in 2002, at age 26, the trumpeter and composer is out to tell the world that the birthplace of jazz needs all the help it can get. Since hurricane Katrina hit last August, the city has been in dire straits. And Mayfield, founder and leader of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), appreciates only too well the grief and anguish of Big Easy inhabitants: His own father perished in the storm. "He really became the representative of those who died," says Mayfield, who speaks the same way he solos, in a sometimes breathless stream of ideas and inspiration. "It became so much more important for me to communicate with people. The real story here is the community as well as the individual -- which is the story of jazz. Musicians have been getting that right for the last 85 years down in New Orleans." That long jazz history is retold through music in New Orleans: Then and Now, the show Mayfield is currently touring with the 18-piece instrumental NOJO. Their score ranges from field hollers to fiery and sophisticated post-bop jazz improvisations. All singing is done by the musicians. "NOJO is responsible for engaging in the discussion of what jazz was, is and is going to be -- which is even more relevant now -- in terms of the city as one of the cultural meccas of our country in which you can find jazz existing, as I like to say, in its fundamental form."

But Mayfield doesn't want to get too serious; that would go against the true spirit of his hometown. He stresses that NOJO's jazz needs, above all, to be participatory, and not in a passive, sitting-down-and-clapping-politely way. Timid Vancouverites, take note. "The audience member must become a part of the experience. If not, it just ain't what we're used to, that's not our relationship to it. If you want to know how we do things in New Orleans, then you've got to come and be prepared to party, to celebrate it. It's not a preservation thing -- it's alive. In the aftermath of Katrina it's even more important to feel that." Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra perform on April 4 at the Centre for the Performing Arts, 777 Homer St., 604-872-5200.

Record $5M Pledge Sweet Music For TSO

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Martin Knelman, mknelman@thestar.ca

(Mar. 30, 2006) "Everybody in the arts seems to be building like crazy, and the city has so much going on. And I thought: Why should the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra lag behind? If we don't help the TSO, perhaps the moment will have passed."  Those are the words of Judith "Billie" R. Wilder, a long-time symphony subscriber who has just stepped out of the shadows with an astonishing, desperately needed $5 million gift — the largest single donation in the orchestra's 85-year history.  Until Wilder came along, the symphony was indeed lagging behind. With a Toronto building spree that includes an opera house, two museum makeovers and two great arts-education institutions, the TSO has been having a rough time wooing donors. After all, it has no building project — just a scarily mounting deficit, currently at $9.5 million.  Wilder had made a previous, smaller gift, and her reward was being taken to lunch with music director Peter Oundjian. They quickly formed a mutual admiration society.  "I was captivated as soon as I met him," Wilder said last night in a telephone interview. "It's such a good orchestra, and he wants to make it even better. And the TSO has such a good management team. I saw there was an opportunity to step in and help put the TSO on firm footing. And it was a great pleasure to be able to do so."  But in order to do so, she had to break a rule that money managers routinely suggest to wealthy clients: Live on the interest your money makes, and never spend the capital.  "I had some money my father left me, and over the years my husband helped me increase it. Using capital is something I have never done before, and I will never do it again, but I decided to do it just this once, because this was something I really, really wanted."

When she sought advice from her husband, former Wood Gundy financial executive William Wilder, he told her: "Well, I wouldn't do it, but if you really want to, then go ahead."  In order to make sure her money would not be a Band-Aid, Wilder stipulated that $4 million of the money go to an endowment fund aimed at achieving long-term stability. But $1 million can be devoted to help pay down the current deficit, in the form of a "challenge donation" meant to trigger matching gifts totalling $1 million from other donors.  There was one other piece of good news for the symphony this week. This year's edition of the New Creations Festival starts tonight with the first of three concerts offering nourishment for those who crave something other than the usual safe round of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart.  The three concerts (tonight, Saturday and Wednesday) feature many Canadian premieres and a couple of world premieres, with the focus on contemporary work by living composers.  On Saturday, John Weinzweig, the dean of Canadian composers who marked his 93rd birthday this month, will be present for a performance of his Rhapsody for Orchestra — a kind of lyric ecstasy propelled by waltz-like motion. Composed in 1941, it had its world premiere in 1957 — and has never been performed since. Three years ago the composer decided to revise it. What we'll hear at Thomson Hall on Saturday represents the world premiere of what he calls the new and final version.

A Show To Heal Big Easy's Soul

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian


(Apr. 2, 2006) NEW ORLEANS—"First you mend the body. Then you ease the spirit. Finally you heal the soul."  The lady of a certain age who murmured that mantra into her Bloody Mary may have been thinking of a private grief, but it seemed like she was speaking for an entire city.  It was the morning after Thursday night's opening gala for the 20th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival, and the famous Carousel Bar of the Hotel Monteleone was turning — as it has since 1949 — at the rate of one revolution every 15 minutes.  Ernest Hemingway drank here. So did Truman Capote. But pride of place went to New Orleans' favourite son,
Tennessee Williams.  He wasn't born here, but he called it "his spiritual home" and some of his greatest works, most notably A Streetcar Named Desire, are set here.  It's only right that the city has honoured him with a festival for the past 19 years.  Taking a cue from the lady at the Carousel Bar, New Orleans has tried to mend its body post-Katrina (although huge sections of the city are still in ruins) and it attempted to ease its spirit by seeing that Mardi Gras happened on schedule in all its tawdry splendour.  But now it was time to heal the soul.  And who better to turn to than the man who once wrote, "High station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace"?  Still, after the events of last summer, there was some doubt as to whether there would be a similar celebration this year, but festival president Patricia Brady resolutely announced as early as October that it would be going ahead.  It's not as lavish as in previous years, even though such celebrities as Richard Thomas, Tab Hunter, Rex Reed and Stephanie Zimbalist have all come down to participate for free.  Between now and tomorrow night, there are nearly 50 performances, panels, discussions and master classes available.  It's true that two of the three major theatrical events on display are one-man shows, not fully mounted Williams productions, but to many here it would have been unthinkable not to forge ahead.  "It's absolutely right that we celebrate Williams in this city at this moment in time," says Steve Lawson. He's the man who adapted and directed Blanche and Beyond, the one-man show based on Williams' letters in which Richard Thomas portrays the playwright.

"Williams was the original survivor," continues Lawson. "He struggled with physical and mental problems, not just his own, but those of the people he loved most dearly. His life could have been a tragedy, but, until the very end, he never lived it that way."  Or as Williams himself put it, "Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle, you are equipped with the basic means of salvation."  It's a lesson those who proudly remain here have definitely learned.  And since Katrina is the subtext to every conversation you have here, it's only right that her influence be measured in festival sessions with such topics as "In the Wake of Destruction," "Surviving with Grace" and "Stronger Than A Glass Menagerie."  Even during a "Literary Walking Tour," a stop at the peaceful St. Anthony's Garden, one of Williams' favourite spots, yields this hurricane-inspired comment from the tour guide.  "The statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus lost two fingers in the storm, but He survived. So did we all."  Still, the focal point of the celebration here is the man born Thomas Lanier Williams on Mar. 26, 1911. And Thursday's opening night gala performance featured Richard Thomas as a Tennessean who was both slyly witty and easily hurt.  Blanche and Beyond follows him from just after the opening of his first hit, The Glass Menagerie, through the next decade when he became world famous, but started to lose many of his friends as well as his already tenuous grip on reality.  The whole evening came together when Thomas, as Williams, snapped out a comment about the McCarthy years in America.  "There doesn't even seem to be a normal intelligence at work in the affairs of the nation. Aren't you frightened by it?"  And an audience filled with people who all still blame George W. Bush for the government's slowness in responding to the aftermath of Katrina roared their approval.

Exorcising Katrinaaaaaa!

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Richard Ouzounian

(Apr. 3, 2006) By 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon, the 20th annual
Tennessee Williams Festival was all over but the shouting — literally.  The four days of performances, presentations and panels had finally wound down and there was only one more event left on the agenda.  The 25 semi-finalists anxiously assembled underneath a balcony in Jackson Square, flexing their vocal muscles.  Yes, it was time for the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, the breezily irreverent way this festival has been concluding since 1996.  Remember that famous scene from A Streetcar Named Desire where Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski bellows his wife's name to the heavens in an attempt to win her back?  "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaa!"  It's one of the most widely imitated tropes in dramatic history, and since it's from a play by Tennessee Williams (one set in New Orleans, too), it only makes sense it found its way into the festival.  In the interests of gender equality, female candidates are allowed to scream "Staaaaaaaa-aaanley," but it's really not the same.  This year's entrants came from as far away as Montreal and New York, but the majority were from New Orleans, where the residents really know how to throw themselves into it.  It was a tough task for the judging panel, which included critic Rex Reed, actor Stephanie Zimbalist and myself.  Despite some stiff competition from Boston's Bill Cronin, wearing a PacMan shirt and emoting madly, the trophy stayed in the French Quarter this year.

The winner was hometown guy Rick Legoretta, who soared to victory by managing to synthesize the sense of nose-thumbing bravado that characterizes everyone who chose to remain here after Hurricane Katrina's devastation last August.  What did Legoretta do? Instead of shouting "Stanley" or "Stella," he chose to bellow out the word "FEMA."  That acronym stands for Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has become the flashpoint for the anger of most New Orleans citizens. In the minds of this city's people, FEMA came too late and has done too little. When Legoretta dragged its name into the Tennessee Williams Festival, what had been implicit all along finally came to the surface.  Katrina has gotten inside this city's psyche as surely as the mould she deposited everywhere. Like the rest of New Orleans, the Tennessee Williams Festival is not immune to sudden bursts of rage, or fleeting moments of despair.  Still the festival not only survived, it triumphed. This year may have been smaller in scope, but the feelings behind it were bigger than ever.  "Tennessee would have been proud to see what they accomplished this year," said Reed, a Louisiana native and long-time supporter of the festival.  "He always believed that you couldn't really tell how strong somebody was until they got hit with a disaster. Well, look around you: these are strong people."  Reed brought his usual sprinkle of stardust to the festival, interviewing celebrities like Tab Hunter and Zimbalist about their appearances in Williams’ plays before packed audiences.  Richard Thomas dazzled capacity crowds with his second one-man show based on the letters of Williams, while Jeremy Lawrence offered an effective take on the author's older years in his piece, Talking Tennessee, and there was a staged reading of a recently discovered early Williams play called These Are The Stairs You've Got To Watch.

One of the most satisfying and surprising moments occurred late Saturday afternoon, when New Orleans native Patricia Clarkson unexpectedly swooped into the ballroom of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel to introduce her mother, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, there to read a civic proclamation honouring the festival on its 20th anniversary.  Looking radiant in a sleeveless black lace dress, the Oscar-nominated actress (Pieces of April) spoke spontaneously about how much the work of Tennessee Williams meant to her and how she felt "being born in New Orleans gave me a head start on the rest of the world, because I grew up knowing how his wonderful words should be spoken."  The positive feelings the festival generated seemed to cast a temporary glow over this battered place, but eventually the spectre of the uninvited guest, Katrina, darkened the scene.  Everyone is trying their best to look toward the future, but when an area of New Orleans seven times the size of Manhattan still lies in ruins, can anyone call this place "The Big Easy" ever again?  What people only discuss openly late at night, after a few drinks, is their fear the next hurricane season is only a few months away and the federal government has done nothing to ensure what happened with Katrina couldn't occur again.  It seems like Tennessee Williams was looking into a crystal ball when he wrote: "It is almost as if you were frantically constructing another world while the world that you live in dissolves beneath your feet, and that your survival depends on completing this construction at least one second before the old habitation collapses."  Now, more than Blanche Du Bois ever did, New Orleans is going to have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Kirk Franklin’s Hero Tour Featuring Mary Mary Hits Los Angeles

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Gerald Radford / MYfeedback@eurweb.com

(Apr. 3, 2006) It’s official: ain’t no party like a holy ghost party cause a holy ghost party DON’T stop…at least according to
Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, who just stopped through Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater on Franklin’s high-spirited “Hero tour” in support of his latest album, Hero.   Franklin, the pied piper of contemporary gospel, breezed into town along with the sibling singing sirens Mary Mary -- drawing from young to old, black to white, and religious to secular to the near sold out show.  The energy was high and concertgoers remained engaged and on their feet for almost the entire “party.” In keeping with contemporary gospel with a hip-hop flair, the night was almost a total departure from your typical gospel experience.  Complete with a big budget stage set-up and full band, elaborate stage lighting, and lots of dancing, the show was more like an old school – G-rated -- R&B concert.  Mary Mary’s set did come with a few songs that took on more of a spirit of worship, but it was more like the brief, yet obligatory run of songs you could slow drag to that the DJ played at a party back in the day.  Both acts performed a fair number of their hits from their respective repertoires, giving their devoted fans their complete money’s worth.     Artists of Franklin and the sister’s type have based their careers, for the most part, on reaching out to those individuals that may not get down with the traditional church experience.  This has spurred a movement that promotes establishing a more exciting and “relevant” experience with God, which the HERO tour is a complete manifestation of.  The dull moments were few and far in between, with Mary Mary dancing and swinging hair like rock stars and Kirk Franklin, feeding off the energy of his razor sharp choir, bouncing around the stage like a hyper teen who forgot to take his Ritalin.  Kirk also introduced the audience to a new artist named “Da Truth” who got the party started with a hip-hop/gospel hybrid set of songs that could easily rival some of today’s established secular hip-hop acts – only with a profound message that could save a teens life rather than destroy it.  Remember that name, “Da Truth;” we think he’s on to something. 

Kirk Franklin’s and Mary Mary’s transparent, “I know what you’re going through” approach to ministry, packaged with all the bells and whistles that attract today’s youth, has, through music, revolutionized the Christians experience.   These dynamic artists make you feel that everybody’s in it together and that there are no holy I’s and wicked yous; the age of pedestalizing fellow believers is over.  The lesson learned is this: gospel music isn’t necessarily a sound; it’s a liberating message, packaged in various arrangements of music, all sanctioned by a merciful and providently progressive God who just wants to reach His people by any means necessary.   If the Hero tour breezes through your city, catch it; it’s sure to be a breathe of fresh air…. For Hero tour dates visit: http://www.kwwj.org/kirkfranklin or http://www.itickets.com/artists/117.html

Q&A With Chrissie Hynde

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Michael Paoletta

(Apr. 3, 2006) With unmistakable vocals, deft songwriting skills and a cocksure guitar stance, Pretenders frontwoman
Chrissie Hynde has inspired many -- just as she has surely pissed a few people off.  On March 17, the Pretenders kicked off a six-city U.S. tour in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference. The trek, which closed April 1 in New York, supported the recently issued, five-disc Pretenders boxed set, "Pirate Radio" (Sire/Warner Bros./Rhino).  The collection features 81 tracks and 19 performance videos, many of which have never been released. It firmly places the spotlight on Hynde and the band's fierce musicianship as well as its ever-evolving line-up. That said, early, live footage of Hynde and her original bandmates -- Martin Chambers (drums) and the deceased Pete Farndon (bass) and James Honeyman-Scott (guitar) -- is essential viewing.  Hynde, a London resident who turns 55 this year, says she is not giving much thought to a new Pretenders studio album. But, she tells Billboard, "if I enjoy these few shows we're doing, and depending how I feel, I may go in and write a few songs."

Q: I hear you spent the bulk of January in your hometown of Akron. For years, I've heard you say not such nice things about Ohio. Why the extended stay?

A: I rented an apartment in Highland Square. It's the one area [in Akron] that's been gentrified and looked after. It's a very American phenomenon what's happened. In the '70s, all these cities like Akron tore down their downtown areas. It was all to do with racism, class, economics and all sorts of stuff. Then, thank God for the gay community, which found all the good old houses from Chicago to Akron and said, "Hey, let's renovate these houses and do something." If not for that one little segment of society, I think America would be f***ed up its ass right now -— big time. Gays saved America.

All across America, with gentrification, it was the gay community that had the vision, means, taste, fortitude and determination to carve something out and save what was left of these cities. No one else got it. They were all out in their condos, out in the suburbs, getting far away from the blacks.

But, I admit, I wasn't there to stop the bulldozers. I think Akronites were pissed off at me for criticizing what had happened to Akron. But I'm going back. I want to establish the Jim Jarmusch Theater in Akron. I want the city to have an art house theatre. I'm telling friends, "Don't buy a place in Woodstock. Buy a place in Akron where you can get a great big wooden house for not a lot of money." Flights to Akron are cheap. I have no sense of patriotism, but I do have a sense of community. And there is something geographically amazing there. Also, as you get older, your relationship with your hometown changes.

Q: When you were presented with the idea for "Pirate Radio," what went through your mind?

A: Well, this is one of those deals where it's going to happen with or without you. So, I thought, f*** it, my plane hasn't gone down yet. I could be misrepresented if I'm not involved. I've done lots of songs for film soundtracks and things like that -- stuff I'm not ashamed of, but that doesn't represent my legacy with the Pretenders. And I wanted that represented. I also thought this was a chance to present the band in a way I'd like it to be remembered -- and to represent the guys I had playing with me over the years. Once I realized all this, I got completely involved in the project.

Q: Watching the DVD brought back numerous memories of seeing the band live. Yet I couldn't help but think that something is lost in the process. Is the live rock experience intended for TV viewing?

A: I don't think rock works on television. Rock has to be in a sweaty club or in a hall or outdoors or in a f***ing bowling alley. It has to be a real experience. When I watched [the footage] again, I thought, This is really tame. But the live stuff does represent all the line-ups of the band.

Q: Does being onstage still excite you?

A: Not really. Which is why I only go out there when I am excited. I preferred rock when it was in the dark, when it was a secret between me and the audience, when it wasn't mainstream. I don't go for mainstream anything. I'm not trying to be like other people. At this stage, I don't care if I do shows or not. I never intended or wanted it to get bigger. I never had that "we're gonna be the biggest band in the world" moment. I'd rather be the best-kept secret in show business -- as long as I can get by.

I'm not trying to reinvent anything. I'm not trying to change. I just want to keep it basic: four players, boom, boom, boom, a couple notes, three chords. It's like a real small bank job. Just enough to get by. Quick in and out. Just like those early shows at the Agora [in Cleveland].

Q: All that said, how did being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame affect you?

A: I just think, What the f***? I got in a rock band so I'd never have to be in a Hall of Fame. The people who set up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were not rock and roll people. They were music industry people. God bless them and good luck to them. I didn't want to go. I don't like awards and I didn't want them. Everyone was saying, "Oh, but it's a big honour. You should be glad." Everyone always knows better than you how you feel and they're always telling you. But I know how I feel.

Q: What are your thoughts on the phenomenon that is "American Idol?"

A: I don't look at it. I don't have to look at it. Everyone wants the chance to get to make a record and to play some shows. No one wants to be completely obscure. But it's a matter of tempering it and getting it just right. But no one can get it just right.

Q: Does that include you?

A: Music is not my life. Being in a rock and roll band is not my life. It's my hobby. I've got a life, thanks. I'm not going to sacrifice my life so I can go out on the road. I don't want to be famous or walk around with a bodyguard. I don't want to put myself in a jail. I don't need to be part of a celebrity culture [wherein] I don't have my freedom.

And I don't need people to buy my records. I've always said, "Download them, listen to it off the radio. If you want to buy it, buy it. If you don't, don't. Do your thing. I'm not trying to sell anything here. My only agenda in getting into a band was to not be a waitress somewhere in Akron -- and to have some fun. Outside of that, I have absolutely no ambitions.

Q: Do you think young artists coming up today share similar thoughts?

A: Yes I do. I was recently reading in Cleveland's Scene magazine about this local band who did not want to play in corporate places like House of Blues. I burst out laughing, because I was feeling very proud of myself that we're only playing the House of Blues. To me, that was like going down. Thank God there's a little band that can still kick me in the teeth. Fantastic. I could be the kid's mother. I'm glad he's telling me that I'm playing at a corporate venue that he wouldn't play at.

Q: What's your reaction to those female rockers who say that you've influenced them?

A: It just means that I'm older than them, that I was there before they were. I wasn't a pioneer. It's not me being modest. The Pretenders were a traditional band. I never had [another] girl in the band, because I never wanted it to get too emotional. I don't have a gender thing. For me, gender has nothing to do with rock. The thing I love about rock is androgyny. So, the minute you ask me a gender questions, I squirm.

Q: Great. I'll ask one more, then. Do you think there's a lack of female rockers in today's scene?

A: I don't care. I couldn't care less. I'm not a feminist. I've never been rooting for women. I've never cared about women or men. I care about you, because you're sitting here talking to me, and I care about me. I'm not here trying to save anybody or tell them what to do.

Q: Name association time: Bridget Bardot?

A: She didn't crap out. She said she prefers her dogs to her husband. And I read something recently where she said she's always been the man in her life. What's not to like?

Q: Are there any bands that excite you today?

A: I have to be honest. I don't listen to much music. I'm digging silence —- and reading, being really quiet. It's not so much a reaction to the music out there, but to all the noise out there. There is just so much noise everywhere you go. Still, I would crawl over broken glass to see Kings Of Leon.

Q: Have you always enjoyed the quiet?

A: Yes. I spent a lot of time in the woods when I was a little kid. I've always had a hermit kind of gene. I'd much rather hear birds singing in the morning than anything else. And this happens often in London. It happened this morning in my New York City hotel room and it happened in Akron, too. God, we used to be so scared when someone would say, "All roads lead back to Akron." We'd be like, "Don't say that!" I've been responsible for a lot of noise in my life. So, I should be quiet for a while.

Q: In my head, I can hear all the songs you've written in unplugged, acoustic versions -- just your voice accompanied by piano or guitar. What is your creative process like?

A: The songs are usually written on an electric guitar, unamplified, or in a room alone. I have a conversational approach to songwriting. Twenty years ago, before we had in-ear monitors, I was leaving a gig where I was fighting against noise the entire show. I got into the car to go back to the hotel, and Carmen McCrae's voice came out of the speakers. Just her voice and piano. I remember thinking, That must be the greatest thing -- to be able to sing to an acoustic piano. That must feel so fantastic.

Eventually, I tried to do acoustic stuff with a string quartet. I like to sing quietly. I'm of the less is more persuasion.

Q: I once read, in Billboard actually, that you were influenced by R&B/soul singer Candi Staton. Who else has influenced you?

A: In 1975, I was living in Cleveland and trying to put a band together. I was working with a guy who played with the Mr. Stress Blues Band. A lot of my associates of that period were listening to R&B. That's when I learned about Candi Staton. It's also when I learned, in earnest, that I wanted to sing. I remember crashing out on someone's floor in Cleveland and singing along to songs by Candi and Jackie Moore.

But my big influences, singing-wise, were guys like Iggy Pop and Jimi Hendrix. The only thing you have to learn to be a rock singer is to just sound like yourself.

Q: What's your advice to those coming up today?

A: I'm talking about rock here: Record your stuff as live as possible -- bass, two guitars and drums. Keep that two-guitar thing going as long as possible. And keep it basic. I would be loath to advise someone because it's only in your own mistakes can you find yourself.

Q: At the end of the day, is life good for Chrissie Hynde?

A: You know, I've never asked how many points I get or what I'm being paid. I don't give a f***. I've got a manager to do that. I feel I owe it to my fans. I mean, my fans paid me. I don't want my fans to think I'm making wise investments or making any investments or trying to save my money. You gave me that money. I'm having a good f***ing time with it, all right?

Legendary Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Takes The Musical Road `Least Travelled'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter


(Apr. 5, 2006) It's 8 a.m., way early presumably for most jazz musicians, but a sunny
Wayne Shorter answered the phone on the first ring at his Miami highrise.  Late-night jam sessions or rehearsals don't keep the 72-year-old saxophonist up any more. Nowadays, the New Jersey native dubbed "the greatest living composer in jazz" — who cut his teeth with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and made his name as a member of Miles Davis's celebrated mid-'60s quintet — is unlikely to play unless on stage with his current quartet, which appears at Massey Hall tonight.  "I don't ever actually play until it's time for me to play," he explained. "I have to make everything count for that audience."  Offstage, the movie buff and sci-fi aficionado is busy sketching out compositions for symphony collaborations or contemplating the next performance of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, comprised of Brian Blade (drums), John Patitucci (bass) and Danilo Perez (piano). It's been described as the improvisational jazz band du jour for its classical fusion and stream-of-consciousness style.  "I think of a lot of things, and not just notes," he said. "I think of a changing world and how can you create value in music to stir. You have to get through all these layers of what stirs people on a surface level. People get stirred in a second over something that's familiar and has a pounding something. How can we interest them in something — I won't say better — deeper?  "Some people think that pop music has that linkage, a common something, that familiar sound that is easy to grab onto; but I would say that people who become wealthy by doing this and permeating it for years still doesn't make it cool."  But the tenor and soprano master who has recorded with Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and Carlos Santana doesn't dismiss pop music entirely, citing the work of Bjork and John Mayer.  Shorter, who studied music and art in university, said he had no plans to be a musician until he heard Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell on the radio as a teen. "But I also liked Picasso and Monet," he added.

"Painting was kind of a lonely process and with music you're constantly interacting with people. I said `Well, I can paint the music then.' So goes the orchestra thing. It's about colours. That's the last thing (Charlie) Parker was talking about when he passed away. Coltrane too. They wanted more colours in the music: strings, woodwinds, it doesn't have to be just synthesizers ... they wanted to broaden the truth."  On this quest, Shorter's present band is like a collective, which has only rehearsed once, when it formed in 2001.  "They're all strong individuals. I don't mean macho," he said mimicking a gruff baritone, "but we all have a respect for each other and there's a lot of humour. There's also a crest of happiness that each one is moving on and when something threatens that we know how to override it — diplomatically of course." The result is the recent Grammy-winning disc Beyond the Sound Barrier and exciting, free-flowing concerts.  "Instead of writing a lot of songs and tunes we're going for the epic thing," said Shorter, whose own tale is equally epic. His buoyant, expressive sound won him a spot in Blakey's band from 1959-63, then with Davis from 1964-70, where he composed classics such as "Footsteps" and "Nefertiti." After leaving Davis, he co-founded the jazz-rock band Weather Report, which disbanded in 1985.  Shorter flourished musically in the face of personal turbulence: his father was killed in a car accident on the way home from one of his son's shows; he battled alcoholism; a brain-damaged daughter died at 14; and he lost his second wife in a 1996 plane crash.  Despite a number of acclaimed solo records, he hovered below the public's radar, resulting in the widely reported admonishment from Davis just prior to his 1991 death: "You know, you need to be exposed."  Happily remarried, Shorter, a Buddhist, is experiencing a kind of resurgence in his later years courtesy of his brilliant acoustic band and the 2004 biography, Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter, which laid bare his mysterious, mystical side.  Having heeded Davis's advice, he also seems to recall his indifferent stage stance, with nary a word to audiences. But it's nothing personal, he said.  "Speeches and lectures and talking and everything is okay for some people to do, but we're busy doing the road that's least travelled."

MUSIC TIDBITS

L.A. To Pay Slain Rapper's Family $1.1M Award

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Mar. 30, 2006)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The city has approved a $1.1 million payment to the family of rapper Notorious B.I.G. as punishment for police negligence during the slain musician's civil lawsuit trial.  U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper had sanctioned the city after learning that a police detective withheld documents that were pertinent to claims made by the rapper's family. She declared a mistrial in July.  The payment represents the cost of legal fees and other expenses incurred by the family's attorneys. City lawyers told the council an appeal was unlikely to overturn the judge's ruling. The council approved the payment Wednesday.  Christopher Wallace, or Notorious B.I.G., was shot and killed March 9, 1997, after a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The murder has not been solved.  A retrial of the wrongful death case is expected later this year.  His family's lawsuit against the city and LAPD claimed a corrupt LAPD officer arranged to have Wallace killed at the behest of Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight, and that LAPD officials covered up Mack's involvement. Knight has denied involvement.

What's New Pussycat? Tom Jones Knighted

Source: Associated Press


(Mar. 29, 2006) LONDON — It's not unusual for
Tom Jones to meet Queen Elizabeth — but being knighted was something special.  The 65-year-old singer, a coal miner's son from the Welsh town of Pontypridd, received the honour Wednesday at Buckingham Palace.  Jones, known for hits including What's New Pussycat and It's Not Unusual, said he had met the Queen "six or seven times, maybe more," starting with a royal charity performance in 1966.  "I love seeing the Queen and I have always been a royalist," Jones said. "She is lovely and she still is lovely."  Jones, who was accompanied by his son, daughter and granddaughter, said receiving the knighthood was "just tremendous."  "When you first come into show business and you get a hit record, it is the start of something," he said. "As time goes on, it just gets better. This is the best thing that I have had. It is a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling.  "Sometimes you just can't believe it, you think you have been dreaming."

Prince Scores First No. 1 Album Debut

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 30, 2006) *Prince is officially back, and toting a career first along with him. His new album “3121” entered The Billboard 200 at No. 1 this week, marking the first time in the artist’s illustrious career that his album has debuted in the top position.  While 1989’s “Batman” soundtrack, 1985’s “Around the World in a Day” and the seminal 1984 album “Purple Rain” all eventually landed at No. 1, his latest effort is the first to hit the top perch straight out the box.  “3121” sold 183,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, which was also enough to place the set atop Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Elsewhere on the Billboard 200, Ne-Yo’s "In My Own Words" slips one to No. 5, rapper B.G.'s "The Heart of Tha Streetz, Vol. 2: I Am What I Am," debuts at No. 6 and Ben Harper gets his first top 10 ranking with the double album "Both Sides of the Gun," which debuts at No. 7.

Purple Reign, Again

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

 (Apr. 2, 2006) Never mind the numbers already associated with His Purple Badness's new record, consider 47, 1 and 28. At age 47, the erstwhile Toronto resident has scored the first No. 1 album entry of his 28-year career. Though several of his albums have hit the top of the venerable Billboard 200 chart (the last being the Batman soundtrack in 1989) none did so in their first week. And if you're feeling lucky and thinking about picking up 3121, keep the number seven in mind. That's how many "purple tickets" were randomly scattered, Willy Wonka style, in the CD's first run, entitling winners to a private concert at Prince's L.A. home later this spring.

Wayne Wonder To Release New Video And Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 30, 2006) Singer
Wayne Wonder is gearing up to shoot the video for his track Don't Give a Damn, which is featured prominently on the Red Bull and Guinness rhythm. The song is said to be an exclusive track for his upcoming VP Records album. The shoot is expected to take place early next month. Additionally, Wayne has a bunch of new singles set to hit radio. They include the Tony Kelly-produced Gonna Love U. Wonder has been working tirelessly in the studio completing tracks for the upcoming still untitled album. The album which is due out this summer will feature appearances from Wonder's alter ego, Surprise as well as a number of guests. In April, Wonder will be re-launching a new version of his website, waynewonder.com He recently hit the charts with the Seasons rhythm smash, I Still Believe.

It Will Be Hard Out Here For A Music Listener

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 31, 2006) Memphis, Tenn. -- Oscar-winning rappers Three 6 Mafia say they are producing and recording tracks with Paris Hilton. "We ran into her at a William Morris Agency party and she said she liked our song Stay Fly and asked could we work with her," said Jordan (Juicy J) Houston, of the Memphis hip-hop group. He said the group was in a Los Angeles recording studio this week with the hotel heiress and reality-TV star. He said that, since winning the Oscar for best original song for It's Hard out Here for a Pimp from Hustle & Flow, the group has been swamped with requests. AP

New York’s WBLS To Honour Marvin Gaye

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 31, 2006)   *It’s all Marvin Gaye, all day for two days straight at New York’s WBLS this weekend in honour of the soul legend’s birthday on April 2, 1939, and his death on April 1, 1984.   “Marvin Gaye is a core artist and a staple of what we do,” explains WBLS program director Vinny Brown. “Someone who has made such a contribution needs to be recognized appropriately. I looked at the calendar and saw that this is a weekend which will mark not only the birth, but the death of such a legend, as it falls on Saturday and Sunday. And we thought that we’d dedicate the entire weekend to salute the man and his music and his legacy.”  On Saturday (April 1), WBLS will play at least two songs an hour from artists covering Marvin Gaye songs or paying tribute to the Motown standout. On Sunday morning, the station will air the Lee Bailey-produced tribute “Marvin Gaye: We Miss You.”   “We’ve run it before, we’ve had it on, it’s gotten such tremendous response,” Brown said of the special. “It has such an impact and makes such an impact on the radio that it’s back by popular demand.”  From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, WBLS’ Hal Jackson will take over with his own thoughts and memories for the program “Marvin, Then and Now,” which chronicles Gaye’s earlier years with Tammi Terrell and moves through his material up to the early 80s.  From 7-9 p.m., Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson will host a special edition of the Quiet Storm, featuring their own personal memories of working with Gaye as Motown staff writers. The songwriting duo will offer exclusive details about writing one of Gaye’s biggest singles, “Your Precious Love.”   “At 9 p.m., we open up the phones for the listeners, with more of their favourite Marvin Gaye songs in between,” adds Brown. “So it’s a full weekend.” 

Madonna Announces World Tour

Source:  Associated Press

(Apr. 3, 2006) New York — The Material Girl/Mom will embark on a world tour this summer.
Madonna will open the Confessions Tour in Los Angeles on May 21, work eastward through North America and jump to Europe on July 30 in Cardiff, Wales, it was announced Monday. "I'm going to turn the world into one big dance floor," the 47-year-old singer said in a statement. It is Madonna's first tour since the 2004 Re-Invention Tour. She will be supporting her 2005 album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. Other stops include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Chicago, Montreal, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Atlantic City, N.J. According to Madonna's website, the on Canadian date is Montreal on June 21. European destinations include London, Rome and Paris. The tour will also extend to Japan, featuring concerts in Tokyo and Osaka. More dates are expected to be added. As previously announced, Madonna will make her first festival performance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on April 30.

New Janet Jackson Single Due In May

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Apr. 3, 2006) *After several years away from the spotlight (minus the naked butt bongo video leaked on the Internet late last year),
Janet Jackson will return to the spotlight next month with the first single from her as-yet-untitled album. According to Virgin Urban president Jermaine Dupri, also her boyfriend, the single is expected to arrive at U.S. radio in May, and the album will likely follow at the end of September.   Jackson’s new CD will be the first since 2004’s “Damita Jo,” which dropped in the midst of the fallout (pun intended) surrounding her Super Bowl halftime show. Her long-time production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have contributed tracks to the new set as well.  "It's a milestone year for us and for the collaboration," Jam previously told Billboard.com. "It'll be 20 years since the release of (Jackson's 1986 album) 'Control,' so there's definitely a little bit of a nod to that on the new album." Dupri also contributed tracks to the project, but tells Billboard that he won’t be a featured guest on any of the songs.  "But I don't know if Jermaine Dupri the artist exists anymore. I'm not into that right now. It's far on the back burner,” says J.D., who will also oversee the 2006 Virgin Urban releases of albums from Beenie Man, Sleepy Brown, Johnta Austin, Young Capone and Daz Dillinger. “It's probably in the cards somewhere down the road. But it's the last thing I'm thinking about right now.”

Christopher ‘Play’ Martin Delivers Holy Hip Hop DVD

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com - By Nolan Strong and Chris Richburg

(Apr. 3, 2006)
Christopher "Play" Martin, one-half of the early duo Kid 'n Play, is releasing  Holy Hip Hop, a  new DVD that showcases rappers from the world of gospel music. Martin serves as host, director and producer of the 82-minute DVD, which offers an inside look at artists leading the way in the gospel rap scene.    "When I got introduced to this world about ten years ago, I had no idea it was around," Martin told AllHipHop.com. "I've been blessed to get a second time around and it's very special to see the packed concert halls to basements, watching crowds of all kinds going bananas over Hip Hop tracks and flows like it used to be."  Martin, currently CEO of HP4 Digital Works, became involved in the gospel hip hop scene in the mid-1990s, following his stint as a member of Kid-n-Play.  The rapper has enjoyed both recording and on screen success and has starred in movies such as House Party (1, 2 and 3) and Class Act.    "I hope this is the beginning of a new chapter in Hip Hop music, something better for my sons Christopher and Skyler, for their generation and beyond," said Martin."

Cheryl 'Coko' Clemons Formerly Of SWV Signs With Artemis Gospel

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com -

(March 13, 2006) - Artemis Gospel announces the signing of Cheryl "Coko" Clemons to their roster of artists. The elegant & powerful female vocalist, COKO, is best known as being one-third of the hugely popular 90's group SWV will be releasing an all new, all Gospel album in August.   COKO, who has lent her signature soprano vocals to hit songs such as "Men In Black," with Will Smith and her solo hit "Sunshine" is much more than an R&B singer who just "came from the church. "I never left the church," COKO said. "I've always been active in my church despite my profession in R&B music. Church was more than a breeding ground for me to sing, it's where I nurture my soul. It's a lifestyle for me."   COKO appeared on The Lord's Church Cathedral Choir's project on "Some How, Some Way," and on the breakout gospel song "Midnight" with Brent Jones & T.P. Mobb. COKO, began her career at 12 years old as a member of the New York Community Choir, The singer was a member of Hezekiah Walker's Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, and It during that tenure that COKO teamed up with childhood friends Leanne "Lelee" Lyons and Tamara "Taj" Johnson to form SWV.   Today COKO has set her sites on the Gospel world and fulfilling something that has always been in her - a desire and passion to present music with a message. Raised in the church, COKO has more than a testimony to deliver - she has a divine sense purpose to offer her gifts to the Lord. Her album is tentatively scheduled to hit stores everywhere this Summer on Artemis Gospel records will include all new music produced by Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell, Rodney Jerkins, and J. Moss & PAJAM.   Artemis Gospel, a division of Artemis Records, is a privately held, New York-based company owned by Sheridan Square Entertainment. Artemis Gospel, based in Nashville, TN is currently home to a diverse group of Gospel artists including Grammy-Award winning and legend Shirley Caesar, Bishop Paul S. Morton, RiZen, Youthful Praise, and Judith Christie McAllister.

Mary J. Recreates Painful K-Ci Moment With 50 Cent

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 4, 2006) *For her new single “Enough Crying,” Mary J. Blige has enlisted director Hype Williams to help recreate one of the lowest moments in her life.  Williams and the singer were recently in Long Beach, California filming a scene that involved her ex-boyfriend K-Ci Hailey – represented in the video by your boy, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. "The video is [about] something that happened a long time ago, and it was a very embarrassing moment when I thought I was getting married," she explained to MTV.com in between shooting. "I was engaged to [K-Ci], and I actually went on a talk show overseas and that person had just done that talk show about a week before me. I was telling the interviewer that I was getting married, and the week before he was saying that it was a rumour. He wasn't marrying me. It was a disaster that really embarrassed me."  Blige said she decided to include the humiliating moment in the video to prove that folks can push through the pain of heartbreak and keep stepping. In the video, after she leaves the interview, she goes directly to a photo shoot.  "I'm saying, 'I'm getting on with my life. I'm gonna go ahead and do my work,'" she explained. "I leave the interview and I'm kind of upset, but I'm still kind of going through my photo shoot. It ends up being one of the most amazing photo shoots because of all of the anger and depression and the fact that I choose to just move on with my life and be a superstar." In the clip, 50 Cent plays C.J. - “you know, short for Curtis Jackson," he said. "He's an R&B singer, and he's aggressive. When he's questioned by the guy interviewing them, he kind of loses his cool."  "I don't want to give it away," Blige said. "It's real comical, what he does to the interviewer. I'm just glad he's here. I love 50. I'm so happy. He's so supportive of Mary J. Blige, and I'm very supportive of 50. He's just gonna make the video that much better than what it already is." Blige and her husband Kendu are tight with 50, and regularly call on the rapper for advice about the industry.    "Me and my husband took him as a friend," Blige said. "He's someone we know we could talk to and call on if we have a question about something we can't answer because, quite frankly, 50 is very intelligent and we really appreciate his expertise, and we really appreciate his opinions and the advice he's given us."  "Enough Crying" will premiere on music video channels this week. In the meantime, you can HEAR it HERE.

Keyshia Cole On The Road

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 5, 2006)  New York, NY -- Hot off the heels of her debut album The Way It Is reaching certified platinum status, Keyshia Cole is set to kick off her first headlining tour. The 22-city tour kicked off in Fort Lauderdale, FL on March 26th.  Since releasing her critically acclaimed debut album, Keyshia Cole has shown no signs of slowing down. She wrapped up 2005 on the Touch The Sky tour with Kanye West and Fantasia, before kicking off 2006 overseas on Kanye's world tour with legendary band U2. To her credit, Keyshia has been on Usher's Truth Tour in 2004, and then on the Sweat Tour with Nelly, T.I., and Fat Joe.  Keyshia is featured on the theme song to the Mission Impossible III soundtrack with Kanye West and rapper Twista and will join them in Prague to shoot the video for the song. Mission Impossible III comes out Spring 2006. Following the smash hit, "I Should Have Cheated," which was the #1 song at urban radio for weeks, Keyshia recently introduced "Love," her fourth single off the album. "Love" is currently #6 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles chart and the corresponding video features actor/singer Tyrese as the male lead and is being aired heavily on major video outlets nationwide.

Better Than 'Dead'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Edited by Jonathan Cohen

(Apr. 4, 2006)
Pink writes with a pointed pen on her new LaFace/Zombaalbum, "I'm Not Dead," which arrives this week. First single "Stupid Girls" is an assault on Hollywood's obsession with thin, blonde and beautiful. In the video, the artist born Alicia Moore mocks the likes of Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, among others -- and in a very telling scene, shows the repulsiveness and destructiveness of bulimia.  Moore is excited that "Stupid Girls," a song she fought for and one her label did not want to release as the first single, is inspiring dialogue and raising awareness. It is healing for her, because she suffers, too. Moore has "fat days." She has days when she gets depressed and feels like she is not good enough. She is not superhuman, she is honest. She says writing and singing about it is cathartic. She wants young women to know they are not alone.  "I'm not trashing everyone in 12 tracks," she says. "I don't pick a different group to trash [in] each song. Most of the time, I'm just trashing myself."  Moore admits, "The first single is always hard, because it's supposed to represent a record that pretty much is like the first single. But with me, my only consistent thread is my voice, not even my humour is the same. My albums are just so eclectic. It's not all just funny, it's not all deep. It's everything in between."

Pharrell Collaborating With Velvet Revolver

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen and Susan Butler, N.Y.

(Apr. 3, 2006) Despite rumours that Velvet Revolver members Slash and Duff McKagan will rejoin Guns N' Roses for a summer tour, the group is actually at work on its sophomore RCA album with an unlikely collaborator: uber hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams.  Williams is also working with Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland on a song titled "Happy," which will likely appear on Weiland's second solo album. Williams confirmed the projects with Billboard.com but did not reveal additional details.  "With the first record, it was kind of a feeling out process on a technical level," Weiland told Billboard.com in December. "We were sort of bonded by blood in a sense, because we'd gone through very similar circumstances. On this record, I have a real concept in mind. Because of that, it will be a very album-oriented record instead of a singles-driven record."  As for Williams, there's still no word on when his long-delayed Interscope solo debut, "In My Mind," will be released. According to a spokesperson, the artist is still working on the album.  Without giving away specifics, Williams did tell Billboard.com he plans to hit the studio in the coming weeks with Slim Thug, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Nas and Ludacris.

Teena Marie Polishes 'Sapphire'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com -
Clover Hope, N.Y.

(Apr. 3, 2006)
Soul singer Teena Marie will on May 9 release her second Cash Money Classics/Universal album, "Sapphire." The set features appearances from legendary crooner/former Motown labelmate Smokey Robinson and rapper Kurupt.  An expected duet with Marie and her longtime partner, the late Rick James, was taken off the album, according to a label spokesperson. Robinson is featured on two songs, "God Has Created" and "Cruise Control," while Kurupt graces "Baby Who's Is It."  Cash Money founders Bryan "Baby" Williams and Ronald "Slim Tha Don" Williams serve as executive producers. The pair also co-produced lead single "Ooo Wee," along with Marie.  Marie's first Cash Money Classics disc, 2004's "La Dona," peaked at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 458,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The singer will launch a national tour later this year in support of "Sapphire."

::FILM NEWS::

Six Figures' Caroline Cave Mines The Soul

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Mar. 31, 2006) After a relatively short but impressive stage career defined by playing volatile and out-of-control women, portraying an emotionally guarded, virtually repressed character on film was an offer Caroline Cave could not resist. Shortly after completing a gruelling run as Lady Macbeth in a Theatre Calgary production last year and before rehearsing for the even more-taxing role of Albertine in Michel Tremblay's Past Perfect -- which closes Sunday at the Tarragon Theatre -- Cave, 32, shot the Canadian movie
Six Figures. It's a clinically observed study from director David Christensen of a family struggling to keep up with punishing financial and social expectations in the booming economy of Calgary. Cave plays Claire, a wife and mother of two children who is mysteriously hit with a hammer one evening. Her husband Warren (J. R. Bourne) becomes the prime suspect. The film toys with the notion of "did he or didn't he?" while examining the possibility, wisdom and price of marital reconciliation between the couple. Cave's measured and elegantly understated performance hinges on her ability to convey information on subtextual and intellectual levels. There are no blowout scenes as in Past Perfect, no soliloquies as in Macbeth and categorically no extensive narration as in her Dora Award-winning turn in the one-woman show The Syringa Tree.

Creating the performance began in the audition room by letting go of her stage roots, Cave says.  "In theatre, you're editing for the audience in the sense that it's your job to draw focus, to demand focus, and to build the rhythm and arc for the work," the Vancouver native and Shaw Festival alumna says over a soy-milk latte at a Toronto coffee shop, "What I wasn't doing successfully in my film auditions was trying to create an arc within a scene. I was trying to build a scene intellectually the way I was applying my theatrical work.  "What Six Figures taught me is that all I'm responsible for in front of the camera is a moment -- little incremental moments. Then it's the editor and director that go and build a movie. I don't build a movie." The experience of filming Six Figures also hit home on a more personal note. "I loved playing a woman who is veiled and has a bit of repression. . . . It's the antithesis of Caroline. It brings me to a place that's quite . . . ," she edits her words before completing the sentence. "There's a neutrality in my visage, a containment that is a joy for me to play. The kind of woman I wish I was sometimes: not so much heart on my sleeve." The dispassionate nature of Cave's performance (and the film in general) may conceal a ticking bomb. Feminists and others involved in campaigns to stop violence against women probably will be outraged at the psychology of Claire's character -- a fine line between accepting the reality of a "suppressed voice in the relationship" and condoning victimization. "With a woman like Claire," Cave explains, "what was interesting to me and disappointing to all the feminists is that she chose the illusion of being right about her partner and keeping her marriage intact over the possibility of freedom and independence from a dysfunctional relationship. She chose to keep it intact for the picture -- the picture of the happy family she always wanted and convinced herself she could have." Calgary's economics may breed murderous rage within the plot of Six Figures, but the city is one of Cave's favourites. On Monday, she'll hop on a plane for that city to start rehearsal for what she calls a "love project" -- a play titled Dig, written and directed by two old friends. After a short family break, she'll return to Vancouver to focus on more film work. "I just think I'm at that age where if I don't go for it, I'll always wonder."

Cinéfranco Festival

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Mar. 31, 2006) A summation of a certain kind of French attitude comes at the end of Dans tes rêves (In Your Dreams), a highly stylized take on the rapper-overcoming-the-odds genre of films. In a closing scene, the rapper Ixe, played by real-life French MC Disiz La Peste, looks out at the audience and announces that although hip hop will always be seen as low culture, nobody can stop him from living through his art. Turning the notion on its head, Ixe's would-be manager, trying to get out of the hairdressing business and get the Parisian underworld off his back, daydreams earlier in the film about a better life and imagines himself inside an Afro-French version of Manet's painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe. They seem like significant markers for some of the films exploring black and Arab issues in this year's Cinéfranco festival, which runs until April 9. Others, such as the sexually teasing Lila dit ça (Lila Says) and the pleasantly light comedy about juvenile delinquents Camping à la ferme, similarly follow notions of ethnic kids having to live up to the expectations of traditional France. Lila dit ça winds up being far more concerned with sexual play, but the central character is an Arab teenager in Marseilles who is given a chance to study writing in Paris. (Judging purely by the cinematography alone, the Marseilles ghetto he is trying to escape is so old-world beautiful, many watching the film might gladly move there.)

Granted, it's a common theme in any language: Talent and art as a way out. Yet somehow, watching the film in Toronto, it all begs questions about how the French perceive their Arab citizens (one character even talks about how Arabs are now trendy), along with the vague notion that, again, higher arts remain outside the ghetto. Camping à la ferme meets an assortment of Arab, black and one white Austrian boy more on their own terms. The teens are sent to the country for a month to do community service. The plot is mild, pastoral fare, but it gives wide breathing space to the actors portraying the mannerisms and dialogue of the teens. Instead of having the characters aspire to something, the film has a refreshing, quotidian quality. They are just kids, despite the labels put on them, not having to meet some ideal, but simply being. The festival runs from today to April 9 at The Royal Cinema, 608 College St. Single film tickets are $10 (or $8 for four films purchased at once). Tickets are available at the cinema box office one hour before screening or at the Festival Ticketing Box Office, Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor St. W. Call 416-967-1528 or go to http://www.cinefranco.com for information and film schedules.

The Refugee All Stars

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey

(Mar. 31, 2006) Television biographies of the Behind the Music ilk or movies such as Ray and Walk the Line hew to a three-act formula: the meteoric rise, the decline into failure and addiction, and then the resurrection leading to inner peace and artistic triumph.
In bracing contrast, the documentary The Refugee All Stars (the final film of the season in Hot Docs' Doc Soup series) portrays a group of musicians grappling with more profound kinds of adversity: murder, exile and psychological trauma. Shot over three years, related in a brisk 78 minutes, this cinéma verité chronology follows a half-dozen musicians from Sierra Leone, who fled from their country's civil war and formed a band in the refugee camps of Guinea.  A winner of the American Film Institute's international documentary prize in Los Angeles and the audience award at the Miami International Film Festival, the film earns its crowd-pleasing reputation thanks to the thoughtful honesty of the interview subjects and the contagious warmth and directness of their music. Given the short running time, it's no surprise the film is light on political context. Sierra Leone, a country of five million people on the west coast hump of Africa, was devastated by civil war in the 1990s. In a fight for political power and control of rich diamond mines, the country's elected government was overthrown by a military coup. An estimated 50,000 people were killed while hundreds of thousands fled to nearby Liberia and Guinea. In 2002, the year the war ended, San Francisco filmmaker-musicians Zach Niles and Banker White, along with Montreal musician and film producer Chris Velan, first met the fledgling version of the Refugee All Stars in a Guinean refugee camp. Led by charismatic songwriter Reuben Karoma, the band consists of his wife, Efuah Grace, Francis John Langba, Abdul Rahim Kamara, Mohammed Bangura and a teenaged rapper who emulates Busta Rhymes, named Alhaji Jeffrey Kamara (a.k.a. Black Nature).The six musicians found collective purpose through music, infectious reggae-inspired African pop with emotionally direct lyrics in English that focus on the day-to-day conditions of refugee camps: unfamiliar diet and languages, hot tarpaulin tents, grief for lost friends and relatives.

The film's narrative hook was provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, which decided to use the All Stars to promote its campaign to persuade refugees to return to Sierra Leone. We see the band taking its show on the road to other refugee camps, where the musicians are joyously received. The next stage is an invitation to return to Freetown in Sierra Leone, a journey that provides the final third of the film. Easily the film's most powerful segment shows the conflicting emotions registering on the faces of the musicians during their homecoming, as they ride drive through the devastated streets of Freetown. The scene overshadows the film's upbeat ending in which the band goes into a recording studio to make a successful album. Today, most of musicians are making a living performing in Sierra Leone, and the young rapper, Black Nature, is back in school. But not everyone came home or found hope again. Harmonica player Mohammed Bangura, who was forced by the rebels to kill his own son before they amputated his arm, was psychologically unable to return and risk seeing his tormentors again. There are wounds that even music can't begin to heal. The Refugee All Stars screens April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., 416-516-2331.

Polar Film Tour Iced

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Gayle Macdonald

(Apr. 5, 2006)
The filmmakers behind The Journals of Knud Rasmussen -- a $6.3-million Inuit feature slated to open the Toronto International Film Festival in September -- have blamed a Nunavut government department for the disruption of a 56-community tour they kicked off in the Arctic last month. Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk and his creative partner, Norman Cohn, said the popular screenings -- which had been taking place in filled-to-capacity halls in remote locales such as Igloolik and Pond Inlet -- will stop on Thursday because they can no longer afford to mount the family screenings. Yesterday, Cohn lashed out at Nunavut's Department of Economic Development and Transportation for failing to come through with funds to continue the film's tour. "It's part of an ongoing war we've had with the local government for years and years," said Cohn, co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions. "It's pitiful that the department is often the last [funding agency] to step up and support something that benefits them the most. "It felt ridiculous to keep going when those guys couldn't come up with $10 to help us," added Cohn, whose firm had applied for an unspecified amount of financial assistance. The department's fiscal-year-end deadline (when they dole out what remains in the kitty) came -- and went -- last week. Isuma Productions did not get a dime. "We would have taken anything," said Cohn. "It's embarrassing to tour our film through Nunavut if our own government is not participating." The Nunavut Film Agency and the Department of Economic Development and Transportation did not return calls yesterday. Kunuk always insists on showing his work -- shot entirely in Inuktitut and with mostly Inuit actors -- first to his hometown of Igloolik, population roughly 1,300, about 2,800 kilometres north of Toronto.

He established the tradition with his first feature film, the internationally acclaimed Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which had its inaugural screening in the Igloolik high-school gym in December, 2000. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen was shown to the locals, three times, at the gym on March 11 and 12. Atanarjuat scooped the Caméra d'Or at Cannes, and was the top-grossing Canadian feature film in 2002. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen cost three times as much as Atanarjuat to make. The film is based on the journals of the Danish ethnographer/explorer who travelled through Igloolik and the surrounding area in the 1920s, and recounted the controversial impact of Christianity, which was force-fed to the Inuit by zealous missionaries intent on stamping out shamanism. Cohn said The Journals of Knud Rasmussen will resume its tour in September after the film has a starkly different gala at its official world premiere at the Toronto festival. "There are a lot of obstacles to making films in the Arctic," said an embittered Cohn. "The weather, polar bears, and a dysfunctional Third World government."

A Special Q &A - Spike Lee: He’s Got to Have It….

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 30, 2006) With an illustrious film career that moves past the 20 year mark this year, director Spike Lee has good reason to celebrate. Having already earned a permanent place as one of America’s most seminal directors for films like, She’s Got to Have It,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X”, Lee can now add box office champ to his long list of credentials after the strong opening for his new film “Inside Man”.  With opening weekend grosses over 29 million dollars, the Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen bank robbery drama clearly demonstrates that the Lee is only getting better with time.  Never one to shy away from thought-provoking controversy, Lee just completed work on a documentary that spotlights the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that’s schedule to air on HBO later this year. With his trademark candour and humour in tow, Lee agreed to be interviewed by the Robertson Treatment’s popular 6 Question series to talk about what it’s like to be a Hollywood “inside man” and his plans for the future. 
 
RT: How do you feel about your elevated status as a filmmaker?

SL: I don't think of myself as having an elevated status. That's just not the way I think of myself. So you know , we're very happy that this year we're going to do several things . . . celebrate the 20 years of making film. But it's just not the celebration of me. It's a celebration of the body of work and the people who've been part of that over 20 years. So we're very happy . . . It's not just me, so again, it's not just me. Gordon Parks just passed. Ossie Davis. Those individuals — they made it possible for myself. . . Oscar Michaud , Melvin Van Peebles — those men enabled me . . .”She's Gotta Have It” opened 20 years ago, and when it opened in LA, I was in front of the theatre — you know, just being outside the theatre, and after the movie came out, this skinny kid with glasses this thick said — hello, My name is John Singleton, I'm in high school, I want to make movies like you. True story. So there's this evolution, and people making movies now were inspired by Singleton's film, “ Boyz n The Hood”. So you gotta keep it going.
 
RT: Considering the legacy of Black Filmmakers, what do you think of current black cinema being released today like the Tyler Perry movies, Soul Plane and things like that?

SL: Well, I don't know if we can lump Tyler 's films together with “Soul Plane” (laughter). I have mad love for Tyler . His films have become a force. I mean, he got it made. When he was trying to get that made, people were telling him,  black people go to church, they don't go to movies, that kind of stuff, he didn't take that — let it stop the man — he's been a box-office king,  so hopefully people would use him as an example, that if you have a vision and are driven,  no matter who you are, Black, White, Latino, Asian, you get your stuff done.
 
RT: Spike what was it like working with lead actors who happen to have directed themselves?

SL: That was something I've never thought about until recently. You know, Denzel directed “ Antwone Fisher” and Jodie directed “Little Man Tate”. These are just great actors. So it wasn't a concern at all.
 
RT: Spike what do you think of suggestions that you and Denzel are this generation’s De Niro and Scorsese? 

SL: How many did they do together? Let's count them. “Mean Streets”, “Raging Bull”, “ Goodfellas”, “Taxi Driver”, “Casino” — they're more. What Denzel and I have said, we hope that if you look at the timetable, it's been a minute since “He Got Game” so the next film can't be as long — we don't know what it's gonna be, but we only want to work together — soon. So we can get to number five.
 
  RT: Talk about your next project and how much of a challenge is the Katrina film given there’s still no closure to that story?

SL : That's a very good question. It's something I think about every day. My  first documentary, “Four Little Girls”, was about the bombing of the Baptist Church in Birmingham , Alabama , in 1963. We did that film 20 years later, so for the most part the story would have been told. But for this documentary we're doing on Katrina for HBO, it's called When The Levees Broke, every day there's something new. This story is constantly shifting and changes. It was a challenging project that I'm thinking about it all the time. It comes out on August 29th on HBO.

RT: What’s your next project?

SL: I'm going to be directing a pilot for Brian and CBS called “Sharks” that stars James Woods. I’ll begin that project very soon in Los Angeles .

For the full story: CLICK HERE

Lovers Lost In The Dark

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Geoff Pevere, Movie Critics

Three Times

Starring Shu Qi and Chang Chen. Directed by Hou Hsaio-hsien. 139 minutes. At the Cumberland. 18A

(Mar. 31, 2006)
For a movie that focuses on the experience of love at different points in history, Hou Hsaio-hsien's Three Times demonstrates a conspicuous interest in what lovers do when they're alone. And what they do, no matter whether it's 1966, 1911 or 2005, is remarkably consistent. They feel terribly lonely.  In a manner both stylistically and emotionally reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love and 2046, Three Times is about the subliminal nature of attraction. It's not what's said that defines the rules of amorous engagement, but the way that love — that most rudely uncontainable of emotions — tests the foundations of decorum and behaviour. The drama lies in trying to hide it.  Using the same gorgeously featured actors (Shu Qi and Chang Chen) to play the lovers (and almost lovers) in three drastically different times, Hou's movie reveals the way history changes so much more than people within it do.  In the opening story, "A Time For Love," a man about to be shipped off to military service in 1966 goes on a frantic search for the woman he met once in a pool hall and had never forgotten. In "A Time for Freedom," a brothel courtesan in 1911 falls futilely for a political activist in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. And in "A Time for Youth," a photographer and a bisexual pop singer embark on a tentative, largely text-messaged affair.  Despite the dramatic differences in setting, tone and style of the three stories (the 1911 story is even rendered as a rigorously formalized silent film with piano accompaniment and intertitles), Three Times could well be about the same two people. While the outward expressions of their feelings for each other are defined by their era and its mores (barely a touch clinches the romance in 1966, while the 2005 couple are tearing at each other's clothing in minutes), their essential condition remains the same: they experience love in equally intense cycles of bonding and separation, and they seem forever to be suspended in a state of unfulfilled desire. Moreover, in each story Hou emphasizes the isolating nature of intense attraction: you never feel more alone.  Like Wong Kar-wai, Hou's interest in the unspoken nature of desire means his movie is sensually alive to the way love overwhelms and transforms one's experience of the world. The largely non-linear and elliptical narratives capture the fragmenting sensation of amorous obsession, as do compositions and camera work that constantly leave one feeling slightly off kilter.  In this movie, love intensifies feelings to a point of almost narcotic sensitivity, so that every colour, movement, pop song and gesture seems fraught with simmering passion. 

Big Boi And Evan Ross Find Common Ground In 'ATL'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Apr. 3, 2006) *Seventeen-year-old
Evan Ross admits that his character in the new film “ATL” was a stretch, to say the least.  The son of Diana Ross and late Norwegian businessman Arne Naess, Evan’s life is rooted in privilege. His father owned a private island in Tahiti and his mother is an American icon. Ironically, it's the pursuit of such thick paper and notoriety that threatens to derail Ross’ character in the coming-of-age film.   “It’s a total different person than who I am,” Evan says of his character, Ant. “But at the same time there were a lot of aspects of it that I could incorporate from my own experiences, more in the feelings of things. It was something that was a lot different from what I’ve been used to doing, playing a young drug dealing kinda kid who was dealing with all these kinda issues with family problems and finding his identity and things like that, making the right choices.”  On the flipside, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton knows plenty of "d-boys" (or drug dealers) like his character, Marcus. The OutKast rapper says he grew up around cats steeped in the game, and even has a few of them in his family tree.  “Growing up in that environment, just being around it all my life it’s like an outline of what to go through,” he says.  The 36-year-old also found familiarity with ‘ATL’s’ story, loosely based on the childhood of music producer Dallas Austin and his homegirl, Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins of TLC. The film’s skating rink backdrop takes Big Boi back to his own days as a youngin’ hanging with his OutKast partner, Andre Benjamin.

“Me and Dre both did skate,” says the rapper. “That was the big hangout thing back in the day. There’d be dance competitions, everybody would have fly hairdos. Dudes had long perms and finger waves, it was all about style.” Both Big Boi and his Atlanta-born co-star Tip “T.I.” Harris say their director, Chris Robinson, was on point when it came to portraying their beloved city.    “It’s pretty accurate, I say at least about 90 percent,” admits Big Boi. “You had the whole skate crowd, you broke everything down from the preps, to the d-boys, to just the different groups of kids that co-mingled.” Austin, also an executive producer on the film, recruited Big Boi for the role of Marcus on the heels of the artist’s first feature film, “Idlewild,” which is scheduled to arrive in theatres on Aug. 25.   “I see how they say you can catch the acting bug because it was fun,” he says of the “Idlewild” shoot.  “We were in North Carolina for like three months. And I was like, ‘Man, I wanna do another film.’ So when [Austin] called, when the opportunity arose, I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do it.’”  Although "Idlewild" was shot before 'ATL', Big Boi's big screen debut occurred with the latter last weekend, which opened in third place at the box office behind "Inside Man" at No. 2 and "Ice Age: The Meltdown" at No. 1. The delays surrounding "Idlewild's" release date had to do with Big Boi and Dre taking their time with the project, despite all the deadlines set by the studio, Universal. "That's been the holdup of the movie," says Big Boi. "I know Universal was mad at us, but we're telling them it's not done until it's done. I think that's been one of the keys of our success up until now, not trying to rush it. It usually takes me and Dre like two to three years to complete a project, and now we're at that three-year mark and we're 95 percent done with all the music. I think the world is gonna be satisfied." While Big Boi had already tasted a bit of Hollywood, Ross entered "ATL" completely green, but has since scored a plum role opposite one of his acting heroes, Terrence Howard, in the upcoming drama "P.D.R." The film is based on the true story of Jim Ellis (Howard), who starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. Ross will play one of the teens.  Evan looks up to Howard and Denzel Washington as acting role models, but he reserves extra praise for the on-screen skills of his mother, “who I think is an incredible actress and who I’ve been able to watch,” he says.   But even Evan knows when to pump the breaks on his mama's advice.    “Coming here today [for the interview], she was like, ‘Evan, maybe you can take more than one [change of] clothes so you can switch during the interview.’ I'm like, 'Mom!'"

Ballroom Dancing Provides Answer to Juvenile Delinquency in Inspirational Bio-Pic

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 5, 2006) *In 2005, Mad Hot Ballroom recounted the heartwarming story of an ethnically diverse set of New York public school students from humble backgrounds who learn some very valuable life lessons while being taught how to tango, waltz and rumba in preparation for an annual citywide competition. That feel-good documentary was ostensibly inspired by the work of Pierre Dulaine, the instructor who came up with the novel idea of introducing the kids to ballroom dancing in the first place.  Emphasizing the development of confidence, self-esteem, manners and other critical survival skills which would serve them well in adulthood, Dulaine was so effective in bringing the studio sensibility to the classroom that his community outreach program has blossomed over the years to the point where it currently serves over 7,500 students in 60 schools. Take the Lead revisits the themes addressed by Mad Hot Ballroom, but this relatively melodramatic bio-pic ups the ante in terms of emotional intensity while shifting its focus away from the children to the ever elegant, dashing and passionate Pierre, as played by Antonio Banderas. The ensemble cast features a host of very talented unknowns plus Alfre Woodard, Ray Liotta, and Rob Brown, who worked so well in a similar role opposite Sean Connery in Finding Forrester. The movie marks the feature film debut of Liz Friedlander, a veteran TV commercial and music video director who has previously worked with the likes of U2 and Blink 182. Another first-timer, Dianne Houston, was responsible for the imaginative script, which earns high marks for interweaving a fascinating front story with a variety of lesser vignettes into a collection of touching tales of personal triumph. In addition, the picture treats the audience to plenty of delectable dance sequences which frequently contrast classical styles with present-day hip-hop. That being said, Take the Lead is slightly tarnished by its somewhat simplistic recurring suggestion that the woes of the ghetto could be easily eliminated if everybody just took their cues from its perfectly polite protagonist. The film’s only other flaw is an overabundance of tight shots which deliberately avoid the skyline due to its attempting to make Toronto pass for New York. As for the plot, the fun starts the night Pierre just happens to be bicycling through the ‘hood in a tuxedo. He comes upon Rock (Brown) in the midst of trashing his high school principal’s (Woodard) car with a golf club in order to “Leave this bitch a little message” for having suspended him.

Pierre intervenes, but rather than report the incident to the cops, he instead decides to track down the owner. When the tall, dark and handsome gentleman pays a visit to the school, we get a good idea of the effect he has on women, as females entering the office inexplicably begin to swoon just because he holds the door for them. Pierre sizes up the situation and impulsively offers to teach ballroom dancing at the dilapidated and obviously in crisis institution for free, yet the best deal he can cut with the principal is to baby-sit the juvenile delinquents sent to detention after school. This suits the eternal optimist just fine, and thus begins the compassionate process of whipping some of the school’s worst miscreants into form for the big competition in the finale. Lean on Me meets Strictly Ballroom. Tough two-step replaces tough love.

Uwe Boll Bypasses Big Movie Chains

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John McKay, Canadian Press


(Apr. 5, 2006) Calling the January U.S. release of his vampire-splatter movie
BloodRayne a "complete disaster," maverick director Uwe Boll says he is handling the Canadian distribution through his own company.  The film opens Friday but only in independent cinemas, with no participation from big chains. Boll, a German director who has made several genre films out of his Canadian base in Vancouver, says BloodRayne ended up in few U.S. cinemas — only half as many as the number of prints made.  He also says that in recent years a producer's traditional relationship with distributors has changed, and not for the better. His beef is over high costs that distributors claim to have incurred for advertising and making prints.  "I can tell you tons of examples of people that made really successful movies and they never got the revenues," Boll says. ``They can claim later `Yeah, look, the movie made $40 million, but we spent $42 million in (prints and advertising).'"  Set in 18th-century eastern Europe, BloodRayne is about a young half-vampire, half-human woman (Terminator 3's Kristanna Loken) seeking revenge on the powerful vampire (Ben Kingsley) who raped and killed her mother.  Boll plans to make the bulk of his profits for BloodRayne not from the limited Canadian and U.S. runs but from outside the Hollywood-controlled system, in places like Russia and the Middle East, and on DVD.  He also has an unusual technique for snagging name actors for his films. BloodRayne boasts such personalities as Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, Udo Kier and Meatloaf.  He approaches actors at the very last minute when they are between productions and uncertain where their next job is coming from. And they are invariably willing to take even small parts for an easy paycheque.  "If you go really late to actors you actually save money," he says. "Genre movies are not the actor's first pick in general. But if you wait, a lot of actors are still available.

"If we went to Ben Kingsley a year in advance and offered him the money we actually paid him, he would never do that. He was available."  Boll says Kingsley also told him he always wanted to play a vampire. After shooting his scenes for BloodRayne in Romania, the actor went straight to Prague to film Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist.  Boll's next picture, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale — like BloodRayne, also based on a video game — features Loken as well as John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski and Burt Reynolds.  While BloodRayne's leather-and-vampire look recalls similar recent hits, Boll insists there's a difference between his movie and, say, Underworld.  "Like in Underworld, Kate Beckinsale would never show her (breasts)," he says. "And also she's not really acting like a vampire."  Loken's character, he says, is less of a super-heroine. She's a more disturbing vampire who sucks blood because she needs to. "Our woman is not a clean vampire," Boll says. "She is erotic, sexy ... we have here a way more dirty vampire."  Boll did spend money on his authentic locales by taking his Canadian/German crew outside of Bucharest for several weeks.  He boasts they filmed exteriors in towns where, he says, the original Vlad the Impaler actually walked the streets.

FILM TIDBITS

Danny Glover, George C. Wolfe To Direct Biopics

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 30, 2006)  *Veteran actor Danny Glover and acclaimed director George C. Wolfe are each headed behind the camera to direct biopics for theatrical release. Glover tells entertainment columnists Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith that he’s helming a film about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L'Ouverture. So far, the actor has lined up Mos Def, Don Cheadle and Angela Bassett to star in the project. "I've got a powerful cast," says Glover, who said the film is a labour of love he’s been trying to complete for some 20 years. "We also have Wesley Snipes, Roger Guenvere Smith, plus a number of other African and Haitian actors."  Wolfe, meanwhile, is set to direct a feature film version of the acclaimed documentary “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story,” reports Variety. The documentary focused on the welterweight boxing champ whose career became defined by the night he battered rival Benny "Kid" Paret into unconsciousness during a nationally televised bout. Paret, who had taunted Griffith by calling him a homosexual, died of his injuries.  Wolfe most recently directed HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues” for executive producer, Halle Berry.

Will T.I. be ‘King’ At The Box Office This Week?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore

(March 30, 2006) T.I. has both a movie and album coming out this week and they will no fuel one another. Debuting in the film, “ATL,” T.I. proves that the good guy does get the girl. Seventeen-year-old Rashad (Tip Harris aka T.I.) became the man of the house when his parents were killed in a car accident. His role as surrogate father is tested when “little” brother Ant (Evan Ross) is swayed by the bling and easy money into dealing drugs.    With a fledging career in film and well entrenched in his music, the Film Strip wanted to know the pros and cons dealing with the two? “The demands and expectations are just totally, totally different,” he explained. “For the music industry the pros for me are like responding to the people individually, like at shows and just being in and out of hoods, and in and out of cities across the nation, seeing the reactions from the people, seeing them respond to my music and hearing their opinions, and you know, just a lot of things. Of course the money is great, too.    “In the film industry, the pros are the exposure, and the amount of money that is invested into the project that you have to put out here. Of course the press is the most intense and widely publicized, noteworthy amount of press you can have. Also, I mean the food on set is great. Plus, you’re around a bunch of people all the time so you’re just gonna be entertained all day. At least on this that’s how it was.”    T.I., who tried out for “Drumline” and a role in “Barbershop,” says he chose to do “ATL” because, “It was the most honest representation of my culture and my city to be put onscreen and the largest production to ever be filmed in Atlanta.”

No Teasing: Hairspray Auditions Set For Toronto

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Mar. 31, 2006)
A young singer-dancer will get a chance to play a big role in a movie being shot in Toronto this summer, as long as she doesn't mind being described as an "extremely overweight high-school girl" and having John Travolta play her mother.  New Line Films has issued an open casting call for Hairspray, the remake of John Waters' movie and hit Broadway play.  Travolta has already been tagged to play Edna Turnblad — the Harvey Fierstein role on Broadway — and Queen Latifah has Motormouth Maybelle wrapped up. But three teen roles are still up for grabs and hoofers with a Broadway-calibre singing voice are being invited to be at the Elgin Theatre's stage door entrance on Victoria St. on Saturday, April 8 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  ·  Tracy Turnblad is described as a female, Caucasian, age 16 to 21 to play 16. Besides being plump, she should have "a pretty face, infectious grin and indomitable spirit."  ·  Little Inez: female, black, age 10 to 13. "Smart, strong, and the kind of girl who stands up for herself. She is one of the best dancers and singers around ... and she knows it."  ·  Link: male. Caucasian, 16-23 to play 17. "The teenage heartthrob of 1962 Baltimore. Sexy. He should have a real edge: more of an Elvis than a Tab Hunter."  Audition details are at http://www.hairspraymovie.com.  The Star's Martin Knelman reported in January that Hairspray is expected to be shot in Toronto and Baltimore with a budget of about $75 million (U.S.).

Obba In, Smokey Out In National Tour Of ‘Chicago’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 4, 2006) *Obba Babatunde has replaced Smokey Robinson in the upcoming national tour of Chicago, reports Broadway.com.   Robinson was to play the role of slick lawyer Billy Flynn in the production, but had to pull out because of “scheduling conflicts.”    The casting change is the latest in a series of revolving actors in the production. Chicago currently stars Robin Givens as Roxie Hart, Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly and John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn. In February, Givens left the Broadway cast for a three week run as Roxie in the touring company, while Michelle DeJean, who starred as Roxie on the road, joined its Broadway production. On April 17, frequent Roxie, Charlotte d'Amboise (who will be seen next fall in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line), will rejoin to the cast. The following week, Brenda Braxton will return as Velma Kelly.   Babatunde previously appeared as Billy Flynn in the national tour of Chicago, and nabbed a Tony nomination for his performance as C.C. White in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. His other Broadway credits include Grind, It's So Nice to Be Civilized, Reggae and Timbuktu!. He can currently be seen on the small screen in the comedy series “Half & Half.”

Beasties Use Hit-And-Run Strategy To Promote Film

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Apr. 5, 2006) Toronto -- The Beastie Boys have always veered outside the ordinary, and that's exactly how ThinkFilm has decided to distribute the group's concert film, Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!, in Canada.  The film won't have a normal theatrical run before hitting the DVD market as originally planned, but instead be shown in cinemas as one-night-only events, like a concert, with local radio stations and other media co-promoting it. Awesome incorporates frenetically edited concert footage shot on 50 handheld video camcorders. "The film plays best if you can recreate that concert feel. We feel the best way to do that is to go into each market with lots of advance notice, lots of grassroots and local tie-in to create an energy in the auditorium," said ThinkFilm senior vice-president Andrew Austin. "Concert films are tough at the best of times."

::TV NEWS::

CBC Taps American To Craft New Shows

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, Entertainment Reporter


(Mar. 30, 2006)
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has hired an American film producer who served as the president of American Zoetrope, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's production company, as its new head of arts and entertainment programming.  Fred Fuchs, 51, takes over the post on Monday, the CBC said. Fuchs, who moved to Canada from San Francisco five years ago with his wife, a Torontonian, replaces Deborah Bernstein, who quit last month after 20 years in the post.  His appointment completes the line-up of high-ranking CBC executives who will set the course of the corporation's dramatic television production.  In a release, the CBC said Fuchs "will work closely with the A&E creative heads, with executive director of network programming Kirstine Layfield and with executive vice-president Richard Stursberg to select, develop and produce Canadian entertainment programming of the highest quality in all genres."  Layfield, a long-time programmer of various lifestyle channels at Alliance Atlantis, was hired by Stursberg as CBC's head of English TV programming in February; she began her job last week.  The recruitment of Layfield and Fuchs is seen in the industry as part of a large-scale retooling of CBC-TV's prime-time schedule, with Stursberg at the helm. 

Last month, in a presentation to the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Stursberg made clear that the CBC will pursue more "fast-paced," "escapist" and "positive and redemptive" programming in its mostly vacant prime-time drama schedule. The CBC cancelled three prominent series, Da Vinci's City Hall, This is Wonderland and The Tournament, last month.  Fuchs and Stursberg met while Stursberg was the director of Telefilm Canada, the film funding agency he headed for just over two years.  In an interview, Fuchs downplayed any notions of a radical makeover in his department.  "We don't need to reinvent the wheel," he said. "I do get the sense that some things are working well, but what everyone does feel is the need to develop at least one or two what I would call more relevant, more accessible things that have a little more resonance with a larger audience."  Fuchs served as producer on such notable U.S. films as Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and Tucker. Since his arrival in Canada, he has been producing film and television both here and in the U.S. He recently became a Canadian citizen.

Canadian Reality -TV Shows Go Green

Source:  Etan Vlessing, Reuters News Agency

(Mar. 30, 2006) The grim urban jungle of Toronto is getting a makeover in U.S. cable channel Home & Garden Television's upcoming reality series
Green Force. The show's Canadian producer, Tricon Films and Television, will return green space in the city to hospices, prisons, daycare centres and senior-citizen homes. "We will create beautiful landscapes and bring communities together," says Shaam Makan, Tricon vice-president of production. "But most importantly, we will be touching people with real-life stories, struggles and victories." A pilot will be shot in May, and 13 episodes will debut next year.  Other Canadian producers similarly see green in combining dream fulfilment with feel-good environmental concern. Vancouver-based filmmaker Mark Leiren-Young went up a tree in coastal British Columbia to make Green Chain, a mockumentary about tree huggers he hopes will have cinemagoers throwing aside their popcorn to help clean up the environment. "This has always been the story that defines British Columbia: our relationship to trees," Leiren-Young says, now back on the ground. The feature, starring Shirley Douglas and Brendan Fletcher, portrays activists protecting forests from loggers and forest-company executives. Elsewhere, CBC's reality series Code Green Canada has taken an environmental slant to the home renovation format by having Canadians compete to make their homes the most energy efficient.

Code Green Canada, to air over six episodes beginning May 27, will see 12 families receive $15,000 each to retrofit their home. The family scoring the greatest water, gas and electricity consumption savings after home renovations will win the grand prize, a hybrid car. Series executive producer Daniel Leipnik insists there is drama in homeowners comparing new windows, doors, insulation and lighting at the local Home Depot. "It does get competitive. The families really want to win the car," he says. So competitive, apparently, that Code Green Canada families sign contracts promising not to cheat, whether by taking showers elsewhere or wearing winter parkas indoors in cold, dim homes. This crop of eco-themed Canadian content follows a tried-and-true reality-TV format of promising winners something happier, more desirable and glamorous. But Makan insists Force of Nature departs from the reality-TV norm by giving audiences an unselfish reason to tune in. "We need to make a human connection," he says.

CRTC Making Television Review A Top Priority

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Tuck And Grant Robertson


(Apr. 2, 2006) OTTAWA, TORONTO — Ottawa is rushing to launch a long-awaited review of the Canadian television sector as broadcasters struggle with new technology that is threatening their decades-old business models. The TV review was slated to occur in two years, but Canada's federal broadcast regulator has decided to make it a top priority after several broadcasters indicated an urgent need for Ottawa to tackle the key problems facing their industry. The date for the regulatory review has not yet been set, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is now hoping to complete much of the process in the next 12 months. A government official acknowledged yesterday that Ottawa is concerned about the domestic TV industry's future and will likely announce the launch of the review within the next few weeks. The review itself could begin as soon as this fall. "It's more a question of when and how than if," a source close to the discussions said. Broadcasters want Ottawa to address several issues that are affecting their sector, including the rise of Internet television. The networks are concerned about the threat downloadable programs pose to their businesses if consumers are able to access top-rated U.S. programming over the Web.  Networks such as CTV Inc., CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s Global and CHUM Ltd. pay top dollar to secure the broadcast rights to such shows in Canada.  In addition to the issues surrounding new technology, the review is expected to focus on the networks' argument that they, like specialty channels, should get a slice of consumers' monthly subscription fees for cable and satellite. But the rise of new technology -- from personal video recorders (PVRs), which allow viewers to skip over commercials, to TV equipped cellphones -- has created the most concern. When the last federal review of the sector was undertaken several years ago, those technologies did not widely exist.

At the very least, the broadcasters want to know what the rules will be for Internet TV, and how those revenues will be divided. The push for a TV review comes at a time when the CRTC is already juggling a similar crucial review of the radio sector, which is also worried about splintering audiences as iPods and other new technology such as satellite radio erode its audience share. To make room for the TV review, which could take up to 18 months to reshape some of the regulations governing how the industry operates, the CRTC is drawing up a plan that would see several items on its calendar shelved. Licence renewal applications for several of the networks in the coming months are expected to be put on hold. The CBC's licences expire next year, followed by CTV, Global and TVA in 2008. Those items will be pushed back to a later date in order to accommodate the TV review, one source said. (CTV is part of Bell Globemedia, which also owns The Globe and Mail.) Broadcasters praised the decision to move up the review, including CHUM. "The world has changed in the last five or six years. It's important that we take this moment in time to stop, look at the environment, what's working, what hasn't," said David Goldstein, vice-president of government and regulatory affairs at CHUM. "It's important to have this structural and policy review before we all go forward for our group licence renewals," he added. The television sector also wants to address regulations that govern advertising rules as technology makes it easier for consumers to avoid commercials. As well, the move by cable providers to introduce so-called time-shifting packages, which allow customers to access channels in other markets, is hurting their advertising revenue, broadcasters argue.  A final decision about the review could come within a few weeks. The TV process also comes as CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen's term at the helm of the regulator is set to end Dec. 31.

Television To Talk About

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Apr. 3, 2006) Long-Lasting Suds: Time to mark the 50th anniversary of CBS's daytime soaper As The World Turns, revolutionary in its day for being a half hour instead of 15-minute daily soap. A few of its regulars, including 87-year-old Helen Wagner and 72-years-young Eileen Fulton, still appear regularly. Today at 2 p.m. the celebrated women of the show remember big moments (CBS, Global at 2).

Prison Time: With
Prison Break already picked up for a second season, the series goes into flashback mode so we can see how Lincoln, Sucre, T-Bag, C-Note and others actually got there. And what will they title the second year with the brothers definitely breaking out? Prison Break: Manhunt, we've heard (FOX, Global at 8).

New Flick: Mimi Rogers stars as a concerned mother in the latest CTV telefeature rushed into the schedule.
Selling Innocence is a worthwhile dramatic study of the forces of the Internet clashing with the ambitions of a young, impressionable girl, Mia (Sarah Lind), who is exploited by a sleazy modelling agency that takes pictures of her and displays them on an exploitational site (CTV at 9).

Success/Failure: The success of Prison Break in the ratings gives
The New Adventures Of Old Christine major renewal problems. Star Julia Louis-Dreyfus once again succumbs to "the curse of Seinfeld" as she struggles to make this sitcom somehow work. Matt Letscher of The West Wing is the guest as love interest Burton, but nothing seems to be working (CBS at 8:30).

Brave Death: Prissy Benoit's brave fight for life is the focus of
Miracle Workers. Benoit agreed to have a Jarvis pump inserted after her heart began failing after damage from chemotherapy. Her death on March 22 isn't the end of the story; series regular Dr. Billy Cohn will take us through her valiant but ultimate losing battle for survival (ABC at 10).

Water Cooler: Did you notice the
Cold Case double bill last night on CBS? Could it possibly mean Sunday night movies are finished? After all, both NBC and ABC have ditched them as too expensive.

Couric Quits NBC To Become CBS Anchor

Source:  David Bauder, Associated Press


(Apr. 5, 2006) NEW YORK - On her 15th anniversary on Today,
Katie Couric told viewers Wednesday she was leaving NBC to join CBS and become the first woman to solely anchor a U.S. network evening newscast.  "I wanted to tell all of you out there ... that after listening to my heart and my gut ... I've decided I'll be leaving Today at the end of May," she said. "I really feel as if we've become friends through the years."  The 49-year-old Couric, the longest-serving anchor in Today show history, is expected to replace Bob Schieffer on the third-rated CBS evening news broadcast in September.  Following a months-long guessing game that has consumed the TV industry, Couric chose the 15th anniversary of her first day as Today co-host in 1991 to say that it's time for a change.  "It's been such an honour and a privilege to occupy this seat for as long as I have," she said.  "Sometimes I think change is a good thing," Couric added. "Although it may be terrifying to get out of your comfort zone, it's also very exciting to start a new chapter in your life."  Co-host Matt Lauer told Couric that it was "hard to imagine being here and not having you sitting next to us."  The bold move simultaneously forces NBC to find a new team for Today, television's most profitable news program, and gives CBS News president Sean McManus a major success in his effort to lure more stars to his beleaguered news organization.

Meredith Vieira of the daytime chat show The View has emerged as the leading candidate to team with Lauer. Vieira, a former CBS News reporter who won a Daytime Emmy as host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, had previously turned down offers to return to news since joining The View.  If a deal with Vieira can't be reached, the top in-house candidates to replace Couric are Today weekend anchor Campbell Brown, NBC reporter Natalie Morales and news reader Ann Curry.  Couric, Lauer, Curry and weathercaster Al Roker have formed TV news' most successful morning team in history since 1997, with Today riding an unprecedented 10-year ratings winning streak.  During that time, morning news programs have simultaneously grown in influence and have become important entertainment vehicles. The job required Couric to both interview presidents and don goofy costumes on Halloween.  Couric's NBC contract extends to the end of May and she's expected to remain at Today through that ratings sweeps month.  The lure of trying something new and making history in the evening proved enticing to Couric, who is also expected to contribute to 60 Minutes. She spurned a more lucrative offer — about $20 million (U.S.) a year — to remain at NBC and accept CBS' bid at a salary near her current range of $13 million to $15 million, according to a non-network person close to negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.  With Schieffer filling in during the year since Dan Rather's exit, the CBS Evening News is the only network evening newscast rising in the ratings. But it's still in third place behind NBC and ABC.

TV TIDBITS

Slingbox Eyes Canadian Launch Of Portable TV Device

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson

(Mar. 31, 2006)
Slingbox, a gadget that lets people watch their household television set through an Internet connection anywhere in the world, is expanding to Canada in an effort to capitalize on the growing market for portable TV. Sling Media Inc., the California-based company behind the device that began selling in the United States last summer, said the Canadian market is the first step in its plan to expand globally in the next year. The Slingbox plugs into a regular television and lets viewers access the channels through a broadband Internet hookup. The TV channels can also be controlled remotely, the company said. In its short existence, Sling Media has targeted travellers and office workers who want television access outside of their homes. While the company doesn't divulge its sales figures, Jeremy Toeman, vice-president of market development for Sling Media, said it has sold "tens of thousands" of the boxes in the past nine months. Sling Media has signed distribution deals with London Drugs, Best Buy and Future Shop to sell the devices, which retail for about $300. Analyst Jeff Leiper of the Ottawa-based Yankee Group, which tracks technology trends, said the market for the Slingboxes in Canada could be small in the early going, since the technology is new. "The initial use of the Slingbox will probably be the 15 per cent of the market that is the technologically advanced households," Mr. Leiper said. "For the first year and a half those will be the primary buyers of it. But moving forward, let's say Christmas, 2008, is when we could really start to see some mainstream adoption."

Teens And Television: Is A Decades-Long Romance Nearing An End?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Judy Stoffman, Canadian Press

(Apr. 2, 2006) OTTAWA—Canadian teenagers are watching less TV, says a new report from Statistics Canada.  In a regular survey of television viewing habits done in fall 2004, kids aged 12 to 17 logged an average of 12.9 hours a week in front of the tube, down two hours from the year before. The agency attributed the decline partly to greater Internet use.  The report says sports viewing fell to 6.5 per cent from 8.2 per cent the previous year "perhaps as a result of the cancellation of the National Hockey League season." Canadian content fell to 37.2 per cent from 40.2 during the same period.  But viewers over age 17 watched TV for the same number of hours and it appears they replaced hockey with imported reality TV and game shows, which gained in popularity.  The numbers also show that while comedy and drama programming represented the bulk of Canadians' viewing, close to 82 per cent of it was foreign.  The figures for StatsCanada's TV project are a joint undertaking with the CRTC and Heritage Canada with data from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement.

CRTC Approves Soccer, Cricket Channels

Excerpt from The Toronto Star


(Apr. 4, 2006) OTTAWA (CP) — New
specialty TV channels dedicated to soccer, cricket and equestrian events have been approved by the CRTC, the federal broadcast regulator.  They include Soccer Television and RCS Television, both proposed by the Telelatino Network (TLN). The first would provide coverage of professional and amateur soccer matches as well as documentaries and news programs devoted to the sport. The second would be devoted to soccer, cricket and rugby.  Olympic Films won licences for both an English and French language version of Equestrian Planet, programming from the horse world including racing.  Asian Television Network International received licences for ATN, the Asian Sports Network and ATN Cricket Channels I and II, pay services that would provide coverage of live cricket matches from around the world.  Cookie Jar Entertainment, a producer of children's television programming, was granted a licence for Cookie Jar Educational TV, which would include core curriculum educational programming in such areas as language, math, science and technology. The application had been opposed by Corus Entertainment, owner of the preschooler channel Treehouse TV and part owner of Teletoon. A French-language equivalent was also granted.  All the licences are for a category 2 service, which means cable and satellite providers are not obliged to provide carriage. Licence holders and carriers must negotiate an agreement before a channel is carried.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Godot Gets A Canadian Feel

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Harris


(Mar. 31, 2006) The signage for the Arts Club production of Waiting for Godot has been glowering over South Granville for weeks.  Freighted on that cornerstone of modern drama is half a century's worth of loving and loathing reviews, and millions of anxious high-school English students. Now, local theatre doyen Morris Panych submits his directorial vision to the mix. "There's so much speculation, so much hyperbole, so much crap surrounding [Samuel Beckett's] writing," Panych says, "that it's almost impossible to set out on this course of putting on a credible, interesting production." Panych positions himself as a populist, uninterested in "some esoteric wank exercise for academics." But theatre geeks will have their middling say, for Waiting for Godot is ultimately a slippery beast: No single take on Beckett's masterpiece outweighs the rest. The (in)action of the play consists simply of two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for Mr. Godot (who may or may not stand for God, Hope, Themselves, etc.).  They contemplate suicide, they bicker, they gnaw on some chicken bones. Meanwhile, the poor audience waits for something to happen (and perhaps begins to contemplate the meaninglessness of their own workaday lives). This sort of thing is now thought to be quite clever, but it wasn't always so. When Waiting for Godot first appeared in North America, in 1956, New Yorker critic Wolcott Gibbs sniffed: "I have seldom seen such meagre moonshine stated with such inordinate fuss." Take that, existentialism.

In order to make this production fresh, Panych has arranged for "a more Canadian feel." Estragon will have the Quebecois accent of actor Stéphane Demers, while Vladimir is played by Vincent Gale, invoking the "tragic-comic fate of French and English Canada" -- two tramps, warring but wed, and trapped together.  What's more, the bossy, lordly Pozzo (Brian Markinson), who interrupts the stagnancy of both acts, will have a distinctly American mien. Still, Panych isn't kidding himself. "No one's going to see it as new and fresh unless they're right out of high school," he says. "A lot of the esoteric ideas that were fun and interesting in 1953 may not hold water today." What remains is the quality Panych calls "an emotional hole" in Beckett's world. Life is an enigmatic puzzle, and this production offers no answers (or so Panych hopes). Driven by non-sequitur dialogue that leads nowhere and everywhere, the play is "a fucking minefield," he says, "and it's constantly exploding on you." If the character of Godot stands for meaning in an otherwise meaningless world, then his refusal to appear at the play's conclusion is a blow to the audience's collective heart. But Panych prefers to believe that "life can derive meaning simply by knowing that it has none" (a notion he borrows from Albert Camus). "There's nothing more touching," Panych says, "than being in a room with people who are all standing on the edge of the same cliff. I can only hope it's something like consolation." Beckett himself repudiated any symbolic "meaning" that critics or academics concocted for his Godot, so audiences would be wise to make up their own minds about Panych's latest offering. Waiting for Godot runs to April 23 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St., 604-687-1644.

Hair Just Keeps Growing

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner


(Mar. 30, 2006) Whoever dares to write the definitive history of the rock musical Hair is going to have his or her work cut out for them. Virtually from its earliest incarnation, at Joe Papp's Public Theatre in New York in October, 1967, the show has been a kind of floating, ever-changing, often contentious piece of theatre. In the years since its debut, it has seen dozens of revivals, but script, song and lyric changes have been so extensive that few productions have been entirely the same. James Rado is not complaining. Since the death of his partner and co-creator Gerome Ragni, Rado, now 73, has more or less earned his living from Hair, acting as a script consultant to productions around the world. For the past several weeks, he's been a fixture at Toronto's CanStage, where the latest version of the show opens tonight. "It's been a constant process of exploring and inventing," Rado explained in an interview this week, "even when Clive Barnes of The New York Times hailed it as one of the greatest musicals of all time in 1967." At the outset, Hair never really had much of a plot or even a script. In the 1960s, this deficiency hardly mattered; audiences were infused with the hippie message of love and peace and consciousness expansion. But as time passed, Rado and Ragni began to see " the meagreness of the text." When Ragni died 16 years ago, Rado took up the cause and began experimenting with different themes, and injected them into productions of Hair in Europe, "trying to deepen the characters." Rado steered away from the storyline imposed by the film version of Hair, saying that it "missed the point. I was not happy with the movie [directed by Milos Forman]. The inner meaning was lost, the cosmic message. And by the time it came out in the late 1970s, the times had already changed. People no longer wore long hair. It was a different zeitgeist." Rado said he and Ragni were consulted on the film's script, but their comments were largely ignored.

Oddly enough, he recalled, the main reviews were positive, on both coasts of the United States, but the film was a box-office disaster. Rado and Ragni had both been Broadway actors before they conceived Hair -- Ragni, for example, had appeared with John Gielgud in a production of Hamlet, and Rado insists both could have had successful careers in mainstream theatre. But Ragni became involved with experimental theatre in the East Village and out of that milieu evolved Hair, its name taken from a painting of the same name they had seen in a museum. "We were trying to explore the relationship of actors to the audience and what plays actually were," said Rado, who was born in Los Angeles and raised in Rochester, N.Y. "But the basic idea for Hair came from the excitement that was on the streets at that time. It was the subculture of the hippies, and they believed in something very deep." Part of the inspiration was the anti-Vietnam War movement, part was the racism problems in America -- "It was a tumultuous time." But with rock music at the centre of the counterculture, the notion of a rock musical seemed "the perfect thing." Through friends, they hooked up with Canadian composer Galt MacDermot, who has also played a backstage role in the current CanStage production. Rado considers MacDermot's work ahead of his time. "He's a genius, a modern-day Gershwin." Of the current production, Rado conceded, "It's been a bit of a roller coaster, some days good, some days less good. There have been issues. It's a crazy piece to work on. How it comes out will depend on the actors. Some stuff in the script does not work with every actor. It's a live creation. We're trying to make it relevant to today." But Rado said he likes the process of change. Rado said he has two other projects in development -- Billy Earth, a sort of sequel to Hair, and Sun, for which he has written a script as well as the songs. He's looking for financial backing. Rado concedes that the idealism that underpinned Hair has largely disappeared. "I don't know where it went. The wars? The environment? It's still out there in theory, I think." Will the CanStage production deliver that message? "I'm still waiting to see if it comes to fruition."

Hinton Makes A Bold Play

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kate Taylor

(Apr. 5, 2006) OTTAWA -- The National Arts Centre unveiled a startlingly ambitious new season of English-language theatre yesterday. Peter Hinton, the NAC's new artistic director of English theatre, is offering an all-Canadian program for his inaugural season that draws heavily on the work of small, independent theatre groups across the country and includes five world premieres. Gone are the familiar classics or the recent Broadway hits that are the foundation of subscription seasons in big theatres across North America.  In their place, Hinton is daring Ottawa's notoriously unadventuresome audiences to try something new and unknown. Although there are various smaller companies in the country that only perform Canadian work, such as Toronto's Factory Theatre and the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa, the all-Canadian line-up is a first for the NAC in its 37-year history, and highly unusual for a big venue. The NAC currently has 8,500 subscribers for English theatre, and Hinton's challenge will be to keep those patrons happy with a largely unfamiliar program. "If the audience doesn't get behind this, if they say, we want Dame Edna and Guys and Dolls, who knows where I will be," he said in an interview this week. Also, instead of the usual smorgasbord approach of unrelated shows picked from various genres, Hinton is organizing his season around the theme of the artist in society. The best-known works on the playbill are two previous Canadian hits, Gloria Montero's Frida K., a one-woman drama about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Dream Machine, an exuberant performance about the Beat movement of the 1950s created by Calgary's celebrated One Yellow Rabbit troupe. Of the world premieres, some are pieces that have yet to be created: Ottawa theatre artist Nadia Ross is currently working on 7 Important Things, about how former hippie and former punk George Acheson copes with the failure of the counterculture revolution. However, others are works that have languished on the shelf because they were too big for the independent theatres and too risky for the bigger theatres. For example, Allen Cole's The Wrong Son, a jazz musical that requires a cast of 14, was written a decade ago but never produced.

The season also features two English-language premieres of successful Quebec plays, one is Marie-Josée Bastien's The Bookshop, a play about a shy bookseller hiding behind literature that was originally written for children but is sophisticated enough for adults. The other is Scorched, a recent play from Wajdi Mouawad, the provocative Montreal playwright of Lebanese extraction whose hallucinatory political fables have thus far struggled to cross over into English Canada. Overall, the season is a bold attempt to assert the NAC's leadership on the national theatre scene, but it will be tested by the conundrum that has always bedevilled that institution: How do you create a genuinely national arts centre outside of a cultural metropolis? Hinton argues that the NAC, which is directly funded by the federal government, has a responsibility to create and present genuinely Canadian theatre rather than simply entering into co-productions of popular American and British plays with the country's regional theatres. He feels theatres are too quick to second-guess their audiences and is ready to discover whether the Ottawa public is truly as recalcitrant as supposed. One colleague told him that marketing an all-Canadian season would be like marketing broccoli; another asked what he would do if he lost 2,000 subscribers. "That's a problem I need to be exploring, not protecting myself from," he said. "It is a national theatre for a capital city, but Ottawa is not London, it's not Madrid. We have to generate an audience that is excited about seeing something new, not what was big in Toronto two years ago." The NAC has increased its budget for English theatre to make the season possible, but Hinton would not specify by how much. The all-Canadian season is neither the beginning nor the end of his ambitions for the NAC, where he also plans to program the classics and resurrect the cherished model of a resident company that was abandoned in the 1980s. For 2007-08, Hinton is planning a season drawn exclusively from the 16th and 17th-century repertoire featuring some Shakespearean plays but also works by neglected contemporaries and Jacobean and Restoration successors, such as Christopher Marlowe's Dido Queen of Carthage and William Congreve's The Way of the World. It's a feat that will require a standing company of actors, some of whom have already been assembled to begin a workshop of scenes. Hinton has also instituted a residency program for Canadian dramatists, and wants to include a main-stage production of a work by a first-nations writer every season. This season it will be Marie Clements's Copper Thunderbird, a biography of native painter Norval Morrisseau.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Julia Roberts Enjoys Herself On Broadway Stage

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail 

(Mar. 30, 2006) New York -- The first lines spoken by
Julia Roberts in her Broadway debut were drowned out by applause at an eagerly awaited preview of Three Days of Rain. The play, which started previews Tuesday and opens April 19 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, is Roberts's first major project since the birth of her 16-month-old twins, Phinnaeus and Hazel. A prop tomato fell onto the floor during the preview, making a noise that prompted laughter from the actress, The New York Post reported yesterday. Appearing in Richard Greenberg's 1997 Pulitzer Prize-nominee, Roberts plays a woman unravelling the truth behind her father's death, and in the second act, plays the woman's mother.AP

::OTHER NEWS::

Dancing Along The Ceilidh Trail

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Cinda Chavich


(Apr. 2, 2006) CAPE BRETON ISLAND, N.S. — I've been on the
Ceilidh Trail for nearly three days when I spot my first Rankin sister. There she is, pretty Heather Rankin, at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. It's 6 p.m. on a warm fall evening and the place is packed. But Heather is not harmonizing sweetly with her sisters Cookie ands Raylene tonight -- she's standing next to my table and asking how I like the tourtière.  The thick slab of meat pie, smothered in gravy and served Cape Breton-style with her Aunt Mary Lorettes's bread dressing, is delicious, a specialty at this restaurant-cum-pub owned and operated by the famous trio. It's like everything I've encountered on Cape Breton Island -- warm, accessible and authentic.  I've come to Cape Breton -- the land of step-dancers and fiddlers -- to explore all things Celtic. There's a Celtic vein running through much of our Canadian musical history, and much of it can be traced to this rocky island in the Atlantic. This little corner of Canada has spawned so many Juno award winners -- from Rita MacNeil and Natalie MacMaster to the aforementioned family of Rankins -- that it bears investigating by anyone interested in our unique Canadian sound. It's hard to turn around without bumping into someone who is connected to this Canadian style of Celtic music and the living culture that's so steeped in it. Everywhere I look, there's a notice stuck to a telephone pole or town hall door, announcing another ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee). That's Gaelic for a party with musicians and dancing, and there's at least one, somewhere around here, nearly every night.  You might just luck out and see one of the famed Rankins take the stage, or run across some other local talent from MacMaster to Ashley MacIsaac or the Barra MacNeils, all purveyors of this East Coast style.

In Halifax, where the Juno Awards weekend is in full swing, legendary pubs such as The Lower Deck and the Halifax Alehouse have helped nurture a lively local music scene that's spawned hot new talents like Sloan and The Trews. But on Cape Breton Island, The Red Shoe is ceilidh central. Along with the poutine, "westside" chowder and sticky toffee pudding on the menu, the Rankin sisters serve up Cape Breton's most famous export, Celtic-Canadian music. A poster behind the pub's historic storefront window announces a different musician every night of the week -- well-known locals like fiddlers Mairi Rankin, Andrea Beaton and Dougie MacDonald.  The Rankins (and the Beatons and the MacDonalds) all still live in this part of Cape Breton as their forefathers did. They were among the Scots who crossed the pond 200 years ago during the infamous Highland Clearances, forced from their homes because of economic hardships or evicted by British "lairds" who preferred sheep over tenant farmers.  Thousands arrived on the shores of Cape Breton Island, a remote and isolated corner of Nova Scotia, from 1780 to 1840. These early Highland immigrants arrived in geographical groups and stayed put where they settled -- thus, the MacNeil clan from the Isle of Barra (like the Barra MacNeils of pop-folk music fame) came en masse and still populate the area around Iona.  They arrived with their particular dialects of the Gaelic language, traditional songs and stories, and today Cape Breton is one of the few places in the world where that Highland culture, and its regional nuances, is still largely in intact. It has become kind of a living museum for those keen to preserve their Gaelic traditions -- a place that in some ways is more traditionally Scottish than Scotland.  Whatever the impetus for the 19th-century clearances, the disappearance of the population was so complete that the only evidence a modern Highlander in Scotland has of ancestral life is in museums. Scots were made to feel ashamed of their folk culture. Traditional piping was militarized -- now the domain of pipe bands -- while traditional fiddlers learned classical music. The Gaelic language is now considered "endangered" by organizations such as UNESCO.  But on Cape Breton, customs and traditions that were eliminated from the culture in the homeland have been kept alive for two centuries. Thanks to schools like the Gaelic College -- founded in 1938 to preserve Celtic language and culture, and the only institution of its kind in North America -- traditional Scottish music, dance and arts like weaving and kilt-making flourish.

Gaelic is still seen here on sign posts, still spoken by elder "Capers" and taught at schools. While other Canadian kids study French or Chinese as a second language, in towns like Mabou, Gaelic is part of the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum. And musicians, like the Rankin sisters and their Cape Breton contemporaries, keep it alive and popular in their songs and performances. At the Highland Museum -- a living museum featuring costumed interpreters and historic buildings gathered from throughout the region -- the strains of Highland pipes fill the air as I leave my car. It's a world of homespun and shaggy Highland cows, where Gaelic is spoken and the lilt of the language permeates every conversation. The museum sits near the town of Iona, named for the Hebredian island that traces its roots to the Irish saint who first brought Christianity to the Highlands. The replica "black house" -- a round Highland-style dwelling with its stone walls and peaked thatched roof -- recalls what the immigrant Scots left behind, while the wool mill, historic church, and log cabin speak to the new lives they created here.  "Gaelic is the working language here on the site," says Seumas (a.k.a. Jim) Watson, the Gaelic co-ordinator at the museum. As we sit next to the open hearth in one of the historic homes that dot the property, he breaks into one of the 1,000 Gaelic songs collected from people around the island. The music and stories are preserved and passed down here from older Cape Bretoners to younger ones, as they once were among clans throughout the island.  Scots who came to North America to seek better lives first settled in the Maritimes, but many also headed to Western Canada, naming places like Calgary and Banff for the homes they left in the Highlands. Colourful Scots figure prominently in Canadian history -- from the country's first prime minister to many of the two million Canadians who can trace their roots to Scotland today. The culture brought to Canada by these early Scots is woven deeply into our own traditions. Scratch almost anyone and you'll probably find a Celt or two in the family tree, a kilt or a fiddle in the closet, which makes a trip to Cape Breton like a journey back home.

Pack your bags

WHERE TO HEAR MUSIC

Celtic Music Centre:
Judique; 902-787-2708; celticmusicsite.com. The centre offers live music and dance demonstrations by local musicians, as well as a listening centre and archives where more than 200 Cape Breton musicians share anecdotes and musical history on tape. It's also the place to find a detailed Celtic Music Events Registry, listing ceilidhs and other small performances.

Celtic Colours Festival: 1-877-285-2321; http://www.celtic-colours.com. This annual 10-day event (Oct. 6-14) features dozens of local and internationally renowned Celtic musicians in concerts held across the island. Tickets go on sale July 10.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

The Red Shoe Pub: Route 19, Mabou; 902-945-2326; redshoepub.com. Owned by the Rankin sisters, this is a great place for Cape Breton-style pub food and live, local music.

Glenora Inn & Distillery: 1-800-839-0491; http://www.glenoradistillery.com. The only single-malt whisky produced in the Scottish tradition in Canada is made here and, in the dining room, husband and wife chefs John Haines and Tracey Wallace are turning out sophisticated Cape Breton cuisine.

WHERE TO STAY

The Keltic Lodge: Ingonish Beach; 902-285-2880; http://www.signatureresorts.com. This is a lovely, sprawling hotel (circa 1920s) that morphed from a wealthy American's summer home to a provincially owned lodge. Doubles from $279 in low season, including breakfast and dinner. Golfers will come for the famed Highland Links course next door.

Chanterelle Country Inn: Baddeck; 1-866-277-0577; http://www.chanterelleinn.com. Open May through October. Rates from $145 including breakfast.

MORE INFORMATION

Cape Breton: http://www.cbisland.com, or call 1-888-562-9848 for festival events.

Nova Scotia tourism: http://www.novascotia.com.

Canadian Makes Good Skewering Hollywood Stars

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Lee-Anne Goodman, Canadian Press


(Mar. 29 2006)
Seth Abramovitch was an aspiring comedy writer in Los Angeles, a Canadian working as a writer's assistant on the hit comedy Will and Grace, when he was abruptly fired for his supposedly sluggish note-taking.  "Who knows what it was really all about," Abramovitch says on the line from L.A. about his dismissal from the show's writing staff in 2001. "It can be a real snake pit and very caustic in this business, and there were a lot of weird egos in that room."  Abramovitch, however, has had the last laugh — he is now part of the two-man team behind the wickedly funny blog Defamer (http://www.defamer.com), a site that artfully and mercilessly skewers Hollywood's stars, agents and studios and has developed a vast following far beyond L.A.'s show business insiders.  The blog receives as many as 500,000 hits a day and, astonishingly, has had more than 89 million hits in its almost two-year existence.  It's an unconventional career path, perhaps, for a 33-year-old Montrealer with impressive family connections — his older sister, Susan, is a prominent Toronto entertainment lawyer married to Ontario's attorney general, Michael Bryant.  So how does Bryant, the province's top lawmaker, feel about his brother-in-law's work on a blog with a name that suggests illegality?  "Normally it wouldn't be a good thing for an attorney general to have a professional defamer as a brother-in-law," Bryant says. ``But I am so delighted for him. He is a great Canadian success story."

Abramovitch got involved last year with Defamer, part of the New York-based Gawker Media group, when Mark Lisanti, Defamer's founder, wanted to boost the number of posts on the site while maintaining the quality of its writing.  Lisanti approached Abramovitch, whose own blog he'd read and admired, and asked him to sign on. Abramovitch said he "never saw it coming" and was thrilled.  "I had been a fan of Mark's and of the site's since it started, and now, to have this kind of access to him — he has definitely vastly improved my writing," he says. "He's a hugely talented writer."  Abramovitch and Lisanti work from their respective homes and split the writing — about 10 to 12 posts a day, with Lisanti editing all the items before they're posted.  Lisanti's goal has been to keep Defamer lively throughout the day, writing quickly and cleverly on developing entertainment stories. In a blogosphere heavily populated with lame vanity projects riddled with spelling mistakes, bad writing and stale content, Defamer is a snide, sharp standout that takes special delight in targeting Tom Cruise and Scientology, Sharon Stone, Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton, to name just a few.  Lisanti, who's been reverentially profiled by the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles magazine, is genuinely humbled by the rave reviews.  "This is my first ever professional writing job, so it's really nice to hear," Lisanti says. "I've always loved to write, but this is the first time I've ever been paid to do it."  The mainstream media have taken notice — Lisanti has been approached with job offers, but says for now he's not interested.

"I am the editor, and writing for other editors — I think I would find that pretty restricting," he said. "I love the instant gratification of blogging, and I can probably get away with more than I otherwise could."  That's not to say Defamer has escaped the attention of the lawyers representing some of the stars it so ruthlessly mocks. Lisanti says the blog has heard from lawyers representing Tom Cruise, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz; his response has been to post a characteristically sly clarification or their actual threatening letters.  "The clarifications are often worse than the original item," Lisanti says. "But it puts their objections on the record."  The blog has most recently unleashed a fury among Charlie Sheen fans for its giddy ridicule of the actor's recent 9-11 conspiracy theories.  "We got about 100 pieces of hate mail, some of it really nasty," Lisanti says. "It was amusing — it doesn't bother me at all, to get that kind of reaction, because we're not offending the people who share our world view and our humour, the people who read us and get us."  For Abramovitch, the thrill is the awareness that Hollywood's movers and shakers are vexed by Defamer.  "There's now a place that's capturing all the weird and surreal stuff that goes on in L.A., stuff that used to go unreported," he says. "The way those studio heads act — they're so paranoid. They've never had to deal with being prodded this way. I love it; it's so fun."  It's also hard work. The days can run as long as 12 hours, Lisanti says, and Abramovitch adds those days start early so that Defamer junkies in eastern time zones don't have to wait till the afternoon to get their fix.  One of those junkies is Abramovitch's law-making brother-in-law, who admits to being hooked but won't detail just how serious his addiction is.  "Freedom-of-information legislation would have to be employed to reveal just how often I read it," says Bryant. "I love it. Seth is one of the most insanely hilarious people I know. He's the guy who can have people doubled over in laughter at a funeral."

Mixed: My Life In Black And White

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(April 4, 2006) *“At age eleven I learned to make fun of myself. I had yellow teeth because my mom took some kind of penicillin when she was pregnant with me. My teeth were all messed up. I had a big forehead—still do have a pretty big forehead, I just have bangs now.”  
Angela Nissel may put a comedic spin on growing up biracial in her new book Mixed: My Life in Black and White, but once you stop laughing, she hopes you will start thinking. The product of a White “Deadbeat Dad” and a Black single mother who was formerly a Black Panther, Nissel’s genuinely intimate memoir about growing up biracial in Philadelphia is anything but black and white. Coveting its own unique set of drama, the intricacies of being biracial seem steeped in shades of gray. Still, the books’ revelations often shed new light on an old, dark issue: That light-skinned, dark-skinned, “good-hair” mentality still permeating the mindset of many Black folk.  As the only Black writer on the NBC medical comedy, Scrubs, Nissel has been described as “barely Black” and has even been barred, at times, from commenting on Black issues with “Oh well, you’re half-White so you’re not really Black” being the excuse.  This bothers her.  “I don’t put that much weight on what White people think about me because I don’t feel that kind of kinship with them, except on a human race level; but when Black people reject me, it hurts me to my core...it’s amazing to me because a lot of Black people will reject you, but the minute you claim to be something other than Black, they’re ready to curse you out.” Biracials continue to be victimized by accusations they have no control over.  “The book could have easily been subtitled: All Light-Skinned Girls Aren’t Stuck Up because I also wanted people to understand where I came from and why I feel the way I do about race...People’s parents would say-- even people’s mothers’… ‘I don’t like light-skinned girls.’…Other women would say, ‘I don’t hang out with light-skinned girls because they think they’re too cute.’”  Such comments make it even more difficult for the one’s who have chosen to fully and solely embrace their Blackness, like Nissel.

“There are a lot of people who don’t consider biracial people to be Black…when I started really studying Black History and would join groups that would focus on the Black experience…people would tell me I have no place there because I was half White.”  Nissel says she even lost friends, some of them biracial.  “…Some of them chose not to even deal with me…because I had a White father and they joined groups that thought your heritage was passed down through your father. Whenever I felt that I fit in, there was always someone telling me, ‘No you don’t’ because of this one side of my heritage that I felt no connection to.”       In Mixed the author recalls a time when she, her 2-year-old brother, and their father visited her favourite video store. The kids would get to tag along as a treat, especially if they had been scolded or spanked earlier in the week. They would get to choose a video while dad, a tech buff, shopped around. On this day, when dad was at the checkout counter, the white clerk looked down to see these two Black kids standing next to him.  “Who are these children,” asked the clerk of the dad. Without skipping a beat, the dad responded, “I have no idea.” Time passed as the clerk, thinking the children are lost, finally announces loudly to the store patrons, “who do these children belong to” as little Angela stands looking at her dad, unsure of what to do. Finally, confused and humiliated, the young girl tugs at her father’s shirt saying, “D-a-d!” and the father laughs and admits to the cashier that the children are his.  Today, Nissel offers she has not had a one-on-one conversation with her father since she was 8-years-old, barring speaking with him a year-and-a-half ago with her brother on the line as she did research for this book. She has memories of him going to court for not paying child support; and asserts she even met, as a young child, some of the women he cheated on her mother with. She is quick to note that, to this day, he has not apologized. Nissel, who admits that she learned to make fun of herself at an early age just to make friends and not get beat up by the Black kids in school, clarifies some of the misconceptions about being Biracial.

“I think the biggest misconception is that we’re all ‘flower children.’ People always say, ‘Oh, you’re the Cree Summers like on A Different World. [That] we’re all looking to be one big, happy family... all crusading to check off multiple boxes on the Census when I feel like, ‘Yes, its racist to say just because you have one drop of Black blood you’re Black; because that means that somehow Black blood has tainted the White Blood...I don’t even think some Black people have thought about that.” Hoping not to be seen as “some sort of spokesperson for all bi-racial people” Angela is quick to clarify that this is HER story. The book has received some impressive, albeit mixed, responses. One friend, a biracial who embraces both her Black and White heritage, was offended by Angela’s choice to identify solely with Black. While some White people, according to Nissel, says she has changed the way they look at race. The first biracial person to read Mixed: My Life in Black and White was actress Halle Berry who quickly emailed Nissel.  “You’ve done it again! This is so funny. I relate to so much,” responded Berry, who liked it so much that she, along with her manager, optioned both this book and the author’s first book, The Broke Diaries, a book that began as an online journal that chronicled her penniless college days. The project is currently in development at HBO as a sitcom, which Nissel will write. Today Nissel is looking forward to her career in television writing.  “Books are my passion but I know how many people you can reach through TV; and being in there and being the only Black writer in the room I know how powerful it is when I say ‘no’ to doing certain things. I want to be the person who can say ‘yes’ to doing certain things; getting shows on the air that I can look at and be proud of as a Black woman.” For more info visit: www.angelanissel.com/

It glitters. It sparkles. It's art

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Apr. 5, 2006) VANCOUVER — In Greek mythology, Pyrrha was the daughter of Epimetheus, the primordial titan, and Pandora, a poisoned gift from the gods. When Zeus put an end to the Golden Age by unleashing a great flood, Pyrrha and her husband, Deucalion, braved the storm together. After crashing through the waves for nine days in a chest, the two emerged as mankind's sole survivors. Flash forward to present times. Today, Pyrrha Design Inc. is a small but valiant jewellery company, based in Vancouver and owned by husband-and-wife team Wade Papin and Danielle Wilmore. Five years ago, when a Saskatchewan retailer threatened the couple's livelihood by flooding the market with cheap replicas of their work, they fought back by taking their own Pandora's Box to federal court. Settled last month, it was a watershed copyright lawsuit -- one that could have far-reaching implications for other Canadian artists. At stake was the question of whether jewellery is a work of art, protected by the Copyright Act, as are painting, music and works of literature, or a "useful article" with a utilitarian function. Although U.S. law is clear -- jewellery is indeed an artistic work and as such is entitled to copyright protection -- the issue had never been tested in Canada. Because the case was settled out of court, a final conclusion has still not been laid down in law. But a ruling last winter from the Federal Court of Appeal, siding with Pyrrha, strongly suggests that original jewellery designs should be protected by copyright. "If it was just about us, we might not have pursued it for so long," Papin explains when we sit down for classic cocktails at Nu restaurant in Vancouver, where the trendy designers are well known in fashionable social circles. "Counterfeiting has become endemic to the jewellery design industry," he continues. "Something needed to be done." As part of the settlement, Papin and Wilmore received an undisclosed financial sum from Daniel Mysak, president of the Western Canadian accessories retail chain SpareParts, along with a big box of sterling silver pendants, earrings and rings (bearing an uncanny similarity to Pyrrha's fibre optic glass Cat's Eye line) and a promise that he would stop producing the products.

"For the next person who wants to take something like this on, it will be a lot easier," says Papin. "We've made a lot of headway and given other designers a foot to stand on." When the dispute began five years ago, the self-taught Vancouver design team was in the process of establishing a solid reputation in the United States. Their funky handmade designs -- including a Danish modern-inspired line of silk screens on burled walnut -- were being sold in such prestigious stores as Terence Conran in Manhattan and Fred Segal in Los Angeles, and in gift shops at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. More recently, their Deucalion line of rugged men's pendants and cuffs appeared in the Hollywood film The Chronicles of Riddick, while their Seals rings and necklaces (cast from 19th-century wax seals) showed up at this year's New York Fashion Week -- on the runway at Araks's lingerie show and in gift bags for front-row VIPs. Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani and Jessica Alba are clients. In other words, Pyrrha makes top-quality jewellery. So when the firm's exclusive Vancouver retailer called to ask why it had begun selling to a shopping-mall vendor, the designers panicked. "We jumped in the car and went right over," Wilmore recalls. "We had been copied in small ways before, but when we saw this line we both felt nauseous. He had 10 different designs, stamped with his trademark, with the exact same bevel, chain and colour combinations. It was even displayed in much the same way we would display it." Mind you, the SpareParts products had been manufactured in Taiwan and were selling for half the price of Pyrrha's line. "It's always been our mandate to keep our production in Canada," says Papin. "This was such cheap quality, we were outraged. Around the same time, we saw a friend in Yaletown wearing one of 'our' rings, which actually turned out to be [Mysak's]. So here we had people going around saying, 'Look at my new piece of Pyrrha' -- as the stone falls out," he says with a bitter laugh. Their peers advised them there was nothing they could do. "Everyone said, 'The industry thrives on knock-offs,' or 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery.' This wasn't imitation. To us, it was theft," exclaims Wilmore, who still gets flustered when she talks about it. The couple hired Jennifer Conkie, the high-profile Vancouver lawyer who had just come out of a much-talked-about trial in which she successfully represented musician Sarah McLachlan in a lawsuit brought on by a disgruntled songwriter. Eventually, after a cease-and-desist letter failed to persuade Mysak to back down, Pyrrha took the case to court. All along, the retailer had maintained that jewellery is a "useful" article, because it is worn on the body, and if more than 50 copies of any one design are made, it is exempt from the Copyright Act and can be counterfeited with impunity.

Pyrrha's lawyer argued that jewellery is no more useful than a painting on a wall or a sculpture adorning a lobby. Unlike a jacket or a pair of eyeglasses, it is not worn for warmth, to improve eyesight or for any function other than aesthetic appearance. On March 23, 2004, Justice Paul Rouleau dismissed the claim. Siding with Mysak, the motions judge explained in a summary judgment that jewellery is not protected by the Copyright Act, but should be dealt with under the Industrial Design Act, because it is a three-dimensional object "not bought purely and simply for its artistic properties, but because of the utility of the article apart from design." The designers were devastated -- and broke. "We had already spent $30,000 on the case and gotten nowhere," recalls Wilmore. Their lawyer agreed to launch an appeal, continuing with the case on a contingency basis. "Whether you're famous or not-so-famous, large or not-so-large, I feel strongly about the importance of copyright protection for artists of all genres," Conkie explains. "It's hard enough for artists to make their way in the business world. The Copyright Act should be there to protect them and given full force and effect." On Dec. 13, 2004, a Federal Court of Appeal agreed, unanimously, to overturn the earlier decision. The ruling judge noted that there was an issue of "genuine interest" to be heard that hadn't been litigated previously. "A tie pin or cufflinks may be useful types of jewellery that hold clothing together, while other objects such as a brooch or earring may be purely ornamental and not useful at all, valuable only for their own intrinsic merit as works of art," Justice Allen M. Linden said in the decision, which allowed the case to proceed to a full and fair trial. Although the decision was an important one, observed closely in the legal field and cited in intellectual property newsletters from here to Australia, Pyrrha still wasn't much further ahead. In the following year, the case bogged down with pre-trial applications and disagreements on technicalities. "We were met with a surprising amount of resistance," says Conkie, who received approximately 10,000 questions for discovery from the defendant's lawyer. "When you're involved in something like this for five years, you can understand why some people opt for the baseball-bat route," Papin jokes. "They were trying to drown us in paper. We really wanted this case to be heard, but when [Mysak] finally agreed to settle and stop making the product, which is what we were after all along, we had to accept it and move on with our lives." Although the case sends a strong message to would-be counterfeiters, the issue of whether jewellery is, indeed, art is still left hanging, legally speaking. "In all truth, it would have been valuable to complete the case and have the court say clearly that jewellery is copyright-protected and counterfeiting is a copyright infringement," says Conkie. Although Papin says he's pretty sure no one will be copying Pyrrha's designs any time soon, he and Wilmore now have to decide what they're going to do with the "big box of offending jewellery" they received as part of the settlement. With a laugh, Papin says: "We're thinking about pouring it all into clear acrylic and making it into an art piece called Knock-Off."

OTHER TIDBITS

Globe Columnist Among Donner Prize Finalists

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 31, 2006) Toronto — Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson's The Polite Revolution: Perfecting the Canadian Dream, is among the five finalists for the Donner Prize for the best book on Canadian public policy. Ibbitson's book looks at Canadian trade, defence, immigration and social policy alternatives. The other finalists are law professors Ronald Daniels and Michael Trebilcock for Rethinking the Welfare State, environment and natural resources professor Mark Jaccard for Sustainable Fossil Fuels, economist David Johnson for Signposts of Success and political scientist James Kelly for Governing with the Charter. The winner of the $35,000 prize will be announced April 27. Staff

Bend It Like Whoopi

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 5, 2006)  *Whoopi Goldberg is hoping that her new television series will serve as a source of encouragement for young girls playing competitive sports with a fear of being labelled butch or a tomboy. "Most people still have this idea that if you're doing what is considered a sport you don't get to be a girl," Goldberg told the New York Daily News. "You get to be a tomboy, which is one of those words that I actually hate."  "Just for Kicks," a scripted TV series developed by Goldberg, revolves around the friendships and issues facing the girls on a New York City soccer team. The show premieres April 9 on Nickelodeon (at 7 p.m.) with a squad of girls who engage in the usual girly girl activity off the field – having crushes on boys and sharing makeup tips – but can also hold their own against any team on the field.   "What I wanted to explore," said Goldberg, "is how do we, on a one-on-one basis, treat the girls that are playing sports? How do we look at them? Do we say, 'Oh, she's butch?' And for the girls, do they feel that, 'Oh, I have to pretend to be not as good when I'm playing soccer with a boy I like?'"   Whoopi said the show capitalizes on the popularity of soccer following the worldwide success several years ago of the U.S. National Women's Team. Their achievements helped to shift long-held stereotypes about women in competitive sports.  "We're dealing with old issues that aren't ours," said Goldberg. "We carry them and we pass them on to those who come after us. I am hoping to crack some of those."

::SPORTS NEWS::

Ames, Weir Carry Canada's Hopes At The Masters

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Canadian Press and Associated Press

(Apr. 3, 2006) Augusta, Ga. — Stephen Ames has a lot more money in the bank and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, but the most important thing about his recent victory at The Players Championship is the confidence that came with it. Golf is said to be a game played between the ears as much as on the course, and it's unlikely that many players arrive at Augusta National for the Masters feeling better about their game than Ames. Heading into the first major of the year, the Calgary golfer has found another level. "I'm going have a different approach to Augusta now," Ames said last week after his win at Sawgrass. "I'm going to be looking forward to see — with my new frame of mind — what kind of performance I can put on." Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., is also in Georgia this week. The lefty won at Augusta in 2003 but has just one PGA Tour victory in the years since. The good news is he has rediscovered his putting stroke in 2006 and has a chance here as a result. Weir knows as much as anyone that the only way to get into a green jacket is to master the tricky greens at Augusta National. "That probably was the best I've putted," he said after his playoff win over Len Mattiace in 2003. "That was the difference today — I made literally all of my putts inside of eight feet. "All week I putted fantastic." This week promises to be a daunting test for the Canadian duo, particularly on an Augusta National course that has been lengthened for the second time in five years. Many, including six-time winner Jack Nicklaus, are concerned that chairman Hootie Johnson and his colleagues have gone too far. Nicklaus believes only long hitters are still capable of putting on a Sunday charge like the one he did to win in 1986. "I know what Augusta is trying to do," Nicklaus told The Associated Press earlier this year. "Whether they've gone overboard, I'm not sure. But they've eliminated a lot of guys who are able to do that. "Could Tiger (Woods) do that? Or Ernie Els? Or Vijay (Singh)? Yes. Could Mike Weir or Jose Maria (Olazabal) — one of those guys of moderate length — could they do that? Probably not. That's the change at Augusta I have a hard time with."

Weir visited the course for practice rounds last month and came away with his own concerns. He doesn't so much mind that it's been strengthened by 155 yards; what upsets Weir is that he thinks some of the holes now play differently than Bobby Jones originally intended them to. Still, he thinks he can win on the new 7,445-yard layout. "I know I can still do it," said Weir. "But does it make it harder? Yeah, no question." The biggest question for Ames will be to see how he handles himself in the wake of his breakthrough TPC victory. It's his second straight appearance at the Masters and he isn't exactly a big fan of the event, saying in a February interview with The Canadian Press that getting back to Augusta was "not important to me at all." That changed a little over a week ago when he earned a three-year exemption with his win at Sawgrass, though he briefly considered skipping this year's tournament because of a previously scheduled family vacation. He's here now and feeling good after beating the best field in golf by six shots and earning $1.44 million US. Ames and his caddy — brother Robert — have recently spent time working with sports psychologist Alan Fine. Since doing so, they've been working better together and Stephen has found it easier to focus on each shot. "I just had to get my mind and everything else working together at once," he said. The challenge now is keeping it that way.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Tyson Humbled By Visit To Mao's Tomb

Source:
Associated Press

(Apr. 3, 2006) BEIJING —
Mike Tyson said he felt insignificant standing near the preserved body of Mao Zedong during a visit to the deceased leader's mausoleum.  Tyson, 39, is a long-time admirer of Mao, who founded China's communist government in 1949. The former world heavyweight boxing champion has Mao's likeness tattooed on his right arm.  "Standing in front of Chairman Mao's remains, I felt really insignificant," Tyson told reporters Saturday during a 15-minute visit, the Beijing Times reported. "To have the chance to visit the memorial hall is a great honour for me."  Mao died in 1976. His preserved body has been on display in a glass case on Tiananmen Square, allowing visitors to pay their respects.  During the brief visit, Tyson bought three books on Mao, the newspaper said. He rolled down the window and yelled out "I love you" to Chinese crowds on the square as he drove away.

Canada Hammers Germany At World Curling

Source: Canadian
Press

(Apr. 3, 2006)
LOWELL, Mass. — Canada's Jean-Michel Menard thumped Germany's Sebastian Stock 8-3 at the world men's curling championship Monday.  Canada (2-2) was to meet Ireland (1-2) in the evening draw.  Menard's team from the Victoria and Etchemin curling clubs in Quebec City stole two points in the sixth, another single-point steal in the seventh and stole another pair in the eighth when Stock, the world silver medallist in 2004, decided he'd had enough and shook hands.  Germany dropped to 1-3.

Canadian Olympian Williams Leads Oxford To Boat Race Victory

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Apr. 3, 2006) LONDON—Oxford, led by Canadian president Barney Williams, beat hot favourite Cambridge by five lengths to win the 152nd annual Boat Race yesterday.  The Dark Blues crew made it four wins in five races to out-row Cambridge — the 4-7 favourite — in choppy conditions over the 6.8-kilometre race on the River Thames in central London.  Oxford timed 18 minutes 26 seconds to be 15 seconds ahead of Cambridge, which took in water for much of the race.  The Light Blues of Cambridge still lead the series 78-73 with one race finishing in a dead heat.  Oxford also featured Jacob Wetzel of Saskatoon, also a silver medallist at the Athens Games, while national team member Kip McDaniel of Cobble Hill, B.C., rowed for Cambridge.

 ::FITNESS NEWS::

3 Steps To A Better Butt

Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up.
-- Vince Lombardi

(Apr. 3, 2006) Early in my personal training career, I had a sneaking suspicion that all my female clients had vision problems. I'd hear comments such as: "Raphael, my butt is the size of Mount Everest," "I can set a glass on my booty," and "My butt won't make it through the door." I've heard every conceivable comment about the derriere. In most cases, it wasn't as bad as the client thought.  I knew the humorous comments were just a mask for frustration and self-consciousness. A trainer must always understand the emotion a client feels about her body. Any man in this society who doesn’t understand how a woman really perceives her butt has the evolutionary DNA of an ant.  Let’s get to the point. You want a smaller and tighter booty, right? You want the formula to achieve it, and you want some guarantees. I’m here to tell you that you can do it. I don’t care if you have 100 pounds or 20 pounds to lose. You can make your butt smaller and tighter. The more body fat you have, the longer it will take -- but you can do this.

As I mention in each of my articles, you need to be on a structured, but livable, nutrition program that places you in a slight caloric deficit. In other words, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. However, that doesn’t mean starving yourself and eating as little as possible.

The key to manipulating nutrition is eating the correct foods in the correct amounts at the correct times. If you’re an eDiets member using one of our 17 specially designed nutrition programs, you’re halfway home.  The rest of the way home has to do with efficient workouts that challenge your muscles with optimal efficiency. The combination of weight training, cardiovascular exercise and a specialized muscle group workout routine is a great way to achieve success.  A specialized routine refers to focusing on one or two weaker areas of the body with one to two additional workouts each week.  I’m happy to provide one of my classic specialized butt routines. It will work the rear end and legs, but its main focus is on tightening my all-time favourite muscle group -- the glutes. If your goal is to get the butt you’ve always desired, then you’ve come to the right place.  I've designed a simple program that can be performed right in your own home. Many of my customized workouts are based on years of my own personal experience as well as trial-and-error with my training clients.

I wrote a "Wave Bye-Bye To Flabby Arms" article and introduced the tri-set. The tri-set refers to performing three exercises in a row without rest. The workout is challenging, so you must focus on impeccable form and concentrate completely on the muscles you’re working.

The Butt Stops Here Workout

1. Dumbbell Squat:

This exercise will have an effect on the entire leg, but the key is to focus on your glutes in the descending part of the movement. I’ve also found that women respond well to high reps for the legs and butt.

·  Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.

·  Hold a dumbbell or cans in each hand with your arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another.

·  Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.

·  Lower your body by sticking your butt out, bending from your hips and knees and stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

·  Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down.

·  Slowly return to the starting position

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale while lowering your body.

·  Don’t let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).

·  It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower, otherwise your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.

·  Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.

·  Beginners can perform this exercise without weights until they master the movement. It’s a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly, it can lead to injuries -- so use precise form.

Perform 20 slow and controlled repetitions and immediately go to the next exercise.

2. Dumbbell Lunges

·  Stand straight with your feet together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.

·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. This lowered position is where you should focus on feeling the glutes contract.

·  Push off your right foot slowly returning to the starting position.

·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

·  Inhale while stepping forward and exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.

·  Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.

·  Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.

·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.

·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.

·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

Perform 20 repetitions on each side and immediately go to the next exercise.

3. Bent Leg Reverse Kick Up

·  Start this exercise on your hands and knees on a mat.

·  Raise your left leg up until it is parallel with the floor with a slight bend in the knee. Support your weight with your arms and right leg.

·  While contracting the butt, lift your left leg up and toward the ceiling maintaining a bend in the knee.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side.

·  Exhale while lifting your leg.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  To increase the difficulty, you may want to add an ankle weight to the working leg.

Perform 25 slow and controlled repetitions on the right side and then repeat on the left side.  All three exercises are considered one cycle. Beginners should perform one cycle on three alternate days of the week. Intermediate exercisers should perform two cycles on alternate days of the week, and advanced exercisers should perform three cycles. Wait one minute between cycles before repeating. 

You still need to perform weight training or callisthenics for your entire body as well as cardiovascular exercise. However, if you incorporate the above specialty butt workout routine, you'll see some great results.